Caged Bird, by Matthew J. Spireng

Some believe there’s somewhere in the brain
that senses minor fluctuations in the Earth’s
magnetic field and uses a sort of memory
of that to travel the same route year after year
over thousands of miles, over open ocean
on moonless, clouded nights, and a built-in clock
that, save for weather’s influence, tells
when it’s time to go. But they utter nothing
of thwarted dreams in birds’ brains, how
a few cubic feet near the ground, however
well-kept and lighted, however large it seems
around a small bright bird, is like a fist
closed tight on feather and bone, how, certain times
of year, the bird’s heart races as if to power flight.

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Let Me Disappear, by Ray Gonzalez

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

The Origin of Order, by Pattiann Rogers

Stellar dust has settled.
It is green underwater now in the leaves
Of the yellow crowfoot. Its vacancies are gathered together
Under pine litter as emerging flower of the pink arbutus.
It has gained the power to make itself again
In the bone-filled egg of osprey and teal.

One could say this toothpick grasshopper
Is a cloud of decayed nebula congealed and perching
On his female mating. The tortoise beetle,
Leaving the stripped veins of morning glory vines
Like licked bones, is a straw-colored swirl
Of clever gases.

At this moment there are dead stars seeing
Themselves as marsh and forest in the eyes
Of muskrat and shrew, disintegrated suns
Making songs all night long in the throats
Of crawfish frogs, in the rubbings and gratings
Of the red-legged locust. There are spirits of orbiting
Rock in the shells of pointed winkles
And apple snails, ghosts of extinct comets caught
In the leap of darting hare and bobcat, revolutions
Of rushing stone contained in the sound of these words.

The paths of the Pleiades and Coma clusters
Have been compelled to mathematics by the mind
Contemplating the nature of itself
In the motions of stars. The patterns
Of any starry summer night might be identical
To the summer heavens circling inside the skull.
I can feel time speeding now in all directions
Deeper and deeper into the black oblivion
Of the electrons directly behind my eyes.

Flesh of the sky, child of the sky, the mind
Has been obligated from the beginning
To create an ordered universe
As the only possible proof of its own inheritance.

The Empty Dance Shoes, by Cornelius Eady

My friends,
As it has been proven in the laboratory,   
An empty pair of dance shoes
Will sit on the floor like a wart
Until it is given a reason to move.

Those of us who study inertia
(Those of us covered with wild hair and sleep)
Can state this without fear:
The energy in a pair of shoes at rest   
Is about the same as that of a clown

Knocked flat by a sandbag.
This you can tell your friends with certainty:   
A clown, flat on his back,
Is a lot like an empty pair of
    dancing shoes.

An empty pair of dancing shoes
Is also a lot like a leaf   
Pressed in a book.
And now you know a simple truth:
A leaf pressed in, say, The Colossus
    by Sylvia Plath,
Is no different from an empty pair of dance shoes

Even if those shoes are in the middle of the Stardust Ballroom   
With all the lights on, and hot music shakes the windows   
    up and down the block.
This is the secret of inertia:
The shoes run on their own sense of the world.   
They are in sympathy with the rock the kid skips   
    over the lake
After it settles to the mud.
Not with the ripples,
But with the rock.

A practical and personal application of inertia
Can be found in the question:   
Whose Turn Is It
To Take Out The Garbage?   
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the answer to this question,
As well as book-length poems
Set in the Midwest.

To sum up:
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the sand the 98-pound weakling   
    brushes from his cheeks
As the bully tows away his girlfriend.   
Later,

When he spies the coupon at the back of the comic book,
He is about to act upon a different set of scientific principles.   
He is ready to dance.

The End of Science Fiction, by Lisel Mueller

This is not fantasy, this is our life.
We are the characters
who have invaded the moon,
who cannot stop their computers.
We are the gods who can unmake
the world in seven days.

Both hands are stopped at noon.
We are beginning to live forever,
in lightweight, aluminum bodies
with numbers stamped on our backs.
We dial our words like Muzak.
We hear each other through water.

The genre is dead. Invent something new.
Invent a man and a woman
naked in a garden,
invent a child that will save the world,
a man who carries his father
out of a burning city.
Invent a spool of thread
that leads a hero to safety,
invent an island on which he abandons
the woman who saved his life
with no loss of sleep over his betrayal.

Invent us as we were
before our bodies glittered
and we stopped bleeding:
invent a shepherd who kills a giant,
a girl who grows into a tree,
a woman who refuses to turn
her back on the past and is changed to salt,
a boy who steals his brother’s birthright
and becomes the head of a nation.
Invent real tears, hard love,
slow-spoken, ancient words,
difficult as a child’s
first steps across a room.

First Love, by Jan Owen

Titian’s Young Englishman with a Glove, circa 1530

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

Survey: Phototropes, by Eleni Sikélianòs

The snow falls, picks itself up, dusts itself off
a sparrow flying like a leaf back up to its tree
The future does a backbend toward you, it’s
what you can almost see, scrimmed
in the clouds which crowd the sky, elbowing, laughing

After that I see space and its influence in a bucket of spinning water
and two calcium atoms shoot forth, twinned photons traveling

back to back, arms unlaced, perfect
swimmers in the lit dusk

Where are they going?

First, to Holland, then
to calcium-kiss her bones

And in Holland the streets are made of water, the dolls & dogs gather
round lit picnic tables like happy rags

The body is in the root cellar

When snow falls our dead gather close to our bones
because the cold’s ghost has come back to haunt the cold & the body,
too, is a happy rag

Tree, take a photograph of her thought, you can do it
with photosynthesis: silhouettes of seals appear, a swarmed planet and its satellites, a
celestial atlas that breaks when tapped (it’s glass)
Some giraffes, some elephants, a lion scatter
in the clearing; in the clearing

the leaves of the world turn toward the light as do the letters of the word
the words are beautiful not for their accuracy but for their dream:
words-are-arrows that loop between no-man’s-land and the wetlands, soft
flints flying toward their target

—words bird the zone—

when home was adopted as mother
area was given here
[a future of] all surface, no border