The mind doesn’t do what we want it to do.
Mine plays speed Scrabble; it sifts pages and pages
of pictures of shoes. Palmyra goodbye. Temple of Bel not a pun
but a ruin. A ruined ruin, a ruin sent to oblivion
on purpose. Who cares if I fold up at my desk
a heap of angry sorrow. Not any candidate,
no ambassador. Sign a petition? Email some senators?
I make nothing happen. I make
nothing but orders, seven-letter words, coffee
with the hard water from the oleander-pierced pipes
with their roaches and mud. A temple
stood for twenty centuries and today the New York Times
shows us its new life as dust. Baal is how they spell it.
A neat aerial square of nothing now. The world wants
what from us in reply to the hatred of the mind?
I should say “soul,” I know, or “history” or “culture”
but probably only the mind can thwart destructions.
In America, the mind is also hated,
by whosoever sells us shoes and phones. We are subtle
here, give lots of money to the arts.
Copyright © 2018 Sally Ball. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
Lizards will on purpose sever their tails when in stressful or dangerous situations, an act known as autotomy from the Greek auto “self” and tome “severing” or self-amputation. Even after the tail is cast off, it goes on wriggling, hence distracting the lizard’s attacker. The lizard can regenerate its tail in a few weeks. The new tail will contain cartilage rather than bone and vary distinctly, not only in color but in texture, compared to its earlier appearance. In humans, change in skin pigment and texture are due to disease rather than protective behavior. I heard of a South African woman who was once white but turned black over time. It wasn’t the reptile genes calling but a condition known as hyperpigmentation. Her husband asked for a divorce and took off with their three children.
The only mammals that come close to regeneration are the African spiny mice. Upon capture they release their skin. Imagine a predator holding its prey only to realize seconds later that it has escaped leaving only its skin. The mice regrow their skin, hair follicles, glands, fur, and cartilage with little or no scarring. Organic surgery at its finest.
Empirical sources suggest that “lizards, whose tail is a major storage organ for accumulating reserves, will return to a discarded tail after the threat has passed, and eat it to recover the supplies.” This makes me think that when we discarded our tails as Homo sapiens, we were supposed to swallow them in order to keep our reserves intact. We forgot a significant part of ritual and opened ourselves to disease, predators, and a weaker immune system. Strangely, while looking in the mirror, I notice some things have fallen off my body and I can’t locate them on the floor. Others attach to me like textile fabrics in all the wrong places. They fracture my ego, and I must find consolation that these zones of weakness make me softer. I want to know more about the self-amputation act, free will and all, but the English dictionary corrects the word to autonomy: self-rule, independence, freedom, sovereignty, which surprisingly concern the lizards when they’re shedding tails; compelled by their strong desire to remain free, safe, uneaten, untrapped, unconquerable, and not subdued in accordance with their survival manual.
Copyright © 2018 Mildred Barya. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
I take a break from one thought or another
to pay a credit card bill,
to take the dog out, to water the two
plants in the hanging basket
because Kim asked me to,
but why not instead take a walk
through the early August morning
before the heat wave hits
while the body still stretches itself out?
The music goes from minor to major
when you flip the album, but sometimes
the minor starts over before you
cross the room (it’s a big room)
and sometimes it’s best to just listen,
it’s best to not fill any space with words
but the stars and the stripes catch
the eye more so than the white
blank space like a life to be filled up with
something bigger than itself. My dad
last night on the phone telling me the tests
came back positive but not to worry (but how
not to worry?), his almost three decades
ahead of me and what is a year
really when they pile up, time to dust
the furniture again, to check
on the sink that’s draining slow,
clean it out, start the day with a list
of what a day should even mean
or be, not minding how fast the hours go by
until I will mind, which by then it will
be too late, though I do not mean
my life means anything in the scheme
of stepping back we all do, chipping
at some unmovable block of rock
as if time won’t eventually
undo even its looming shape too.
Copyright © 2018 Adam Clay. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
Talk of oneness or twoness or the trinity,
of beingness or the Kingdom of God,
of love, presence, the numinous and eternal:
how far away such talk takes us, far away
from the shade of the avocado tree,
the thighs of ripe persimmon,
the tongues of cattle licking
the great blocks of salt
in a hot
For every time someone says systems theory
one must say pines in the darkness;
for every time someone says biodiversity
or biophilia or sustainability
someone must shout musk
or barracuda or the whiskers
of the carrot. The real, living,
piebald world: we drop a cloak over it
with our cumbrous sophistication.
