in Ramallah
the ancients play chess in the starry sky
the endgame flickers
a bird locked in a clock
jumps out to tell the time

in Ramallah
the sun climbs over the wall like an old man
and goes through the market
throwing mirror light on
a rusted copper plate

in Ramallah
gods drink water from earthen jars
a bow asks a string for directions
a boy sets out to inherit the ocean
from the edge of the sky

in Ramallah
seeds sown along the high noon
death blossoms outside my window
resisting, the tree takes on a hurricane's
violent original shape

"Ramallah" by Bei Dao, from World Beat: International Poetry Now, copyright 2006 by Zhao Zhenkai, Translation © Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheong. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Imagine them in black, the morning heat losing within this day that floats. And always there is the being, and the not-seeing on their way to—

The days they approach and their sharpest aches will wrap experience until knowledge is translucent, the frost on which they find themselves slipping. Never mind the loose mindless grip of their forms reflected in the eye-watering hues of the surface, these two will survive in their capacity to meet, to hold the other beneath the plummeting, in the depths below each step full of avoidance. What they create will be held up, will resume: the appetite is bigger than joy. indestructible. for never was it independent from who they are. who will be.

Were we ever to arrive at knowing the other as the same pulsing compassion would break the most orthodox heart.

Excerpt from Plot, copyright © 2001 by Claudia Rankine. Used by permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited.

—“mu” ninety-eighth part—

Remembered moment lamenting
  its exit, the anaphylactic aria
fell away. What beauty promised or
  we projected faded, we moved
                                          on,
  not’s province the place we
now camped in… The abandoned
  ones we averred we’d someday
                                          be
fell away as well. The abandoned
  girl and boy blended in… Thought’s
province it was we pitched our tents
                                             in.
Wind wrinkled our foreheads, thought
  not’s not someday… Not made every
eye water. In our heads more than ever,
                                                    syl-
  labic beads we thumbed, not’s dread
have-without-hold we bowed down to,
  cried Cry blood, fell back… There
was a box inside my head, something
                                               men-
  acing shook it, Joe Henderson’s tenor.
Not’s woken-up-to now we backed away
  from, Little Johnnie C, “Hobo Joe”…
                                                 In-
sistent, imposed itself, beside the point.
  All of it was orphan song we chimed in
on, chided by it, charmed even so. I saw
                                                    no
light but said otherwise, lit by the thought
  of it, not-light lytic, tear between said
and saw… Light stole away, some kind
                                                of
  spell I was under. At more removes
than there was ground for, I stole away
  as well, said to have been heard to
say hush. A tiptoe ghost octet fidgeted
                                               be-
  hind us. Not was another name for
   death I was afraid and afraid my feet
  would fail, Idiot Footless, feet I did
                                               in-
deed speak with, did indeed say hush…
  A little bit of nothing, anaphylactic
rush, seen-say gone so soon we were
                                               not’s
  understudies. Whatever it was we did,
no matter what we did, whatever we did we
  did away… No one heard footsteps, no
                                                   feet
  struck the dirt. Earth beset by see-thru
sleep, transparent footprint, sleepwalk’s
  his and hers an it club of late, the aban-
doned his and hers run come… In back
                                                of
  us the ghost octet kept at it, thread on
the box and on the backs of our necks,
  hair stood on the backs of our necks.
                                                Bal-
letic, they traipsed on tiptoe, shushed all
  who stood and looked on. The sense we
were being shadowed had hold of us, the
                                                   sense
  of being had we had… They were plotting
what it was to be footless, points on a graph
  the ground had become. What it meant to
                                                       be
a tiptoe ghost we could see now, shushed
  as we were, shadowed as we were, warned
we were better off away, beside the point,
  not’s null insistence, moot… All the same,
                                                       they
   doused us all in fish powder, a rite we were
                                                           none
  the wiser
for



        ____________________

        (slogan)

