what could be more than a kiss? :: michael burkard

a scent.
a stone alive at last
after being worried for god knows how many years,

a piano
won by the little boy
who picked the right number of fish in the sea.

another kiss.
followed by another kiss.
followed by the dark starlight of jesus
                          by the dark starlight of a ship too far at sea
       at too late a date

at too late a time
no one can be on board such a ship—

no one can kiss like you
or the ocean approaching the rest of the night waiting world

From Harvard Review

allow me :: chungmi kim

If I must worry about how
I will live in my old age
without wealth
I would be without health now
and how can I live to be
old?

If I must worry about how
I will live in my old age
without love
I would be without dreams now
and how can I go on living
another day?

Allow me to sit in the sun
and listen to the sky.
I will love you gently.

Allow me to stay in my room
and weave my rainbows.
I will love you truly.

Like a colt in the meadow
with no boundary
allow me

to wander around

till I hear the autumn
stealthily
strolling by my door.

I will be waiting
to be with you
then.

plea for forgiveness :: rodney jones

The old man William Carlos Williams, who had been famous for kindness
And for bringing to our poetry a mannerless speaking,

In the aftermath of a stroke was possessed by guilt
And began to construct for his wife the chronicle

Of his peccadilloes, a deplorable thing, a mistake,
Like all pleas for forgiveness, but he persisted

Blindly, obstinately, each day, as though in the end
It would relieve her to know the particulars

Of affairs she must have guessed at and tacitly permitted:
For she encouraged his Sunday drives across the river;

His poems suggest as much, anyone can see it.
The thread, the binding of the voice, is a single hair

Spliced from the different hairs of different lovers,
And it clings to his poems, blonde and dark,

Tangled and straight, and runs on beyond the page.
I carry it with me, saying, “I have found it so.”

It is a world of human blossoming, after all.
But the old woman, sitting there like rust —

For her, there would be no more poems of stolen
Plums, of round and firm trunks of young trees,

Only the candor of the bedpan and the fouled sheet,
When there could no longer have been any hope

That he would recover, when the thing she desired
Was not his health so much as his speechlessness.

spice night :: catherine bowman

It was your best friend’s birthday, 9:00 and late July. By the time
I got there wearing shorts and a T-shirt everyone was pretty spiced
on Corona and Lite. What’s-his-name Ramirez started telling jokes
about German Shepherds and Girl Scouts and then someone hurt a knee
trying to somersault and play volleyball with only the light of the moon
and oh yeah Joe Herder drove his ‘64 Cadillac right over the grass.

I think you had a date but you were sitting with me on the grass
and I didn’t feel guilty, in fact I was worrying about the time
because the night would end soon and I had come just to see you. The moon
was drenching the Balcones Fault Flood Basin with a pollen, a spice,
it happens every twelve years, and that’s when you put your hand on my knee
and that’s when Ramirez started telling a series of dead baby jokes.

Even Joe Herder and his crowd were getting tired of the bad jokes
because they started telling stories about smuggling heroin and grass
up from Mexico and I looked down and your hand was still on my knee
and they were talking about gunrunning, Mayan treasures, and doing time,
and the Hilton in downtown San Salvador as if they were modern day spice
pirates instead of Alamo Heights kids who had been given the moon

and suddenly the sky had changed and I realized that the moon
was using its comic sensibility to fool around, to make a joke,
just by being round and fat, it played up, it complemented the spice
of the lawn, a punchy waltz with the blunt edges of the grass,
without really thinking we were moving our toes, our teeth, in time.
This is when I decided to put my hand on your knee.

So there we were in the yard with our hands on each other’s knees,
watching the party, watching the crowd, and of course the moon.
I was tired but didn’t want to leave so I asked you about the time
your high school class went camping at Big Bend and you made a joke
about people who ask a lot of questions and then we left the grass
and went into Mrs. Schue’s house and down the hall where there was a spice

cabinet filled with, what else, hundreds of unlabeled jars of spices.
We opened all the bottles and played a game, our sweaty knees
shining in the dark. I guessed caraway, tarragon, and lemon grass;
you guessed others as we closed our eyes and inhaled the bottled moons.
Outside the volleyball game continued and the jokes.
We knew we had found that spice cabinet just in time.

