Saturday, July 31, 2021

To You by Frank O'Hara

To You

What is more beautiful than night
and someone in your arms
that’s what we love about art
it seems to prefer us and stays
if the moon or a gasping candle
sheds a little light or even dark
you become a landscape in a landscape
with rocks and craggy mountains
and valleys full of sweaty ferns
breathing and lifting into the clouds
which have actually come low
as a blanket of aspirations’ blue
for once not a melancholy color
because it is looking back at us
there’s no need for vistas we are one
in the complicated foreground of space
the architects are most courageous
because it stands for all to see
and for a long long time just as
the words “I’ll always love you”
impulsively appear in the dark sky
and we are happy and stick by them
like a couple of painters in neon allowing
the light to glow there over the river

Friday, July 30, 2021

Search for the New Land by Morgan Parker

Search for the New Land

The future is not a gender, doesn’t even have a body.
And then there’s white women
making T-shirts and selling them for eighty dollars or whatever.
Whatever they do.
The sun doesn’t hate anyone and neither do I.
All I listen to is Lee Morgan’s trumpet
for long stretches of afternoons and nights in the desert.
I decide on the delusion where I live,
genderless and out of sight. This is how I choose
to spend what I have. I’m an American,
so I hear only what I want to.
This is our right—
to protect ourselves in times of extreme stress.
In times of great fear,
we do what we have to do to survive.
Our task is to make it out alive.
This one instruction for having a body,
the punishment for it.
I see the way birds look at me—
Endangered. The future is only earned
or inherited. It writes itself.
Everything wrong with the picture
is the true meaning of the picture.
The future is relative—of course
I am conditional. I am writing this from the deep end.
There are some privileges to being feared,
fearing the consequences of yourself.
How I came all this way and all these centuries,
carrying this extreme stress and pervading American fear.
The taxi driver deposited my many suitcases
into the busy street and drove off.
I don’t have enough hands. My evolution
has not equipped me for this climate.
Lifting a box of books into the overhead compartment,
I wished for a device to make my face a white girl
in times like these, helpless with a body. No full flight
would watch a white girl struggle this way,
her life flashing before her
under the weight of her own books.
I can’t even imagine it. The dissonance of chords
and notes, the hilarious idea of infinity.
The last time I considered suicide—on the edge
of a curb, leaning into the yellow taxis of
the Meatpacking, which in retrospect would have been
a terrible place to die, in front of all those white women
hobbling in their high heels over the cobblestone,
doing that shampoo commercial move,
bathed in the light of themselves—I considered
all I’ve learned about sacrifice, and duty.
I went home in an American SUV, ashamed of something.
That last time I teased death, I couldn’t
listen to any music for weeks, not one note of song.
When I think of the story of Abraham
tying up his son for slaughter—the offering
on an altar at the edge of a mountaintop,
the instruction to do what he had to do, as it is written—
I identify most with the ram. The alternative
asymmetrical sacrifice. I see the way
birds look at me—it writes itself.
We used to sing that song, Father Abraham
had many sons, I am one of them
and so are you, praising the lord and fearing
the wind in our palm trees. The future is this awe:
looking up at the sky in California. Blue in Green.
I am always at the edge of the end of the world.
In the desert, if a ram appears, I may escape death.
Eighty dollars for a certain and secure future.
Miles Davis’s trumpet on “Blue in Green”—a future
where I no longer need to be grateful.
Baldwin wrote, “Our crown has already been bought
and paid for.” What’s important in these times of
war and faith is the consideration, the lean into traffic,
the ax raised dutifully. You are always almost gone—
it is written so that we may remember.
Documentation of the past makes the future possible.
I am learning all I can from this day so I can teach it
to who I will be tomorrow. I have written
I am a different person every minute, and everybody knows
I don’t believe in time, anyway. I did not inherit it.
I always misremember the title Search for the New Land,
the Lee Morgan album and the book by Julius Lester.
I misremember the THE. I think: a new land.
A—all I can hear is go. Wherever, anywhere but here.
In Julius Lester’s Search for the New Land, it is written,
“Being. To be. In America one was taught TO DO.”
My task is to wander until I find a safe place
to continue being. I think: effort, and sacrifice,
and faith—fingers crossed.
I think: it is my responsibility to find
the ram to slaughter in my place.
If we hate the past more than we love the future,
Julius Lester wrote, we will succeed in bringing that past
into the future. Documentation of the past
makes all futures possible, makes the Land New.
The the: it is written. The difference between surviving
and Being. The future is—
take it. The future is out of body,
out of sight, certain as the the.
Looking up at the sky in California.
The trumpet again and again—
wind, blue, one holy bird and everything
possible and promised. The New Land
already waiting for me. Even me.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Wisteria by Philip Levine


