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.

some recommendations :: roy chicky arad

translated by lisa katz

I recommend to my readers not to fall in love

and to eat herring

eat herring with onions

don’t fall in love

women are trouble

men are mud and heartache

pickled herring

won’t do anything bad to you

I recommend Tolstoy’s biography by Henri Troyat in two volumes

to my readers

read the part in section two where the elderly Tolstoy gets a bike

and get back to me

I recommend to my readers

to sleep in socks

despite the recession

because of the recession

nothing will happen if you sleep in jeans

I recommend eating sweetsops

Tsachi, a party animal friend of mine told me they’re very healthy

even though the last one I bought

wasn’t ripe

and turned gray in the freezer.
I guess I did something wrong

if you are musicians or poets

I recommend that your next work be

emotional or danceable

don’t try to be too smart

or too stupid

it’s better not to try too hard

it’s better not to do anything if you’re musicians or poets

you can learn to do nothing slowly. my advice for success and luck –

invest in your toilet paper!

that’s the only superstition worth believing in

listen good my readers! it’s better not to do anything. invest your money there!

Get some great, expensive, high quality toilet paper, even if you’re poor

triple layered, quadruple-layered and even quintuple-layered

politicians will disappoint you and won’t move a finger when you’re fired

they’ll send you to your death for a photo in the free tabloid “Israel Today”

but nice toilet paper will console you


I also recommend a trip to Cairo

and drinking cold Karkade juice there

in the cheapest café

I recommend to my readers

never to buy more than one book and never to agree to take more than one book

I advise all my readers not

to sleep with the same person

day after day

don’t sleep day after day

with the same partner

So no one will get used to the idea

I recommend to my readers

to join at least two labor unions

I recommend to my readers

to sit near the window

and to avoid war any way possible

nothing good will come of it

not even a motel. the bother is a real waste.

I advise my readers

to make use of construction in the city

to watch the cranes at least

ten minutes a day

to look at the holes in the ground at the building sites

to bang your head into the metal fence, even if there is a warning sign

and to look deep into the stormy shafts at the building sites

and to love anyway

celebration of the body :: daisy zamora

I love this body of mine that has lived a life,
its amphora contour soft as water,
my hair gushing out of my skull,
my face a glass goblet on its delicate stem
rising with grace from shoulders and collarbone.

I love my back studded with ancient stars,
the bright mounds of my breasts,
fountains of milk, our species’ first food,
my protruding ribcage, my yielding waist,
my belly’s fullness and warmth.

I love the lunar curve of my hips
shaped by various pregnancies,
the great curling wave of my buttocks,
my legs and feet, on which the temple stands.

I love my bunch of dark petals and secret fur
keeper of heaven’s mysterious gate,
to the damp hollow from which blood flows
and the water of life.

This body of mine that can hurt and get ill,
that oozes, coughs, sweats,
secretes humours, faeces, saliva,
grows tired, old and worn out.

Living body, one solid link to secure
the unending chain of bodies.
I love this body made of pure earth,
seed, root, sap, flower and fruit.

We like these poets! Here’s another who will be at the SF International Poetry Festival.

couplings :: menna elfyn

translated by joseph clancy

Life is a house in ruins. And we mean to fix it up
and make it snug. With our hands we knock it into shape

to the very top. Till beneath this we fasten a roofbeam
that will watch the coming and going of our skyless life,

two crooked segments. They are fitted together,
timbers in concord. Smooth beams, and wide.

Two in touch. That’s the craft we nurture in folding
doubled flesh on a frame. Conjoining the smooth couplings

that sometimes arch into one. Aslant above a cold world,
hollow wood wafting passion. Then stock still for a time.

And how clear cut the roof, creaking love at times,
as it chides the worm to keep off and await its turn.

Yet another poet from the SF International Poetry Festival! Check it out =)

