Epithalamium, by Matthew Rohrer

In the middle garden is the secret wedding,
that hides always under the other one
and under the shiny things of the other one. Under a tree
one hand reaches through the grainy dusk toward another.
Two right hands. The ring is a weed that will surely die.

There is no one else for miles,
and even those people far away are deaf and blind.
There is no one to bless this.
There are the dark trees, and just beyond the trees.

Rime Riche, by Monica Ferrell

You need me like ice needs the mountain
On which it breeds. Like print needs the page.
You move in me like the tongue in a mouth,
Like wind in the leaves of summer trees,
Gust-fists, hollow except for movement and desire
Which is movement. You taste me the way the claws
Of a pigeon taste that window-ledge on which it sits,
The way water tastes rust in the pipes it shuttles through
Beneath a city, unfolding and luminous with industry.
Before you were born, the table of elements
Was lacking, and I as a noble gas floated
Free of attachment. Before you were born,
The sun and the moon were paper-thin plates
Some machinist at his desk merely clicked into place.

Coda, by Marilyn Hacker

Maybe it was jet lag, maybe not,
but I was smoking in the kitchen: six,
barely, still dark: beyond the panes, a mix
of summer storm and autumn wind. I got
back to you; have I got you back? What
warmed me wasn’t coffee, it was our
revivified combustion. In an hour,
gray morning, but I’d gone back to my spot
beside you, sleeping, where we’d stayed awake
past exhaustion, talking, after, through
the weeks apart, divergent times and faces.
I fell asleep, skin to warm skin, at daybreak.
Your breasts, thighs, shoulders, mouth, voice, are the places
I live, whether or not I live with you.

Fog hid the road. The wipers shoved back torrents
across the windshield. You, on knife-edge, kept
driving. Iva, in the back seat, wept
histrionically. The crosscurrents
shivered like heat-lightning into the parent’s
shotgun seat. I shut up, inadept
at deflecting them. A Buick crept
ahead at twenty-five an hour. “Why aren’t
we passing him? My Coke spilled. The seat’s wet.
You guys keep whispering so I can’t hear.”
“Sit in the front with us, then.”
“No! I’ll get
too hot. Is the fan on? What time is it?
What time will it be when we get there?”
Time to be somewhere else than where we are.

“What do we have? I guess we still don’t know.”
I was afraid to say, you made me feel
my sectioned heart, quiescent loins, and spill
past boundaries the way blackberry-brambles grow
up those tenacious hills I left for you.
Their gritty fruit’s ripe now, but oceans still
separate us, waves opaque as oatmeal,
miles of fog roiling between your pillow
and mine while you say your best: sometimes, she’s where
your compass points, despite you, though a meal
with me, or talk, is good . . . Where our starfire
translated depths, low fog won’t let you steer
by sight. The needle fingers one desire,
and no other direction can compel.

If no other direction can compel
me upward from the dark-before-the-dawn
descending spiral, I drop like a stone
flung into some scummed-over stagnant well.
The same momentum with which once we fell
across each other’s skies, meteors drawn
by lodestones taproots clutched in unmapped ground
propels me toward some amphibious hell
where kissing’s finished, and I tell, tell, tell
reasons as thick and sticky as frogspawn:
had I done this, that wouldn’t have come undone.
The wolf of wolf’s hour cried at once too often
picks out enfeebled stragglers by the smell
of pond scum drying on them in the sun.

I miss you more than when I was in France
and thought I’d soon be done with missing you.
I miss what we’d have made past making do,
haft meshing weft as autumn days advance,
transliterating variegated strands
of silk, hemp, ribbon, flax, into some new
texture. I missed out on misconstrued
misgivings; did I miss my cue; boat? Chanc-
es are, the answer’s missing too. At risk
again, sleep and digestion, while I seize on
pricklier strands, crushed to exude the reason
I can’t expect you’ll ring up from your desk,
calling me Emer, like Cuchulain’s queen,
to say, we need bread and some salad greens.

