I want to write a poem as long as California
like lying on a couch forever
as a serious man takes notes on your dreams in a little book
maybe I mean I want to talk forever
but is there even a difference anyway
like my uncle who went walking
and never stopped
or that day on the LA Freeway
when a horse got loose, people freaking out 
cars honking and skidding 
and me and my sister rooting for the horse
who I still imagine, 20 years later
trotting around the LA Freeway
a living argument against time
as people drive right past her
without even noticing a horse 
she keeps on, at home in the gridlock
a phenomenon in the smog
we want to think she is looking for something
but she is past panic now
content, her heart a part of that freeway
unaware that I 
am the one telling this story
and in this version
no one listens to anyone’s dreams
and that couch is the one we broke off on
while your parents were gone 
blood on the cushion 
which wouldn’t come out
no matter what we tried
so we gave up 
and just laid there, sweating
in the bliss of thinking nothing
and somewhere 
a startled horse 
is not smashed by a semi
on the LA Freeway
on a summer day in 1988

Copyright © 2014 by Sampson Starkweather. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2014. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

The way a birthmark  
on a woman’s face defines 
rather than mars
her beauty, 

so the skyscrapers—
those flowers of technology— 
reveal the perfection 
of the garden they surround.        

Perhaps Eden is buried 
here in Japan,
where an incandescent 
koi slithers snakelike 

to the edge of the  pond; 
where a black-haired
Eve-san in the petalled
folds of a kimono 

once showed her silken body
to the sun, then picked a persimmon
and with a small bow
bit into it.

Copyright © 2014 by Linda Pastan. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 25, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The bottom teeth of summer

in winter, braided into

whomever stood on the green green bridge watching her shadow lengthen.

Sun-pocket. Sunflower. Seedling, you

brittle blossoming something the room clears of dailyness.

Daily, the bottom teeth of summer

in winter, chewing through

ropes, raree show rapunzeled, which is realism

like this that there can be. These are really happened

tell me again stories I will. I will again against it.

Diving bell in a glass of water. Cacti atmosphere.

A perfect piece of pink cake

complicating perfection’s tendency to falter.

Who left it on the counter? Who walked through the room

as though through a composition? The speaker enters quietly,

closes a window, clearing dust from the chair

to sit in the center of the poem, invigorated

with inky awkward blankness.

The bottom teeth of summer

in winter chattering: here’s the moon. Here’s the moon

splashed over two dozen calendars. Here, the kids are grown.

The day is long. The bed, wide as a battleship, waits

in its buoyancy. Imagine a life and live in it. Imagine dead as ever

walking a cut lily back to water. Crazy epic crazier still trying

to put down roots. Summer in winter like a speaker

in water. The loudest electric sound is nothing compared

to the soundest perforation. My paper life. My paper doll.

Your paper boy. Sun sun sunflower seed summer you

can say you love in a poem’s inky blank awkwardness

your paper boy. Sun sun sunflower seed summer you

to the soundest perforation. My paper life. My paper doll

in water. The loudest electric sound is nothing compared

to put-down roots. Summer in winter like a speaker

walking a cut lily back to water. Crazy epic crazier still trying

in its buoyancy. Imagine a life and live in it. Imagine dead as ever

the day is long. The bed, wide as a battleship, waits,

splashed over two dozen calendars. Here, the kids are grown

in winter chattering: here’s the moon. Here’s the moon.

The bottom teeth of summer

with inky awkward blankness

to sit in the center of the poem, invigorated,

closes a window, clearing dust from the chair.

As though through a composition, the speaker enters. Quietly,

who left it on the counter? Who walked through the room

complicating perfection’s tendency to falter.

A perfect piece of pink cake.

Diving bell in a glass of water. Cacti atmosphere,

tell me again stories I will I will. Again, against it

like this that there can be. These are really happened

ropes, raree show rapunzeled. Which is realism

in winter: Chewing through

daily the bottom teeth of summer?

Brittle blossoming something the room clears of dailyness?

Sun-pocket. Sunflower. Seedling, you

whomever stood on the green green bridge watching her shadow lengthen

in winter, braided into

the bottom teeth of summer.

Copyright © 2013 by Noah Eli Gordon. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 31, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

for Marilyn Hacker

There were the books, and wolves were in the books.
They roamed between words. They snarled and loped
through stories with bedraggled wolfish looks

at which the hackles rose and the world stopped
in horror, and she read them because she knew
the pleasures of reading, the page being rapt

with the magic of the fierce, and she could do
the talk of such creatures. So one day
when teacher asked if there were any who

could read, she rose as if the task were play,
to claim the story where she felt at home.
The tale was Riding Hood, the wolf was grey.

The fierceness was the wood where grey wolves roam.
She read it round, she read it through and through
It was as if the wolf were hers to comb,

like those bedraggled creatures in the zoo
that, trapped behind the bars, would snarl and stride
as you’d expect a page or wolf to do.

 

About this poem:
“‘The Wolf Reader’ came out of a formal exercise in which people told each other a dream and this dream set me off. I do write a good deal in formal patterns and the poem was written fast as my poems often are—I need momentum—then I fiddled with it for a while without changing anything much except punctuation and an odd word. The outside world, the inner world, and other people's inner worlds constitute a continuum like a river in which any imagination may fish. Rivers are not to be owned. This river brought up a wolf and a book.”

George Szirtes

 

Copyright © 2013 by George Szirtes. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 9, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

Despair is still servant
to the violet and wild ongoings
of bone. You, remember, are 
that which must be made 
servant only to salt, only 
to the watery acre that is the body
of the beloved, only to the child
leaning forward into 
the exhibit of birches 
the forest has made of bronze light
and snow. Even as the day kneels 
forward, the oceans and strung garnets, too,
kneel, they are all kneeling, 
the city, the goat, the lime tree
and mother, the fearful doctor,
kneeling. Don't say it's the beautiful 
I praise. I praise the human, 
gutted and rising.

Copyright © 2012 by Katie Ford. Used with permission of the author.