underwear :: lawrence ferlinghetti

I didn’t get much sleep last night
thinking about underwear
Have you ever stopped to consider
underwear in the abstract
When you really dig into it
some shocking problems are raised
Underwear is something
we all have to deal with
Everyone wears
some kind of underwear
The Pope wears underwear I hope
The Governor of Louisiana
wears underwear
I saw him on TV
He must have had tight underwear
He squirmed a lot
Underwear can really get you in a bind
You have seen the underwear ads
for men and women
so alike but so different
Women’s underwear holds things up
Men’s underwear holds things down
Underwear is one thing
men and women have in common
Underwear is all we have between us
You have seen the three-color pictures
with crotches encircled
to show the areas of extra strength
and three-way stretch
promising full freedom of action
Don’t be deceived
It’s all based on the two-party system
which doesn’t allow much freedom of choice
the way things are set up
America in its Underwear
struggles thru the night
Underwear controls everything in the end
Take foundation garments for instance
They are really fascist forms
of underground government
making people believe
something but the truth
telling you what you can or can’t do
Did you ever try to get around a girdle
Perhaps Non-Violent Action
is the only answer
Did Gandhi wear a girdle?
Did Lady Macbeth wear a girdle?
Was that why Macbeth murdered sleep?
And that spot she was always rubbing—
Was it really in her underwear?
Modern anglosaxon ladies
must have huge guilt complexes
always washing and washing and washing
Out damned spot
Underwear with spots very suspicious
Underwear with bulges very shocking
Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom
Someone has escaped his Underwear
May be naked somewhere
But don’t worry
Everybody’s still hung up in it
There won’t be no real revolution
And poetry still the underwear of the soul
And underwear still covering
a multitude of faults
in the geological sense—
strange sedimentary stones, inscrutable cracks!
If I were you I’d keep aside
an oversize pair of winter underwear
Do not go naked into that good night
And in the meantime
keep calm and warm and dry
No use stirring ourselves up prematurely
‘over Nothing’
Move forward with dignity
hand in vest
Don’t get emotional
And death shall have no dominion
There’s plenty of time my darling
Are we not still young and easy
Don’t shout

I first heard of Lawrence Ferlinghetti in Billy Collins’ reference to “the bicycling poet of San Francisco” in The Trouble with Poetry. Lucky Bay Area folk have the chance to hear him read as well in the San Francisco International Poetry Festival!

poetry :: ignatius mabasa

Clink clink, clank clank!
Culinary noise ain’t cooking
It may just be noise of pots ‘n pans
Knocking bottoms, flirting with spoons

Poetry is not big words
Poetry is not confusion,
Mystification, chaos and noise.
Poetry is not about ranting rage
Like stock exchange bulls and bears
Nor is it all about romance and roses.
Poetry is not about neat, polite lines.

Neither is it about rhythm and rhyme
Idioms, proverbs and all their rude cousins.

Poetry is an old man in dusty fields
A scarecrow, talking to himself
Poking the stunted rapoko crop
And asking himself
‘What happened to the land
That the government redistributed?
Was it all taken by the news-reader
Because he got the news first?’

Poetry is written over the wrinkles
Of an old woman in a hospital ward
Next to her dying daughter
Who no longer talks, eats or blinks,
Shitting herself without apology
And the old woman thinks:
‘Death never used to be so sophisticated!’

Poetry is storytelling
Only that it does not tell
Of stories in a far, far away land

Poetry is in the eyes of a broke policeman
Who waves your car to stop at a roadblock
And goes round and round your car
Like a miserable mangy dog chasing its tail
Looking for a fault to get a bribe from you
For him to buy a loaf of bread for his kids.

Poetry is speaking the unspoken.

Ignatius Mabasa will also be reading at next week’s San Francisco International Poetry Festival! See the original Shona version of the poem here.

i have a broom :: yongming zhai

(Original title: 我有了一把扫帚)

I have a broom
that is to say
I’ve a colorful life
fresh air and
a path that is my own
I’ll ignore neighbors’ ridicule
the obstruction of relatives and friends
I have a broom
I’ve work
I sweep away today’s and yesterday’s garbage
clear away the filth in the streets
and in people’s minds
I put on new work clothes
Looking in the mirror, I now understand
the mildness of my mother’s eyes
I’ll never again have to cast perplexed looks
into the street
into a corner
at the colors of billboards
neither in the pained wrinkles of my mother’s brow
must I dodge fears of my inability

With the blessings written out by my mother’s eyes
I brandish a broom
and move on greeting the morning breeze
behind me, a clean street

Zhai Yongming will be reading at next week’s San Francisco International Poetry Festival! Check it out

flood :: eliza griswold

I woke to a voice within the room. perhaps.
The room itself: “You’re wasting this life
expecting disappointment.”
I packed my bag in the night
and peered in its leather belly
to count the essentials.
Nothing is essential.
To the east, the flood has begun.
Men call to each other on the water
for the comfort of voices.
Love surprises us.
It ends.

the shapes of leaves :: arthur sze

Ginkgo, cottonwood, pin oak, sweet gum, tulip tree:
our emotions resemble leaves and alive
to their shapes we are nourished.

Have you felt the expanse and contours of grief
along the edges of a big Norway maple?
Have you winced at the orange flare

searing the curves of a curling dogwood?
I have seen from the air logged islands,
each with a network of branching gravel roads,

and felt a moment of pure anger, aspen gold.
I have seen sandhill cranes moving in an open field,
a single white whooping crane in the flock.

