A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:
just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.
She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell.
Tomato pies are what we called them, those days,
before Pizza came in,
at my Grandmother’s restaurant,
in Trenton New Jersey.
My grandfather is rolling meatballs
in the back. He studied to be a priest in Sicily but
saved his sister Maggie from marrying a bad guy
by coming to America.
Uncle Joey is rolling dough and spooning sauce.
Uncle Joey, is always scrubbed clean,
sobered up, in a white starched shirt, after
cops delivered him home just hours before.
The waitresses are helping
themselves to handfuls of cash out of the drawer,
playing the numbers with Moon Mullin
and Shad, sent in from Broad Street. 1942,
tomato pies with cheese, 25 cents.
With anchovies, large, 50 cents.
A whole dinner is 60 cents (before 6 pm).
How the soldiers, bussed in from Fort Dix,
would stand outside all the way down Warren Street,
waiting for this new taste treat,
young guys in uniform,
lined up and laughing, learning Italian,
before being shipped out to fight the last great war.
Copyright © by Grace Cavalieri. Used with the permission of the poet.
For Laquan McDonald
I think it’s quails lining the road but it's fallen Birchwood.
What look like white clouds in a grassy basin, sprinklers.
I mistake the woman walking her retriever as a pair of fawns.
Could-be animals. Unexplained weather. Maybe they see us
that way. Knowing better, the closer they get. Not quite ready to let it go.
Copyright © 2020 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
A glass knife. A candle. Chamomile.
A handsaw. A hand towel.
A sharps container. Stones
that may or may not be hollow,
holding crystals. Ceramic tributes
to the moon. A no-kill mousetrap.
Carnations. Carnal studies. Blue thread,
to make stitches. Matches, to be struck.
I wanted to understand form,
the beginning of things. I deconstructed.
I stopped a clock, pulled its hands
from its hard face. I undressed
beneath the incandescent overhead.
I couldn’t name myself, but I renamed myself.
In a bowl, strawberries thawed
in their own wet red. I couldn’t think
too hard, which worried me. Because
there was no answer I wanted. To be a man
to be a tree / or something less / like a plank.
What I saw, I pinned down. I listed
what I knew to be true. Road salt
in an open dish. An hourglass full
of pink sand. A ruler. Assuming what I saw
was honest. The name? It means watchful
(later I found, in Latin, wrath. Oops).
It is my duty, dear reader, to never look away.
Copyright © 2020 Ira Goga. This poem originally appeared on poets.org as part of the 2020 University and College Poetry Prizes. Used with permission of the author.
translated by Bryan Mendoza
It’s a spacious chamber.
A light that refracts the distant woodland.
Over the table lies
the body and the wings
like sails of a shipwreck.
They’ve stitched together the carnage
with no other motive
than something comparable to mercy.
Soon the volunteers will arrive
and they’ll take the body,
including the wings
to the landfill.
Disección del cadáver de Pegaso
Es una sala espaciosa.
Es luz que refracta el bosque lejano.
Sobre la mesa yacen
el cuerpo y las alas
como velas de bajeles deshechos.
Han hilvanado el despojo
sin otro motivo
que algo semejante a la caridad.
Pronto llegarán los voluntarios
y se llevarán el cuerpo,
incluidas las alas,
© 2020 Julio Pazos Barrera and Bryan Mendoza. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on September 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.