Over Skype, I try to document my mother’s
bald-shaved youth—she has a surplus in truths,
and science has proven what it had to prove:
every helicopter-screech I dreamed of was my mother’s first.
Rippling my dumb hand, I wake up in childhood’s crypt,
where prayer is keyless as a foreign laugh overheard
and on the Masjid’s cobalt globe a ghost … an angel?
No, no … who am I kidding. When I say God,
what I mean is: I can barely stand to look
at my mother’s face. So, what if I’ve never seen
what she’s seen. I took the shape of her two hundred
and six bones—I did not choose her eyes. Did not
choose to masticate the ash of witness,
her crooked smile disclosing a swarm of flies,
Yes, missiles hailed there, named after ancient gods.
Hera—a word of disputed root—maybe from Erate,
beloved. And because my beloved is not a person
but a place in a headline I point to and avert my gaze,
I can now ask: would I have given up my mother for an alyssum
instead of asylum? Or one glass of water that did not
contain war? Her wound isn’t mine, yet what I needed most
was our roof to collapse on her like earth around stones.
Rain, the hard absence of skin. The silence of it—
no gust in my goddess. No artificial wind.

Copyright © 2019 Aria Aber. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Exotic, “omg so thick,” a rug, so to speak—
black cortex, I can almost be beautiful
with you. Once, mother snatched
my split ends like newly acquired money
and named them Taliban Beard.
I never wanted this much of anything,
so I scissored you at the scrunchy
and sold you all to the World Wide Web.
In plastic bags, you were shipped
next to different manes, the past
stored in your filaments like fetuses
in formaldehyde, fragrances distending
as if skin of people huddled
into the eyeless belly of a boat at night.
Cut and alone, dark keratin lies cold
in factory halls: congregation of wait,
you’re patient until you too are wanted.
But when my spools stop, and the silence holds—
let them braid you into other heads.
Let them brush you for my funeral.
Let those of you spared on hospital tiles,
picked from lovers’ teeth, and nestled deep
in the vacuum, or shampooed
between dirt and debris in drains, light up.
May you glow with the weight of love
you can only share with what pries
out of yourself. Those stuck to balloons,
left in brushes, escapees taken away to elsewhere—
what is to be said of you? I won’t be gone
until you are. Heavy root
that rots to bloom when I shrink—
stay and conquer the sargasso in my tomb.

Copyright © 2019 Aria Aber. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

We funnel it between the stones.
What stones become is what

holds them together. A crushing
summer: white hydrangeas, in

dry winds, nod. In Adirondacks
we can’t fix, in a twilight beyond

repair, we recline, and an orange
tanager—what you asked

someone to come back
as—lights, and vanishes.

Copyright © 2019 Andrea Cohen. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, May/June 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Oh sure, the pink slip, the lamb’s tongue—little
rougher than when I reached for its shape. A poem

does that—packs in the pastoral to moment,
blazes an erasure of the dried whey protein

feeding the creature, asks you to think of a mother
in a negative shape, feel the process of death

as a child, which is to say, somewhere else and not
any battered twine that touches you. In the corner—

look—that’s the filter I want to frame all the iPhone
pics I take back home: saturated nostalgia but the cold

light to tell you that I see something else,
an understanding that I eat without consequence

but its OK because I caressed the withers of sheep
or cows or whatever, that I knew where their slaughter

lived. My apartment has plants in it. I’m still a farmer.
My moon metaphors work with the almanac, that cold

light, that speculative distance tautening disgust
and reverence. But—look—so cute, so cauterized.

Copyright © 2019 Caroline Crew. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, May/June 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Translated by Marilyn Hacker


Begin, begin again, no matter where!
From now on it only
matters that every day you do
some task, a task
performed attentively,
honestly. It only matters
that you add to the unending construction of reality
(never completed) your very small daily share....
Through the telescope or with your one remaining eye
you see slowly, rather badly in detail,
but all in all well enough. Well enough to get your bearings.
Well enough to follow the road that little by little
reveals itself. Well enough to do your part
as best you can. After all, in fact,
does it matter, the task’s particulars,
the outline of the foot’s form in the sand,
or the goal where you finish, late, tired enough,
where you finish perhaps, sometimes, by arriving?
But there is no goal either.
The goal is always receding toward the unreached



