Done With, by Ann Stanford

My house is torn down–
Plaster sifting, the pillars broken,
Beams jagged, the wall crushed by the bulldozer.
The whole roof has fallen
On the hall and the kitchen
The bedrooms, the parlor.

They are trampling the garden–
My mother’s lilac, my father’s grapevine,
The freesias, the jonquils, the grasses.
Hot asphalt goes down
Over the torn stems, and hardens.

What will they do in springtime
Those bulbs and stems groping upward
That drown in earth under the paving,
Thick with sap, pale in the dark
As they try the unrolling of green.

May they double themselves
Pushing together up to the sunlight,
May they break through the seal stretched above them
Open and flower and cry we are living.

Audience, by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

1

People think, at the theatre, an audience is tricked into believing it’s looking at life.

The film image is so large, it goes straight into your head.

There’s no room to be aware of or interested in people around you.

Girls and cool devices draw audience, but unraveling the life of a real human brings the
outsiders.

I wrote before production began, “I want to include all of myself, a heartbroken person
who hasn’t worked for years, who’s simply not dead.”

Many fans feel robbed and ask, “What kind of show’s about one person’s unresolved
soul?”

2

There’s sympathy for suffering, also artificiality.

Having limbs blown off is some person’s reality, not mine.

I didn’t want to use sympathy for others as a way through my problems.

There’s a gap between an audience and particulars, but you can be satisfied by
particulars, on several levels: social commentary, sleazy fantasy.

Where my film runs into another’s real life conditions seem problematic, but they don’t
link with me.

The linking is the flow of images, thwarting a fan’s transference.

If you have empathy to place yourself in my real situation of face-to-face intensity, then
there would be no mirror, not as here.

3

My story is about the human race in conflict with itself and nature.

An empathic princess negotiates peace between nations and huge creatures in the wild.

I grapple with the theme, again and again.

Impatience and frustration build among fans.

“She achieves a personal voice almost autistic in lack of affect, making ambiguous her
well-known power to communicate emotion, yet accusing a system that mistakes what
she says.”

Sex, tech are portrayed with lightness, a lack of divisions that causes anxieties elsewhere.

When I find a gap, I don’t fix it, don’t intrude like a violent, stray dog, separating flow
and context, to conform what I say to what you see.

Time before the show was fabulous, blank.

When I return, as to an object in space, my experience is sweeter, not because of
memory.

The screen is a mirror where a butterfly tries so hard not to lose the sequence of the last
moments.

I thought my work should reflect society, like mirrors in a cafe, double-space.

There’s limited time, but we feel through film media we’ve more.

4

When society deterritorialized our world with money, we managed our depressions via
many deterritorializations.

Feeling became vague, with impersonal, spectacular equivalents in film.

My animator draws beautifully, but can’t read or write.

He has fears, which might become reality, but Godzilla is reality.

When I saw the real princess, I found her face inauspicious, ill-favored, but since I’d
heard she was lovely, I said, “Maybe, she’s not photogenic today.”

Compared to my boredom, I wondered if her life were not like looking into a stream at a
stone, while water rushed over me.

I told her to look at me, so her looking is what everything rushes around.

I don’t care about story so much as, what do you think of her? Do you like her?

She’s not representative, because of gaps in the emotion, only yummy parts, and dialogue
that repeats.

She pencils a black line down the back of her leg.

A gesture turns transparent and proliferates into thousands of us doing the same.

Acknowledging the potential of a fan club, she jokingly describes it as “suspect”.

She means performance comes out through the noise.spac

5

At the bar, you see a man catch hold of a girl by the hair and kick her.

You could understand both points of view, but in reality, no.

You intervene, feeling shame for hoping someone else will.

It becomes an atmosphere, a situation, by which I mean, groups.

In school we’re taught the world is round, and with our own eyes we confirmed a small
part of what we could imagine.

Because you’re sitting in a dark place, and I’m illuminated, and a lot of eyes are directed
at me, I can be seen more clearly than if I mingled with you, as when we were in high
school.

We were young girls wanting to describe love and to look at it from outer space.

Thinking in Bed, by Dennis Lee

I’m thinking in bed,
Cause I can’t get out
Till I learn how to think
What I’m thinking about;
What I’m thinking about
Is a person to be–
A sort of a person
Who feels like me.

I might still be Alice,
Excepting I’m not.
And Snoopy is super,
But not when it’s hot;
I couldn’t be Piglet,
I don’t think I’m Pooh,
I know I’m not Daddy
And I can’t be you.

My breakfast is waiting.
My clothes are all out,
But what was that thing
I was thinking about?
I’ll never get up
If I lie here all day;
But I still haven’t thought,
So I’ll just have to stay.

If I was a Grinch
I expect I would know.
But I don’t think so.
There’s so many people
I don’t seem to be–
I guess I’ll just have to
Get up and be me.

Francesco and Clare, by David St. John

It was there, in that little town
On top of the mountain, they walked,
Francesco and Chiara,
That’s who they were, that’s what
They told themselves–a joke, their joke
About two saints, failed lovers held apart
From the world of flesh, Francis and Clare,
Out walking the old city, two saints,
Sainted ones, holy, held close to the life…
Poverty, the pure life, the one
Life for Franziskus and Klara,
Stalwarts given
To the joys of God in heaven
And on earth, Mother, praising Brother Sun
And sister Moon; twin saints, unified
In their beauty as one, Francisco and Clara,
A beauty said of God’s will and word, bestowed
And polished by poverty, François
With Claire, the chosen poverty, the true
Poverty that would not be their lives…
And they took their favorite names, Clare and Francesco,
Walking the streets of stone the true saints
Walked, watching as the larks swirled
Above the serene towers, the larks
Francesco once described as the color
Of goodness, that is, of the earth, of the dead…
Larks who’d not seek for themselves any extravagant
Plumage, humble and simple, God’s birds
Twirling and twisting up the pillowing air…
And Francesco said to Clare, Oh little plant I love,

My eyes are almost blind with Brother Sun…tell me,

Who hides inside God’s time…?
And Clare, rock of all Poor Clares, stood
In the warm piazza overlooking the valley, weary,
Her shoulder bag sagging from the weight
Of her maps and books, and said across the rain-slick
Asphalt of the parking lot, to the poor bird climbing
The wheel of sky it always had loved best,
Dear lark, dear saint, all my kisses on your nest!

