April to May, by Joyce Peseroff

1.
It is cold enough for rain
to coagulate and fall in heavy drops.
Tonight a skin of ice will grow
over the bones of the smallest bush,

making it droop like the wrist
of someone carrying a heavy suitcase. This moving on,
from season to season, is exhausting
and violent, the break from the Berlin Wall

of winter especially. Like a frostbitten
hand coming to life, I color
first with warmth,
then with pain. Thawing, letting

the great powers go
their own way, in rivers and in flesh,
frightens me, as this day
warns me of an icy night.

2.
Each year I am astonished
at the havoc wrought
on other lives: fathers
made tiny by cancer;

a mother swollen around
a bad heart “brought on by aggravation.”
To suffer is to do something new
yet always the same—

a change of life
from the sexual dread. Some women
wish they were men, some men
wish they were dead; still,

there is coin in suffering . . .
It makes us rich
as Croesus in his golden tears,
and we are rarely hated for it.

This coin I store in a purse
made of my mother’s
milk and flesh, which God says I must not mix.
I use it instead to seek pleasure.

3.
Walking around with this thing in me
all day, this loving cup
full of jelly, waiting for you
to come home—seven o’clock,

eight o’clock, eight-thirty . . .
What could be more important
than love? I can’t imagine; you can.
Not a good day, not about to get better.

4.
The bird comes complete
with heart, liver, and neck-bone
wrapped chastely in white paper.
Still half-frozen,

the legs are hard to separate.
Inside, wax paper sticks to the ribs.
I reach like a vet delivering pigs,
or a boy finger-fucking a virgin.

5.
Air the same sweet
temperature inside the house
as outside the house.
Stepping up from the cellar

with an armful of sheets,
I listen for the dirge of flies
under the chittering birds,
both painfully loud. There is a stridency

that’s stubborn in a life
grown by inches: the fat
little fingers of buds bursting;
ugly ducklings; the slow war

of day against night.
As I pin the swelling sheets
with clothespins damp and too
narrow at the mouth, I wonder how

flies know to come out
to feed the birds, and feast themselves
on the new stillborn, this stubborn
great chain of being.

How Beautiful, by Mary Jo Bang

A personal lens: glass bending rays
That gave one that day’s news
Saying each and every day,

Just remember you are standing
On a planet that’s evolving.
How beautiful, she thought, what distance does

For water, the view from above or afar.
In last night’s dream, they were back again
At the beginning. She was a child

And he was a child.
A plane lit down and left her there.
Cold whitening the white sky whiter.

Then a scalpel cut her open for all the world
To be a sea.

I Found a 1950s “Answer and Color-in Book”, by Jennifer Barber

One day the children played

in the kitchen.
in the cellar.
in the yard.

The yard looked like

a meadow.
a forest.
an island in the sea.

The children forgot their

mud cakes,
swing set,
sticks,

when a girl taught them

cat’s cradles.
clay people.
folded paper boats.

Late afternoon, whispering, they lay

in a sandbox.
on the sidewalk.
in the grass.

Each knew the others had

a mother.
a father.
brothers, sisters, dogs.

They traded blood oaths that foretold

how close.
how long.
at what cost.

Everything That Happens Can Be Called Aging, by Carl Adamshick

I have more love than ever.
Our kids have kids soon to have kids.
I need them. I need everyone
to come over to the house,
sleep on the floor, on the couches
in the front room. I need noise,
too many people in too small a space,
I need dancing, the spilling of drinks,
the loud pronouncements
over music, the verbal sparring,
the broken dishes, the wealth.
I need it all flying apart.
My friends to slam against me,
to hold me, to say they love me.
I need mornings to ask for favors
and forgiveness. I need to give,
have all my emotions rattled,
my family to be greedy,
to keep coming, to keep asking
and taking. I need no resolution,
just the constant turmoil of living.
Give me the bottom of the river,
all the unadorned, unfinished,
unpraised moments, one good turn
on the luxuriant wheel.

Last night, by Michael Broder

I dreamt of making sense,
parts of speech caught up in sheets
and blankets, long strips of fabric
wrapped loosely around shoulders,
goblets, urns, cups with unmatched saucers.

You were there, and the past seemed important,
what was said, what was done,
feelings felt but maybe not expressed,
signs randomly connected
yet vital to what comes next,
to a coming season,
next year’s trip to Nauset Beach.

I woke up wanting to read a poem by that name,
and I found one with a lifeguard’s chair,
a broken shell, gulls watching egrets,
home an ocean away.

[I’m not with my], by Joshua Beckman

I’m not with my blue toes or my doggies
nor am I under any arched roof rotting blossoms
in my drain, sunlight pouncing upon me,
nor am I fixed like a tree, nor am I unfixed
like a wind. I ate an apple, that’s fine
and after Anthony left I got a whiskey.
I stared a bit like a shadow at a book,
a fold in my shirt showed a monk’s bowing head
in a column of dusty light, but I just basically
used it to cover up my arm which was prickling
now because of some awful thing within me.
Big nasty sun making me feel old and then
this lovely gold bird flew up to my lunch.
An actual family of little white turnips
rolling over in the boiling pot like some
clouds is how I act. A great blue sky for a bed
and that beauty make me happy again.

Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening, by Rachel Sherwood

The wind is fitful now:
soot piles in the corners
of new buildings,
gulls stumble out of place
in ragged branches
to skim against a rise
of pond water.

The children watch, breathless
with the birds.
They feel an emanation
from this shuddering place.

This winter evening
the sky cracks with cardinal color
and we sit in cooing wonder
like dwarves at the Venetian court
must have done —
amazed at Tiepolo’s sunshot ceilings;
like us, they were fickle,
aware of smaller inconstancy.
But the dazzle above, enclosing
seems fit or made for this
fragment of belief.

Sapphic Fragment, by Eliza Griswold

I never longed for my virginity.
I heard it on the radio after the hurricane.

There, in the aftermath, was the voice of a man—
once the sweet, screwed-up boy whose hooded,

jessed spirit I tried to possess with the ruthlessness
I mistook for power. Here he was on NPR,

so gentle, so familiar with devastation,
his timbre woke the teenage falconer in me

who once saw his kindness as weakness,
saw a boy as an unfledged goshawk—

a creature to trap and be trapped with
in darkened mews. I knew the rules:

neither of us could sleep until the molting bird
grew ravenous enough to take the raw mouse

from my hand. Breaking the falcon
broke us both, left us scared

and less aware of love than fear.

