Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Nia by Patricia Spears Jones


It sounds better in Spanish, precario
Prettier. As if it isn’t what it is and there’s that o
My how will the rent get paid? The deadline
Met and who ghosted me first—valley lover
Or that other one.
Delicacy of skin. Quick steps, quick stops
And the direction is what?
There’s no where there and the last shift
Is the one where tongues load a stack of sighs
Bridge tall and mythic.
This day and the next—volcanic shards
Roll toward the door, even if mountains
Are in the far distance—thousands of miles.
How the heart steadily beats as the sirens
Careen and angry men launch their best lives
Ever by taking so many others. It is a miracle
This heart steadily beating even as the next question
Threatens a late spring storm, ground broken
By lightning—the raindrops rhythmic patter
Honors percussionists—those that beat beat beat
Their instrument with a purpose—Nia.
Knowing how one off-beat collapses the genesis
Augurs harsher storms—
Where the purpose becomes precarious.
Where death enters white armed, white throated,
Where the body drops like lightning on rain-moist ground.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Blind Leading the Blind by Lisel Mueller

The Blind Leading the Blind 

Take my hand. There are two of us in this cave.
The sound you hear is water; you will hear it forever.
The ground you walk on is rock. I have been here before.
People come here to be born, to discover, to kiss,
to dream, and to dig and to kill. Watch for the mud.
Summer blows in with scent of horses and roses;
fall with the sound of sound breaking; winter shoves
its empty sleeve down the dark of your throat.
You will learn toads from diamonds, the fist from palm,
love from the sweat of love, falling from flying.
There are a thousand turnoffs. I have been here before.
Once I fell off a precipice. Once I found gold.
Once I stumbled on murder, the thin parts of a girl.
Walk on, keep walking, there are axes above us.
Watch for the occasional bits and bubbles of light —
Birthdays for you, recognitions: yourself, another.
Watch for the mud. Listen for bells, for beggars.
Something with wings went crazy against my chest once.
There are two of us here. Touch me.

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Music Or The Misery by Hanif Abdurraqib

The Music Or The Misery

“I went to sleep a poet / and I woke up a fraud / to calm your nerves / I’m feeling for my clothes in the dark”
    - Pete Wentz
I do not mean    the cartoon heart      the one that swells    from the wolf’s chest  when
distracted by    a girl wolf             his tongue rolling      onto the hot pavement
right before the anvil    drops from              an impossible height and he is crushed
again      foiled by a man’s               hunger                I say heart and mean the
actual heart               I saw my heart            in the eyes         of my mother
    and it was too small     to save her        I wrote my heart      in a poem
and it took up               the whole bedroom it doesn’t pay rent    it stays up
watching cities              burn to the ground I am so sorry          that you have
nowhere to sit               I just loved someone       yesterday        so you see
   the dilemma             I just promised           someone that     I would watch
   them grow old          in a country that   wants them dead   so I just can’t 
spare any more             room here take this mixtape I made         it is just 30 
minutes  of the wind                how it sounds when      being cut by        
something heavy  falling from the                 sky making an             endlessly dark
          shadow at my feet    while I blow          a kiss       

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Hammersmith Winter by Robin Robertson

Hammersmith Winter

It is so cold tonight; too cold for snow,
and yet it snows. Through the drawn curtain
shines the snowlight I remember as a boy,
sitting up at the window watching it fall.
But you’re not here, now, to lead me back
to bed. None of you are. Look at the snow,
I said, to whoever might be near, I’m cold,
would you hold me. Hold me. Let me go.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Kind of Life by Kay Ryan

A Kind of Life

Coins cast
from coins
in a line
going back
to the time
when the
was struck
from life:
a kind of
life itself,
it could be
The continued
evolution of
a face
becoming cruder
and more

