Sunday, October 31, 2021

Late by Sharon Olds

Late

 
The mist is blowing across the yard
like smoke from a battle.
I am so tired of the women doing dishes
and how smart the men are, and how I want to
bite their mouths and feel their hard cocks against me.
The mist moves, over the bushes
bright with poison ivy and black
berries like stones. I am tired of the children,
I am tired of the laundry, I want to be great.
The fog pours across the underbrush in silence.
We are sealed in. The only way out is through
fire, and I do not want a single
hair of a single head singed.



Bunches of a Nest by Diane Mehta

Bunches of a Nest

 
What I started opposes what I shattered.
Marigolds I planted grow underground in silence.
Your arms hold me tighter.
 
I love you back with echoes of alternative languages.
 
Flutter-bees of temporary insanity, cousin of generalities.
My soul in clementine, looking for the gravity
dark matter imposes.
 
A place of conversations, so spirit-drunk it feels ecclesiastical.
 
Up the street, a blue jay and a robin in a tree
quiet me with their full-throated tightrope-walking
argumentative vitality.
 
I walk like a beautiful petrified shell of a woman.
 
Inside the fabric of my feelings
I am reeling. Disarranged, I long to fix myself
in million-year starlight beyond soil, latitude, season.
 
To what end are endings, to what end do we?
 
Below the dogwood’s pinwheel
white blossoms, face up with oxygen petals,
twigs, grass, yarn lie disassembled.
 
Bunches of a nest. A tiny bird, face down, beyond.
  


Monday, October 25, 2021

The Sheep Child by James Dickey

 The Sheep Child

 
Farm boys wild to couple
With anything      with soft-wooded trees   
With mounds of earth      mounds   
Of pinestraw      will keep themselves off   
Animals by legends of their own:   
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns, they will   
Say    I have heard tell
 
That in a museum in Atlanta   
Way back in a corner somewhere   
There’s this thing that’s only half   
Sheep      like a woolly baby
Pickled in alcohol      because   
Those things can’t live.      his eyes
Are open      but you can’t stand to look   
I heard from somebody who ...
 
But this is now almost all   
Gone. The boys have taken   
Their own true wives in the city,
The sheep are safe in the west hill
Pasture      but we who were born there
Still are not sure. Are we,
Because we remember, remembered
In the terrible dust of museums?
 
Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may   
 
Be saying      saying
 
         I am here, in my father’s house.
         I who am half of your world, came deeply
         To my mother in the long grass
         Of the west pasture, where she stood like moonlight
         Listening for foxes. It was something like love
         From another world that seized her
         From behind, and she gave, not lifting her head   
         Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
         Self to that great need. Turned loose, she dipped her face   
         Farther into the chill of the earth, and in a sound   
         Of sobbing      of something stumbling
         Away, began, as she must do,
         To carry me. I woke, dying,
 
         In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
         Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment   
         The great grassy world from both sides,
         Man and beast in the round of their need,
         And the hill wind stirred in my wool,
         My hoof and my hand clasped each other,
         I ate my one meal
         Of milk, and died
         Staring. From dark grass I came straight
         
         To my father’s house, whose dust
         Whirls up in the halls for no reason
         When no one comes      piling deep in a hellish mild corner,   
         And, through my immortal waters,
         I meet the sun’s grains eye
         To eye, and they fail at my closet of glass.
         Dead, I am most surely living
         In the minds of farm boys: I am he who drives
         Them like wolves from the hound bitch and calf
         And from the chaste ewe in the wind.
         They go into woods      into bean fields      they go
         Deep into their known right hands. Dreaming of me,   
         They groan      they wait      they suffer
         Themselves, they marry, they raise their kind.



Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Argonaut by James Tate

The Argonaut

 
What made anyone think I was a Communist I don’t know.  I never went
to any of the Communist meetings.  I didn’t know any other Communists.
I didn’t believe in any of their tenets.  It’s true, I hunted elk in the
winter.  I never actually shot any, but I followed them.  And I laced my
cranberry juice with vodka.  But these things didn’t make me a Communist.
I stood on the bridge and watched the boats go out to sea.  I dreamed
of going with them one day.  I danced alone in my apartment.  I hated my
job with the government.  I went to parties where I didn’t know anyone.
I went to the zoo and talked to the animals.  I dreamed I had an affair
with a zebra and its stripes rubbed off on me.  I met a woman I
liked and called her on the phone.  She said she liked phone sex and I
didn’t know what she meant.  I lay on the couch and counted my blessings.
There were none, or so few they slipped through my fingers.  I got up and
looked out the window.  A cloud of sparrows flew by.  I made myself a can
of soup.  I thought of my relatives, all gone except for one.  I called
her on the phone.  She didn’t remember me.  I told her I was Edna’s son.
She said, “I remember Edna.  I never liked her.  She cursed too much.”
My mother never cursed, but I wasn’t about to argue.  I went to the movies.
I saw Hopalong Cassidy.  I wished he didn’t wave so much.  But I liked
the popcorn.  I walked about the city, feeding the pigeons.  I bought a
soda on the street.  I sat down in a garden.  A woman came along and sat
down beside me.  She said, “Nice day, isn’t it?”  I said, “Yes, very,
I like it.”  “What do you do for a living?” she said.  “I’m an accountant
in the government,” I said.  “That must be nice,” she said.  “But most
people I know think I’m a Communist,” I said.  “That’s a joke, right?”
she said.  “To me it is,” I said.  “To me, you look more like an
Argonaut,” she said.  “What’s an Argonaut?” I said.  “It’s somebody
who swims in the deep waters of the ocean in search of treasure,” she
said.  “I found a penny in my bathtub once when I was a kid,” I said.
“Then you’re an Argonaut,” she said.



Saturday, October 23, 2021

Domestic Work, 1937 by Natasha Trethewey

Domestic Work, 1937

 
All week she's cleaned
someone else's house,
stared down her own face
in the shine of copper—
bottomed pots, polished
wood, toilets she'd pull
the lid to—that look saying
 
Let's make a change, girl.
 
But Sunday mornings are hers—
church clothes starched
and hanging, a record spinning
on the console, the whole house
dancing. She raises the shades,
washes the rooms in light,
buckets of water, Octagon soap.
 
Cleanliness is next to godliness ...
 
Windows and doors flung wide,
curtains two-stepping
forward and back, neck bones
bumping in the pot, a choir
of clothes clapping on the line.
 
Nearer my God to Thee ...
 
She beats time on the rugs,
blows dust from the broom
like dandelion spores, each one
a wish for something better.



Friday, October 22, 2021

The Fall of Rome by W. H. Auden

The Fall of Rome

 
   (for Cyril Connolly)
 
The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.
 
Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.
 
Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.
 
Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.
 
Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.
 
Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.
 
Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast. 



Thursday, October 21, 2021

Improving My German by Lydia Davis

Improving My German

 
All my life I have been trying to improve my German.
At last my German is better
—but now I am old and ill and don’t have long to live.
Soon I will be dead,
with better German.



Wednesday, October 20, 2021

a brief meditation on breath by Yesenia Montilla

a brief meditation on breath 


i have diver’s lungs from holding my
breath for so long. i promise you
i am not trying to break a record
sometimes i just forget to
exhale. my shoulders held tightly
near my neck, i am a ball of tense
living, a tumbleweed with steel-toed
boots. i can’t remember the last time
i felt light as dandelion. i can’t remember
the last time i took the sweetness in
& my diaphragm expanded into song.
they tell me breathing is everything,
meaning if i breathe right i can live to be
ancient. i’ll grow a soft furry tail or be
telekinetic something powerful enough
to heal the world. i swear i thought
the last time i’d think of death with breath
was that balmy day in july when the cops
became a raging fire & sucked the breath
out of Garner; but yesterday i walked
38 blocks to my father’s house with a mask
over my nose & mouth, the sweat dripping
off my chin only to get caught in fabric & pool up
like rain. & i inhaled small spurts of me, little
particles of my dna. i took into body my own self
& thought i’d die from so much exposure
to my own bereavement—they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing                down your neck—
 

 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Migration by W. S. Merwin

Migration

 
Prayers of many summers come
to roost on a moment
until it sinks under them
and they resume their journey
flying by night
with the sound
of blood rushing in an ear 



Monday, October 18, 2021

Arriving by Linda Gregg

Arriving

 
What do they say about the land of the dead?
About the ceremony of the body?
About women in long dresses?
What do they say about the innocence of the
flesh? What about the endeavor in nature
at ease with the dance and music?
Long ago beyond graves are worlds in state.
The cities still there in ruin. The neck of the ibex.
Walled gardens surrounded by desert.
Imagined lions guarding the gate.
All as it was before.
Worlds out of time still exist.
Worlds of achievement out of mind and
remembering just as the poem lasts.
In the concert of being present.
I have lost my lover and my youth.
I want to praise the meadow, the horse
rolling over in the river with me
as a girl underneath it. Surviving to see
the ferns in the woods, sunlight on blond hills.
And the aged apple trees
in a valley where there used to be a cabin.
Where someone lived. And where small inedible apples grow.
That the deer will eat.
 