Gapped Sonnet, by Suzanne Gardinier

Between the blinds Past the coded locks
Past the slanted gold bars of the day
Smelling of all-night salt rain on the docks
Of grief Of birth Of bergamot Of May
In the wind that lifts the harbor litter
Wet against my fingers in a dream
Salvaging among the tideline’s bitter
gleanings Generous Exigent Lush and lean
Your voice A tune I thought I had forgotten
The taste of cold July brook on my tongue
A fire built on thick ice in the winter
The place where lost and salvaged meet and fit
The cadences a class in grief is taught in
The sound when frozen rivers start to run

Untitled [1950 June 27], by Don Mee Choi

1950 June 27: my father heard the sound of the engine of a North Korean fighter plane, Yak-9. Foremostly and therefore barely consequently in the highest manner, he followed the sound, running towards the city hall. After all it was hardly war. Yak-9, made in Russia, flew over the plaza of the city hall. Then in the most lowly predictably ethically unsound manner from the point of view of everything that is big and beautiful, the sound of the machine gun. He missed the chance to capture the Yak-9 with his camera. That late afternoon the yet-to-be nation’s newspapers were in print, but no photos of the war appeared in any of them. After all it was hardly war, the hardliest of wars, neverthelessly Yak. And it turns out that one thing is better than another. Hence still going forward, napalm again. Always moving up to Choson Reservoir. Always another hill, for in no circumstance can man be comfortable without art. Why that is so has nothing to do with the big problem—what to do with the orphan kids. And always the poor hungry kids. Now look at this and look at it and look at it. This is what the Republic of Korea is fighting for—miles and miles and miles of order words that are given in our society. Merry Christmas, Joe! Phosphorous and flamethrowers. Fire them up!—burn them!—cook them! Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing from the point of view of everything that is big and beautiful in the highest manner possible and why that is so has nothing to do with hills and more hills, rivers and more rivers, and rice paddies and more rice paddies. How cold does it get in Korea? Brass monkey cold.

My Grandma’s Love Letters, by Hart Crane

There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother’s mother,
Elizabeth,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.

Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

“Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?”

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

French Movie, by David Lehman

I was in a French movie
and had only nine hours to live
and I knew it
not because I planned to take my life
or swallowed a lethal but slow-working
potion meant for a juror
in a mob-related murder trial,
nor did I expect to be assassinated
like a chemical engineer mistaken
for someone important in Milan
or a Jew journalist kidnapped in Pakistan;
no, none of that; no grounds for
suspicion, no murderous plots
centering on me with cryptic phone
messages and clues like a scarf or
lipstick left in the front seat of a car;
and yet I knew I would die
by the end of that day
and I knew it with a dreadful certainty,
and when I walked in the street
and looked in the eyes of the woman
walking toward me I knew that
she knew it, too,
and though I had never seen her before,
I knew she would spend the rest of that day
with me, those nine hours walking,
searching, going into a bookstore in Rome,
smoking a Gitane, and walking,
walking in London, taking the train
to Oxford from Paddington or Cambridge
from Liverpool Street and walking
along the river and across the bridges,
walking, talking, until my nine hours
were up and the black-and-white movie
ended with the single word FIN
in big white letters on a bare black screen.

5 South 43rd Street, Floor 2, by Yolanda Wisher

Sometimes we would get hungry for the neighborhood.
Walk up the sidewalk towards Chestnut Street.
Speak to the Rev holding the light-skinned baby,
ask his son to come put a new inner tube on my bike.
Cross Ludlow, past the mailbox on the corner,
Risqué Video, Dino’s Pizza, and the Emerald Laundromat.
The fruit trucks tucked into 44th Street on the left,
house eyes shut with boards, fringes of children.
Once we went into a store sunk into the street,
owned by a Cambodian woman. She sold everything,
from evening gowns to soup. Over to Walnut and 45th,
where the Muslim cat sells this chicken wrapped in pita,
draped in cucumber sauce. The pregnant woman
behind the counter writes our order out in Arabic.
We grab a juice from the freezer, some chips,
eye the bean and sweet potato pies.

Back into the hot breath of West Philly, sun is setting.
The sky is smeared squash, tangerines in a glaze.
Three girls and one boy jump doubledutch. A white man
hustles from the video store with a black plastic bag.
We look for money in the street, steal flowers
from the church lawn. The shit stain from the wino
is still on our step. Mr. Jim is washing a car for cash.
John is cleaning his rims to Buju Banton.
Noel is talking sweetly to the big blue-eyed woman.
Linda, on her way to the restaurant. The sister
in the wheelchair buzzes by with her headphones on.

One night, a man was shot and killed on this block,
right outside our thick wood door. But not today.
Today is one of those days to come home from walking
in the world, leave the windows open, start a pot of
black beans. Smoke some Alice Coltrane. Cut up
some fruit, toenails. Hold on to the moment
as if time is taking your blood pressure.

Problems with Hurricanes, by Victor Hernández Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it’s not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I’ll tell you he said:
it’s the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying
Banana.

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
But
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don’t worry about the noise
Don’t worry about the water
Don’t worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

The Dead, by Mina Loy

We have flowed out of ourselves
Beginning on the outside
That shrivable skin
Where you leave off

Of infinite elastic
Walking the ceiling
Our eyelashes polish stars

Curled close in the youngest corpuscle
Of a descendant
We spit up our passions in our grand-dams

Fixing the extension of your reactions
Our shadow lengthens
In your fear

You are so old
Born in our immortality
Stuck fast as Life
In one impalpable
Omniprevalent Dimension

We are turned inside out
Your cities lie digesting in our stomachs
Street lights footle in our ocular darkness

Having swallowed your irate hungers
Satisfied before bread-breaking
To your dissolution
We splinter into Wholes
Stirring the remorses of your tomorrow
Among the refuse of your unborn centuries
In our busy ashbins
Stink the melodies
Of your
So easily reducible
Adolescences

Our tissue is of that which escapes you
Birth-Breaths and orgasms
The shattering tremor of the static
The far-shore of an instant
The unsurpassable openness of the circle
Legerdemain of God

Only in the segregated angles of Lunatic Asylums
Do those who have strained to exceeding themselves
Break on our edgeless contours

The mouthed echoes of what
has exuded to our companionship
Is horrible to the ear
Of the half that is left inside them.

Preludes, by T. S. Eliot

I

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.

II

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.

III

You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.

IV

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Night Feeding, by Muriel Rukeyser

Deeper than sleep but not so deep as death
I lay there dreaming and my magic head
remembered and forgot. On first cry I
remembered and forgot and did believe.
I knew love and I knew evil:
woke to the burning song and the tree burning blind,
despair of our days and the calm milk-giver who
knows sleep, knows growth, the sex of fire and grass,
renewal of all waters and the time of the stars
and the black snake with gold bones.
Black sleeps, gold burns; on second cry I woke
fully and gave to feed and fed on feeding.
Gold seed, green pain, my wizards in the earth
walked through the house, black in the morning dark.
Shadows grew in my veins, my bright belief,
my head of dreams deeper than night and sleep.
Voices of all black animals crying to drink,
cries of all birth arise, simple as we,
found in the leaves, in clouds and dark, in dream,
deep as this hour, ready again to sleep.