  I saw no way to be wise enough. Tonal
motion made me weep. I saw no way to
  stay where I was, be where I was, what-
ever it was I was moved on, moved over,
                                                     what-
   ever it was worried what I was… So it
    was green loomed outside my window,
 drawn light in Low Forest I was wise to,
  saw thru, aroused by light’s reluctance
                                                  but
  not to be caught out, no way could I be
                                                   wise
   enough I
  knew

Copyright © 2013 by Nathaniel Mackey. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on October 2, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Swell     you can dream more   the earth
swells      seeds pop
I glance at the prize
eyes closed in the glancing

It's not a time to run
I wear soft shoes
and it took a long time
to walk here

Insects nudge me in my dreams
like the 5 honey bees plus
the strange one
Intelligent bee glances buzzing

to say   Let me out    The fake
lights confuse us
confuses the source

Worker bee buzzed my neck
directly   me not turning off
lamps fast enough

Please
     just open the door
to the sun

Copyright © 2011 by Hoa Nguyen. Used with permission of the author.

I was called back into the dark during an early morning flyover     onto a rusty mauve plain     fields overrun with a low river of tar     the smell of burning grass carried from the east     flowing upward through neon bright signs of pharmaceuticals and snow     a bronze liquid of promise        a fleeting and always-ending sleep     the remains of chipped concrete eating away the foundations of every building     tables of salt rising over the whole country     I was called onto a platform in the north     a miles- wide outpost     where I sat     waiting to hear what new harm my sisters had conjured     they reached me by phone     through a star or their dreams     a breaking request from our father that had traveled through a long and oily channel     I could understand its beauty     the rainbow-thick shimmer of pigment and poison     a seeping fissure of love     before  the apocalypse     the ruin     or just the overhanging clouds     yesterday a maker of brine and sauerkraut told me the world would end by corrosion and decay     I’m not so sure     I hear the  eruption between refusal and insistence     or maybe just a truck   driving through 

Copyright © 2020 by Samuel Ace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.

Harjo, Joy, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems; Copyright © 2015 by W. W. Norton & Company. Reprinted with permission of Anderson Literary Management LLC, 244 Fifth Avenue, Floor 11, New York, NY 10001.

* bring us to dark knots the black
eyes along white aspen skin to scrape
with a rock on surface where I press
I carve the initials of all and **
*** bring us to a returning no
an urning a vessel of corpse
ash in the active state of being
held by two hands positioned
gripping the sides to tip
and scatter my night dream
of an acquaintance who
presented me a ledger opened
to a page handwritten in pencil
dates names and meetings ****
***** I said I don’t want to
see it I don’t want to know
if my father betrayed me
as the words left
my dream mouth I woke I shook
to the bone a hot line notched
from heart to elbow throbbing
vein-ache in my body how
I’d replaced another man’s name
-a man I once loved I mean to say-
with the word father in a flash
the sleeping eye ripped me
from denial I’m not so complex
see my mind unclothed
is a crying newborn
predictable
aspen leaves in untimed
wind-filled rhythm my mother
turned eighty what at that age is left
to surprise though
                                        suddenly

the tone here shifts to listen
she said I don’t know if I ever said
when I was pregnant with you
I found out he’d cheated
I threw ****** into the yard
I locked him out
pregnant with you I cried
and I cried so long and hard
I thought I was going to
die yes she said it a heavy bass line
beneath aspen music and timbre
I sit on the patio to smoke I think
at night always at night maybe
cause I was born / at night or
my name means night God bless
my mother she believed
my name meant pure
spirit so it may be the darkest
hours are when I’m purest
when I am I          I am fluid
a clear stream over rock or
*******
as poetry goes ********
I think about a baby in utero I can’t help
but wonder what the baby knows
a study says babies and toddlers
remember
through impression not specifics
I rummage the syllables and stress
of each line in *********
impression is a mark
on the surface
caused by pressure or
a quick undetailed sketch or
the imitation
of someone / I
carried her nine months
beneath my own skin her small toes
relaxed her eyes shut
within me her fingertips
pressed into palms she made
                                                                    a fist
                                                                    or was it

a symbol
for the Sun what rising
what of battle my child knows
scares me to the pure
the one I           I burn in question

 

*            may all the grief
**          may all
***        the loss
****                  all your misdeeds
*****                love of my soul
******              all his things
******* spit in a cup
********          night is a womb
*********        the definition

Copyright © 2018 by Layli Long Soldier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

This poem is in the public domain.

