For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary. 
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest. 
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion. 
For he is of the Lord's poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better. 
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection. 
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Icneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Lines 695-768 from Fragment B of Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart.

An available palette thickened by air
words I hold and so fast lose.

A thunder so low     an inaudible present     its slow
cycles place me shaking in its throat.

Stare     and beauty opens like a work of fire
a made thing     a connection must be made.

This is to say necessity is a place made all of stares
come beauty     come the final ruin of the world. Stop   :

for what it may be     or was     a burned-in-after-flash of fire 
over distance measured light years. The glamour of it all.

From Writing the Silences by Richard O. Moore. Copyright © 2010 by Richard O. Moore. Used by permission of University of California Press.

If I had not met the red-haired boy whose father
               had broken a leg parachuting into Provence
to join the resistance in the final stage of the war
               and so had been killed there as the Germans were moving north
out of Italy and if the friend who was with him
               as he was dying had not had an elder brother
who also died young quite differently in peacetime
               leaving two children one of them with bad health
who had been kept out of school for a whole year by an illness
               and if I had written anything else at the top 
of the examination form where it said college
               of your choice or if the questions that day had been
put differently and if a young woman in Kittanning
               had not taught my father to drive at the age of twenty
so that he got the job with the pastor of the big church 
               in Pittsburgh where my mother was working and if 
my mother had not lost both parents when she was a child
               so that she had to go to her grandmother’s in Pittsburgh
I would not have found myself on an iron cot
               with my head by the fireplace of a stone farmhouse
that had stood empty since some time before I was born
               I would not have travelled so far to lie shivering
with fever though I was wrapped in everything in the house
               nor have watched the unctuous doctor hold up his needle
at the window in the rain light of October
               I would not have seen through the cracked pane the darkening
valley with its river sliding past the amber mountains
               nor have wakened hearing plums fall in the small hour
thinking I knew where I was as I heard them fall

Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Last week the caption
on page twelve stated
the person photographed
was Jersy Lem when in fact
it was Adolf Hitler.

Copyright © 2010 by Carl Adamshick. From Curses and Wishes (Louisiana State University Press, 2011). Used by permission of the author.

Away from leaf touch, from twig.
Away from the markings and evidence
of others. Beyond the shale night
filling with rain. Beyond the sleepy
origin of sadness. Back, back into
the ingrown room. The place where
everything loved is placed, assembled
for memory. The delicate hold
and tender rearrangement of what is missing,
like certain words, a color reflected off 
water a few years back. Apricots and 
what burns. It has obtained what it is.
Sweet with a stone. Sweet with the
concession of a few statements,
a few lives it will touch without bruising.

First published in American Poet. Copyright © 2010 by Carl Adamshick. From Curses and Wishes (Louisiana State University Press, 2011). Used by permission of the author.

The trick is that you're willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you're doing them a favor.

The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.

The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.

The trick is that you're providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.

The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.

The rule is to make them feel they've come too late.
The trick is that you're willing to make exceptions.

The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.

And when they say "too much,"
give them a plan.

And when they say "anger" or "rage" or "love,"
say "give me an example."

The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.

The rule is you don't care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.

From Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa. Copyright © 2010 by Khaled Mattawa. Used by permission of New Issues Press.

A mouse went to see his mother.  When his car broke down he bought a bike.
When the bike wore out he bought skates.  When the skates wore down he ran.
He ran until his sneakers wore through.  Then he walked.  He walked and 
walked, almost walked his feet through so he bought new ones.  His mother was 
happy to see him and said, "what nice new feet you have on."
—paraphrase of a story in Mouse Tails by Arnold Lobel

hey, listen, a bad thing happened to 
my friend's marriage, can't tell you
only can tell my own story which 
so far isn't so bad:

"Dad" and I stay married.  so far.
so good.  so so.

But it felt undoable. This lucky life
every day, every day. every. day.

(all the poetry books the goddamn same
until one guys gets up and stuns the audience)

Then, Joe Wenderoth, not by a long shot
sober says, I promised my wife I wouldn't fuck
anyone, to no one in particular and reads a poem 
about how Jesus has no penis.

Meanwhile, the psychiatrist, attractive in a fatherly 
way, says libido question mark.

And your libido?
like a father, but not like mine, or my sons'—

"fix it."

My friend's almost written 
a good novel by which I mean finished 
which means I'd like to light myself 
on fire, on fire
with envy, this isn't "desire" 
not what the Dr. meant
by libido?
                        I hope—

not, it's just chemical:
            jealousy. boredom. lethargy.

 

Books with prominent seraphs: their feet feet feet I am
marching to the same be—

other

than the neuronic slave I thought anxiety made me 
do it, made me get up and carry forth, sally 
the children to school the poems dragged 
by little hands on their little seraphs 
to the page my marriage sustained, remaining 
energy: project #1, project #2, broken 
fixtures, summer plans, demand met, request 
granted, bunny noodles with and without cheesy 
at the same time, and the night time I insomnia 
these hours penning invisible letters—

            till it stopped.

doc said: it's a syndrome.        you've got it, 
                                      classic.

it's chemical,
mental

circuitry we've got a fix for this
classic, I'm saying I can

make it better.

Everything was the same, then,
but better.

At night I slept.
In the morning got up.

Kids to school, husband still a fool-
hardy spirit makes
me pick a monday morning fight, snipe! I'll pay for that
later I'm still a pain in the 
elbow from writing prose those shift+hold+letter, 
I'm still me less sleepy, crazy, I suppose
less crazy-jealous just
ha-ha now at Jesus' no penis his
amazed at the other poet's kickass
friend's novel I dream instead about
the government makes me put stickers
on my driver's license of family members
who are Jews, and mine all are.  Can they get us 
all? I escape with a beautiful light-haired man,
blue-eyed day trader, gentile. 
 

gentle, gentle, mind encased in its 
blood-brain barrier from the harsh skull
sleep,  sleep and sleepy wake and want 
to sleep and sleep a steep dosage— 

            "—chemical?"

in my dreams now every man's mine, no-
problem, perhaps my mind's a little plastic, 
malleable, not so fatal now 

the dose is engineered like that new genetic watercress
to turn from green to red when planted over buried 
mines, nitrogen dioxide makes for early autumn
red marks the spot where I must 
watch my step, up one half-step-dose specific—


            The psychiatrist's lived in NY so long
            he's of ambiguous religious—
            everyone's Jewish sometimes—
            writes: "up the dosage."


now,
when I'm late I just shrug
it's my new improved style
missed the train? I tug
the two boys single file

the platform a safe aisle
between disasters, blithely
I step, step, step-lively
carefully, wisely.

I sing silly ditties 
play I spy something pretty
grey-brown-metal-filthy
for a little city fun.

Just one way to enjoy life's 
trials, mile after mile, lucky
to have such dependable feet.

you see,
the rodents don't frighten I'm
calm as can be expected to recover left to my 
one devivces I was twice as fast getting everywhere but
where did that get me but there, that inevitable location
more waiting, the rats there scurry, scurry, a furry

till the next train comes

"up the dosage."

Brown a first-cut brisket in hot Dutch oven 
after dusting with paprika.  Remove.  Sauté 
thickly sliced onions and add wine. (Sweet 
is better, lasts forever, never need a new bottle). 
Put the meat on onions, cover with tomato-sauce-
onion-soup-mix mixture, cover. Back in a low 
oven many hours.

The house smells like meat.
My hair smells like meat. 

I'm a light unto the nation.

I'm trying 
to get out of Egypt.
This year, 
I'll  be better.

Joseph makes sense of the big man's dreams, is saved,
saves his brothers those jealous boys who sold him 
sold them all as slaves. Seven years of plenty.  Seven
years of famine.  He insomnias the nights counting up
grains, storing, planning, for what? They say throw 
the small boys in the river (and mothers do so). Smite 
the sons (and fathers do it.) God says take off your shoes,
this holy ground this pitiful, incombustible bush.

Is God chemical?  
Enzymatic of our great need to chaos?

We're unforgivable. 
People of the salted
cheeks.  Slap, turn, slap.

To be chosen 
is to be 
unforgiving/ unforgiv-
en, always chosen: 
be better.

The Zuckers are a long line of obsessives. 

This served them well in war time saw it 
coming in time that unseeable thing they 
hoarded they ferried, schemed, paced, got the hell 
out figured out at night, insomnia, how to visa—

now, if it happens again, I won't be 
ready

I'm "better."

The husband, a country club Jew from Denver, American
intelligentsia will have to carry me out and he's no big 
man and I'm not a small girl how fast

can the doctor switch the refugee gene back on?


How fast can I get worse?  Smart again and worse?

Better to be alive than better.  

            "...listen:" says the doctor, "sleeping isn't death.  
            All children unlearn this fear you got confused 
            thought thinking was the same as spinning—"             
            Writes: "up the dosage."  
            don't think.  this refugee thing part
            of a syndrome fear of medication of being better...

Truth is, the anti-obsessional medicine works 
wonders and drags me through life's course...

About this time of year but years ago the priests spread 
rumors of blood libel. Jews huddled in basements accused 
of using Christian babes' blood to make unleavened bread.

signs and wonders.
Christ rises.

Blood and body and babes.
Basements and briskets 
and bread of afflictions.

I am calm now with my pounds of meat 
made and frozen, my party schedule, my pills 
of liberation, my gentile dream-boy, American 
passport, my grey haired-psychiatrist, my blue-
eyed son, my brown-eyed son, my poems on their 
pretty little fleet-feet, my big shot friends, olive-skinned 
husband, my right elbow on fire: fire inside deep in the nerve 
from too much carrying and word-mongering, smithery, bearing 
and tensing choosing to be better to live this real life this better orbit this Jack

Kerouac never loved you like you wanted. 
Blake.
Buddha. 
Only Jesus and that's his shtick,
he loves

everyone: smile! that's it,
for the camera, blood pressure
normal, better, you're a poster child
for signs and wonders what a little chemistry
does for the brain, blood, thought, hey,

did you know that Pharaoh actually wanted
to let them go?  those multitude Jews
but God hardened Pharaoh's heart against them [Jews]
to prove his prowess show his signs, wonders, outstretched 
hand, until the dosage was a perfect ten and then 
some, sea closing up around those little chariots
the men and horses while women on the far shore shook 
their tambourines.  And then what?  Forty years to get the smell
of slavery off them. 

Because of this. Bloody Nile. My story one of
the lucky.  Escape hatch even from my own
obsess—

            I am here because of this.
Because of what my ancestors did for me to tell this
story of the outstretched hand what it did for me this
marked door and behind this red-marked door, around 
a corner a blue-eyed boy waits to love me up with his 
leavened bread, his slim body, professional detachment, 
medical advancements, forgive me my father's mother's
father was the last in a long line of Rabbis—again! with this? This
rhapsody of affliction and escape, the mind bobbing along
in its watery safe. Be like everyone. Else. Indistinguishable but
better than the other nations but that's what got us into this, Allen,
no one writes these long-ass poems anymore.  Now we're
better, all better.  All Christian.  Kind. 

Copyright © 2012 Rachel Zucker. First appeared in Columbia Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.

A low, quiet music is playing—
distorted trumpet, torn bass line,
white windows. My palms
are two speakers the size
of pool-hall coasters.	
I lay them on the dark table
for you to repair.

Copyright © 2010 by Carl Adamshick. From Curses and Wishes (Louisiana State University Press, 2011). Used by permission of the author.

They wanted him to stop kicking like that—
it made their eyes corkscrew, drilled the sun in the sky
so light dumped out like blood from a leak.
The boy in the trunk wouldn't die.

They drove and drove, and he dented the trunk's tight lid,
called their names, then pounded the wheel wells
with a tire iron. The sun filled
their skulls so they felt like hell

and the boy in the trunk wouldn't listen. You'd think
it was burning hot in there, you'd think he'd be gone,
passive, but no. The boy in the trunk
banged on and on

until the noise grew godalmighty unforgivable
and they had no choice but to pull into the woods,
leave the car, try to hitch a ride with someone
quieter, someone who could

listen without interrupting. They'd had a hot day.
The road simmered to the overheated sky.
But from far away they still heard him, the boy
in the trunk, his empty cry.

From National Anthem by Kevin Prufer. Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Prufer. Used by permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

   A long time passes—long even in the understanding of stone—and at last Bone feels entitled to speak to Silence. There are prerequisites: proper depth, aridity, desiccation, ph balance, density, and a kind of confidence. No loam: say salt, say dust, say southwest Utah. And when the conversation occurs it is understood on Bone's part what to expect from Silence, so one could say that expectations were low, but such is a pattern of our thinking, and in this case the entire dry dialectic is different, and in fact expectations were high. There is a moon shining, unknown to Bone, intimate with Silence. There are mammals overhead, the noise of whose small feet are perceived or unperceived.
   And after all this discursive talk, what at last does Bone say to Silence? What would you have Bone say to Silence? We could try Is there anywhere we can go for a beer? and that might get a little laugh, might qualify as ineffably human, almost religious. But we know better about Bone & Silence—need only look inside us, have the bravery to cease this chatter, this scrape of pencil on paper, to leave the rest of the book blank, get out of the way, let the conversation begin.

Copyright © 2011 by Gerald Fleming. Reprinted from Night of Pure Breathing with the permission of Hanging Loose Press.

I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I’m the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it’ll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.

From Tell Me by Kim Addonizio. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?—

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot—
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart—
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

23–29 October 1962

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

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

From Opening the Hand, by W. S. Merwin, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1983 by W. S. Merwin. Used with permission.

Spring is not so very promising as it is the thing
that looking back was fire, promising:
ignition, aspiration; it was not under my thumb.

Now when I pretend a future it is the moment
he holds the thing I say new-born,
delicate, sure to begin moving but

I am burned out of it like the melody underneath
(still not under my thumb)--
was he ambiguous, amphibian?

Underneath, his voice, the many ways
he gathers oxygen; it will not stop raining
until the buds push through the brittle trees.

If they fail we will not survive,
washed and washed with rain, will we?
No, we are not there yet.

She is pushing me two ways until
I am inside the paradox, the many lungs,
and they're at it again, gathering oxygen;

no wonder I am wrung out
holding out for the promise of
something secret, after

From Eating in the Underworld by Rachel Zucker. Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Zucker. Reproduced by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1943 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

Twas on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
    The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
    Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
    The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
    She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
    The genii of the stream:
Their scaly armor's Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
    Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw,
    With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
    What cat's averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,
    Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
    She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
    Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
    A favorite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved,
    And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
    Nor all that glisters, gold.

This poem is in the public domain.

I am given a pony for my birthday, but it is the wrong kind of pony. It is the kind of pony that won't listen. It is testy. When I ask it to go left, it goes right. When I ask it to run, it sleeps on its side in the tall grass. So when I ask it to jump us over the river into the field I have never before been, I have every reason to believe it will fail, that we will be swept down the river to our deaths. It is a fate for which I am prepared. The blame of our death will rest with the testy pony, and with that, I will be remembered with reverence, and the pony will be remembered with great anger. But with me on its back, the testy pony rears and approaches the river with unfettered bravery. Its leap is glorious. It clears the river with ease, not even getting its pony hooves wet. And then there we are on the other side of the river, the sun going down, the pony circling, looking for something to eat in the dirt. Real trust is to do so in the face of clear doubt, and to trust is to love. This is my failure, and for that I cannot be forgiven.

Copyright © 2010 by Zachary Schomburg. Used with permission of the author.

A good way to fall in love
is to turn off the headlights
and drive very fast down dark roads.

Another way to fall in love
is to say they are only mints
and swallow them with a strong drink.

Then it is autumn in the body.
Your hands are cold.
Then it is winter and we are still at war.

The gold-haired girl is singing into your ear
about how we live in a beautiful country.
Snow sifts from the clouds

into your drink. It doesn't matter about the war.
A good way to fall in love
is to close up the garage and turn the engine on,

then down you'll fall through lovely mists
as a body might fall early one morning
from a high window into love. Love,

the broken glass. Love, the scissors
and the water basin. A good way to fall
is with a rope to catch you.

A good way is with something to drink
to help you march forward.
The gold-haired girl says, Don't worry

about the armies, says, We live in a time
full of love. You're thinking about this too much.
Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.

Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Prufer. Reprinted from In a Beautiful Country with the permission of Four Way Books.


The frescoed cloister is closed.
No echo of omniscience 
escapes to wind or metaphor.
A cottage holds three bowls, 
earthen and chipped, on a table 
made of planks smoothed by the surf. 
One holds buttermilk;
another, tomatoes pale as moons;
the third, eggs the color of sand.
On the sill you would place a globe
of ivory roses to echo
the dolphin skull beyond the pane,
and think how sonorous, how bold,
this science of solitude.

From darkacre by Greg Hewett. Copyright © 2010 by Greg Hewett. Used by permission of Coffee House Press: www.coffeehousepress.org.

It’s obvious
beauty is a postage stamp,
a composed self-portrait
of Frida Kahlo
wearing a simple necklace,
an image chosen by the USPS
not because it was like one she painted
for Trotsky. Of course
beauty could not include
imagery of hammer and sickle
or black monkey leering
over her shoulder or parrot
twisted under her chin.
And not the one with snakes.
Not the one of her
all butched-up, hair cropped short,
wearing one of Diego’s suits
after they split for the final time.
Not one with wheelchair, spinal-brace,
or scar down her long trunk.
Forget the one of her cloven wide open,
a jungle of history and myth, of poetry
burgeoning forth from her innermost.
Most definitely not
the one of her wearing the collar
of thorns in memory
of Jesus and Trotsky
and revolution
lost.

"It's Obvious," by Greg Hewett, from The Eros Conspiracy © 2006 by Greg Hewett. Reprinted with permission from Coffee House Press.

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
   Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
   Like Nature's patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
   Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
   Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
   Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
   Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
  Steady thy laden head across a brook;
  Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Written September 19, 1819; first published in 1820. This poem is in the public domain.