On the other side of the river
there is a flame
a flame
burning May

burning August

when the pagoda tree blooms, the professor with lentigo bows to her
when orange blossoms fall, an heir of graceful demeanor waves to her
and smiles

yet on the other side of the river she remains, still burning
like the underwater glistening of red coral
like a red straw hat blown away in the breeze

when I saw her yesterday she was totally still, looking to the sky
and today she lowers her head to watch the river
if it were overcast and raining, what would she do there on that side
of the river?
—her flame would not go out

a poet looks to her
a farmer looks to her
a Dialectical Materialist looks to her
she is on the other side of the river, burning
burning May
burning August

From Notes On The Mosquito by Xi Chuan. Copyright © 2012 by Xi Chuan and Lucas Klein. Reprinted with permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

He slept in the tinder box
his master made, and oak
grain governed the dreaming—

his left eye clouded over,
he closed the other and saw
mild applause in his future.

His bed sat at a crevice
edge, pure pitch below,
and a cold wind slowed

the senses, rising from who
knows where. Later his mind
became its pin, eschewed

dowels and string and leapt
into the dark. The fall
was pleasurable, apt: 

there were no voices
in the breeze, no speeches
to open his mouth.

Copyright © 2012 by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc. Used with permission of the author.

Sundown, the day nearly eaten away, 

the Boxcar Willies peep. Their
inside-eyes push black and plump

against walls of pumpkin skin. I step 
into dying backyard light. Both hands 

steal into the swollen summer air, 
a blind reach into a blaze of acid, 

ghost bloom of nacre & breast. 
One Atlantan Cherokee Purple, 

two piddling Radiator Charlies 
are Lena-Horne lured into the fingers

of my right hand. But I really do love you, 
enters my ear like a nest of yellow jackets, 

well wedged beneath a two-by-four. 

But I really didn't think I would (ever leave), 
stings before the ladder hits the ground. 

I swat the familiar buzz away. 
My good arm arcs and aims. 

My elbow cranks a high, hard cradle
and draws a fire. The end of the day's 

sweaty air stirs fast in a bowl, the coming
shadows, the very diamond match I need. 

One by one, each Blind Willie
takes his turn Pollocking the back

fence, heart pine explodes gold-leafed in 
red and brown-eyed ochre. There is practice

for everything in this life. This is how
you throw something perfectly good away.

From Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney. Copyright © 2011 by Nikky Finney. Reprinted with permission from TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern. All rights reserved.

For Penny Arcade

There must be a piece of art near where you live that you enjoy, even LOVE! A piece of art that IF THERE WAS WAR you would steal it and hide it in your little apartment. I'm going to PACK my apartment TO THE ROOF when war comes! This exercise needs 7 days, but not 7 consecutive days as most museums and galleries are not open 7 days a week. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art hands the Mark Rothko "Orange, Red and Yellow, 1961" a painting I would marry and cherish in sickness and in health, have its little Rothko babies, and hang them on the wall with their father. But I'm not allowed to even touch it! The security guards will think you're as weird as they think I am when you come for 7 days to sit and meditate. Never mind that, bribe them with candy, cigarettes or soda, whatever it take to be left in peace. For 7 days I sat with my dearest Rothko.

Bring binoculars because you will get closer to the painting than anyone else in the room! Feel free to fall in love with what you see, you're a poet, you're writing a poem, go ahead and fall in love! Feel free to go to the museum restroom and touch yourself in the stall, and be sure to write on the wall that you were there and what you were doing as everyone enjoys a dedication in the museum. And be certain to leave your number, you never know what other art lover will be reading. Return with your binoculars. There is no museum in the world with rules against the use of binoculars, information you may need for the guards if you run out of cigarettes and candy.

Map your 7 days with physical treats to enhance your experience: mint leaves to suck, chocolate liqueurs, cotton balls between your toes, firm-fitting satin underwear, thing you can rock-out with in secret for the art you love. Take notes, there must be a concentration on notes in your pleasure making. Never mind how horrifying your notes may become, horror and pleasure have an illogical mix when you touch yourself for art. When you gather your 7 days of notes you will see the poem waiting in there. Pull it out like pulling yourself out of a long and energizing dream.


ROTHKO 7

Whether things wither or whether your ability to see them does.
—from "The Coinciding," by Carrie Hunter

DAY 1

      it's
October
I pressed
       this buttercup in April
I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK
                call me it!
  call me sentimental!
                HAVE YOU SEEN THE HEADLINES?
                                spring is a
                                     luxury
I hope
for another to
garden with my
bare hands


DAY 2

awkwardness of being insane
                                arrives
                                  after
                            diagnosis
                           not before
remove description
from the splendor
do not hesitate


DAY 3

                      more of a ghost
than my ghosts
here I am


DAY 4

         tablet on tongue
 stray voltage catching
                 my ankles

ready to marry
the chopped
off head

while elaborate in curse
   it contributes evidence
                         of life


DAY 5

             he kissed me while
                              I sang
                   refrain shoved
               against epiglottis

centuries of a vowel for        
endless refutable corrections               
         puts mouth
               to want


DAY 6

     songs dying bodies sing at
                           involuntary
                         junctures of
                                  living

        EXIT sign
leads us to empty    
     launch pad
walking
maybe
walking
     maybe or riding
the collapsing tower

big hands of
      big clock missing
this is not symbolism
    they were gone


DAY 7

                               I'm not tearing back
                         curtains looking
I know Love is                
on the other             
side of     
town   

burying the leash                                                
with the dog was                                          
nothing but                             
cruel don't ever                       
speak to me again                  
                          help me stop
                          dreaming your
                     destruction

From A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon. Copyright © 2012 by CAConrad. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

A pink dozen sunshine trapezoids—
It's good to be breathing
says an array of rosemary shrubs.
A field of illicit rocks, shrapnel, bees, germs unknown.
Hands held. Back seats checked for sleeping.

I have made a Tuesday monument 
of a baby's toothbrush lying on the sidewalk alone.

The far lake no one knows about, bitching its ripples. 

In this case it 
doesn't matter what other people need 
in measures of solitude; You 
need a few years, a few more years 
alone. And it's such a popular
slur to hurl: You will always be alone. 
I've been told that—
(Eight years ago.)

(And knowing slowly as I go how to hold a garden here.)

Copyright © 2012 by Cynthia Arrieu-King. Used with permission of the author.

