Monday, April 25, 2022

Pronghorn by Debra Nystrom


Shadows appeared earliest in patches of rough, steep
drop below the far east ridge, where the bluffs
fell off first, and antelope
fed together at evening on sage and grama tufts
that took less heat than the fields up top
or the lower bluffs stretching out to the river,
bleached grass bending east in wind, lifting up
sometimes then bending again like the fur
of bigger animals a hand might’ve just passed over.
Their elegant necks angled down as everything sloped
toward the river more than a mile across there,
full of sandbars whose shapes
the water slowly rearranged, so no map
ever stayed exact.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William Stafford

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

An Obituary by Najwan Darwish

An Obituary

He hoped his obituary would read as follows:
He fought the invaders as best he could.
He wasn’t victorious,
but neither was he defeated.
In oblivion he made a life
for a thousand years to come.
He died fulfilling his poetic obligations.
(Translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid)

Friday, April 22, 2022

First Memory by Louise Glück

First Memory

Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was—
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Romantics: Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann by Lisel Mueller

Romantics: Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann

The modern biographers worry
“how far it went,” their tender friendship.
They wonder just what it means
when he writes he thinks of her constantly,
his guardian angel, beloved friend.
The modern biographers ask
the rude, irrelevant question
of our age, as if the event
of two bodies meshing together
establishes the degree of love,
forgetting how softly Eros walked
in the nineteenth century, how a hand
held overlong or a gaze anchored
in someone’s eyes could unseat a heart,
and nuances of address not known
in our egalitarian language
could make the redolent air
tremble and shimmer with the heat
of possibility. Each time I hear
the Intermezzi, sad
and lavish in their tenderness,
I imagine the two of them
sitting in a garden
among the late-blooming roses
and dark cascades of leaves,
letting the landscape speak for them,
leaving us nothing to overhear.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

In Response to Feeling Alone by t. liem

In Response to Feeling Alone 

Doubtless our lives are solitary but also the inverse.
–Jenny Xie
Everything’s been known before us OK. The clouds
disappear the sky sometimes; or they become it. When we stood on Seminyak beach
like a pair of exclamation points,
we heard the same offing tone heard when someone went to look for their father’s
corpse in 1965, didn’t we. Please don’t make me explain this. After the fact
a siren seesaws by my open window. Passing on the street a voice in a phone
says no I’m alone now so it’s possible ghosts also vacation
from whats-to-come. How many people can you name who want to be loved without
enthusiastically loving back? The common
cause of disappearances costs us. We live in the aftermath. In other words, if one more person tells me the country of my father’s birth is cheap
I will lose it. In other words, this is the only language I speak. To my slightest
disappointment: I’m just writing to say hello. No need to write back.
Don’t get me wrong, waiting isn’t passive, but what if they never found him? Spoiler
alert you already know they didn’t; or they found him
a thousand times a thousand times. The story I was told was cooked on a soaking wet
 skewer piercing the meat of it through and through. In other words,
an implication. Not to change the subject, but if you think an apocalypse will eliminate
the wealth gap, let’s hold together the premonition
it will not. Admiration turned me into a housefly, repeating my body against a window
trying to get out. I lied
low about having let particular men touch me, but don’t leave me alone now before I
recover. Their spines turned in on the shelves reveal thick wads of time I spent in
omission. Gentle paper, I ask for it back. Doubtless
this moment is our opening.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Argot by Mary Ruefle


The moon passes her twentieth night.
Month after month, she dies so young.
What are the trout thinking?
At dawn on the thirteenth
I am lost in the great expanse
of tiny thoughts.
When I say trout I mean you.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Love Letter to a Dead Body by Jake Skeets

Love Letter to a Dead Body

on our backs in burr and sage
                                         bottles jangle us awake
                             cirrhosis moon for eye
fists coughed up
                            we set ourselves on fire
copy our cousins
                             did up in black smoke
                  pillar dark in June
Drunktown rakes up the letters in their names
              lost to bone
                            horses graze where their remains are found
and you kiss me to shut me up
                            my breath bruise dark in the deep
leaves replace themselves with meadowlarks
                                                       cockshut in larkspur
ghosts rattle bottle dark and white eyed
                horses still hungry
                             there in the weeds

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Eurydice by H. D.