Knees. Spice. Jokes. Moon. Grass. Time. Forever and ever. Amen.

mother doesn’t want a dog :: judith viorst

Mother doesn’t want a dog.
Mother says they smell,
And never sit when you say sit,
Or even when you yell.
And when you come home late at night
And there is ice and snow,
You have to go back out because
The dumb dog has to go.

Mother doesn’t want a dog.
Mother says they shed,
And always let the strangers in
And bark at friends instead,
And do disgraceful things on rugs,
And track mud on the floor,
And flop upon your bed at night
And snore their doggy snore.

Mother doesn’t want a dog.
She’s making a mistake.
Because, more than a dog, I think
She will not want this snake.

a litany for survival :: audre lorde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

give all to love :: ralph waldo emerson

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-frame,
Plans, credit and the Muse,—
Nothing refuse.

’T is a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent:
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.

It was never for the mean;
It requireth courage stout.
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending,
It will reward,—
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,—
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, forever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.

Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young,
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free;
Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Though her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive;
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

sonnet :: robert hass

A man talking to his ex-wife on the phone.
He has loved her voice and listens with attention
to every modulation of its tone. Knowing
it intimately. Not knowing what he wants
from the sound of it, from the tendered civility.
He studies, out the window, the seed shapes
of the broken pods of ornamental trees.
The kind that grow in everyone’s garden, that no one
but horticulturists can name. Four arched chambers
of pale green, tiny vegetal proscenium arches,
a pair of black tapering seeds bedded in each chamber.
A wish geometry, miniature, Indian or Persian,
lovers or gods in their apartments. Outside, white,
patient animals, and tangled vines, and rain.

ode to a yellow onion :: c. dale young

And what if I had simply passed you by,
your false skins gathering light in a basket,
those skins of unpolished copper,
would you have lived more greatly?

Now you are free of that metallic coating,
a broken hull of parchment,
the dried petals of a lily—
those who have not loved you
will not know differently.

But you are green fading into yellow—
how deceptive you have been.

Once I played the cithara,
fingers chafing against each note.
Once I worked the loom,
cast the shuttle through the warp.
Once I scrubbed the tiles
deep in the tub of Alejandro.
Now I try to decipher you.

Beyond the village, within a cloud
of wild cacao and tamarind,
they chant your tale, how you,
most common of your kind,
make the great warrior-men cry
but a woman can unravel you.

how to make armor :: jennifer sweeney

Wear your bones like cold-rolled
steel, skin hammered
in brigandine sheets.
Pound leather and shadow
to a stiff segmentata.

Be corset-pinched.

Clad in devices,
night will rise like a wound,
duty bronzed to paldrons
hulking your shoulders.

When your bad decisions are fused
with chain mail and you’re dueling
in the silence of thieves,
go at the world in stone.

Fear is a long-revered tradition.

In the carbon-dark, language
is harnessed in its helm
as “order” from the Latin ordo
means closed circle.

Be plate-sealed,
protected as a priest’s halberd
wielding against a cauldron
of medicine.

Or lie naked in the dandelions,
pained with sensation.

prayers to shadows on my wall :: mark mcmorris

Soon the rushlights will go out in the flesh
of sympathetic bodies once close to my own hand
and I will go to my hammock, thinking of little
except the numbness that alone makes bearable
the wind’s twisting. I want atoms to separate
like hairs or dust onto the heads of my daughters.
I want to violate the edict that traps my hunger
in cages and away from her rough shoulder
and once to be enough for this and all the loves
that flicker through my bedroom before sleep.
They keep me awake, and tonight they are fierce
as whips or as needles to make the skin crawl.
I want to drift like the poui in a southerly wind
and settle where I need to before the faces erode,
my appetite of iron caulking the egg-shell heart.

