Spring in Hell and everything’s blooming.
I dreamt the worst was over but it wasn’t.
Suppose my punishment was fields of lilies sharper than razors, cutting up fields of lies.
Suppose my punishment was purity, mined and blanched.
They shunned me only because I knew I was stunning.
Then the white plague came, and their pleas were like a river.
Summer was orgiastic healing, snails snaking around wrists.
In heat, garbage festooned the sidewalks.
Old men leered at bodies they couldn’t touch
until they did. I shouldn’t have laughed but I laughed
at their flesh dozing into their spines, their bones crunching like snow.
Once I was swollen and snowblind with grief, left for dead
at the castle door. Then I robbed the castle and kissed my captor,
my sadness, learned she was not a villain. To wake up in this verdant field,
to watch the lilies flay the lambs. To enter paradise,
a woman drinks a vial of amnesia. Found in only the palest
flowers, the ones that smell like rotten meat. To summon the stinky
flower and access its truest aroma, you have to let its stigma show.
You have to let the pollen sting your eyes until you close them.
Copyright © 2019 by Sally Wen Mao. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 31, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Opening shot: morning. Mid-May. Mid-maybe,
misgiving, mistake, mid-take your time repeating after me
so long, so longing, lost and short of breath. Start
to finished lines means each between-the-line by heart
where hem reacts to haw—close shot—the big to-do list,
lights and stunts, month and mouth made-up to fit
the ending. Try the goodbye on for size. Lather, rinse,
repeat sweet nothings, catch phrase and a slow release.
The shower scene fades to soliloquy, last forwarding address
on the saloon soundstage, fired blanks, ketchup on a blouse,
then aftermath and ever after. I have to say,
the camera loves you when the credits roll and you play
dead. Fast forward and you flail out like my marionette.
Rewind, you ride right backward toward me out of that sunset.
From Say So. Copyright © 2011 by Dora Malech. Reprinted by permission of the author and Cleveland State University Poetry Center.
On the Mexico side in the 1950s and 60s,
There were movie houses everywhere
And for the longest time people could smoke
As they pleased in the comfort of the theaters.
The smoke rose and the movie told itself
On the screen and in the air both,
The projection caught a little
In the wavering mist of the cigarettes.
In this way, every story was two stories
And every character lived near its ghost.
Looking up we knew what would happen next
Before it did, as if it the movie were dreaming
Itself, and we were part of it, part of the plot
Itself, and not just the audience.
And in that dream the actors’ faces bent
A little, hard to make out exactly in the smoke,
So that María Félix and Pedro Armendáriz
Looked a little like my aunt and one of my uncles—
And so they were, and so were we all in the movies,
Which is how I remember it: Popcorn in hand,
Smoke in the air, gum on the floor—
Those Saturday nights, we ourselves
Were the story and the stuff and the stars.
We ourselves were alive in the dance of the dream.
If music plays with film
then film is an illustration
of music’s movement.
Snap, blast, sever, sever, stop.
Even the dog twitching his ears.
If islands nestle in the ocean,
and a statue rises above the pilgrim,
then we are standing on a cliff
and the pilgrim has reached her goal.
The light is as pale as the back of her hand.
If the dancers twitch arrythmically
their dance is only partly kept.
At twenty-four frames per second,
film makes a lonely memory.
They sway staccato, staggered, stretched.
If drums repeat the pace
of film’s slip through the gate,
then the song’s refrain
retells film’s fades and cutaways.
Even its night-quiet darks.
If horns evoke an antique joy,
lens flares and close-ups send
their renderings into red relief.
How has mankind managed grief?
Light, noise, movement, breath.
If blood is to the body
as film is to the camera,
if film is a flat and lucid eye,
if light is a perishable gift,
then the night is the gate of the dark.
If light falls away with always
then film is a parcel of rest.
Panoramas, linked and strung
as castle-steps, lawns, the fine
iron bars of the castle gate.
If drums pace the beat of blood
and film is the speed of the rattle
of breath, then the dancers have
truly escaped us. We slow
as they quicken. We go and go.
The Invisible Woman is the windshield. Mr. Fantastic is the wiper fluid. The Thing is the tire. The Human Torch is the spark plug. Spiderman is the antenna. Storm is the ignition coil. Rogue is the crank shaft. The Punisher is the exhaust pipe. Captain America is the hub cap. Quicksilver is the oil. Rogue is the gasoline. Psylocke is the catalytic converter. The Hulk is the cylinder block. She Hulk is the mount. Mantis is the manifold. Ms. Marvel is the muffler. The Scarlet Witch is the instrument panel. Iceman is the cooling system. Wolverine is the hood. Colossus is the camshaft. Banshee is the horn. Polaris is the voltage regulator. Silver Surfer is the rearview mirror. Powerman is the bearing. Phoenix is the powertrain. Emma Frost is the hinge pillar. The Vision is the fuse box. Black Widow is the brake.
Copyright © 2012 by Bruce Covey. Used with permission of the author.
I was in a French movie and had only nine hours to live and I knew it not because I planned to take my life or swallowed a lethal but slow-working potion meant for a juror in a mob-related murder trial, nor did I expect to be assassinated like a chemical engineer mistaken for someone important in Milan or a Jew journalist kidnapped in Pakistan; no, none of that; no grounds for suspicion, no murderous plots centering on me with cryptic phone messages and clues like a scarf or lipstick left in the front seat of a car; and yet I knew I would die by the end of that day and I knew it with a dreadful certainty, and when I walked in the street and looked in the eyes of the woman walking toward me I knew that she knew it, too, and though I had never seen her before, I knew she would spend the rest of that day with me, those nine hours walking, searching, going into a bookstore in Rome, smoking a Gitane, and walking, walking in London, taking the train to Oxford from Paddington or Cambridge from Liverpool Street and walking along the river and across the bridges, walking, talking, until my nine hours were up and the black-and-white movie ended with the single word FIN in big white letters on a bare black screen.
From Yeshiva Boys by David Lehman. Copyright © 2010 by David Lehman. Used by permission of Scribner.