Garden of Bees, by Matthew Rohrer

The narcissus grows past

the towers. Eight gypsy

sisters spread their wings

in the garden. Their gold teeth

are unnerving. Every single

baby is asleep. They want

a little money and I give

them less. I’m charming and

handsome. They take my pen.

I buy the poem from the garden

of bees for one euro. A touch

on the arm. A mystery word.

The sky has two faces.

For reasons unaccountable

my hand trembles.

In Roman times if they were

horrified of bees they kept it secret

Forever War, by Nate Pritts

In studying the anomaly
it was determined that holiday decorations
look sad out of season,
that there’s no excuse for the mistakes
of my people. Red paper hearts
on the front door into April,
a cauldron that doubles as a planter
in summer. Always the starscape
to help keep me honest, to remind me
that distance is easy to cross.
The analytic belt I’m equipped with
reminds me of an indescribable autumn
from one hundred generations ago
though even last year
I was someone else.
I was faced with a choice.
Proceed with the same core
or blow it up to restart
& maybe go further. Most of my programming
has survived into this new battle.
I can smell faint ocean
salt on the breeze & I have different
reactions for its presence or absence.
Now is the time to overcome problems.
I debate the finer points of being desperate,
of wanting things to remain
as they are, though they can’t.
I’d rather not go into details
since specifics make me queasy,
like in pictures when people put their heads
too close together. How can they stand
such forced intimacy?
I take off in search of my home planet.
My resolve is stronger than ever.


Others you might like:
Costumes Exchanging Glances, by Mary Jo Bang — The rhinestone lights blink off and on. Pretend stars. I’m sick of explanations. A life is like Russell said of electricity, not a thing but the way things behave. A science of motion toward some flat surface, some heat, some cold. Some light can leave some after-image but it doesn’t last. Isn’t that what they […]
All Us Beautiful Monsters, by Alex Lemon — The entire world wants To pretend to be a foreigner In a big box store & wander The aisles shouting, endlessly— But I am pretty sure that today Is my day to not just be a guy But to be the guy. A baby grows In each drawer of the million- Drawered cherrywood cabinet That […]
ninth: a conversation between Annabot and the Human Machine on the subject of overpowering emotion, by Anna Moschovakis — (Note: Though Annabot is ostensibly downloadable, the attempt to open her produced an error, a string of errors.) ANNABOT: What now? HUMAN MACHINE: The Brain, the brain—that is the seat of trouble! ANNABOT: My brain, whose brain? Those who feel, feel. HUMAN MACHINE: On the blink? ANNABOT: Or, discipline. The brain is a machine of […]
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 […]
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 […]

 

Don Juan [If from great nature’s or our own abyss], by George Gordon Byron

If from great nature’s or our own abyss
Of thought we could but snatch a certainty,
Perhaps mankind might find the path they miss—
But then ‘t would spoil much good philosophy.
One system eats another up, and this
Much as old Saturn ate his progeny;
For when his pious consort gave him stones
In lieu of sons, of these he made no bones.

But System doth reverse the Titan’s breakfast,
And eats her parents, albeit the digestion
Is difficult. Pray tell me, can you make fast,
After due search, your faith to any question?
Look back o’er ages, ere unto the stake fast
You bind yourself, and call some mode the best one.
Nothing more true than not to trust your senses;
And yet what are your other evidences?

For me, I know nought; nothing I deny,
Admit, reject, contemn; and what know you,
Except perhaps that you were born to die?
And both may after all turn out untrue.
An age may come, Font of Eternity,
When nothing shall be either old or new.
Death, so call’d, is a thing which makes men weep,
And yet a third of life is pass’d in sleep.

A sleep without dreams, after a rough day
Of toil, is what we covet most; and yet
How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay!
The very Suicide that pays his debt
At once without instalments (an old way
Of paying debts, which creditors regret)
Lets out impatiently his rushing breath,
Less from disgust of life than dread of death.

‘T is round him, near him, here, there, every where;
And there ‘s a courage which grows out of fear,
Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare
The worst to know it:—when the mountains rear
Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there
You look down o’er the precipice, and drear
The gulf of rock yawns,—you can’t gaze a minute
Without an awful wish to plunge within it.

‘T is true, you don’t—but, pale and struck with terror,
Retire: but look into your past impression!
And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror
Of your own thoughts, in all their self-confession,
The lurking bias, be it truth or error,
To the unknown; a secret prepossession,
To plunge with all your fears—but where? You know not,
And that’s the reason why you do—or do not.

But what ‘s this to the purpose? you will say.
Gent. reader, nothing; a mere speculation,
For which my sole excuse is—’t is my way;
Sometimes with and sometimes without occasion
I write what ‘s uppermost, without delay:
This narrative is not meant for narration,
But a mere airy and fantastic basis,
To build up common things with common places.

You know, or don’t know, that great Bacon saith,
‘Fling up a straw, ‘t will show the way the wind blows;’
And such a straw, borne on by human breath,
Is poesy, according as the mind glows;
A paper kite which flies ‘twixt life and death,
A shadow which the onward soul behind throws:
And mine ‘s a bubble, not blown up for praise,
But just to play with, as an infant plays.

The world is all before me—or behind;
For I have seen a portion of that same,
And quite enough for me to keep in mind;—
Of passions, too, I have proved enough to blame,
To the great pleasure of our friends, mankind,
Who like to mix some slight alloy with fame;
For I was rather famous in my time,
Until I fairly knock’d it up with rhyme.

