I do think of them from time to time— just now sucking the pulp of a tangerine the taste of which is mostly texture, in this spin-drunk season that seems to forget —us. —itself. At the job I lost, their husk carcasses with the locust bean’s cracked brown pods rustled on the brick steps leading into the white-walled hours of computer screen; their compressed toil missing from the hives they left agape in the backyard of the next-door neighbor who, recently divorced, had brought us the jars of honey I spooned into teas I sipped in the break room and watched at the window as he continued to tend the needle palm and hydrangea. In the age of loss there is the dream of loss in which, of course, I am alive at the center— immobile but no one’s queen— enveloped (beloved) in bees, swathed in their wings’ wistful enterprise. They pry the evolved thin eyelids behind which I replay the landscape as last I knew it (crow feathers netting redder suns), their empire’s droning edge mindless in the spirals of my obsolescing ears. Beneath my feet what kind of earth I’m terrified to break into sprint across to free myself, to free them from the myth they make of me and then bury below their dance of manufactory; what kind of future they could die for if punching into me their stings— what future without risking the same; and while, in either body the buzzards of hunger conspire, what kind of new dread animal, this shape we take?
for Dad I’m writing you 10 years later & 2,000 miles Away from Our silence My mouth a cave That had collapsed I’m writing While you You wear the Hospital gown & count failures Such as the body’s Inability to rise I see your fingers Fumbling in the Pillbox as if Earthquakes are in Your hands I think it’s time For us to abandon Our cruelties For us to speak So s o f t We’re barely Human.
Beyond the years the answer lies,
Beyond where brood the grieving skies
And Night drops tears.
Where Faith rod-chastened smiles to rise
And doff its fears,
And carping Sorrow pines and dies—
Beyond the years.
Beyond the years the prayer for rest
Shall beat no more within the breast;
The darkness clears,
And Morn perched on the mountain's crest
Her form uprears—
The day that is to come is best,
Beyond the years.
Beyond the years the soul shall find
That endless peace for which it pined,
For light appears,
And to the eyes that still were blind
With blood and tears,
Their sight shall come all unconfined
Beyond the years.
My heart is what it was before, A house where people come and go; But it is winter with your love, The sashes are beset with snow. I light the lamp and lay the cloth, I blow the coals to blaze again; But it is winter with your love, The frost is thick upon the pane. I know a winter when it comes: The leaves are listless on the boughs; I watched your love a little while, And brought my plants into the house. I water them and turn them south, I snap the dead brown from the stem; But it is winter with your love,— I only tend and water them. There was a time I stood and watched The small, ill-natured sparrows’ fray; I loved the beggar that I fed, I cared for what he had to say, I stood and watched him out of sight; Today I reach around the door And set a bowl upon the step; My heart is what it was before, But it is winter with your love; I scatter crumbs upon the sill, And close the window,—and the birds May take or leave them, as they will.
Why the image just now of a bullet entering the mouth? Why call it raw, when it isn’t sticky and pink like a turkey meatball, just the usual: gold, and shiny, and cylindrical? What about this bullet is uncooked? Why does it multiply with you in parka or short skirt, versions of the you that you were, swallowing raw bullets as you walked? The images come without assailant, without gun, just the holes the bullets opened, the holes through which they went. And now at the age in which you ride enclosed in glass like the Pope or President you are spitting up the bullets slow-simmered in your own juices. You are shitting them out, feeling them drop from you in clumps of blood, in the days of bleeding left. But you cannot expel all of them. Some, raw as the day they entered, have expanded their mushroom heads into the flesh, or lodged their hot tip into the taste center of the brain. Will the tongue’s first encounter with pomegranate seeds be forever a lost Eden, that fruit of your girlhood, which, also meaning grenade, was perhaps never innocent? Do your own raw bullets come back to you, my friends? Let us legislate the active voice, instead. Not, “Many bodies have been used as blanks, aluminum cans.” But, “Here are the men who pulled the trigger, look at them.”
Pleasure is black.
I no longer imagine
where my body
stops or begins.
by the spit
of several centuries.
All the borders stare at the same fires.
Here I am.
Bob: Can I be your lazy eye, your wander- lust, your grave without a headstone, your bleeding gums, your buck teeth and your walk bowlegged at the knee? Can I be your fortune hunter, your glimpse of wild geese, your red russet shoes that poison the feet? Reckon this is the best of my seed. Been stripping cane and blind robbing the bees. Reckon you’ve thought of swimming the creek. Last night they came on horseback, white hoods like phantoms scanning the trees, burning torches, shattering sleep. I dragged the shotgun from the door and stepped squinting onto the porch.
