girl :: eve alexandra

Be careful if you take this flower into your house. The
peony has a thousand lips. It is pink and white like the lady’s
skirt and smells sharp and sweet as cinnamon. There are a
thousand ants living inside but you will only see one or two at
a time. I am like that down there–pink and busy inside. The
dark is a bolt of cloth, crushed and blue, and I unfurl against it.
If you lie down on the floor of the closet the hems of silk will
lick you. My own gown is thin as the skin of dried grass so I
can see the ants dancing down there. The night has big paws.
I imagine the wool of the bears, the cloth of monkeys. the night
smells like vetiver and cedar. His mouth is cool with mint and
warm with rum, and I am not afraid as he rubs his wool against
me. I saw the bear dancing at the circus when I was small. He
was wearing a green felt cap with gold bric-a-brac and kept by
a thin wire thread. My brother bought me a sucker for the train
ride home, and I am like that now on the inside, burning soft
with lemon. What fruit do you like best? I like tangerines.
And the night leaves me these. A small paper bag on the bedside
table. The wrought iron and roses like an altar. I am glowing now.
My teeth are stitching kisses to my fist. I go to the river. My legs
are frogs legs. Tiny wands, see how they glisten. A thousand fish
swim through me. I am a boat now. I know no anchor. My hair
unfurls, copper and cinnamon. Look how it opens, beautiful world.

how to behave at a traffic signal :: rohith sundararaman

As your car strands itself
before a red light, prepare
your fingers. Flex them. Curl
one set around the knob
and keep rolling like you
were winding up a clock.
Palms will press against
the window. Some will tap
the glass as if they were patting
the back of a choking person,
gentle and insistent till they get
the answer of life. Others will
half-cup their fingers over either
eyebrows in such a manner
that the nails of both hands
touch each other, producing
a silent music to the slow blink
of their eyes. But do not move
your head. Keep staring straight
at the road like it would disappear
in a moment of distraction. Train
your ears to catch the throb
and thump of the music from the back
of the car. If other sounds intrude, breathe
deeply. Count till a hundred and feel
the steering wheel peel away
from your hands. When images of old
women hobble across the windscreen,
read safety instructions. Turn till you find
the page on how to secure the seatbelt
across your heart as you plow into an accident
of lives. Fasten those words and lurch away
from the light. Adjust your rearview mirror
and slowly roll down the windows till half.
Now feel the air hit you.

From Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Issue 8

sequence :: mani rao

Don’t keep this story to yourself.

When you know the characters, re-read the story.

One day someone goes in search of the fictitious place in your story and
finds it.

Did you make it believe or did you not know.

I got it from our dreams. When all our dreams fell in line I de-duplicated
and filed them for an eclipse.

What made a sequel necessary?

To know if the story was real.

When a story bewilders folding unfolding like origami, take a beaded
chain – place a scene on each bead — break the chain — swallow the beads
— stand still until they settle their own sequence — collapse your intestines
— take a print — install in an art gallery

From Oxford Magazine, 2008 Issue

romance sonambulo :: federico garcía lorca

translated by william logan

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.

–My friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house,
my saddle for her mirror,
my knife for her blanket.
My friend, I come bleeding
from the gates of Cabra.
–If it were possible, my boy,
I’d help you fix that trade.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed.
Of iron, if that’s possible,
with blankets of fine chambray.
Don’t you see the wound I have
from my chest up to my throat?
–Your white shirt has grown
thirty dark brown roses.
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–Let me climb up, at least,
up to the high balconies;
Let me climb up! Let me,
up to the green balconies.
Railings of the moon
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood.
Leaving a trail of teardrops.
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends climbed up.
The stiff wind left
in their mouths, a strange taste
of bile, of mint, and of basil
My friend, where is she–tell me–
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you!
How many times would she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.
The night became intimate
like a little plaza.
Drunken “Guardias Civiles”
were pounding on the door.
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.

variation on gaining a son :: rita dove

That shy angle of his daughter’s head–
where did they all learn it?
And her soldier at tender attention,
waiting for the beloved to slide out
beneath the veil. Thomas knew

what he’d find there–a mocking smile, valiant
like that on the smooth face of the young sergeant
drilled neatly through the first minute of battle.
Women called it offering up a kiss.