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Before the Riot by Kwame Dawes

Before the Riot

 
       But someone will have to pay for all the innocent blood . . .
        – Bob Marley, “We and Dem”
 
On the dreary trudge—the frontier begins. A hundred years later,
almost two, a woman says in the way of appeasement,
“Perhaps it is true, that for us to live so well,
some of them had to die . . . ?” The question suggested
by the nervous lift in inflection at the end of phrase—
and who is this “us” who have lived so well, who are living
so well; and how well—so that there is a peculiar
justification, a terrible logic, and it is a haunting
confession buried deep inside the book, though, in truth,
there is no question there. This is its own duplicity, this questioning,
this effortless way of speaking the tragic: there has been blood,
so much blood, and the rituals of bludgeoning,
of rust-tanned white men, clichéd westerners, hunters,
the stereotypes, the killers of vermin rabbits
under-wheel of trucks, the people she knows intimately,
like a daughter knows her father, knows her brothers,
knows the scent of Scotch on her grandfather’s breath;
the comfort of their manliness, stoic as stone, they will kill,
as easily as threaten even the softer bodies of their women—
it is a logical equation, a management of ethics,
and who are the dead, the slaughtered and the erased?
Tribes and tribes, whose faces I do not know,
though I know that the logic of this pragmatism—
this expiation of guilt, but the embrace of guilt,
as a kind of penance, is familiar, and the faces of those
bloodshot eyes, skins chalky with deprivation, the weary look
of slaves, those faces are as familiar as the panting bodies
of the football team strewn on the wide grass, undressed
in the heat, sweating, bodies broken after pleasure—the familiar look
of black bodies coffered by desire and violence, familiar as this—
and that saying, that Darwinian logic: “Perhaps it is true,
that for us to live so well, some of them had to die . . . ?”
offered in the soft voice of a Midwestern woman,
who never rushes her words, who carries in her throat
the secret to receiving mercy, a kind of forgiveness,
an expiation of guilt, who we count among those
in whose mouths ice couldn’t melt; mouths of tender
duplicity—perhaps, perhaps for us to live
as we do, and by this, I mean we who contemplate
anger and bombs, and chants, today, perhaps,
it’s true that someone will have to pay, as we say.



Saturday, October 16, 2021

Gertrude Stein by Diane Seuss

Gertrude Stein

 
I’d just brushed the dog, there on the dog’s couch.
I was wearing a black—well, to call it a gown is a criminal
overstatement—a black rag. It became clear to me—
 
and when I say clear I mean the moment went crystal cathedral—
I could see my life from—not a long shot—
but what they used to call an increment apart—a baby step
 
to the right or left of myself—about the width of a corrective
baby shoe. There I was, broad-shouldered, witch-shaped
without the associated magic—with my dog in my shack—
 
once mauve faded to pink—beyond sex or reason—
a numbness had set in—Gertrude Stein, Picasso’s portrait of her—
that above-it-all—or within-it-all—look on—not a face
 
but the planes that suggest a face—the eyes
aren’t really lined up right or the real eyes are peering
from behind the cut-out shapes of eyes. The couch
 
had been a sort of—not a gift—but a donation of sorts
from a person with plenty of money. When it was dragged
into my house it was already—stately—but with worn patches
 
and stains. A trinity of dogs over time had laid claim to it—
three egotists. To brush the dog meant I had to visit it
in its monarchy—and in that visit—that single prismatic
 
increment—I saw I’d become—maybe all arrive in their own time—
some before dying, some after—a draped artifact—
haystack or headstone rising out of the plains—
 
and then, with fascination—and a degree
of sadness and even objectivity—I loved—
as I once loved “Tender Buttons”—myself.



Friday, October 15, 2021

Fall Leaf Studies by Mary Ruefle

Fall Leaf Studies

 
I wake up, I count my money,
then I have lunch.
After lunch I go
to the window.
The leaves are no longer green.
When the leaves fall,
at the end of summer,
who knows if there are enough
to cover the ground?
Do they themselves
ever actually really know?
They come down slowly
and with many conjectures
after all that yak
and in that bronzed state
they pause.