Here I am so selfish I only remember my reaction. Each fact loosening falling away like icicles along the eaves. I once saw one so large & the earth so soft that it pierced the ground below it. I once walked through a spider web so vast, I felt its tug as I pulled through it. I once drove 30 miles at night through pitch-black counties without headlights using only my cellphone light to guide me. I once was so high I wrote a paper backwards and since it was for 20th Century Avant-garde Lit got an A. You know second winds? I got a fifth wind once during a swim meet. As the fish grows increasingly long, life accumulates like a US Ironworks slagheap. Once my date dropped me off at the front door and I ran through the house out the back into my boyfriend’s car waiting in the alley. Once I lost control in the middle of northbound 95 and somehow spun across the median, arriving in the shoulder of the southbound lanes, and just kept driving, direction’s pointless. I once bought an $80 cab ride because I couldn’t remember where I was—simultaneously building a bed in a refrigerator box stealing gas from the Racetrack flying to Denver to marry a stranger. I once strangled my boyfriend at 65 mph on the freeway until I started laughing so much my grip loosened. Once I wrote the most erotic sex fantasy I could dream got paranoid that someone would read it, chose a password to protect the document, promptly forgot the password and let that define my sex life for years. I once sang Swing Low in a cop car and felt like a coward. The only secrets are forgotten ones. I once told a man I didn’t want a boyfriend and a week later admitted to him I had gotten married. Who said biography is a story true enough to believe? Who told me they once ate a joint before getting pulled over, but at the last minute the cop car flew past them, worked in a gas station and stole all the money, painted a donkey with zebra stripes, danced on stage with Bootsy Collins, who told me that for one day he was the best whistler on the planet, could whistle any song in the world perfectly, rivaled the skylarks and finches, invented gorgeous sonatas whistling them into the sunset, into the blushing dusk and by morning forgot how to do it?

Copyright © 2012 by Sommer Browning. Used with permission of the author.

The wine of uncharted days,
Their unsteady stance against the working world,

The intense intoxication of nothing to be done,
A day off,

The dance of the big-hearted dog 
In us, freed into a sudden green, an immense field:

Off we go, more run than care, more dance—
If a polka could be done not in a room but straight

Ahead, into the beautiful distance, the booming 
Sound of the phonograph weakening, but our legs

Getting stronger with their bounding practice:
This day, that feeling, drunkenness

Born of indecision, lack of focus, but everything 
Forgiven: Today is a day exposed for what it is,

A workday suddenly turned over on its back, 
Hoping to be rubbed.

Copyright © 2012 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.

—The "Miranda Rights," established 1966

You have the right to remain
anything you can and will be.

An attorney you cannot afford
will be provided to you.

You have silent will.
You can be against law.
You cannot afford one.

You remain silent. Anything you say
will be provided to you.

The right can and will be
against you. The right provided you.

Have anything you say be
right. Anything you say can be right.

Say you have the right attorney.
The right remain silent.

Be held. Court the one. Be provided.
You cannot be you.

Copyright © 2012 by Charles Jensen. Used with permission of the author.

It's fast and cool as running water, the way we forget
the names of friends with whom we talked and talked
the long drives up and down the coast.

I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window
will not close. However, the hawk searches
for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded
nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire.

Somewhere in Cleveland or Tempe, a pillow
still smells like M_____'s hair.
In a bus station, a child is staring
at L____'s rabbit tattoo. I've bartered everything
to keep from doing my soul's paperwork.

Here is a partial list of artifacts:
mirror, belt, half-finished 1040 form (married, filing jointly), mateless walkie-talkie, two blonde eyelashes, set of acrylic paints with all the red and yellow used up, buck knife, dog collar, camping tent (sleeps two), slivers of cut-up credit cards, ashtray in the shape of a naked woman, pen with teeth marks, bottom half of two-piece bathing suit, pill bottles containing unfinished courses of antibiotics, bank statements with the account number blacked out, maps of London, maps of Dubuque, sweatshirts with the mascots of colleges I didn't attend, flash cards for Spanish verbs (querer, perder, olvidar), Canadian pocket change, fork with two tines pushed together.

Forgetfulness means to be full
of forgetting, like a glass

overflowing with cool water, though I'd always
thought of it as the empty pocket

where the hand finds
nothing: no keys, no ticket, no change.

One night, riding the train home from the city,
will I see a familiar face across from me? How many times
will I ask Is it you? before I realize
it's my own reflection in the window?

Copyright © 2011 by Nick Lantz. Used with permission of the author.

Not that anyone would
notice it at first.
I have taken to marveling
at the trees in our park.
One thing I can tell you:
they are beautiful
and they know it.
They are also tired,
hundreds of years
stuck in one spot—
beautiful paralytics.
When I am under them,
they feel my gaze,
watch me wave my foolish
hand, and envy the joy
of being a moving target.

Loungers on the benches
begin to notice.
One to another,
"Well, you see all kinds..."
Most of them sit looking
down at nothing as if there
was truly nothing else to
look at until there is
that woman waving up
to the branching boughs
of these old trees. Raise your
heads, pals, look high,
you may see more than
you ever thought possible,
up where something might
be waving back, to tell her
she has seen the marvelous.

From Coming to That by Dorothea Tanning. Copyright © 2011 by Dorothea Tanning. Used with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

Rain interchangeable with
the walls it falls against
alphabetless like a neon
ring above an extincted
window showcasing something
formerly fabulous now
kinda poignantly disappeared.
I guess that means we're back
in Seaside (since we must
begin somewhere) and it's
probably summer but
can't be as long ago
as the date you suggest
since I wouldn't have been
born, or quietly gagging
at the sentence re: photographs
being "fairly far removed" from
sculpture anyway belied by
a euthanized block
of period tract housing
the loading dock's pair
of refrigerated trucks
the guileless curbs below
the blandishing panes
of all those plate windows
the corrugated doors
rolled shut against a
statement the curves
of the cars as they
throw back their throats
to the light the furtive
things people do in the night
(or don't do) bluely
compiled screen by screen
in perfervid surveillance
I just want to say yes
to you, yes and
watch this.

Copyright © 2011 by Shanna Compton. Used with permission of the author.