It was the summer of Chandra Levy, disappearing
       from Washington D.C., her lover a Congressman, evasive
              and blow-dried from Modesto, the TV wondering

in every room in America to an image of her tight jeans and piles
       of curls frozen in a studio pose. It was the summer the only 
              woman known as a serial killer, a ten-dollar whore trolling

the plains of central Florida, said she knew she would
       kill again, murder filled her dreams
              and if she walked in the world, it would crack

her open with its awful wings. It was the summer that in Texas, another
       young woman killed her five children, left with too many
              little boys, always pregnant. One Thanksgiving, she tried

to slash her own throat. That summer the Congressman
       lied again about the nature of his relations, or,
              as he said, he couldn't remember if they had sex that last

night he saw her, but there were many anonymous girls that summer,
       there always are, who lower their necks to the stone
              and pray, not to God but to the Virgin, herself once

a young girl, chosen in her room by an archangel.
       Instead of praying, that summer I watched television, reruns of
              a UFO series featuring a melancholic woman detective

who had gotten cancer and was made sterile by aliens. I watched
       infomercials: exercise machines, pasta makers,
              and a product called Nails Again With Henna,

ladies, make your nails steely strong, naturally,
       and then the photograph of Chandra Levy
              would appear again, below a bright red number,

such as 81, to indicate the days she was missing.
       Her mother said, please understand how we're feeling
              when told that the police don't believe she will be found alive,

though they searched the parks and forests
       of the Capitol for the remains and I remembered
              being caught in Tennessee, my tent filled with wind

lifting around me, tornado honey, said the operator when I called
       in fear. The highway barren, I drove to a truck stop where
              maybe a hundred trucks hummed in pale, even rows

like eggs in a carton. Truckers paced in the dining room,
       fatigue in their beards, in their bottomless
              cups of coffee. The store sold handcuffs, dirty

magazines, t-shirts that read, Ass, gas or grass.
       Nobody rides for free, and a bulletin board bore a 
              public notice: Jane Doe, found in a refrigerator box

outside Johnson, TN, her slight measurements and weight.
       The photographs were of her face, not peaceful in death,
              and of her tattoos Born to Run, and J.T. caught in

scrollworks of roses. One winter in Harvard Square, I wandered 
       drunk, my arms full of still warm, stolen laundry, and
              a man said come to my studio and of course I went—

for some girls, our bodies are not immortal so much as
       expendable, we have punished them or wearied
              from dragging them around for so long and so we go

wearing the brilliant plumage of the possibly freed
       by death. Quick on the icy sidewalks, I felt thin and
              fleet, and the night made me feel unique in the eyes

of the stranger. He told me he made sculptures
       of figure skaters, not of the women's bodies,
              but of the air that whipped around them,

a study of negative space,
       which he said was the where-we-were-not
              that made us. Dizzy from beer,

I thought why not step into
       that space? He locked the door behind me.

From Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream by Connie Voisine. Copyright © 2008 by Connie Voisine. Used by permission of University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

The only thing I miss about Los Angeles

is the Hollywood Freeway at midnight, windows down and
radio blaring
bearing right into the center of the city, the Capitol Tower
on the right, and beyond it, Hollywood Boulevard
blazing

—pimps, surplus stores, footprints of the stars

—descending through the city
                   fast as the law would allow

through the lights, then rising to the stack
out of the city
to the stack where lanes are stacked six deep

              and you on top; the air
              now clean, for a moment weightless

                        without memories, or
                        need for a past.



The need for the past

is so much at the center of my life
I write this poem to record my discovery of it,
my reconciliation.

                   It was in Bishop, the room was done
in California plush: we had gone into the coffee shop, were told
you could only get a steak in the bar:
                                      I hesitated,
not wanting to be an occasion of temptation for my father

but he wanted to, so we entered

a dark room, with amber water glasses, walnut
tables, captain's chairs,
plastic doilies, papier-mâché bas-relief wall ballerinas,
German memorial plates "bought on a trip to Europe,"
Puritan crosshatch green-yellow wallpaper,
frilly shades, cowhide 
booths—

I thought of Cambridge:

                   the lovely congruent elegance
                   of Revolutionary architecture, even of

ersatz thirties Georgian

seemed alien, a threat, sign
of all I was not—

to bode order and lucidity

as an ideal, if not reality—

not this California plush, which

                       also

I was not.

And so I made myself an Easterner,
finding it, after all, more like me
than I had let myself hope.

         And now, staring into the embittered face of 
         my father,

again, for two weeks, as twice a year,
     I was back.

              The waitress asked us if we wanted a drink.
Grimly, I waited until he said no...



Before the tribunal of the world I submit the following
document:

         Nancy showed it to us,
in her apartment at the model,
as she waited month by month
for the property settlement, her children grown
and working for their father,
at fifty-three now alone, 
a drink in her hand:

                   as my father said,
"They keep a drink in her hand":

                                  Name   Wallace du Bois
                                  Box No  128     Chino, Calif.
                                  Date   July  25   ,19 54

Mr Howard Arturian
     I am writing a letter to you this afternoon while I'm in the
mood of writing. How is everything getting along with you these
fine days, as for me everything is just fine and I feel great except for 
the heat I think its lot warmer then it is up there but I don't mind
it so much. I work at the dairy half day and I go to trade school the
other half day Body & Fender, now I am learning how to spray
paint cars I've already painted one and now I got another car to
paint. So now I think I've learned all I want after I have learned all
this. I know how to straighten metals and all that. I forgot to say
"Hello" to you. The reason why I am writing to you is about a job,
my Parole Officer told me that he got letter from and that you want
me to go to work for you. So I wanted to know if its truth. When
I go to the Board in Feb. I'll tell them what I want to do and where
I would like to go, so if you want me to work for you I'd rather have
you sent me to your brother John in Tonapah and place to stay for
my family. The Old Lady says the same thing in her last letter that 
she would be some place else then in Bishop, thats the way I feel
too.and another thing is my drinking problem. I made up my mind
to quit my drinking, after all what it did to me and what happen.
     This is one thing I'll never forget as longs as I live I never want
to go through all this mess again. This sure did teach me lot of things
that I never knew before. So Howard you can let me know soon
as possible. I sure would appreciate it.

P.S                                    From Your Friend
I hope you can read my                 Wally Du Bois
writing. I am a little nervous yet

—He and his wife had given a party, and
one of the guests was walking away
just as Wallace started backing up his car.
He hit him, so put the body in the back seat
and drove to a deserted road.
There he put it before the tires, and
ran back and forth over it several times.

When he got out of Chino, he did,
indeed, never do that again:
but one child was dead, his only son,
found with the rest of the family
immobile in their beds with typhoid,
next to the mother, the child having been
dead two days:

he continued to drink, and as if it were the Old West
shot up the town a couple of Saturday nights.

"So now I think I've learned all I want
after I have learned all this: this sure did teach me a lot of things
that I never knew before.
I am a little nervous yet."

It seems to me
an emblem of Bishop—



For watching the room, as the waitresses in their
back-combed, Parisian, peroxided, bouffant hairdos,
and plastic belts,
moved back and forth

I thought of Wallace, and
the room suddenly seemed to me
         not uninteresting at all:

         they were the same. Every plate and chair

         had its congruence with

         all the choices creating

         these people, created

         by them—by me,

for this is my father's chosen country, my origin.

Before, I had merely been anxious, bored; now,
I began to ask a thousand questions...




He was, of course, mistrustful, knowing I was bored,
knowing he had dragged me up here from Bakersfield

after five years

of almost managing to forget Bishop existed.

But he soon became loquacious, ordered a drink,
and settled down for 
an afternoon of talk...

He liked Bishop: somehow, it was to his taste, this
hard-drinking, loud, visited-by-movie-stars town.
"Better to be a big fish in a little pond."

And he was: when they came to shoot a film,
he entertained them; Miss A—, who wore
nothing at all under her mink coat; Mr. M—,
good horseman, good shot.

"But when your mother 
let me down" (for alcoholism and
infidelity, she divorced him)
"and Los Angeles wouldn't give us water any more,
I had to leave.

We were the first people to grow potatoes in this valley."

When he began to tell me
that he lost control of the business
because of the settlement he gave my mother,

because I had heard it 
many times,

in revenge, I asked why people up here drank so much.

He hesitated. "Bored, I guess.
—Not much to do."

And why had Nancy's husband left her?

In bitterness, all he said was:
"People up here drink too damn much."

And that was how experience
had informed his life.

"So now I think I've learned all I want
after I have learned all this: this sure did teach me a lot of things
that I never knew before.
I am a little nervous yet."



Yet, as my mother said,
returning, as always, to the past,

"I wouldn't change any of it.
It taught me so much. Gladys
is such an innocent creature: you look into her face
and somehow it's empty, all she worries about
are sales and the baby.
her husband's too good!"

It's quite pointless to call this rationalization:
my mother, for uncertain reasons, has had her
bout with insanity, but she's right:

the past in maiming us,
makes us,
fruition
         is also
destruction:

              I think of Proust, dying
in a cork-linked room, because he refuses to eat
because he thinks that he cannot write if he eats
because he wills to write, to finish his novel

—his novel which recaptures the past, and
with a kind of joy, because
in the debris
of the past, he has found the sources of the necessities

which have led him to this room, writing

—in this strange harmony, does he will
for it to have been different?

              And I can't not think of the remorse of Oedipus,

who tries to escape, to expiate the past
by blinding himself, and
then, when he is dying, sees that he has become a Daimon

—does he, discovering, at last, this cruel
coherence created by 
                   "the order of the universe"

—does he will 
anything reversed?



                   I look at my father:
as he drinks his way into garrulous, shaky
defensiveness, the debris of the past
is just debris—; whatever I reason, it is a desolation
to watch...

must I watch?
He will not change; he does not want to change;

every defeated gesture implies
the past is useless, irretrievable...
—I want to change: I want to stop fear's subtle

guidance of my life—; but, how can I do that
if I am still
afraid of its source?

From In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-1990, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990. Copyright © 1973 by Frank Bidart. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

You’re seventeen and tunnel-vision drunk,
swerving your father’s Fairlane wagon home

at 3:00 a.m. Two-lane road, all curves
and dips—dark woods, a stream, a patchy acre

of teazle and grass. You don’t see the deer
till they turn their heads—road full of eyeballs,

small moons glowing. You crank the wheel,
stamp both feet on the brake, skid and jolt

into the ditch. Glitter and crunch of broken glass
in your lap, deer hair drifting like dust. Your chin

and shirt are soaked—one eye half-obscured
by the cocked bridge of your nose. The car

still running, its lights angled up at the trees.
You get out. The deer lies on its side.

A doe, spinning itself around
in a frantic circle, front legs scrambling,

back legs paralyzed, dead. Making a sound—
again and again this terrible bleat.

You watch for a while. It tires, lies still.
And here's what you do: pick the deer up

like a bride. Wrestle it into the back of the car—
the seat folded down. Somehow, you steer

the wagon out of the ditch and head home,
night rushing in through the broken window,

headlight dangling, side-mirror gone.
Your nose throbs, something stabs

in your side. The deer breathing behind you,
shallow and fast. A stoplight, you’re almost home

and the deer scrambles to life, its long head
appears like a ghost in the rearview mirror

and bites you, its teeth clamp down on your shoulder
and maybe you scream, you struggle and flail

till the deer, exhausted, lets go and lies down.

2
Your father’s waiting up, watching tv.
He’s had a few drinks and he’s angry.

Christ, he says, when you let yourself in.
It’s Night of the Living Dead. You tell him

some of what happened: the dark road,
the deer you couldn’t avoid. Outside, he circles

the car. Jesus, he says. A long silence.
Son of a bitch, looking in. He opens the tailgate,

drags the quivering deer out by a leg.
What can you tell him—you weren’t thinking,

you’d injured your head? You wanted to fix
what you’d broken—restore the beautiful body,

color of wet straw, color of oak leaves in winter?
The deer shudders and bleats in the driveway.

Your father walks to the toolshed,
comes back lugging a concrete block.

Some things stay with you. Dumping the body
deep in the woods, like a gangster. The dent

in your nose. All your life, the trail of ruin you leave.

From The Pleasure Principle by Jon Loomis. Reprinted by permission of Oberlin College Press, Field Poetry Series, v. 11. Copyright © 2001 by Jon Loomis. All rights reserved.

	The changing light at San Francisco
	                         is none of your East Coast light
	                                          none of your
	                                                                 pearly light of Paris
	The light of San Francisco
	                                                is a sea light
	                                                                      an island light
	And the light of fog
	                                    blanketing the hills
	                        drifting in at night
	                                     through the Golden Gate
	                                                          to lie on the city at dawn
	And then the halcyon late mornings
	                  after the fog burns off
	                          and the sun paints white houses
	                                                           with the sea light of Greece
	                                with sharp clean shadows
	                                       making the town look like
	                                                     it had just been painted
But the wind comes up at four o’clock
                                                                    sweeping the hills
And then the veil of light of early evening
And then another scrim
                                when the new night fog
                                                                          floats in
And in that vale of light
                                           the city drifts
                                                                    anchorless upon the ocean

From How to Paint Sunlight by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Copyright © 2000 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

1 
My mother always called it a nest, 
the multi-colored mass harvested

from her six daughters’ brushes, 
and handed it to one of us

after she had shaped it, as we sat in front 
of the fire drying our hair.

She said some birds steal anything, a strand 
of spider’s web, or horse’s mane,

the residue of sheep’s wool in the grasses 
near a fold

where every summer of her girlhood 
hundreds nested.

Since then I’ve seen it for myself, their genius—
how they transform the useless.

I’ve seen plastics stripped and whittled 
into a brilliant straw,

and newspapers—the dates, the years—
supporting the underweavings.


2 
As tonight in our bed by the window 
you brush my hair to help me sleep, and clean

the brush as my mother did, offering 
the nest to the updraft.

I’d like to think it will be lifted as far 
as the river, and catch in some white sycamore,

or drift, too light to sink, into the shaded inlets, 
the bank-moss, where small fish, frogs, and insects

lay their eggs. 
Would this constitute an afterlife?

The story goes that sailors, moored for weeks 
off islands they called paradise,

stood in the early sunlight 
cutting their hair. And the rare

birds there, nameless, almost extinct, 
came down around them

and cleaned the decks 
and disappeared into the trees above the sea.

From Vesper Sparrows by Deborah Digges (Antheneum, 1986). Copyright © 1986 by Deborah Digges. Reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Ponds are spring-fed, lakes run off rivers. 
Here souls pass, not one deified, 
and sometimes this is terrible to know 
three floors below the street, where light drinks the world, 
siphoned like music through portals. 
How fed, that dark, the octaves framed faceless. 
A memory of water. 
The trees more beautiful not themselves. 
Souls who have passed here, tired, brightening. 
Dumpsters of linen, empty 
gurneys along corridors to parking garages. 
Who wonders, is it morning? 
Who washes these blankets? 
Can I not be the greeter of souls? 
What's to be done with the envelopes of hair? 
If the inlets are frozen, can I walk across? 
When I look down into myself to see a scattering of birds, 
do I put on the new garments? 
On which side of the river should I wait? 

From Trapeze by Deborah Digges. Copyright © 2004 by Deborah Digges. Reprinted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

My life’s calling, setting fires. 
Here in a hearth so huge 
I can stand inside and shove 
the wood around with my 
bare hands while church bells
deal the hours down through 
the chimney. No more 
woodcutter, creel for the fire 
or architect, the five staves 
pitched like rifles over stone. 
But to be mistro-elemental. 
The flute of clay playing
my breath that riles the flames, 
the fire risen to such dreaming 
sung once from landlords’ attics.
Sung once the broken lyres, 
seasoned and green. 
Even the few things I might save, 
my mother’s letters, 
locks of my children’s hair 
here handed over like the keys 
to a foreclosure, my robes 
remanded, and furniture
dragged out into the yard,
my bedsheets hoisted up the pine, 
whereby the house sets sail. 
And I am standing on a cliff 
above the sea, a paper light, 
a lantern. No longer mine 
to count the wrecks. 
Who rode the ships in ringing, 
marrying rock the waters 
storm to break the door, 
looked through the fire, beheld 
a clearing there. This is what 
you are. What you’ve come to.

Excerpted from Trapeze by Deborah Digges Copyright © 2004 by Deborah Digges. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

It fell to me to tell the bees, 
though I had wanted another duty—
to be the scribbler at his death, 
there chart the third day's quickening. 
But fate said no, it falls to you 
to tell the bees, the middle daughter. 
So it was written at your birth. 
I wanted to keep the fire, working 
the constant arranging and shifting 
of the coals blown flaring, 
my cheeks flushed red, 
my bed laid down before the fire, 
myself anonymous among the strangers
there who'd come and go. 
But destiny said no. It falls 
to you to tell the bees, it said. 
I wanted to be the one to wash his linens, 
boiling the death-soiled sheets, 
using the waters for my tea. 
I might have been the one to seal 
his solitude with mud and thatch and string, 
the webs he parted every morning, 
the hounds' hair combed from brushes, 
the dust swept into piles with sparrows' feathers. 
Who makes the laws that live 
inside the brick and mortar of a name, 
selects the seeds, garden or wild, 
brings forth the foliage grown up around it 
through drought or blight or blossom,
the honey darkening in the bitter years,
the combs like funeral lace or wedding veils 
steeped in oak gall and rainwater, 
sequined of rent wings. 
And so arrayed I set out, this once
obedient, toward the hives' domed skeps 
on evening's hill, five tombs alight. 
I thought I heard the thrash and moaning 
of confinement, beyond the century, 
a calling across dreams, 
as if asked to make haste just out of sleep. 
I knelt and waited. 
The voice that found me gave the news. 
Up flew the bees toward his orchards.

From Trapeze by Deborah Digges. Copyright © 2004 by Deborah Digges. Reprinted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

I can bless a death this human, this leaf 
the size of my hand. From the life-line spreads

a sapped, distended jaundice 
toward the edges, still green.

I've seen the sick starve out beyond 
the grip of their disease.

They sleep for days, their stomachs gone, 
the bones in their hands

seeming to rise to the hour 
that will receive them.

Sometimes on their last evening, they sit up 
and ask for food,

their faces bloodless, almost golden, 
they inquire about the future.

                    *

One August I drove the back roads, 
the dust wheeling behind me.

I wandered through the ruins of sharecrop farms 
and saw the weeds in the sun frames

opening the floorboards. 
Once behind what must have been an outhouse

the way wild yellow roses bunched and climbed 
the sweaty walls, I found a pile of letters,

fire-scarred, urinous. 
All afternoon the sun brought the field to me.

The insects hushed as I approached. 
I read how the world had failed who ever lived behind

the page, behind the misquoted Bible verses, 
that awkward backhand trying to explain deliverance.

                    *

The morning Keats left Guys Hospital's cadaver rooms 
for the last time, he said he was afraid.

This was the future, this corning down a stairway 
under the elms' summer green,

passing the barber shops along the avenue that still 
performed the surgeries, still dumped

blood caught in sand from porcelain washtubs 
into the road-side sewer. From those windows,

from a distance, he could have been anyone 
taking in the trees, mistaking the muse for this new

warmth around his heart—the first symptom 
of his illness—that so swelled the look of things,

it made leaves into poems, though he'd write later 
he had not grieved, not loved enough to claim them.

From Vesper Sparrows by Deborah Digges (Antheneum, 1986). Copyright © 1986 by Deborah Digges. Reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

See how the first dark takes the city in its arms 
and carries it into what yesterday we called the future. 

O, the dying are such acrobats. 
Here you must take a boat from one day to the next, 

or clutch the girders of the bridge, hand over hand. 
But they are sailing like a pendulum between eternity and evening, 

diving, recovering, balancing the air. 
Who can tell at this hour seabirds from starlings, 

wind from revolving doors or currents off the river. 
Some are as children on swings pumping higher and higher. 

Don't call them back, don't call them in for supper. 
See, they leave scuff marks like jet trails on the sky.

From Trapeze by Deborah Digges. Copyright © 2004 by Deborah Digges. Reprinted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

The time you won your town the race  
We chaired you through the market-place;  
Man and boy stood cheering by,  
And home we brought you shoulder-high.  

To-day, the road all runners come,    
Shoulder-high we bring you home,  
And set you at your threshold down,  
Townsman of a stiller town.  

Smart lad, to slip betimes away  
From fields where glory does not stay, 
And early though the laurel grows  
It withers quicker than the rose.  