I have brought this world about my ears, and eke
The other; that ‘s to say, the clergy, who
Upon my head have bid their thunders break
In pious libels by no means a few.
And yet I can’t help scribbling once a week,
Tiring old readers, nor discovering new.
In youth I wrote because my mind was full,
And now because I feel it growing dull.

But ‘why then publish?’—There are no rewards
Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
I ask in turn,—Why do you play at cards?
Why drink? Why read?—To make some hour less dreary.
It occupies me to turn back regards
On what I ‘ve seen or ponder’d, sad or cheery;
And what I write I cast upon the stream,
To swim or sink—I have had at least my dream.

I think that were I certain of success,
I hardly could compose another line:
So long I ‘ve battled either more or less,
That no defeat can drive me from the Nine.
This feeling ‘t is not easy to express,
And yet ‘t is not affected, I opine.
In play, there are two pleasures for your choosing—
The one is winning, and the other losing.

Besides, my Muse by no means deals in fiction:
She gathers a repertory of facts,
Of course with some reserve and slight restriction,
But mostly sings of human things and acts—
And that ‘s one cause she meets with contradiction;
For too much truth, at first sight, ne’er attracts;
And were her object only what ‘s call’d glory,
With more ease too she ‘d tell a different story.

Love, war, a tempest—surely there ‘s variety;
Also a seasoning slight of lucubration;
A bird’s-eye view, too, of that wild, Society;
A slight glance thrown on men of every station.
If you have nought else, here ‘s at least satiety
Both in performance and in preparation;
And though these lines should only line portmanteaus,
Trade will be all the better for these Cantos.

The portion of this world which I at present
Have taken up to fill the following sermon,
Is one of which there ‘s no description recent.
The reason why is easy to determine:
Although it seems both prominent and pleasant,
There is a sameness in its gems and ermine,
A dull and family likeness through all ages,
Of no great promise for poetic pages.

With much to excite, there ‘s little to exalt;
Nothing that speaks to all men and all times;
A sort of varnish over every fault;
A kind of common-place, even in their crimes;
Factitious passions, wit without much salt,
A want of that true nature which sublimes
Whate’er it shows with truth; a smooth monotony
Of character, in those at least who have got any.

Sometimes, indeed, like soldiers off parade,
They break their ranks and gladly leave the drill;
But then the roll-call draws them back afraid,
And they must be or seem what they were: still
Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
But when of the first sight you have had your fill,
It palls—at least it did so upon me,
This paradise of pleasure and ennui.

When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
Drest, voted, shone, and, may be, something more;
With dandies dined; heard senators declaiming;
Seen beauties brought to market by the score,
Sad rakes to sadder husbands chastely taming;
There ‘s little left but to be bored or bore.
Witness those ‘ci-devant jeunes hommes’ who stem
The stream, nor leave the world which leaveth them.

‘T is said—indeed a general complaint—
That no one has succeeded in describing
The monde, exactly as they ought to paint:
Some say, that authors only snatch, by bribing
The porter, some slight scandals strange and quaint,
To furnish matter for their moral gibing;
And that their books have but one style in common—
My lady’s prattle, filter’d through her woman.

But this can’t well be true, just now; for writers
Are grown of the beau monde a part potential:
I ‘ve seen them balance even the scale with fighters,
Especially when young, for that ‘s essential.
Why do their sketches fail them as inditers
Of what they deem themselves most consequential,
The real portrait of the highest tribe?
‘T is that, in fact, there ‘s little to describe.

‘Haud ignara loquor;’ these are Nugae, ‘quarum
Pars parva fui,’ but still art and part.
Now I could much more easily sketch a harem,
A battle, wreck, or history of the heart,
Than these things; and besides, I wish to spare ‘em,
For reasons which I choose to keep apart.
‘Vetabo Cereris sacrum qui vulgarit—’
Which means that vulgar people must not share it.

And therefore what I throw off is ideal—
Lower’d, leaven’d, like a history of freemasons;
Which bears the same relation to the real,
As Captain Parry’s voyage may do to Jason’s.
The grand arcanum ‘s not for men to see all;
My music has some mystic diapasons;
And there is much which could not be appreciated
In any manner by the uninitiated.

Alas! worlds fall—and woman, since she fell’d
The world (as, since that history less polite
Than true, hath been a creed so strictly held)
Has not yet given up the practice quite.
Poor thing of usages! coerced, compell’d,
Victim when wrong, and martyr oft when right,
Condemn’d to child-bed, as men for their sins
Have shaving too entail’d upon their chins,—

A daily plague, which in the aggregate
May average on the whole with parturition.
But as to women, who can penetrate
The real sufferings of their she condition?
Man’s very sympathy with their estate
Has much of selfishness, and more suspicion.
Their love, their virtue, beauty, education,
But form good housekeepers, to breed a nation.

All this were very well, and can’t be better;
But even this is difficult, Heaven knows,
So many troubles from her birth beset her,
Such small distinction between friends and foes,
The gilding wears so soon from off her fetter,
That—but ask any woman if she’d choose
(Take her at thirty, that is) to have been
Female or male? a schoolboy or a queen?

‘Petticoat influence’ is a great reproach,
Which even those who obey would fain be thought
To fly from, as from hungry pikes a roach;
But since beneath it upon earth we are brought,
By various joltings of life’s hackney coach,
I for one venerate a petticoat—
A garment of a mystical sublimity,
No matter whether russet, silk, or dimity.

Much I respect, and much I have adored,
In my young days, that chaste and goodly veil,
Which holds a treasure, like a miser’s hoard,
And more attracts by all it doth conceal—
A golden scabbard on a Damasque sword,
A loving letter with a mystic seal,
A cure for grief—for what can ever rankle
Before a petticoat and peeping ankle?

