Poetry

Poems of the Week ~ March 28

THREE POEMS BY SHARON OLDS

When

I wonder now, only when it will happen,
when the young mother will hear the
noise like somebody’s pressure cooker
down the block, going off. She’ll go out in the yard,
holding her small daughter in her arms,
and there, above the end of the street, in the
air above the line of the trees,
she will see it rising, lifting up
over our horizon, the upper rim of the
gold ball, large as a giant
planet starting to lift up over ours.
She will stand there in the yard holding her daughter,
looking at it rise and glow and blossom and rise,
and the child will open her arms to it,
it will look so beautiful.

Greed and Aggression

Someone in Quaker meeting talks about greed and aggression
and I think of the way I lay the massive
weight of my body down on you
like a tiger lying down on gluttony and pleasure on the
elegant heavy body of the eland it eats,
the spiral horn pointing to the sky like heaven.
Ecstasy has been given to the tiger,
forced into its nature the way the
forcemeat is cranked down the throat of the held goose,
it cannot help it, hunger and the glory of
eating packed at the center of each
tiger cell, for the life of the tiger and the
making of new tigers, so there will
always be tigers on the earth, their stripes like
stripes of night and stripes of fire-light—
so if they had a God it would be striped,
burnt-gold and black, the way if
I had a God it would renew itself the
way you live and live while I take you as if
consuming you while you take me as if
consuming me, it would be a God of
love as complete satiety,
greed and fullness, aggression and fullness, the
way we once drank at the body of an animal
until we were so happy we could only
faint, our mouths running, into sleep.

Topography

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
intricately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from your left your
moon rising slowing from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

*all from The Gold Cell, Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.

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Poems of the Week ~ March 21

THREE POEMS BY SHARON DOLIN

Street

This is the city
alleyway of windows
with shadows passing for time:

if it ends in an ocean or river of inanition
those roofs of powder blue and
terracotta pink would be a childhood sky

could be trees fusing
into a grand piano
of Kelly green

could be sheets of apricot rain
on mountains passing their shadows
off as clouds

and there you are in the rearview
cut out and refracted onto the road

among silent palms
uniform slope of stucco beneath
a whitened density of blue

so that houses seem carved
from a topiary of air and earth

as your eyes rove over hills
in an atavistic search
for the sea

Black Painting #2: The Dead

Blue winter rain
that’s what you’ve become

cloud
whitewashed by weather

this window
beyond being

the elements eat you

damp cold
of the first winter

now the second
you said you wanted

to travel
now you’re still

blotches of flight
descend into your

stationary car

Discarded Clothes

are flags of our own disapproval
lineaments of an evening we discard
as quickly as some friends

if there’s a freckled monument to gloom,
it passes. Lovers of the daily
who repeat for us an antic state

return with small remembrances of leaves.
We watch them buckle and heave, tell
of our quick departure into flesh

white lilies on the pond’s edge
grow splotchy and dream:

Your pants are made of wind,
your shirt from daisies blown
to dusty globes on the lake
by our breath.

*all from Serious Pink, Marsh Hawk Press, 2003.

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Poems of the Week ~ February 28

THREE POEMS BY BRENDA COULTAS

An Early Alphabet

Puritans, Hillbillies, Yankees, Iroquois, Confederates, and Krauts—that’s who
made me.

Put in a bird, any bird, even an ugly one, a crow for example
or mention bird anatomy
a wing or feather give it a color
put in a bird, make it fly, let it eat
build a nest
add any bird.

Mention a bird skeleton so delicate and light it flies
mention an egg
mention a bird song
mention a bird’s cry
mention a raven’s beak boiled
please mention that hair black as the raven’s wing I carry in my mouth.

A flock of turkey buzzards, their heads are all red comb, and the bodies. The
ugliest birds I’d ever seen. All my life I’d seen them in the sky, circling. Never on
the ground. I was 38.

I learned to write so I could describe the world
the birdhouse is empty
say something beautiful about it.

A Stick

I needed a stick for guidance. Navigation is important for getting a girl over the
seas. I had carried my branch since I was a child, needing it in these Americas.
In my hand, a many-branched olive tree, of thee I sang, of Christ who kneeled
beneath it.

I had a war. Inside, all my channels were turned to one station.
I afeared that war, it made a wall of wreaths, ribbons, quilts.
It took organs and bloods.
It took trees.
It left cancers and bones.
Soldiers came back to America, back to me as small flags.

I was scared.
In my palm, tiny boats floated.
Across my fingertips tiny boats sailed.

Black Boxes

Many things fall from the sky.
A jet has a big body.
It’s long and heavy and made of metal and plastic.

Robert went into a tunnel of homelessness.
They were having lots of sex—all kinds.
It was dark but he could see in glimpses.
A woman emerged, beautiful. Herself stank.

I ate the box.
It went down, stayed inside, and made notes on all our speeches.
I have the entire transcript of our social intercourse.

Extracting the boxes from the ocean floor is difficult.
The conversations of fishes and marine life are indecipherable
as they do not have an alphabet.

*all from A Handmade Museum, Coffee House Press, 2003.

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Poems of the Week ~ February 21

Three poems, three poets.

BECKIAN FRITZ GOLDBERG

Beached

Today along the shore they roped off
the seal, dying and nothing
to be done. The children were curious.
The dogs couldn’t get
enough. Seagulls circled for its eye.

My walk is the ordinary walk.
My passing, the ordinary passing.
Waves, and a kiss
pulls away from the feet.

I don’t know why more
astronauts don’t go mad, out
and alone like the animal,
and the space not

air, not gravity, but distance
always blue, beautiful,
ocean from the moon. Christ’s

flies edge the flesh,
the shit of cats who live among
the channel’s rocks with signs

not to feed them. Women come;
the strays run into shadow,
so many young
striped orange and white it’s hard

not to know who is lord in the life
without us.

ROSS MIDDLETON

Family Circus

Buckled in the dark
butch skirt, this Mom’s got
her eye on the cookie

thief. Dolly, you are being
naughty and defiant. First neighbors,
then their sad crickets: you’ve tooted

your youthful homophone
all day. Now it’s foul balls
staining some brother or

other’s cheeks. So don’t just
stand there breathing
hand to tootsie-pop—This is it.

You can’t
name your own turtle.

JASON SHINDER

October

The cold foreheads of apples graze the ground

with nothing on but their torn green jackets.
When I step into the shower

I am like the President of the United States

stepping up to the microphone,
and everyone in the world is waiting

to hear if I will be lying again.

Who rearranged the blue sheets on the bed?
Who stretched the calendar?

Who pulled the shades down in the afternoon?

It’s like I am wearing the white sleeves
of the doctor who cannot check the samples

of his own breath. I should push myself

into the pants of a new profession.
I should stand up with my fears like the butcher

waking up in the belly of the cow.

*all from The Laurel Review, Vol. 42 #1 Winter 2008, Eds. Rebecca Aronson, John Gallaher, Bryn Gribben.

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Poems of the Week ~ February 14

LAURA KASISCHKE

Riddle

I am the mirror breathing above the sink.
There is a censored garden inside of me.
Over my worms someone has thrown

a delicately embroidered sheet.

And also the child at the rummage sale—

more souvenirs than memories.

I am the cat buried beneath
the tangled ivy. Also the white
weightless egg
floating over its grave. Snow

where there were leaves. Empty
plastic cups after the party on the beach.

I am ash rising above a fire, like a flame.
The Sphinx with so much sand
blowing vaguely in her face. The last

shadow that passed
over the blank canvas
in the empty art museum. I am

the impossibility of desiring
the person you pity.
And the petal of the Easter lily—

The ghost of a tongue.
That tongue of a ghost.

What would I say if I spoke?

Pharmacy

A knife plunged into the center
of summer. Air

and terror, which become teeth together.

The pearl around which the sea
formed itself into softly undulating song—

This tender moment when my father
gives a package of cookies to my son.

They have been saved
from the lunch tray
for days.

Hook
in a sponge. The expressions on both of their faces. A memory I will carry
with me always, and which will sustain me, despite all the years I will try to
prescribe this memory away.

The Key to the Tower

There was never
There was never
A key to the tower

There was never a key to the tower, you fool

It was a dream
It was a dream
A mosquito’s dream

A mosquito dreaming in a cage for a bird

It’s October
It’s October
The summer’s over

Your passionate candle in a pumpkin’s head
And the old woman’s hand in this photograph
Appears to be nailed to the old man’s hand

And the sky
And the sky
And the sky above you

Is a drunken loved one asleep in your bed

And the tower
And the tower
And the key to the tower

There was never a key to the tower I said

And this insistence
This insistence
It will only bring you sorrow

Your ridiculous key, your laughable tower

But there was
There was
A tower here

I swear

And the key
And they key
I still have it somewhere

*all from Space, in Chains, Copper Canyon Press, 2011

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Three poems, three poets.

JENNIFER SNYDER

Cafes at Night

What world is it that rises
From this world at night when
The waitresses with wondrous
Hairstyles emerge, put on skirts
And Eyes, and the whole green light
Behind the counter blooms into faces.
We could speak of wearing raggy
Shawls of boredom, or even of

Tenderness. Everywhere I look
There are blessings of jewelry, heels,
The amnesia of lipstick, sleep . . .
The stooge in the booth dozes
In such a pink light he gathers
Knowledge of how his own body
Travels and enters other bodies lovingly.

There is the puny waitress,
Her hair in lit syllables,
Who works all night, whose hands know
The Latin of silverware.
And what world is it that rises
From the city’s dunes with its ghosts
Of waitresses, their ankles always

Wishing to be touched,
And the raincoats coming in at ten,
And feet that know the silence
Of couches, and eyes that know
A smoggy silence, and faces,
Where the cries begin, where the sad
Animals leave their light—
Until we are all one body,
The bozo in the kitchen, the shy waitress,

The invading bowlers,
The town’s feather’s of small danger.
And I believe: this is where I live
In all this vein of longing, in this city,
And the heavy woman inside me
Who wants bacon and sex
Lives here, and I believe how
The dark outside will change
And eight year old grandsons
Will throw rocks at moonlight.
2:00. The waitresses glide out,
An accident of swans,
Into what worlds and what music?

DEAN YOUNG

Roving Reporter

I’m perfectly sure it’s not about being saved
or living this life as preparation. It’s about
waking in a strange bed, suitcase lost,
children smacking eels against the dock,
the impenetrable rotation of the guards,
adumbrations of cloud.

It’s clutching the leg of a chair, crying, Help
on a chunk of ore
whistling through the cosmos.

Last night, under the glowing highrise,
I shouted Charlotte into the epileptic stars
until the revelers, already hating me,
brimmed with fear.

Yellow pinpricks opened in my head,
first contact with the big blackout.

Maybe I was trying to shout
Charlotte clear out of existence,
the way insistence becomes erasure,
a repeated word a senseless blue beginning.

Maybe there was never a Charlotte I wanted so,
followed to this island that was once a leper colony,
now fully of guys in epaulettes holding open doors.

Maybe I’m just a figment
in someone’s dream I never
really knew, a prop in someone else’s symbolism
or repression and need. Aren’t we just each other’s
nocturnal inklings? Isn’t the world a drunken sleep?

I mean I might have known a Charlotte once
whose letters seemed to have come from quarantine,
parts of animals enclosed as proof of what
I did to her: moth wing, cricket’s leg
like a violin bow upon a rumpled bed.

I remember red
streamers tied to a fan wire’s face.
I remember head. Somewhere above me I know
the golden body sleeps, fussed over by giant bees,
the distillate’s of a thousand lilacs
drooling from their jaws.

SUSANNE KORT

Party

The long night wandered on
seeking some adventure of its own
I found your ear above
your beloved jaw & kissed it
in the lee of a Christmas tree
blinking idiotically
saying we were going
to justify kissing, or kissing
to justify going. Why she
invited you & Mother
to such a kiddy soiree beats me she
was supposed to be my friend
the kind who knows your secret
shames it smelled sweeter than
a Daddy’s ear should smell
it was firmer & warmer my mouth
stayed there beyond the
split second it would normally have taken
to bid someone goodbye, pressed
against your stupefying flesh
You said what’s going on
before jerking away
after squeezing my arm
I was abusing you
before it became the thing to do
but like everything else we
did it was in reverse Oh my Father,
rest

*all from Passages North Vol.16.2 Winter 1995, Ed.Michael Barrett

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Poems of the Week ~ January 31

Three poems, three poets.

LAUREL HUNT

In which no one drowns

A lion-tamer, a cosmonaut, a banker, and a spy
get on a sailboat and declare themselves a sovereign nation.

The cosmonaut wants to be dictator for life.
The banker insists on a constitutional convention.
The lion-tamer eats all the jellybeans.

Draft two: trespassers will be shot.

The spy’s loyalties remain ambiguous.
She and the lion-tamer drink all the time and when they can’t
drink anymore they pour wine into the sea.

The lion-tamer writes a love letter to every untamed lion.
in the boat’s wake, there is a line of little bottles, leaving.

Draft five: if the banker makes phonebook vindaloo one more
time, he has to relinquish his paper crown.

The spy writes letters to someone called Haberdasher
and someone called Coyote.

The others wonder if she’s trading their secrets away. But she’s
only homesick for snowstorms, and all of her letters are blank.

A Hungarian shows up on a rowboat. He tells them his brain
is open. They give him the last piece of redemption cake.

Draft the last: we say we are more indebted
to the widow than the good doctor.

The Perseids fall on their heads.

And the lions walk into the ocean at last. They lion paddle out
to the sailboat and surround it: a net of lions, treading water,
growling lowly.

FRANCES JUSTINE POST

Self-Portrait as a Pack of Hounds

We move as one, a sea of eyes, yellow,
Unnatural, our ears dangling down, our paws
slipping on the dried leaves. We’re made to want you.
 
Your face in a snarl, your red coat, your black-shod
feet tucked up to clear a ditch.
Why did you leave us here. We don’t know where this is.
 
We slobber and peal down the trail. Our noses searching
for your pulse. Nuzzle, growl, we dig
and fight and dig, crashing through the brambles.
 
Your scent is a fever. Some fluff from your tail,
red-tipped gray. Our love a frenzy.
What will we do when we have you.

JEFFREY MORGAN

The Grizzly

In custom glass implying appetite, the grizzly in the restaurant is al-
most eight feet tall on hind legs hugging nothing. This is not an inte-
rior bear. It is perfect in its dexterity; both frozen and nightmare.

Opening its transparent cave after shift, I try to make my mind the
exact opposite of winter. I climb into the bear’s outstretched arms un-
derneath the teeth and I say, “You’re the baby.”

The restaurant is clean, and no one else is here. The midnight sun taps
absently against the windows. “Shhh,” the bear says. “I’m about to be
ferocious.”

*all from Pleiades, Vol. 33.1 Winter 2013, Eds. Wayne Miller, Phong Nguyen

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Poems of the Week ~ January 24

THREE POEMS BY TOM HEALY

A Labor of Moles

My tongue remembers
when I first
tasted dirt

and knew the thing
was no longer
to see myself

digging,
but furiously
to dig.

Alarm

Excuse me, I said.
my room is on fire.
I’d been watching
the flame a long time.

A nervous little dog
sniffing the wall
until it found a spot
where it dug and grew.

The spark turned mean
and I turned cold.
I went down into slippers
to a table of trouble,

the family dinner
I wasn’t having.
this time I smiled
while they ignored me.

Excuse me, I said,
and bit hard
into the rage
of no one listening

then took my slippers
out into the snow.

The Metaphysics of Being Well-Mannered

The way you eat pizza—
fork and knife,
cloth napkin,

making careful cuts
in the direction
of all four winds—

is black tie in the desert,
a blizzard lit by candles.
The way you eat pizza

a lullaby among jackals,
prolegomenon to peace—
the night’s hunger call

suddenly so hushed
in admiration
of the way you eat pizza,

cicadas forget to stutter
and the moon’s thirst
is well-said.

*all from What the Right Hand Knows, Four Way Books, 2009.

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Poems of the week ~ January 15

THREE POEMS BY LAYNIE BROWNE

Letter II

rain is known as soft water
I am using the word “deft” to refer to a mimetic body. Though ivy
faces seem not to chance while we are tangled in them. For example,
the vehemence surrounding a furnace is said to cause fault lines. Their
typology is based upon the expression about the mouth.

The tiled flowers have grown dim. Was there nowhere but here?
The scent surmised a glass full of tremors. Misplaced a hound for a
windowpane, a conclusion for a prescription and now that the liminal
status has departed, I wondered and he made and explanatory model
of his sleep.

Anemone

The paper bridge escorts us to where we have less estuaries
the front yard trembling

Anemone, he said,

changing the word with the substance of his mouth

Interlude:

Green gravel
washed
in milk
and otherwise
what matter?

She will lie
down
her every
thought
to life
the lavishly
loved.

To be written
in thick sheaves
inscribed
upon loaves.

*all from The Scented Fox, Wave Books, 2007.

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Poems of the Week ~ January 8

THREE POEMS BY FREDERICK SEIDEL
 
From a High Floor
 
City of neutered dogs,
How homeless can you be
In a nine-room apartment
With windows on three sides?
Waiting to be shot
At sunrise by sixteen windows!
Everything you need is
A wall to stand in front of.
With a southern exposure.
Paneling in front of
The wall you stand in front of.
The doorman calls upstairs.
Shall I send it up?
It is coming up.
Your back is to the wall
This pleasant afternoon,
This autumn afternoon,
This final afternoon.
You on all sides of you
In the mirrored bathroom.
You on all sides of you
In the walk-in closet.
In your booklined blindfold.
In the deep fatigue
The sunset warms with rouge.
 
The homeless homeless have
The center strip of Broadway.
To live where you should jump.
 
The Hour
 
They can’t get close enough—There’s no such thing.
Look. When they smile. Each rising like a tree
Inside the other, breathing quietly.
Two women start their hour by moistening.
 
The engine pulling them around the bend
Exposes irresistibly the train
They’re on extending from them through the rain.
And then it’s night. And it will never end.
 
They’re in a limousine. The plane they’re on
Is over water. Dawn reveals the two
Berlins becoming one. And now they knew
The time had come. And now the rain is gone.
 
Two passengers aboard their lives undress
Down to their hands. The lifelines touch. They stay
Behind their smiles. The guard comes in to say
The hour is over, and they tell her yes.
 
The Complete Works of Anton Webern

That wasn’t it.
The other wasn’t either.
I woke up looking through a hole.
Love was blowing through.
It was fresh.
 
The clouds were clean as only
Squeezed out of a tube
In blobs can be.
 
The universe begins,
And look what happens. It’s spring
At the event horizon.
My future former wife expands
In the ungovernable first seconds to a speck
Which will be high school age fifteen
Billion years from now.
 
Donna mi priegha
A lady asks me, I speak in season,
What is the origin of the universe?
What is an event horizon?
 
If you put a gun to your temple and close your eyes,
And the enormous pressure builds and builds,
And slowly you squeeze the trigger . . .
Do you hear the big bang?
 
When you kill yourself,
Do you hear the sound?
 
Followed by the universe.
 
On the far side of the invisible,
On the inside of a black hole, is
The other universe, which is closed,
Which you can’t enter or see,
Which you don’t know is right there,
Without dimensions and unknowable.
 
Eyelet
As vast as a pore.
 
An entire universe in less than a dot.
The opposite of infinite.
Less than a dot that weighs more than the world.
The opposite of infinite
 
Is infinite.
The gravity is so great.
Light can’t escape.
It weighs more than the world.
 
The opposite of infinite is
WNYC’s signal reaches it.
Listen . . .
 
How an angel would sing, utterly inhuman.
The ethereal cockroach music of Anton Webern.
 
They’re playing
All his rarefied work on
The anniversary of his death.
 
An entire universe in less than a dot.
Faint brief frosts of breath
Fly-cast precise and chaste.
It doesn’t ask to be loved.
 
These briefest exhalations
In the history of music are vast.
The absolutely infinite God
Of the Cabala
In the winkling of an eyelet, Ensof.
 
The future of the past was the New Music.
He believed
The atonal was eternal. He believed
Fifty years
In the future children would be whistling
It on their way to school. The irresistible
Ravisher was pure
Tunelessness.
 
And the angelRaised his hand to greet her,
At the same time bowing low.
To the woman,
Never mind her terror,
His hand before he spoke
Seemed to sing.
His utterly inhuman voice,
Which suddenly she heard,
Startled her,
Was gorgeously strange.
 
Sang without a melody. Sang
So grand a neatness, precision, briefness.
So unnatural and severe
Would come to seem so natural
Kids would whistle it.
 
Struck at a fixation point, he sings.
Where the match scratch and hiss sweetens to flame.
Where the boy soprano’s eternal voice is breaking.And the slow caterpillar turns silently into wings.
 
Sing a song of sealed trains
Arriving day and night.
These trains had kept it all inside.
These trains had never let their feelings out.
These train-sick trains were just dying.
These trains couldn’t hold it any longer.
These trains shat uncontrollably
All over the sidings and ramps
Jews for the camps.
 
This century must end.
To modern art I say—
It’s been real.
 
He fled Vienna with his family
For the mountain village of Mittersill to escape the bombs.
Now the war is over,
He was standing outside
His son-in-law’s house just after curfew
Enjoying the night air.
An American soldier who had been drinking mistook
A great composer smoking an after0dinner cigar
For a black marketeer reaching for a gun.
 
I am a toupee walking toward me
With no one under it.
I put the gun to my head.
 
 
*All from My Tokyo, HarperCollinsCanadaLtd, 1993.

***

Poems of the Week ~ December 20

THREE POEMS BY ASHLEY CAPPS

Hymn for Two Choirs

Best apple I ever had was three o’clock
in the morning, somewhere outside
San Francisco, beach camping, stars holding
the sky together like sutures. I was thinking
how I was going to get old and ask myself
why did I only live for one thing;
at the same time I didn’t know how to change.
I thought I felt like my neighbor’s huge dog—
every day stuffed into a small man’s green T-shirt
and chained to a stake in a yard of incongruous
white tulips. Here and there a red bird, a train.
Way down the beach other tents glowed orange.
I heard a strange call my name
and another strange, laughing, answered.

Reading an Ex-Lover’s First Novel

I don’t mind if you say her blouse
fell open like thunder
, or if you recall
the amethyst veins inside her eyelids, the sand
in the delicate ditch of her neck. Go ahead

and compare the strung lights of the pier
to white streamers behind a black wedding car.
And those sea oats, scraping
under the constellations, did console.

But I have a problem
with the way you describe the body
of the crab washed up that morning
as an orchid, as a music box, as

if it were intact, when in fact
the thing was pink chunks of meat
that floated away from each other,
blue broken pieces of shell on a gut string.

You saw it. You
were there—

that enormous claw, dangling
like a polite, ridiculous teacup.

Conventional Red

When you left,
I took down from the closet
the Grow Your Own Salsa kit
from your mother three Christmases ago.

All week I watched the black soil in its pot—nothing
but white perlite balls and two pillbugs.

This morning, finally, the cotyledons
open, an uproar of green applause.

The sun rolls by on a red leash
dragging a lady
in colossal pink lingerie.

Across the street, the roofers beat
the glittering shingles.

I sit on the stoop and wait
for a few words to find me,
which is not enough to build a good life.

*All from Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields, University of Akron Press, 2006.

Poems of the Week ~ December 11

THREE POEMS BY FRANK STANFORD

The Nocturnal Ships of the Past

There was always a great darkness

moving out
like a forest of arrows

So many ships in the past

their bows bearing women
as stalks bear eyes

The burning ships

that drove their bowsprits
between the thighs of dreams

With my ear to the ground
I hear the black prows coming

plowing the night
into water

and the wind comes up
and I smell the sour wood

leaving a wake I want to be
left alone with

Night after night

like a sleeping knife that runs deep
through the belly

the tomb ships come

Linger

The moon wanders through my barn
Like a widow heading for the country seat

It’s not dark here yet
I’m just waiting for the bow hunters
So I can run them off

They put our licks on my land
Every summer

When it gets cool the animals are tame

I’ve fallen asleep
In the trees before

I dreamed someone’s horse
Had wandered out on the football field
To graze
And I was showing children through a museum

The bow hunters make their boys
Pull the deer’s tongue out bare-handed

At dusk when I hear an arrow
Coming through my field like a bird
I wonder what men have learned
From feathers

The animals wade the creek
And eat blackberries
The wind blows through the trees
Like a woman on a raft.

Sun Go Down

I spent many afternoons
On the shore
Looking at my boat

Especially in the fall
I breathed on my cold hands
And watched the clouds

Mosey over
Like blind men
Picking apples

You have the feeling
The past
Is like a woman

Who ran off
With everything
But your belongings

There were never friends
When the weather was bad
Just visitors and books

Sometimes strange birds
Flying south
But nothing stolen

The water lied through its teeth
Like a draft
That seeps in at night

Making you sick
When you go to bed
With wet hair

I can’t remember
What afternoon it was
When those men showed up

Other boats
Landed in our cove
The crawdads

Under the rocks
Told each other
To keep quiet

One of them wiped his nose
“Step back boy
A dead man here”

*All from The Light the Dead See, University of Arkansas Press, 1991.

***

Poems of the Week ~ December 3

THREE POEMS BY MALENA MÖRLING.

From the Train

Just before the sun vanished
behind a row of warehouses
and before it came flooding
back to rinse the shadows
off our clothes I noticed something—
It was only a scrap of paper,
but it hung on the exposed wall
of one of the partially demolished buildings
that floated past.
I also noticed the outline
of an old stairway
and worn florid green wallpaper
going up at least three flights
to where the paper hung
below the high streaked curve
of the sky in the almost horizontal
sunlight of the evening.
And I thought how whoever
once lived in that shape
must have written something on it.
Something important.
And nailed it up on the wall.
And later on left.
The way we all will leave
where we are now.
And then I imaged
it was even a poem
only the wind was reading.
And I thought how in the end
all that will be left is space.
Because we can’t destroy it.
And perhaps a few poems
in certain unsuspected
places that are there because they are.

Everything is True

There is a room of the past and a room of the cosmos.
A room of chandeliers and a room of peonies dropping
their pink beauty onto the old table. There is a house
with walls of weathered clapboard and paths that lead
both to the ocean and to the mountains and at dusk
to the anonymous blue airspaces of the city. There are
high double-hung windows and doors with etched glass
behind which the rooms are lit like yellow leaves in the
night. Everything is true inside the house as well as
outside the house—where at this moment rain is fall-
ing through the lit darkness around the streetlamps and
through space that has nowhere else to go.

Late at Night

It’s late at night
and I am on the train
and the man
sitting next to me
is eating himself up.
Limb by limb,
pant legs, shirtsleeves
shoulder blades and all.
The last thing he eats
is his skull,
chunk by thoughtful chunk
ending it
with his own mouth
chewing on itself
before swallowing
with a throat
that’s already gone.

*all from Astoria, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.

Poems of the Week ~ November 26

THREE POEMS BY JULIE DOXSEE

 
On Yesterday’s Statue
 

The girl swam downstream
 
 
to the desert, found you
asleep as a spider.
 
 
One type of word
bled through
 
 
the undeclared
crawl, beautiful because.
 
 
Off in the jungle
 
 
a tickle of
arms became
 
 
the sound
of geese who
 
 
bathe close
to humans & look deep
 
 
into our eyes.
 
Magnetic Strips

When they brought
the pots & pans
 
you banged
out of your body
 
it took seven
humans to carry
 
what came out
of your throat.
 
 
I couldn’t drink
 
a fishbowl of
salt after that;
 
my mouth was
down the street
 
stuck shut.

Rock Erodes a Lifespan
 
Clouds take blue from could. Could be clouds are the rind of
a ripe sky.
 
 
An outside eye holds all lakes and oceans in one mirror.
 
 
*all from Undersleep, Octopus Books, 2008.

***

Poems of the Week ~ November 12

THREE POEMS BY LI-YOUNG LEE

In His Own Shadow

He is seated in the first darkness
of his body sitting in the lighter dark
of the room,

the greater light of day behind him,
beyond the windows, where
Time is the country.

His body throws two shadows:
One onto the table
and the piece of paper before him,
and one onto his mind.

One makes it difficult for him to see
the words he’s written and crossed out
on the paper. The other
keeps him from recognizing
another master than Death. He squints.
He reads: Does the first light hide
inside the first dark?

He reads: While all bodies Share
the same fate, all voices do not.

Become Becoming

Wait for evening.
Then you’ll be alone.

Wait for the playground to empty.
Then call out those companions from childhood:

The one who closed his eyes
and pretended to be invisible.
The one to whom you told every secret.
The one who made a world of any hiding place.

And don’t forget the one who listened in silence
while you wondered out loud:

Is the universe an empty mirror? A flowering tree?
Is the universe the sleep of a woman?

Wait for the sky’s last blue
(the color of homesickness).
Then you’ll know the answer.

Wait for the air’s first gold (that color of Amen).
Then you’ll spy the wind’s barefoot steps.

Then you’ll recall that story beginning
with a child who strays in the woods.

. .

The search for him goes on in the growing
shadow of the clock.

And the face behind the clock’s face
is not his father’s face.

And the hands behind the clock’s hands
are not his mother’s hands.

All of Time began when you first answered
to the names your mother and father gave you.

Soon, those names will travel with the leaves.
Then, you can trade places with the wind.

Then you’ll remember your life
as books of candles,
each page read by the light of its own burning.

Little Ache

That sparrow on the iron railing,
Not worth a farthing, purchases a realm
Its shrill cries measure, trading
Dying for being.

It’s up to no good,
Out to overturn a kingdom
Just by swooping into the right kitchen,
Or upsetting somebody’s aim.

For my pleasure, I’ll call it Good News,
Or Little Egypt. For my delight,

I’ll think of it as needle and thread.
Or a breathing remnant
Restored to a living cloth.
Or scissors
Trimming lament
To allow for everything I don’t know.

For my happiness, I’ll call it
Pocket Dictionary Full of Words in Another Language.

For my gladness, Feathered Interval, The Deciding Gram,
Geronimo.

For nothing, Monument to the Nano.

*all from Behind My Eyes, W. W. Norton, 2008.

THREE POEMS BY LORI ANDERSON MOSEMAN

Poems of the Week ~ October 31

How I Became an Aircraft Carrier

When I first met this canoe,
I thought it wanted to be a truck
(it had let water ram it up a rocky slope).

What good is a boat that prefers shore?

When I first put this boat on my back,
I knew then it wanted to be a plane –
not a fighter jet just a simple prop.

What good is a boat that prefers air waves?

When I feel the weight of the word
canoe (so heavy I could not think truck
or plane), I dread the heft of transport.

What good is a poem that breaks a back?

A river cannot flow how a crow flies.
Boats bob with or without human cargo.
This poet is one landing for words in transit.

On Ice

We’re anchovies above water moving in prescribed directions.
No, we’re not the same, that’s how we shimmer. We got little
ones who zip, we got a tag game going double time.
We got the hip swaying. We’re orienting ourselves to oldies,
reinventing Sunday – schooling on ice. No longer in the hull
on a transatlantic haul. We’re self-propelled – flow
that has changed its state. Take a fish knife from your hand,
make it a blade for your foot. Adapt. Prayer shawls and veils,
fleece caps and woolens: old world ways weave
awareness. The give in our knees not weakness
but an attention that cushions what careens our way.

In the Way a Cow’s Grazing Is

Not indiscriminant

(in poor pasture Bessy eats bones for phosphorus)

a hungry priestess

(like a barrel racer in a calculated turn) cuts

the boldest girl

from the herd (roped, dragged, branded) this stray

ran ragged

to deaden (her appetite, her agency swallowed)

stampedes, then, are sweeter churches

the spooked

collective in their turning (fences far gone

earth their echo)

*all from Persona, Swank Books, 2003.

