Thursday, June 30, 2022

Spat by Caroline Bird


‘It’s me or the dog,’ she laughed,
though by ‘dog’ she meant ‘void’
and by ‘laughed’ I mean ‘sobbed’
and by ‘me’ she meant ‘us’
and by ‘she’ I mean ‘you’
and by ‘or’ she meant ‘and.’
‘It’s us and the void,’ you sobbed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Way One Animal Trusts Another by Carl Phillips

The Way One Animal Trusts Another

              Somewhere between what it feels like, to be at
one with the sea, and to understand the sea as
mere context for the boat whose engine refuses
finally to turn over: yeah, I know the place—
stumbled into it myself, once; twice, almost.  All
around and in between the two trees that
grow there, tree of compassion and—much taller—
tree of pity, its bark more bronze, the snow
              settled as if an openness of any kind meant, as well,
a woundedness that, by filling it, the snow
might heal…You know what I think? I think if we’re
lost, you should know exactly where, by now; I’ve
watched you stare long and hard enough at the map
already…I’m beginning to think I may never
not be undecided, about all sorts of things: whether
snow really does resemble the broken laughter
              of the long-abandoned when what left comes back
big-time; whether gratitude’s just a haunted
space like any other.  This place sounds daily
more like a theater of war, each time I listen to it—
loss, surprise, victory, being only three of the countless
fates, if you want to call them that, that we don’t
so much live with, it seems, as live for now among.  If as
close as we’re ever likely to get, you and I, is this—this close—

Monday, June 27, 2022

31-Year-Old-Lover by Kim Addonizio


When he takes off his clothes
I think of a stick of butter being unwrapped,
the milky, lubricious smoothness of it
when it’s taken from the fridge still hard
the way his body is hard, the high
tight pectorals, the new dimes of the nipples pressed
into the chest, the fanning of the muscles underneath.
I look at his arms, shaped as though a knife
has slid along the curves to carve them out,
deltoids, biceps, triceps, I almost can’t believe
that he is human—latissimus dorsi, hip flexors
gluteals, gastrocnemius—he is so perfectly made.
He stands naked in my bedroom and nothing
has harmed him yet, though he is going
to be harmed. He is going to have a gut one day,
and wiry gray hair where the soft dark filaments
flow out of him, the cream of his skin is going
to loosen and separate slowly, over a low steady flame
and he has no idea, as I had no idea,
and I am not going to speak of this to him ever,
I am going to let him stretch out on my bed
so I can take the heavy richness of him in
and in, I am going to have it back the way I can.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Fight by Joy Harjo

The Fight

The rising sun paints the feet
of night-crawling enemies.
And they scatter into the burning hills.
I have fought each of them.
I know them by name.
From before I could speak.
I’ve used every weapon.
To make them retreat.
Yet they return every night
If I don’t keep guard
They elbow through openings in faith
Tear the premise of trust
And stick their shields through the doubt of smoke
To challenge me.
I grow tired of the heartache
Of every small and large war
Passed from generation
To generation.
But it is not in me to give up.
I was taught to give honor to the house of the warriors
Which cannot exist without the house of the peacemakers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Victor Dog by James Merrill