And when upon a silent, sullen day,
With a sirocco, for example, blowing,
When even the sea looks dim with all its spray,
And sulkily the river’s ripple ‘s flowing,
And the sky shows that very ancient gray,
The sober, sad antithesis to glowing,—
‘T is pleasant, if then any thing is pleasant,
To catch a glimpse even of a pretty peasant.

We left our heroes and our heroines
In that fair clime which don’t depend on climate,
Quite independent of the Zodiac’s signs,
Though certainly more difficult to rhyme at,
Because the sun, and stars, and aught that shines,
Mountains, and all we can be most sublime at,
Are there oft dull and dreary as a dun—
Whether a sky’s or tradesman’s is all one.

An in-door life is less poetical;
And out of door hath showers, and mists, and sleet,
With which I could not brew a pastoral.
But be it as it may, a bard must meet
All difficulties, whether great or small,
To spoil his undertaking or complete,
And work away like spirit upon matter,
Embarrass’d somewhat both with fire and water.

Concordance [Working backward in sleep], by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

Poem by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Illustration by Kiki Smith


Working backward in sleep, the
last thing you numbed to is what
wakes you.

What if that image were Eros as
words?

What would it be like if you
contemplated my words and I felt
you?

Animals, an owl, frog, open their
eyes, and a mirror forms on the
ground.

When insight comes in a dream,
and events the next day
illuminate it, this begins your
streaming consciousness,
synchronicity, asymptotic lines
of the flights of concordances.

An owl opens its eyes in deep
woods.

For the first time, I write and you
don’t know me.

Milkweed I touch floats.

Essay on Criticism [But most by numbers], by Alexander Pope

But most by Numbers judge a Poet’s song;
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong:
In the bright Muse tho’ thousand charms conspire,
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as some to church repair,
Not for the doctrine but the music there.
These equal syllables alone require,
Tho’ oft the ear the open vowels tire;
While expletives their feeble aid do join;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line:
While they ring round the same unvary’d chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhymes;
Where’er you find “the cooling western breeze,”
In the next line it “whispers through the trees”
If crystal streams “with pleasing murmurs creep”
The reader’s threaten’d (not in vain) with “sleep”:
Then, at the last and only couplet fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.


More by Alexander Pope:

Essay on Criticism [But most by numbers], by Alexander Pope — But most by Numbers judge a Poet’s song; And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong: In the bright Muse tho’ thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire; Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear, Not mend their minds; as some to church repair, Not for the doctrine […]

Essay on Man, Epistle II, by Alexander Pope — I. Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man. Placed on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or […]

Passage, by Eve Alexandra

Tiny jewels of sand and salt spill from her mouth. Her lips lie like cloistered nuns. But her ears—they open like lilies. And suddenly all around her there are songs being sung. New notes slick and green, currency on everyone else’s tongue. Her own was slow, cut from the wrong cloth, it hadn’t been out on the town in years. When it slipped out it wore shoes of cordovan and danced the old dances like somebody’s grandmother. There had been a book like the big screen. She had slept for years on pages of silk and sweet organza. Her legs opening fields of lavender and white space. And the babies. It’s true she had wished for them. But this chapter she had wrapped tight, kissed their little heads and left them sleeping. She was prepared to be a murderer, to be the worst kind of woman if that’s what it took. She would alter her best black dress and make it new. She would pray for red shoes. She who had chattered away inside her own mind through miles of salt and sea was not afraid to dine alone. She would go to the finest of restaurants and point to the menu. Her teeth would bite and her tongue would remember: asparagus, quail egg, tiramisu. When she cleaned her plate she would stare down into it like a mirror, the tiny pond where she had said goodnight to her two sons. It would blink back, her third eye. The city sparkles before her. Oh glory of glass, oh gloss of steel. Waltzing back through the maze of brilliance, past the park and public library, the lions purring, her teeth clicking, the alliteration of old avenues and boulevards, the constellations necking with the skyline, the chambers of her heart glowing now, her blood orchestral, the little cells, the millions clapping—the men she passes, their mouths itching Aren’t you? Do I? Didn’t she?

Less Music, by Marjorie Welish

This freedom up.
A house difficult of exit, diffident of exit.

This flame up.
The false house, house of faulty entries.

This facade up.
The manifold worries architecture.

This face up.
To the artiface’s winding paths we lend our gloss.

This fact up!
This house multicursal and continuous.
Do you desire to disengage the frontispiece of devastating complexity?

This!
The curving house is green.
Do you wish to disappear from an escaping sentence?

Do you wish to forget the manuscript or do you wish to evict the manuscript?
This froth up.
The house ancient of exit, of antecedent impressions.

Passage I, by Maureen N. McLane

little moth
I do not think you’ll escape
this night

I do not think
you’ll escape this night
little moth

*

bees in clover
summer half over
friends without lovers

*

I bite a carrot
horsefly bites me

*

I thought it was you
moving through the trees

but it was the trees

I thought it was your finger
grazing my knee

it was the breeze

I thought prayers were rising
to a god alive in my mind

they rose on the wind

I thought I had all the time
and world enough to discover what I should

when it was over

I thought I would always be young
though I knew the years passed

and knowing turned my hair gray

I thought it was a welcome
what I took for a sign—

the sun…the unsymboling sun…

*

watch the clouds
on any given day
even they don’t keep their shape
for more than a minute

sociable shifters
bringing weather from elsewhere
until it’s our weather
and we say now it’s raining here