On your birthday, I reread Meredith,
whose life’s mean truths inform, tonight, his text
so generously framed. There’ll be the next
night, and the next, cold gaps. I’d have been with
you now, lover and friend, across the width
of some candle-lit table as we mixed
habit and hope in toasts. Instead, perplexed
by separation like a monolith
bulked in the rooms and hours I thought would be
ours, I practice insensibility.
We crossed four miles, three thousand. You diminish
now, on a fogged horizon, far away.
Your twenty-fifth was our first class Tuesday
—will one year bracket us from start to finish?

Will one year bracket us from start to finish,
who, in an evening’s gallant banter, made
plans for new voyages to span decades
of love and work around a world we’d win? Wish
was overgrown with fears; voyages vanish
with empty wine bottles and summer’s paid
bills. Lengthens the legendary blade
between us: silence; hope I hope to banish;
doubt, till I almost doubt what happened, did.
Chicken from Zabar’s warms, and frozen spinach
simmers, while Iva writes a school essay:
“Both Sides: Everything has an opposite . . .”
sucking her inky fingers and her braid,
and I read Meredith, on your birthday.

“Why did Ray leave her pipe tobacco here
in the fridge?” Iva asks me while we’re
rummaging for mustard and soy sauce
to mix with wine and baste the lamb. “Because
cold keeps it fresh.” That isn’t what she means,

we both know. I’ve explained, there were no scenes
or fights, really. We needed time to clear
the air, and think. What she was asking, was,
“Why did Ray leave

her stuff if she’s not coming back?” She leans
to extremes, as I might well. String beans
to be sautéed with garlic; then I’ll toss
the salad; then we’ll eat. (Like menopause
it comes in flashes, more or less severe:
why did you leave?)

“Now that you know you can, the city’s full
of girls—just notice them! It’s not like pull-
ing teeth to flirt,” she said, “or make a date.”
It’s quite like pulling teeth to masturbate
(I didn’t say), and so I don’t. My nice

dreams are worse than nightmares. As my eyes
open, I know I am; that instant, feel
you with me, on me, in me, and you’re not.
Now that you know

you don’t know, fantasies are more like lies.
They don’t fit when I try them on for size.
I guess I can, but can’t imagine what
I’d do, with whom, tonight. It’s much too late
or soon, so what’s yours stays yours. It has until
now. That, you know.

Who would divorce her lover with a phone
call? You did. Like that, it’s finished, done—
or is for you. I’m left with closets of
grief (you moved out your things next day). I love
you. I want to make the phone call this
time, say, pack your axe, cab uptown, kiss
me, lots. I’ll run a bubble bath; we’ll sing
in the tub. We worked for love, loved it. Don’t sling
that out with Friday’s beer cans, or file-card it
in a drawer of anecdotes: “My Last
Six Girlfriends: How a Girl Acquires a Past.”
I’ve got “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted”
run on a loop, unwanted leitmotif.
Lust, light, love, life all tumbled into grief.
You closed us off like a parenthesis
and left me knowing just enough to miss.

“Anyone who (I did) ran down Broadway
screaming, or dropped in Bryant Park in a faint
similarly provoked, will sniff a taint
of self-aggrandizement in the assured way
you say: so be it; then she cut the cord; hey,
the young are like that. Put yourself on main-
tenance, stoically, without more complaint?
Grown-ups, at least, will not rush to applaud. They
won’t believe you.” And he downed his Negroni.
Who wants to know how loss and sorrow hit
me daily in the chest, how like a stone
this bread tastes? Even though lunch is on me,
he doesn’t. Home alone is home, alone.
(I’d reach for Nightwood, but she “borrowed” it.)

Did you love well what very soon you left?
Come home and take me in your arms and take
away this stomach ache, headache, heartache.
Never so full, I never was bereft
so utterly. The winter evenings drift
dark to the window. Not one word will make
you, where you are, turn in your day, or wake
from your night toward me. The only gift
I got to keep or give is what I’ve cried,
floodgates let down to mourning for the dead
chances, for the end of being young,
for everyone I loved who really died.
I drank our one year out in brine instead
of honey from the seasons of your tongue.

