Red and Blue Planets, by Joni Wallace

What we’re drawn to is proof enough:
these pills, other acts of disappearance.
I’ve written a song about a girl who swallowed the blue planets:
Kevlar, Caroline, O Beautiful Bomb.
So perfectly haplessly cruel the world we’ve made.
Let’s meet back here in 5 minutes, you say, you always say.
I’ll bring the Lite-Brite.
I’ll bring the hole in my heart, a white star burning.
More and more, the rock show.
Venus rising is a glass wrecking ball,
inside red harbors, red sails.

Brooklyn Anchorage, by Lisa Jarnot

and at noon I will fall in love 
and nothing will have meaning 
except for the brownness of 
the sky, and tradition, and water 
and in the water off the railway 
in New Haven all the lights 
go on across the sun, and for 
millennia those who kiss fall into 
hospitals, riding trains, wearing 
black shoes, pursued by those 
they love, the Chinese in the armies 
with the shiny sound of Johnny Cash, 
and in my plan to be myself 
I became someone else with
soft lips and a secret life, 
and I left, from an airport, 
in tradition of the water
on the plains, until the train 
started moving and yesterday 
it seemed true that suddenly 
inside of the newspaper 
there was a powerline and 
my heart stopped, and everything 
leaned down from the sky to kill me 
and now the cattails sing.

Fate, by Carolyn Wells

Two shall be born the whole world wide apart,
And speak in different tongues, and pay their debts
In different kinds of coin; and give no heed
Each to the other’s being. And know not
That each might suit the other to a T,
If they were but correctly introduced.
And these, unconsciously, shall bend their steps,
Escaping Spaniards and defying war,
Unerringly toward the same trysting-place,
Albeit they know it not. Until at last
They enter the same door, and suddenly
They meet. And ere they’ve seen each other’s face
They fall into each other’s arms, upon
The Broadway cable car — and this is Fate!

Demon and The Dove, by Miguel Murphy

The psychotherapist has a sad dove
dying in his eye. He looks at the light
like wood holding fire in it
reflected in small caves
and tells me there is a window where love weeps
over what it cannot know. The dove’s

trembling, flickering like a sun alone
in the dark nest of his face, and the psychotherapist
is saying, there is nothing like losing your Self
for a Demon. We walk in to each other
as into a museum, and our portraits gleam. This sounds
like he’s saying our deaths are old, they
may not even belong to us. In the end, our meeting
is just the fantasy

we’ve been looking for all along. Yes,
Yes, I say, I’ve come here to burn for you
all my illusions. Yes, I say, I can see
you for who you are like I can see
the mother huddling her chicks in the sea cliff
in your inkblot, before she pecks their eyes large
as blood grapes and eats them
alive, the storm

clouds rupturing that purple
slag of lightning. What I want is to hold you
like a bell holds space
between the hours. What I want is to get back
one with the other, self
with dove, desire with the storm

inside that destroys
absence like a murderous blood. What I want
is a therapy like a first love—merciless
fascination—my eyes looking in
like the crazed bells of silence
to startle the mortal
coil. This
romance of self

you can’t escape, and you don’t want to.

December, by Michael Miller

I want to be a passenger
in your car again
and shut my eyes
while you sit at the wheel,

awake and assured
in your own private world,
seeing all the lines
on the road ahead,

down a long stretch
of empty highway
without any other
faces in sight.

I want to be a passenger
in your car again
and put my life back
in your hands.

A Memory of June, by Claude McKay

When June comes dancing o’er the death of May,
With scarlet roses tinting her green breast,
And mating thrushes ushering in her day,
And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest,

I always see the evening when we met—
The first of June baptized in tender rain—
And walked home through the wide streets, gleaming wet,
Arms locked, our warm flesh pulsing with love’s pain.

I always see the cheerful little room,
And in the corner, fresh and white, the bed,
Sweet scented with a delicate perfume,
Wherein for one night only we were wed;

Where in the starlit stillness we lay mute,
And heard the whispering showers all night long,
And your brown burning body was a lute
Whereon my passion played his fevered song.

When June comes dancing o’er the death of May,
With scarlet roses staining her fair feet,
My soul takes leave of me to sing all day
A love so fugitive and so complete.

White Trees, by Nathalie Handal

When the white trees are no longer in sight
they are telling us something,
like the body that undresses
when someone is around,
like the woman who wants
to read what her nude curves
are trying to say,
of what it was to be together,
lips on lips
but it’s over now, the town
we once loved in, the maps
we once drew, the echoes that
once passed through us
as if they needed something we had.

Old Boy, by A. Van Jordan

(Park Chan-Wook, 2003)

If one rainy night you find yourself
leaving a phone booth, and you meet a man
with a lavender umbrella, resist
your desire to follow him, to seek
shelter from the night in his solace.
Later, don’t fall victim to the Hypnotist’s
narcotic of clarity, which proves
a curare for the heart; her salve
is merely a bandage, under which memories
pulse. Resist the taste for something still
alive for your first meal; resist the craving
for the touch of a hand from your past.
We live some memories,
and some memories are planted. There’s
only so much space for the truth
and the fabrications to spread out
in one’s mind. When there’s no more
space, we grow desperate. You’ll ask
if practicing love for years in your mind,
prepares you for the moment,
if practicing to defend one’s life
is the same as living? You’ll
hole up, captive, in a hotel room
for fifteen years and learn to find
a man within you, which will prove
a painful introduction to the trance
into which you were born. Better
to stay under the spell of your guilt,
than to forget; you’ve already released
your pain onto the world; don’t believe
there’s some joy in forgetting.
There’s no joy in the struggle to forget.
And what appears as an endless verdant field,
only spreads across a building’s rooftop;
your peaceful sleep could be a fetal position,
which secures you in a suitcase in this field.
A bell rings, and you fall out of this luggage
like clothes you no longer fit. Now what to do?
You remember when you were the man
who fit those clothes, but you’ve forgotten this
world. Even forgotten scenes from your life,
leave shadows of the memory,
haunting your spirit
until, within a moment’s glance,
strangers passing you on the street,
observe history in your eyes. Experience
lingers through acts of forgetting,
small acts of love or trauma
falling from the same place. Whether
memory comes in the form of a stone
or a grain of sand, they both sink in water.
A tongue—even if it were, say, sworn
to secrecy; or if it were cut from one’s mouth;
yes, even without a mouth to envelop
its truth—the tongue continues to confess.