*

Vermont shore lit
by a fugitive sun
who doesn’t believe
in a day’s redemption

*

sunset renovation
at the expected hour
but the actual palette
still a surprise

*

gulls alit on the lake
little white splendors
looking to shit on the dock

*

little cat
kneading my chest
milkless breasts
take your pleasure
where you can

*

not that I was alive
but that we were

—(Soma)tic 5: Storm SOAKED Bread, by CAConrad

—for Julian Brolaski

Sit outside under shelter of a doorway, pavilion, or umbrella on a park bench, but somewhere outside where you can easily touch, smell, taste, FEEL the storm. Lean your face into the weather, face pointed UP to the sky, stay there for a bit with eyes closed while water fills the wells of your eyes. Come back into the shelter properly baptized in the beauty of pure elements and be quiet and still for a few minutes. Take some preliminary notes about your surroundings. Try not to engage with others who might run to your shelter for cover. If they insist on talking MOVE somewhere else; you are a poet with a storm to digest, this isn’t time for small talk! You are not running from the storm, you are opening to it, you are IN IT! Stick a bare arm or foot into the storm, let your skin take in a meditative measure of wind and rain. If you are someone who RAN from storms in the past take time to examine the joys of the experience. Remind yourself you are a human being who is approximately 80 percent water SO WHAT’S THE HARM OF A FEW DROPS ON THE OUTSIDE!? Right? YES! Pause, hold your breath for a count of 4, then write with a FURY and without thinking, just let it FLOW OUT OF YOU, write, write, WRITE!

Set an empty cup in the storm, hold a slic of bread in the storm. Then put a little salt and pepper on your storm soaked bread, maybe some oregano and garlic. With deliberate SLOOOWNESS chew your storm bread and drink the storm captured in your cup. Slowly. So, slowly, please, with, a, slowness, that, is, foreign, to, you. THINK the whole slow time of chewing and drinking how this water has been in a cycle for MILLIONS OF YEARS, falling to earth, quenching horses, elephants, lizards, dinosaurs, humans. They pissed, they died, their water evaporated and gathered again into clouds to drizzle down AND STORM DOWN into rivers, puddles, aqueducts, and ancient cupped hands. Humans who LOVED, who are long dead, humans who thieved, raped, murdered, were generous, playful, disappointed, fearful, annoyed and adored one another, each of them dying in their own way, their water going back to the sky, coming back down to your bread, your lips, your stomach, to feed your sinew, your brain, your living, beautiful day. Take your notes POET, IT IS YOUR MOMENT to be totally aware, completely aware!


One Day I Will Step from the Beauty Parlor and Enlist in the Frequency of Starlings

my favorite morning

is not caring if

blood on sheets

is yours or mine

 

a machine in

your station

rides me

tracks to snacks

snacks to tracks

 

I feel very fortunate

to know magic is real

and poetry is real

you can see it in the writing

a belief in one is missing

 

a mouse eating

the dead

cat our

longed-for

malfunction

 

I was born

inTopeka

otherwise

they would have

never let me in

 

they circle away holding this place

opening opening opening OPENING UP

I grope the tree down its root

 

if truth soothes

soothing was

not truth’s goal

 

my goal

is to do what

produces

memory

as gentle

as vicious

can

 

one promise: when

I get to the bottom I’ll

accelerate deeper

my small pile

of poems

surprising

everyone along the

open wound

“was there a

death” they ask

“a merger” I say

 

everyone paying attention

enjoy your visit

everyone else

good luck

Figure, by Marjorie Welish

The poet redirected my likeness.

She said, “Not his decadence, which is a question.”
“Time," she said, declining his epidemic.
                            As if serrated,
initiatives lost modernity: aura reared up
although bracketing pages in comparative matters.
                                      “What time is it?”
                                                  “Perspectivism.”
Which is a question.
              As if serrated,
“as if” bracketing pages.

And time again, the timing of a wrecking ball—
                                Which is an overture.

Deer Dancer, by Joy Harjo

Nearly everyone had left that bar in the middle of winter except the
hardcore. It was the coldest night of the year, every place shut down, but
not us. Of course we noticed when she came in. We were Indian ruins. She
was the end of beauty. No one knew her, the stranger whose tribe we
recognized, her family related to deer, if that’s who she was, a people
accustomed to hearing songs in pine trees, and making them hearts.

The woman inside the woman who was to dance naked in the bar of misfits
blew deer magic. Henry jack, who could not survive a sober day, thought she
was Buffalo Calf Woman come back, passed out, his head by the toilet. All
night he dreamed a dream he could not say. The next day he borrowed
money, went home, and sent back the money I lent. Now that’s a miracle.
Some people see vision in a burned tortilla, some in the face of a woman.

This is the bar of broken survivors, the club of the shotgun, knife wound, of
poison by culture. We who were taught not to stare drank our beer. The
players gossiped down their cues. Someone put a quarter in the jukebox to
relive despair. Richard’s wife dove to kill her. We had to keep her
still, while Richard secretly bought the beauty a drink.

How do I say it? In this language there are no words for how the real world
collapses. I could say it in my own and the sacred mounds would come into
focus, but I couldn’t take it in this dingy envelope. So I look at the stars in
this strange city, frozen to the back of the sky, the only promises that ever
make sense.

My brother-in-law hung out with white people, went to law school with a
perfect record, quit. Says you can keep your laws, your words. And
practiced law on the street with his hands. He jimmied to the proverbial
dream girl, the face of the moon, while the players racked a new game.
He bragged to us, he told her magic words and that when she broke,
became human.
But we all heard his voice crack:

What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?

That’s what I’d like to know, what are we all doing in a place like this?

You would know she could hear only what she wanted to; don’t we all? Left
the drink of betrayal Richard bought her, at the bar. What was she on? We all
wanted some. Put a quarter in the juke. We all take risks stepping into thin
air. Our ceremonies didn’t predict this. or we expected more.

I had to tell you this, for the baby inside the girl sealed up with a lick of
hope and swimming into the praise of nations. This is not a rooming house, but
a dream of winter falls and the deer who portrayed the relatives of
strangers. The way back is deer breath on icy windows.

The next dance none of us predicted. She borrowed a chair for the stairway
to heaven and stood on a table of names. And danced in the room of children
without shoes.

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille With four hungry children and a
crop in the field.

And then she took off her clothes. She shook loose memory, waltzed with the
empty lover we’d all become.

She was the myth slipped down through dreamtime. The promise of feast we
all knew was coming. The deer who crossed through knots of a curse to find
us. She was no slouch, and neither were we, watching.

