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in love with you :: kenneth koch

by

I

O what a physical effect it has on me
To dive forever into the light blue sea
Of your acquaintance! Ah, but dearest friends,
Like forms, are finished, as life has ends! Still,
It is beautiful, when October
Is over, and February is over,
To sit in the starch of my shirt, and to dream of your sweet
Ways! As if the world were a taxi, you enter it, then
Reply (to no one), “Let’s go five or six blocks.”
Isn’t the blue stream that runs past you a translation from the Russian?
Aren’t my eyes bigger than love?
Isn’t this history, and aren’t we a couple of ruins?
Is Carthage Pompeii? is the pillow the bed? is the sun
What glues our heads together? O midnight! O midnight!
Is love what we are,
Or has happiness come to me in a private car
That’s so very small I’m amazed to see it there?

2

We walk through the park in the sun, and you say, “There’s a spider
Of shadow touching the bench, when morning’s begun.” I love you.
I love you fame I love you raining sun I love you cigarettes I love you love
I love you daggers I love smiles daggers and symbolism.

3

Inside the symposium of your sweetest look’s
Sunflower awning by the nurse-faced chrysanthemums childhood
Again represents a summer spent sticking knives into porcelain raspberries, when China’s
Still a country! Oh, King Edward abdicated years later, that’s
Exactly when. If you were seventy thousand years old, and I were a pill,
I know I could cure your headache, like playing baseball in drinking-water, as baskets
Of towels sweetly touch the bathroom floor! O benches of nothing
Appear and reappear—electricity! I’d love to be how
You are, as if
The world were new, and the selves were blue
Which we don
Until it’s dawn,
Until evening puts on
The gray hooded selves and the light brown selves of . . .
Water! your tear-colored nail polish
Kisses me! and the lumberyard seems new
As a calm
On the sea, where, like pigeons,
I feel so mutated, sad, so breezed, so revivified, and still so unabdicated—
Not like an edge of land coming over the sea!

by and bay :: john beer

by

Now the passenger pigeons flock across the sky,
Plunging the Central Valley grasshopper into darkness
As the Snake River sucker pushes upstream
And the golden toad relaxes. A passing skiff
Startles a lone gravenche in Switzerland,
Just as a pair of blue pike swerve
To avoid an anchor. The harelip sucker
Stays on course. A phantom shiner
Might have swerved to snap up a three-tooth caddisfly,
Or even Blackburn’s weevil, but it’s hard to tell
Why the white-winged sandpiper wheels
At the distant warble of a black-footed parakeet.
Gould’s emerald has a tiny, ferocious heart.
Domed Mauritius tortoises are clannish,
Often clashing with saddle-backed Mauritius tortoises,
Though the saddle-backed Rodrigues tortoise
Enjoys friendly relations with the domed Rodrigues tortoise.
The Santa Fe Island tortoise keeps to itself, brooding
Over its sufferings. The Japanese wolf sniffs the air.
The Tasmanian wolf bursts into a sprint,
The Arabian ostrich could outpace a sprinting bicyclist,
And the legs of the sprinting red gazelle blur beneath it,
Like the rapidly beating wings of the Kosrae crake.
The Kosrae starling is nesting. In one tree
The Cascade funnel-web spider lays a trap,
While in another, the American chestnut moth
Sleeps fitfully. The dodo is too trusting.
The laughing owl can be heard across the island.
The roar of the Caspian tiger resounds in a canyon.
Children shudder at the sound of the Bombay lion.
But not even the Caribbean monk seal
Hears the Caribbean monk seal mite silently make
Its home in the manner of the passenger pigeon mite,
Burrowing into the ear canal.

                                                          The warm river water

Through which the Durango shiner darts
Reflects a spectacled cormorant. On drafts of air
A dusky seaside sparrow rises. Its shadow falls
On a school of stumptooth minnows. The sunlight
Barely filters down to a Bodensee-kilch,
But a red-headed green macaw glimmers.
The Kona grosbeak filches fruit from volcanoes
Sloping down to the shore where Galápagos damsels
Frolic and spawn. The bezoule makes a rare
Appearance. Heath hens gather by the pond.

Only when the North Island giant moa starts to wonder
About what happened to the South Island giant moa
Does the upland moa give any thought
To the whereabouts of the eastern moa. Meanwhile,
The coastal moa seems to have gone off
After the heavy-footed moa, which follows
In its turn the tracks of the crested moa,
Wandering the islands looking for Mantell’s moa.
None of them have seen a bush moa in a while.

Even as the quagga poses for its photograph,
The St. Croix racer is slithering out of the frame
In eager pursuit of a big-eared hopping mouse.
This may be the moment the Queen of Sheba’s gazelle
Takes its leave, along with the Atlas bear,
The Palestinian painted frog, and several others.
The aurochs left long ago. The lapping waves
Echo the strokes of the sea mink, but like
The Japanese river otter, it’s nowhere
To be seen. What will the confused moth do?
The same as Darwin’s rice rat. Years go by,
And the Martinique macaw flies through none of them.
Melville might have encountered a Nuka Hiva monarch,
But Nabokov never pinned a Xerces blue.
Cloned, the Pyrenean ibex lived
A few seconds more. The paradise parrot
Sported the spectrum on its plumage. Bluebucks
Only looked blue while alive. The Miller’s rail
Survives in a painting. Labrador ducks ate mussels.
The crescent nail-tail wallaby once was common.
The thylacine appeared four million years ago.
Rats killed off the mysterious starling.

i woke up—smiling :: ha jin

by

            to L. Y.