Machinist in the pillow’s grip,
Be clumsy and be blind
And let the gears spin free, and turn
No metal in your mind.

Long, long may the actress lie
In slumber like a stone,
The helpless words that rise from sleep
Be no words but her own.

Laborer, drift through a dark
Remote from clay and lime.
O do not tunnel through the night
In unpaid overtime.

You out-of-work, walk into sleep.
It will not ask to see
Your proof of skill or strength or youth
And shows its movies free.

And may the streetcleaner float down
A spotless avenue.
Who red-eyed wake at morning break
All have enough to do.

Enough to do. Now let the day
Its own accountings keep.
But may our dreams keep other time
Throughout our sprawling sleep.

Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Replansky. “Night Prayer for Various Trades” originally appeared in The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934-1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994). Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic—windows on a house of air.

Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.

From This Art: Poems on Poetry edited by Michael Wiegers. Copyright © 2003 by Ruth Stone. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All right reserved.

just as I am I come
knee bent and body bowed 
this here's sorrow's home 
my body's southern song

cram all you can 
into jelly jam 
preserve a feeling 
keep it sweet 

so beautiful it was 
presumptuous to alter 
the shape of my pleasure
in doing or making

proceed with abandon 
finding yourself where you are 
and who you're playing for 
what stray companion

Copyright © 2006 by Harryette Mullen. Reprinted from Recyclopedia with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Every time, these days, it seems, an equation gets forced. Forged:

                  far cry
                  ______

                  low rise


                                and every morning sticks, figure A, for alas, stick figures, it
figures that we awaken in the same rectangle at different points on the time
line, these every days the sum of all our


                                                        angles, a beyond-complementary
rate, exceeding three hundred sixty, then three hundred sixty-five, three
hundred seventy

                        days, and angles, a supersaturated moon. Also it is morning
and I am far

                  from and I cry.


                                        The last ditch grows deeper and I stuff the
world into a quadratic of words, for example:              But-I-love-you.
       Place-in-the-box.         Pass-the-god-damn-butter.
                 That’s four against three.                    Far against which cry.

Copyright © 2013 by Sawako Nakayasu. Used with permission of the author.

That the deepest wound is the least unique
surprises nobody but the living.
Secretly, and with what feels like good reason,
we’re the pain the people we love
put the people they no longer love in.

Copyright © 2017 by Graham Foust. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

 

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons – 
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes – 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are – 

None may teach it – Any – 
'Tis the Seal Despair – 
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air – 

When it comes, the Landscape listens – 
Shadows – hold their breath – 
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death – 

Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

I call for you cultivation of strength in the dark.
Dark gardening
in the vertigo cold.
in the hot paralysis.
Under the wolves and coyotes of particular silences.
Where it is dry.
Where it is dry.
I call for you
cultivation of victory Over
long blows that you want to give and blows you are going to get.

Over
what wants to crumble you down, to sicken
you. I call for you
cultivation of strength to heal and enhance
in the non-cheering dark,
in the many many mornings-after;
in the chalk and choke.

From To Disembark (Third World Press, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted by consent of Brooks Permissions.

     Night funeral
     In Harlem:

     Where did they get
     Them two fine cars?

Insurance man, he did not pay—
His insurance lapsed the other day—
Yet they got a satin box
for his head to lay.

     Night funeral
     In Harlem:

     Who was it sent
     That wreath of flowers?

Them flowers came
from that poor boy's friends—
They'll want flowers, too,
When they meet their ends.

