the orange :: wendy cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

listen :: charles simic

Everything about you,
my life, is both
make-believe and real.
We are like a couple
working the night shift
in a bomb factory.

Come quietly, one says
to the other
as he takes her by the hand
and leads her
to a rooftop
overlooking the city.

At this hour, if one listens
long and hard,
one can hear a fire engine
in the distance,
but not the cries for help,

just the silence
growing deeper
at the sight of a small child
leaping out of a window
with its nightclothes on fire.

Courtesy of S.K.

true, my father is a postman :: bruce snider

When I write letters
I talk about the weather,
my grandmother talks about the pigs
she butchers with her sister-in-law
on the farm, my mother talks about my father
and how he refuses to talk. True, my father is a postman
but that does not always mean he is a letter writer.
A does not always mean B.
Sometimes it is C
or vice versa. If I were to write you
a letter, for example, I would not necessarily
address it to you, though you may be
the intended receiver.
Perhaps I would address it
to myself or to someone
living elsewhere, apart from us both.
Perhaps I would send it to my friend in Singapore
whom I have not spoken to
in three years, and who, upon receiving the letter,
would quickly discover it was written
to someone else. Now, that could be cruel,
especially if it were a love letter.

If I were to write a love letter
I would be certain to address it
to the intended receiver,
but this does not mean
I would make my affections obvious.
On the contrary, I might detail an event
in my life without emotion
or relate a story I read recently
in the newspaper. Perhaps I would
invent the story: a man and woman
en route to Las Vegas were killed
when their station wagon struck
a horse-semi on I-70
. Only after careful explanation
would a love story begin to unfold–
the man and woman on their honeymoon,
married after years of separation,
love letters shuttled back and forth
across the sea–but it is still a story
I could tell in a love letter,
and one no doubt I have,
considering that my judgment
in such matters has never been very competent.

Competence, however, has nothing to do
with love letters. Competence has to do
with the mechanics of things. A postman
delivering a love letter can be called competent,
but the writer of the letter cannot.
Which is not to say that my father
is competent. Often he is,
but often he forgets birthdays
or remembers them when they are not.
Often he sings off-key or salts the food
too much when he cooks. Still, he could write a love letter.
He could sit down with pen and paper
and write from his heart
a letter to someone he loves.
He could write, Dear Son, I love you,
because a father can write a love letter
to his son, just as a son can write a love letter
to his father.

After much anticipation, courtesy of D.H.

blue song :: tennessee williams

I am tired.
I am tired of speech and action.
If you should meet me upon the
street do not question me for
I can tell you only my name
and the name of the town I was
born in – but that is enough.
It does not matter whether tomorrow
arrives anymore. If there is
only this night and after it is
morning it will not matter now.
I am tired. I am tired of speech
and of action. In the heart of me
you will find a tiny handful of
dust. Take it and blow it out
upon the wind. Let the wind have
it and it will find its way home.

Courtesy of S.K.

vanilla in the stars :: agnes s. l. lam

When I was a child,
I used to gaze at the stars above

our garden of roses, jasmine and lingzhi by the sea,
wondering how far away they really were,
whether they were shining still at the source
by the time their light reached me…

I was told that everyone was born with a star
which glowed or dimmed with the fortunes of each.
I also heard people destined to be close
were at first fragments of the same star

and from birth went searching for each other.
Such parting, seeking, reuniting might take
three lifetimes with centuries in between.
I had thought all these were but myths…

Now decades later, I read about the life of stars,
how their cores burn for ten billion years,
how towards the end, just before oblivion,
they atomize into nebulae of fragile brilliance–

ultra violet, infra red, luminous white, neon green or blue,
astronomical butterflies of gaseous light
afloat in a last waltz choreographed by relativity,
scattering their heated ashes into the void of the universe…

Some of this cosmic dust falls onto our little earth
carrying hydrocarbon compounds, organic matter
able to mutate into plant and animal life,
a spectrum of elemental fragrances…

Perhaps on the dust emanating from one ancient star
were borne the first molecules of a pandon leaf,
a sprig of mint or basil, a vanilla pod, a vine tomato,
a morning frangipani, an evening rose, a lily of the night…

Perhaps our parents or grandparents or ancestors further back
strolling through a garden or a field had breathed in the scents
effusing from some of these plants born of the same star
and passed them on as DNA in the genes of which we were made…

Could that be why, on our early encounters, we already sensed
in each other a whiff of something familiar, why when we are near,
there is in the air some spark which seems to have always been there,
prompting us to connect our pasts, share our stories even as they evolve…

…till the day when we too burn away into dust
and the aromas of our essence dissipate
into the same kaleidoscope of ether light
to be drawn into solar space by astral winds…

…perhaps to make vanilla in a star to be
before the next lifetime of three?

From Asiatic, Volume 3, Number 1, June 2009.

dear vietnam… :: ocean vuong

My dear Vietnam,

when I left you I could not speak.

A child could only watch as waves

melted from your burning shores

my face, an apparition.

On that day in that hut

you quietly soaked

my mother’s blood.

In your palms I breathed the world.

You must remember.

Vietnam, I can only tell you

through the courage allowed

by ink, paper, the infinite depths of whiteness.

My heart spills at the spout.

I write beneath banners whose stars

have lost their stitches, falling in pearls

of fire on the roofs along your spine.

If tears could wash

the blood within your roots

I would weep each night

I curl into cotton

and forget.

How thin you sleep, your fruit

poisoned with Orange, your rivers

blistered with the skulls

who lost their dreams.

I did not think of you, as I sucked

on lollipops and drooled

at Happy Meals. But did you know

I always saw your eyes inside

these filthy mirrors?

Forgive me; I have only traced

the path given. These eyes have learned

to melt when brushed

with the simplicity of pleasure.

As I filter through folds of memory,

hording your valleys, your forests, your people

into this skull’s dusty chamber,

there is too much left to be said

and no language to pronounce

our answers.

You and I, two shadows reaching

for the soles of feet. I bury these hands

into dirt, feeling for your whispers.

Cradled in my palms: a morsel of earth

that could be you. Here is a planet

intact through sinews of withered roots

and I

am the one to crumble.

From the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of the Kartika Review. Sorry I couldn’t capture the correct line spacing! See the original here.

optimism :: jane hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and
over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the
light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs—
all this resinous, unretractable earth.