What is there left to do during a truce, but look at boys
swinging swords at the trunks of trees?
You reach into the sky & pull down a phonograph,
& we listen to the helium in the stars. Your hands
are clean air & that’s worth repeating, but the clouds
are mad. What more than dissatisfied nature,
the lakes rise to the sky, only to fall back down.
Everything not the same, but still, everything.
Jehanne, warmed by skin & thunder. Please stay.
People love & it’s good. I’ve always said to the going,
it is better to gaze at the ground than to find
yourself buried beneath it. Rouen in a dream
I’ll never have. Or, to purify the Seine, to growl like a lion,
to cough angrily into the wind. Jesus, may we all die
the same? I said His name too, I said it
in a morning not yet sung.
|About this poem:|
"I was watching The Passion of Joan of Arc in a graduate medieval piety course, and I fell in love with Joan's eyes (or at least the actress that played Joan). I thought, I should save her. So here I am writing poems for Joan of Arc until she comes back to life and promises to never leave again."
A reprieve: the subsiding of a storm. The withered leaves in the cracks
of the city’s cobblestones, the owl slams its head again and again
against the glass doors of the new coffee shop.
A chipped gimcrack inside my palm, a needle searching for a thimble:
because I know the names of every street in this city,
I resist nomenclatures.
A truce, a never-ending interim: the subsiding of a storm.
A locust drags a bullock cart across the tramline.
I see you standing
in the far end of the alley,
almost invisible: crouching behind the abandoned alabaster cherubs.
You are carving a constellation out of the bones, stolen from an incomplete
museum. An incomplete museum, an abandoned excavation site,
a notebook with nothing but inkstains:
yet, when translated, this is an illuminating picture.
Where in this symmetry of blue-ink grief to look
for pronouns that would house my loud dissipations?
Copyright © 2019 Nandini Dhar. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
I make truce with you, Walt Whitman—
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root—
Let there be commerce between us.
This poem is in the public domain.
Vicksburg, Mississippi Here, the Mississippi carved its mud-dark path, a graveyard for skeletons of sunken riverboats. Here, the river changed its course, turning away from the city as one turns, forgetting, from the past— the abandoned bluffs, land sloping up above the river's bend—where now the Yazoo fills the Mississippi's empty bed. Here, the dead stand up in stone, white marble, on Confederate Avenue. I stand on ground once hollowed by a web of caves; they must have seemed like catacombs, in 1863, to the woman sitting in her parlor, candlelit, underground. I can see her listening to shells explode, writing herself into history, asking what is to become of all the living things in this place? This whole city is a grave. Every spring— Pilgrimage—the living come to mingle with the dead, brush against their cold shoulders in the long hallways, listen all night to their silence and indifference, relive their dying on the green battlefield. At the museum, we marvel at their clothes— preserved under glass—so much smaller than our own, as if those who wore them were only children. We sleep in their beds, the old mansions hunkered on the bluffs, draped in flowers—funereal—a blur of petals against the river's gray. The brochure in my room calls this living history. The brass plate on the door reads Prissy's Room. A window frames the river's crawl toward the Gulf. In my dream, the ghost of history lies down beside me, rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.
From Native Guard: Poems by Natasha Trethewey. Copyright © 2006 by Natasha Trethewey. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Overhead, pelicans glide in threes— their shadows across the sand dark thoughts crossing the mind. Beyond the fringe of coast, shrimpers hoist their nets, weighing the harvest against the day's losses. Light waning, concentration is a lone gull circling what's thrown back. Debris weights the trawl like stones. All day, this dredging—beneath the tug of waves—rhythm of what goes out, comes back, comes back, comes back.
From So Much Things To Say: 100 Calabash Poets, edited by Kwame Dawes and Colin Channer. Copyright © 2010 by Natasha Trethewey. Used with permisson of Calabash International Literary Trust and the author.
And a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
And he answered, saying:
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery us not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.
If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”
From The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan, published by Houghton Mifflin. Copyright © 1989 by Richard Brautigan. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Before you came, things were as they should be: the sky was the dead-end of sight, the road was just a road, wine merely wine. Now everything is like my heart, a color at the edge of blood: the grey of your absence, the color of poison, of thorns, the gold when we meet, the season ablaze, the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames, and the black when you cover the earth with the coal of dead fires. And the sky, the road, the glass of wine? The sky is a shirt wet with tears, the road a vein about to break, and the glass of wine a mirror in which the sky, the road, the world keep changing. Don't leave now that you're here— Stay. So the world may become like itself again: so the sky may be the sky, the road a road, and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.
From The Rebel's Silhouette by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 1991 by Agha Shahid Ali. Used by permission of University of Massachusetts Press.