Reasons, by Thomas James

For our own private reasons
We live in each other for an hour.
Stranger, I take your body and its seasons,
Aware the moon has gone a little sour

For us. The moon hangs up there like a stone
Shaken out of its proper setting.
We lie down in each other. We lie down alone
and watch the moon’s flawed marble getting

Out of hand. What are the dead doing tonight?
The padlocks of their tongues embrace the black,
Each syllable locked in place, tucked out of sight.
Even this moon could never pull them back,

Even if it held them in its arms
And weighed them down with stones,
Took them entirely on their own terms
And piled the orchard’s blossom on their bones.

I am aware of your body and its dangers.
I spread my cloak for you in leafy weather
Where other fugitives and other strangers
Will put their mouths together.

Moon Gathering, by Eleanor Wilner

And they will gather by the well,
its dark water a mirror to catch whatever
stars slide by in the slow precession of
the skies, the tilting dome of time,
over all, a light mist like a scrim,
and here and there some clouds
that will open at the last and let
the moon shine through; it will be
at the wheel’s turning, when
three zeros stand like paw-prints
in the snow; it will be a crescent
moon, and it will shine up from
the dark water like a silver hook
without a fish—until, as we lean closer,
swimming up from the well, something
dark but glowing, animate, like live coals—
it is our own eyes staring up at us,
as the moon sets its hook;
and they, whose dim shapes are no more
than what we will become, take up
their long-handled dippers
of brass, and one by one, they catch
the moon in the cup-shaped bowls,
and they raise its floating light
to their lips, and with it, they drink back
our eyes, burning with desire to see
into the gullet of night: each one
dips and drinks, and dips, and drinks,
until there is only dark water,
until there is only the dark.

Let Me Disappear, by Ray Gonzalez

According to scientists, astronauts get taller when they are in space and in Albania, nodding your head means “no” and shaking your head means “yes.” This says I am going to disappear and become a parrot, sitting on my perch in some strange woman’s living room, ready to imitate everything she has to say to her illicit lover over the phone. Maybe I won’t have to speak in the shrill voice of parrots, but simply nod and shake my head, getting it right, unlike the Albanians. St. Paul, Minnesota was originally called Pig’s Eye after a man named Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant who set up the first business there in the mid-nineteenth century. Well, let me disappear because I live about twelve miles south of St. Paul’s southern city limits and have seen the eyes of pigs quite often. Minnesota is full of them. The last one I saw was tailgating me and almost ran me off the road. Before I could switch lanes, he swerved around me and shot away. About four blocks later, he was pulled over by a cop and given a ticket. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name was “Moon.” That sentence is hard to say. Of course, Buzz was the second man to step onto the moon in 1969. The first was Neil Armstrong, but he had no moons in his family, so he pleaded to Buzz on his knees, “Please, let me go second. Let me go second and every moon lover will love you forever, instead of me.” This happened inside the capsule on its way down to the moon. Buzz thought, “Let me disappear,” but it was too late. They hit the surface and history was on its way. I don’t have a clue what this has to do with me because the only moon in my life rose over the desert skies for the first twenty-five years of my life, until I disappeared. It is why I insist on a dark, moonless night when it is the best time for all men to go away, inspect their dreams, and maybe come back taller, wiser, and able to know the difference between yes and no.

A Bronze God, Or A Letter On Demand, by Clifton Gachagua

I like to think of your silence as the love letters you will not write me,
as two sax solos from two ages across a stage, learning the languages
of kissing with your eyes closed. I like to think of you as a god
to whom I no longer pray, as a god I aspire to. I like the opening of your joined palms,
which is like an urn where my ashes find a home. The music of your lashes;
the silent way your body wears out mine.
Mostly, I like to think of you at night when a black screen of shining dust shines
from your mines to the edge of my skin, where you are a lamp of flutters.
I remember the spectral lashes–marigold, tamarind, secret thing between your thighs,
of closed kissing eyes. At night, the possibility of you is a heavy
sculpture of heavy bronze at the side of my bed,
a god. And I pray you into life. Into flesh.

Jacksonville, Vermont, by Jason Shinder

Because I am not married, I have the skin of an orange

that has spent its life in the dark. Inside the orange
I am blind. I cannot tell when a hand reaches in

and breaks the atoms of the blood. Sometimes

a blackbird will bring the wind into my hair.
Or the yellow clouds falling on the cold floor are animals

beginning to fight each other out of their drifting misery.

All the women I have known have been ruined by fog
and the deer crossing the field at night.

Purism, by Vona Groarke

The wind orchestrates
its theme of loneliness
and the rain
has too much glitter in it, yes.

They are like words, the wrong ones,
insisting I listen to sense.
But I too am obstinate.

