After the exhibition “La Gravedad de Los Asuntos (Matters of Gravity)” The Mexicans and the Russians were always in on it This is collaboration in zero gravity democracy —blurry violet lights and no clear answer This is a nuclear glow in the dark so we can start over We board planes to Mars and six engines fire You spin away. It’s candy guts out here—all our voting machines are breaking You tumble and can’t stop, but Grab a harness—an adult pigtail Six plane engines click on and your homie has to Push you so you can swing at the exploding star A way of thinking, una estructura doblada Alguien cortó oropel azul en cuadritos And stuffed it into the piñata. A yellow paleta Big as a chicken, floats to the right hand corner and balances Tipping into the comrade’s hands What’s a layer of confetti and candy compared to DDT The kind you sprayed over all our naked bodies We’re diamonds: hard, shiny, and we Get processed to go through We don’t infest, pendejo. We invest There goes your friend again, diving toward The paleta, which has to be pineapple flavor We were always in on it together Me and my honey watch a video on loop We gently hold each other like the beach balls we are The light dims and that constellation swings Only one Russian cosmonaut will smile at a time They watch a compa swim away Reach out Don’t make someone else do your work for you Some of us were grounded The whole time
Copyright © 2018 by Vickie Vértiz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
It’s easier to computer than to crash. It’s easier
to computer than to hold a hand or knit
a winter together from headlights on the highway.
It’s easier to computer and be a hybrid and
cross from bowels and eardrums into hours
lit and roaring by like freight. The chapters
there can tell you an octopus has three hearts,
that snails breathe through their feet. It is easier
to have no arms or breath, to position through
colors and jumps shoreless as steam. No
surfaces. No verbs to be. No mussels
or bellows or congestion or caffeine.
No lens to focus, no Rome to burn. Who can
do when the roots are so untidy and
the branches rack like antlers against other
branches. It’s easier to computer than
to guess at a savior. Than to whisper slips
of information to the flesh. Let language construct
mere dewdrops of light. Let the circuitry
gauge the need and make it clean and make it
so heady it is erected, a remedy, in its ease.
There is no destination. No grave in place of a person
loved in the past, no identity classified, factual, no glass
to break open in the fisted hand, no cracked windshield,
no hurricane. Or there is, but it is closed inside its box
smaller than the box for roses, dead and moldered
by the time they reach the door, delivered only once.
Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Militello. “Antisocial Media” was originally published in American Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.
This tree has a small LED display It is glowing and it can show you words and it can show you pictures and it can melt from one choice to another and you are looking at it and it wants you to share the message but it can't see that you are the only one around and that everyone else is hibernating which you love You are so happy and alone with the red and yellow lights It's a nice day to be in nature and to read up on the very bland ideas this tree has about how to live This tree says grow stronger and this tree says fireworks effect This tree is the saddest prophet in history but you don't tell it that You are trying to show it respect which gets tiresome but then it flashes a snake at you It's a kind of LED tree hybrid joke and you could just kiss it for trying For failing But it can't see you and it starts to cry
From What Is Amazing by Heather Christle. Copyright © 2012 by Heather Christle. Reprinted with permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.
I bathe my television in total attention I give it my corneas
I give it my eardrums I give it my longing
In return I get pictures of girls fighting and men flying
and women in big houses with tight faces blotting down tears
with tiny knuckles Sometimes my mother calls
and I don't answer Sometimes a siren sings past the window
and summer air pushes in dripping with the scent
of human sweat But what do I care I've given my skin
to the TV I've given it my tastes In return it gives me so many
different sounds to fill the silence where the secrets
of my life flash by like ad space for the coming season
If a human body has two-hundred-and-six bones
and thirty trillion cells, and each cell
has one hundred trillion atoms, if the spine
has thirty-three vertebrae—
if each atom
has a shadow—then the lilacs across the yard
are nebulae beginning to star.
If the fruit flies that settle on the orange
on the table rise
like the photons
from a bomb fire miles away,
my thoughts at the moment of explosion
are nails suspended
in a jar of honey.
I peel the orange
for you, spread the honey on your toast.
When our skin touches
our atoms touch, their shadows
merging into a shadow galaxy.
And if echoes are shadows
of sounds, if each hexagonal cell in the body
is a dark pool of jelly,
if within each cell
drones another cell—
The moment the bomb explodes
the man’s spine bends like its shadow
across the road.
The moment he loses his hearing
I think you are calling me
from across the house
because my ears start to ring.
From the kitchen window
I see the lilacs crackling like static
as if erasing, teleporting,
thousands of bees rising from the blossoms:
tiny flames in the sun.
I lick the knife
and the honey pierces my tongue:
a nail made of light.
My body is wrapped in honey. When I step outside
I become fire.
Copyright © 2014 by Sara Eliza Johnson. Used with permission of the author.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
First printed in Harper's Magazine, December 1920.
I am signaling you through the flames.
The North Pole is not where it used to be.
Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.
Nemesis is knocking at the door.
What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?
The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.
If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.
You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....
From Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Copyright © 2007 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Used by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.
Copyright © 2006 The Czeslaw Milosz Estate.
In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.
The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.
Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,
their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,
every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,
the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.
I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.
I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything
in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,
including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,
bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts
and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.
From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Co., published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart, Inc. All rights reserved.
It's so quiet now the children have decided to stop
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze.
Through the open window we hear nothing—
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city's traffic.
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.
The brick school at the five points crosswalk
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets
festooning this coastal town.
Will the eventual forest rise up
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement,
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble,
already wolves come down from the hills
to forage among us. We are like them now,
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.
They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow,
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs
in school hallways, as children they lay down
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.
It wasn't supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century's architecture; it wasn't supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,
a man and woman collecting rain
in old coffee tins. Darling,
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves.
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes.
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure?
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time
doing what people have always done
and say it was not enough?
From Ruin and Beauty by Patricia Young. Copyright © 2000 by Patricia Young. Reprinted by permission of House of Anansi Press. All rights reserved.