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!

December 2, 2002, by Juliana Spahr

As it happens every night, beloveds, while we turned in the night
sleeping uneasily the world went on without us.

We live in our own time zone and there are only a small million of
us in this time zone and the world as a result has a tendency to
begin and end without us.

While we turned sleeping uneasily at least ten were injured in a
bomb blast in Bombay and four killed in Palestine.

While we turned sleeping uneasily a warehouse of food aid was
destroyed, stocks on upbeat sales soared, Australia threatened first
strikes, there was heavy gunfire in the city of Man, the Belarus
ambassador to Japan went missing, a cruise ship caught fire, on yet
another cruise ship many got sick, and the pope made a statement
against xenophobia.

While we turned sleeping uneasily perhaps J Lo gave Ben a
prenuptial demand for sex four times a week.

While we turned sleeping uneasily Liam Gallagher brawled and
irate fans complained that “Popstars: The Rivals” was fixed.

While we turned sleeping uneasily the Supreme Court agreed to
hear the case of whether university admissions may favor racial
minorities.

While we turned sleeping uneasily poachers caught sturgeon in the
reed-filled Caspian, which shelters boar and wolves, and some of
the residents on the space shuttle planned a return flight to the US.

Beloveds, our world is small and isolated.

We live our lives in six hundred square feet about a quarter mile
from the shore on land that is seven hundred square miles and five
thousand miles from the nearest land mass.

Despite our isolation, there is no escape from the news of how
many days are left in the Iraq inspections.

The news poll for today was should we invade Iraq now or should
we wait until the inspections are complete and we tried to laugh
together at this question but our laughter was uneasy and we just
decided to turn off the television that arrives to us from those
other time zones.

Beloveds, we do not know how to live our lives with any agency
outside of our bed.

It makes me angry that how we live in our bed—full of connected
loving and full of isolated sleep and dreaming also—has no
relevance to the rest of the world.

How can the power of our combination of intimacy and isolation
have so little power outside the space of our bed?

Beloveds, the shuttle is set to return home and out the window of
the shuttle one can see the earth.

“How massive the earth is; how minute the atmosphere,” one of
the astronauts notes.

Beloveds, what do we do but keep breathing as best we can this
minute atmosphere?

to have been, instead, by Stephen Motika

instead, insulted. to look, in green light. redact. can you read… the oracular, such indifference. failing in the halls of an unknown.

to have powered down. mission. some sort of cavalcade, plane flight caucus to indifference. a mission, museum, the night in the unknown. a city.

raked forest leaves, consorted with compost fires, down in steam, walked an incline, slipped to fall. the clatter of bones on buried stones, on those leaves fallen, but not as fast as I fell.

in Turrell’s dim light, I realized the failure of the art official. an artificial stance, an impossibility: to speak and listen simultaneously.

the train bed, we call them tracks, where two ties swim beneath. a gossip, these gadgets, soaked in white scrimmed preamble. I made the mistake of coming closer, again.

ihe rejection, a mastication of the brain, those thoughts that fuel the day. I can’t, besides, canning involves brine and fish we simply don’t have.

in the sea farm, large carp. in the lake, a new cat finds our resources, our swims, those precious summer waters, where the between marks space.

the train from platform; here, everything in an elevated series of windows, lighted, in yellow mirrored fashion. large tower rests on the ground. the pavement gives way, the grinding of breaks.

came across a few seats, edits, and large empty doors. there were paintings, an elderly man. a slipped space to look aside guards and walls. I can’t think of how many steps it takes to escape.

platformed, clasped, we waited to circulate, encased, dined within curator’s task, lips sown in a silence of those emeriti.

caustic, in bold approach, pallid lips, rouged face, nearly quaffed and ensconced. I edged the red, a rage lost in the linen weave, a time.

Skylab, by Rolf Jacobsen

We’ve come so far, thought the astronaut
as he swam around the capsule in his third week
and by accident kicked a god in the eye
—so far
that there’s no difference anymore between up and down,
north and south, heavy and light.
And how, then, can we know righteousness.