I have white walls,
white curtained windows.
What need have I
of the night’s jet-black,
outlandish ornament?

What I am after
is silence
in proportion
to desire,

the way music plumbs
its surfaces
as straight words do
the air between them.

I begin to learn
the simple thing

burning through
to an impulse at once lovely
and given to love

that will not be refused.

What The Bones Know, by Carolyn Kizer

Remembering the past
And gloating at it now,
I know the frozen brow
And shaking sides of lust
Will dog me at my death
To catch my ghostly breath.
 
          I think that Yeats was right,
          That lust and love are one.
          The body of this night
          May beggar me to death,
          But we are not undone
          Who love with all our breath.
 
                     I know that Proust was wrong,
                     His wheeze: love, to survive,
                     Needs jealousy, and death
                     And lust, to make it strong
                     Or goose it back alive.
                     Proust took away my breath.
 
                                 The later Yeats was right
                                 To think of sex and death
                                 And nothing else. Why wait
                                 Till we are turning old?
                                 My thoughts are hot and cold.
                                 I do not waste my breath.

Triolet, by Robert Bridges

When first we met, we did not guess
      That Love would prove so hard a master;
Of more than common friendliness
When first we met we did not guess.
Who could foretell the sore distress,
      This irretrievable disaster,
When first we met?—We did not guess
      That Love would prove so hard a master.

First Love, by Jennifer Franklin

The boy beside me
is not you but he
is familiar in all

the important ways.
I pass through life
finding you over

and over again—
oppress you
with love. And every

surrogate?
Afflicted by my
kindness, they leave

me with my music.
I loved you before
I ever loved you.

Undressing You, by Witter Bynner

Fiercely I remove from you
All the little vestiges—
Garments that confine you,
Things that touch the flesh,
The wool and the silk
And the linen that entwine you,
Tear them all away from you,
Bare you from the mesh.
And now I have you as you are,
Nothing to encumber you—
But now I see, caressing you,
Colder hands than mine.
They take away your flesh and bone,
And, utterly undressing you,
They tear you from your beauty
And they leave no sign.

In Search of an Umbrella in NYC, by Juan Felipe Herrera

You were having a stroke – i
did not grasp what was going on you
standing almost half ways up half
ways down the colors what were they
i was frozen both us us staring
woman with parasol behind me
are you drunk she said facing
you and the deli behind you you
leaned shivered dropped your coat
parasol
white
reddish flowers
brain  sweat eyes your eyes moving
seeing me behind me what
black man brown man no man no
colors you
pushed something away  i was
in a rush en route to big time
poetry Biz duded up ironed shirt
the rain was in my way i was not
breathing  you were losing  yourself i
was gaining something you
stumbled out of your coat unrolled
a stranger’s language from your lips
pushed your  feet down to
the depths of the tiny sidewalk even
though it was infinite burning
ahead of me to
the food truck at the corner yellow chips
corn violet green sugar drops
fiery torn packs flaring down  and
across the street under the cement i
was moving silent alone a crooked line
going nowhere a woman
touched your hand you were lying
on the dirty shoe ground swimming
up to her i   wanted you
i was a man
running for cover from the waters
i could not     lift your suffering
it was too late   the current pulled
i was floating away  (i noticed it)
you
were rising

The Lamb, by Linda Gregg

It was a picture I had after the war.
A bombed English church. I was too young
to know the word English or war,
but I knew the picture.
The ruined city still seemed noble.
The cathedral with its roof blown off
was not less godly. The church was the same
plus rain and sky. Birds flew in and out
of the holes God’s fist made in the walls.
All our desire for love or children
is treated like rags by the enemy.
I knew so much and sang anyway.
Like a bird who will sing until
it is brought down. When they take
away the trees, the child picks up a stick
and says, this is a tree, this the house
and the family. As we might. Through a door
of what had been a house, into the field
of rubble, walks a single lamb, tilting
its head, curious, unafraid, hungry.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

i

Tell me it was for the hunger
& nothing less. For hunger is to give
the body what it knows

it cannot keep. That this amber light
whittled down by another war
is all that pins my hand

to your chest.

i

You, drowning
between my arms—
stay.

You, pushing your body
into the river
only to be left
with yourself—
stay.

i

I’ll tell you how we’re wrong enough to be forgiven. How one night, after
backhanding
mother, then taking a chainsaw to the kitchen table, my father went to kneel
in the bathroom until we heard his muffled cries through the walls.
And so I learned that a man, in climax, was the closest thing
to surrender.

i

Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade.
Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn.
Say autumn despite the green
in your eyes. Beauty despite
daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn
mounting in your throat.
My thrashing beneath you
like a sparrow stunned
with falling.

i

Dusk: a blade of honey between our shadows, draining.

i

I wanted to disappear—so I opened the door to a stranger’s car. He was divorced. He was still alive. He was sobbing into his hands (hands that tasted like rust). The pink breast cancer ribbon on his keychain swayed in the ignition. Don’t we touch each other just to prove we are still here? I was still here once. The moon, distant & flickering, trapped itself in beads of sweat on my neck. I let the fog spill through the cracked window & cover my fangs. When I left, the Buick kept sitting there, a dumb bull in pasture, its eyes searing my shadow onto the side of suburban houses. At home, I threw myself on the bed like a torch & watched the flames gnaw through my mother’s house until the sky appeared, bloodshot & massive. How I wanted to be that sky—to hold every flying & falling at once.

i

Say amen. Say amend.

Say yes. Say yes

anyway.

i

In the shower, sweating under cold water, I scrubbed & scrubbed.

i

In the life before this one, you could tell
two people were in love
because when they drove the pickup
over the bridge, their wings
would grow back just in time.

