Friday, October 28, 2022

X by Jean Valentine


I have decorated this banner to honor my brother. Our parents did not want his name used publicly. —from an unnamed child's banner in the AIDS Memorial Quilt
The boatpond, broken off, looks back at the sky.
I remember looking at you, X, this way,
taking in your red hair, your eyes' light, and I miss you
so. I know,
you are you, and real, standing there in the doorway,
whether dead or whether living, real.  —Then Y
said, "Who will remember me three years after I die?
What is there for my eye
to read then?"
The lamb should not have given
his wool.
He was so small. At the end, X, you were so small.
Playing with a stone
on your bedspread at the edge of the ocean.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Jim Limber the Adopted Mulatto Son of Jefferson Davis Explains His Place in the Family by Shane McCrae

Jim Limber the Adopted Mulatto Son of Jefferson Davis Explains His Place in the Family

Dead Joseph died of falling off the porch
On the third floor and smacking his head hard
On the walk he was     as big as me     but he
Was five and I was seven so he wasn’t
As big as me inside     I didn’t see
It but I heard it and some screaming     but it
Wasn’t Joe     screaming but it was his nurse
Screaming and wailing he was surely dead
When Joe dead     Joseph hit the walk     it was quiet
Wasn’t but me and Joe’s nurse heard you might
Have heard     a gnat land on a tear     it was nothing
It sounded like a soldier scuffing
His boot     or like the handyman     with a soft last
Hammer tap tapping     a joint into place 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Kite for Michael and Christopher by Seamus Heaney

A Kite for Michael and Christopher

All through that Sunday afternoon
A kite flew above Sunday,
a tightened drumhead, an armful of blow chaff.
I’d seen it grey and slippy in the making,
I’d tapped it when it dried out white and stiff,
I’d tied the bows of the newspaper
along its six-foot tail.
But now it was far up like a small black lark
and now it dragged as if the bellied string
were a wet rope hauled upon
to life a shoal.
My friend says that the human soul
is about the weight of a snipe
yet the soul at anchor there,
the string that sags and ascends,
weigh like a furrow assumed into the heavens.
Before the kite plunges down into the wood
and this line goes useless
take in your two hands, boys, and feel
the strumming, rooted, long-tailed pull of grief.
You were born fit for it.
Stand here in front of me
and take the strain.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Telemachus’ Detachment by Louise Glück

Telemachus’ Detachment

When I was a child looking
at my parents’ lives, you know
what I thought? I thought
heartbreaking. Now I think
heartbreaking, but also
insane. Also
very funny.

The Leaving by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

The Leaving

My father said I could not do it,
but all night I picked the peaches.
The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily.
I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden.
How many ladders to gather an orchard?
I had only one and a long patience with lit hands
and the looking of the stars which moved right through me
the way the water moved through the canals with a voice
that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering
and those who had gathered before me.
I put the peaches in the pond's cold water,
all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands
twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors,
all night my back a straight road to the sky.
And then out of its own goodness, out
of the far fields of the stars, the morning came,
and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses
just after it has been rung, before the metal
begins to long again for the clapper's stroke.
The light came over the orchard.
The canals were silver and then were not.
and the pond was--I could see as I laid
the last peach in the water--full of fish and eyes.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

A Name by Ada Limón

A Name

When Eve walked among
the animals and named them—
nightingale, redshouldered hawk,
fiddler crab, fallow deer—
I wonder if she ever wanted
them to speak back, looked into
their wide wonderful eyes and
whispered, Name me, name me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Lipstick, 1935 by James Merrill

Lipstick, 1935

At Aunt Pearl’s kiss the pointed head
Extruded glistening pale red
From the jet sheath where it was housed
Looked like our Labrador, aroused.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Being in This World Makes Me Feel Like a Time Traveler by Kaveh Akbar

Being in This World Makes Me Feel Like a Time Traveler

visiting a past self. Being anywhere makes me thirsty.
When I wake, I ask God to slide into my head quickly before I do.
As a boy, I spit a peach pit onto my father’s prayer rug and immediately
it turned into a locust. Its charge: devour the vast fields of my ignorance.
The Prophet Muhammad described a full stomach as containing
one-third food, one-third liquid, and one-third air.
For years, I kept a two-fists-long beard and opened my mouth only to push air out.
One day I stopped in a lobby for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres
and ever since, the life of this world has seemed still. Every night,
the moon unpeels itself without affection. It’s exhausting, remaining
humble amidst the vicissitudes of fortune. It’s difficult
to be anything at all with the whole world right here for the having.

