after Linda Hogan
Nothing wants to suffer. Not the wind
as it scrapes itself against the cliff. Not the cliff
being eaten, slowly, by the sea. The earth does not want
to suffer the rough tread of those who do not notice it.
The trees do not want to suffer the axe, nor see
their sisters felled by root rot, mildew, rust.
The coyote in its den. The puma stalking its prey.
These, too, want ease and a tender animal in the mouth
to take their hunger. An offering, one hopes,
made quickly, and without much suffering.
The chair mourns an angry sitter. The lamp, a scalded moth.
A table, the weight of years of argument.
We know this, though we forget.
Not the shark nor the tiger, fanged as they are.
Nor the worm, content in its windowless world
of soil and stone. Not the stone, resting in its riverbed.
The riverbed, gazing up at the stars.
Least of all, the stars, ensconced in their canopy,
looking down at all of us— their offspring—
scattered so far beyond reach.
Copyright © 2021 by Danusha Laméris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
In those days, there was a woman in our circle
who was known, not only for her beauty,
but for taking off all her clothes and singing opera.
And sure enough, as the night wore on and the stars
emerged to stare at their reflections on the sea,
and everyone had drunk a little wine,
she began to disrobe, loose her great bosom,
and the tender belly, pale in the moonlight,
the Viking hips, and to let her torn raiment
fall to the sand as we looked up from the flames.
And then a voice lifted into the dark, high and clear
as a flock of blackbirds. And everything was very still,
the way the congregation quiets when the priest
prays over the incense, and the smoke wafts
up into the rafters. I wanted to be that free
inside the body, the doors of pleasure
opening, one after the next, an arpeggio
climbing the ladder of sky. And all the while
she was singing and wading into the water
until it rose up to her waist and then lapped
at the underside of her breasts, and the aria
drifted over us, her soprano spare and sharp
in the night air. And even though I was young,
somehow, in that moment, I heard it,
the song inside the song, and I knew then
that this was not the hymn of promise
but the body’s bright wailing against its limits.
A bird caught in a cathedral—the way it tries
to escape by throwing itself, again and again,
against the stained glass.
Copyright © 2017 Danusha Laméris. “Bonfire Opera” originally appeared in The American Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.
Easy light storms in through the window, soft
edges of the world, smudged by mist, a squirrel’s
nest rigged high in the maple. I’ve got a bone
to pick with whomever is in charge. All year,
I’ve said, You know what’s funny? and then,
Nothing, nothing is funny. Which makes me laugh
in an oblivion-is-coming sort of way. A friend
writes the word lover in a note and I am strangely
excited for the word lover to come back. Come back
lover, come back to the five and dime. I could
squeal with the idea of blissful release, oh lover,
what a word, what a world, this gray waiting. In me,
a need to nestle deep into the safe-keeping of sky.
I am too used to nostalgia now, a sweet escape
of age. Centuries of pleasure before us and after
us, still right now, a softness like the worn fabric of a nightshirt
and what I do not say is, I trust the world to come back.
Return like a word, long forgotten and maligned
for all its gross tenderness, a joke told in a sun beam,
the world walking in, ready to be ravaged, open for business.
Copyright © 2021 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.