Some days I am still inside the pickup.
Some days I keep waiting.

i

It’s not too late. Our heads haloed
with gnats & summer too early
to leave any marks.
Your hand under my shirt as static
intensifies on the radio.
Your other hand pointing
your daddy’s revolver
to the sky. Stars falling one
by one in the cross hairs.
This means I won’t be
afraid if we’re already
here. Already more
than skin can hold. That a body
beside a body
must make a field
full of ticking. That your name
is only the sound of clocks
being set back another hour
& morning
finds our clothes
on your mother’s front porch, shed
like week-old lilies.

First Love, by Jan Owen

Titian’s Young Englishman with a Glove, circa 1530

It happened in Physics,
reading a Library art book under the desk,
(the lesson was Archimedes in the bath)
I turned a page and fell
for an older man, and anonymous at that,
hardly ideal –
he was four hundred and forty-five,
I was fourteen.
‘Eureka!’ streaked each thought
(I prayed no-one would hear)
and Paradise all term
was page 179
(I prayed no-one would guess).
Of course
my fingers, sticky with toffee and bliss,
failed to entice him from his century;
his cool grey stare
fastened me firmly in mine.
I got six overdues,
suspension of borrowing rights
and a D in Physics.
But had by heart what Archimedes proves.
Ten years later I married:
a European with cool grey eyes,
a moustache,
pigskin gloves.

Monody to the Sound of Zithers, by Kay Boyle

I have wanted other things more than lovers …
I have desired peace, intimately to know
The secret curves of deep-bosomed contentment,
To learn by heart things beautiful and slow.

Cities at night, and cloudful skies, I’ve wanted;
And open cottage doors, old colors and smells a part;
All dim things, layers of river-mist on river—
To capture Beauty’s hands and lay them on my heart.

I have wanted clean rain to kiss my eyelids,
Sea-spray and silver foam to kiss my mouth.
I have wanted strong winds to flay me with passion;
And, to soothe me, tired winds from the south.

These things have I wanted more than lovers …
Jewels in my hands, and dew on morning grass—
Familiar things, while lovers have been strangers.
Friended thus, I have let nothing pass.

Learning How to Make Love, by Denise Duhamel

This couple couldn’t figure it out. 
The man licked his wife’s genitals while she stared straight ahead. 
The woman poked her husband’s testicles with her nose. 
The man put his toe in the folds of the woman’s vulva. 
The woman took the man’s penis under her armpit. 
Neither one of them wanted to be the first to admit 
something was off. So it went on— 
the man put his finger in his wife’s navel. 
The woman batted her eyelashes against the arch of her husband’s foot. 
They pinched each other’s earlobes. They bit each other’s rear ends. 
To perpetrate the lie, they ended each encounter with a deep sigh. 
Then one day while the husband was hunting, 
a man stopped by the igloo and said to the wife: 
I hear you have been having trouble.
I can show you how to make love.
He took her to bed and left before the husband came home. 
Then the wife showed her husband, 
careful to make it seem like the idea sprang 
from both. After all these years of rubbing one’s face against the other’s belly 
or stroking a male elbow behind a female knee, 
this couple had a lot of catching up to do. They couldn’t stop to eat or sleep 
and grew so skinny they died. No one found them for a long time. 
And by then, their two skeletons were fused into one.

Lights They Live By, by Pamela Alexander

1. nightjar

A carafe beside her bed or a glass goose;
a piece of water, stoppered, or a solid chunk, like ice?
She watches it all night,
death, the brightening star.
She thinks it is one with her all along
or she thinks it is the final thing she contains.

She reads all night.
Under a microscope there are lights in a leaf
that flicker, and go out, as the leaf dies.

All night.
Cities of lights.
A glass of water has as many.
The smallest piece of water has lights in it,
she reads, and looks
at the carafe to find
a juggler tossing jugglers holding stars.

She is a maze. She finds a candle at each
corner but loses the way. She thinks
she can make it up as she goes, strike
a bargain, make it stick.
Or she thinks she can’t,
turns again.

She wonders what holds her life together.
Not herself; she too is held.
Something does it like daylight through
a glass of water.

She has a son. He cuts his hands in grass,
long grass that leads to the sea.
He listens to water.

She has a song for him, tells him
the first ladder was a fern; she shows him the lines
that craze a leaf, says she’s not, he’s not
out of the woods yet, praise be.

2. daybreak

Whatever he sees in his hands is beautiful.
He sees lines; stones; lumps of glass, often
(often they are green); a carved cat; he sees
the last day of his life.

Looking closer doesn’t change things.
Through a magnifying glass obsidian is still
glossy, like a muscle; a moth’s wing
porous as manila paper.

He thinks he could put a bottle together in his hands
if he had all the pieces. He looks
for them, stands

waist deep in grass among the dull
green lamps of fireflies, hundreds, below
night-hawks flashing their wing-bars like lights shot
from a wave.

Days open and fold. Geese
slide through them, French curves.
The hawks shriek and turn;
they are pieces.

His rooms are a forest of things that have
touched him, including a jar
of rain, a pair of marble pigeons.
He picks up some white glass to give it away
and keeps it.

His hands tell him everything. They ache
when a friend he desires turns away. Still
he thinks he can find and keep them
all, all his days.

The Problem of Hands, by Louise Mathias

And how to fill them
is the problem of cigarettes and paint.

First time I felt my undoing
was in front of

a painting—Sam Francis, I believe.

Oh, his bloomed out, Xanax-ed California.

