this blue vase :: peter campion

shows more than the morning clarities
of sun through leaves than through these windows.
Each thing is imbued by others. And staring
at the convex glass, I see the falls
in the one picture that held me enthralled
while you walked on through the gallery.

Even back then I must have felt
the photograph’s stark black and white
trapping the glow off tons of water
in its whole minute of exposure
one hundred years before we were born
as weirdly relevant: how barns
and long gone houses’ clapboard sides
above where shadowed cliff-face slid
vertiginously toward the falls
reflected all my naïve bewilderment
seeing what I’d thought permanent
turn so starkly half unreal.

But this morning, watching sunlight steal
across this table’s lacquered pine,
I still sense, through the smallest glints,
your presence still fusing all I see with you.
Blue irises from this vase’s blue.

the copious dark :: eiléan ní chuilleanáin

She used to love the darkness, how it brought
Closer the presence of flesh, the white arms and breast
Of a stranger in a railway carriage a dim glow—
Or the time when the bus drew up at a woodland corner
And a young black man jumped off, and a shade
Moved among shades to embrace him under the leaves—

Every frame of a lit window, the secrets bared—
Books packed warm on a wall—each blank shining blind,
Each folded hush of shutters without a glimmer,
Even the sucked-sweet tones of neon reflected in rain
In insomniac towns, boulevards where the odd light step
Was a man walking alone: they would all be kept,

Those promises, for people not yet in sight:
Wellsprings she still kept searching for after the night
When every wall turned yellow. Questing she roamed
After the windows she loved, and again they showed
The back rooms of bakeries, the clean engine-rooms and all
The floodlit open yards where a van idled by a wall,

A wall as long as life, as long as work.
                                                                            The blighted
Shuttered doors in the wall are too many to scan—
As many as the horses in the royal stable, as the lighted
Candles in the grand procession? Who can explain
Why the wasps are asleep in the dark in their numbered holes
And the lights shine all night in the hospital corridors?

lessons :: pat schneider

I have learned
that life goes on,
or doesn’t.
That days are measured out
in tiny increments
as a woman in a kitchen
measures teaspoons
of cinnamon, vanilla,
or half a cup of sugar
into a bowl.

I have learned
that moments are as precious as nutmeg,
and it has occurred to me
that busy interruptions
are like tiny grain moths,
or mice.
They nibble, pee, and poop,
or make their little worms and webs
until you have to throw out the good stuff
with the bad.

It took two deaths
and coming close myself
for me to learn
that there is not an infinite supply
of good things in the pantry.

longing for prophets :: shirley kaufman

Not for their ice-pick eyes,
their weeping willow hair,
and their clenched fists beating at heaven.
Not for their warnings, predictions
of doom. But what they promised.
I don’t care if their beards
are mildewed, and the ladders
are broken. Let them go on
picking the wormy fruit. Let the one
with the yoke around his neck
climb out of the cistern.
Let them come down from the heights
in their radiant despair
like the Sankei Juko dancers descending
on ropes, down from these hills
to the earth of their first existence.
Let them follow the track
we’ve cut on the sides of mountains
into the desert, and stumble again
through the great rift, littered
with bones and the walls of cities.
Let them sift through the ashes
with their burned hands. Let them
tell us what will come after.

tarantulas on the lifebuoy :: thomas lux

For some semitropical reason
when the rains fall
relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise
bright and scary
arachnids. They can swim
a little, but not for long

and they can’t climb the ladder out.
They usually drown—but
if you want their favor,
if you believe there is justice,
a reward for not loving

the death of ugly
and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,
rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then
you would leave a lifebuoy
or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning
you would haul ashore
the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them
back to the bush, and know,
be assured that at least these saved,
as individuals, would not turn up

again someday
in your hat, drawer,
or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even—
when your belief in justice
merges with your belief in dreams—
they may tell the others

in a sign language
four times as subtle
and complicated as man’s

that you are good,
that you love them,
that you would save them again.

Courtesy of E.K.

the secret :: denise levertov

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

untitled :: chou pang-yen

Leaves fall, slanting sun lights the river
that rolls its gentle ripples
on and on for a thousand miles.
On the bridge, an acid wind strikes my eyes,
I stand a long while
watching the twilight,
the lamp-lit town.

In my old house, under the cold window,
I hear countless leaves
flutter and fall from the parasol tree by the well.
I’ve no love for this lonely quilt, get up again and again.
Who knows that
it’s for her sake
I cover this sheet with words?