corydon & alexis, redux, by D. A. Powell

and yet we think that song outlasts us all: wrecked devotion
the wept face of desire, a kind of savage caring that reseeds itself and grows in clusters

oh, you who are young, consider how quickly the body deranges itself
how time, the cruel banker, forecloses us to snowdrifts white as god’s own ribs

what else but to linger in the slight shade of those sapling branches
yearning for that vernal beau. for don’t birds covet the seeds of the honey locust
and doesn’t the ewe have a nose for wet filaree and slender oats foraged in the meadow
kit foxes crave the blacktailed hare: how this longing grabs me by the nape

guess I figured to be done with desire, if I could write it out
dispense with any evidence, the way one burns a pile of twigs and brush

what was his name? I’d ask myself, that guy with the sideburns and charming smile
the one I hoped that, as from a sip of hemlock, I’d expire with him on my tongue

silly poet, silly man: thought I could master nature like a misguided preacher
as if banishing love is a fix. as if the stars go out when we shut our sleepy eyes

It Was Raining In Delft, by Peter Gizzi

A cornerstone. Marble pilings. Curbstones and brick.
I saw rooftops. The sun after a rain shower.
Liz, there are children in clumsy jackets. Cobblestones
and the sun now in a curbside pool.
I will call in an hour where you are sleeping. I’ve been walking
for 7 hrs on yr name day.
Dead, I am calling you now.
There are colonnades. Yellow wrappers in the square.
Just what you’d suspect: a market with flowers and matrons,
handbags.
Beauty walks this world. It ages everything.
I am far and I am an animal and I am just another I-am poem,
a we-see poem, a they-love poem.
The green. All the different windows.
There is so much stone here. And grass. So beautiful each
translucent electric blade.
And the noise. Cheers folding into traffic. These things.
Things that have been already said many times:
leaf, zipper, sparrow, lintel, scarf, window shade.

Long Distance II, by Tony Harrison

Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn’t just drop in. You had to phone.
He’d put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn’t risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he’d hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she’d just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven’t both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there’s your name
and the disconnected number I still call.

The Meaning of Zero: A Love Poem, by Amy Uyematsu

Is where space ends called death or infinity?
Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions

A mere eyelid’s distance between you and me.

It took us a long time to discover the number zero.

John’s brother is afraid to go outside.
He claims he knows
the meaning of zero.

I want to kiss you.

A mathematician once told me you can add infinity
to infinity.

There is a zero vector, which starts and ends
at the same place, its force
and movement impossible
to record with
rays or maps or words.
It intersects yet runs parallel
with all others.

A young man I know
wants me to prove
the zero vector exists.
I tell him I can’t,
but nothing in my world
makes sense without it.

Love in a Life, by Robert Browning

Room after room,
I hunt the house through
We inhabit together.
Heart, fear nothing, for, heart, thou shalt find her,
Next time, herself!—not the trouble behind her
Left in the curtain, the couch’s perfume!
As she brushed it, the cornice-wreath blossomed anew,—
Yon looking-glass gleamed at the wave of her feather.

Yet the day wears,
And door succeeds door;
I try the fresh fortune—
Range the wide house from the wing to the centre.
Still the same chance! she goes out as I enter.
Spend my whole day in the quest,—who cares?
But ‘tis twilight, you see,—with such suites to explore,
Such closets to search, such alcoves to importune!

Monna Innominata [I loved you first], by Christina Rossetti

I loved you first: but afterwards your love,
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? My love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you contrued me
And loved me for what might or might not be—
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine’;
With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine’;
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.


More by Christina Georgina Rossetti:
Monna Innominata [I loved you first], by Christina Rossetti — I loved you first: but afterwards your love, Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove. Which owes the other most? My love was long, And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong; I loved and guessed at you, you contrued me And loved me for what […]
Monna Innominata [I wish I could remember], by Christina Rossetti — I wish I could remember that first day, First hour, first moment of your meeting me, If bright or dim the season, it might be Summer or Winter for aught I can say; So unrecorded did it slip away, So blind was I to see and to foresee, So dull to mark the budding of […]
Echo, by Christina Georgina Rossetti — Come to me in the silence of the night; Come in the speaking silence of a dream; Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright As sunlight on a stream; Come back in tears, O memory, hope, love of finished years. O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet, Whose wakening should have […]

Monna Innominata [I wish I could remember], by Christina Rossetti

I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand—Did one but know!