Your breath was shed
Invisible to make
About the soiled undead
Night for my sake,

A raining trail
Intangible to them
With biter's tooth and tail
And cobweb drum,

A dark as deep
My love as a round wave
To hide the wolves of sleep
And mask the grave.

from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1946 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

She breathed a chill that slowed the sap 
inside the phloem, stood perfectly still
inside the dark, then walked to a field 
where the distance crooned in a small 
blue voice how close it is, how the gravity 
of sky pulls you up like steam from the arch.
She sang along until the silence soloed 
in a northern wind, then headed back 
to the sugar stand and drank from a maple 
to thin her blood with the spirit of sap. 
To quicken its pace to the speed of sound 
then hear it boom inside her heart. 
To quicken her mind to the speed of light 
with another suck from the flooded tap.

Copyright © 2011 by Chard DeNiord. Used with permission of the author.

Everyone is asleep
There is nothing to come between
The moon and me.

From Women Poets of Japan, copyright © 1977 by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

and I’d like to get naked and into bed and be hot radiating heat from the inside these sweaters and fleeceys do nothing to keep out the out or keep my vitals in—some drafty body I’ve got leaking in and out in all directions I’d like to get naked into bed but hot on this early winter afternoon already dusky grim and not think of all the ways I’ve gone about the world and shown myself a fool, shame poking holes in my thinned carapace practically lacy and woefully feminine I’d like to get naked into bed and feel if not hot then weightless as I once was in the sensory deprivation tank in Madison, Wisconsin circa 1992 I paid money for that perfectly body-temperatured silent pitch dark tank to do what? play dead and not die? that was before email before children before I knew anything more than the deaths of a few loved ones which were poisoned nuts of swallowed grief but nothing of life of life giving which cuts open the self bursting busted unsolvable I’d like to get naked into the bed of my life but hot hot my little flicker-self trumped up somehow blind and deaf to all the dampening misery of my friends’ woe-oh-ohs and I’d like a little flashlight to write poems with this lousy day not this poem I’m writing under the mostly flat blaze of bulb but a poem written with the light itself a tiny fleeting love poem to life hot hot hot a poem that would say “oh look here a bright spot of life, oh look another!”

Copyright © 2011 by Rachel Zucker. Used with permission of the author.

          Count these number of things you call mine. This is the distance between
          you and enlightenment
.
                    —Swami Satchidananda.


                        (for Jenny)