Friday, June 25, 2021

Dirt and Light by Aria Aber

Dirt and Light

Last night it startled me again—I dreamed
of the corn maze through which we walked,
almost a decade ago, in the presence
of our other lovers. It was all burned down.
Purple corn glowed in the fields enveloping
the ruined maze, the woodlands washed
by October sun. Instead of you, I found in the salt-white music
of that familiar landscape an old piano, hollowed
by the draft of time, and the handle of a porcelain cup
in scorched soil. Relics of an imagined,
civil life. Today, in the lemony light by your grave,
I recited Merrill: Why did I flinch? I loved you, then touched
the damp and swelling mud, blue hyacinths
your mother planted there—
ants were swarming the unfinished plot of earth
like the black text of an infinite alphabet. I couldn’t
read it. There was no epiphany, just dirt, the vast curtain
between this realm and the other. You never speak to me,
I thought, not even in dreams.
For hours, I sat there, mocked by the bees—
silly girl, their golden faces laughed, she still wants
and wants. A warm gust shook the trees,
and a pigeon settled into the dusk
of a wet pine, and then another.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

An Ancient Clarity Overlaid by Lawrence Joseph

An Ancient Clarity Overlaid

What is thought and felt, believed and dreamed,
reflected on, the plot worked out in constant
depth, what isn’t, for the time being, being written
is being worked on—how long will it be,
the one long poem? Tacitus’s Annals, its half-
Virgilian lines—Kafka’s name on a report,
Risk Classification and Accident Prevention
in Wartime—expansion of a tendentious language,
an ancient clarity overlaid. What is said
is, objectively, measured by visual and auditory
standards of the street; as of last Wednesday,
it’s said, two hundred six thousand,
six hundred three dead, estimated eighteen million
displaced. How will it end—it won’t. Vast open-air,
mud-soaked camps, toxic water—no one can say
cluster bombs aren’t real. What of my grandparents’
families in Lebanon, in Syria, what of my grandfather,
dead for all but four years of my life, yet
I think of him and talk to him in the present tense.
The beauty of—a scene seen in streetlight.
Rain stopped, she takes my arm, wind icy, gusting,
on Peck Slip, sky streaked velvet. The power of beauty
the proof accorded—so much of her beauty alive in me
to keep me going the time it takes to finish.
Nuance, I know nuance—in her eyes; having
been, will ever be, love in the play of the eyes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

My Blue Piano by Else Lasker-Schüler

My Blue Piano

Back home I have a blue piano
Yet I can’t play a single note.
It’s been standing in the shadow of the cellar door
Since the world became savage.
Four star-hands played it before
– The moon lady sang in the boat –
Now the rats dance to the clattering.
The keyboard’s smashed to pieces.
I weep for the blue deceased.
Oh dear angels, open up for me
– I’ve eaten from the bitter bread –
The gate to heaven while I’m still living –
Even though it’s forbidden.
(Translated by Anne Stokes)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Concrete River by Luis J. Rodríguez