The Couriers by Sylvia Plath

The Couriers

The word of a snail on the plate of a leaf?
It is not mine. Do not accept it.
Acetic acid in a sealed tin?
Do not accept it. It is not genuine.
A ring of gold with the sun in it?
Lies. Lies and a grief.
Frost on a leaf, the immaculate
Cauldron, talking and crackling
All to itself on the top of each
of nine black Alps.
A disturbance in mirrors,
the sea shattering its grey one-
Love, love, my season.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Uncertainty by Edward Hirsch


We couldn't tell if it was a fire in the hills
Or the hills themselves on fire, smoky yet
Incandescent, too far away to comprehend.
And all this time we were traveling toward
Something vaguely burning in the distance—
A shadow in the horizon, a fault line—
A blue and cloudy peak which never seemed
To recede or get closer as we approached.
And that was all we knew about it
As we stood by the window in a waning light
Or touched and moved away from each other
And turned back to our books. But it remained
Even so, like the thought of a coal fading
On the upper left-hand side of our chests,
A destination that we bore within ourselves.
And there were those—were they the lucky ones?—
Who were unaware of rushing toward it.
And the blaze awaited them, too.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward   
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into   
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.


Saturday, October 8, 2022

Song of Autumn by Mary Oliver

Song of Autumn

In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

Ballad by Diane Seuss


Oh dream, why do you do me this way?
Again, with the digging, again with the digging up.
Once more with the shovels.
Once more, the shovels full of dirt.
The vault lid. The prying. The damp boards.
Mother beside me.
Like she’s an old hat at this.
Like all she’s got left is curiosity.
Like curiosity didn’t kill the red cat.
Such a sweet, gentle cat it was.
Here we go again, dream.
Mother, wearing her take-out-the-garbage coat.
I haven’t seen that coat in years.
The coat she wore to pick me up from school early.
She appeared at the back of the classroom, early.
Go with your mother, teacher said.
Diane, you are excused.
I was a little girl. Already a famous actress.
I looked at the other kids. I acted lucky.
Though everyone knows what an early pick-up means.
An early pick-up, dream.
What’s wrong, I asked my mother. It is early spring.
Bright sunlight. The usual birds.
Air, teetering between bearable and unbearable.
Cold, but not cold enough to shiver.
Still, dream, I shiver.
You know, my mother said.
Her long garbage coat flying.
There was a wind, that day.
A wind like a scurrying grandmother, dusting.
Look inside yourself, my mother said.
You know why I have come for you.
And still I acted lucky. Lucky to be out.
Lucky to be out in the cold world with my mother.
I’m innocent, I wanted to say.
A little white girl, trying out her innocence.
A white lamb, born into a cold field.
Frozen almost solid. Brought into the house.
Warmed all night with hair dryers.
Death? I said. Smiling. Lucky.
We’re barely to the parking lot.
Barely to the car ride home.
But the classroom already feels like the distant past.
Long ago, my classmates pitying me.
Arriving at this car full of uncles.
Were they wearing suits? Death such a formal occasion.
My sister, angry-crying next to me.
Me, encountering a fragment of evil in myself.
Evilly wanting my mother to say it.
What? I asked, smiling. My lamb on full display at the fair.
He’s dead! my sister said. Hit me in the gut with her flute.
Her flute case. Her rental flute. He’s dead!
Our father.
Our father, who we were not supposed to know had been dying.
He’s dead! The flute gleaming in its red case.
Here, my mother said at home.
She’d poured us each a small glass of Pepsi
We normally couldn’t afford Pepsi.
Lucky, I acted.
He’s no longer suffering, my mother said.
Here, she said. Drink this.
The little bubbles flew. They bit my tongue.
My evil persisted. What is death? I asked.
And now, dream, once more you bring me my answer.
Dig, my mother says. Pry, she says.
I don’t want to see, dream.
The lid so damp it crumbles under my hands.
The casket just a drawerful of bones.
A drawerful. Just bones and teeth.
That one tooth he had. Crooked like mine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Revenge by Salim Barakat


