Put Down That TV Tray, by Sina Queyras

All I ever wanted was that living room, Sunday evening, chicken
In the roaster, that deep orange sofa, that maple table
Spread out like a wagon wheel upon which cups of tea floated
And macramé or puzzles could be assembled. Don’t tell me

Disney isn’t reality: whole cities have ticked by in nylon print
T-shirts, under lithographs of the Blue Boy in plastic K-Mart frames.
Poets, don’t let your poems grow up to be idealists. I want in.
I agree we need to rethink everything from landfills to the accumulation

Of fat around the heart, but there really is nothing like a castle
Under a neon moon ringed with LED flowers. Also, dogs do
Find their way home, and while beds can’t fly you can wake
From a good trip around the Internet and be hungry for a Pop-Tart.

Don’t say you can’t, or won’t, or that my dream is flimsy: there is nothing
Less thrilling than a critique of others, how they do or do not, twirl.

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.

Beauty Supply, by Lee Ann Brown

Sheaves of wheat in cement relief
Supply the beauties of Archer Ave.

Past the scaffolded brick church spire
We turn on the vacant corner lot

Through winds worthy of Hopkins (Gerard M.)
New words — Alexus — Everything must go

"Include everything in poetry"
Even the things you think are nothing

Like the way the new white snowflake
Decoration waves its wild tentacles
     against the high blue sky

    loop and angle
Black graffiti palimpsests the
    yellow official sign of Danger
in bus stairwell

She stares at me unsmiling
    with cold Northface
Notices me writing but says nothing
    with her eye

The corner lot I used to chart or cheat in its ‘vacancies'
Configures new blown trash and walk through paths

Subjected to random search

Has grown a mouth of gravel
Constructed in a cone
Surrounded by temporary fence
    Of blue nailed board

Now on Roti Avenue
Cutlery & Wang Quai

Amalgam of chairs,
Jamaica Island Center

Forty-Seven Minutes, by Nick Flynn

Years later I’m standing before a roomful of young writers in a high school in Texas. I’ve asked them to locate an image in a poem we’d just read—their heads at this moment are bowed to the page. After some back & forth about the grass & a styrofoam cup, a girl raises her hand & asks, Does it matter? I smile—it is as if the universe balanced on those three words & we’ve landed in the unanswerable. I have to admit that no, it doesn’t, not really, matter, if rain is an image or rain is an idea or rain is a sound in our heads. But, I whisper, leaning in close, to get through the next forty-seven minutes we might have to pretend it does.

Speaking Is, by Cara Benson

A trapezoid. Piano keys fill soup bowls.
The moon wreaks havoc on the dandy
in a field of proclamations.

A chamber pot. Walk-in closet rife
with used jackhammers. I find a helmet
by the washer-dryer for my free

free-speech call. The power dips
during dinner, sends every clock protesting.
I am reminded I do not declare

enough. Not customs—accounting.

Mingus at the Showplace, by William Matthews

I was miserable, of course, for I was seventeen,
and so I swung into action and wrote a poem,

and it was miserable, for that was how I thought
poetry worked: you digested experience and shat

literature. It was 1960 at The Showplace, long since
defunct, on West 4th St., and I sat at the bar,

casting beer money from a thin reel of ones,
the kid in the city, big ears like a puppy.

And I knew Mingus was a genius. I knew two
other things, but they were wrong, as it happened.

So I made him look at the poem.
“There’s a lot of that going around,” he said,

and Sweet Baby Jesus he was right. He laughed
amiably. He didn’t look as if he thought

bad poems were dangerous, the way some poets do.
If they were baseball executives they’d plot

to destroy sandlots everywhere so that the game
could be saved from children. Of course later

that night he fired his pianist in mid-number
and flurried him from the stand.

“We’ve suffered a diminuendo in personnel,”
he explained, and the band played on.

Eclogue In Line To View The Clock By Christian Marclay, by Brian Blanchfield

Okay, but now imagine someone,
one of fifty, say, in the queue, fiftieth first
and advancing little, somewhere within
the seventy-two-hour window of efficacy
for post-exposure prophylaxis, and, later,
in the screening room watching The Clock
with the few dozen others in rows behind and ahead
who had waited too. He knows he has to
but he hasn’t yet. We pick it up there.
It is two thousand eleven a few more days.
The movie tells what time it is.
In poetry too we all face forward.

How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson

It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.

Molemen Beat Tapes, by Kevin Coval

were copped from Gramophone.
cassettes jammed into a factory-
issued stereo deck of the hoopty
i rolled around in. a bucket. bass
and drum looped with some string
sample, fixed. a sliver of perfect
adjusted. the scrapes of something
reconstituted. there was so much
space to fill. an invitation to utter.
Iqra– Allah said to the prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon Him).
a- to b-side and around again. a circle
a cipher. i’d drive down and back
in my mom’s Dodge for the latest
volumes of sound. i’d stutter
and stop and begin again. lonesome
and on fire. none. no one i knew
rapped. i’d recite alone on Clark St.
free, styling, shaping, my voice
a sapling, hatchling, rapping
my life, emerging in the dark
of an empty car.

there was a time when hip-hop felt like a secret
society of wizards and wordsmiths. magicians
meant to find you or that you were meant to find
like rappers i listened to and memorized in history
class talked specifically to me, for me.

& sometimes
you’d see a kid whisper to himself
in the corner of a bus seat & you
asked if he rhymed & traded a poem
a verse like a fur pelt/trapping.
some gold or food. this sustenance.
you didn’t have to ride solo anymore.

Jonathan was the first kid i met who rapped. he was Black
from a prep school, wore ski goggles on top his head & listened
to Wu-Tang which meant he was always rhyming about science
and chess. his pops made him read Sun Tzu. his mans was Omega
a fat Puerto Rican who wrote graffiti and smoked bidis.

& they’d have friends
& the backseat would swell
& the word got passed/scooped like a ball
on the playground. you’d juggle however long
your mind could double Dutch. sometimes you’d take
what you were given/lift off like a trampoline
rocket launch. sometimes you’d trip & scrape
your knees. tongue-tied, not quick. words stuck
on loop, like like words, stuck, like that. but break
thru, mind, knife sharp, mind darts
polished & gleaming we’d ride
for the sake of rhyming. take the long way
home or wherever the fuck we were going
cruise down Lake Shore & back, blasting
blazing. polishing these gems.
trying to get our mind right.