Easter is the opposite of Christmas.
The square empties, the living being disappears.
It is the end of visible fleshly life,
of meals, of hours of sleep. It’s the end
of action at once observed and dubious, measurable, measured,
kept secret, discreet.
                 Only two or three women encounter
the Present. They don’t ask themselves questions, they want
to know what is or isn’t. Then a few disciples, in groups,
including Thomas. Who must be approached and shown.
There thus do characters, states of mind differ.
                 At the same time, flowers, trees, life overflowing
the fields, awakened animals, moved to mate,
to feed, to kill. The triumph of the visible begins, the
material, which will not start to melt, to disappear
till the start of winter. Splendor of pelts.
Splendor of eyes, of paws. Total ignorance.
Ignorance of a more durable, longer-lasting world.
Is this the grossest, heaviest stage
of the stupefaction visible to the soul, there where it
cannot even remember, in any case no longer say...



No more sleeping pills. No more appearances.
No more symbols, in truth, neither stones nor plants.
Nor houses. Nor trees.
Come forward on my deserted paths, approach
my deserted spaces. I will be henceforth
the voice of silence, the shadow at your left on days
of brilliant light, the sound of steps on pebbles,
time that passes and passes so slowly, so fast;
I am your silence and what surrounds it; I am
your silence and what’s deepest, if seldom, in it.
Say goodnight to me, say good morning, good morning especially,
a long good morning as a work day starts
say good morning to me to call me, me here and now
me in my turn, you in your turn, us in our turn
to call us
to the creation.


4                                                        Easter Monday

Listen. Follow me. The man in the chapel,
excuse me, the church, Anglican, official and all that
explaining, commenting on, while looking at no one,
some very brief word in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
insists on that essential teaching of Christ,
preaching to us like the greatest pioneer.
Follow me. Come along after me. Walk behind me.
Is it a predilection for discipline? For modesty?
Is it authentic intelligence and heart?

I don’t know. I don’t even know
what is due to me, what I take undeserving?
I don’t know when I ought to stop.
And telephoning my confidante would in truth
be useless. She would vaguely reassure me, one might say at most,
for a few moments, at most. Those birds flying off,
are they carrying a ray, a crumb, a paltry
piece of my heart? Or nothing? Their shadow?
The shadow of their fear and of their lightness?
I would have so many questions for you.



Yellow beak, curved beak, rabbit’s nose,
swan’s bill. Bring me nothing. Teach me nothing.
I must wait. In the silence and the dark.
In the tormented night’s unsavory shadows.
In disorder. Must wait without even
a specific hope. Must wait until
the waited-for result has been achieved.
Wait, that is to say, for moments, opportunities,
the rarely fruitful I don’t-quite-know-whats.
Farewell, Floriane! I no longer know who you are,
what or whom you resemble. It’s too far.
It’s too shrill, too childish, too unimportant,
too free of everything, only a whim of the heart,
or was it the eye? Right now the others
are traveling, will soon try to sleep. Still others
are in bed and sleeping deeply. And others,
insomniac, finish reading one last
chapter. In other longitudes, others
celebrate the last hour of the day or the first
hour of the morning. The mistral solves nothing.
It takes time to make a single
observation, simple and true.


6                                       Easter Monday, 1:20 a.m.

Would I still know how to fill a day?
Or simply how to wait?
Fill nothing? Not even think of it,
not think of how to tell the difference
between filled urns and empty urns, but only
between the sleeper and the one who truly keeps watch.


7                                                                         2:30

Which one is it, which part, which, not the body
but some comparatively minimal part of the body, which one is it
that doesn’t want to sleep?


8                                                                         4:15

Wait for the morning, why? To be through with waiting?
Will it let me fall asleep comfortably at last?
To fall deeply asleep? As if I were
a healthy being, affirmed in his health at habitual hours.
Wait for the morning, let it come at last and dawn
on the indifferent hills, spread new light,
all fresh, on the indifferent streets
among the sleeping spectators.
When will I be able to return to what I knew?