The first purple wisteria
I recall from boyhood hung
on a wire outside the windows
of the breakfast room next door
at the home of Steve Pisaris.
I loved his tall, skinny daughter,
or so I thought, and I would wait
beside the back door, prostrate,
begging to be taken in. Perhaps
it was only the flowers of spring
with their sickening perfumes
that had infected me. When Steve
and Sophie and the three children
packed up and made the move west,
I went on spring after spring,
leaden with desire, half-asleep,
praying to die. Now I know
those prayers were answered.
That boy died, the brick houses
deepened and darkened with rain,
age, use, and finally closed
their eyes and dreamed the sleep
of California. I learned this
only today. Wakened early
in an empty house not lately
battered by storms, I looked
for nothing. On the surface
of the rain barrel, the paled,
shredded blossoms floated.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Professional Spanish Knocks on the Door by Elisabet Velasquez

Professional Spanish Knocks on the Door

At first we don’t answer. 
Knocks that loud usually mean 5-0 is on the other end.
                                 Señora ábrenos la puerta porfavor.
                                 Estamos aquí para platicar con usted.
                                 No queremos llamar la policía.
The person on the other side of the door
is speaking professional Spanish.
Professional Spanish is fake friendly.
Is a warning.
Is a downpour when you
Just spent your last twenty dollars on a wash and set.
Is the kind of Spanish that comes
to take things away from you.
The kind of Spanish that looks at your Spanish like it needs help.
Professional Spanish of course doesn’t offer help.
It just wants you to know that it knows you need some.
Professional Spanish is stuck up
like most people from the hood who get good jobs.
Professional Spanish is all like I did it you can do it too.
Professional Spanish thinks it gets treated better than us
because it knows how to follow the rules.
Because it says Abrigo instead of .
Because it knows which fork belongs to the salad
and which spoon goes in the coffee.
Because it gets to be the anchor on Telemundo and Univision
and we get to be the news that plays behind its head in the background.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Bluet by James Schuyler

The Bluet 

And is it stamina
that unseasonably freaks
forth a bluet, a
Quaker lady, by
the lake? So small, 
a drop of sky that
splashed and held,
four-petaled, creamy
in its throat. The woods
around were brown
the air crisp as a
Carr’s table water
biscuit and smelt of
cider. There were frost
apples on the trees in 
the field below the house.
The pond was still, then
broke into a ripple.
The hills, the leaves that
have not yet fallen 
are deep and oriental
rug colors. Brown leaves
in the woods set off
gray trunks of trees.
But that bluet was 
the focus of it all: last
spring, next spring, what
does it matter? Unexpected
as a tear when someone
reads a poem you wrote 
for him: “It’s this line
here.” That bluet breaks
me up, tiny spring flower
late, late in dour October. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Summer Evening by Johannes Bobrowski

