how to save the world in 100 words :: nikki giovanni

For me–it is the realization that I cannot save the world.
The world is neither time nor money.
For me, it is that thing in front of me:
The man in prison for a horrible crime
who has become my brother.
My neighbor’s sons who talk football to me
over the back fence.
The yellow jackets who have made their home by my deck.

All the things I say I don’t have time to do but really
don’t have time to don’t do.
For me–it is the joy of being alive.
For me–it is the living.

I clock this in at 99 words. I wonder what I missed.

when you are with me :: mahmoud darwish

translated by mohammad shaheen

When you are with me, I do not say:
here and now we are together.
Rather, I say: You and I and eternity,
we swim in nowhere.

Air and water.
We solve the riddles.
We name. We are named
and we do not speak,
except to learn how like us we are
and to forget time.

I do not remember in which land you were born.
I do not remember from which land I was resurrected.
Air and water,
and we are flying on a star.

When you are with me silence sweats.
The clear sky is bathed in cloud.
The water weeps,
and the air weeps,
when two bodies are united.

There is no love in love,
but the soul’s lust for flight.

the lesson :: billy collins

In the morning when I found History
snoring heavily on the couch,
I took down his overcoat from the rack
and placed its weight over my shoulder blades.

It would protect me on the cold walk
into the village for milk and the paper
and I figured he would not mind,
not after our long conversation the night before.

How unexpected his blustering anger
when I returned covered with icicles,
the way he rummaged through the huge pockets
making sure no major battle or English queen
had fallen out and become lost in the deep snow.

flirtation :: rita dove

After all, there’s no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgewood plate.
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Quiet’s cool flesh–
let’s sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure’s in

walking through.

ghazal of the better-unbegun :: heather mchugh

A book is a suicide postponed.

Too volatile, am I? too voluble? too much a word-person?
I blame the soup: I’m a primordially
stirred person.

Two pronouns and a vehicle was Icarus with wings.
The apparatus of his selves made an ab-
surd person.

The sound I make is sympathy’s: sad dogs are tied afar.
But howling I become an ever more un-
heard person.

I need a hundred more of you to make a likelihood.
The mirror’s not convincing– that at-best in-
ferred person.

As time’s revealing gets revolting, I start looking out.
Look in and what you see is one unholy
blurred person.

The only cure for birth one doesn’t love to contemplate.
Better to be an unsung song, an unoc-
curred person.

McHugh, you’ll be the death of me — each self and second studied!
Addressing you like this, I’m halfway to the
third person.

on not flying to hawaii :: alison luterman

I could be the waitress
in the airport restaurant
full of tired cigarette smoke and unseeing tourists.
I could turn into the never-noticed landscape
hanging identically in all the booths
or the customer behind the Chronicle
who has been giving advice about stock portfolios for forty years.
I could be his mortal weariness,
his discarded sports section, his smoldering ashtray.
I could be the 70-year-old woman who has never seen Hawaii,
touching her red lipstick and sprayed hair.
I could enter the linen dress
that poofs around her body like a bridesmaid,
or become her gay son
sitting opposite her, stirring another sugar
into his coffee for lack of something true to say.
I could be the reincarnated soul of the composer
of the Muzak that plays relentlessly overhead,
or the factory worker who wove this fake Oriental carpet,
or the hushed shoes of the busboy.

But I don’t want to be the life of anything in this pitstop.
I want to go to Hawaii, the wet, hot
impossible place in my heart that knows just what it desires.
I want money, I want candy.
I want sweet ukelele music and birds who drop from the sky.
I want to be the volcano who lavishes
her boiling rock soup love on everyone,
and I want to be the lover
of volcanoes, who loves best what burns her as it flows.

butterfly catcher :: tina cane

In the Sixties
Nabokov switched

from ink to eraser-
topped pencil

on index cards a box
of cards for Ada a box

of cards for dreams
whose “curious features”

include “erotic tenderness
and heart-rending enchantment”

in one draft
he traded “stillness and heat”

for “silence, a burning”
so picture:

Vladimir seated
at the trunk of a tree

a spring day
at Wellesley where

he marvels at his students
and their cable-knit socks

the way each elastic
grips without binding

just below
the knee so exquisite

an application of pressure
that when said sock

is slowly
peeled off

the skin shows
no trace at all