now what :: solmaz sharif

And so I sat at a tall table
in an Ohio hotel,
eating delivery:
cheese bread

with garlic butter, only it was
not butter, but partially
hydrogenated soy
bean oil

and regular soybean oil and it
came in a little tub like
creamer that’s also not
dairy.

America in 2019
means a poem will have to
contain dairy that is,
in fact,

not dairy. On Instagram: a man
has bought a ten foot by four
foot photo of a bridge
he lives

beside, bridge he can see just outside
his window, window which serves
as a ten foot by four
foot frame.

My materialist mind, I can’t
shake it. Within a perfect
little tub of garlic
butter,

a relief of workers, of sickles,
fields of soy. We were tanners
pushed to the edge of the
city

once, by the stench, the bubble of vats
of flesh and loosening skin,
back when the city pulled,
leather

bucket by leather bucket, its own
water from wells. Then we worked
the cafeterias
at the

petroleum offices of the
British. Then, revolution—

Simple.

someone leans near :: toni morrison

Someone leans near
And sees the salt your eyes have shed.

You wait, longing to hear
Words of reason, love or play
To lash or lull you toward the hollow day.

Silence kneads your fear
Of crumbled star-ash sifting down
Clouding the rooms here, here.

You shore up your heart to run. To stay.
But no sign or design marks the narrow way.

Then on your skin a breath caresses
The salt your eyes have shed.

And you remember a call clear, so clear
“You will never die again.”

Once more you know
You will never die again.

beatitudes :: khaled mattawa

1.

My child wants to know if the mountains really cowered.

“How do you know when a sea or a river is afraid?

How do you know when the sky is thinking yes or no?

And why did Adam say yes—Did he know that

all the other creatures refused? Was he arrogant

or just ignorant? Was he God’s last choice?”

2.

“Did you really have a party the day the dictator died?

And you had a cake decorated with all the flags?

Did you think his death will fix everything?

Why did we spend all that time there?

Why couldn’t we just stay here?

Isn’t this our country too?

And all these people fleeing and drowning,

what are they hoping for? Whose fault is it?

How long must we wait for things to improve?”

3.

She speaks to me in our language

in front of her friends, to share a secret,

or—cool and beaming—to show off.

I wonder how long it will last, this pride,

this intimacy. Sometimes she puts her arm

next to mine and tells me I have the lighter skin.

“Why are you doing this,” I ask.

But she doesn’t point to the flag

or say, “It’s the way of the world.”

Instead she tells me not to worry, that she is “the most

kid kid in my class, the least mature one, Baba!”

Not all kinds of wisdom console, I tell her.

Then I begin to think of words she’ll soon hear

that can make her wish she wasn’t who she is.

Lead me to virtue, O love, through the smoke of despair.

4.

“Let’s walk through the woods,” she tells me.

“Let’s walk by the rocky shore at sunrise.”

“Let’s walk through the clover fields at noon.”

In the rainforest she is silent, mesmerized.

She’d never prayed—we never taught her—

but she seemed to then, eyes alert with joy.

She points to a chameleon the size of a beetle,

teaches me the names of flowers and trees,

insects we can eat if we’re ever lost here.

“I’m teaching you how to entrust the world

to me,” she says. “You don’t have to live

forever to shield me from it.”

cento between the ending and the end :: cameron awkward-rich

Sometimes you don’t die

when you’re supposed to

& now I have a choice

repair a world or build

a new one inside my body

a white door opens

into a place queerly brimming

gold light so velvet-gold

it is like the world

hasn’t happened

when I call out

all my friends are there

everyone we love

is still alive gathered

at the lakeside

like constellations

my honeyed kin

honeyed light

beneath the sky

a garden blue stalks

white buds the moon’s

marble glow the fire

distant & flickering

the body whole bright-

winged brimming

with the hours

of the day beautiful

nameless planet. Oh

friends, my friends—

bloom how you must, wild

until we are free.

a whole foods in hawai’i :: craig santos perez

I dreamed of you tonight, Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, as I walked down on the sidewalk under plumeria trees with a vog headache looking at the Māhealani moon.