The Victor Dog

             for Elizabeth Bishop
Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez.
The little white dog on the Victor label
Listens long and hard as he is able.
It’s all in a day’s work, whatever plays.
From judgment, it would seem, he has refrained.  
He even listens earnestly to Bloch,
Then builds a church upon our acid rock.
He’s man’s—no—he’s the Leiermann’s best friend,  
Or would be if hearing and listening were the same.  
Does he hear? I fancy he rather smells
Those lemon-gold arpeggios in Ravel’s
“Les jets d’eau du palais de ceux qui s’aiment.”
He ponders the Schumann Concerto’s tall willow hit  
By lightning, and stays put. When he surmises  
Through one of Bach’s eternal boxwood mazes  
The oboe pungent as a bitch in heat,
Or when the calypso decants its raw bay rum
Or the moon in Wozzeck reddens ripe for murder,  
He doesn’t sneeze or howl; just listens harder.  
Adamant needles bear down on him from
Whirling of outer space, too black, too near—
But he was taught as a puppy not to flinch,  
Much less to imitate his bête noire Blanche  
Who barked, fat foolish creature, at King Lear.
Still others fought in the road’s filth over Jezebel,  
Slavered on hearths of horned and pelted barons.  
His forebears lacked, to say the least, forbearance.  
Can nature change in him? Nothing’s impossible.
The last chord fades. The night is cold and fine.
His master’s voice rasps through the grooves’ bare groves.  
Obediently, in silence like the grave’s
He sleeps there on the still-warm gramophone
Only to dream he is at the première of a Handel  
Opera long thought lost—Il Cane Minore.
Its allegorical subject is his story!
A little dog revolving round a spindle
Gives rise to harmonies beyond belief,
A cast of stars . . . Is there in Victor’s heart  
No honey for the vanquished? Art is art.  
The life it asks of us is a dog’s life.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Monticello House Tour by Kiki Petrosino

Monticello House Tour

What they never say is: Mr. Jefferson’s still
building. He’s just using clear bricks now
for his turrets & halls, for the balconies
rounding his palace in transparent loops
of dug air. After death, it’s so easy
to work. No one sees him go out
from the Residence, his gloves full
of quiet mortar. Mr. Jefferson’s coat is narrow
as daybreak. His long sleeves drag in the muck
as he minces his turf. You know the room
you were born in? It’s part of the tour. Hundreds
of rooms unfolding for miles, orchards alive
in the parlor. Remember that gold chair you loved,
the one with a face like a lion, especially
in late winter, when Mother sat with you
in her pink gown, humming? As it happens
Mr. Jefferson built you that lion. He drew
your time in prudent proportions. You have one
job: to fit the design he keeps spinning.
Your whole life is laced through a ring
of similar finds. Look, it’s all mothers
in pink gowns, humming.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday by Robert Hayden

Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday
Lord’s lost Him His mockingbird,   
       His fancy warbler;
       Satan sweet-talked her,
       four bullets hushed her.
       Who would have thought
       she’d end that way?
Four bullets hushed her. And the world a-clang with evil.   
Who’s going to make old hardened sinner men tremble now   
and the righteous rock?         
Oh who and oh who will sing Jesus down
to help with struggling and doing without and being colored   
all through blue Monday?
Till way next Sunday?
       All those angels
       in their cretonne clouds and finery   
       the true believer saw
       when she rared back her head and sang,   
       all those angels are surely weeping.   
       Who would have thought
       she’d end that way?
Four holes in her heart. The gold works wrecked.   
But she looks so natural in her big bronze coffin   
among the Broken Hearts and Gates-Ajar,   
it’s as if any moment she’d lift her head
from its pillow of chill gardenias
and turn this quiet into shouting Sunday
and make folks forget what she did on Monday.
       Oh, Satan sweet-talked her,   
       and four bullets hushed her.   
       Lord’s lost Him His diva,   
       His fancy warbler’s gone.   
       Who would have thought,
       who would have thought she’d end that way?

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines by Dylan Thomas

Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines

Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.
A candle in the thighs
Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age;
Where no seed stirs,
The fruit of man unwrinkles in the stars,
Bright as a fig;
Where no wax is, the candle shows its hairs.
Dawn breaks behind the eyes;
From poles of skull and toe the windy blood
Slides like a sea;
Nor fenced, nor staked, the gushers of the sky
Spout to the rod
Divining in a smile the oil of tears.
Night in the sockets rounds,
Like some pitch moon, the limit of the globes;
Day lights the bone;
Where no cold is, the skinning gales unpin
The winter's robes;
The film of spring is hanging from the lids.
Light breaks on secret lots,
On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain;
When logics dies,
The secret of the soil grows through the eye,
And blood jumps in the sun;
Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Moon in the Window by Dorianne Laux

Moon in the Window

I wish I could say I was the kind of child
who watched the moon from her window,
would turn toward it and wonder.
I never wondered. I read. Dark signs
that crawled toward the edge of the page.
It took me years to grow a heart
from paper and glue. All I had
was a flashlight, bright as the moon,
a white hole blazing beneath the sheets.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Letter to the Person Who Carved His Initials into the Oldest Living Longleaf Pine in North America by Matthew Olzmann

