He was as a god,
stepped out of eternal dream
along the boardwalk.
He looked at my girl,
a dream to herself and
that was the end of them.
They disappeared beside the sea
at Revere Beach as
I aint seen them since.
If you find anyone
answering their description
please let me know. I need them
to carry the weight of my life
The old gods are gone. What lives on
in my heart
is their flesh
like a wound,
a tomb, a bomb.
From Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners, edited by Joshua Beckman, CAConrad, and Robert Dewhurst © 2015 John Wieners Literary Trust, Raymond Foye, Administrator. Reprinted with the permission of The John Wieners Literary Trust.
as I picture her
she has no basil
no sun-hardened hyssop
nor sage around her eyes
she never catnips
but laughs comfrey
tansy with a primula smile
as I think of her
foxglove and jasmine
not letting you see
all her saffron at once
one day I’ll meet her
that rue woman
that wild indigo teasel
free of woodruff and of dropwort
some summer savory
she's the nose
set to lavender
eye full of sesame
ear ringing rosemary
through wild thyme
From How to Live in the Heartland (Flatwater Editions, 1992). Copyright © 1992 by Twyla Hansen. Used with the permission of the author.
The truth is that I fall in love
so easily because
a dozen times some days.
I've lived whole lives,
grown old, and died
in the arms of other women
in no more time
than it takes the 2-train
to get from City Hall to Brooklyn,
which brings me back
to you: the only one
I fall in love with
at least once every day—
there are no other
lovely women in the world,
but because each time,
dying in their arms,
I call your name.
From Boy (University of Georgia Press, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by Patrick Phillips. Used with permission of University Georgia Press.
Here's my head, in a dank corner of the yard. I lied it off and so off it rolled. It wasn't unbelieving that caused it to drop off my neck and loll down a slope. Perhaps it had a mind of its own, wanted to leave me for a little while. Or it was scared and detached itself from the stalk of my neck as a lizard's tail will desert its body in fright of being caught. The fact is, I never lied. The fact is, I always lied. Before us, we have two mirrors. At times, they say, one must lie in order to survive. I drove by the house, passed it several times, pretending it was not my own. Its windows were red with curtains and the honeyed light cast on the porch did not succeed in luring me back inside. I never lied. I drove by the house, suckling the thought of other lovers like a lozenge. I was pale as a papery birch. I was pure as a brand new pair of underwear. It will be a long while before I touch another. Yet, I always lied, an oil slick on my tongue. I used to think that I was wrong, could not tell the truth for what it was. Yet, one cannot take a lawsuit out on oneself. I would have sworn in court that I believed myself and then felt guilty a long time after. I hated the house and I hated myself. The house fattened with books, made me grow to hate books, when all the while it was only books that never claimed to tell the truth. I hated him and I hated his room, within which his cloud of smoke heaved. I disappeared up narrow stairs, slipped quick beneath the covers. My stomach hurts, I told him, I was tired. I grew my dreams thick through hot nights: dear, flickering flowers. They had eyes which stared, and I found I could not afford their nurture, could not return their stare, Meanwhile, liars began their parade without my asking, strode sidewalks inches before my doorstep. I watched their hulking and strange beauty, their songs pregnant with freedom, and became an other self. I taught children how to curse. I bought children gold pints of liquor. I sold my mind on the street. 1 learned another language. It translates easily. Here's how: What I say is not what I mean, nor is it ever what I meant to say. You must not believe me when I say there's nothing left to love in this world.
From Fragment of the Head of a Queen by Cate Marvin. Copyright © 2007 by Cate Marvin. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books. All rights reserved.
When I came back, he was gone. My mother was in the bathroom crying, my sister in her crib restless but asleep. The sun was shining in the bay window, the grass had not been cut. No one mentioned the other woman, nights he spent in that stranger's house. I sat at my desk and wrote him a note. When my mother saw his name on the sheet of paper, she asked me to leave the house. When she spoke, her voice was like a whisper to someone else, her hand a weight on my arm I could not feel. In the evening, though, I opened the door and saw a thousand houses just like ours. I thought I was the one who was leaving, and behind me I heard my mother's voice asking me to stay. But I was thirteen and wishing I were a man I listened to no one, and no words from a woman I loved were strong enough to make me stop.
From Palm Reading In Winter by Ira Sadoff, published by Houghton Mifflin. Copyright © 1978 by Ira Sadoff. Used by permission of the author.
I came as a stranger; as a stranger now I leave. The flowers of May once welcomed me warmly; a young girl spoke of love, her mother even of marriage. Now all is bleak--the pathway covered with snow. The time of departure is not mine to choose; I must find my way alone in this darkness. With the shadow of the moon at my side, I search for traces of wildlife in the white snow. Why should I linger and give them reason to send me away? Let stray hounds howl outside their master's house. Love likes to wander from one to another, as if God willed it so. My darling, farewell. A quiet step, a careful shutting of the door so your sleep is not disturbed, and two words written on the gate as I leave, "Good night," to let you know I thought of you.
From Schubert's Winterreise: A Winter Journey in Poetry, Image, and Songs by Wilhelm Müller. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.
“It is the future generation that presses into being by means of
these exuberant feelings and supersensible soap bubbles of ours.”
“The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open. Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen. My hopped up husband drops his home disputes, and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes, free-lancing out along the razor’s edge. This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge. Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust. . . It’s the injustice . . . he is so unjust— whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five. My only thought is how to keep alive. What makes him tick? Each night now I tie ten dollars and his car key to my thigh. . . . Gored by the climacteric of his want, he stalls above me like an elephant.”
From Selected Poems by Robert Lowell, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1976, 1977 by Robert Lowell. Used by permission.
You're jealous if I kiss this girl and that.
You think I should be constant to one mouth.
Little you know of my too quenchless drouth.
My sister, I keep faith with love, not lovers.
Life laid a flaming finger on my heart,
Gave me an electric golden thread,
Pointed to a pile of beads and said:
Link me one more perfect than the rest.
Love's the thread, my sister, you a bead,
An ivory one, you are so delicate.
These first burned ash-grey—far too passionate.
Farther on the colors mount and sing.
When the last bead's painted with the last design
And slipped upon the thread, I'll tie it so,
Then smiling quietly, I'll turn and go
While vain Life boasts her latest ornament.
From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.