In my need fo’ grindz, and hungry fo’ modernity, I stumbled into the gentrified lights of Whole Foods, dreaming of your manifestos!
What pineapples and what papayas! Busloads of tourists shopping at night! Bulk aisle full of hippies! Millennials in the kale! Settlers in the Kona coffee! And you, Richard Hamasaki, what were you doing kissing the ripe mangos?

I saw you, Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, broomless, ghostly janitor, sampling the poke in the seafood section and eyeing the smoked fish.
I heard you ask questions of each: Who butchered the mahimahi? What price opah belly? Are you my ‘aumakua?
I wandered in and out of the canned goods aisle following you, and followed in my imagination by Sir Spamalot.
In our bourgeois fancy we strolled through the cooked foods section tasting hand-churned cheese, possessing every imported delicacy, and whispering to the cashier, “Go fuck yourself.”

Where are we going, Wayne Kaumualii Westlake? The doors of perception close in an hour. Which way does your pakalōlō point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our huaka‘i in Whole Foods and feel dādā.)
Will we sail all night through Honolulu streets? The coconut trees no have nuts, tarps up for the homeless, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we cruise witnessing the ruined empire of America, past pink mopeds in driveways, home to our overpriced apartments?
Ah, dear uncle, Buddhahead, ghostly poetry teacher, what Hawai‘i did you have when TheBus quit turning its wheels and you arrived in Waikīkī and stood watching the canoes disappear on the murky waters of the Ala Wai?

survivor :: vijay seshadri

We hold it against you that you survived.
People better than you are dead,
but you still punch the clock.
Your body has wizened but has not bled

its substance out on the killing floor
or flatlined in intensive care
or vanished after school
or stepped off the ledge in despair.

Of all those you started with,
only you are still around;
only you have not been listed with
the defeated and the drowned.

So how could you ever win our respect?–
you, who had the sense to duck,
you, with your strength almost intact
and all your good luck.

instructions on not giving up :: ada limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

the resistance and its light :: pier paolo pasolini

translated by Brandon Brown

so I came to the days of the Resistance
I didn’t know anything but style
it was a style made totally of light
memorable recognition
of sun. It could never fade
not even for an instant
even as Europe trembled
on its deadliest evening
we escaped from Casarsa
with our stuff in a cart
to a ruined village
among canals and vineyards it was pure light
my brother left, it was a mute morning
March, in a train, disguised
his pistol in a book it was pure light
he lived a long time in the mountains
which shone like paradise in the blue gloom
of Friulian plains it was pure light
in the attic of our farmhouse my mother
always stared at those mountains
hopeless, she saw the future it was pure light
with a few poor people I lived
a glorious life, persecuted
by despicable rhetoric it was pure light
the day of death came
Independence Day, the martyred world
knew itself again in the light…

the light was the thought of justice
I didn’t know what kind of justice
all light equal to all other light
then it changed, the light like an uncertain morning
a waxing dawn that spread all over
Friulian fields and canals
struggling workers in the light
the rising dawn was a light I mean
beyond the eternity of style
in history, justice has been
the realization of a humane
distribution of money, hope
maybe, brighter than that
new light

quarantine :: eavan boland

In the worst hour of the worst season
     of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
     Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
     Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

In Memoriam

ambulance :: brittany perham

I speak as if my voice is a guidewire
sliding toward my brother’s heart,
opening each vessel’s glossy skin, lighting
the coal stove inside. Warmth might begin
rising upward, his cheeks coloring like twin flowers.
I narrate the roads we drive by memory:
The coastline north of the airport, I say,
the tunnel beneath the harbor, and the city’s summer
market, each storefront closed. If I could see
my mother, where she sits beside the driver,
I’d see how tears can look like sweat—
as though she’s been running
some long distance, her hair the wiry stems
of orchids in my father’s greenhouse.
When I was young, he lifted a caught sparrow
from the soil bed and set it in my hands.
It rolled to its side, clawless, injured
in the falling. Toss it up, my father said,
maybe it will fly. The truth is,
I bring my father to the poem only
suddenly, to amend the law of his absence,
and because my brother’s eyes are closed.

streets :: naomi shihab nye

A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
in this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.

Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.

kindness :: nikita gill

And maybe this is how we learn the value of kindness.

When the whole world is like a small child with a fever,

trying her very best to make herself feel better.

Maybe we find our unity in the near-losing of everything.

Where we have no choice but to depend upon each other.

This is what it takes to realise we are in this together.

A man helps someone he dislikes because they are in danger.

A neighbour delivers groceries to everyone ill on her street.

Old friends forgive each other, stop acting like they are strangers.

Maybe this time, the revolution arrives dressed as kindness.

People helping each other despite their differences.

Understanding truly, that without the aid of others,

we would be all alone in this.

another night at sea level :: meg day

On the third day, I wrote to you
about the sky, its elastic way
of stretching so ocean-wide
that the only way to name it
was to compare it to Montana’s.
Lately, the sky is a ceiling
I wake to: broad & blank
& stubborn, stiff at the edges
like a fever cloth wrung out
& gone cold in the night, damp
with the wicking of latent ache.
But tonight I was walking
home along the coastline
& caught the huge moon
in my throat. There’s a man
somewhere on the planet
who has been to that moon,
who has stepped out of that sky,
& will never sleep the same
because of it. Will always be
sad or feel small, or wonder
how it is a person can be
a person, if being a person
is worrying about things;
whose eyes cannot see
what things are, but only
the slightness of them.
I think of writing to you
in this way—welcoming
the adventure of it—
& of being wrecked
proper, of being ruined.

sorrow is not my name :: ross gay

—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

—for Walter Aikens

the most gentle revolution :: nikita gill

There are still versions of you that remember
a soft childhood filled with caring for everything
that the grown ups around you simply ignored.

The baby bird with a broken wing you healed,
the thirsty plants you always gave water to
the lonely and sad children you befriended.

We learn when we are young how to be kind,
we are so certain back then that we are here to help
each other through sorrow and through sadness too.

But when we grow up we forget the magic
that lies within each act of kindness, that it has
the facility to build true hope the way revolutions do.

Kindness was always your superpower.
And your gentle heart can still change the world
if only you believe you can and truly want to.

naming the heartbeats :: aimee nezhukumatathil

I’ve become the person who says Darling, who says Sugarpie,
Honeybunch, Snugglebear—and that’s just for my children.
What I call my husband is unprintable. You’re welcome. I am
his sweetheart, and finally, finally—I answer to his call and his
alone. Animals are named for people, places, or perhaps a little
Latin. Plants invite names for colors or plant-parts. When you
get a group of heartbeats together you get names that call out
into the evening’s first radiance of planets: a quiver of cobras,
a maelstrom of salamanders, an audience of squid, or an ostentation
of peacocks. But what is it called when creatures on this earth curl
and sleep, when shadows of moons we don’t yet know brush across
our faces? And what is the name for the movement we make when
we wake, swiping hand or claw or wing across our face, like trying
to remember a path or a river we’ve only visited in our dreams.

finale :: pablo neruda

translated by william o’daly

Matilde, years or days
sleeping, feverish,
here or there,
gazing off,
twisting my spine,
bleeding true blood,
perhaps I awaken
or am lost, sleeping:
hospital beds, foreign windows,
white uniforms of the silent walkers,
the clumsiness of feet.

And then, these journeys
and my sea of renewal:
your head on the pillow,
your hands floating
in the light, in my light,
over my earth.

It was beautiful to live
when you lived!

The world is bluer and of the earth
at night, when I sleep
enormous, within your small hands.

the tent :: naomi shihab nye

When did hordes of sentences start beginning with So?

As if everything were always pending,

leaning on what came before.

What can you expect?

Loneliness everywhere, entertained or kept in storage.

So you felt anxious to be alone.

Easier to hear, explore a city, room,

mound of hours, no one walking beside you.

Talking to self endlessly, but mostly listening.

This would not be strange.

It would be the tent you slept in.

Waking calmly inside whatever

you had to do would be freedom.

It would be your country.

The men in front of me had whole acres

in their eyes. I could feel them cross, recross each day.

Memory, stitched. History, soothed.

What we do or might prefer to do. Have done.

