(Olivier Theatre, South Bank)

I was his favorite, simply that.
                      And you can see

for yourself why it might have been so:
                     the lushest, least

likely to weary the eyes of all
                     the serried wavelengths.

Never obvious.
                     My bit

of the spectrum unstable somehow,
                     in a way that kept

bringing him back. Search

on your browser and you’ll see
                     what I mean.

I’ve never had the advantage of

beauty, as the lily has, I haven’t
                     been able to boast

that stricture of line. That making-
                    no-mistakes. God

knows I’ve wished for it, beggars
                     can dream.

But no. Some neither-this-nor
                    that turns out to be

my sphere. Some manyness rather
                     than singular

perfection. Which I like to think
                     he thought about.

He made this place.
                     They named it

for him. And upholstered the seats
                     in heliotrope,

whose cluster of vowels and con-

he loved like my blue-going-violet-

gray. The vocal colors. Warm-up,
                     nightly, before

the play. So you see, they were
                     wrong, the ones

who called me unrequited. I
                     was in his throat,

among the folds and ridges and
                     beyond them to

the very dome upon whose curve
                     the heart resides.

Just think what it used to be then,
                     in the hour before

they’d let the rest of you in:
                     my many faces toward

the sun who spoke—no, sang—
                     my name.

Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of the author.

There are baby thoughts 

in the shape of seaweed & pirate knives

they float over strips of shores &

curl into a rainy parasol where

a laboring red papaya truck awaits

& there are the thoughts of Staff Sergeant

Melanie Lippman—she's back

from Afghanistan & cheers as a 

rhomboid ball burns

through the flags of space—

but she

notices distant jagged

zones on fire where the Company battles &

there are the thoughts of a father 

Don Jose Emiliano in plaid

with water on his face—his only son

on the wet field

for the first time—he is a man now

how his fury tumbles &

finds a route

to launch & spin his body 

toward a shifting goal—is that

my son he says.

Copyright © 2015 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Used with permission of the author.


One ran,
her nose to the ground,
a rusty shadow
neither hunting nor playing.

One stood; sat; lay down; stood again.

One never moved,
except to turn her head a little as we walked.

Finally we drew too close,
and they vanished.
The woods took them back as if they had never been.

I wish I had thought to put my face to the grass.

But we kept walking,
speaking as strangers do when becoming friends.

There is more and more I tell no one,
strangers nor loves.
This slips into the heart
without hurry, as if it had never been.

And yet, among the trees, something has changed.

Something looks back from the trees,
and knows me for who I am.


Originally published in The Lives of the Heart (HarperCollins, 1997); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Used by permission of the author, all rights reserved.

As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves

The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—

Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—

Pursuing pleasure
More than obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they'll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers

Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink

Teeth into floating wood
Then bound back to their owners
Shining wet, with passionate speed
For nothing,
For absolutely nothing but joy.

Copyright © 1998 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with permission of the author.

                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.

I’m a rock woman
I’m a horse woman
I’m a monkey woman
I’m a chipmunk woman
I’m a mountain woman
I’m a blue mountain woman
I’m a marsh woman
I’m a jungle woman
I’m a tundra woman
I’m the lady in the lake
I’m the lady in the sand

            water that cleans
            flowers that clean
            water that cleans as I go

I’m a bird woman
I’m a book woman
I’m a devilish clown woman
I’m a holy-clown woman
I’m a whirling-dervish woman
I’m a whirling-foam woman
I’m a playful-light woman
I’m a tidal-pool woman
I’m a fast speaking woman

Copyright © 1996 by Anne Waldman. Used with permission of the author.