Poems of the Week ~ October 24

THREE POEMS BY NANCY EIMERS

3. A History of Navigation
from A History of Navigation

Sometimes in a squall
the pouring of storm oil on the water
doesn’t work. Then the wind goes whistling
over the forty- and fifty-foot crests
and the gloomy cook goes sloshing around in the ship’s galley
stacking pots and pans on the highest shelf.
Each time
we turn the volume up, then down, behind the words,
we weep, we make of sweet relief our peace
we scan the windows for superlatives: One of the most daring
pieces of expert seamanship
in the history of navigation!

To voyage over water, to make our way—
let’s lie in bed in the hour of shipwrecked laughs,
one awake and one asleep,
and steer past the first or last
jalopy backfiring in the alley.

Poor car, poor town,
roar down inside us and sleep.

No Moon

Now it’s a way of remembering, dark by dark, the rows.
To think my way back to that rising full harvest moon

is to set in more winter firewood, for it will be cold.

To look at that moon is secretly to make a purchase
for no good reason, of old watch faces in bulk,

is to trace the trajectory of a mayfly on its slow crawl

across the splotched ephemeris of a tablecloth
from points everlasting to dead at the end of a day.

To look at the moon is to open up little bottles and boxes,

beach glass, blue jay feather, clearies, cat’s-eyes,
heart of a hummingbird, snowdrift, fingernails, rain,

until it breaks, it drips, it melts, it rots, it stinks of camphor,

it lies, it doesn’t tell.
At dusk, the moon is low in the south

and nearing the Teapot in the constellation Sagittarius

as we travel eastward against the stars.
Each night this week the moon will wax in cosmic reverie. Not yet.

A crow flying cleanly over the houses

has the hardness of trees, or is it the houses
drawing near like trees in the sooty light

that keeps the very thought of us alive?

Down a road outside town I remember silhouette trees
and every silhouette giving in.

The moon rose over dinosaurial waddling

of Canada geese between the cornstalk rows
as if the almanac had told it just what to do:

corn carried, let such as be poor and go glean.

In the New Year

In Baghdad, they fly up, little bright spots
to find and marry the bombs falling down,

and they are not the stars on childhood’s bedroom wall
that wake when it’s dark enough and shine on us,

and hoard the thought
of a million suns as the soul travels nightly

through constellations behind the stars,
each pinning a layer of dark in place.

and they are not van Gogh’s pinwheeling stars.
Sleep fizzles out above our heads,

flinging itself out of any night
we ever found the terror to go on looking at.

Has the thought of you already forgotten us?
Last week a CBS reporter and camera crew

abandoned their jeep and wandered into the Saudi desert,
beyond our knowledge, beyond their own—

that’s what you’ve come to, that’s where you are.
Not even to know there’s a war!

Yet, as friends do, I keep wanting to tell you
what you already know. I mean the empty

imagining. A kid flies one of those dark spots
over the city and lets it drop,

a diamond flicked out of a ring,
then rides on a bezel, emptied, back toward base;

he is looking down like a great darkness
hosting what another kid-pilot called ‘the greatest

Fourth of July bash ever!”
and thinking what he mustn’t ever think.

Stars burning on the ground,
millions of suns and their planets, smoking, spent . . . .

In Kalamazoo it is snowing eternally
like notes on the roll of a player piano,

the nobody playing what nobody always plays:
where are you? why aren’t you here?

In my mind I keep circling around
to find my footsteps waiting, pressed in snow.

In a recent movie a man is staring at Crows in a Wheatfield so intently
he walks in and out of the bright shafts of light.

Inside, sheaves of it are already heaped and bound.
But sooner or later he’s drawn irresistibly

to his body’s own impatience
waiting just outside the idea of art. Nothing stops

the tiny, flickering TV war I watch in a darkened room.
Each smack of light that pilots me back to myself

flicks my eyes shut just before the night
isn’t you anymore. It is everything else.

*all from No Moon, Purdue University Press, 1997.

Poems of the Week ~ October 13

THREE POEMS BY JULIE MOULDS

Late Summer Litany

My neighbor’s almost ex-husband, an auto salesman with a
different car each week, is over to visit his son, a lively bear cub
of a boy. The man only comes over with electric prodding, to his
son’s delight. In the former’s defense, the man cannot help that
he enjoys golf more than small boys. His two daughters from
another marriage live in Maine and do not demand much of him.
he says marriage has bit him in the ass two times and he has
learned his lesson. My neighbor upstairs grieves, as anyone
would, at their failure. She remembers the charm he had ten
percent of the time. I sit on my concrete steps, drinking cold rum,
watching the boy enter another new car. The crickets and the
birds keep repeating, we don’t change, we don’t change, and the
fireflies turn on and off like love.

1. Dog Grows Fish Scales
from The Dog Poems

It was after winter shedding he noticed
the first silver. A coat of armor really,
making him look like one of those robot dogs
in science fiction movies.

He enjoys the change.
A silver dog shimmers in the moonlight
and is never ignored at dance halls.

Dog wonders about this phenomenon—
will he grow gills? Are there furry fish?
When he swims, will he make
some fisherman become deranged?

In his nightmares, he is being scaled
and deboned, even though he is a dog.
He is sold at the fish counter,
even though he is red meat.

There Was a Soldier, Not a Sparrow, Inside the Golden Cage
(after a Russian tale)

Disguised as a sparrow, he watched
princess Emma unbraid yellow hair,

saw petticoats falling, corsets unlacing,
as he sang her ditties he’d heard in the fields.

She thought the brown bird had come from some suitor;
the old woman said so—the girl took her word.

Four servants were needed to bring in his birdhouse.
(The hag, on her horse cart, left town.)

My little brown songster, my sweet
feathered warbler, who sent you to sing?

crooned Emma, who circled the cage in her bloomers
while the dressmaker laced her all in.

To see Emma close, he had wandered the forest,
cornered a hag to conjure a cage.

The hag, who was partial to those with brass buttons,
pulled him up close, then feathered him, small;

said he could unlatch his cage during slumbers
of golden-haired girls between brocade drapes.

Could switch, with a wish, his feathers for skin.
(Now back to the princess.) The girl took him in.

Imagine the girl’s rage, to wake, him above her.
She raise up her mirror, cracked open his crown;

yelled for her lady, then saw in his falling
not a man, but a bird, come down.

The cage door ajar, the girl understood
that soldier and sparrow were always the same.

The nurse swept the mirror, the girl wrapped the sparrow
up tight in her stocking. His little head glistened.
His lungs folded in.

*all from The Woman With a Cubed Head, Western Michigan University, 1998.

Poems of the Week ~ October 8

THREE POEMS BY HERBERT SCOTT

My Father’s Fortune

Silence was my father’s fortune,
carried with him everywhere for safekeeping,
houses and cars and offices crowded with silence.
And trailing my father

four fair-skinned children of difference sizes,
a matched set of luggage,
silence folded inside like Sunday clothes.
Everything my father owned transporting silence.

But not a silence of anger or isolation.
Instead, one of yearning, inarticulate
and fumbling. A silence that learned
its own language, its own stubborn love.

That Summer

That summer nothing would do
but we sink the boat
in the heart of the lake
and swim in the cool night
for the yellow fire on the beach.

Through the dark water.

We all made it but Ronald,
whom we never found,
who was never Ronald
again; each fish I catch
since, I ask Ron, is that you?

Evening, Milking

Each day redeemed by evening.

The stammering sunset.
The moon in its rut of sky

The mind is white wicker.

Cows, heavy with the business of milk,
nod home from the east pasture.

There is a moan that milk makes.

The clatter of hooves, the lovely cow eyes.
Thrown oats. The rasp of rough tongues.

My grandmother’s small hands.

It is true the earth cries out at dusk.
Its various voices.

*all from Sleeping Woman, Carnegie Melon University Press, 2005.

Poems of the Week ~ September 28

THREE POEMS BY GAIL WRONSKY

A poem for and against sonnets.

A breath of sea, the leaves of the peach tree are
Now thick, green, quick as a pack of minnows
When the wind picks up, they turn and lean, deathless—

The rugged yucca sways beneath the weight of its
own new growth, O’Keeffe-like gray-green explosions
of leaves like knives, deeply shadowed, venereal—

I’m thinking of the woman in Cries and Whispers
Thumb-pushing a piece of roken glass
Into the soil of her—innermost—cutting the
Depth of the lie (that she loved him, that they were,
Could it be, alive?). Entice and destroy, says the
Yucca. Our lawn chair flaps by

Like a Cubist chicken:
Be fruitful and hide.

Sunday.

I planted a scrawny oleander in the front plot,
Desdemona, unearthing first
a bed of violet beetles—they dispersed
like plump raindrops—
then a sleeping spider: gold, curled,
fleshy as an embryo—
inhaling the urban dirt. Yet
it was air that seemed to sting her.

Friday.

Two finches, male and female
(he with his rose chest, wanting attention),
ride the thinnest branches of the peach tree
almost clumsily in the inconstant wind.

Just this week the buds have started peeling,
unfolding petals of the gentlest pink—
diaphanous signals. (can’t avoid it:
feminine.)

Incredible, everything so always
augmenting.

*all from Dying for Beauty, Copper Canyon Press, 2000.

Poems of the Week ~ September 24

THREE POEMS BY MARTHA RONK

“Self-regard played across the walls of the room like shadows”

We become unpleasant to ourselves the moment we gain
some distance
from what we were and it happens regularly these days
as if a microscope were shifting objects in size,
as if it were a hot night and the moth fallen into the crevice of a book we
were moving across the sentence as the letters melt
under the influence of bark-like wings,
the alternating batter of light and shade.
To the left side of the small room, a shadow rises
from the halo of the lamp and shifts with the slight wind
as the edge of the flyleaf disappears on the other side.
One remembers things long forgotten and the world is flat.

With interstitial vacuities, a network of light.

From the moment it was first seen as a bird
It was destined to always be a bird

And that is the way with constellations

And although the night sky is shapeless

We can make out a few stars although we
Don’t look up the words anymore.

Cygnus or Swan or Roc was his favorite
Out by the sea you could see more clearly then.

One ought to be wary of one’s examples or fathers for that matter

Wearing the coat he was always wearing in the cold fog.

“So they say: ‘This is what happened’; but they do not say what the person was like to whom it happened.”

She says she has had a bad day and I see myself
knocking about with windows letting in strange light.
If I push up against frames from that earlier time
the windows would explain themselves.
What she couldn’t explain amounts to a theory of sorts,
the early crows piercing the fog like coughs,
the windows becoming vaguer by the moment.
One struggles toward glass,
the bits of unscraped paint,
leftover blues and grays thickening,
the wings of frantic birds.
One tries to get through, French doors somersaulted into,
the door as a way into it was about evening then.
There was a mirror as well but it only explains finger words
erased, breath fogging it over.

*all from Vertigo, Coffee House Press, 2007.

Poems of the Week ~ September 17

THREE POEMS BY DZVINIA ORLOWSKY

First Rain

In the dark basement, someone
elbowed me hard through the cloud

of my cotton candy dress.
The first heavy rain was about to fall.

Plastic swans wouldn’t glide on a paper tablecloth,
their backs filled with salty peanuts.

There was cake, candles easily snapped,
flames escaping toward the ceiling.

Why was everyone leaving?
no stopped music yet, no last chairs.

Inherited

probably an emptied showcase
liquor cabinet
lit from inside,

a laboriously hand-painted egg
displayed like a portrait
fragile, vacant—
a pinhole, still in tact, to blow into.

If I Can Feel the World Tonight

I won’t
force myself
to love
myself
but rather the spare stars
above the hospital’s parking garage.

*all from Convertible Night, Flurry of the Stones, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008.

Poems of the Week ~ September 10

THREE POEMS BY JASON SHINDER

The Pitch of Childhood

The whipped soul, the whacked and wounded self,
the bleeding bowels, the suffocating shadow,
the post-war flashing star in the broken bottle

of the nation, I had acute something the matter

with me. I was the absence I made of myself as I sat
in a soft chair. I was the lost piece of the moon rocket

that never fell to earth. I was faster than the eagle

on the back of the quarter I tossed into the bay.
I was the letter on the oval desk of the president.

I could not receive. I could not be received.

Eternity

A poem written three thousand years ago

about a man who walks among horses
grazing on a hill under the small stars

comes to life on a page in a book

and the woman reading the poem,
in the silence between the words,

in her kitchen, filled with a gold, metallic light,

finds the experience of living in that moment
so clearly described as to make her feel finally known

by someone—and every time the poem is read,

no matter her situation or age,
this is more or less what happens.

Summer Night

A man gets up from the chair in the restaurant and stands outside

on the sidewalk and strikes a match and holds the flame a little
ahead of the tip of the cigarette and breathes in, his head lifted,

inhaling the little puffs of smoke, and the scent of dark coffee

from a café at the end of the street, and even the warm white light
of the lampposts, and, sensing the pale humidity of time, he wants to stay,

quite unexpectedly, from now on, amidst the passing cars and people.

*all from Stupid Hope, Graywolf Press, 2009.

Poems of the Week ~ August 31

THREE POEMS BY BRIAN TEARE

–In the Library of the Fairy Tale,

They would be stupid children who asked why
their parents have left them in the forest, why

their mothers hate them, their fathers haunt
their bedsteads. Here, no one in danger waits

for salvation. Here, what hungers is lovely
cruel, is gore & gorgeous & godless. It knows

spots quickest to goad blood to bruise,
the gasp & spasm & green of smothering.

How good is it, how easy, in the forest,
where you know what waits for you

adores the horror & minutiae: small bones
shattered, the slim rim of the iris in dilation.

How good, too, to know the story will forgive
you should you kill first, as when the child

goads the Witch over the trick lip of hunger
into the furnace of her own voice & is right

to do so—how good!, how easy to act
when you know your actions will be right.

It was your doubt made your brother lucky:
you would have preferred to destroy him.

House in Summer with a Slapped Face in It

Again: he swears he’ll never. Smiles
as if he will. Outside, the tulip tree
fills out its form in triplicate: pink, discreet. Deliberate trickery,

he pins your palm on your favorite
of his shirts, and beneath, his heart,
tiny needle’s eye, conducts its study of an endless thread

of blood: Cross my heart and hope . . .
he says. And winks. Outside, spring wizens
on the stem, slumps its crippled wilts toward summer. And swears

he’d swear even on the cracked back
of his mama’s fat Bible, spine split
by goldleaf, swears he hopes he’d want to. Never (your hand

at the dropped stitch of his pulse),
not again. From where you stand,
never’s not far off: in summer, a closed house grows toward it,

a wilderness: in the bedroom, he strips. You
are like the roses, confuse thorn and bloom,
who is rack and who is screw. . . .After, in the rusty tub, he draws you

a bath amber with sap; he cleans your sleepless
with the usual question: in the kitchen, in the sink,
a ruin of crows rings, black telephones. Who’d answer if you’d leave?

–Of a Sleeping Man,
& a Second Man Awake

(for John Wieners, 1934-2002)

So love unhoused us: sweat
the summer’s continual
hotel, we left skin
through doors of white rime, left

what had been made, unmade—
sheets the bleach of paregoric
behind the eyes.
image: our silver skin filled,

copper from inside out . . .
but could taste the needle—
the pain of sleep
in a cheap room—could taste

the cradle of the vein: unguent
a lullaby for comfort
and phosphorous,
blue hush a flame starving air

of oxygen. Chemistry:
what drew likeness
to our minds . . .
had never made fists like these—

syringe’s sudden jump of blood;
never heard dilations
sheet silence whitely
over everything; the heart—raw
nautilus—seal, receding, each breath
in chambers one
by one closer, taut
to the esophageal knot; love

unhoused us thus: saw: our slapped skin
rise iodine, rose-
gold before the light;
mercuric trembling over the treble

descant of flame; a solution, we thought,
a fix of image
to self, perpetual hotel.
Daguerreotype: of a sleeping man,
and a second awake: I remember him and again
we’re material
for light to write on,
most fragile of mediums—

a breath could wreck it—

*all from The Room Where I Was Born, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.

Poems of the Week ~ August 24

THREE POEMS BY LARISSA SZPORLUK

Io Remembers

There is no sound at all on this wild upland.
The horses have stopped falling
in their great arc through the air.
The panic that carried their necks over the crag
became, early on, in their legs, regret.
The dark knowing that spoils the morning
enters them now, showing them how,
like a difference in contour, they weren’t the real
power of the field. How their bearing was minor,
their bones meaning more to the earth
than what each aloof mane in the wind had been.
Their eyes, which before were clear, crowd
like the fleas madness brings, as she notes
in the noonday heat how each part lies,
spread across rock, like her own in that scene,
half-girl, half-cow, the cloud half off.

Ghost Continent

It’s a lot like emptiness, the season
of dying fish, black drink,
the person you loved best, and left,
giving off light in the recession.
It would have startled the fire user,
who towered over nature,
this material you’re passing through
to save a little of, like radio.
Paddle faster. Skin across the giant
things in hiding, blow on the sick.
The deep returns a makeshift
surface, wake, blue-tarred road.
Miles from here (but you’re gone)
the wrong land will be discovered.

Crocodilia

The air yellows
with the energy of grief.
He touches her eyes, almost humming.
What are those depths
to which we all disappear?
Seas advance and recede.
Ebb and flow. Mountains are lifted
and leveled. Ebb and flow.
A mosaic of tiny bones
shifts a bit in the heat.
There are two kinds of time, side by side;
tears bind them.
His finger rests on her lips, then goes in.
Extinction sucks the tip,
softly biting.

*all from Dark Sky Question, Beacon Press, 1998.

Poems of the Week ~ August 17

THREE POEMS BY CHRISTOPHER SCHMIDT

All Tomorrow’s Parties

Expect no takers. Don’t hate Queens.
Where everyone is smoking
is and is not here. Lumberjack
stares at the boyfriend, the boyfriend.

Serious? Serious? Like interns
on TV. Like, fun. Another malady.
Cat and mouth and cant and mouse.
My sentiments exact.

Swallow, stumble
pie could not but sweeten
in a saucer, tarter saucer.
Dress mine with lime, with lime.

Each one blows the next in line.
Had I courage, I’d warm the others.
Night-night the only greasing.
The wind troubles me also.

Arcades Palare

Woke up bruised, fruit that I am. Prepare a drink called
Ultimate Meal. It does not assist suicide. Nothing to do in
January but write, with movies so bad. Someone whisling
Rod Stewart. Maybe a little sexy. Fall in love with a saint.
Winter in love with summer. Spring left to its own devices and
fortunately never rusts. The man who fell to mirth. Improve
your Flash skills without a trench. Want ads. To go away.

Making Eyes

Ground, white.
Then hole for light

the size of why
not a pine nut?

Go with two.
One goes blank,

you’ve got your
spare

& parallax fixes
lazy ones.

Render edge
of obscure moon

an index
of spectrum:

gem rims,

softens the
eclipse.

*all from The Next in Line, Slope Editions, 2008.

Poems of the Week ~ August 9

THREE POEMS BY PAUL FOSTER JOHNSON

R3. War of Maneuver

If the sharpshooter were a smoker
cause would be the panoply of causes
and action would clot around the partisan
rather cigarette burns, rather upholstery buttons
the tearsheet beside the page
yielding paper dragons of autobiography.
Your cold exercise of identity
has an eye to the aquarium.
I need at least that seeing eye
to explain the means of falling on the page.
You are a simplification
exhumed from peat. In the dumbshow of sealife
who is there sees things. The tattoos
poking over the collar voice
an aroused indifference, laughing hearty
and rolling away in lieu of answer.

R5. Marcelled Men of War

When the road warrior asks accommodation
give in sighing. Your newfound gravitas
will be there to fret all conversation
and you will cheat often
toward crowds that will absorb you.

In the face of danger
find a strategy of misrepresentation.
Draw a figure when they expect a grid, explain
the layers of dust as a question of lighting.

Such a face as yours is not enshrouded
in old paintings. Get into robes
and let your gothic give way to dark.

When pity and fear slip into the river system
make nowheresville a fortress. Keep the skiffs
from running aground and scrub the shore
with transcendent whimsy, improvise
devices with the lifeways of a doll.

R13. Written into the Bestiary

The bluejay and the red-eyed lamb
were cheap toys

for phalanstery kids
Some magic show

their park of declarations
All larking

had been a mistake
When you were born

the wolves outside
their footfalls never neutral

abducted the plush symbols
there to greet you

Leaving you sungazing
in pine sap and ambient noise

Things in themselves
wavering in the grove

A beginning indentured you here
on the inmost beaches

surrounded by ventifacts smooth
out of the cannibals’ poems

*all from Refrains/unworkings, Apostrophe Books, 2008.

~ Poems of the Week ~ August 3

THREE POEMS BY BRIGITTE BYRD

(quixotic cooking)

My mother is a fish, she said.

Everyone know the effect of routinizing memorable reading.

By the time she found a man riding with a libertarian spirit, she had already reorganized her eyes and moved to an alternative way of excitement. She gorged on her misplaced husband each night. Loved this achievement. You know, fight against windmills, giants and all. A chimaera, she said, and

I am a
pavane
pour orchestra
avec choeur

playing a-
round to
pound down
my reputation.

(looking back it was easy)

When there was a storm in the house she tied a scarab around her neck and wished for rain. Why looking up for divine intervention when she wrote the brain is wider than the sky. It was difficult to stay in the present when nothing happened and she laughed with. If I ever need the inspiration right about here is where I lose my patience. What happened next was expected. She bounced higher and higher until a branch caught her midair like an extension of. Je vise le véridique hermaphrodisme mental qui charge certains êtres fortement organisés. She sailed off on a swan like the king of Bavaria and her teeth started rotting. There was a gate to open and there was a man to kill to die with the birds for nothing.

(architectonic angelus of the mother)

The day I
visited
my mother
in her stone
house, the sky
was a cloud(ed)
heart a
version of
emptiness.
She was—
without tricks
in her (bag).
We ran
down the cliff
to slash our
bodies against
metallic waves.

That’s stupid.
Pass me the
(lighter).

Worn wise
by wanderings,
she was—
a woman (the sea)
spilled out
our bodies
her purple heart.
We clung to
each other and
words got in
the way.
She rose
with the wind
hovering
above the
stone (house).

I just needed
help with the
(bag).

There. Blurred
water, an ex-
change, a vital
letter (in her)
like the stage
to an infinite
fire. She
clutched my throat
with her
feet (the ape)
and my hands
(sunk)
into the dark-
est sea.

I followed
(my mother)
laughing like
a sour mirror.

Was she
a desert(ed)
garden
a dead ape
thrown
into a bag?

The night
I left (my mother)

stone / house / sky

watched me
while I hurled her
(heart)
at the flames.

*all from The Dazzling Land, Black Zinnias, 2008.

Poems of the Week ~ July 14

5 poems, 5 poets.

This week we are featuring five of the finalists from this year’s 42 Miles Press Poetry Contest.

The Mule Deer
Christine Hamm

Everywhere in California children
are crawling out from under beds.

The deer move like broken chairs rebuilt
in the shape of a horse. They have the faces

of cows, legs like awkward architecture.
They have killed several who lived on

my street – hunters or children who tried
to feed them pancakes. I see them every

morning as I draw my curtains. They are
destroying the garden, the squash, the tomatoes,

marigolds, string beans, the beetle-peppered
roses. They keep me awake at night rustling

the rhododendron – I imagine men with knives,
as sad children often do. The bucks rub their

antlers on the front step in the fall, the does
chase us down the driveway when we stare

at their fawns: they knock down fences, dive
through wind-shields, shadow us on our hikes.

We have town meetings, shriek about control
and acceptable losses, while they toss
our babies in the fields of wild wheat.

*from her manuscript, Some Are Horses.

The Pulse
Myronn Hardy

She will be somewhere on the moon
waiting for me. Perhaps when it is
full a glow rose quartz.
The constant ticking will wake
this tired self. Oh the wandering
at night until I reach sand.

I will lie.

There will be cerebellum
exposed the neurons relaxed.
Come down from that luminous place
where dust is the point. Cover this body.
Melt this copper flesh. It is
waiting to be somewhere else.

*from his manuscript, Graze for the Captain.

Mischief Is a Reliable Antidote
Steve Langan

Not without its deep studious ache,
the minute and the next one.
A canyon is residual, is lunatic.
Many rocks beside the gulley we can see
from the balcony of the high0rise;
and then, from those rocks, the next day
or the day after, we see the high-rise!

This always mystifies me. We gather
around the stereo. I’m glad for any music.
Mischief is a reliable antidote again,
and children crawl together on the carpet.

We are and have always been misfit,
disastrously unwilling to crawl-walk-run.
But to look at one thing and only one thing?
I’ve never been able to accomplish this.
Certain paintings, maybe, a few sculptures.

I do remember how light poured red
through a tall man’s ears as he sat
while the symphony warmed up.
I was about ten rows behind him.
I’ve always remembered this about music.

*from his manuscript, What It Looks Like, How It flies.

Selfish
Gary L. McDowell

If we keep feeding the gods,
they’ll leave us to our sentiments,

or to some other irony: I’ve lusted,
coveted, drawn a map of my childhood.

What I missed: the route to school,
the stones we’d roll down the hill

behind the graveyard where an unnamed
person lay buried, always deer antlers

next to the headstone, bleached, white
like lightning on a moonless night,

heat lightning over a lake, and the lake
swallows it, and we’re back again

to what I missed: there was once,
there is no more.

*from his manuscript, Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None.

Poem for Lining My Lung
Cori Winrock

Last night, the sickness
flowering, I fell asleep

with glass lungs
hung from my clavicles

by threads. I dreamt
of pneumonia blooming.

: : :

Wintering came
first, not in the descent

of frozen ashes, not as delicate
curls of burnt paper,

not in small petals
punched from eyelet,

but thicker cells, drifting.

*from her manuscript, This Coalition of Bones.

Poems of the Week ~ July 5

6 Poems, 6 Poets
A selection from our 2012 winner, first, second, third, and fourth runner-ups.

Butterfly Hunting
Bill Rasmovicz [winner]

If I could haul drowning Venice ashore by its ear, wear
the spotted pelt of the suburban night.
If I could only remember to put the toilet seat
down, buy flowers.

Have you ever wondered why the brain resembles
a meat umbrella?
Have you ever stared at the sky until a cloud began?

The buildings splinter this way & that, sirens pass
and sap bleeds from the trees,
and the way the tarmac shivers in the distance purports
a world multiplying itself by itself.
What I’m afraid of

are the prospects for human headed lettuce,
mothballs filling the ice tray.
I suspect the heart is a tiny owl.
I’m suspicious of what the mind acquires in utero.
I think I’m becoming a solitary beam of ghetto light.

Oh ennui is only another form of rapture,
the serenity of water to watch it succumbing to its own
forces. I believe there is a space in which everything
is essential, that the line between shadow
and person is seamless.
I know there is nothing more ornate than
a hard blow to the shins.

The arms, the legs, they could be recycled scraps of
ladder from the coal cellar.
The bridge buckling beneath us, a thousand years
compressed into the head of a pin, and pictures
to prove. Come, let us walk.

*from his winning manuscript, Gross Ardor

Water Long Enough
Allan Peterson [first runner up (tied)]

I can take you to where the two dogs are buried.
In the overgrowth is a depression
where the happy flesh and last blankets dissolved.
If you hear water long enough, you make out conversations,
see one pine tickling the moon,
see paths on lumber where the lizards crisscrossed,
young oaks handholding and the dead
under us expectantly reaching for each other.
The conversations are old overseas,
like water to the dogs looking back over their shoulders,
waxing and waning like radio, like tides.

*from his manuscript, Precarious

Every Night
Mark Wisniewski [first runner up (tied)]

there was something in my youth
about alcoholic women

& I don’t just mean drinkers
or problem drinkers
I mean women who drank every
night & some mornings
who lied & couldn’t walk straight
who were shy sober but after three or four
flirted cantankerously then slept
with the only guy with nerve

women who left good
cash in bars
ran red lights
didn’t wear panties
failed out of college
or graduated magna because they
screwed profs in bars

these were my lovers & I
liked most of them
some said the cared & I believe
a few did

but none are here now
in this house
in these woods
where the hardest thing I drink
is coffee

they are somewhere though
some perhaps recovering
some I fear deceased
& of those who are still
alive & drinking
I’d guess maybe

one might
be able
to remember me

just probably
not tonight

*from his manuscript, Maybe Just Maybe

The Whatnot
Gregory Lawless [second runner up]

It’s smallish, hard
to see. You can’t quite
make out the edges
in this light, you can’t
quite place the shape.
It’s too heavy
to pick up,
but when you look
away it rolls away
under the table, or into some dark
corner behind the curtains,
the potted mums.
The cat doesn’t like it. Your wife wants you
to clean it up. You don’t
talk about it
with your friends,
even when they point
and squint. Instead,
you just change
the subject. But you’re always
changing the subject.

*from his manuscript, Dreamburgh, Pennsylvania

9. Restored Equilibrium
Mary Leader [third runner up]

Stein certainly loved vests woven sewn embroidered.
I aim to assuage strong emotion: how soothing,
How healing, I find dumbwriting. Return, speak,
O Guide: “Although black floss on white linen

Is the traditional color choice, other colors
Can be used to give poems a more modern look.
Brown floss on beige linen or deep blue on eggshell
Are popular. Gold or silver metallic threads

Create a fancier look,” I read. I put it to you
That there is, not only beauty, not only truth,
But also, a kind of justice, in structural options
Besides grammar, in alphabetical order, in poetry

As a court of last resort, for Philomela and for me:
Visual poetry. Pleasure and defiance therein. But
It’s more, it’s a vitality I have to have available, the
Liminal and subliminal and luminal-just-rising I feel.

And the sinking, too. Not “high,” not “low,” not some
Debate between “quotidian” & “sublime” but an eschewal
Of debate itself. Not high not low but at the meeting of
Just-barely-on-the-surface and just-barely-underneath-it.

*from her manuscript, The Distaff Side

A Public Reading of Charges
Emma Bolden [fourth runner up]

She the flail threshing clouds for rain
She the blight ridding fields of their bran

Hers the hand which shut the stars’ tinny eyes
Hers the fangs which slit your pigs in their sties

Hers the blue gown lying lake on your floor
She the boat swallowed the spit up in shards on the shore

She the secret abortion in woods stained with night
She who boils babes to bless her broom into flight

She who floats bloated fish bellies upstream
Hers the glad tongue licking the hunter’s hand clean

She the mule crumpled from bones cursed to shale
She the town’s secrets nacre in one ear’s pale shell.

*from her manuscript, Malificae

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 28

THREE POEMS BY YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA

Light on the Subject

Hello, Mister Jack
The Ripper, come on in
make yourself at home.
Here in Deadwood City
your hands are clean as ours.
Our eyes flash back to
knives on silver whetstones.
Can I get you anything, partner?
Perhaps a shot of Four Roses?
In this gray station of wood
our hearts are wet rags
& we turn to ourselves,
holding our own hands
as the scaffolds sway.
I can tell you this much
Brother Justice, our faith’s
unshakable, even if we rock stones
asleep in broken arms.
We’ve all seen moonlight on lakes
& crows whittled from a block of air. In this animal-night, no
siree, we won’t disappoint you
when we rise out of hawkweed,
because we still have
a thing about Law
& Order.