Eyes the shady night has shut  
Cannot see the record cut,  
And silence sounds no worse than cheers 
After earth has stopped the ears:  

Now you will not swell the rout  
Of lads that wore their honours out,  
Runners whom renown outran  
And the name died before the man. 

So set, before its echoes fade,  
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,  
And hold to the low lintel up  
The still-defended challenge-cup.  

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,  
And find unwithered on its curls  
The garland briefer than a girl's.

This poem is in the public domain.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

This poem is in the public domain.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

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.

From behind the moon boys' graves
bleed endlessly; from photograph
to browning photograph they blacken
headlines, stranded outside of time
at the story's frigid edge.

Though they are long buried 
in French soil, we are still speaking
of trenches, of who rose, who fell,
who merely hung on. The morning drills
secretly, like an element that absorbs.

We are right back where we were
before the world turned over,
the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone
are all that Sunday means. Their North
was not 'The North that never was'.

Artemis, protector of virgins, shovels up
fresh pain with the newly-wed
long-stemmed roses, pressing two worlds
like a wedding kiss upon another Margaret:
lip-Irish and an old family ring.

It's like asking for grey
when that colour is not recognised,
or changes colour from friend to friend.
I track the muse through subwoods, curse
the roads, but cannot write the kiss.

From The Soldiers of Year II by Medbh McGuckian. Copyright © 2003 by Medbh McGuckian. Used by permission of Wake Forest University Press All rights reserved.

1.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
  My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
  One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
  But being too happy in thine happiness,—
    That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
          In some melodious plot
  Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

2.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
  Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
  Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
          And purple-stained mouth;
  That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

3.

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
  What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
  Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
  Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
          And leaden-eyed despairs,
  Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
    Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

4.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
  Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
  Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
  And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
    Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
          But here there is no light,
  Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
    Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

5.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
  Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
  Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
  White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
    Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
          And mid-May's eldest child,
  The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
    The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

6.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
  I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
  To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
  To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
          In such an ecstasy!
  Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.

7.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
  No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
  In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
  Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
          The same that oft-times hath
  Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

8.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
  To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
  As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
  Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
    Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
          In the next valley-glades:
  Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

This poem is in the public domain.

She was thinner, with a mannered gauntness
as she paused just inside the double
glass doors to survey the room, silvery cape
billowing dramatically behind her.  What's this,

I thought, lifting a hand until
she nodded and started across the parquet;
that's when I saw she was dressed all in gray,
from a kittenish cashmere skirt and cowl

down to the graphite signature of her shoes.
"Sorry I'm late," she panted, though
she wasn't, sliding into the chair, her cape

tossed off in a shudder of brushed steel.
We kissed.  Then I leaned back to peruse
my blighted child, this wary aristocratic mole.



"How's business?" I asked, and hazarded
a motherly smile to keep from crying out:
Are you content to conduct your life
as a cliché and, what's worse,

an anachronism, the brooding artist's demimonde?
Near the rue Princesse they had opened 
a gallery cum souvenir shop which featured
fuzzy off-color Monets next to his acrylics, no doubt,

plus beared African drums and the occasional miniature
gargoyle from Notre Dame the Great Artist had
carved at breakfast with a pocket knife.

"Tourists love us.  The Parisians, of course"--
she blushed--"are amused, though not without
a certain admiration . . ."
                           The Chateaubriand



arrived on a bone-white plate, smug and absolute
in its fragrant crust, a black plug steaming
like the heart plucked from the chest of a worthy enemy;
one touch with her fork sent pink juices streaming.

"Admiration for what?"  Wine, a bloody
Pinot Noir, brought color to her cheeks.  "Why,
the aplomb with which we've managed
to support our Art"--meaning he'd convinced

her to pose nude for his appalling canvases,
faintly futuristic landscapes strewn
with carwrecks and bodies being chewed

by rabid cocker spaniels.  "I'd like to come by
the studio," I ventured, "and see the new stuff."
"Yes, if you wish . . ."  A delicate rebuff



before the warning: "He dresses all
in black now.  Me, he drapes in blues and carmine--
and even though I think it's kinda cute,
in company I tend toward more muted shades."

She paused and had the grace
to drop her eyes.  She did look ravishing,
spookily insubstantial, a lipstick ghost on tissue,
or as if one stood on a fifth-floor terrace

peering through a fringe of rain at Paris'
dreaming chimney pots, each sooty issue
wobbling skyward in an ecstatic oracular spiral.

"And he never thinks of food.  I wish
I didn't have to plead with him to eat. . . ."  Fruit
and cheese appeared, arrayed on leaf-green dishes.



I stuck with café crème.  "This Camembert's
so ripe," she joked, "it's practically grown hair,"
mucking a golden glob complete with parsley sprig
onto a heel of bread.  Nothing seemed to fill

her up: She swallowed, sliced into a pear,
speared each tear-shaped lavaliere
and popped the dripping mess into her pretty mouth.
Nowhere the bright tufted fields, weighted

vines and sun poured down out of the south.
"But are you happy?"  Fearing, I whispered it
quickly.  "What?  You know, Mother"--

she bit into the starry rose of a fig--
"one really should try the fruit here."
I've lost her, I thought, and called for the bill.

From Mother Love, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Rita Dove. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful
flowers, one unlike all the others!  She pulled,
stooped to pull harder—
when, sprung out of the earth
on his glittering terrible
carriage, he claimed his due.
It is finished.  No one heard her.
No one!  She had strayed from the herd.

(Remember: go straight to school.
This is important, stop fooling around!
Don't answer to strangers.  Stick
with your playmates.  Keep your eyes down.)
This is how easily the pit
opens.  This is how one foot sinks into the ground.

“Persephone, Falling,” from Mother Love by Rita Dove. Copyright © 1995 by Rita Dove. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting.
Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert.
Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips.

Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round
As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines.
They bring the scent of licorice. One sits in the washbowl,

One on the bathtub edge; one leans against the door.
"Can you feel it yet?" they whisper.
I don't know what to say, again. They chuckle,

Patting their sleek bodies with their hands.
"Well, maybe next time." And they rise,
Glittering like pools of ink under moonlight,

And vanish. I clutch at the ragged holes
They leave behind, here at the edge of darkness.
Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue.

From Selected Poems by Rita Dove, published by Random House. © 1993 by Rita Dove. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

At home, the bells were a high light-yellow
with no silver or gray just buttercup or sugar-and-lemon.

Here bodies are lined in blue against the sea.
And where red is red there is only red.

I have to be blue to bathe in the sea.
Red, to live in the red room with red air

to rest my head, red cheek down, on the red table.

Above, it was so green: brown, yellow, white, green.
My longing for red furious, sexual.

There things were alive but nothing moved.
Now I live near the sea in a place which has no blue and is not the sea.

Gulls flock, leeward then tangent
and pigeons bully them off the ground.

Hardly alive, almost blind-a hot geometry casts off
every color of the world. Everything moves, nothing alive.

In the red room there is a sky which is painted over in red
but is not red and was, once, the sky.

This is how I live.

A red table in a red room filled with air.
A woman, edged in blue, bathing in the blue sea.

The surface like the pale, scaled skin of fish
far below or above or away—

 

From Eating in the Underworld by Rachel Zucker. Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Zucker. Reproduced by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

I never believed in bioluminescence before. 
Here in Moravia where all daylight hides 
the only illumination is whiskey. 
Names seem unimportant. 
Large are the memories growing elsewhere 
beneath themselves. 
Do hemlocks burn when stared at? 
Darkness always retains something shapely. 
Those leaves engender me. 
Bedding down in pine-covered nighttime 
I disappeared. Owls are silent. 
Bears rest. In Moravian mythology 
even I sleep well. 

From Nice Hat. Thanks. copyright © 2002 by Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer. Reprinted by permission of Wave Books.

I married you
for all the wrong reasons,
charmed by your 
dangerous family history,
by the innocent muscles, bulging
like hidden weapons 
under your shirt,
by your naive ties, the colors
of painted scraps of sunset.

I was charmed too
by your assumptions
about me: my serenity—
that mirror waiting to be cracked,
my flashy acrobatics with knives
in the kitchen.
How wrong we both were
about each other,
and how happy we have been.

“I Married You,” from Queen of a Rainy Country by Linda Pastan. Copyright © 2006 by Linda Pastan. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

for F.

For Jews, the Cossacks are always coming.
Therefore I think the sun spot on my arm
is melanoma. Therefore I celebrate
New Year's Eve by counting
my annual dead.

My mother, when she was dying,
spoke to her visitors of books
and travel, displaying serenity
as a form of manners, though 
I could tell the difference.

But when I watched you planning
for a life you knew
you'd never have, I couldn't explain
your genuine smile in the face
of disaster. Was it denial

laced with acceptance? Or was it
generations of being English--
Brontë's Lucy in Villette
living as if no fire raged
beneath her dun-colored dress.

I want to live the way you did,
preparing for next year's famine with wine
and music as if it were a ten-course banquet.
But listen: those are hoofbeats
on the frosty autumn air. 

From The Last Uncle by Linda Pastan, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 2002 by Linda Pastan. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

From Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Copyright © 2007 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Used by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

James has cancer. Catherine has cancer.
Melvin has AIDS.
Whom will I call, and get no answer?
My old friends, my new friends who are old,
or older, sixty, seventy, take pills
before or after dinner. Arthritis
scourges them. But irremediable night is
farther away from them; they seem to hold
it at bay better than the young-middle-aged
whom something, or another something, kills
before the chapter's finished, the play staged.
The curtains stay down when the light fades.

Morose, unanswerable, the list
of thirty- and forty-year-old suicides
(friends' lovers, friends' daughters) insists
in its lengthening: something's wrong.
The sixty-five-year-olds are splendid, vying
with each other in work-hours and wit.
They bring their generosity along,
setting the tone, or not giving a shit.
How well, or how eccentrically, they dress!
Their anecdotes are to the point, or wide
enough to make room for discrepancies.
But their children are dying.

Natalie died by gas in Montpeyroux.
In San Francisco, Ralph died
of lung cancer, AIDS years later, Lew
wrote to me. Lew, who at forty-five,
expected to be dead of drink, who, ten
years on, wasn't, instead survived
a gentle, bright, impatient younger man.
(Cliché: he falls in love with younger men.)
Natalie's father came, and Natalie,
as if she never had been there, was gone.
Michèle closed up their house (where she
was born). She shrouded every glass inside

— mirrors, photographs — with sheets, as Jews
do, though she's not a Jew.
James knows, he thinks, as much as he wants to.
He's been working half-time since November.
They made the diagnosis in July.
Catherine is back in radiotherapy.
Her schoolboy haircut, prematurely grey,
now frames a face aging with other numbers:
"stage two," "stage three" mean more than "fifty-one"
and mean, precisely, nothing, which is why
she stares at nothing: lawn chair, stone,
bird, leaf; brusquely turns off the news.

I hope they will be sixty in ten years
and know I used their names
as flares in a polluted atmosphere,
as private reasons where reason obtains
no quarter. Children in the streets
still die in grandfathers' good wars.
Pregnant women with AIDS, schoolgirls, crack whores,
die faster than men do, in more pain,
are more likely than men to die alone.
What are our statistics, when I meet
the lump in my breast, you phone
the doctor to see if your test results came?

The earth-black woman in the bed beside
Lidia on the AIDS floor — deaf and blind:
I want to know if, no, how, she died.
The husband, who'd stopped visiting, returned?
He brought the little boy, those nursery-
school smiles taped on the walls? She traced
her name on Lidia's face
when one of them needed something. She learned
some Braille that week. Most of the time, she slept.
Nobody knew the baby's HIV
status. Sleeping, awake, she wept.
And I left her name behind.

And Lidia, where's she
who got her act so clean
of rum and Salem Filters and cocaine
after her passing husband passed it on?
As soon as she knew
she phoned and told her mother she had AIDS
but no, she wouldn't come back to San Juan.
Sipping café con leche with dessert,
in a blue robe, thick hair in braids,
she beamed: her life was on the right
track, now. But the cysts hurt
too much to sleep through the night.

No one was promised a shapely life
ending in a tutelary vision.
No one was promised: if
you're a genuinely irreplaceable
grandmother or editor
you will not need to be replaced.
When I die, the death I face
will more than likely be illogical:
Alzheimer's or a milk truck: the absurd.
The Talmud teaches we become impure
when we die, profane dirt, once the word
that spoke this life in us has been withdrawn,

the letter taken from the envelope.
If we believe the letter will be read,
some curiosity, some hope
come with knowing that we die.
But this was another century
in which we made death humanly obscene:
Soweto  El Salvador  Kurdistan
Armenia  Shatila  Baghdad  Hanoi
Auschwitz  Each one, unique as our lives are,
taints what's left with complicity,
makes everyone living a survivor
who will, or won't, bear witness for the dead.

I can only bear witness for my own
dead and dying, whom I've often failed:
unanswered letters, unattempted phone
calls, against these fictions. A fiction winds
her watch in sunlight, cancer ticking bone
to shards. A fiction looks
at proofs of a too-hastily finished book
that may be published before he goes blind.
The old, who tell good stories, half expect
that what's written in their chromosomes
will come true, that history won't interject
a virus or a siren or a sealed

train to where age is irrelevant.
The old rebbetzen at Ravensbruck
died in the most wrong place, at the wrong time.
What do the young know different?
No partisans are waiting in the woods
to welcome them. Siblings who stayed home
count down doom. Revolution became
a dinner party in a fast-food chain,
a vendetta for an abscessed crime,
a hard-on market for consumer goods.
A living man reads a dead woman's book.
She wrote it; then, he knows, she was turned in.

For every partisan
there are a million gratuitous
deaths from hunger, all-American
mass murders, small wars,
the old diseases and the new.
Who dies well? The privilege
of asking doesn't have to do with age.
For most of us
no question what our deaths, our lives, mean.
At the end, Catherine will know what she knew,
and James will, and Melvin,
and I, in no one's stories, as we are.

"Against Elegies," from Winter Numbers by Marilyn Hacker. Copyright © 1994 by Marilyn Hacker. Used by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

She used to sit on the forest floor 
and I would cut her hair until it piled up 
onto the ground, like ash.  

Tonight, her name is a leaf covering 
my left eye. The right I close 
for the wind to stitch shut with thread 

from the dress she wore into the grave 
where the determined roots of the tree 
are making a braid around her body.

From The Lesser Fields. Copyright © 2009 by Rob Schlegel. Used with permission of The Center for Literary Publishing.

Listen. It was wrong from the beginning.
Never more than an afterthought, I was blamed.

Understandable: the weak never have the patience
for history. We are too filled with song,

with anointing the stilled body with oil.
Your father was frightened of the immutable,

becalmed, over our heads each night.
He preferred wind, its hint of insurrection.

Afterwards, we became nomads
to his longing to escape all longing.

Me, I lugged it on our slow mule's journey
nowhere, muscling it into the bread, brushing it

from your lashes in the middle of the night.
Like one of your old toys, it was always there

underfoot; he just couldn't see it. Close your eyes
I could have said. There. You're home.

Copyright © 2006 by Kurt S. Olsson. From Autobiography of My Hand. Reprinted with permission of Bright Hill Press.

If you have seen the snow
somewhere slowly fall
on a bicycle,
then you understand
all beauty will be lost
and that even loss
can be beautiful.
And if you have looked
at a winter garden
and seen not a winter garden
but a meditation on shape,
then you understand why
this season is not
known for its words,
the cold too much 
about the slowing of matter,
not enough about the making of it.
So you are blessed
to forget this way:
jump rope in the ice melt,
a mitten that has lost its hand,
a sun that shines
as if it doesn’t mean it.
And if in another season
you see a beautiful woman
use her bare hands
to smooth wrinkles
from her expensive dress
for the sake of dignity,
but in so doing reveal
the outlines of her thighs,
then you will remember
surprise assumes a space
that has first been forgotten,
especially here, where we
rarely speak of it,
where we walk out onto the roofs
of frozen lakes
simply because we’re stunned
we really can.

From Polar, Alice James Books, 2005. Used with permission.

should be green 
to represent an ocean.
It should have two stars 
in the first canton, 
for us and navigation. 
They should be of gold thread, 
placed diagonally, 
and not solid, 
but comprised of lines. 
Our flag should be silky jet. 
It should have a wound,
a red river the sun must ford
when flown at half-mast.
It should have the first letter
of every alphabet ever.
When folded into a triangle
an embroidered eighth note
should rest on top
or an odd-pinnate, 
with an argentine stem, 
a fiery leaf, a small branch 
signifying the impossible song.
Or maybe honey and blue
with a centered white pinion.
Our flag should be a veil
that makes the night weep
when it comes to dance,
a birthday present we open
upon death, the abyss we sleep 
under. Our flag should hold 
failure like light glinting 
in a headdress of water. 
It should hold the moon
as the severed head 
of a white animal
and we should carry it
to hospitals and funerals, 
to police stations and law offices. 
It should live, divided, 
deepening its yellows 
and reds, flaunting itself 
in a dead gray afternoon sky. 
Our flag should be seen
at weddings well after
we've departed.
It should stir in the heat
above the tables and music.
It should watch our friends
join and separate 
and laugh as they go out 
under the clouded night 
for cold air and cigarettes. 
Our flag should sing 
when we cannot,
praise when we cannot,
rejoice when we cannot.
Let it be a reminder.
Let it be the aperture,
the net, the rope of dark stars.
Let it be mathematics.
Let it be the eloquence
of the process shining 
on the page, a beacon 
on the edge of a continent. 
Let its warnings be dismissed. 
Let it be insignificant 
and let its insignificance shine.

First published in American Poet. Copyright © 2010 by Carl Adamshick. From Curses and Wishes (Louisiana State University Press, 2011). Used by permission of the author.

Is it possible that spring could be
once more approaching? We forget each time
what a mindless business it is, porous like sleep,
adrift on the horizon, refusing to take sides, "mugwump
of the final hour," lest an agenda—horrors!—be imputed to it,
and the whole point of its being spring collapse
like a hole dug in sand. It's breathy, though,
you have to say that for it.
And should further seasons coagulate
into years, like spilled, dried paint, why,
who's to say we weren't provident? We indeed
looked out for others as though they mattered, and they,
catching the spirit, came home with us, spent the night
in an alcove from which their breathing could be heard clearly.
But it's not over yet. Terrible incidents happen
daily. That's how we get around obstacles.

From Planisphere by John Ashbery. Copyright © 2010 by John Ashbery. Used by permission of Ecco/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

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.

Because a razor cuts across a frame of film, 
I wince, squinting my eye, 
and because my day needs assembly 
to make sense of the scenes anyway, 
making a story from some pieces of truth, I go 
outside to gather those pieces.
Thousands of moments spooling out 
frames of mistakes in my day. 
As if anyone's to blame, 
as if anyone could interpret the colliding
images, again and again, dragging
my imagination behind me,
I begin assembling. 
I don't know anything, so I seek
directions, following the path 
of ants from your palm, out 
the apartment door to 
a beach. Is this where I'm 
supposed to ask if my hands on you
bend some light around shade? Maybe
I'm not ready for the answer. They say
art imitates what we can sculpt or write 
or just see when we turn ourselves 
inside out. I can't turn my eye away
from the sight of failure. The rain pelts rooftops.
I listen to the song, thinking 
when the sun comes back,
beating down the door
in my head, I'll salvage whatever sits
still long enough for me to render,
before anyone knows what really happened.

