heart :: margaret atwood

Some people sell their blood. You sell your heart.
It was either that or the soul.
The hard part is getting the damn thing out.
A kind of twisting motion, like shucking an oyster,
your spine a wrist,
and then, hup! it’s in your mouth.
You turn yourself partially inside out
like a sea anemone coughing a pebble.
There’s a broken plop, the racket
of fish guts into a pail,
and there it is, a huge glistening deep-red clot
of the still-alive past, whole on the plate.

It gets passed around. It’s slithery. It gets dropped,
but also tasted. Too coarse, says one. Too salty.
Too sour, says another, making a face.
Each one is an instant gourmet,
and you stand listening to all this
in the corner, like a newly hired waiter,
your diffident, skillful hand on the wound hidden
deep in your shirt and chest,
shyly, heartless.

From Asian Literary Review, Volume 12, Summer 2009

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a lesson in geography :: kenneth rexroth

“of Paradys ne can not I speken propurly ffor I was not there”
–Mandeville

The stars of the Great Bear drift apart
The Horse and the Rider together northeastward
Alpha and Omega asunder
The others diversely
There are rocks
On the earth more durable
Than the configurations of heaven
Species now motile and sanguine
Shall see the stars in new clusters
The beaches changed
The mountains shifted
Gigantic
Immobile
Floodlit
The faces appear and disappear
Chewing the right gum
Smoking the right cigarette
Buying the best refrigerator
The polished carnivorous teeth
Exhibited in approval
The lights
Of the houses
Draw together
In the evening dewfall on the banks
Of the Wabash
Sparkle discreetly
High on the road to Provo
Above the Salt Lake Valley
And
The mountain shaped like a sphinx
And
The mountain shaped like a finger
Pointing
On the first of April at eight o’clock
Precisely at Algol
There are rocks on the earth
And one who sleepless
Throbbed with the ten
Nightingales in the plum trees
Sleepless as Boötes stood over him
Gnawing the pillow
Sitting on the bed’s edge smoking
Sitting by the window looking
One who rose in the false
Dawn and stoned
The nightingales in the garden
The heart pawned for wisdom
The heart
Bartered for knowledge and folly
The will troubled
The mind secretly aghast
The eyes and lips full of sorrow
The apices of vision wavering
As the flower spray at the tip of the windstalk
The becalmed sail
The heavy wordless weight
And now
The anguishing and pitiless file
Cutting away life
Capsule by capsule biting
Into the heart
The coal of fire
Sealing the lips
There are rocks on earth

And

In the Japanese quarter
A phonograph playing
“Moonlight on ruined castles”
Kojo n’suki
And
The movement of the wind fish
Keeping time to the music
Sirius setting behind it
(The Dog has scented the sun)
Gold immense fish
Squirm in the trade wind
“Young Middle Western woman
In rut
Desires correspondent”
The first bright flower
Cynoglossum
The blue hound’s tongue
Breaks on the hill
“The tide has gone down
Over the reef
I walk about the world
There is great
Wind and then rain”
“My life is bought and paid for
So much pleasure
For so much pain”
The folded fossiliferous
Sedimentary rocks end here
The granite batholith
Obtrudes abruptly
West of the fault line
Betelgeuse reddens
Drawing its substance about it
It is possible that a process is beginning
Similar to that which lifted
The great Sierra fault block
Through an older metamorphic range

(The Dog barks on the sun’s spoor)

Now

The thought of death
Binds fast the flood of light
Ten years ago the snow falling
All a long winter night
I had lain waking in my bed alone
Turning my heavy thoughts
And no way might
Sleep
Remembering divers things long gone
Now
In the long day in the hour of small shadow
I walk on the continent’s last western hill
And lie prone among the iris in the grass
My eyes fixed on the durable stone
That speaks and hears as though it were myself

anniversary :: cecilia woloch

Didn’t I stand there once,
white-knuckled, gripping the just-lit taper,
swearing I’d never go back?
And hadn’t you kissed the rain from my mouth?
And weren’t we gentle and awed and afraid,
knowing we’d stepped from the room of desire
into the further room of love?
And wasn’t it sacred, the sweetness
we licked from each other’s hands?
And were we not lovely, then, were we not
as lovely as thunder, and damp grass, and flame?

piano :: d. h. lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

first poem for you :: kim addonizio

I like to touch your tattoos in complete
darkness, when I can’t see them. I’m sure of
where they are, know by heart the neat
lines of lightning pulsing just above
your nipple, can find, as if by instinct, the blue
swirls of water on your shoulder where a serpent
twists, facing a dragon. When I pull you

to me, taking you until we’re spent
and quiet on the sheets, I love to kiss
the pictures in your skin. They’ll last until
you’re seared to ashes; whatever persists
or turns to pain between us, they will still
be there. Such permanence is terrifying.
So I touch them in the dark; but touch them, trying.

stubbornly :: sarah lindsay

For RLB

Pass by the showy rose,
blabbing open,
suckling a shiny beetle;

pass by the changeless diamond
that falls asleep in shadow—

this love is a lichen,

alga and fungus made one fleck,
feeding on what it feeds,

growing slightly faster than stone
into a patch of gray lace,
a double thumbprint,

its bloom distinguishable, with practice,
from its dormant phase,

crocheting its singular habit
over time, a faithful stain
bound to its home,

etching on the unmoved rock
the only rune it knows.

self-portrait :: afaa michael weaver

I see myself in the shadows of a leaf
compressed to the green blades growing
to a point like the shards of miles of mirrors
falling and cracking to perfect gardens.

I never inspect the withered assumption
of my face’s petty dialogue in raindrops,
the deceptive spreading of the words
oozing from the skin to the edges of water
etched on the ground by gravity and wishing.

Passing for the seriousness of my eye,
platitudes of my white collar or
the perfect posture of my lips, it skirts
from the leaves of the plant hiding me
and sits stoic like stone in my pupil,
mute and unassuming, like Rashi.

To gather myself I will swim naked
in the wind, bending my blind elbows
in circles, stopping now to dance
like the cherubic gold on the ark,
and gather myself from the particles
of this excitement another structure,
one closely resembling the beginning.