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.

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.

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.

[A black God touched me today…], by Jon Leon

A black God touched me today and I knew I was a poet. When I produce
poetry I am responding to a God who touched me in a perverse way. The
state of my text is an act of worship to a black female God that told me to
worship capital. From a business perspective my poetics is about
marketing a God who fondles with my white self. This is what makes my
poetry so friendly to the void in the world. I marketed a God who exploits
me to bring her message of panic to the poetry sector. I was watching a
Kenneth Anger film when a large aphrodisiac God converged on me and
told me to create a poem that pleases her. The results of her visit are
collected in books called Hit Wave and Right Now the Music and the Life
Rule. The text in these books is to give the audience hope for life today
because a black female God told me to.

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.

Sex with a Famous Poet, by Denise Duhamel

I had sex with a famous poet last night
and when I rolled over and found myself beside him I shuddered
because I was married to someone else,
because I wasn’t supposed to have been drinking,
because I was in fancy hotel room
I didn’t recognize. I would have told you
right off this was a dream, but recently
a friend told me, write about a dream,
lose a reader and I didn’t want to lose you
right away. I wanted you to hear
that I didn’t even like the poet in the dream, that he has
four kids, the youngest one my age, and I find him
rather unattractive, that I only met him once,
that is, in real life, and that was in a large group
in which I barely spoke up. He disgusted me
with his disparaging remarks about women.
He even used the word “Jap”
which I took as a direct insult to my husband who’s Asian.
When we were first dating, I told him
“You were talking in your sleep last night
and I listened, just to make sure you didn’t
call out anyone else’s name.” My future-husband said
that he couldn’t be held responsible for his subconscious,
which worried me, which made me think his dreams
were full of blond vixens in rabbit-fur bikinis.
but he said no, he dreamt mostly about boulders
and the ocean and volcanoes, dangerous weather
he witnessed but could do nothing to stop.
And I said, “I dream only of you,”
which was romantic and silly and untrue.
But I never thought I’d dream of another man–
my husband and I hadn’t even had a fight,
my head tucked sweetly in his armpit, my arm
around his belly, which lifted up and down
all night, gently like water in a lake.
If I passed that famous poet on the street,
he would walk by, famous in his sunglasses
and blazer with the suede patches at the elbows,
without so much as a glance in my direction.
I know you’re probably curious about who the poet is,
so I should tell you the clues I’ve left aren’t
accurate, that I’ve disguised his identity,
that you shouldn’t guess I bet it’s him…
because you’ll never guess correctly
and even if you do, I won’t tell you that you have.
I wouldn’t want to embarrass a stranger
who is, after all, probably a nice person,
who was probably just having a bad day when I met him,
who is probably growing a little tired of his fame–
which my husband and I perceive as enormous,
but how much fame can an American poet
really have, let’s say, compared to a rock star
or film director of equal talent? Not that much,
and the famous poet knows it, knows that he’s not
truly given his due. Knows that many
of these young poets tugging on his sleeve
are only pretending to have read all his books.
But he smiles anyway, tries to be helpful.
I mean, this poet has to have some redeeming qualities, right?
For instance, he writes a mean iambic.
Otherwise, what was I doing in his arms.

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.

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.

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.

Tang, by Bruce Cohen

If I do not witness these leaves turning orange, who will?

I stir myself:
I like to think

Of myself as a reincarnated Poet from the Tang Dynasty,
Dehydrated orange drink
Astronauts gulped orbiting this planet
That became a fun ‘60’s breakfast staple,

The bitter tang of a car’s squealing tires as it peels out,
Any distinguishing characteristic that provides special individuality.

Isn’t it a very personal moment when each of us
Recognizes we are failing,
That we’re incomplete, outdated perhaps,
& need something new to make us valid,

Sobbing on the mudroom floor,
Praying hands through a broken screen door,
Begging the aftermath of someone to come back,

Or watching our planet grow
Smaller below us
That we discover it is
Impossible
To ever become
One hundred percent reconstituted?

I am not where I am right now, in this autumn.

My mind is not what it used to be either.
There is no more just-add water.

None of us can prove our previous lives.