So far.
And weightless, in a sealed room
we chase the sunrises at high speed
and sicken with longing for a green stalk
or the heft of something in our hands. Lifting a stone.

One night he saw that the Earth was like an open eye
that looked at him as gravely as the eye of a child
awakened in the middle of the night.

Goddess of Maple at Evening, by Chard deNiord

She breathed a chill that slowed the sap
inside the phloem, stood perfectly still
inside the dark, then walked to a field
where the distance crooned in a small
blue voice how close it is, how the gravity
of sky pulls you up like steam from the arch.
She sang along until the silence soloed
in a northern wind, then headed back
to the sugar stand and drank from a maple
to thin her blood with the spirit of sap.
To quicken its pace to the speed of sound
then hear it boom inside her heart.
To quicken her mind to the speed of light
with another suck from the flooded tap.

Silt, by Stephen Burt

Things you know but can’t say,
the sort of things, or propositions
that build up week after week at the end of the day,

& have to be dredged
by the practical operators so that their grosser cargo
& barges & boxy schedules can stay.

The great shovels and beaks and the rolling gantries
of Long Beach, and of Elizabeth, New Jersey,
can keep their high and rigorous distinction
between on-time and late, between work and play.

“Since you excluded me, I will represent you,
not meanly but generously, with an attention
that is itself

a revenge, since it shows that I know you

better than you have ever known yourselves,

that if I could never have learned
how to be you, nor how to be
somebody you’d like to be very near, nevertheless

you could not do without me, or keep me away.”

King County Metro, by Geffrey Davis

In Seattle, in 1982, my mother beholds this man
boarding the bus, the one she’s already

turning into my father. His style (if you can
call it that): disarming disregard—a loud

Hawaiian-print shirt and knee-high tube socks
that reach up the deep tone of his legs,

toward the dizzying orange of running shorts.
Outside, the gray city blocks lurch

past wet windows, as he starts his shy sway
down the aisle. Months will pass

before he shatters his ankle during a Navy drill,
the service discharging him back into the everyday

teeth of the world. Two of four kids will arrive
before he meets the friend who teaches him

the art of rooing and, soon after, the crack pipe—
the attention it takes to manage either

without destroying the hands. The air brakes gasp
as he approaches my mother’s row,

each failed rehab and jail sentence still
decades off in the distance. So much waits

in the fabulous folds of tomorrow.
And my mother, who will take twenty years

to burn out her love for him, hesitates a moment
before making room beside her—the striking

brown face, poised above her head, smiling.
My mother will blame all that happens,

both good and bad, on this smile, which glows now,
ready to consume half of everything it gives.

The Letter Scale, by Jacques Réda

One of the objects I’ve treasured most in my life
Is this letter scale which, long ago, you gave me.
I was an active correspondent at the time,
Even sending lots of letters overseas.
While still enjoying the pleasure of going to the post,
I now had another: assessing exactly, in advance,
At my counter, the cost of packets and envelopes,
To which, price list in hand, I stuck my stamps.
I use it less these days, this quite simple device
Graded with little marks up to a whole pound,
For my mailings rarely still exceed the price
Of an ordinary stamp. The tray of polished metal’s now
Covered with dust, without the slightest hint
That the red pointer marking the weight on the front
Has budged. But in the long run, one would, I think,
Discern a difference and see how much the months
Were worth in terms of dust, the seasons elapsed
Since the previous weighing. But having been seized,
Suddenly, just this morning, by a tremendous attack
(Annual) of cleaning, from which nothing is released,
I restored to the tray’s slightly concave stainless steel,
That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine.
It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled,
And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.

A Sense of Proportion, by William Stobb

On 20th between Madison and Ferry
a line of municipal maples binds the community
to an orderly, serviceable beauty. Platforms
from which our sparrows and starlings
might decorate our domestic sedans,
perhaps these trees serve most to stimulate
the car wash economy. Today, they remind me:

unsatisfied with workaday species, my parents
nailed oranges to a post to attract the exotic Oriole.
When the birds arrived, I wondered if they’d flown
all the way from Baltimore, which in turn
evoked a hotel, gables lined
with black and tangerine, posh clientele
spackled by the vagaries of Maryland living.

