hermit crab :: craig arnold

A drifter, or a permanent house-guest
he scrabbles through the stones, and can even scale
the flaked palm-bark, towing along his latest
lodging, a cast-off periwinkle shell.
Isn’t he weighed down? Does his house not pinch?
The sea urchin, a distant relative,
must haul his spiny armor each slow inch
by tooth only–sometimes, it’s best to live
nowhere, and yet be anywhere at home.

That’s the riddle of his weird housekeeping
–does he remember how he wears each welcome
out in its turn, and turns himself out creeping
unbodied through the sand, grinding and rude,
and does he feel a kind of gratitude?


Craig Arnold is currently missing in Japan

evening :: faiz ahmed faiz

translated by agha shahid ali

The trees are dark ruins of temples,
seeking excuses to crumble
since who knows when–
their roofs are cracked,
and their doors lost to ancient winds.
And the sky is a priest,
saffron marks on his forehead,
ashes smeared on his body.
He sits by the temples, worn to a shadow, not looking up.

Some terrible magician, hidden behind curtains,
has hypnotized Time
so this evening is a net
in which twilight is caught.
Now darkness will never come–
and there will never be morning.

The sky waits for this spell to be broken,
for History to tear itself from this net,
for Silence to break its chains
so that a symphony of conch shells
may wake up the statues
and a beautiful, dark goddess,
her anklets echoing, may unveil herself.

self portrait, rear view :: sharon olds

At first I almost do not believe it, in the hotel triple mirror
That that is my body,
In back, below the waist, and above the legs
The thing that doesn’t stop moving when I stop moving
And it doesn’t even look like just one thing
Or even one big double thing
Even the word saddlebags has a smooth calfskin feel to it
Compared to this compendium of net string bags
Shaking our booty of cellulite, fruits, and nuts
Some lumps look like bon bons translated in tact from chocolate box to buttocks
The curl on top showing slightly through my skin
Once I see what I can do with this, I do it
High-stepping to make the rapids of my bottom
Rush and ripple like a world wonder
Slowly I believe what I am seeing
A 54-year-old rear end, once a tight end
High and mighty, almost a chicken butt
Now exhausted as if tragic
But this is not an invasion
My cul-de-sac is not being used to hatch
alien cells, bald peas, gyroscopes, sacks of marbles
It’s my hoard of treasure, my good luck
Not to be dead, yet
But when I toss the main of my ass again
And see in a clutch of eggs, each egg on its own as if shell-less, shudder
I wonder if anyone has ever died looking in a mirror in horror
I think I will not even catch a cold from it
I will go to school to it, to Butt Boot Camp
To the video store where I saw in the window
My hero, my workout jelly roll model, my apotheosis–
Killer Buns.

japan :: billy collins

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It’s the one about the one-ton
temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,¹

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

¹Haiku by the Japanese poet and painter Taniguchi Buson (1715-1783): “On the one-ton temple bell / a moon-moth, folded into sleep, / sits still” (trans. X. J. Kennedy)

life story :: tennessee williams

After you’ve been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what’s your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there’s some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with the mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you’ve had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they’re telling you their life story, exactly as they’d intended to all along,

and you’re saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that’s how people burn to death in hotel rooms.

Via friends of friends!

dream song 14 :: john berryman

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

sonnet xvii :: pablo neruda

translated by stephen tapscott

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, or you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

***

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.

self-portrait :: chase twichell

I know I promised to stop
talking about her,
but I was talking to myself.
The truth is, she’s a child
who stopped growing,
so I’ve always allowed her
to tag along, and when she brings
her melancholy close to me
I comfort her. Naturally
you’re curious; you want to know
how she became a gnarled branch
veiled in diminutive blooms.
But I’ve told you all I know.
I was sure she had secrets,
but she had no secrets.
I had to tell her mine.

on gifts for grace :: bernadette mayer

I saw a great teapot
I wanted to get you this stupendous
100% cotton royal blue and black checked shirt,
There was a red and black striped one too
Then I saw these boots at a place called Chuckles
They laced up to about two inches above your ankles
All leather and in red, black or purple
It was hard to have no money today
I won’t even speak about the possible flowers and kinds of lingerie
All linen and silk with not-yet-perfumed laces
Brilliant enough for any of the Graces
Full of luxury, grace notes, prosperousness and charm
But I can only praise you with this poem—
Its being is the same as the meaning of your name

to luck :: w. s. merwin

[poem for april 21, 2009]

