Someone must’ve gone fetched him out,
towed the drowned, wing-wrecked bird
through a slick of his own feathery want,
though, more likely, he passed out
from knowing, and the falling distance
made the surface turn hard to his body.
It must’ve mattered to his father, who,
winged himself, had to watch fishermen
circle his son, like figures in a painting,
pondering as if there were meaning in water.
Is this any way to treat the ones who flee
and wash ashore, prodding their bodies
with toe, stick, a disbelieving finger?
This morning, walking along the road,
I found a hummingbird against the curb,
marveled at the glasswork of its stillness,
how the light was falling too, so I could
see shifting green and blue, the tiny cage,
the dark needle of its bill, the dark eyes
the ants will carry away. I can’t say
if it died from wanting too much
or from finding what it wanted too much.
Surely, Icarus had the heart of a hummingbird.
If they revived him, would he have risen
back into the sky, damaged wiser,
or, bratty, simply blamed his crap wings?
I nudged the bird with my shoe, not expecting,
but half wishing, a startling burst
through our myth-brightened world.
But the boy who ODed in a Porta-Potty,
was no bird at all. When his father found him,
his sun-jonesing heart large from hovering,
his friends—junk-caked, booze-skanked
themselves—turned away, puked in a ditch,
praying he’d break the surface of his misery.
Even outside the funeral home, dark coats
blocks long, dragging in suits they last wore
at graduation, for some sliver of rachis
and vane jutting out where wings might be,
they do not want to die, they only want
to feel less, less this. The way we, too,
standing in a line of pity and scorn, curse
all this away, we who love those
who love the air, the sudden lift and veer.

Copyright © 2017 James Hoch. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

Each night, the suffer-
Gleamed stars above
Texas crush down & I do

Not know how to say
No thank you, please
To the jawing ghosts

That show up to gnaw
Furrows in my chest.
The wind whispers

Hotly. Nightjars
Polish the darkness
Free of moths.

I refuse to let go
Of my paranoia
Because it assures

Me that I am alive,
Living the dream,
A limited edition

One-life-in a life-
Time offer of bones
That glow in the dark.

Morning comes metallic
Over the lakes of blood
I bucket by bucket splash

Out of the window. Wiping
Sweat from my brow

I am like Baby, Baby, how
Lovely is all this glitter?

Copyright © 2017 Alex Lemon. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

What I need from this
Slap & tickle is a full

Suckle of lies. Glue
My lips together with

Blow flies. I am not
Ashamed at how hot

My cravings swing—
Cinder blocks crashed

Through car windows
& a joyous Wuuuu-Wuuuuu

Shouted at the dark
Puckering stars. I love

My calamity—say I am
The prettiest thing

You have ever seen
When the fire starts.

Copyright © 2017 Alex Lemon. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

Eppur si muove

The iris wavers as the fox trots by,
mornings in paradise, or what pretends
by any other name to smell of meat.
What were we then that we did not become?
The water touched the image of the beast;
old factories of iron muted the plain.
They were of no consequence, those sun-dark days
before the word fell hard upon the ear.
The Indian corn, I mean the poppy fields,
carpets of color sown and yet not sown,
ideas that rose to metal and to brick.
That too was passion. Naked, in need of need,
we had heard of passion. We knew ourselves
that first first morning when we woke, and died.

Copyright © 2017 William Logan. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

this being unnoticed. Sitting like this
           next to the stone lamb outside the Cathedral.
My lost soul, which prefers the stone lamb
           to the living God. Prefers these deep shadows
to the summer day. The way he took me
           all those years ago, shattered me
so that fifty-seven years later, I might sit
           next to the smoothness of this stone lamb,
know the stone joy of being unnoticed.
           People go in the Cathedral all day long,
visiting their God on their knees. That man
           who betrayed me when I was a boy,
first held me up to a tree so I would know
           what smell lemon blossoms have.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Moore. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

              All modesty is false modesty
when it comes to poems,
              or to the silence
in which poems begin
              before they are words,
when they are still daisies
              at the foot of the dead Christ
in an anonymous painting,
              13th century. Not to know how to live
is one thing, and nothing
              to be ashamed of.
But not to know
              how to sit in front of those daisies
with tears in my eyes:
              what a waste that would be.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Moore. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

If the neighbor’s roof is a shamble of broken tiles, so be it.

If those tiles sit there for weeks. If no one does a thing about them.

