Look at the homie,
even when in a gang
he came home to crack Nietzsche, Beyond
Good and Evil, Will
to Power. Believing everybody dies at twenty-four,
not seeing a future in pump-faking, even then.
You ever try to read philosophy high?
Gone to the hole and hoped for the foul,
wished only to finish.
After rolling joints in two Zig-Zags,
after an hour of starching pants,
he transferred trollies and buses.
He’s going places.
Look at homie, trying to fix himself. Thinks,
out of repetition comes variation.
It takes a lot of effort
like you’re not trying.
It should be an air ball
to go to college
at twenty-one, the father of two, just
to play basketball. When
most folks say they want to change the world
they mean their own.
From Post Traumatic Hood Disorder (Sarabande Books, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by David Tomas Martinez. Used with the permission of the poet.
I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.
Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.
I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.
From Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002) by Toni Morrison with silhouettes by Kara Walker. Used with permission from The Believer Magazine.
Her fake majolica
brimming with moral fables
(the pelican of piety,
a lion ponderously tangled
in “Ave Maria”’s
golden script, the lambs
with their crosscut vexilla)
make a gradual conquista
of tabletops and shelves. Reverted
years ago to a faith
that loves a hoarder, she
buys ersatz antiquities
as if preponderance breeds grace,
props them on display stands—serving plates,
carafes, and bowls staggered
like mosaicked peacocks
with antimony eyespots—
enshrines them like they’re bona fide,
not mailed from SoCal Renaissance fairs
in crates lined with the Times,
as were her icon bread
stamps, her “German” cookie molds
depicting the Crucifixion
(sorrowful treat). A miracle, then,
each time she pulls them down
and plates a meal, heaping
meat sauce on the backs of saints
mopping Mary’s brow, pouring tea
from the mouth of an aquamanile
that is the mouth of God.
Copyright © 2018 Erin O'Luanaigh. Reprinted with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Autumn 2018.
Of course, she was not chosen to deliver
any of the official hail-and-farewells. Would, in fact,
have skipped the whole pomp and circumstance crap
if the principal had not threatened to hold her diploma hostage,
if her parents had not pleaded with her to celebrate
the milestone for their sakes—so she donned
the rented robe, the dorky mortarboard, and paraded
down the auditorium aisles with her beaming so-called peers.
Lots of introductions. Lots of momentous occasions
and memories—many of which Ms. S was already
eager to forget. But she listened politely to the usual
promises of new beginnings, the exhortations to follow
dreams and change the world—even got a bit teary eyed
at the prospect that one of them actually might.
Then the ritual flipping of the tassels, the alma mater
one last time off-key, the filing out to hugs and congratulations
and vows to stay in touch she knew she’d never keep.
Ms. S had her eye on distant horizons, some vague
anywhere-else-but-here place where her brief past
could be erased and all the potential her teachers had,
for years, claimed she was wasting, would be realized,
where she would finally hear her life’s calling
calling her into the life she was meant to have.
The world, she thought, is my oyster.
Of course, being an inland girl, she had never
actually seen an oyster up close. Had yet to discover
how hard the damn things were to crack.
Copyright © 2018 Grace Bauer. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.
He wrote the whole novel in his head, Sentence by sentence. It took him all day. Then he took out a wide-ruled yellow legal pad With three pink vertical lines marking the left margin, And from his breast pocket he extracted A disposable plastic fountain pen, And near the top of the page he wrote the word ODE In black ink, all caps. For a few minutes he did nothing. Then he skipped three lines and wrote, "It was the greatest birthday present he had ever received: The manual Smith-Corona typewriter His parents gave him on the day he graduated from high school After they took him to the Statler Hilton for lunch, Where they had cold poached salmon, his father's favorite."
Copyright © 2012 by David Lehman. Used with permission of the author.