     Night funeral
     in Harlem:

     Who preached that
     Black boy to his grave?

Old preacher man
Preached that boy away—
Charged Five Dollars
His girl friend had to pay.

     Night funeral
     In Harlem:

When it was all over
And the lid shut on his head
and the organ had done played
and the last prayers been said
and six pallbearers
Carried him out for dead
And off down Lenox Avenue
That long black hearse done sped,
     The street light
     At his corner
     Shined just like a tear— That boy that they was mournin'
Was so dear, so dear
To them folks that brought the flowers,
To that girl who paid the preacher man—
It was all their tears that made
     That poor boy's
     Funeral grand.

     Night funeral
     In Harlem.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

                                       after Hieronymus Bosch

There’s no there there, no here here—
a timetable shows the missing trains, the fruit bowl longs for oranges.
We went ahead to lurch behind, booked
a passage so circuitous it carves
new dimensions in the tabletops. They’ve posted
soldiers in the laundromats and everything you want

Irradiates to dust. I wanted
to become a different human, left myself here
among the daisies, tied the horse to a newell post
and let him nibble all the oranges.
Sweet tongue to the fruit, sweet agronome—carve
statues out of butter to venerate the cows—your books

with all their fractured mirrors, diminish me, bookend
this life with the twin ghosts of hollowness and want.
Among all the things we might have carved
into trees or out of marble, not a single effigy captures the here
of our simplicity, the rolling hips of fields, the slutty orange
of trees that turn on you each fall. Whereas a fence is made of posts

the country’s made of crosses and we post
death threats on the clothesline flapping with the sheets. I thought a good book
could solve it all, the proper smile. Yet tyranny wears orange
trappings, a mine fire, a deposition. I want
something to put my body in, I want to feel the here-
and-now draw its tongue along my neck, carve

a cuneiform instruction manual in my shoulder blades, make me a carved
idol for this new century of cosmic meltdown. Write this on a Post-it
note and affix it to the future: “Here
lies the history of America, one big comic book
of medical interventions.” There’s a way to want
that’s simple as our minds. There’s an orange

sun fatter than the sky, an orange
demon on a blitzkrieg mission to barbeque oblivion. Carve
me a corner I might hole up in, give way to what you want
and want for nothing. All we have are postage
stamps from foreign places, an attic full of musty yarn. Strike a matchbook
to it all, flee the scene and we were never there.

I want so many things for us, post my hopes on a telephone pole like lost puppies
but the book is here, our names carved from its narrative—all lost, all devastation.
Peel and pith the orange holds its essence in its skin. Peel and pith its bitterness, too.

Copyright © 2020 by Marci Nelligan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

		See how she lists. The body is bent as light, as wind will it.
And so you must tread light. Mind the rocks under foot. You must tread slow.
There has been drought; see where water has long ago troughed, has carved her.
		See how she branches, twisting, her many hands reaching.
Her roots also reach, sweetened from reaching. When fire arrives, she toughens.
She will slough away the thick. She will be slick, and dark beneath the rough.
She will mimic the fire her bones remember. Know her bones glisten.
		See how she rests. The body will fall, as time wills it.
See how it hollows, how her pieces return to earth.
	And from her thick trunk, mushrooms cluster—
			Her belly a nest of moss and poison.
When broken open, see what of her mother she has kept,
			what of her father, what of the stars.

Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Jane Reyes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don’t want so much misery.
I don’t want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That’s why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

 "Walking Around" from Neruda & Vallejo: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda and translated by Robert Bly (Boston: Becon Press, 1993). Used with permission of Robert Bly.

  At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of speech and the vertigo of death;
  the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena in submarine gardens;
  the laughter that sets on fire the rules and the holy commandments;
  the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
  the despair that boards a paper boat and crosses,
  for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-sorrow desert;
  the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipation of the self;
  the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors; the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and the garden of Netzahualcoyotl;
  the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the cave of thought;
  the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
  the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on the waves of language;
  the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid: the love in love.


Syllables seeds.