So you have swept me back,
I who could have walked with the live souls
above the earth,
I who could have slept among the live flowers
at last;
so for your arrogance
and your ruthlessness
I am swept back
where dead lichens drip
dead cinders upon moss of ash;
so for your arrogance
I am broken at last,
I who had lived unconscious,
who was almost forgot;
if you had let me wait
I had grown from listlessness
into peace,
if you had let me rest with the dead,
I had forgot you
and the past.
Here only flame upon flame
and black among the red sparks,
streaks of black and light
grown colourless;
why did you turn back,
that hell should be reinhabited
of myself thus
swept into nothingness?
why did you glance back?
why did you hesitate for that moment?
why did you bend your face
caught with the flame of the upper earth,
above my face?
what was it that crossed my face
with the light from yours
and your glance?
what was it you saw in my face?
the light of your own face,
the fire of your own presence?
What had my face to offer
but reflex of the earth,
hyacinth colour
caught from the raw fissure in the rock
where the light struck,
and the colour of azure crocuses
and the bright surface of gold crocuses
and of the wind-flower,
swift in its veins as lightning
and as white.
Saffron from the fringe of the earth,
wild saffron that has bent
over the sharp edge of earth,
all the flowers that cut through the earth,
all, all the flowers are lost;
everything is lost,
everything is crossed with black,
black upon black
and worse than black,
this colourless light.
Fringe upon fringe
of blue crocuses,
crocuses, walled against blue of themselves,
blue of that upper earth,
blue of the depth upon depth of flowers,
if I could have taken once my breath of them,
enough of them,
more than earth,
even than of the upper earth,
had passed with me
beneath the earth;
if I could have caught up from the earth,
the whole of the flowers of the earth,
if once I could have breathed into myself
the very golden crocuses
and the red,
and the very golden hearts of the first saffron,
the whole of the golden mass,
the whole of the great fragrance,
I could have dared the loss.
So for your arrogance
and your ruthlessness
I have lost the earth   
and the flowers of the earth,
and the live souls above the earth,
and you who passed across the light
and reached
you who have your own light,
who are to yourself a presence,
who need no presence;
yet for all your arrogance
and your glance,
I tell you this:
such loss is no loss,
such terror, such coils and strands and pitfalls
of blackness,
such terror
is no loss;
hell is no worse than your earth
above the earth,
hell is no worse,
no, nor your flowers
nor your veins of light
nor your presence,
a loss;
my hell is no worse than yours
though you pass among the flowers and speak
with the spirits above earth.
Against the black
I have more fervour
than you in all the splendour of that place,
against the blackness
and the stark grey
I have more light;
and the flowers,
if I should tell you,
you would turn from your own fit paths
toward hell,
turn again and glance back
and I would sink into a place
even more terrible than this.
At least I have the flowers of myself,
and my thoughts, no god
can take that;
I have the fervour of myself for a presence
and my own spirit for light;
and my spirit with its loss
knows this;
though small against the black,
small against the formless rocks,
hell must break before I am lost;
before I am lost,
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

42 by Robin Coste Lewis


Absolutely nothing
except the growing
realization that
with or without me
it is happening.
And that for
the first 42
I thought that
it needed my
approval, my agreement.
It began a while ago.
It’s been waiting
and not waiting
I would catch up.
I am catching up
to the day
that the Sun cares
and does not care,
that with or without me
it will spin and burn.
That I should
spin and burn

Friday, April 15, 2022

Trying to Pray by James Wright

Trying to Pray

This time, I have left my body behind me, crying
In its dark thorns.
There are good things in this world.
It is dusk.
It is the good darkness
Of women's hands that touch loaves.
The spirit of a tree begins to move.
I touch leaves.
I close my eyes and think of water.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Barberism by Terrance Hayes


It was light and lusterless and somehow luckless,
The hair I cut from the head of my father-in-law,
It was pepper-blanched and wind-scuffed, thin
As a blown bulb’s filament, it stuck to the teeth
Of my clippers like a dark language, the static
Covering his mind stuck to my fingers, it mingled
In halfhearted tufts with the dust. Because
Every barber’s got a gift for mind reading in his touch,
I could hear what he would not say. He’s sworn
To never let his hair be cut again after his daughter
Passed away. I told him how my own boy,
His grandchild, weeps when my clippers bite
Behind his ear, but I could not say how
The blood there tastes. I almost showed him
How I bow my own head to the razor in my hands,
How a mirror is used to taper the nape.
Science and religion come to the same conclusion:
Someday all the hair on the body will fall away.
I’m certain he will only call on me for a few more years,
The crown of his head is already smoother
Than any part of his face. It shines like the light
In tiny bulbs of sweat before the sweat evaporates.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Arch by Rae Armantrout


Like an arched eyebrow
travelling alone, you drift,
a forgotten, persistent
Despite your skeptical
attitude, it’s true
that your numbers are crashing.
Still, you are rumored
to consume
up to 3,000 baby
shrimp per day!
Who doesn’t want
to be a revenant,
to go back to basics
in a big way
on the small screen
which, somehow, still
survives? “Terrific”
and “terrible”
are cousins after all.
Am I warm or cold?
I’m half-
rhyming, aiming right
between quick and dead
like we could
thread that needle
and keep going.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Rain by Raymond Carver


Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Tohunga by Tayi Tibble


Visionary like my ancestors I / saw a sky of whales / a pale people / like my ancestors I / inhaled the bible / swallowed the rifle like / an 8 inch cock / whateva. / Like Donna Summer I swirled / in a floor length dress / said I love to love / I love to fuck / but just like my ancestors knew / to you I was a savage wild jasmine / a$$ out / blacked out / with dollar signs / feline like a bengal tiger and it’s true / that anyone on their hands and knees / is essentially a praying animal.
Radical like my ancestors I / saw the flower child / the wasted liberals / and my prehistoric / flare wearing prince / and like my ancestors I / kissed and kissed and kissed / and tasted / an entire lifetime of taking advantage and / being aware of it. / So at least / when my dress hits the floor / like molting bark / your eyes follow / and I can interpret / your fixation as shame. / Are you sorry? / And what does that say about me / if I think even a suggestion / of an apology is sexy? So like / my ancestors I / sculpt you from the dirt until you rise I / make you meet my eye / then suck you all up / with a slurp like a kina. / That’s Te Hei Mauri Ora. / Just like Papatuanuku / I breathe life / which is why my mother tongue spits praises despite / it’s history of whippings / I say
good on you babe. / You got what you wanted. / The juicy earth / the factoried women / the rivers / the mountains / all bowing for you. / I’m proud of you / the way you erected / monuments in your image / so foreign so / violently unimagined / just like my ancestors I / couldn’t even have even dreamed it. / Pou after pou / of grey and glass / cracking the sky and the sky / was full of whales. / Wow I say / good on you babe / then I spread / my hair all over the hotel pillow / because I love a winner. And you / hit the jackpot with me / with all us silly girls / for believing you were god / for as long as we did. / But now /
the atmosphere is betraying you / and you are reddening in places / where I can bare it. / A warrior / like my ancestors I survived / annihilation. And the awa / that run beneath my skin / have not been lapped dry / just yet / and you can see it all / the unpanned gold / the wild pounamu / the thrashing tuna / family jewels / you can never have / taonga / you can never taste / forbidden fruits / reserved for me / are you afraid again? / like you were of Eve? / the world / is getting unbearably hot / but so am I / and so is she.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney


Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Sea Rose by H. D.

Sea Rose

Rose, harsh rose,
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,
more precious
than a wet rose
single on a stem—
you are caught in the drift.
Stunted, with small leaf,
you are flung on the sand,
you are lifted
in the crisp sand
that drives in the wind.
Can the spice-rose
drip such acrid fragrance
hardened in a leaf?

Friday, April 8, 2022

A Pile of Fish by Tomás Q. Morín

A Pile of Fish

Six in all, to be exact. I know it was a Tuesday
     or Wednesday because the museum closes early
on those days. I almost wrote something
     about the light being late—; the “late light”
is what I almost said, and you know how we
     poets go on and on about the light and
the wind and the dark, but that day the dark was still
     far away swimming in the Pacific, and we had
45 minutes to find Goya’s “Still Life with Bream”
     before the doors closed. I’ve now forgotten
three times the word Golden in the title of that painting
     —and I wish I could ask what you think
that means. I see that color most often
     these days when the cold, wet light of morning
soaks my son’s curls and his already light
     brown hair takes on the flash of fish fins
in moonlight. I read somewhere
     that Goya never titled this painting,
or the other eleven still lifes, so it’s just
     as well because I like the Spanish title better. 
“Doradas” is simple, doesn’t point
     out the obvious. Lately, I’ve been saying
dorado so often in the song I sing
     to my son, “O sol, sol, dorado sol
no te escondes...” I felt lost
     that day in the museum, but you knew
where we were going having been there
     so many times. The canvas was so small
at 17 x 24 inches. I stood before it
     lost in its beach of green sand and
that silver surf cut with pink.
     I stared while you circled the room
like a curious cat. I took a step back,
     and then with your hands in your pockets
you said, No matter where we stand,
     there’s always one fish staring at us.
As a new father, I am now that pyramid
     of fish; my body is all eyes and eyes.
Some of them watch for you in the west
where the lion sun yawns and shakes off
     its sleep before it purrs, and hungry,
dives deep in the deep of the deep.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

[I’d speak if I wasn’t afraid of inhaling] by Fanny Howe

[I’d speak if I wasn’t afraid of inhaling]

I’d speak if I wasn’t afraid of inhaling
A memory I want to forget
Like I trusted the world which wasn’t mine
The hollyhock in the tall vase is wide awake
And feelings are only overcome by fleeing
To their opposite. Moisture and dirt
Have entered the space between threshold and floor
A lot is my estimate when I step on it
Sorry can be a home to stand on so
And see far to: another earth, a place I might know