Summer Evening

See far, very far, there above the last Red!
There over the Forest, the blackish Walls. One
Water still gleams white. Silence lives there,
Keeping-Secret and Cooling long.
And you, you live where? Is the Earth not
enough for you, the Unspeakable, that
offers Uncounted-Space in front of you,
Space, abundant for both Joy and Death!
And see, above it all the Clouds even float!
And Stars stand! How do I say that to you, how?
Oh Earth, Earth, not too cramped,
too, too abundant; you are too kind!
(Translated by Luke Swenson)
Sieh, weit, sehr weit dort drüben das letzte Rot!
Dort überm Wald, den schwärzlichen Mauern. Weiß
aufleuchtet noch ein Wasser. Schweigen
wohnt dort, Verschweigen und Kühle lange.
Und du, wo wohnst du? Ist dir die Erde nicht
genug, die Unaussprechliche, die vor dir
doch Ungezählten Raum geboten,
Raum, so zum Glück wie zum Sterben reichlich!
Und sieh, darüber treiben die Wolken doch!
und Sterne stehen! Wie soll ich’s sagen, wie?
Oh Erde, Erde, nicht zu enge,
viel, viel zu reich, viel zu gütig bist du!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Plum Cake by Diane Mehta

Plum Cake

I’d make a plum cake when she died,
a lamentation grief-bake, Kaddish through blood-recipe,
all of its colors shrieking at me; a sweet take on her love.
I gaze at the street. Tree branches out front are tangled,
my floor is slanted, my house-cage is so small and dark
for all the summits, slopes, and swamps of feeling.
I am not to be purple-plum-decided in any still-life of grief
or reminiscence, no waferlike religious feeling, never—
she will never be human again. I knew I wouldn’t make it.
Italian plums are sweetest. I should find them in a market
when days are longer; fruit-of-aging, gift-of-goodness.
A friend who lost a friend and made the cake said plum
six times in one paragraph, so full of yearning are our phrases.
Snow-bright is her hair on the bed, knobby knuckle-skin
folded on her chest. She’d be delighted to celebrate her death.
I love that, she’d say happily about the plum-cake wake.
Plums pooled around the cake-slab in the photograph,
bloody and marvellous. Skylight took her in. I couldn’t make it.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Translation by Franz Wright


Death is nature’s way
of telling you to be quiet.
Of saying it’s time
to be weaned, your conflagration starved
to diamond.
I’ll give you something to cry about.
And what those treetops swaying
dimly in the wind spelled. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Graveyard Blues by Natasha Trethewey

Graveyard Blues
It rained the whole time we were laying her down;
Rained from church to grave when we put her down.
The suck of mud at our feet was a hollow sound.
When the preacher called out I held up my hand;
When he called for a witness I raised my hand—
Death stops the body’s work, the soul’s a journeyman.
The sun came out when I turned to walk away,
Glared down on me as I turned and walked away—
My back to my mother, leaving her where she lay.
The road going home was pocked with holes,
That home-going road’s always full of holes;
Though we slow down, time’s wheel still rolls.
            I wander now among names of the dead:
            My mother’s name, stone pillow for my head.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

White Spine by Henri Cole

White Spine

Liar, I thought, kneeling with the others, 
how can He love me and hate what I am? 
The dome of St. Peter's shone yellowish
gold, like butter and eggs. My God, I prayed
anyhow, as if made in the image
and likeness and him. Nearby, a handsome
priest looked at me like a stone; I looked back, 
not desiring to go it alone.
The college of cardinals wore punitive red.
The white spine waved to me from his white throne.
Being in a place not my own, much less
myself, I climbed out, a beast in a crib.
Somewhere a terrorist rolled a cigarette.
Reason, not faith, would change him. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Summer by Chen Chen


You are the ice cream sandwich connoisseur of your generation.
Blessed are your floral shorteralls, your deeply pink fanny pack with travel size lint roller just in case.
Level of splendiferous in your outfit: 200.
Types of invisible pain stemming from adolescent disasters in classrooms, locker rooms, & quite often Toyota Camrys: at least 10,000.
You are not a jigglypuff, not yet a wigglytuff.
Reporters & fathers call your generation “the worst.”
Which really means “queer kids who could go online & learn that queer doesn’t have to mean disaster.”
Or dead.
Instead, queer means, splendiferously, you.
& you means someone who knows that common flavors for ice cream sandwiches in Singapore include red bean, yam, & honeydew.
Your powers are great, are growing.
One day you will create an online personality quiz that also freshens the breath.
The next day you will tell your father, You were wrong to say that I had to change.
To make me promise I would. To make me promise.
& promise.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

