sitting together :: rumi

translated by coleman barks

We sit in this courtyard, two forms,
shadow outlines with one soul,

birdsound, leaf moving, early evening
star, fragrant damp, and the sweet

sickle curve of moon. You and I in a
round, unselved idling in the garden-

beauty detail. The raucous parrots
laugh, and we laugh inside laughter,

the two of us on a bench in Konya, yet
amazingly in Khorasan and Iraq as well,

friends abiding this form, yet also
in another outside of time, you and I.

desiderata :: max ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Courtesy of A.Y.

preposition :: sally van doren

The before took us right up to
the after, even though under
meant we should not try over,
from being stronger than to,

up shying from its ascent
in the face of down. I held
on to you and beside you
I became with and about.

In our around, the near/far
could turn away and toward,
within the without. By my above
and your below, the wheres and

whens retreated, leaving time
and space stranded, in off, on out.

a room in the past :: ted kooser

It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
with a morning light so bright
you can’t see beyond its windows
into the afternoon. A kitchen
falling through time with its things
in their places, the dishes jingling
up in the cupboard, the bucket
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck
was thirty years. No one’s at home
in this room. Its counter is wiped,
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
moved through this life like a ghost,
and when she had finished her years,
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back
on the rest of us, forever.

fortissimo :: lola haskins

To play fortissimo
hold something back.

It is what the father does not say
that turns the son.

The fact that the summit cannot be seen
that drives the climber on.

Consider the graceless ones:
the painter who adds one more brush stroke.

the poet of least resistance
who writes past the end of his poem.

in perpetual spring :: amy gerstler

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval
plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

white-eyes :: mary oliver

In winter
      all the singing is in
            the tops of the trees
                  where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
      shoves and pushes
            among the branches.
                  Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
      but he’s restless—
            he has an idea,
                  and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
      as long as he stays awake.
            But his big, round music, after all,
                  is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.
      In the pine-crown
            he makes his nest,
                  he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,
      I only imagine his glittering beak
            tucked in a white wing
                  while the clouds—

which he has summoned
      from the north—
            which he has taught
                  to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
      into the world below
            like stars, or the feathers
            of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
      that is asleep now, and silent—
            that has turned itself
                  into snow.

spellbound :: emily brontë

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing dear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

the visitor :: sean lause

The cicada dies and remains
clutched to my upstairs screen window,
punctuating thought.

At dawn it glows gold,
a hyacinth
lit from within
by emptiness,
wings shedding needles of light
to thread the windy leaves.

At noon it burns blue,
folding the sky in its wings.
Living locusts
trill for its return,
but it remains
loyal to its death.

At night it is a black heart
feigning invisibility,
no longer fearing the cat.

In Summer it remembers
the last cry of its wings.
The storm comes, quickening the shadows,
tormenting the screen,
but still it clutches,
whirling with the earth.

In Winter, winds
turn trees to claws,
but still it clings, waiting,
molding itself
into a diamond of ice.

In Spring it is gone.
Finally, I can leave this house
to find
on my grandmother’s tombstone
a cicada shell broken and free.

poor poets :: francisco x. alarcón

to Miguel Ángel Flores

poets go astray
on the streets
like chicks fallen
from their nest

they bump into
light posts that
without warning
cross their path

courteous as ever
they ask empty
park benches
for permission to sit

nobody knows
not even they
why wings sprout
on their shoulders

maybe one day
they’ll finally use
that key they carry
forever in their pocket

Courtesy of S.L.K; from the Poetry Magazine archives

movement song :: audre lorde

I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neck
moving away from me
beyond anger or failure
your face in the evening schools of longing
through mornings of wish and ripen
we were always saying goodbye
in the blood in the bone over coffee
before dashing for elevators going
in opposite directions
without goodbyes.

Do not remember me as a bridge nor a roof
as the maker of legends
nor as a trap
door to that world
where black and white clericals
hang on the edge of beauty in five oclock elevators
twitching their shoulders to avoid other flesh
and now
there is someone to speak for them
moving away from me into tomorrows
morning of wish and ripen
your goodbye is a promise of lightning
in the last angels hand
unwelcome and warning
the sands have run out against us
we were rewarded by journeys
away from each other
into desire
into mornings alone
where excuse and endurance mingle
conceiving decision.
Do not remember me
as disaster
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
you move slowly out of my bed
saying we cannot waste time
only ourselves.

hesitation theory :: reginald shepherd

I drift into the sound of wind,
how small my life must be
to fit into his palm like that, holly
leaf, bluejay feather, milkweed fluff,
pin straw or sycamore pod, resembling
scraps of light. The world
slips through these fingers
so easily, there’s so much
to miss: the sociable bones
linked up in supple rows, mineral
seams just under the skin. I hold
my palm against the sun and don’t see
palm or sun, don’t hold anything
in either hand. I look up, look
away (what’s that?), I trip
and stumble (fall
again), find myself face down
in duff, a foam of fallen live oak
leaves, with only
this life, mine at times.

dedication :: czesław miłosz

You whom I could not save
Listen to me.
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.