Homage to Sharon Stone, by Lynn Emanuel

It’s early morning. This is the “before,”
the world hanging around in its wrapper,
blowzy, frumpy, doing nothing: my
neighbors, hitching themselves to the roles
of the unhappily married, trundle their three
mastiffs down the street. I am writing this
book of poems. My name is Lynn Emanuel.
I am wearing a bathrobe and curlers; from
my lips, a Marlboro drips ash on the text.
It is the third of September nineteen**.
And as I am writing this in my trifocals
and slippers, across the street, Sharon Stone,
her head swollen with curlers, her mouth
red and narrow as a dancing slipper,
is rushed into a black limo. And because
these limos snake up and down my street,
this book will be full of sleek cars nosing
through the shadowy ocean of these words.
Every morning, Sharon Stone, her head
in a helmet of hairdo, wearing a visor
of sunglasses, is engulfed by a limo
the size of a Pullman, and whole fleets
of these wind their way up and down
the street, day after day, giving to the street
(Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA)
and the book I am writing, an aspect
that is both glamorous and funereal.
My name is Lynn Emanuel, and in this
book I play the part of someone writing
a book, and I take the role seriously,
just as Sharon Stone takes seriously
the role of the diva. I watch the dark
cars disappear her and in my poem
another Pontiac erupts like a big animal
at the cool trough of a shady curb. So,
when you see this black car, do not think
it is a Symbol For Something. It is just
Sharon Stone driving past the house
of Lynn Emanuel who is, at the time,
trying to write a book of poems.

Or you could think of the black car as
Lynn Emanuel, because, really, as an author,
I have always wanted to be a car, even
though most of the time I have to be
the “I,” or the woman hanging wash;
I am a woman, one minute, then I am a man,
I am a carnival of Lynn Emanuels:
Lynn in the red dress; Lynn sulking
behind the big nose of my erection;
then I am the train pulling into the station
when what I would really love to be is
Gertrude Stein spying on Sharon Stone
at six in the morning. But enough about
that, back to the interior decorating:
On the page, the town looks bald
and dim so I turn up the amps on
the radioactive glances of bad boys.
In a kitchen, I stack pans sleek with
grease, and on a counter there is a roast
beef red as a face in a tantrum. Amid all
this bland strangeness is Sharon Stone,
who, like an engraved invitation, is asking
me, Won’t you, too, play a role? I do not
choose the black limo rolling down the street
with the golden stare of my limo headlights
bringing with me the sun, the moon, and
Sharon Stone. It is nearly dawn; the sun
is a fox chewing her foot from the trap;
every bite is a wound and every wound
is a red window, a red door, a red road.
My name is Lynn Emanuel. I am the writer
trying to unwrite the world that is all around her.

The Abduction, by Stanley Kunitz

Some things I do not profess
to understand, perhaps
not wanting to, including
whatever it was they did
with you or you with them
that timeless summer day
when you stumbled out of the wood,
distracted, with your white blouse torn
and a bloodstain on your skirt.
“Do you believe?” you asked.
Between us, through the years,
we pieced enough together
to make the story real:
how you encountered on the path
a pack of sleek, grey hounds,
trailed by a dumbshow retinue
in leather shrouds; and how
you were led, through leafy ways,
into the presence of a royal stag,
flaming in his chestnut coat,
who kneeled on a swale of moss
before you; and how you were borne
aloft in triumph through the green,
stretched on his rack of budding horn,
till suddenly you found yourself alone
in a trampled clearing.

That was a long time ago,
almost another age, but even now,
when I hold you in my arms,
I wonder where you are.
Sometimes I wake to hear
the engines of the night thrumming
outside the east bay window
on the lawn spreading to the rose garden.
You lie beside me in elegant repose,
a hint of transport hovering on your lips,
indifferent to the harsh green flares
that swivel through the room,
searchlights controlled by unseen hands.
Out there is a childhood country,
bleached faces peering in
with coals for eyes.
Our lives are spinning out
from world to world;
the shapes of things
are shifting in the wind.
What do we know
beyond the rapture and the dread?

What’s Left (Al-Mutanabbi Street), by Katrina Roberts

Tracery

Not nostalgia but the bluer salt of longing, not sentiment but the smutted sky raining bitter sediment, not our winding blunder down into that wound, not the ash-riddled grotto nor the blood-orange blown-open

Not the mineral rash’s voice dubbed across the final unspooling reel, not that, whatever promise the book held, not what she said or he did or they might next, not that, nor a flitter of birds, hands—lifting a cup, flipping a page, tucking a strand, nor the ear, behind which, filling with each sweet rising note or tinkling descent

Not the delicacy of a single wish, nor the now-cracked face of a once-ticking, once-pocketed watch
Stitch

No filament long enough

No longer meshing, days before and those after, teeth of a zipper left to gape

An idling car, a parked pick-up, who hides in plain light who hides and why, cloaked in a troubled forest of unsayable tint

And which human desire does this resemble, which cosseting vest to cross the heart, which chilled sweat, which strait-jacketed vestment, which surely-numbing drone between temples
Resist

Faith in what

No walls, no shelves

No end to the well’s filling, the far-away sea’s waxy surge in a hole dug by anyone no matter, a relentless urge to pick the itch, the ooze, the scab, the meniscus of every hour finally spilling over, over, over

Nothing
But sound, but imprinted air
No end to the fraught tingle of phantom-limbs forever-after-not-but-there
Scar

Splinters the alley’s new stuttering currency, pocked, crumbling, indiscriminate coinage of returning light, triage of needling memory, a narrow strait to navigate, some beast, uneasy passage of meat into pure spirit, and every anguished ether-shard hive-swarming then hushed

Not silent but charged: listen

Every letter, accounted for but in a different more urgent order

Ballad, by Sonia Sanchez

(after the spanish)

forgive me if i laugh
you are so sure of love
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

the rain exploding
in the air is love
the grass excreting her
green wax is love
and stones remembering
past steps is love,
but you. you are too young
for love
and i too old.

once. what does it matter
when or who, i knew
of love.
i fixed my body
under his and went
to sleep in love
all trace of me
was wiped away

forgive me if i smile
young heiress of a naked dream
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

Memories of West Street and Lepke, by Robert Lowell

Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston’s
“hardly passionate Marlborough Street,”
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is “a young Republican.”
I have a nine months’ daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants’ wear.

These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.

Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements.
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow (“it’s really tan”)
and fly-weight pacifist,
so vegetarian,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.

I was so out of things, I’d never heard
of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Are you a C.O.?” I asked a fellow jailbird.
“No,” he answered, “I’m a J.W.”
He taught me the “hospital tuck,”
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated’s Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections. . . .

The Vacant Lot at the End of the Street, by Debora Greger

in memory of Margaret Greger, 1923-2009

 

I. Death Takes a Holiday

Battleships melted down into clouds:
first the empire died, then the shipbuilding,

but cloud formations of gun-metal gray
ruled over the sea that was England in June.

A scarecrow treaded water instead of barley,
gulls set sail across a cricket ground.

In a suit woven of the finest mist,
Death took the last seat on the train,

the one next to me. He loosened his tie.
His cellphone had nothing to say to him

as he gazed out the window, ignoring us all.
Had the country changed since he was last

on holiday here, a hundred years ago?
Like family, rather than look at each other,

we watched the remains of empire smear the glass.
Had we met somewhere? “Out West last week,

I passed your parent’s house,” he said.
“I waved but your mother didn’t notice.