At Eighty-three She Lives Alone by Ruth Stone

At Eighty-three She Lives Alone

Enclosure, steam-heated; a trial casket.
You are here; your name on a postal box;
entrance into another place like vapor.
No one knows you. No one speaks to you.
All of their cocks stare down their pant legs
at the ground. Their cunts are blind. They
barely let you through the check-out line.
Have a nice day. Plastic or paper?
Are you origami? A paper folded swan,
like the ones you made when you were ten?
When you saw the constellations, lying
on your back in the wet grass,
the soapy pear blossoms drifting
and wasting, and those stars, the burned out ones
whose light was still coming in waves;
your body was too slight.
How could it hold such mass?
Still on your lips the taste of something.
All night you waited for morning, all morning
for afternoon, all afternoon for night;
and still the longing sings.
Oh, paper bird with folded wings.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Continuity of Parks by Zachary Schomburg

Continuity of Parks

I was reading a story by Cortazar called “Continuity of Parks” while sitting on a bench in the park near a few wild parrots pecking at a dropped ice cream cone. In the story, a man was sitting in his favorite green char reading a novel with great intensity as he neared the end. In the novel he was reading, a woman was plotting to murder her lover with a dagger. As she approached her lover from behind, there he was, sitting in his green chair, reading a novel about a man about to be killed from behind while sitting in his green chair. Before killing him, the woman leaned carefully and quietly in, then read a few sentences over his shoulder. There she was, in the novel he was reading, behind his green chair, dagger in hand, about to kill him. But instead of killing him, she was reading. Now everyone is reading. The killer is reading. The man is reading. And me. I am reading. Even you are reading. We are all here reading in this book together.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Run Down by April Freely

Run Down

my father’s flesh is baby girl pink
pushed back to reveal his tibia
bone like a white hot wall
in his brown body
when you open the body
internal forms stay put
my father steady, still standing
in a tank and shorts at midday in the parking lot
no anger in the shift
as my mother pulls the car into reverse
a beating may be
my mother driving our subcompact into my father repeatedly
driving us away from the cutting at the end of his fists
this is how
my father sets his body to be healed: scattering
gravel under the wheels, clouds of dust like mean
kisses at his feet
I like being inside a machine
big enough to kill
when it doesn’t
idling at a light, I feel
as if against the steel
as if the car is devoid of the cushions and plastic parts
that are supposed to console you
Lake Erie is five minutes away
my mother’s bruises bob up
as the Lake rocks and holds
I see my mother breathing
I see the metal bridges
of the frames on her face 
she is a taut cord
holds her hands
out, stretched toward me
turning at the wrists, saying no
I want to say I’m telling
you about the last beating
it isn’t
I try not to hold anything
against the mother
who lets her own hand
fly up to her face
then bites the fingers of that hand
what protects me: not the cage
of bones, what the rocks did
not hit, the glass of the windshield
that did not break
at the Lake, I throw rocks
at the water, so many open mouths
the deep immediately forgets
when we get home I come to
appreciate the absolute
darkness of a new hole in the wall
my mother washing my face, and then hers
in the bathroom, before getting dinner ready
it is not so much about the lie
or the pain, but my father’s
charisma when he tells me the wound in question
really emerged seven years before
Da Nang inexplicably breaking
out of his body afresh
as a girl, I stood on my father’s back
kneading death’s terrible field
in my white lace socks
I threw my arms out
to keep balance on the sacrum
and the lumbar bones
pressed my foot into the blade
at the shoulder
I want a father who can be torn
so I can visit the consequence
of my body against him
on the back of my neck
my lover kisses me, as she’s driven
I want to call this a drive, not a wreck
restraint not unlike the moment
when I’m going after her lips
and my lover says you want that, can’t have it
when I push up against the hands
she’s planted on each shoulder
when the length of her body pins me down
tell me about the stone, she says
which is what she calls that bone-
handle at my sternum
a stone is a feeling of articulation
in the hand, when she cradles this rise
in my chest
years later, my father is dead
so tonight, my mother is the stone
that comes back
she is asleep, in the bright
cold light of the surgical theatre
on the heart-lung machine
there is no beat to betray her          
the machine is large, it can be trusted                                                                
it whirs like a baby
in the lobby, when I hold my own body
every line is expressive
waiting for the mother to emerge
as I sit, my legs an off-
beat metronome
running down
stones drop
into the water and keep
moving, undertow
tell me about the stone
am I the fist
the rattle, or the steel
of your body now
tell me the waste narrative, make a sound
tell me about the white of the bone I saw
under my father’s skin, this moment
when my teeth broke
into view and anyone could hear
the white noise
we back up
and I drive
at the end of the elasticity of my father
at the no-point when the car is inside his body
as far as love will take it
then I do it again