The Concrete River

 We sink into the dust,
 Baba and me,
 Beneath brush of prickly leaves;
 Ivy strangling trees--singing
 Our last rites of locura.
 Homeboys. Worshipping God-fumes
 Out of spray cans.
 Our backs press up against
 A corrugated steel fence
 Along the dried banks
 Of a concrete river.
 Spray-painted outpourings
 On walls offer a chaos
 Of color for the eyes.
 Home for now. Hidden in weeds.
 Furnished with stained mattresses
 And plastic milk crates.
 Wood planks thrust into
                 thick branches
                 serve as roof.
 The door is a torn cloth curtain
                 (knock before entering).
 Home for now, sandwiched
 In between the maddening days.
 We aim spray into paper bags.
 Suckle them. Take deep breaths.
 An echo of steel-sounds grates the sky.
 Home for now. Along an urban-spawned
 Stream of muck, we gargle in
 The technicolor synthesized madness.
 This river, this concrete river,
 Becomes a steaming, bubbling
 Snake of water, pouring over
 Nightmares of wakefulness;
 Pouring out a rush of birds;
 A flow of clear liquid
 On a cloudless day.
 Not like the black oil stains we lie in,
 Not like the factory air engulfing us;
 Not this plastic death in a can.
 Sun rays dance on the surface.
 Gray fish fidget below the sheen.
 And us looking like Huckleberry Finns/
 Tom Sawyers, with stick fishing poles,
 As dew drips off low branches
 As if it were earth’s breast milk.
 Oh, we should be novas of our born days.
 We should be scraping wet dirt
                 with callused toes.
 We should be flowering petals
                 playing ball.
 Soon water/fish/dew wane into
 A pulsating whiteness.
 I enter a tunnel of circles,
 Swimming to a glare of lights.
 Family and friends beckon me.
 I want to be there,
 In perpetual dreaming;
 In the din of exquisite screams.
 I want to know this mother-comfort
 Surging through me.
 I am a sliver of blazing ember
                 entering a womb of brightness.
 I am a hovering spectre shedding
                 scarred flesh.
 I am a clown sneaking out of a painted
                 mouth in the sky.
 I am your son, amá, seeking
                 the security of shadows,
                 fleeing weary eyes
                 bursting brown behind
                 a sewing machine.
 I am your brother, the one you
                 threw off rooftops, tore into
                 with rage--the one you visited,
                 a rag of a boy, lying
                 in a hospital bed, ruptured.
 I am friend of books, prey of cops,
                 lover of the barrio women
                 selling hamburgers and tacos
                 at the P&G Burger Stand.
 I welcome this heavy shroud.
 I want to be buried in it--
 To be sculptured marble
 In craftier hands.
 Soon an electrified hum sinks teeth
 Into brain--then claws
 Surround me, pull at me,
 Back to the dust, to the concrete river.
 Let me go!--to stay entangled
 In this mesh of barbed serenity!
 But over me is a face,
 Mouth breathing back life.
 I feel the gush of air,
 The pebbles and debris beneath me.
 “Give me the bag, man," I slur.
 “No way! You died, man," Baba said.
 “You stopped breathing and died.”
 “I have to go back! don’t
 I try to get up, to reach the sky.
 Oh, for the lights--for this whore
                 of a Sun,
 To blind me. To entice me to burn.
 Come back! Let me swing in delight
 To the haunting knell,
 To pierce colors of virgin skies.
 Not here, along a concrete river,
 But there--licked by tongues of flame!

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Teller of Tales by Gabriela Mistral

The Teller of Tales

    When I’m walking, everything
on earth gets up
and stops me and whispers to me,
and what they tell me is their story.
    And the people walking
on the road leave me their stories,
I pick them up where they fell
in cocoons of silken thread.
    Stories run through my body
or sit purring in my lap.
So many they take my breath away,
buzzing, boiling, humming.
Uncalled they come to me,
and told, they still won’t leave me.
    The ones that come down through the trees
weave and unweave themselves,
and knit me up and wind me round
until the sea drives them away.
    But the sea that’s always telling stories,
the wearier I am the more it tells me...
    The people who cut trees,
the people who break stones,
want stories before they go to sleep.
    Women looking for children
who got lost and don’t come home,
women who think they’re alive
and don’t know they’re dead,
every night they ask for stories,
and I return tale for tale.
    In the middle of the road, I stand
between rivers that won’t let me go,
and the circle keeps closing
and I’m caught in the wheel.
    The riverside people tell me
of the drowned woman sunk in grasses
and her gaze tells her story,
and I graft the tales into my open hands.
    To the thumb come stories of animals,
to the index fingers, stories of my dead.
There are so many tales of children
they swarm on my palms like ants.
    When my arms held
the one I had, the stories
all ran as a blood-gift
in my arms, all through the night.
Now, turned to the East,
I’m giving them away because I forget them.
    Old folks want them to be lies.
Children want them to be true.
All of them want to hear my own story,
which, on my living tongue, is dead.
    I’m seeking someone who remembers it
leaf by leaf, thread by thread.
I lend her my breath, I give her my legs,
so that hearing it may waken it for me.
(translated by Ursula K. Le Guin)

Sunday, June 20, 2021

It's the Little Towns I Like by Thomas Lux

It's the Little Towns I Like

It’s the little towns I like 
with their little mills making ratchets 
and stanchions, elastic web, 
spindles, you 
name it. I like them in New England, 
America, particularly-providing 
bad jobs good enough to live on, to live in 
families even: kindergarten, 
church suppers, beach umbrellas ... The towns 
are real, so fragile in their loneliness 
a flood could come along 
(and floods have) and cut them in two, 
in half. There is no mayor, 
the town council’s not prepared 
for this, three of the four policemen 
are stranded on their roofs ... and it doesn’t stop 
raining. The mountain 
is so thick with water parts of it just slide 
down on the heifers—soggy, suicidal— 
in the pastures below. It rains, it rains 
in these towns and, because 
there’s no other way, your father gets in a rowboat 
so he can go to work.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372) by Emily Dickinson

