Red slippers in a shop-window; and outside in the street, flaws of gray, windy sleet!
Behind the polished glass the slippers hang in long threads of red, festooning from the ceiling like stalactites of blood, flooding the eyes of passers-by with dripping color, jamming their crimson reflections against the windows of cabs and tram-cars, screaming their claret and salmon into the teeth of the sleet, plopping their little round maroon lights upon the tops of umbrellas.
The row of white, sparkling shop-fronts is gashed and bleeding, it bleeds red slippers. They spout under the electric light, fluid and fluctuating, a hot rain—and freeze again to red slippers, myriadly multiplied in the mirror side of the window.
They balance upon arched insteps like springing bridges of crimson lacquer; they swing up over curved heels like whirling tanagers sucked in a wind-pocket; they flatten out, heelless, like July ponds, flared and burnished by red rockets.
Snap, snap, they are cracker sparks of scarlet in the white, monotonous block of shops.
They plunge the clangor of billions of vermilion trumpets into the crowd outside, and echo in faint rose over the pavement.
People hurry by, for these are only shoes, and in a window farther down is a big lotus bud of cardboard, whose petals open every few minutes and reveal a wax doll, with staring bead eyes and flaxen hair, lolling awkwardly in its flower chair.
One has often seen shoes, but whoever saw a cardboard lotus bud before?
The flaws of gray, windy sleet beat on the shop-window where there are only red slippers.
This poem is in the public domain.
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.
The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.
Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.
She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
From Collected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 2014 by Mark Strand. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
It’s neither red
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
It doesn’t have
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
just a thick clutch
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—
but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
Copyright © 2017 Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author.
for j. byrd i am a man's head hunched in the road. i was chosen to speak by the members of my body. the arm as it pulled away pointed toward me, the hand opened once and was gone. why and why and why should i call a white man brother? who is the human in this place, the thing that is dragged or the dragger? what does my daughter say? the sun is a blister overhead. if i were alive i could not bear it. the townsfolk sing we shall overcome while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth into the dirt that covers us all. i am done with this dust. i am done.
Lucille Clifton, "jasper texas 1998" from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.