The Luxury of Hesitation [excerpt from The Proof from Motion], by Keith Waldrop

things
forgotten
I could

burn in hell forever

set the glass
down, our
emotion’s moment

eyes vs sunlight

how removed
here, from
here

towards the unfamiliar and

frankincense forests
against the discerning light

everybody
sudden

frightful indeed, the sound of
traffic and
no appetite

the crowd

I would like to be
beautiful when
written

Father Outside, by Nick Flynn and Josh Neufeld

A black river flows down the center
of each page

& on either side the banks
are wrapped in snow. My father is ink falling

in tiny blossoms, a bottle
wrapped in a paperbag. I want to believe
that if I get the story right

we will rise, newly formed,

that I will stand over him again
as he sleeps outside under the church halogen
only this time I will know

what to say. It is night &
it’s snowing & starlings
fill the trees above us, so many it seems

the leaves sing. I can’t see them
until they rise together at some hidden signal

& hold the shape of the tree for a moment
before scattering. I wait for his breath
to lift his blanket

so I know he’s alive, letting the story settle

into the shape of this city. Three girls in the park
begin to sing something holy, a song
with a lost room inside it

as their prayerbook comes unglued

& scatters. I’ll bend
each finger back, until the bottle

falls, until the bone snaps, save him

by destroying his hands. With the thaw
the river will rise & he will be forced
to higher ground. No one

will have to tell him. From my roof I can see
the East River, it looks blackened with oil

but it’s only the light. Even now
my father is asleep somewhere. If I followed

the river north I could still reach him.

The Practice, by Aaron Shurin

They mistook me for illumination — a revenant in walking shoes — so I gathered significance and spread text…stood beneath the seven cardinal points with arms upraised — practical telepathy — in a white paper suit like a flag of surrender, thunder at my back… I was an open man of the open streets — a burnished sieve of common purpose — scrawled on walls, thrashed cans and blasted caps for equivalence. I wasn’t alone — the boulevards teemed with wiggly kids and mooing parents slow as boulders. In the Plaza Palabra on a green iron bench a grand senora suffered the odes of schoolboys and thugs — smiled behind an opal fan while they searched for words to match their tumultuous nights — and all words fit… In July — volubility — I hoarded cherries, catalogued their juices — were they Rainier, Blood Nut, Royal Ann, Squirrel Heart, Rosebud or Bing? —then swallowed them one by one like detonations…initiations…In a fever of taxonomy I followed a squadron of dragonflies right to the vanishing point…Incarnation is a provisional state, but stretches outward like noon. For practice, I wallowed and stretched…

The Uses of Distortion, by Caroline Crumpacker

(appendix to the     forgotten                                   )

See character         see costume               see ambassador conjugate of
toreador:

Country of origin     see that night I fell in love (wrong man).
Race and ethnicity   see mauve suite for women.
see   my boss is the mouth of god.

I went to another country as an ambassador, she begins,
and there I read the newspapers.
There was something so lovely about          the reportage.

All the reason.

He counters when I first came to your country (challenging her)
I was in love with the perfection of your apples.

It seems a lewd thing to say             but she knows

he has contempt          for the perfection of form.

Press conference.
Press harder.

She awakens from     her gray jacket               (     ).

She can’t help but     feel the air of her bourgeois
life     thickening like a locket.

This day     beginning now          ( )
in this morning          and the life to which it is bound.

She is holding up the finger   of     an illiterate woman
in triumph.

He says release that finger I want to use it.

Here begins the next bracketing     of their encounter.

She has already decided that   her own life
that thing she wears around               is nothing.

I would give it to you.

He says I spend hours in the supermarket.
She says I have no idea     how to shop.

He would press that finger     onto paper and call it meditations.

The official press release     does not.
Press instead   ensnare.

The Saint of the hand.

The men here are terrible lovers, she says.
where I come from they are               not lovers     but disciples.

Their fixation on women’s bodies     is a form of disassociation, he says.
She has already decided that nothing          could mean more
to her than                    serving the greater design.

She says There is every reason to be optimistic.

As a painter, he is understood to be inarticulate.

Can she imagine herself really IN a country (     )?

The closet of mauve and blue suits.
The belief that she can not be naked.
Her face an illumination of her non-nakedness. Her face   a clothing
advertisement.

She wears it well.
She says     I congratulate the women of this region.
He says Aren’t you of this region?
She says It’s like a dark room          where you talk to everyone
deeply
but without    seeing them.

Good Friday. Her hand in yours.

She says Everything we do makes us safer.
He says I painted you naked.

Here a hell of sorts enters.
Hers. His. That of the (nation).

from People Close To You, by Crystal Williams

I.

She asks if she can sit on the bench & it is that kind of day in Santa Monica, slow & gentle so that when she sits, properly, like a teacher or the pudgy mother of a girl named Marilyn, in unison you raise your round faces. The wind hefts the voices of your deadlings. They are serious & sorrowful women, full of warnings, but today seem content to let you be, saying only, Child, be thankful, open your chest, that great cavern, to our other sister. & so you watch the sea.Who knows what the woman beside you hears: there are so many languages in the world & your tongue is tied to this one. So you sip iced tea & lean a bit forward into them, your gone women, your sages, who seem to be stroking your head. You begin to imagine the ocean floor as a cup, the pouty lips of God, the soft foam, the salt as if food, tasting sweet & clear.

I am the People, the Mob, by Carl Sandburg

I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and
clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history
to remember. Then—I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the
world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his
voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob—the crowd—the mass—will arrive then.


More by Carl Sandburg:

Fog, by Carl Sandburg — The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.

Grass, by Carl Sandburg — Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work— I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor: What place […]

Languages, by Carl Sandburg — There are no handles upon a language Whereby men take hold of it And mark it with signs for its remembrance. It is a river, this language, Once in a thousand years Breaking a new course Changing its way to the ocean. It is mountain effluvia Moving to valleys And from nation to nation Crossing […]

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 […]

I am the People, the Mob, by Carl Sandburg — I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass. Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me? I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and clothes. I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And then […]

 

Severance Songs, 2.1, by Joshua Corey

2.1

Many tiers make this world pillowed on stone
many collect in their fear to strive.
Yours the face aglow in the cold,
precarious thriver in the song-stung dark.
With glance and lip you collected me.
Where are you? Alien hip I catch you out,
refuse cheshire blazon, unpronounced tremolo.
Now to step into the prints you left.
Winglessly now to embrace your air
on tiptoe, phonetic and misprized answer—
know you me? Tease this mystery? Kiss,
cats, for your dear dog am I, better angled
to see you by night with eyes straight upward
and by your leave to praise and praise.


More by Joshua Corey: