The screens plant bulbs
of tension inward, but hit no nerves.
River of speechless current.
My gaze faces the screen, laps up
blue-eyed policemen in bloom
and a fat fog fanning out by the inch
across cities in eastern China.
Refresh for a politician yawning
In the bed of pixels, I can make out
truth and fiction taking turns,
one imitating the other.
My window faces stone and glass.
My screen faces my face.
The clean square cells of this city
contain so many faces.
Each brightened by a fear
which makes them commonplace.
Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Xie. Used with permission of the author.
The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed. And for me.
It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate! How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.
The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world. But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.
She will enter it. As I have.
She will wake up. She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips. I will say nothing.
From In a Time of Violence, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994. Copyright © 1994 by Eavan Boland. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.
You're seventeen and tunnel-vision drunk,
swerving your father's Fairlane wagon home
at 3:00 a.m. Two-lane road, all curves
and dips—dark woods, a stream, a patchy acre
of teazle and grass. You don't see the deer
till they turn their heads—road full of eyeballs,
small moons glowing. You crank the wheel,
stamp both feet on the brake, skid and jolt
into the ditch. Glitter and crunch of broken glass
in your lap, deer hair drifting like dust. Your chin
and shirt are soaked—one eye half-obscured
by the cocked bridge of your nose. The car
still running, its lights angled up at the trees.
You get out. The deer lies on its side.
A doe, spinning itself around
in a frantic circle, front legs scrambling,
back legs paralyzed, dead. Making a sound—
again and again this terrible bleat.
You watch for a while. It tires, lies still.
And here's what you do: pick the deer up
like a bride. Wrestle it into the back of the car—
the seat folded down. Somehow, you steer
the wagon out of the ditch and head home,
night rushing in through the broken window,
headlight dangling, side-mirror gone.
Your nose throbs, something stabs
in your side. The deer breathing behind you,
shallow and fast. A stoplight, you're almost home
and the deer scrambles to life, its long head
appears like a ghost in the rearview mirror
and bites you, its teeth clamp down on your shoulder
and maybe you scream, you struggle and flail
till the deer, exhausted, lets go and lies down.
Your father's waiting up, watching tv.
He's had a few drinks and he's angry.
Christ, he says, when you let yourself in.
It's Night of the Living Dead. You tell him
some of what happened: the dark road,
the deer you couldn't avoid. Outside, he circles
the car. Jesus, he says. A long silence.
Son of a bitch, looking in. He opens the tailgate,
drags the quivering deer out by a leg.
What can you tell him—you weren't thinking,
you'd injured your head? You wanted to fix
what you'd broken—restore the beautiful body,
color of wet straw, color of oak leaves in winter?
The deer shudders and bleats in the driveway.
Your father walks to the toolshed,
comes back lugging a concrete block.
Some things stay with you. Dumping the body
deep in the woods, like a gangster. The dent
in your nose. All your life, the trail of ruin you leave.
From The Pleasure Principle by Jon Loomis. Reprinted by permission of Oberlin College Press, Field Poetry Series, v. 11. Copyright © 2001 by Jon Loomis. All rights reserved.