From The Collected Poems 1957-1987. Copyright © 1986 by Octavio Paz and Eliot Weinberger. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

   I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
I want to get far away from the busyness of the cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

   I don't want them to tell me again how the corpse keeps all its blood,
how the decaying mouth goes on begging for water.
I'd rather not hear about the torture sessions the grass arranges for
nor about how the moon does all its work before dawn
with its snakelike nose.

   I want to sleep for half a second,
a second, a minute, a century,
but I want everyone to know that I am still alive,
that I have a golden manger inside my lips,
that I am the little friend of the west wind,
that I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.

   When it's dawn just throw some sort of cloth over me
because I know dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me,
and pour a little hard water over my shoes
so that the scorpion claws of the dawn will slip off.

   Because I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
and learn a mournful song that will clean all earth away from me,
because I want to live with that shadowy child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

By Federico García Lorca, translated and edited by Robert Bly, and published by Beacon Press in Selected Poems: Lorca and Jiménez. © 1973 by Robert Bly. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Coming at an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers. Where
Did it end? There is no telling. No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves’ boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye
Like death.
Coming at an end. Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
Its endings.
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons. Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.

From A Book of Music by Jack Spicer. Appears in My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan University Press, 2008). Used by permission.

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, 
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart, 
an eternal pasture folded in all thought 
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light 
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am 
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved 
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words 
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing 
east against the source of the sun 
in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game 
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 
as if it were a given property of the mind 
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

by Robert Duncan, from The Opening of the Field. Copyright © 1960 by Robert Duncan. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Translated by Brian Holton

rot    holds the long rows of this great ship of stone
rot    holds your footstep    my footstep

walking the toppled waste where the Admiral gazes down upon the water
marble window frames    door lintels elaborately carved
the oil paint of the sky    soaks the ebb and flow of tides under the bridge’s parapet
young girls’ eyes sparkle on the decks
never afraid to wave good-bye    poems of setting sail    poems of dreaming

we pass through time    like swallows startled by the bells

walk the inverted rotted underwater forest
a thousand years of tamping
a stinking deep black growth ring holds the palette of the waves
smearing your portrait    my portrait
a rotted portrait is invisible    yet like roots
it grows day after day    poking at the sea’s black-and-blue wound
from deposits of sludge rise pearls and dead bones
in the sound of colored glass violins
a row of dead sailors locked into the struggle to keep paddling

in ship’s holds flooded with brilliant sunshine
                 gold    always pornographic enough
                            to make humans dizzier than yesterday

walk narrow alleys where water can’t turn back
hear seabirds cackle like ghosts
                            howl like infants

rotting branches gently sway in the green waves
rotting fish embedded in the silver-bright seashells under walls
the water level    climbs timber stakes    climbs stone steps
like a curse locks a rusty wooden door
like a collapse    another balcony dragged into black moonlight
bleached skeletons    pull another balcony’s snow-white bones closer
in the pitch black moonlight sway shadows of people   sway reflections in water
illusion is no metaphor
periscoping centuries pursue their own termination

you this instant    I this instant
the little backyard jetty moored where flows a filthy river
tastes unloaded from our flesh    spread out on the breeze
winged lions vacantly stare at the future

Copyright © 2018 Brian Holton. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, September/October 2018.

 


 
with David Rothenberg, Nicola Hein, George Lewis, Dafna Naphtali, Andrew Drury, Tanya Kalmanovich, Hans Tammen, Sarah Weaver, David Grubbs, and Ally-Jane Grossan