Courtesy of AJM

free verses :: sarah kirsch

translated by rita dove and fred viebahn

Last night I awoke knew
That I should say goodbye now
To these verses. That’s how it always goes
After a few years. They have to get out
Into the world. It’s not possible to keep them
Forever! here under the roof.
Poor things. They must set out for town.
A few will be allowed to return later.
But most of them are still hanging around out there.
Who knows what will become of them. Before they
Find their peace.

the white museum :: george bilgere

My aunt was an organ donor
and so, the day she died,
her organs were harvested
for medical science.
I suppose there must be people
who list, under “Occupation,”
“Organ Harvester,” people for whom
it is always harvest season,
each death bringing its bounty.
They spend their days
loading wagonloads of kidneys,
whole cornucopias of corneas,
burlap sacks groaning with hearts and lungs
and the pale green sprouts of gall bladders,
and even, from time to time,
the weighty cauliflower of a brain.

And perhaps today,
as I sit in this café, watching the snow
and thinking about my aunt,
a young medical student somewhere
is moving through the white museum
of her brain, making his way slowly
from one great room to the next.
Here is the gallery of her girlhood,
with that great canvas depicting her father
holding her on his lap in the backyard
of their bungalow in St. Louis.
And here is a sketch of her
the summer after her mother died,
walking down a street in Berlin
when the broken city was itself
a museum. And here
is a small, vivid oil of the two of us
sitting in a café in London
arguing over the work of Constable
or Turner, or Francis Bacon
after a visit to the Tate.

I want you to know, as you sit there
with your microscope and your slides,
there’s no need to be reverent before these images.
That’s the last thing she would have wanted.
But do be respectful. Speak quietly.
No flash photography. Tell your friends
you saw something beautiful.

chinese writing :: dick allen

In my first week of studying Chinese writing,
I placed two horses beside two tigers
and the word careless formed.
With just five brushstrokes, I made an eye,
yet it took twelve for happiness,
eleven for success and fourteen for long life,
which I brushed on rice paper,
trying to master all the hooks and angles
of those difficult strokes. But then, writing English again,
for the first time since third grade I started to count
how many barely discernible movements my fingers make
guiding my favorite pen into broken cursive loops and crannies,
swirls and down strokes, up strokes, cross strokes
entering and leaving every sentence,
the anguished commas and dashes, the little ellipses
come out of their hiding places as if they were
pinpricks of honey at the end of clover spikes,
into this fine moving world.
And with such minute pleasures I was content
at the end of the day, which the Chinese might paint as rì-yuè,
or time passing in falling tones,
almost as beautiful as míng baí, to understand
those wonderful tiny crate characters,
that miniature broken ladder character,
the rising tones of sun, moon, clear-white, in two squares of sky.

From Poetry Daily

a mysterious heart :: chase twichell

I don’t like what the world has become.
At night, the sprinklers sound like rain
but I am neither fooled nor consoled.

Real rain no longer exists,
and the fish in the rivers
flash with phosphorous.

In secret I compile the history
of the world before the tragedy,
a lonely occupation. As a foreigner,

I write in a language of immunity,
make notes of things, deciphering,
invisible as a tourist.

Inside the nebulous skies,
millions of tiny planes
disperse their seed,

and the radio calls it weather.
There was weather in my childhood
on the other planet,

not that it was lovely. It was cold.
It was lovely, but cold.
When, in my investigations,

I search through the scrapbooks
for proof of this,
I discover the pictures, six to a page,

entangled in a white trellis,
the space around them.
This is the way I remember

Father’s house, a square of darkness
crisscrossed by the moon,
a latticework the ivy climbed.

That’s me in the window,
wondering about love.
I had a mysterious heart.

Perhaps my present disorientation
began on such a night.
In the many layers of the sky,

the stars appeared to swim
and multiply, like snow, or sperm,
or the white cells of death

on the laboratory slide.
Or maybe it was Christmas,
and other people had the Spirit,

but I never had it, as far as I know.
But all childhoods are hazardous,
and their cruelties ordinary.

I love the snowfall,
the blossoms of silence
that gather around us.

Then this planet is cast as the other,
and my life as another’s.
The planes dive toward terra firma

with ice on their wings, which is justice,
their cockpits full of moonlight.
So whether the water spills

through the pipes and spigots
or freezes in the heavens,
it makes no difference.

I come from the snowbound planet,
so far away it seems a spark,
a chip of ice. The truth is,

I did not consent to exile here.
So the mind goes into the past,
or up into a clean, new galaxy.

vague poem :: elizabeth bishop

The trip west.
—I think I dreamed that trip.
They talked a lot of “rose rocks”
or maybe “rock roses”
—I’m not sure now, but someone tried to get me some.
(And two or three students had.)