Letter to the Person Who Carved His Initials into the Oldest Living Longleaf Pine in North America

Tell me what it’s like to live without
curiosity, without awe. To sail
on clear water, rolling your eyes
at the kelp reefs swaying
beneath you, ignoring the flicker
of mermaid scales in the mist,
looking at the world and feeling
only boredom. To stand
on the precipice of some wild valley,
the eagles circling, a herd of caribou
booming below, and to yawn
with indifference. To discover
something primordial and holy.
To have the smell of the earth
welcome you to everywhere.
To take it all in, and then,
to reach for your knife.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Headwaters by Ellen Bryant Voigt

I made a large mistake I left my house I went into the world it was not
the most perilous hostile part but I couldn’t tell among the people there
who needed what no tracks in the snow no boot pointed toward me or away
no snow as in my dooryard only the many currents of self-doubt I clung
to my own life raft I had room on it for only me you’re not surprised
it grew smaller and smaller or maybe I grew larger and heavier
but don’t you think I’m doing better in this regard I try to do better

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Eating Together by Li-Young Lee

Eating Together

In the steamer is the trout
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
brothers, sister, my mother who will
taste the sweetest meat of the head,
holding it between her fingers
deftly, the way my father did
weeks ago. Then he lay down
to sleep like a snow-covered road
winding through pines older than him,
without any travelers, and lonely for no one. 

The Railway Children by Seamus Heaney

The Railway Children

When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.
Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
East and miles west beyond us, sagging
Under their burden of swallows.
We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops,
Each one seeded full with the light
Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
So infinitesimally scaled
We could stream through the eye of a needle.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

How Not to Disappear by Victoria Adukwei Bulley

How Not to Disappear

“I told a police officer that my son was missing, please help me find him, and she said: ‘If you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?’”
Who would guess the prayers you’ll say
walking home at night, crossing streets you know
too well were never yours to claim. All the promises
you’ll make about what you’ll do with your life
should you make it to the warm indoors,
the soft & grateful bed. God, you’ll say, below your breath,
let no strange man put hands on me, let the dark
not drape this body on terms other than its own;
speed me to the door, let the first key be the right one;
the mechanism oiled & easy. & should I fail, you’ll say
in any of this, let me have spoken to no one lately
about bad days, hard times, or worse have written
a poem or two about them, to be found when your belongings
are thumbed through, finally; too late. Please, God, you’ll say,
one more time, deliver me home to my known life, seen
& loved by those to whom it’s always mattered; borne & fed
by a lover & others who, like you, already know how
(& how not) to disappear, unable to forget
the way they spoke to that boy’s mother.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Looking South at Lower Manhattan, Where the Towers Had Been by Sharon Olds

Looking South at Lower Manhattan, Where the Towers Had Been

If we see harm approaching someone—
if you see me starting to talk about
something I know nothing about,
like the death of someone who’s a stranger to me,
step between me and language. This morning,
I am seeing it more clearly, that song
can be harmful, in its ignorance
which does not know itself as ignorance.
I have crossed the line, as the line was crossed
with me. I need to apologize
to the letters of the alphabet,
to the elements of the periodic
table, to O, and C, and H,
oxygen, carbon, hydrogen,
which make up most of a human body—
body which breaks down, in fire,
to the elements it was composed of, and all that is
left is ashes, sacred ashes
of strangers, carbon and nitrogen,
and the rest departs as carbon dioxide and is
breathed in, by those nearby,
the living who knew us and the living who did not
know us. I apologize
to nitrogen, to calcium with the
pretty box-shape of its crystal structure,
I apologize to phosphorus,
and potassium, that raw bright metal
we contain, and to sodium and sulfur, and to
the trace amounts which are in us somewhere like the
stars in the night—copper, zinc,
cobalt, iron, arsenic, lead,
I am singing, I am singing against myself, as if
rushing toward someone my song might be approaching,
to shield them from it.