Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.
Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;
each bending an ear-shaped cone
to the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,
you could make out silvery koi
swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge
where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.
To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,
as he knelt down to let the koi kiss his palms,
I missed what it was to be so dumb
as those koi. I like to think they’re pure,
that that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,
after he had nothing else to give, they still kissed
his hands. Because who hasn’t done that—
loved so intently even after everything
has gone? Loved something that has washed
its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,
that I’m enlightened somehow,
but who am I kidding? I know I’m like those koi,
still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss
those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.
From Scale. Copyright © 2017 by Nathan McClain. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.
It’s no use walking the beasts of my longing without you, compañero,
you whose name means stone the sun
moves across. Remember our house, and the statuary of clouds
drifting through the rooms? And the sheets and blankets of our habits,
and ourselves two hounds lying down. We loved
like we fought, slugging our way toward each other,
sending up flares to announce our advance. And when our city
burned, we stood in the ashes, and admired each other’s
bodies. Now I ask you: how will we manage
without the steadiness of our long unhappiness?
Can you say you don’t miss our furious
putting up with each other? The silver waves
go on polishing themselves. The sun goes down
alone. Tell me: is this
as it should be? My body goes on
without you burnishing its crevices. Without
your faults, there is no salt. I will not again be fat.
Even my hair will abandon me, like a woman walking away
until you can’t see her. So what
if I’m given other dawns? I ache
for the grandeur of uproar. Light
brings on its armadas of taxis and butterflies,
and I’m forced to go into the street
and talk to agreeable strangers.
Copyright © 2015 by Marilyn Krysl. Originally published in Prairie Schooner in 2015. Used with permission of the author.
What faculties, when perverted, most degrade the mind?
What faculties, when perverted, does it cost most to gratify?
I undertook to discover the soul in the body—
I looked in the pineal gland, I looked
in the vena cava. I looked in every
perforating arterial branch. With the fingers
of my right, I touched the Will and the Ring
of Solomon on the left. For a second
I felt sprung. Then bereft as ever.
Someone used to love me. Someone
used to see me. If you open a person up,
purple, pulsing. It’s in here somewhere, scalpel,
and in and in. Let’s walk in the woods,
as we once did, and see if we can find a snail,
its shell covered in symbiotic lichen.
When you covered my lichen in yours,
I thought that’s what we wanted—
to be rock and moss and slug and all of it.
To be simultaneously thinking of snails,
which are so beautifully stony
and marvelously squished.
Wasn’t that what we wanted?
I went to your lecture. I thought it
best to retrace my steps. You were trying
to explain—If I were to put my fingers directly on your brain . . .
I wish you would, how I wish you would
trace the seagull diving towards the water
as a whale rises up, the anchor dropped, the gray
linen slacks, all the polygons of my this and that
jigsawing under your touch. Oh yes, let’s
do that. Let’s vivisect my brain and see
if it’s in there. You have your porcelain man
with the black-lined map of his longing.
You have your pointer and your glasses
and your pen. I hear you ask the class, What faculties,
having ascendancy, are deaf to reason? What faculty,
when large, brightens every object on which we look?
I miss you, you know. I miss you so.
From The End of Pink. Copyright © 2016 by Kathryn Nuernberger. Used with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
I won’t ever tell you how it ended.
But it ended. I was told not to act
Like it was some big dramatic moment.
She swiveled on her heels like she twirled just
The other day on a bar stool, the joy
Gone out of it now. Then she walked away.
I called out to her once. She slightly turned.
But she didn’t stop. I called out again.
And that was when, well, that’s just when
You know: You will always be what you were
On that small street at that small time, right when
She left and Pluto sudsed your throat and said,
Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche
Tú la quisiste, y a veces ella también te quiso.
Copyright © 2016 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
Copyright © 1980 by Galway Kinnell. From Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (Mariner Books, 1980). Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.