Georgette, by Erín Moure

Dignified is a heartsong here
Harsh traverse of the unknown

“Better to go down dignified”
Ekes out
constant

What gives in us, or won’t give
(her smile seen once in the Red Café)

Turns sparkless
Into sparklers

One “s” less
One “r” more, Georgette

— — — — —

The new wall we built that year
where the house side had been torn out

Grammar we called in

like a bet on narrative

— — — — —

Now I am the only one who hasn’t yet gone in;
and I have these sentences

(fissures in the hand)

B-Sides from my Idol Tryouts, by Harmony Holiday

1. Just like in true life

The wild geese approaching treason, now federated along one keep

May we find a rafter

2. I like the way you don’t
go into the cabin
That is how I like it: methodically, mythically, my accidents are protests,
are my only protests, they are never accidents

3. We even misprism the past
Turn our waltz on the face of another
To turn on
To turn against
Opposite statements that express the same, sometimes, or binary like the lines:
Man is something to be overcome, what you you done to overcome him
or
Just how far can you push the heroic guy to being evil
and how far can you push the villain to being somebody you can
care about
or
Floodtide beneath you, I see you face to face

4. Check out your mind
Masquerading with dawn
It was invented by the press
Press harder (press not push)
The bell, the liquor, the deck of card crisp hardships surfacing as clovers and nights at his club getting low, if they ask you to sell them, don’t
On the Corner, (side 1) try
Thinking of one thing and doing another

4. Repeat: But we are
Only getting rich in order to repeat these trips

5. But we are getting rich in order…
So neither group can be understood except in relation to the other
as in/
as out/
as excuses for true stories—

It’s just that his passion costumes his thoughts,
not just his past
Not just a fat vacation Sunday
Also an emaciated smoke break
Also broken into images of smoke,

the way smoke moves
From tobacco
or factory chimney
your mouth
your vandalised memory
in order
to get rich
Someone has to work there and believe it into disappearance

6. Wealth: I am farmers/I am a thief.
Fame money/anonymous fame/factory farmed/black thief/by black I mean/
Buy black I mean
We are what sells
Thinking to ourselves:
Something in me wishes this wasn’t my poem—
That emotion is glory or—
still?

7. Compliments: The only one I want is (the) speechless/
ness, (he) nestled in me bold and hip like a broken risk

8. Peaty Greene, Casius X (who’s that) Jack Johnson, Blind Tom Wiggans, Bama the Village Poet, Gregor Samson, Fred Hampton, Josephine Baker, Lester Young, will you give up your death for me? Teach me why I am a destiny

9. If you think about me, and you ain’t gonna do no revolutionary act, forget about me, I don’t want myself on your mind

10. Anyway, innocence. Man is something to be overcome, what have you done to overcome him. Digitally pacing the stage as his future and his past, a full body holograph of Tupac Shakur. But then when he got shot no bitches came out, no music, nothin’. Just some critics’ unphased mumblings: man you were marvelous but your co-star the gun was a bit over the top

11. Rehearsal for God Bless the Child.
I wanna get it right
Let’s start with ‘rich relations’
Green sides of goldsides
I immediately had to get a drum instructor a trumpet teacher and a sword twirling coach. Get your silence together. Hope is final

12. Super soul/supra soul/hip hop’s egoless self-agrandisement is the next
toll/phase on the free/way, high/way, autoroute, or space between proof and privacy in loose weather

13.The man you love is walking home in Hollywood. 5 or 6 police cars come up, about 8 cops around. You fit the description, you always fit the description, you fit the description of a robbery in the area. A black guy, wearing jeans, 5’8,” the whole thing

14. He had dreams of really hitting it big with his stereo store
He’d play samples of Caetano Veloso singing 9 out of ten movie stars make me cry, I’m alive!, or— One thing leads to another, but the kid is not my son or god bless the child that’s got his own

Our Many Never Endings, by Courtney Queeney

You entered the bedroom and fell to your knees.
I wait the rest of my life to hear you say, I made a mistake.

Inside my chest, a mangle.
Inside yours, a deflating balloon.

You took the vacuum cleaner, the ironing board, the dish rack
and left me some lint, an iron to scorch shirts, one chipped plate.

I would like to say at least we perfected
entrances and exits, like professional stage actors

honing their craft, but even that’s a fantasy.
Mostly on TV the lions ate the hyenas

but sometimes the hyenas
formed a posse, and tore a lion up.

Occasionally you came in out of the rain
and I was glad to have you.

Sound and Structure, by Barbara Guest

“Sound leads to structure.” Schönberg.

On this dry prepared path walk heavy feet.
This is not “dinner music.” This is a power structure.
heavy as eyelids.
Beams are laid. The master cuts music for the future.

Sound lays the structure. Sound leaks into the future.

The Ghost Has No Home, by Jeff Clark

This morning in an alleyway I was startled by a face
I seemed to recognize, in a dormer above a garage
and so slunk up to him, who was ranting quietly,
mauling the mind of some imagined ear out the pane
as if maligned, or high, like one
moony and almost witless in a poppy ditch,
or one waking ill and supine
in a wet bed of opening mullein:
“I have no desire to theorize language–
I was raised modestly and have sinned unspeakably.
I would rather waylay and destroy
whose voice molests me.”
On his desk a thin book I knew, a tragedy
whose residue was a Sentry’s couplet I half-knew
and began to recite–startling him who turning was outwardly
unknown to me–, “‘Does it hurt in your ears–‘”
“Fuck Antigone–I detest language, I detest artifice,
I would rather waylay and molest
the beast that has imagined and pent me here.”

Etta’s Elegy, by Maureen Seaton

for Etta Silver (1913–2013)

This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where the book closes and the clock
opens and the clock closes and the book

opens to song so the snow geese murmur
and the coyote swaggers along the aspens.

This is where the geese fly unabashedly out,
and the sky turns white and wild with sound.

This is where tumult, this is where prophecy.
This is where the poem repents of language.

This is where the poem enters silence,
where the child holds the book in her lap

whose pages are aflame with life, whose
song sways with a usable truth, sorrowing.

And this is where the poem holds its breath,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where it leaps wild about the child,
where the snow geese seize the seamless sky

and the universe splits open for one poem—
the way a life lived calls on us to praise it.

