XXXVII

ALCETA

Listen, Melisso: I want to tell you a dream I had last night, which comes to mind, seeing the moon again. I was standing at the window that looks out on the meadow staring up, when suddenly the moon unhooked herself. And it seemed to me that as she fell, the nearer she got the bigger she looked, until she hit the ground in the middle of the meadow, big as a bucket, and vomited a cloud of sparks that shrieked as loud as when you dunk a live coal in the water and drown it. So, as I said, the moon died in the middle of the meadow, little by little slowly darkening, and the grass was smoking all around. Then, looking up into the sky, I saw something still there, a glimmer or a shadow, or the niche that she'd been torn away from, which made me cold with fear. And I'm still anxious.

MELISSO

You were right to be afraid, when the moon fell so easily into your field.

ALCETA

Who knows? Don't we often see stars fall in summer?

MELISSO

                      There are so many stars that if one or another of them falls it's no great loss, since there are thousands left. But there's just this one moon up in the sky, which no one saw fall ever—except in dreams.

Excerpted from Canti: Poems by Giacomo Leopardi, translated, and annotated by Jonathan Galassi. Published in November 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by Jonathan Galassi. All rights reserved.

2. 2047 Grace Street

But the world is more often refuge
than evidence, comfort and covert
for the flinching will, rather than the sharp
particulate instants through which God's being burns
into ours. I say God and mean more 
than the bright abyss that opens in that word.
I say world and mean less
than the abstract oblivion of atoms
out of which every intact thing emerges,
into which every intact thing finally goes.
I do not know how to come closer to God
except by standing where a world is ending
for one man. It is still dark,
and for an hour I have listened
to the breathing of the woman I love beyond
my ability to love. Praise to the pain
scalding us toward each other, the grief
beyond which, please God, she will live
and thrive. And praise to the light that is not
yet, the dawn in which one bird believes,
crying not as if there had been no night
but as if there were no night in which it had not been.

Excerpted from Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman. Published in November 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by Christian Wiman. All rights reserved.

              O quam te memorem virgo

Stand on the highest pavement of the stair—	
Lean on a garden urn—	
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—	
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise—	
Fling them to the ground and turn	     
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:	
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.	
 
So I would have had him leave,	
So I would have had her stand and grieve,	
So he would have left	        
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,	
As the mind deserts the body it has used.	
I should find	
Some way incomparably light and deft,	
Some way we both should understand,	        
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.	
 
She turned away, but with the autumn weather	
Compelled my imagination many days,	
Many days and many hours:	
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!	
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.	
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze	
The troubled midnight and the noon's repose.

This poem is in the public domain.

For the distances collapsed.
            For the figure
failed to humanize
the scale. For the work,
the work did nothing but invite us
to relate it to
            the wall.
For I was a shopper in a dark
            aisle.

For the mode of address
            equal to the war
was silence, but we went on
celebrating doubleness.
For the city was polluted
with light, and the world,
            warming.
For I was a fraud
in a field of poppies.

For the rain made little
            affective adjustments
to the architecture.
For the architecture was a long
lecture lost on me, negative
mnemonics reflecting
            weather
and reflecting
            reflecting.

     ...

I finished the reading and looked up
Changed in the familiar ways. Now for a quiet place
To begin the forgetting. The little delays
Between sensations, the audible absence of rain
Take the place of objects. I have some questions
But they can wait. Waiting is the answer
I was looking for. Any subject will do
So long as it recedes. Hearing the echo
Of your own blood in the shell but picturing
The ocean is what I meant by

*

You startled me. I thought you were sleeping
In the traditional sense. I like looking
At anything under glass, especially
Glass. You called me. Like overheard
Dreams. I'm writing this one as a woman
Comfortable with failure. I promise I will never
But the predicate withered. If you are
Uncomfortable seeing this as portraiture
Close your eyes. No, you startled

     ...

Unhinged in a manner of speaking
Crossed with stars, a rain that can be paused
So we know we're dreaming on our feet
Like horses in the city. How sad. Maybe
No maybes. Take a position. Don't call it
Night-vision green. Think of the children
Running with scissors through the long
Where were we? If seeing this as portraiture
Makes you uncomfortable, wake up

*

Wake up, it's time to begin
The forgetting. Direct modal statements
Wither under glass. A little book for Ari
Built to sway. I admire the use of felt
Theory, like swimming in a storm, but object
To anti-representational bias in an era of
You're not listening. I'm sorry. I was thinking
How the beauty of your singing reinscribes
The hope whose death it announces. Wave

     ...