Copyright © 2010 by A. Van Jordan. Used by permission of the author.

The more I go, the harder it becomes to return. To anywhere. There is no one at the ocean this morning. I walked by the campsites and smelled eggs and pancakes. And there were sweet Oregon cherries and watermelon. I wonder if I can go back—what purpose there would be in it—or in any other thing? There’s something expensive both ways. Yesterday a woman told me to get a tide schedule and if the people refused to give it to me, I had to insist. She usually gets hers from the Hilton but I don’t know where that is so I just imagine the schedule. There is a tide. I can tell that much about anything. What’s before me, what isn’t. How it got there is a mystery involving only itself—I have no part in that, none at all—my job remains in the thing as it is in the moment it’s before me, having left all of its other places, having come this far to show up at all.

Copyright © 2011 by Jennifer Denrow. Used with permission of the author.

The truck that swerved to miss the stroller in which I slept.
 
My mother turning from the laundry basket just in time to see me open 
  the third-story window to call to the cat.
 
In the car, on ice, something spinning and made of history snatched me
  back from the guardrail and set me down between two gentle trees.
  And that time I thought to look both ways on the one-way street.
 
And when the doorbell rang, and I didn’t answer, and just before I slipped
  one night into a drunken dream, I remembered to blow out the candle
  burning on the table beside me.
 
It's a miracle, I tell you, this middle-aged woman scanning the cans on
  the grocery store shelf. Hidden in the works of a mysterious clock are
  her many deaths, and yet the whole world is piled up before her on a
  banquet table again today. The timer, broken. The sunset smeared
  across the horizon in the girlish cursive of the ocean, Forever, For You.
 
And still she can offer only her body as proof:
 
The way it moves a little slower every day. And the cells, ticking away.
  A crow pecking at a sweater. The last hour waiting patiently on a tray
  for her somewhere in the future. The spoon slipping quietly into the
  beautiful soup.
 

Copyright © 2011 by Laura Kasischke. Reprinted from Space, in Chains with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Sha-
Dow,
As of
A meteor
At mid-
Day: it goes
From there.

A perfect circle falls
Onto white imperfections.
(Consider the black road,
How it seems white the entire
Length of a sunshine day.)

Or I could say
Shadows and mirage
Compensate the world, 
Completing its changes
With no change.

In the morning after a storm,
We used brooms. Out front,
There was broken glass to collect.
In the backyard, the sand
Was covered with transparent wings. 
The insects could not use them in the wind
And so abandoned them. Why
Hadn't the wings scattered? Why
Did they lie so stilly where they'd dropped?
It can only be the wind passed through them.

Jealous lover,
Your desire
Passes the same way.

And jealous earth,
There is a shadow you cannot keep
To yourself alone.
At midday,
My soul wants only to go
The black road which is the white road.
I'm not needed 
Like wings in a storm, 
And God is the storm. 

From My Mojave by Donald Revell. Copyright © 2003 by Donald Revell. Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books. All rights reserved.

The narcissus grows past

the towers. Eight gypsy

sisters spread their wings

in the garden. Their gold teeth

are unnerving. Every single

baby is asleep. They want

a little money and I give

them less. I'm charming and

handsome. They take my pen.

I buy the poem from the garden

of bees for one euro. A touch

on the arm. A mystery word.

The sky has two faces.

For reasons unaccountable

my hand trembles.

In Roman times if they were

horrified of bees they kept it secret

Copyright © 2011 by Matthew Rohrer. Used with permission of the author.

Then there was the night I decided that if I ignored everyone
I would transcend,

so I covered my ears with my hands,
stepped off the porch and rose like a wet crow

and the sprinklers chattered to each other over the fences.
And "How long will you be gone?" my neighbor called nervously,
my neighbor whose saw I had borrowed,
and "Come down right now!" my landlord called out,
climbing to the roof of his Cadillac to reach me
as he got smaller and smaller.

And there I was with the stars hanging above my house like live wires
and the night sky the color of stockings.

I stuck out my tongue to taste the sky
but could not taste.

I inhaled deeply
but could not smell.

I used to look to the sky for comfort
and now there was nothing, not  even a seam,
and I looked down and saw that it did not even reach the ground.

And my only company was the satellites counting their sleep
and the Sorrowful Mother swinging her empty dipper in the darkness,
the Sorrowful Mother picking her way through the stars over my roof.

And I knew I was nowhere and if I ever took my hands from my ears
     I would fall.

From A Hummock in the Malookas, by Matthew Rohrer, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1995 by Matthew Rohrer. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

               1

Thank god he stuck his tongue out.
When I was twelve I was in danger 
of taking my body seriously. 
I thought the ache in my nipple was priceless. 
I thought I should stay very still 
and compare it to a button, 
a china saucer, 
a flash in a car side-mirror, 
so I could name the ache either big or little, 
then keep it forever. He blew no one a kiss, 
then turned into a maw.

After I saw him, when a wish moved in my pants.
I nurtured it. I stalked around my room
kicking my feet up just like him, making
a big deal of my lips. I was my own big boy.
I wouldn't admit it then,
but be definitely cocks his hip
as if he is his own little girl.

               2

People ask me--I make up interviews
while I brush my teeth--"So, what do you remember best 
about your childhood?" I say
mostly the drive toward Chicago.
Feeling as if I'm being slowly pressed against the skyline. 
Hoping to break a window.
Mostly quick handfuls of boys' skin.
Summer twilights that took forever to get rid of.
Mostly Mick Jagger. 

               3

How do I explain my hungry stare?
My Friday night spent changing clothes?
My love for travel? I rewind the way he says "now" 
with so much roof of the mouth.
I rewind until I get a clear image of myself:
I'm telling the joke he taught me
about my body. My mouth is stretched open 
so I don't laugh. My hands are pretending
to have just discovered my own face. 
My name is written out in metal studs 
across my little pink jumper.
I've got a mirror and a good idea
of the way I want my face to look.
When I glance sideways my smile should twitch 
as if a funny picture of me is taped up 
inside the corner of my eye.
A picture where my hair is combed over each shoulder, 
my breasts are well-supported, and my teeth barely show. 
A picture where I'm trying hard to say "beautiful."

He always says "This is my skinny rib cage, 
my one, two chest hairs."
That's all he ever says. 
Think of a bird with no feathers
or think of a hundred lips bruising every inch of his skin.
There are no pictures of him hoping
he said the right thing.

Copyright © 2001 by Catie Rosemurgy. Reprinted from My Favorite Apocalypse with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

It's early morning. This is the "before,"
the world hanging around in its wrapper,
blowzy, frumpy, doing nothing: my 
neighbors, hitching themselves to the roles
of the unhappily married, trundle their three
mastiffs down the street. I am writing this
book of poems. My name is Lynn Emanuel.
I am wearing a bathrobe and curlers; from 
my lips, a Marlboro drips ash on the text.
It is the third of September nineteen**.
And as I am writing this in my trifocals
and slippers, across the street, Sharon Stone,
her head swollen with curlers, her mouth
red and narrow as a dancing slipper, 
is rushed into a black limo. And because
these limos snake up and down my street,
this book will be full of sleek cars nosing
through the shadowy ocean of these words.
Every morning, Sharon Stone, her head
in a helmet of hairdo, wearing a visor
of sunglasses, is engulfed by a limo
the size of a Pullman, and whole fleets
of these wind their way up and down
the street, day after day, giving to the street
(Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA)
and the book I am writing, an aspect
that is both glamorous and funereal.
My name is Lynn Emanuel, and in this
book I play the part of someone writing 
a book, and I take the role seriously, 
just as Sharon Stone takes seriously 
the role of the diva. I watch the dark 
cars disappear her and in my poem 
another Pontiac erupts like a big animal 
at the cool trough of a shady curb. So, 
when you see this black car, do not think 
it is a Symbol For Something. It is just 
Sharon Stone driving past the house 
of Lynn Emanuel who is, at the time, 
trying to write a book of poems.

Or you could think of the black car as 
Lynn Emanuel, because, really, as an author,
I have always wanted to be a car, even 
though most of the time I have to be 
the "I," or the woman hanging wash; 
I am a woman, one minute, then I am a man, 
I am a carnival of Lynn Emanuels:
Lynn in the red dress; Lynn sulking 
behind the big nose of my erection; 
then I am the train pulling into the station 
when what I would really love to be is 
Gertrude Stein spying on Sharon Stone 
at six in the morning. But enough about 
that, back to the interior decorating:
On the page, the town looks bald
and dim so I turn up the amps on 
the radioactive glances of bad boys. 
In a kitchen, I stack pans sleek with 
grease, and on a counter there is a roast 
beef red as a face in a tantrum. Amid all 
this bland strangeness is Sharon Stone, 
who, like an engraved invitation, is asking 
me, Won't you, too, play a role? I do not 
choose the black limo rolling down the street 
with the golden stare of my limo headlights 
bringing with me the sun, the moon, and 
Sharon Stone. It is nearly dawn; the sun 
is a fox chewing her foot from the trap; 
every bite is a wound and every wound 
is a red window, a red door, a red road. 
My name is Lynn Emanuel. I am the writer 
trying to unwrite the world that is all around her.

From Then, Suddenly--, by Lynn Emanuel. Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. Available at local bookstores or directly from the University of Pittsburgh Press:
c/o CUP Services
Box 6525
Ithaca, NY 14851
Phone orders: 607-277-2211
Fax orders: 607-227-6292

Slanting light casts onto a stucco wall
the shadows of upwardly zigzagging plum branches.

I can see the thinning of branches to the very twig.
I have to sift what you say, what she thinks,

what he believes is genetic strength, what
they agree is inevitable. I have to sift this

quirky and lashing stillness of form to see myself,
even as I see laid out on a table for Death

an assortment of pomegranates and gourds.
And what if Death eats a few pomegranate seeds?

Does it insure a few years of pungent spring?
I see one gourd, yellow from midsection to top

and zucchini-green lower down, but
already the big orange gourd is gnawed black.

I have no idea why the one survives the killing nights.
I have to sift what you said, what I felt,

what you hoped, what I knew. I have to sift 
death as the stark light sifts the branches of the plum.

From The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Arthur Sze. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

The tide ebbs and reveals orange and purple sea stars. 
I have no theory of radiance, 

                but after rain evaporates 
off pine needles, the needles glisten. 

In the courtyard, we spot the rising shell of a moon,
and, at the equinox, bathe in its gleam. 

Using all the tides of starlight, 
                we find 
                vicissitude is our charm.

On the mud flats off Homer, 
I catch the tremor when waves start to slide back in; 

and, from Roanoke, you carry 
                the leafing jade smoke of willows. 

Looping out into the world, we thread 
                and return. The lapping waves 

cover an expanse of mussels clustered on rocks; 
and, giving shape to what is unspoken, 
		
                forsythia buds and blooms in our arms.

Copyright © 2011 by Arthur Sze. Used with permission of the author.

is never to give away your secrets
though people will guess
and say you write like the following poets
e.e. cummings Wallace Stevens Richard Brautigan
Ted Berrigan Frank O'Hara
though you'd prefer to be compared to
the Old Possum
and to me you sound a bit like Robert Creeley
who once was embarrassed by me at a party
he died a few years later.
It's easier to talk to you on the phone
after Nebraska which sounds
wonderful when you say it
even with loathing
and "formally innovative"
and "hybrid forms"
and the human being you are looking for
in my poem
because what are we but our words
in the end and what
are poems but perceptions
and who do YOU want to fuck
and how much do you want it
and what are you willing to do
to get what you want and how can you be satisfied
with what you have. Utterly sufficient
to be apart and how you will never say love
before October and I don't mind
or even know what I mean when I say it
whether what defines it is intensity or duration
of feeling or preordained by fate
which pushes us together and draws us apart
the one human voice speaking in all of our poems
what it felt like to be alive
and being in love is most alive
whether it's with the world or you or
poetry. In every aspect
no one resembles anyone
and can you become a poet just by trying
or do you have to go to an impressive school
and how poems are dangerous
when there are real people in them
and nothing is really new but only to you
and you are the most powerful pronoun

Copyright © 2011 by Tina Brown Celona. Used with permission of the author.

Meat pies delivered daily from
tuck shop the chalkboard
improvisionally utters to a
chump's eye. Somewhere in
the thick of the grip of the
shit that must be said to be
gotten out of the way. Can I
sit in your lap and watch
kitty videos? No, I have to
go to work. Can I go to
work with you? We can
walk outside together. 
Earlier I felt — how's that
radiation going — like 
a — I misheard that,
now they are saying 
things like "she's a 
new girl" — bartender
& medical worker of
other type — I felt
like an old creep making
younger wobbly guys
give me their opinions
on things: "he had all
these great lines! & then
they just kept coming one
after the other & it started
to make me crazy." Look
of indignation on early
morning L train face.
Inside that recreation
a phone rang. I did
not ignore the phone
but I did ignore the call.
This afuturistic handling
of little pads, first aid
for choking, and yet the
company came with dog
& I moved, no, was. 


Don't be coming over to join me
this bird says, you hover and
take up shade, you simplify
into unwinged liftoff, you
bear scars of an individually
unremarkable nature, you stop
nothing. I'll stay here without
joining you, I say, and create
as little energy in your vicinity
as I can disimagine. Fuck you
and your disimagination, this
bird, now beginning to resemble
Allen Ginsberg, yells at me.

Copyright © 2011 by Anselm Berrigan. Used with permission of the author.

Sunbreak.  The sky opens its magazine.  If you look hard
                                                         it is a process of falling
                                                         and squinting—& you are in-
terrupted again and again by change, & crouchings out there
                                                         where you are told each second you
                                                         are only visiting, & the secret
                                                         whitening adds up to no
meaning, no, not for you, wherever the loosening muscle of the night
                                                         startles-open the hundreds of 
                                                         thousands of voice-boxes, into which
your listening moves like an aging dancer still trying to glide—there is time for
                                                         everything, everything, is there is not—
                                                         though the balance is
                                                         difficult, is coming un-
done, & something strays farther from love than we ever imagined, from the long and
                                                         orderly sentence which was a life to us, the dry 
                                                         leaves on
                                                         the fields
through which the new shoots glow
                                                         now also glowing, wet curled tips pointing in any
                                                         direction—
as if the idea of a right one were a terrible forgetting—as one feels upon
                                                         waking—when the dream is cutting loose, is going
                                                         back in the other
direction, deep inside, behind, no, just back—&
                                                         one is left looking out—& it is
breaking open further—what are you to do—how let it fully in—the wideness of it
                                                         is staggering—you have to have more arms eyes a 
                                                         thing deeper than laughter furrows more
capacious than hate forgiveness remembrance forgetfulness history silence
                                                         precision miracle—more
                                                         furrows are needed the field
cannot be crossed this way the
                                                         wide shine coming towards you standing in
the open window now, a dam breaking, reeking rich with the end of
                                                         winter, fantastic weight of loam coming into the
                                                         soul, the door behind you
                                                         shut, the
great sands behind there, pharaohs, the millennia of carefully prepared and buried
                                                         bodies, the ceremony and the weeping for them, all
back there, lamentations, libations, earth full of bodies everywhere, our bodies,
                                                         some still full of incense, & the sweet burnt
                                                         offerings, & the still-rising festival out-cryings—& we will
                                                         inherit
                                                         from it all
nothing—& our ships will still go,
                                                         after the ritual killing to make the wind listen,
out to sea as if they were going to a new place, 
                                                         forgetting they must come home yet again ashamed
no matter where they have been—& always the new brides setting forth—
                                                         & always these ancient veils of their falling from the sky
                                                         all over us, 
& my arms rising from my sides now as if in dictation, & them opening out from me, 
& me now smelling the ravens the blackbirds the small heat of the rot in this largest 
                                                         cage—bars of light crisping its boundaries—
& look
                                                         there is no cover, you cannot reach
it, ever, nor the scent of last night's rain, nor the chainsaw raised to take the first of the 
                                                         far trees
                                                         down, nor the creek's tongued surface, nor the minnow
                                                         turned by the bottom of the current—here
                                                         is an arm outstretched, then here
is rightful day and the arm is still there, outstretched, at the edge of a world—tyrants
                                                         imagined by the bearer of the arm, winds listened for, 
                                                         corpses easily placed anywhere the
                                                         mind wishes—inbox, outbox—machines
                                                         that do not tire in the
distance—barbed wire taking daysheen on—marking the end of the field—the barbs like a 
                                                         lineup drinking itself
                                                         crazy—the wire
                                                         where it is turned round the post standing in for
mental distress—the posts as they start down the next field sorting his from
                                                         mine, his from the
                                                         other's—until you know, following,
following, all the way to the edge and then turning again, then again, to the
                                                         far fields, to the
height of the light—you know
                                                         you have no destiny, no, you have a wild unstoppable 
                                                         rumor for a soul, you
look all the way to the end of
                                                         your gaze, why did you marry, why did you stop to listen,
where are your fingerprints, the mud out there hurrying to 
                                                         the white wood gate, its ruts, the ants in it, your
                                                         imagination of your naked foot placed
there, the thought that in that there
                                                         is all you have & that you have
no rightful way
                                                         to live— 

From Sea Change by Jorie Graham, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2008 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

                (St. Laurent Sur Mer, June 5, 2009)


Sometimes the day
                              light winces 
                              behind you and it is
a great treasure in this case today a man on
                              a horse in calm full
                              gallop on Omaha over my
                              left shoulder coming on
                              fast but
calm not audible to me at all until I turned back my
                              head for no
                              reason as if what lies behind
                              one had whispered
what can I do for you today and I had just
                              turned to
                              answer and the answer to my
answer flooded from the front with the late sun he/they
                              were driving into—gleaming—
                              wet chest and upraised knees and
light-struck hooves and thrust-out even breathing of the great
                              beast—from just behind me,
                              passing me—the rider looking straight
                              ahead and yet
smiling without looking at me as I smiled as we
                              both smiled for the young
                              animal, my feet in the
breaking wave-edge, his hooves returning, as they begin to pass
                              by,
                              to the edge of the furling
                              break, each tossed-up flake of
                              ocean offered into the reddish
luminosity—sparks—as they made their way,
                              boring through to clear out
                              life, a place where no one
                              again is suddenly 
killed—regardless of the "cause"—no one—just this
                              galloping forward with
                              force through the low waves, seagulls
                              scattering all round, their
screeching and mewing rising like more bits of red foam, the
                              horse's hooves now suddenly
                              louder as it goes
                              by and its prints on
wet sand deep and immediately filled by thousands of
                              sandfleas thrilled to the
declivities in succession in the newly
                              released beach—just
                              at the right
                              moment for some
microscopic life to rise up through these
                              cups in the hard upslant
                              retreating ocean is
revealing, sandfleas finding them just as light does,
                              carving them out with
                              shadow, and glow on each
                              ridge, and
water oozing up through the innermost cut of the
                              hoofsteps,
and when I shut my eyes now I am not like a blind person
                              walking towards the lowering sun,
the water loud at my right,
                              but like a seeing person
with her eyes shut
                              putting her feet down
                              one at a time
                              on the earth.