I liked the word guard, but you know

we made each other
nervous, standing too close

for everyone concerned. All art being

a form of violence
as a peony
is violence.

Here you come

with your open hands.

Poetry Anonymous, by Prageeta Sharma

Do not fall in love with a poet
they are no more honest than a stockbroker.

(Do you have a stockbroker? If you do,
your poet is with you because you have one.)

If you think that they are more sensitive because they care about language
pay attention to how they use language.
Are you included? Are you the “you”?

Or are you a suggestion?
Are you partially included as a suggestion?

Are you partially excluded because you are a concept
in some jewel-like nouns, almost throwaway,
yet a perfect resemblance?

How does narcissism
assist you, who is also the object of desire?
Do you become the tour-de-force?

Consider that poem’s vagueness doesn’t account for your complexity
and the epithets don’t suffice, you are not “one who is a horse-drawn carriage”
nor are you a “sparrow with hatchet.”

Perhaps they quote Mallarme when taking you to bed,
carefully confusing you with their charm and faux-chastity.

All this before voracious body-pressing.
The lovemaking is confusing until, you remember, they said something:

thus spake the dreamboat, your poet, alarmingly announces during climax:

I spend my fires with the slender rank of prelate

and then fierce withdrawal with a rush of perseverance to flee.

You are mistaken if language furthers your devotion.
You are a fallen person now.
They care more about “you” than for you (you, the real person you).

Line after line, a private, unmediated act done to you with confusing abandon,
flailing in its substance, however deceptive.

It will enhance your own directionlessness,
you will be harmed.

You cannot mediate it with caress.

Do you think because they understand what meaning looks like,
they have more meaning than others?
They are the protectors of feeling, mere protectors: earnest?
No. They are protectors of the flawed,
filling zones of bereftness.
The aftermath of pleasure. A contested zone for all.

What about the lawyer who loves the law?
Isn’t he just a poet with a larger book—
the way they protect and subject language
to sense-making?

A kind of cognitive patternization.

Ultimately, both undertake the hijacking of language,
they won’t love you the way
you are; it’s in this inability to love—
unless you embody the poem—
you embody the law and its turn of phrase.
Unless you see the poet clearly: loving utterance,
an unadulterated utterance—seized and insular.

You must entice with otherness.
You must catch the poem as a muse does.
You must muse and muse and muse.

In thralldom to encounters that stand in for sexual ones,
we terrorize with sense-making,

it stands in for intimacy.

It stands in and suggests that all other kinds of feelings
and declarations yield to it.

It will move you if you ask for permission
to exist within its confines,
and you move the poet toward you and you hold the poet’s head,
wrapping your arms around it
strapped in your wordless hold, but soon words do come

and in the trailing off of speech, you will be permanently lost.

Rapture: Lucus, by Traci Brimhall

Posters for the missing kapok tree appear on streetlights
offering a reward for its safe return. I hate to spoil it,

but the end of every biography is death. The end of a city
in the rainforest is a legend and a lost expedition. The end

of mythology is forgetfulness, placing gifts in the hole
where the worshipped tree should be. But my memory

lengthens with each ending. I know where to find the lost
mines of Muribeca and how to cross the Pacific on a raft

made of balsa. I know the tree wasn’t stolen. She woke from
her stillness some equatorial summer evening by a dream

of being chased by an amorous faun, which was a memory,
which reminded her that in another form she had legs

and didn’t need the anxious worship of people who thought
her body was a message. She is happier than the poem tattooed

on her back says she is, but sadder than the finches nesting
in her hair believe her to be. I am more or less content to be

near her in October storms, though I can’t stop thinking that
with the right love or humility or present of silk barrettes

and licorice she might become a myth again in my arms, ardent
wordless, needing someone to bear her away from the flood.

With All Due Respect [excerpt], by Vincent Aleixandre

Trees, women and children
are all the same thing: Background.
Voices, affections, brightness, joy,
this knowledge that finally here we all are.
Indeed. Me and my ten fingers.

Now the sun isn’t horrendous like a cheek that’s ready:
it isn’t a piece of clothing or a speechless flashlight.
Nor is it the answer heard by our knees,
nor the task of touching the frontiers with the whitest part of our eyes.
The Sun has already become truth, lucidity, stability.
You converse with the mountain,
you trade the mountain for a heart:
then you can go on, weightless, going away.
The fish’s eye, if we come to the river,
is precisely the image of happiness God sets up for us,
the passionate kiss that breaks our bones.

Indeed. Finally, it’s life. Oh, what egg-like beauty
in this ample gift the Valley spreads before us,
this limitation we can lean our heads against
so as to hear the greatest music, that of the distant planets.
Hurry, let’s all
get close around the bonfire.
Your hands made of petals and mine of bark,
these delicious improvisations we show each other,
are good—for burning, for keeping faith in tomorrow,
so that our talk can go on ignoring our clothes.
I don’t notice our clothes. Do you?
Dressed up in three-hundred burlap suits,
wrapped in my roughest heaviest get-up,
I maintain a dawn-like dignity and brag of how much I know about nakedness.