And I have traveled along the contours
of leaves that have no name. Here
where the air is wet and the light is cool,

I feel what others are thinking and do not speak,
I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple,
I am living at the edge of a new leaf.

notes on the peanut :: june jordan

For the Poet David Henderson

Hi there. My name is George
If you will bear with me
for a few minutes I
will share with you
a few
of the 30,117 uses to which
the lowly peanut has been put
by me
since yesterday afternoon.
If you will look at my feet you will notice
my sensible shoelaces made from unadulterated
peanut leaf composition that is biodegradable
in the extreme.
To your left you can observe the lovely Renoir
masterpiece reproduction that I have cleverly
pieced together from several million peanut
shell chips painted painstakingly so as to
accurately represent the colors of the original!
Overhead you will spot a squadron of Peanut B-52
Bombers flying due west.
I would extend my hands to greet you
at this time
except for the fact that I am holding a reserve
supply of high energy dry roasted peanuts
guaranteed to accelerate protein assimilation
precisely documented by my pocket peanut calculator;
Mai I ask when did you last contemplate the relationship
between the expanding peanut products’ industry
and the development of post-Marxian economic theory
which (Let me emphasize) need not exclude moral attrition
of prepuberty
prehensible skills with the population age sectors
of 8 to 15?
I hope you will excuse me if I appear to be staring at you
through these functional yet high fashion and prescriptive
peanut contact lenses providing the most
minute observation of your physical response to all of this
ultimately nutritional information.
Peanut butter peanut soap peanut margarine peanut
brick houses and house and field peanuts per se well
illustrate the diversified
potential of this lowly leguminous plant
to which you may correctly refer
as the goober the pindar the groundnut
and ground pea/let me
interrupt to take your name down on my
pocket peanut writing pad complete with matching
peanut pencil that only 3 or 4
chewing motions of the jaws will sharpen
into pyrotechnical utility
and no sweat.
Speak right into the peanut!

Your name?

hour of dawn :: oliver de la paz

Initially, we held ourselves in contempt
because the light covered us with little tongues,
made us conscious of the miniscule.

We wore the evening¹s chime around our waists
so when we turned, we were aware of ourselves
and the music the day struck in time

from our bodies. From our bodies we urged
a story, one that light would not disrupt
if we passed into the shade when it called us.

We could only think of the scent of orange blossoms
from the low bushes and the trembling
ash that was the color of the moment.

We would ask for a brief respite from ourselves
and hearing nothing, would grind our teeth. In the low
dream of the dawn, the moon would disappear

into a fingernail. It¹s as though a sea washed over
a miniscule shell holding the narrative of ourselves.
The hour of dawn held us like a mouth

for kissing. We could hear ourselves
buffeted by our small turnings, our body¹s risings
and breathings.
Hour of dawn, hold us still

and we will be unsparing. We will mute
our breaths and read into the color that is a message,
a hidden kiss we find alone before a mirror.

the crossing :: ruth moose

The snail at the edge of the road
inches forward, a trim gray finger
of a fellow in pinstripe suit.
He’s burdened by his house
that has to follow
where he goes. Every inch,
he pulls together
all he is,
all he owns,
all he was given.

The road is wide
but he is called
by something
that knows him
on the other side.

the fish :: jane hirshfield

There is a fish
that stitches
the inner water
and the outer water together.

Bastes them
with its gold body’s flowing.

A heavy thread
follows that transparent river,
secures it—
the broad world we make daily,
daily give ourselves to.

Neither imagined
nor unimagined,
neither winged nor finned,
we walk the luminous seam.
Knot it.
Flow back into the open gills.

the white room :: charles simic

The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me–
And then didn’t.

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild

Storytelling. We were
Entering dark houses,
Always more dark houses,
Hushed and abandoned.

There was someone with eyes closed
On the upper floors.
The fear of it, and the wonder,
Kept me sleepless.

The truth is bald and cold,
Said the woman
Who always wore white.
She didn’t leave her room.

The sun pointed to one or two
Things that had survived
The long night intact.
The simplest things,

Difficult in their obviousness.
They made no noise.
It was the kind of day
People described as “perfect.”

Gods disguising themselves
As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,
A comb with a tooth missing?
No! That wasn’t it.

Just things as they are,
Unblinking, lying mute
In that bright light–
And the trees waiting for the night.

i thank You God for most this amazing day :: e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

not to be dwelled on :: heather mchugh

Self-interest cropped up even there,
the day I hoisted three instead of the
two called-for
spades of loam onto
the coffin of my friend.