I mean pervious: I meant disprove:


About this Poem:

Lately I have been worried and depressed over the fact that my poetic voice was becoming stale, my persona and language too familiar, and, quite simply, I was bored with myself. In order to shake myself out of my funk I started reading some translations of the more obscure ancient Chinese poets to trigger or shock myself into some alien sensibility: paradoxically, I aspired to be un-American while remaining nostalgic, and because I rarely include ‘nature’ in my poems I wanted to throw a colorful leaf into the mix. ‘Tang’ became one of those odd poetic experiments that wiggled the old me out of the new.”

—Bruce Cohen

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.”

World’s Bliss, by Alice Notley

The men & women sang & played
they sleep by singing, what
shall I say of the most
poignant on earth the most glamorous
loneliest sought after people
those poets wholly beautiful
desolate aureate, death is a
powerful instinctive emotion—
but who would be released from
a silver skeleton? gems
& drinking cups—This
skull is Helen—who would not
be released from the
Book of Knowledge? Why
should a maiden lie on a moor
for seven nights & a day? And
he is a maiden, he is & she
on the grass the flower the spray
where they lie eating primroses
grown crazy with sorrow & all
the beauties of old—oh each poet’s a
beautiful human girl who must die.


Others you might like:

The Poem as Mask,
by Muriel Rukeyser
I am the People, the Mob,
by Carl Sandburg
A Litany in Time of Plague,
by Thomas Nashe
Diving into the Wreck,
by Adrienne Rich 
Duende,
by Tracy K. Smith

A Path Between Houses, by Greg Rappleye

Where is the dwelling place of light?
And where is the house of darkness?
Go about; walk the limits of the land.
Do you know a path between them?
Job 38:19-20

The enigma of August.
Season of dust and teenage arson.
The nightly whine of pickup trucks
bouncing through the sumac
beneath the Co-Operative power lines,
country & western booming from woofers
carved into the doors. A trace of smoke
when the wind shifts,
spun gravel rattling the fenders of cars,
the groan of clutch and transaxle,
pickup trucks, arriving at a friction point,
gunning from nowhere to nowhere.
The duets begin. A compact disc,
a single line of muted trumpet,
plays against the sirens
pursuing the smoke of grass fires.

I love a painter. On a new canvas,
she paints the neighbor’s field.
She paints it without trees,
and paints the field beyond the field,
the field that has no trees,
and the upturned Jesus boat,
made into a planter,
“For God so loved the world. . .”
a citation from John, chapter and verse,
splattered across the bow
the boat spills roses into the weeds.
What does the stray dog know,
after a taste of what is holy?
The sun pulls her shadow toward me,
an undulant shape that shelters the grass,
an unaimed thing.

In the gray house, the tiny house,
in ’52 there was a fire. The old woman,
drunk and smoking cigarettes, fell asleep.
The winter of the blizzard and her son
Not coming home from the Yalu.
There are times I still smell smoke.
There are days I know she set the fire
and why.

Last night, lightning to the south.
Here, nothing, though along the river
the wind upends a willow,
a gorgon of leaves and bottom-up clod
browning in the afternoon sun.
In the museum we dispute
the poet’s epiphany call–
white light or more warmth?
And what is the Greek word for the flesh,
and the body apart from the spirit,
meaning even the body opposed to the spirit?
I do not know this word.
Dante claims there are pools of fire
in the middle regions of hell,
but the lowest circles are lakes of ice,
offering the hope our greatest sins
aren’t the passions but indifference.
And the willow grew for years
With no real hold upon the ground.

How the accident occurred
and how the sky got dark:
Six miles from my house,
a drunk leaves the Holiday Inn
spins on 104 and smacks a utility pole.
The power line sparks
across the hood of his Ford
and illuminates the crazed spider web
of the windshield. His bloody tongue burns
with a slurry gospel. Around me,
the lights go down,
the way death is described
as armor crashing to the ground,
the soul having already departed
for another place. Was it his body I heard
leaning against the horn,
the body’s final song, before the body
slumped sideways in the seat?

When I was a child,
I would wake at night
and imagine a field of asteroids, rolling
across the walls of my room.
In fact, I’ve seen them,
like the last herd of buffalo,
grazing against the background of fixed stars.
Plate 420 shows the asteroid 433 Eros,
the bright point of light, as it closes its approach
to light. I loose myself in Cygnus,
ancient kamikaze swan,
rising or diving to earth,
Draco, snarling at the polestar,
and Pegasus, stone horse of the gods,
ecstatic, looking one last time at home.