By nine I could sigh, climb our single
red maple, which I imagined a national landmark.
Child of movies, I could see the tree even at night
as a kind of beacon, a singularity. White
sheen on the leaves’ pitchy gloss, bodily.
And I too would learn to feel glazed
as any creature accumulating light

cast from stars, hidden in a federation
of equivalent times, distant trains
carrying sugar, coal, whole families beyond
deserts, imposing ranges, shimmering coastlines
said to define the spirit of a people.
Far from the station, the pinpoint aurora,
a line of municipal maples bears its charge.

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.

Butterflies Poem, by Fawziyya Abu Khalid

When you abandoned me,
I didn’t need an elegy
because you had planted
a flight of butterflies in my heart
whose path I follow
like a bedouin who knows
how to perfectly trace the footsteps
of his traunt mare.

February, by James Schuyler

A chimney, breathing a little smoke.
The sun, I can’t see
making a bit of pink
I can’t quite see in the blue.
The pink of five tulips
at five p.m. on the day before March first.
The green of the tulip stems and leaves
like something I can’t remember,
finding a jack-in-the-pulpit
a long time ago and far away.
Why it was December then
and the sun was on the sea
by the temples we’d gone to see.
One green wave moved in the violet sea
like the UN Building on big evenings,
green and wet
while the sky turns violet.
A few almond trees
had a few flowers, like a few snowflakes
out of the blue looking pink in the light.
A gray hush
in which the boxy trucks roll up Second Avenue
into the sky. They’re just
going over the hill.
The green leaves of the tulips on my desk
like grass light on flesh,
and a green-copper steeple
and streaks of cloud beginning to glow.
I can’t get over
how it all works in together
like a woman who just came to her window
and stands there filling it
jogging her baby in her arms.
She’s so far off. Is it the light
that makes the baby pink?
I can see the little fists
and the rocking-horse motion of her breasts.
It’s getting grayer and gold and chilly.
Two dog-size lions face each other
at the corners of a roof.
It’s the yellow dust inside the tulips.
It’s the shape of a tulip.
It’s the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in.
It’s a day like any other.

Fisherman, by Kurt Brown

A man spends his whole life fishing in himself
for something grand. It’s like some lost lunker, big enough
to break all records. But he’s only heard rumors, myths,
vague promises of wonder. He’s only felt the shadow
of something enormous darken his life. Or has he?
Maybe it’s the shadow of other fish, greater than his,
the shadow of other men’s souls passing over him.
Each day he grabs his gear and makes his way
to the ocean. At least he’s sure of that: or is he? Is it the ocean
or the little puddle of his tears? Is this his dinghy
or the frayed boards of his ego, scoured by storm?
He shoves off, feeling the land fall away under his boots.
Soon he’s drifting under clouds, wind whispering blandishments
in his ears. It could be today: the water heaves
and settles like a chest. . . He’s not far out.
It’s all so pleasant, so comforting—the sunlight,
the waves. He’ll go back soon, thinking: “Maybe tonight.”
Night with its concealments, its shadow masking all other shadows.
Night with its privacies, its alluringly distant stars.

Letter to Denise, by Hayden Carruth

Remember when you put on that wig
From the grab bag and then looked at yourself
In the mirror and laughed, and we laughed together?
It was a transformation, glamorous flowing tresses.
Who knows if you might not have liked to wear
That wig permanently, but of course you
Wouldn’t. Remember when you told me how
You meditated, looking at a stone until
You knew the soul of the stone? Inwardly I
Scoffed, being the backwoods pragmatic Yankee
That I was, yet I knew what you meant. I
Called it love. No magic was needed. And we
Loved each other too, not in the way of
Romance but in the way of two poets loving
A stone, and the world that the stone signified.
Remember when we had that argument over
Pee and piss in your poem about the bear?
“Bears don’t pee, they piss,” I said. But you were
Adamant. “My bears pee.” And that was that.
Then you moved away, across the continent,
And sometimes for a year I didn’t see you.
We phoned and wrote, we kept in touch. And then
You moved again, much farther away, I don’t
Know where. No word from you now at all. But
I am faithful, my dear Denise. And I still
Love the stone, and, yes, I know its soul.