In the cards and at the bend in the road
we never saw you
in the womb and in the crossfire
in the numbers
whatever you had your hand in
which was everything
we were told never to put
our faith in you
to bow to you humbly after all
because in the end there was nothing
else we could do
but not to believe in you

still we might coax you with pebbles
kept warm in the hand
or coins or the relics
of vanished animals
observances rituals
not binding upon you
who make no promises
we might do such things only
not to neglect you
and risk your disfavor
oh you who are never the same
who are secret as the day when it comes
you whom we explain
as often as we can
without understanding

W.S. Merwin won his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry on April 20 for The Shadow Of Sirius. I selected this poem to celebrate the prize before I realized the irony of the selection.

iskandariya :: brigit pegeen kelly

It was not a scorpion I asked for, I asked for a fish, but
maybe God misheard my request, maybe God thought
I said not “some sort of fish,” but a “scorpion fish,” a
request he would surely have granted, being a goodly
God, but then he forgot the “fish” attached to the
“scorpion” (because God, too, forgets, everything
forgets); so instead of an edible fish, any small fish,
sweet or sour, or even the grotesque buffoonery of the
striped scorpion fish, crowned with spines and
followed by many tails, a veritable sideshow of a fish;
instead of these, I was given an insect, a peculiar
prehistoric creature, part lobster, part spider, part
bell-ringer, part son of a fallen star, something like a
disfigured armored dog, not a thing you can eat, or
even take on a meaningful walk, so ugly is it, so stiffly
does it step, as if on ice, freezing again and again in
mid-air like a listening ear, and then scuttling
backwards or leaping madly forward, its deadly tail
doing a St. Vitus jig. God gave me a scorpion, a
venomous creature, to be sure, a bug with the bite of
Cleopatra’s asp, but not, as I soon found out, despite
the dark gossip, a lover of violence or a hater of men.
In truth, it is shy, the scorpion, a creature with eight
eyes and almost no sight, who shuns the daylight, and
is driven mad by fire, who favors the lonely spot, and
feeds on nothing much, and only throws out its poison
barb when backed against a wall — a thing like me,
but not the thing I asked for, a thing, by accident or
design, I am now attached to. And so I draw the
curtains, and so I lay out strange dishes, and so I step
softly, and so I do not speak, and only twice, in many
years, have I been stung, both times because,
unthinking, I let in the terrible light. And sometimes
now, when I watch the scorpion sleep, I see how fine he
is, how rare, this creature called Lung Book or Mortal
Book because of his strange organs of breath. His
lungs are holes in his body, which open and close. And
inside the holes are stiffened membranes, arranged
like the pages of a book — imagine that! And when the
holes open, the pages rise up and unfold, and the blood
that circles through them touches the air, and by this
bath of air the blood is made pure . . . He is a house of
books, my shy scorpion, carrying in his belly all the
perishable manuscripts — a little mirror of the library
at Alexandria, which burned.

I heard her read this today!

how things work :: gary soto

Today it’s going to cost us twenty dollars
To live. Five for a softball. Four for a book,
A handful of ones for coffee and two sweet rolls,
Bus fare, rosin for your mother’s violin.
We’re completing our task. The tip I left
For the waitress filters down
Like rain, wetting the new roots of a child
Perhaps, a belligerent cat that won’t let go
Of a balled sock until there’s chicken to eat.
As far as I can tell, daughter, it works like this:
You buy bread from a grocery, a bag of apples
From a fruit stand, and what coins
Are passed on helps others buy pencils, glue,
Tickets to a movie in which laughter
Is thrown into their faces.
If we buy a goldfish, someone tries on a hat.
If we buy crayons, someone walks home with a broom.
A tip, a small purchase here and there,
And things keep going. I guess.

ballad :: sonia sanchez

(after the spanish)

forgive me if i laugh
you are so sure of love
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

the rain exploding
in the air is love
the grass excreting her
green wax is love
and stones remembering
past steps in love,
but you. you are too young
for love
and i too old.

once, what does it matter
when or who, i knew
of love.
i fixed my body
under his and went
to sleep in love
all trace of me
was wiped away

forgive me if i smile
young heiress of a naked dream
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

bent orbit :: elaine equi

I wind my way across a black donut hole
and space that clunks.
Once I saw on a stage,
as if at the bottom of a mineshaft,
the precise footwork
of some mechanical ballet.
It was like looking into the brain
of a cuckoo clock and it carried
some part of me away forever.
No one knows when they first see a thing,
how long its after image will last.
Proust could stare at the symptom of a face
for years, while Frank O’Hara, like anyone with a job,
was always looking at his watch.
My favorite way of remembering is to forget.
Please start the record of the sea over again.
Call up a shadow below the pendulum of a gull’s wing.
In a city of eight million sundials, nobody has any idea
how long a minute really is.