The coats are all there,
the winds all there,
footprints deep in the snow all there,
the lamps, houses, last apparitions, all there.
So gather in your tame hands all that they can hold of perfection
and strive so that the scene may be a tamed echo.
An unease, like morning, preoccupies those approaching my end, and I — struggling under a great net — hang place — like a prisoner’s pants — on the line, that delicate line, running from the origin of comedy to your moaning.
The abundance of naught is I and will is my suspicion.
Rage is the sign of night and water a thought ahead of its own completion.
Like a shoe polished,
like a nickel doorknob,
thus is your scream.
Day: anger masked in air
Wind: the steps of a word toward its secret
Sound: the ruin of form
Longing: gold scattered on the velvet of the end
Space: the shaper of light
Nothingness: the humor of shadows languishing in their seats
Writing: violence testing the forgotten
Number: the yield of futility
Fruit: the tree’s proof of a past that eludes all proofs
Mask: the moaning of the manifest
Distance: repeated panting
Certainty: a murmuring on the other side
Resurrection: a childhood confirming reason
Gold: a bar fight
Life: a golden bullet
As for you, dweller in endings, don’t wander too long, lest dinner get cold.
(translated by Huda Fakhreddine and Jayson Iwen)

Bad Day by Kay Ryan

Bad Day

Not every day
is a good day
for the elfin tailor.
Some days
the stolen cloth
reveals what it
was made for:
a handsome weskit
or the jerkin
of an elfin sailor.
Other days
the tailor
sees a jacket
in his mind
and sets about
to find the fabric.
But some days
neither the idea
nor the material
presents itself;
and these are
the hard days
for the tailor elf.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

I Was Told the Sunlight Was a Cure by Hanif Abdurraqib

I Was Told the Sunlight Was a Cure

for the cloak of despair thrown over our bright & precious
corners but tell that to the lone bird who did not get the memo
dizzy & shouting into the newly unfamiliar absence of morning
light from atop a sagging branch outside my window—a branch
which, too, was closer to the sky before falling into the chorus
line of winter’s relentless percussion all of us, victims to this flimsy math
of hours I was told there was a cure for this. I was told the darkness
would surrender its weapons & retreat I know of no devils who evict themselves
to the point of permanence. and still, on the days I want
to be alive the sunlight leaves me stunned like a kiss
from someone who has already twirled away by the time my eyes open
on the days I want to be alive I tell myself I deserve a marching band
or at least a string section to announce my arrival above
ground for another cluster of hours. if not a string section, at least one
drummer & a loud-voiced singer well versed in what might move me
to dance. what might push my hand through a crowded sidewalk
towards a woman who looks like a woman from my dreams
which means nothing if you dream as I do, everyone a hazy quilt
of features only familiar enough to lead me through a cavern of longing
upon my waking & so I declare on the days I want to be alive I might drag
my drummer & my singer to your doorstep & ask you to dance
yes, you, who also survived the groaning machinery of darkness
you who, despite this, do not want to be perceived in an empire
awash with light in the sinning hours & we will dance
until our joyful heaving flows into breathless crying, the two often pouring
out of the chest’s orchestra at the same tempo, siblings in their arrival & listen,
there will be no horns to in the marching band of my survival.
the preacher says there will be horns at the gates of the apocalypse & I believed even myself
the angel of death as a boy, when I held my lips to a metal mouthpiece & blew out a tune
about autumn & I am pressing your ear to my window & asking if you can hear the deep
moans of the anguished bird & how the wind bends them into what sounds like a child
clumsily pushing air into a trumpet for the first time & there’s the joke:
only a fool believes that the sound at the end of the world would be sweet.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

What Are Years? by Marianne Moore

What Are Years?   

