Thursday, March 31, 2022

Wheel of Fire by Ishion Hutchinson

Wheel of Fire

They flared on the sea green
of the Subaru that seemed netted
under the unleafing maple,
a limestone moulage cut
from a quarry and cast
in immemorial arrest behind
Pete’s Absolute Asphalt truck,
throttling still when I alighted
and said, besides, in Aleppo once —
to nothing but the wind
photographed in sunlight;
the pavement’s watery brier
and children and their ghosts
and the air-raid screams of mothers,
once, in Aleppo, altered
that moment in history
when titihihihihi titihihihihi
those white houses,
stiffened with silence, broke
the private change, the public good
to dive into pits of leaves.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

An Event About Which No More Need Be Said by Mark Strand

An Event About Which No More Need Be Said 

I was riding downtown in a cab with a prince who had consented to be interviewed, but asked that I not mention him or his country by name. He explained that both exist secretly and their business is carried on in silence. He was tall, had a long nose beneath which was tucked a tiny mustache; he wore a pale blue shirt open at the neck and cream-colored pants. “I have no hobbies,” he explained. “My one interest is sex. It can be with a man or a woman, old or young, so long as it produces the desired result, which is to remind me of the odor of white truffles or the taste of candied violets in a floating island. Here, let me show you something.” When I saw it, saw how big it was, and what he’d done to it, I screamed, and leapt from the moving cab.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Why Not by Jana Prikryl

Why Not

The snow sparkled,
each shift
in my sled’s
caused it to sparkle again
as I sped down that way and thought
why not
enjoy this, meaning
look at it,
so I looked, what allowance, and later

can’t sleep
came back out
glance up
the sky full of unexpected stars
it looks like a vast piece
of quartz, sparkling, veiny and I thought, oh
the sky has always been like this
a rock
of course

Swimming Laps by Arthur Sze

Swimming Laps

Swimming backstroke toward the far end of a pool in sunlight—
yellow flares in the nearby aspens—
in the predawn sky, Mars and Venus glimmered—
how is it a glimmering moment coalesces, and the rest slides like flour through a sieve?—
how is it these glimmerings become constellations in a predawn sky?—
reaching the wall, I turn and push off swimming freestyle—
how is it we bobbed in water beyond the breaking surf, and I taste that salt in my mouth now?—
how is it, dishevelled, breathless, we drew each other up into flame?—
how is it that flame burns steadily within?—
reaching the wall, I turn and push off swimming sidestroke—
with each scissors kick, I know time’s shears—
this is not predawn to a battle when the air dips to a windless calm—
let each day be lived risking feeling loving alive to ivy reddening along the fence—
reaching the wall, I turn and push off swimming breaststroke—
how is it I see below then above a horizon line?—
how is it I didn’t sputter, slosh, end up staring at a Geiger counter clock mounted on a barroom wall?—
I who have no answers find glimmering shards—
reaching the wall, I pause, climb out of the pool, start a new day—

Saturday, March 26, 2022

You Are Gorgeous and I Am Coming by Frank O'Hara

You Are Gorgeous and I Am Coming

Vaguely I hear the purple roar of the torn-down Third Avenue El
It sways slightly but firmly like a hand or a golden-downed thigh
normally I don’t think of sounds as colored unless I’m feeling corrupt
concrete Rimbaud obscurity of emotion which is simple and very definite
even lasting, yes it may be that dark and purifying wave, the death of boredom
nearing the heights themselves may destroy you in the pure air
to be further complicated, confused, empty but refilling, exposed to light
With the past falling away as an acceleration of nerves thundering and shaking
aims its aggregating force like the Metro towards a realm of encircled travel
rending the sound of adventure and becoming ultimately local and intimate
repeating the phrases of an old romance which is constantly renewed by the
endless originality of human loss the air the stumbling quiet of breathing
newly the heavens’ stars all out we are all for the captured time of our being.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Any Common Desolation by Ellen Bass

Any Common Desolation

can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Virus by Jericho Brown

The Virus
Dubbed undetectable, I can’t kill
The people you touch, and I can’t
Blur your view
Of the pansies you’ve planted
Outside the window, meaning
I can’t kill the pansies, but I want to.
I want them dying, and I want
To do the killing. I want you
To heed that I’m still here
Just beneath your skin and in
Each organ
The way anger dwells in a man
Who studies the history of his nation.
If I can’t leave you
Dead, I’ll have
You vexed. Look. Look
Again: show me the color
Of your flowers now.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Orchard of Knowing by Paul Tran

Orchard of Knowing

          Into the shadows I go
and find you, gorgeous as your necklace
          of nine hundred and ninety-nine index fingers.
All of them point at me
          as the kill to complete your mission:
to return to your kingdom by returning to your king
          a thousand human sacrifices.
You chase me. You swing your sword
          yet I remain beyond your reach.
I’ll surrender, I tell you,
          when you detach from your received idea of purpose.
So you do. You set down your weapon.
          But I didn’t mean the blade in your hand.
I meant the blade in your mind.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

A Prodigal by Elizabeth Bishop

A Prodigal

The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs' eyes followed him, a cheerful stare--
even to the sow that always ate her young--
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
And then he thought he almost might endure
his exile yet another year or more.
But evenings the first star came to warn.
The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
to shut the cows and horses in the barn
beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
safe and companionable as in the Ark.
The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
The lantern--like the sun, going away--
laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
he felt the bats' uncertain staggering flight,
his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
touching him. But it took him a long time
finally to make up his mind to go home.