He watched the bridegroom swallow.
For the first time Thomas felt like
calling him Son.

Courtesy of S.L.

how to uproot a tree :: jennifer k. sweeney

Stupidity helps.
Naiveté that your hands will undo
what does perfectly without you.
My husband and I made the decision
not to stop until the task was done,
the small anemic tree made room
for something prettier.
We’d pulled before, pale hand over wide hand,
a marriage of pulling toward us what we wanted,
pushing away what we did not.
We had a shovel which was mostly for show.
It was mostly our fingers tunneling the dirt
toward a tangle of false beginnings.
The roots were branched and bearded,
some had spurs
and one of them was wholly reptilian.
They had been where we had not
and held a knit gravity
that was not in their will to let go.
We bent the trunk to the ground and sat on it,
twisted from all angles.
How like ropes it was,
the sickly thing asserting its will
only now at the end,
blind but beyond
the idea of leaving the earth.

shells :: elaine terranova

In the heat, in the high grass
their knees touched as they sat
crosslegged facing each other,
a lightness and a brittleness
in their bodies. They touched
like shells. How odd

that I should watch them say goodbye.
What did it have to do with me?

There was my own stillness
and the wasps and the tiny flies
for a long time taking stitches
in the surrounding air and

a comfort I felt, as the wind
tore through, to find the trees
miraculously regaining their balance.

not for chopin :: arda collins

Don’t put off your shower anymore

listening to Chopin.

Take the Preludes personally;

he’s telling you that he can describe a progression

that you yourself have been unable to see,

shapely, broad light at one-thirty,

evening travelling up a road,

an overcast day as gentle bones.

Don’t remember the music;

remember it as something obvious

that you are compelled, doomed, to obscure

and complicate. You erase it twice.

The first time

as you listened, unable

to have it,

the second time

as you were unable

to remember it.

Angry with Chopin,

what does he know?

The components of your dinner are waiting for you downstairs.

The golden evening takes flat, slow turns outside.

Become gray.

Listen to him describe what you would be like

if you were blind, sitting in a chair, at a wake, the days short, that there might

be nothing

else, night,

content, unable, unwishing, to recall desire, or sight.

From The New Yorker

untitled :: f. john sharp

I found your last Valentine
card, signed All my love,
in the drawer above the drawer
into which I put all your cards.
It was hand made and pricey,
with rhinestones and sparkles
and torn edges on recycled paper.
I know you spend comparatively
long choosing cards, as you want them
to express just the right sentiment,
which you always follow with
All my love, as though
the supply is endless, as though
you can spend it all in every card
and still have it all to give again,
which you say with paper and ink,
but not so much with your touch,
making it seem like you ran dry
several cards ago and you
don’t even know.

From The Story Garden, Issue 8

different ways to pray :: naomi shihab nye

There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow
fuse them to the sky.

There were the men who had been shepherds so long
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,
and were happy in spite of the pain,
because there was also happiness.

Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.
When they arrived at Mecca
they would circle the holy places,
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
and was famous for his laugh.

for the sake of strangers :: dorianne laux

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waiting patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another—a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them—
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.

in summer :: paul laurence dunbar

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies’ soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air’s soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer’s boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another’s ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o’erfull heart, without aim or art;
‘T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.

Courtesy of S.L.

an apostate visits the temple of buddha :: brad rose

A murmur flowing out into the black bay of night,
where the stars bob, tiny, glittering boats,
adrift, anchorless.
When I peer up, through the perfumed smoke,
past the god’s rolling belly, smooth as soap,
up into his oblivious face, with its once-painted eyes,
and his indifference to sin,
he seems to exhale, ‘good luck,’
not cynically, but as if he really means it.
When I look down at the temple floor,
its stone worn talc-smooth by supplication,
I can see that I’ve kneeled here
through one too many lives.

From the Boston Literary Magazine, Summer 2009

ants and sharks :: tomasz rózycki

translated by mira rosenthal

For A. B.