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Welcome Morning by Anne Sexton

Welcome Morning

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

Friday, July 16, 2021

On Living by Nazim Hikmet

On Living


Living is no laughing matter:
          you must live with great seriousness
               like a squirrel, for example—
     I mean, without looking for something beyond and above living,
          I mean living must be your whole life.
Living is no laughing matter:
          you must take it seriously,
          so much so and to such a degree
     that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                              your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
     in your white coat and safety glasses,
     you can die for people—
even for people you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
     is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
     that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees—
     and not for your children, either,
     but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
     because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery—
which is to say we might not get up
               from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
               about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
               for the latest newscast . . .
Let’s say we’re at the front—
          for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
          we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
     but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
     about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
               before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind—
               I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
     we must live as if we will never die.

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars,
          and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet—
          I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
          in pitch-black space . . .
You must grieve for this right now
—you have to feel this sorrow now—
for the world must be loved this much
                    if you’re going to say “I lived” . . .
(Translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Flowers by Cynthia Zarin


This morning I was walking upstairs
from the kitchen, carrying your
beautiful flowers, the flowers you
brought me last night, calla lilies
and something else, I am not
sure what to call them, white flowers,
of course you had no way of knowing
it has been years since I bought
white flowers—but now you have
and here they are again. I was carrying
your flowers and a coffee cup
and a soft yellow handbag and a book
of poems by a Chinese poet, in
which I had just read the words “come
or go but don’t just stand there
in the doorway,” as usual I was
carrying too many things, you
would have laughed if you saw me.
It seemed especially important
not to spill the coffee as I usually
do, as I turned up the stairs,
inside the whorl of the house as if
I were walking up inside the lilies.
I do not know how to hold all
the beauty and sorrow of my life.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Foreday in the Morning by Jericho Brown

Foreday in the Morning

My mother grew morning glories that spilled onto the walkway toward her porch
Because she was a woman with land who showed as much by giving it color.
She told me I could have whatever I worked for. That means she was an American.
But she’d say it was because she believed
In God. I am ashamed of America
And confounded by God. I thank God for my citizenship in spite
Of the timer set on my life to write
These words: I love my mother. I love black women
Who plant flowers as sheepish as their sons. By the time the blooms
Unfurl themselves for a few hours of light, the women who tend them
Are already at work. Blue. I’ll never know who started the lie that we are lazy,
But I’d love to wake that bastard up
At foreday in the morning, toss him in a truck, and drive him under God
Past every bus stop in America to see all those black folk
Waiting to go work for whatever they want. A house? A boy
To keep the lawn cut? Some color in the yard? My God, we leave things green. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Hope and Love by Jane Hirshfield