9                                      Wednesday the 23rd, 1:45

Who needs you? No one.
Of course there are some who wouldn’t mind
having a drink, telling a story, taking a walk,
just talking, and who, in a way, for a moment,
if you were dead, would regret your disappearance.
But the fact that in the end, for you, on this earth,
not for them, you’ve disappeared, wouldn’t affect
their mood, their appetite, their wish to get going,
and why should that change anything at all?
Those, then, are the limits to keep in mind.
Within those limits, there’s a bit of space.
Nothing outlandish, but enough for the really
free man, really reasonable (if that word still
means anything whatsoever). It’s only, after all
preparing the usually ungrateful ground
where you will sow the seed, mediocre,
or, better still, uncertain, of your difficult growth.
And they, they also like to sleep, do nothing special,
believe a little, read a lot, take walks,
and not be forced each day to make useless
and uselessly spectacular choices. One doesn’t want
things to happen; one wants them to be, and to only change
slowly, very slowly, like real tissue
of a real body. That said, of course
I thank the guardian angel and think I recognize him
as well as is possible without yet having seen him.
Without having felt or heard or even
really sensed him. But I believe he exists.
Like the postman whom after all I’ve never seen
after six months in this new apartment.
How quickly time goes with its damages
at least as quickly as with its pleasures.
My little daughter is sleeping at this hour. Deep, even
breaths. Deep? Perhaps, yes, and in any case,
even. A tree, perhaps, believes it feels
insects darting or animals scratching
their rump on its thorns
or flies in search of unlimited flight.
This writing has become hard to read, minuscule,
not terribly clear, and—perhaps—destined
to fall back—perhaps—to a confused
and dubious level. Better to start learning
again, with elementary lessons
concerning the whole length of the body.
No strength to protect the titles and credits
in the developing of your film, or is it
the cover drawing in particular, with so many
drawings sometimes deformed or cut in two
in “artistic” cover designs?
Lord, allow me
to stay patient, to not ask for too much,
to know how to wait for the unpredictable,
the unpredicted, emerged briefly from some
shipwreck or catastrophe, if we escape it.


10                                                         Saturday 0:30

Nothing to say—everything to wait for
nothing to undertake—everything to do
and anyway, what’s poetry,
who knows, really knows?
No one knows it, no one does it
without a doubt, without a doubt in the soup,
in the salad, in the dessert.
Go to bed and try in your sleep
to be.


11                                                          2-5-57, 01:15

And there it is closed once more, the door that led
  to the dark, subterranean waters.
Of course, there is still damage. One closed eye.
  A large scar on the skull.
The insomnia of the first part of the night.
  The wretched teeth. The still-mediocre
memory. But all of that alive.
  What will you do from now on?
Sedentary work, somewhat solitary.
  A house in the country.
What will you do? That which must be done.
  That which presents itself. That which
insists. What will you do? You will live.
  A long time. Patiently. Without protesting.
You will live because you must live, because one must
  do what one was born to do. There is no
escape, no real one, possible. There is only
  the possibility of doing what one was born to do.


12                                                  3.5.57, 0100 o’clock

disorder is stubborn
Disorder, as soon as one has stopped wanting, always
returns by itself and easily.
Is disorder death’s preparation
or life’s goods acquired in passing,
untuned, unpunctuated, unpredictable?

Farewell slumber, farewell energy!
The spirit, unwearied, unsatisfied,
scours the walls of the afflicted brain.
The body, half asleep, is annoyed, tired,
doesn’t manage to oppose it.
It’s irritating, the spirit brings nothing,
finds nothing, only seeks,
perhaps only moves, sluggishly,
a few tiny degrees from left to right,
from right to left, without stopping, not
satisfied, finding no peace.
Will this dismal vigil go on for long?

Copyright © 2019 Marilyn Hacker. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Translated by Rebecca Ruth Gould and Kayvan Tahmasebian

I Justice

Each word
is sacrificed to a sword
that beams forth its light.
It rains.
Each word wears a white mask
and a self to be
submitted to the rain.
Each word is an angel
trembling from nakedness.

I have lifted the sword.
I rip the mask
off the word
and place it on my face.
I submit myself
to the rain
and before the scent of life ascends,
I take flight
with the angel’s two wings.

The rain has stopped.
The sun of language
draws near!


II Misty Dreams

The sky wanted
a misty sip from me
when the hood of the stroller filled with dew.
In the stroller, sleep seized you!

Through the vineyard, through the mist,
slumber and wine were distributed.
in the mist!



III Icaruses

The word with its movement—the word in flight—
has filled the space with the scent of flesh.
What is a poem but the movement of a word?

In the room the women
are talking of Icarus
while Icarus’s poem
is not composed.

Just one word:
the sun!

