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god is an american :: terrance hayes

I still love words. When we make love in the morning,
your skin damp from a shower, the day calms.
Shadenfreude may be the best way to name the covering
of adulthood, the powdered sugar on a black shirt. I am

alone now on the top floor pulled by obsession, the ink
on my fingers. And sometimes it is a difficult name.
Sometimes it is like the world before America, the kin-
ship of fools and hunters, the children, the dazed dream

of mothers with no style. A word can be the boot print
in a square of fresh cement and the glaze of morning.
Your response to my kiss is I have a cavity. I am in
love with incompletion. I am clinging to your moorings.

Yes, I have a pretty good idea what beauty is. It survives
alright. It aches like an open book. It makes it difficult to live.

a braid of garlic :: marilyn hacker

Aging women mourn while they go to market,
buy fish, figs, tomatoes, enough today to
feed the wolf asleep underneath the table
who wakes from what dream?

What but loss comes round with the changing season?
He is dead, whom, daring, I called a brother
with that leftover life perched on his shoulder
cawing departure.

He made one last roll of the dice. He met his
last, best interlocutor days before he
lay down for the surgery that might/might not
extend the gamble.

What they said belongs to them. Now a son writes
elegies, though he has a living father.
One loves sage tea, one gave the world the scent of
his mother’s coffee.

Light has shrunk back to what it was in April,
incrementally will shrink back to winter.
I can’t call my peregrinations ‘exile,’
but count the mornings.

In a basket hung from the wall, its handle
festooned with cloth flowers from chocolate boxes,
mottled purple shallots, and looped beside it,
a braid of garlic.

I remember, ten days after a birthday
(counterpoint and candlelight in the wine-glass),
how the woman radiologist’s fingers
probed, not caressing.

So, reprise (what wasn’t called a ‘recurrence’)
of a fifteen-years-ago rite of passage:
I arrived, encumbered with excess baggage,
scarred, on the threshold.

Through the mild winter sun in February,
two or three times weekly to Gobelins, the
geriatric hospital where my friend was
getting her nerve back.

At the end of elegant proofs and lyric,
incoherent furious trolls in diapers.
Fragile and ephemeral as all beauty:
the human spirit –

while the former journalist watched, took notes and
shocked, regaled her visitors with dispatches
from the war zone in which she was embedded,
biding her time there.

Now in our own leftover lives, we toast our
memories and continence. I have scars where
breasts were, her gnarled fingers, these days, can hardly
hold the pen steady.

Thousands mourn him, while in the hush and hum of
life-support for multiple organ failure,
utter solitude, poise of scarlet wings that
flutter, and vanish.

knife :: mary oliver


just now
moved through my heart
like the thinnest of blades
as that red-tail pumped
once with its great wings
and flew above the gray, cracked
rock wall.
It wasn’t
about the bird, it was
something about the way
stone stays
mute and put, whatever
goes flashing by.
when I sit like this, quiet,
all the dreams of my blood
and all outrageous divisions of time
seem ready to leave,
to slide out of me.
Then, I imagine, I would never move.
By now
the hawk has flown five miles
at least,
dazzling whoever else has happened
to look up.
I was dazzled. But that
wasn’t the knife.
It was the sheer, dense wall
of blind stone
without a pinch of hope
or a single unfulfilled desire
sponging up and reflecting,
so brilliantly,
as it has for centuries,
the sun’s fire.

sea foam palace :: amy gerstler

(Bubbling and spuming
as if trying to talk under
water, I address you thus:)
Must I pretend not to love
you (in your present bloom,
your present perfection — soul
encased in fleshly relevance)
so you won’t believe me
just another seabed denizen
vying for your blessed attention?
Some of us (but not you)
are so loosely moored
to our bodies we can
barely walk a straight line,
remaining (most days) only
marginally conscious.
We stagger and shudder
as buckets of   blood or sperm
or chocolate mousse or spittle
or lymph or sludge sluice
continually through us…

I love the way you wear your
face, how you ride this life.
I delight in the sight of you,
your nervous, inquisitive eyes,
though I try to act otherwise.
Being stoned out of thy mind
only amps up thy fearsome
brain wattage. Pardon my
frontal offensive, dear chum.
Forgive my word-churn, my
drift, the ways this text message
has gotten all frothy. How was it
you became holy to me? Should
I resist, furiously? Is this your
true visage, shaken free, flashing
glimpses of what underlies
the world we can see? Do not forget me
murmurs something nibbled
by fish under the sea.

After dark you’re quick-silvery,
wet /slick /glistening. Don’t
make me chase you, dragging
my heavy caresses, a pair of
awkward, serrated claws,
hither and yon. Give me a swig
of   whatever you’re drinking,
to put me in tune with the cosmos’s
relentless melt, with the rhythms
of dish-washing, corn-shucking,
hard-fucking, bed-wetting, and
the folding of   bones of other loves
into well-dug graves…    may we
never become lost to the world.

becoming a horse :: ross gay

It was dragging my hands along its belly,
loosing the bit and wiping the spit
from its mouth that made me
a snatch of grass in the thing’s maw,
a fly tasting its ear. It was
touching my nose to his that made me know
the clover’s bloom, my wet eye to his that
made me know the long field’s secrets.
But it was putting my heart to the horse’s that made me know
the sorrow of horses. Made me
forsake my thumbs for the sheen of unshod hooves.
And in this way drop my torches.
And in this way drop my knives.
Feel the small song in my chest
swell and my coat glisten and twitch.
And my face grow long.
And these words cast off, at last,
for the slow honest tongue of horses.

ars poetica :: tom disch


Some people actually manage to make money by it,
But most of us just enjoy it as it enters our lives
With the intermittent periodicity
Of those optional holidays—Arbor Day or Mardi Gras—
We can celebrate or ignore as we choose.
Of course, a devotee can fill his calendar
(As Henry James notoriously did, dining out
Every night of the week in his London years),
But a majority are, as it were, hobbyists,
And once they exit adolescence lose
That special drive that keeps the driven few driven—
Who rarely ask why they feel this peculiar need.
Is it to please? Not on the evidence.
Exceptional competence can lead to celebrity
On a par with a movie star’s, but do you
Honestly believe most aspirants aspire so far?
They do it for love. They do it because
At some point in their green youth
They were pierced, like apples, or bull’s-eyes,
By the everlasting dart. Of art?
Goodness no. Haven’t you been listening?

oatmeal :: peggy shumaker


Dry slide of Bob’s Red Mill
Extra Thick Rolled Oats
off the scoop —

tiny dustcloud
settling like ash
from stirred coals.

Waking together,
happy, not
our first try.


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