If the sky is gray day after day and then snow falls and the tiles turn into
fragments of a broken alphabet traced in snow, clinging.

Darkness, then dawn.

If beauty, as hoped for; if death as promised.

There is no reason not to say it: the woman with her head bent, reading, is

The train rocks beneath her, but she mostly sits in stillness.

A slight trembling of the page betrays the truth of things.

Meanwhile, a window above her bent head. A river and a bridge, a sky
darkening just beyond the window.

The bridge and the sky, the slight blue of a river: a world beautiful beyond
our understanding.

No reason not to say it: the woman will look up from her book, from the calm
page, from the story not her own.

In due course will suffer before she dies.

The small blue relief of the river is a darkening song without end.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Moore. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

I drove all the way to Cape Disappointment but didn’t
have the energy to get out of the car. Rental. Blue Ford
Focus. I had to stop in a semipublic place to pee
on the ground. Just squatted there on the roadside.
I don’t know what’s up with my bladder. I pee and then
I have to pee and pee again. Instead of sightseeing
I climbed into the back seat of the car and took a nap.
I’m a little like Frank O’Hara without the handsome
nose and penis and the New York School and Larry
Rivers. Paid for a day pass at Cape Disappointment
thinking hard about that long drop from the lighthouse
to the sea. Thought about going into the Ocean
Medical Center for a check-up but how do I explain
this restless search for beauty or relief?

No need to sparkle, Virginia Woolf wrote in “A Room
of One’s Own,” oh, would that it were true, I loved the kids
who didn’t, June, can’t remember her last name, tilt of her
head like an off-brand flower on the wane, her little rotten
teeth the color of pencil lead, house dresses even in 4th grade,
and that boy Danny Davis, gray house, horse, eyes, clothes,
fingertips and prints, freckles not copper-colored but like metal
shavings you could clean up with a magnet. Now Mrs. LaPointe
was a dug-up bone but Miss Edge sparkled, she taught the half-
and-half class, 3rd and 4th grades cut down the middle
of the room like sheet cake, she wore a lavender chiffon dress
with a gauzy cape to school, aquamarine eye shadow, Sweetie,
she whispered to me, leaning down, breath a perfume, your
daddy’s dead, tears stuck to her cheeks like leeches or jewels.

I aborted two daughters, how do I know they were girls,
a mother knows, at least one daughter, maybe one
daughter and a son, will it hurt I asked the pre-abortion
lady and she said, her eyes were so level, I haven’t been
stupid enough to need to find out, cruel but she was right,
I was and am stupid, please no politics, I’ve never gotten
over it, no I don’t regret it, two girls with a stupid penniless
mother and a drug-addict father, I don’t think so, I shot
a rabbit once for food, I am not pristine, I am not good,
I am in no way Jesus, I am in no way even the bad Mary
let alone the good, though I have held my living son
in the pietà pose, I didn’t know at the time I was doing it
but now that I look back, he’d overdosed and nearly died,
my heart, he said, his lips blue, don’t worry, I’ve paid.

To return from Paradise I guess they call that
resurrection. Don’t remember the black cherries’
gleam, bay shine, mountain’s sheen, blissful
appalling loneliness. Messy foam at sea’s edge,
slurry they call it, where love and death meld
into slop, and unaccustomed birds. Forget all
the way back to where you were before you were
born. When Dyl was a toddler, still finger-sucking,
he said he remembered the sound of my blood
whooshing past him in utero, maybe the first of many
lies, this one with an adorable speech impediment.
I always return, it’s my nature, like the man who
couldn’t stop liberating the crayfish even though
it pinched him hard, that song, that Grand Ole Opry.

The best is when you respond only to the absolute present
tense, the rain, the rain, rain, rain, and wind, an iridescent
cloud, another shooting, this time in a shopping mall
in Germany, so this is why people want other people to put
their arms around them, I will walk to the bay where there is
a kind of peace, even emptiness, the barn swallows’ sharp
flight and cry, who now has the luxury of emptiness or peace,
the beauty of thunder in a place where there is rarely thunder,
the mind like a jackrabbit bounding, bounding, my wet hair
against my neck, grandfather’s barber shop, the line-up
of hair tonics by color like a spectrum, the pool table removed
to make a room for great-grandma to live out her years, my
father cutting a semicircle in her kitchen table so it would fit
around the stove pipe, rain, rain, fascism in America is loud.