The removal of aliens who pose [ ] shall be ICE’s high [ ] These aliens include [ ] engaged in or suspected of [ ] or who otherwise pose [ ] aliens convicted of [ ] particular emphasis [ ] and repeat aliens [ ] who participated [ ] [ ] subject to outstanding [ ] who otherwise pose [ ] to public safety. Aliens who are [ ] otherwise obstruct [ ] fugitive aliens, in descending priority as [ ] aliens who pose [ ] security; [ ] or who otherwise pose [ ] the community; [ ] other than [ ]; and [ ] who have not been [ ]; aliens who reenter [ ] in descending priority as [ ] aliens who pose [ ] previously removed [ ] who other- wise pose [ ] to the community; previously removed [ ] who have not been convicted of [ ] who obtain admission or status by [ ] ; otherwise [
There are poets with history and poets without history, Tsvetsaeva claimed living through the ruin of Russia. Karina says disavow every time I see her. We, the daughters between countries, wear our mean mothers like scarves around our necks. Every visit, mine recounts all the wrongs done against her ring sent for polishing returned with a lesser diamond, Years of never rest and, she looks at me, of nothing to be proud of. I am covered in welts and empty pockets so large sobs escape me in the backroom of my Landlord's fabric shop. He moves to wipe my tears as if I’m his daughter or I’m no one’s daughter. It’s true, I let him take my hand, I am a girl who needs something. I slow cook bone grief, use a weak voice. My mother calls me the girl with holes in her hands, every time I lose something. All Russian daughters were snowflakes once, and in their hair a ribbon long as their body knotted and knotted and knotted into a large translucent bow. It happens, teachers said, that a child between countries will refuse to speak. A girl with a hole in her throat, every day I opened the translation book. Silent, I took my shoes off when I came home, I put my house clothes on. We had no songs, few rituals. On Yom Kippur, we lit a candle for the dead and no one knew a prayer. We kept the candle lit, that’s all. The wave always returns, and always returns a different wave. I was small. I built a self outside my self because a child needs shelter. Not even you knew I was strange, I ate the food my family ate, I answered to my name.
When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.
I am glad daylong for the gift of song, For time and change and sorrow; For the sunset wings and the world-end things Which hang on the edge of to-morrow. I am glad for my heart whose gates apart Are the entrance-place of wonders, Where dreams come in from the rush and din Like sheep from the rains and thunders.
How-to with a wolf head in it: magic says rub tooth to your gum, sleep with cheek matted to your sweat—first you must kill it. Post a letter of carved wood that sings like howl. What happens after the cast—where to dispose of used up fur coil and red. Kept saying new when I had looked for nothing. There’s a whole word for wind in France, northeast and dry; I have not been given one to say how canvas cuts a tree’s bottom and top with grey poplars. My stretch of cells still repeating. The nuns made my body a holy cathedral, impenetrable—yet a temple is a widest entrance; place of herded into. Still have a wolf and it’s still breathing. From its mouth crawls another. Then from that, it happens again; throat combed by teeth. It became we and I was a portrait with many hearts in it.
There is a time and place in the world for abstraction. When my mother left Puerto Rico for the first time, the year was 1968. Against my unknowing. We hesitate to say what intimacy is and whether or not we have it. I keep trying / to teach my students that / stream-of-consciousness is / this, not that / this / activity fails. We know it does because each of us leaves the room / feeling like barbed wire— snarling behind the barricade (because) at some point, we stopped feeling (like language could say). So we went without while some others embraced. Notice (after the emptiness) : a pain that is not private. In other words, focus not on the object, but rather, the light that bounces off of that object. Perforated. Estranged. Esa luz. Tómatela. Under that light° I felt my body try / to hold on (to the knot inside) your right hand; when did it become a fist? Remind me what it is again / what it is that you wish / to share (with others) >> when you’re on stage… °That light, this pain (what never translates).
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.
—after Alejandra Pizarnik A yellow scraping across my skin when I write the word “sky” Not sky but scything : to let day be scraped out by night I scratched down the word “flower” & felt the parts draw away from the tongue. Not gnomon, grown*man, but ghost : to gnaw on the crisp skin once it’s been stripped down from the meat the neat meat hiding under the table of the skin’s tablatures right at the juncture where day/night meet you can see it indicated by the perforated lines what parts of us that don’t cast a shadow
Your songs are the impossible ruins that keep the hours on turn. Keep awe bare like sound at night. The candle burn. Ice melts and wax. The dirt on your mind. Engines roll in clutter. Clank cool and electrify the room. We always become mysterious— birds at the end of each evening. Whoever does the telling stops time like a crescendo. We hit blue notes so the edges of your honey jars rattle laughter against our teeth. Rhythm breaks like need or the knowledge a mouth organ has about breath and tone, blood and gravity and balance— all those sweet sounds that can make even windows shatter.