   What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
   naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage: the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt --
dumbly calling, deafly listening -- that
in misfortune, even death,
      encourages others
      and in its defeat, stirs
   the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
   accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
      in its surrendering
      finds its continuing.
  So he who strongly feels,
behaves. The very bird,
   grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
      This is mortality,
      this is eternity.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The God of Nothingness by Mark Wunderlich

The God of Nothingness

My father fell from the boat.
His balance had been poor for some time.
He had gone out in the boat with his dog
hunting ducks in a marsh near Trempealeau, Wisconsin.
No one else was near
save the wiry farmer scraping the gutters in the cow barn
who was deaf in one ear from years of machines—
and he was half a mile away.
My father fell from the boat
and the water pulled up around him, filled
his waders and this drew him down.
He descended into water the color of weak coffee.
The dog went into the water too,
thinking perhaps this was a game.
I must correct myself—dogs do not think as we do—
they react, and the dog reacted by swimming
around my father’s head. This is not a reassuring story
about a dog signaling for help by barking,
or, how by licking my father’s face, encouraged him
to hold on. The dog eventually tired and went ashore
to sniff through the grass, enjoy his new freedom
from the attentions of his master,
indifferent to my father’s plight.
The water was cold, I know that,
and my father has always chilled easily.
That he was cold is a certainty, though
I have never asked him about this event.
I do not know how he got out of the water.
I believe the farmer went looking for him
after my mother called in distress, and then drove
to the farm after my father did not return home.
My mother told me of this event in a hushed voice,
cupping her hand over the phone and interjecting
cheerful non sequiturs so as not to be overheard.
To admit my father’s infirmity
would bring down the wrath of the God of Nothingness
who listens for a tremulous voice and comes rushing in
to sweep away the weak with icy, unloving breath.
But that god was called years before
during which time he planted a kernel in my father’s brain
which grew, freezing his tongue,
robbing him of his equilibrium.
The god was there when he fell from the boat,
whispering from the warren of my father’s brain,
and it was there when my mother, noting the time,
knew that something was amiss. This god is a cold god,
a hungry god, selfish and with poor sight.
This god has the head of a dog.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Man Who Owned Me by Tracy K. Smith

The Man Who Owned Me

It was a man I’m sure of it.
Though I never saw him
I felt him rise, climbing up
Through me until I bent
To a devotion not my own.
I felt him in my belly, low
In my hips. I carried him
Like I carried my own children.
I have no idea if he was old
Or young, what his face
Would have been had he flesh.
He did in me whatever an ember does
Burning slowly until all of a piece
What it feeds on falls to ash.
Sometimes I miss what he taught me
To see, the hunger it gave me.
I think he must wait now just
Beside my body, believing I’ll
One day fall back to my knees.
If he had hands, they would be
The kind of hands I open for. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

A Farewell, Age Ten by William Stafford

A Farewell, Age Ten

While its owner looks away I touch the rabbit.
Its long soft ears fold back under my hand.
Miles of yellow wheat bend; their leaves
rustle away and wait for the sun and wind.
This day belongs to my uncle. This is his farm.
We have stopped on our journey; when my father says to
we will go on, leaving this paradise, leaving
the family place. We have my father's job.
Like him, I will be strong all of my life.
We are men. If we squint our eyes in the sun
we will see far. I'm ready. It's good, this resolve.
But I will never pet the rabbit again.

Explaining the Divorce to Our Dog by Olivia Cole

Explaining the Divorce to Our Dog

There will be walks. You will
still get your walks, with one
of us, or sometimes both
when the little girl
requests it.
There will still be walks. We
will all be walking and
walking. We just won’t always
be walking

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Horse Fell Off the Poem by Mahmoud Darwish