The Last 4 Things [That hard thread], by Kate Greenstreet

That hard thread
between us.

Is it gold? Do I have to be
so outshined by my curtain?

Opened,
especially by breaking.

people who would die
people who would almost

die and
who would be injured

My dad was in the water.
Across an unprecedented space.

It would rain
for days, they said

he’d come home.
[lists the father’s wounds]

 

That hard thread
is a bone. Is made of bone.

When I was
alone,
a girl,

the first loss,
between tunnels…

I didn’t need so much.
I’d eventually get hungry.

From the Long Sad Party, by Mark Strand

Someone was saying
something about shadows covering the field, about
how things pass, how one sleeps towards morning
and the morning goes.

Someone was saying
how the wind dies down but comes back,
how shells are the coffins of wind
but the weather continues.

It was a long night
and someone said something about the moon shedding its
white
on the cold field, that there was nothing ahead
but more of the same.

Someone mentioned
a city she had been in before the war, a room with two
candles
against a wall, someone dancing, someone watching.
We began to believe

the night would not end.
Someone was saying the music was over and no one had
noticed.
Then someone said something about the planets, about the
stars,
how small they were, how far away.

Fourth of July, 2012, by Robyn Schiff

I remember a performance
of Antigone in which she
threw herself on the floor of
the universe and picked up
a piece of dust. Is that
the particle? It startled me.
Was it Scripted? Directed?
Driven? I am a girl, Antigone.
I have a sister. We love
each other terribly. I am a woman
of property. The milk of the footlights.
The folds of the curtain. I remember
a performance of Antigone. She stooped.
There was a wild particle.
It was glorified by my distance.
I heard the hooves of the dust.
The ticking of the script
calibrating oblivion. I saw
the particle hanging
and Antigone needed something
to do with her hands
and she did it.

Bells II, by John Ashbery

For just as a misunderstanding germinates
in a clear sky, climbing like a comma
from rack to misunderstood rack of worried clouds,
now difficult, now brusque, foregrounded, amoral,
the last birds took off into the abyss.
Now it was just us, though shielded,
separate, disparate. It almost seems—
and yet it doesn’t. Broken glass announces
more offenses, home invasions. Seems like
we’ve been here a long time. And still
ought to do those things. Every murk is a key.

No, it’s all right, don’t worry.
The long-fingered peninsulas have other fish to fry
as destiny germinates on summer sands, more lap top
than lap dog. And if I’d bargain you around the aisles,
don’t touch it, it’s a single thing.
We don’t know what breviaries are mixing cocktails for us
in the V room. It’s essential we be kept
out of the cordon. You should know. This is all about you:
how you arrived one cold day carrying your little knapsack
and crept in with us, to see how we could spell.
Others than old uncles hear us now,
hacking the website’s early spoilage distribution plan.

Redaction, by Carmen Giménez Smith

We make dogma out of letter writing: the apocryphal story
of Lincoln who wrote angry letters he never sent. We wait for letters
for days and days. Someone tells me I’ll write you a letter
and I feel he’s saying you’re different than anyone else.
Distance’s buzz gets louder and louder. It gets to be a blackest hole.
I want the letter about the time we cross the avenue, and you reach
for my hand without looking—I am afraid I’m not what you want.
We float down the street as if in the curve of a pod
and the starry black is like the inside of a secret. We’re drunk.
The streetlight exposes us which becomes the deepest
horror. Yes. End the letter like that, so it becomes authorless.
Then the letter might give off secrets: acid imbalances that detonate.