How we got here. Telling ourselves a story

till it’s compact enough to bear.

Passing the walls, wearing the sky,

the slight bow and rising of trees.

Everything ceaselessly holding us close.

So we are accompanied.

Never cast out without a line of language to reel us back.

That is what happened, how I got here.

So maybe. One way anyway.

A story was sewn, seed sown,

this was what patriotism meant to me—

to be at home inside my own head long enough

to accept its infinite freedom

and move forward anywhere, to mysteries coming.

Even at night in a desert, temperatures plummet,

billowing tent flaps murmur to one other.

an escape :: ha jin

We sat in the neon light
on a cool evening of a summer day
drinking beer and eating salad.
You told me your story
similar to those of many others:
All your savings are gone,
the managers, the secretaries, the supervisors,
the police in charge of passports
all having received a handsome share.
Now you have nothing left there,
your color TV and refrigerator were sold
to get the cash for the plane ticket.

“But I was lucky,” you assured me.
“Many people have spent fortunes
and still cannot leave the country.”

“What are you going to do here?
Don’t think this is a place where
you can make a fortune by snapping fingers.
Starting poor, we have to labor for every dollar.
It is a place where money
can hire the devil to make bean curd
and your growth is measured by financial figures.
There is no way for us to get beyond
a social security number.”

“Anything, I would do anything,
as long as I can make a living.
At least, I am free here and don’t
hate others. Do you know what I wanted
when I was back there?
I always imagined how to get a gun
so I could shoot all the bastards.
That country is not a place to live—
I would rather die than go back.”

We stopped to watch seagulls.
An airplane was writing the word
FUN in the distant sky.
I wish I had left the same way,
but I brought with me all my belongings,
even my army mug and a bunch of old letters.

on the term of exile :: bertolt brecht

translated from the german by adam kirsch

No need to drive a nail into the wall
To hang your hat on;
When you come in, just drop it on the chair
No guest has sat on.

Don’t worry about watering the flowers—
In fact, don’t plant them.
You will have gone back home before they bloom,
And who will want them?

If mastering the language is too hard,
Only be patient;
The telegram imploring your return
Won’t need translation.

Remember, when the ceiling sheds itself
In flakes of plaster,
The wall that keeps you out is crumbling too,
As fast or faster.

the weight of the sun :: charlotte pence

I like the 4 a.m. feedings best, tilting
the rocking chair back and forth
with my toes, observing how the invisible

lines of our dark yard rest against
the lines of other yards—of other lives.
Before the sun rises, this small wedge

of the world momentarily in agreement:
everyone on this block wishing for sleep,
for peace, for the coming day to be better

than the last. I like thinking how the grass
growing a thousandth of an inch every
fifteen minutes is celebrating something

as I celebrate solving small mysteries
like learning that a red fox is the one who
flattens the path through the lawn.

Mainly I like pretending I am the only one
awake, the only one seeing the world
at this instant. The navy sky, thick as blood,

is my blood, as the fracture of stars, bright
as raw bone, is my bone. I like being
reminded that we all began in dark and stars,

that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen
in our bodies was created 4.5 billion
years ago in another generation of stars,

that somehow if we could weigh the sun,
all rising 418 nonillion pounds of it,
we’d see that strength is never needed

to begin the day. No, it’s something else.
Behind every square of light flipped on,
someone is standing or slouching, stretching

or sighing, someone is covering her face
or uncovering it, someone is thinking,
Today, I will I will I will….

each moment a white bull steps shining into the world :: jane hirshfield

If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.

Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.

Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift arrives from the sea.

Treat it as you yourself
would be treated,
brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.

And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even an instant—

Stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling dewlaps
you’ve come to believe were yours,
and plunge in the knife.

Not once
did you enter the pasture
without pause,
without yourself trembling.
That you came to love it, that was the gift.

Let the envious gods take back what they can.

the bugs of childhood :: danusha laméris

Don’t you remember them, the furred legs
of a caterpillar moving along your arm, each follicle
prickling beneath their touch? The crumpling
of the ladybug’s underwings as it tucked them back
beneath its glossy shell. The butterfly on your finger
unfurling its long, spiral tongue. Rows and rows of ants,
hefting their white eggs. The fly’s head
bowed, antennae bent under the careful work
of forelegs as it bathed its large composite eye.