The music ended. And so does the story. I wasn’t there. But I imagined her
like this, not a stained red dress with tape on her heels but the deer who
entered our dream in white dawn, breathed mist into pine trees, her fawn a
blessing of meat, the ancestors who never left.

To the Reader: If You Asked Me, by Chase Twichell

I want you with me, and yet you are the end
of my privacy. Do you see how these rooms
have become public? How we glance to see if–
who? Who did you imagine?
Surely we’re not here alone, you and I.

I’ve been wandering
where the cold tracks of language
collapse into cinders, unburnable trash.
Beyond that, all I can see is the remote cold
of meteors before their avalanches of farewell.

If you asked me what words
a voice like this one says in parting,
I’d say, I’m sweeping an empty factory
toward which I feel neither hostility nor nostalgia.
I’m just a broom, sweeping.

Advice to a Prophet, by Richard Wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?–
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters.  We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling.  What should we be without
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

Adjectives of Order, by Alexandra Teague

That summer, she had a student who was obsessed
with the order of adjectives. A soldier in the South
Vietnamese army, he had been taken prisoner when

Saigon fell. He wanted to know why the order
could not be altered. The sweltering city streets shook
with rockets and helicopters. The city sweltering

streets. On the dusty brown field of the chalkboard,
she wrote: The mother took warm homemade bread
from the oven. City is essential to streets as homemade

is essential to bread . He copied this down, but
he wanted to know if his brothers were lost  before
older, if he worked security at a twenty-story modern

downtown bank or downtown twenty-story modern.
When he first arrived, he did not know enough English
to order a sandwich. He asked her to explain each part

of Lovely big rectangular old red English Catholic
leather Bible. Evaluation before size. Age before color.
Nationality before religion. Time before length. Adding

and, one could determine if two adjectives were equal.
After Saigon fell, he had survived nine long years
of torture. Nine and long. He knew no other way to say this.

Hum, by Ann Lauterbach

The days are beautiful
The days are beautiful.

I know what days are.
The other is weather.

I know what weather is.
The days are beautiful.

Things are incidental.
Someone is weeping.

I weep for the incidental.
The days are beautiful.

Where is tomorrow?
Everyone will weep.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
The days are beautiful.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
Today is weather.

The sound of the weather
Is everyone weeping.

Everyone is incidental.
Everyone weeps.

The tears of today
Will put out tomorrow.

The rain is ashes.
The days are beautiful.

The rain falls down.
The sound is falling.

The sky is a cloud.
The days are beautiful.

The sky is dust.
The weather is yesterday.

The weather is yesterday.
The sound is weeping.

What is this dust?
The weather is nothing.

The days are beautiful.
The towers are yesterday.

The towers are incidental.
What are these ashes?

Here is the hate
That does not travel.

Here is the robe
That smells of the night

Here are the words
Retired to their books

Here are the stones
Loosed from their settings

Here is the bridge
Over the water

Here is the place
Where the sun came up

Here is a season
Dry in the fireplace.

Here are the ashes.
The days are beautiful.

In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Vespers, by Louise Glück

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

Anastasia & Sandman, by Larry Levis

The brow of a horse in that moment when
The horse is drinking water so deeply from a trough
It seems to inhale the water, is holy.

I refuse to explain.

When the horse had gone the water in the trough,
All through the empty summer,

Went on reflecting clouds & stars.

The horse cropping grass in a field,
And the fly buzzing around its eyes, are more real
Than the mist in one corner of the field.

Or the angel hidden in the mist, for that matter.

Members of the Committee on the Ineffable,
Let me illustrate this with a story, & ask you all
To rest your heads on the table, cushioned,
If you wish, in your hands, &, if you want,
Comforted by a small carton of milk
To drink from, as you once did, long ago,
When there was only a curriculum of beach grass,
When the University of Flies was only a distant humming.

In Romania, after the war, Stalin confiscated
The horses that had been used to work the fields.
“You won’t need horses now,” Stalin said, cupping
His hand to his ear, “Can’t you hear the tractors
Coming in the distance? I hear them already.”

The crowd in the Callea Victoria listened closely
But no one heard anything. In the distance
There was only the faint glow of a few clouds.
And the horses were led into boxcars & emerged
As the dimly remembered meals of flesh
That fed the starving Poles
During that famine, & part of the next one–
In which even words grew thin & transparent,
Like the pale wings of ants that flew
Out of the oldest houses, & slowly
What had been real in words began to be replaced
By what was not real, by the not exactly real.
“Well, not exactly, but. . .” became the preferred
Administrative phrasing so that the man
Standing with his hat in his hands would not guess
That the phrasing of a few words had already swept
The earth from beneath his feet. “That horse I had,
He was more real than any angel,
The housefly, when I had a house, was real too,”
Is what the man thought.
Yet it wasn’t more than a few months
Before the man began to wonder, talking
To himself out loud before the others,
“Was the horse real? Was the house real?”
An angel flew in and out of the high window
In the factory where the man worked, his hands
Numb with cold. He hated the window & the light
Entering the window & he hated the angel.
Because the angel could not be carved into meat
Or dumped into the ossuary & become part
Of the landfill at the edge of town,
It therefore could not acquire a soul,
And resembled in significance nothing more
Than a light summer dress when the body has gone.

The man survived because, after a while,
He shut up about it.

Stalin had a deep understanding of the kulaks,
Their sense of marginalization & belief in the land;

That is why he killed them all.

Members of the Committee on Solitude, consider
Our own impoverishment & the progress of that famine,
In which, now, it is becoming impossible
To feel anything when we contemplate the burial,
Alive, in a two-hour period, of hundreds of people.
Who were not clichés, who did not know they would be
The illegible blank of the past that lives in each
Of us, even in some guy watering his lawn

On a summer night. Consider

The death of Stalin & the slow, uninterrupted
Evolution of the horse, a species no one,
Not even Stalin, could extinguish, almost as if
What could not be altered was something
Noble in the look of its face, something

Incapable of treachery.