Your father must have turned off his hearing aid,
in that way he has.” In the rack overhead,

a net, a jar, a box, a pin: Death had come
for another of Britain’s butterflies.
He rose, unwrinkled. “I’ll see you later,” he said.

II. Demeter in Winter

Earlier and earlier, the dark
comes to the door, but no one knocks.

No, the wind scratches at the window.
Clouds skate the ice of your old room,

Daughter, a cloud falls to the floor
and can’t get up—

or are you my sister? Remember the rope
tied from schoolhouse to home,

so the blizzard could find its way to us?
It climbed into the attic,

spread a white sheet and ay down in the dust.
Who left behind the army greatcoat

into whose cave we crawled that night?
Lie down beside me. Under a blanket of snow,

something freezes: the mind’s gray rag,
caught on a rusty nail. Come closer.

Say I am not the woman I used to be,
just bones turned to sand in a sack of skin.

Daughter, if this page isn’t blank, turn to the next
and read me the part where you disappear.

III. Persephone on the Way to Hell

Over there, beside the road—
is that the letter I should have left you, Mother?
The shade of a scarecrow waves a blank page
as big as he is.

Blond waves of winter wheat roll up
to the knees he’ll never have,
tempting his shirt to set sail
for some other myth.

He’s a white plastic bag
tied to a stake and stuck in a field
at the end of summer. What’s left of a river
lies in a bed grown too big for it,

surrounded by rocks it carried this far.
Mother seems smaller, too.
I saw you, my lord of the dark,
take her hand as it were just a child’s.

The door of a room had closed in her mind.
“Where am I?” she wanted to know,
reigning from her old recliner. You knelt
and tenderly took off her shoes.

IV. The River of Forgetting

Why aren’t you packed to leave town?
my mother asked. Why was I holding a rock
worn down until smooth,
gone dull when it dried?

Where was she, who prided herself
on being born with no sense of direction?
Where were the fifty years
of maps my father drew for her?

Did she remember her own name by the end?
Remember for her, you modest houses,
so alike that only those who die there
can tell them apart.

Cottonwoods crowding the driveway,
did your leaves whisper which turn
the dead should to take to the water?
The ferry that hasn’t run for fifty years

leaves for the river of forgetting tonight.

V. The Azalea Justifies Its Existence

Dream of yourself or stay awake,
Martial says, and the azalea agrees:
fifty weeks it dreams,

not the greater green of Florida
the rest of us do, but a pink almost red,
a shade I’d forgotten for thirty years:

a coat marked down and down again,
coat in a color not from the desert
of subtleties my mother favored

but somewhere between magenta and mauve—
but coat in her size, and so she bought it.
Finding her in a crowd, you found yourself

facing spring come before its time.
Yesterday she died.
She couldn’t lift a spoon to the watery winter light

of eastern Washington. Azalea,
if only she could see you now,
the pink of your magnificence

like some ruffled thing thrown on
in your rush to extend a sympathy
so far beyond the pink of flushed and fevered,

it’s—what is the word for such ragged,
joy-riddled gauds of grief?

VI. The Death of Demeter

From a distance, a woman’s life is nothing
a glass of ice water losing its edge.

I should know, Daughter. I spent the night
in a graveyard, behind a tombstone,

trying to stay cold. The trees
that wouldn’t stop whispering—

they’re nothing but chairs and tables
dying not to become tables and chairs.

A tree cries out to be covered with leaves?
A deep breath of dirt fills the lungs.

Permit me to propose a few things.
I don’t want my soul to find its body.

VII. The School for the Dead

The blackboard’s endless night,
a constellation of chalk dust unnamed—

through the classroom window, I saw a map
pulled down like a window shade:

continents pushed apart, an ocean
blotting out names with tears.

South America and Africa no longer nestled
like spoons in a silver drawer.

The lost mitten of Greenland froze
to the Arctic Circle, the empty space

called Canada yawned. The new pupil,
my mother, hunched in a desk too small,

waiting for her daughter the professor
to begin the obedience lesson:

how to lie down. How to roll over
in the grave. How to play dead.

VIII. Nocturne for Female Voice

I walk the old street at night, the way I always did,
I heard my dead mother say.
Why didn’t you come? I had to talk to a tree.
I talked to dogs—they bark at anything,

even a ghost. You shiver, Daughter,
but know nothing of the cold.
Tumbleweeds roll into town as if they owned it,
night shrouds me in darkness, wind wraps me in dust—

where’s your coat? You’ve been to Rome
with a man you weren’t married to,
and now you know ruins? If the body is a temple,
as the nuns tried to teach you long ago,

it collapses on itself, bringing down the mind.
The vacant lot at the end of your childhood—
which of us rules it now? I lower myself
to the puncture-vine, the weed I warned you

never to step on. I prostrate myself
the way you coax something to grow
in the desert of the past. Its pale star
blooms a week and then bears fruit.

It survives by causing pain.
I walk our street at night, the way I always did.
Why didn’t you come? I had to bark at a tree.
I howled like a dog.

IX. The Library of the Dead

Deep in the shelves of shadows,
I closed the book I hadn’t read.
Who wanted for food

when you could smuggle something
snatched from the jaws of the vending machine
into the library of the dead?

Down on my shoulder came a hand:
my late mother’s, turned to ash.
In the house where she died,

we would sit, not speaking,
even in eternity: she had her book
and pressed one upon me, companionably.

Everything had shrunk
to fit in a suitcase when I left.
The past had been ironed flat,

a thousand leaves starched and pinned
to a cottonwood just a shade of its former self,
the only sound its rustle, industrious,

leaves turning waxen, unread—
though no shelf lay empty
in the library of the dead.

Summer Solstice, by Stacie Cassarino

I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.

Saw You There, by Ander Monson

Carrie says I should make my connections into a poem.” —Dennis Etzel Jr.

Sawed you there, through you there, girl whom I name
Carrie, shine of sun on bonnet-handle at that Walgreens
on 28th. A Friday night. It looked like you came straight
from fighting something that looked like lightning.

You were all scorched up. Tired look but with a residue
of glow, not in the family way, as they used to say,
and as I still do, since I venerate the old, but filled
to the heart with stars. Looking light years away, the way

you operated that Redbox: how can a girl seem so far
from Earth while at a Redbox? I was the girl in the super-
looking supermarket hat, with ashen face and hair of flax,
heart of gold and such. You didn’t see me staring, not seeing

much of anything. Magician seeking magician’s assistant,
my craigslist ad would say: I will saw through you any day.

5 & 7 & 5, by Anselm Hollo

follow that airplane
of course I’m high this is
an emergency

§

giant Scots terrier
I thought I saw was known as
Taxicab Mountain

§

brown photo legend
“serene enjoyment” they suck
pipes bones crumbled back

§

night train whistles stars
over a nation under
mad temporal czars

§

round lumps of cells grow
up to love porridge later
become The Supremes

§

lady I lost my
subway token we must part
it’s faster by air

§

“but it’s our world”
tiny blue hands and green arms
your thought in my room

§

sweet bouzouki sound
another syntax for heads
up to the aether

§

in you the in moon
its rays entwined in my mind’s
hair hangs down right in

§

viewing the dragon
there they ride slim through my dream
Carpaccio’s pair

§

slow bloom inside you
the mnemonics of loving
incessant chatter

§

far shore Ferris wheel
turning glowing humming love
in our lit-up heads

§

switch them to sleep now
the flying foxes swarm out
great it’s flurry time

§

wind rain you and me
went looking for a new house
o the grass grows loud

Landscape with Happily Ever After, by Lynn Melnick

Near midnight I’m held
hostage to the hazy upshot in the corner

velvet near a laced up tree and curious how I got here.

