Remarks on Poetry and the Physical World, by Mary Barnard

After reading Ash Wednesday
she looked once at the baked beans
and fled. Luncheonless, poor girl,
she observed a kind of poetic Lent—
and I had thought I liked poetry
better than she did.

I do. But to me its most endearing
quality is its unsuitableness;
and, conversely, the chief wonder in heaven
(whither I also am sometimes transported)
is the kind of baggage I bring with me.

Surely there is no more exquisite jointure
in the anatomy of life than that at which
poetry dovetails with the inevitable meal
and Mrs. B. sits murmuring of avocados.

Autumn, by Richard Garcia

Both lying on our sides, making love in
spoon position when she’s startled, What’s that?
She means the enormous ship passing before you-
maybe not that large, is it a freighter

or a passenger ship? But it seems huge in the dark
and it’s so close. That’s a poem you say, D. H.
Lawrence-Have you built your ship of death,
have you? O build your ship of death,

For you will need it. Right here it would be good
if there were a small orchestra on board, you’d hear
them and say to her, That piece is called Autumn

that’s what the brave musicians played as the Titanic
went under-and then you could name this poem “Autumn.”
But no, the ship is silent, its white lights glow in the darkness.

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.

Unpacking a Globe, by Arthur Sze

I gaze at the Pacific and don’t expect
to ever see the heads on Easter Island,

though I guess at sunlight rippling
the yellow grasses sloping to shore;

yesterday a doe ate grass in the orchard:
it lifted its ears and stopped eating

when it sensed us watching from
a glass hallway—in his sleep, a veteran

sweats, defusing a land mine.
On the globe, I mark the Battle of

the Coral Sea—no one frets at that now.
A poem can never be too dark,

I nod and, staring at the Kenai, hear
ice breaking up along an inlet;

yesterday a coyote trotted across
my headlights and turned his head

but didn’t break stride; that’s how
I want to live on this planet:

alive to a rabbit at a glass door—
and flower where there is no flower.

Letter To A Future Lover, by Ander Monson

You were my birthday present; you came to the door—no one else was home, you said “let’s celebrate.” We dropped acid and went to the friend with the nocturnal monkey-like animal and made love for hours….

inscribed in Gary Snyder, Turtle Island (Casa de los Niños discard library)

Handwritten, it goes without saying, this inscription to an unnamed lover goes on for three pages before arriving at a final sorrow at the lover’s loss—”today we are with different lovers”—but no regrets. Was it ever sent? Ever read? One thing is sure: it was inscribed and meant. Such passion cannot be shrugged off until it can. I found the book in Casa de los Niños on Prince and Mountain, thrift shop stuffed with this stuff, the stuffing escaping the chewed-on animals packed in the discount bin. Pick six for a buck. Doll heads are free. They stare at your future, our future, maybe, lover, if we ever come together.

Dear future lover, every time it feels like forever when it’s new: bright colors, fabric softener, calliopes that were once terrifying softening into daylight as it fades. You know, your lovers surely number more than mine; that’s fine, but when I fall, it’s Ditch Witch hitting electric line, the whole world alive and lit in amperes for a moment. It might be gone again a nanosecond later, the body aching with or for or from the jolt; & perhaps it’s fever dream; & who cares where it comes from as long as it’s fast and seems like it might last until we’re rusting into dust? We are always dying for the future. Otherwise it couldn’t ever come. That it might split ever’s seams apart, that it might bring down the lights until forever’s in the mirror, and the book is given up for thrift: it doesn’t matter. Maybe this book was never sent. I can imagine that, an inscription toward the future. Maybe the lover’s dead. Maybe the lover’s lover’s dead. Maybe we all are like those who had their laughs recorded into tracks for television shows years before, who continue to laugh now a lifetime a lifeline a phone-a-friend later, disembodied, at jokes that are no longer funny. Perhaps they never were.

We are all in wires eventually, reduced to what we said, or didn’t say, and what we wrote or didn’t write, who we loved or didn’t love, or loved and lost and never told it except writing in or to a book. We are all discarded, discordant, confusingly, and so I salute your bravery, book inscriber. Your heart is big enough for both of us, so that there is no room for mockery in me. Anyone willing to strip themselves this bare this fast this way deserves our breathlessness and our hearts’ attention. Let us spend an hour, then longer, in contemplation. If you open, open all the way, or as much as you can bear, or else there’s nothing here at all.

The inscription goes on to quote from Duras’s The Lover, then “I cried when I was with you this time more than twenty years later…it was the reason for life and yet I knew it would end.”

A codex is a door, future lover. You can put whatever through it for a reader you imagine coming to your words in a day, a decade, a daze of centuries, entries in a future book. Codices have histories. They are leafed, spined, embodied, read by future lovers I imagine in bodices in just this kind of light at night. The future is a mystery, lover, a memory. The scent of wisteria coming up from somewhere.