under our own wings :: nellie wong

Do not despair, my sister, of a brother’s process.
Laughter connects to self-examination.
Laughter can be an opium poppy spreading
its poison first among ourselves. Our selves
our whole selves fragments chopped liver
in a goldfish bowl.
To remain private with change is to self-destruct.
To go public with change is to begin
to challenge the forces of white supremacy.
Yet good fortune the good fortune of battles is not
simply opening red envelopes containing coins or paper
money.
To believe that change comes about is to keep working.
As someone said, dear sister, as someone said
you are always working, working
hammering away at lies myths distortions
water hyacinths clogging
the canals of Asian America.
Yet we are not property
to be sold disposed auctioned.
What is antique what is held valuable
is not necessarily unbreakable. A sea of faces stare
at our invisibility our supposed assimilation. A man believes
simply that to err is to be human
and we sit and stare among whites yellows
a few friends.
Ears and tongues perceive
the images of history swallowed in antiseptic schoolrooms
on the battles of Vietnam
in the bedrooms porno movie theaters magazines TV screens
of America.
Any wonder, dear sister, any wonder
that sisters and brothers must exorcise through ritual form
poems songs stories essays plays
at its own pace
the malaise of white America
to create our own histories culture
restore our bodies to red health
to battle with every warrior beneath our pores.
Though we try because we must
Though we try because we want
to control our own destinies we are mirrored
in the windows of clouds
in the shattered glass
of our race and our sex.
How can we separate our race from our sex our sex from our race?
And we hear again and again we must struggle against racism
at the exclusion of sexism.
And we hear again and again we must struggle against sexism
at the exclusion of racism.
These tactics. These words I must use, this language, this
tiresome but necessary chant. We in the midst of struggle
would love to ski downhill and breathe nothing but fresh air.
And I must ask: how can we stand in isolation how can we blow
away the blasts of destruction bombarding us from every direction
because we are
women because we are
colored because we are
feared?
The sagas of long steam ladies.
The sagas of long steam men,
the talkers the orators the dancers
they are here before us we are here among them
brimming with language music air.
We birth ourselves, our privacies exposed
proud, seemingly free and yet devils nag
poke at our very bones
to steal the art that is our lives
the music that is our source
the spring that is our imagination.
To truly create is to struggle.
To truly struggle is to present
our selves our process of living learning
and unlearning the garbage of self-contempt or self-defeat
heaped at our own doorsteps. Sometimes we rein in
the blinders sometimes we see no farther
than our own skins sometimes we prick
ourselves savor the cactus of our own pains.
No despair no struggle no joy is personal.
If you begin I begin.
If you sing I sing.
And our tales are endless our tales begin
at the heads of dragons soaring
from the depths of our bodies.
To imagine and not only dwell within that imagination.
To live in our own skin and not only peel our own layers.
To join hands does not mean we always touch.
In art we open ourselves.
In art we gift ourselves our human joys our struggles.
Nothing falls into our laps, not flower petals in the spring
not even these letters that type words language experience
validation
The silences breaks
the silences swell
the silences weep
and the skies once mute about our lives
thunder at our insolence our daring our strong yellow legs.
Let us thunder and become the wind.
Let our voices howl and let our voices sing.
Let Gold Mountain move and never stop.
In death our bodies regress to the innocence of bones.
In love we work to live in America under our own wings.

From Three Asian American Writers Speak Out on Feminism

personal poem :: frank o’hara

Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I’m happy for a time and interested

I walk through the luminous humidity
passing the House of Seagram with its wet
and its loungers and the construction to
the left that closed the sidewalk if
I ever get to be a construction worker
I’d like to have a silver hat please
and get to Moriarty’s when I wait for
LeRol and hear who wants to be a mover and
shaker the last five years my batting average
is .016 that’s that, and LeRol comes in
and tells me Miles Davis was clubbed 12
times last night outside BIRDLAND by a cop
a lady asks us for a nickel for a terrible
disease but we don’t give her one we
don’t like terrible diseases, then
we go eat some fish and some ale it’s
cool but crowded we don’t like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don’t like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don’t want to be in the poet’s walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRol
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so

“I have been a stranger in a strange land” :: rita dove

Life’s spell is so exquisite, everything conspires to break it.
Emily Dickinson

It wasn’t bliss. What was bliss
but the ordinary life? She’d spend hours
in patter, moving through whole days
touching, sniffing, tasting . . . exquisite
housekeeping in a charmed world.
And yet there was always

more of the same, all that happiness,
the aimless Being There.
So she wandered for a while, bush to arbor,
lingered to look through a pond’s restive mirror.
He was off cataloguing the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else’s chaos.