After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372)

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

Speak by Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Speak, your lips are free.
Speak, it is your own tongue.
Speak, it is your own body.
Speak, your life is still yours.
See how in the blacksmith's shop
The flame burns wild, the iron glows red;
The locks open their jaws,
And every chain begins to break.
Speak, this brief hour is long enough
Before the death of body and tongue:
Speak, 'cause the truth is not dead yet,
Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.
(Translated by Azfar Hussain) 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Of Contour, of Cadence by Phillip B. Williams

Of Contour, of Cadence

Resist, don’t: the difference between what one thinks
the magnolias say—branches applauding
some animal act below—and what
they actually say…nothing
between us can
we prepare for, only postpone. I’ve learned
to plead and to please, another difference.
Turn your face that way where light no more
transfigures you than darkness makes a need for
transfiguration. Yes, the scar above your eye.
Blood had dropped from the wound, a curtain.
But I believe we are, inside, all blue, you said.
Listen, neither we nor blue make sky.
The earth spins and we, utterly, are spun.

The Thing Is by Ellen Bass

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Craigslist Ode by Jameson Fitzpatrick

Craigslist Ode

To the young doctor, balding in Stuy Town,
and the straight boy from my school
I could never find on Facebook.
To the boy from the other college downtown,
with the good abs and the bad skin,
to the married guy in real estate who insisted
the sheets be fresh and liked to look into my eyes
the whole time he touched me. To that.
To the first one to reach for his wallet after,
somebody’s father, and the first to tell me
a childhood secret. To the famous journalist
with the big dick I fell in love with,
and the baseball cap through the peephole
who said “this isn’t going to work”
when I opened the door. To the guy
who held me down but wouldn’t touch my dick,
to the redheaded bro in Murray Hill
whose dick smelled so awful. To my crush
from Hebrew class, to his name appearing
like a blessing in my inbox. To the guys
who used their real emails, bless them,
the guys whose girlfriends were out of town
or didn’t give head or wouldn’t wait up.
To the guys who’d never done this before.
To the liars. To the one who was older
than he said he was, to the one whose pictures
were old, to the one who tasted the way
old people smell but I did it anyway.
To the men who came from Queens
and Long Island and Jersey just to see me.
To the hairy guy with the yoga body,
the one with the muscles, the college wrestler
with the cute little dick. To the first one I took
money from, who was from Ireland,
and the second, who was from India,
to the guy on my block I felt bad for,
to the variety of religious undergarments
draped over my bookcase with care.
To the Looney Tunes boxers,
to the hemp necklace, to the fat gold ring,
to the appendectomy scar, to the old burn,
to the birthmark shaped like a country,
to the country it was shaped like,
to the gum removed and then stuck
to the windowsill, to these details
belonging to no one, to my ugly men
and my beautiful, all of them, the ones
unremembered even in metonymy,
my each and every who could have hurt me 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Araminta by Amanda Gunn


Before General, before Moses or Harriet, she was
called Minty. Araminta: a name of two roots.
Arabella “yields to prayer”; Aminta “defends.”
And, O, where ends the might of that arm?
Perhaps her mama, Rit, felt the squeeze of Minty’s fist.
Did she know then her child would wander
from the farm? That she would peer into the marsh
and find the face of God, be blinded one day
in the Philadelphia sun? She arrived
in the new world, new city, crated in pine, a burlap
sack unfurled on her body, wrapped tight under turnip
and leek—coffined, confined, taking each squeak
of the wheel as a sign, each noise she heard as a dog
or a man. Trying to mask her human breath,
the stench of sweat on her human skin. She knew
as a girl: those sold South will march there
in coffles, drag chain for miles. Soph and Linah,
Mariah, her sisters, gone. A horizon both
endless and disappearing. Forever out of sight
and hearing and her very capable hands. So, she sang
her plans to “Master” as she passed him: Goodbye,
I’ll meet you in the kingdom. And she bowed as if
in deference, as if going about work, and, missing
her reference, he gave a grimace, a smirk. He thought
her faithful, but dim, off-keeled—just good enough
for the work of his field. He did not know her meaning,
her will, her fist, her fox, her game, her would-not-
yield, her God, her faith, her uppity, her name.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Water Picture by May Swenson