She said she had some at her house.
They were by the back door, she said.
—A ramshackle house.
An Army house? No, “a Navy house.” Yes,
that far inland.
There was nothing by the back door but dirt
or that same dry, monochrome, sepia straw I’d seen everywhere.
Oh, she said, the dog has carried them off.
(A big black dog, female, was dancing around us.)

Later, as we drank tea from mugs, she found one
“a sort of one.” “This one is just beginning. See—
you can see here, it’s beginning to look like a rose.
It’s—well, a crystal, crystals form—
I don’t know any geology myself …”
(Neither did I.)
Faintly, I could make out—perhaps—in the dull,
rose-red lump of, apparently, soil
a rose-like shape; faint glitters . . . Yes, perhaps
there was a secret, powerful crystal at work inside.

I almost saw it: turning into a rose
without any of the intervening
roots, stem, buds, and so on; just
earth to rose and back again.
Crystallography and its laws:
something I once wanted badly to study,
until I learned that it would involve a lot of arithmetic,
that is, mathematics.

Just now, when I saw you naked again,
I thought the same words: rose-rock, rock-rose . . .
Rose, trying, working, to show itself,
forming, folding over,
unimaginable connections, unseen, shining edges.
Rose-rock, unformed, flesh beginning, crystal by crystal,
clear pink breasts and darker, crystalline nipples,
rose-rock, rose-quartz, roses, roses, roses,
exacting roses from the body,
and the even darker, accurate, rose of sex—

nothing twice :: wislawa szymborska

translated by clare cavanagh and stanislaw baranczak

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you’re here with me,
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

the thunder shower :: derek mahon

A blink of lightning, then
a rumor, a grumble of white rain
growing in volume, rustling over the ground,
drenching the gravel in a wash of sound.
Drops tap like timpani or shine
like quavers on a line.

It rings on exposed tin,
a suite for water, wind and bin,
plinky Poulenc or strongly groaning Brahms’
rain-strings, a whole string section that describes
the very shapes of thought in warm
self-referential vibes

and spreading ripples. Soon
the whispering roar is a recital.
Jostling rain-crowds, clamorous and vital,
struggle in runnels through the afternoon.
The rhythm becomes a regular beat;
steam rises, body heat—

and now there’s city noise,
bits of recorded pop and rock,
the drums, the strident electronic shock,
a vast polyphony, the dense refrain
of wailing siren, truck and train
and incoherent cries.

All human life is there
in the unconfined, continuous crash
whose slow, diffused implosions gather up
car radios and alarms, the honk and beep,
and tiny voices in a crèche
piercing the muggy air.

Squalor and decadence,
the rackety global-franchise rush,
oil wars and water wars, the diatonic
crescendo of a cascading world economy
are audible in the hectic thrash
of this luxurious cadence.

The voice of Baal explodes,
raging and rumbling round the clouds,
frantic to crush the self-sufficient spaces
and re-impose his failed hegemony
in Canaan before moving on
to other simpler places.

At length the twining chords
run thin, a watery sun shines out,
the deluge slowly ceases, the guttural chant
subsides; a thrush sings, and discordant thirds
diminish like an exhausted concert
on the subdominant.

The angry downpour swarms
growling to far-flung fields and farms.
The drains are still alive with trickling water,
a few last drops drip from a broken gutter;
but the storm that created so much fuss
has lost interest in us.

From The New Yorker

what I know about epistemology :: john surowiecki

As the light goes, go.
Be the rustling in the grass, the fall from
convention’s good graces: learn, or someone
will have you filing files or writing writs,
demonstrating cutlery or selling knowledge

door to door; someone might even drop
your lovely life into a factory and have you
derusting rings on the coolant-spouting
turntable of a vertical lathe.
It’s best for everyone that what you know

is generally thought of as general knowledge.
You can find it in pool rooms and roadside bars,
in meadows as inviting as beds, in bedrooms
where it whispers like a ribbon untying;
you can even find it in schools. But be careful:

it’s dangerous, inescapable and exact
down to every atom of everything there is,
to every name each thing goes by and every
law each thing obeys. And the best part is,
you always know more than you know.

the sycamore :: wendell berry

In the place that is my own place, whose earth
I am shaped in and must bear, there is an old tree growing,
a great sycamore that is a wondrous healer of itself.
Fences have been tied to it, nails driven into it,
hacks and whittles cut in it, the lightning has burned it.
There is no year it has flourished in
that has not harmed it. There is a hollow in it
that is its death, though its living brims whitely
at the lip of the darkness and flows outward.
Over all its scars has come the seamless white
of the bark. It bears the gnarls of its history
healed over. It has risen to a strange perfection
in the warp and bending of its long growth.
It has gathered all accidents into its purpose.
It has become the intention and radiance of its dark fate.
It is a fact, sublime, mystical and unassailable.
In all the country there is no other like it.
I recognize in it a principle, an indwelling
the same as itself, and greater, that I would be ruled by.
I see that it stands in its place and feeds upon it,
and is fed upon, and is native, and maker.