That’s when she found the tree,
the dark, crabbed branches
bearing up such speechless bounty,
she knew without being told
this was forbidden. It wasn’t
a question of ownership—
who could lay claim to
such maddening perfection?

And there was no voice in her head,
no whispered intelligence lurking
in the leaves—just an ache that grew
until she knew she’d already lost everything
except desire, the red heft of it
warming her outstretched palm.

thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird :: wallace stevens

I

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

{oh think not I am faithful to a vow!} :: edna st. vincent millay

Oh, think not I am faithful to a vow!
Faithless am I save to love’s self alone.
Were you not lovely I would leave you now;
After the feet of beauty fly my own.
Were you not still my hunger’s rarest food,
And water ever to my wildest thirst,
I would desert you–think not but I would!–
And seek another as I sought you first.
But you are mobile as the veering air,
And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
I have but to continue at your side.
So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
I am most faithless when I most am true.

meditation on ruin :: jay hopler

It’s not the lost lover that brings us to ruin, or the barroom brawl,
           or the con game gone bad, or the beating
Taken in the alleyway. But the lost car keys,
The broken shoelace,
The overcharge at the gas pump
Which we broach without comment — these are the things that
           eat away at life, these constant vibrations
In the web of the unremarkable.

The death of a father — the death of the mother —
The sudden loss shocks the living flesh alive! But the broken
           pair of glasses,
The tear in the trousers,
These begin an ache behind the eyes.
And it’s this ache to which we will ourselves
Oblivious. We are oblivious. Then, one morning—there’s a
crack in the water glass
—we wake to find ourselves undone.

Courtesy of S.L. (via a writing workshop!)

           

nocturne :: wayne miller

Tonight all the leaves are paper spoons
in a broth of wind. Last week
they made a darker sky below the sky.

The houses have swallowed their colors,
and each car moves in the blind sack
of its sound like the slipping of water.

Flowing means falling very slowly—
the river passing under the tracks,
the tracks then buried beneath the road.

When a knocking came in the night,
I rose violently toward my reflection
hovering beneath this world. And then

the fluorescent kitchen in the window
like a page I was reading—a face
coming into focus behind it:

my neighbor locked out of his own party,
looking for a phone. I gave him
a beer and the lit pad of numbers

through which he disappeared; I found
I was alone with the voices that bloomed
as he opened the door. It’s time

to slip my body beneath the covers,
let it fall down the increments of shale,
let the wind consume every spoon.

My voice unhinging itself from light,
my voice landing in its cradle—.
How terrifying a payphone is

hanging at the end of its cord.
Which is not to be confused with sleep—
sleep gives the body back its mouth.

Courtesy of poets.org‘s Poem-A-Day for National Poetry Month

before the rain :: lianne spidel

Minutes before the rain begins
I always waken, listening
to the world hold its breath,
as if a phone had rung once in a far
room or a door had creaked
in the darkness.

Perhaps the genes of some forebear
startle in me, some tribal warrior
keeping watch on a crag beside a loch,
miserable in the cold,

though I think it is a woman’s waiting
I have come to know,
a Loyalist hiding in the woods,
muffling the coughing of her child
against her linen skirts, her dark head
bent over his, her fear spent
somewhere else in time,

leaving only this waiting,

and I hope she escaped
with her child, and I suppose she did.
If not, I wouldn’t be lying here awake,
alive, listening for the rain to begin
so that she can run, the sound
of her footsteps lost, the sight
of them blotted away on the path.

blessing the boats :: lucille clifton

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

if see no end in is :: frank bidart

What none knows is when, not if.
Now that your life nears its end
when you turn back what you see
is ruin. You think, It is a prison. No,
it is a vast resonating chamber in
which each thing you say or do is

new, but the same. What none knows is
how to change
. Each plateau you reach, if
single, limited, only itself, in-
cludes traces of all the others, so that in the end
limitation frees you, there is no
end, if you once see what is there to see.

You cannot see what is there to see —
not when she whose love you failed is
standing next to you. Then, as if refusing the know-
ledge that life unseparated from her is death, as if
again scorning your refusals, she turns away. The end
achieved by the unappeased is burial within.

