Weaving, by Paul Otremba

I don’t think they’ll find the new weaving
anywhere finer than truth.
—Osip Mandelstam

I’ve tried to sift a truth finer than salt
from my mouth. It matters: I get up

or I do not. The books can wait, leaves
burn themselves these days, and the day

begins or it does not. Now wingless,
a wasp masquerading as the sun crawls—

a harmless razor—across the backlit
curtain. No city trembles on the verge

of the sea. No stupid bird threatens
to dissolve me if I forget my species

in the official questionnaire. I could
put my ten bureaucrats to their task.

The dusting and polishing. There’s a point,
a mirror for me to enumerate my teeth.

Beyond these walls, there’s only the snowed-in
field, an egg just opened but empty.

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A Happy Birthday, by Ted Kooser

This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

Layabout, by John Brehm

Do nothing and everything will be done,
that’s what Mr. Lao Tzu said, who walked
around talking 2,500 years ago and

now his books practically grow on trees
they’re so popular and if he were
alive today beautiful women would

rush up to him like waves lapping
at the shores of his wisdom.
That’s the way it is, I guess: humbling.

But if I could just unclench my fists,
empty out my eyes, turn my mind into
a prayer flag for the wind to play with,

we could be brothers, him the older one
who’s seen and not done it all and me
still unlearning, both of us slung low

in our hammocks, our hats tipped
forwards, hands folded neatly,
like bamboo huts, above our hearts.

Inspire Hope, by Amy Lawless

I am in a common despair. So in order for me to have hope, it is crucial to stack fifty pounds of books on the left-hand side of my bed. I cover him tightly with my warmest woolen blankets. This boyfriend is named Shiver. He is best left alone to his thoughts. But one night, I will accidentally roll into him. He’ll fall on me with such grace and with the acceleration of all of history.

Shawl, by Albert Goldbarth

Eight hours by bus, and night
was on them. He could see himself now
in the window, see his head there with the country
running through it like a long thought made of steel and wheat.
Darkness outside; darkness in the bus—as if the sea
were dark and the belly of the whale were dark to match it.
He was twenty: of course his eyes returned, repeatedly,
to the knee of the woman two rows up: positioned so
occasional headlights struck it into life.
But more reliable was the book; he was discovering himself
to be among the tribe that reads. Now his, the only
overhead turned on. Now nothing else existed:
only him, and the book, and the light thrown over his shoulders
as luxuriously as a cashmere shawl.

Dividend Of The Social Opt Out, by Jennifer Moxley

How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.
Not seriously ill, just a little under the weather.
To feel slightly peaked, indisposed. Plagued by
a vague ache, or a slight inexplicable chill.

Perhaps such pleasures are denied
to those who never feel obliged. If there are such.

How pleasant to convey your regrets. To feel sincerely
sorry, but secretly pleased to send them on their way
without you. To entrust your good wishes to others.
To spare the equivocal its inevitable rise.

How nice not to hope that something will happen,
but to lie on the couch with a book, hoping that
nothing will. To hear the wood creak and to think.
It is lovely to stay without wanting to leave.

How delicious not to care how you look,
clean and uncombed in the sheets. To sip
brisk mineral water, to take small bites
off crisp Saltines. To leave some on the plate.

To fear no repercussions. Nor dodge
the unkind person you bug.

Even the caretaker has gone to the party.
If you want something you will have to
get it yourself. The blue of the room seduces.
The cars of the occupied sound the wet road.

You indulge in a moment of sadness, make
a frown at the notion you won’t be missed.
This is what it is. You have opted to be
forgotten so that your thoughts might live.

Countess Lethargy, by Terese Svoboda

Dogs slink around her bed in hunger.
Lest you make sacred her image
on a brick, on your drive or thumb,
she needs to be turned twice a day
plant-ish, in her deshabille.

Lethargy has its roots in lethal.
This is the truth you must share
or die, the waves over your head,
the waving you’re not doing.
Pride vacuums away the scraps

yet nobody empties the bag.
Maybe she hurts. Maybe.
The dogs devour her at dusk.
You have it in a book, read once,
now on the computer shelf.

Clever is what those dogs become,
punished by crowds anxious to see
the Countess’ soul fly from their mouths.
She wears gold and shines: sunlight.
You are one of those dogs.