For every time someone says
someone must say the thighs
of the goddess
Copyright © 2018 Teddy Macker. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
America I was I think I was
Seven I think or anyway I prob-
ably was nine I anyway was nine
And riding in the back seat of our tan
Datsun 210 which by the way Amer-
ica I can’t believe Datsun is just
Gone anyway America I was
Riding in the back seat we were we my grand-
mother and I were passing the it must
Have been a mall but I have tried and can’t
Remember any malls in Austin at
The time America but do I really
Remember Austin really I remember
This thing that happened once when I was passing
A mall in Austin so the mall so Austin
But then and when America will my
Grandmother be my memories of her her-
self be replaced by memories of just
Her presence near important or unusu-
al things that happened does that happen will
That happen we America we were
Anyway passing on a city street
But next to it the mall and actually
I might have been in the front seat actually
And maybe it was winter all the windows
Were rolled up maybe or at least the one
Right next to me in the front seat Amer-
ica when for no reason I could see the
Window exploded glass swallowed me the way
A cloudburst swallows a car glass and a
Great stillness flying glass and stillness both
Together then the stillness left and I
Jumped either over my seat or between
The seats into the back America
Or neither here I might just be remem-
bering the one real accident I’ve ever
Been in I was a child still maybe seven
Or nine and we were in an intersec-
tion hit and I for sure jumped then my grand-
mother and I again already my
Memories of the Datsun breaking seem
More solid than my memories of her
America but I remember her
Mobile home filling up with trash until
She couldn’t walk through any room and still she
Walked through her rooms she walked the way I walk
Through stores suspicious and aloof watched e-
ven by the products I consume consumed
By you America O cloud of glass
Copyright © 2018 Shane McCrae. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
How a house is a self
& else, a seeping into
of light deciding the day.
A house so close
it breathes as the lake
breathes. How a lake
is a shelf, an eye,
a species of seeing,
burbling of tongues
completing the shore.
How a loon is a probing,
a genus of dreams,
encyclopedia of summer.
by the lake, generous hinge
opening us. I loved,
in folds of sleep, to hear
the back door’s yawn
& click. You gliding
down toward shore
& dawn, beyond all frames,
reconciling yourself to
bracing Long Lake.
Into its ever-opening, you—
Copyright © 2018 Philip Metres. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
I’ve been a soft touch, a rough ride, I took shots
at congressmen, left an outrageous tip
for a waif whose hand was shaking
as she poured my tea. I made the sound of a wolf
in Naomi’s bedroom, was shabby
at her wedding, sulking
while pinning an amorous note
to her gown. I refused to cross a picket line
then bought a handsome silk shirt
sewn in the most downtrodden district in China.
This when I was learning how to be a person,
which right now’s an unfinished symphony.
But when I think of Mozart on his deathbed,
penning his own requiem, I can’t abide my irony.
Nobody warned me about the solemn passages,
when we know no one, when we could die
far from home with our bungled furies and crushes
yammering beside us: Not yet, not yet.
Copyright © 2018 Ira Sadoff. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
In what I think is a dream,
I look at some manifestation of the past
& say, I know you’re not real. Someone has to.
As most dream-things do, the past
shapeshifts, reconstitutes itself with new
eyes & a new haircut—the past
made over—& then I forget its name.
I forget what I’m doing with the past.
What is that joke about the river?
It’s not really a joke, no more than the past
is really past—the one about water never
being the same water. As it flows past,
the river’s current—now that’s a joke—
is always flowing now, now, now. Past
seven, when I wake from what I think
is a dream—a dream where I tell the past
the truth about itself—it is the present
as it always is. There is no past.
Copyright © 2018 Maggie Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.
Dog knows when friend will come home
because each hour friend’s smell pales,
air paring down the good smell
with its little diamond. It means I miss you
O I miss you, how hard it is to wait
for my happiness, and how good when
it arrives. Here we are in our bodies,
ripe as avocados, softer, brightening
with latencies like a hot, blue core
of electricity: our ankles knotted to our
calves by a thread, womb sparking
with watermelon seeds we swallowed
as children, the heart again badly hurt, trying
and failing. But it is almost five says
the dog. It is almost five.
Copyright © 2018 Nomi Stone. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.