Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.
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.
Clear — the senses bright — sitting in the black chair — Rocker —
the white walls reflecting the color of clouds
moving over the sun. Intimacies! The rooms
not important — but like divisions of all space
of all hideousness and beauty. I hear
the music of myself and write it down
for no one to read. I pass fantasies as they
sing to me with Circe-Voices. I visit
among the peoples of myself and know all
I need to know.
I KNOW EVERYTHING! I PASS INTO THE ROOM
there is a golden bed radiating all light
the air is full of silver hangings and sheathes
I smile to myself. I know
all that there is to know. I see all there
is to feel. I am friendly with the ache
in my belly. The answer
to love is my voice. There is no Time!
No answers. The answer to feeling is my feeling.
The answer to joy is joy without feeling.
The room is a multicolored cherub
of air and bright colors. The pain in my stomach
is warm and tender. I am smiling. The pain
is many pointed, without anguish.
Light changes the room from yellows to violet!
The dark brown space behind the door is precious
intimate, silent and still. The birthplace
of Brahms. I know
all that I need to know. There is no hurry.
I read the meanings of scratched walls and cracked ceilings.
I am separate. I close my eyes in divinity and pain.
I blink in solemnity and unsolemn joy.
I smile at myself in my movements. Walking
I step higher in carefulness. I fill
space with myself. I see the secret and distinct
patterns of smoke from my mouth
I am without care part of all. Distinct.
I am separate from gloom and beauty. I see all.
From Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems, published by University of California. Copyright © 2011 by Michael McClure. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
I knew the end would be gone before I got there. After all, all rainbows lie for a living. And as you have insisted, repeatedly, The difference between death and the Eternal Present is about as far as one Eyelash from the next, not wished upon. Rainbows are not forms or stories, are they? They are not doors ajar so much as far— Flung situations without true beginnings Or any ends—why bother—unless, as you Suggest—repeatedly—there's nothing wrong With this life, and we should all stop whining. So I shift my focus now on how to end A letter. In XOXOXO, For example, Miss, which are the hugs And which the kisses? Does anybody know? I could argue either way: the O's Are circles of embrace, the X is someone Else's star burning inside your mouth; Unless the O is a mouth that cannot speak, Because, you know, it's busy. X is the crucifixion all embraces Are, here at the nowhere of the rainbow's end, Where even light has failed its situation, Slant the only life it ever had, Where even the most gallant sunset can't Hold back for more than a nonce the rain-laden Eastern sky of night. It's clear. It's clear. X's are both hugs and kisses, O's Where stars that died gave out, gave up, gave in— Where no one meant the promises they made. Oh, and one more thing. I send my love However long and far it takes—through light, Through time, thorough all the faithlessness of men, James Augustin Galvin, X, His mark.
From X by James Galvin. Copyright © 2003 by James Galvin. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All right reserved.
I scrub and lather him like a salmon until he spits soapy water. "Pig" I smile— This man smells better than his country I throw his shoes and glasses in the air, take off his t-shirt and socks, and kneel in honor of Sasha Petrov who was amputated, in honor of Lesha Vatkii the taken. I dip a glass in a bath-tub, drink dirty water. Soaping together—that is sacred to me. Washing mouths together. You can fuck anyone—but with whom can you sit in water? And the cuddling up before sleep!—and back-scratching in the morning. My back, not yours! I knew I had caught the fish and he knew he had been caught. He sings as I dry his chest & penis "Sonya, I was a glad man with you—"
Copyright © 2011 by Ilya Kaminsky. Used with permission of the author.
As I was walking I came upon chance walking the same road upon. As I sat down by chance to move later if and as I might, light the wood was, light and green, and what I saw before I had not seen. It was a lady accompanied by goat men leading her. Her hair held earth. Her eyes were dark. A double flute made her move. "O love, where are you leading me now?"
From Selected Poems by Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in For Love: Poems 1950-1960 (Scribner, 1962).