Why shovel more than anybody else?
What did I think I’d prove? More love
(mud in her eye)? More will to work
(her father what, a shirker?) Christ,
I’d give an arm or leg
to get that spoonful back.

She cannot die again;
and I do nothing but relive.

lawrence :: tony hoagland

On two occasions in the past twelve months
I have failed, when someone at a party
spoke of him with a dismissive scorn,
to stand up for D. H. Lawrence,

a man who burned like an acetylene torch
from one end to the other of his life.
These individuals, whose relationship to literature
is approximately that of a tree shredder

to stands of old-growth forest,
these people leaned back in their chairs,
bellies full of dry white wine and the ovum of some foreign fish,
and casually dropped his name

the way pygmies with their little poison spears
strut around the carcass of a fallen elephant.
“O Elephant,” they say,
“you are not so big and brave today!”

It’s a bad day when people speak of their superiors
with a contempt they haven’t earned,
and it’s a sorry thing when certain other people

don’t defend the great dead ones
who have opened up the world before them.
And though, in the catalogue of my betrayals,
this is a fairly minor entry,

I resolve, if the occasion should recur,
to uncheck my tongue and say, “I love the spectacle
of maggots condescending to a corpse,”
or, “You should be so lucky in your brainy, bloodless life

as to deserve to lift
just one of D. H. Lawrence’s urine samples
to your arid psychobiographic
theory-tainted lips.”

Or maybe I’ll just take the shortcut
between the spirit and the flesh,
and punch someone in the face,
because human beings haven’t come that far

in their effort to subdue the body,
and we still walk around like zombies
in our dying, burning world,
able to do little more

than fight, and fuck, and crow,
something Lawrence wrote about
in such a manner
as to make us seem magnificent.

Courtesy of D.H.

the elephant is slow to mate :: d. h. lawrence

The elephant, the huge old beast,
is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
till they touch in flood.

the kiss :: stephen dunn

She pressed her lips to mind.
—a typo

How many years I must have yearned
for someone’s lips against mind.
Pheromones, newly born, were floating
between us. There was hardly any air.

She kissed me again, reaching that place
that sends messages to toes and fingertips,
then all the way to something like home.
Some music was playing on its own.

Nothing like a woman who knows
to kiss the right thing at the right time,
then kisses the things she’s missed.
How had I ever settled for less?

I was thinking this is intelligence,
this is the wisest tongue
since the Oracle got into a Greek’s ear,
speaking sense. It’s the Good,

defining itself. I was out of my mind.
She was in. We married as soon as we could.

digging :: seamus heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

I look at the world :: langston hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.

I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!

I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

and water lies plainly :: laurie sheck

Then I came to an edge of very calm
But couldn’t stay there. It was the washed greenblue mapmakers use to indicate
Inlets and coves, softbroken contours where the land leaves off
And water lies plainly, as if lamped by its own justice. I hardly know how to say how it was
Though it spoke to me most kindly,
Unlike a hard afterwards or the motions of forestalling.

Now in evening light the far-off ridge carries marks of burning.
The hills turn thundercolored, and my thoughts move toward them, rough skins
Without their bodies. What is the part of us that feels it isn’t named, that doesn’t know
How to respond to any name? That scarcely or not at all can lift its head
Into the blue and so unfold there?

for a student sleeping in a poetry workshop :: david wagoner

I’ve watched his eyelids sag, spring open
Vaguely and gradually go sliding
Shut again, fly up
With a kind of drunken surprise, then wobble
Peacefully together to send him
Home from one school early. Soon his lashes
Flutter in REM sleep. I suppose he’s dreaming
What all of us kings and poets and peasants
Have dreamed: of not making the grade,
Of draining the inexhaustible horn cup
Of the cerebral cortex where ganglions
Are ganging up on us with more connections
Than atoms in heaven, but coming up once more
Empty. I see a clear stillness
Settle over his face, a calming of the surface
Of water when the wind dies. Somewhere
Down there, he’s taking another course
Whose resonance (let’s hope) resembles
The muttered thunder, the gutter bowling, the lightning
Of minor minions of Thor, the groans and gurgling
Of feral lovers and preliterate Mowglis, the songs
Of shamans whistled through bird bones. A worried neighbor
Gives him the elbow, and he shudders
Awake, recollects himself, brings back
His hands from aboriginal outposts,
Takes in new light, reorganizes his shoes,
Stands up in them at the buzzer, barely recalls
His books and notebooks, meets my eyes
And wonders what to say and whether to say it,
Then keeps it to himself as today’s lesson.