The Horse Fell Off the Poem

The horse fell off the poem
and the Galilean women were wet
with butterflies and dew,
dancing above chrysanthemum
The two absent ones: you and I
you and I are the two absent ones
A pair of white doves
chatting on the branches of a holm oak
No love, but I love ancient
love poems that guard
the sick moon from smoke
I attack and retreat, like the violin in quatrains
I get far from my time when I am near
the topography of place ...
There is no margin in modern language left
to celebrate what we love,
because all that will be ... was
The horse fell bloodied
with my poem
and I fell bloodied
with the horse’s blood ...
(Translated by Fady Joudah)

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Gratitude by Louise Glück


Do not think I am not grateful for your small
kindness to me.
I like small kindnesses.
In fact I actually prefer them to the more
substantial kindness, that is always eyeing you,
like a large animal on a run,
until your while life reduces
to nothing but waking up morning after morning
cramped, and the bright sun shining on its tusks. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Undo it by Carl Phillips

Undo it

‘I can almost see again: we’ll drown anyway’
Deep from within the changing colors of a life
that itself keeps changing, I know the leaves prove
nothing – though it
does seem otherwise – about
how helplessness is not a luxury, not a hurt by
now worth all the struggling to take back, but
instead what we each, inevitably, stumble
sometimes into,
and sometimes through … As for
that grove-within-a-grove that desire has, so long,
looked like – falling, proof of nothing, carrion-birds
clouding the slumped boughs of the mountain ash –
I can almost see again: we’ll drown anyway – why not
in color? You’re no more to me a mystery, than I to you.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

A Fox in the Dark by Mary Oliver

A Fox in the Dark

A fox goes by in the headlights like an electric shock.
Then he pauses at the edge of the road
and the heart, if it is still alive,
feels something--a yearning for which we have no name
but which we may remember, years later, in the darkness,
upon some other empty road.

Reemergence of the Noose by Patricia Smith

Reemergence of the Noose

Some lamp sputters
its dusty light
across some desk.
Some hand, shaking,
works the strained
rope, twisting and knifing,
weaving, tugging tight
a bellowing circle. Randy
Travis, steamy drawl
and hiccup on the staticky
AM, backs the ritual
of drooping loop.
Sweat drips an awful
hallelujah. God glares
askance, but the artist
doesn’t waver—wrists
click cadence, knots
become a path to what
makes saviors. The sagging
hoop bemoans a need
to squeeze, its craving
for a breath within the ring.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Palea by Tory Dent


Only my mouth taking you in, the greenery splayed deep green.
Within my mouth, your arm inserted, a stem of gestures, breaking gracefully.
Into each other we root arbitrarily, like bushes, silken, and guttural.
Palaver, we open for the thrill of closing, for the thrill of it: opening.
The night was so humid when I knelt on the steps, wet and cold, of prewar stone.
A charm bracelet of sorts we budded, handmade but brazen, as if organic.
I cannot imagine the end of my fascination, emblazoned but feather-white too.
The gold closure of this like a gold coin is, of course, ancient.
Why can't experience disseminate itself, be silken and brazen yet underwater?
A miniature Eiffel Tower, an enameled shamrock, a charm owned by its bracelet.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Night Mail by W. H. Auden

Night Mail

This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.
Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.
Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.
Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers' declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.
Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