Back Then

I’ve eaten handfuls of fire
back to the bright sea
of my first breath
riding the hipbone of memory
& saw a wheel of birds
a bridge into the morning
but that was when gold
didn’t burn out a man’s eyes
before aution blocks
groaned in courtyards
& nearby got the best of me
that was when the spine
of every ebony tree wasn’t
a pale wonman’s easy chair
black earth-mother of us all
crack in the bones & sombre
eyes embedded like beetles
in stoic heartwood
seldom have I needed
to shake a hornet’s nest
from the breastplate
fire over the ground
pain tears me to pieces
at the pottery wheel
of each dawn
an antelope leaps
in the heartbeat
of the talking drum

Letter to Bob Kaufman

The gold dust of your voice
& twenty-five cents
can buy a cup of coffee.
We sell pain for next to nothing! Nope,
you don’t know me but your flesh-
&-blood language lingers in my head
like treason & raw honey.
I read GOLDEN SARDINE
& dance to Calinda
to come to myself.
Needles, booze, high-steppers
with dangerous eyes.
Believe this, brother,
we’re dice in a hard time hustle.
No more than handfuls of meat.
C’mon, play the dozens,
you root worker & neo-hoodooist,
you earth lover & hole-card peeper.
We know roads dusty with old griefs
& hot kiss joys.
Bloodhounds await ambush.
Something, perhaps the scent
of love, draws them closer.

*all from Neon Vernacular, Wesleyan University Press, 1993.

Poems of the Week ~ June 22

THREE POEMS BY JAY HOPLER

In the Garden

And the sky!
Nooned with the steadfast blue enthusiasm
Of an empty nursery.

Crooked lizards grassed in yellow shade.

The grass was lizarding,
Green and on a rampage.

Shade tenacious in the crook of a bent stem.

Noon. This noon –
Skyed, blue and full of hum, full of bloom.
The grass was lizarding.

Approaching the Tower

Light! Light! Light!

The stars tonight are like tinfoil fleas
On a black rat.

I’m here.
Not far from the train yards.
Not far from the river.

My eyes no less blue than they ever were.

Look in my mirror, Mother.
Tell me if my good
Heart isn’t bad luck.

Tonight, I’m no more resigned to light
Than some canary,
Its eyes pried open with pins.

How come more children
Don’t mistake the river for a schoolyard,
Dark as it is?

Nothing moving but the trains.

And the trees, so quiet.

Like towers.

Waiting for their snipers to arrive.

Green Squall
for Kimberly Johnson

Lightning–
Now there’s a sexy machete: a pounce of sky electric–
electricitied–inflamed.

What’s the sugar, Hurricane?

The rain tins its romantic in the water pots.

The waterspouts are full-on
Rashmahanic.

What’s the hurry, Sugarcane?

A pouncing sky enlightninged,
Edgy-sexed. . . .

This is the sugar.

This is the hurry.

*all from Green Squall,2006, Yale University Press

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 14

FIVE POEMS BY ERIC DUENEZ, a former Indiana University SB student.

Cop on Dope

Anyone sober
or slightly high,
anyone not

in a coma
could tell you that
I’m a cop.

I’m undercover and
my beard is my beard.
My disguise is that

I’m high and I’m high
and have you ever tried to buy
when you’re a cop on the sly.

It stings a little when
you’re on a sting and the needle
tears a hole that stings and the sun

in my eyes stings
and the voice of my wife
stings and everything tastes like . . .

Cop on Dope

Man to man.
Don’t lie to me.
you’re going to

Jail. What’s this?
What do we have here?
Do you know why I pulled you over?

No, not your skin, not
The swerving in your own lane, not
The busted taillight, I

Said, I said to myself—
This guy. This is
The guy. That’s him.

Speed Trap

The world rushes by
And when the world
rushes by too fast

I am here to say,
hey,

slow down,
what’s the hurry.
It’s you

I’m letting go
with a warning
this time.

Cop on Dope

I watched one
Colored kid
Shoot another
Today.

When it’s done
He scrambles off
Into one of the late
Models and disappears.

Some concerned bystanders
Hurry to the fallen
Like faithful dogs, like battle-
Field priests eliciting tired

Confessions and the kid whispers
And we all lean in like he was
A map to some buried
Treasure under so much flesh:

The world with its shovels poised.
But he grows lighter
Like the bricks of bundled snow
Kept in evidence.

Sometimes I throw bottles against
The bricks and sometimes the bricks
Break, too, but nobody talks
About that.

So this kid has a bullet
In his face and a bullet
In his chest and he says,
“Forget it,” and he don’t

Look so good. And nobody’s
There to help. And my day’s
Gone to shit. The only way
To get somebody here in time is

If I draw my piece and place it to my side
And break this hollowed ground
And as my world collapses under its own weight,
I manage to let dispatch know

There’s an officer down.

Cherries and Blueberries

Sometimes my own light makes me paranoid.
The ones from passing cars spark the reflective surface of mine
Like a fish flashing briefly from the murk.
I will shine another in your eye.
The dark lens, in which you view the dark world, contracts.
We dilate on where exactly have you been and what exactly
Have you done.
I stand too close to your open window so that my golden badge
Seems like the last surviving star in the empty expanse so
Often mistaken for a canvas capable of exuding life or
Anything of interest.
If I took my gun and fired into the sky, the only thing I’d ever hit,
With the right wind, is you or me.
But to see you now, wishing on the pointed star pinned to my
Chest, it is enough.
Here’s your license.
Have a nice night.

*all from Cops on Dope, 2012. Available on Lulu.com here.

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 8

THREE POEMS BY PAULA CISEWSKI

Ghost Fargo

My brother is Paul Bunyan is
The Fugitive is becoming Herculean,

gone now this quarter century.
His gait widens. His golden hair flows.

I have driven across this beautiful,
uncomfortable country many times

and have not seen him everywhere.
Therefore, if I take some liberties to exploit

his memory, I will at least be honest:
it is not his person but my

longing become epic.
Longing and my faithful line

edits performed on memory
to preserve love. To preserve love

my brother is Don Quixote. Johnny Appleseed.
I weary of his foolish heroic,

of how the dead and the missing are robbed
of the opportunity to disappoint us

with their blasé reactions to what is.
And of how I won’t know peace

in the sometimes necessary
city of ghosts, where my brother

rents a Murphy bed efficiency
in the teeming cold,

until I too inhabit it and am finally,
from that distance, able to long

for this dull townies’ turf of a world.
This very world, in which my brother holds up

a cardboard sign at the freeway exit ramp and I,
distracted, drive right past.

Ode to Tethers

No one admits when they’re dead.
It’s like hide and seek –
Like backwards hide and seek

Everybody’s “it.” Nobody has to search
to keep discovering and
discovering what.

But once, enmeshed in a real live
Fargo, I loved a certain wide open
field above which the stars shone

inquisitively, expecting a response,
I hardly felt I inhabited
a body in that field: was just

a belly full of night.
My parents would call me
back to the house.

Did I create them? In this game
it’s as though I created them.
But how did I recognize them?

After such an absence, they appeared
as two familiar darknesses
in an entryway of light.

Hell, MI

I’m tired of the water running out.
That the ocean is endless, yet I will
still be thirsty when I’m dead,
buzzed on the miniscule reflections of stars,
and the moon – that shovel with a face.
Some truths make nothing better.

This is no kind of sonnet; I’m sorry.
Poor moon I don’t want. Poor
Shakespeare we can deposit in a boat.
A single day keeps on ending
like a diorama after the science fair.
Like a book of psalms. Separate
pillboxes. Whatever

we ingest and then we are changed.
I could have chosen to keep this to myself.

*All from Ghost Fargo, Nightboat Books, 2006.

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 1

THREE POEMS BY GRAHAM FOUST

Skull

Such a white planet.

And what scars
the eyes are,

what page the lack of face.

Compare this
to flowers

in a house.

Politics

Leave the room
to itself. Compare it
to a sleeping,
living creature.

Time is the dark-
packed house
of this place,
the luck of the desert

cut
into the floor of the desert.

Everything
is ready.
A light burns
wherever necessary.

Like skin,
like a prison,
each thought’s
an instant ruin.

Leave the room to itself.
Here’s a needle. Here is the sea.

We Are Not the World

though we approve it
and of it.

We are cargo, we know.
We know everything.

*all from Leave the Room to Itself, Ahsahta Press, 2003.

Poems of the Week ~ May 25

THREE POEMS BY MICHAEL O’BRIEN

Confetti

vernacular
rain

Jeez
Sheesh

Multiscam
Pisces Meatball

sleepers
loosies

Melon Cola
Techni Cola

Da Costa Demolition

precip
coma toes

Ephemera

driving into the
sunset, the bright
cars, the vapor
trails’ bright scars

in low grass the
spiders’ pavilions

plastered to the
wall a tiny
moth, batwings
intricate as footnotes

Some of the Days

so much sleep
poured into a
vessel it can
hold no more

days without traction, their
dream-jukebox, over the
bones of sleep where in flood
the river rewrites itself

calm lake whereon
boat of the breath

*from Sleeping and Waking, Flood Editions, 2007

Poems of the Week ~ May 18

THREE POEMS BY CHASE TWITCHELL

The Wars

The edge of the woods,
pine silence underfoot,
light split into shafts by the clouds.
Across the field, the house.
On the kitchen table,

the wine is already open,
the thin white plates laid out—
I can see their extra cold color,
the rare lamb sliced thin,
its blood still blood.

I’ve been out in the woods again,
half kid, half elder. A kid because
I’m waiting for the knives
of their voices to grow dull
so I can slip past them unarmed,

and an elder because I know
I’ll never be weaponless again,
and soon I’ll have to stand there,
a forged child, a kid-elder, among all
the dead soldiers of their two small armies.

Makeshifts

Nothing has a name it can’t
slip out of. The waterfall is solid ice
by late November; the white pines
vanish under snow that’s
blue in the morning, pink in the dusk.

Here’s a little bouquet—ice
and evergreen and sun, three moments
arranged for human looking,
Though it’s only the husks of their names
that I’ve gathered and paralyzed.

Walking Meditation

I’m the first tall animal
to walk the trail today.
Apologies to the spiders.

The sapling maple I cut
last year for a walking stick
forgives me this morning.

Galaxies of lichens
on the stones—what’s
my life to them?

What do the deer
make of my trail? Sometimes
they use it, sometimes they don’t.

The wind is a poor net.
The universe
swims right through it.

*All from The Snow Watcher, Ontario Review Press, 1998

***

Poems of the Week ~ May 15

THREE POEMS BY MARTHA GREENWALD

Crosswalk

Black cases swing from their mittens.
Inside—purple velvet, and nestled
in the plush, the dismantled clarinets.

By the time the brothers reach home,
the cases will be furred with snow—
small animals with silver bones
ready for the weekend’s hibernation.

The Story of the Day

The birds will open your house with their wings,
Frail bones against the hinges, doorframes
Stunned, and as the eaves unweave, the roof leaves
Just a parasol of air. We try to predict routes,
Conjuring wind charts and weather maps—
How far could they fly from these October trees,
Or the countries in your closet, or the ceiling
Moons and planets orbiting only within
Your cupped palms? In this room, dark corners
Explained, the night light hovers on the wall
Like a cloud. You settle in my arms, your body
Beginning a mime of my breathing. You wish
For sky, shingles scattering, as we listen for
Feathers, insistent thrushes at the sill.

Cardigan

Sweater slung from both shoulders
of the chair, moth-eaten, seed pearls small as baby teeth

scattered down the placket—what the mother
wore, pacing ovals at the school bus stop, white cashmere

yoked at the neck, O hero’s cape . . .
All summer, despite an arctic office chill, her daughter

ignores it. When she swivels to retrieve
a fax, the sleeves flare out, mime goodbye, then fall slack.

*All from Other Prohibited Items, The Mississippi Poetry Review Series 2010

***

Three poems, three poets.

MICHAEL MARBERRY

Accident

I can remember the residue of dust

on my hands, the smell of earth like dried
blood, the bitter taste of dirt. My brother’s

blood in splotches on the ground, his eyes
aflutter like a bird dreaming of loops before

a dive. My mother whispered as she held him
like the dead, running water through his hair

with her hands. She cooed a song I have
remembered to forget. I used to heave

him high as I could, just to watch him go
and come again—the two of us, laughing.

His was soft and shy: quiet like a breeze
breathing through sheets on a clothesline.

I can remember laughing loud and hard.

MARY ANN SAMYN

I’m Telling You the Story of Right Now

A hundred other things came first.
A thousand scraped knees, etc.

And I prayed real hard.

Fast forward: your wink lit me up.
And again: rainy October, no sky to speak of.

I wasn’t imagining a better anything.

As for the footnote you requested, how’s this:
just your name, repeated, like I said it.

HEATHER COUSINS

Mindfulness

My father paid me five cents
for every two logs I hauled
to the basement and stacked
for the long winter.
Down the side-hill
to the back door, I carried
sharp split wedges, I carried
rhombuses, I carried
small rounds
like wooden arms. I watched
for the black stars of spiders.
My feet trampled the grass
flat and silver. I carried
dead wood, that fell
from my hands and chest.
Beneath my face was gold.
Under the bark were
the black letters of burn-work,
hidden paths, calligraphy of worms.
I carried fifty-six, I carried
fifty-seven, I carried
fifty-eight. I carried
two or three at once.
The wind greeted me going down
and pushed my hair back,
left a blessing on my forehead.
My arms grew knots and burned
like torches. I carried
the fire.

*All from Passages North, Vol. 33 Winter 2012, Ed. Tim Johnston

***

Poems of the Week ~ May 8

THREE POEMS BY RAE ARMANTROUT

Dark Matter

1

Who am I
to experience a burst
of star formation?

I know this –

after the first rush
of enthusiasm

any idea
recedes and dims.

2

Each one
is the inverse
shape of what’s
missing.

3

One might try
summing
the matter up

in a single
Judas kiss,

all bitter-sweet
complicity

and feigned ignorance

Music

Still the run-up
to the primaries.

Hot searches:

tiger attack,
polar bears.

Nothing.

Or a hint
of bitters
at the scoured edge.

Three piccolo notes
from the bushes.

A snatch
of music. Call it
that.

Resounding

Are you still interested
in the image

of this island
as a brown shoulder

or breast

half-hidden
by clouds?

Are you turned on
by chimeras?

The impossible woman,

part igneous,
part surge.

*

Go be
embedded,

beaded, pebbled.

The fickle luster.
That’s right.

The fretwork
of disaster.

Go on be
half

shrouded by

*from Versed, Wesleyan University Press, 2009

***

Poems of the Week ~ May 1

THREE POEMS BY JAMES GALVIN

January Thaw

Winter snowpack is not your jazz.
You can’t riff it over and you can’t take it back
Once it’s out of the horn
Bright as tears but much more boring,
Your constants without variants
Mewl from the eaves.
That’s why the fish is full of sea.
Just out of curiosity,
How many times did you kiss me
Without meaning it?
Don’t be shy, it’s out of the horn.
Turn your back on the past
And you’re gone.

Promises are for Liars

Because, you know,
Either you’re going
To do it or
You’re not.
Slight as light
Reflected from the stream
Onto the wavering
Willow leaves,
Eternal love
Doesn’t need
Eternity, see?
A cyclone of sand-
Hill cranes
Rises from the corn
Slathering the
Ephemeral work.
Let’s don’t worry
Let’s don’t ask.
Our institutions
Are standing by.
But I keep thinking
How easy it is
To get lost in the sky
With nothing holy
To defend.

So Long

I look down at my hand and there’s a wrinkling ocean in it.
A halcyon nest rocks on careless waves.
Small in the bottom of the nest, fledgling, my father curls.
He doesn’t look so good.
What I say, what he says, what does it matter?
I’ve got this ocean in my hand, and there’s no cure for that.

*from X: Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2003

***

Poems of the Week ~ April 26

THREE POEMS BY CYNTHIA CRUZ

Twelve in Yellow-Weed at the Edge

Then, the police arrive—they don’t find me.
I’m disguised as a boy in a champagne wig
And hid inside the gold rattle of a warm Appalachia wind.
Beneath the trash of willow, I am. The sorrow
Of trailer parks and carnie uncles. The poor
Girl’s underworld, a weedy thing. The night,
With its kingdom of lanterns and awful blue lark.
How we waited, how we hid
Like wolves, in the revolving question of a field.

Shoot

Into the ice-ravaged ragweed and phlox
I vanished.

Goodbye to the Ever-
Blonde Empire,

Its feather gowns and endless
Blue lanterns.

When I reached the jeweled nettle,
I abandoned

What little was left and entered
The silence in the orchard.

You Will Be Like Your Dreams Tonight II

I discovered father’s shotgun.
Dug it out from the earth like a tooth.
There was one worm in particular.
Moving, the raw pink of it
Looked like the skin of my own mouth.
I killed it with the stud of my bracelet.
Then entered the hall of the house like a son.

from Ruin, Alice James Books, 2006.

***

Poems of the Week ~ April 19

THREE POEMS BY MARTHA RHODES

Our Bedroom Wall

Why do I always let you die,
not lifting you from bed, just watching you
lie breathless as your spirit
dangles from our bedroom wall
till it gives up and it’s dead too.
Poof, I dream, no more you.

Why do I sit in our quiet room,
wet from the shower, while our cats
lick my legs dry and the morning light
throws our neighbor out of his bath
and onto our wall. Smash that man,
he’s dead too. You see,
it’s not just you.

Even people I’ve never held
fall ill or drown or fold in half.
My red sad dreams cover our wall,
dreams that kill us all.

Into the Fens
 
My mother at the kitchen sink
My father at the goldfish tank
My sister in the treehouse roof
winking at the neighbor’s boy

My cat and I go hunting for gnats
into the fens clucking our tongues

My mother boils the freezer’s ice
My father hangs his shoes to dry
My sister’s outside playing mouse
with the neighbor’s oldest boy

We’re licking our jaws
dry as a squeak

My sister swallows the neighbor’s boy
My father plasters the treehouse shut
My mother unmakes all the beds
folding herself into the sheets

Telling Mother about My Troubled Marriage
 
How I fell off my bike when I was five
is obvious. I wasn’t looking.
Neither were you. We’d just minutes before
taken my training wheels off and this first ride
cost me three teeth two years early.
When my chin exploded on the stone wall,
you were out cold in your bedroom, leaving me
to pull the forsythia branch out of my arm.

Now you’re telling me, Honey
there are worse things than being hurt.
Being dead is one, you say,
you who’ve never seen your daughter bleed.

from At the Gate, Provincetown Arts Press, 1995

***

Poems of the Week ~ April 5

THREE POEMS BY JIM DANIELS

The Tenured Guy’s Trajectory

The dean requests a narrative
of your goals for the next five years—
a new process called post-tenure
review. Oxy-moronic. New Formula—

gets out stubborn stains.  You want
to straighten the dusty framed
certificates on your office wall.
Not now—as a goal.

You accidentally made your way
into the recruiting brochure
checking out coeds on a warm spring day.
Is that a publication?

Trajectory: you draw a diagram
of the Texas Book Depository,
Oswald and Ruby together,
Obscenely positioned.

Was that entirely necessary?
Your colleagues disparage you
As the holder of the endowed
Conspiracy Theorist Chair.

Can you list that as a field?
Cynicism wafts around you, stings
like a cloud of twenty-year-old
cigarette smoke.  You could smoke

in your office back then.
And in the classroom. Outside, students
huddle, puffing in the cold. You wish
for an excuse to stand with them

that wouldn’t kill you. The next
five years? Ten to retirement.
Your booster rockets fell harmlessly
into the sea years ago. No little form

is going to do the trick.
They’re already bidding for the right
to press eject on your office chair—
talk about trajectory.

The Tenured Guy Handles the Evidence

In a class full of smooth faces
hers is cracked into lines
like your own.

She’s a sing-songy rhymer:
“Drunk Drivers Go To Jail.”
God would get them

for killing innocents. Don’t preach,
you told her. My son, she said,
was killed by a drunk driver.

That’s truth. It’s what I feel.
You gave her the standard advice:
Show don’t Tell. Image over

Abstraction. She brings in
pictures of her son, and a pile
of his clothes—dumps them

on your desk with a drop slip.

The Tenured Guy Calculates Salaries

You’ve got a formula
that figures in ass-kicking
and grade inflation. The pal
factor, the longevity factor,
the padded vitae factor,
the committee-wonk factor,
the self-promoting factor,
the gossip factor, the meeting-
attendance factor, the disagreeing-
with-the-head factor, the parking lot
factor and the cocktail factor,
the lame-publication factor, the rest room-
stink factor, the chewing-too-loud factor,
the jeans factor, the letter-to-the-editor factor,
the faction factor, the miniskirt factor,
the sports car factor, the too-chummy-with-student
factor, the not-chummy-enough factor, the dean-
and-provost-tennis-playing factor, the president’s
son factor, the rich-alumni factor, the simple
royal pain-in-the-ass factor. Your raise: 2%.
You wander the hallways, poking into offices,
counting on your fingers. Adjusting
for the cost of living.

from Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2010

***

Poems of the Week~March 29

FOUR POEMS, THREE POETS

CHRISTOPHE CASAMASSIMA

of Robert Creeley

rat poisons, barns, a sled with no runner
or figure or evening. In the
break the heart.
except my children who are trained to love
rights, with impetuosity and
the shock of recognition, like they say,

contact, hence out to lunch.
ruthless, friends felt,
even to make such images,
each voice which is asked
like this, he said. Where were you?
each wound is perfect
you—words, words

SONJA JAMES

Ode to Toni Morrison

The indolence of summer troubles & tickles
her right beneath the ribs.
She’s sure one is missing.
Not for a moment does she believe
that Eve was created from Adam.
No, it’s the other way around.
Not only that, creation is universal.
Every woman loses a rib
in the making of something:
a song, a baby, a helpmate.
She owns the waters that lick the shore.
She owns laughter.
She owns the languid summer.
The almost ecstatic thrill
of bearing witness to blossom & strut
holds forth a promise:
the intransigent katydid will winter in her hand.

VIOLETA GARCIA-MENDOZA

On the Darkest Days, We Drove

My mother and I and the circle
one sixteenth of an inch deep,
no bigger than the mole on my right calf,
just below my knee, the circle burned
into the carpet of the front passenger’s seat.

The other woman a cigarette
extinguished on my mother’s skin.
My father the smoke.

Sometimes we parked on any of the dusty cliffs
around the airport and watched other people leave,
driven to the edge of the city
for everyone to see.

AMY McNAMARA

Minor Third

Then they flattened all the Braille. Gave us
dusty violet globe grapes, a little Elizabeth
Taylor, one for each socket. They split us into
groups of “my father hi-tailed it,” and “I lost my
mother,” and gave us each a reedy singing voice
box, though we already had our own. Some
were tuned to a minor third, others an
augmented fourth. Restless intervals. Then we
were on our own, palms out and ringing in the
flatland. A group of new cartographers formed
and left. All around me singing in a key of
sorrow. Terra incognita. I wished I’d put my
hand in with the globe-eyed cartographers.

Noumenal Propinquity

First the numbers died. More protest than
strategy; they let go because they were tired
of longing for corporeal form. Then the
wheelchairs split. Up-ended their keepers onto
sidewalks where they lay lumpen like potatoes,
robbed of forward motion. People used each
other instead. You + your lover + the angry guy
behind the counter in the spice shop = two
sidewalk planks = two flights up = standing
agape before a canvas. A large red four, sharp
as a winter bird, lifts off it, flies through the
snowy gallery-scape. Soundless. Snow-muffled.

*

from Kestral, 26 (Spring 2011), Ed. Donna J. Long

***

Poems of the Week ~ March 16

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

MARY SZYBIST

The Heroine As She Turns To Face Me

Just before the curtain closes, she turns
toward me, loosening
her gauzy veil & bright hair—

this, she says, this
to create scene, the pure sweep of it,
this to give in, feel the lushness,
this & just a little theatrical lighting
& you, too, can be happy,
she’s sure of it—

it’s as if I cut her heart-whole from the sky,
rag & twist & tongue & the now terrible speed
of her turning

towards me like the self
I most meant to portray, indefatigable—

see how bravely she turns, how exactly true to the turning,
& in the turning
most herself, most enacted,
arranging herself for the exit

withholding nothing, unraveling
the light in her hair & her face

says only that
whatever the next scene is,
she will fit in.

ZANNI SCHAUFFLER

Mending Bird Houses

I free the trap door of the house and brush everything into my hand.
My friend is wound round the next fencepost: her leg hooked,
her foot anchoring, her arm flinging up and down like an oil derrick.

She buries six-penny nails with one-and-a-half strikes.
I sift chaff and soil and separate grass from eggshell.
I tweeze bones from the dander and drop them into a shoebox,

tally the dead in a notebook, and fling the refuse into the golden fields.
The fields were golden.
The birds no bigger than spools of thread.

Of course it’s the old story: each year, fewer numbers.
The truck bed is full of crude houses with quarter-size holes to keep the cowbirds
out—
opportunists who wait to steal the nests of weaker birds—

not everyone can build something of nothing.
What we wanted was to be good.
She unwraps herself and we etch our shins wading through the brambles.

We climb into the truck, the floor full of tapes and pop cans.
We creak the doors closed and drive to the one store and tavern.
At night we sleep in mummy bags, our heads close to the cast iron stove.

PAULANN PETERSEN

Ashes

Because we call the body
ashes, dust,
clothing. Containment.

Because each word
is a body-print—
dark home of indelible ink.

Because a poem breathes
air into this world,

I am here to stuff
my limbs with leaves—
ready to be

the scarecrow of
a thousand
green say-so’s.

CARLOS REYES

The Sailor’s Wife

She used
just one

of the empty
bottles

as a rolling
pin

when she baked
bread

for his return
like Penelope wove

she baked and if
he did not come

she fed the loaves
to seagulls

As is known
the rolling pin

whether glass
or wood

makes a weapon
she kept it close

in her apron
just in case

the waves
brought someone else

*

all from Burnside Review 2009, Ed. Sid Miller.

***

Poems of the Week ~ February 16

THREE POEMS, THREE POETS

VICTORIA CHANG

Mostly Ocean

I have tried to read land,
over and over, holding

onto crags for map, but packs
of hounds chew their tongues

off, lined up like a row
of soldiers, waiting for my first step

onto rocks that bank like
forks. I am hardened by this

living everywhere. At last,
one day I make it onto beach.

When I am inspected, they
discover a likeness of lost,

barnacles of want. I ask:
What is likeness but a desire

to build an empire? I barely
make it through. As I look

back at the sea, I know my body
will always be mostly ocean,

a disease stitched into me.

ADRIENNE LEWIS

Darkness

“…light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light…”

There has to be something said about the darkness,
the way it hides in pockets,
among lint and forgotten dimes
. It waits

for twilight, the first signs of a friend
walking toward you; craving a way out

it settles in
the kiss that changes everything.

BETH MARTINELLI

White Behaves Generously Despite Its Stately, Unmeddlesome Properties.

Some boys minded red hair. One kissed me
on the ladder. I knew there were birds,

a snake digesting a frog on the front walk,
so we couldn’t get inside. The air stopped

breathing. The sun high but cold.
A german shepherd bit a pretty girl’s cheek.

Men with guns in and out of bushes.
At times hurricanes. My mind went

away. The twins picking sage
and foxglove. Lost chair cushions.

I counted eight dead crickets.
There was a code to it all, a secret

I heard the first night. Beware the ocean
at dawn. A duck dressed as a baby.

The plaid-suited clown sniffling.
The moon yawned preciously.

Someone’s small tongue in the road.

*

all from Shade 2006: An Anthology of Poetry and Fiction, edited by David Dodd Lee.

***

Poems of the Week ~ February 3

FOUR POEMS BY NORMAN DUBIE

A Nativity Canvas for My Daughter

July 18, 1969

Theo is still dreaming of the trees’
deposits of copper and fleece
and the rouge fleshy wings of an angel
with bad teeth
holding a torch to a wall
where the dragging automatic hand
paints us in red and ochre—
the message is simple, come
over, come over now,
the small wooden boats
have only the appearance of cows
climbing in the mist
while the sowers enter the fields
not quite awake
with their slings spilling seeds
for the organizing crows
in their dim seasonal disbelief—
not the usual mischief of feeding,
more a moment of grace and sudden snow.

The Canvas Boat

A clean fog off slowly boiling macaroni,
a palette stone with ochre and rouge—
long brushes like dead muskrats
and a row of wild onions
with knuckles of garlic
obviating the solitary Dutch painter’s
whistling while crushing azure,
crushing azure—everyone is dead
so this is the place to do this—
his blouse on fire with moon.

Sasquatch

I am not a costume
stuffed with the organs of deer
and possum—a bucket
of huckleberries from the distant meadows.
They shot me
twice in the stomach
with dimes. The truck dragging
me for miles along
the creek. Ideas
die hard is what
the car salesman said to my wife
after cleaning his boots and his knife.

Landmine: Field of Copper Wings

We are the swimmers, with legs and arms.

We sleep beside the river
and dream of the Joshua tree…

In the mountains of Afghanistan

there are swarming bees
painted across the smokehouse door
so we will remember

the soft meaty comb, the shelf
of gore.

*

all from Norman Dubie’s The Volcano.

***

Poems of the Week ~ January 23

THREE POEMS BY LOUISE GLÜCK

All Hallows

Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

Epithalamium

There were others; their bodies
were a preparation.
I have come to see it as that.

As a stream of cries.
So much pain in the world—the formless
grief of the body, whose language
is hunger—

And in the hall, the boxed roses:
what they mean

is chaos. Then begins
the terrible charity of marriage,
husband and wife
climbing the green hill in gold light
until there is no hill,
only a flat plain stopped by the sky.

Here is my hand, he said.
But that was long ago.
Here is my hand that will not harm you.

Descending Figure

1.The Wanderer

At twilight I went into the street.
The sun hung low in the iron sky,
ringed with cold plumage.
If I could write to you
about this emptiness—
Along the curb, groups of children
were playing in the dry leaves.
Long ago, at this hour, my mother stood
at the lawn’s edge, holding my little sister.
Everyone was gone; I was playing
in the dark street with my other sister,
whom death had made so lonely.
Night after night we watched the screened porch
filling with a gold, magnetic light.
Why was she never called?
Often I would let my own name glide past me
though I craved its protection.

2.The Sick Child

Rijksmuseum

A small child
is ill, has wakened.
It is winter, past midnight
in Antwerp. Above a wooden chest,
the stars shine.
And the child
relaxes in her mother’s arms.
The mother does not sleep;
she stares
fixedly into the bright museum.
By spring the child will die.
Then it is wrong, wrong
to hold her—
Let her be alone,
without memory, as the others wake
terrified, scraping the dark
paint from their faces.

3.For My Sister

Far away my sister is moving in her crib.
The dead ones are like that,
always the last to quiet.

Because, however long they lie in the earth,
they will not learn to speak
but remain uncertainly pressing against the wooden bars,
so small the leaves hold them down.

Now, if she had a voice,
the cries of hunger would be beginning.
I should go to her;
perhaps if I sang very softly,
her skin so white,
her head covered with black feathers. . . .

*

all from The First Four Books of Poems by Louise Glück. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.: New York, 1995.

***

Poems of the Week ~ Janurary 12

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

JASON BREDLE

Falling from a Bridge

I woke after a night in the lightning chamber

feeling incredible. There was so much to do. It’s

crunch time, I thought, as I walked to the kitchen

for a bowl of cereal. I wanted to grow my

eyelashes really long. I was going to sew my hand

back on. I wanted to have an adventure. I

phoned Giancarlo and invited him over. He

walked into the kitchen with blueprints of Holy

Resurrection, proposing we set it on fire. I’d

prefer to fall from the perfect bridge, I said. We

made a list of all the bridges in the city. We chose

the bridge on Avenida cruz del sur for its design

and historical relevance. As we left, we found a

tiny duckling dead in a puddle of water on the

sidewalk in front of my house. It looked like a

painful death. It made the idea of falling from a

bridge seem stupid. What did we expect, anyway?