The Death of the Hired Man by Robert Frost

The Death of the Hired Man

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. ‘Silas is back.’
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. ‘Be kind,’ she said.
She took the market things from Warren’s arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
‘When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I’ll not have the fellow back,’ he said.
‘I told him so last haying, didn’t I?
If he left then, I said, that ended it.
What good is he? Who else will harbor him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
So he won’t have to beg and be beholden.
“All right,” I say, “I can’t afford to pay
Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.”
“Someone else can.” “Then someone else will have to.”
I shouldn’t mind his bettering himself
If that was what it was. You can be certain,
When he begins like that, there’s someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,—
In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.’
‘Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,’ Mary said.
‘I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.’
‘He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowe’s I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognize him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
Wait till you see.’
                          ‘Where did you say he’d been?’
‘He didn’t say. I dragged him to the house,
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off.’
‘What did he say? Did he say anything?’
‘But little.’
                ‘Anything? Mary, confess
He said he’d come to ditch the meadow for me.’
              ‘But did he? I just want to know.’
‘Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldn’t grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
He added, if you really care to know,
He meant to clear the upper pasture, too.
That sounds like something you have heard before?
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times—he made me feel so queer—
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilson—you remember—
The boy you had in haying four years since.
He’s finished school, and teaching in his college.
Silas declares you’ll have to get him back.
He says they two will make a team for work:
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft
On education—you know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun,
Silas up on the cart to build the load,
Harold along beside to pitch it on.’
‘Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot.’
‘Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn’t think they would. How some things linger!
Harold’s young college boy’s assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathize. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late.
Harold’s associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harold’s saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked it—that an argument!
He said he couldn’t make the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong—
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay—’
‘I know, that’s Silas’ one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big birds’ nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He’s trying to lift, straining to lift himself.’
‘He thinks if he could teach him that, he’d be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world.
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different.’
Part of a moon was falling down the west,
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw it
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harp-like morning-glory strings,
Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,
As if she played unheard some tenderness
That wrought on him beside her in the night.
‘Warren,’ she said, ‘he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.’
‘Home,’ he mocked gently.
                                       ‘Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he’s nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.’
‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’
                                      ‘I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’
Warren leaned out and took a step or two,
Picked up a little stick, and brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
‘Silas has better claim on us you think
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt today.
Why didn’t he go there? His brother’s rich,
A somebody—director in the bank.’
‘He never told us that.’
                                  ‘We know it though.’
‘I think his brother ought to help, of course.
I’ll see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him in, and might be willing to—
He may be better than appearances.
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If he’d had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
He’d keep so still about him all this time?’
‘I wonder what’s between them.’
                                                ‘I can tell you.
Silas is what he is—we wouldn’t mind him—
But just the kind that kinsfolk can’t abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don’t know why he isn’t quite as good
As anyone. Worthless though he is,
He won’t be made ashamed to please his brother.’
I can’t think Si ever hurt anyone.’
‘No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.
He wouldn’t let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there tonight.
You’ll be surprised at him—how much he’s broken.
His working days are done; I'm sure of it.’
‘I’d not be in a hurry to say that.’
‘I haven’t been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
He’s come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustn’t laugh at him.
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon.’
                                      It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returned—too soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
‘Warren,’ she questioned.
                                     ‘Dead,’ was all he answered.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Projector by Cathy Linh Che


While I slept, my cousin placed
his mother’s mask on me,
asked me if I loved him.
He wore wolf ears.
I willed him to hear the change
in atmosphere, the tilt of air
—no, no, no—
his finger slid
under the white
The air was cool,
my face on fire.
I wore my woman’s mask.
I was ten years old.
When he kissed me, the edges
of our magnetic fields touched.
Inside, my heart compressed
into a black hole.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Easter Morning by A. R. Ammons