An ant devours a larva, in accord
with nature, and a child then eats the ant —
it burns on the tongue. Curiosity
always burns. On Paradise Beach in Goa,

a shark will eat the child, but when God sees,

he’ll catch the shark, just as he grabs a rat,
a tigress, elephant. The poet in his room
will then eat God. He’ll feed on everything.
He is a monster like a boar that bloats,
excretes. He feeds on paper. If you let

him in, he’ll find your dreams, love’s traces on
the sheets — he’ll steal what’s holy, masticate,

grow pasty flesh, poisonous fur. It’s enough
to touch him or brush by on accident.

do you have any advice for those of us just starting out? :: ron koertge

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave
your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It’s all right to carry a notebook but a cheap
one is best, with pages the color of weak tea
and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Avoid any enclosed space where more than
three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware
any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks
across the muffled tennis courts.

Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.
And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle
where a child a year or two old is playing as his
mother browses the ranks of the dead.

Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.
The title, the author’s name, the brooding photo
on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray
book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher
it gets, the wider he grins.

You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower
falls, be like that child. Laugh so loud everybody
in the world frowns and says, “Shhhh.”

Then start again.

Courtesy of S.L.

how to make a game of waiting :: jennifer k. sweeney

This is a capsized game
and there is no display of aces at the end.
Buy a rare and expensive plant that never blooms.
Rearrange your books by the color of the spines.
Bury all your keys that don’t unlock anything.
These are not rules but merely suggestions
of what has worked for others.
For instance, the man who painted landscapes
on his daughter’s sheet music.
Put a big rock on your desk.
Do not name the rock.
Take the numbers off the clock and mail them
to your creditors.
Stitch the hours onto a kite.
Every night, ask until you can hear what replies.

This poem is from Jennifer K Sweeney’s book, How to Live on Bread and Music, which is the recipient of the 2009 James Laughlin Award. Plus, M.B. just arranged her books by the color of the spines!

the certainty of numbers :: bruce snider

It’s not the numbers you dislike—
the 3s or 5s or 7s—but the way
the answers leave no room for you,
the way 4 plus 2 is always 6
never 9 or 10 or Florida,
the way 3 divided by 1
is never an essay about spelunking
or poached salmon, which is why
you never seemed to get the answer right
when the Algebra teacher asked,
If a man floating down a river in a canoe
has traveled three miles of a twelve mile canyon
in five minutes, how long will it take him
to complete the race?
Which of course depends
on if the wind resistance is 13 miles an hour
and he’s traveling upstream
against a 2 mile an hour current
and his arms are tired and he’s thinking
about the first time he ever saw Florida,
which was in seventh grade
right after his parents’ divorce
and he felt overshadowed
by the palm trees, neon sun visors,
and cheap postcards swimming
with alligators. Nothing is ever simple,
except for the way the 3 looks like two shells
washed up on last night’s shore,
but then sometimes it looks like a bird
gently crushed on its side.
And the 1—once so certain
you could lean up against it
like a gray fence post—has grown weary,
fascinated by the perpetual
itch of its own body.
Even the Algebra teacher
waving his formulas like baseball bats,
pauses occasionally when he tells you
that a 9 and a 2 are traveling in a canoe
on a river in a canyon. How long
will it take them to complete their journey?
That is if they don’t lose their oars
and panic and strike the rocks,
shattering the canoe. Nothing is ever certain.
We had no plan, the numbers would tell us,
at the moment of our deaths.

Courtesy of S.L. (via D.H.)

october moonrise :: denise levertov


Moon, wisp of opal fire, then slowly
revealed as orb arising,
still half-hidden; the dark
bulk of the wooded ridge defined
by serrations of pine and fir against
this glow
that begins to change
from lambent red to a golden
pervasive mist of light as the whole
fullness of moon
floats clear of the hill.