Thursday, October 14, 2021

Carousel by Fady Joudah

Carousel

 
All you have been and all
you have experienced has happened to me.
I travel from my future to our past to lose
my origins. What’s the beginning?
Where? There was a loophole, and I was the camel
that went through. One hump or two?
The answers to my questions are beyond me
but I only ask questions with answers I can believe.
I have seen the world without you in it
and it’s not what you think.
In the future you will see
that it was me who gave you the order to ruin my past.
In my past you will seem wicked.
I will not accept your innocence.
 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Roses Only by Marianne Moore

Roses Only

 
You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather than 
    an asset – that in view of the fact that spirit creates form we are justified
      in supposing 
      that you must have brains. For you, a symbol of the unit, stiff
        and sharp,
    conscious of surpassing by dint of native superiority and liking
      for everything self-dependent,
 
on anything an ambitious civilization might produce: for you, unaided, to attempt 
      through sheer 
    reserve to confute presumptions resulting from observation is
      idle. You cannot make us 
      think you a delightful happen-so. But rose, if you are brilliant, it
    is not because your petals are the without-which-nothing of pre- 
      eminence. You would look, minus
thorns – like a what-is-this, 
 
a mere peculiarity. They are not proof against a storm, the elements, or mildew
    but what about the predatory hand? What is brilliance without
      coordination? Guarding the 
      infinitesimal pieces of your mind, compelling audience to
    the remark that it is better to be forgotten than to be remembered too
      violently,
your thorns are the best part of you.



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow by Robert Duncan

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

 
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,   
that is not mine, but is a made place,
 
that is mine, it is so near to the heart,   
an eternal pasture folded in all thought   
so that there is a hall therein
 
that is a made place, created by light   
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
 
Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved   
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.
 
She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words   
that is a field folded.
 
It is only a dream of the grass blowing   
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down
 
whose secret we see in a children’s game   
of ring a round of roses told.
 
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow   
as if it were a given property of the mind   
that certain bounds hold against chaos,
 
that is a place of first permission,   
everlasting omen of what is.
 


Monday, October 11, 2021

Often I am Permitted to Return to the City by Phillip B. Williams

Often I am Permitted to Return to the City 


as if it were a scene made up by my need
for a city, viaducts July-sweating sweat not
 
mine as the city is no longer mine, was never,
but it holds me near to its metallic, junkyard
pasture and junkie song so hollow it's a hall
 
I dare not walk through, this tragic place
wherefrom the people with my face fall.
 
Wherefrom fall all the architectures I am
I say are my people's people and my people
whose houses tremble as thunderous bass passes.
 
The blacktopped roads sop up heat for double
Dutch feet to greet, rope slapped down
by a child's hand. I used to know her name.
 
It is only a dream of trees, their propeller seeds
blown west through batches of weeds crocheted
yellow-green with dandelions and cigarette butts
 
once erect from a mouth stressed over rent due,
dried spit the tincture of wait and liquor stores.
 
Often I am permitted to return to this city
as if it were a gift for which I forgot the means
to augur into clarity, always wrapped in cool violence,
 
neighbors' frowns cauterized into cul-de-sacs,
omen outcasting what lives to give relief.
 


Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Committee Weighs In by Andrea Cohen

The Committee Weighs In

 
I tell my mother
I’ve won the Nobel Prize.
 
Again? she says. Which
discipline this time?
 
It’s a little game
we play: I pretend
 
I’m somebody, she
pretends she isn’t dead.



Saturday, October 9, 2021

Preludes by T. S. Eliot

Preludes

 
I
The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
 
And then the lighting of the lamps.
 
II
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.
 
III
You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
 
IV
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.
 
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
 
Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.
 


Friday, October 8, 2021

You Are Who I Love by Aracelis Girmay

You Are Who I Love

 
You, selling roses out of a silver grocery cart
 
You, in the park, feeding the pigeons
You cheering for the bees
 
You with cats in your voice in the morning, feeding cats
 
You protecting the river   You are who I love
delivering babies, nursing the sick
 
You with henna on your feet and a gold star in your nose
 
You taking your medicine, reading the magazines
 
You looking into the faces of young people as they pass, smiling and saying, Alright! which, they know it, means I see you, Family. I love you. Keep on.
 