Water Picture

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.
The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don't fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.
A baby, taken to feed the
ducks, dangles upside-down,
a pink balloon for a buoy.
Treetops deploy a haze of
cherry bloom for roots,
where birds coast belly-up
in the glass bowl of a hill;
from its bottom a bunch
of peanut-munching children
is suspended by their
sneakers, waveringly.
A swan, with twin necks
forming the figure 3,
steers between two dimpled
towers doubled. Fondly
hissing, she kisses herself,
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter,
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge
folds like a fan.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Love Sleeps in the Poet’s Chest by Federico García Lorca

Love Sleeps in the Poet’s Chest

You’ll never know how I love you
because you sleep in me and are asleep
Weeping I hide you—haunted
by a voice of penetrating steel
Law that shakes the flesh and a star
by now has entered my aching heart
and disturbing words have bitten
the wings of your stern self
People leap in the gardens
looking for your body and my death
on horses of light with green manes
But stay asleep—O my life—
Hear the violins sing my shattered blood
Do you see them watching us?
(Translated by Sarah Arvio) 

Friday, June 11, 2021

From the Desire Field by Natalie Diaz

From the Desire Field

I don’t call it sleep anymore.
             I’ll risk losing something new instead—
like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.
But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
             fruit to unfasten from,
despite my trembling.
Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.
Maybe this is what Lorca meant
             when he said, verde que te quiero verde—
because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.
My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
             hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion
beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—
bewildered in its low green glow,
belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
             and many petaled,
the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.
I am struck in the witched hours of want—
I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
             Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth
green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.
Fast as that, this is how it happens—
             soy una sonámbula.
And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
             to say, I don’t feel good,
to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
             or again—
until I can smell its sweet smoke,
             leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

March 3 by Eileen Myles

March 3

The quick
of emails
the former
lovers creates
a soft hole
in the day
and the
before. It snowed
but it was
to be larger &
closed the streets
are wet
I hear and I
step into
One poem
for today
but no
many little
ones. The coffee
is good
my bare
feet in
bed ready
to work.
I work
in the field
of dreams
where I
have met
you many
times. I feel
closer, to
you this
and probably
last night
when the
of our
was flooded
with ghosts.
When I was
I liked the
of my
home &
now like
it or not
here is
this sweet
The cameras
all that
I do can’t
the single
of breeze &
loss & quaint
things I’ve
had since
I was a
the secrets
of my home.
I feel con
by this
of stuff &
yes I
to photograph
it the
bowls u liked
the cup
u touched
& me in a teeshirt
that used
to be special
& now I
carouse in
bed w myself
in it. I don’t
know if
will ever
be different
and that
is the
feeling of
I feel like
a tree
the invisible
part of friendship
and drinking
and warning.
One empty wall
is the least
I can do
for myself.
Late at night
I enjoy
the brown
pages of a cowboy
on my lap
till practically
by a gambler
oh I have
so many
one in Florence
one day
you were
taking a shower
I think
I thought
I love
this television
it’s become
the way
to love
the road
of becoming
is a screen
on it in
my dream.
The excellent
the man
barges in
and says
do you ever
film. The poetry
of accident
like a circus
tent over
my days
and that
and a new
one. I
begin to
about dying.
story ends.
It begins
to be part
of the plot
and do I
love you
for your
from it
or could
I love you
you are
or your
so smart.
I love
The squeaky
little voice
that says
in here
owning the void
and grooving
on it. Voice
you’re not
so bad
and then
I begin
to work.
My dead
is around
my lover
not far
keeping u
here by
not calling
is that the tub
in which
I die.
woo woo
what’s that
I don’t
have kids
and this
is such
a blessing.