my pillow

my shirt

my house

my supper

my tooth

my money

my kite

my job

my bagel

my spatula

my blanket

my arm

my painting

my fountain pen

my desk

my room

my turn

my book

my hopelessness

my wallet

my print

my sock

my toe

my stamp

my introduction

my luggage

my plan

my mistake

my monkey

my friend

my penis

my anger

my expectation

my pencil

my pain

my poster

my fear

my luggage tag

my eyes

my rainment

my wash

my opinion

my fat

my sleeplessness

my love

my basket

my lunch

my game

my box

my drawer

my cup

my longing

my blotter

my distraction

my underpants

my papers

my wish

my despair

my erasure

my plantation

my candy

my thoughtfulness

my forbearance

my gracelessness

my courage

my crying

my hat

my pocket

my dirt

my body

my sex

my scarf

my solidarity

my hope

my spelling

my smile

my gaze

my helplessness

my quilt

my reply

my enemy

my records

my letter

my gait

my struggle

my spirit

my cut

my thorn

my demise

my dream

my plate

my pit

my hollow

my blindness

my clinging

my projection

my teacher

my homework

my housework

my responsibility

my guilt

my relaxation

my boat

my crew

my peanut butter

my mill

my man

my hopelessness

my fooling

my sweet

my terror

my programme

my judgement

my disguise

my distress

my ladle

my soup

my mother

my basin

my pleat

my cheddar

my ownership

my enmity

my thought

my encyclopedia

my property

my formula

my infidelity

my discretion

my decision

my delusion

my deduction

my derision

my destitution

my delinquincy

my belt

my eroica

my junk

my jealousy

my remorse

my strength

my vision

my world

my fantasy

my anger

my determination

my refusal

my commitment

my insanity

my verbosity

my austerity

my androgeny

my defiance

my insistence

my emastication

my arousal

my mystification

my obscuraration

my ejaculation

my prostration

my wontonness

my cigarette

my belief

my uncertainty

my cat

my penetration

my insight

my obsolescence

my sleeping bag

my temptation

my dedication

my ball

my court

my kidney

my razor

my way

my tissue

my inadequacy

my own

my recorder

my song

my knack

my perception

my will

my canoe

my billiard ball

my content

my cassette

my voice

my sight

my knowledge

my bowels

my beard

my child

my lethargy

my nerve

my incredulity

my banana

my ink

my refrigerator

my car

my change

my pupil

my hair

my tongue

my tenderness

my star

my skill

my persona

my popularity

my pickle

my pinto

my window

my remembrance

my munificance

my country

my fragility

my visit

my longevity

my curtness

my incomparability

my sarcasm

my sincerity

my bed

my bed table

my table top

my bar mitzvah

my laughter

my scorn

my heartache

my sandwich

my call

my loss

my wit

my charm

my jest

my undoing

my practice

my piano lesson

my rage

my toe

my tattoo

my turtledove

my fly swatter

my vest

my notebook

my pocketbook

my sketchbook

my repulsion

my tea cup

my taste

my bag

my handbag

my bike

my jay

my roll

my dear

my milk

my closet

my slacks

my hoist

my ennui

my analysis

my language

my fortune

my vagueness

my mint

my limit

my import

my inference

my affectation

my affection

my insolence

my solitude

my memory

my bottle

my history

my ability

my adobe

my mission

my likeness

my misery

my solipsism

my omission

my regression

my opera

my penicillin

my resentment

my future

my understanding

my apricots

my holiday

my umbrella

my favorite

my mood

my side

my seat

my figment

my contour

my sky

my rainbow

my god

my mask

my reflection

my blessing

my light

my time

my epoxy

my drum

my hammer

my grease

my sand

my story

my top

my past

my mark

my depth

my garden

my silence

my speech

my selfishness

my hunger

my allowance

my letter

my massage

my derision

my epoch

my space

my land

my plentitude

my perversity

my poverty

my transgression

my exultation

my lack

my lustre

my beatude

my remission

my encantation

my white

my pulse

my creation

my grace

my object

my sum

my contumely

my gloom

my idea

my chart

my circumference

my gravity

my polarity

my distance

my eyelid

my planting

my separation

my id

my art

my death

my stand

my preparation

my heart

my life

my impression

my grave

my graciousness

my marrow

my heaven

my appearance

my olive oil

my flake

my self

my porridge

my mind

my function

my nakedness

my illumination

my freedom

my charity

my rose

my pallour

my pomp

my pajamas

my pity

my posing

my prayer

my dawn

my ocean

my tide

my underarm

my spectacle

my drifting

my ground

my body

my angels

my worship

my dew

my hobbey horse

my customer

my bread

my faith

my lies

my care

my restlessness

my sunflower

my weariness

my age

my existence

my sense

my backache

my pie

my thanks

my numbness

my sweeping

my inspiration

my token

my pond

my brillo

my squint

my pound

my rock

my critique

my aplomb

my portrait

my view

my rocking chair

my sisters

my demands

my gumdrops

my word

From Asylums, published in 1975 by Asylum's Press. Used by permission of the author.

the round spoon
with the curvature
of a concave mirror
scoops out my eye
and swallows it

From The Forest of Eyes by Tada Chimako, translated by Jeffrey Angles. Copyright © 2010 by Tada Chimako and Jeffrey Angles. Used by permission of University of California Press. All rights reserved.

one narcissus
draws close to another
like the only
two adolescent boys
in the universe

From The Forest of Eyes by Tada Chimako, translated by Jeffrey Angles. Copyright © 2010 by Tada Chimako and Jeffrey Angles. Used by permission of University of California Press. All rights reserved.

1

   In this country, we do not bury the dead. We enclose them like dolls in glass cases and decorate our houses with them.
   People, especially the cultivated ones from old families, live surrounded by multitudes of dignified dead. Our living rooms and parlors, even our dining rooms and our bedrooms, are filled with our ancestors in glass cases. When the rooms become too full, we use the cases for furniture.
   On top of where my twenty-five-year-old great-grandmother lies, beautiful and buried in flowers, we line up the evening soup bowls.

2

   We do not sing in chorus. When four people gather, we weave together four different melodies. This is what we call a relationship. Such encounters are always a sort of entanglement. When these entanglements come loose, we scatter in four directions, sometimes with relief, sometimes at wit's end.

3

   I wrote that we scatter in four directions, but I did not mean that we merely return home, scattering from one another like rays of light radiating from a single source.
   When there is no more need to be together, we scatter in four different directions, but none of us ever breaks the horizon with our tread.
   Because people are afraid at the thought of their feet leaving the earth, we turn around one step before reaching the horizon. After thirty years, those faces we wished to see never again enter our fields of vision.

4

   In this country, everyone fears midday. In the daytime, the dead are too dead. Bathed in the sharp view of the sun, our skin crawls, and we shudder.
   When the nights, vast and deaf, vast and blind, descend with size great enough to fill the distances between us, we remove our corsets and breathe with relief. When we lie down to sleep at the bottom of the darkness, we are nearly as content as the corpses around us.

5

   The sight of fresh new leaves scares us. Who is to say that those small buds raising their faces upon the branches are not our own nipples? Who is to say that the soft, double blades of grass stretching from the wet earth are not the slightly parted lips of a boy?

6

   In the springtime, when green begins to invade our world, there is no place for us to take refuge outside, and so we hide in the deepest, darkest recesses of our houses. Sometimes we crane our necks from where we hide between our dead brothers, and we gaze at the green hemisphere swelling before our eyes. We are troubled by many fevers; we live with thermometers tucked under our arms.
   Do you know what it means to be a woman, especially to be a woman in this country, during the spring?
   When I was fifteen, becoming a woman frightened me. When I was eighteen, being a woman struck me as loathsome. Now, how old am I? I have become too much of a woman. I can no longer return to being human; that age is gone forever. My head is small, my neck long, and my hair terribly heavy.

7

   We can smile extremely well. So affable are our smiles that they are always mistaken for the real thing. Nonetheless, if by some chance our smiles should go awry, we fall into a terrible state. Our jaws slacken, and our faces disintegrate into so many parts.
   When this happens, we cover our faces with our handkerchiefs and withdraw. Shutting ourseleves alone in a room, we wait quietly until our natural grimace returns.

8

   During our meals, sometimes a black, glistening insect will dart diagonally across the table. People know perfectly well where this giant insect comes from. When it dashes between the salad and the loaf of bread, people fall silent for a moment, then continue as if nothing had happened.
   The insect has no name. That is because nobody has ever dared talk about it.

9

   Three times each day, all of the big buildings sound sirens. The elementary schools, theaters, and even the police stations raise a long wail like that of a chained beast suffering from terrible tedium.
   No matter where one is in this country, one cannot escape this sound—not even if one is making love, not even if one peering into the depths of a telescope.
   Yes, there are many telescopes in this country. There is always a splendid telescope at each major intersection in town. People here like to see things outside of their own country. Every day many people, while looking through the lens of one of these telescopes, are struck by stray cars and killed.

10

   When the faint aroma of the tide wafts upon the wind into town, people remember that this country lies by the sea. This sea, however, is not there for us to navigate; it is there to shut us in. The waves are not there to carry us; they continue their eternal movement so we will give up all hope.
   Like the waves that roll slowly from the shore, we sigh heavily. We throw our heads back, then hang them in resignation. We crumple to the ground, our skirts fanning over the dunes...

11

   Ignorant of all this, trading ships laden with unknown products, move into the harbor. People speak in unknown languages; unknown faces appear and disappear. Ah, how many times have I closed my eyes and covered my ears against the wail of the sirens while sending my heart from the harbor on board one of those ships?

From The Forest of Eyes by Tada Chimako, translated by Jeffrey Angles. Copyright © 2010 by Tada Chimako and Jeffrey Angles. Used by permission of University of California Press. All rights reserved.