Numbness, felt silence, a sudden
Inability to swallow, the dream in which
The face is Velcro, describing the film
In the language of disaster, the disaster in
Not finishing sentences, removing the suicide
From the speed dial, failing to recognize
Yourself in the photo, coming home to find
A circle of concerned family and friends
It's more of an artists' colony than a hospital

*

It's more of a vitamin than an anti-psychotic
Collective despair expressed in I-statements
The dream in which the skin is stonewashed
Denim, running your hand through the hair
Of an imaginary friend, rising from bed
Dressing, returning calls, all without
Waking, the sudden suspicion the teeth
In your mouth are not your own, let
Alone the words

From Mean Free Path by Ben Lerner. Copyright © 2010 by Ben Lerner. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like—

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws’

gesture of menace
and power. A gull’s
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
—size of a demitasse—
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer’s firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this—
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
similarly,
revealed some sky.

From Atlantis, published by HarperCollins. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he'd introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she'd find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn't everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn't everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That's what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there'd be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn't imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone's Girlhood.

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you're dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

"A Myth of Devotion" from Averno by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

(after Holderlin)

The yellow pears hang in the lake. 
Life sinks, grace reigns, sins ripen, and
in the north dies an almond tree.

A genius took me by the hand and said
come with me though the time has not yet come. 

Therefore, when the gods get lonely,
a hero will emerge from the bushes
of a summer evening 
bearing the first green figs of the season.

For the glory of the gods has lain asleep
too long in the dark
in darkness too long
too long in the dark.

Copyright © 2010 by David Lehman. Used with permission of the author.

Bring me your pain, love. Spread 
it out like fine rugs, silk sashes, 
warm eggs, cinnamon
and cloves in burlap sacks. Show me

the detail, the intricate embroidery 
on the collar, tiny shell buttons, 
the hem stitched the way you were taught,
pricking just a thread, almost invisible.

Unclasp it like jewels, the gold 
still hot from your body. Empty 
your basket of figs. Spill your wine.

That hard nugget of pain, I would suck it, 
cradling it on my tongue like the slick 
seed of pomegranate. I would lift it

tenderly, as a great animal might 
carry a small one in the private 
cave of the mouth.

Reprinted from Mules of Love by Ellen Bass, with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. Copyright © 2002 by Ellen Bass. All rights reserved.

How you loved to read in the snow and when your
face turned to water from the internal heat
combined with the heavy crystals or maybe it was
reversus you went half-blind and your eyelashes
turned to ice the time you walked through swirls 
with dirty tears not far from the rat-filled river
or really a mile away—or two—in what 
you came to call the Aristotle room
in a small hole outside the Carnegie library.

Copyright © 2010 by Gerald Stern. Used with permission of the author.

I began to see things in parts again,
segments, a pen drawn against the skin
to show where to cut, lamppost through the stained glass
with its etchings of light against the wall —
it was the middle of the night. It was something we would tell no one:
The hospital roads with standing water, I drove quickly through,
saying, you won’t have to stay.
                                                 But then I left without you,
you whom I’ve felt missing all this time —
when I sat in the weeds of the yard, told to pull them
from the root, not to touch the wild trillium, tying knots in the daffodil stalks,
discontented. When I watched the scatters
of firs sway their birds out through my storm windows,
the tree itself now and no more,
I thought I needed belief — walking through the stubbed wheat grass
requesting everything that would undo me — the nearness of Christ,
abandon and devotion — no one has to teach me
my disobediences. No one sees
the shed I see now, its roof bent with snow, all of it
leaning south how it was never built.
The inches overcome it, but
the green wood darkens, oceanic and deep.
                                                                   He might not wake up,
I thought that night —
                                         I remembered the house I boarded in one summer
with a widower, his wife’s fabric samples left draped over
the arm of the unfinished chair. I could feel her eyes
in my own when I tried to choose
between them, almost, if the sun of the alcove
hadn’t faded them, the dust and his arms worn them.
The sky as stark as the first sheet laid down
after they took her body.
                                           But on that night
while I waited, the clouds casketed the stars,
stars with no chambers or hollows, filling themselves
with their own heat how a hive quivers
to fill each crevice with itself,
how I have never been able.

Note: The phrase "Breaking across us now" is from "Easter Morning" by A. R. Ammons.