We were somewhere outside Bucharest in the

1970’s or 1980’s.

SARAH GAMBITO

Virginia

When I was born, the woman ahead

of me had a lovely Om and it was

an Apostle. White children sang around

me and I sang Edelweiss, Nothing but

the Blood and come cookie stick.

Quid multa ne multa multa

nox. In my church, I petted

my spine. I was furry

and luxuriant. Grass growing

nearer. I stood among my own conifers

and when no one was

looking I played every character

in the Nativity. I liked it

best when I was Mary freezing

at night. I kissed the top of

my dollbaby’s head and stayed

in my sheets while cars peeled in

fleur de lis around me. My church

was tall and level-headed.

My church memorized

scripture and made peachy

fingernails and emotional

outbursts in school.

ALICE JONES

Kara

Deranged pack ice, murderous
isotopes released in meltwater,
a black fluid force and its teeth,

ice-spined, ice-breakers
penetrating
the insanity of water,

eddies, spun mouths,
a poisoned drain,
birth sluice, primal sink.

KATHLEEN MARTIN ROWE

English Class

Hold me cheap
she says. How to explain
when words hide unborn
inside the fruit.

Once I saw a cherry tree
bloom. In a botanical garden
children tumbled downhill
on the lawn. It was
so imperfect.
Reshuffling her hands,

it’s the way people look at her
as if she’s stupid
because her language does not
treat them well.
Cherry trees grow

in Washington. A gift of friendship
from Japan, 1912, claims the classroom text.
The spring festival
attracts thousands.

Those trees!
Draped in pale letters.

How to understand
transaction, offering.
Hands covering face.

*

all from Denver Quarterly 46.2 (2012), Ed. Bin Ramke

***

Poems of the Week ~ December 16

FIVE POEMS, FIVE POETS

JENNIFER BOYDEN

I’d Have Presented a Cup of Water or My Own Small Ax

She said she could read the dream
of anything, so they put her in a cage
overlooking, at first, the plum trees.

But they said this made it too easy,
that the fruit or the birds might be
where the visions were from.

So they put her underground,
and one woman dropped down
a handkerchief.

In the box, the woman
found the cloth’s dream of waterfall,
released it up.

Then they sent down
a boy who had never woken,
but his dream was in a language

so large its edges hurt. The lemon
dreamt of chaff blowing over the field.
The shoes of rising spoons of heat.

When the people had nothing left
to send, they went home
and ate, some with their hands, some

very little. In the box, the woman grew
thinner. In her paleness, she shone
like a sail of the moon’s own drift,

and so read t hat. Again and again,
as though it might release her.

MARY ANN SAMYN

Another Word for Small

The day, like a snake, had a bulge in the middle.

I cleaned and cleaned and was terrific at cleaning.

No, the day, like a dress, was pinned: tissue paper and chalk:
two kinds of rustle from childhood.

Briefly, I thought of calling.

The day, like grammar, was composed of exceptions:
after breakfast; noon; sleepy three o’clock; hope against hope; etc.

The day was not a snow day, and the sky was not a snow sky,
and the air, also not.

—Amid the winter muck, however, something bright
and inconsequential:

a toy, perhaps, or left out—months and months ago.

MEGAN SNYDER-CAMP

Bearings

The marriage ran under their skin, a rash, or maybe
all that red wine, luminescent cocktail hours
in which lost books were rediscovered, or just a rash,
a reaction sending out runners across her chest,
a vine, something close, ruby scarves coming back
into fashion, their son coming back
from school, from the yard, but now, dinnertime
and the family parted, split houses, her ex and his anger
spread down the long hallway of their house
and into the windows of her new apartment, their daughter’s doubled
beds, her doubled face in family portraits that double
in frequency, a family set down and another, this dinnertime
and more red wine, our faces flush with love and sympathy,
the mother decides to see the son again, and so
our doubled flashlights giving us heaven and earth,
all of it safe or at least unmoving, the tall fence
her ex built to hide the little grave, to guard the lot
in this registered historic district (all of the houses
bear their stories on plaques, their first stories,
run-on, this little town with no street lights, just moon,
cedars), the tall fence behind which is the yard, blue,
in this yard no marker stone and under this stone
their son’s everything, no double,
no double

LEILANI R. HALL

Oneironaut

For Joan (1948-2007)

I don’t eat the juniper berries.
Leave them for the crows

who must carry night across their backs,
the burden of breaking into day, the fury

of feathered evening stippled against the field.
I do not shame them for each small death, light

gone under wing. Here, I am an interloper,
having put my head on the pillow, let go

the hand of day, and walked into your night, lucid.

MARTHA SILANO

Love

I hate your kneecaps floating free
in their salty baths. I hate your knees,

both of them, and I hate your eyelashes,
especially the ones that fall out, the ones

you’re supposed to wish on; I wish you
bad wishes. I hate every hair

on your hairy face, hate you as much
as I hate being put on hold,

thank you for your patience
when I have none, when patience

is as far away as my first-grade teacher’s
if you have nothing nice to say . . .

Your mushroom risotto: hate it.
The salmon you’re defrosting: hate.

My vowels hate you.
My adverbs hate you. The backyard

hates you—the backyard with all its abandoned
dump trucks, with the giant hole our son dug

all summer while soaker hoses soaked. That hole
and all holes, including t he hole in the ozone,

which of course keeps getting better.
Spaghetti wrapping around a fork.

Mashed spinach and carrots caught
in the rungs of a high chair, stuck

to the floor like dried green paint: hate,
hate, hate. Each furry rabbit a little furry ball

of hate. Each blackberry a messy drupe of drippy hate.
At the China Palace the plates piled high with Mu Shu

Hate, the plates now a busboy’s burden of hate,
the only sound the dumpster’s clanging hate hate hate.

*

all from The Cincinnati Review 5.1 (Summer 2008). Eds. Don Bogen and Brock Clarke.

***

Poems of the Week ~ November 16

FIVE POEMS, FIVE POETS

MARIE PONSOT

Alhambra in New York

From the kitchen corner comes

the low electric hum

of the five-petaled fan.

A stir of air reaches us

sweetly, as if it were fresh;

it governs our breath.

Our talk over dinner

could not be better even

were we caressed (if

we were as we were)

by a skim of air lifting to us

moonstruck off the long pool

at Alhambra years ago, there

where we are, as we know.

JENNIFER PERRINE

Outside Paradise, Everything is Other

Adam, this first day tossed
from the garden: even here

the song of dehiscence
comes scuttling up through fountains

of grass, all these anthers
bursting, clavigers loosing

their keys. Inside the weight
of freshly sinned flesh, pollen

spins its syrup, his breath
trickling from the honeycomb

of lung, fabiform nodes
in his neck germinative,

sprouting watery shoots
into blood, and oh, these bones

steeped in the lukewarm meat
of his skin say even this

is something to welcome:
even in this small wrestle

for each slow slug of air,
the body wants to be known.

NANCE VAN WINCKEL

Hit Return

Your flame—an eye
flown open—stopped me.
The thunderbolt not
so much. The mind changes
and ditto the curfew
make as if to stop me.
Good tries. Old ties.
A wail wells us (from
the has-been baby) and
aims to but fails to
take me aback. What
may be gleaned from
this? The very inquiry
stopped me: had I come
on foot? The injection only
slowed me. You pull
the needle out, and I
go on, darling, on.

KAREN HILDEBRAND

Wine-Tasting

Despite the joke that only a poet
would turn a bouquet of violets
into violence, I’m behind the wheel,
driving a country road late at night,
when the car dies, lights go out, radio slurs.
It’s like those alien spaceship encounters
where they suck up all the power
and then the moon explodes.
We watch through the windshield,
and I realize the moon is really the sun,
which, of course, scares the bejesus out of me.
Kim and I look at each other—never mind,
she’s been dead since 1999—and duck
into the back seat, our car gone off into the ditch.
I’m imagining chaos, roving bands, leather vested
scavengers, heads bandaged with filth and chains.
This after a perfectly sedate evening, full-bodied red,
Chris’s “soft and warm women,” cheeses, figs.

RAY AMOROSI

The First Born

When I dropped my hand in the river from the stern,
I wanted to be free of it.
It came back up cold, as lovely as the boy buried today.

It’s said God is a beast at high tide.
Wiry hair between your fingers,
a slack body as soft as a child’s thigh.

The familiar hand at breakfast is gone.
The mother swallows the absence like bread, the father
weeps in a bar of strangers.

When the moon is full in my snout when
the first born dies, the yellow
humpback wave rises at dawn

and rolls over and stars salt the river,
when the moon is too full, when the stars return.

*

all from The Journal 33.1 (Spring/Summer 2009), Eds. Kathy Fagan and Michelle Herman

***

Poems of the Week ~ November 9

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

BRUCE SNIDER

Lure

Muskrats enter the trap
for the apple, the lure

we’ve secured with a nail.
They can’t be saved,

nesting the banks, cloudy-
eyed, whiskered hunger

deep as our own. They
mate and breed. Where they die

in the cold: frogs, crayfish
gleam, cattail roots, scat

steaming. We lift them—
seven dollars a pelt—

into the boat, fur matted, legs
cage-snagged as if punishment

for feeding. Into water
they come rippling,

immeasurable. Where
it begins. Where it ends.

That feeling. So many names:
mud cat, mud beaver, heart-

stopped in the rushes, snared.

BRENDAN CONSTANTINE

Birthday Girl with Possum

No one wants to come
too near. It’s wild,
might climb out of her
arms, with its claws like
loops of gray icing. She
stares up at us, animals
poised to bellow. What
don’t we want.

GERI DORAN

Tabula Rosa

Enter into testimony: the name Beloved.
An inmost calm cannot abide in this.
As I am often told—
the long walk by the roaring sea
the long walk roaring by the sea
made not unknowing nor without cease

yet planed smooth along the corded vein—
though sand be not the sculpted grain, nor wood,
though walking be not grieving, nor the plane.

ANGIE ESTES

It is Virtually Without
Thickness and Has Almost

no weight. If rubbed between forefinger
and thumb, it will fade
into nothing. If dropped, it hardly seems
to flutter downwards. If it settles
on a hard surface ruffled or folded
it can be straightened out
with a puff of breath, unwrinkling
itself like a shimmering
shaken blanket. It can be
hammered thinner and
thinner without ever
crumbling away. It can
be eaten and seems
to vanish on the tongue,
but a good translation
should have some memory
of its original language: The statue lies
in a freshly excavated hole, dirt
and rocks tossed into
the bushes but robes
still clinging to her breasts
and thighs. The man standing
next to her, visible only
above the knee, has laid aside
his shovel: one hand rests on what’s left
of her arm while the other brushes
her stone hair
once read The past tense
of sit is satin and as the world
rolls into dusk, everything is
quiet except for a robin
breaking small pieces of light
in its beak: the less light, the more
fragrant the lilac grows
.

*

all from Ninth Letter 6.1 (Spring/Summer 2009), Ed. Jodee Stanley

***

Poems of the Week ~ October 19

THREE POEMS, THREE POETS

JESSE LEE KERCHEVAL

Straight Line

No one in the county saw the wind, though
someone must have, maybe everybody did,

but it seems it was transparent, invisible,
&

no one can tell you the exact angle of the red pine
before it was broken, only after,

or can imitate the noise, the shaking loose
all those shingles made,

or can say for sure what that first moment
sounded like after the wind stopped

whether something or nothing or a soft note
in between.

EMMA BOLDEN

At First

The world whirs: vetiver and violins,
lilac and lion’s roar, lilies, dogwood and daisies

rip off their green shawls to show you
their white fringe of hair, asters

upholster the pathways purple, the fish kisses
the side of her bowl and even ice

cubes clink thanks for their glass. Love
new, and you knew the world new

defined, all a dictionary of him—stem
to be plucked by his fingers, lamp

that which lit his bristl’d chin—the whole
world, the whole world

of him, the whole world a hymn.

CHAD SWEENEY

The Mile

Western Oklahoma

My grandmother crowns the hill,
her headlights lathing the dark,
a farm route

through rye then cotton
then the red and gold of wheat,
the scrub oak crowding

a little nameless river
where fog holds to low places.
Who would have seen the tractor

aimed down the highway by a boy,
his first summer behind the wheel,
with no lights but the holy

somnolence of a cowboy radio?
The next car over the rise
is my father

blind into the fog.
There is so much to talk about
at this moment,

so many lines of cause and effect
trembling taut into that gully.
How does my father choose—

with his mother’s ribs broken
and his new wife moaning from the ditch—
to carry the limp body

of someone else’s child
a mile over night fields
toward the insinuation of a roof?

Everyone is bleeding and starlight
drizzles over the summer wheat.
The poem holds them there

long enough to trace the flight
of an owl
from a cedar’s black minaret

its wings underlit by brake-lights.
Which of you, dear reader,
is in the next Oldsmobile

to clatter over the bluff
shouting help into your CB radio?
Which of you opens the front door

weeping
to wrap your unconscious boy
in quilts? Do you kill

the man
who carries him?
In most endings I am never

born. In most,
you buy my family’s farm cheap
at auction. Who among you

is rushing the ambulance
past the county line at mile 67
when the tire blows? The story

moves through telephone wires
at the pitiless speed of rumor:
when my father reaches the house

with the boy expiring in his arms,
a white rectangle of light
and grief

sears his eyes forever.
In the cave of my mother’s
body

I listen to the first fire.

*

all from Passages North: 30th Anniversary Issue 30.1 (Winter/Spring 2009), Ed. Kate Myers Hanson

***

Poems of the Week ~ October 12

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

MARY LOU BUSCHI

Trees

1

There was singing—broken English,
a drift, and a circus of hands—

2

You can’t see the sky without distance.
But I see cats and they are dead in the trees.
Open your eyes, I say
If you want to really see them.

3

The ground is cracked.
Look up, it’s all cracked.

4

In my dream, there were horses and they were sliding
through a pit in the basement floor.
I went in after them.
I wanted to ride them to the bottom.

5

I bought a horse with a young man inside.

The pipes were broken and draining, brown rust, at first, and then
dark red.

Look closer, you said. And here is the thing,
I could see what you saw, what our father saw, and what the young man felt.

Then the hallway grew long—
And the front door got further and further away.

The young man’s back was turned.

Our father kept calling to us.

Nothing more—nothing more.

6

Once there was a storm—
A wing opened.
The storm roiled
until it disappeared.

7

I want to climb them.
But the branches are too high—
And what will you do when you get there?
Have a wedding in the sky.

CHRISTINE GARREN

Anoikis

I let you in–

toxic-drip in my vein–and in my mind’s room too

you live–even dead–oceans away– years away

still, in the forest here

I can not get the needle of you

out–my

blood-thorn,

that long-ago stab–love-red, negative-red–constant sting

of union

GRAHAM FOUST

Promotional

To trip the forced majestic.

To then almost fall ahead.

To make a darkness.

To then light up the fortunate dead.

To burst into question, into voiced-over nerve.

To then groan a few where-was-I’s in the morning’s weird gold.

To think to leave a place forever, wherever you are.

To then head back through the gate, the basic yard.

To lay off the day’s controls and keep your suit on like a scar.

To then improvise restraint behind an open, broken door.

To say: “The dream was in me like a bone.”

To then mean it.

To listen for the pill to never come.

To then sleep.

To sleep the half-sleep of the flammable, whoever they are.

To then not regret—so be it—your alarm.

To feel that every possible shape’s been made.

To then crush a cup of water.

To crush another cup of water.

To then work the human room.

NANCY BOTKIN

You Know Everything

(1)

The hampered coast in you
wakes up

the shape of the world—

close cry of breath,
decisions of light.

You were never too young
for solitude’s frail gestures.

Always the same eyes.

(2)

Lay this hope
on your one dark wing:

like a fever,

you’re coming down with a salted grace,

a flowering tree,
the story of your life.

*

all from The Laurel Review: The Poetry Only Issue 43.1 (Winter 2009), Ed. John Gallaher and Contributing Editor, David Dodd Lee.

***

Poems of the Week ~ October 5

THREE POEMS, THREE POETS

DAVID BAKER

Forced Bloom

I.

Such pleasure one needs to make for oneself—.
She has snipped the paltry forsythia
to force the bloom, has cut each stem on the
slant and sprinkled brown sugar in a vase,
so the wintered reeds will take their water.
It hurts her to do this but she does it.
When are we most ourselves, and when the least?
Last night, the man in the recessed doorway,
homeless or searching for something, or sought—,
all he needed was one hand and quiet.
The city around him was one small room.
He leaned into the dark portal, a
shadow of himself, gray shade in a door.
His eyes were closed, his rhythm became him,
as we have shut our eyes, as dead or as
other, and held the thought of another
whose pleasure is need, face over a face. . .

II.

It hurts her to use her hands, to hold a
cup or bud, or touch a thing. The doctors
have turned her burning hands in their hands.
The tests have shown a problem, but no cause,
a neuropathology of mere touch—.
We have all made love in the dark, small room
of such need, without shame, to our comfort,
our compulsion. I know I have. She has.
We have held or helped each other, sometimes
watching from the doorway of a warm house
where candletips of new growth light the walls,
the city in likeness beyond, our hands
on the swollen damp branch or bud or cup.
Sometimes we are most ourselves when we are
least, or hurt, or lost, face over a face—.
You have, too. It’s your secret, your delight.
You smell the wild scent all day on your hand.

ANNMARIE DRURY

Walking in Hills of Which One Has Seen Many Paintings

Your task differs: to leave
the world to its own particular
fragility: not to turn it to emblems the way

shadows of cows in a pond once
became emblems of the heat
of a summer day. Within borders of your

vision, imperfect frame, the sun
sets, shadows are allowed
to darken away. Others knew this landscape,

but you know there must
always be those who only watch
and, watching, wander off; while quietly,

quietly even the most suggestive
fragility undertakes its own slow
transformation, cedes to its own complexity.

STEPHEN BURT

Morningside Park

Without fear or fault, the green
Expanse of it drops at acute
Angles, sudden and inconveniently,
Till laden branches bless the rest of the boulevard.
Here you too may mail a letter abroad,
Or unfold laundry,
Perform essential services, clip shade
In transient humidity.
Bedazzled,
Like a friend you’ve missed for years, except
That he doesn’t know who you are, or want to,
This puffy guy jogs up
Then down, then up the stairs.
I want to cry
At all costs: Look, quick wind, I’m one of you!
But each afternoon
The sun strikes, as in bowling,
And all is cleared away, although the wind
Competes: it cleans its area, then punches
Out as night comes on
And drops off the residues, rainily, later, in Queens,
Among the distant congregations. Somebody
Trots a cat on a leash; the smaller
Mutts look up a bit, unnerved,
And prance up, almost bounce, on their back legs,
Having their very
Own vertiginous day.

Nothing I say can satisfy those I care for.
Appropriate flowers grow harder and harder to find.

*

all from The Paris Review (156), Eds. George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, Donald Hall, Robert Silvers, Blair Fuller, Maxine Groffsky, Jeanne McCulloch and James Linville.

***

Poems of the Week ~ September 29

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

JAMES TATE

Everything for the Horse

Oftentimes, when the melancholy has gripped me,
and God knows that can happen at any hour of the day,
the black bile has backed up into my craw,
the atrabilious cloud has settled over my head
and every last detail of life seems out of joint,
I tell myself it’s time to visit Peter Bell,
my skewbald stallion. Combing his coat
brings a pleasure to us both it’s safe to say,
time has no meaning for me, one animal
grooming another, and a wave at sea.
I read no thoughts into Peter Bell, simply
that he is happy enough with my quiet company.
We are both getting on in years now,
and while I know full well that regrets will get you nowhere,
how can I not from time to time remember
my dear wife Dorothy, not to mention her gooseberry pie,
and her Sunday dinners in general.
I try like hell not to become maudlin,
but being alone on a farm just isn’t right.
The rooster crows, the sun comes up
and there’s nothing but sick thoughts in my head.
I could shoot Peter Bell and move to town,
I wake with that thought nearly every morning.
Old Clyde would hire me on at the hardware store.
Rent a room from Matilda, drink
a couple of beers with the boys at The Green Parrot.
Too many mornings all that sounds like heaven to me.

ELIZABETH TIBBETS

Woman and Hens: Postcard

Look at this woman smoking a pipe
and bearing two bound hens on her head,
the blue pillow they sit on, the woman’s
red and green striped shirt. The hens
are craning their necks, heads jerking
side to side, red eyes hungry
for the passing fields and road.

They are the blossoms on a woman’s head.
They are the jewels in her crown. They are
hens of the highest order.

Perhaps she’s hurrying home to her husband
and other wives, or to a dying child.
Maybe she’s humming time to her feet,
modeling that hat for a buck or two,
or she’s just hungry for the good soup
she’ll cook after she lops the hens’ heads
off and their bodies run until life
runs out of them and they are gutted,
plucked, and dropped into the pot.

All we know is the look
of hens that are riding high
before whatever happens happens.

B. GOODMAN

A Voice Caught in a Tree

Writhing and slick-sided, a length
of cassette tape stretches against wind.
This must be the memory curled
around the rib, a lost phrase
our lungs still remember. This tree
a map of the river, the river a map
of the blood, thinnest branches reaching
deeply inward. Whose voice is this
thread between fingers? What song
help up to the light? The grackles
lower like plumb lines – and this
the season of removal – already
it’s begun: the intricate weave
and warmth, dry grass, down,
bit of ribbon, a strand of the missing
girl’s hair haunting a low nest.

JAMES FINNEGAN

More Sky

Somewhere is here – exactly where
isn’t important. The hour is late,
the sleepers on their rafts are turning back
at the point where even inside their dreams
they can hear the roaring waterfall of light
that is morning. Someone is awake though,
that much is certain. She is rolling
her name around inside her mouth –
it melts away like an ice cube. Comfort
is not a fact acceptable to her. Now is not
the time to make small talk or pour measured
shots from a fifth of vodka. The reason is apparent
to anyone who has weighed the worth of his or her own life.
But suicide is not under considered.
It will suffice to call it heartbreak,
a convenient and not wholly inappropriate label
describing this state of mind or circumstance.
A footstep on a stair, the underside of a leaf.
She will try to latch on to the smallest element
of life, the least essence of existence,
salve, salvage, salvation. Then dawn,
the day that is both after and before.
The light is not perfect. She will notice
it is November everywhere and the trees,
so full of color a few weeks ago, are bare
and ungainly, and yet, looking up through those branches
she’ll observe that there is, if nothing else, more sky.

*

all from Green Mountains Review: 10th Anniversary Double Issue (Fall/Spring 1996-Summer 1997), Ed. Neil Shepard.

***

Poems of the Week ~ September 21

CARRIE OEDING

Those Women Are Laughing

Sorry Susanna,
we’ve already worn the red dress
tight, yes, without a slip,
once with the zipper broken,
to a wedding and to our birthday,
where, yes, we ate the cake with our hands.
We ate the dress.
We wore it as if we had a secret,
over and over and Friday and Sunday,
until, silly Susanna, there never was a dress.

Sorry, we’ve already demanded
the cake and the gun and the empty room.
But go ahead and say it
if you think you can pretend.
We’ve always been loud.

Sorry Susanna,
we’ve already slept with him, each one of us,
and told him, “There won’t be anyone
‘like me,’ ‘like me,’ ‘like me,’”
and walked away refusing to make him better,
you’re not the first one. Yes,
aren’t we just something.

Do you whisper, I can do this better,
Susanna? Funny how we knew that.
We’ve already done better.
We’ve already seen you, Susanna.
Yes, and? We see you.

But I’m different.
Yep, we’ve said that. Made that true. It is true.

Oh, we’ve done that too, yes,
been true, been right, been dead once or twice,
yes we’ve even died and come back
in the red dress they buried us in.

Yes, go if you want.
We’ll understand, we already do.
We are loud, we can be.
That is nothing new.
We realize how funny we are, how loud, how we talk
sleep, wash, aim.
Or, yes you can stay and wait and laugh. What comes
is always better than before, sure.
Someone will come who can make us laugh.
It’s a shame she will be just like you, like you, like you.

Apology to Meditation

The meditation teacher said he wants to leave you alone with me. There should be no third party between me and “existence.”

The meditation teacher said I would soon understand the nature of the mind rather than fight with it. He winked at me then, a bit creepy. I’ll be honest, he really didn’t, but it’s my nature to say quick things to try and make it interesting. Winking is totally predictable.

My friend Jen would like to get to know you because she wants to stay in the moment.

I don’t want to get into it with her, but there could be a moment of a bright autumn tree, or a bright autumn tree that leads me to notice crows, cats, dents in my car, cars on my cat, leaves shaped like cats, the world is cruel. And then it’s not– bright autumn trees that come alive and wink. Or trees which then, suddenly, suddenly suddenly I notice then what happens next? Looking looking where’s the moment I’m in? Bright autumn trees that don’t notice me.

I’m not going back to class to find out how to look at a leaf or who really winked.

I got to know someone once and it led to third parties.

Dear bright autumn trees, surprise me.

Dear meditation, I’m sorry, I know I am getting you all wrong– but now you know how a person can feel and why they wouldn’t want to let that go.

Neighbor Curse

Thanks for never using the garden tools
I loaned you, which you never returned.
I’ve been watching.
You won’t have any tomatoes this summer.

Thanks for being so nice to my dog.
I saw you slip her treats
so one of us would like you.

Thanks for having no tomatoes this summer.
I would’ve trained my dog to eat them.

Even though you don’t have a wife
for my wife to know, thanks
for getting to know my wife.
I know you’ll try to have her
slip off her useless garden clogs
and walk a little softer on your floors.

A lot, a lot of thanks–
I won’t have any tomatoes this summer.

Thank you– for I trust myself. I had a hunch about you,
and loaned you the garden tools
so you’d prove me right.

When the Neighborhood’s Asleep

He doesn’t look up
because he can’t without thinking
those stars,
they’re going to fall.
But when he walks through the neighborhood
he likes to know they’re up there,
and it’s possibly they could plummet,
but more possible if
he were to look.

A Refrain, Sung Once, To Herself

One day, I worry, you will tell me
everything I’ve told you.

What do you have to say for yourself?

Nothing.

Did you think I wouldn’t be listening?

I don’t know.

There is a moon born every time I say alone
and tonight its light has left me sore.
I can see my breath, and I wonder about everything–
how I’m going to get home,
how to answer What’s your story?
how to ask you to walk with me.

“Listen, listen,” the moon, my polished child, says, “On your knees.”
I put my ear to the road.
I cut my hand on street glass.
I hear a sigh, I hear a step, I see you
ignoring the shadows, walking towards me.
I couldn’t say just anything.

*

all from Carrie Oeding’s Our List of Solutions, 42 Miles Press, 2011.

***

Poems of the Week ~ September 14

THREE POEMS, THREE POETS

PAULA BOHINCE

The Body, Hiding

is still, but is still acting,
and the body is the actor, playing the role
of the hunted: also
there is breathing: also wanting
to be found. Patience
is the noun, the bending woman
who searches the woods for the body,
which is dying,
an aggressive kind of flowering.
And if it does die, will it cease
to hide? Still, it will be something: lying,
decaying, unfound,
without will, without comfort
or complaint, a negative,
an impersonation of a person, hiding,
is what the body, hiding, is.

MARIANNE BORUCH

In June

I can’t help but
think about the dead. Everywhere
their flowers burn bright. Roses

life the trellis, lie
about their thorns. The feather-like
lavender I can sweep

with my hand—that scent
wakes anyone. And the dead
go where? Oldest question.

Oldest answer: a shrug,
a blank look. Or the stories we’ve
heard and heard

and nodded off hearing. There’s a place.
There are angels, good
and bad, sure. And we all

walk toward it. Some of us fly. Fly!
I’d do that. I’d climb into the drawing
Leonardo made and be

the figure bent to gears
and levers and ropes that pull up wings
of tanned hide sewn

with raw silk. And fail. And never
get anywhere for years and years.
Because it isn’t simple, is it?

Talk to us anyway, the dead say,
our deep blues set
the garden adrift, our leafy fronds

bury the shade. I’d walk there
twice a day if I could: early morning,
evening. Because once you

made me lie down in a dream,
telling me it’s easy, it’s all
in the small of the back, subtle,

most delicate angle. And you life
like this, you said, showing me.
Was it flying? To be suddenly

that senseless? so nothing at all?
There’s a bird out there,
singing himself hoarse with it.

SARAH SAWYER

This Morning

At dawn I stared at the fog. Two young stags
Edged through the blackberries, onto the blue lawn.
The tree gate behind their high brown haunches

Didn’t move. But the grass below their hooves
Broke and turned dark, and white coils of clouds
Rolled from their low snorting noses. They stood

And then lilted and stepped and stood distant
Again, looking. Locking their tall new racks,
They were like shy lovers breaking the ice.

I could hear the muffled clicks as spring down
Sloughed from their horns. They pulled, stood on two legs,
Boxed in the mist. And my heart opened in parts.

*

all from The Massachusetts Review (48.1), Ed. Jules Chametzky

***

Poems of the Week ~ September 8

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

NICOLAS HUNDLEY

Gothic Novel

1.

I believe they believed what I said.

I said the vents whisper calculations
worth writing on your ankle.

As a watch on the counter, I said,
I imagined a boxcar inside.

I imagined I asked,

What about the revolver in the hive?
What about the thermos

propping open the book—
what book was it?

I imagined I knew this:

the streetlights turned into dots at the dawn.
The dots sounded like air conditioners

or they didn’t sound like anything.

2.

I have invented this twitch
not thinking of you

on my gurney in the exhibit.

I have invented this:
a statue waiting all day long—

it starts to worry.

It worries a table with years missing from it
is no method for the sparrows.

It worries a fork in the swamp
is no refrain from the gauze.

In the swamp, I asked the spools—
because I knew not who to ask—

“Did they mention a shawl?”

3.

A lens is incapable of noise
even in that hut.

A noise darkens the hut.

That the urn wobbles within the hut—
not worth speculation.

It is not worth speculating the causes,
whether the asterisk caused

her to drop the lens in that urn.
I won’t mention the urn made of wood,

the wooden urn.
I won’t mention what this might entail.

I won’t mention the noise
escaping from that urn.

SARAH FOX

There’s a Human Being in the Ditch

A glimpse of pale lilac (the purple
trick) in the leak the rain made—a water-
color collage in which tin cans and weepy
yellow grasses, a headlight passing, that
cloud overhead, my hand on the car’s
window where I’m stopped at a sign—
undulate dirtily and tremble with traffic.
You alone are real to me, Rilke said.
He did not say it to me, exactly.
There’s a human being at the bottom
of that ditch, but he’s not there.
He’s not even here. There’s a human
being’s voice coating the curve
of that cloud, kicking the can,
bringing buckets of lilacs to the door
of my little summer house.
A human being outlined
on the page, chalk outline,
dead person, alone is.
Every word’s heart conjures
a terrible casualty. You
mustn’t put me back in the cage.
There’s a human being
in my ditch, rectangular,
watery, his echo prowls
behind the bricks of this
savagely real, the wakeful
engine of alertness, and animals.

LAURA SIMS

Ruth

what good is she then
wearing lightweight combs

in her hair in the v-shaped
valley, then far

from the v-shaped valley
on fire: the field

plus everything wood

in the world
what glorified branch reads

“one limb lost from another”
among the tall grasses

the prairie distracts her

from bellowing Mary
whose bloodlines Ruth

has eschewed for some
twenty-nine years

in the storm shack
pulling her hair down

afraid

not the thought
of her drowning in that

but the other, that peerless contraption

KATIE GREENSTREET

informant

“Begin with who was killed and why.”