Risen, the gold moon
will shrink and blanch
but for now, still
low in the sky,

her pallor is veiled
as if by a net of
gilded gossamer

and the path she has laid down
over the ripples of
dark lake water

is gold unalloyed.

you did say, need me less and I’ll want you more :: marilyn hacker

You did say, need me less and I’ll want you more.
I’m still shellshocked at needing anyone,
used to being used to it on my own.
It won’t be me out on the tiles till four-
thirty, while you’re in bed, willing the door
open with your need. You wanted her then,
more. Because you need to, I woke alone
in what’s not yet our room, strewn, though, with your
guitar, shoes, notebook, socks, trousers enjambed
with mine. Half the world was sleeping it off
in every other bed under my roof.
I wish I had a roof over my bed
to pull down on my head when I feel damned
by wanting you so much it looks like need.

felix crow :: kay ryan

Crow school
is basic and
short as a rule—
just the rudiments
of quid pro crow
for most students.
Then each lives out
his unenlightened
span, adding his
bit of blight
to the collected
history of pushing out
the sweeter species;
briefly swaggering the
swagger of his
aggravating ancestors
down my street.
And every time
I like him
when we meet.

there is harm :: laurie rosenblatt

because there is this innocent animal,
the body;

because a baby’s unguarded gaze,
and the open regard
of animals both hold patience
with the world,
with mineral fact. Impenetrable

arising from, locked into flesh. So

the body’s harm

for instance when met in the eyes
of the squirrel, run over, still
beside the road,

eyes near bursting
meeting your own
and holding

a plea?
Because there is

of words, no telling
what is wanted, what
will help:
the question, “What is right to do?”

if anything,

and a need
to be
out from under this

my god, such need.

Journal of the American Medical Association.

because birds are gliding across your brain :: unknown

Because birds are gliding across your brain,
I rise into the shadows
And the mist is rolling in
Because my breath is rolling out.

I rise into the shadows
Like a pond that went to sleep:
Because my breath is rolling out
You hear doorbells in the woods.

Like a pond that went to sleep
And woke up inside a dream,
You hear doorbells in the woods
Though the woods are in the dream

And woke up inside a dream!
Although the air is filled with blue and white clouds,
Though the woods are in the dream
A good idea can smell like pine trees.

Although the air is filled with blue and white clouds,
I am filled with ideas about dreams.
A good idea can smell like pine trees
And a dream can grow like a cloud.

I am filled with ideas about dreams.
The stars don’t know what they mean
And a dream can grow like a cloud:
You can’t explain this bigness.

The stars don’t know what they mean
And the mist is rolling in.
You can’t explain this bigness
Because birds are gliding across your brain.

I am captivated by this poem, but cannot identify the poet – any clues would be appreciated! It is an example pantoum provided in The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms (Ed. Ron Padgett).

juggler, magician, fool :: peter schaeffer

You mysterious jongleur, abstracted, absorbed, you slowly pace the street.
You stare, detached, through a curtain: silver balls in the air.

You slowly pace the street, tossing coins, cups, scarves,
silver balls in the air, making a skydance —

tossing coins, cups, scarves, each in their separate paths,
making a skydance, chaotic, hypnotic;

each in their separate paths, dancing
(chaotic, hypnotic) the random paths of stars;

dancing through and around;
the random paths of stars, moons, comets, and the sudden flare-fade streak

through and around everything, the mystical hands tossing destinies;
moons, comets, and the sudden flare-fade streak of your hands ordering

everything. The mystical hands tossing destinies — the feel
of your hands ordering the planets to dance.

The feel of chaos put in order. Tell
the planets to dance on your palm.

Of chaos put in order, tell the stars in their places in the lines
on your palm. Whirl

the stars in their places in the lines. You stare, detached, through a curtain.
Whirl, you mysterious jongleur, abstracted, absorbed.

parents’ pantoum :: carolyn kizer

Where did these enormous children come from,
More ladylike than we have ever been?
Some of ours look older than we feel.
How did they appear in their long dresses

More ladylike than we have ever been?
But they moan about their aging more than we do,
In their fragile heels and long black dresses.
They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.

They moan about their aging more than we do,
A somber group–why don’t they brighten up?
Though they say they admire our youthful spontaneity
They beg us to be dignified like them

As they ignore our pleas to brighten up.
Someday perhaps we’ll capture their attention
Then we won’t try to be dignified like them
Nor they to be so gently patronizing.