More by Christina Georgina Rossetti:
Monna Innominata [I loved you first], by Christina Rossetti — I loved you first: but afterwards your love, Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove. Which owes the other most? My love was long, And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong; I loved and guessed at you, you contrued me And loved me for what […]
Monna Innominata [I wish I could remember], by Christina Rossetti — I wish I could remember that first day, First hour, first moment of your meeting me, If bright or dim the season, it might be Summer or Winter for aught I can say; So unrecorded did it slip away, So blind was I to see and to foresee, So dull to mark the budding of […]
Echo, by Christina Georgina Rossetti — Come to me in the silence of the night; Come in the speaking silence of a dream; Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright As sunlight on a stream; Come back in tears, O memory, hope, love of finished years. O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet, Whose wakening should have […]

Slow Waltz Through Inflatable Landscape, by Christian Hawkey

At the time of his seeing a hole opened—a pocket opened—
and left a space. A string of numbers plummeted
through it. They were cold numbers.
They were pearls.

And though they were cold the light they cast was warm,
and though they were pearls he thought they were eyes.
They blinked. He blinked back.
Anything that blinks

must be friendly, he thought, until he saw the code
—a string of numbers—carved into their sides
and grew afraid. He tried to close
the space

but it was no longer his own. He tried to close his eyes
but they were no longer his. He tried to close
his mouth, his hands, his ears
but they were no longer

his, were never his to begin with: this was the time of his seeing.
The world opened. A line began. A tree grew above him
and he thanked it. A sun dawned over the line
and he thanked it.

A building unfolded abruptly and blocked the sun
and he put his hand on its side and thanked it
for the shade, he put his hand
on the sidewalk

and gave thanks to the cement—it was cool and wet and
took the shape of his hand into it—he put his eyes
at the feet of a woman
and she lifted them,

to her own, and he thanked her, from the inside, and she understood.
Wires swirled above him, straightened out along an avenue
and the lights came on. One moon rose.
A second moon

rose on the windshield of a car and he thanked them both.
This was the time of his seeing. This was the time.
An electric green beetle shuttled out
of the darkness

and landed on his forearm, pulsing, he didn’t remove it.
It seemed relieved. Some things work very hard
to leave the ground. Somewhere an infant
called out, sharply,

was comforted into silence. The deep note of an owl opened a tunnel
in the air. He was growing tired. He didn’t want to stop.
The world opened.
A line began.

It traveled out ahead of him and returned, tracing a wave,
white foam gathering, gathering the moonlight,
black water rising into a wall
and he held up his hand:

the wall froze, trembling, the head of a seal
poked through, looked around, withdrew,
he liked the way its whiskers
bent forward

as it withdrew and he liked the way his hand had stopped a wave
so he thanked his hand and moved on,
into the outskirts, the taste
of salt on his tongue,

the taste of brine, it made him thirsty although he had no thirst.
This was the time of his seeing. This was the time.
And the skeletal shadow of a radio tower
loomed to the right of him,

creaking, a red gleam, then nothing, he thought he heard music
passing through him and he was right:
he was humming something
from a song,

but he couldn’t remember the words, which was fine,
they were sentimental anyway so he
thanked the radio tower
and kept moving,

the road turning to gravel, the gravel turning to dust,
the ditches sang with frogs, the ditches were silent,
a pair of yellow eyes waited for him
to pass and so he passed,

calmly, since the beetle was with him, trying to refold its wings,
and the tree was with him, unfolding its leaves,
and a man was with him, walking at his side
—he didn’t need to ask

who he was, so he didn’t, but in the corner of his eye
he caught a glimpse: he seemed familiar,
he looked like him
and he was,

although a string of numbers was carved into his side.
He asked if he could touch them and he said Yes,
touch them. They were cold numbers.
They were pearls.

He asked if he could kiss him and he said Yes, kiss me, and so he did.
It was a strange kiss. It was a beautiful kiss.
It seemed to last a long time.
It seemed to last a lifetime.