What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,
Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty,
Blind force with accomplished shape.

Here is the valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge
Going into white fog. Here is a broken city,
And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave
When I am talking with you.

What is poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation.

They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.

in the next galaxy :: ruth stone

Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not
have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.

this little bag :: jane austen

This little bag I hope will prove
To be not vainly made–
For, if you should a needle want
It will afford you aid.
And as we are about to part
T’will serve another end,
For when you look upon the Bag
You’ll recollect your friend

(Happy birthday, Ms. Austen!)

sonnet #10 :: hayden carruth

You rose from our embrace and the small light spread
like an aureole around you. The long parabola
of neck and shoulder, flank and thigh I saw
permute itself through unfolding and unlimited
minuteness in the movement of your tall tread,
the spine-root swaying, the Picasso-like éclat
of scissoring slender legs. I knew some law
of Being was at work. At one time I had said
that love bestows such values, and so it does,
but the old man in his canto was right and wise:
ubi amor ibi ocullus est.
Always I wanted to give and in wanting was
the poet. A man now, aging, I know the best
of love is not to bestow, but to recognize.

rose thorns :: molly mcquade

Why do roses need their thorns?
Some things are little known.
But thorns of roses
spring and seize the surface
of  fey airs
before the roses come.
I’ve seen thorns huddle in a harmony alone,
hunkered down on green, wiry canes,
smoothed blades of whipping rose stalks,
and curl their polished tridents
to night’s call.
They are like stars
digging into firmament
with such desire,
you don’t quite get it,
and so healthy that
they almost have to wound,
or like bodies that can’t be argued,
borrowed, tamed.
The touch of a thorn
is a wry, deep telling
of the senses not to bloom
without a wish to,
without belief  in pain
to hold us true.

to david, about his education :: howard nemerov

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,
Or whether the law of the excluded middle
Applies west of the Rockies. For these
And the like reasons, you have to go to school
And study books and listen to what you are told,
And sometimes try to remember. Though I don’t know
What you will do with the mean annual rainfall
On Plato’s Republic, or the calorie content
Of the Diet of Worms, such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn.

Courtesy of E.K.

a love song :: william carlos williams

What have I to say to you
When we shall meet?
I lie here thinking of you.

The stain of love
Is upon the world.
Yellow, yellow, yellow,
It eats into the leaves,
Smears with saffron
The horned branches that lean
Against a smooth purple sky.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

I am alone.
The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.

See me!
My hair is dripping with nectar—
Starlings carry it
On their black wings.
See, at last
My arms and my hands
Are lying idle.

How can I tell
If I shall ever love you again
As I do now?

the silver lily :: louise glück

The nights have grown cool again, like the nights
of early spring, and quiet again. Will
speech disturb you? We’re
alone now; we have no reason for silence.

Can you see, over the garden—the full moon rises.
I won’t see the next full moon.

In spring, when the moon rose, it meant
time was endless. Snowdrops
opened and closed, the clustered
seeds of the maples fell in pale drifts.
White over white, the moon rose over the birch tree.
And in the crook, where the tree divides,
leaves of the first daffodils, in moonlight
soft greenish-silver.

We have come too far together toward the end now
to fear the end. These nights, I am no longer even certain
I know what the end means. And you, who’ve been with a man—

after the first cries,
doesn’t joy, like fear, make no sound?

zen living :: dick allen

Birdsongs that sound like the steady determined tapping
of a shoemaker’s hammer,
or of a sculptor making tiny ball-peen dents in a silver plate,
wake me this morning. Is it possible the world itself can be happy? The calico cat
stretches her long body out across the top of my computer monitor,
yawning, its little primitive head a cave of possibility.
And I’m ready again
to try and see accidents, the over and over patterns
of double-slit experiments a billionfold
repeated before me. If I had great patience,
I could try to count the poplar, birch and oak
leaves in their shifting welter outside my bedroom window
or the almost infinitesimal trails of thought that flash and flash
everywhere, as if decaying particles inside a bubble chamber,
windshield raindrops, lake ripples. However,
instead I go to fry some bacon, crack two eggs
into the cast-iron skillet that’s even older than this house,
and on the calendar (each month another oriental fan
where the climbing solitary is dwarfed . . . or on dark blue oceans
minuscular fishing boats bob beneath gigantic waves)
X out the days, including those I’ve forgotten.