Then imagine, in your planning proposals,
The exact moment in the future when an angel
Might alight & crawl like a fly into the ear of a horse,
And then, eventually, into the brain of a horse,
And imagine further that the angel in the brain
Of this horse is, for the horse cropping grass
In the field, largely irrelevant, a mist in the corner
Of the field, something that disappears,
The horse thinks, when weight is passed through it,
Something that will not even carry the weight
Of its own father
On its back, the horse decides, & so demonstrates
This by swishing at a fly with its tail, by continuing
To graze as the dusk comes on & almost until it is night.

Old contrivers, daydreamers, walking chemistry sets,
Exhausted chimneysweeps of the spaces
Between words, where the Holy Ghost tastes just
Like the dust it is made of,
Let’s tear up our lecture notes & throw them out
The window.
Let’s do it right now before wisdom descends upon us
Like a spiderweb over a burned-out theater marquee,
Because what’s the use?
I keep going to meetings where no one’s there,
And contributing to the discussion;
And besides, behind the angel hissing in its mist
Is a gate that leads only into another field,
Another outcropping of stones & withered grass, where
A horse named Sandman & a horse named Anastasia
Used to stand at the fence & watch the traffic pass.
Where there were outdoor concerts once, in summer,
Under the missing & innumerable stars.

Auguries of Innocence, by William Blake

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer wandering here and there
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misused breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.
He who the ox to wrath has moved
Shall never be by woman loved.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them, and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer’s song
Poison gets from Slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of Envy’s foot.
The poison of the honey-bee
Is the artist’s jealousy.
The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands,
Throughout all these human lands;
Tools were made and born were hands,
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright
And returned to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes Revenge! in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags fluttering in air
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier armed with sword and gun
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.
One mite wrung from the labourer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands,
Or if protected from on high
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant’s faith
Shall be mocked in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner who sits so sly
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour’s iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plough
To peaceful arts shall Envy bow.
A riddle or the cricket’s cry
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave old England’s winding sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not through the eye
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light
To those poor souls who dwell in night,
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.


More by William Blake:

Auguries of Innocence — To see a world in a grain of sand And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour. A robin redbreast in a cage Puts all heaven in a rage. A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons Shudders hell through all its regions. A […]

The Divine Image — To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love, All pray in their distress: And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness.   For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love, Is God, our father dear: And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love, Is Man, his child and care.   For Mercy has a human heart, Pity, a human face: […]

Proverbs of Hell — From “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. He who desires but acts not, […]

My Life as a Subject, by Meghan O’Rourke

Because I was born in a kingdom,
there was a king. At times
the king was a despot; at other times,
not. Axes flashed in the road

at night, but if you closed your eyes
sitting on the well-edge
amongst your kinspeople
and sang the ballads
then the silver did not appear
to be broken.

Such were the circumstances.
They made a liar out of me.
Did they change my spirit?
Kith in the night.
The cry of owls. A bird fight.

II.

We also had a queen,
whetted by the moon. And
we her subjects,
softening in her sight.

III.

What one had
the other had to
have too. Soon
parrots bloomed
in every garden, and
every daughter
had a tuning fork
jeweled with emeralds.

IV.

Learning to hunt in the new empire,
the king invited his subjects
to send him their knives.
He tested these knives on oranges,
pomegranates, acorn squash,
soft birches, stillborns, prisoners
who had broken rules. He used
them on the teeth of traitors.

V.

When strangers massed at the border,
the courtiers practiced
subjection of the foreign. The court
held a procession
of twine, rope,
gold, knives, and
prostitutes with their vials of white
powder. Smoke coursed into the courtyard,
and we wrought hunger upon
the bodies of strangers. I am sure you
can imagine
it, really what need
is there for me to tell you.
You were a stranger once too, and I
brought rope.

VI.

Afterward, I
slept,
and let the dealers
come to me alone
with their jewels and
their powders.

VII.

At night, we debated
the skin of language,
questioned what might
be revealed inside:
a soft pink fruit,
a woman in a field…
Or a shadow, sticky and loose
as old jam. Our own
dialect was abstract,
we wished to understand
not how things were
but what spectacle we might
make from them.

VIII.

One day a merchant came to court
and brought moving pictures,
the emperor’s new delight.
He tacked dark cloth
to the windows and turned off
the lights, cranking the machine and the film
like a needle and thread,
making stories we could
insinuate our cold bodies
into and find warmth. Light;
dark. And the sliding images of courtiers
merrily balancing monkeys
on their heads, as if this
were an adequate story.

IX.

And our queen, that hidden
self. What became
of her? Slid into the night
like a statue, shivered
into shadows. Knowing as a spider
in retreat. The web
her mind, and in it, the fly.

X.

On Sundays, we flew kites
to ensure our joy
was seen by those who
threatened
to threaten us. The thread
spooling out high
in the purple sky
and silver-gelatin films being made,
sliding through the cranking machine
so that the barbarians could know
we made images of ourselves
coated in precious metal
and sent them away
indifferent to our wealth.

I miss the citrus
smell of spring
on the plaza filled
with young
and long-limbed kite flyers.

XI.

Do I have anything
to add? Only that
I obeyed my king, my
kind, I was not faithless.
Should I be punished
for that? It is true
the pictures creaking
through the spindle
cause me pain. I know
the powder we coated our fingers
with made us thirsty
and sometimes cruel. But I was born
with a spirit, like you.
I have woken, you see,
and I wish to be made new.

Sequestered Writing, by Carolyn Forché

Horses were turned loose in the child’s sorrow. Black and roan, cantering through snow.
The way light fills the hand with light, November with graves, infancy with white.
White. Given lilacs, lilacs disappear. Then low voices rising in walls.
The way they withdrew from the child’s body and spoke as if it were not there.

