Aging. Being in pain. Finishing. Rotting.
We feel we’ve contracted into very dim, very old white dwarf stars, not yet black holes. Wrinkled, but not quite withered. Dropped out of summer like a stone, we watch time fall. With the leaves. Into a deeper color. Wavelengths missing in the reflected light.
The road toward rotting has been so long. We forget where we are going. Like a child, I look amazed at a thistle. Or drink cheap wine and hug my knees. To shorten the shadow? To ward off letting go?
So much body now, to be cared for. What with the arrow, lost cartilage, skeleton within. Memory no longer holds up. A bridge to theory and dreams. Impervious to vertigo. Days are long and too spacious.
Though the sun is a mere eight light-minutes away elderly dust hangs. Over the long sentences I wrote in the last century. Now thoughts in purpose tremor, in lament, in search of. Not being too soon? Going to be? Unconformities separating strata of decay?
You say aimlessness has its virtues. Just as not fully understanding may be required for harmony. And blow your nose. You sing fast falls the eventide, damp on the skin, with bitter wind. And here it is again, the craving for happiness that night induces. Or the day of marriage.
The difference of our bodies makes for different velocities. But gravity is always attracting, and my higher speed. Cannot outrun the inner fright we seem made of. Though I gesticulate broadly. As in a silent movie. Running after the train, waving goodbye.
Distant galaxies are moving away from us. Friends, lovers, family. Even the sky shifts toward red. Where every clearness is only. A more welcoming slope of the night. And I don't remember why I opened the door.
Mouth full of moans, you believe the natural state. Is a body at rest. And close your eyes to the threat of your face disappearing. Without thought or emotion. Into its condition. And I thought I knew you.
Are the complications thinning to a final simplicity? The nearest thing to a straight path in curved space? Clouds of gas slowly collapsing? With only one possible outcome? But unlike a black hole I keep my hair on. As I move toward the unquestionable dark.
This dark, Mrs. Ramsay thinks, is perhaps the core of every self. The deep note of existence the ear finds, but cannot hold on to. Across the vicissities of the symphony. Or else this dark could be our shelter in the time of long dominion. And though we are not well suited to the perspectives it opens it is an awesome thing to see. Once you can see it.
Copyright © 2018 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I have more love than ever.
Our kids have kids soon to have kids.
I need them. I need everyone
to come over to the house,
sleep on the floor, on the couches
in the front room. I need noise,
too many people in too small a space,
I need dancing, the spilling of drinks,
the loud pronouncements
over music, the verbal sparring,
the broken dishes, the wealth.
I need it all flying apart.
My friends to slam against me,
to hold me, to say they love me.
I need mornings to ask for favors
and forgiveness. I need to give,
have all my emotions rattled,
my family to be greedy,
to keep coming, to keep asking
and taking. I need no resolution,
just the constant turmoil of living.
Give me the bottom of the river,
all the unadorned, unfinished,
unpraised moments, one good turn
on the luxuriant wheel.
From Saint Friend (McSweeney's Poetry Series, 2014) by Carl Adamshick. Copyright © 2014 Carl Adamshick. All rights reserved.
Orange is the single-hearted color. I remember How I found them in a vein beside the railroad, A bumble-bee fumbling for a foothold While the poppies' petals flagged beneath his boot. I brought three poppies home and two buds still sheathed. I amputated them above the root. They lived on artlessly Beside the window for a while, blazing orange, bearing me No malice. Each four-fanned surface opened To the light. They were bright as any orange grove. I watched them day and night stretch open and tuck shut With no roots to grip, like laboratory frogs' legs twitching Or like red beheaded hens still hopping on sheer nerves. On the third afternoon one bud tore off its green glove And burst out brazen as Baby New Year. Two other poppies dropped their petals, leaving four Scribbly yellow streamers on a purple-brimmed and green Conical cadaver like a New Year's hat. I'd meant to celebrate with them, but they seemed So suddenly tired, these aging ladies in crocheted Shawl leaves. They'd once been golden as the streets Of heaven, now they were as hollow. They couldn't pull together for a last good-bye. I had outlived them and had only their letters to read, Fallen around the vase, saying they were sorry.
From Elegies for the Hot Season by Sandra McPherson. Copyright © 1970 by Sandra McPherson. First published by The Ecco Press in 1982. Reprinted by permission.
Time aged me while I slept I will not forgive it for this treachery I will not accept this old age grafted slyly on my body I will hide in the leaves of grass in the drops of water. Will slip away from its wrinkled hands.
Originally published in the July 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Original text and translation © Navtej Bharati. All rights reserved.
I am hovering over this rug
with a hair dryer on high in my hand
I have finally, inevitably, spilled
red wine on this impractically white
housewarming hand-me-down from my cousin, who
clearly, and incorrectly, thought this was a good idea
With the help of a little panic,
sparkling water and a washcloth,
I am stunned by how quickly the wine washes out,
how I was sure this mistake would find me
every day with its gaping mouth, reminding me
of my own propensity for failure
and yet, here I am
with this clean slate
The rug is made of fur,
which means it died
to be here
It reminds me of my own survival
and everyone who has taught me
to shake loose the shadow of death
I think of inheritance, how this rug
was passed on to me through blood,
how this animal gave its blood
so that I may receive the gift of its death
and be grateful for it
I think of our inability
to control stories of origin
how history does not wash away
with water and a good scrub
I think of evolution,
what it means to make it through
this world with your skin intact,
how flesh is fragile
but makes a needle and thread
of itself when necessary
I think of all that I have inherited,
all the bodies buried for me to be here
and stay here, how I was born with grief
and gratitude in my bones
And I think of legacy,
how I come from a long line of sorcerers
who make good work of building
joy from absolutely nothing
And what can I do with that
but pour another glass,
thank the stars
for this sorceress blood
and keep pressing forward
Copyright © 2020 by L. Ash Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
your body is still a miracle thirst
quenched with water across dry tongue and lips
or cocoa butter ashy legs immersed
till shine seen sheen the mind too cups and dips
from its favorite rivers figures and facts
slant stories of orbiting protests or
protons around daughters or suns :: it backs
up or opens wide to joy’s gush downpour
the floods the heart pumps hip hop doo wop dub
veins mining the mud for poetry’s o
cell after cell drinks ringgold colors mulled
cool cascades of calla lilies :: swallow
and bathe breathe believe through drought you survive
like the passage schooled you till rains arrive
—after alexis pauline gumbs
Copyright © 2020 by Evie Shockley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 16, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
When buffeted and beaten by life’s storms,
When by the bitter cares of life oppressed,
I want no surer haven than your arms,
I want no sweeter heaven than your breast.
When over my life’s way there falls the blight
Of sunless days, and nights of starless skies;
Enough for me, the calm and steadfast light
That softly shines within your loving eyes.
The world, for me, and all the world can hold
Is circled by your arms; for me there lies,
Within the lights and shadows of your eyes,
The only beauty that is never old.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 7, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.