now that no one looking :: adam kirsch

Now that no one looking at the night—
Sky blanked by leakage from electric lamps
And headlights prowling through the parking lot
Could recognize the Babylonian dance
That once held every gazer; now that spoons
And scales, and swordsmen battling with beasts
Have decomposed into a few stars strewn
Illegibly across an empty space,
Maybe the old unfalsifiable
Predictions and extrapolated spheres
No longer need to be an obstacle
To hearing what it is the stars declare:
That there are things created of a size
We can’t and weren’t meant to understand,
As fish know nothing of the sun that writes
Its bright glyphs on the black waves overhead.

a hand :: jane hirshfield

A hand is not four fingers and a thumb. Nor is it palm and knuckles, not ligaments or the fat’s yellow pillow, not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins. A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines with their infinite dramas, nor what it has written, not on the page, not on the ecstatic body. Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping— not sponge of rising yeast-bread, not rotor pin’s smoothness, not ink. The maple’s green hands do not cup the proliferant rain. What empties itself falls into the place that is open. A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question. Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.

trillium :: louise glück

[poem for march 22, 2009]

When I woke up I was in a forest. The dark
seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees
thick with many lights.

I knew nothing; I could do nothing but see.
And as I watched, all the lights of heaven
faded to make a single thing, a fire
burning through the cool firs.
Then it wasn’t possible any longer
to stare at heaven and not be destroyed.

Are there souls that need
death’s presence, as I require protection?
I think if I speak long enough
I will answer that question, I will see
whatever they see, a ladder
reaching through the firs, whatever
calls them to exchange their lives—

Think what I understand already.
I woke up ignorant in a forest;
only a moment ago, I didn’t know my voice
if one were given to me
would be so full of grief, my sentences
like cries strung together.
I didn’t even know I felt grief
until that word came, until I felt
rain streaming from me.

the geranium :: theodore roethke

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine—
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she’d lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!—
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me—
And that was scary—
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.

the dragonfly :: louise bogan

You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaseless movement,
Unending hunger,
Grappling love.

Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence
Upon your body and wings.

Twice-born, predator,
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consumes you.

You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.

And you fall
With the other husks of summer.

ode to my socks :: pablo neruda

update: revised translation

translated by anthea s. maslin

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
she had knit with her own
shepherd’s hands,
two socks as soft
as rabbits.
I slipped my feet
inside them
as if they were
two
cases
knit
with threads of
twilight
and the pelt of sheep.

Violent socks,
my feet became
two fish
made of wool,
two long sharks
of ultramarine blue
shot through
by one golden hair,
two gigantic blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this way
by
these
celestial
socks.
They were
so beautiful
that for the first time
my feet seemed to me
unacceptable
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
unworthy
of that embroidered
flame,
of those luminous
socks.

Nevertheless
I resisted
the sharp temptation
to guard them
the way schoolboys
keep
fireflies in a bottle,
the way scholars
collect
sacred documents,
I resisted
the furious impulse
to lock them
in a cage
of gold
and feed them each day
with birdseed
and morsels of pink melon.
Like explorers
who in the jungle
capture the rare
green deer
to roast it
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
those
magnificent
socks
and
then my shoes.

So this is
the moral of my ode:
beauty is twice
beauty
and what is good is doubly
good
when it’s a matter of two
woolen socks
in winter.