Copyright © 2011 by Jorie Graham. Used with permission of the author. Previously published in The New Yorker.

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
                                                infolding,
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
                         motion that forces change—
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

From Never by Jorie Graham, published by HarperCollins. Copyright © 2002 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

In this blue light
     I can take you there,
snow having made me
     a world of bone
seen through to.  This
     is my house,

my section of Etruscan
     wall, my neighbor's
lemontrees, and, just below
     the lower church,
the airplane factory.
     A rooster

crows all day from mist
     outside the walls.
There's milk on the air,
     ice on the oily
lemonskins.  How clean
     the mind is,

holy grave.  It is this girl
     by Piero
della Francesca, unbuttoning
     her blue dress,
her mantle of weather,
     to go into

labor.  Come, we can go in.
     It is before
the birth of god.  No one
     has risen yet
to the museums, to the assembly
     line--bodies

and wings--to the open air
     market.  This is
what the living do: go in.
     It's a long way.
And the dress keeps opening
     from eternity

to privacy, quickening.
     Inside, at the heart,
is tragedy, the present moment
     forever stillborn,
but going in, each breath
     is a button

coming undone, something terribly
     nimble-fingered
finding all of the stops.

From The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994, by Jorie Graham, published by The Ecco Press. Copyright © 1995 by Jorie Graham. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Deep autumn & the mistake occurs, the plum tree blossoms, twelve
                                                         blossoms on three different
branches, which for us, personally, means none this coming spring or perhaps none on
                                                         just those branches on which
                                                         just now
lands, suddenly, a grey-gold migratory bird—still here?—crisping, 
                                                         multiplying the wrong
                                                         air, shifting branches with small
hops, then stilling—very still—breathing into this oxygen which also pockets my
                                                         looking hard, just
                                                         that, takes it in, also my
                                                         thinking which I try to seal off, 
my humanity, I was not a mistake is what my humanity thinks, I cannot
                                                         go somewhere
else than this body, the afterwards of each of these instants is just
                                                         another instant, breathe, breathe, 
my cells reach out, I multiply on the face of
                                                         the earth, on the
mud—I can see my prints on the sweet bluish mud—where I was just
                                                         standing and reaching to see if
those really were blossoms, I thought perhaps paper
                                                         from wind, & the sadness in
me is that of forced parting, as when I loved a personal
                                                         love, which now seems unthinkable, & I look at 
the gate, how open it is, 
                                                         in it the very fact of God as
invention seems to sit, fast, as in its saddle, so comfortable—& where
                                                         does the road out of it
go—& are those torn wires hanging from the limbs—& the voice I heard once after I passed
                                                         what I thought was a sleeping
man, the curse muttered out, & the cage after they have let
                                                         the creatures
out, they are elsewhere, in one of the other rings, the ring with the empty cage is
                                                         gleaming, the cage is
to be looked at, grieving, for nothing, your pilgrimage ends here, 
                                                         we are islands, we
                                                         should beget nothing &
what am I to do with my imagination—& the person in me trembles—& there is still
                                                         innocence, it is starting up somewhere
even now, and the strange swelling of the so-called Milky Way, and the sound of the
                                                         wings of the bird as it lifts off
suddenly, & how it is going somewhere precise, & that precision, & how I no longer
                                                         can say for sure that it
knows nothing, flaming, razory, the feathered serpent I saw as a child, of stone, &
                                                         how it stares back at me
from the height of its pyramid, & the blood flowing from the sacrifice, & the oracles
                                                         dragging hooks through the hearts in
                                                         order to say
what is coming, what is true, & all the blood, millennia, drained to stave off
                                                         the future, stave off, 
& the armies on the far plains, the gleam off their armor now in this bird's
                                                         eye, as it flies towards me
then over, & the sound of the thousands of men assembled at
                                                         all cost now
the sound of the bird lifting, thick, rustling where it flies over—only see, it is
                                                         a hawk after all, I had not seen
clearly, it has gone to hunt in the next field, & the chlorophyll is
                                                         coursing, & the sun is
sucked in, & the chief priest walks away now where what remains of
                                                         the body is left
as is customary for the local birds.  

From Sea Change by Jorie Graham, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2008 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father,
A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices
A young black woman faces.
Is falling in with some man
A deal with the devil
In blue terms, the tongue we use
When we don't want nuance
To get in the way,
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
This man made my father look good,
That's how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island
In the middle of a stormy sea,
He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize
You exist in a stacked deck,
You look in a mirror at your young face,
The face my sister carries,
And you know it's the only leverage
You've got.
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
You shrug your shoulders
And agree, a girl without money
Is nothing, dust
To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this,
My father seems, briefly,
To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man's kisses 
A healing.

From Autobiography of a Jukebox by Cornelius Eady. Used with permission.

The trouble is, you can never take
that flower from Billie's hair.
She is always walking too fast
and try as we might,

there's no talking her into slowing.
Don't go down into that basement,
we'd like to scream. What will it take
to bargain her blues,

to retire that term when it comes
to her? But the grain and the cigarettes,
the narcs and the fancy-dressed boys,
the sediment in her throat.

That's the soil those petals spring from,
like a fist, if a fist could sing.

Copyright © 2011 by Cornelius Eady. Used with permission of the author.

                        —To Sun Ra, from Earth

You are not here,

you are not here
in Birmingham,
        where they keep your name,

not in Elmwood's famous plots
                or the monuments
of bronze or steel or the strew

        of change in the fountain
where the firehoses sprayed.

                In the furnaces, in the interchange sprawl
        that covers Tuxedo Junction,

in the shopping malls, I think,
                they've forgotten you,

the broadcast towers, the barbecues,

        the statue of the Roman god,
spiculum blotting out
                part of the stars.

To get it dark enough,
        I have to fold back
into the hills, into the trees

                where my parents
planted me, where the TV
        barely reaches and I drift

with my hand on the dial
                of my father's radio,

spinning, too, the tall antenna
        he raised above the pines.

I have to stand at the base

                of the galvanized
pole I can use as an azimuth
        and plot you in.

The hunter's belt is slung again,
                and you are there

in the pulse, in the light of
        Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka,

all your different names,

                you are there
in all the rearrangements
        of the stars.

                        Come down now,
come down again,

                like the late fall light
into the mounds along the creek,

        light that soaks like a flood
to show the Cherokee sitting upright
                underground, light

like the fire they imply.

        Come down now
into the crease the freight train
                hits like a piano's hammer

and make the granite hum
        beneath.

                        Come down now

as my hand slips from the dial,
                tired again of looking
for the sound of another way

        to say everything.

Come down now with your diction
                and your dictionary.

Come down, Uncle, come down
        and help me rise.

I have forgot my wings.

Copyright © 2011 by Jake Adam York. Used with permission of the author.

A 29-year-old stewardess fell ... to her 
death tonight when she was swept 
through an emergency door that 
suddenly sprang open ... The body ... 
was found ... three hours after the 
accident. 
                   —New York Times

The states when they black out and lie there rolling    when they turn 
To something transcontinental    move by    drawing moonlight out of the great 
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip    some sleeper next to 
An engine is groaning for coffee    and there is faintly coming in 
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks 
Of trays    she rummages for a blanket    and moves in her slim tailored 
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew 

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs    frozen    she is black 
Out finding herself    with the plane nowhere and her body taking by the throat 
The undying cry of the void    falling    living    beginning to be something 
That no one has ever been and lived through    screaming without enough air 
Still neat    lipsticked    stockinged    girdled by regulation    her hat 
Still on    her arms and legs in no world    and yet spaced also strangely 
With utter placid rightness on thin air    taking her time    she holds it 
In many places    and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems 
To slow    she develops interest    she turns in her maneuverable body 

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her 
Self    in low body-whistling wrapped intensely    in all her dark dance-weight 
Coming down from a marvellous leap    with the delaying, dumfounding ease 
Of a dream of being drawn    like endless moonlight to the harvest soil 
Of a central state of one’s country    with a great gradual warmth coming 
Over her    floating    finding more and more breath in what she has been using 
For breath    as the levels become more human    seeing clouds placed honestly 
Below her left and right    riding slowly toward them    she clasps it all 
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways    and 
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide    wider and suck 
All the heat from the cornfields    can go down on her back with a feeling 
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her    and can turn    turn as to someone 
In bed    smile, understood in darkness    can go away    slant    slide 
Off tumbling    into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread 
Or whirl madly on herself    in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon.    There is time to live 
In superhuman health    seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing 
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it    arriving 
In a square town    and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches 
The moon by its one shaken side    scaled, roaming silver    My God it is good 
And evil    lying in one after another of all the positions for love 
Making    dancing    sleeping    and now cloud wisps at her no 
Raincoat    no matter    all small towns brokenly brighter from inside 
Cloud    she walks over them like rain    bursts out to behold a Greyhound 
Bus shooting light through its sides    it is the signal to go straight 
Down like a glorious diver    then feet first    her skirt stripped beautifully 
Up    her face in fear-scented cloths    her legs deliriously bare    then 
Arms out    she slow-rolls over    steadies out    waits for something great 
To take control of her    trembles near feathers    planes head-down 
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head    gold eyes the insight- 
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops    a taste for chicken overwhelming 
Her    the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars 
Freight trains    looped bridges    enlarging the moon racing slowly 
Through all the curves of a river    all the darks of the midwest blazing 
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white    the smothering chickens 
Huddle    for over them there is still time for something to live 
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop    a hurtling    a fall 
That is controlled    that plummets as it wills    turns gravity 
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon    shining 
New Powers    there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing 
But the whole night    time for her to remember to arrange her skirt 
Like a diagram of a bat    tightly it guides her    she has this flying-skin 
Made of garments    and there are also those sky-divers on TV    sailing 
In sunlight    smiling under their goggles    swapping batons back and forth 
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving 
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion    white teeth    nowhere 
She is screaming    singing hymns    her thin human wings spread out 
From her neat shoulders    the air beast-crooning to her    warbling 
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world    now 
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape    watching it lose 
And gain    get back its houses and peoples    watching it bring up 
Its local lights    single homes    lamps on barn roofs    if she fell 
Into water she might live    like a diver    cleaving    perfect    plunge 

Into another    heavy silver    unbreathable    slowing    saving 
Element: there is water    there is time to perfect all the fine 
Points of diving    feet together    toes pointed    hands shaped right 
To insert her into water like a needle    to come out healthily dripping 
And be handed a Coca-Cola    there they are    there are the waters 
Of life    the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir    so let me begin 
To plane across the night air of Kansas    opening my eyes superhumanly 
Bright    to the damned moon    opening the natural wings of my jacket 
By Don Loper    moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water 
One cannot just fall    just tumble screaming all that time    one must use 
It    she is now through with all    through all    clouds    damp    hair 
Straightened    the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing 
New darks    new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos 

And night    a gradual warming    a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own 
Country    a great stone of light in its waiting waters    hold    hold out 
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body 
And fly    and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned 
Water    stored up for her for years    the arms of her jacket slipping 
Air up her sleeves to go    all over her? What final things can be said 
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night 
Air    to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself 
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward    the blazing-bare lake 
Her skirts neat    her hands and face warmed more and more by the air 
Rising from pastures of beans    and under her    under chenille bedspreads 
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding 
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed    dreaming of female signs 
Of the moon    male blood like iron    of what is really said by the moan 
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight    passing 
Over brush fires    burning out in silence on little hills    and will wake 
To see the woman they should be    struggling on the rooftree to become 
Stars: for her the ground is closer    water is nearer    she passes 
It    then banks    turns    her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls 
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must 
Do something with water    fly to it    fall in it    drink it    rise 
From it    but there is none left upon earth    the clouds have drunk it back 
The plants have sucked it down    there are standing toward her only 
The common fields of death    she comes back from flying to falling 
Returns to a powerful cry    the silent scream with which she blew down 
The coupled door of the airliner    nearly    nearly losing hold 
Of what she has done    remembers    remembers the shape at the heart 
Of cloud    fashionably swirling    remembers she still has time to die 
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour 
Of cornfields    and have enough time to kick off her one remaining 
Shoe with the toes    of the other foot    to unhook her stockings 
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair 
Near death    when the body will assume without effort any position 
Except the one that will sustain it    enable it to rise    live 
Not die    nine farms hover close    widen    eight of them separate, leaving 
One in the middle    then the fields of that farm do the same    there is no 
Way to back off    from her chosen ground    but she sheds the jacket 
With its silver sad impotent wings    sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece 
Of her skirt    the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse    the intimate 
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost 
Of a virgin    sheds the long windsocks of her stockings    absurd 
Brassiere    then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming 
Off her: no longer monobuttocked    she feels the girdle flutter    shake 
In her hand    and float    upward    her clothes rising off her ascending 
Into cloud    and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe 
Like a dumb bird    and now will drop in    SOON    now will drop 

In like this    the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas    down from all 
Heights    all levels of American breath    layered in the lungs from the frail 
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly 
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after 
Her last superhuman act    the last slow careful passing of her hands 
All over her unharmed body    desired by every sleeper in his dream: 
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood 
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves 
Arisen at sunrise    the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn 
Toward clouds    all feel something    pass over them as she passes 
Her palms over her long legs    her small breasts    and deeply between 
Her thighs    her hair shot loose from all pins    streaming in the wind 
Of her body    let her come openly    trying at the last second to land 
On her back    This is it    THIS 
                                                   All those who find her impressed 
In the soft loam    gone down    driven well into the image of her body 
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep 
In her mortal outline    in the earth as it is in cloud    can tell nothing 
But that she is there    inexplicable    unquestionable    and remember 
That something broke in them as well    and began to live and die more 
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth 
Caught her    interrupted her maiden flight    told her how to lie she cannot 
Turn    go away    cannot move    cannot slide off it and assume another 
Position    no sky-diver with any grin could save her    hold her in his arms 
Plummet with her    unfold above her his wedding silks    she can no longer 
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife 
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls    or all the back-breaking whores 
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one 
Breath    it is all gone    and yet not dead    not anywhere else 
Quite    lying still in the field on her back    sensing the smells 
Of incessant growth try to lift her    a little sight left in the corner 
Of one eye    fading    seeing something wave    lies believing 
That she could have made it    at the best part of her brief goddess 
State    to water    gone in headfirst    come out smiling    invulnerable 
Girl in a bathing-suit ad    but she is lying like a sunbather at the last 
Of moonlight    half-buried in her impact on the earth    not far 
From a railroad trestle    a water tank    she could see if she could 
Raise her head from her modest hole    with her clothes beginning 
To come down all over Kansas    into bushes    on the dewy sixth green 
Of a golf course    one shoe    her girdle coming down fantastically 
On a clothesline, where it belongs    her blouse on a lightning rod: 

Lies in the fields    in this field    on her broken back as though on 
A cloud she cannot drop through    while farmers sleepwalk without 
Their women from houses    a walk like falling toward the far waters 
Of life    in moonlight    toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms 
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands    that tragic cost 
Feels herself go    go toward    go outward    breathes at last fully 
Not    and tries    less    once    tries    tries    AH, GOD—

From The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992 (Wesleyan University Press) by James Dickey. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Used with permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Someone inside says, "Get busy."
But I've got appointments to keep,
I have an abstemious love of equations calculated quickly
While the tepid day melts into design.

And the high cheekbones of the beautiful life
Bear the loose look of a calendar by lamplight.
I search for patterns in everything.
I am tied in knots of comprehension.

I think, how useful it might be
To pierce all the hands of the earth
With an oath of pins encircling snarling planets
But talent and shallowness sewn together

Is nothing but a kerchief tied around a survivalist's head,
And it helps to know the feet wriggling through a hole
In the universe will land for an instant
Upon the cushions of the dark,

And that after marching one doozy of a kilometer after another,
We each come upon the same poem scribbled in invisible ink
Taped to the door of a room
In which an austere justice is burning for us.

From 4 by Noelle Kocot, published by Four Way Books. Copyright © 2001 by Noelle Kocot. Reprinted by permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes,
    And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kisse but in the cup,
    And Ile not looke for wine.
The thirst, that from the soule doth rise,
    Doth aske a drinke divine:
But might I of Jove's Nectar sup,
    I would not change for thine.
I sent thee, late, a rosie wreath,
    Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
    It could not withered bee.
But thou thereon did'st onely breath,
    And sent'st it back to mee:
Since when it growes, and smells, I sweare,
    Not of it selfe, but thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

     S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
     A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
     Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
     Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
     Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
     Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
     So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
     And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
     And should I then presume?
     And how should I begin?

          . . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

          . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
     Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
     That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
     “That is not it at all,
     That is not what I meant, at all.”

          . . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Published in 1915. This poem is in the public domain.

“Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβυλλα τι θελεις; respondebat illa: αποθανειν θελω.”

For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabbro

I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

           Frisch weht der Wind
           Der Heimat zu,            
           Mein Irisch Kind,
           Wo weilest du?

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Öd’ und leer das Meer.

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: “Stetson!
“You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
“Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
“You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”

 

II. A Game of Chess

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished thone,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
Reflecting light upon the table as
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
From satin cases poured in rich profusion;
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge sea-wood fed with copper
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,
In which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam.
Above the antique mantel was displayed.
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.
Footsteps shuffled on the stair.
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Clawed into words, then would be savagely still.

“My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

“What is the noise?”
                                 The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                                        Nothing again nothing.
                                                              “Do
“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
“Nothing?”
                    I remember
                                        Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”
                                                            But
O  O  O  O  that Shakespeherian Rag—
It’s so elegant
So intelligent

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?”
“I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
“With my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow?
“What shall we ever do?”
                                    The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,
He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.
And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don’t give it him, there's others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said.
Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said,
Others can pick and choose if you can’t.
But if Albert makes off, it won’t be for lack of telling.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
The chemist said it would be alright, but I’ve never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don’t want children?
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.

 

III. The Fire Sermon

The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of City directors;
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept . . .
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

A rat crept softly through the vegetation
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank
While I was fishing in the dull canal
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse
Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck
And on the king my father’s death before him.
White bodies naked on the low damp ground
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
Rattled by the rat’s foot only, year to year.
But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter
They wash their feet in soda water
Et O ces voix denfants, chantant dans la coupole!

Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc’d.
Tereu

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants
C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—
I too awaited the expected guest.
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house agent’s clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire,
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence;
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
Bestows one final patronising kiss,
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit . . .

She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover;
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
“Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.”
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone.

“This music crept by me upon the waters”
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City City, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.

The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails
Wide
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs.
                       Weialala leia
                       Wallala leialala
Elizabeth and Leicester
Beating oars
The stern was formed
A gilded shell
Red and gold
The brisk swell
Rippled both shores
Southwest wind
Carried down stream
The peal of bells
White towers
                       Weialala leia
                       Wallala leialala

“Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.”

“My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart
Under my feet. After the event
He wept. He promised ‘a new start.’
I made no comment. What should I resent?”