You dancing in the kitchen, on the sidewalk, in the subway waiting for the train because Stevie Wonder, H├ęctor Lavoe, La Lupe
 
You stirring the pot of beans, you, washing your father’s feet
 
You are who I love, you
reciting Darwish, then June
 
Feeding your heart, teaching your parents how to do The Dougie, counting to 10, reading your patients’ charts
 
You are who I love, changing policies, standing in line for water, stocking the food pantries, making a meal
 
You are who I love, writing letters, calling the senators, you who, with the seconds of your body (with your time here), arrive on buses, on trains, in cars, by foot to stand in the January streets against the cool and brutal offices, saying:
YOUR CRUELTY DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME
 
You are who I love, you struggling to see
 
You struggling to love or find a question
 
You better than me, you kinder and so blistering with anger, you are who I love, standing in the wind, salvaging the umbrellas, graduating from school, wearing holes in your shoes
 
You are who I love
weeping or touching the faces of the weeping
 
You, Violeta Parra, grateful for the alphabet, for sound, singing toward us in the dream
 
You carrying your brother home
You noticing the butterflies
 
Sharing your water, sharing your potatoes and greens
 
You who did and did not survive
You who cleaned the kitchens
You who built the railroad tracks and roads
You who replanted the trees, listening to the work of squirrels and birds, you are who I love
You whose blood was taken, whose hands and lives were taken, with or without your saying
Yes, I mean to give. You are who I love.
 
You who the borders crossed
You whose fires
You decent with rage, so in love with the earth
You writing poems alongside children
 
You cactus, water, sparrow, crow        You, my elder
You are who I love,
summoning the courage, making the cobbler,
 
getting the blood drawn, sharing the difficult news, you always planting the marigolds, learning to walk wherever you are, learning to read wherever you are, you baking the bread, you come to me in dreams, you kissing the faces of your dead wherever you are, speaking to your children in your mother’s languages, tootsing the birds
 
You are who I love, behind the library desk, leaving who might kill you, crying with the love songs, polishing your shoes, lighting the candles, getting through the first day despite the whisperers sniping fail fail fail
 
You are who I love, you who beat and did not beat the odds, you who knows that any good thing you have is the result of someone else’s sacrifice, work, you who fights for reparations
 
You are who I love, you who stands at the courthouse with the sign that reads NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE
 
You are who I love, singing Leonard Cohen to the snow, you with glitter on your face, wearing a kilt and violet lipstick
 
You are who I love, sighing in your sleep
 
You, playing drums in the procession, you feeding the chickens and humming as you hem the skirt, you sharpening the pencil, you writing the poem about the loneliness of the astronaut
 
You wanting to listen, you trying to be so still
 
You are who I love, mothering the dogs, standing with horses
 
You in brightness and in darkness, throwing your head back as you laugh, kissing your hand
 
You carrying the berbere from the mill, and the jug of oil pressed from the olives of the trees you belong to
 
You studying stars, you are who I love
braiding your child’s hair
 
You are who I love, crossing the desert and trying to cross the desert
 
You are who I love, working the shifts to buy books, rice, tomatoes,
 
bathing your children as you listen to the lecture, heating the kitchen with the oven, up early, up late
 
You are who I love, learning English, learning Spanish, drawing flowers on your hand with a ballpoint pen, taking the bus home
 
You are who I love, speaking plainly about your pain, sucking your teeth at the airport terminal television every time the politicians say something that offends your sense of decency, of thought, which is often
 
You are who I love, throwing your hands up in agony or disbelief, shaking your head, arguing back, out loud or inside of yourself, holding close your incredulity which, yes, too, I love          I love
 
your working heart, how each of its gestures, tiny or big, stand beside my own agony, building a forest there
 
How “Fuck you” becomes a love song
 
You are who I love, carrying the signs, packing the lunches, with the rain on your face
 

You at the edges and shores, in the rooms of quiet, in the rooms of shouting, in the airport terminal, at the bus depot saying “No!” and each of us looking out from the gorgeous unlikelihood of our lives at all, finding ourselves here, witnesses to each other’s tenderness, which, this moment, is fury, is rage, which, this moment, is another way of saying: You are who I love   You are who I love  You and you and you are who