Miz Rosa Rides The Bus, by Angela Jackson

That day in December I sat down
by Miss Muffet of Montgomery.
I was myriad-weary. Feets swole
from sewing seams on a filthy fabric;
tired-sore a pedalin’ the rusty Singer;

dingy cotton thread jammed in the eye.
All lifelong I’d slide through century-reams
loathsome with tears. Dreaming my own
silk-self.

It was not like they all say. Miss Liberty Muffet
she didn’t
jump at the sight of me.
Not exactly.
They hauled me
away—a thousand kicking legs pinned down.

The rest of me I tell you—a cloud.
Beautiful trouble on the dead December
horizon. Come to sit in judgment.

How many miles as the Jim Crow flies?
Over oceans and some. I rumbled.
They couldn’t hold me down. Long.
No.

My feets were tired. My eyes were
sore. My heart was raw from hemming
dirty edges of Miss L. Muffet’s garment.
I rode again.

A thousand bloody miles after the Crow flies
that day in December long remembered when I sat down
beside Miss Muffet of Montgomery.
I said—like the joke say—What’s in the bowl, Thief?
I said—That’s your curse.
I said—This my way.
She slipped her frock, disembarked,
settled in the suburbs, deaf, mute, lewd, and blind.
The bowl she left behind. The empty bowl mine.
The spoiled dress.

Jim Crow dies and ravens come with crumbs.
They say—Eat and be satisfied.
I fast and pray and ride.

Epistle: Leaving, by Kerrin McCadden

Dear train wreck, dear terrible engines, dear spilled freight,
dear unbelievable mess, all these years later I think
to write back. I was not who I am now. A sail is a boat,
a bark is a boat, a mast is a boat and the train was you and me.
Dear dark, dear paper, dear files I can’t toss, dear calendar
and visitation schedule, dear hello and goodbye.

If a life is one thing and then another; if no grasses grow
through the tracks; if the train wreck is a red herring;
if goodbye then sincerely. Dear disappeared bodies
and transitions, dear edge of a good paragraph.
Before the wreck, we misunderstood revision.

I revise things now. I teach pertinence. A girl in class told
us about some boys who found bodies on the tracks
then went back and they were gone, the bodies.
It was true that this story was a lie, like all things

done to be seen. I still think about this story, what it would
be like to be a boy finding bodies out in the woods,
however they were left—and think of all the ways they
could be left. There I was, teaching the building
of a good paragraph, dutiful investigator

of sentences, thinking dear boys, dear stillness in the woods,
until, again, there is the boy I knew as a man
whose father left him at a gas station, and unlike the lie
of the girl’s story, this one is true—he left him there for good.

Sometimes this boy, nine and pale, is sitting next to me, sitting there
watching trains go past the gas station in Wyoming,
thinking there is a train going one way, and a train
going the other way, each at different and variable speeds:
how many miles before something happens
that feels like answers when we write them down—

like solid paragraphs full of transitional phrases
and compound, complex sentences, the waiting space
between things that ends either in pleasure or pain. He
keeps showing up, dear boy, man now, and beautiful

like the northern forest, hardwoods iced over.

Streets, by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
in this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.

Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.

E.H., by John Koethe

Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor,
Not going left, not going right.

—Stephen Sondheim

I like to get drunk and I like to write.
I search for ways in and can’t find them,
But that doesn’t mean they’re not there. What isn’t
There is the life between the words, the life that existed
Beyond the words, the life I don’t have anymore.
In Michigan the feelings soaked the page,
Yet now they seem diminished in the telling
And no longer in our time, no longer of our place,
But in another country, one of an imagination
Anchored in a style; no longer in the stream
Or swamp, where the fishing was tragic.

I (whichever I this is) saw Follies last year.
The Weismann Girls come back to stand for what they were
And aren’t anymore, in a theatre slated for demolition.
Sally is a prisoner of her rage and her imagination,
Pining for the magic of what might have been
Until the spell breaks, leaving her alone on the stage
Amid the shards of her illusions. As she looks around
For what she is, all she can find is her age:
“I’m forty-nine. That’s all I am.”