Logistics sounds like a work song. The bottom anticipates and tills and then it’s time to turn over. This limbned, uncoordinated independence is anagnostic. Flesh touches. I am because we are is some bullshit. I ain’t because we share air lore, more notes on Auto da Fé’s blacking of the presence of an absence. The abyss between frames, that dehiscence, indicates this refusal either to fuse or choose between tearing and binding, a careful preservation of wounding. The whole fade in a shuffle it projects and prepares, a soufflé of angles, a palimpsest of snares and rides, some continually hidden h, a heft of air, a thievish shift carnival, a tufted shear, a shhhh of whirr and bookfan. We wear a fan of books, page over other kissing inside lip to disappear into another outside in coming into view. We all come from nothing to hard tone row and that cool move, chafing against the new phasis of the history of displacement, sound like it got a three on it to me. Blackness is the revelation of that which makes a people uncertain, unclear and awry in its action and knowledge. I think I been thinking ‘bout that for ‘bout thirty years, Krupa become Krupskaya having lost their aura, but when I get a chance I ask Scott La Rock why I start to think and then I sink into the paper like I was ink, like I was a Chinese painter in the hold of the beholding. The zero degree is what he says; she says nothing in reply, a festival, irreparable. The age of quantum mechanical reproduction is giving tune away to rise. Collaborate elaboration, William. Infinite consanguinity, Dumbo. Fleeta Drum came with us, brought something with him, brought a swing with her to fold the document. Can improvisation be documented? Has it ever been? Lemme ask Scott when I see him—see if improvisation can be revised. Scott, can improvisation be revised? That’s an arctic jazz question, regarding whales and, further inland, elephants, and saxophone kids, non-expert users, autodidactic squirrels in task decomposition. Is there an analogy between improvisation and optimization, affirmation and ingardenation on improvisational gardening? What’s the Greek word for “reading”? Which is the point of all this rub and cyclone, when the eye falls into plenitude in a series of caressive abuse and kisses, oikopolitics and storms, good and bad time weather in a tore up propagation of clicks, which is when I realized you’d prepared the back of our throat for a speech about the tragic ship, the interminable line to it and the endless line from it, woodskin, wind’s skin, wound and drumbone, bowed, time to stay, string, till poise come back for poise, for our unsupported method and post-sculptural stuttering and non-purposive black massive hymn and sold, celebratory subcanadian scotchplain, plummets of bird patterning, the scotchirish hazarding of north ideas, habitually prenational birds, field recordings of syncrudescent birds flew down to tailing in the good and bad time weather, bird in the collective head of mama’nem at the blues university, Clyde’n’mama’nem and her and ask and think a digital conference of the birds, viola, ‘cause music is the fruit of love and earth and nobody gon’ buy it anyway, for there is nothing lost, that may be found in these findings, by these foundlings, driving ‘round vising and revisiting in the inescapable history of not being you. Our name is unnameable in this regard and miles ahead, feeling what you can’t see all incompletely. The half-fullness of your glasses makes you wanna make the word go away but you do have a capacity for massage that gives me hope. In the delicate evening software, I can understand Russell Westbrook. It’s ulmeric, oliveirian, in its unfirewalled all over the placelessness. We gig everywhere and it just makes me wanna giggle, or holler at you from way over here, party over there, if you can wait, we being behind the beat a little bit but right at the beguining, gynomonastically basic and maternal earth tones all out from the tone world, deep in the bass loom, twilight weaving morning in La Jolla/moonlight in Vermont someplace, some folks parking, some just getting dressed, everybody waiting with everybody for right now in right there, party over here. Well moled, old Grubbs! We all here in the ruins but we got something in our hands—an experimental bandcamp for news and flowers. And I appreciate y’all letting me sit in, being so far from virtuosity. I wanna be communicable from way back. I wanna be in your base community, grace abounding to the chief of sinners. Remember that song by the Spinners called “Sadie”? The one on Spinners Live! where he reverted—that contrapulsive, not just knee-deep conversioning he got caught up in? Soul Wynne was sewing that night. It was like he had a drum in his chest, just to let you know that nothing lasts forever. The improvisation of forgetting is redactive flow everyday with all these voices in our head. These are always revising herself. One said they told us to be Germanic so, with great surprise, we took a picture of your tech with yourself, our constraint, and it was undecidable between us but plantational, since we the police of different voices, to be your instrument in this sovereign fade. Go back and look at it again when we fade a little bit, when invention won’t let us come up on it from behind. I don’t know my own stuff well enough to mix it right now, but we been remixing it all along past the everyday fade. Mama’nem are the different voices in your head. Are you gon’ play me now? I wan be played with you. I wanna be down with you. My code voice is Stanley Clarke, rajautomatic mixive for the people’s quartet, no way to control it, can’t caul it, won’t be covered, some uncoverable cuvée, girl, some prekripkean cupcake, causally unnameable as that Krupa keep coming back, tense but casually anafrican. Scott says the Greek word for reading is writing. It could be, I don’t know. I’m undecidable between us but you can ring my bell. The night is young and full of possibilities, the only trace of which, when I go back, is how I sound for you from one diffusion to another, as if the room were our hijab, as if we were a roomful of people writing about Cecil Taylor, as if writing about Cecil were reading James Cone, as if I were Sharon Cone’s escort to Cecil’s going home, as if we were the temporary contemporary—air above mountains, buildings in our hands.