The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.
   —Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929


Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

From The Book of Men, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by Dorianne Laux. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Very quick. Very intense, like a wolf
at a live heart, the sun breaks down.
What is important is to avoid
the time allotted for disavowels
as the livid wound
leaves a trace      leaves an abscess
takes its contraction for those clouds
that dip thunder & vanish
like rose leaves in closed jars.
Age approaches, slowly. But it cannot
crystal bone into thin air.
The small hours open their wounds for me.
This is a woman's confession:
I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me.



Sources: [Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas, Larry Levis, Ingeborg Bachmann, Octavio Paz, Henri Michaux, Agnes Nemes Nagy, Joyce Mansour, William Burroughs, Meret Oppenheim, Mary Low, Adrienne Rich, Carl Sandburg]

Copyright © 2011 by Simone Muench. Used with permission of the author.

This window makes me feel like I’m protected. This window makes me feel like people don’t know much about recent history, at least as far as trivia goes. This window makes me feel whole and emotionally satisfied. This window makes me feel like I’m flying all over the place, gliding and swirling down suddenly. This window makes me feel like I count and I enjoy knowing my opinions are heard so that hopefully I can help change the future. This window makes me feel like I’ll find the one thing that makes me feel like I want to feel. This window makes me feel like I can tackle any problem anytime. This window makes me feel like I have energy again and it refreshes my brain cells and makes my feet move. This window makes me feel like I’m the only person who can do something as cool as drumming. This window makes me feel like it’s better to hear that other people have gone through it—it’s like a rainbow at the end of the storm. This window makes me feel good and grounded and peaceful all at the same time. This window makes me feel like the year I spent campaigning was worth it. This window makes me feel like the artist really knows something about the truth. This window makes me feel really good and also makes me feel like it heightens the sex when it finally happens. This window makes ...

 

Copyright © 2009 by Robert Fitterman. Used with permission of the author.

Dark matter, are you 
sparkless 

for lack of knowing
better? The room 

you've spun is distant
and indivisible—

a flickering lapsarian,
you satisfy no mute

progress but 
collapse, spiral, winded

by unwinding. Dear 
enigma kid, dear psychic

soft spot, I write you
from under eight spastic 

lights, each falser than stars, 
to promise I'll will 

the darkness out of you 
or I'll will myself 

to trying. Twisted 
mister, my incipient

sir, you be in charge 
of the what-if, I'll master why.

Today's poem is copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Chang. Used with permission of the author.

We maintain a critical distance
from the sad spaniel gentlemen

in cravats
on the plaid duvet

at the Custom Hotel,
Los Angeles.

We are so over it.
We fly

from terminal
to terminal

almost endlessly.

We are almost
money.

We can wait
at high speed.

Copyright © 2010 by Rae Armantrout. Used by permission of the author.

a woman moves through dog rose and juniper bushes,
a pussy clean and folded between her legs, 
breasts like the tips of her festive shoes
shine silently in her heavy armoire.

one black bird, one cow, one horse. 
the sea beats against the wall of the waterless.
she walks to a phone booth that waits
a fair distance from all three villages.

it's a game she could have heard on the radio:
a question, a number, an answer, a prize.
her pussy reaches up and turns on the light in her womb.

from the rain, she says into the receiver, 
we compiled white tables and chairs under a shed
into a crossword puzzle
and sat ourselves in the grid.

the receiver is silent. the bird flounces
like a burglar caught red-handed.
her voice stumbles over her glands.
the body to be written in the last block—
i can suck his name out of any letter.

all three villages cover their faces with wind.

From So Much Things To Say: 100 Calabash Poets. Copyright © 2010 by Valzhyna Mort. Used with permisson of Calabash International Literary Trust and the author.

Even when I was a little boy
I was always alone
                with my guardian angel

Playing Tarzan
An icicle fell on me
       & cut my arm
I had a rope around my neck
I was hanged in Innifree
Had my hand cut off in Perfidee
Never had my fill
                     of Thee

  ST MICHAEL IN THE CORNER, 
         NINE FEET TALL

From Book of Blues. Copyright © 1995 by Jack Kerouac. Reprinted by permission of SLL/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Got up and dressed up
      and went out & got laid
Then died and got buried
      in a coffin in the grave, 
Man—
      Yet everything is perfect,
Because it is empty, 
Because it is perfect
      with emptiness, 
Because it's not even happening.

Everything
Is Ignorant of its own emptiness—
Anger
Doesn't like to be reminded of fits—

You start with the Teaching
      Inscrutable of the Diamond
And end with it, your goal
      is your startingplace, 
No race was run, no walk
      of prophetic toenails
Across Arabies of hot
      meaning—you just
      numbly don't get there

From Mexico City Blues. Copyright © 1959 by Jack Kerouac. Used by permission of SLL/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

My mother was led into the world
by her teeth

Pulled
like a bull
into the 
heather

She only ever wanted to be a mother her whole life and nothing else, not even a human being!

One body turned into 
another body

Pulled like that
by the golden voices of children

A bull 
out of hell

Called out
her teeth out in front of her
her children

pulling


*


First I walk my mother out
into the field
by a leash
by a lifetime
then she walks me out
our coats
shimmering

I brush her hair

Wipe the flies away from her eyes

They are my eyes

Who will ride my mother
when we aren't around
anymore?

Her children won't

Turned from one thing into another until you are a bull standing in a field

The field just beginning
to whistle us
home


*


Then I am led by the mouth
out into the yellow
field

The light turning to water in the early evening, the insects dying in the cold and coming
     back in the morning

 

Something has to come back

Wings and
shit

I have put on my horse-head

Led by a bit

A lead

My leader is tall and the hair on her forearms is gold

It is a miracle
to lower your eyes
into the tall grass
and eat

From Flies. Copyright © 2010 by Michael Dickman. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Often I walk the dog at night.
Once around the block, maybe twice,
And sometimes we head up to the reservoir.
If it's snowing, I put a little coat on the dog,
Booties if they've salted the street.

Everything you need is up there.
You can see for miles and you've got a lake,
Not large, the water black and still.
Emptiness where the city ends and farmland begins,
Lights of the houses below, and if you're quiet—

Sounds you couldn't actually hear.
Clock ticking on the wall, pipes,
A nightstand with a lamp, a desk, pencils in a cup—

Then it's time for the dog to go home,
Have a biscuit, go to bed.

