If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever.
This poem is in the public domain.
Do you still remember: falling stars,
how they leapt slantwise through the sky
like horses over suddenly held-out hurdles
of our wishes—did we have so many?—
for stars, innumerable, leapt everywhere;
almost every gaze upward became
wedded to the swift hazard of their play,
and our heart felt like a single thing
beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance—
and was whole, as if it would survive them!
“Do you still remember: falling stars,” from Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow. Translation copyright © 1996 by Edward Snow.
for Nick Twemlow
at the foot
of the stairs
in the neighborhood
despite the sign
we put on the door:
I scoop up the whole pile
on my way out
(as I do periodically)
& dump it
in the trash can
on the corner
of West Broadway & Spring
just as Yoko Ono
happens to be strolling
with a male companion
She watches me
toss the menus
then turns to her friend
& says, “I guess
no one reads those.”
Copyright @ 2014 by David Trinidad. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 6, 2014.
After Tim Dlugos' Things I Might Do I probably didn't tell you that the last Line of your poem left me on a plane of Movement somewhere between the best of pop Culture and the longest break in your favorite pop song I probably didn't tell you that the train is going to take Way longer than you think and you were probably annoyed I probably broke the moon in pieces with my night vision Straining too hard to remember what I probably dropped in your inbox I probably should've said what I meant. You probably knew how my life didn't fix into That theory box on your shelf, so I probably Ignored you when you said hi to me near Mercer St I probably left off the most important thing But you probably didn't want to hear it I probably tried to be a good New Yorker and Work hard and play hard but it didn't work Out that way, I probably just reverted back to The Rust Belt mode—work hard, have it not mean Enough to play hard or play at all. It's probably too hard to make A dent for yourself in the Rust Belt. It's all probably said and done Your neighbor knows what you did tomorrow and what was Going on yesterday. Probably good too so you don't get in trouble With the other neighbor. But they probably don't know that you could Be in NY for a few hours and have something good and so life changing happen To you it was probably a 360 for you and probably took You years to come down to 180, probably, right?
From Shorthand and Electric Language Stars by Stephanie Gray. Copyright © 2015 Stephanie Gray. Used with permission of Portable Press at Y-Yo Labs.
Say tomorrow doesn’t come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun’s a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl’s eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon’s a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt’s plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen’s a cow’s corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn’t matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you’d still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.
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.
For Carl Solomon
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark’s bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman’s loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses’ rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-heat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other’s hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other’s salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,
Pilgrim State’s Rockland’s and Greystone’s foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time—
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipsis catalogue a variable measure and the vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with permission.
I stopped drinking on my way down the hill to the liquor store when two guys pulled up and tried to drag me into their pickup. I crossed the street then ran in the opposite direction, puffing against the incline. The stranger thrust into reverse and, when I wouldn't talk to him, threw a bag of McDonald’s trash at me, Stuck up bitch. I stopped drinking when I realized I was fighting for the vodka at the bottom of the hill more than I was fighting against the terrible things that could have happened to me inside the cab of that rusty Chevy. I stopped drinking before cell phones. I stopped drinking after Days of Wine and Roses. I stopped drinking even as I kept walking to El Prado Spirits and the guy behind the counter who recognized me asked if I was alright. I didn't tell him what had happened because he might have called the police and then I would have had to wait for them to arrive to fill out a report, delaying my Smirnoff. I stopped drinking even before I had that last sip, as I ran back up the hill squeezing a bottle by its neck.
Copyright © 2011 by Denise Duhamel. Used with permission of the author.