Copyright © 2018 by Fred Moten. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.


The mark of Cain won't sprout
from a soldier who shoots
at the head of a child
on a knoll by the fence
around a refugee camp--
for beneath his helmet,
conceptually speaking,
his head is made of cardboard.
On the other hand,
the officer has read The Rebel;
his head is enlightened,
and so he does not believe
in the mark of Cain.
He's spent time in museums,
and when he aims 
his rifle at a boy
as an ambassador of Culture,
he updates and recycles
Goya's etchings
and Guernica.

From J'Accuse by Aharon Shabtai. Copyright © 2003 by Aharon Shabtai and Peter Cole. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

      I release the earth and I imprison the skies.  I fall down in order to stay faithful to 
the light, in order to make the world ambiguous, fascinating, changeable, dangerous, in 
order to announce the steps beyond.
     The blood of the gods is still fresh on my clothes.  A seagull's scream echoes 
through my pages.  Let me just pack up my words and leave.

From Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs by Adonis. Copyright © 2008 by Adonis. Reprinted by permission of B.O.A. Editions. All rights reserved.

translated from the Japanese by William George Aston

An ancient pond!
With a sound from the water
Of the frog as it plunges in.

 

 

                                            

From A History of Japanese Literature (William Heinemann, 1899). This poem is in the public domain.

It's a day when all the dogs of all
the borrowed houses are angel footing
down the hard hardwood of middle-America's
newly loaned-up renovated kitchen floors,
and the world's nicest pie I know
is somewhere waiting for the right
time to offer itself to the wayward
and the word-weary. How come the road
goes coast to coast and never just
dumps us in the water, clean and
come clean, like a fish slipped out
of the national net of "longing for joy."
How come it doesn't? Once, on a road trip
through the country, a waitress walked
in the train's diner car and swished
her non-aproned end and said,
"Hot stuff and food too." My family
still says it, when the food is hot,
and the mood is good inside the open windows.
I'd like to wear an apron for you
and come over with non-church sanctioned
knee-highs and the prettiest pie of birds
and ocean water and grief. I'd like
to be younger when I do this, like the country
before Mr. Meriwether rowed the river
and then let the country fill him up
till it killed him hard by his own hand.
I'd like to be that dog they took with them,
large and dark and silent and un-blamable.
Or I'd like to be Emily Dickinson's dog, Carlo,
and go on loving the rare un-loveable puzzle
of woman and human and mind. But, I bet I'm more
the house beagle and the howl and the obedient
eyes of everyone wanting to make their own kind
of America, but still be America, too. The road
is long and all the dogs don't care too much about
roadside concrete history and postcards of state
treasures, they just want their head out the window,
and the speeding air to make them feel faster
and younger, and newer than all the dogs
that went before them, they want to be your only dog,
your best-loved dog, for this good dog of today
to be the only beast that matters.

Copyright © 2012 by Ada Limón. Used with permission of the author.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp. Used with permission.