Monday, April 4, 2022

Story of My Life by Jameson Fitzpatrick

Story of My Life

Two desires, like twins I tend to:
the one to be
and the other to hold.
The first looks like envy,
when the brunette in cowboy boots cycles past
smoking a cigarette, her hair in a French braid.
She isn’t sweating
like I am, through my shirt for the third time today.
She doesn’t hurry.
Or later, in the park
where I am killing time, when the woman
on rollerblades shows me the shape
of what I sit on the edge of,
the same cobbled circle as always.
Looping and looping in a short dress.
Pixie cut. Perfect port de bras.
Her own music in her ears.
I read a book about a woman
who loves a man.
I relate. My own music.
Now the other desire cries out,
as though I can only neglect him for so long—
And there he is, this time
taking the form of a skateboarder
so lithe and dark-haired it hurts to look at him
though of course I can’t stop,
knowing I’ll have to go eventually, or he will,
and then I may never again have the pleasure
of looking at him. The pain I mean.
In my teeth.
I think of an Elaine Scarry line—
“The first demand of beauty is to keep looking”—
but when I go to look it up later, it’s not there.
In fact, I wrote it, in my notes
on the book where I thought I’d find it,
the one about beauty and justice and error.
He’s not very good.
At skateboarding I mean:
he can’t quite clear
the base of the statue that’s drawn him here
and keeps tumbling away from his board.
Scarry says the first demand of beauty is replication.
I’ve already written this poem,
in this park, though it was a different statue
and a different man.
Is desire without pain possible?
Is desire possible without pain?
Really, I want to know.
I want to stop writing this poem.
I want him to say Yes.
And how graceful she is, avoiding his orphaned board
as it rolls her way.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Reward by Kevin Young


RUN AWAY from this sub-
scriber for the second time
an outlandish dark fellow
with his country marks
on his temples and bearing
the remarkable brand of my
name on his left breast, last
seen wearing an old ragged
negro cloth shirt and breeches
made of fearnought; also DIDO,
a likely young wench of a yellow
cast, born in cherrytime in this
parish, wearing a mixed coloured
coat with a bundle of clothes,
mostly blue, under her one good
arm. Both speak tolerable plain
English and may insist on being
called Cuffee and Khasa respect-
ively. Whoever shall deliver
the said goods to the gaoler
in Baton Rouge, or to the Sugar
House in the parish, shall receive
all reasonable charges plus
a genteel reward besides what
the law allows. In the mean
time all persons are strictly
forbid harbouring them, on pain
of being prosecuted to the utmost
rigour of the law. Ten guineas
will be paid to anyone who can
give intelligence of their being
harboured, employed, or enter-
tained by a white person upon
his sentence; five on conviction
of a black. All Masters of vessels
are warned against carrying them
out of state, as they may claim
to be free. If any of the above
Negroes return of their own
accord, they may still be for-
given by
                            ELIZABETH YOUNG.


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Bound for Hell by Marina Tsvetaeva

Bound for Hell

Hell, my ardent sisters, be assured,
Is where we’re bound; we’ll drink the pitch of hell—
We, who have sung the praises of the lord
With every fiber in us, every cell.
We, who did not manage to devote
Our nights to spinning, did not bend and sway
Above a cradle—in a flimsy boat,
Wrapped in a mantle, we’re now borne away.
Every morning, every day, we’d rise
And have the finest Chinese silks to wear;
And we’d strike up the songs of paradise
Around the campfire of a robbers’ lair,
We, careless seamstresses (our seams all ran,
Whether we sewed or not)—yet we have been
Such dancers, we have played the pipes of Pan:
The world was ours, each one of us a queen.
First, scarcely draped in tatters, and disheveled,
Then plaited with a starry diadem;
We’ve been in jails, at banquets we have reveled:
But the rewards of heaven, we’re lost to them,
Lost in nights of starlight, in the garden
Where apple trees from paradise are found.
No, be assured, my gentle girls, my ardent
And lovely sisters, hell is where we’re bound.
(translated by Stephen Edgar)

Friday, April 1, 2022

Night Thoughts by Louise Glück

Night Thoughts

Long ago I was born.
There is no one alive anymore
who remembers me as a baby.
Was I a good baby? A
bad? Except in my head
that debate is now
silenced forever.
What constitutes
a bad baby, I wondered. Colic,
my mother said, which meant
it cried a lot.
What harm could there be
in that? How hard it was
to be alive, no wonder
they all died. And how small
I must have been, suspended
in my mother, being patted by her
What a shame I became
verbal, with no connection
to that memory. My mother’s love!
All too soon I emerged
my true self,
robust but sour,
like an alarm clock.