And if you return someday
from that burning pilgrimage,
I will fill the torches cup by cup with the sea
and you will know that its flame
is the bluest and coldest of flames.


IV In Reverse

                   to Mohsen Saba

The one who left will never return
will collapse.
At the cloud the narcissus stares at the cloud.
It rains. It does not rain.
Beneath the wet cloak,
when will I be moved to bring the firewood?

Oh, my friend! My friend!
Twice is enough.
The third is spring air.
When Icarus falls
from the green sky
the narcissus’s corolla fills with rainwater.
Look inside! A small Icarus


V From Icarus and the Bondsman of the Deer1

Just as the thunderstorm in the rainbow
mixes colors with colors,
I wish that poetry could mix the two legends together
so that we could stare at each other in the poison sunrise,
and the plants would recognize water in the poison sunrise.
(Water is our majestic selflessness and has taught them
the secret of life and us the secret of death.)
And the sun would fit into the grape.
(The grape is the Holy Last Supper.)
Now that the flood of sun has taken the wing away,
the deer is helpless.
He falls.
Generous deer bestow nothing.
They watch and watch and watch.
Now that the sun slowly
moves west
on the hill, two fires have turned red.
The horizon is recognized in your compromise.
This horizon of bliss: the bondsman of water
concealed in wet firewood.


1“Deer Bondsman” is a title for the eighth Shia Imam, Reza (whose name, meaning “bliss,” is referenced in the second to last line of this poem). According to legend, Imam Reza protected a deer from being killed by a hunter. He died after being poisoned by grapes. The two legends to which the poet refers are those of Imam Reza and Icarus.

Copyright © 2019 Rebecca Ruth Gould and Kayvan Tahmasebian. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the authors.

I split three pills with my ficus and now
it’s being weird. It won’t drink my breath or eat
the sun or fight off
the spider and his wife, whom I also
split three pills with,
because it’s Christmas, because
I was sad driving past
the shuttered stationery shop and the woman
dragging her kid on a leash.
I split three pills with the woman
and three pills with the kid. I measured my heart rate
and pronounced myself legally dead. My ficus
gave me three pills. I felt better. I told
a bath towel, and my friend’s bulldog,
and the dregs at the bottom
of my tea. I told the three pills in my pocket
and the three pills
in my bed. Each one
a loose pearl
ready to string together
in my belly, in the bellies of people I loved
or thought of when I watched a pigeon
disappear inside a hawk.

Copyright © 2019 Ruth Madievsky. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, May/June 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

I rode to Heaven on a bird that did-

n’t look like any bird I ever saw

Before I saw it    the bird’s wings    were wide

And long and brightly    colored and had no


Feathers but    panels    like glass    held together

By black bones criss-    crossing them from the ground

They must have looked like stained glass flying to Heaven

Church windows carrying    a black bird’s wing-


less body and my body up    between them

The bird’s    body was black as the night sky

Was back    when I was running with my momma

Before I wouldn’t    run no more and she

Beat me and Mrs. Davis saw and took me

Like glass    like any hard thing    would’ve broke them




Copyright © 2019 Shane McCrae. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

You walk through Heaven anywhere to any-

where on that soft green grass    or nowhere it

Don’t matter anywhere you walk a bright

And cool and it’s about    a foot-wide stream of

The cleanest water anywhere with each

Step you take parts the grass beside you

On your left side    if you’re left-handed

And on your right side otherwise just reach


Down if you’re thirsty or you’re dirty or

You’re hot    they got the sun in Heaven still

And folks get hot sometimes    me    sometimes I

Walk just to see the stream appear

Sometimes I lead it    through my name    on Earth I couldn’t spell

My name now my great thirst has been revealed to me

Copyright © 2019 Shane McCrae. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Looking out at Constable’s distances,
nothing I wanted to be, what I am.
He grows on you, Constable, so childish
at the beginning, toy farms, slow pastures,
the small trees bundled up as if for sale,
everything schooled out and diminished in
the direction of Salisbury—or
is it Dedham?—1804, thirty,
and already decades behind Turner.