On the Disadvantages of Central Heating, by Amy Clampitt

cold nights on the farm, a sock-shod
stove-warmed flatiron slid under
the covers, mornings a damascene-
sealed bizarrerie of fernwork
decades ago now

waking in northwest London, tea
brought up steaming, a Peak Frean
biscuit alongside to be nibbled
as blue gas leaps up singing
decades ago now

damp sheets in Dorset, fog-hung
habitat of bronchitis, of long
hot soaks in the bathtub, of nothing
quite drying out till next summer:
delicious to think of

hassocks pulled in close, toasting-
forks held to coal-glow, strong-minded
small boys and big eager sheepdogs
muscling in on bookish profundities
now quite forgotten

the farmhouse long sold, old friends
dead or lost track of, what’s salvaged
is this vivid diminuendo, unfogged
by mere affect, the perishing residue
of pure sensation


 

More by Amy Clampitt:

Nothing Stays Put — In memory of Father Flye, 1884-1985 The strange and wonderful are too much with us. The protea of the antipodes–a great, globed, blazing honeybee of a bloom– for sale in the supermarket! We are in our decadence, we are not entitled. What have we done to deserve all the produce of the tropics– this fiery […]

On the Disadvantages of Central Heating — cold nights on the farm, a sock-shod stove-warmed flatiron slid under the covers, mornings a damascene- sealed bizarrerie of fernwork decades ago now waking in northwest London, tea brought up steaming, a Peak Frean biscuit alongside to be nibbled as blue gas leaps up singing decades ago now damp sheets in Dorset, fog-hung habitat of […]

Of the Surface of Things, by Wallace Stevens

I

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
hills and a cloud.

II

From my balcony, I survey the yellow air,
Reading where I have written,
“The spring is like a belle undressing.”

III

The gold tree is blue,
The singer has pulled his cloak over his head.
The moon is in the folds of the cloak.


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Secret Last Year (A Calendar Twelve-tone) [4. April, maybe], by Adriano Spatola — The sun is made of many mysterious concepts cowardly resentments with listless rotation they say they don’t say but they demand attention something rotten a little enlarged or rosy a slight lividness applied to our pettiness with light brush strokes exhausted by the heat I speak of the heat that spoils and enthuses of this […]
Mint, by Elaine Terranova — Already, we’d be driving past those trees, that part of the forest. Even briefly, it refreshed you. It was like mint in August though that sting would be gone with summer. The ground tarnishing first, and soon the leaves. I thought then, men don’t stop. They want so much to get on. What we said, […]
Ode to Spring, by Frederick Seidel — I can only find words for. And sometimes I can’t. Here are these flowers that stand for. I stand here on the sidewalk. I can’t stand it, but yes of course I understand it. Everything has to have meaning. Things have to stand for something. I can’t take the time. Even skin-deep is too deep. […]
On Living, by Nazim Hikmet — I Living is no laughing matter: you must live with great seriousness like a squirrel, for example– I mean without looking for something beyond and above living, I mean living must be your whole occupation. Living is no laughing matter: you must take it seriously, so much so and to such a degree that, for […]
Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, by Carl Sandburg — The past is a bucket of ashes. 1 The woman named Tomorrow sits with a hairpin in her teeth and takes her time and does her hair the way she wants it and fastens at last the last braid and coil and puts the hairpin where it belongs and turns and drawls: Well, what of […]

 

The Congressional Library [excerpt], by Amy Lowell

Where else in all America are we so symbolized
As in this hall?
White columns polished like glass,
A dome and a dome,
A balcony and a balcony,
Stairs and the balustrades to them,
Yellow marble and red slabs of it,
All mounting, spearing, flying into color.
Color round the dome and up to it,
Color curving, kite-flying, to the second dome,
Light, dropping, pitching down upon the color,
Arrow-falling upon the glass-bright pillars,
Mingled colors spinning into a shape of white pillars,
Fusing, cooling, into balanced shafts of shrill and interthronging light.
This is America,
This vast, confused beauty,
This staring, restless speed of loveliness,
Mighty, overwhelming, crude, of all forms,
Making grandeur out of profusion,
Afraid of no incongruities,
Sublime in its audacity,
Bizarre breaker of moulds,
Laughing with strength,
Charging down on the past,
Glorious and conquering,
Destroyer, builder,
Invincible pith and marrow of the world,
An old world remaking,
Whirling into the no-world of all-colored light.