If x = x,
y = x,
abc = x, etc.

salt for salt
ice for ice

If someone asked, you wouldn’t call it pain.

Sound of rain, the water boiling over.
“one chance”

I lost my timeline.

Now that it’s broke, turning black, something
ticking in the closet (the snow
kept it quiet for a while)

“That wasn’t love—it was longing.”

Everybody has ten days.

*

all from Conduit 15 (Fall 2004), Ed. William D. Waltz

*

Poems of the Week ~ August 31

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

DALIA TAHA

Emptiness

Your hand, which
sprouted in air
to carry what was dropped of water
banks in the face of your absence,
waves from a distance
in order for me not to see it.

I didn’t sleep near your neutrality
for the mirrors to dream
within us, I didn’t hide
the blackened
trees in my blood
for me to resemble you
a little.

Why is it then when void illumines
what has leaked out of us
I diminish by one stone?

The wind amputates
my hands that are sails
in your shadow, and I walk
toward what the directions forgot
in me, the way a boat tugs
its remains toward a wave
that drowns it
in a candle’s light.

Everything flows
in the blue of sorrow,
everything dies
on a wall
that has collided with my leap
then discarded what remained of me
in metaphor’s wideness.

I pass within you without
being touched by what
has flooded from you,
just as the smell of grass
over a cold grave
grasps the unknown
with severed fingers and forgets
the rest of its hand
in the vanishing
distance.

This wideness is
narrow.
No exiting leads to it
and no trees
sprout for the prophets
to quit
their dying.

ERIKA L. SÁNCHEZ

Circles

Love, remove your fingers
from between

my ribs.

It’s true; I cup the grief

as if it were milk, as if it were the last of water
spilled.

Quiet, you whistle in my brain
like a balloon.

What religion is this? Boredom
in spring?

Look at me.

The burn you’ve left
on my arm: wet orchids.

Tomorrow, I will braid you
an awful necklace

made of hair.

And when the meaning is all gutted
from the day,

I will delight
in the sticky mess, in a swirl

so deep I forget myself.

Go on—
carve up your favorite parts.

DAN ROSENBERG

What Home

The ship is growing ash.
It slides into the dock’s artery.

Dragging a blanket of light,
the sun leans into water.

Your mitten empties
from my hand. Under a lattice

of wind, my hair lashes out.
Your silhouette

scrapes the bumps from my skin.
I breathe in what you’ve left

behind. My own exhale
spills to my chin and into

the visible cold.
Your footsteps hammer out

some pulse. The ship is no longer
on fire. The ship is home.

Strips of black tire
push it back at the sea.

JIM DANIELS

Taking the Leap

My faith had gone to the dogs.
Dogs will eat their own vomit
if you let them. That’s faith.
They swallowed my faith,
and I’m not sure they kept it down.

Fifteen, drunk, I fell back through the plaster
to avoid my mother’s kiss. She’d jumped
off a chair in front of me.

*

She’s eighty now, and blind.
My son, fifteen, forgot to take out
the garbage last night. I’d offered
to help him earlier, but he declined.
Declining is the slant here.

I’d tap dance through hell
to get a smile out of him.
Is he drinking yet?
I can still jump off chairs.

I’d jump off a chair to surprise my mother
if she could see me, if I could be sure
she would not fall.

*

Fragile and faith get rewound, refined,
redefined. My dog Prince once chewed
Jesus off the cross. Oh, we all had a laugh
over that. Helluva way to get resurrected.

We never gave my son faith in God
so he has not lost it. Just his faith
in us. He smiles a little when he’s lying
but he’ll cure that tick soon.

*

I edited that part out—about me being drunk—
for the family oral history. Just a cute little tale
of a man-boy not wanting to kiss his mother.

Last time we embraced was after he ran away
then came home. I’ve told him to run away
many times since. Even though that night
the porch light glowed and I sat there waiting
for him to leap back into our lives
and may have even prayed.

*

She pulled me out of the wall.
My ass covered in plaster dust.
Everyone admired the empty tomb
except my father who stuck his fingers in
to assess the damage.

My mother got another shot
in her hip last week so she can keep
that wheelchair in the garage.

*

It was hard throwing Jesus away,
even a chewed-up Jesus. No way
was he going back up on that cross.

My son, fifteen, forgot to take out the garbage.
Last week, a girl sprayed him with perfume
as a joke. He wouldn’t come near me. Sat alone
in the back seat as I drove him home.

We’re in freefall here. We’re tearing the walls
back to the studs. We’re excavating for relics.
We have no evidence. We’ve stopped taking pictures.

What did my mother see then? Why wouldn’t
I let her kiss me goodbye?

I’ve got enough sight left. The dogs
bark outside in the cold. Their breathe rises
in the street light and disappears.

He tells me he’s heard all my stories,
though I know that’s not true. He broke a chair
last week just sitting down.

My father sealed up the hole, though you could still see
the faint outline of where I fell.

He barges into my room without knocking, but won’t open
his door to talk, tries to shut it on me.

We fight about the basics—sleep, food, time—
we stick with what we know. My father hit me
for the last time when I was fifteen

and I’m sure I deserved it. Just an open hand
to the cheek. My son jolted away from my hand
on his shoulder on Christmas day

but opened all the gifts. We’ve got baby Jesus here
in the house of unbelievers. All I can say is
sometimes a good story can keep you going

a long time. I tap danced through hell
and even Satan applauded. I lifted
my guardian angel’s robe

and saw nothing underneath. Jesus escaped
out of a hole in the wall. My mother
got her sight back. She threw away her walker,

she sang, dancing with me like back
when I was little and laughed, thrilled
to be in her arms.

We lost our wings a long time ago, my son,
so take me in your arms, catch me
as I fall.

*

all from Pleiades 31.2 (2011), Eds Wayne Miller and Phong Nguyen

***

Poems of the Week ~ August 24

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

LULJETA LLESHANAKU

The Woman and the Giraffes

The woman remembers:
once she was a member
of a family of giraffes
their skin so warm
it baked the air to terra cotta.
A giraffe’s strength resides in its neck
in its long and muscled neck.
Its suffering, too, resides in the neck
in its bending over tropical trees.

One day, the entire herd was blotted out.
Their heads, slender knees, spotted backs, gone.
Only the necks remained, oblique giraffe necks
confounded amidst blank paper
like boarding ladders on an airport runway
clumsily dragging themselves along
after the planes take off.

translated from the Albanian by Henry Israeli & Lluka Qafoku

RYAN MURPHY

The Tulip Craze

The drums open like an umbrella in gray rain.
A thought is resisting gravity.

At this hour the tide indicates nothing,
the restless smell of mildew.

Small shafts of sunlight
come uncombed

through the colander of clouds.
Territories are urging toward statehood.

Somewhere nearby a young boy
sticks his finger in a dike.

Cornflower, compline.
The girl in braids sang me down,

the storm had run its course. The damp
red petals of her voice in the still-wet street.

KATHRYN RANTALA

Not Another Poem About Icarus

Not another poem about Icarus
Not another elevator
up in the arms/down
uplift downdraft
Daddy-and-the-dress song

Oh, when I was still a lint
upon a suit
dancing and dancing
how hair and motorbikes gleamed
now the two-wheelers
pass themselves down
through wormhole dream hole
into whole outer
garment factories
where girls all melt to grass,
you see,
because they couldn’t—
that is, the doors,
the steps, you see,
the up and down of them
went only
up

SEAN SINGER

Frida Kahlo

A hummingbird fell
in a pan of heated
oil. Purple-crackle
& glitter-sizzle. Frida
picked it up, three inches
of slender feather, brushed
it off & in a luminous
whisper repeated:
Look, if I loved you,
it was for your flying.
Now that you don’t fly,
I don’t love you anymore
.

Frida was split
by a metal trampipe
& onto the blood
they said spilled
a piece of gold.
Marvelous gold landed
in her open body,
a red orchid-goiter
& all the people
stood staring & saying
“La bailarina, la bailarina,”
little dance
shaped like a keyhole.

Look through the hole
& see her knot of monkeys
rumbling around her breasts,
touching her ovaries,
their hairy fingers spread
like a Japanese fan,
& unlock the keyhole
into a Mexican zócalo,
a Mayan girl selling
fried grasshoppers in a basket.

*

all from Crowd 2.1 (Summer ’02), Eds. Aimee Kelley & Lily Saint

***

Poems of the Week ~ August 16

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

JULIET COOK

Venus Tree

I planted my oranges with teeth.
I offered my crush a piece of spiked fruit;
next thing I knew, he was missing an arm.

Could this be transcendence in a newfangled way
or were we just consuming each other? How do we
move past our mutilation into our desired sweet bite?

Forbidden to talk about hunger, we suffer
involuntary movements of the tongue—
weevils, vowels, forking out.

My tongue flicking, my limbs twitching
like orange-splotched salamander tails.
I wanted to chew and swallow, but I spewed it—

a bloody spume of glitter dripping down.

LORRAINE DORAN

(200 Mt. Pleasant)

This house is gone now: you are looking at a ghost house.
I like not being at the mercy of the real: the absence.
I like thinking there’s this one dream everyone has:
it makes me feel more human. Last night I had the dream
about falling. And the night before that
the one where you hit the deer with your car.
It always runs into the woods: you never know
if it lived or died. Unless something breaks
you can’t even tell it happened. The red dot near the rosebush is either
the top of my head or my grandmother’s Pekingese.
I am seven years old: it is midday and I am
behaving myself. My dress remains clean
but I am about to scrape my knee. I’m watching ants drag
a monarch butterfly through the dirt: it takes hundreds of them.
I wonder if it will bleed. I wonder if these are the same anthills
my mother’s brothers used to stick firecrackers into.
They said: It’s no worse than what happens when it rains.
This house had a piano in the basement.
Right outside the bomb shelter. Around the corner
from the washing machine: it’s amazing
what water can do. Maybe someday I will teach my-
self to be cruel. Maybe ants get used to it: the perpetual
building. But I am not yet imagining the future.
I am seven years old: certain that when the floods come
this will be the last house standing.

CAROL GUESS

Icicle Flats

A winter flock whirrs in the upended umbrella of an elm. You take the stairs two at a time. Now snow, now shine. Here’s the answer to a question you’ve keep hidden in your coat. Dishonesty’s the most beautiful thing about you, halo. You slip through a slit in morning’s tin cup. Is it selfish to want what’s lost, for just one minute, back? How long imaginary minutes last. Black boots crack, gummy with ice. Mail’s frozen to a metal tongue. Everything’s blue-white and stern. Birds won’t return until the last pipe bursts.

JOHN GALLAHER

I Have State Secrets

I have state secrets, please sleep with me. I
have waxy buildup, please light me
on fire. I had a good idea at the meeting
today, please sleep with me. I tapped my beer twice
on the bar and you saw it,
please light me on fire. I read an issue of GQ
and bought a pair of jeans, please
disregard further communication. I read
the phone book and it’s very tiny,
please don’t visit. It keeps getting lost
in the magazines. It’s Tuesday, a day
of the week. Please fall for the line that goes
like this. Please send more magazines. I feel slightly
as if this place weren’t real, please
sleep with me. It truly might not be real,
and the people here part of a hoax
to make you feel bad for not
lighting me on fire. Pulling water out of the bowl
and dropping it back over and over,
please call yourself a cloud. In laboratories across America
they’re solving problems two at a time. Please
have this nightmare where you join a band
in a subway tunnel during a blackout
and you have to sing the telephone book
of some real place. And one of these things
is our joy. The goats look up at us
from the apparatus knowing we’d be lost
without goats. The dogs say they’d be willing to die
if that would somehow help with our
remote viewing. The state secrets are something
you only think you whisper if you sleep with me.
They keep getting lost in the magazines. So this place
must not be real and I will please
light me on fire, throwing myself from this tree
pretending I’m flying over it
as we send state secrets as smoke signals
in the form of burning cities.

*

all from Barn Owl Review 4 (2011), Ed. Mary Biddinger

***

Poems of the Week ~ August 3

FIVE POEMS, THREE POETS

THOMAS DEVANEY

all day dance 1963

implacable in a chair

she sits in the only way she knows how
completely

then much later
a turn
or rather a push
into a place she looked headed

the sound of a clap hits everyone
a door is opened and remains so

and now is she leaning forward
and is arched
towards the floor

her legs mark another space

she has moved

the whole body has moved

shunting the body in this manner is difficult to do
and even to think about doing

it is strange
that this should not be stranger than it is

the chair you sit is not made for this
as the day turns into one hell of a long evening
but you let go or don’t hold on

there is someone else too
a man is moving more lightly more quickly
and maybe more wrongly

is this a duet
or two solos
you can follow either or neither

he is all over the floor
and maybe only a backdrop
or something she is dreaming

perhaps it is he dreaming her
or us them or they us

and now an hour or more later
her feet
have found the floor

she hunches forward and is out
of the picture

her legs are gone
her head gone

silhouettes
as if this could be an ending

STEPHAN DELBOS

Verdant; A Word

I’ve heard
or understand:

two cigarettes
smoked shirtless,

open window,
drifting curtains,

late April,
Montpelier,

junipers, soft
towers, her

womb bedroom.
Dusk.

STEPHAN DELBOS

Exit Letter

These are words of a poet
choking on the bones
of his voice.

Bury me in a bathtub
full of sand
on a balcony in Tokyo.

My shadow goes to Hiroshima.

Every shoe I wore is free
to roam the staggering hills.

STEPHAN DELBOS

Advent

Oxidized, autumn
slows to stop.

The great freight trains
: trees unload

black air. A cavity
gnaws our ears.

To what do we listen?
The wheeling of seasons.

Riddled with hope,
we pitch makeshift stations

in the grifted, intermittent
awareness we live

to death under a canopy
of nothing.

CHRISTINA DAVIS

Futhermore

I.

A man arrives in waves of himself,

is not the one thing
but the arduous path of his

appearance.

He includes where he fuses with loon cry and wails
of the spider torn from the ways it has known the wall,

he is all he has passed or his is
nothing. He is all
he has loved
or his is some one thing.

II.

It’s not that relation fails.
It’s that the individual doesn’t

last—

It would be unfaithful to the change
that is upon him/upon her,

not to alter.

III.

One has to believe, futhermore, in the voyage of others.

We are not taught the far
but to interfere it, to speak of the sea

we would speak of the shore.

We come from a country where even bye
means be-with-you,
where the hurricane is called

by a first name. No strangers,
not even the storm.

IV.

It might have been possible to have been known
if we could each have been introduced

as many people
as the wind is

a child that must raise itself
every single time.

We were given names, but the names are like dogs
that fetch nothing, turn up
nothing. A partial harvest, at best. If the names were not
signatures only but a continuation
of the vein

might have been possible

but for now
one must stay alone if one is

to remain
the Many.

V.

One has to believe (it is unspeakably
hard) in the voyage
of the other, a Ulysses without an Ithaca,
the arduous path.

We are being sent out as surely as the sun.

At the expense of self,
we live. Are therefore self-less.

Self-lessening.

From rooms we have been lost in all
this while, from bodies we have believed in,

some night no one
will not be walking.

VI.

And so, it turns out, we are
instead of stillness.

We stand, instead
of stillness, up.

There will be no epic of stillness.

Friends I have loved.
Father, mother, I have loved

instead of
stillness.

***

all from Zoland Poetry 5: An Annual of Poems, Translations & Interviews (2011), Ed. Roland Pease

***

Poems of the Week ~ July 27

THREE POEMS, THREE POETS

MICHAEL CHITWOOD

On a Thursday Afternoon of His Life

my brother-in-law wrote a letter he never mailed.
In it he explained what a dog smells when it smells fear.
He described what he saw when he saw blue.
He mentioned a moment that afternoon:
he was alone in the house,
somewhere not too far off was the rumble of heavy equipment,
then he heard his name pronounced by a familiar voice he’d never heard before.
He gave two options for how things would turn out
and wrote “one or the other.”
He noticed how “or the” was almost “other.”
He mentioned that in the next line of the letter.
Why am I telling you this he wondered next.
He said Friday was his favorite evening, in the fall, the team just taking the field.
He knew he would not mail the letter but wrote it out long-hand with the pen he kept by the phone for taking messages.
The letter will be found years from now in the back a drawer that contains a hinge and a set of brass keys to doors that are long gone or I should say now always open.
The closing was good something, the last word smudged,
good luck? goodbye? good something, good.

ROBIN HEMLEY

Introduction to my Latest Effort

I wrote the next poem I’m going to read this
morning on a plane
I’m not sure it’s very good
but I kind of like it and I thought I’d share
my latest effort with you.
Would you like to hear it?
I think it’s going to be the first in a series
of poems about emergency exits
because I was sitting in the emergency exit row
and the flight attendant came around and asked me
if I was willing to assist in the event of an emergency.
I was tired and didn’t hear him
correctly and I thought he had asked if we were willing to exist
in the event of an emergency.
Which startled me because sometimes
I have suicidal thoughts and I must have looked
alarmed because he asked me if I knew
how to speak English and if I wanted to be moved.
I told him I thought he had asked me if
I was willing to exist and he laughed and said,
Oh sir, we assume the answer to that question is yes.

DEAN YOUNG

Bell Tower

Now that my heart is about ready,
who are all those gracile creatures
moving smooth as air around me
while I rest on my assistant, the stair railing?
I’m thankful not to know a one of them
and interrupt their neon-darting need
for somewhere else to vanish in.
I could almost disappear right here.
The one who I would talk to is ahead,
not because he’s hurrying,
that’s just how things work out
like his cheap, cement Buddha
achieving perfection losing its eyes and nose
in nothing unusual sun and snow.
He’s not moving either.
Me, him, and sleep that’s inside everything
like a tree’s shadow in the tree at night,
happiest night
while the crickets won’t let go.

*

In another life I was always drunker.
Planted bulbs. Liked how my arms felt.
My friend, when he talked about heaven
seemed to have nothing wrong with him.
The gravy came out. Jim would let the water run
the whole time he did the dishes
when it wasn’t his turn to dance the baby
and the stars felt their way through the lilacs
or frost whatever holiday.

I don’t know the eternal.
Don’t even feel kindly toward it.

The champagne I bought was so-so
but it was still champagne and lots of it.

You don’t have to do anything
to deserve sleep.

*

Inside every one of us is a staircase.
I have seen my love turn and look
down to me then continue her climb.
The smoke in her hair will keep finding me
until the world is all smoke.

*

I don’t know, something will carry me forward.
Drift of snow, hummingbird,
a baby’s birthday balloon.
I can’t think of my kitten now
rubbing his face against mine,
not while I’m trying to get out the door.
Every day is spring.
Lilacs, come fetch me.
Lacewings too.
Every day is winter.
We make no sound over pine needles.

***

all from New Ohio Review (nor) 8: Fall 2010, Ed. Jill Allyn Rosser

***

Poems of the Week ~ July 20

FIVE POEMS, FIVE POETS

RAE ARMANTROUT

The Program

1.

For starters,
there was twitch

or “shimmer,”

a resounding
“Let me out of here!”
which still echoes.

This made for “one
another,”

and for binding
one another
into orbits.

2.

We walk through,
turning

a haze of predilections
into facts:

purses, hats.

We mention
“the inevitable.”

Everyone
identifies with the
serial killer.

NOELLE KOCOT

A Day Without a Date

The foggy entrances, the stone-
Cold awakenings, the sea is shiny
And green. We had a contract
In the other world, shiny green
And blue, now it’s solitaire
And another memory and another.
What a child you were, with a fondness
For the truth, the sunflowers,
The daisies, the skein of yarn
At the cat’s feet, the background
Pulling at you, red and black.
Now I wander around like a derelict
In a dirty parka, you you you
Around my neck, on my finger,
Inside me, always inside me.
To say I love you is to say
That the wind loves the rock
And the sea reveals itself timelessly,
And that I am very very tired
But not asleep, love, I am not asleep.

MOLLY BRODAK

Les Blessures Graves

My blood type is:
paper white,
a trill warble,
a new leaf.
The nurse
cuts my clothes off.

Enfin, my arms:
swing unhinged,
go soft like peaches,
can’t hold a needle.
You won’t be
expected:

to remember, or
to sign here.
The nurse can catch
those gauzy cottonwood
seeds for you—don’t move so.
She asks:
what shall I wish?

ERIN MALONE

Mouth

He sang orchid &
it opened
yellow lion-headed

dare

I warned him but
he laughed
what teeth

put his fingertip
just

there

EMILY PÉREZ

Wheat Field with Crows
(after Van Gogh)

The crows swim
in dense brushstrokes of sky.

Waves flatten them
to dark facsimiles of waves.

They rest on, are pressed on, arcs
whose shapes their bodies take.

Their metal cools in a mold
that will not crack.

Below them, wheat breaks
toward a different shore. It sways,

snakes upward, but is held down.
The thickness persists.

A path creeps deep
into the wheat, then drowns.

*

all from The Laurel Review 41.1 (2007), Eds. Rebecca Aronson and John Gallaher

***

Poems of the Week ~ July 13

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

ANDREJ HOČEVAR

The Sun Is Shining Above Europe

I’m still walking on damp sand
flat-footedly pressing upon the history

of the sea. Clouds are shedding from my body.
The day already fuller than usual

and the light lets its petals
fall all over your neck.

Previously I saw people carrying
thick bouquets of leeks, big as a meter.

Now the cold is spilling over the city
and outside on the doorknob

hangs a bag with two leeks,
upright and more ordinary in size,

while on the shellfish ever less visible
pearls are forming—toward the end of the year

everything returns to its usual routine.
Neglected thoughts are arching

through me, the city walking on me,
wrapped in a woman’s hair for a scarf.

I’d forgotten everything about this poem.
At times, the hand that softly holds us

suspended in air, shakes us like salt.
Of all the lives I don’t live, this one

is the best.

Translated from Slovenian by Laura Soloman and the author

MARIA HUMMEL

Carousel, Ten Days after His Third Transfusion

I watch the horse
my son is riding
glide into gallop. Forward,

around: the proud, cratered
nose, serrated mane,
coat like black water.

Up! Down! my son calls, giddy,
holding the stake
driven through its body.

JAMES McCORKLE

Verge of Summer

All I wanted to say was something

about you, the pears—or were they plums—left
out on the table—and reading this again

always recalls Cezanne, his world always
tilting toward landscape

each thing in it a visual event existing
at all times, there—the morning’s gray

lifting, and rising I would have seen you

asleep, your hair floating across pillows

and think of which flower—asphodel

is it, or tulips still closed against
the night’s coolness

under the cherry tree’s greening
fruit, and what was that music we heard

then, reminding me always of you, like the flowers
and fruit, asleep before

I step out, and down
stairs, to feed the cats, that swirl down

the stairs, the world still

verdant—there are words I still love
as we all must

perhaps, like verge of summer
coming new

as never before, each time

knowing there will be one less

JULIET PATTERSON

Extinction Event

To burst in your mind with costly grace.

To mass in your faceted syllables.

The arrested movement of time; hours
in clusters, overripe.

Hours, like broken offshoots,
flourishing as they can;

possibilities in sleeves of limitation.
Whorled taut, each brittle

node to a flushed
bud, last needles

embossed in clay.
That we break

from your tongue
and now tease ash,

stitches of a titian
butterfly.

*

all from Crazy Horse 78 (2010), Ed. Garrett Doherty

***

Poems of the week ~ July 1

ERICA BERNHEIM

The Oversized World

There is always time to choose new curtains. What to
keep: a lightbulb the size of the city, a tank bent on

reconstruction, pilots and bubbles, sixty-one ways
to evacuate a twin with a twin with more twins in it..

Imaginary babies ask for organic juice and whole milk.
I wait for each day to be over. I am the breaker of

interrogations. Remember: everything is a test. See
who protects you now, gardener of leaves, leaver of

sleeves, creator of estate jewelry and actual sizes. If you
remember, everything looks like it should be in motion.

Out-of-step, following inconstant signals and misfired
fires onto pages made of ham. The oversized world

passes its scream-test. The oversized world pulls out
its knife, but only for show. It’s like your bones died two

weeks before you did. People are saved when no one
notices they are there. Think how things shrink from

cold. Not just things, but things. We are retreating
from the touch of a hand equally unsure, hypnosis, its

static, its stasis, its desire to be drawn, to be filled-in.
Something will be built, bulleted, discussed, danced

a light two-step through, the naked, the pale, the
please stay here, the one who prefers to be with me.

It’s like taking down glass from a window. The
blessings have been blocked. The men stand around,

talking lawsuits out of their necks’ creases,
saying, Here, baby, let me do something for you.

I Love How Your Eyes Close Every Time You Kiss Me

You are alone and you are easy. You see
the history of your life and lineage in your
mitochondrial genes, cells, confirming what
we suspected: bottleneck, enlargement, plague,
vulcanologists from everywhere, studying the
site, thinking aren’t you a cute disease. The
music is so loud you blink every time there is
a drum. Yes, best we heirloom quietly, for we
are powerful weak. Overcoat, spread your wings.
Almost a legend, knots laced with passed-over
glass, daddies in pastel suits next to the only
surviving witness from a life best spent in big years,
dreaming of sliding on your belly. Tough night,
wet ink, loose seams. There is plenty of time for
nothing and you should volunteer for it. Time allotted
is never enough. Roll over and tell me you’re a
sofa, backboned by an old quilt, tied to the notion
of design, of pattern, of words so staccato they bang
like rats atop the roofs of government embassies,
that is, without regard for what those below will
try to assume you are: harmless and preoccupied,
known through your gestures to be true.
The ropey cuisine of another planet awaits you
tonight, something freeze-dried and wet
just for you, and molded into whatever you
want: lids and caps, some beans or rice, coelacanth,
but the remains will leave their fossils
on your plate. Memory is like this, patterns
already laid out across neurons and blisters,
each occasion which follows will fit
into that shape, even sans arms or eyelashes,
rendered sharp-tongued with bad desire.

Like a Face

Any tale of spontaneous human combustion
must take place in the South. History’s wagon carries
me in its horrible mouth of an entryway. An arrow
relies on less, taste this, rising from the swollen
finger raised to measure air’s currents.
The girl allergic to water battles for aquagenics.
Sweat, blood, saliva and tears blister her skin.
She bends her head for the most dangerous of kisses.
She drinks whole milk and is allergic to her
own body. She will dream of swimming and touching
snow. Her lips feel as close and sharp as razors, the light
explodes, and you surrender your addiction to No-Doz.
Something in breath dies slowly, a fern, a stilted horseman,
a moon seen in daytime, or this harvest gone rotten badly.
How long will you stay in this mess, waiting to learn
when to duck, when it’s safe to run: a plate of eyelashes,
a walk on water, nothing more. Loving days.
A maze with no entrance, and we strain to see
it anyhow. I find myself on the wrong side of your
affections, afflictions, you say, and suddenly these are
sidelines. I tell stories so often, I don’t remember the event,
signs written in languages I never learned to read.
What I told you made no difference, lighthouse, philosopher,
my sleep. Oh, but it trickles down the side of
a bed I never meant to lie in. Say something
about the state of dedication. What I wish for you
is nothing but fraud and petulance, camphor in
your proceedings, a brick in your mailbox, a wicked
bitter woman stealing your truck. I hope you can
believe this is not about you. You wake up
to find you’ve been tying your shoes with a dead man’s
hand. You try to build a fire beneath a chimney
with no flue.

*

“I Love How Your Eyes Close Every Time You Kiss Me” and “Like a Face,” from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, Sarabonde Books: 2006.

“The Oversized World” from The Iowa Review: click here to view

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 24

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

SIMEON BERRY

The Doppelgänger in the Museum of Subtitles

Here we all have small voices. We trail our slight hands
over the polished bones of diacritical marks
couched in their reliquaries.
Umlauts freeze in mid-leap behind glass.
The high, vaulted ceilings are help up by exclamation points
with the emphasis just! a bit off.
In the drab corridors, there you feel Finnish.
Your packed lunch anchored with smoked herring,
your thermos brimming with dolorous consommé.
We are ponderous, our sentences run
their stock quotes of the human soul
across our floating ribs:
Soren, I have forded the Danube to bring you these biscuits!
The colonials were thrown off balance
by our tweed coats, and we overbore them.
Keiko, she was eaten by her pet crane and no more
will come
. Our disasters are quaint,
our expressions almost our words, conscripts
paid with italics after a long march
through hinterlands
filled with hostile tinkers.
When the cherry trees are in bloom,
we will realize the stevedores
have been unkind. We bury the hornpipe
out back, and the burning snapshot of our silent uncle
gives off a monochrome smoke
reeking of oysters and gin. We watch our phrases
mate in block script, far behind
our bodies, our deprived faces
hungry for subtext as we stare across
the cold Volga at the broken handcart
pressed down into the mud
by its load of gendered turnips.

JOSHUA DIAMOND

Camera Lucida

From this angle you’ve a rooster on your shoulder
A blue, cotton-polyester-blend sea, cocksure
At necktide, and my chest is a rookery
I’m all aflutter over your ears I’m sure are windows to something
Dark and beyond comprehending
I stub my toe. I bleed for months
It can get so foggy in our bathroom. Sometimes
I think we must be very old souls, or else very young ones
You were very young when you planted that sapling in my ribcage
Now its roots are so well-integrated
They’re indistinguishable from my nervous system
And I drink with my feet, now
Wish desperately that you would hang a tire swing from my arm
And in my left buttcheek carve the initials
Of some young, beautiful-in-love people inside a heart
So that I could not verify but have to trust you that they were there
Across plus signs from one another
From this angle your forehead is large and reflective
And your body looks so far away
Which makes me think that we are very very medium-aged
Souls, or very tall children, or else ghosts
Of very tall children

ANDREA BAKER

My Wedding

Mother had a path for cows to walk before their slaughter.
I’m a pick to play the lute of mother.

Attendant, tell me your name.
A frosted bouquet? My mother,
with fronds?

I made the meat of me. I asked it to come to this.

To the holy. I took a nap as safe as a star.

A fish in a bucket catches the light of the sun,
my monk shimmers like that. My body fell on him.

And I said thank you
for my real name.

SYLVA FISCHEROVÁ

Flower

I gave you a flower and began to pull out
its petals
from the gales of groundwater
from the marsh slime
to the light, and the flower screamed,

blossoms leaves stems roots
were cracking and growing
and no one could see who’d won
that battle of the flower, and the flower screamed

when I wanted to drink,
in the morning it stood between me
and the window
devoured the light
and in the sudden darkness under its leaves
I saw
hordes of little pale creatures
eyeless, bloodless
feeding on silence and blackness
the servants who died
of their gifts

translated from the Czech by the author, Stuart Friebert

*

all from Pleiades 31.2 (2011), Eds. Wayne Miller and Phong Nguyen

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 15

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

CHRIS FORHAN

Aspirin and Shadow

Moon I swallow at dawn
to unsludge the blood,
haul it along: clump
of dust dissolving
that I might not
dissolve too soon

into this dust
I trudge across,
moonlight fashioning
a blackness I drag
behind me, long
blank flag of myself.

VICTORIA CHANG

Elegy as a Red Dress

We open our red dresses
and underneath

you are gone. What
remains:

thousands of wingless
bees that

when true, are blue, that
no longer make

goods, that no longer
think

clearly, drunk baskets
of fuzz.

ADDA DJØRUP

From Thought’s Divan

I came to a valley amid mountains where no valley was.
A wind full of gentle bells rushed through the soft grass.
Almond blossoms floated like foam on the rich darkness.
Above the high mountains bitter-cold air bit into crunching snow.
Behind them the moon strewed its light like sugar
over the blank mystery of the sea.