August and the enigma it is.
Days when I move in crabbed circles,
nights when I walk with Jesus through the fields.
What finally stands between us
and the world of flying things?
Mobbed by jays, the Cooper’s hawk
drops the dead bird. It tumbles
beneath the cedar tree,
tiny acrobat of death,
a dead bird released
in a failed act of atonement.
A nest of wasps buzzing beneath the shingles,
flickers drilling the cottonwood,
jays, sparrows, the insistent wrens,
the language of birds, heads cocked,
staring the moon-eyed through the air.
Sedge, asters, and fleabane,
red tins of gasoline and glowing cigarettes,
the midnight voice of a fourteen-year-old girl
wailing the word “blue” from the pickup’s open doors,
illuminated by the dome light,
the sulphurous rasp of another struck match,
and foxglove, goldenrod and chicory,
the dry flowers of late summer,
an exhaustion I no longer look at.

Time passes. The authorities
gather the wreckage, the whirr
of cicadas, and light dissembles the sky.
A wind shift, and the Cedar Creek fire
snaps the backfire line
and roars through the cemetery.
In the morning,
I walk a path between houses.
I cross to the water
and circle again, the redwings
forcing me back from the marsh.
Smoke rises from a fire
still smoldering along the power lines,
flaring and exhausting itself
in the shape of something lost.
Grass fires, fires through the scrub
of the clear-cut, fires in the pulpwood,
cemetery fires,
the powder of ash still untracked
beneath the enormous trees,
fires that explode the seed cones
on the pines, the smoke of set fires
and every good intention gone wrong,
scorching the monuments
above the graves of the dead.

Vocabulary, by Jason Schneiderman

I used to love words,
but not looking them up.

Now I love both,
the knowing,

and the looking up,
the absurdity

of discovering that “boreal”
has been meaning

“northern” all this time
or that “estrus”

is a much better word
for the times when

I would most likely
have said, “in heat.”

When I was translating,
the dictionary

was my enemy,
the repository of knowledge

that I seemed incapable
of retaining. The foreign word

for “inflatable” simply
would not stay in my head,

though the English word “deictic,”
after just one encounter,

has stuck with me for a year.
I once lost “desiccated”

for a decade, first encountered
in an unkind portrayal

of Ronald Reagan, and then
finally returned to me

in an article about cheese.
I fell in love with my husband,

not when he told me
what the word “apercus” means,

but when I looked it up,
and he was right.

There’s even a word
for when you use a word

not to mean its meaning,
but as a word itself,

and I’d tell you what it was
if I could remember it.

My friend reads the dictionary
for its perspective on culture,

laughs when I say that
reference books are not really

books, but proleptic databases.
My third grade teacher

used to joke that if we were bored
we could copy pages out of the dictionary,

but when I did, also as a joke,
she was horrified rather than amused.

Discovery is always tinged
with sorrow, the knowledge

that you have been living
without something,

so we try to make learning
the province of the young,

who have less time to regret
having lived in ignorance.

My students are lost
in dictionaries,

unable to figure out why
“categorize” means

“to put into categories”
or why the fifth definition

of “standard” is the one
that will make the sentence

in question make sense.
I wonder how anyone

can live without knowing
the word “wonder.”

A famous author
once said in an interview,

that he ended his novel
with an obscure word

he was sure his reader
would not know

because he liked the idea
of the reader looking it up.

He wanted the reader,
upon closing his book, to open

another, that second book
being a dictionary,

and however much I may have loved
that author, after reading

that story
(and this may surprise you)

I loved him less.

Figure, by Marjorie Welish

The poet redirected my likeness.

She said, “Not his decadence, which is a question.”
“Time," she said, declining his epidemic.
                            As if serrated,
initiatives lost modernity: aura reared up
although bracketing pages in comparative matters.
                                      “What time is it?”
                                                  “Perspectivism.”
Which is a question.
              As if serrated,
“as if” bracketing pages.

And time again, the timing of a wrecking ball—
                                Which is an overture.

In Memory of W. B. Yeats, by W. H. Auden

I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the
Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly
accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his
freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.