The Book of a Thousand Eyes [A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding], by Lyn Hejinian

A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding
The gap left by things which have already happened
Leaving nothing in their place, may have nothing to do
But that. Dreams are like ghosts achieving ghosts’ perennial goal
Of revoking the sensation of repose. It’s terrible
To think we write these things for them, to tell them
Of our life—that is, our whole life. Along comes a dream
Of a machine. Why? What is being sold there? How is the product
emitted?
It must have been sparked by a noise, the way the very word “spark”
emits a brief picture. Is it original? Inevitable?
We seem to sleep so as to draw the picture
Of events that have already happened so we can picture
Them. A dream for example of a procession to an execution site.
How many strangers could circle the space while speaking of nostalgia
And of wolves in the hills? We find them
Thinking of nothing instead—there’s no one to impersonate, nothing
To foresee. It’s logical that prophesies would be emitted
Through the gaps left by previous things, or by the dead
Refusing conversation and contemplating beauty instead.
But isn’t that the problem with beauty—that it’s apt in retrospect
To seem preordained? The dawn birds are trilling
A new day—it has the psychical quality of “pastness” and they are trailing
It. The day breaks in an imperfectly continuous course
Of life. Sleep is immediate and memory nothing.

Midwinter Day [Excerpt], by Bernadette Mayer

I write this love as all transition
As if I’m in instinctual flight,
a small lady bug
With only two black dots on its back
Climbs like a blind turtle on my pen
And begins to drink ink in the light
of tradition
We’re allowed to crowd love in
Like a significant myth
resting still on paper
I remember being bitten by a spider
It was like feeling what they call
the life of the mind
Stinging my thigh like Dante
this guilty beetle
Is a frightening thing
When it shows its wings
And leaps like the story of a woman who
once in this house
Said the world was like a madhouse
cold winds blowing
And life looks like some malignant disease,
Viewed from the heights of reason
Which I don’t believe in
I know the place
Taken by tradition is like superstition
And even what they call the
Literary leaves less for love
I know
The world is straight ice
I know backwards the grief of life like chance
if I can say that
I can say easily I know you
like the progression
From memory to what they call freedom
Or reason
though it’s not reason at all
It’s an ideal like anarchism though it’s not an ideal
It’s a kind of time that has flown away from causes
Or gotten loose from them, pried loose
Or used them up, gotten away
no one knows why
Nothing happens
There is no reason, there’s no dream
it’s not inherited
Like peace but it’s not peace
there’s no beginning
Like religion but it is not God
It’s more like middle age or humor
Without elucidation
like greeting-card verse
This love is a recognized occasion
I know you like I know my times
As if I were God and gave you birth
if I can say that
I can say I am Ra who drew from himself
To give birth to Geb and Nut, Isis and Osiris
Though it isn’t decorous today to say this
instead I say
You are the resource for my sense of decorum
Knowing you as Ra knew the great of magic,
His imaginary wife,
and without recourse to love
Men and women are like tears
I would lose my memory,
I would sleep twelve hours, I would wake up
And get into my boat with my scribe,
I would study the twelve hours of the day
Spending an hour in each
I would have a secret name
I would rush upon the guilty without pity
Till the goddess of my eye in her vengeance
Overwhelmed my own rage
as you and I take turns
In love’s anger like the royal children
Born every morning to die that night
I know you speak
And are as suddenly forgiven,
It’s the consequence of love’ having no cause
Then we wonder what we can say
I can say
I turn formally to love to spend the day,
To you to form the night as what I know,
An image of love allows what I can’t say,
Sun’s lost in the window and love is below
Love is the same and does not keep that name
I keep that name and I am not the same
A shadow of ice exchanges the color of light,
Love’s figure to begin the absent night.

Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet, by Eavan Boland

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

Love, Delight, and Alarm [excerpt], by Karen Weiser

Then the treehouse burned. And continued

unobliterable as the sea

to burn. The photo of it burning

hangs on its wall, taken from high up,

but not that high. The firemen

approach cautiously, minus the

four-part regimented solace, that

would repeat. If the act of

painting is Drawing the boundaries

of a fire, can I disappear

into the initial combustion? If the

act of painting stops time or at

least its cornet of fronted tremendous,

I could disappear into the Encyclopedia

of Animal Life as the cherub’s sleepiest

wet tusk. I could start with a dexterous

periscope and end by feeling

time, the largest block of it

I can conceive collectively

Smell I the flowers, or thee?
See I lakes, or eyes?