Poetry, the only father, landscape, moon, food, the bowl
of clam chowder in Nahcotta, was I happy, mountains
of oyster shells gleaming silver, poetry, the only gold,
or is it, my breasts, feet, my hands, index finger,
fingernail, hangnail, paper cut, what is divine, I drove
to the sea, wandered aimlessly, I stared at my tree, I said
in my mind there’s my tree, there’s my tree I said in my mind,
I remember myself before words, thrilled at my parents’
touch, opened milkweed with no agenda, blew the fluff,
no reaching for comparison, to be free of signification,
wriggle out of the figurative itchy sweater, body, breasts,
vulva, little cave of the uterus, clit, need, touch, come, I came
before I knew what coming was, iambic pentameter, did I
feel it, does language eclipse feeling, does it eclipse the eclipse

Copyright © 2017 Diane Seuss. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

after Alice Oswald

Take away my engine and I shall engineless go
to find you. Take away my bees
and I will flowerless walk the vectors of sweet
nothings until I’m face to face with Monsanto.

In my doomed town where small mechanic skills
make the evenings strung out and shrill
with compressors and vapors, I listen for crows
and wrens to overdub our nation’s ills

which are forgetting and further forgetting
so I don’t recognize my hand,
the length of rope, the knot, the limb
I throw it over, the aid and abetting

of the body, the shadow spans from Senegal
to my doomed town where Mrs. White
cuts off a limb that drops its intractable
leaves in menacing random and illegal

patterns on her lawn. The proposition
is to each cut off a limb, a sacrifice to prevent
destructions more terrible in the future
as did the Sioux. Because I lack imagination

somebody, a Christ, a boy in custody, dies
each evening. Three days wait and I forget
the undertaking, the uprising, that way
of life with redemption. I forget the lies

modified by art. I forget the ongoing
story of love tending toward catastrophe,
the oblique, gaped, murderous corridos
ending in the underworld and unknowing.

Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

Beheadings, slaughter of the innocents, suffering
and sorrow say all the stabbed, ecstatic art
of the museums and more of the same
says the news, the glowing, after glowing now
what, but also in the crowded galleries babies held
by mothers looking at babies being artfully held
in the celestial rain, the fat buttery ones, part putto,
part lard who appear ready to slip from mother’s arms
out of the frame into smoke and storm, the non-art part
of the world, that disobedient, expensive part
like a furious sea you paid to cross in an inflatable
plastic raft, a child’s toy in a bath it looks like
from America where we have no fate
we can’t make. Fate is guns and money
swamping the stars. Fate is the bewitched mixture
of fuel with sea water that incinerates the self.
Fate is the decree of childhood evaporating into
unauthorized space where the I/you is so much
questioning and answering non-art. In art
I see the gold leaf, the gashes, the beautiful throats
and hear the trauma arias of martyrdom
that are the same in non-art deserts and cities.
There are two schools: one that sings
the sheen and hues, the necessary pigments
and frankincense while the world dries
and the other voice like water that seeks
to saturate, erode, and boil. It can’t be handled.
It can’t be marble. It wants to pool and rise
and rain and soak the root systems. It ruins
everything you have ever saved.

Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

I saw the body of the jack fruit fall. I saw the body of the hero
fall, his armor clanging on his body. Then the juice and sutras
of the little spell of emptiness or the greater discourse of seed
and ovary. I saw the place ransacked to find a substitute
for the succulents—the lychee, the peach, the flower
infolded in the fig—that give up their season, their nation,
[mango, American pumpkin] the famous fated beauty/terror
rift before the swoon of the future. I saw that luscious rot.
I saw first thieves then police toss that place. I loved
that part. This is the farewell, the flailing without the salt.
This is the brood in place of a bowl of fruit, the fret
in place of a hero’s rage in his tent before he remembers
to sleep, eat, regret. I saw how the light scratches into all
the surfaces, how the air agitates. Then the virtuoso work
of the one-celled begins to mortify and multiply the world,
as if it were doing nothing, so much done by doing nothing.
I live in a sorrow culture, a pleasure culture, a culture frothy
with grievance, yeasty with nostalgia. I live in a pre-war,
post-war culture where what is written is pulped and vectored
like a virus. Ashen light, clouds of sulfuric acid, signatures
of lightning: this could be the planet Venus where love is
adored and scorned, life is sentimental, life is 400 dollars
or more. It froths. It foams like a god in the ocean.
On this planet I saw flights of sparrows and hooded crows.
There’s gratuitous beauty, unwarranted, immoderate beauty
as an agent to oblivion. This blue, this curvature, this Rome—
a further way to forgo. Because no one else will, reader,
remember the things spirited away. Remember those hustling,
those surrendered, those breathing then not. The spectacle
makes us forget. I forgot the shape and color of the cup
and the tear-gas canister. I forgot about the occupation
and the middle passage when I saw the sea’s glint
and green muscly swells. Beholding is a kind of blindness.
History smells as the body becomes a bubbling godhead.
What separates the curds and whey? What allows me
to enter, through the small door, this faltering conversation?

Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

I walked in the romantic garden and I walked
in the garden of ruin. I walked in the green-skinned,
black-skinned garden of Osiris who was ripped to pieces
and reformed and adored. I walked in that wet,
incestuous plot. Am I the only one who reads
for innocence? I walked in the garden of Amadou Diallo
whose shadow was punctured by unnumbered shafts
of light leading from West Africa to America where wallets
are guns. The chirp you heard in the garden as of two black
holes merging is what we called the soul. And when we cup
our hands to drink at his fountain we make the shape
of his skull. Am I the only one who reads for thirst?
I walked in the gardens of Houston where anole lizards
took their colors at the borders between terror and wonder,
dread and leafy glade, between silence and Sinatra.
I walked in Pope’s garden in Twickenham that rhymed
wilderness and picturesque, walled in and out the stunted
self. In the garden of ruin new growth from the palms
I read as artful, neutral. In the romantic garden the fascists
sing I love you, I love you not. Statues in the gardens
are wrapped in Mylar blankets and blue plastic tarps
like refugees. I read them for reflection. I read for nation.
I read for color and form. In the orangery of Guantanamo,
in the grapevine of Babylon, I’m lost. I went there for the buzz,
the fiction of silence and a better self. Dressed sentimentally
in a dynamite suit in the garden of dates and pomegranates,
I read for patterns of the blast.

Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

Nobody knows how those so-called revolutionaries
who wanted year zero so bad,
turned into mosquitoes. I mean, mosquitoes right?
Because not butterflies or moths rolling
in the mass graves—we all know the moths are children
who didn’t make it past five. My theory is those creeps
sucked the blood of their victims to forget
what kinds of torture they did, with their bare hands
or with other kinds of hands, the kinds with teeth.
I’m not trying to scare you now. Just letting you know
if you scratch your arms like that a huge welt will appear
like a rash, will take months to fade (or forget as it goes),
and those mosquitoes will keep coming for you.
You heard it from me. Don’t scratch their real names. 
Toothpaste over that bump won’t soothe you,
not on this one. I’ll tell you something personal: every time
I hear their real names, I scratch my skin. I scratch my own name
too. Mosquitoes. Call them mosquitoes. Like a nuisance.
Just that. I know, I know… it’s been years. The past
should be the past by now but not this kind.
You have to protect yourself because this kind keeps going
like that mosquito’s straw on your calf keeps sucking.
You didn’t see it, did you? This is when I tell you: Don’t move.

Copyright © 2017 Monica Sok. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

We must set this story straight.
We must say there is another angle

to this foreign particle

lodged in my ribs like a small ivory
tiger or a Chinese lamp, the oil

coating my bones. Theseus,
you know you didn't break me.

I was the one who came to you
with a magnifying glass,

needing my Oxford credits

for the University of Someone Wants Me:
my gold-sealed social stigma.

I made my own marks. & everyone
should know it—I have an A+

in the humors of you. I was
an Edison bulb in a child’s bedchamber,

a Spanish fan flirting with fire,

smoking as pity turned to shock
at mediocre parties where conversations

are weak with the ordinary.
My outfit betrayed me—you wept 

right through my clinical gloves
like a little boy

with a bad heart & a mean streak.

I monitored your ailments, but my logic 
was circular: What is man? What is

man? What is this man doing here
with me? No bright conclusion.

I was bad at doctoring the truth.
I was in it for myself. & the skull

I carried in my hand in case
anyone took record? Still on my fingers.

From Virgin (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Analicia Sotelo. Reprinted with permission of the author and Milkweed Editions. Copyright © 2017 Analicia Sotelo. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017.