Why do I get so angry? Why do I assume
The characters I love, the characters I love and hate?
There’s a corruption from which I’ve never recovered
That diminishes me each day, until I can’t tell which I am
Anymore, the mask or the face. The boat in Havana:
Last time was the last time. The stirring begins each night
And continues through the day here in a home that isn’t home,
With Michigan far away, the finca far away, alone
In the vestibule in the early morning light, imagining
The feeling of cool steel against my forehead
And the sound of two drawers slamming.
I’m sixty-two. That’s all I am.

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.

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.

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.

The Truth, by Carl Phillips

And now,
the horse is entering
the sea, and the sea

holds it.

Where are we?

Behind us,
the beach,
yes, its

scrim,
yes, of
grass, dune, sky—Desire

goes by, and though
it’s wind of course making
the grass bend,

unbend, we say
it’s desire again, passing
us by, souveniring us with
gospel the grass, turned
choir, leans into,

Coming—
Lord, soon.

Because
it still matters, to say something. Like:
the heart isn’t

really breakable,
not in the way you mean, any more
than a life shatters,

—which is what
dropped shells can do, or a bond sworn to,
remember, once

couldn’t, a wooden boat between
unmanageable wave and rock or,
as hard, the shore.

The wooden boat is
not the heart,
the wave the flesh,
the rock the soul—

and if we thought so, we have merely been
that long
mistaken.

Also,
about the shore: it doesn’t
mean all trespass
is forgiven, if nightly
the sand is cleared of
any sign
we were here.

It doesn’t equal that whether
we were here or not
matters,
doesn’t—

Waves, because
so little of the world, even
when we say that it has
shifted, has:

same voices,
ghosts, same
hungers come,
stop coming—
Soon—

How far the land can be found to
be, and
of a sudden,
sometimes. Now—
so far from rest,
should rest be needed—

Will it drown?

The horse, I mean.

And I—who do not ride, and
do not swim

And would that I had never climbed
its back

And love you too

Four Poems for Robin, by Gary Snyder

Four Poems for Robin, by Gary Snyder


Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest
by Gary Snyder

I slept under rhododendron
All night blossoms fell
Shivering on a sheet of cardboard
Feet stuck in my pack
Hands deep in my pockets
Barely able to sleep.
I remembered when we were in school
Sleeping together in a big warm bed
We were the youngest lovers
When we broke up we were still nineteen
Now our friends are married
You teach school back east
I dont mind living this way
Green hills the long blue beach
But sometimes sleeping in the open
I think back when I had you.


A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji
by Gary Snyder

Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.


An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji
by Gary Snyder

Last night watching the Pleiades,
Breath smoking in the moonlight,
Bitter memory like vomit
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag
On mats on the porch
Under thick autumn stars.
In dream you appeared
(Three times in nine years)
Wild, cold, and accusing.
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.
The first time I have
Ever seen them close.


December at Yase
by Gary Snyder

You said, that October,
In the tall dry grass by the orchard
When you chose to be free,
“Again someday, maybe ten years.”

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have
Gone by: I’ve always known
where you were—
I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.

I didn’t.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my
karma demands.


 

Yellow Stars and Ice, by Susan Stewart

I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds
and you are as far as the deepest root and wound,
and I am as far as a train at evening,
as far as a whistle you can’t hear or remember.
You are as far as an unimagined animal
who, frightened by everything, never appears.
I am as far as cicadas and locusts
and you are as far as the cleanest arrow
that has sewn the wind to the light on
the birch trees. I am as far as the sleep of rivers
that stains the deepest sky between clouds,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.

You are as far as a red-marbled stream
where children cut their feet on the stones
and cry out. And I am as far as their happy
mothers, bleaching new linen on the grass
and singing, “You are as far as another life,
as far as another life are you.”
And I am as far as an infinite alphabet
made from yellow stars and ice,
and you are as far as the nails of the dead man,
as far as a sailor can see at midnight
when he’s drunk and the moon is an empty cup,
and I am as far as invention and you are as far as memory.