Familiar spirit, within whose care I grew, within
whose disappointment I twist, may we at last see
by what necessity the double-bind is in the end
the figure for human life, why what we love is
precluded always be something else we love, as if
each no we speak is yes, each yes no
.

The prospect is mixed but elsewhere the forecast is no
better. The eyrie where you perch in
exhaustion has food and is out of the wind, if
cold. You feel old, young, old, young: you scan the sea
for movement, though the promise of sex or food is
the prospect that bewildered you to this end.

Something in you believes that this is not the end.
When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know
you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is
what you should not love, which endless bullies in-
tuit unerringly. The future will be different: you cannot see
the end. What none knows is when, not if.

paired things :: kay ryan

Who, who has only seen wings,
could extrapolate the
skinny sticks of things
birds use for land,
the backward way they bend,
the silly way they stand?
And who, only studying
birdtracks in the sand,
could think those little forks
had decamped on the wind?
So many paired things seem odd.
Who ever would have dreamed
the broad winged raven of despair
would quit the air and go
bandylegged upon the ground,
a common crow?

the conjugation of the paramecium :: muriel rukeyser

This has nothing
to do with
propagating

The species
is continued
as so many are
(among the smaller creatures)
by fission

(and this species
is very small
next in order to
the amoeba, the beginning one)

The paramecium
achieves, then,
immortality
by dividing

But when
the paramecium
desires renewal
strength another joy
this is what
the paramecium does:

The paramecium
lies down beside
another paramecium

Slowly inexplicably
the exchange
takes place
in which
some bits
of the nucleus of each
are exchanged

for some bits
of the nucleus
of the other

This is called
the conjugation of the paramecium.

my mother on an evening in late summer :: mark strand

1

When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her fact in shadow and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon’s ash-colored coat
on the black bay.

2

Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will star into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour’s spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.

3

My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures —
the mouse and the swift — will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.
It is much too late.

and soul :: eavan boland

My mother died one summer—
the wettest in the records of the state.
Crops rotted in the west.
Checked tablecloths dissolved in back gardens.
Empty deck chairs collected rain.
As I took my way to her
through traffic, through lilacs dripping blackly
behind houses
and on curbsides, to pay her
the last tribute of a daughter, I thought of something
I remembered
I heard once, that the body is, or is
said to be, almost all
water and as I turned southward, that ours is
a city of it,
one in which
every single day the elements begin
a journey towards each other that will never,
given our weather,
fail—
the ocean visible in the edges cut by it,
cloud color reaching into air,
the Liffey storing one and summoning the other,
salt greeting the lack of it at the North Wall and,
as if that wasn’t enough, all of it
ending up almost every evening
inside our speech—
coast canal ocean river stream and now
mother and I drove on and although
the mind is unreliable in grief, at
the next cloudburst it almost seemed
they could be shades of each other,
the way the body is
of every one of them and now
they were on the move again—fog into mist,
mist into sea spray and both into the oily glaze
that lay on the railings of
the house she was dying in
as I went inside.

walking down park :: nikki giovanni

walking down park
amsterdam
or columbus do you ever stop
to think what it looked like
before it was an avenue
did you ever stop to think
what you walked
before you rode
subways to the stock
exchange (we can’t be on
the stock exchange
we are the stock
exchanged)

did you ever maybe wonder
what grass was like before
they rolled it
into a ball and called
it central park
where syphilitic dogs
and their two-legged tubercular
masters fertilize
the corners and side-walks
ever want to know what would happen
if your life could be fertilized
by a love thought
from a loved one
who loves you

ever look south
on a clear day and not see
time’s squares but see
tall Birch trees with sycamores
touching hands
and see gazelles running playfully
after the lions
ever hear the antelope bark
from the third floor apartment

ever, did you ever, sit down
and wonder about what freedom’s freedom
would bring
it’s so easy to be free
you start by loving yourself
then those who look like you
all else will come
naturally

ever wonder why
so much asphalt was laid
in so little space
probably so we would forget
the Iroquois, Algonquin
and Mohicans who could caress
the earth

ever think what Harlem would be
like if our herbs and roots and elephant ears
grew sending
a cacophony of sound to us
the parrot parroting black is beautiful black is beautiful
owls sending out whooooo’s making love …
and me and you just sitting in the sun trying
to find a way to get a banana tree from one of the monkeys
koala bears in the trees laughing at our listlessness

ever think its possible
for us to be
happy