Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
when you surrender, you stretch out like the world.
My body, savage and peasant, undermines you
and makes a son leap in the bottom of the earth.
I was lonely as a tunnel. Birds flew from me.
And night invaded me with her powerful army.
To survive I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow for my bow, or a stone for my sling.
But now the hour of revenge falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of firm and thirsty milk!
And the cups of your breasts! And your eyes full of absence!
And the roses of your mound! And your voice slow and sad!
Body of my woman, I will live on through your marvelousness.
My thirst, my desire without end, my wavering road!
Dark river beds down which the eternal thirst is flowing,
and the fatigue is flowing, and the grief without shore.
"Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs" from Neruda & Vallejo: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda and translated by Robert Bly (Boston: Becon Press, 1993). Used with permission of Robert Bly.
As a girl I made my calves into little drinking elephants,
I would stare at the wonder of their pumping muscles,
the sup of their leg-trunks. I resuscitated a bunny once
from my cat’s electric teeth. I was on neighborhood watch
to save animals, as many as I could. My damage was easy.
My plainspoken voice is a watercolor. I’m afraid of it
as I’m afraid of what the world will do to color. I don’t
think I’ve done much. A table leans against itself
to be a table. I hold nothing but this air. I give it off.
I want a literature that is not made from literature, says Bhanu.
Last night my legs ached a low-tone. I imagined the body
giving itself up for another system. Dandelions tickling
out of my knee. The meniscus a household of worms.
It is okay to bear. My apartment hums in a Rilke sense.
A pain blooms. I am told that it’s okay to forego details
of what happened. I am told it doesn’t matter now.
I want to write sentences for days. I want days to not
be a sentence. We put men in boxes and sail them away.
Justice gave me an amber necklace. I tried to swallow
as many as I could.
Copyright © 2015 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets
My marriage ended in an airport long ago. I was not wise enough to cry while looking for my car, walking through the underground garage; jets were roaring overhead, and if I had been wise I would have looked up at those heavy-bellied cylinders and seen the wheelchairs and the frightened dogs inside; the kidneys bedded in dry ice and Styrofoam containers. I would have known that in synagogues and churches all over town couples were gathering like flocks of geese getting ready to take off, while here the jets were putting down their gear, getting ready for the jolt, the giant tires shrieking and scraping off two long streaks of rubber molecules, that might have been my wife and I, screaming in our fear. It is a matter of amusement to me now, me staggering around that underground garage, trying to remember the color of my vehicle, unable to recall that I had come by cab— eventually gathering myself and going back inside, quite matter-of-fact, to get the luggage I would be carrying for the rest of my life.
I remembered what it was like, knowing what you want to eat and then making it, forgetting about the ending in the middle, looking at the ocean for a long time without restlessness, or with restlessness not inhabiting the joints, sitting Indian style on a porch overlooking that water, smooth like good cake frosting. And then I experienced it, falling so deeply into the storyline, I laughed as soon as my character entered the picture, humming the theme music even when I’d told myself I wanted to be quiet by some freezing river and never talk to anyone again. And I thought, now is the right time to cut up your shirt.
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.
Copyright © 2014 by Courtney Queeney. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 24, 2014.
You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.
Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.
Copyright © 2005 John Ashbery
where the sea circles around the island in a star pattern – where in the center of grieving we are disoriented, skinless – where I wade into the field . . . the scent of sun on wheat – where the horses bow in & out, kick up a hoof, satisfied, perhaps, in their available bodies – where I’ve located a tiny refuge : the horizontal view from the house on stilts – where we hide the part of us that shudders, without a script – where in grief, even our own stories feel vacant – where you hear yourself telling the story & at the same time you think that’s not it, that’s really not it – where the ice plants glow in a translucent bandage across the cliff face – where impermanence is the direct expression of emptiness & emptiness is the best description of reality – where you wake from sleep to see someone leaving, but only the drape of their scarf across their back – if grief is a shining fruit
Copyright © 2018 by Gabriel Jesiolowski. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 22, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The hurt returns as it always intended—it is tender as the inside of my thighs, it is as blue, too. O windless, wingless sky, show me your empire of loneliness, let me spring from the jaws of what tried to kill me. Let me look at your face and see a heaven worth having, all your sorry angels falling off a piano bench, laughing. Do you burn because you remember darkness? Outside the joy is clamoring. It is almost like the worst day of your life is ordinary for everyone else.
Copyright © 2019 by Ruth Awad. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.