“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”
                       la la

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest

burning

 

IV. Death by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
                                       A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
                                       Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

 

V. What the Thunder Said

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
                                              If there were water
      And no rock
      If there were rock
      And also water
      And water
      A spring
      A pool among the rock
      If there were the sound of water only
      Not the cicada
      And dry grass singing
      But sound of water over a rock
      Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
      Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
      But there is no water

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that one on the other side of you?

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London
Unreal

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home,
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder
DA
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
DA
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
DA
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands

                                    I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
em>Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince dAquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

          Shantih     shantih     shantih

 


Notes

Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston’s book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.

 

I. The Burial of the Dead

Line 20. Cf. Ezekiel II, i.
23. Cf. Ecclesiastes XII, v.
31. V. Tristan und Isolde, I, verses 5–8.
42. Id. III, verse 24.
46. I am not familiar with the exact constitution of the Tarot pack of cards, from which I have obviously departed to suit my own convenience. The Hanged Man, a member of the traditional pack, fits my purpose in two ways: because he is associated in my mind with the Hanged God of Frazer, and because I associate him with the hooded figure in the passage of the disciples of Emmaus in Part V. The Phoenician Sailor and the Merchant appear later; also the “crowds of people,” and Death by Water is executed in Part IV. The Man with Three Staves (an authentic member of the Tarot pack) I associate, quite arbitrarily, with the Fisher King himself.
60. Cf. Baudelaire:

“Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves
“Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.”

63. Cf. Inferno III, 55–57:

                          “si lunga tratta
“di gente, ch’io non avrei mai creduto
che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta.”

64. Cf. Inferno IV, 25–27:

“Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare,
“non avea pianto ma’ che de sospiri,
“che l’aura eterna facevan tremare.”

68. A phenomenon which I have often noticed.
74. Cf. The Dirge in Webster’s White Devil.
76. V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal.

 

II. A Game of Chess

77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, I. 190.
92. Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I, 726:

                          “dependent lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt.”

98. Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 140.
99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, Philomela.
100. Cf. Part III 1. 204.
115. Cf. Part III 1. 195.
118. Cf. Webster: “Is the wind in that door still?”
126. Cf. Part I, ll. 37, 48.
138. Cf. the game of chess in Middleton’s Women Beware Women.

 

III. The Fire Sermon

176. V. Spenser, Prothalamion.
192. Cf. The Tempest, I, ii.
196. Cf. Marvell, To His Coy Mistress.
197. Cf. Day, Parliament of Bees:

“When of the sudden, listening, you shall hear,
“A noise of horns and hunting, which shall bring
“Actaeon to Diana in the spring,
“Where all shall see her naked skin. . .”

199. I do not know the origin of the ballad from which these lines are taken; it was reported to me from Sydney, Australia.
202. V. Verlaine, “Parsifal.”
210. The currants were quoted at a price “carriage and insurance free to London”; and the Bill of Lading etc. were to be handed to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft.
218. Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a “character,” is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is of great anthropological interest:

. . . Cum Iunone iocos et “maior vestra profecto est
Quam, quae contingit maribus,” dixisse, “voluptas.”
Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota.
Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
Corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
Deque viro factus, mirabile, femina septem
Egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
Vidit et “est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae,”
Dixit “ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
Nunc quoque vos feriam!” percussis anguibus isdem
Forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago.
Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
Dicta Iovis firmat; gravius Saturnia iusto
Nec pro materia fertur doluisse suique
Iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte,
At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita cuiquam
Facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
Scire future dedit poenamque levavit honore.

221. This may not appear as exact as Sappho’s lines, but I had in mind the “longshore” or “dory” fisherman, who returns at nightfall.
253. V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield.
257. V. The Tempest, as above.
264. The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is to my mind one of the finest among Wren’s interiors. See The Proposed Demolition of Nineteen City Churches: (P.S. King & Son Ltd.).
266. The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn. V. Götterdämmerung, III, i: the Rhine-daughters.
279. V. Froude, Elizabeth Vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain: “In the afternoon we were in a barge, watching the games on the river. (The queen) was alone with Lord Robert and myself on the poop, when they began to talk nonsense, and went so far that Lord Robert at last said, as I was on the spot there was no reason why they should not be married if the queen pleased.”
293. Cf. Purgatorio, V. 133:

“Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
“Siena mi fe’, disfecemi Maremma.”

307. V. St. Augustine’s Confessions: “to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears.”
308. The complete text of the Buddha’s Fire Sermon (which corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount) from which these words are taken, will be found translated in the late Henry Clarke Warren’s Buddhism in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr. Warren was one of the great pioneers of Buddhist studies in the occident.
312. From St. Augustine’s Confessions again. The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident.

 

V. What the Thunder Said

In the first part of Part V three themes are employed: the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston’s book) and the present decay of eastern Europe.

357. This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush which I have heard in Quebec Country. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America) “it is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats. . . . Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequaled.” Its “water-dripping song” is justly celebrated.
360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton’s): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.
366-76. Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos: “Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligem Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.”
401. “Datta, dayadhvam, damyata” (Give, sympathise, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the BrihadaranyakaUpanishad, 5, I. A translation is found in Deussen’s Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489.
407. Cf. Webster, The White Devil, V. vi:

                          “. . . they’ll remarry
“Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet, ere the spider
Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs.”

411. Cf. Inferno, XXXIII, 46:

“ed io seniti chiavar l’uscio di sotto
all’orribile torre.”

Also F. H, Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 346.
“My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it. . . . In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.”
424. V. Weston: From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King.
427. V. Purgatorio, XXVI, 148.

“‘Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
‘que vos guida al som de l’escalina,
‘sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.’
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina.”

428. V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III.
429. V. Gérard de Nerval, Sonnet “El Desdichado.”
431. V. Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy.
433. Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. “The Peace which passeth understanding” is a feeble transition of the content of this word.

From The Waste Land (Boni & Liveright, 1922) by T.S. Eliot. This poem is in the public domain.

Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star
as bright Aldeboran or Sirius,
nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;
yours is not gracious as the Pleiads are
nor as Orion's sapphires, luminous;

yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,
when all the others blighted, reel and fall,
your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst
to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.

Copyright © 1982 by the Estate of Hilda Doolittle. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

White, O white face—
from disenchanted days 
wither alike dark rose 
and fiery bays: 
no gift within our hands,
nor strength to praise, 
only defeat and silence; 
though we lift hands, disenchanted, 
of small strength, nor raise 
branch of the laurel 
or the light of torch, 
but fold the garment 
on the riven locks, 
yet hear, all-merciful, and touch 
the fore-head, dim, unlit of pride and thought,
Mistress–be near!
Give back the glamour to our will, 
the thought; give back the tool, 
the chisel; once we wrought 
things not unworthy, 
sandal and steel-clasp; 
silver and steel, the coat 
with white leaf-pattern 
at the arm and throat: 
silver and metal, hammered for the ridge 
of shield and helmet-rim; 
white silver with the darker hammered in, 
belt, staff and magic spear-shaft 
with the gilt spark at the point and hilt.

From Hymen, published 1921.

Silver dust   
lifted from the earth,   
higher than my arms reach,   
you have mounted.   
O silver,
higher than my arms reach   
you front us with great mass;   
   
no flower ever opened   
so staunch a white leaf,   
no flower ever parted silver
from such rare silver;   
   
O white pear,   
your flower-tufts,   
thick on the branch,   
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.

This poem is in the public domain.

Whirl up, sea—
Whirl your pointed pines.
Splash your great pines
On our rocks.
Hurl your green over us—
Cover us with your pools of fir.

This poem is in the public domain.

I should have thought
in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream),
"I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed."

Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine),
your hands that I could see
drift over the orchid-heads
so carefully,
your hands, so fragile, sure to lift
so gently, the fragile flower-stuff--
ah, ah, how was it

You never sent (in a dream)
the very form, the very scent,
not heavy, not sensuous,
but perilous--perilous--
of orchids, piled in a great sheath,
and folded underneath on a bright scroll,
some word:

"Flower sent to flower;
for white hands, the lesser white,
less lovely of flower-leaf,"

or

"Lover to lover, no kiss,
no touch, but forever and ever this."

Copyright © 1982 by the Estate of Hilda Doolittle. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

What are you thinking about?

I am thinking of an early summer.
I am thinking of wet hills in the rain
Pouring water.  Shedding it
Down empty acres of oak and manzanita
Down to the old green brush tangled in the sun,
Greasewood, sage, and spring mustard.
Or the hot wind coming down from Santa Ana
Driving the hills crazy,
A fast wind with a bit of dust in it
Bruising everything and making the seed sweet.
Or down in the city where the peach trees
Are awkward as young horses,
And there are kites caught on the wires
Up above the street lamps,
And the storm drains are all choked with dead branches.

What are you thinking?

I think that I would like to write a poem that is slow as a summer
As slow getting started
As 4th of July somewhere around the middle of the second stanza
After a lot of unusual rain
California seems long in the summer.
I would like to write a poem as long as California
And as slow as a summer.
Do you get me, Doctor?  It would have to be as slow
As the very tip of summer.
As slow as the summer seems
On a hot day drinking beer outside Riverside
Or standing in the middle of a white-hot road
Between Bakersfield and Hell
Waiting for Santa Claus.

What are you thinking now?

I’m thinking that she is very much like California.
When she is still her dress is like a roadmap.  Highways
Traveling up and down her skin
Long empty highways
With the moon chasing jackrabbits across them
On hot summer nights.
I am thinking that her body could be California
And I a rich Eastern tourist
Lost somewhere between Hell and Texas
Looking at a map of a long, wet, dancing California
That I have never seen.
Send me some penny picture-postcards, lady,
Send them.
One of each breast photographed looking
Like curious national monuments,
One of your body sweeping like a three-lane highway
Twenty-seven miles from a night’s lodging
In the world’s oldest hotel.

What are you thinking?

I am thinking of how many times this poem
Will be repeated.  How many summers
Will torture California
Until the damned maps burn
Until the mad cartographer
Falls to the ground and possesses
The sweet thick earth from which he has been hiding.

What are you thinking now?

I am thinking that a poem could go on forever.

Forthcoming from The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer from Wesleyan University Press, 2008. Used by permission.

I taste a liquor never brewed – 
From Tankards scooped in Pearl – 
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of air – am I – 
And Debauchee of Dew – 
Reeling – thro' endless summer days – 
From inns of molten Blue – 

When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove's door – 
When Butterflies – renounce their "drams" – 
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats – 
And Saints – to windows run – 
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun!

Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.

From The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane by Hart Crane, edited with an introduction and notes by Brom Weber. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1933, 1958, 1966 by Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter
Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head
Before he hurls the lightning? Well, just now
He galloped his thunder cart and his horses

Across a clear blue sky. It shook the earth
And the clogged underearth, the River Styx,
The winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.
Anything can happen, the tallest towers

Be overturned, those in high places daunted,
Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune
Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,
Setting it down bleeding on the next.

Ground gives. The heaven’s weight
Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle-lid.
Capstones shift, nothing resettles right.
Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.

“Anything Can Happen” from District and Circle by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 2006 by Seamus Heaney. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

Dear train wreck, dear terrible engines, dear spilled freight,
          dear unbelievable mess, all these years later I think
          to write back. I was not who I am now. A sail is a boat,
          a bark is a boat, a mast is a boat and the train was you and me.
          Dear dark, dear paper, dear files I can't toss, dear calendar
          and visitation schedule, dear hello and goodbye.
If a life is one thing and then another; if no grasses grow
          through the tracks; if the train wreck is a red herring;
          if goodbye then sincerely. Dear disappeared bodies
          and transitions, dear edge of a good paragraph.
          Before the wreck, we misunderstood revision.
I revise things now. I teach pertinence. A girl in class told
          us about some boys who found bodies on the tracks
          then went back and they were gone, the bodies.
          It was true that this story was a lie, like all things
done to be seen. I still think about this story, what it would
          be like to be a boy finding bodies out in the woods,
          however they were left—and think of all the ways they
          could be left. There I was, teaching the building
          of a good paragraph, dutiful investigator
of sentences, thinking dear boys, dear stillness in the woods,
          until, again, there is the boy I knew as a man
          whose father left him at a gas station, and unlike the lie
          of the girl's story, this one is true—he left him there for good.
Sometimes this boy, nine and pale, is sitting next to me, sitting there
          watching trains go past the gas station in Wyoming,
          thinking there is a train going one way, and a train
          going the other way, each at different and variable speeds:
          how many miles before something happens
          that feels like answers when we write them down—
like solid paragraphs full of transitional phrases
          and compound, complex sentences, the waiting space
          between things that ends either in pleasure or pain. He
          keeps showing up, dear boy, man now, and beautiful
like the northern forest, hardwoods iced over.

Copyright © 2013 by Kerrin McCadden. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 21, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Often now as an old man 
Who sleeps only four hours a night, 
I wake before dawn, dress and go down 
To my study to start typing: 
Poems, letters, more pages 
In the book of recollections. 
Anything to get words flowing, 
To get them out of my head 
Where they're pressing so hard 
For release it's like a kind 
Of pain. My study window 
Faces east, out over the meadow, 
And I see this morning 
That the sheep have scattered 
On the hillside, their white shapes 
Making the pattern of the stars 
In Canis Major, the constellation 
Around Sirius, the Dog Star, 
Whom my father used to point 
Out to us, calling it 
For some reason I forget 
Little Dog Peppermint. 

What is this line I'm writing? 
I never could scan in school. 
It's certainly not an Alcaic. 
Nor a Sapphic. Perhaps it's 
The short line Rexroth used 
In The Dragon & The Unicorn,
Tossed to me from wherever 
He is by the Cranky Old Bear 
(but I loved him). It's really 
Just a prose cadence, broken 
As I breathe while putting 
My thoughts into words; 
Mostly they are stored-up 
Memories—dove sta memoria. 
Which one of the Italians 
Wrote that? Dante or Cavalcanti? 
Five years ago I'd have had 
The name on the tip of my tongue 
But no longer. In India
They call a storeroom a godown,
But there's inventory
For my godown. I can't keep 
Track of what's m there. 
All those people in books 
From Krishna & the characters 
In the Greek Anthology 
Up to the latest nonsense 
Of the Deconstructionists, 
Floating around in my brain, 
A sort of "continuous present"
As Gertrude Stein called it; 
The world in my head 
Confusing me about the messy 
World I have to live in. 
Better the drunken gods of Greece 
Than a life ordained by computers. 

My worktable faces east; 
I watch for the coming 
Of the dawnlight, raising 
My eyes occasionally from 
The typing to rest them, 
There is always a little ritual, 
A moment's supplication 
To Apollo, god of the lyre; 
Asking he keep an eye on me 
That I commit no great stupidity. 
Phoebus Apollo, called also 
Smintheus the mousekiller
For the protection he gives 
The grain of the farmers. My 
Dawns don't come up like thunder 
Though I have been to Mandalay 
That year when I worked in Burma. 
Those gentle, tender people
Puzzled by modern life; 
The men, the warriors, were lazy, 
It was the women who hustled, 
Matriarchs running the businesses. 
And the girls bound their chests 
So their breasts wouldn't grow; 
Who started that, and why? 
My dawns come up circumspectly, 
Quietly with no great fuss. 
Night was and in ten minutes 
Day is, unless of course 
It's raining hard. Then comes 
My first breakfast. I can't cook 
So it's only tea, puffed wheat and 
Pepperidge Farm biscuits. 
Then a cigar. Dr Luchs 
Warned me the cigars 
Would kill me years ago 
But I'm still here today. 

Copyright © 2005 by James Laughlin. From Byways. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing.

Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.

From The Book of Fables by W.S. Merwin. Copyright © 2007 by W.S. Merwin. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

This poem is in the public domain.

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

This poem is in the public domain.

When the afternoon light
touches the broad orange petals
of the tiger lilies, mute tongues
curled, I pray hard
for such joyous sights to continue.

But I pray wrong, selfishly.
I don’t know where the words
are going. 

                   I struggle to recall
even the names of my old friends.

When I remember, I try
to search them out but I don’t
have any illusions about their lives.

It rained last night & all day today
so the lake I can’t quite see
over the tree line is pure frothy white.

There is mist everywhere
& I am alone in it. 

                                  The white light
burns my eyes, sears a holy purpose
in my human frame. 
                                       I’m setting out
on a new journey, ever faithful.

Early on, I walked away
from everything, from things I loved.

But now, when I come to the ocean,
as I know I will, foaming
like some impossible hell,
I won’t despair or surrender.

I’ll find a tree, growing from a crag
on the shore & I’ll cut it down
with the force of my loneliness. 

There is the shape of a boat
hidden beneath the bark,
I know it.

                  So I’ll release it,
using my most tender memories
as tools. I’ll continue. 

                                         Nothing
will block my way.
 

Copyright @ 2014 by Nate Pritts. Used with permission of the author.

for Auntie Jeanette

1.
Because you haven’t spoken
in so long, the tongue stumbles and stutters,
sticks to the roof and floor as if the mouth were just
a house in which it could stagger like a body unto itself.

You once loved a man so tall
sometimes you stood on a chair to kiss him.

2.
What to say when one says,
“You’re sooo musical,” takes your stuttering for scatting,
takes your stagger for strutting,
takes your try and tried again for willful/playful deviation?

It makes you wanna not holla
silence to miss perception’s face.

3.
It ain’t even morning or early,
though the sun-up says “day,” and you been
staggering lange Zeit gegen a certain
breathless stillness that we can’t but call death.

Though stillness suggests a possibility
of less than dead, of move, of still be.

4.
How that one calling your tryin’
music, calling you sayin’ entertaining, thinks
there’s no then that we, (who den dat we?), remember/
trace in our permutations of say?

What mastadonic presumptions precede and
follow each word, each be, each bitter being?

5.
These yawns into which we enter as into a harbor—
Come. Go. Don’t. says the vocal oceans which usher
each us, so unlike any ship steered or steering into.
A habit of place and placing a body.

Which choruses of limbs and wanting, of limp
linger in each syllabic foot tapping its chronic codes?

Copyright © 2015 by Tonya M. Foster. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

This poem is in the public domain.


Enough seen….Enough had....Enough…
                           —Arthur Rimbaud

No. It will never be enough. Never
enough wind clamoring in the trees,
sun and shadow handling each leaf, never enough clang
of my neighbor hammering,
the iron nails, relenting wood, sound waves
lapping over roofs, never enough
bees purposeful at the throats
of lilies. How could we be replete
with the flesh of ripe tomatoes, the unique
scent of their crushed leaves. It would take many
births to be done with the thatness of that.

Oh blame life. That we just want more.
Summer rain. Mud. A cup of tea.
Our teeth, our eyes. A baby in a stroller.
Another spoonful of crème brûlée, sweet burnt crust crackling.
And hot showers, oh lovely, lovely hot showers.

Today was a good day.
My mother-in-law sat on the porch, eating crackers and cheese
with a watered-down margarita
and though her nails are no longer stop-light red
and she can’t remember who’s alive and dead,
still, this was a day
with no weeping, no unstoppable weeping.

Last night, through the small window of my laptop,
I watched a dying man kill himself in Switzerland.
He wore a blue shirt and snow was falling
onto a small blue house, onto dark needles of pine and fir.
He didn’t step outside to feel the snow on his face.
He sat at a table with his wife and drank poison.