About this poem:

“Etta Silver read and loved poetry all her life. I loved her and she loved me. Her grandson, my friend, asked me to write a poem for her funeral. Inspired by Etta, and having just seen the snow geese fly out of the Bosque del Apache in southern New Mexico and heard the silence after they’d gone, I did.”

Maureen Seaton

 

The Language of the Birds, by Richard Siken

1

A man saw a bird and found him beautiful. The bird had a song inside him, and feathers. Sometimes the man felt like the bird and sometimes the man felt like a stone—solid, inevitable—but mostly he felt like a bird, or that there was a bird inside him, or that something inside him was like a bird fluttering. This went on for a long time.

2

A man saw a bird and wanted to paint it. The problem, if there was one, was simply a problem with the question. Why paint a bird? Why do anything at all? Not how, because hows are easy—series or sequence, one foot after the other—but existentially why bother, what does it solve?

And just because you want to paint a bird, do actually paint a bird, it doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished anything. Who gets to measure the distance between experience and its representation? Who controls the lines of inquiry? We do. Anyone can.

Blackbird, he says. So be it, indexed and normative. But it isn’t a bird, it’s a man in a bird suit, blue shoulders instead of feathers, because he isn’t looking at a bird, real bird, as he paints, he is looking at his heart, which is impossible.

Unless his heart is a metaphor for his heart, as everything is a metaphor for itself, so that looking at the paint is like looking at a bird that isn’t there, with a song in its throat that you don’t want to hear but you paint anyway.

The hand is a voice that can sing what the voice will not, and the hand wants to do something useful. Sometimes, at night, in bed, before I fall asleep, I think about a poem I might write, someday, about my heart, says the heart.

3

They looked at the animals. They looked at the walls of the cave. This is earlier, these are different men. They painted in torchlight: red mostly, sometimes black—mammoth, lion, horse, bear—things on a wall, in profile or superimposed, dynamic and alert.

They weren’t animals but they looked like animals, enough like animals to make it confusing, meant something but the meaning was slippery: it wasn’t there but it remained, looked like the thing but wasn’t the thing—was a second thing, following a second set of rules—and it was too late: their power over it was no longer absolute.

What is alive and what isn’t and what should we do about it? Theories: about the nature of the thing. And of the soul. Because people die. The fear: that nothing survives. The greater fear: that something does.

The night sky is vast and wide.

They huddled closer, shoulder to shoulder, painted themselves in herds, all together and apart from the rest. They looked at the sky, and at the mud, and at their hands in the mud, and their dead friends in the mud. This went on for a long time.

4

To be a bird, or a flock of birds doing something together, one or many, starling or murmuration. To be a man on a hill, or all the men on all the hills, or half a man shivering in the flock of himself. These are some choices.

The night sky is vast and wide.

A man had two birds in his head—not in his throat, not in his chest—and the birds would sing all day never stopping. The man thought to himself, One of these birds is not my bird. The birds agreed.

In the great snowfall before the bomb, by Lorine Niedecker

In the great snowfall before the bomb
colored yule tree lights
windows, the only glow for contemplation
along this road

I worked the print shop
right down among em
the folk from whom all poetry flows
and dreadfully much else.

I was Blondie
I carried my bundles of hog feeder price lists
down by Larry the Lug,
I’d never get anywhere
because I’d never had suction,
pull, you know, favor, drag,
well-oiled protection.

I heard their rehashed radio barbs—
more barbarous among hirelings
as higher-ups grow more corrupt.
But what vitality! The women hold jobs—
clean house, cook, raise children, bowl
and go to church.

What would they say if they knew
I sit for two months on six lines
of poetry?

On the Platform, by Tom Sleigh

1
The omen I didn’t know I was waiting for
pulled into the station the same instant as the train.
It was just a teenage boy busking on the platform,
cello cutting through garble, Bach’s repetitions

hard-edged as a scalpel probing an open wound.
But then I kept thinking how a sound wave
travels the path of least resistance,
how the notes rebound off steel and stone

the same as a blast wave shattering row on row
of windows as it swerves through the city.
And when the music stops, on the balcony

above the rubble, coffee and tea are served.
And if there’s sugar, is it one lump or two
and did you hear what happened to Mrs. So and So?

2
I saw, out from under the grime, whiskers
dipping into clear water that trickled between
the rails to get the feel of what was near-
the same scene as on the church wall, the slimy brethren

gathered at the river, one gnawing
an ear of corn, the rest intently listening
to Francis teaching them their catechism
about the wild man John and his crucified cousin.

Except they were birds in the painting, not rats.
But let’s go with that, let them stand
on hind legs and sniff incense and myrrh

wafting down from high up in the air
so that one day on miraculous, fly paper feet
they’ll scale the golden walls and storm the high ground.

3
Nothing moving on the platform, nothing for miles.
And then a shovel clanging against paving stone
like an old man clearing rubble while a rat climbs a vine
and looks into the broken window and smells the smells.

Rubble shoulder high after two weeks work,
a toilet with a sink and a light on a pull chain
stand framed at the end of the gravel walk
already sprouting suckers leafing out more green

from the fire that scorched the burned out bush.
Ten years, fifteen, and tree limbs shade the bedrooms
and branch out window frames toward the sun.

And where the electric pump pumped water for the town
the wellhead lies broken and two clear streams
wear ruts in the floor of the wrecked house.

Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit
the inferiority of his culture
—Frantz Fanon

And there are days when storms hover
Over my house, their brooding just this side of rage,
An open hand about to slap a face. You won’t believe me

When I tell you it is not personal. It isn’t. It only feels
That way because the face is yours. So what if it is the only
Face you’ve got? Listen, a storm will grab the first thing
In its path, a Persian cat, a sixth grade boy on his way home
From school, an old woman watering her roses, a black
Man running down a street (late to a dinner with his wife),
A white guy buying cigarettes at the corner store. A storm
Will grab a young woman trying to escape her boyfriend,
A garbage can, a Mexican busboy with no papers, you.
We are all collateral damage for someone’s beautiful
Ideology, all of us inanimate in the face of the onslaught.
My father had the biggest hands I’ve ever seen. He never
Wore a wedding ring. Somehow, it would have looked lost,
Misplaced on his thick worker’s hands that were, to me,
As large as Africa. There have been a good many storms
In Africa over the centuries. One was called colonialism
(Though I confess to loving Tarzan as a boy).