talk about walking :: philip booth

Where am I going? I’m going
out, out for a walk. I don’t
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines. Beyond where
computers circumvent emotion,
where somebody shorted specs
for rivets for airframes on
today’s flights. I’m taking off
on my own two feet. I’m going
to clear my head, to watch
mares’-tails instead of TV,
to listen to trees and silence,
to see if I can still breathe.
I’m going to be alone with
myself, to feel how it feels
to embrace what my feet
tell my head, what wind says
in my good ear. I mean to let
myself be embraced, to let go
feeling so centripetally old.
Do I know where I’m going?
I don’t. How long or far
I have no idea. No map. I
said I was going to take
a walk. When I’ll be back
I’m not going to say.

salutation :: ezra pound

O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.

paradoxes and oxymorons :: john ashbery

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

changing what we mean :: eloise klein healy

Turning your back, you button your blouse. That’s new.
You redirect the conversation. A man
has entered it. Your therapist has given you
permission to discuss this with me, the word
you’ve been looking for in desire.
You can now say “heterosexual” with me. We mean

different things when we say it. I mean
the life I left behind forever. For you, it’s a new
beginning, a stab at being normal again, a desire
to enter the world with a man
instead of a woman, and of course, there’s the word
you won’t claim for yourself anymore, you

who have children to think of, you
who have put me in line behind them and mean
to keep the order clear. It’s really my word
against yours anymore in this new
language, in this battle over how a man
is about to enter this closed room of desire

we’ve gingerly exchanged keys to, but desire
isn’t what’s at issue anyway, you
say to me. Instead I learn a man
can protect you in a way a woman only means
to but never can, and my world is too new
when there’s real life out there, word

after word for how normal looks, each word
cutting like scissors a profile of desire—
a man facing a woman, nothing particularly new
or interesting to me. I’ve wanted only to face you
and the world simultaneously, say what I mean
with my body, my choice to not be a man,

to be a woman with you, forget the man’s
part or how his body is the word
for what touch can contain, what love means.
If this were only about desire,
you say, I’d still desire you.
But it isn’t passion we’re defining, new

consequences emerge when a man and desire
are part of the words we hurl, you
changing how you mean loving—this terrible final news.

hum :: ann lauterbach

The days are beautiful
The days are beautiful.

I know what days are.
The other is weather.

I know what weather is.
The days are beautiful.

Things are incidental.
Someone is weeping.

I weep for the incidental.
The days are beautiful.

Where is tomorrow?
Everyone will weep.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
The days are beautiful.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
Today is weather.

The sound of the weather
Is everyone weeping.

Everyone is incidental.
Everyone weeps.

The tears of today
Will put out tomorrow.

The rain is ashes.
The days are beautiful.

The rain falls down.
The sound is falling.

The sky is a cloud.
The days are beautiful.

The sky is dust.
The weather is yesterday.

The weather is yesterday.
The sound is weeping.

What is this dust?
The weather is nothing.

The days are beautiful.
The towers are yesterday.

The towers are incidental.
What are these ashes?

Here is the hate
That does not travel.

Here is the robe
That smells of the night

Here are the words
Retired to their books

Here are the stones
Loosed from their settings

Here is the bridge
Over the water

Here is the place
Where the sun came up

Here is a season
Dry in the fireplace.

Here are the ashes.
The days are beautiful.

surprised by joy :: william wordsworth

Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind—
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss?—That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

the stars and the moon :: grace schulman

In Legends of the Jews, Lewis Ginzberg writes that an Egyptian princess hung a tapestry woven with diamonds and pearls above King Solomon’s bed. When the king wanted to rise, he thought he saw stars and, believing it was night, slept on.

Scaling ladders with buckets of white enamel,
I painted the stars and the moon on my windowpanes
to hold back days and nights. I yanked the telephone
and stopped the wooden clock. The weeks a lightning stroke,
desire turned to love. With my blue diamond,
I sliced minutes in half and made days vanish,
fooling the hours.

                              I became so skillful
at firmaments that miracles occurred:
a bearded comet moved across the room
breeding no omens, tearing no major kingdoms
into small provinces, but there it was,
reminding us that rock may spin and flare,
lifting the senses, burning into sight.