Someday perhaps we’ll capture their attention.
Don’t they know that we’re supposed to be the stars?
Instead they are so gently patronizing.
It makes us feel like children–second-childish?

Perhaps we’re too accustomed to be stars.
The famous flowers glowing in the garden,
So now we pout like children. Second-childish?
Quaint fragments of forgotten history?

Our daughters stroll together in the garden,
Chatting of news we’ve chosen to ignore,
Pausing to toss us morsels of their history,
Not questions to which only we know answers.

Eyes closed to news we’ve chosen to ignore,
We’d rather excavate old memories,
Disdaining age, ignoring pain, avoiding mirrors.
Why do they never listen to our stories?

Because they hate to excavate old memories
They don’t believe our stories have an end.
They don’t ask questions because they dread the answers.
They don’t see that we’ve become their mirrors,

We offspring of our enormous children.

pantoum :: john ashbery

Eyes shining without mystery,
Footprints eager for the past
Through the vague snow of many clay pipes,
And what is in store?

Footprints eager for the past
The usual obtuse blanket.
And what is in store
For those dearest to the king?

The usual obtuse blanket.
Of legless regrets and amplifications
For those dearest to the king.
Yes, sirs, connoisseurs of oblivion,

The usual obtuse blanket.
Of legless regrets and amplifications
For those dearest to the king.
Yes, sirs, connoisseurs of oblivion,

Of legless regrets and amplifications,
That is why a watchdog is shy.
Yes, sirs, connoisseurs of oblivion,
These days are short, brittle; there is only one night.

That is why a watchdog is shy,
Why the court, trapped in a silver storm, is dying.
These days are short, brittle; there is only one night
And that soon gotten over.

Why the court, trapped in a silver storm, is dying
Some blunt pretense to safety we have
And that soon gotten over
For they must have motion.

Some blunt pretense to safety we have
Eyes shining without mystery,
For they must have motion
Through the vague snow of many clay pipes.

bereavement :: kevin young

Behind his house, my father’s dogs
sleep in kennels, beautiful,
he built just for them.

They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails

& head. They beg
& are fed.
Their grief is colossal

& forgetful.
Each day they wake
seeking his voice,

their names.
By dusk they seem
to unremember everything—

to them even hunger
is a game. For that, I envy.
For that, I cannot bear to watch them

pacing their cage. I try to remember
they love best confined space
to feel safe. Each day

a saint comes by to feed the pair
& I draw closer
the shades.

I’ve begun to think of them
as my father’s other sons,
as kin. Brothers-in-paw.

My eyes each day thaw.
One day the water cuts off.
Then back on.

They are outside dogs—
which is to say, healthy
& victorious, purposeful

& one giant muscle
like the heart. Dad taught
them not to bark, to point

out their prey. To stay.
Were they there that day?
They call me

like witnesses & will not say.
I ask for their care
& their carelessness—

wish of them forgiveness.
I must give them away.
I must find for them homes,

sleep restless in his.
All night I expect they pace
as I do, each dog like an eye

roaming with the dead
beneath an unlocked lid.

a letter to su t’ung po :: w. s. merwin

Almost a thousand years later
I am asking the same questions
you did the ones you kept finding
yourself returning to as though
nothing had changed except the tone
of their echo growing deeper
and what you knew of the coming
of age before you had grown old
I do not know any more now
than you did then about what you
were asking as I sit at night
above the hushed valley thinking
of you on your river that one
bright sheet of moonlight in the dream
of the water birds and I hear
the silence after your questions
how old are the questions tonight

Courtesy of S.K.

the gift of mediation :: julia hartwig

Shadow warns shadow that you approach,
light warns light.
Frightened, a wild dove starts up. You are an obstacle,
not foreseen here between the pines’ loftiness
and the penal divisions of low grasses.
You are a foundling looking for a family,
a prodigal son who has fled
and returns to bear witness to the independence
of trees, thistles, the quick butterflies and dying dragonflies.
It is through them this moment of peace comes to us,
they help grace descend on the wing
of an unknown bird,
and it is their voices—the ermine’s cry, moan of a dove,
complaint of an owl—that remind us
the hardship of solitude is measured out equally.

Courtesy of S.K.