It's so quiet now the children have decided to stop
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze.
Through the open window we hear nothing—
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city's traffic.
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.
The brick school at the five points crosswalk
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets
festooning this coastal town.
Will the eventual forest rise up
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement,
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble,
already wolves come down from the hills
to forage among us. We are like them now,
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.
They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow,
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs
in school hallways, as children they lay down
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.
It wasn't supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century's architecture; it wasn't supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,
a man and woman collecting rain
in old coffee tins. Darling,
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves.
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes.
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure?
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time
doing what people have always done
and say it was not enough?
From Ruin and Beauty by Patricia Young. Copyright © 2000 by Patricia Young. Reprinted by permission of House of Anansi Press. All rights reserved.
we drank in the remains of ruined buildings and we sat in a cave or wrecked houses on farms given back to the bank listening to men who'd been raised in ways that were lost and we strained to make out the use of their news they were crazy or passed out speed notched with a cross they drank from the flask and the mouth they came in and shook off the rain inflamed and dismayed calm and arcane the least one seethed chanting whitman for hours then wept at the dregs of the fire foam formed at the edge of their lips we drank and waited for something to drop you and I looking and sifting for signs written in wax we were young we knew how to die but not how to last a small man who claimed he was blake raged all night and probably he was he had god in his sights white crosses shone in our eyes or acid mandalic in the ruins the men talked: seraphic and broken glowing with gnosis and rubbish we sorted their mad sacred words these dog-headed guides to the life after and the life after that
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Conway. Used with permission of the author.
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I
walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-
conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the
neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping
at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in
the tomatoes!—and you, García Lorca, what were you doing
down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking
among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork
chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following
you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary
fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and
never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add
shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue
automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what
America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you
got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear
on the black waters of Lethe?
From Collected Poems 1947–1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with permission.
This is like a life. This is lifelike.
I climb inside a mistake
and remake myself in the shape
of a better mistake—
a nice pair of glasses
without any lenses,
shoes that don’t quite fit,
a chest that always hurts.
There is a checklist of things
you need to do to be a person.
I don’t want to be a person
but there isn’t a choice,
so I work my way down and
kiss the feet.
I work my way up and lick
I give you my skull
to do with whatever you please.
You grow flowers from my head
and trim them too short.
I paint my nails nice and pretty
and who cares. Who gives a shit.
I’m trying not to give a shit
but it doesn’t fit well on me.
I wear my clothes. I wear my body.
I walk out in the grass and turn red
at the sight of everything.
Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Used with the permission of the author.