 

From The Helen Burns Poetry Anthology: New Voices from the Academy of American Poets University & College Prizes, Volume 9. Copyright © 2010 by Katie Ford. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time—
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You—

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two—
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

12 October 1962

From The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Used with permission.

Dreams draw near at dawn and then recede
even if you beckon them.
They loom like demons
you tug by the tail to examine from up close
and then let fly away.
Their colors at once brighter and less bright
than you remembered, they
hover and insinuate all day
at the corner of your eye.

Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Hadas. Used with permission of the author.

         And I said to him, we are continuous, 
And whatever the self is, it is never 
As we would consider, so I don’t believe the possibility
Of speaking too much of it; and he says to me, 
Continuous, exactly, with what?

What about the body: something is always pulling at it
—gravity, responsibility, the life after this one.



My siblings and I don’t speak to each other
As much as we used to.  When one of us calls, we talk 
About the care of our father, our aunts, and then
We talk about the children.  In the pauses, we acknowledge
How different from each other we’ve become, 
And each of us somehow considers how much
We miss the way things briefly were.

From Rift by Forrest Hamer. Copyright © 2007 by Forrest Hamer. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books.

It's a gift, this cloudless November morning
warm enough to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be 
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you 
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you've never said circling inside you.

The rising wind pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
wheeling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and lifting above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go.

Copyright © 2010 by Jeffrey Harrison. Used with permission of the author.

In the middle garden is the secret wedding,
that hides always under the other one
and under the shiny things of the other one. Under a tree
one hand reaches through the grainy dusk toward another.
Two right hands. The ring is a weed that will surely die.

There is no one else for miles,
and even those people far away are deaf and blind.
There is no one to bless this.
There are the dark trees, and just beyond the trees.

Copyright © 2001 by Matthew Rohrer. From Satellite. Used with permission of Verse Press.

Someone will walk into your life,
Leave a footprint on your heart,
Turn it into a mudroom cluttered
With encrusted boots, children's mittens,
Scratchy scarves—
Where you linger to unwrap 
Or ready yourself for rough exits 
Into howling gales or onto 
Frozen car seats, expulsions
Into the great outdoors where touch
Is muffled, noses glisten,
And breaths stab,
So that when you meet someone
Who is leaving your life
You will be able to wave stiff
Icy mitts and look forward
To an evening in spring
When you can fold winter away
Until your next encounter with
A chill so numbing you strew
The heart's antechamber
With layers of rural garble.

From The World in a Minute by Gary Lenhart. Copyright © 2010 by by Gary Lenhart. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

I want to lick someone 

with an antelope for a head.

A whole-person-boxer for a fist.

Circulatory, fruited over 

nostalgia to overcome me like

a truck I’ll drive over his body 

while he reaches for a 

telephonic breast.  The way gods 

do when they create 

the first animal cracker

steams of existence.

Fat plant and vernix.

The shattered cursive equations

my love was capable of.

I said there will never be a night like this

How is it I was right?

How fibrous and incidental it seems.

The tiny leather jackets we wore.

What was it about that quality that I admired?

Loping around like a christening pole-cat.

Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Gambito. Used with permission of the author.

A cornerstone. Marble pilings. Curbstones and brick.
I saw rooftops. The sun after a rain shower.
Liz, there are children in clumsy jackets. Cobblestones
         and the sun now in a curbside pool.
I will call in an hour where you are sleeping. I’ve been walking
         for 7 hrs on yr name day.
Dead, I am calling you now.
There are colonnades. Yellow wrappers in the square.
Just what you’d suspect: a market with flowers and matrons,
         handbags.
Beauty walks this world. It ages everything.
I am far and I am an animal and I am just another I-am poem,
         a we-see poem, a they-love poem.
The green. All the different windows.
There is so much stone here. And grass. So beautiful each
         translucent electric blade.
And the noise. Cheers folding into traffic. These things.
         Things that have been already said many times:
leaf, zipper, sparrow, lintel, scarf, window shade.

From Some Values of Landscape and Weather © 2003 by Peter Gizzi. Published by Wesleyan University Press and used with permission.

It's all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

This poem is in the public domain.