Oklahoma City: The Aftermath, by Ira Sadoff

Sometimes I’m so lachrymose I forget I was there
with my darling—I call her my darling to make her
more anonymous, so she can’t take up all the space
in my brain. But please, can I continue, or must I

look away from such openness, those spools of light
bringing red and fine threads of silver to her brunette hair?
Or is she an instant, a car ride, a little post-it, last month’s
no particular town? Can we shine a little first? First

there was a dust storm that made everyone invisible,
then a thunderstorm where each drop of rain painted a ringlet
on the road like haze around the moon. I’d already
deserted what crumbled there. The mind loves blackouts

more than those dusty bins of grain at the general store,
or the little hand-shovel you’d use to fill muslin sacks
with feed for animals you’d later bring to slaughter.
Then they were cementing over the childcare center.

the shell of state offices were still standing:
buried in the rubble, well there was no rubble…
Are we all so kinetic that on the highway
we’re always communicating? We’re cacophonic,

colossally bored, it takes many simultaneous tasks
to keep our souls busy. The breeze makes the ash leaves blur,
they’re almost silver in the light, like confederate money.
Or I’m driving by the Chinese Pistache, the lacebark elm,

brushing my teeth, taking notes for a morning meeting:
is there no one here to calm me? I don’t remember
the whippoorwill, the leaf brown male, if I ever knew one.
I can’t decide how this parallels our current situation:

So I take a few minutes’ cigarette to see how this
razes all of us. Have you ever been lax, insufficient, prolix?
Weren’t you ever particularly sorry? This may be entirely
personal, but once I was driven, exemplar, sheltered

from earthly business—now I keep burying and eclipsing,
more obscuring, suppressing with murmurs what’s under duress.

The Culture of Glass, by Thylias Moss

Thanksgiving 2004: I’m thankful for

Columbo’s eye, Peter Falk’s indivisible
from the other’s vitreous dupe that he can pocket,
rub into, off of, and shine the crystal eyeball after
it subs in a game of table pool. Oh yeah!
The future of fortunes is manufactured revelation
of a snow globe: when the right someone gets his hands
on such a world, that world is shaken to pieces, the glass
is tapped in the aquarium, semitransparent arowanas remain
inexplicable, a tapper’s desire breaks out: oh to become glass,
to slide the foot into a transparent baby slipper arowana
and dance with a prince whose glass toenails
shatter when he runs after glass-footed beauties
born that way, skin so thin it hides nothing
without actually being clear, sneak peak
at the friable optic nerve, the components
separated only by glass
through which all seen becomes transparent, criminal
activity obvious, the put-on of opaque alibis
exposing a fear of crime’s transparency:
finger prints on the latex interior of the gloves,
imprint of a face on the wrong side of the mask:
at some level, a matter of seeing eye dog versus unseeing
eye dog, culture of breed, hole-in-the-wall expectations, cash
transactions, motel by the half-hour versus extended stay
opulence just to sleep there for real
with seeing eye dog sleeping on a braided rug half-under
the bed of a blind girl, the girlishness not an issue,
the dog not meant to be her guide into decisions, just
crossings to which she becomes committed independently,
regarding the cool dark of evening, the lapse
of the feel of light as day’s form of breathing,
getting illumination off its wide chest
until able to face again the responsibility of light
that even this girl must accept behind glasses:
day is hers too, given by an internal clock
that wants all the bright hours, odor of rising,
flowers opening with the bakeries, stunning
synchronizations, a pas de deux, she steps, dog steps
into the crosswalk at the same time as a man heading
toward them with coffee, led also but by the Arabica, hookah
descent, descant now to the caffeine
that doesn’t adhere to the glass mug: it is all for him,
her too if they merge at first sight: the world of coffee,
the culture of glass
bottom boats, success:
liquid assets: if solidity is the basic state
that matters, it’s obvious what happens:
The dog retires, seeing what canines see
for himself, fleas cross
his coat without help other than his receiving
no special treatment,
tied in a twenty-foot yard frequented most
by sunflowers, each seed
like the eye of an insect. An alley of a yard
that from time to time becomes a crime scene
in the blink of an eye
the glass one melts last.

Peanut Butter, By Eileen Myles

I am always hungry
& wanting to have
sex. This is a fact.
If you get right
down to it the new
unprocessed peanut
butter is no damn
good & you should
buy it in a jar as
always in the
largest supermarket
you know. And
I am an enemy
of change, as
you know. All
the things I
embrace as new
are in
fact old things,
re-released: swimming,
the sensation of
being dirty in
body and mind
summer as a
time to do
nothing and make
no money. Prayer
as a last re-
sort. Pleasure
as a means,
and then a
means again
with no ends
in sight. I am
absolutely in opposition
to all kinds of
goals. I have
no desire to know
where this, anything
is getting me.
When the water
boils I get
a cup of tea.
Accidentally I
read all the
works of Proust.
It was summer
I was there
so was he. I
write because
I would like
to be used for
years after
my death. Not
only my body
will be compost
but the thoughts
I left during
my life. During
my life I was
a woman with
hazel eyes. Out
the window
is a crooked
silo. Parts
of your
body I think
of as stripes
which I have
learned to
love along. We
swim naked
in ponds &
I write be-
hind your
back. My thoughts
about you are
not exactly
forbidden, but
exalted because
they are useless,
not intended
to get you
because I have
you & you love
me. It’s more
like a playground
where I play
with my reflection
of you until
you come back
and into the
real you I
get to sink
my teeth. With
you I know how
to relax. &
so I work
behind your
back. Which
is lovely.
Nature
is out of control
you tell me &
that’s what’s so
good about
it. I’m immoderately
in love with you,
knocked out by
all your new
white hair

why shouldn’t
something
I have always
known be the
very best there
is. I love
you from my
childhood,
starting back
there when
one day was
just like the
rest, random
growth and
breezes, constant
love, a sand-
wich in the
middle of
day,
a tiny step
in the vastly
conventional
path of
the Sun. I
squint. I
wink. I
take the
ride.

