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