     Set back from the street behind a stand of trees,
a shuttered house unnoticed by casual passers-by,
     where I see you standing in the middle of your life,
poised to enter a summer evening where there will be
     drinks and then a meal on an old stone terrace,
and it will seem, as the glass of wine is lifted to your lips,
     that no one you know will ever have to die.
All this, of course, has already happened, happened
     many times, never to happen again. In that faraway dark,
two voices softly braid themselves into one murmuring
     conversation, but words spoken so long ago
want to be private. I would not imagine it otherwise.
     Unasked, I have entered a memory I was never part of,
and come face to face with love's leisurely vanished pace.
     Everything's changed. The new owner's cut down trees,
cleared decades of overgrowth to let the light in, and anyone
     passing right now will only see what the too-bright
present wants them to see: a gracious forthright house,
     empty of meaning, sitting overexposed in spring sunlight.

Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Spires. Used with permission of the author.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

From The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

Am I not alone, as I thought I was, as I thought
The day was, the hour I walked into, morning
When I felt night fly from my chest where prospect had
Slackened, and close itself off, understanding, as I thought I did,
That the ground would resist my legs and not let them
Break nor let them be released into air as my heart, in its
Muscle, might be released from the body that surrounds it,
Like someone who, placing a hand on a shoulder's
Blade, felt a life move inside an hour and a day
Break from the day the hour meant something more than weakness,
More than fear, and flew forward into the depths of
Prospect, your arms, where you'd been, before me, waiting
For me, the way the body has always been waiting for the heart to sense
It is housed, it is needed, it will not be harmed.

Copyright © 2010 by Joanna Klink. Used with permission of the author.

What we're drawn to is proof enough:
these pills, other acts of disappearance.
I've written a song about a girl who swallowed the blue planets:
Kevlar, Caroline, O Beautiful Bomb.
So perfectly haplessly cruel the world we've made.
Let's meet back here in 5 minutes, you say, you always say.
I'll bring the Lite-Brite.
I'll bring the hole in my heart, a white star burning.
More and more, the rock show.
Venus rising is a glass wrecking ball,
inside red harbors, red sails.

Copyright © 2011 by Joni Wallace. Reprinted from Blinking Ephemeral Valentine with the permission of Four Way Books.

You need me like ice needs the mountain 
On which it breeds. Like print needs the page.
You move in me like the tongue in a mouth,
Like wind in the leaves of summer trees,
Gust-fists, hollow except for movement and desire
Which is movement. You taste me the way the claws
Of a pigeon taste that window-ledge on which it sits,
The way water tastes rust in the pipes it shuttles through
Beneath a city, unfolding and luminous with industry. 
Before you were born, the table of elements 
Was lacking, and I as a noble gas floated 
Free of attachment. Before you were born, 
The sun and the moon were paper-thin plates 
Some machinist at his desk merely clicked into place.

Copyright © 2010 by Monica Ferrell. Used with permission of the author.

The new road runs along the old road. I can see it
still imprinted on the earth, not twenty feet away
as I drive west past silos and farmsteads, fruit stands and hogs.
Once in Kansas, I stood in a field and watched
the stars on the horizon revolve around my ankles.
People are always moving, even those standing still
because the world keeps changing around them, changing them.
When will the cities meet? When will they spread until
there is a single city—avenue to avenue, coast to coast?
What we call "the country" is an undeveloped area
by the side of the road. There is no "country," there is no "road."
It's one big National Park, no longer the wilderness it was.
But the old world exists under the present world
the way an original painting exists under a newer one.
The animals know: their ancient, invisible trails cross
and re-cross our own like scars that have healed long ago.
Their country is not our country but another place altogether.
Anything of importance there comes out of the sky.
In Amarillo the wind tries to erase everything, even the future.
It swoops down to scrape the desert clean as a scapula.
Here among bones and bleached arroyos the sun leans
through my window at dawn to let me know
I'm not going anywhere. There's no more anywhere to go.

Copyright © 2010 by Kurt Brown. Used with permission of the author.

Surface the action of the day,

a means of tracing the dynamic,
so that a jitter of blue's
sparked by little coals, 

sun a glimmer 
of the day's intent. He knows
to trace an alphabet written on water 

is to surface the action of the day,

a way of proceeding,
entering into the never-
to-be repeated,
 
a way of reading
a nearly infinite variety of gestures 
legible only to one versed

in surface, the action of the day. 