I am less of myself and more of the sun; The beat of life is wearing me To an incomplete oblivion, Yet not to the certain dignity Of death. They cannot even die Who have not lived. The hungry jaws Of space snap at my unlearned eye, And time tears in my flesh like claws. If I am not life’s, if I am not death’s, Out of chaos I must re-reap The burden of untasted breaths. Who has not waked may not yet sleep.
I In the evening, love returns, Like a wand’rer ’cross the sea; In the evening, love returns With a violet for me; In the evening, life’s a song, And the fields are full of green; All the stars are golden crowns, And the eye of God is keen. II In the evening, sorrow dies With the setting of the sun; In the evening, joy begins, When the course of mirth is done; In the evening, kisses sweet Droop upon the passion vine; In the evening comes your voice: “I am yours, and you are mine.”
& of the lattermath I can only say that with the rain the cattails grew so high that the longing nearly subsided this morning I am all moonshine on the snowbank clockwise back to a better self I am tenderfoot daisywheel though yesterday I was warpath and daydreams of underfoot animals o my fishhook in sheepskin I want to spacewalk in time with you to teaspoon sugar into your mouth to clean horsehairs from under your fingernails honeymoon of the longhouse I’ll meet you on the shadyside of the limestone for years I grew lukewarm with a backache but now I am whitefish and blackberries I am forbearer and undercurrent buttermilk and motherhood watertight thunderbird forgive me my wipeout my deadend and foremost forgive me my butterball my washrag wrung out the grasslands of the graveyard I nearly misrecognized what I almost became eggshell watercolor drained pipe goodbye o my forever bedclothes yours is the body warmblooded washbowl that I seahorse into night after night and the dogwood timepiece ticks the gumball fruitcup earache of our girls you my wavelength my tailbone lemonlime jellybean crewcut backstroke beachcomber I do I do
Like love: first you pick up; then you lay down; then discard; then discard; then discard. That’s love. Right? Did somebody say Dominoes? The problem of a street game is you. You’re already doing it wrong. Doing it wrong before you wake up. Before you walk up the street. Cross the crowded corner. Case in point: When you reach the bones table, you stop. Stare. Consider. Count. Think: This is a lovely afternoon for a friendly game of dominoes! Call next. Figure they don’t hear. Call next again. You call louder. You call in Spanish. Then you walk (again, with the walking) into the bodega. Come out with four 40oz bottles. Suddenly somebody hears. Suddenly the smell of holes burning pockets. Suddenly, the game you watch ends. Like love. Right? Somebody?
I could string him back up the tree, if you’d like. Return his skin’s meaning to an easy distance, coal dust, blaze And Willie Brown him. You Love how the blood muddies the original, The way it makes a stage of my speechifying, this leeching Capital from his dying, Like an activist. I know I’m not supposed to sing Of his ringing Penetrability, some hole I open impose On the form—but all I see is bullets, bullets discerning him, As years ago it was rope. I could pull it tighter, finger each bullet deeper, If you’d like, an inch rougher, Far enough to where becomes that second heat, erotic. I could use the erotic, If you’d like, So ungarish, baring not too frank A mood, subtle so you need it.— Funny How some dark will move illicit if you close your eyes, The way, say, my black Pleasure is named too explicit for a page, but this menace I put in it is not. I could yank and knot The rope, if you’d like, him like a strange fragment In them trees, And the word “again” spelled out about his neck Would be the rope’s predicate till let wild, patterned and Fierce his moan. It is a tragedy. No. It is a sonnet, how I know Already how he ends, But I could make him Her, if you’d like, regender them till merely Canvas for your “empathy,” Soup for my mouth. Still, if I could but just get This blunt, Burnt lynched body up From on Out the pocket behind my eye All trees could be themselves again, all sound.
February on another coast is April here. Astrology is months: you are February, or are you June, and who is December? Who is books read in spring, wingspan between midnight and mourning Another starry tree, coastal counterpoint where magnolia is a brighter season peach and pear are grafted onto the same tree fear and fat stick to the same sprained bone For this adolescent reprise recycle everything trivial but this time bring the eye into sight: make sight superior to what is seen A decade is to look at June and see April to look at April and see February Relief of repetition seasons mean again, one flowering branch suspended in the half-light of spring We sat on steps beneath a tree No: I walked by The tree bloomed and I looked up
1. I wear my grandmother’s bones like a housedress through the city. Some nights the block tells me all its problems. I’ll meet you at the top of the biggest rock in Rolesville or on train headed to a reading in Queens, just tell me where. I promise to gather your bones only for good. I was not swallowed by the darkness between two buildings. I don’t want to die in the south like so many of mine. I want to be carried back. 2. I dreamed we were digging in a field in Rolesville looking for an earth we knew the name of. You stepped into the hole, looked behind you and gestured me in. I saw every lover who held you while your children slept in rooms of small heaters, you wrap the blankets so tight, afraid of any cold that might get in. 3. I said my goodbyes, my dead will not come. I will not see a cardinal in the city so I drew one on my chest. A coop inside a coop inside of me. Leaving is necessary some say. There is a whole ocean between you and a home you can’t fix your tongue to speak. Others do not want me no further than a length of a small yard, they ask where are you going Tyree? Your mama here, you’ve got stars in your eyes. A ship in your movement.