And peacefully
stuffed on its sumptuous beauty, I cursed
creation.

Sighed
and ruminating
sprawled out on thought’s divan
conjured up the notion that behind the stars

the angels are waiting—the universe’s seamstresses in white—
who each with an arch smile and a quick scissor snip

rips the heart from the chest and throws it
high up and catches it
throws and catches
throws and catches
until it is weightless and floats away in the dark.

translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

ELYSE FENTON

Aubade, Iraq

Sulfur-mouthed nightcrier, rooftop
harbinger, bringer of the gut-shot

dawn—What I would do to keep you
at rifle’s reach, stifle you, drown you

in the Tigris’ muck and swill, touch you
aflame on its kerosene spine

I could wait out artillery skitter, crater-
blast, stay here long into next empire

dreaming fingers and the Fertile Crescent
of thighs—if not for your voice

risen like Babel’s ghost from the ruined fortress
Ash-haired rider come to tongue open

dawn’s torturous eye—

*

all from Pleiades 31.1 (2011), Eds. Wayne Miller and Phong Nguyen

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 8

TWO POEMS, TWO POETS

ED ROBERSON

White-Out

Their wings are
being flapped like loose
canvas sail

by the wind,
not them always
at the ropes of muscle

flying not in control
against the white
blizzard off the lake.

*

Snow thunder
has the sharp profanity to it
that cuts through.

Its scrap of
blanched silence like a glider—
torn from just after

the deep shock—
pilots the gulls
seamlessly back into land.

*

Everything has one
some thing that can shut it up,
a showing

that can sit what shows off down,
even this storm—
gets its face slapped with the eye

at the center: there is no
thing that doesn’t have what comes after
change it.

DAN BEACHY-QUICK

Anniversary

This wind also alters, also utters,
This cloud of gnats gathering in translucent
Bodies the sun, almost mine, this morning’s
Thoughts, feeding on the light that fills them,
A prism with a wing, this wind that breathes
The germ into the tree also blows the seed,
Also breaks the limb, also blasts from stem the leaf
That bodied the breeze into song, that song
Almost mine, verging on destruction, my mind
That assembles in the sunlit gnats an altar
That also darkens, also disrupts, this song, this wind
Divorcing itself of current: then a stillness
Deeper than no motion, where clouds plummet
Into pillars that hold up or open the sky,
And the grass is this audacity, standing up.

*

both from Chicago Review 53.4 & 54.1 (2008)

***

Poems of the Week ~ June 1

THREE POEMS, THREE POETS

BOB HICOK

Watching My Father Watch (Seriously) “Joy in a Can”

He pointed the remote at the screen and said,
he’s dead, she’s dead, though they were singing
in bright colors. This went on so long
I thought the entire choir had passed,
to treat death as an hour or car. On the edge
of his chair, smiling, loving, he said,
not the Jesus words but the meld
of voices to voice. By smile
I mean a child’s when the wish of a bike
or hawk goes by. At eighty, he must think
of the dead as his people, of song
as what awaits. A bike going by, a hawk,
the skitter of some bottom-shine
that could be spoon or cross,
a bit of mirror holding the river
to the river, that blinks
when the river blinks, erased by what it sees
as it is sees it. Not to say that life
is or isn’t a river or glass of water
beside in the dry night. It’s good to know
what one is or isn’t saying
about the shapes of desire. A dead woman
singing of a place where no one dies
with so much make-up on, it was as if her face
had long ago left her, and in its place,
hung this idea of what it looks like to try
to convince yourself you are blessed.

JORDAN DAVIS

For Dylan Moran, or After Him

The instructive disappearing act
of a hallway of misanthrope nematodes—

you see enough basic cable
you get the sense someone is following your great friend

with a balloon
of morons…

And here’s the amazing thing,
all our simpatico guest-starring

can’t pressure a simple hello
into that tube top.

CHARMI KERANEN

Seney

It’s slow going

waiting for the rock
to become a fish

the log
to become a grebe

the eagle’s nest hovers
naked and known

but who in their right mind
would leave

the SUV to fight the deer flies

100,000 ticks per moose

*

We used a retractable razor blade
to scrape the inspection stickers

from each window carefully

safe for another year

yes, there was a forest fire

a virgin pine burn

then blue buckets of berries
all those following years

the town was skirted
like a woman

you’re dying to surround

Hemingway said

The Big Two-Hearted

was more poetic

*

all from Passages North 31.1 (2010), Ed. Austin Hummell

***

Poems of the Week ~ May 25

FOUR POEMS, THREE POETS

NANCY KUHL

Grieving Narcissus

sound decaying within the ear
and without your chaos memory
born of blue contemplation an eye
first revealing bones or that ever-
wavering reflection and how you are
exceptional again and I observe
your lips open around see, I and
naturally I want to reply but
the last lasting dream of tiny frogs
filling my unhinged mouth keeps me
aloft and alert and dressed in disquiet
when you say green as the story goes
you say in this light and slantingly
at the far edge of a fine afternoon but
it’s been raining for days even in this
corner room where I waited and waited
where I heard almost every word

ELIZABETH WILLIS

Blasted Hymn

Morning swings
its wave above your head
A proper undertow of history
and ahistory, the bank
with its barricade of brass
Winter-kill against
the outweighed garden
A vase obstructing
your pictorial turn
It’s coming on like a cold
It’s filling your sails
with a future-scented wind
Heaven help you
keep its secrets
You who placed
your trust like a pearl
into this dirty shell
The force of habit
takes you on
like a chair
you think you’ll paint
or lean on

ELIZABETH WILLIS

Extended Forecast

If lace in the machine
then air in the head of the lilac

The face up close
is up against the minted wind

Overseen like labor
overlooked like a valley

G. C. WALDREP

discrete series: WET PASTORAL

this spell folds toward you,
here, the wax birds are

spreading their little cloths:

new water rations: you
make something higher,

out of hair maybe, & hoist
relenting towards it, flange

of body in the rental dark:

you watch there, as through
vent or some unobtrusive

substrate: substance:

bent on capture: imperfect
save for signature, & that

not liquid, something
satisfaction had been saving:

the ladder falls, touches
the ground, you burn it

& then build another ladder:

you can’t “see” the country:

you consult the manual,
spleens glisten: it’s not as if

science were watching you:

radius/broadfall/marshlight:

illegible notes somebody,
yourself maybe, scrawled on
the back of your left hand:

*

all from Denver Quarterly 45.3 (2011), Ed. Bin Ramke

***

Poems of the Week ~ May 18

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

Jon Loomis

Conspiracy Theory

It starts with a flash, and then snow –
dither of sparrows, winter clenching its teeth.
One day you’re out walking: your shoes

sink into the pavement, the white van
pulls up to the curb. Of course
they deny the whole thing, whoever they are

in their joke-shop masks: one like Reagan,
one like Felix the Cat. You worry too much,
they tell you, adjusting your chains. It’s bad

for your health. You nod, keep your mouth shut.
The snow smells like smoke. The sparrows
rustle their leathery wings.

John Gallaher

The First Change I Get I’m Out Of Here

In the dream you had
you died
and then you awoke.

I had to draw the line, as there
is a corridor between all things.

The lighting is always too dim.

How else could we find ourselves
outside the story of us,
where the evil twin or the ugly twin
or the twin who is damaged
is walking back and forth above you
in the attic
talking about America.

For all things we want to say
there is an inexpressible center.

So what is there to do
but to climb the stairs
with this hatchet?

Kimiko Hahn

Zealous beast or mother,
zealous marshmallow, zealous feathers.

Although the neuroscientist

does not declare in print, So what,
she believes that the brain

observes props and scene
in a lucid watchfulness

which may play out proverb or verse
or be utterly meaningless.

Zealous codeine. Zealous noose.

Rick Bursky

Cardiology

Seven years ago I bought a pair of crutches,
just in case. Each Sunday morning I practiced
walking with them, bent my left leg back
from the knee as if the ankle had been mangled
while stepping onto the escalator.
I also practiced with the other leg unable
to support its proper share of weight.
A surgeon sold hearts he carved from oak.
Some people have nothing to lose,
he said, sanding a pulmonary vein.
I cooked breakfast with an arm in a sling
made from an ill-fitting shirt. Yes, practice.
Once the beauty of the oak is absolute
the surgeon places it where a heart is required,
then sews with attention not typically lavished
on those who’ve lost everything.
Twice each week the phone rings
at three in the morning. I never answer.
Someone is practicing sad news, I’m certain.
An oak will one day grow from my heart.
No amount of practice can prepare you
for the first push through dirt.

*

all from Field 83 (2010), Eds. David Young and David Walker

***

Poems of the Week ~ May 11

FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS

JULIET COOK

Venus Tree

I planted my oranges with teeth.
I offered my crush a piece of spiked fruit;
next thing I knew, he was missing an arm.

Could this be transcendence in a newfangled way
or were we just consuming each other? How do we
move past our mutilation into our desired sweet bite?

Forbidden to talk about hunger, we suffer
involuntary movements of the tongue—
weevils, vowels, forking out.

My tongue flicking, my limbs twitching
like orange-splotched salamander tails.
I wanted to chew and swallow, but I spewed it—

a bloody spume of glitter dripping down.

CAROLINA EBEID

Havoc Yonder World

The hours pass like bloodhounds & flashlights
trailing a criminal through the ever-
greens. “See with what heat these Dogs of Hell advance,”

says the book. (It is safe there.) No room
left to walk out of in eastern Tennessee.
See with what wind the adjectives begin

to disappear. Pasture gone of its gradations
of green, stripped of its flitty-winged, worn through
to its last musky dank. You lowered storm-

screens & deadbolted doors, yet trouble came.
No reason & no right season: it advances
under snow skies glinting as the bluing

on a rifle; under sun-drenched citrus
trees, how like the derailing of a train
it comes, the shrieking wind knocked out of you.

(I put my hand
over my mouth

I put my hand
over my mouth)

BRENT GOODMAN

To the Student Who Asked You What My Poems Mean

for David Graham

I cannot find my hands. Nor will a tongue against
wet cobblestone help triangulate one’s
penultimate destination. Let us first turn
our desks into a circle. From the street I cannot locate
the original box the Xmas lights came in, though from space
the earth does appear to explain somewhat the question
of surface tension. At eye level one might say
we still share monkey hair down there. Such soft places
grow wild between us. Page 53 for example. Say chesterfield, say
gingham, say Burl Ives. You see I’m only visiting. Can you
not make the reading? For the life of me I can’t comprehend
this motel nightstand testament. I’m a little taken aback
by that. Please explain to me the difference
between indifference and differed inference. Stare down
the cat. Stare down the barrel of a flower. Yes I am
imagining your tantric flush right now. Say dissonance,
because it rhymes with childhood. Allow me to rephrase:
I cannot find my legs, nor is the full-length mirror
perched against my precarious procrastination (see
Appendix A of my forthcoming). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not
guarding my words as much as skinnying them out
for a midnight swim. I shouldn’t have mentioned
“the ear in my chest” nor the probable whereabouts
of “Future Brent.” You won’t catch me
tea-bagging the char of the GOP. Is that too
duplicative? I do not wish to imply
your SUV dredges home the same anchor moon
mind does most nights. So now we know ourselves
better? Regarding the strongest synonyms for subtext,
will this burning geographical survey suffice? I mean
I’ve finally found my feet and they weren’t at all
where I remember planting them.

LOUISE MATHIAS

Satine

I know there were years

I lived in the valley

of what couldn’t be true.

But how to explain

the way its inhabitants called me? His violent way

of looking at the world,

the way the hummingbird’s chin

was indigo in light, then suddenly, marauders.

How I fingered my ruffles and wept. You could say it was wrong,

but the moment seemed grosgrain and urgent. So I hung

my belief on a hook (little noose).

Like a slip you might leave at his place;

what was once

so pale and alive there.

*

all from Barn Owl Review 4 (2011), Eds. Mary Biddinger and Jay Robinson

***

Poems of the Week ~ May 5

THREE POEMS, THREE POETS

AMY BEEDER

H

I’ll never again be a mute thing,
blank domino or empty pen;

that cipher linguists snub, a breath
divorced from cords, from tongue

& lips; never be that aspirate that
shunts aside for every other sign,

dull & docile in the gob’s hull.
I’ll never again put off guttural robes

to don a white & quiet shift
some faded garment blameless since

submissive to the vowel—oh, ah
not for any dawn or dark hem lifted

not for your hush hush in a brief house
nor for the air shaking between us.

TONY TRIGILIO

Good Night

That’s the Devil
washing his face
in the bathroom

sink. I can tell
by the yellow
broth of night-

light when he
raises his hands.
Rubs his cheeks till

they’re dog-star al-
abaster, his
reflection look-

ing at us, fluffed
in bed, like he’s
asking could he

make us some oat
bran and dry toast,
and are we brush-

ing our hair a
hundred strokes each
night before we

go to bed like
he taught us. And
can we do some-

thing about that
sweet smell from the
bags of trash on

the kitchen floor?
It’s nobody’s
fault, he says in

his bashful way,
exposing the
tissue paper

of his dimples,
a skeleton key
on the pillow.

STELLA VINITCHI RADULESCU

The consulting room

How is your breathing asked
the doctor and hold the stethoscope
close to my heart
I had in mind another thing
a chill an open door I seldom
act as a rat

Something buzzing over my head
was it enough
I appeared to be red on the screen
a muscle a short figure obsessed
with life sitting

there and nowhere else no breathing
likewise
I looked outside it was silent
and dark and I said
thank you doctor for telling me
that I am dead

*

all from The Laurel Review 44.1 (Spring 2010), Eds. John Gallaher and Richard Sonnenmoser

***

Poems of the Week ~ April 29

TWO POEMS BY DIANE SEUSS

I lie back on my red coverlet and contemplate

the paintings of seascapes we won’t be seeing in the Louvre.
the miniatures of the infamous van Blarenberghe brothers.
no rented wooden boats in the Jardin des Tuileries

though this is not about a particular lover or a particular city.
even i am less a woman than a ball of mercury breaking
into forty pieces of silver.

there was talk of Prague, the Klub Cleopatra, that bar called
the Marquis de Sade. as if poetry lies there on a gold settee
smoking a black cigarette in a red holder.

green dress. that Van Gogh green, the color of his pool tables.
the ceiling too is green, and the absinthe we won’t be sipping.
the unmade love in unmade beds. small, oversensitive breasts.

Americans always think it’s elsewhere. believe
in transmutative sex. i did, when a girl, scrutinizing
my queendom, a colony of fire ants, their thoraxes

gleaming like scoured copper.

Don’t say Paris

No one says Paris anymore.
There’s no such thing as Paris, no
Café de la Paix, no Titian’s Entombment

in t he Louvre or Hotel La Sanguine
with amaranth petals on the sheets. Don’t
say Paris. When you utter the word

I take off my long red gloves. I prepare
my hands to be stroked. I’m an idiot
that way, a Parisian to the bone. Once,

on some Rue or other, I was not alone.
The city, blue. My black coat opened
and gave birth to my body as I walked.

You dare speak of Paris? You unlatch
the door in the cage, that word comes
blooming out, orange feathers ignite

the room. My room the color of sage
in fog. And now, Paris, breaking
the mirrors, exposing the cobbled

alleyways behind them. Who says
Paris? Now I swirl my nipples
with Le Rouge Baiser. Or did you

mean Paris, Kentucky? Or just Paris,
a word tossed off like an exploding peony
dropped from the swaying top of that tall

steel tower? Paris, a bitter word,
a word to be spit into a lace handkerchief
like the pit of some pink-fleshed fruit,

stolen from the garden of the rich, in whose
sweetness a woman like me can drown.
Paris, where I loved and suffered, where

the enemy flag opened and flared, poppy
with a spider inside. Liberation, another
suspicious bit of language, a perfumed

envelope holding no letter. Paris, you say.
I have shut down the Office de Tourisme,
covered the windows with flowering vines,

casting those rooms in purple light.
I have wrapped my lips around that word
until it throbbed like Bouguereau’s

La Madone aux Roses.

*

both from Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010

***

Poems of the Week ~ April 22

THREE POEMS BY CYNTHIA CRUZ

Transfixed

Sometimes a thrasher
Enters the maelstrom.

Sometimes I remember
My brother

Before the accident.
Hiding mother’s bottles in the cold blue snow.

In the distance, the house is
Fracturing. In the bedroom, the walls are

Red with racing tigers and the door is
Always locked.

Inside the ice storm, my brother
Made the sky small again.

Microscopic Winter

We were of the West
African trees and grasses: the orchid, the flame, the quiver.

In the Nocturama of
Wild javelina, cheetah, and gazelle, we stopped
The clock for dusk. Freezing

Little Tundra, Tiny
Ice Age. Gray-crowned
Crane, with wings extended: the wool
Of your boyhood cast about your bare shoulders.

Beneath the canopy of egrets,
You slept,

Dreaming of the sea: a great ocean-
Liner, and the ripping of wind
Against the latched wing of the ship’s portal.

Texarkana

Then the gun men come and then
The one in blonde fox

Clutching the Book of Ruin
In his clean, white hands.

From the barn I could see the star
Of his horse as it galloped toward us.

In the end, there was nothing
We could do.

Just watch as an ocean of bloodhounds
Flood down the side of the mountain.

*

all from Ruin: Alice James Books, 2006

***

Poems of the Week ~ April 8

THREE POEMS BY TRAVIS NICHOLS

A Poem From Bled

Secondhand smoke after a day of sunshine and my hand
is lathered in tight lotion just like when I was a baby
and my brains were dashed on the hot asphalt.
I couldn’t stay in my yellow safety seat.
A flat breast slides down the mountain into the lake,
and we bake cookies on the stones.
Can you feel the day
tightening a crystal vice around your perverted sensibility?
No one understands this kind of life,
but it is mine
and I refuse to hang myself
with ropes of dried ostrich blood
just so the illusion of ease may prevail
over every greasy bedpost.
Take off, greasy bedpost!
Fly into the first morning clouds
to be cleansed by their movement!
The hay dries on the rack.
The beekeeper paints his little doors.
The skin of even the mountain goat
tightens in the evening air,
so paddle with vacuous cheer
into your fat bottle of pink soda and I will plunge
into some sunny buttocks with the grace of God’s eraser.

I Feel Right at Home in This Faraway City

“He is the strangest stranger,” they say,
“and he is your stepdad.”
From the new hole in my back,
a bloody mist swirls up each morning.
I say, “Let’s all enjoy this doughnut
despite the triangular penetration of ravens
into our fragile and fat day.”

Smile

The calm position of my wind-chapped face
after a day outside and a night of bloody noses.
It feels so cinematic. Behind it I picture
myself as I would like to be seen –
empty of all self-regard, -importance, -loathing –
but my teeth yellow as they recede
away from spectators into my mouth.
Only good friends and a few lovers know.
Everyone else regards two shiny fronts and a crinkled smile.
Charming. “Always home on time for dinner.”
“No more midnight drives into the mountain on acid.”
“No more vain attempts to live outside the jurisdiction.”
A human sees itself unexpectedly reflected,
brushing the teeth, suddenly ordinary, ugly, ready to die.

*

all from See Me Improving: Copper Canyon Press, 2010

***

Poems of the Week ~ March 18

TWO POEMS BY DAN CHIASSON

Pastoral

The woodpecker flew to the woodpile, pecked and fled.
The fox hid. The dog begged. The squirrel slept.
Nobody saw what the child did, silent, behind his book.

Out in the road, headlights were a hard metaphor,
everywhere passing, spot, spot: why do
the neighbors claim to “adore all things Malaysian”?

You could date their house to another century,
give it an obsolete use, an obsolete industry,
say a lathe-making shop or a barn for threshing.

You could see the title on the child’s book. But
what made the fox stay hid, the bird stay fled,
what held the sadness animal outdoors all night?

Poem Beginning with a Line from Frost

as if regret were in it and were sacred
as if regret itself were a river and want

that was the source of the river flowed
through the river, more and more the more

the river thickened towards the boring lake
where what stirred once went terribly quiet.

This is indistinguishable from happiness.
This standing water was a mindful current once.

Once was a mindful current: now leaden, still;
it is ourselves we most resemble, now. Now

the maples that had been nowhere gather. When
we look down what we look down on is our own.

*

both from Natural History: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2005.

***

Poems of the Week ~ January 28

THREE POEMS BY W.S. MERWIN

For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

Flies

On the day when the flies were made
death was a garden
already without walls
without apples
with nowhere to look back to
all that day the stars could be seen
black points
in the eyes of flies
and the only sound was the roar of the flies
until the sun went down

each day after that something else was made
and something else with no name
was a garden
which the flies never saw
what they saw was not there
with no end
no apples
ringed with black stars
that no one heard
and they flew in it happily all day
wearing mourning

Berryman

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don’t lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you’re older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

*

all three from W.S. Merwin Selected Poems: Atheneum, 1988

***

Poem of the Week ~ January 14

CHAPBOOK-LENGTH POEM BY JORDAN DAVIS

From Orange to Pink

When I started up the computer
Yesterday in the afternoon
My word processor gave me a tip —
Things that go away on their own
Can come back on their own
Then the computer suddenly stopped working
This morning I woke up much earlier
I’d been drinking coffee and writing
Poems flirting badly unnoticeably
And least unnoticeable to the right
Baby handed one big legs kept

Writing in her notebook picking up
Her thumb on the fat nudes on the cover
Women In Love and reading
Putting her coffee down brusquely
Quantify life, lay blame clearance
And by March there’s how the car
Exactly barcoded its agrarian
Manager brainwashing action something
The buildings are dark and nails
I am sitting in my office
Taking a long drug and the staples
Ah how we are baited and hours

Timing so the installation
Rigorously has us in front of words
So that I can lord what dell
Cambridge ledger melancholy parties
That circle which we have nothing
The postcard of recondite
Low star for judgment
Do him over, do over
Bargains and so they get dinner
News unlimited (in terms of
The prolix spiny chiasmus
Because there is a shadow of sufficiency

And it is doubtful feckless
Operator foregrounded
And only three hours poking
The plaza is airless today)
I have caused it to work
I’m jumpy the lights
Not to be obsessive preparing
The modern sword
The page is part of a countdown
It seldom comes out right
Dreaming and hand

What goes away on its own
Can come back on its own
Hollowed out and quiet tense
I conjugate privacy and sadness
The myth of language
And a second away from
Being an angel and a microphone
Represent what but nothing
I can do to throw the tow rope
The tall winter light solid crying
Solid singing in the modular
Bric a brac

And now and again it does seem
Important to be saying, to have said,
Participating as no, temperate and right
You can’t just get any kind of sand
Nowhere portfolio the saint van
As piece I deal for university
Exuberance ask turn it all map
Come to a heartbreak the rafters
Could hail, rings on the dresser clock
And together count 50
But it was for such a big one

The soft under the ceiling
You talk to, they’re coming over
To use the computer, dizzy
For a while this is it
A camera description show wrong
Game duality. I’m writing
Pamplemousse. It’s the seven.
Geese because so easily turned.
Rushing to be what what, or look
The fluid dynamics – somewhere this
Network is stemmed tabs
Tho the hammer music is free
What sort of person makes movies

Socks. Vandalism will peach
Above lesser, happily fat
To dissimilar taking the train.
What really always comes through
Which tree is the blast-off
In the name and later thanks
Sidelong and sage sideburns
The tangle of admission text
They get caught means you are grown
Face of so accomplishment low
Free minutes

And cut it out and send it
To City Lights Books and say
Look Lawrence, you’re famous
Something that would make sense
While I’m here with my quota
The desperate quota which is
A little purse shouldn’t lead
By describing all the purposes
Of the cable knit
The sharks are messing it up
The birthday party goes on smiling
Wave in the hair and a smile
Tomorrow happens bat an eyelash

Live as a session musician
So how often do you get midnight
The rest of them we build something
A gas station, a speech pattern
And a reckless continuous sadness
Park major say yes to the green
To move forward in the first time
We laugh alike and it’s okay
To be a great name among outdoors
The Unabomber is the next time
You go through Saturn returns

The great thing about a hangover
All the familiar television
So self the television
The whole room is a river I was saying
Is you have all these things
Television has these funny stories
It produces mild discomfort
Which it dissolves
Within half an hour
Pictures of tablets
Being dropped in water
Are you dropping the pipes in water
Today I am running so the laughter

I will be sure to mention
How the sleep is obedient
To looks in benevolent talent
The ghost of clean and tired
Button tells and it signs
Hungry anyway life
Comings and goings
Definitely noticeable signals
Emanate from a great height
I need a satchel to hide
From the winter light

You have what music is aggressive
I’m in stationary radical duplicate
If you can’t say something real
Don’t gargle the monochrome
Overpowering body light treetops
Altos of the foreign sugarbowl
The waves are hurrying I want you
Sadness standards slam my doors
Snowfall convertor open window buoy
Birdflight see-through coda reflections
To spell all city hiking cellular same

Don’t be so morbidly charitable
Products and engines in the environs
The belts break and the clouds
Can’t grovel in the echoing factory
Little distant gazebo fuzzy jetty
Atomized travelling machine in the water
We launch in the irritating loveliness
Millions are fixed volts below
Square and round property allergy
I will not be mine and that is health
Chart of memory leaving civil architecture

I apologize for domesticating you
And for entropy which is grandeur
And I apologize for carrying
This light which is strong when it slams
Into the huts and tides and poles
Is no less diffident, it beats my chest
As if I were a quiet pet of looks
Always only asking to be fed and loved
Incapable of rust tho pink ink run
Gaudy desires the cake the spool
Of who I am marking down
Numerous for the holiday

The travel’s been so hard on me
I miss you and your phony German
The solid straw the presentation copy
You know me and I’m your fleece
Lights at regular distances go out
All the lights fall under the river
Things that feel all right and board
I get the distraction it’s a boat
Hearing the ice skate sitting in the backseat

When I was in such amperage
That nothing could come back coffee
All the afternoon music all the night
I had only one anthology to read
And I had written over all the pages
In ink I was a raccoon I was
A vending machine all the noise
Around me was as much a song as
A comet you go far away from the city
And climb in the dark a wooded hill
To see is a painting but it was
Wilder for being silly all around

When I was there inanimate all I
Could think was to animal knot
And unknot you, to get it with my teeth
But now though I move freely
I am I own both diver and proprietor
Of this secret ocean and this union
They splay the M on their hats
You’re so medieval I want the seaside
Picnic of your adrenaline you know?
I’m sitting here waiting the interior roars
Straps hang down from the luggage rack

A pollen cold wilderness
Slinky redivivus everything with a spine
Loves another thing with a line
I want to shake you by your knot
You like me I think you’re real
In your extravagant public depths
You tend the manta rays what
Goes away on its own though
Fights yes I get into fights
Amid my adulthood I want to talk
To all the voices rising here

The end of one static negotiation
And the progress of a wave
Tomorrow I’ll be at work and
All the sleeping with anybody anybody
Does the bridge lights come down
The overlaying messes of light will
Conduct my thoughts into the ring
Which has everything to do
All function and method imposed for hundreds
Of hours as a sort of sexual undertow
It’s important to know you
We’re the army there are wounded
We imitate each other we’re carbon

Burns and traces the light leads us
To a tender association
A lower evening I love all I get
Elaborate never knowing the deficit
But feeling the attention
The blinking, icy cascade
I left my coat on the banister
I took off my shoes to slide across the wax
Undoubtedly bright but a horrible
Destroyed outlook nothing but notebook
Someplace to sit relative to the sun
The sun was very clear today

Notation erodes the beaches
Quiet breaks down the chauffe-eau
Tomorrow knocks over my bloodstream
Advice implodes the snow
I guaranteed the safe passage
Of the book across the county
But I had not learned to carry myself
To sleep, and time was rowdy
I thought of you as Monday
I thought of you as white
I didn’t know your family well
We got off the boat that evening

Here he can search for the discovery
That will make his career
But your father rented us this cabin
I am cozy here in the copier bond
Who’s George? He’s the quasi-alien
Who runs this zone? there’s something
Out there Jesus. There’s something
The alternative. Picture on this
Post-op, starting to scratch under
At least they’ll get some sleep
Feels good actually thank you

How big are you bigger than a half hour?
Are you wider than a shoe?
Warmer than a cup of tea? taller
Than an apartment? you take
Paper and you make it years ago
You walk so fast you talk sweetly
You make the music you want to hear
This war I’m somewhat relieved
Goes on a while without casualties
The truce of course is called early
On the first Sunday morning

Every guest is carried along on a form
Of unitary gonging, remorseless and
I am proud to be entertaining such lights
Such preliminary buccaneers all tried
In the space of satisfying plenty
That is what gives power
Among the continuing coming and going
Wavy plausible heartbreaking hello
That music asleep
Looks into the caves
And begins by drumming
Only kind victory is victory only kind of
Kind of

Cold in the hotels
And the mornings are dark
The second day is much
The third still more like
What goes away on its own
The dusty apartment
A scrabble game on the floor
The tub is full-sounding splashes
Pure desire is a dirty cat
I pity the academic named Harry Beaver
Number one no number two a woman
You were engaged to just asked you to dinner

I don’t blame you that the TV’s so bad
Northern California and my period
Free to vote the time yes
John Cusack for beginners female bodybuilders
Young among the $0 dollars
He made himself into a little ball
But I want to know who’s reprehensible
Intensity skeeze what state hip pressure
The diffusion box has made me jealous
O background based on reducing fever
Silky soft my foot between
Your feet they make upholstery out
Of whatever you want hello? pushups

Are you talking about my door
I guess I just miss that feeling
Let’s not make it this whole deal
Up and out this coat of shellac
Then I’ll come back I just did it
Yes that’s what I meant by hit
To be there swearing and yelling
And I made tiles and hills smooth it
Rubble over book saying lead
I knew completely wet down getting
Does it save you from the bad really?
But Gino said we’re going to get

Sweeping compound Jordan can you
Write this down so I remember
Dust and junk off the floor you
Know what I also noticed so
Disgusting I think it’s dead ok
That plain pine look gets excess food
Another storm on the way
It’s not even ten and the mews
Tonight a pageant insider
Post office box hedgehog skidoo
Here at least I know it’s the edge
That matters. Where anything
Serves here we go

The coffee gets me it’s a line
And I’m looking forward at five
To the background to the translucent
Paper and the magazine production staff
Simon answers the phone they’re filming
Lock it up roll sound action an always and
Alicia’s collection of ice tea bottles
Is in a halogen sunray 1200w haze
Cardboard and cables down on the floor
The pathway to the office where I hand over
The day’s deposits is blocked by screens
Lamps stand all this equipment
“Hey I learned my lesson” says

A woman with curly hair pulled back
She’s short and then she reminds me
Cut the coke can is audible
God abides in me it’s the shove
Just like that several assistants come roll
They want to know how to fax and copy
Ron’s going home Simon’s holding Larbaud
A defective copy several pages
In the first signature blank I blink
I’m roaring along it’s okay
My desk is littered I’m sensitive
To the effects of caffeine stand by
Quiet all am I in the shot? shh

We’re doing wild sound
There’s too much hanging back
Not enough shots on goal
The time of um
Has the roll but not maybe
I can’t window be your friend
Please ex me out
It’s being proper two thousand
Quiet please I am rolling out
The end is an impasse
Barbaric no I have to change that
Contenido: 12 Botellas

755up2.hqx – 6748
Convex mirror compact
My computer makes a noise
Sweeping compound on the sides of my shoes
A woman dumps some broken glass
They’re yelling quiet and looking
While you were out David Shapiro called
Thousand sixty seven elevator
Buzzer quiet we’re rolling labels
Due speculation is 4 turn sound
Audible folded arms keep trying?
Nothing Dutch mechanical run

It collapsed into darkness I was
They shut the flood liquor mart
A murderer room tone threads
Off the side of the notebook
So long unsolved password RETR 1
The combat vermilion I’m spikenard
Tertullian bhagavad-gita contestant
Get there before the fire department
To be an apostle and not a protein
The holiday elapses measurably the same
Dreaming in rhythm trademarks registered
Offer something I can use please

Knock down the walls
Like a powerful rule
Please go past my shoulders
Months
Meaning
Brushstroke
In the territory
Guitar chord
On the corner
Do you love me?
So why does it feel
Dog goes by
Phone rings

1/17/97 5:30

*

from chapbook, From Orange to Pink: Fewer and Further Press, 2009

***

Poems of the Week ~ January 7

THREE POEMS BY MICHAEL BURKARD

Ruby for Grief

I tend to sit here very alone. Last night I asked a stranger if he
wanted a rubber slapped across his face. This morning brought
more
or less more: I was whistling when I ran into someone I hadn’t seen
for awhile, someone I would like to think of as a brief friend, and
it seemed all the better because I was whistling.