Or: a codex is a hole through which we might not communicate, but instead be transformed entirely, through which we might descend without notice or equipment and not want or be able to return.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow, by Robert Duncan

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down

whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

Last night, by Michael Broder

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

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

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

Six Words, by Lloyd Schwartz

yes
no
maybe
sometimes
always
never

Never?
Yes.
Always?
No.
Sometimes?
Maybe

maybe
never
sometimes.
Yes—
no
always:

always
maybe.
No—
never
yes.
Sometimes,

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

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

yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.

Folly Stamp, by Prageeta Sharma

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

We live downtown,
exposed to the alley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistemology of the Phone Booth, by Gregory Pardlo

I found the scrap of City Paper
classified, the 1-900 number and photos
like candidates there, in love’s voting machine.

Discomfort station. No pissoir. Hothouse maybe for
a fourteenth-year sprig: me. Light box
to slideshow the introvert
cloaked in a prepaid identity

discreet as a shirttail in the fly.
Ma Bell’s shelter
was brutal & snug. I’d heard the ram’s horn hum.
A hymn. Just like prayer I thought. No answer.
Clack’d the splendid tongue
and bloom!
Salutations rose like pollen, prepped me for
the inverse of police
sketch artists, the one who would evoke so I could render,
in my mind, the enigma of the wanted; one to source
the vacuum wrenching stutters like rivets

off my tongue.
Plink. Into the sewer of the mouthpiece.
Then the universal ballad of the waiting room.
Casiotone.
Hold (me) music.

No orgone
closet. More like that other-lonely doom—the body
encapsulated, its inventory ever unknown. Dantean vestibule.
Anti-chat room.
When the genderless voice beyond
began to lavish I grew ears all over,
inner ears
swiveling from one tepid libretto to the next
tuning for some satin frequency the culture
promised until, I repent (forgive me father), the card went bust.

Poem, by Rachel Zucker

The other day Matt Rohrer said,
the next time you feel yourself going dark
in a poem, just don’t, and see what happens.

That was when Matt, Deborah Landau,
Catherine Barnett, and I were chatting,
on our way to somewhere and something else.

In her office, a few minutes earlier, Deborah
had asked, are you happy? And I said, um, yes,
actually, and Deborah: well, I’m not—

all I do is work and work. And the phone
rang every thirty seconds and between
calls Deborah said, I asked Catherine

if she was happy and Catherine said, life
isn’t about happiness it’s about helping
other people. I shrugged, not knowing how

to respond to such a fine idea.
So, what makes you happy?
Deborah asked, in an accusatory way,

and I said, I guess, the baby, really,
because he makes me stop
working? And Deborah looked sad

and just then her husband called
and Deborah said, Mark, I’ve got
rachel Zucker here, she’s happy,

I’ll have to call you back. And then
we left her office and went downstairs
to the salon where a few weeks before

we’d read poems for the Not for Mothers Only
anthology and I especially liked Julie Carr’s
poem about crying while driving while listening to

the radio report news of the war while her kids
fought in the back seat while she remembered
her mother crying while driving, listening to

news about the war. There were a lot of poems
that night about crying, about the war, about
fighting, about rage, anger, and work. Afterward

Katy Lederer came up to me and said,
“I don’t believe in happiness”—you’re such a bitch
for using that line, now no one else can.

Deborah and I walked through that now-sedated space
which felt smaller and shabby without Anne Waldman
and all those women and poems and suddenly

there was Catherine in a splash of sunlight
at the foot of a flight of stairs talking to Matt Rohrer
on his way to a room or rooms I’ve never seen.

And that’s when Deborah told Matt that I was
happy and that Catherine thought life wasn’t about
happiness and Deborah laughed a little and flipped

her hair (she is quite glamorous) and said, but Matt,
are you happy? Well, Matt said he had a bit of a coldd
but otherwise was and that’s when he said,

next time you feel yourself going dark in a poem,
just don’t, and see what happens. And then,
because it was Julian’s sixth birthday, Deborah went

to bring him cupcakes at school and Catherine and I
went to talk to graduate students who teach poetry
to children in hospitals and shelters and other

unhappy places and Matt went up the stairs to the room
or rooms I’ve never seen. That was last week and now
I’m here, in bed, turning toward something I haven’t felt

for a long while. A few minutes ago I held our baby up
to the bright window and sang the song I always sing
before he takes his nap. He whined and struggled

the way toddlers do, wanting to move on to something
else, something next, and his infancy is almost over.
He is crying himself to sleep now and I will not say

how full of sorrow I feel, but will turn instead
to that day, only a week ago, when I was
the happiest poet in the room, including Matt Rohrer.

Garden of Bees, by Matthew Rohrer

The narcissus grows past

the towers. Eight gypsy

sisters spread their wings

in the garden. Their gold teeth

are unnerving. Every single

baby is asleep. They want

a little money and I give

them less. I’m charming and

handsome. They take my pen.

I buy the poem from the garden

of bees for one euro. A touch

on the arm. A mystery word.

The sky has two faces.

For reasons unaccountable

my hand trembles.

In Roman times if they were

horrified of bees they kept it secret