Easter Morning

I have a life that did not become,
that turned aside and stopped,
I hold it in me like a pregnancy or
as on my lap a child
not to grow old but dwell on
it is to his grave I most
frequently return and return
to ask what is wrong, what was
wrong, to see it all by
the light of a different necessity
but the grave will not heal
and the child,
stirring, must share my grave
with me, an old man having
gotten by on what was left
when I go back to my home country in these
fresh far-away days, it’s convenient to visit
everybody, aunts and uncles, those who used to say,
look how he’s shooting up, and the
trinket aunts who always had a little
something in their pocketbooks, cinnamon bark
or a penny or nickel, and uncles who
were the rumored fathers of cousins
who whispered of them as of great, if
troubled, presences, and school
teachers, just about everybody older
(and some younger) collected in one place
waiting, particularly, but not for
me, mother and father there, too, and others
close, close as burrowing
under skin, all in the graveyard
assembled, done for, the world they
used to wield, have trouble and joy
in, gone
the child in me that could not become
was not ready for others to go,
to go on into change, blessings and
horrors, but stands there by the road
where the mishap occurred, crying out for
help, come and fix this or we
can’t get by, but the great ones who
were to return, they could not or did
not hear and went on in a flurry and
now, I say in the graveyard, here
lies the flurry, now it can’t come
back with help or helpful asides, now
we all buy the bitter
incompletions, pick up the knots of
horror, silently raving, and go on
crashing into empty ends not
completions, not rondures the fullness
has come into and spent itself from
I stand on the stump
of a child, whether myself
or my little brother who died, and
yell as far as I can, I cannot leave this place, for
for me it is the dearest and the worst,
it is life nearest to life which is
life lost: it is my place where
I must stand and fail,
calling attention with tears
to the branches not lofting
boughs into space, to the barren
air that holds the world that was my world
though the incompletions
(& completions) burn out
standing in the flash high-burn
momentary structure of ash, still it
is a picture-book, letter-perfect
Easter morning: I have been for a
walk: the wind is tranquil: the brook
works without flashing in an abundant
tranquility: the birds are lively with
voice: I saw something I had
never seen before: two great birds,
maybe eagles, blackwinged, whitenecked
and –headed, came from the south oaring
the great wings steadily; they went
directly over me, high up, and kept on
due north: but then one bird,
the one behind, veered a little to the
left and the other bird kept on seeming
not to notice for a minute: the first
began to circle as if looking for
something, coasting, resting its wings
on the down side of some of the circles:
the other bird came back and they both
circled, looking perhaps for a draft;
they turned a few more times, possibly
rising—at least, clearly resting—
then flew on falling into distance till
they broke across the local bush and
trees: it was a sight of bountiful
majesty and integrity: the having
patterns and routes, breaking
from them to explore other patterns or
better ways to routes, and then the
return: a dance sacred as the sap in
the trees, permanent in its descriptions
as the ripples round the brook’s
ripplestone: fresh as this particular
flood of burn breaking across us now
from the sun.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

It troubled me as once I was - by Emily Dickinson

It troubled me as once I was —

It troubled me as once I was —
For I was once a Child —
Concluding how an atom — fell —
And yet the Heavens — held —
The Heavens weighed the most — by far —
Yet Blue — and solid — stood —
Without a Bolt — that I could prove —
Would Giants — understand?
Life set me larger — problems —
Some I shall keep — to solve
Till Algebra is easier —
Or simpler proved — above —
Then — too — be comprehended —
What sorer — puzzled me —
Why Heaven did not break away —
And tumble — Blue — on me —

Monday, March 14, 2022

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task by Jon Pineda

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task

A basket of apples brown in our kitchen,
their warm scent is the scent of ripening,
and my sister, entering the room quietly,
takes a seat at the table, takes up the task
of peeling slowly away the blemished skins,
even half-rotten ones are salvaged carefully.
She makes sure to carve out the mealy flesh.
For this, I am grateful. I explain, this elegy
would love to save everything. She smiles at me,
and before long, the empty bowl she uses fills,
domed with thin slices she brushes into
the mouth of a steaming pot on the stove.
What can I do? I ask finally. Nothing,
she says, let me finish this one thing alone.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

From the Pocket of His Lip by Airea D. Matthews

From the Pocket of His Lip

Smoke rose under my father’s tongue. There, a strange man with
   an oboe sat on the ridge of his tooth, playing wide vibratos
   through nimbusfog. I asked why he was there, too.
Fine tuning the orchestra of lies.
        I nodded. They play beautifully, don’t they?
Especially in your key. Hum for me.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage" by Robert Lowell

"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage"

"It is the future generation that presses into being by means of
these exuberant feelings and supersensible soap bubbles of ours."
"The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open.
Our magnolia blossoms.  Life begins to happen.
My hopped up husband drops his home disputes,
and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes,
free-lancing out along the razor's edge.
This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge.
Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust. . .
It's the injustice . . . he is so unjust—
whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five.
My only thought is how to keep alive.
What makes him tick?  Each night now I tie
ten dollars and his car key to my thigh. . . .
Gored by the climacteric of his want,
he stalls above me like an elephant."