You eased pale hands away; I saw your shoulders
recede through doorways, watched your image fail
with your famished smile. I left our room
with dream-filled eyes, and standing in the sun,
I gazed at bricks and glass and saw, suddenly,
flashing in stony light, the stars and the moon.

memorial day for the war dead :: yehuda amichai

Memorial day for the war dead. Add now
the grief of all your losses to their grief,
even of a woman that has left you. Mix
sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,
which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning
on one day for easy, convenient memory.

Oh, sweet world soaked, like bread,
in sweet milk for the terrible toothless God.
“Behind all this some great happiness is hiding.”
No use to weep inside and to scream outside.
Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding.

Memorial day. Bitter salt is dressed up
as a little girl with flowers.
The streets are cordoned off with ropes,
for the marching together of the living and the dead.
Children with a grief not their own march slowly,
like stepping over broken glass.

The flautist’s mouth will stay like that for many days.
A dead soldier swims above little heads
with the swimming movements of the dead,
with the ancient error the dead have
about the place of the living water.

A flag loses contact with reality and flies off.
A shopwindow is decorated with
dresses of beautiful women, in blue and white.
And everything in three languages:
Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.

A great and royal animal is dying
all through the night under the jasmine
tree with a constant stare at the world.

A man whose son died in the war walks in the street
like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb.
“Behind all this some great happiness is hiding.”

translator unknown, from www.poets.org

asking about you :: eloise klein healy

Instead of having sex all the time I like to hold you and not get into some involved discussion of what life means. I want you to tell me something I don’t know about you. Something about the day before that photograph in which you’re standing on your head. I want to know about softball and the team picture. Why are you so little next to the others? Were you younger? Were you small as a girl? What I want most is to have been a girl with you and played on the opposite team so I could have liked you and competed against you at the same time.

here :: grace paley

Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that’s who I wanted to be

at last   a woman
in the old style   sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt   grandchild sliding
on   off my lap   a pleasant
summer perspiration

that’s my old man across the yard
he’s talking to the meter reader
he’s telling him the world’s sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth   I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute   I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips

red convertible :: tim mayo

You call me about your car—why does it smoke?
I want to say desire has caught your engine
and your well oiled heart has frozen from the heat.
—Or should I use the male vocabulary I’ve heard
around the bottles of beer at cook outs
when the men gather at one end of the table
and the women find themselves at the other
turning over the lumpy potato salads of their lives?

In the end I take the male high road—I
suggest your radiator leaks under pressure.
I, too, leak under pressure. The hot air puffing
up my chest sighs down like a balloon,
and the hero in me suddenly sees himself
as ordinary as the man who gets on the bus
in the morning and steps off in the evening
knowing nothing but the humdrum of his heart,

hoping for the red convertible of your smile
to pass by and give him a lift.

living at the end of time :: robert bly

There is so much sweetness in children’s voices,
And so much discontent at the end of day,
And so much satisfaction when a train goes by.

I don’t know why the rooster keeps crying,
Nor why elephants keep raising their trunks,
Nor why Hawthorne kept hearing trains at night.

A handsome child is a gift from God,
And a friend is a vein in the back of the hand,
And a wound is an inheritance from the wind.

Some say we are living at the end of time,
But I believe a thousand pagan ministers
Will arrive tomorrow to baptize the wind.

There’s nothing we need to do about John. The Baptist
Has been laying his hands on earth for so long
That the well water is sweet for a hundred miles.

It’s all right if we don’t know what the rooster
Is saying in the middle of the night, nor why we feel
So much satisfaction when a train goes by.

From Poetry, February 2010

to my uterus :: lucille clifton

you uterus
you have been patient
as a sock
while i have slippered into you
my dead and living children
now
they want to cut you out
stocking i will not need
where i am going
where am i going
old girl
without you
uterus
my bloody print
my estrogen kitchen
my black bag of desire
where i can go
barefoot
without you
where can you go
without me

“what do women want?” :: kim addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

the diagnosis :: james tate

Lincoln was sixty years old when the doctor told him he only had forty more years to live. He didn’t tell his wife, with whom he confided everything, or any of his friends, because this new revelation made him feel all alone in a way he had never experienced before. He and Rachel had been inseparable for as long as he could remember and he thought that if she knew the prognosis she would begin to feel alone, too. But Rachel could see the change in him and within a couple of days she figured out what it meant. “You’re dying,” she said, “aren’t you?” “Yes, I’m dying,” Lincoln said, “I only have forty years.” “I feel you drifting away from me already,” she said. “It’s the drifting that kills you,” Lincoln whispered.

The Best American Poetry, 2001