La Pelona as Birdwoman [excerpt], by Rigoberto González

Tonight
I dared to crawl
beneath the sheets

to be nailed down
around me,
waiting for my lover, she

who enters
without knocking, she
who will unstitch

my every seam
along my thigh,
my side, my armpit.

She who carves
a heart out of the heart
and drops it

down her throat.
Sweet surrender this
slow death in sleep

as I dream
the love-making
is autopsy. How else

will I be hers
completely? Be her
treasure box I said:

a trove of pearls
and stones, the ding
of coins cascading

through her fingers.
The bird over her shoulder
not a parrot, but an owl

to be my mirror
when I close my eyes
and shape a moon-white

bowl out of my face
where she can wash
the hooks of her caress.

Drowsing over The Arabian Nights, by Thomas Kinsella

I nodded. The books agree,
one hopes for too much.
It is ridiculous.
We are elaborate beasts.

If we concur it is only
in our hunger: the soiled gullet.
And sleep’s airy nothing.
And the moist matter of lust

—if the whole waste of women
could be gathered like one pit
under swarming Man,
then all might act together.

And the agonies of death,
as we enter our endless nights
quickly, one by one, fire
darting up to the roots of our hair.

During the Montenegrin Poetry Reading, by Tess Gallagher

Mira, like a white goddess, is translating
so my left ear is a cave near Kotor
where the sea lashes and rakes
the iron darkness inside
the black mountains. Young and old, the poets
are letting us know this sweltering night,
under a bridge near a river outside
Karver Bookstore at the beginning of July,
belongs to them. They clear away debris

about politicians and personal suffering,
these gladiators of desire
and doubt, whose candor has roiled
me like a child shaking stolen beer to foam
the genie of the moment out of
its bottle. The poets’ truth-wrought poems dragging it
out of me, that confession—that I didn’t have children
probably because in some clear corner I knew I would have left them
to join these poets half a world away who, in their language
that is able to break stones, have broken me open
like a melon. Instead of children, I leave my small dog, quivering
as I touched her on the nose, to let her know it’s
me, the one who is always leaving her, yes
I’m going, and for her I have no language with
which to reassure her I’m coming

back, no—what’s the use to pretend I’m
a good mistress to her, she who would never
leave me, she who looks for me everywhere
I am not, until I return. I should feel guilty
but the Montenegrin poets have taken false guilt off
the table. I’ve been swallowed by a cosmic
sneer, with an entire country behind it where
each day it occurs to them how many are still missing
in that recent past of war and havoc. Nothing to do
but shut the gate behind me
and not look back where my scent
even now is fading from the grass. Nostalgia
for myself won’t be tolerated here. I’m just a beast
who, if my dog were a person, would give me a pat
on the head and say something stupid like: Good dog.

Drift, by Brenda Shaughnessy

I’ll go anywhere to leave you but come with me.
All the cities are like you anyway. Windows
darken when I get close enough to see.
Any place we want to stay’s polluted,

the good spots taken already by those
who ruin them. And restaurants we’d never find.
We’d rut a ditch by a river in nights
so long they must be cut by the many pairs

of wrong-handled scissors maybe god owns
and doesn’t share. I water god.
I make a haunted lake and rinse and rinse.
I take what I want, and have ever since what

I want disappeared, like anything hunted.
That’s what you said. Disappointment
isn’t tender, dried and wide instead.
The tourists snapped you crying,

and the blanket I brought was so dirty
it must have been lying around
in lice and blood that whole year we fought.
It wasn’t clear, so I forgot.

I haven’t been sleeping, next to you
twitching to bury my boring eyes.
The ship made you sad, and the ferry, and canoe.
All boats do.

In Praise Of The Passivity Of Paper, by Sam Riviere

I felt suddenly convinced that I had feelings for the wallpaper.
I was especially captivated by its blonde hair and bad dreams.
I had the impression the wallpaper needed longer to properly respond.
By the time I left, my affections had produced this abrasion on my cheek.
People looked on the abrasion as unquestionable proof of my sincerity.
The abrasion was produced by rubbing my face on the paper’s smooth surface.
It only occurred to me later that it might have found this sensation disagreeable.
But by then I had become known for my abrasion, and I seldom thought of,
discussed, or in any way depended upon the wallpaper for anything.
My affections, though, had produced upon the paper their own mark.
To my irritation and gradual dismay, interest in the paper’s abrasion
began to outweigh interest in my own; indeed, mine was starting to fade
while the mark upon the paper had deepened with the passing of time.
People liked to visit the paper in its room and probe their fingers
into the widening tear, by now a gruesome black-edged wound.
The silence of the paper during these incursions suggested to some
condemnation of their curiosity, but to others implied approval.
Some even speculated that the paper “enjoyed” the infringement
of its surfaces, while most agreed it was a question of the paper
enduring this indignity, having little or no opportunity to protest.
Some visitors could not contain their enthusiasm, and over time
other recesses were opened in the paper without its consent.
The earliest admirers of the paper’s abrasion were heard lamenting
the gulf between the paper’s current state and its previous appearance.
They opined that to experience the abrasion now was to encounter
a kind of mockery of the gentle and informal gesture it had once been.
Others contended that while the paper’s condition was certainly different,
it couldn’t be in any way “better” or “worse” than it had been originally;
on the contrary, the paper, exhibiting as it did the marks of the affections
spent upon it, was in every way a true record of the destruction this attention
had wrought, and had become if anything a more moving testament,
charting as it did the changing and accelerated passions of the times.
In later phases of the paper’s deterioration some expressed admiration
for the stoical indifference with which the paper withstood its abusers
and wondered if such an attitude might not improve the willing
and reciprocal style with which they and their contemporaries
were accustomed to receiving each other’s gazes and caresses.
Against the odds, this view seemed timely and took root in the populace,
and to this day in all the estimations of historians and critics of culture
it is widely held accountable for the period of dormancy and inertia
among the youngest of our people, whose silence and repose
has replaced the humors and rages of those whose desires had flown
unchecked, who had coupled for so long with such energy and frequency.