What a crowd! I think
and I think I should hoard my stash in my shoe.
Did you catch the census takers trying to autocorrect
the shelterbelt out of my history

when meanwhile

I’ve been fending off elements
since I first showed up at this latitude so

I don’t trust easy.
In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
you ask me outside

where the music dims
against the complicated bramble

and I love how the moon

is gilding the rusted basketball hoop in the driveway
and bouncing off the sheen of the rubber tree

and onto this fable
in a city that bleeds its saline soil

into another difficult year.

Lenore, by Edgar Allan Poe

Ah broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!–a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear?–weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read–the funeral song be sung!–
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young–
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.

“Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
“And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her–that she died!
“How shall the ritual, then, be read?–the requiem how be sung
“By you–by yours, the evil eye,–by yours, the slanderous tongue
“That did to death the innocent that died, and died so young?”

Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel so wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath “gone before,” with Hope, that flew beside
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride–
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes–
The life still there, upon her hair–the death upon her eyes.

“Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
“But waft the angel on her flight with a Pæan of old days!
“Let no bell toll!–lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
“Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth.
“To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven–
“From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven–
“From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven.”

The New Higher, by John Ashbery

You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.

Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.

(Soma)tic 21: Touch Yourself for Art, by CAConrad

—For Penny Arcade

There must be a piece of art near where you live that you enjoy, even LOVE! A piece of art that IF THERE WAS WAR you would steal it and hide it in your little apartment. I’m going to PACK my apartment TO THE ROOF when war comes! This exercise needs 7 days, but not 7 consecutive days as most museums and galleries are not open 7 days a week. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art hands the Mark Rothko “Orange, Red and Yellow, 1961” a painting I would marry and cherish in sickness and in health, have its little Rothko babies, and hang them on the wall with their father. But I’m not allowed to even touch it! The security guards will think you’re as weird as they think I am when you come for 7 days to sit and meditate. Never mind that, bribe them with candy, cigarettes or soda, whatever it take to be left in peace. For 7 days I sat with my dearest Rothko.

Bring binoculars because you will get closer to the painting than anyone else in the room! Feel free to fall in love with what you see, you’re a poet, you’re writing a poem, go ahead and fall in love! Feel free to go to the museum restroom and touch yourself in the stall, and be sure to write on the wall that you were there and what you were doing as everyone enjoys a dedication in the museum. And be certain to leave your number, you never know what other art lover will be reading. Return with your binoculars. There is no museum in the world with rules against the use of binoculars, information you may need for the guards if you run out of cigarettes and candy.

Map your 7 days with physical treats to enhance your experience: mint leaves to suck, chocolate liqueurs, cotton balls between your toes, firm-fitting satin underwear, thing you can rock-out with in secret for the art you love. Take notes, there must be a concentration on notes in your pleasure making. Never mind how horrifying your notes may become, horror and pleasure have an illogical mix when you touch yourself for art. When you gather your 7 days of notes you will see the poem waiting in there. Pull it out like pulling yourself out of a long and energizing dream.


ROTHKO 7

Whether things wither or whether your ability to see them does.
-from “The Coinciding,” by Carrie Hunter

DAY 1

   it’s
October
I pressed
this buttercup in April
I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK
call me it!
call me sentimental!
HAVE YOU SEEN THE HEADLINES?
spring is a
luxury

I hope
for another to
garden with my
bare hands


DAY 2

awkwardness of being insane
arrives
after
diagnosis
not before
remove description
from the splendor
do not hesitate


DAY 3

      more of a ghost
than my ghosts
here I am


DAY 4

   tablet on tongue
stray voltage catching
my ankles

ready to marry
the chopped
off head

while elaborate in curse
it contributes evidence
of life


DAY 5

he kissed me while
I sang
refrain shoved
against epiglottis

  centuries of a vowel for
endless refutable corrections
puts mouth
to want


DAY 6

songs dying bodies sing at
involuntary
junctures of
living

   EXIT sign
leads us to empty
launch pad
walking
maybe
walking
maybe or riding
the collapsing tower

big hands of
big clock missing
this is not symbolism
they were gone


DAY 7

I’m not tearing back
curtains looking

I know Love is
on the other
side of
town

burying the leash
with the dog was
nothing but
cruel don’t ever
speak to me again

help me stop
dreaming your
destruction

Ontario, by Mark Levine

Beauty in its winter slippers
approached us by degrees
on the gravel path. We were
hitching a ride out; had been hitching.
Our suitcase freighted with a few
gardening tools lifted from the shed
while the old man, old enough,
looked away. He who
went fishing at night (so he said)
carrying in his pail
a nest of tiny flame.

We were headed, headed out, we
were going in a direction.
No tricks
or intrigue, just a noisy
ineptness.

If that’s a word. Beauty, dipped
in resin beneath its shag,
was always ready with the right
curse to recite to
our nature. It is
in us, it is,
in the smokehouse in the woods and the old man
looked away. Song of
experience.

There were treads in the snow.
We waited for our hitch.
There were train tracks which
stung with clods of this region’s
rare clay.

We were boys, boyish, almost girls.
Left alone on the roof, we would have dwindled.
Incrimination called to us
from the city and its fog-blacked lake,

called to us from the salvaged farms beyond the lake,
from the wilds beyond that.
Guilty was good.

In Praise of Their Divorce, by Tony Hoagland

And when I heard about the divorce of my friends,
I couldn’t help but be proud of them,

that man and that woman setting off in different directions,
like pilgrims in a proverb

—him to buy his very own toaster oven,
her seeking a prescription for sleeping pills.

Let us keep in mind the hidden forces
which had struggled underground for years

to push their way to the surface—and that finally did,
cracking the crust, moving the plates of earth apart,

releasing the pent-up energy required
for them to rent their own apartments,

for her to join the softball league for single mothers
for him to read George the Giraffe over his speakerphone

at bedtime to the six-year-old.

The bible says, Be fruitful and multiply

but is it not also fruitful to subtract and to divide?
Because if marriage is a kind of womb,

divorce is the being born again;
alimony is the placenta one of them will eat;

loneliness is the name of the wet-nurse;
regret is the elementary school;

endurance is the graduation.
So do not say that they are splattered like dropped lasagna

or dead in the head-on collision of clichés
or nailed on the cross of their competing narratives.

What is taken apart is not utterly demolished.
It is like a great mysterious egg in Kansas

that has cracked and hatched two big bewildered birds.
It is two spaceships coming out of retirement,

flying away from their dead world,
the burning booster rocket of divorce
falling off behind them,

the bystanders pointing at the sky and saying, Look.