I’m fond of the bridges the sea makes in my mind, although far
away.
Even with a shallow life before this one, or a life
after, I know my life is short, each is. The sea
bridges such familiar territory the life makes. The sea
measures such mending I make, and gives it colors:

ruby for grief, yellow for choice, flint green for staying awake.
One reason I live alone is the nature of the strangers
who appear in my dreams now and then: I can make nothing
of their life until they’ve made mine. I find their memories
in water, winter birds dipping their heads at winter windows,

and in the closet facts of walking the streets. The stranger
last night angered me as he refused memory, distorting mine
and his: he walked away under a few red lights until I shouted.
Little generosity unless he gets away. I used to fly in
my sleep, the sea often appeared, but these aspects of

images have rather faded over time. I wish they’d come back.
Water appears in simple settings—basins, tubs, glasses.
Often it seems I am thirsty in the dream just when
a winter bird appears. The colors the sea’s given me
are constant: there’s a kind of ruby girl who returns my face

about once a month, maybe her name is Ruby. My sister
often turns up and is as close to me there as I want to think
some future omen will be close to me someday. She is usually
making choices for me, defending me, or walking from one quiet
hut to another. My part in these dreams is to appear with a

yellow stick, having made my choice, and then I make some private
and selfish demand for secrecy, threatening anyone who appears
with my yellow stick. The flint green for staying awake simply
is the color of the water lapping, lapping under a few small
bridges,
the bridges in cities or towns where there are none. I don’t

like this lapping, it makes me feel my memory is an omen,
flint green, makes me feel that if I got up and
went walking I would find imaginary omens everywhere. So I
remain
awake, talk out loud to myself—simple things, ask myself for
a match, wonder if someone out there will be walking by. If they

were, would I see them, would they want to come in? Sometimes I
take this staying awake and try resolving details or themes, like
with questions, like those at the end of stories or poems in school
texts: how are the three details of the story resolved? Is generosity
so
privately handled a good thing? What is the importance of

Ruby’s awkwardness when confronted with the stranger? Are
omens
which take the form of memories immersed in water a good thing?
Will the narrator ever fly again?
I’m losing it when I begin these, so I

go to the window. It would be nice if the window asked me back,
turned
back, helped itself to an attitude. God knows enough look in here
during
the day, I’m that close to the street—I could even step out, begin
whistling again, ask someone if they want a rain check on coming
over.
I don’t know just what I will

do now. I might wash up.
I might whistle to see if any winter birds fly nearer.
Try resolving omens or themes. Isn’t there some infinity
to the generosity of trying to tell your story? Or better: isn’t there
some prior life to telling everything this way? Like secretly taking

the smallest belonging from a passing stranger, opening it up
under an open night light, the kind the night sky sometimes makes,
and
ordering this belonging, giving it an attitude or omen so some other
truthful window might appear.

Father

The cage at your face.
Forget the starling, forget the stairway.

Forget
I ever wanted to say stairway.

When the blade is as solid as it is today,
when the axe is no way to go.

The swaying ladder in a field.
The red shirts in the field.

Such an old word, village.
Such an old stairway.

Punish across their two or three shadows,
across their two or three shadows on your bedclothes.

No saying
“An executioner follows after this.”

Here,
take off your sleeves.

A return to your arm,
the confusion of your arm.

Just as no tree
comes forward at the end.

Window on the East

Only the seemliest operation is fair
on a day like today. Better to sort
different clothes
tomorrow than today.

And so the peace began
without any calm in sight
and the blowing drops of water
blew over the white land.

“In the foggy dream I am taking you overland
to someone important. Shake your fist at every flag
along the way, or else you will fall to the wayside
like a shovel.”

I heard you were living, and there were
clothes in my dream.

Your nose stood lonely
in the valley,
like a widower
or a windmill.

*

all three from Ruby for Grief: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981

***

Poems of the Week ~ December 16

THREE POEMS BY ELIZABETH BISHOP

At the Fishhouses

Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong and codfish
it makes one’s nose run and one’s eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

Down at the water’s edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

The End of March

For John Malcolm Brinnin and Bill Read: Duxbury

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach.
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canadian geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist.

The sky was darker then the water
it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed
a track of big dog-prints (so big
they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on
lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,
looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,
over and over. Finally, they did end:
a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,
rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,
falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost. . . .
A kite string?—But no kite.

I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,
my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
set up on pilings, shingled green,
a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
(boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),
protected from spring tides by a palisade
of—are they railroad ties?
(Many things about this place are dubious.)
I’d like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:
look through binoculars, read boring books,
old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,
talk to myself, and, foggy days,
watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.
At night, a grog à l’américaine.
I’d blaze it with a kitchen match
and lovely diaphanous blue flame
would waver, doubled in the window.
There must be a stove; there is a chimney,
askew, but braced with wires,
and electricity, possibly
—at least, at the back another wire
limply leashes the whole affair
to something off behind the dunes.
A light to read by—perfect! But—impossible.
And that day the wind was too much too cold
even to get that far,
and of course the house was boarded up.

On the way back our faces froze on the other side.
The sun came out for just a minute.
For just a minute, set in their bezels of sand,
the drab, damp, scattered stones
were multi-colored,
and all those high enough threw out long shadows,
individual shadows, then pulled them in again.
They could have been teasing the lion sun,
except that now he was behind them
—a sun who’d walked the beach the last low tide,
making those big, majestic paw-prints,
who perhaps had batted a kite out of the sky to play with.

The Moose

For Grace Bulmer Bowers

From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;

on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveler gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts. The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.

Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens’ feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;

the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
bumblebees creep
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.

One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies—
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.

A pale flickering. Gone.
The Tantramar marshes
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn’t give way.

On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship’s port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
illuminated, solemn.
A dog gives one bark.

A woman climbs in
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
“A grand night. Yes, sir,
all the way to Boston.”
She regards us amicably.

Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb’s wool
on bushes in a pasture.

The passengers lie back.
Snores. Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination. . . .

In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
—not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
Grandparents’ voices

uninterruptedly
talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;

deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.

He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the sore and
finally the family had
to put him away.

“Yes. . .” that peculiar
Affirmative. “Yes. . .”
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means “Life’s like that.
We know it (also death).”

Talking the way they talked
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.

Now, it’s all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
—Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus’s hot hood.

Towering, antlerless,
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man’s voice assures us
“Perfectly harmless. . . .”

Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
childishly, softly,
“Sure are big creatures.”
“It’s awful plain.”
“Look! It’s a she!”

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
grand, otherworldly.
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?

“Curious creatures,”
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r’s.
“Look at that, would you.”
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,

by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there’s a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.

*

all from The Complete Poems 1927-1979: The Noonday Press, 1979

***

Poems of the Week ~ December 2

TWO POEMS BY JIM DANIELS

A Real Comedian: The True Genius of Bob Hope

Was he ever really funny? When? I want to know.
Are clowns ever really funny, even to children?
Do you really have to go to college to be a clown?

Why is the president a clown? What training has he had?
Do you really have to go to Hamburger U.?

I had a girlfriend who went on tour with a mime troupe.
For months afterward, she kept making that big O

of surprise. She thought it was cute when I got mad.
O. Let’s all be mimes. Or do we have to go

to the Marcel Marceau School of Mimery? The president
is a mime. Look how he holds his hand to his ear

look how he shrugs. Can you guess? He is being
an idiot. Here’s the scary part:

that Bob Hope’s friend can be president.
That the president can laugh at Bob Hope

like the French laugh at Jerry Lewis.
At least Dean stopped pretending he liked Jerry

at least Bing sang “Drummer Boy” with David Bowie.
Is there a college for becoming Bob Hope?

Is his vault full of jokes there, a whole vault
without one chuckle? Bob entertained the troops

yes, he gets a little good will for that.
They laughed at his jokes, but they were desperate.

How many of them would have showed up
if he didn’t have his bimbos along? Bob

always has bimbos. Brooke is his latest.
Look how she shakes her head when she smiles.
It’s called acting.

The president married a ghost a hosted
Death Valley Days. 20 Mule Team Borax –
What does that mean? I have never understood

the true genius of his acting ability.
I have never understood why America voted for him

twice. Who’s pulling his strings? His head
shakes suspiciously like Brooke’s.

All the bimbos on his specials know how to make the O.
Bob tells a joke, they make the O.

O Bob you are old and I should not make fun of you
but you are still on TV. What’s so special
about your specials? Maybe you were good in the ‘40s

or ‘50s, or even the early ‘60s. Maybe you were funny
then, before Vietnam. Packy East. I like that name.

A real name. A lousy boxer. A bad mime. The whole country’s
falling apart, and we’re stuck with you and George Burns.

We’re stuck with you and George Bush. We’re stuck
with Bush and Dan Quayle. Dan and Brooke.

Bob, you won’t go away. You won’t take your millions
and millions and leave us alone. You are so rich

it makes me so sad. You have to be rich
to be the president’s friend, the president for 8 years –

count ‘em. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8 – has made me so sad
I am losing my words. I am losing

my O of surprise. All I can do
is the scene where the walls are closing in.

The Tenured Guy

I have smiled
and said hello in the hallways
I have lost sleep over brief exchanges
I have changed pants
just to pick up my mail
and I have gotten tenure.

I have kept my one good pair of shoes
and my corduroy sport coat in my office
just in case. I have nodded
at the names of authors
I have not and will never read
and I have gotten tenure.

I have kept my nose clean,
literally. I have sipped wine
at department parties and receptions
staying just long enough.
I have sat in the back of lectures
far enough away to really not hear
and I have nodded astutely.
I have never asked a question
or disagreed with anyone
in any of the long
Meetings of the Living Dead
and I have gotten tenure.

I have served on committees
with a smile, oh, always
with a smile. I have blended
into the beige paint
I have become the beige paint
subtly, so subtly
I’m not sure where
the paint stops and I begin.
I have gotten tenure
and it’s my own fault.

Even as I write this
I am not sure anyone will ever see it.
But why should I care
now that I have gotten tenure?
I am so used to caring
I don’t know if I can stop.

I have rounded off my grades upward
to avoid the student complaint
and I have gotten tenure.
I have been a nice guy in class
to students majoring in whining
and I have gotten tenure.

I have published bad work
and I have gotten tenure.
I have padded my vitae –
what I used to call my résumé –
and I have gotten tenure.

My friend Tom quit teaching
and became a waiter
only to get his jaw busted after work
by an unknown assailant. He once said
the ideal job would be to teach half the time
and haul garbage the other half.
He’s teaching again now.

I have kept secrets, I have covered up
I have been bored to death
I have been attacked by unknown assailants
behind my back, I have started to grit my teeth
grind my teeth I am wearing them down
the fangs are dulling
but I have tenure.

Half my friends hate me for getting tenure.
They think I’m lucky or that I sold out.
Maybe they’re just jealous or maybe
I’m just paranoid. I would like workman’s comp
for paranoia. I have been injured on the job
I have been injured on the way to tenure
I have gotten lost on the way to tenure
I am still waiting for the official letter
I am still waiting for the map
I am still waiting to find my way home.

I have cut back on my ain’ts and yeahs
I have discussed my work in an intellectual fashion
I have talked about my place in American literature
I have talked about breaking new ground
I have ranked myself very highly
the dean said top ten so I said top ten.

I once said all I wanted to do was teach and write.
A Full Professor laughed at that.
How naïve, I’m sure she was thinking.
Maybe someday I’ll be a Full Guy
and I’ll be able to sit
with the other Fully Guys and Full Gals
and have a Full Meeting. Oh I have a hard on
just thinking about it.

I have tenure, did I tell you that?
I explain it to my family and they nod:
You can never be fired, great. Oh,
I am in the club now, my referees
have blown their whistles in my support
I am studying the secret handshakes and codes
I am growing a beard so I can stroke it wisely
while I vote on another person’s fate.

When you see me walking down the hall, say
Hey, there’s the tenured guy! And I will give you
my little tenured wave, not too exuberant –
just so long, so high.

*

both poems from Show and Tell: New and Selected Poems: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003

***

Poems of the Week ~ November 23

FOUR POEMS BY FRANK O’HARA

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look up.
“You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting is
going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

Poem

I don’t know as I get what D.H. Lawrence is driving at
when he writes of lust springing from the bowels
or do I
it could be the bowels of the earth
to lie flat on the earth in spring, summer or winter is sexy
you feel it stirring deep down slowly up to you
and sometimes it gives you a little nudge in the crotch
that’s very sexy
and when someone looks sort of raggedy and dirty like Paulette Goddard
in Modern Times it’s exciting, it isn’t usual or attractive
perhaps D.H.L. is thinking of the darkness
certainly the crotch is light
and I suppose
any part of us that can only be seen by others
is a dark part
I feel that about the small of my back, too and the nape of my neck
they are dark
they are erotic zones as in the tropics
whereas Paris is straightforward and bright about it all
a coal miner has kind of a sexy occupation
though I’m sure it’s painful down there
but so is lust
of light we can never have enough
but how would we find it
unless the darkness urged us on and into it
and I am dark
except when now and then it all comes clear
and I can see myself
as others luckily sometimes see me
in a good light

Personal Poem

Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid and the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I’m happy for a time and interested

I walk through the luminous humidity
passing the House of Seagram with its wet
and its loungers and the construction to
the left that closed the sidewalk if
I ever get to be a construction worker
I’d like to have a silver hat please
and get to Moriarty’s where I wait for
LeRoi and hear who wants to be a mover and
shaker the last five years my batting average
is .016 that’s that, and LeRoi comes in
and tells me Miles Davis was clubbed 12
times last night outside BIRDLAND by a cop
a lady asks us for a nickel for a terrible
disease but we don’t give her one we
don’t like terrible diseases, then

we go eat some fish and some ale it’s
cool but crowded we don’t like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don’t like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don’t want to be in the poets’ walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRoi
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so

Poem

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

*

all from Contemporary American Poetry (Eighth Edition), edited by A. Poulin, Jr. and Michael Waters, Houghton Mifflin Company: 2006

***

Poems of the Week ~ November 15

FIVE POEMS BY LARISSA SZPORLUK

Vapor

Sometimes the monks perspire
inside those woolen cloaks.
When you see them hold pigeons,
their hands glisten. This means
acceptance and death, dew
on their throats in the morning,
snow that can rain or simply
make love with itself. And they
will go there. And the things
around them will be crying.

Age of Piracy

They reach through her brow
to tear out the trees
they think she dreams about,
the balanced land she left behind,
and throw her boat back,
empty, to him she left behind,
and laugh at her mistake,
that she could fly on and on,
out of their sight and knowledge.
And they laugh into life
beyond themselves, as she, obsessed,
stares up at the dipping sky,
past the spreading pitch, telling herself,
I am that high, and they laugh
as they open what they stole,
seeing nothing was in her but sea
and the long tedium of falling,
lost in her green and winding galleries,
tucks and turns, and they laugh,
wings in their teeth beating backwards.

Allegro of the Earth

It takes many doves to make a woman.
I’ve been chasing them forever
as they drift through summer unexplained.
Like the need in certain sounds
to be fulfilling, they repeat each year
blue fields, blue frost, far north,
ferried across gulfs,
in search of the torturer’s house;
miles away, he unlocks his clear interior door.
I lose them to him every time.
Don’t cry. Be warm. Watch how.
And as he changes them completely,
peeling them down
to the hollow that resides at the center
of all of them, a piccolo hole,
the sole shape of his desire,
a hollow that listens,
shivers, ringing the dim light,
arrested by their separated feathers,
I’m aware of one thing.

Ghost Continent

It’s a lot like emptiness, the season
of dying fish, black drink,
the person you loved best, and left,
giving off light in the recession.
It would have startled the fire user,
who towered over nature,
this material you’re passing through
to save a little of, like a radio.
Paddle faster. Skim across the giant
things in hiding, blow on the sick.
The deep returns a makeshift
surface, wake, blue-tarred road.
Miles from here (but you’re gone)
the wrong land will be discovered.

Menace of the Skies

It’s a golden prison. The light on my hair
cries for memory, for anything
to weigh it down. All this time
I’ve been hanging, the secret tides
of my body staying high. I remember
I am childless. I would have given it
a hunter’s name, Orion, because that’s where
we end, up here, in these wisps.
We didn’t do right by the Earth.
It kept giving us pictures, big frantic snow,
midnight fires in the willows.
We should have walked somewhere like Jesus,
sowing equilibrium, slow to consume.
We should have fought to know him,
to trap and spawn his grace.
But maybe we’d already met, and he saw,
and this is the scar of that encounter.

*

all from Dark Sky Questions, Beacon Press: 1998.

***

Poems of the Week ~ November 1

SIX POEMS BY ROBERT CREELEY

The Mirror

When I see you in the first light, again
at the angle of the bed, in a light seen

face, and hand, hair. The horrible
incompetence, and dull passive greyness
of myself.
In disuse, and there is no use
got by nothing, and no competence
enough to make enough –

It becomes the incredible in which I believe,
that any god is love.

The Tunnel

Tonight, nothing is long enough –
time isn’t.
Were there a fire,
it would burn now.

Were there a heaven,
I would have gone long ago.
I think that light
is the final image.

But time reoccurs,
love – and an echo.
A time passes
love in the dark.

The Pattern

As soon as
I speak, I
speaks. It

wants to
be free but
impassive lies

in the direction
of its
words. Let

x equal x, x
also
equals x. I

speak to
hear myself
speak? I

had not thought
that some-
thing had such

undone. It
was an idea
of mine.

Oh No

If you wander far enough
you will come to it
and when you get there
they will give you a place to sit

for yourself only, in a nice chair,
and all your friends will be there
with smiles on their faces
and they will likewise all have places.

Place

Faded mind,
fading colors,
old, dear clothes.
Hear

the ocean under
the road’s edge,
down the side
of the hill.

The Memory

Like a river she was,
huge roily mass of water
carrying tree trunks
and divers drunks.

Like a Priscilla, a feminine Benjamin,
a whore gone right over
the falls,
she was.

Did you know her.
Did you love her, brother.
Did wonder pour down
on the whole goddamn town.

*

all from The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-1975, University of California Press: 2006.

***

Poem of the Week ~ October 22

THREE POEMS BY JON ANDERSON

The History of Psychotherapy

I find many dishes
lie on the dark lawn, waiting.

Now for the history of love:

A man found a locket
– or amulet –
anyway, a real disc, cold
silver in his bed.
He opened it.
Much of the rest

is an underground journey, soft noses
of moles,
running water,
the occasional
distant emergencies: holding aliens
or ships, in time of war.

In the end, he might arrive.
His childhoods
surprise him:
Thousands
of motionless, small toads.
But each sleeps, for love, in a dish.

The entire scene
is opening.
Clarity, I think I am
coming toward you, I bear
myself with such indifference.

Creative Writing

The heart is a violent muscle; it opens & shuts.
The subject is death.
The subject is also laughter, the bravery
of girls, nine in a row.

In each face a hole opens.
Nine tiny stars of nervousness spin languidly out.

Sweethearts, death is blind,
he’ll run up & down your bodies.
Death, with a dog’s face
goes running through the Women’s Dorm;
he has neither breasts nor jewelry.
Counselors run in his shadow, shouting Here,
We’re all Christians here!

In the old country, everybody was Jewish.
Everybody had the smell of clothes soaked in a hot tub
and they learned to lament the fallen, the falling,
the about to be born.
Birth was painful, a long vibration
like the intake of breath after laughter.

I don’t want to trouble you; you’re entering history.
Your flesh is the moon’s, gradual & broken.
Those boys are no consolation; they’ll circle you,
inscrutable calligraphy,
with no place to land.

I’m going to think about death until
my mouth runs. I’m going to look at death
with a face terrible as his own.
I don’t want to scare you;
after death there are two alternatives,
both heartless:
memory & forgetfulness.

The Secret of Poetry

When I was lonely, I thought of death.
When I thought of death I was lonely.

I suppose this error will continue.
I shall enter each gray morning

Delighted by frost, which is death,
& the trees that stand alone in mist.

When I met my wife I was lonely.
Our child in her body is lonely.

I suppose this error will go on & on.
Mornings I kiss my wife’s cold lips,

Nights her body, dripping with mist.
This is the error that fascinates.

I suppose you are secretly lonely,
Thinking of death, thinking of love.

I’d like, please, to leave on your sill
Just one cold flower, whose beauty

Would leave you inconsolable all day.
The secret of poetry is cruelty.

*

all three from The Milky Way: Poems 1967-1982, The Ecco Press: 1982

***

Poem of the Week ~ October 8

FIVE POEMS BY JOE WENDEROTH

The Weight of What Is Thrown

Smooth stones have always appealed to me.
River stones, I guess they’re called,
though the best ones come from ocean shoreline
where cliffs are crumbling and tides are rising
and falling
and perfecting what they have broken.
In Maine, for instance,
there are beaches of big smooth stones –
the stones are piled deep
like those plastic balls in a kids’ carnival attraction.
And each night, and each morning,
in comes the weight of the water,
the weight of the ocean,
under which the stones turn on one another
until they are smooth,
until they demonstrate submission to a kind of rule –
we might call it the rule
of the weight of what is thrown
.
The stones are smooth like eggs, sometimes,
or like a palette;
whatever shape they are,
they are evidence of the rule,
evidence of the always diminishing shape of origin.
This is what we mean by decorative.

I say like an egg, but what a strange egg.
Think of a creature of bone – entirely of bone.
Such creatures are not born;
such creatures are made.
I suppose it’s appealing to suggest that something other
than human artifice could be a maker.
That is, it’s satisfying to think
that the weight of the ocean
and the weight of meaning
could be in some way connected.
Perhaps we can’t help but to explore that fantasy.

A smooth stone, like a word,
is artificially refined.
Pick it out of its bed
and take it up into your grasp
and it is strange.
Why is it strange?
It is strange because it is so telling –
because, like a corpse, it so plainly confronts us
with its nonsensical independence.
How could the earth be a heap of smooth stones?
How could speech be a heap of words?
But unlike a corpse, it’s appealing
to take a smooth stone to hand.
A smooth stone is a weapon, and,
assuming it’s the right size, an attractive weapon.
It’s a weapon, moreover, that promises a great event.
The event is great because it alludes to
and calls for a certain talent,
a certain potential in its thrower.
A language, at any given moment, is so many words.
It’s one beach, let’s say, along a world-ocean.
I think of the way they named the portions of beach
on D-Day: Juno, Sword, Omaha, Utah, Gold.
Expand that map and you can picture
all the earth’s language-beaches.
Some are so close to one another that they overlap –
others are quite far apart.
No matter how far apart, however,
their differences are superficial.
Each beach is smooth stones,
and the stones have not been born –
they have been made.
Not made like a bicycle, mind you –
not made intentionally
but made by weight,
made by a great thrown force,
thrown by No One really,
for who-knows-what reason.
Perhaps this is why, when someone hurls words at us
like they are his own,
like the weight of the words is his own weight,
we are so mistrustful, so appalled.

Only the voice of No One
is really moving.

Vacation Vow

what there will be
between us

it alone
it alone

exotic enough
to inform
our always
having simply
not known

Burglar Fondles Sleeping Resident

mental illness
broken feet
metastasis
these seizures of fate
are nothing like breath
nothing like breathing
and it has always come to this
the way someone is beaten to death
the way I see you
fall in love
can’t breathe
and can’t leave
with anything of value

Twentieth-Century Pleasures

A woman has two children:
one is seven, a girl with Down syndrome,
and one is five, a deaf-mute boy.
Every day, the woman’s husband beats her
and calls her a lazy whore.
After a few years
the woman moves back into her mother’s house.
She locks the doors when her mother is at work,
but her husband, having promised to kill her,
gets in through a basement window.
When she hears and meets him in the basement,
pleading for her life,
he breaks her spine with a hammer.
As the two children watch from the steps,
he shoots her in the back of the head,
then turns the gun on himself.
The seven-year old, the girl with Down syndrome,
runs four blocks to the police station.
When the police arrive at the house,
the five-year old,
the poet,
a deaf-mute boy,
is kneeling by his mother’s head,
pressing the pool of blood back toward her.
They pull him away and he doesn’t resist.
They think he has been playing there
in a pool of his mother’s blood.
That is truly what they think:
he was playing in a pool of his dead mother’s blood.
Later, with his bloody hands
he says things they cannot understand,
and they know then, at least,
that he was not playing.

Narrative Poem

Gradually I got to aching so bad
that I couldn’t lie still.
I had a fever every day for a few years.
I took out school loans.
I watched a little TV in a little room.
I took pills.
I moved my pills and my little TV from city to city,
watching with delight, with loathing.
The ache withdrew, at long last,
into the foundation,
lapping more softly at the bones.
My lover and I drove to Canada
and bought codeine.
We watched a TV movie
in a resort motel in the off-season.
We drove back and rented a house in Baltimore.
We got credit.
We bought a 32-inch TV and a new couch –
two thousand dollars, all told.
I kicked out the driver’s side window of our car
in a Denny’s parking lot.
I filed an insurance claim;
valuable objects had been taken from the car.
We ran out of codeine.
I couldn’t afford to get the window fixed.
We drove all winter with the window down.
Our neighbor gave us an old aquarium
and I bought two piranha.
I feed them a goldfish every morning.
Sometimes one will get is head and its tail torn off;
Even so, it swims around the tank awhile.

*

all five poems from No Real Light, Wave Books: 2007

***

Poem of the Week ~ October 4

THREE POEMS BY MARTHA RHODES

Without Gloves

My sister and I are fighting as always
in dreams, our faces an inch apart.
On the counter: carving knives and platters
(perhaps Mother’s)
(perhaps Mother’s dead in the cabinet)

What should we do?
Don’t pick up the knives.
Don’t touch them without gloves.

“I hate your husband,” she tells me.
“He hates you,” I answer.
“He stares at my breasts.”
“Wear a blouse,” I tell her.

She tries to touch me as always
in dreams, I call a dog,
the biggest on the block
but a rat answers my whistle,
and attaches to my wrist.

Always rats in dreams with us
or other little rodents.
Little punctures, little nibbles,
my gnawed off little hand
and I’m unable to save it.

How Fast

Can you tell me where my car is,
please
and then, when I’m in it, where
to put it, which way (and how long) to turn it
from exactly where it is
and then what, what, once turned?

Can you tell me where my car is?

And my keys, how to turn them,
how to place my foot
on which pedal, and my hands
can you put your hands where mine should go?

Can you tell me if I am always like this,

when I am sleeping, do I know on my own
when to turn over, which way to lay my body across the bed,
which way to place my head and arms, how far
to pull the blanket up, how to rise
in the middle of the night when my body needs,
and where to walk, from bed to where? Do I call for you
even then? I’m asking you,

in this lot, near my parents’ house,
how do I get to that house, theirs
the only one on the street I can’t see, so clouded
it is with smoke. Which way to that fire,
please,
how to reach that fire, please, and then
how do I rotate my body, and how fast,
if I reach there, where
will I find the pit, the stake.

Pattern of Cracks

The plasterer, most assuredly,
hasn’t been here (he’d leave his pail
or trowel behind), besides
I haven’t left the room all day –
too strange outside:

a 1946 piper-yellow Piper Cub
about to land in my yard
ascends suddenly;
and the orchards cling to their dying leaves
sensing something below’s more treacherous
than wind or cold. . .

Difficult to account for the ceiling,
this morning’s zig-zagged pattern of cracks
now seamless, no thanks to me,
a step ladder’s third rung higher
than I’ve ever chanced. Impossible
impossible, such fine, expertly
crafted work, faultless as it dries
above me, shrinks and cures.

*

all three from Perfect Disappearance, New Issues Poetry & Prose: 2000

***

Poem of the Week ~ September 27

TWO POEMS BY MATTHEW ZAPRUDER

Canada

By Canada I have always been fascinated.
All that snow and acquiescing.
All that emptiness, all those butterflies
marshaled into an army of peace.
Moving north away from me
Canada has no border, away
like the state its northern border
withers into the skydome. In a world
full of mistrust and self-medication
I have always hated Canada.
It makes me feel like I’m shouting
at a child for letting a handful
of pine needles run through his fist.
Canada gets along with everyone
while I hang, a dark cloud
above the schoolyard. I know
we need war, all the skirmishes
to keep our borders where
we have placed them, all
the migration, all the difference.
Just like Canada the Dalai Lama
is now in Canada, and everyone
is fascinated. When they come
to visit me, no one ever leaves me
saying, the most touching thing
about him is he’s so human.
Or, I was really glad to hear
so many positive ideas regardless
of the consequences expressed.
Or I could drink a case of you.
No one has ever pedaled
every inch of thousands of roads
through me to raise awareness
for my struggle for autonomy.
I have pity but no respect for others,
which is not compassion, just ordinary
love based on attitudes toward myself.
I wonder how long I can endure.
In Canada the leaves are falling.
When they do each one rustles
maybe to the white-tailed deer
of sadness, and it’s clear
that whole country does not exist
to make me feel crappy
like a candelabra hanging
above the prison world,
condemned to freely glow.

Haiku

Yesterday for you
I wrote a poem so full
of lies it woke me
stunned like someone
bitten in the middle of the night
or a bird that just
smashed into a very clean window.
Now it’s so early
it’s still night
and this time I’m hardly
trying at all, holding carefully
in my palms
the knowledge that
I don’t know anything about you.
And how could you know
mosquitoes love my blood
because it’s full
of something they love,
or that I like to play chess
in the morning
with a serbo-croatic book,
never getting any better?
Or that to drink
seltzer with lemon in the dark
thinking of Isamu Noguchi
calms me, but only sometimes?
How I’m a blue
vial of delusions.
How on my biceps
I have a star that never
aches when I tell the truth.
How I’m always
in love with someone
I’ll never meet (see,
I can’t put three words
together without lying!).
And all the things
about you I don’t know,
which is everything.
Did you never
want to be a dancer?
Were your ankles
too thin, and you didn’t
even know it?
Did you love
or were you afraid
of horses (one threw me
when I was a child)?
Did your mother show you
how to wrap a towel
around your wet hair
like an arab queen,
or did you just know
how to paint you nails and hold
the telephone like that
between your chin
and shoulder?
The color of your eyes.
Do they change
on a bridge?
When you lie?
It feels so good
to be clear, and free,
not like a Buddhist
or a haiku but just sort of
dumb, hardly able
in the middle of the night
to speak. Only
enough to say
thank you for the cake,
how it came
wrapped in tinfoil,
newborn, almost
as sweet as the thought
of you thinking
a moment of me.
Most things come
by time and circumstance
separated, waiting
to be repaired.
But not that cake
which I ate
quickly, like
it was about to disappear.
Let’s start again.
I don’t think
that’s a bird out there,
it sounds more like
a person trying
to sound like a bird.
Or maybe a bird a person
didn’t mean
but still taught
how to whistle.
You keep sleeping
and I’ll stop trying
to decide if it’s better
to change other people
or how they see us,
or what’s more
urgent and futile,
to unlock
or to invent the past.