One, no bigger than a speck, left tufts of foam
in your palm; another, a pool of green. Some
rolled themselves into a pill-shaped ball at the slightest touch,
while others, no matter how you tried, refused.
What was it about the workings of their small bodies,
the click of the mandibles or the steady pulse
of the thorax, so nipped at the center it seemed
tied with string? Almost electric,
the way they zipped through the grass,
sunlight caught in iridescence.
Remember? How the dirt glinted
and shimmered, how the blind earth
once writhed, alive in your hands.

a glittering :: sarah manguso

One mourner says if I can just get through this year as if salvation comes in January.

Slow dance of suicides into the earth:

I see no proof there is anything else. I keep my obituary current, but believe that good times are right around the corner

Una grande scultura posse rotolare giù per una collina senza rompersi, Michelangelo is believed to have said (though he never did): To determine the essential parts of a sculpture, roll it down a hill. The inessential parts will break off.

That hill, graveyard of the inessential, is discovered by the hopeless and mistaken for the world just before they mistake themselves for David’s white arms.

They are wrong. But to assume oneself essential is also wrong: a conundrum.

To be neither essential nor inessential—not to exist except as the object of someone’s belief, like those good times lying right around the corner—is the only possibility.

Nothing, nobody matters.

And yet the world is full of love . . .

blessings :: jay parini

Blessings for these things:
the dandelion greens I picked in summer
and would douse with vinegar and oil
at grandma’s little house in Pennsylvania,
near the river. Or the small potatoes
she would spade to boil and butter,
which I ate like fruit with greasy fingers.

Blessings for my friend, thirteen
that summer when we prayed by diving from a cliff
on Sunday mornings in the church
of mud and pebbles, foam and moss.
I will not forget the fizz and tingle,
sunning in wet skin on flat, cool rocks,
so drenched in summer.

And for you, my love, blessings
for the times we lay so naked in a bed
without the sense of turbulence or tides.
I could just believe the softness of our skin,
those sheets like clouds,
how when the sunlight turned to roses,
neither of us dared to move or breathe.

Blessings on these things and more:
the rivers and the houses full of light,
the bitter weeds that taste like sun,
dirt-sweetened spuds,
the hard bright pebbles, spongy mosses,
lifting of our bodies into whiffs of cloud,
all sleep-warm pillows in the break of dawn.

the song of empty rooms :: wale owoade

The fire you wore is the color
of my eyes. I have mistook a quiet

room once for your laughter
and the curtains once for your hair.

My shadow: plural and your absence:
a chorus—a fistful of light through

the crack—cobwebs as piano keys—
cupboards and drawers for keeping

memories—green blessings growing
in the sink—your shadow stepping

out of the wall. I am waiting for when
you will open the door. An empty

room is another word for music,
the song of the man, the woman,

the boy and the girl that slipped
out and left their shadows behind.

Your voice is my favorite album,
you left but your bones are still here.

for keeps :: joy harjo

Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.
Where have you been? they ask.
And what has taken you so long?
That night after eating, singing, and dancing
We lay together under the stars.
We know ourselves to be part of mystery.
It is unspeakable.
It is everlasting.
It is for keeps.

evening :: dorianne laux

Moonlight pours down
without mercy, no matter
how many have perished
beneath the trees.

The river rolls on.

There will always be
silence, no matter
how long someone
has wept against
the side of a house,
bare forearms pressed
to the shingles.

Everything ends.
Even pain, even sorrow.

The swans drift on.

Reeds bear the weight
of their feathery heads.
Pebbles grow smaller,
smoother beneath night’s
rough currents. We walk

long distances, carting
our bags, our packages.
Burdens or gifts.

We know the land
is disappearing beneath
the sea, islands swallowed
like prehistoric fish.

We know we are doomed,
done for, damned, and still
the light reaches us, falls
on our shoulders even now,

even here where the moon is
hidden from us, even though
the stars are so far away.

from Only as the Day Is Long (2019), via poets.org