perhaps the world ends here :: joy harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.

mind :: jorie graham

The slow overture of rain,
each drop breaking
without breaking into
the next, describes
the unrelenting, syncopated
mind. Not unlike
the hummingbirds
imagining their wings
to be their heart, and swallows
believing the horizon
to be a line they lift
and drop. What is it
they cast for? The poplars,
advancing or retreating,
lose their stature
equally, and yet stand firm,
making arrangements
in order to become
imaginary. The city
draws the mind in streets,
and streets compel it
from their intersections
where a little
belongs to no one. It is
what is driven through
all stationary portions
of the world, gravity’s
stake in things, the leaves,
pressed against the dank
window of November
soil, remain unwelcome
till transformed, parts
of a puzzle unsolvable
till the edges give a bit
and soften. See how
then the picture becomes clear,
the mind entering the ground
more easily in pieces,
and all the richer for it.

after a death :: tomas tranströmer

translated by robert bly

Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.

It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.

iris :: david st. john

Vivian St. John (1981-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

You think I’m crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is

A train inside this iris.

It’s a child’s finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child’s nail,

A darkened porthole lit by the white, angular face

Of an old woman, or perhaps the boy beside her in the stuffy,
Hot compartment. Her hair is silver, & sweeps

Back off her forehead, onto her cold and bruised shoulders.

The prairies fall along Chicago. Past the five
Lakes. Into the black woods of her New York; & as I bend

Close above the iris, I see the train

Drive deep into the damp heart of its stem, & the gravel
Of the garden path

Cracks under my feet as I walk this long corridor

Of elms, arched
Like the ceiling of a French railway pier where a boy

With pale curls holding

A fresh iris is waving goodbye to a grandmother, gazing
A long time

Into the flower, as if he were looking some great

Distance, or down an empty garden path & he believes a man
Is walking toward him, working

Dull shears in one hand; & now believe me: The train

Is gone. The old woman is dead, & the boy. The iris curls,
On its stalk, in the shade

Of those elms: Where something like the icy & bitter fragrance

In the wake of a woman who’d just swept past you on her way
Home

& you remain.

the letter :: amy lowell

Little cramped words scrawling all over
the paper
Like draggled fly’s legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves?
Or of my uncertain window and the
bare floor

Spattered with moonlight?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing
in them
Of blossoming hawthorns,
And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth,
virgin of loveliness
Beneath my hand.

I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart
against
The want of you;
Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here, under the fire
Of the great moon.

shapeshifter poems :: lucille clifton

1

the legend is whispered
in the women’s tent
how the mood when she rises
full
follows some men into themselves
and changes them there
the season is short
but dreadful shapeshifters
they wear strange hands
they walk though the houses
at night their daughters
do not know them

2

who is there to protect her
from the hands of the father
not the windows which see and
say nothing not the moon
that awful eye not the woman
she will become with her
scarred tongue who who who the owl
laments into the evening who
will protect her this prettylittlegirl

3

if the little girl lies
still enough
shut enough
hard enough
shapeshifter may not
walk tonight
the full moon may not
find him here
the hair on him
bristling
rising
up

4

the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow the one
she cannot tell the one
there is no one to hear this poem
is a political poem is a war poem is a
universal poem but is not about
these things this poem
is about one human heart this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

too many names :: pablo neruda

translated by a. s. kline

Monday entangles itself with Tuesday
and the week with the year:
time cannot be severed
with your weary shears,
and all the names of the day
the water of night clears.

No man can call himself Peter,
no woman Rose or Mary,
we are all sand or dust,
we are all rain in the rain.
They have told me of Venezuelas,
Paraguays and Chiles,
I don’t know what they’re talking about:
I know the skin of the Earth
and I know that it has no name.

When I lived among roots
they delighted me more than flowers,
and when I talked to a stone
it echoed like a bell.

It is so slow the spring
that lasts the winter long:
time has lost his shoes:
one year’s four centuries.

When I go to sleep each night
what am I called, not called?
And when I wake up, who am I
if it wasn’t ‘I’ who was sleeping?
This is to say that as soon as we
are thrust out into life,
that we come newly born,
that our mouths are not filled
with all these dubious names,
with all these mournful labels,
with all these meaningless letters,
with all this ‘yours’ and ‘mine’,
with all this signing of papers.

I think to confound things
mingling them, hatching them new,
seeing through them, stripping them naked,
until the light of the earth
has the unity of the ocean,
a generous integrity,
a crackle of starched perfume.