*

both from The Pajamaist, Copper Canyon Press: 2006

***

Poem of the Week ~ September 21

FIVE POEMS BY FRANK STANFORD

Black Swan

Dead drunk on the fog
of a mountain pool
a child sets a fire
to the milkweed
and the dark feathers of the bird
rolling his fist at the moon

A Man Born in the Forest

Just like a light skinned woman
there was a deer
to come out of the Snow Lake Woods
and speak to my father
I saw him
take off his pants
and his panama hat blew
along the rabbits’ hideout

Born There

A lake having to do
with the blind child
who inherited good looks and the ruin
around Midnight Mississippi
was where I went
swimming every afternoon
to watch it go up
in flames

Gray

Some call me River
Rat
On no one do I
pray for bad times
No gray is just a color
to let them know where you come from
Every once in a while
you might have to use a word
like chiaroscuro say
You might be able to swim like the quartermoon
lope like a swarm of flies
It will do you no good
Unless you know how to look at the eyes
at the heart of the living
A little lead alot of wood
You better know when to run to kiss a woman
when she says No
Yes I am
like the raccoons of night
where the bull takes his long walk in the shade
and a child does her summer
sault over the grave of a footprint
clear as a whistle with singed hair
A bullet for a song

All in My Good Time

He did not leave there
even for sermons
He ground his own meal
Watching the sun rise like a weed
in a ditch
and come down with the mange
One night a hub cap
jumped off a pickup and came on
coasting down that cleared path
running to his place
He thought it was running
away from the moon
He went out to his porch
as calm as you ever
silent as blue blazes
I bet a falling star wouldn’t have made him
flinch There he was to see
if his wine was chilled
He breathed on his hard hands
and wandered out over his land
That is how I came to be
born

*

all five from Shade, Mill Mountain Press: 1975

***

Poem of the Week ~ September 13

TWO POEMS BY NORMAN DUBIE

Nineteen Forty

They got Lewes at last yesterday.
Virginia Woolf

The sun just drops down through the poplars.

I should sit out and watch it rather than
Write this!

The red of it sweeps along the houses past the marsh
To where L. is picking apples.
The air is cold.
Little things seem large.
Behind me there’s moisture like windows on the pears.

And then the planes going to London. Well, it’s
An hour before that yet. There are cows eating grass.
There were bombs dropped on Itford Hill. Yesterday,
I watched a Messerschmitt smudge out in the sky.

What is it like when the bone-shade is crushed in
On your eye. You drain. And pant. And, then, dot, dot, dot

Walking Sunday (Natalie’s birthday) by Kingfisher Pool
I saw my first hospital train. It was slow but not laden,
Not like a black shoebox but like a weight pulled by
A string. And bone-shaking!
Private and heavy it cut through the yellow fields:

And a young airman with his head in his hands,
With his head in a fat, soiled bandage, moved
His good eye, and nothing else, up to the high corner
Of his window and through the cool, tinted glass watched,

I believe, as
Individual wild ducks scraped and screamed in along a marsh.

Sanctuary

My sister got me the script. I couldn’t
Believe it. To work for Charles Barzon.
He was doing a film of Thérèse Raquin.
Zola’s novel. The wife is in love
With her sickly husband’s best friend;
They are on an outing – an accident is staged
On the river. They drown
The husband. The river takes him.
Then begin
The visits to the Paris morgue:
Each day from a balcony
They look down at a flat, turning wheel;
Eight naked corpses, unclaimed,
Revolving on a copper-and-oak bed.
A fine mist
Freshening the bodies. I was
To be one of them. I almost said no.

But Barzon’s a genius. He took us aside,
One at a time. He gave us
Secret lives, even though we were the dead.
I was Pauline,
A sculptor’s model of the period.
I would have to shave my groin,
Armpits, and legs.
Hairless, Pauline was a strange euphemism.
What is the scripture,
The putting on of nakedness?

“You’ll be like marble,” Barzon said.

I felt a little sick
With the slow revolutions and lights.
The cold mist raised my nipples.
My hair was ratted and too tight.
Between takes, we shared from boredom
Our secret lives:
To my right was a plowman, kicked
In the chest by a horse. He staggered,
Barzon had told him, out of the field
Into the millrace.
To my left, a thief who had been knifed
In a Paris street. We were spread-eagled,
Cold, and hungry. I looked over to the thief
Who was, to my surprise, uncircumcised…
I said, “Verily, this day you will be
With me in Paradise.” For a moment the dead
In their places writhed –
Barzon was so upset saliva flew from his lips.

The dream occurred that night. And every
Night since.
Three weeks now, the same dream:
One of the carpenters from the set
Is on a high beam way above us.
I don’t know how I see him past the lights.
But there he is, his pants unzipped.
I scream. Barzon looks up from a camera
And says, “Get that son of a bitch.”
The workman slips
Just as a floodlight touches him.
Before he hits the floor, I’m awake.
The first thing I realize
Is that I’m not a corpse, not dead,
Then, in horror,
I see I am still naked and Thérèsa Raquin’s
Drowned husband
Is sitting accusingly at the foot of my bed.

Poem of the Week ~ September 8

The Sorrow of Architecture

Liam Rector

Out of the building, out of the buildings the great sorrow
of not knowing what to do
pours; the great movement of not knowing
where to go, goes. By the hour
it has been moving towards this;
the snow which fell for an hour
reminded everyone of the suspension –
call it an image where the forgotten
is gazed at again, the long hour
of our marriage bringing us to this.
Out of the building
and all that leans back tomorrow failing
into the field, pours the sorrow
of going, the suspension
of gone. Look there – the quickly mentioned
divorce of a colleague and, leaving by herself,
a recent widow. The snow pounds its thorough white
all through the dark megadorm of the city
where we each widow-walk the nighttime air
by the river, outlived
by any embrace that might hold us, outsmarted
by the innocence that might send us home.

*

We go out one night, and you say that those you’ve lost
scar up buoyant in your sleep, that field
where the lantern insects of summer give everything up,
bowing to the frost and relief of all that stirs them
from underneath. From underneath
our bluest fear pivots, blasting through hope into notion,
grabbing at all that drowns away. In the afternoon
between-hour, or that other one at night,
doesn’t everyone give them up? Most of what we mean to love
disappears during sleep, where you say each one wades
through many dreams alone, waking to live them
with the little they remember. You say that we lie down
finally in one vast sleep, in the many dreams, driven on
by the lovers, gaping into prebirth or breast-pleasure
in their looming house. We picture the dead
as we have lowered them into their field,
a retired office in a lull of light, living
in the manner that the building lives, holding
a puny and sublime suspension
as a sky carols on. No wonder
one of us once stared out far and called
the entire undertaking impossible.

Coming in for a moment, out of the cold,
we wonder if anything we have built is that thing
which will outlast the sorrow, the seeming
not to last. I doubt it. And you, who could never stand
a biting doubt as part of the diet, are already moving
in some other direction, eaten
by your indifference, your only hope.
These last few months have been waving
the entire thing away, and it gets down now
to the hours. I hear you talking in your sleep.
Will you not let it go, return to me? Can I count on you
to leave with that other man, the one you’ve met often
this winter, in the after-hour? The marriage
glides snout-down with you smelling of him, this close to me,
saying to yourself I am back to myself again
and to the rest, Fuck it.

*

When I tried to count an entire arc of stars,
as a child, I thought
I could always return to that impossible task,
as a rush-hour returns to an economy,
after sleep. We thought later we could lie down
thigh to wide-open, hair to hair
with others, in the deep breath and relief
of those many bodies and their stirring choice.

Sleeping with others. . .the night-sky widens
and the reference dims;
the light comes again and our count
is wiped away.

A wide sky is what we had in mind.
The arc is always the telling line,
the remark that floats up begging
its final scene.

*

Do you remember that film that ends
with Robert Mitchum calling Shirley MacLaine,
saying he is going back to where he came from,
that he doesn’t know why exactly but he is going back?
MacLaine is sitting in her small apartment,
trying to absorb
his leaving, and Mitchum is in the wide hall
of the place he will leave. The scene cuts
from one telephone to the other, until both places vanish
and there is only the voice, only what they want
and will not have. After that,
only turning out the lights, the hand that goes for the luggage,
and the one who goes. Or the staying,
and the staring, of the other.

*

The thing about architecture,
as you’ve said, is that there is no such thing.
The building vanishes back over that line
into prebirth, invisible, as a line glowing
in the mind passes to the pencil and the plan,
the blueprint of possibility and need.
The buildings lean into me
as I make it back out onto the streets,
walking the voice we once had for each other,
waiting its instruction.

You’ve stayed inside; you are tired of walking.
Your mother told you once
that marriage is in many ways putting one foot in front
of the other, sleep-walking through the dream of choice.
Yes, you’re exhausted. Stay where you are.

I think I can hear it, what vanishes and is.
I step up to a public phone to call you and tell you.
The city slides back into the invisible,
impossible, and there is sorrow on the line.

Poem of the Week ~ August 24

Perfect Reader

Mary Ruefle

I spend all day in my office, reading a poem
by Stevens, pretending I wrote it myself,
which is what happens when someone is lonely
and decides to go shopping and meets another customer
and they buy the same thing. But I come to my senses,
and decide when Stevens wrote the poem he was thinking
of me, the way all my old lovers think of me
whenever they lift their kids or carry the trash,
and standing outside the store I think of them:
I throw my arms around a tree, I kiss the pink
and peeling bark, its dead skin, and the papery
feel of its fucked-up beauty arouses me, lends my life
a certain gait, like the stout man walking to work
who sees a peony in his neighbor’s yard and thinks ah,
there is a subject of white interpolation
, and then
the petals fall apart for a long time, as long as it takes
summer to turn to snow, and I go home at the end and watch
the news about the homeless couple who met in the park,
and then the weather, to see how they will feel tomorrow.

Poem of the Week ~ August 17

Mother of Days

Larissa Szporluk

The rock is the agony
it can’t cry out
when that great warm thing sun
goes down, the grass all gone
into black oceanology.
Nothing beautiful about its leaving.
Nothing true about the wife
who’s falling in the crater
that formed outside her house;
but she feels that there is one,
that it is her own sore
that has swallowed her up,
and like the rock, that she is stung
by the riddle of such brief light.

The sky is just a phantom now
brushing through the trees
that crackle in the sour heat.
The branches sway with ants
that nest in the outer bark
behind dark round holes, and they sway
with the old forest’s sorrow,
old noise of the beginning
that had draped them once
with density, hanging animals and steam;
swaying, they keep begging
every bygone second for release –
But who would you be? asks the universe.
Not this. Not this body.

Poem of the Week ~ August 9

All Wild Animals Were Once Called Deer

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Some truck was gunning the night before up Pippin Hill’s steep grade
And the doe was thrown wide. This happened five years ago now,
Or six. She must have come out of the woods by Simpson’s red
trailer –

The one that looks like a faded train car – and the driver
Did not see her. His brakes no good. Or perhaps she hit the truck.
That happens, too. A figure swims up from nowhere, a flying figure

That seems to be made of nothing more than moonlight, or vapor,
Until it slams its face, solid as stone, against the glass.
And maybe when this happens the driver gets out. Maybe not.

Strange about the kills we get without intending them.
Because we are pointed in the direction of something.
Because we are distracted at just the right moment, or the wrong.

We were waiting for the school bus. It was early, but not yet light.
We watched the darkness draining off like the last residue
Of water from a tub. And we didn’t speak, because that was our way.

High up a plane droned, drone of the cold, and behind us the flag
In front of the Bank of Hope’s branch trailer snapped and popped in
the wind.
It sounded like a boy whipping a wet towel against a thigh

Or like the stiff beating of a swan’s wings as it takes off
From the lake, a flat drumming sound, the sound of something
Being pounded until it softens, and then – as the wind lowered

And the flag ran out wide – a second sound, the sound of running fire.
And there was the scraping, too, the sad knife-against-skin scraping
Of the acres of field corn strung out in straggling rows

Around the branch trailer that had been, the winter before, our town’s
claim to fame
When, in the space of two weeks, it was successfully robbed twice.
The same man did it both times, in the same manner.

He had a black hood and a gun, and he was so polite
That the embarrassed teller couldn’t hide her smile when he showed
up again.
They didn’t think it could happen twice. But sometimes it does.

Strange about that. Lightning strikes and strikes again.
My piano teacher watched her husband, who had been struck as a boy,
Fall for good, years later, when he was hit again.

He was walking across a cut cornfield toward her, stepping over
The dead stalks, holding the bag of nails he’d picked up at the
hardware store
Out like a bouquet. It was drizzling so he had his umbrella up.

There was no thunder, nothing to be afraid of.
And then a single bolt from nowhere, and for a moment the man
Was doing a little dance in a movie, a jig, three steps or four,

Before he dropped like a cloth, or a felled bird.
This happened twenty years ago now, but my teacher keeps
Telling me the story. She hums while she plays. And we were
humming

That morning by the bus stop. A song about boys and war.
And the thing about the doe was this. She looked alive.
As anything will in the half light. As even lawn statues will.

I was going to say as even children playing a game of statues will,
But of course they are alive. Though sometimes
A person pretending to be a statue seems farther gone in death

Than a statue does. Or to put it another way,
Death seems to be the living thing, the thing
That looks out through the eyes. Strange about that….

We stared at the doe for a long time and I thought about the way
A hunter slits a deer’s belly. I’ve watched this many times.
And the motion is a deft one. It is the same motion the swan uses

When he knifes the children down by his pond on Wasigan road.
They put out a hand. And quick as lit grease, the swan’s
Boneless neck snakes around in a sideways circle, driving

The bill hard toward the softest spot…. All those songs
We sing about swans, but they are mean. And up close, often ugly.
That old Wasigan bird is a smelly, moth-eaten thing,

His wings stained yellow as if he chewed tobacco,
His upper bill broken from his foul-tempered strikes.
And he is awkward, too, out of the water. Broken-billed and gaited.

When he grapples down the steep slope, wheezing and spitting,
He looks like some old man recovering from hip surgery,
Slowly slapping down one cursed flat foot, then the next.

But the thing about the swan is this. The swan is made for the water.
You can’t judge him out of it. He’s made for the chapter
In the rushes. He’s like on of those small planes my brother flies.

Ridiculous things. Something a boy dreams up late at night
While he stares at the stars. Something a child draws.
I’ve watched my brother take off a thousand times, and it’s always

The same. The engine spits and dies, spits and catches –
A spurting match – and the machine shakes and shakes as if it were
Stuck together with glue and wound up with a rubber band.

It shimmies the whole way down the strip, past the pond,
Past the wind bagging the goosenecked wind sock, past the banks
Of bright red and blue planes. And as it climbs slowly

Into the air, wobbling from side to side, cautious as a rock climber,
Putting one hand forward then the next, not even looking
At the high spot above the tree line that is the question,

It seems that nothing will keep it up, not a wish, not a dare,
Not the proffered flowers of our held breath. It seems
As if the plane is prey the hunter has lined up in his sights,

His finger pressing against the cold metal, the taste of blood
On his tongue…but then, just before the sky
Goes black, at the dizzying height of our dismay,

The climber’s frail hand reaches up and grasps the highest rock,
Hauling with a last shudder, the body over,
The gun lowers, and perfectly poised now, high above

The dark pines, the plane is home free. It owns it all, all.
My brother looks down and counts his possessions,
Strip and grass, the child’s cemetery the black tombstones

Of the cedars make on the grassy hill, the wind-scrubbed
Face of the pond, the swan’s white stone….
In thirty years, roughly, we will all be dead…. That is the one thing…

And you can’t judge the swan out of the water…. That is another.
The swan is mean and ugly, stupid as stone,
But when it finally makes its way down the slope, over rocks

And weeds, through the razory grasses of the muddy shallows,
The water fanning out in loose circles around it
And then stilling, when it finally reaches the deepest spot

And raises in slow motion its perfectly articulated wings,
Wings of smoke, wings of air, then everything changes.
Out of the shallows the lovers emerge, sword and flame,

And over the pond’s lone island the willow spills its canopy,
A shifting feast of gold and green, a spell of lethal beauty.
O bird of moonlight. O bird of wish. O sound rising

Like an echo from the water. Grief sound. Sound of the horn.
The same ghostly sound the deer makes when it runs
Through the woods at night, white lightning through the trees,

Through the coldest moments, when it feels as if the earth
Will never again grow warm, lover running toward lover,
The branches tearing back, the mouth and eyes wide,

The heart flying into the arms of the one that will kill her.

Poem of the Week ~ August 2

Anastasia & Sandman

Larry Levis

The brow of a horse in that moment when
The horse is drinking water so deeply from a trough
It seems to inhale the water, is holy.

I refuse to explain.

When the horse had gone the water in the trough,
All through the empty summer,

Went on reflecting clouds & stars.

The horse cropping grass in a field,
And the fly buzzing around its eyes, are more real
Than the mist in one corner of the field.

Or the angel hidden in the mist, for that matter.

Members of the Committee on the Ineffable,
Let me illustrate this with a story, & ask you all
To rest your heads on the table, cushioned,
If you wish, in your hands, &, if you want,
Comforted by a small carton of milk
To drink from, as you once did, long ago,
When there was only a curriculum of beach grass,
When the University of Flies was only a distant humming.

In Romania, after t he war, Stalin confiscated
The horses that had been used to work the fields.
“You won’t need horses now,” Stalin said, cupping
His hand to his ear, “Can’t you hear the tractors
Coming in the distance? I hear them already.”

The crowd in the Callea Victoria listened closely
But no one heard anything. In the distance
There was only the faint glow of a few clouds.
And the horses were led into boxcars and emerged
As the dimly remembered meals of flesh
That fed the starving Poles
During that famine, & part of the next one –
In which even words grew thin & transparent,
Like the pale wings of ants that flew
Out of the oldest houses, & slowly
What had been real in words began to be replaced
By what was not real, but…” became the preferred
Administrative phrasing so that the man
Standing with his hat in his hands would not guess
That the phrasing of a few words had already swept
The earth from beneath his feet. “That horse I had,
He was more real than any angel,
The housefly, when I had a house, was real too,”
Is what the man thought.
Yet it wasn’t more than a few months
Before the man began to wonder, talking
To himself out loud before the others,
“Was the horse real? Was the house real?”
An angel flew in and out of the high window
In the factory where the man worked, his hands
Numb with cold. He hated the window & the light
Entering the window & he hated the angel.
Because the angel could not be carved into meat
Or dumped into the ossuary & become part
Of the landfill at the edge of town,
It therefore could not acquire a soul,
And resembled in significance nothing more
Than a light summer dress when the body has gone.

The man survived because, after a while,
He shut up about it.

Stalin had a deep understanding of the kulaks,
Their sense of marginalization & belief in the land;

That is why he killed them all.

Members of the Committee on Solitude, consider
Our own impoverishment & the progress of that famine,
In which, now, it is becoming impossible
To feel anything when we contemplate the burial,
Alive, in a two-hour period, of hundreds of people.
Who were not clichés, who did not know they would be
The illegible blank of the past that lives in each
Of us, even in some guy watering his lawn

On a summer night. Consider

The death of Stalin & the slow, uninterrupted
Evolution of the horse, a species no one,
Not even Stalin, could extinguish, almost as if
What could not be altered was something
Noble in the look of its face, something

Incapable of treachery.

Then imagine, in your planning proposals,
The exact moment in the future when an angel
Might alight & crawl like a fly into the ear of a horse,
And then, eventually, into the brain of a horse,
And imagine further that the angel in the brain
Of this horse is, for the horse cropping grass
In the field, largely irrelevant, a mist in the corner
Of the field, largely irrelevant, a mist in the corner
Of a field, something that disappears,
The horse thinks, when weight is passed through it,
Something that will not even carry the weight
Of its own father
On its back, the horse decides, & so demonstrates
This by swishing at a fly with its tail, by continuing
To graze as the dusk comes on & almost until it is night.

Old contrivers, daydreamers, walking chemistry sets,
Exhausted chimneysweeps of the spaces
Between words, where the Holy Ghost tastes just
List the dust it is made of,
Let’s tear up our lecture notes & throw them out
The window.
Let’s do it right now before wisdom descends upon us
Like a spiderweb over a burned-out theater marquee,
Because what’s the use?
I keep going to meetings where no one’s there,
And contributing to the discussion;
And besides, behind the angel hissing in its mist
Is a gate that leads only into another field,
Another outcropping of stones & withered grass, where
A horse named Sandman & a horse named Anastasia
Used to stand at the fence & watch the traffic pass.
Where there were outdoor concerts once, in summer,
Under the missing & innumerable stars.

Poem of the Week ~ July 26

from Garbage

A.R. Ammons

1.

Creepy little creepers are insinuatingly
curling up my spine (bringing the message)

saying, Boy!, are you writing that great poem
the world’s waiting for: don’t you know you

have an unaccomplished mission unaccomplished;
someone somewhere may be at this very moment

dying for the lack of what W.C. Williams says
you could (or somebody could) be giving: yeah?

so, these little messengers say, what do you
mean teaching school (teaching poetry and

poetry writing and wasting your time painting
sober little organic, meaningful pictures)

when values thought lost (but only scrambled into
disengagement) lie around demolished

and centerless because you (that’s me, boy)
haven’t elaborated everything in everybody’s

face, yet: on the other hand (I say to myself,
receiving the messengers and cutting them down)

who has done anything or am I likely to do
anything the world won’t twirl without: and

since SS’s enough money (I hope) to live
from now on on in elegance and simplicity –

or, maybe, just simplicity – why shouldn’t I
at my age (63) concentrate on chucking the

advancements and rehearsing the sweetnesses of
leisure, nonchalance, and small-time byways: couple

months ago, for example, I went all the way
from soy flakes (already roasted and pressed

and in need of an hour’s simmering boil
to be cooked) all the way to soybeans, the

pure golden pearls themselves, 65¢ lb. dry: they
have to be soaked overnight in water and they

have to be boiled slowly for six hours – but
they’re welfare cheap, are a complete protein,

more protein by weight than by meat, more
calcium than milk, more lecithin than eggs,

and somewhere in there the oil that smoothes
stools, a great virtue: I need time and verve

to find out, now, about medicare/Medicaid,
national osteoporosis week, gadabout tours,

hearing loss, homesharing programs, and choosing
good nutrition! for starters! why should I

be trying to write my flattest poem, now, for
whom, not for myself, for others?, posh, as I

have never said: Social Security can provide
the beans, soys enough: my house, paid for for

twenty years, is paid for: my young’un
is raised: nothing one can pay cash for seems

very valuable: that reaches a high enough
benchmark for me – high enough that I wouldn’t

know w hat to do with anything beyond that, no
place to house it, park it, dock it, let it drift

down to: elegance and simplicity: I wonder
if we need those celestial guidance systems

striking mountaintops or if we need fuzzy
philosophy’s abstruse failed reasonings: isn’t

it simple and elegant enough to believe in
qualities, simplicity and elegance, pitch in a

little courage and generosity, a touch of
commitment, enough asceticism to prevent

fattening: moderation: elegant and simple
moderation: trees defined themselves (into

various definitions) through a dynamics of
struggle (hey, is the palaver rapping, yet?)

and so it is as if there were a genetic
recognition that a young tree would get up and

through only through taken space (parental
space not yielding at all, either) and, further:

so, trunks, accommodated to rising, to reaching
the high light and deep water, were slender

and fast moving, and this was okay because
one good thing about dense competition is that

if one succeeds with it one is buttressed by
crowding competitors; that is, there was little

room for branches, and just a tuft of green
possibility at the forest’s roof: but, now,

I mean, take my yard maple – put out in the free
and open – has overgrown, its trunk

split down from a high fork: wind has
twisted off the biggest, bottom branch: there

was, in fact, hardly any crowding and competition,
and the fat tree, unable to stop pouring it on,

overfed and overgrew and, now, again, its skin’s
broken into and disease may find it and bores

of one kind or another, and fungus: it just
goes to show you: moderation imposed is better

than no moderation at all: we tie into the
lives of those we love and our lives, then, go

as theirs go; their pain we can’t shake off;
their choices, often harming to themselves,

pour through our agitated sleep, swirl up as
no-nos in our dreams; we rise several times

in a night to walk about; we rise in the morning
to a crusty world headed nowhere, doorless:

our chests burn with anxiety and a river of
anguish defines rapids and straits in the pit of

our stomachs: how can we intercede and not
interfere: how can our love move more surroundingly,

convincingly than our premonitory advice

2.

garbage has to be the poem of our time because
garbage is spiritual, believable enough

to get our attention, getting in the way, piling
up, stinking, turning brooks brownish and

creamy white: what else deflects us from the
errors of our illusionary ways, not a temptation

to trashlessness, that is too far off, and,
anyway, unimaginable, unrealistic: I’m a

hole puncher or hole plugger: stick a finger
in the dame (dam, damn, dike), hold back the issue

of creativity’s flood, the forthcoming, futuristic,
the origins feeding trash: down by I-95 in

Florida where flatland’s ocean- and gulf-flat,
mounds of disposal rise (for if you dug

something up to make room for something to put
in, what about the something dug up, as with graves:)

the garbage trucks crawl as if in obeisance,
as if up ziggurats toward the high places gulls

and garbage keep alive, offerings to the gods
of garbage, of retribution, of realistic

expectation, the deities of unpleasant
necessities: refined, young earthworms,

drowned up in macadam pools by spring rains, moisten
out white in a day or so and, round spots,

look like sputum or creamy-rich, broken-up cold
clams: if this is not the best poem of the

century, can it be about the worst poem of the
century: it comes, at least, toward the end,

so a long tracing of bad stuff can swell
under its measure: but there on the heights

a small smoke wafts the sacrificial bounty
day and night to layer the sky brown, shut us

in as into a lidded kettle, the everlasting
flame these acres-deep of tendance keep: a

free offering of a crippled plastic chair:
a played-out sports outfit: a hill-myna

print stained with jelly: how to write this
poem, should it be short, a small popping of

duplexes, or long, hunting wide, coming home
late, losing the trail and recovering it:

should it act itself out, illustrations,
examples, colors, clothes or intensify

reductively into statement, bones any corpus
would do to surround, or should it be nothing

at all unless it finds itself: the poem,
which is about the pre-socratic idea of the

dispositional axis from stone to wind, wind
to stone (with my elaborations, if any)

is complete before it begins, so I needn’t
myself hurry into brevity, though a weary reader

might briefly be done: the axis will be clear
enough daubed here and there with a little ink

or fined out into every shade and form of its
revelation: this is a scientific poem,

asserting that nature models values, that we
have invented little (copied), reflections of

possibilities already here, this where we came
to and how we came: a priestly director behind the

black-chuffing dozer leans the gleanings and
reads the birds, millions of loners circling

a common height, alighting to the meaty streaks
and puffy muffins (puffins?): there is a mound,

too, in the poet’s mind dead language is hauled
off to and burned down on, the energy held and

shaped into new turns and clusters, the mind
strengthened by what it strengthens: for

where but in the very asshole of comedown is
redemption: as where but brought low, where

but in the grief of failure, loss, error do we
discern the savage afflictions that turn us around:

where but in the arrangements love crawls us
through, not a thing left in our self-display

unhumiliated, do we find the sweet seed of
new routes: but we are natural: nature, not

we, gave rise to us: we are not, though, through
natural, divorced from higher, finer configurations:

tissues and holograms of energy circulate in
us and seek and find representations of themselves

outside us, so that we can participate in
celebrations high and know reaches of feeling

and sight and thought that penetrate (really
penetrate) far, far beyond these our wet cells,

right on up past our stories, the planets, moons,
and other bodies locally to the other end of

the pole where matter’s forms diffuse and
energy loses all means to express itself except

as spirit, there, oh, yes, in the abiding where
mind but nothing else abides, the eternal,

until it turns into another pear or sunfish,
that momentary glint in the fisheye having

been there so long, coming and going, it’s
eternity’s glint: it all wraps back round,

into and out of form, palpable and impalpable,
and in one phase, the one of grief and love,

we know the other, where everlastingness comes to
sway, okay and smooth: the heaven we mostly

want, though, is this jet-hoveled hell back,
heaven’s daunting asshole: one must write and

rewrite till one writes it right: if I’m in
touch, she said, then I’ve got an edge: what

the hell kind of talk is that: I can’t believe
I’m merely an old person: whose mother is dead,

whose father is gone and many of whose
friends and associates have wended away to the

ground, which is only heavy wind, or to ashes,
a lighter breeze, but it was all quite frankly

to be expected and not looked forward to: even
old trees, I remember some of them, where they

used to stand: pictures taken by some of them:
and old dogs, specially one imperial black one,

quad dogs with their hierarchies (another archie)
one succeeding another, the barking and romping

sliding away like slides from a projector: what
were they then that are what they are now:

***

Poem of the Week ~ July 19

Tonight’s the Night

Catherine Meng

The many climates conflate before the face

so they are one sure thing. Filling & emptying

out into another question, snow does things

akin to darkness –

how it finds an object & takes its edges.

The car is for getting from one place

to another so windmills exist outside

the story, something revolving in the landscape

to the left. But when a chopstick traces

a woman’s body in the steam,

the windmills enter as the woman does,

when the tired hand fumbles

into a minor key & starts its own

hungry flight. The ear is a gracious receiver;

it welcomes all of this at once: snow falling,

geese flying, a car crossing the high desert

with a woman & windmills. It knows her

by the space where her voice should be.

from Tonight’s the Night, Apostrophe Press

**

Poem of the Week ~ July 12

The Last Shangri-Lai

Christopher Schmidt

I had to sue Tibet.
When they red-carpet-tossed
me down K2

skeins of saffron yak thread,
needles still attached,
stuck me in the back.

I recovered in a kidney
infinity pool.
The view killed.
The food stank.
Just thicker-skinned, I think.
Bigger bones. Just. So. Great.
Buddhist, but maybe they could consider
the consequences of their actions.
A little, like, live in the moment.
I’m telling you – I’m boring you?
You’ve seen the reenactment on TV?
Better, more moving
in my tell-all memoir,
at Book Soup, $14.93.
from The Next in Line, Slope Editions
* * * * *
Poem of the Week ~ July 5

Why I Might Go to the Next Football Game

Denis Johnson

sometimes you know
things: once at a
birthday party a little

girl looked at her new party
gloves and said she
liked me, making suddenly the light much
brighter so that the very small

hairs shone above her lip. i felt
stuffed, like a swimming pool, with
words, like i knew something that was in
a great tangled knot. and when we sat

down i saw there were
tiny glistenings on her
legs, too. i knew
something for sure then. but it

was too big, or like the outside too
everywhere, or maybe
hiding inside, behind
the bicycles where i later

kissed her, not using my tongue. it was
too giant and thin to squirm
into, and be so well inside of, or
too well hidden to punch, and feel. a few

days later on the asphalt playground i
tackled her. she skinned her
elbow, and i even
punched her and felt her, felt

how soft the hairs were. i thought
that i would make a fine football-playing
poet, but now i know
it is better to be an old, breathing

man wrapped in a great coat in the stands, who
remains standing after each play, who knows
something, who rotates in his place
rasping over and over the thing

he knows: “whydidnhe pass? the other
end was wide open! the end
was wide open! the end was wide open . . . ”
***
from
The Man Among the Seals<

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