Online I found a plastic bag complete with Velcro
and a hole for a tube to a propane tank. I wouldn’t have to
move our Weber. I could just slide
down the stucco to the flagstones, where the healthy
weeds are sprouting through the cracks.
Maybe it wouldn’t be half-bad
to go out looking at the yellowing leaves of the old camellia.
And from there I could see the chickens scratching—
if we still have chickens then. And yet…

this little hat of life, how will I bear
to take it off while I can still reach up? Snug woolen watch cap,
lacy bonnet, yellow cloche with the yellow veil
I wore the Easter I turned thirteen when my mother let me
    promenade
with Tommy Spagnola on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

Oxygen, oxygen, the cry of the body—and you always want to
    give it
what it wants. But I must say no—
enough, enough

with more tenderness
than I have ever given to a lover, the gift
of the nipple hardening under my fingertip, more
tenderness than to my newborn,
when I held her still flecked
with my blood. I’ll say the most gentle refusal
to this dear dumb animal and tighten
the clasp around my throat that once was kissed and kissed
until the blood couldn’t rest in its channel, but rose
to the surface like a fish that couldn’t wait to be caught.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Soon she will be no more than a passing thought,
a pang, a timpani of wind in the chimes, bent spoons
hung from the eaves on a first night in a new house
on a street where no dog sings, no cat visits
a neighbor cat in the middle of the street, winding
and rubbing fur against fur, throwing sparks. 

Her atoms are out there, circling the earth, minus
her happiness, minus her grief, only her body’s
water atoms, her hair and bone and teeth atoms,
her fleshy atoms, her boozy atoms, her saltines
and cheese and tea, but not her piano concerto
atoms, her atoms of laughter and cruelty, her atoms
of lies and lilies along the driveway and her slippers,
Lord her slippers, where are they now?

Copyright © 2015 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Man-made, bejesus hot, patches of sand turned to glass.
Home of Iron Mountain and McCulloch chainsaws.

London Bridge, disassembled, shipped, reassembled.
The white sturgeon stocked, found dead, some lost,
hiding in the depths of Parker Dam. Fifty year-old
monsters, maybe twenty feet long. Lake named

for the Mojave word for blue. Havasu. Havasu.
What we called the sky on largemouth bass days,

striped bass nights, carp, catfish, crappie, razorback,
turtles, stocked, caught, restocked. I stood waist deep
in that dammed blue, and I was beautiful, a life saver
resting on my young hips, childless, oblivious

to politics, to the life carted in and dumped
into the cauldron I swam through, going under,

gliding along the cool sand like a human fish,
white bikini-ed shark flashing my blind side.
We heard a woman died, face down in the sand,
drunk on a 125 degree day. That night we slept

on dampened sheets, a hotel ice bucket on the
bedside table. We sucked the cubes round, slid

the beveled edges down our thighs and spines,
let them melt to pools in the small caves
below our sternums. While you slept beside me
I thought of that woman, her body one long

third degree burn, sweating and turning
under a largo moon, the TV on: seven dead

from Tylenol, the etched black wedge of the
Vietnam Memorial, the Commodore Computer
unveiled, the first artificial heart, just beginning
to wonder if something might be wrong.

Copyright © 2013 by Dorianne Laux. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 17, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.
   —Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929


Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

From The Book of Men, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by Dorianne Laux. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

The pines rub their great noise
into the spangled dark, scratch
their itchy boughs against the house,
that moan’s mystery translates roughly
into drudgery of ownership: time
to drag the ladder from the shed,
climb onto the roof with a saw
between my teeth, cut
those suckers down. What’s reality
if not a long exhaustive cringe
from the blade, the teeth. I want to sleep
and dream the life of trees, beings
from the muted world who care
nothing for Money, Politics, Power,
Will or Right, who want little from the night
but a few dead stars going dim, a white owl
lifting from their limbs, who want only
to sink their roots into the wet ground
and terrify the worms or shake
their bleary heads like fashion models
or old hippies. If trees could speak,
they wouldn’t, only hum some low
green note, roll their pinecones
down the empty streets and blame it,
with a shrug, on the cold wind.
During the day they sleep inside
their furry bark, clouds shredding
like ancient lace above their crowns.
Sun. Rain. Snow. Wind. They fear
nothing but the Hurricane, and Fire,
that whipped bully who rises up
and becomes his own dead father.
In the storms the young ones
bend and bend and the old know
they may not make it, go down
with the power lines sparking,
broken at the trunk. They fling
their branches, forked sacrifice
to the beaten earth. They do not pray.
If they make a sound it’s eaten
by the wind. And though the stars
return they do not offer thanks, only
ooze a sticky sap from their roundish
concentric wounds, clap the water
from their needles, straighten their spines
and breathe, and breathe again.

From Facts About the Moon (W. W. Norton, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Dorianne Laux. Used with permission of the author.

After Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bed,”
oil and pencil markings on pillow, quilt, and sheet, 1955

So garish: the arc of his interior
thinking. So red,

so deceptive. The coordinates of this project fall
between sheets and box spring:

the command of horizontal passage.
The bed soaked

with the overlapping tongue
of his brushes, with pattern interruption, the departure

from edges. Let’s say he is within
his composition. Inside

his story. As he tips
the paint, the objective can be taken

altogether away until he detects
only desire: a rough strike

of purple
censured from exuberance. The room remains

with the weeping wreckage
all around, and the panels

in the corner
beaded with aggressive desperate skins.

Below the window, the dirty
city, its permanent

tensed distances, its hungry
catastrophes, its bare

windows. His pillow is creased. It tells everything
we need to know. Each drip, directionless.

Copyright © 2016 by Lauren Camp. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

From Sentences by Howard Nemerov, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 1980 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov. All rights reserved.

I love Fresh Market but always feel underdressed
squeezing overpriced limes. Louis Vuitton,
Gucci, Fiorucci, and all the ancient East Coast girls
with their scarecrow limbs and Joker grins.
Their silver fox husbands, rosy from tanning beds,
steady their ladies who shuffle along in Miu Miu’s
(not muumuus) and make me hide behind towers
of handmade soaps and white pistachios. Who 
knew I’d still feel like the high school fat girl
some thirty-odd years later? My Birkenstocks
and my propensity for fig newtons? Still, whenever
I’m face to face with a face that is no more real
than a doll’s, I try to love my crinkles, my saggy
chin skin. My body organic, with no preservatives.

Copyright © 2015 by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

This poem is in the public domain. 

O yes, you are very cunning,
I can see that:
Out there in the snow with your red cart
And your wooly grey coat
And those ridiculous
Little grey leggings!
Like a rabbit,
A demure brownie.
O yes, you are cunning;
But do not think you will escape your father and mother
And what your brothers are!
I know the pattern.
It will surely have you—
For all these elfish times in the snow—
As commonplace as the others,
Little grey rabbit.

 

This poem is in the public domain. 

If you think of humans as rare
as snowflakes, your world
is constantly melting.

If you think of humans as essential
to keeping dogs happy,
someone will always want
to buy you a beer.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Bob Hicok. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

There were always such beautiful shadows in your work,
Though many now dodge their taxes with your art. Rarely
As it seems, life involves death with every decision, which is
Why I miss the non-Euclidean idiom we used to argue over
Everything in the dictionary of what not to do. Somewhere
In a mix between Beaches and Häxan I have these weird
Memories of you sleeping when there’s no way I was there
To see you sleeping—a crystal ball above your bed lets
Tensors, in a tension of tenses, tongue-tie time and divine
Your urge to fearlessly abandon yourself to love as you
Understand love, where paradox gives way to paradox
And awareness is congratulated with awareness of how
This multiverse, in vast tribulation, ushers us on in unison
As one of many big bangs begins again to light the way.

Copyright © 2017 by Aaron Fagan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Take it easy, Sadness. Settle down.
You asked for evening. Now, it’s come. It’s here.
A choking fog has blanketed the town,
infecting some with calm, the rest with fear.

While the squalid throng of mortals feels the sting
of heartless pleasure swinging its barbed knout
and finds remorse in slavish partying,
take my hand, Sorrow. I will lead you out,

away from them. Look as the dead years lurch,
in tattered clothes, from heaven’s balconies.
From the depths, regret emerges with a grin.

The spent sun passes out beneath an arch,
and, shroudlike, stretched from the antipodes,
—hear it, O hear, love!—soft night marches in.

*

Recueillement


Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.
Tu réclamais le Soir; il descend; le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loin d'eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant;

Le soleil moribond s'endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l'Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

This poem is in the public domain. Translation copyright © 2017 by David Yezzi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The orchard was on fire, but that didn’t stop him from slowly walking
straight into it, shirtless, you can see where the flames have
foliaged—here, especially—his chest. Splashed by the moon,
it almost looks like the latest proof that, while decoration is hardly
ever necessary, it’s rarely meaningless: the tuxedo’s corsage,
fog when lit scatteredly, swift, from behind—swing of a torch, the lone
match, struck, then wind-shut…How far is instinct from a thing
like belief? Not far, apparently. At what point is believing so close
to knowing, that any difference between the two isn’t worth the fuss,
finally? A tamer of wolves tames no foxes, he used to say, as if avoiding
the question. But never meaning to. You broke it. Now wear it broken.

Copyright © 2017 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.

I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.

Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
With a russet coat.

Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

This poem is in the public domain.

In the republic of flowers I studied
the secrets of hanging clothes I didn't
know if it was raining or someone
was frying eggs I held the skulls
of words that mean nothing you left
between the hour of the ox and the hour
of the rat I heard the sound of two
braids I watched it rain through
a mirror am I asking to be spared
or am I asking to be spread your body
smelled like cathedrals and I kept
your photo in a bottle of mezcal
semen-salt wolf’s teeth you should have
touched my eyes until they blistered
kissed the skin of my instep for thousands
of years sealed honey never spoils
won’t crystallize I saw myself snapping
a swan's neck I needed to air out
my eyes the droplets on a spiderweb
and the grace they held who gave me
permission to be this person to drag
my misfortune on this leash made of gold

Copyright © 2017 by Erika L. Sánchez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I had put down in writing my fear of the war

I too pined for pastoral description

The blue of the water was the blue of the world

Newness does not, for me, equal satisfaction

A finite number of concentric rings I push out into space

A tedious fabric moving through time without malice

An act of oration, rebellion, inventory, fantasy

The sound of the earth closing its one good eye over me

Imagine: you reach out towards the margin’s white hand

You do what your poems want and are clean

When you lay down your thorns you will be done

You do not take up arms against anyone

Copyright © 2016 by Wendy Xu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment.
Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me”
think “me” and kill him.

I say, Then it’s not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the
     murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say
     to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at
     someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to
     live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are
     a nun.”

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things
     of me even if he’s not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

From The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved.

You know it was funny because he seemed so well the night before
I stayed over to meet a student before class

—sitting at the picnic table...already so hot so early.
I must have been looking for a pen or something

when I thought of the car keys and, rummaging through my bag,
couldn’t find them and was up and walking across the grass when

I heard myself say, I feel as if I’m going to lose something today,
—and then I knew, and ran the rest of the way.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Marie Howe. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 22, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The failure of love might account for most of the suffering in the world.

The girl was going over her global studies homework   

in the air where she drew the map with her finger 


touching the Gobi desert,

the Plateau of Tiber in front of her,


and looking through her transparent map backwards

I did suddenly see,

how her left is my right, and for a moment I understood.
 

Copyright © 2016 by Marie Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out”

Luke 8:2.

 

The first was that I was very busy.

The second—I was different from you: whatever happened to you could
not happen to me, not like that.

The third—I worried.

The fourth—envy, disguised as compassion.

The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too—its face.    And the ant—its bifurcated body.

Ok   the first was that I was so busy. 

The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn’t have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.   

The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.

The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living

The sixth—if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched  the left arm a little harder than I’d first touched the right then I had
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.  

The seventh—I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive, and I couldn’t stand it.
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word—cheesecloth—
to breath through that would trap it—whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in.

No.  That was the first one.

The second was that I was so busy.  I had no time.   How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?

The third was that I couldn’t eat food if I really saw it—distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate. 

Ok. The first was that. I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.

The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
love?  

The fourth was I didn’t belong to anyone. I wouldn’t allow myself to belong
to anyone.

The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn’t know.

The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.

The seventh was the way my mother looked   when she was dying, 
the sound she made—her mouth wrenched to the right and cupped open
so as to take in as much air… the gurgling sound, so loud
we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.

And that I couldn’t stop hearing it—years later—grocery shopping, crossing the street—

No, not the sound—it was   her body’s hunger
finally evident—what our mother had hidden all her life.

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,   
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath.  That was the first devil.   It was always with me
And that I didn’t think you—if I told you—would understand any of this—

Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Originally published in American Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.

At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless.
They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.

Then I began to notice them all over the house,
at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar

where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs,
lumpy places where one would usually settle before the fire,

or suddenly shining in the sink at the bottom of soupy water.
Once, I found a pair in the garden, stuck in turned dirt

among the new bulbs, and one night, under my pillow,
I felt something like a cool long tooth and pulled them out

to lie next to me in the dark. Soon after that I began
to collect them, filling boxes, old shopping bags,

every suitcase I owned. I grew slightly uncomfortable
when company came. What if someone noticed them

when looking for forks or replacing dried dishes? I longed
to throw them out, but how could I get rid of something

that felt oddly like grace? It occurred to me finally
that I was meant to use them, and I resisted a growing compulsion

to cut my hair, although in moments of great distraction,
I thought it was my eyes they wanted, or my soft belly

—exhausted, in winter, I laid them out on the lawn.
The snow fell quite as usual, without any apparent hesitation

or discomfort. In spring, as expected, they were gone.
In their place, a slight metallic smell, and the dear muddy earth.

From The Good Thief. Copyright © 1988 by Marie Howe. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc., New York.

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like
the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only
all the time.

From The Good Thief. Copyright © 1988 by Marie Howe. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc., New York.

Start not—nor deem my spirit fled:
   In me behold the only skull
From which, unlike a living head,
   Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaff'd, like thee:
   I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up—thou canst not injure me;
   The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
   Than nurse the earth-worm's slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet's shape
   The drink of Gods, than reptiles' food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
   In aid of others' let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
   What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst—another race,
   When thou and thine like me are sped,
May rescue thee from earth's embrace,
   And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life's little day
   Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem'd from worms and wasting clay,
   This chance is theirs, to be of use.

First published in American Poetry: A Miscellany (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922)

It’s the inside which comes out, as I contemplate
him there half in sunlight, weeding diligently
a Midwestern lawn. On my persons, I have only notes
and a drying pen, the memory of onion blossoms
scenting in a window. Reflection is my native medium.
I am never arriving, only speaking briefly on material
conditions between myself and others. My country
inoculates me lovingly, over time. My country grasps me
like desire. I will show you my credentials, which is to say
my vivid description, if you ask. Here we are, my father
and I, never hostile, a small offering: pointless cut flowers
appear on the kitchen table when one finally arrives
into disposable income. Still possible. Am I living? Do I
accept revision as my godhead and savior?
I do and I am, and in the name of my Chinese father now
dragging the tools back inside, brow shining but always
a grin, faithless except to protect whatever I still have time
to become, Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Wendy Xu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

What had been treacherous the first time 
had become second nature, releasing 
the emergency brake, then rolling backwards 
in little bursts, braking the whole way down
the long steep drive. Back then 
we lived on the top of a hill.
 
I was leaving—the thing we both knew 
and didn’t speak of all summer. While you 
were at work, I built a brown skyline of boxes, 
sealed them with a roll of tape 
that made an incessant ripping sound.
We were cheerful at dinner and unusually kind.
At night we slept under a single sheet,
our bodies a furnace if curled together.
 
It was July. I could feel my pupils contract
when I went outside. Back then I thought only about 
how you wouldn’t come with me. 
Now I consider what it took for you to help me go. 
On that last day. When I stood
in a wrinkled dress with aching arms.
When there was only your mouth at my ear 
whispering to get in the truck, then wait 
until I was calm enough to turn the key. 
 
Only then did we know. How it felt 
to have loved to the end, and then past the very end.
 
What did you do, left up there in the empty house?
I don’t know why. I 
don’t know how we keep living 
in a world that never explains why. 
 

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

You may not believe it, but I have tried, 
set my sights on the morning star 
in belief it would guide me. I have tried.
 
I have tried, as the Jesuits taught, to be 
singular, to be whole, to be one. The labor 
of this was exhausting. Time reveals things 
 
one need not appreciate when young, and I fear 
being singular, being one, is something 
damned near impossible for someone 
 
like me. Saint Jerome, cloistered in a tiny room,
found his singular calling in updating
the Latin Bible with his knowledge of Greek texts. 
 
In Assisi, Saint Francis updated nature, called birds 
out of the trees. I am, unfortunately, no saint. 
Fractured, divided to the quick, I am incapable 
 
of being singular. And the old nun who taught Art 
at my high school, who called me a stupid mongrel,
understood this very fact long before I did.
 
Profession, family, belief: I can see now
my background challenges me, prevents me
from remaining true to only one thing. The fog, 
 
settled over Ocean Beach, settles the matter 
by embracing everything indiscriminately, 
and I want to understand why I notice 
 
such things. For most of my life, I have desired 
a category, a designation, but maybe 
that desire was misplaced? Maybe it was just 
 
another failure, a failure of imagination? 
Outside, two hummingbirds cross-stitch the air. 
They have lived here for so long, lived
 
off the “nectar” I boil up for them each week, 
that they show me no semblance of fear or distrust—
they hover and feed near me with violent precision.
 

Copyright © 2017 by C. Dale Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Emptiness is a blessing:
it can’t be owned if it doesn’t exist.
 
*
My father said to bloom but never fruit—
 
a small trickle 
eating its way through stone.
 
*
I am one kind of alive:
I see everything the water sees.
 
I told you a turn was going to come 
& turn the tower did.
 
What are the master’s tools 
but a way to dismantle him.
 
*
Who will replace the blood of my mother in me—
a cold spring rising.
 
She told me a woman made of water 
can never crack.
 
Of her defeat, she said
this is nothing.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Ciccarello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The love of each of us
for some of us,

                        of some of us

for all of us—

                        and what would come if it were
                        welcome, if learning were
                        to prepare “a self with which to

welcome”

           the in-

admissible,        stranger

whose very being gives
evidence of
a discrepancy. School of our just

beginning to think
about this,       I believe

the seats will be peopled.

Copyright @ 2014 by Christina Davis. Used with permission of the author.

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

 

Translated by Stephen Mitchell.

I didn’t know I was blue,
until I heard her sing.

I was never aware so much
had been lost
even before I was born.
There was so much to lose
even before I knew
what it meant to choose.

Born blue,
living blue unconfessed, blue
in concealment, I’ve lived all my life
at the plinth
of greater things than me.

Morning is greater
with its firstborn light and birdsong.
Noon is taller, though a moment’s realm.
Evening is ancient and immense, and
night’s storied house more huge.

But I had no idea.
And would have died without a clue,
except she began to sing. And I understood

my soul is a bride enthralled by an unmet groom,
or else the groom wholly spoken for, blue
in ardor, happy in eternal waiting.