ode to the lost luggage warehouse at the rome airport :: barbara hamby

Until you’ve visited the lost luggage warehouse
      at the Rome airport in August, you have not lived,
the Mediterranean sun insinuating itself
      into the inner sucking marrow of your dance,
roasting your epidermis like a holiday bird.
      A goose, upon reflection, would be the fitting
analogy. You hear the faint sizzling of the fat
      under your skin, organs grilling, brain singed
as you walk to the guardhouse and show the uniformed
      sentinel your paper that certifies you have indeed
lost your bag. You gaze at his amazing hat with plumes
      tinted maroon and gold while he scrutinizes your clutch

of ragged forms, signed by Signor Nardo Ferrari,
      minor functionary with the state airline
at the ufficio in Florence, who has confided
      in beautiful English he will retire at the end
of the month and devote himself to the cultivation
      of vegetables and fruit, a noble endeavor,
but you suspect he’ll not be leaving his lush paradiso
      to iron out your petty problems, for you have come
in pursuit of your bag, supplicant on a holy quest to retrieve
      that which is your own, or was once your own,
the dresses, coat, boots, and intimate et cetera,
      nothing priceless, no treasures as such, but dear to you,

especially the black coat you bought in Paris
      in a decrepit building below Sacré-Coeur,
going with Mimi after lunch, giving the correct password,
      hearing the answering hiss, walking up four flights
of stairs to a room filled with ugly clothes,
      one divine coat, now lost in the dark regions
of this Italian underworld, you hope, for if not here,
      it’s apparently nowhere, and this warehouse is a warren
of high-ceilinged rooms with thousands of bags stacked
      on metal shelves, precariously piled backpacks
with scurf from Katmandu, Malmö, Khartoum, Köln, Kraków,
      Istanbul, Reims in France or Francia in italiano,

chic makeup cases, black bags like the suitcases of doom,
      hard-shelled portmanteaus like turtles (soft parts
incongnito, mating in tandem), briefcases, carpet bags,
      19th-century trunks with straps and buckles,
and you see a woman, molto dolorosa, in latex gloves,
      a surgeon delving, methodically, in a suitcase
filled with Japanese snacks—arare, dried squid, rice candy
      wrapped in a thin edible paper, red and green jellied
sweets—recognized from your childhood in Hawai’i, and amid
      the conglomerazione of heat, memory, and rage you imagine
a Japanese man, thinking, I’m going to Italy, but the food,
      I’ll hate it, then packing his favorites: the sublime

shredded mango of blessed memory, cracked plum, dried peas,
      and you think of Sei Shōnagon, supercilious court lady
in 10th-century Japan because you are reading her Pillow Book,
      a record of things that disgust or please her
and you whip your kimono around and say,
      “Things I adore about Rome: the lingerie stores
for nuns with their fifties bulletproof brassieres
      and other medieval undies; the floor of St. Peter’s
with its imperialistic measurements of the lesser cathedrals
      of the world, St. Paul’s in London, the Milan cathedral;
Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Madonna of Loreto.
      Things that disgust me in August: backpacks with cheese,

child carriers imbedded with the scum of mashed
      bananas and cereal, petroleum-laced breezes
from jet exhaust, the color navy blue.” Your Italian
      is meager but the denizens of this particular realm
of hell are courteous if lethargic and show you
      that the bags are stacked by month:
agosto, luglio, giugno, but that’s as far
      as they go. No Joe DiMaggio or before. To be
anywhere else is all you want. You hate your clothes,
      no coat’s worth the flames licking your feet, but
you take a careful waltz through the months,
      and find nothing in the midst of so much.