In my thirties,
I read a book by Frantz Fanon. I fell in love
With the storms in his book even though they broke
My heart and made me want to scream. What good
Is screaming? Even a bad actress in a horror flick
Can do that. In my twenties, I had fallen in love
With the storms in the essays of James Baldwin.
They were like perfect poems. His friends called
Him Jimmy. People didn’t think he was beautiful.
Oh God, but he was. He could make a hand that was
Slapping you into something that was loving, loving you.
He could make rage sound elegant. Have you ever
Read “Stranger in the Village?” How would you like
To feel like a fucking storm every time someone looked
At you?

One time I was
At a party. Some guy asked me: What are you, anyway?
I downed my beer. Mexican I said. Really he said, Do
You play soccer? No I said but I drink Tequila. He smiled
At me, That’s cool. I smiled back So what are you?
What do you think I am he said. An asshole I said. People
Hate you when you’re right. Especially if you’re Mexican.
And every time I leave town, I pray that people will stop
Repeating You’re from El Paso with that same tone
Of voice they use when they see a rat running across
Their living rooms, interrupting their second glass
Of scotch. My father’s dead (Though sometimes I wake
And swear he has never been more alive—especially when
I see him staring back at me as I shave in the morning).
Even though I understand something about hating a man
I have never really understood the logic of slavery.
What do I know? I don’t particularly like the idea of cheap
Labor. I don’t like guns. And I don’t even believe
White men are superior. Do you? I wanted to be
St. Francis. I took this ambition very seriously. Instead
I wound up becoming a middle-aged man who dreams
Storms where all the animals wind up dead. It scares
Me to think I have this dream inside me. Still,
I love dogs—even mean ones. I could forgive
A dog that bit me. But if a man bit me, that would be
Another story. I have made my peace with cats.
I am especially in love with hummingbirds (though
They’re as mean as roosters in a cock fight). Have
You ever seen the storms in the eyes of men who
Were betting on a cock fight?

Last night, there was hail, thunder,
A tornado touching down in the desert—though I was
Away and was not a first hand witness. I was in another
Place, listening to the waves of the ocean crash against
The shore. Sometimes I think the sea is angry. Who
Can blame it? There are a million things to be angry
About. Have you noticed that some people don’t give
A damn and just keep on shopping? Doesn’t that make you
Angry? A storm is like God. You don’t have to see it
To believe—sometimes you just have to place
Your faith in it. When my father walked into a room
It felt like that. Like the crashing waves. You know,
Like a storm. This is the truth of the matter: I am
The son of a storm. Look, every one has to be the son
Of something. The thing to do when you are caught
In the middle of a storm is to abandon your car,
Keep quiet. Pray. Wait. Tell that to the men
Who were sleeping on the Arizona when
The Japanese dropped their bombs. War is the worst
Kind of storm. The truth is I have never met a breathing
Human being who did not have at least one scar
On his body. Bombs and bullets do more than leave
A permanent mark on the skin. I have never liked
The expression they were out for blood.

There are days
When there are so many storms hovering around
My house that I cannot even see the blue in the sky.
My father loved the sky. He was trying to memorize
The clouds before he died. I confess to being
Jealous of the sky.

On Sunday Mornings
I picture Frantz Fanon as an old man. He is looking up
At the pure African sky. He is trying to imagine how it appeared
Before the white men came. I don’t want to dream all the dead
Animals we have made extinct. I want to dream a sky
Full of hummingbirds. I would like to die in such a storm.

Disgust, by Liam Rector

I was well towards the end
Of middle-age before I
Realized I loved saying

Disgusting things but didn’t
Really myself much enjoy hearing
Them. They

Go to the heart of life,
I realize (I think
Everyone recognizes this),

Since almost everyone
Can agree: Life, so
Generally disgusting.

But no one really
Wants to hear
That much about

The disgusting (except,
Perhaps, those who have frozen
Significant portions

Of their senses of humor
In the fifth grade, as I have).
Those of us who love

Verbally bringing up
The disgusting
Incessantly

Are usually prevented
From ever holding
Truly executive positions

In any organized
Situation, but there are,
Looking around I’ve noticed,

Plenty of us
Placed somewhere
In middle-management.

We are the ones
Managing things
“On the ground,”

As they say, the ground
Which is also where,
I can’t help but bring it

Up, most beasts of the field
Leave
Their ghastly deposits.

1939, by Marjorie Agosín

I

She knew how to seduce her destiny,
predict the time of flight
In 1939, dressed in garments
of night and happiness
at the threshold of a fearful
Hamburg Harbor
resolved to live,
she sailed
to Southern seas.

In 1938, the windows
of her house of water and stone
resisted the extreme
horror of that night
of broken crystals.

She, my grandmother,
taught me to recognize
the landscape of danger,
the shards of fear,
the impenetrable faces
of women,
fleeing,
accused,
audacious in their will to live.

II

Helena Broder,
created a domain
of papers, fragile vessels,
clandestine poems and
notes to be made,
discreet addresses.
With little baggage,
like a frail and ancient
angel,
she arrived,
although ready to embark again.

I survived next to her
and I was thankful for the gift of her presence.

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.

Casualty, by Seamus Heaney

I

He would drink by himself
And raise a weathered thumb
Towards the high shelf,
Calling another rum
And blackcurrant, without
Having to raise his voice,
Or order a quick stout
By a lifting of the eyes
And a discreet dumb-show
Of pulling off the top;
At closing time would go
In waders and peaked cap
Into the showery dark,
A dole-kept breadwinner
But a natural for work.
I loved his whole manner,
Sure-footed but too sly,
His deadpan sidling tact,
His fisherman’s quick eye
And turned observant back.

Incomprehensible
To him, my other life.
Sometimes on the high stool,
Too busy with his knife
At a tobacco plug
And not meeting my eye,
In the pause after a slug
He mentioned poetry.
We would be on our own
And, always politic
And shy of condescension,
I would manage by some trick
To switch the talk to eels
Or lore of the horse and cart
Or the Provisionals.

But my tentative art
His turned back watches too:
He was blown to bits
Out drinking in a curfew
Others obeyed, three nights
After they shot dead
The thirteen men in Derry.
PARAS THIRTEEN, the walls said,
BOGSIDE NIL. That Wednesday
Everyone held
His breath and trembled.

II

It was a day of cold
Raw silence, wind-blown
Surplice and soutane:
Rained-on, flower-laden
Coffin after coffin
Seemed to float from the door
Of the packed cathedral
Like blossoms on slow water.
The common funeral
Unrolled its swaddling band,
Lapping, tightening
Till we were braced and bound
Like brothers in a ring.

