Copyright © 2018 Joe Wilkins. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2018.
A good way to fall in love is to turn off the headlights and drive very fast down dark roads. Another way to fall in love is to say they are only mints and swallow them with a strong drink. Then it is autumn in the body. Your hands are cold. Then it is winter and we are still at war. The gold-haired girl is singing into your ear about how we live in a beautiful country. Snow sifts from the clouds into your drink. It doesn't matter about the war. A good way to fall in love is to close up the garage and turn the engine on, then down you'll fall through lovely mists as a body might fall early one morning from a high window into love. Love, the broken glass. Love, the scissors and the water basin. A good way to fall is with a rope to catch you. A good way is with something to drink to help you march forward. The gold-haired girl says, Don't worry about the armies, says, We live in a time full of love. You're thinking about this too much. Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.
Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Prufer. Reprinted from In a Beautiful Country with the permission of Four Way Books.
Since we must soon be fed
As honey and new bread
To every-hungry Death:
O, love me very sweet
And kiss me very long
And let us use our breath
Nothing else endures
From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.
Cuba and Puerto Rico
are two wings of the same bird:
they receive flowers and bullets
in the same heart.
—Lola Rodríguez de Tió, 1889
Tattoo the Puerto Rican flag on my shoulder.
Stain the skin red, white and blue, not the colors
that snap over holiday parades or sag over the graves
of veterans in the States, but the colors of Cuba reversed:
a flag for the rebels in the hills of Puerto Rico, dreamt up
by Puerto Ricans exiles in the Cuban Revolutionary Party,
bearded and bespectacled in the sleet of New York.
Wise Men lost on their way to Bethlehem. That
was 1895, the same year José Martí would die,
poet shot from a white horse in his first battle.
Tattoo the Puerto Rican flag on my shoulder,
so if I close my eyes forever in the cold
and the doctors cannot tell the cause of death,
you will know that I died like José Martí,
with flowers and bullets in my heart.
Reprinted from Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Copyright © 2016 by Martín Espada. Used with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. and Frances Goldin Literary Agency.
To grow old is to lose everything. Aging, everybody knows it. Even when we are young, we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads when a grandfather dies. Then we row for years on the midsummer pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage, that began without harm, scatters into debris on the shore, and a friend from school drops cold on a rocky strand. If a new love carries us past middle age, our wife will die at her strongest and most beautiful. New women come and go. All go. The pretty lover who announces that she is temporary is temporary. The bold woman, middle-aged against our old age, sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand. Another friend of decades estranges himself in words that pollute thirty years. Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge and affirm that it is fitting and delicious to lose everything.
Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 2002 by Donald Hall. All rights reserved.