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.