But he would not be held
At home by his own crowd
Whatever threats were phoned,
Whatever black flags waved.
I see him as he turned
In that bombed offending place,
Remorse fused with terror
In his still knowable face,
His cornered outfaced stare
Blinding in the flash.

He had gone miles away
For he drank like a fish
Nightly, naturally
Swimming towards the lure
Of warm lit-up places,
The blurred mesh and murmur
Drifting among glasses
In the gregarious smoke.
How culpable was he
That last night when he broke
Our tribe’s complicity?
‘Now, you’re supposed to be
An educated man,’
I hear him say. ‘Puzzle me
The right answer to that one.’

III

I missed his funeral,
Those quiet walkers
And sideways talkers
Shoaling out of his lane
To the respectable
Purring of the hearse…
They move in equal pace
With the habitual
Slow consolation
Of a dawdling engine,
The line lifted, hand
Over fist, cold sunshine
On the water, the land
Banked under fog: that morning
I was taken in his boat,
The screw purling, turning
Indolent fathoms white,
I tasted freedom with him.
To get out early, haul
Steadily off the bottom,
Dispraise the catch, and smile
As you find a rhythm
Working you, slow mile by mile,
Into your proper haunt
Somewhere, well out, beyond…

Dawn-sniffing revenant,
Plodder through midnight rain,
Question me again.

Preface to the “Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion”, by Nick Lantz

In the late spring of 1985,
we met in the weedy lot of the Orchid Pavilion Nursery
for a little ritual purification.

Everyone came, all the half-brothers and half-sisters,
the children not yet born,
and men so old they were young again.

We sat beside the aqueduct, and gold cans of beer
floated down to us
like the lines of poems.

The end of the twentieth century hung over
us like a cartoon anvil, but the breeze
that day was a knife so sharp

you couldn’t feel it cutting pieces off of you.
But then, when it’s sunny, no one remembers
how quickly a century turns over.

Our mothers always said that living and dying
ran on the same business model,
that one hand washed the other.

But how to tell that to the rat whose whiskers
will be bound into the brush
that inks these very lines about him?

No, there’s no use pretending the tears our mothers wept
over newborn babies and the dead
were even the same species of water.

How Do I Know When a Poem Is Finished?, by Naomi Shihab Nye

When you quietly close
the door to a room
the room is not finished.

It is resting. Temporarily.
Glad to be without you
for a while.

Now it has time to gather
its balls of gray dust,
to pitch them from corner to corner.

Now it seeps back into itself,
unruffled and proud.
Outlines grow firmer.

When you return,
you might move the stack of books,
freshen the water for the roses.

I think you could keep doing this
forever. But the blue chair looks best
with the red pillow. So you might as well

leave it that way.

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.

crack house, by Quraysh Ali Lansana

greeter

she hustles us in
eyes tired

shadows stutter
behind nervous trees

 

outer room

screen door grime
a porous portal

paneling drips
frantic carpet

 

living room

up early ricki lake
an endless loop

tv’s wide blue mouth
the only thing moving

 

pantry

she fast food she
buy one get one free

 

kitchen

parched bones
silently akimbo

peel of burn
gray of skin

he sizzles
cooks

Kissing Stieglitz Good-Bye, by Gerald Stern

Every city in America is approached
through a work of art, usually a bridge
but sometimes a road that curves underneath
or drops down from the sky. Pittsburgh has a tunnel—

you don’t know it—that takes you through the rivers
and under the burning hills. I went there to cry
in the woods or carry my heavy bicycle
through fire and flood. Some have little parks—

San Francisco has a park. Albuquerque
is beautiful from a distance; it is purple
at five in the evening. New York is Egyptian,
especially from the little rise on the hill

at 14-C; it has twelve entrances
like the body of Jesus, and Easton, where I lived,
has two small floating bridges in front of it
that brought me in and out. I said good-bye

to them both when I was 57. I’m reading
Joseph Wood Krutch again—the second time.
I love how he lived in the desert. I’m looking at the skull
of Georgia O’Keeffe. I’m kissing Stieglitz good-bye.

He was a city, Stieglitz was truly a city
in every sense of the word; he wore a library
across his chest; he had a church on his knees.
I’m kissing him good-bye; he was, for me,

the last true city; after him there were
only overpasses and shopping centers,
little enclaves here and there, a skyscraper
with nothing near it, maybe a meaningless turf

where whores couldn’t even walk, where nobody sits,
where nobody either lies or runs; either that
or some pure desert: a lizard under a boojum,
a flower sucking the water out of a rock.

What is the life of sadness worth, the bookstores
lost, the drugstores buried, a man with a stick
turning the bricks up, numbering the shards,
dream twenty-one, dream twenty-two. I left

with a glass of tears, a little artistic vial.
I put it in my leather pockets next
to my flask of Scotch, my golden knife and my keys,
my joyful poems and my T-shirts. Stieglitz is there

beside his famous number; there is smoke
and fire above his head; some bowlegged painter
is whispering in his ear; some lady-in-waiting
is taking down his words. I’m kissing Stieglitz

goodbye, my arms are wrapped around him, his photos
are making me cry; we’re walking down Fifth Avenue;
we’re looking for a pencil; there is a girl
standing against the wall—I’m shaking now

when I think of her; there are two buildings, one
is in blackness, there is a dying poplar;
there is a light on the meadow; there is a man
on a sagging porch. I would have believed in everything.

valentine for Sally Hemings, by Sojourner Ahebee

there’s a dead jefferson in every black girl’s belly,
an unknown hunger for something stolen.
i found a poem in these parts, in the belly of a black girl.

i was told to look in the garage,
into the person i almost liked,
at the bottom of an odd blue sock buried
in my dresser drawer:
the hiding places of my life.

oh, but if you only knew
the way I wanted to love the dead president,
rescue him from the depths of a stomach,
feed him the warm soil from a Virginia plantation,
feed him pages from my history books,
heavy with lies.

but then i heard Sally scream,
and wondered what she’d think of me,
i heard Sally scream
and wondered what all the black girls
with bloated bellies would think of me
in my confusion:
the way i mistaked his breath, smelling of lavender and france,
for liberty,
when this scent was made of more potent stuff,
of silence,
of a black girl’s blood against white sheets.

i went looking for a poem
in the darkness,
a love poem for Sally,
an apology,
a revelation,
a dead man haunting the hallways
of a breaking girl.