Sometimes there's a kid with a skateboard,
No cars, they close the gates at dusk.
Not really a lake: it's lined with concrete,
The opposite of an island
But it beckons, as islands do.

I like arriving or leaving.
Thimble, Block, Brigantine—

When I burned my journals some of it caught 
Immediately, a brown stain
Spreading from the center of each page.
Some was stubborn: gray scraps
Rising like messages in the air.

From The Iron Key by James Longenbach. Copyright © 2010 by James Longenbach. Used by permission of W. W. Norton.

By the detergents and dish soap
by the orderly books and broom on the floor,
by the clean windows, by the table
without papers, notebooks or pens,
by the easy chairs without newspapers,
whoever approaches my house
will find a day
that is completely Friday.

That is how I find it
when I go out into the streets
and the cathedral has been
taken over by the world of the living
and in the supermarket
June becomes a bottle of gin,
sausages and dessert,
fan of light in the kiosk
of the flower shop,
city that undresses completely Friday.

As does my body
which recalls the memory of your body
and foretells your presence
in the restlessness of all it touches,
in the remote control for the music,
in the paper of the magazine,
in the ice melted away
just as the morning melts away
completely Friday.

When the front door opens
the icebox divines what my body knew
and suggests other titles for this poem:
completely you,
morning of the return, good love,
good company.

From The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris. Copyright © 2010 by the estates of Luis García Montero and Katie King. Used by permission of Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins.

sand’s infinitely solid, infinitely wide. Not a single grain skips or blows—cemented, glued. The old folks stare, and the sand hardens, absorbing secretions, drying to shell. Waves abuse it and can’t make a scratch. Now their seeing’s silk, to wear down glass tabletops. The seeing sea’s impatient for effect. It beats the beach which was a natural one, has become real property; hard-floor finish. Stop all stupid pounding. Stop before it becomes embarrassing. It’s already. The sea’s frothing and embarrassing.

From Bird Lovers, Backyard by Thalia Field. Copyright © 2010 by by Thalia Field. Used by permission of New Directions.

[Nara Deer Park]
 

With my head on his spotted back

and his head on the grass—a little bored

with the quiet motion of life

and a cluster of mosquitoes making

hot black dunes in the air—we slept

with the smell of his fur engulfing us.

It was as if my dominant functions were gazing

and dreaming in a field of semiwild deer.

It was as if I could dream what I wanted,

and what I wanted was to long for nothing—

no facts, no reasons—never to say again,

"I want to be like him," and to lie instead

in the hollow deep grass—without esteem or riches—

gazing into the big, lacquer black eyes of a deer.

From Pierce the Skin by Henri Cole. Copyright © 2010 by Henri Cole. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

A horse hair falls into the water and grows into an eel.
     Even Aristotle believed that frogs
                                formed from mud,
that mice sprouted like seedlings in the damp hay.

     I used to believe the world spoke
                           in code. I lay awake
and tried to parse the flashes of the streetlight—
       obscured, revealed,
                    obscured by the wind-sprung tree.
Stranded with you at the Ferris wheel's apogee
       I learned the physics
                    of desire—fixed at the center,
it spins and goes nowhere.

       Pliny described eight-foot lobsters
                         sunning themselves
on the banks of the Ganges. The cuckoo devouring
       its foster mother. Bees alighting
                         on Plato's young lips.

In the Andes, a lake disappears overnight, sucked
       through cracks in the earth.
                         How can I explain
the sunlight stippling your face in the early morning?

Why not believe that the eye throws its own light,
       that seeing illuminates
                    the world?
                         On the moon,
astronaut David Scott drops a hammer and a falcon feather,
     and we learn nothing
                    we didn't already know.

From We Don't Know We Don't Know by Nick Lantz. Copyright © 2010 by Nick Lantz. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.

The deer come out in the evening.
God bless them for not judging me,
I'm drunk. I stand on the porch in my bathrobe
and make strange noises at them—
                                                  language,
if language can be a kind of crying.
The tin cans scattered in the meadow glow,
each bullet hole suffused with moon,
like the platinum thread beyond them
where the river runs the length of the valley.
That's where the fish are.
                                   Tomorrow
I'll scoop them from the pockets of graveled
stone beneath the bank, their bodies
desperately alive when I hold them in my hands,
the way prayers become more hopeless
when uttered aloud.
                            The phone's disconnected.
Just as well, I've got nothing to tell you:
I won't go inside where the bats dip and swarm
over my bed. It's the sound of them
shouldering against each other that terrifies me,
as if it might hurt to brush across another being's
living flesh.
                But I carry a gun now. I've cut down
a tree. You wouldn't recognize me in town—
my hands lost in my pockets, two disabused tools
I've retired from their life of touching you.

From Beautiful in the Mouth by Keetje Kuipers. Copyright © 2010 by Keetje Kuipers. Used by permission of BOA Editions.

A wolf had grown tired of his character and sought
to find a means to transform himself into something 
more vicious, more deadly. While his coat was slick,
thick and well-colored, for he was an excellent hunter,
he yearned for something to do that had nothing to do 
with survival or instinct. He no longer killed because
he needed to or could. All that was useless, too practical,
too obvious. He wanted to kill for some other purpose.
For all of his successfully completed kills, his perfect
record of stealth and elusion, he felt nothing. When he
ran into me the other day on his journey to consult the 
oracle of escalated suffering we shared a table in the
shade of a parasol tree in whose branches were preening
half a dozen or so birds with gaudy chromatic feathers.
A few of these fell onto the dome of his forehead but he
was too engrossed in his story to brush them away. He 
didn't look like a very serious wolf. I think he was
missing a real opportunity.

From Selected Poems by Dara Wier. Copyright © 2010 by Dara Wier. Used by permission of Wave Books.