Tang, by Bruce Cohen

If I do not witness these leaves turning orange, who will?

I stir myself:
I like to think

Of myself as a reincarnated Poet from the Tang Dynasty,
Dehydrated orange drink
Astronauts gulped orbiting this planet
That became a fun ‘60’s breakfast staple,

The bitter tang of a car’s squealing tires as it peels out,
Any distinguishing characteristic that provides special individuality.

Isn’t it a very personal moment when each of us
Recognizes we are failing,
That we’re incomplete, outdated perhaps,
& need something new to make us valid,

Sobbing on the mudroom floor,
Praying hands through a broken screen door,
Begging the aftermath of someone to come back,

Or watching our planet grow
Smaller below us
That we discover it is
Impossible
To ever become
One hundred percent reconstituted?

I am not where I am right now, in this autumn.

My mind is not what it used to be either.
There is no more just-add water.

None of us can prove our previous lives.

I mean pervious: I meant disprove:


About this Poem:

Lately I have been worried and depressed over the fact that my poetic voice was becoming stale, my persona and language too familiar, and, quite simply, I was bored with myself. In order to shake myself out of my funk I started reading some translations of the more obscure ancient Chinese poets to trigger or shock myself into some alien sensibility: paradoxically, I aspired to be un-American while remaining nostalgic, and because I rarely include ‘nature’ in my poems I wanted to throw a colorful leaf into the mix. ‘Tang’ became one of those odd poetic experiments that wiggled the old me out of the new.”

—Bruce Cohen

For Transtromer, by Norman Dubie

In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens,
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales—

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving
there next to its darkening mother
where the very air is a turnstile…

I’m certain this woman is moved
as anyone would be—
her disciplines,

a warranted gift to us,
to business, government
and our military,

and still she exhibits care and patience
this further
talent for counting,

counting…

Landscape with a Blur of Conquerors, by Richard Siken

To have a thought, there must be an object—
the field is empty, sloshed with gold, a hayfield thick
with sunshine. There must be an object so land
a man there, solid on his feet, on solid ground, in
a field fully flooded, enough light to see him clearly,

the light on his skin and bouncing off his skin.
He’s easy to desire since there’s not much to him,
vague and smeary in his ochers, in his umbers,
burning in the open field. Forget about his insides,
his plumbing and his furnaces, put a thing in his hand

and be done with it. No one wants to know what’s
in his head. It should be enough. To make something
beautiful should be enough. It isn’t. It should be.
The smear of his head—I paint it out, I paint it in
again. I ask it what it wants. I want to be a cornerstone,

says the head. Let’s kill something. Land a man in a
landscape and he’ll try to conquer it. Make him
handsome and you’re a fascist, make him ugly and
you’re saying nothing new. The conqueror suits up
and takes the field, his horse already painted in

beneath him. What do you do with a man like that?
While you are deciding, more men ride in. The hand
sings weapon. The mind says tool. The body swerves
in the service of the mind, which is evidence of
the mind but not actual proof. More conquerors.

They swarm the field and their painted flags unfurl.
Crown yourself with leaves and stake your claim
before something smears up the paint. I turned away
from darkness to see daylight, to see what would
happen. What happened? What does a man want?

Power. The men spread, the thought extends. I paint
them out, I paint them in again. A blur of forces.
Why take more than we need? Because we can.
Deep footprint, it leaves a hole. You’d break your
heart to make it bigger, so why not crack your skull

when the mind swells. A thought bigger than your
own head. Try it. Seriously. Cover more ground.
I thought of myself as a city and I licked my lips.
I thought of myself as a nation and I wrung my hands,
I put a thing in your hand. Will you defend yourself?

From me, I mean. Let’s kill something. The mind
moves forward, the paint layers up: glop glop and
shellac. I shovel the color into our faces, I shovel our
faces into our faces. They look like me. I move them
around. I prefer to blame others, it’s easier. King me.

Never Ever, by Brenda Shaughnessy

Alarmed, today is a new dawn,
and that affair recurs daily like clockwork,

undone at dusk, when a new restaurant
emerges in the malnourished night.

We said it would be this way, once this became
the way it was. So in a way we were

waiting for it. I still haven’t eaten, says the cook
in the kitchen. A compliant complaint.

I never eat, says the slender diner. It’s slander,
and she’s scared, like a bully pushing

lettuce around. The cook can’t look, blind with hunger
and anger. I told a waiter to wait

for me and I haven’t seen him since. O it has been forty
minutes it has been forty years.

Late is a synonym for dead which is a euphemism
for ever. Ever is a double-edged word,

at once itself and its own opposite: always
and always some other time.

In the category of cleave, then. To cut and to cling to,
somewhat mournfully.

That C won’t let leave alone. Even so, forever’s
now’s never, and remember is just

the future occluded or dreaming. The day has come:
a dusty gust of disgusting August,

functioning as a people-mover. Maybe we’re going
nowhere, but wherever I go

I see us everywhere. On occasions of fancyness,
or out to eat. As if people, stark, now-ish

people themselves were the forever of nothing,
the everything of nobody,

the very same self of us all, after all, at long
last the first.

Moving Out, by Sandra M. Gilbert

Darling, I’m pushing the house
into the garden, into the black arms,
the green embrace
of the oaks. Yesterday,

two giants lugged the grand piano,
its synapses still crackling with your tunes,
up the steep steps, the narrow path
to the gate. Now it muses

in the what is this of a warehouse,
and the silence
where it used to stand
has forgotten your forte.

Out in back of the back,
workers dig in unsteady rock,
but now the house is moving
faster than they can hew and hack:

the house has started to unpack:
its walls possess new places,
doors flap open,
windows heave from hinges—

and now the sofas fly
into a maze of ivy,
the hallways gaping
under a hollow of sky!

Only the piano keys,
hidden under their ebony hood,
remember your touch,
and wait, and are still,

and brood.

Six Words, by Lloyd Schwartz

yes
no
maybe
sometimes
always
never

Never?
Yes.
Always?
No.
Sometimes?
Maybe

maybe
never
sometimes.
Yes—
no
always:

always
maybe.
No—
never
yes.
Sometimes,

sometimes
(always)
yes.
Maybe
never . . .
No,

no—
sometimes.
Never.
Always?
Maybe.
Yes—

yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.

Nights On The Peninsula, by D. Nurkse

We could not separate ourselves from our endless making.
We were always fabricating time, God, paradise,
the bell-shaped lupines, the rough-grained elm
and smooth beech. We made the night sky from a rusty hinge,
the sea from a sigh and a bead of sweat. We made love
long before dawn. We constantly modified each other,
adding a leer to the other’s face, or a smirk, even in sleep.
What kind of a tool-maker invents eternity and exile
and makes them race, like a child with the index and middle finger?
Even in dreams we bore the burden of waking, we called it suffering.
Even in a trance we had maps and blueprints. In the deepest dream
we received the gift of death-it rained on that peninsula.
The wind passed like a sponge over the gambrel roofs.
The leaves showed a blank side, veined like a cresting wave.
We were almost home, we thought. We had never seen this world
but we sensed it, like a cat’s breath against our wrists:
we were married, the bees loved us, the ocean might relent,
the child muttered over a handful of dust and spit.

Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love–
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me–
Yes!–that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we–
Of many far wiser than we–
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling–my darling–my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Churchgoing, by Marilyn Nelson

The Lutherans sit stolidly in rows;
only their children feel the holy ghost
that makes them jerk and bobble and almost
destroys the pious atmosphere for those
whose reverence bows their backs as if in work.
The congregation sits, or stands to sing,
or chants the dusty creeds automaton.
Their voices drone like engines, on and on,
and they remain untouched by everything;
confession, praise, or likewise, giving thanks.
The organ that they saved years to afford
repeats the Sunday rhythms song by song,
slow lips recite the credo, smother yawns,
and ask forgiveness for being so bored.

I, too, am wavering on the edge of sleep,
and ask myself again why I have come
to probe the ruins of this dying cult.
I come bearing the cancer of my doubt
as superstitious suffering women come
to touch the magic hem of a saint’s robe.

Yet this has served two centuries of men
as more than superstitious cant; they died
believing simply. Women, satisfied
that this was truth, were racked and burned with them
for empty words we moderns merely chant.

We sing a spiritual as the last song,
and we are moved by a peculiar grace
that settles a new aura on the place.
This simple melody, though sung all wrong,
captures exactly what I think is faith.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
That slaves should suffer in his agony!
That Christian, slave-owning hypocrisy
nevertheless was by these slaves ignored
as they pitied the poor body of Christ!
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble,
that they believe most, who so much have lost.
To be a Christian one must bear a cross.
I think belief is given to the simple
as recompense for what they do not know.

I sit alone, tormented in my heart
by fighting angels, one group black, one white.
The victory is uncertain, but tonight
I’ll lie awake again, and try to start
finding the black way back to what we’ve lost.

Nearly a Valediction, by Marilyn Hacker

You happened to me. I was happened to
like an abandoned building by a bull-
dozer, like the van that missed my skull
happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I’ve ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse. A new-
born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through
the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone,
swaddled in strange air I was that alone
again, inventing life left after you.

I don’t want to remember you as that
four o’clock in the morning eight months long
after you happened to me like a wrong
number at midnight that blew up the phone
bill to an astronomical unknown
quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.S. dollar dived since you happened to me.
You’ve grown into your skin since then; you’ve grown
into the space you measure with someone
you can love back without a caveat.

While I love somebody I learn to live
with through the downpulled winter days’ routine
wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine-
assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust-
balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust
that what comes next comes after what came first.
She’ll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn’t know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive

you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox-
imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind,
want where it no way ought to be, defined
by where it was, and was and was until
the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled
through one cheek’s nap, a syllable, a tear,
was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.

Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Chang

Then we are in the back seat of a car kissing
not the light kind but one where our
hands are on each other’s cheeks holding
each other’s heads as if they will fall

off why does so much love come at the beginning
then disappear then once again at the moment
before death why can’t the same kind exist
in between in the breaths in the

afternoon in the sitting room in a place of costumes
little girls dress like princesses one pink one
blue one yellow they wear plastic heels because
they still think they will never fall.


About This Poem:

“I’ve always been intrigued with the male characters in novels like Pride and Prejudice, such as Mr. Darcy. This poem is part of a series of poems that explore desire and obsessions. The poems have been sitting in adrawer for a few years so I decided to dust them off and work on them again since I have not written a new poem in over three years. I’m not sure anything will become of the series, but at least it gives me something to work on in a period where I feel very uncreative.”

—Victoria Chang

Orfeo, by Jack Spicer

Sharp as an arrow Orpheus
Points his music downward.
Hell is there
At the bottom of the seacliff.
Heal
Nothing by this music.
Eurydice
Is a frigate bird or a rock or some seaweed.
Hail nothing
The infernal
Is a slippering wetness out at the horizon.
Hell is this:
The lack of anything but the eternal to look at
The expansiveness of salt
The lack of any bed but one’s
Music to sleep in.

memory of water, by Reina María Rodríguez

september is a month like any other and unlike any other. it seems in september everything awaited will arrive: in the calm air, in a particular scent, in the stillness of the quay. when september comes, i know i’m going to lose myself. the ants climbing my legs and a certain change of light tell me so. the air comes and goes beneath my dress, pressing the warm cloth against me, pressing me with the desire to find myself in the sea, that sea beaten deep gray and magnetized by neutrinos, thanks to which i can perform my observations and telekinetic communications. the salty, sticky wall of the Malecón is covered with fish and forgotten hooks. i like to lick its sheen of salt and make my tongue salty and sticky. in that moment the rest of the city can vanish, it’s just that sea and me, before all thought, all desire. then i undress and enter, knowing i’ll find something, and that the boats—which seem suspended on the horizon, seem to have slipped their limits, motionless and painted there—are also mine…when i met you and you met me it was still september and we were strange and different and would be for a long time after—though i sometimes snagged you with certain secret hooks, shaping a sort of formless impression: something strange and indefinable divided the outline of your body from the space around you, but without making a human form, and in your eyes the sunlight revolved like a bicycle’s spoked wheel…the bicycle moves on and i’m carried along, filled with dry branches and coral. in my hair i wear the butterflies we collected together. the little house, one point amid the infinite, comes into view: already we can see the windows, like little black voids, and their curtains beating in the wind. i squeeze your waist, the bicycle moves on; even though the street is narrow the bicycle rolls on, rolls on against the spray. when you turn your head and see my hand, my hook snagged in a struggle of desire, the sun has turned immense in your eyes again. you make for the little house already in view, already at the edge of the curve…a naked man in lamplight is a magnificent animal: his pointy shoulders jut out and cut off the light. a line of fuzz descends from his navel to where the darkness begins, where the skin tightens like the skin of a fig. his body—your body—is an arc i want to tighten, to overcome, to conquer. hidden behind a tree, i can see your eyes again. the Mississippi is a big river with many tributaries. the arc tightens and closes. i throw an arm over you, a leg, a hand, a lip, hallucinations, an ear—as usual. my body moves on. the Mississippi is a big river with many tributaries. its water burns in my thighs, in the course of my dreams: the Mississippi is a deep and torrential river situated in the United States, it is born in Lake Itasca, passes through St. Paul, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, traverses 3,780 kilometers and slides and slides through a wide delta to the Gulf of Mexico. i’m in geography class. i like this class. the world just barely fits in my head. the map hangs before me with its spokes and points. someone made that all up, just to make me think i belong to one of those zones out there. all those castles and fortifications to toy with, the beginnings of everything that seems to be reality, but isn’t, because we’re not outside but inside the globe, that huge globe so stubborn in its sufficiency, and even far from the classroom nothing’s different: there’s just the idea of that transparent globe that is my image of the world, always turning, imperfect and constant inside me. i like the maps and the instability of the geography that situates places in my head. i like using graph paper to plot the latitudes and longitudes i can’t measure. i also like the geography professor, whose eyes i must constantly avoid in order not to drown myself. he doesn’t know, he can’t imagine, that while he lectures, while he looks at me, i draw fish in my notebook to throw in his river. the boy behind me won’t stop looking at me, and whatever one does the others all follow, watching from the corners of their eyes. that’s why i’m going to fold the page away from his gaze and make a true map where he won’t find me, alone at my desk in the middle of the world…in the middle of the lake there’s a boat and we’re three—although the third may have already vanished for us—and i want to paddle and sit in the center. you’ve taken off your shirt: the landscape appears and disappears. when i take the oars you want to teach me how to row over the edge. you try to teach me: you take my hands—you’re behind and above me. my fingers are lost in the middle of the boat. i’m wearing faded jeans and carrying a purple parasol. the oar descends toward the deep and tangles with seaweed. my hair hangs surly and limp on my wet shoulders. we try to steer but go nowhere. you explain the roundness of the earth; the sharpened tip of the compass needle, always precise, marking contours, lines, limits. the shadow and truth of your body in the landscape: appearances and disappearances when you try to comprehend the possible across great distances, the symmetry, forgetfulness, incarnation in other beings: animals, plants, and later, men once again. you taught me all this, but i’m not a map and i hold still. i abandon my shoes and my dread of nearing the end: the oar descends toward the deep, it is september. we don’t move. i keep still to be different, that’s why…