to you :: kenneth koch

I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut
That will solve a murder case unsolved for years
Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window
Through which he saw her head, connecting with
Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red
Roof in her heart. For this we lived a thousand years;
For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not
Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a
Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails
In the wind, when you’re near, a wind that blows from
The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;
I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields
Always, to be near you, even in my heart
When I’m awake, which swims, and also I believe that you
Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to
The place where I again think of you, a new
Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow
Of a ship which sails
From Hartford to Miami, and I love you
Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun
Receives me in the questions which you always pose.

territories :: gregory djanikian

They thought the trouble was over,
they thought they had talked it all out,
it was a mistake, she’d said, this infatuation
for someone else which had turned suddenly
too serious, she could see that now.

But they thought there was nothing left of it,
their nerves had been rubbed so raw
through bouts of anger, shame, even love,
so many words had come and gone between them
that they couldn’t easily remember
what they’d said, what they’d imagined.

But it didn’t matter now,
they thought they had gotten over
something difficult, something which had felt
immovable, the long unbearable ache
which had become too much a habit,
and they were celebrating in their way,
having dinner at a new expensive place
where they had no history of being together,
where they expected nothing.

They were sipping wine, a deep rich red,
the waiter was hovering over them like a generous uncle
and they were selecting everything he had suggested—
how good to be in his hands for awhile!

Soon it was happening, the old ardor
was coming back, they were beginning to flirt
with one another, the way she said baby,
the way his shoulder was brushing hers,
the way they were allowing themselves to think
for the first time in a long time
of the good sex they might later have,
the after-talk which would be easy and low.

And maybe he hadn’t meant what he was about to say,
maybe when she remarked how she loved the leek soup
it was the wine in him, his jauntiness,
that made him ask what else she loved,
jokingly at first, whether she loved
the stuffed mushrooms on his plate, the braised beef,
or maybe she loved what others were having,
this one in the dark suit, or that one
with the coyly unbuttoned collar, or maybe
she loved the whole damn menu in fact,
he couldn’t help himself, the words came
pouring forth, spilling all over the table.

And it was not until late at night
when she’d finally gone to her room
and closed herself off from him in sleep
that he stopped talking and remembered only half
of what he’d said because he’d said too much,
created too much damage, crossed some boundary
he had avoided most of his life.
Maybe it was desert, maybe tundra, or the white
insinuating madness of the polar ice cap,
but wherever he was was strange and dangerous,
and somehow dazzling for all that,
and only in the morning would he know for better or worse
in which direction each of them would be walking it,
though never had he felt, as he had tonight,
so permissive with himself, so luxuriously
tactless, having said again and again
the words he thought he could never bear
to use, so suddenly commonplace,
so readily available to him now.

the cities inside us :: alberto ríos

We live in secret cities
And we travel unmapped roads.

We speak words between us that we recognize
But which cannot be looked up.

They are our words.
They come from very far inside our mouths.

You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city
Inside us, and inside us

There go all the cars we have driven
And seen, there are all the people

We know and have known, there
Are all the places that are

But which used to be as well. This is where
They went. They did not disappear.

We each take a piece
Through the eye and through the ear.

It’s loud inside us, in here, and when we speak
In the outside world

We have to hope that some of that sound
Does not come out, that an arm

Does not reach out
In place of the tongue.

to the reader: if you asked me :: chase twichell

I want you with me, and yet you are the end
of my privacy. Do you see how these rooms
have become public? How we glance to see if—
who? Who did you imagine?
Surely we’re not here alone, you and I.

I’ve been wandering
where the cold tracks of language
collapse into cinders, unburnable trash.
Beyond that, all I can see is the remote cold
of meteors before their avalanches of farewell.

If you asked me what words
a voice like this one says in parting,
I’d say, I’m sweeping an empty factory
toward which I feel neither hostility nor nostalgia.
I’m just a broom, sweeping.

the question :: ruth stone

While needles of the evergreen
practice a windy chaos,
heads of snarled hair;
something in the tree
longs for old age;
bald brown knobs of skull
without subterfuge;
but it continues with its greedy
resinous sexual odors.
The odors rise against one another,
spurting away from the scaly bark.
Along its fingers the tree
holds out microscopic traps.
Popping bullets of sunlight
crack into the subliminal
orifices, and the tree thinks,
“How exquisite. Is this love?”

rock and hawk :: robinson jeffers

Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.

This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,

Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.

I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final

Life with calm death; the falcon’s
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive

Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.

these poems :: june jordan

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

In loving memory of S.K.