A block of soap
carved to look like Pan

and that's just what came in the mail

a volcano under those flip flops

kisses spilling off the water-wheel

Green becomes a stillness leftover in the late-born effluence
of a decade's worth of smoke and flat beer

(I can't get any air)

because there was no acoustic guitar

just dust scraped off an anxious moth's wings

From The Nervous Filaments by David Dodd Lee. Copyright © 2010 by David Dodd Lee. Used by permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

Some lose children in lonelier ways:
tetanus, hard falls, stubborn fevers

that soak the bedclothes five nights running.
Our two boys went out to skate, broke

through the ice like battleships, came back
to us in canvas bags: curled

fossils held fast in ancient stone,
four hands reaching. Then two

sad beds wide enough for planting
wheat or summer-squash but filled

with boys, a barren crop. Our lives
stripped clean as oxen bones.

From The Helen Burns Poetry Anthology: New Voices from the Academy of American Poets University & College Prizes, Volume 9. Copyright © 2010 by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless.
They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.

Then I began to notice them all over the house,
at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar

where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs,
lumpy places where one would usually settle before the fire,

or suddenly shining in the sink at the bottom of soupy water.
Once, I found a pair in the garden, stuck in turned dirt

among the new bulbs, and one night, under my pillow,
I felt something like a cool long tooth and pulled them out

to lie next to me in the dark. Soon after that I began
to collect them, filling boxes, old shopping bags,

every suitcase I owned. I grew slightly uncomfortable
when company came. What if someone noticed them

when looking for forks or replacing dried dishes? I longed
to throw them out, but how could I get rid of something

that felt oddly like grace? It occurred to me finally
that I was meant to use them, and I resisted a growing compulsion

to cut my hair, although in moments of great distraction,
I thought it was my eyes they wanted, or my soft belly

—exhausted, in winter, I laid them out on the lawn.
The snow fell quite as usual, without any apparent hesitation

or discomfort. In spring, as expected, they were gone.
In their place, a slight metallic smell, and the dear muddy earth.

From The Good Thief. Copyright © 1988 by Marie Howe. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc., New York.

That night
   the comet could still be seen,
   wound in its wild mane.

Earlier, an egret
   had stopped by the stream
   to clean itself of something,
   red bill dipping
   again and again
   into the white feathers.

And before that,
   walking along,
   we became aware
   of a tiny, fragile skeleton
   at the side of the road,
   paws drawn up
   over its empty chest.

"The Anniversary" from Not To: New & Selected Poems, published by The Sheep Meadow Press. Copyright © 2006 by Elaine Terranova. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

We heard the creaking clutch of the crank 
as they drew it up by cable and wheel 
and hung it sleek as a hull from the roof. 

Grennan jammed open the great jaws 
and we saw how the upper jaw hung from 
the skull. We flinched at the stench of blood 

that dripped on the fishhouse floor, and 
even Davey—when Grennan reached in 
past the scowl and the steel prop for the

stump—just about passed out. The limb's
skin had already blanched, a sight none 
of us could stomach, and we retched  

though Grennan, cool, began cutting off 
the flesh in knots, slashing off the flesh 
in strips; and then Davey, flensing and

flanching, opened up the stomach and 
the steaming bowels. Gulls circled like 
ghouls. Still they taunt us with their cries

and our hearts still burn inside us when 
we remember, how Grennan with a tool
took out what was left of the child.

First published in Heat, an Australian international literary magazine. Copyright © 2004 by Judith Beveridge. Used by permission of the author.

The actors mill about the party saying rhubarb
because other words do not sound like conversation.
In the kitchen, always, one who's just discovered
beauty, his mouth full of whiskey and strawberries.
He practices the texture of her hair with his tongue;
in her, five billion electrons pop their atoms. Rhubarb
in electromagnetic loops, rhubarb, rhubarb, the din increases.

From ]Open Interval[ by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Copyright © 2009 by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

A-bomb is how it begins with a big bang on page
one, a calculator of sorts whose centrifuge
begets bedouin, bamboozle, breakdance, and berserk,
one of my mother's favorite words, hard knock
clerk of clichés that she is, at the moment going ape
the current rave in the fundamentalist landscape
disguised as her brain, a rococo lexicon
of Deuteronomy, Job, gossip, spritz, and neocon
ephemera all wrapped up in a pop burrito
of movie star shenanigans, like a stray Cheeto
found in your pocket the day after you finish the bag,
tastier than any oyster and champagne fueled fugue
gastronomique you have been pursuing in France
for the past four months. This 82-year-old's rants
have taken their place with the dictionary I bought
in the fourth grade, with so many gorgeous words I thought
I'd never plumb its depths. Right the first time, little girl,
yet here I am still at it, trolling for pearls,
Japanese words vying with Bantu in a goulash
I eat daily, sometimes gagging, sometimes with relish,
kleptomaniac in the candy store of language,
slipping words in my pockets like a non-smudge
lipstick that smears with the first kiss. I'm the demented
lady with sixteen cats. Sure, the house stinks, but those damned
mice have skedaddled, though I kind of miss them, their cute
little faces, the whiskers, those adorable gray suits.
No, all beasts are welcome in my menagerie, ark
of inconsolable barks and meows, sharp-toothed shark,
OED of the deep ocean, sweet compendium
of candy bars—Butterfingers, Mounds, and M&Ms—
packed next to the tripe and gizzards, trim and tackle
of butchers and bakers, the painter's brush and spackle,
quarks and black holes of physicists' theory. I'm building
my own book as a mason makes a wall or a gelding
runs round the track—brick by brick, step by step, word by word,
jonquil by gerrymander, syllabub by greensward,
swordplay by snapdragon, a never-ending parade
with clowns and funambulists in my own mouth, homemade
treasure chest of tongue and teeth, the brain's roustabout, rough
unfurler of tents and trapezes, off-the-cuff
unruly troublemaker in the high church museum
of the world. O mouth—boondoggle, auditorium,
viper, gulag, gumbo pot on a steamy August
afternoon—what have you not given me? How I must
wear on you, my Samuel Johnson in a frock coat,
lexicographer of silly thoughts, billy goat,
X-rated pornographic smut factory, scarfer
of snacks, prissy smirker, late-night barfly,
you are the megaphone by which I bewitch the world
or don't as the case may be. O chittering squirrel,
ziplock sandwich bag, sound off, shut up, gather your words
into bouquets, folios, flocks of black and flaming birds.

From All-Night Lingo Tango by Barbara Hamby. Copyright © 2009 by Barbara Hamby. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.