Hope and Love
All winter
the blue heron
slept among the horses.
I do not know
the custom of herons,
do not know
if the solitary habit
is their way,
or if he listened for
some missing one-
not knowing even
that was what he did-
in the blowing
sounds in he dark.
I know that
hope is the hardest
love we carry.
He slept
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
put away.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Vectors by Arthur Sze


First extinction in the Galápagos Islands, the least vermillion flycatcher—
Hopis drill a foot deep and plant blue corn along a wash—
Danger, a woman brushed on the side of a napalm bomb—
in an oblong box emptied of firewood, a black-widow web—
shaving, he nicked himself and stared in the mirror in a moment of blood—
out of a saddlebag, a teen pulls a severed goat’s head—
before signing his name, he recalls hotel rooms were once used as torture chambers—
in Thessaloniki, the beach attendant made a gun of his hand and fired at him—
prisoners cackled when the inmate onstage said, “Is it not time for my painkiller?”—
weighing mushrooms, the Tibetan cashier grins, “You suffer from suspicion; I suffer from kindness”—
a mercenary turned car mechanic spilled a pile of Krugerrands onto the table—
looking up from a tusk under the lamp, the carver smiled, “It’s butter in my hands”— 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

In the Dream in Which I Am a Widow by Gabrielle Bates

In the Dream in Which I Am a Widow

I have carried a portion of your ashes overseas
to the Spanish statue of the falling angel,
its snake of stone wrapped twice around one leg’s ankle
and coiled around the thigh of the other, stone jaw
unhinged and reaching for the humanesque hand.
We lived, remember? briefly, near it. One wing arcs up in the sky,
erecting an honest steeple, one that points not straight
but upward and curving. As faith goes.
Back to earth. I’ve scattered part of what you were
from the mouth of my black jacket sleeve onto the field across,
watched over by tall and leaning trees, the field
from which you returned to me so many nights
cold as ice and glowing, your socks full of grass.
I heard the door open, blessed the opening,
blessed the stench you brought inside our home,
blood tangled in the hair on your shin,
bits of another man’s flesh in your cleats.
I was curious about this forbidden felt language.
I rubbed my thumbs into your muscles,
the salt of you softening as it entered me. You were a wonder
with your bones and skin on. You focussed your violence
with a pipette’s precision, and it never spilled
in my direction, never though I lapped at its opening
determined to get a taste from the source.
Years before we went north, before your bed was my bed,
there was a garden in the south we snuck to
where spring made us a headboard out of heady jessamine,
the poisonous vine’s scent sweet, aneurysmal sweet,
swelling our brains against our skulls.
I remember, even in that giddy upward state,
I always knew truth was somewhere not in that sweetness.
Now I’ve made of you a figure
always falling. What sort of monster
does this make me?

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Halley's Comet by Stanley Kunitz

Halley's Comet

Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there'd be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground's edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
"Repent, ye sinners!" he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I'd share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family's asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.
Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street --
that's where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I'm the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Obit [The Blue Dress] by Victoria Chang

Obit [The Blue Dress]

The Blue Dress—died on August 6, 2015, along with the little blue flowers, all silent. Once the petals looked up. Now small pieces of dust. I wonder whether they burned the dress or just the body? I wonder who lifted her up into the fire? I wonder if her hair brushed his cheek before it grew into a bonfire? I wonder what sound the body made as it burned? They dyed her hair for the funeral, too black. She looked like a comic character. I waited for the next comic panel, to see the speech bubble and what she might say. But her words never came and we were left with the stillness of blown glass. The irreversibility of rain. And millions of little blue flowers. Imagination is having to live in a dead person’s future. Grief is wearing a dead person’s dress forever.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Next Day by Randall Jarrell

Next Day

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,
Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I’ve become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.
When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I’d wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children. Now that I’m old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my car
See me. It bewilders me he doesn’t see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile
Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home. Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind
Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water—
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don’t know . . . Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,
My husband away at work—I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them. As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:
I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate. Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: “You’re old.” That’s all, I’m old.
And yet I’m afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend’s cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling me
How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I’m anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.