The Call, by C. Dale Young

in memoriam Cecil Young

I am addicted to words, constantly ferret them away
in anticipation. You cannot accuse me of not being prepared.
I am ready for anything. I can create an image faster than

just about anyone. And so, the crows blurring the tree line;
the sky’s light dimming and shifting; the Pacific cold and
impatient as ever: this is just the way I feel. Nothing more.

I could gussy up those crows, transform them
into something more formal, more Latinate, could use
the exact genus Corvus, but I won’t. Not today.

Like any addict, I, too, have limits. And I have written
too many elegies already. The Living have become
jealous of the amount I have written for the Dead.

So, leave the crows perched along the tree line
watching over us. Leave them be. The setting sun?
Leave it be. For God’s sake, what could be easier

in a poem about death than a setting sun? Leave it be.
Words cannot always help you, the old poet had taught
me, cannot always be there for you no matter how you

store them away with sharpened forethought.
Not the courier in his leather sandals, his legs dark and dirty
from the long race across the desert. Not the carrier

pigeon arriving with the news of another dead Caesar
and the request you present yourself. Nothing like that.
The telephone rings. Early one morning, the telephone rings

and the voice is your mother’s voice. No fanfare. Your
father’s brother is dead. He died that morning. And your tongue
went silent. Like any other minor poet, you could not find

the best words, the appropriate words. Leave it be now.
You let your mother talk and talk to fill the silence. Leave it be.
All of your practiced precision, all of the words saved up

for a poem, can do nothing to remedy that now.

5 & 7 & 5, by Anselm Hollo

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

§

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

§

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

§

night train whistles stars
over a nation under
mad temporal czars

§

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

§

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

§

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

§

sweet bouzouki sound
another syntax for heads
up to the aether

§

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

§

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

§

slow bloom inside you
the mnemonics of loving
incessant chatter

§

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

§

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

§

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

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.

National Poetry Month, by Elaine Equi

When a poem
speaks by itself,
it has a spark

and can be considered
part of a divine
conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

like a puddle
crudely outlined
with yellow tape

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

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

Success Comes to Cow Creek, by James Tate

I sit on the tracks,
a hundred feet from
earth, fifty from the
water. Gerald is
inching toward me
as grim, slow, and
determined as a
season, because he
has no trade and wants
none. It’s been nine months
since I last listened
to his fate, but I
know what he will say:
he’s the fire hydrant
of the underdog.

When he reaches my
point above the creek,
he sits down without
salutation, and
spits profoundly out
past the edge, and peeks
for meaning in the
ripple it brings. He
scowls. He speaks: when you
walk down any street
you see nothing but
coagulations
of shit and vomit,
and I’m sick of it.
I suggest suicide;
he prefers murder,
and spits again for
the sake of all the
great devout losers.

A conductor’s horn
concerto breaks the
air, and we, two doomed
pennies on the track,
shove off and somersault
like anesthetized
fleas, ruffling the
ideal locomotive
poised on the water
with our light, dry bodies.
Gerald shouts
terrifically as
he sails downstream like
a young man with a
destination. I
swim toward shore as
fast as my boots will
allow; as always,
neglecting to drown.

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.


 

Survivor Guilt, by Ron Padgett

It’s very easy to get.
Just keep living and you’ll find yourself
getting more and more of it.
You can keep it or pass it on,
but it’s a good idea to keep a small portion
for those nights when you’re feeling so good
you forget you’re human. Then drudge it up
and float down from the ceiling
that is covered with stars that glow in the dark
for the sole purpose of being beautiful for you,
and as you sink their beauty dims and goes out—
I mean it flies out the nearest door or window,
its whoosh raising the hair on your forearms.
If only your arms were green, you could have two small lawns!
But your arms are just there and you are kaput.
It’s all your fault, anyway, and it always has been—
the kind word you thought of saying but didn’t,
the appalling decline of human decency, global warming,
thermonuclear nightmares, your own small cowardice,
your stupid idea that you would live forever—
all tua culpa. John Phillip Sousa
invented the sousaphone, which is also your fault.
Its notes resound like monstrous ricochets.

But when you wake up your body
seems to fit fairly well, like a tailored suit,
and you don’t look too bad in the mirror.
Hi there, feller! Old feller, young feller, who cares?
Whoever it was who felt guilty last night,
to hell with him. That was then.


 

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Slide, by Kate Colby

You and I inhabit thresholds, clinging to neither here nor there, and to
and: this is a threshold of no relief, of interrogative light and obviated
shadows, of questions flattened between clapboard slides,
in laboratories of hanging frames—in a potential frame,
the next moment slumps beneath the shadow of the overhang.

They call it earthquake weather, a day like this, of reflected light
and leveling heat of no relief, of corners around which
and angles of incidence jellied in consommé,
molded in amber lunches of tea and
impossible: no incidents or tension, no reflection.

No striations: rather, bangle, a broken shoelace
and what are we going to do about that hair?

We were in a boat. You were navigating and I was tending
the lines, which flew from my hands, flapping like live wires
on the wind. You watched the shadow of our sail on the water
through the light reflected in your face, conducted a depth sounding:

You went under, but not overboard, swam away to plot reliefs
of ocean floors. It is far too shallow here to die.

 

for Chip Madden

Iris, by David St. John

Vivian St. John (1881-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

You think I’m crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is

A train inside this iris.

It’s a child’s finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child’s nail,

A darkened porthole lit by the white, angular face

Of an old woman, or perhaps the boy beside her in the stuffy,
Hot compartment. Her hair is silver, & sweeps

Back off her forehead, onto her cold and bruised shoulders.

The prairies fail along Chicago. Past the five
Lakes. Into the black woods of her New York; & as I bend

Close above the iris, I see the train

Drive deep into the damp heart of its stem, & the gravel
Of the garden path

Cracks under my feet as I walk this long corridor

Of elms, arched
Like the ceiling of a French railway pier where a boy

With pale curls holding

A fresh iris is waving goodbye to a grandmother, gazing
A long time

Into the flower, as if he were looking some great

Distance, or down an empty garden path & he believes a man
Is walking toward him, working

Dull shears in one hand; & now believe me: The train

Is gone. The old woman is dead, & the boy. The iris curls,
On its stalk, in the shade

Of those elms: Where something like the icy & bitter fragrance

In the wake of a woman who’s just swept past you on her way
Home

& you remain.