History is easy. I could write all day
dropping names into the spaces between.
Most of C’s best oils are on paper or
are drafts of pieces that get too finally
finished, even the very great ones
on which his fame, as we like say, “rests.”
Please look at his A Cart with Two Horses,
1814, workhorses of course, one
posed in profile, the other turned toward

the back of the painting, sold privately
cheaply, like most of his work. Millionaire
Turner evolves into near abstraction,
asking light to be sunlight purely, fire
from within nothing but what he calls a
landscape. Besides, he traveled, an antique
traveler in antique lands. But I love C’s
local Study of Tree Trunks, with a figure
beside them, more oil on paper, seven

years after Horses. Constable’s aging.
He thinks I’m a cloud, a long white body
lying in the air over Hampstead; he thinks
clouds of storm shapes are bodies, like great elms.
I’m his anomaly, still thinning out.
Another day he sees me lying down
undulant in the middle distance, the
cloud come at last to earth as the earth is
part of the corn, the good ground under corn,

the painting piecemeal, the way he paints, so
that you have to stand at a real middle
distance just to see me. Turner wants me
to be The Angel Standing in the Sun,
apocalyptic in the afterlife,
though I prefer my body as a field
in which I live over again as flesh—
or is it flush?—against a stream, or of
the stream, as C also sees me, where a

boy on a barge on canvas is taking
a cloud-white horse to its destination
far downriver. And I am the water.
And the light in the water. And if it
is possible, having also been of
the plowed and planted and replanted earth,
I am the sky domed over the boat boy’s
possible future, when he then arrives
and puts to work all that really matters.

Copyright © 2019 Stanley Plumly. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, May/June 2019. Reprinted with permission of David Baker for the Estate of Stanley Plumly.

The last of my kind, one of the last lovers of flowers
and the lawns of the northern grasses, and certainly
one of the few able to rub backsides with the baobab
and the century-nearing oak still surviving in the yard.

The trick is stone, to look like something broken
from a mountain, something so leftover so as not
to be alive, yet resemble in demeanor dream anger,
the kind that wakes you out of breath talking to yourself

in that language that starts in the belly and the bowel.
Old age is a disguise, the hard outside, the soft inside.
Even the plated armor is turning dust, then one foot
after the other, neuropathy my gravity, the footprint

larger, deeper. I hardly recognize myself except in
memory, except when the mind overwhelms the lonely
body. So I lumber on, part of me empty, part of me
filled with longing—I’m half-blind but see what I see,

the half sun on the hill. How long a life is too long,
as I take my time from here to there, the one world
dried-out distances, nose, horn, my great head lifted down,
the tonnage of my heart almost more than I can carry....

Copyright © 2019 Stanley Plumly. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, May/June 2019. Reprinted with permission of David Baker for the Estate of Stanley Plumly.

between their brows—

blood flowers bloom.


               Child of summer

horses in the mud.




under storm, ferrying

               bodies one
by one.




covered highlands:

               jittery dance
the jewel beetle.



falling on a

black mass


Copyright © 2019 Ryan C. K. Choi. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, May/June 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1. autonomy 2. elective howl 3. showed teeth
4. used the veto 5. with hello 6. a wet economy
7. clothed 8. two-tone 9. elusive 10. the way home
11. at home 12. coveted 13. until we see how 14. hotly
15. steely hot 16. on leave 17. with too much weed
18. two (loosely) 19. dew theme 20. in vacuo 21. the the
22. tentatively we 23. somehow 24. the loud echo
25. the détente 26. touchily 27. a wholesome vow
28. the old way 29. cue the wolves 30. the emotion
31. semidevoutly 32. how we once 33. at the hotel
34. wholesale 35. too mute 36. in the towed Chevy
37. when woe lets me 38. to the void 39. oh acutely
40. sweetly 41. moved out 42. alone 43. with the echo

Copyright © 2019 Caki Wilkinson. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Between Memphis and Bristol

Turtletown  Cottontown  Reagantown
Trade Pigeon  Forge  Coalfield  Hurricane  Gray
Huntersville  Fisherville  Manlyville  Guys
Static  Gentry  Difficult  Bride
Shackle  Island  Bone  Cave  Pioneer  Swift
Wartrace  Nixon  Ransom  Stand  Gift
Barren  Plain  Nameless  Cherokee  Pope
Campaign  White House  Purdy  New  Hope
Bugscuffle  Speedwell  Tazewell  Yell
Brick Church  Hanging Limb  Burnt Church  Bells
Littlelot  Bucksnort  Bitter End  Boone
Needmore  Prospect  Liberty  Moons

Copyright © 2019 Caki Wilkinson. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.