When my eye nearly failed 
—the frail foil-back torn,
wild profusion of smoke-curls,

what I saw was just this: 
what he sees on and in water,
by his hand

the action of surface notated,

the rhythm of things 
discerned and ridden.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author.

          for Noko

after ruining another season’s harvest— 
over-baked in the kitchen oven then 
rehydrated in her home sauna
Aunt Yuki calls upon her sister,

paper sacks stuffed full of orange
fruit, twig and stalk still intact
knows that my mother sprouts seedlings 
from cast off avocado stones, revives 

dead succulents, coaxes blooms out of orchids 
a woman who has never spent a second 
of her being on the world wide web, 
passes her days painting the diversity of 

marshland, woodland, & shoreline; 
building her own dehydrator fashioned from 
my father’s work ladders, joined together 
by discarded swimming pool pole perched 

high to discourage the neighbor’s cats 
that invade the yard scavenging for koi 
“Vitamin D” she says, as she harnesses 
the sun, in the backyard the drying device

mutates into painting, slow dripped
sugar spilling out of one kaki fruit
empty space where my father untethers
another persimmon, he swallows whole

Copyright © 2010 by Shin Yu Pai. Used with permission of the author.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.

          III

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

Copyright 1923, 1925, 1951, 1953, © 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976 by George J. Firmage. From The Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage. Reprinted by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

She sends me a text

she's coming home

the train emerges

from underground


I light the fire under

the pot, I pour her

a glass of wine

I fold a napkin under

a little fork


the wind blows the rain

into the windows

the emperor himself

is not this happy

Copyright © 2010 by Matthew Rohrer. Used with permission of the author.

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

"The Fist" from Collected Poems: 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

You did say, need me less and I'll want you more.
I'm still shellshocked at needing anyone,
used to being used to it on my own.
It won't be me out on the tiles till four-
thirty, while you're in bed, willing the door
open with your need. You wanted her then,
more. Because you need to, I woke alone
in what's not yet our room, strewn, though, with your
guitar, shoes, notebook, socks, trousers enjambed
with mine. Half the world was sleeping it off
in every other bed under my roof.
I wish I had a roof over my bed
to pull down on my head when I feel damned
by wanting you so much it looks like need.

From Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons (New York: Arbor House, 1986). Copyright © 1986 by Marilyn Hacker. Reprinted with the permission of Frances Collin Literary Agency. All rights reserved.

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor 
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as high
as these trees do to us,
silos and
telephone poles,
stalagmites
and skyscrapers.
but most of all
these winter oaks,
these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch
whose bark is like
roughened skin
against which I lean 
my chilled head,
not ready 
to lie down.

From Traveling Light, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 2010 by Linda Pastan. Used with permission of the publisher.

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

This poem is in the public domain.

I was afraid the past would catch up with me,
would find this new house too like the scarred
old childhood home. But it hasn’t yet. A tree
casts soft and gentle shade over our green yard.
I feel forgiven all the sins I didn’t commit
for long minutes at a time. What were they?
I can’t now think of anything wrong with me—I fit
in these rooms, can mostly agree to each day.
For long minutes I don’t even blame my mother
for dying, my father for spending years in bed.
My little traumas are just souvenirs of other
lives, of places I might have once visited.
I’m mostly a father here, a husband, barely a son.
The big sun rises early here, as I do, with everyone.

Copyright © 2016 by Craig Morgan Teicher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

—For Mammoth Cave National Park

Humongous cavern, tell me, wet limestone, sandstone caprock,
      bat-wing, sightless translucent cave shrimp,

this endless plummet into more of the unknown,
                            how one keeps secrets for so long.

All my life, I’ve lived above the ground,
            car wheels over paved roads, roots breaking through                              concrete,
and still I’ve not understood the reel of this life’s purpose.

Not so much living, but a hovering without sense.

What’s it like to be always night? No moon, but a few lit up
      circles at your many openings. Endless dark, still time
must enter you. Like a train, like a green river?

Tell me what it is to be the thing rooted in shadow.
      To be the thing not touched by light (no that’s not it)
to not even need the light? I envy; I envy that.

Desire is a tricky thing, the boiling of the body’s wants,
            more praise, more hands holding the knives away.

I’ve been the one who has craved and craved until I could not            see
      beyond my own greed. There’s a whole nation of us.

To forgive myself, I point to the earth as witness.

To you, your Frozen Niagara, your Fat Man’s Misery,
            you with your 400 miles of interlocking caves that lead
only to more of you, tell me,

what it is to be quiet, and yet still breathing.

            Ruler of the Underlying, let me
speak to both the dead and the living as you do. Speak
to the ruined earth, the stalactites, the eastern small-footed             bat,

to honor this: the length of days. To speak to the core
      that creates and swallows, to speak not always to what’s
shouting, but to what’s underneath asking for nothing.

I am at the mouth of the cave. I am willing to crawl.

Copyright © 2016 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.