Thursday, October 7, 2021

Eddie Priest's Barbershop & Notary by Kevin Young

Eddie Priest's Barbershop & Notary

 
Closed Mondays
 
is music    is men
off early from work    is waiting
for the chance at the chair
while the eagle claws holes
in your pockets    keeping
time    by the turning
of rusty fans    steel flowers with
cold breezes    is having nothing
better to do    than guess at the years
of hair    matted beneath the soiled caps
of drunks    the pain of running
a fisted comb through stubborn
knots    is the dark dirty low
down blues    the tender heads
of sons fresh from cornrows    all
wonder at losing    half their height
is a mother gathering hair    for good
luck    for a soft wig    is the round
difficulty of ears    the peach
faced boys asking Eddie
to cut in parts and arrows
wanting to have their names read
for just a few days    and among thin
jazz    is the quick brush of a done
head    the black flood around
your feet    grandfathers
stopping their games of ivory
dominoes    just before they reach the bone
yard    is winking widowers announcing
cut it clean off    I’m through courting
and hair only gets in the way    is the final
spin of the chair    a reflection of
a reflection    that sting of wintergreen
tonic    on the neck of a sleeping snow
haired man    when you realize it is
your turn    you are next



Wednesday, October 6, 2021

What Is a Poem? by Ruth Stone

What Is a Poem?

 
Such slight changed in air pressure,
tongue and palate,
and the differences in teeth.
Transparent words.
Why do I want to say ochre,
or what is green-yellow?
The sisters of those leaves on the ground
still lisp on the branches.
Why do I want to imitate them?
 
Having come this far
with a handful of alphabet,
I am forced,
with these few blocks,
to invent the universe.



Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Little Errand by Brian Teare

Little Errand

 
I gather the rain
 
 
in both noun
& verb. The way
 
 
the river banks
its flood, floods
its banks, quiver’s
 
 
grammar I carry
 
 
noiseless, easy
over my shoulder.
 
 
To aim is—I think
of his mouth.
Wet ripe apple’s
 
 
scent : sugar,
 
 
leather. To aim
is a shaft tipped
 
 
with adamant. Angle,
grasp, aim is a way
to hope to take
 
 
what’s struck in hand,
 
 
mouth. At the river
flood so lately laid
 
 
down damage by,
geese sleep, heads
turned under wings
 
 
wind tests tremor
in like archery’s
physics shifts
 
 
energy, potential
to kinetic : flight—
 
 
but not yet :
 
 
this grammar’s time
to string a bow, draw
taut the air, send rain
 
 
from quiver to verb
to aim to pierce
 
 
the scent of such red
 
 
flesh. Hope’s arrow’s
anatomy : thin,
feather’s fletching
 
 
trembling, it
crests to end
 
 
in brightness.



Monday, October 4, 2021

Decency by Emily Jungmin Yoon

Decency
 
When a man threw his fist into a wall next to my eye
I said that was love, that love was rage.
I was in the habit of loving anyone who laid a cold hand
on my face and said he’d pray for me.
Or anyone who prays. I thought apology
was love and so I loved to hear a man say sorry.
I loved to forgive because it meant I was a goddess. I forgave
because he couldn’t possibly forgive himself.
There’s a demon inside me, he said. Who cares if it’s a demon
when it is mine and I am greedy for it. No, there isn’t, and
I don’t care, do you hear me?—I’d say, and greed seemed to river
through my body. Even years later I could not speak of men
and their violence because I wanted to believe, yes,
in such a thing as decency in men I loved. That my love
was decent. All the men who wanted me beautiful,
wanted me thin, wanted me with short hair, wanted me less
smart, wanted me, wanted me not, wanted me with pink
cheeks, wanted the best for me, wanted me in ruffled
skirts, wanted me naked, wanted me dead, all the men
who wanted me, men who wanted, men who are
gone, not gone enough.



Sunday, October 3, 2021

Before Morning in Perugia by Jack Gilbert

Before Morning in Perugia

 
Three days I sat
bewildered by love.
Three nights I watched
the gradations of dark.
Of light. Saw
three mornings begin
and was taken each time
unguarded
of the loud bells.
My heart split open
as a melon.
And will not heal.
Gives itself
Senselessly
to the old women
carrying milk.
The clumsy men sweeping.
To roofs.
God protect me.





Saturday, October 2, 2021

A Dedication by James Merrill

A Dedication

 
Hans, there are moments when the whole mind
Resolves into a pair of brimming eyes, or lips
Parting to drink from the deep spring of a death
That freshness they do not yet need to understand.
These are the moments, if ever, an angel steps
Into the mind, as kings into the dress
Of a poor goatherd, for their acts of charity.
There are moments when speech is but a mouth pressed
Lightly and humbly against the angel’s hand.