San Antonio, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Tonight I lingered over your name,
the delicate assembly of vowels
a voice inside my head.
You were sleeping when I arrived.
I stood by your bed
and watched the sheets rise gently.
I knew what slant of light
would make you turn over.
It was then I felt
the highways slide out of my hands.
I remembered the old men
in the west side cafe,
dealing dominoes like magical charms.
It was then I knew,
like a woman looking backward,
I could not leave you,
or find anyone I loved more.

City, by Ander Monson

Sometimes it is empty and it reminds us all of loneliness. Though we are in love or in affairs that approximate love or long-term relationships we can still be lonely and we are still lonely when it is between 3am and 4am and the world is full of nothingness. We are inside the city. We are inside ourselves. You know what I am talking about. Your husband or lover or maybe just a no one, an approximation of zero, a blank space where there should be feature, a nothing where you thought there was a something, and you don’t know it yet, but you will soon enough, trust me: he’s in the other room. He is tolerant of all your strayings, your nightly rambles around the neighborhood. Maybe you’re looking into windows. Maybe you’re looking out for a particular window. Maybe you saw something there a year ago, but you remember it. It is these things that come back to you in moments when your attention strays and your body directs you here, at 3am. Who is the couple you saw through the window that one time? Were they renters? Was that why you have never seen them both naked again? What was so powerful about that sight? You’d seen nudes before. You’d seen others nude before. Was it the surreptitiousness of it? The stolen glimpse of it?

It might have been their offering to you, to world, to the city. If the city only would take the time to look at its half-darkened windows it might see something spectacular.

Or trace that line backwards. You were in college. You were living in a borrowed city, another’s city, working at whatever job you could do. You were over visiting a friend. You were watching The Black Hole, it turns out that film is pretty good in spite of it being from Disney, and old. From the second-floor window you could see the neighbor girl as she dropped her towel and faced the window, faced towards you. It was lovely, like those childhood woods, dark and deep, and you were fixed there watching her. Was it power? Was it pleasure? Was it all of these? Do you secretly like framing your body in windows for the city too, hoping someone will notice? Are you just radiating back a sense of lust or openness? Are you talking back to the city? And what of your lover, your loved one in the other room whose sleep is undisturbed while you are awake and thinking of this, of that couple, that girl, those lighted frames?

Tablets, by Dunya Mikhail

1

She pressed her ear against the shell:
she wanted to hear everything
he never told her.

2

A single inch
separates their two bodies
facing one another
in the picture:
a framed smile
buried beneath the rubble.

3

Whenever you throw stones
into the sea
it sends ripples through me.

4

My heart’s quite small:
that’s why it fills so quickly.

5

Water needs no wars
to mix with water
and fill up spaces.

6

The tree doesn’t ask why it’s not moving
to some other forest
nor any other pointless questions.

7

He watches tv
while she holds a novel.
On the novel’s cover
there’s a man watching tv
and a woman holding a novel.

8

On the first morning
of the new year
all of us will look up
at the same sun.

9

She raised his head to her chest.
He did not respond:
he was dead.

10

The person who gazed at me for so long,
and whose gaze I returned for just as long …
That man who never once embraced me,
and whom I never once embraced …
The rain wrecked the colors around him
on that old canvas.

11

He was not with the husbands
who were lost and then found;
he did not come with the prisoners of war,
nor with the kite that took her,
in her dream,
to some other place,
while she stood before the camera
to have her smile
glued into the passport.

12

Dates piled high
beside the road:
your way
of kissing me.

13

Rapunzel’s hair
reaching down
from the window
to the earth
is how we wait.

14

The shadows
the prisoners left
on the wall
surrounded the jailer
and cast light
on his loneliness.

15

Homeland, I am not your mother,
so why do you weep in my lap like this
every time
something hurts you?

16

Never mind this bird:
it comes every day
and stops at the branch’s edge
to sing for an hour
or two.
That’s all it does:
nothing makes it happier.

17

House keys,
identity cards,
faded pictures among the bones …
All of these are scattered
in a single mass grave.

18

The Arabic language
loves long sentences
and long wars.
It loves never-ending songs
and late nights
and weeping over ruins.
It loves working
for a long life
and a long death.

19

Far away from home?—
that’s all that changed in us.

20

Cinderella left her slipper in Iraq
along with the smell of cardamom
wafting from the teapot,
and that huge flower,
its mouth gaping like death.

21

Instant messages
ignite revolutions.
They spark new lives
waiting for a country to download,
a land that’s little more
than a handful of dust
when faced with these words:
“There are no results that match your search.”

22

The dog’s excitement
as she brings the stick to her owner
is the moment of opening the letter.

23

We cross borders lightly
like clouds.
Nothing carries us,
but as we move on
we carry rain,
and an accent,
and a memory
of another place.

24

How thrilling to appear in his eyes.
She can’t understand what he’s saying:
she’s too busy chewing his voice.
She looks at the mouth she’ll never kiss,
at the shoulder she’ll never cry on,
at the hand she’ll never hold,
and at the ground where their shadows meet.

If You Forget Me, by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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…

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.

Perfect Woman, by William Wordsworth

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleam’d upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair;
Like twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly plann’d,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.