 

If We Must Die, by Claude McKay

If we must die—let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

The Subject of Retreat, by Yona Harvey

Your black coat is a door
in the storm. The snow
we don’t mention
clings to your boots & powders
& puffs. & poof. Goes.
Dust of the fallen. Right here
at home. The ache
of someone gone-missing. Walk it off
like a misspoken word.
Mound of snow. Closed door.
I could open it.

Or maybe just, you know—
brush it off.

Then what? The snow
on the other side. The sound
of what I know & your, no, inside it.

Could Have Danced All Night, by Dean Young

The wolf appointed to tear me apart
is sure making slow work of it.
This morning just one eye weeping,
a single chip out of my back and
the usual maniacal wooden bird flutes
in the brain. Listen to that feeble howl
like having fangs is something to regret,
like we shouldn’t give thanks for blood
thirst. Even my idiot neighbor backing out
without looking could do a better job,
even that leaning diseased tree or dream
of a palsied hand squeezing the throat but
we’ve been at this for years, lying exposed
on the couch in the fat of the afternoon,
staring down the moon among night blooms.
What good’s a reluctant wolf anyway?
The other wolves just get it drunk
then tie it to a post. Poor pup.
Here’s my hand. Bite.

Non-lieux, by Erika Meitner

Hand-painted on the side
of a shack we pass
on the road to Ohio:
what this world comin to?

This is not haiku. This
is more like fog and we’re
socked in and your body

is invisible and right
across from me
simultaneously.

How much ammo you got?
says one guy to another
in the cola-chip aisle
of the Food Lion.

The fortitude of rain
hitting the roof:
percussive sadness.

Almost-saved is not
good enough, says
the church sign. We are
out of ketchup again.

Did you see what he
put on Pete’s grave and
what he put on Junior’s?

says the woman in
the Bob Evans bath-
room stall with a cane.

It was sprained, not
broken. From high up,
from far away.

He was still working
at that bar in town,
after all these years,

assigned to a circum-
scribed position, like
the supermoon, like
employee parking.

In the dark 7-Eleven lot
two officers approach
a white van, flashlights on
and held overhand.

The church sign says
living without God
is like dribbling a football.

The light—it was
too bright to be captured
in an iPhone photo

where people are not
the urgency of the
present moment.

Did you get it squared
away? asks one man to
another at the Starbucks
condiment counter.

One of the officers
has a hand on his
holster. What is he
saying to the driver?

The church sign touts
tonight’s sermon: Entering
the Miraculous Zone.

There were no grounds
for prosecution. I left
before I heard
the answer.


More by Erika Meitner:

The World Is Too Much With Us, by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

 

The Purpose of Ritual, by Melissa Broder

When you fled I disappeared
into the abscesses of my brain.
We are both impulsive humans
and perhaps my disappearance
was premature. To reappear
I had to grow younger. I began
consuming images of boys
at a very rapid speed, never
their bodies just reflections.
I distorted all the mirrors
in mucus, oil and blood.
When I say that I consumed
I do not mean that I ate the mirrors,
only that I stood beside the boys,
dowsed the glass and incanted.
I chanted you love me you love me
to 3000 boys but none said yes.
What does it mean to be so sick
with want that you create rituals
which lead nowhere? Only to be
human, I think, and less ok
than animals. I don’t want
to be human anymore
so I have covered the mirrors
in blankets. You returned to me
but never uncovered them.

 