When Ecstasy is Inconvenient, by Lorine Niedecker

Feign a great calm;
all gay transport soon ends.
Chant: who knows—
flight’s end or flight’s beginning
for the resting gull?

Heart, be still.
Say there is money but it rusted;
say the time of moon is not right for escape.
It’s the color in the lower sky
too broadly suffused,
or the wind in my tie.

Know amazedly how
often one takes his madness
into his own hands
and keeps it.

Beautiful Poetry, by Camille Guthrie

Being so caught up
So mastered.”
—Yeats

I was too shy to say anything but Your poems are so beautiful.
What kinds of things, feelings, or ideas inspire you,
I mean, outside the raw experiences of your life?
He turned a strange crosshatched color
as if he stood in a clouded painting, and said, Thanks,
but no other phenomena intrude upon my starlit mind.

I see you are wondering what this is all about. Don’t mind
me, I’m talking to myself again. Yes, poetry is nice and often beautiful,
yet it doesn’t beget much attention, money, or even a simple thanks
for placing the best words in the best order. That’s when I forget all about your
incessant demands, and the restless subject leaps the stream in Technicolor—
until the Remembrancer appears and says, Stop this wasteful life.

Doctor, lawyer, thief. These fancies of yours could cost a life
or worse, two. Meanwhile, he perceives my gifted body upholding my mind
as I’m explaining my stuff on the Unicorn Tapestries, cheeks starting to color,
feathers ruffling, quiet shudders. He shrugs, Your content sounds too beautiful
but I’d like to read it sometime. Okay. He says all the right things, like I love you
Hyacinth Girl. Things get interesting until the sudden blow: Thanks

For the memories. What I’ll think seeing his new work in The New Yorker is Thanks
for nothing, asshole, as he drops me for that prolific pastoral life
with his wife upstate. The more I think about it, it all depends upon your
phantom attention. Surely a world embroiders itself in one’s mind
at any moment, words resounding, ardent present clarifyingly beautiful
And beautifully truthful. You know? Here I should put in a lapis color

Or a murky midnight blue. Or have the crowd stagger by in a riot of color
pinning down the helpless beast with spears and ritualistic thanks
to their gods. What one really wants to get at is the real, the eternally beautiful
like The White Album or something. That’s what makes one perilous life
worth living. All the brute indifference, humiliation, and failure can put one in the
mind
to give up, freak out, kill somebody, heart battered, so mastered. Oh you

Wherever I go, on the subway, in my cubicle, at play, in sleep, it’s always you
of the air, overpowering my senses like a Dutch master in one pure color,
its fiction at full speed, walls breaking, a clarity panorama for the mind
hunting for meaning and finding it at last! Now look at all the work I did, and not
one thanks
Not even flowers. Off you rush to watch him accept another award in that life
We can only dream of. From where you sit it all seems so beautiful

And I finally understand you. For that I can’t express enough thanks
As the subject is the best color for me in the difficulty of this lonely life.
It’s always caught up in my mind, what could be more beautiful.

Folly Stamp, by Prageeta Sharma

Clatter into the window this late night.
We were flabbergasted, tired
of the newly-minted drunks and meth-kids
with squeals for fists.

We live downtown,
exposed to the alley.

Nothing dangerous, and we were not alarmed.
But still, every sound turns us into pins on points,

a sleep of figuring out: deeply felt turns:
wrestling little autocrats

that fly or stick—nothing more than thistles
or wasps, but a sting is always a sting.

It must be we who are having the trouble:
it’s our estranged perception of thinking.

Are we actually perceiving?
Do things truly mock us?
Or do we ourselves mock?

We must find our own modernization bill,
a folly stamp that appeases us with its generous
humanizing. We can be reckless, we can overreact.

Let’s not be bewildered by the graces
that sometimes leave us,
by our paunches that are not always gargantuan,
that we haven’t sewn shame in to suit our false selves.

The fit of relief or deferment is near.
What we find next is important.
What would happen if our window
arranged a life for us—
something intentionally
on view.

And we looked out at the reconciliation
of the rest of the world:
Wasps and drunks and meth-kids
arm in arm in arm in arm.

National Poetry Month, by Elaine Equi

When a poem
speaks by itself,
it has a spark

and can be considered
part of a divine
conversation.

Sometimes the poem weaves
like a basket around
two loaves of yellow bread.

“Break off a piece
of this April with its
raisin nipples,” it says.

“And chew them slowly
under your pillow.
You belong in bed with me.”

On the other hand,
when a poem speaks
in the voice of a celebrity

it is called television
or a movie.
“There is nothing to see,”

say Robert De Niro,
though his poem bleeds
all along the edges

like a puddle
crudely outlined
with yellow tape

at the crime scene
of spring.
“It is an old poem,” he adds.

“And besides,
I was very young
when I made it.”

Kingdom Animalia, by Aracelis Girmay

When I get the call about my brother,
I’m on a stopped train leaving town
& the news packs into me—freight—
though it’s him on the other end
now, saying finefine—

Forfeit my eyes, I want to turn away
from the hair on the floor of his house
& how it got there Monday,
but my one heart falls
like a sad, fat persimmon
dropped by the hand of the Turczyn’s old tree.

I want to sleep. I do not want to sleep. See,

one day, not today, not now, we will be gone
from this earth where we know the gladiolas.
My brother, this noise,
some love [you] I loved
with all my brain, & breath,
will be gone; I’ve been told, today, to consider this
as I ride the long tracks out & dream so good

I see a plant in the window of the house
my brother shares with his love, their shoes. & there
he is, asleep in bed
with this same woman whose long skin
covers all of her bones, in a city called Oakland,
& their dreams hang above them
a little like a chandelier, & their teeth
flash in the night, oh, body.

Oh, body, be held now by whom you love.
Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars,
when dirt’s the only animal who will sleep with you
& touch you with
its mouth.