I heard her sing and knew
I would never hear the true

name of each thing
until I realized the abysmal
ground of all things. Her singing
touched that ground in me.

Now, dying of my life, everything is made new.
Now, my life is not my life. I have no life
apart from all of life.

And my death is not my death,
but a pillow beneath my head, a rock
propping the window open
to admit the jasmine.

I heard her sing,
and I’m no longer afraid.
Now that I know what she knows, I hope
never to forget
how giant the gone
and immaculate the going.
How much I’ve already lost.
How much I go on losing.
How much I’ve lived
all one blue. O, how much
I go on living.

"Spoken For" from The Undressing by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2018 Li-Young Lee. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

It wasn’t the bright hems of the Lord’s skirts   
that brushed my face and I opened my eyes   
to see from a cleft in rock His backside;

it’s a wasp perched on my left cheek. I keep   
my eyes closed and stand perfectly still   
in the garden till it leaves me alone,

not to contemplate how this century   
ends and the next begins with no one
I know having seen God, but to wonder

why I get through most days unscathed, though I   
live in a time when it might be otherwise,   
and I grow more fatherless each day.

For years now I have come to conclusions   
without my father’s help, discovering
on my own what I know, what I don’t know,

and seeing how one cancels the other.
I've become a scholar of cancellations.   
Here, I stand among my father’s roses

and see that what punctures outnumbers what
consoles, the cruel and the tender never
make peace, though one climbs, though one descends

petal by petal to the hidden ground   
no one owns. I see that which is taken   
away by violence or persuasion.

The rose announces on earth the kingdom   
of gravity. A bird cancels it.   
My eyelids cancel the bird. Anything

might cancel my eyes: distance, time, war.   
My father said, Never take your both eyes   
off of the world, before he rocked me.

All night we waited for the knock
that would have signalled, All clear, come now;   
it would have meant escape; it never came.

I didn’t make the world I leave you with,   
he said, and then, being poor, he left me   
only this world, in which there is always

a family waiting in terror
before they’re rended, this world wherein a man   
might arise, go down, and walk along a path

and pause and bow to roses, roses
his father raised, and admire them, for one moment   
unable, thank God, to see in each and
every flower the world cancelling itself.

Li-Young Lee, "Arise, Go Down" from The City In Which I Love You. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., a ahref="http://www.boaeditions.org" target=_blank>boaeditions.org.

I never claimed night fathered me.
that was my dead brother talking in his sleep. 
I keep him under my pillow, a dear wish
that colors my laughing and crying.

I never said the wind, remembering nothing,
leaves so many rooms unaccounted for, 
continual farewell must ransom
the unmistakable fragrance
our human days afford.

It was my brother, little candle in the pulpit,
reading out loud to all of earth
from the book of night.

He died too young to learn his name.
Now he answers to Vacant Boat,
Burning Wing, My Black Petal.

Ask him who his mother is. He’ll declare the birds
have eaten the path home, but each of us
joins night’s ongoing story
wherever night overtakes him,
the heart astonished to find belonging
and thanks answering thanks. 

Ask if he’s hungry or thirsty,
he’ll say he’s the bread come to pass
and draw you a map
to the twelve secret hips of honey.

Does someone want to know the way to spring?
He’ll remind you
the flower was never meant to survive
the fruit’s triumph.

He says an apple’s most secret cargo
is the enduring odor of a human childhood,
our mother’s linen pressed and stored, our father’s voice
walking through the rooms.

He says he’s forgiven our sister
for playing dead and making him cry
those afternoons we were left alone in the house.

And when clocks frighten me with their long hair,
and when I spy the wind’s numerous hands
in the orchard unfastening
first the petals from the buds,
then the perfume from the flesh,

my dead brother ministers to me. His voice
weighs nothing
but the far years between
stars in their massive dying,

and I grow quiet hearing
how many of both of our tomorrows
lie waiting inside it to be born.

From Book of My Nights (BOA, 2001) by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2001. Appears with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

I draw a window
and a man sitting inside it.

I draw a bird in flight above the lintel.

That's my picture of thinking.

If I put a woman there instead
of the man, it's a picture of speaking.

If I draw a second bird
in the woman's lap, it’s ministering.

A third flying below her feet.
Now it's singing.

Or erase the birds
make ivy branching
around the woman's ankles, clinging
to her knees, and it becomes remembering.

You'll have to find your own
pictures, whoever you are,
whatever your need.

As for me, many small hands
issuing from a waterfall
means silence
mothered me.

The hours hung like fruit in night's tree
means when I close my eyes
and look inside me,

a thousand open eyes
span the moment of my waking.

Meanwhile, the clock
adding a grain to a grain
and not getting bigger,

subtracting a day from a day
and never having less, means the honey

lies awake all night
inside the honeycomb
wondering who its parents are.

And even my death isn't my death
unless it's the unfathomed brow
of a nameless face.

Even my name isn't my name
except the bees assemble

a table to grant a stranger
light and moment in a wilderness
of Who? Where?

From Book of My Nights (BOA, 2001) by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2001. Appears with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

There's nothing I can't find under there.
Voices in the trees, the missing pages
of the sea.

Everything but sleep.

And night is a river bridging
the speaking and the listening banks,

a fortress, undefended and inviolate.

There's nothing that won't fit under it:
fountains clogged with mud and leaves,
the houses of my childhood.

And night begins when my mother's fingers
let go of the thread
they've been tying and untying
to touch toward our fraying story's hem.

Night is the shadow of my father's hands
setting the clock for resurrection.

Or is it the clock unraveled, the numbers flown?

There's nothing that hasn't found home there:
discarded wings, lost shoes, a broken alphabet.

Everything but sleep. And night begins

with the first beheading
of the jasmine, its captive fragrance
rid at last of burial clothes.

From Book of My Nights (BOA, 2001) by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2001. Appears with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Someone waits at my door. Because he is
    dead he has time but I have my secrets--

    this is what separates us from the dead.
See, I could order take-out or climb down

the fire escape, so it's not as though he
    is keeping me from anything I need.

    While this may sound like something I made up,
it is not; I have forgotten how to

lie, despite all my capable teachers.
    Lies are, in this way, I think, like music

    and all is the same without them as with.
The fluid sky retains regret, then bursts.

He is still there, standing in the hall, insisting
    he is someone I once knew and wanted,

    come laden with gifts he cannot return.
If I open the door he'll flash and fade

like heat lightning behind a bank of clouds
    one summer night at the edge of the world.

From Sky Lounge by Mark Bibbins, published by Graywolf Press, May 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Mark Bibbins. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

When she looked down from the kitchen window
into the back yard and the brown wicker
baby carriage in which she had tucked me
three months old to lie out in the fresh air
of my first January the carriage
was shaking she said and went on shaking
and she saw I was lying there laughing
she told me about it later it was
something that reassured her in a life
in which she had lost everyone she loved
before I was born and she had just begun
to believe that she might be able to
keep me as I lay there in the winter
laughing it was what she was thinking of
later when she told me that I had been
a happy child and she must have kept that
through the gray cloud of all her days and now
out of the horn of dreams of my own life
I wake again into the laughing child

W. S. Merwin, “The Laughing Child” from Garden Time. Copyright © 2016 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press,www.coppercanyonpress.org.

here among them        the americans        this baffling
multi people        extremes and variegations        their
noise        restlessness        their almost frightening
energy        how best describe these aliens in my
reports to The Counselors

disguise myself in order to study them unobserved
adapting their varied pigmentations        white black
red brown yellow        the imprecise and strangering
distinctions by which they live        by which they
justify their cruelties to one another

charming savages        enlightened primitives        brash
new comers lately sprung up in our galaxy        how
describe them        do they indeed know what or who
they are        do not seem to        yet no other beings
in the universe make more extravagant claims
for their importance and identity

like us they have created a veritable populace
of machines that serve and soothe and pamper
and entertain        we have seen their flags and
foot prints on the moon        also the intricate
rubbish left behind        a wastefully ingenious
people        many it appears worship the Unknowable
Essence        the same for them as for us        but are
more faithful to their machine made gods
technologists their shamans

oceans deserts mountains grain fields canyons
forests        variousness of landscapes weathers
sun light moon light as at home        much here is
beautiful        dream like vistas reminding me of
home        item        have seen the rock place known
as garden of the gods and sacred to the first
indigenes        red monoliths of home        despite
the tensions i breathe in i am attracted to
the vigorous americans        disturbing sensuous
appeal of so many        never to be admitted

something they call the american dream        sure
we still believe in it i guess        an earth man
in the tavern said        irregardless of the some
times night mare facts we always try to double
talk our way around        and its okay the dreams
okay and means whats good could be a damn sight
better        means every body in the good old u s a
should have the chance to get ahead or at least
should have three squares a day        as for myself
i do okay        not crying hunger with a loaf of
bread tucked under my arm you understand        i
fear one does not clearly follow i replied
notice you got a funny accent pal        like where
you from he asked        far from here i mumbled
he stared hard        i left

must be more careful        item        learn to use okay
their pass word        okay

crowds gathering in the streets today for some
reason obscure to me        noise and violent motion
repulsive physical contact        sentinels        pigs
i heard them called        with flailing clubs        rage
and bleeding and frenzy and screaming        machines
wailing        unbearable decibels        i fled lest
vibrations of the brutal scene do further harm
to my metabolism already over taxed

The Counselors would never permit such barbarous
confusion        they know what is best for our sereni
ty        we are an ancient race and have outgrown
illusions cherished here        item        their vaunted
liberty        no body pushes me around i have heard
them say        land of the free they sing        what do
they fear mistrust betray more than the freedom
they boast of in their ignorant pride        have seen
the squalid ghettoes in their violent cities
paradox on paradox        how have the americans
managed to survive

parades fireworks displays video spectacles
much grandiloquence much buying and selling
they are celebrating their history        earth men
in antique uniforms play at the carnage whereby
the americans achieved identity        we too recall
that struggle as enterprise of suffering and
faith uniquely theirs        blonde miss teen age
america waving from a red white and blue flower
float as the goddess of liberty        a divided
people seeking reassurance from a past few under
stand and many scorn        why should we sanction
old hypocrisies        thus dissenters        The Counse
lors would silence them
a decadent people The Counselors believe        i
do not find them decadent        a refutation not
permitted me but for all their knowledge
power and inventiveness not yet more than raw
crude neophytes like earthlings everywhere

though i have easily passed for an american        in
bankers grey afro and dashiki long hair and jeans
hard hat yarmulka mini skirt        describe in some
detail for the amusement of The Counselors        and
though my skill in mimicry is impeccable        as
indeed The Counselors are aware        some thing
eludes me        some constant amid the variables
defies analysis and imitation        will i be judged
incompetent

america        as much a problem in metaphysics as
it is a nation earthly entity an iota in our
galaxy        an organism that changes even as i
examine it        fact and fantasy never twice the
same        so many variables

exert greater caution        twice have aroused
suspicion        returned to the ship until rumors
of humanoids from outer space        so their scoff
ing media voices termed us        had been laughed
away        my crew and i laughed too of course

confess i am curiously drawn        unmentionable        to
the americans        doubt i could exist among them for
long however        psychic demands far too severe
much violence        much that repels        i am attracted
none the less        their variousness their ingenuity
their elan vital        and that some thing        essence
quiddity        i cannot penetrate or name

Copyright © 1978, 1982 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
   This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

This poem is in the public domain.

They are walking in the woods along the coast
and in a grassy meadow, wasting, they come upon
two old neglected apple trees. Moss thickened
every bough and the wood of the limbs looked rotten
but the trees were wild with blossom and a green fire
of small new leaves flickered even on the deadest branches.
Blue-eyes, poppies, a scattering of lupine
flecked the meadow, and an intricate, leopard-spotted
leaf-green flower whose name they didn't know.
Trout lily, he said; she said, adder's-tongue.
She is shaken by the raw, white, backlit flaring
of the apple blossoms. He is exultant,
as if some thing he felt were verified,
and looks to her to mirror his response.
If it is afternoon, a thin moon of my own dismay
fades like a scar in the sky to the east of them.
He could be knocking wildly at a closed door
in a dream. She thinks, meanwhile, that moss
resembles seaweed drying lightly on a dock.
Torn flesh, it was the repetitive torn flesh
of appetite in the cold white blossoms
that had startled her. Now they seem tender
and where she was repelled she takes the measure
of the trees and lets them in. But he no longer
has the apple trees. This is as sad or happy
as the tide, going out or coming in, at sunset.
The light catching in the spray that spumes up
on the reef is the color of the lesser finch
they notice now flashing dull gold in the light
above the field. They admire the bird together,
it draws them closer, and they start to walk again.
A small boy wanders corridors of a hotel that way.
Behind one door, a maid. Behind another one, a man
in striped pajamas shaving. He holds the number
of his room close to the center of his mind
gravely and delicately, as if it were the key,
and then he wanders among strangers all he wants. 

From The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass. Copyright © 2010 by Robert Hass. Used by permission of Ecco/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

For Chile

In the republic of poetry,
a train full of poets
rolls south in the rain
as plum trees rock
and horses kick the air,
and village bands
parade down the aisle
with trumpets, with bowler hats,
followed by the president
of the republic,
shaking every hand.

In the republic of poetry,
monks print verses about the night
on boxes of monastery chocolate,
kitchens in restaurants
use odes for recipes
from eel to artichoke,
and poets eat for free.

In the republic of poetry,
poets read to the baboons
at the zoo, and all the primates,
poets and baboons alike, scream for joy.

In the republic of poetry,
poets rent a helicopter
to bombard the national palace
with poems on bookmarks,
and everyone in the courtyard
rushes to grab a poem
fluttering from the sky,
blinded by weeping.

In the republic of poetry,
the guard at the airport
will not allow you to leave the country
until you declaim a poem for her
and she says Ah! Beautiful.

Copyright © 2006 by Martín Espada. From The Republic of Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2006). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

The sky has given over 
its bitterness. 
Out of the dark change 
all day long 
rain falls and falls 
as if it would never end. 
Still the snow keeps 
its hold on the ground. 
But water, water 
from a thousand runnels! 
It collects swiftly, 
dappled with black 
cuts a way for itself 
through green ice in the gutters. 
Drop after drop it falls 
from the withered grass-stems 
of the overhanging embankment.

This poem is in the public domain.

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Li-Young Lee, “From Blossoms” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

This poem is in the public domain.

Silent is the house: all are laid asleep:
One alone looks out o’er the snow-wreaths deep,
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.

Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer’s guiding-star.

Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame!
Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame nor prying serf shall know,
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.

What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What loves me, no word of mine shall e’er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.

Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear—
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.

This poem is in the public domain.

           —After Ana Mendieta
 
Did you carry around the matin star? Did you hold
forest-fire in one hand? Would you wake to radiate,
shimmer, gleam lucero-light? Through the morning
 
would you measure the wingspan of an idea taking off—
& by night would you read by the light of your own torso?
 
Did you hear through the curtains a voice, through folds &
folds of fabric a lowdown voice—How are you fallen
from—How are you cut down to the ground?

                                                *

Would gunpowder flash up in the other hand?
Were you the most beautiful of them—the most beauty,
full bew, teful, bu wtie, full be out, i full, btfl?
 
Did the sky flutter & flower like bridal
shrouds? Did a dog rise in the East in it?
Did a wolf set in the West? Were they a thirsty pair?
 
And was there a meadow? How many flowers to pick?
And when no flowers, were you gathering bone chips
& feathers & mud? Was music a circle that spun?
 
                                                *

Did you spin it in reverse? Was your singing a rushlight,
pyre light, a conflagration of dragonflies rushing out
from your fire-throat? Did you lie down in the snow?
 
Did it soften & thaw into a pool of your shape? 
Did you whisper to the graven thing, whisper a many
 
lowdown phrase: How are you fallen              	my btfl? 
 
Would they trek closer, the animals? A grand iridium
thirst, each arriving with their soft velour
mouths to drink your silhouette? 

Copyright © 2018 by Carolina Ebeid. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This fireman comes every afternoon
to the café on the corner
dressed for his shift in clean dark blues
This time       it’s the second Wednesday of January
and he’s meeting his daughter again
who must be five or six
and who is always waiting for her father like this
in her charcoal gray plaid skirt
with green and red stripes
She probably comes here straight from school
her glasses a couple nickels thick

By now I know     that she can sit       (except
for her one leg swinging from the chair) 
absolutely still      while her father pulls       
fighters’ wraps from his work bag
and begins half way down the girl’s forearm
winding the fabric in overlapping spirals
slowly toward her fist           then     he props            
her wrist      like a pro    on his own hand
unraveling the black cloth   weaving it          
between her thumb and forefinger
around the palm            taut but
not so much that it cuts off the blood          then
up the hand and between the other fingers
to protect the knuckles         the tough           
humpback guppies just under the skin           

He does this once with her left       then again
to her right      To be sure her pops knows he has done
a good job       she nods        Good job       Good      
Maybe you’re right              I don’t know what love is
A father kisses the top of his daughter’s head
and knocks her glasses cockeyed
He sits back and downs the last of the backwash
in his coffee cup         They got 10 minutes to kill
before they walk across the street         down the block
and out of sight         She wants to test
her dad’s handiwork            by throwing 
a couple jab-cross combos from her seat
There is nothing in the daughter’s face         
that says     she is afraid         
There is nothing in the father’s face              
to say he is not                     He checks his watch                 
then holds up his palms    as if to show his daughter            
that nothing is burning                     In Philadelphia
there are fires      I’ve seen those  in my lifetime too

Copyright © 2018 by Patrick Rosal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Love me stupid.
Love me terrible.
And when I am no
mountain but rather
a monsoon of imperfect
thunder love me. When
I am blue in my face
from swallowing myself
yet wearing my best heart
even if my best heart
is a century of hunger
an angry mule breathing
hard or perhaps even
hopeful. A small sun.
Little & bright.

Copyright © 2019 by Anis Mojgani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

In a churchyard old and still,
Where the breeze-touched branches thrill
             To and fro,
Giant oak trees blend their shade
O'er a sunken grave-mound, made
             Long ago.

No stone, crumbling at its head,
Bears the mossed name of the dead
             Graven deep;
But a myriad blossoms' grace
Clothes with trembling light the place
             Of his sleep.

Was a young man in his strength
Laid beneath this low mound's length,
             Heeding naught?
Did a maiden's parents wail
As they saw her, pulseless, pale,
             Hither brought?

Was it else one full of days,
Who had traveled darksome ways,
             And was tired,
Who looked forth unto the end,
And saw Death come as a friend
             Long desired?

Who it was that rests below
Not earth's wisest now may know,
             Or can tell;
But these blossoms witness bear
They who laid the sleeper there
             Loved him well.

In the dust that closed him o'er
Planted they the garden store
             Deemed most sweet,
Till the fragrant gleam, outspread,
Swept in beauty from his head
             To his feet.

Still, in early springtime's glow,
Guelder-roses cast their snow
             O'er his rest;
Still sweet-williams breathe perfume
Where the peonies' crimson bloom
             Drapes his breast.

Passing stranger, pity not
Him who lies here, all forgot,
             'Neath this earth;
Some one loved him—more can fall
To no mortal. Love is all
             Life is worth.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.