Anyway, by Richard Siken

He was pointing at the moon but I was looking at his hand.
He was dead anyway, a ghost. I’m surprised
I saw his hand at all. The moon, of course, is always
there—day moon, but it’s still there; behind the clouds but
it’s still there. I like seeing things: a hand, the moon, ice
in a highball glass. The moon? It’s free, it doesn’t
cost you anything so go ahead and look. Sustained attention
to anything—a focus, a scrutiny—always yields results.
I’d live on the moon probably except I think I’d miss
the moonlight, landscaping craters with clay roses in earthshine
and a reasonable excuse to avoid visiting hours
at the mental hospital. In space, no one can hear you
lying to your mom: “Can’t make it, Mom. It’s
a really long schlep.” The coffee’s weak and the coffee cake’s
imaginary. You’re not missing anything. Inside: a day room
and a day pass. Outside: a gazebo under a jackfruit tree.
The other inside: a deeper understanding of the burden
and its domestic infrastructure. Make yourself white.
Make yourself snow but the black bears trample
your landscape like little black dots that show up on x-rays.
It is not enough to be a landscape. One must also become
the path through the landscape, which is creepy. Truly.
The sun melts the snow, the bears wander off, the leaves
tremble like all my sad friends. I can still see his hand.
Once, in a fable, the moon woke the dead. Buried
underground, its light was too much to bear. How did it
get there? Greed. The brothers who owned it had it
buried with them. Later, St. Peter hung it in a tree.
The dead went back to bed, allegedly. One wonders why
a story like this exists. Who wrote it and to what end?
An ingenious solution: trees. Cashew, avocado, fig,
olive. Put it in a tree. Hide it in plain sight and climb
higher. We are all of us secret agents, undercover in our
overcoats, the snow falling down. Little black dots.
Some dream of tall things—trees, ladders, a rope trick.
My dreams are filled with bricks, or things in the shape
of bricks. Rectangles in the hot sun. A cow, a car,
a carton of cigarettes. Even my imagination sleeps
when I sleep and why not rest? Why crash the party
on the astral plane? You’ll just be too tired to go
to the real party later. Have you ever eaten
Swedish meatballs at a dream party? They taste like
your blanket, because they are your blanket.
My imagination wants breakfast burritos. It refuses
to punch the clock until then. I could eat six but then
I’d need a nap. A breakfast that puts you back to sleep
is useless. Dear bears, we must not hibernate!
The bathroom tile is always wet and slippery and the door
from sleeping to waking always sticks and squeeks
but I have arrived, triumphant, with corporate coffee!
Tawnya has written our names on the paper cups
in her immaculate cursive. Her eyes are dead
and lusterless but her heart is in the right place, I guess.
Somewhere deep in her chest, I guess.
We take our hats off and get down
to business. “You got plans tonight, Dick?”
“Eight dollar spaghetti dinner and all you can sing
karaoke at the Best Western. Gonna school
Pace and Killian in the finer points of falsetto.”
Not even one hour later: smoke break
in the breezeway by the handicapped bathroom.
Why is it we believe we only have one soul?
Because it’s easier to set the table for one. And you can
sing your dinner tune to yourself while you eat over the sink.
The throat of the sink: silent. The throat of the argument:
more silverware, a tablecloth, gratitude, more souls.
A kid under a tablecloth isnists he’s a ghost. A table
underneath a tablecloth is, I guess, like the rest of us,
only pretending to be invisible. Or worse:
dressed for work and not in the mood for, you know,
how it all plays out, always the same ways, boring times infinity.
“When I grow up I’m going to be a truck,”
says the kid underneath the tablecloth, and that’s one way
to deflect the weight of the inevitable, to insist on possibility
in the face of grownups and the pumace of their compromises.
The trees die standing. My Spanish teacher told me this.
I had conjugated the verbs beforehand and taped them
to the bottom of my sneaker. Cheater, yes. Also uninvested
in the outcome. She could tell. Nothing to be done about it.
Verbs of being and verbs of action. We, neither
of us, were doing much anyway at the time and the room was
too hot. I think she meant unroot, which is a good thing to mean
but a difficult thing to hear when you’re living under someone
else’s roof. I climbed trees then, too. Then climbed back down.
How do I tell you how I got here without getting trapped
in the past? I suppose that’s a bigger question than I expected.
“Hey Dick, tell ‘em about that one time when we made out.
That was a good time.” Yes, it was. And yet
should we really spend our velocities on backwards motion?
Yes. Any motion, every motion. It’s spring, green, take off
your coat, pull down your cap, roll up your sleeves, we’re
hunting, we’re arrows, we’re stag in a meadow, in a frenzy.
“Like I said, Dick. That was a good time.”
Soul 1: Was it a good time?
Soul 2: I had fun. You seemed to like it.
Soul 3: He’s no Neil Armstrong.
Soul 2: Few are.
Neil Armstrong: Hush.
“He was such a colicky baby. Always fussing and crying.
As if he didn’t want to be here at all. Right, Dicky?”
No, mom. I don’t remember. And you’re not supposed to be
in this part of the poem. You come back later, near the end,
with the ghost and the hand and the moon, after dark, after
the gimlets. “Sweetie, you asked for prompts and it’s getting dark
on the East Coast. Tick tock. And don’t type drunk.”
Dear East Coast, I’m sorry it’s getting dark. It must be problematic,
living in the future, always a few steps ahead, knowing
things you shouldn’t say, since they haven’t happened
to the rest of us yet. And Poland? I don’t dare wonder
what you know about tomorrow. “Your grandma was from Poland.”
I know, mom. And grandpa was handsome and you
were the smart one and the pretty one. “Still am. Poor Barbara.
You know, Dicky, I’ve been out of the hospital for a while now.
Remember how you promised you wouldn’t write about me
while I was alive, Dicky? Remember? So if you’re
writing about me that must mean something, yes?”
You’re not sticking around for the end, then. “No, you’re
doing fine, Squish. And yes, I miss you, too.”
We cannot tarry here. We must march, we must bear the brunt.
Smoke break: in the alley by the oleanders, the pink ones.
Dear East Coast, it is getting dark here too now. Suddenly.
“It’s getting late, Little Moon. Sing them the song.”
It’s not that late, Mr. Kitten.
“You are my moon, Little Moon. And it’s late enough.
So climb down out of the tree.”
Is it safe? “Safe enough.” Are you dead as well?
Soul 1: Sing.
Soul 2: Sing.
Soul 3: Sing.
Stag In The Meadow: Sing.
The Black Bears: Sing.
Kid Under The Tablecloth: Sing.
I’ve been singing all day.
“Yes, you’ve been singing all day. And no, I’m not dead, not
everyone is dead, Little Moon. But the big moon needs the tree.”
There is a ghost at the end of the song.
“Yes, there is. And you see his hand, and then you see the moon.”
Am I the ghost at the end of the song?
“No, you are the way we bounce the light to see the ghost.”
He was looking at the moon by I was looking at his hand.
He was dead anyway, a ghost. I’m surprised I saw
his hand at all. Once, in a fable, the moon woke the dead.
One wonders why a story like this exists. Who wrote it
and to what end? Sure, everyone wants the same things—
to belong, and to not be left behind—but still, does it help?
Perhaps. Once, in a fable: a man in a tree. Once,
in a fable: the trace of his thinking, the sound of his singing.
I like seeing things: a hand, the moon, ice in a highball glass.
The light of the mind illuminating the mind itself.
Put it in a tree. Hide it in plain sight and climb higher.
We are all of us secret agents, undercover in our overcoats,
the snow falling down.

Teaching the Ape to Write Poems, by James Tate

They didn’t have much trouble
teaching the ape to write poems:
first they strapped him into the chair,
then tied the pencil around his hand
(the paper had already been nailed down).
Then Dr. Bluespire leaned over his shoulder
and whispered into his ear:
“You look like a god sitting there.
Why don’t you try writing something?”

The Luxury of Hesitation [excerpt from The Proof from Motion], by Keith Waldrop

things
forgotten
I could

burn in hell forever

set the glass
down, our
emotion’s moment

eyes vs sunlight

how removed
here, from
here

towards the unfamiliar and

frankincense forests
against the discerning light

everybody
sudden

frightful indeed, the sound of
traffic and
no appetite

the crowd

I would like to be
beautiful when
written

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

Blue or Green, by James Galvin

We don't belong to each other.
		          We belong together.
	                                                                   Some poems 
belong together to prove the intentionality of subatomic particles.

Some poems eat with scissors.
                                                     Some poems are like   kissing a 
porcupine. 
                   God, by the way, is disappointed in some of your recent 
choices.
               Some poems swoop.
                                                   When she said my eyes   were 
definitely blue, I said, How can you see that in the dark? How can you not? she said,   and that was like some poems.
                                                                                  Some poems are 
blinded three times.
                                  Some poems go like death before dishonor.

Some poems go like the time she brought cherries to the movies; 
later a heedless picnic in her bed.
		                 Never revered I crumbs so
highly.
            Some poems have perfect posture, as if hanging by 
filaments from the sky. 
                                        Those poems walk like dancers, 
noiselessly.
                      All poems are love poems.  
                                                                   Some    poems are better off 
dead.
           Right now I want something I don't believe in.