What ghost comes to the bedside whispering You?
— With its no one without its I –
A dwarf ghost? A closet of empty clothes?
Ours was a ghost who stole household goods. Nothing anyone would miss.
Supper plates. Apples. Barbed wire behind the house.

At the end of the hall, it sleepwalks into a mirror wearing mother’s robe.
A bedsheet lifts from the bed and hovers. Face with no face. Come here.
The bookcase knows, and also the darkness of books. Long passages into,
Endless histories toward, sleeping pages about. Why else toss gloves into a grave?

A language that once sent ravens through firs. The open world from which it came.
Words holding the scent of an asylum fifty years. It is fifty years, then.
The child hears from within: Come here and know, below
And unbeknownst to us, what these fields had been.

An Octave Above Thunder, by Carol Muske-Dukes

… reverberation

                              Of thunder of spring over distant mountains

                              He who was living is now dead

                              We who were living are now dying

                              With a little patience.

 

–T. S. Eliot,

“What the Thunder Said”

 

1

 

She began as we huddled, six of us,

in the cellar, raising her voice above

those towering syllables…

 

Never mind she cried when storm candles

flickered, glass shattered upstairs.

Reciting as if on horseback,

she whipped the meter,

 

trampling rhyme, reining in the reins

of the air with her left hand as she

stood, the washing machine behind her

stunned on its haunches, not spinning.

 

She spun the lines around each other,

her gaze fixed. I knew she’d silenced

a cacophony of distractions in her head,

to summon what she owned, rote-bright:

 

Of man’s first disobedience,

                                        and the fruit…

                              of the flower in a crannied wall

                              and one clear call…

 

for the child who’d risen before school assemblies:

eerie Dakota rumble that rolled yet never brought

rain breaking over the podium. Her voice rose,

an octave above thunder:

 

When I consider how my light is spent–

I thought of her light, poured willy-nilly.

in this dark world and wide: half-blind, blind,

a widening distraction Getting and spending

 we lay waste our powers…Different poem, a trick!

 

Her eyes singled me out as the wind slowed.

Then, reflective, I’d rather be / a Pagan

 sucked in a creed outworn / than a dullard

                         with nothing by heart.

 

It was midsummer, Minnesota. In the sky,

the Blind Poet blew sideways, his cape spilling

rain. They also serve! she sang, hailing

closure

 

as I stopped hearing her. I did not want to

stand and wait. I loathed nothing so much

as the forbearance now in her voice,

insisting that Beauty was at hand,

 

but not credible. I considered

how we twisted into ourselves to live.

When the storm stopped, I sat still,

listening.

 

Here were the words of the Blind Poet–

crumpled like wash for the line, to be

dried, pressed flat. Upstairs, someone called

my name. What sense would it ever

 

make to them, the unread world, the getters and spenders,

if they could not hear what I heard,

not feel what I felt

nothing ruined poetry, a voice revived it,

extremity.

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 borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing—and singing—remember
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.

The White Room, by Charles Simic

The obvious is difficult

To prove. Many prefer

The hidden. I did, too.

I listened to the trees.

 

They had a secret

Which they were about to

Make known to me–

And then didn’t.

 

Summer came. Each tree

On my street had its own

Scheherazade. My nights

Were a part of their wild

 

Storytelling. We were

Entering dark houses,

Always more dark houses,

Hushed and abandoned.

 

There was someone with eyes closed

On the upper floors.

The fear of it, and the wonder,

Kept me sleepless.

 

The truth is bald and cold,

Said the woman

Who always wore white.

She didn’t leave her room.

 

The sun pointed to one or two

Things that had survived

The long night intact.

The simplest things,

 

Difficult in their obviousness.

They made no noise.

It was the kind of day

People described as “perfect.”

 

Gods disguising themselves

As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,

A comb with a tooth missing?

No! That wasn’t it.

 

Just things as they are,

Unblinking, lying mute

In that bright light–

And the trees waiting for the night.

A Story, by Philip Levine

Everyone loves a story. Let’s begin with a house.

We can fill it with careful rooms and fill the rooms

with things—tables, chairs, cupboards, drawers

closed to hide tiny beds where children once slept

or big drawers that yawn open to reveal

precisely folded garments washed half to death,

unsoiled, stale, and waiting to be worn out.

There must be a kitchen, and the kitchen

must have a stove, perhaps a big iron one

with a fat black pipe that vanishes into the ceiling

to reach the sky and exhale its smells and collusions.

This was the center of whatever family life

was here, this and the sink gone yellow

around the drain where the water, dirty or pure,

ran off with no explanation, somehow like the point

of this, the story we promised and may yet deliver.

Make no mistake, a family was here. You see

the path worn into the linoleum where the wood,

gray and certainly pine, shows through.

Father stood there in the middle of his life

to call to the heavens he imagined above the roof

must surely be listening. When no one answered

you can see where his heel came down again

and again, even though he’d been taught

never to demand. Not that life was especially cruel;

they had well water they pumped at first,

a stove that gave heat, a mother who stood

at the sink at all hours and gazed longingly

to where the woods once held the voices

of small bears—themselves a family—and the songs

of birds long fled once the deep woods surrendered

one tree at a time after the workmen arrived

with jugs of hot coffee. The worn spot on the sill

is where Mother rested her head when no one saw,

those two stained ridges were handholds

she relied on; they never let her down.

Where is she now? You think you have a right

to know everything? The children tiny enough

to inhabit cupboards, large enough to have rooms

of their own and to abandon them, the father

with his right hand raised against the sky?

If those questions are too personal, then tell us,

where are the woods? They had to have been

because the continent was clothed in trees.

We all read that in school and knew it to be true.

Yet all we see are houses, rows and rows

of houses as far as sight, and where sight vanishes

into nothing, into the new world no one has seen,

there has to be more than dust, wind-borne particles

of burning earth, the earth we lost, and nothing else.