Directions for Lines that will Remain Unfinished, by Sarah Messer

Line to be sewn into a skirt hem
held in my mouth ever since the  unraveling

Line beneath a bridge
for years without hope I stretched my arms into the river searching for you

Line to be sent to the cornfield
history is a hallway of leaves.

Line written for electric wires
your voice inside the no history, sitting still

Line for future people
inside the work, only my empty teeth

Line from Maharaj
Presently you are in quietude. Is it on this side of sleep or on the other side?

Line that cannot be read because of its darkness
impossible walk under weight of honey
away from your hands that break me in half

Line addressing President Lincoln
when the handle and blade are gone, what remains
of your axe?

Line to be run over by a lawn mower
afraid of everything and to be of no use.

Line for a distant midnight dog-pack
because I can never speak it

Line to be sewn into a shirt collar
the streak of your finger across the hood of the car

Line for a stone growing old
a sunburst that lands inside a flower

Line written only with your mouth
desire is a trick ghost

Line for the garden weeds
slowly I am nearer to you

Line describing the better qualities of monsters
are we afraid of what we wished for?

Three lines written for bears
inside cells, water, trees, I am meaningless
darkness and light wind like breath on fur
I carry the circling cities inside me

Line for a leaf blown into the hair of the Master
seeing you, I want no other life

Line for a mouse
to die like that, held in your hands

Why is the Color of Snow?, by Brenda Shaughnessy

Let’s ask a poet with no way of knowing.
Someone who can give us an answer,
another duplicity to help double the world.

What kind of poetry is all question, anyway?
Each question leads to an iceburn,
a snownova, a single bed spinning in space.

Poet, Decide! I am lonely with questions.
What is snow? What isn’t?
Do you see how it is for me.

Melt yourself to make yourself more clear
for the next observer.
I could barely see you anyway.

A blizzard I understand better,
the secrets of many revealed as one,
becoming another on my only head.

It’s true that snow takes on gold from sunset
and red from rearlights. But that’s occasional.
What is constant is white,

or is that only sight, a reflection of eyewhites
and light? Because snow reflects only itself,
self upon self upon self,

is a blanket used for smothering, for sleeping.
For not seeing the naked, flawed body.
Concealing it from the lover curious, ever curious!

Who won’t stop looking.
White for privacy.
Millions of privacies to bless us with snow.

Don’t we melt it?
Aren’t we human dark with sugar hot to melt it?
Anyway, the question—

if a dream is a construction then what
is not a construction? If a bank of snow
is an obstruction, then what is not a bank of snow?

A winter vault of valuable crystals
convertible for use only by a zen
sun laughing at us.

Oh Materialists! Thinking matter matters.
If we dream of snow, of banks and blankets
to keep our treasure safe forever,

what world is made, that made us that we keep
making and making to replace the dreaming at last.
To stop the terrible dreaming.


More by Brenda Shaughnessy:

I’m Over the Moon, by Brenda Shaughnessy — I don’t like what the moon is supposed to do. Confuse me, ovulate me, spoon-feed me longing. A kind of ancient date-rape drug. So I’ll howl at you, moon, I’m angry. I’ll take back the night. Using me to swoon at your questionable light, you had me chasing you, the world’s worst […]

Why is the Color of Snow?, by Brenda Shaughnessy — Let’s ask a poet with no way of knowing. Someone who can give us an answer, another duplicity to help double the world. What kind of poetry is all question, anyway? Each question leads to an iceburn, a snownova, a single bed spinning in space. Poet, Decide! I am lonely with questions. What […]

 

Meister Eckhart’s Sermon on Flowers and the Philosopher’s Reply, by J. Michael Martinez

A hollowed singularity exists in flowers
like pathos in a dandelion:
an eddy of fate, degreeless,

silvering through memory.
A scabbed consonant departing
the sentence: locust petal, bromeliad,

a surfacing shame, lightless, beyond hearing.
Solitary, the clock circumvents sound
and a horse importunes

a wasp bowing before significance.