Air out the linens, unlatch the shutters on the eastern side, and maybe find that deck of Bicycle cards lost near the sofa. Or maybe walk around and look out the back windows first. I hear the view’s magnificent: old silent pines leading down to the lakeside, layer upon layer of magnificent light. Should you be hungry, I’m sorry but there’s no Chinese takeout, only a General Store. You passed it coming in, but you probably didn’t notice its one weary gas pump along with all those Esso cans from decades ago. If you’re somewhat confused, think Vermont, that state where people are folded into the mountains like berries in batter. . . . What I’d like when I get there is a few hundred years to sit around and concentrate on one thing at a time. I’d start with radiators and work my way up to Meister Eckhart, or why do so few people turn their lives around, so many take small steps into what they never do, the first weeks, the first lessons, until they choose something other, beginning and beginning their lives, so never knowing what it’s like to risk last minute failure. . . .I’d save blue for last. Klein blue, or the blue of Crater Lake on an early June morning. That would take decades. . . .Don’t forget to sway the fence gate back and forth a few times just for its creaky sound. When you swing in the tire swing make sure your socks are off. You’ve forgotten, I expect, the feeling of feet brushing the tops of sunflowers: In Vermont, I once met a ski bum on a summer break who had followed the snows for seven years and planned on at least seven more. We’re here for the enjoyment of it, he said, to salaam into joy. . . .I expect you’ll find Bibles scattered everywhere, or Talmuds, or Qur’ans, as well as little snippets of gospel music, chants, old Advent calendars with their paper doors still open. You might pay them some heed. Don't be alarmed when what’s familiar starts fading, as gradually you lose your bearings, your body seems to turn opaque and then transparent, until finally it’s invisible—what old age rehearses us for and vacations in the limbo of the Middle West. Take it easy, take it slow. When you think I‘m on my way, the long middle passage done, fill the pantry with cereal, curry, and blue and white boxes of macaroni, place the checkerboard set, or chess if you insist, out on the flat-topped stump beneath the porch’s shadow, pour some lemonade into the tallest glass you can find in the cupboard, then drum your fingers, practice lifting your eyebrows, until you tell them all—the skeptics, the bigots, blind neighbors, those damn-with-faint-praise critics on their hobbyhorses— that I’m allowed, and if there’s a place for me that love has kept protected, I’ll be coming, I’ll be coming too.
From The Day Before by Dick Allen, published by Sarabande Books, Inc. Copyright © 2003 by Dick Allen. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books and the author. All rights reserved.
Red cloth I lie on the ground otherwise nothing could hold I put my hand on the ground the membrane is gone and nothing does hold your place in the ground is all of it and it is breathing
Copyright © 2009 by Jean Valentine. Originally published in The Nation. Used by permission of the author.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.
there are so many tictoc clocks everywhere telling people what toctic time it is for tictic instance five toc minutes toc past six tic Spring is not regulated and does not get out of order nor do its hands a little jerking move over numbers slowly we do not wind it up it has no weights springs wheels inside of its slender self no indeed dear nothing of the kind. (So,when kiss Spring comes we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss lips because tic clocks toc don't make a toctic difference to kisskiss you and to kiss me)
From erotic poems by E. E. Cummings. Copyright © 2010 by E. E. Cummings. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.
From Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa. Copyright © 1988 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.
Just as I wonder whether it's going to die, the orchid blossoms and I can't explain why it moves my heart, why such pleasure comes from one small bud on a long spindly stem, one blood red gold flower opening at mid-summer, tiny, perfect in its hour. Even to a white- haired craggy poet, it's purely erotic, pistil and stamen, pollen, dew of the world, a spoonful of earth, and water. Erotic because there's death at the heart of birth, drama in those old sunrise prisms in wet cedar boughs, deepest mystery in washing evening dishes or teasing my wife, who grows, yes, more beautiful because one of us will die.
From Dumb Luck by Sam Hamill, published by BOA Editions. Copyright © 2002 by Sam Hamill. Reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. All rights reserved.
In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.
She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.
In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.
Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:
Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.
From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland. Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.