Friday, September 2, 2022

Excerpt from An Otherwise by Solmaz Sharif

Excerpt from An Otherwise

Downwind from a British Petroleum refinery, my mother is removing the books she was ordered to remove from the school library. Russians, mostly. Gorky’s “Mother” among them. The Shah is coming to tour the school. It is winter.
In the cold, the schoolgirls line up along the front of the main building and wait for his motorcade. Knee-highs and pleated skirts. Shivering in the refined air.
Wave, girls, the teacher says.
My mother, waving.
Put another way:
The must of the glued
spines and silverfish, metal
shelves, my mother
reaching on tiptoe
to take down Gorky,
for example,
filling her arms
with stacks of books.
The Dickens could stay.
You understand.
And the air is important to note
for what it is doing
to the pink
lungs, bronchioles—
a life of inflammation.
Wave, girls, the teacher says
to the shivering
and ironed line of them.
And wave she did.
And if he cared
to see
into the minds of teen-aged girls,
this King
would’ve seen then
the rifles pointed at him.
When I was a small child,
I think, about five or six, I must’ve
heard something, some cassette turning
to dust in the car’s player,
notes stretched, song
that quieted, in the front seat,
my parents, some tape spooled back
with a ballpoint pen and worn
to mica in the car’s player as the turn signal
clicked its quiet, and the keys
clicked with the wide and final turn—
song which was, I’m sure,
an ancient poem sung and filled
with cypresses, their upright
windscreen for what must be grown.
Downwind, I walked the wide hallways
of a great endowment.
It didn’t matter if I did or didn’t.
It changed only myself, the doing.
It fed down to one knuckle
then the next, this compromise.
It fed down to one frequency
and another, leaving me only a scrambled sound.
It would burn your fingertips
to walk the length of the hall
dragging them along the grass-papered walls
where they punished you
for not
wanting enough. For not wanting
to be nonbelligerent
by naming the terms
for belligerence.
The shellacked
shelves, the softly shaking
pens in their pen case.
What was given there
could be taken, and
quietly, you were reminded of this.
You were reminded all
was property of the West.
The mess of a raven’s nest
built behind a donor’s great bust
then gone.
The mess of bird shit on the steps
then gone. All dismantled and scrubbed
sensibility. And this was it.
This nowhere.
My school of resentment commenced.
What awaits us on the other side
of alphabet,
serrated, all slit,
all hole,
red with scream,
I do not know.
The knowing is the dullest part of all.
Someone posts a picture of the Poet’s tomb
and I want to say,
That’s my city—
but I am left with the lie of my.
I said what I said and stayed
what I came to say
long after the people left.
A poet as a fixed position
most cannot stand to be in
for long.
Someone snaps a photo and moves on.
Someone provides a corpse for this great wall.
Maybe I shouldn’t have taken you there,
she said of our trip
to her childhood home.
For years, I wrote of the bumps
left by the tanks
churning over her roads
as braille messages from the martyrs,
which meant I missed
it entirely,
the only
my mother’s face
turned out
the passenger window,
just looking.

Summer. Harvest done.
The last stone fruit
pitted, jarred,
spoiling the last white shirt—
Row of cypress,
Solid and settled masonry.
The unseen town
and town just
The echo
as if inside
a room of stone.
I felt each world
was one cypress-lined path
and each path had
one of us, bagless
and awake, walking
wind and footfalls.
I felt we were heading
to meet somewhere.
I tried to say it was dead, the song,
but then it came, my mother singing
of cypress—
I tried to leave the literal,
but it got lonely—
I tried to leave desire,
but it scratched at the door, tapped
its empty bowl against the floor—
I tried not to answer,
but the bulb shone—
I saw that the head bent over
a book I couldn’t see
beneath a single yellow lamp
through the evening window
of a childhood not mine
was my mother’s
mind alight
learning to oil a rifle.
It seemed the astrologer might back away
from the stench—
There are too many and it is hard
to tell what is for you
in the noise.
I didn’t ask if the prisoner
with the sharpened spoon handle
to the wrist
came, saying, Tell my mother
or the mother
salting a meal she won’t taste herself.
At a gate, it seemed
the officers knew I was coming.
Their questions tailored.
At a gate, I was asked
the name of my father,
my father’s father,
beneath a shivering bulb,
and whether I write
At a gate, one man
selling gladiolas
wrapped in plastic
out of a black bucket.
One selling wreaths.
One selling water.
At a gate, the men gathered to discuss
a playground
over the unmarked graves.
At a gate, I watched one hand
outstretched, saying,
I thought it was loss—
language, its little
when it’s a beckoning,
a way.
At one gate, my mother waving.
Enough, I said.
I plotted.
In the mornings, I wrote.
In my sleep, I wrote
with fancier, more elaborate inks.
And in my writing I began to write of cypresses.
And of small and sharp stone.
And I, on this path, a wooden handle in my palm, and a blade at the end of it.
And beyond, their windscreen, the unseen.
I knew not the poem, only the weather.
I knew not the listening, only this landscape, its one clear channel.
The metal in my teeth caught its frequency.
The iron shavings of my blood pulled toward this otherwise.