I was told that I was a sad man.
Sadness is a fatal disease in this place
where happiness is a key to success.
If you are sad, you are doomed to fail—
you can’t please your boss,
your long face won’t attract customers,
a few sighs are enough
to let your friends down.

Yesterday afternoon I met Pham,
a Vietnamese man who was once a general.
He came to this country
after nine years’ imprisonment.
Now he works hard as a custodian
and always avoids
meeting his former soldiers here,
because every one of them
is doing better than he is.
“Sadness,” he told me,
“is a luxury for me.
I have no time for it.
If I feel sad
I won’t be able to support my family.”

His words filled me with shame,
although I learned long ago
a busy bee feels no sorrow.
He made me realize I’m still a fortunate one
and ought to be happy and grateful
for having food in my stomach
and books to read.

I returned home humming a cheerful tune.
My wife smiled wondering
why I had suddenly become lighthearted.
My son followed me, laughing and frolicking,
while I was capering on the floor.

Last night
I went to a party in my dream.
Voices and laughter were drifting in a large hall
that was full of paintings and calligraphy.
Strolling with ease
I ran into the handwriting of yours
hung in the air
piece by piece waving like wings.
Dumbfounded, I turned
and saw you sitting on a chair,
motionless, the same lean detached face,
only your blue clothes had grown darker.
Something snapped in my chest
and my tears flowed.
What’s the use of promising?
I have promised, a hundred times,
but never returned. Wherever we go
our cause is the same:
to make a living and raise children.
If a poem arises, it’s merely
an accidental blessing.

For several hours my heart ached,
but I woke up—smiling.

on an airplane, considering night :: carole oles

by

Light holds in the stratosphere.
Night doesn’t fall,
dark starts down there.

All day it piles up like bills
in the towers and houses,
in the cigarette butts
of officials and in blouses
of women who wait.

Dark collects in the children’s ears,
fills the mouths of old men
who almost. Dark wears
the grass. Birds listen
and when dark says now
they sing no comment.

Like a sigh from below
night lifts through the air vent,
like a widow
night reaches to touch what it can’t.

cousin nancy :: t. s. eliot

by

Miss Nancy Ellicott
Strode across the hills and broke them,
Rode across the hills and broke them—
The barren New England hills—
Riding to hounds
Over the cow-pasture.

Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked
And danced all the modern dances;
And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,
But they knew that it was modern.

Upon the glazen shelves kept watch
Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith,
The army of unalterable law.

poets at lunch :: stanley moss

by

          to W.S. Merwin

I said, “Nothing for the last time.”
You said, “Everything for the last time.”
Later I thought you made everything more
precious with “everything for the last time”:
the last meditation, the last falling asleep,
the last dream before the final makebelieve,
the last kiss good night,
the last look out the window at the last moonlight.
Last leaves no time to hesitate.
I would drink strong coffee before my last sleep.
I’d rather remember childhood, rehearse forgiveness,
listen to birdsong or a Spanish housemaid singing,
scrubbing a tiled floor in Seville—
I’d scrub and sing myself. O Susanna
Susanna, quanta pena mi costi.

I would strangle the snakes of lastness
like Herakles in his crib
before I cocked my ear to Mozart for the last time.
There is not sky or clouds enough to cover
the music I would hear for the last time.
I know a bank whereon the wild thyme of
everything for the last time grows, covered with
deadly nightshade and poison hemlock.

No last, no first, thinking in the moment,
years ago, you prepared the soil in Hawaii
before you planted your palm trees, then shared
most of your days and nights with them as equals.
You built your house with a Zen room.
I made no prayer when I dug a hole
and pushed in a twelve-foot white pine,
root ball locked in green plastic netting.
I did not cut the netting, so twenty years later
a tall, beautiful, white pine died.
I lynched the roots. To save my life
I would let them seize, cut out a bear’s heart,
I would partake in its flesh.
But you would die before you’d let them kill that bear.
Again, I say, “Nothing for the last time.”
You say, “Everything for the last time.”
Sailor, I would have killed a stranger
to save the world. Sailor, you would not.
We kissed goodbye on the cheek.
I hope not for the last time.

Home, I look into my brass telescope—
at the far end, where the moon and distant stars
should be, I see my eye looking back at me,
it’s twinkling and winking like a star. I go to bed.
My dogs, donkeys and wife are sleeping. I am safe.
You are home with your wife
you met and decided to marry in four days.

photo of a girl on a beach :: carmen giménez smith

by

Once when I was harmless
and didn’t know any better,

a mirror to the front of me
and an ocean behind,

I lay wedged in the middle of daylight,
paper-doll thin, dreaming,

then I vanished. I gave the day a fingerprint,
then forgot.

I sat naked on a towel
on a hot June Monday.

The sun etched the inside of my eyelids,
while a boy dozed at my side.

The smell of all oceans was around us—
steamy salt, shell, and sweat,

but I reached for the distant one.
A tide rose while I slept,

and soon I was alone. Try being
a figure in memory. It’s hollow there.

For truth’s sake, I’ll say she was on a beach
and her eyes were closed.

She was bare in the sand, long,
and the hour took her bit by bit.