“I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and groan, and I would say, ‘Mammy, what makes you groan so?’ And she would say, ‘I am groaning to think of my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don’t know where they be. I look up at the stars and they look up at the stars!’” —Sojourner Truth. I think I see her sitting bowed and black, Stricken and seared with slavery’s mortal scars, Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet Still looking at the stars. Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons, Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom’s bars, Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set, Still visioning the stars!
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest; Home-keeping hearts are happiest, For those that wander they know not where Are full of trouble and full of care; To stay at home is best. Weary and homesick and distressed, They wander east, they wander west, And are baffled and beaten and blown about By the winds of the wilderness of doubt; To stay at home is best. Then stay at home, my heart, and rest; The bird is safest in its nest; O’er all that flutter their wings and fly A hawk is hovering in the sky; To stay at home is best.
you’re embarrassed by your own om you say—planning your funeral considering deep drones only a limited number of patterns exist for such a song played in one breath a prayer for a pregnant woman’s easy delivery a tender preamble for a new instrument a piece played for expressing gratitude a state of mind resembling moonlight a lighter one for festive occasions a piece for overcoming difficulties that could have been handled better a piece representing manifestations of self-discipline an offering at a service for the dead a piece expressing longing for home if there are indeed “still songs to sing beyond mankind” we’ll need those now
When you said people did you mean punish?
When you said friend did you mean fraud?
When you said thought did you mean terror?
When you said connection did you mean con?
When you said God did you mean greed?
When you said faith did you mean fanatic?
When you said hope did you mean hype?
When you said unity did you mean enmity?
When you said freedom did you mean forfeit?
When you said law did you mean lie?
When you said truth did you mean treason?
When you said feeling did you mean fool?
When you said together did you mean token?
When you said desire did you mean desert?
When you said sex did you mean savagery?
When you said need did you mean nought?
When you said blood did you mean bought?
When you said heart did you mean hard?
When you said head did you mean hide?
When you said health did you mean hurt?
When you said love did you mean loss?
When you said fate did you mean fight?
When you said destiny did you mean decimate?
When you said honor did you mean hunger?
When you said bread did you mean broke?
When you said feast did you mean fast?
When you said first did you mean forgotten?
When you said last did you mean least?
When you said woman did you mean wither?
When you said man did you mean master?
When you said mother did you mean smother?
When you said father did you mean fatal?
When you said sister did you mean surrender?
When you said brother did you mean brutal?
When you said fellow did you mean follow?
When you said couple did you mean capital?
When you said family did you mean failure?
When you said mankind did you mean market?
When you said society did you mean sickness?
When you said democracy did you mean indignity?
When you said equality did you mean empty?
When you said politics did you mean power?
When you said left did you mean lost?
When you said right did you mean might?
When you said republic did you mean rich?
When you said wealthy did you mean wall?
When you said poor did you mean prison?
When you said justice did you mean just us?
When you said immigrant did you mean enemy?
When you said refugee did you mean refusal?
When you said earth did you mean ownership?
When you said soil did you mean oil?
When you said community did you mean conflict?
When you said safety did you mean suspicion?
When you said security did you mean sabotage?
When you said army did you mean Armageddon?
When you said white did you mean welcome?
When you said black did you mean back?
When you said yellow did you mean yield?
When you said brown did you mean down?
When you said we did you mean war?
When you said you did you mean useless?
When you said she did you mean suffer?
When you said he did you mean horror?
When you said they did you mean threat?
When you said I did you mean island?
When you said tribe did you mean trouble?
When you said name did you mean nobody?
When you said news did you mean nonsense?
When you said media did you mean miasma?
When you said success did you mean sucker?
When you said fame did you mean game?
When you said ideal did you mean idol?
When you said yesterday did you mean travesty?
When you said today did you mean doomsday?
When you said tomorrow did you mean never?
When you said hear did you mean hush?
When you said listen did you mean limit?
When you said write did you mean wound?
When you said read did you mean retreat?
When you said literacy did you mean apathy?
When you said fiction did you mean forget?
When you said poetry did you mean passivity?
When you say art do you mean act?