I am as far as the corners of a room where no one
has ever spoken, as far as the four lost corners
of the earth. And you are as far as the voices
of the dumb, as the broken limbs of saints
and soldiers, as the scarlet wing of the suicidal
blackbird, I am farther and farther away from you.
And you are as far as a horse without a rider
can run in six years, two months and five days.
I am as far as that rider, who rubs his eyes with
his blistered hands, who watches a ghost don his
jacket and boots and now stands naked in the road.
As far as the space between word and word,
as the heavy sleep of the perfectly loved
and the sirens of wars no one living can remember,
as far as this room, where no words have been spoken,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.

The Meaning of Zero: A Love Poem, by Amy Uyematsu

Is where space ends called death or infinity?
Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions

A mere eyelid’s distance between you and me.

It took us a long time to discover the number zero.

John’s brother is afraid to go outside.
He claims he knows
the meaning of zero.

I want to kiss you.

A mathematician once told me you can add infinity
to infinity.

There is a zero vector, which starts and ends
at the same place, its force
and movement impossible
to record with
rays or maps or words.
It intersects yet runs parallel
with all others.

A young man I know
wants me to prove
the zero vector exists.
I tell him I can’t,
but nothing in my world
makes sense without it.

Directions for Lines that will Remain Unfinished, by Sarah Messer

Line to be sewn into a skirt hem
held in my mouth ever since the  unraveling

Line beneath a bridge
for years without hope I stretched my arms into the river searching for you

Line to be sent to the cornfield
history is a hallway of leaves.

Line written for electric wires
your voice inside the no history, sitting still

Line for future people
inside the work, only my empty teeth

Line from Maharaj
Presently you are in quietude. Is it on this side of sleep or on the other side?

Line that cannot be read because of its darkness
impossible walk under weight of honey
away from your hands that break me in half

Line addressing President Lincoln
when the handle and blade are gone, what remains
of your axe?

Line to be run over by a lawn mower
afraid of everything and to be of no use.

Line for a distant midnight dog-pack
because I can never speak it

Line to be sewn into a shirt collar
the streak of your finger across the hood of the car

Line for a stone growing old
a sunburst that lands inside a flower

Line written only with your mouth
desire is a trick ghost

Line for the garden weeds
slowly I am nearer to you

Line describing the better qualities of monsters
are we afraid of what we wished for?

Three lines written for bears
inside cells, water, trees, I am meaningless
darkness and light wind like breath on fur
I carry the circling cities inside me

Line for a leaf blown into the hair of the Master
seeing you, I want no other life

Line for a mouse
to die like that, held in your hands

Sonnet V, by Mahmoud Darwish

I touch you as a lonely violin touches the suburbs of the faraway place
patiently the river asks for its share of the drizzle
and, bit by bit, a tomorrow passing in poems approaches
so I carry faraway’s land and it carries me on travel’s road

On a mare made of your virtues, my soul weaves
a natural sky made of your shadows, one chrysalis at a time.
I am the son of what you do in the earth, son of my wounds
that have lit up the pomegranate blossoms in your closed-up gardens

Out of jasmine the night’s blood streams white. Your perfume,
my weakness and your secret, follows me like a snakebite. And your hair
is a tent of wind autumn in color. I walk along with speech
to the last of the words a bedouin told a pair of doves

I palpate you as a violin palpates the silk of the faraway time
and around me and you sprouts the grass of an ancient place—anew

If It All Went Up in Smoke, by George Oppen

that smoke
would remain

the forever
savage country poem’s light borrowed

light of the landscape and one’s footprints praise

from distance
in the close
crowd all

that is strange the sources

the wells the poem begins

neither in word
nor meaning but the small
selves haunting

us in the stones and is less

always than that help me I am
of that people the grass

blades touch

and touch in their small

distances the poem
begins