It is in fact doubtless a wasp bows before significance
degreeless in a dandelion.

It also stands to reason that, in a clock, locusts circumvent memory
in order to depart through fate.

And anyone can see that singularity exists lightless
like an eddy of pathos surfacing beyond hearing.

In conclusion, however solitary
(and you know this as well as I),

a consonant will always
depart the sentence before shamed by a horse.

The Rising of the Ashes [Before], by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Before
a long time ago
I lived in a tree, then in a cemetery.
My tomb was under an oak. Dogs and men pissed on my head. I said nothing. Little
mauve flowers, scentless, grew there.
I had nothing to say.
Today shovels picked me up and threw me in this well.
I pace the abyss.
I descend. I am suspended.
The ashes still smolder. They rise, surround me, then fall again,
grey dust that makes my body a sand-filled hourglass.
I crumble. I am old abandoned rock.
I am sand and time.
I am faceless.
I nourish the land and pour my words into the land’s blood.
I irrigate the tree roots in late spring.
I count the days and the deaths while
men carry their households on their backs.

*

This body which was once a word will no longer look at the sea and think of Homer.
It did not pass away. It was touched by a flash from the sky crushing speech and breath.
These crystals mixed in the sand are the last words pronounced by these unarmed men.

*

In this country the dead travel
as statues and flames
They wear eyeglasses
and stretch out their scorched arms for flight.
We say they became invisible
Left to offer the living the years that remained of their lives.
Thus only years litter the desert: a century, more.
Lives for the taking, as jackals gorged on lives tremble to say:
“Death is not fatal just as night is the sun’s shadow.”

Little Ending, by Charles Wright

Bowls will receive us,
and sprinkle black scratch in our eyes.
Later, at the great fork on the untouchable road,
It won’t matter where we have become.

Unburdened by prayer, unburdened by any supplication,
Someone will take our hand,
someone will give us refuge,
Circling left or circling right.

Poem for Japan, by Matthew Zapruder

all day staying inside

listening to a podcast

discuss how particles

over the Pacific

might drift

I knew thinking

whenever cloud

scares me

I am not alone

my umbrella slept

in the closet

I placed a few nouns

in beautiful cages

then let them out

touched with my mind

the lucky cat

asleep in the deli

I always scratch

his head he slightly

raises to meet my hand

all over the remains

contaminated shadowmen

in blue suits that seem

ecclesiastical now

that science is

a religion crawl

the emperor

everyone has forgotten

is speaking

no one knows

how to be

loving and also

hope the wind

in a certain

and not another

direction will blow

Altars of Light, by Pierre Joris

If the light is the soul 
then soul is what's 
all around me.

It is you, 
it is around you too, 
it is you.

The darkness is inside me, 
the opaqueness of organs folded 
upon organs-- 

to make light in the house of
the body-- 
     thus to bring the
outside in,
     the impossible job.

   And the only place to become
the skin
   the border, the inbetween, where
dark meets light, where I meets
   you.

   In the house of world the 
many darknesses are surrounded 
by light.

   To see the one, we need 
the other / it cuts both ways

   light on light is blind 
   dark on dark is blind

   light through dark is not

   dark through light is movement
   dark through light becomes,
is becoming,
     to move through
light is becoming,

   is all
     we can know.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.

Notes from the Other Side, by Jane Kenyon

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

The Snowfall Is So Silent, by Miguel de Unamuno

The snowfall is so silent,

so slow,

bit by bit, with delicacy

it settles down on the earth

and covers over the fields.

The silent snow comes down

white and weightless;

snowfall makes no noise,

falls as forgetting falls,

flake after flake.

It covers the fields gently

while frost attacks them

with its sudden flashes of white;

covers everything with its pure

and silent covering;

not one thing on the ground

anywhere escapes it.

And wherever it falls it stays,

content and gay,

for snow does not slip off

as rain does,

but it stays and sinks in.

The flakes are skyflowers,

pale lilies from the clouds,

that wither on earth.

They come down blossoming

but then so quickly

they are gone;

they bloom only on the peak,

above the mountains,

and make the earth feel heavier

when they die inside.

Snow, delicate snow,

that falls with such lightness

on the head,

on the feelings,

come and cover over the sadness

that lies always in my reason.