The whole long way back to Florence, while the gorgeous
      panorama of the countryside flies by,
you have a caffè, try to read, but a few seats down
      a child screams, hysterical with fatigue,
and you see his face with its sticky impasto of snot,
      candy and tears, and you think of all your losses,
those past and the ones to come, your own death,
      il tuo morto, which makes the loss of a French coat,
shoes, and a few dresses seem ridiculous.
      You think of your arrival in Florence, the walk home
from the station past the Duomo, your husband’s hands,
      his kisses and the dinner you’ll eat, prosciutto

and melone, perhaps some ravioli in a restaurant
      near the Sant’Ambrogio market, you’ll buy a new coat
for winter, an Italian coat, il soprabito,
      one more beautiful than the one lost. That’s the way
your life will go, one day after another,
      until you begin your kamikaze run toward death.
It makes you sick to think of it until you begin
      to get used to the idea. I’d better get busy,
you think, enjoy life, be good to others,
      drink more wine, fill a suitcase with arare,
dried squid because when you leave home anything can happen.
      You may be caught in a foreign country one day,

without money, clothes, or anything good to eat,
      and you’ll have to try that stinky ravioli,
brine-soaked pig knuckles, poached brains quivering
      on a wooden platter, tripe, baked ear wax,
fried grasshoppers, ant cakes, dirt soufflés,
      and though it seems impossible, they could prove
delicious or at the very least nourishing,
      so don’t make a fool of yourself, and one day
you may join Signor Ferrari in his bosky Eden.
      Everyone will be there God, Jesus and Mary,
your mother and father, even your pain-in-the-ass sister
      who got everything. Heaven, you hate it:

the conversation’s boring, and everyone’s so sane,
      so well-adjusted. And it’s cold. Heaven should be warm,
a bit like Tahiti, so you’re furious, and then you see
      your sister, and she’s not cold because she’s wearing
your French coat, but you’re not in heaven, you’re on a train,
      going faster, it seems, as you approach Florence.
You’re in a muddle, glum, have nothing to show
      for your day but a headache and a blister
on your heel. You want the train to crash,
      blow you to kingdom come. You want your mother
to kiss you, call you Baby, Darling; you’d sell
      your soul for some shredded mango or dried plum.

from Five Points

I want to write something so simply :: mary oliver

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart
had been saying.

dawn :: louise glück

1

Child waking up in a dark room
screaming I want my duck back, I want my duck back

in a language nobody understands in the least —

There is no duck.

But the dog, all upholstered in white plush —
the dog is right there in the crib next to him.

Years and years — that’s how much time passes.
All in a dream. But the duck —
no one knows what happened to that.

2

They’ve just met, now
they’re sleeping near an open window.

Partly to wake them, to assure them
that what they remember of the night is correct,
now light needs to enter the room,

also to show them the context in which this occurred:
socks half hidden under a dirty mat,
quilt decorated with green leaves —

the sunlight specifying
these but not other objects,
setting boundaries, sure of itself, not arbitrary,

then lingering, describing
each thing in detail,
fastidious, like a composition in English,
even a little blood on the sheets —

3

Afterward, they separate for the day.
Even later, at a desk, in the market,
the manager not satisfied with the figures he’s given,
the berries moldy under the topmost layer —

so that one withdraws from the world
even as one continues to take action in it —

You get home, that’s when you notice the mold.
Too late, in other words.

As though the sun blinded you for a moment.

Courtesy of K. W.

the pains of sleep :: samuel taylor coleridge

Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,
It hath not been my use to pray
With moving lips or bended knees;
But silently, by slow degrees,
My spirit I to Love compose,
In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
With reverential resignation
No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
Only a sense of supplication;
A sense o’er all my soul imprest
That I am weak, yet not unblest,
Since in me, round me, every where
Eternal strength and Wisdom are.

But yester-night I prayed aloud
In anguish and in agony,
Up-starting from the fiendish crowd
Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me:
A lurid light, a trampling throng,
Sense of intolerable wrong,
And whom I scorned, those only strong!
Thirst of revenge, the powerless will
Still baffled, and yet burning still!
Desire with loathing strangely mixed
On wild or hateful objects fixed.
Fantastic passions! maddening brawl!
And shame and terror over all!
Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
Which all confused I could not know
Whether I suffered, or I did:
For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe,
My own or others still the same
Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame.

So two nights passed: the night’s dismay
Saddened and stunned the coming day.
Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me
Distemper’s worst calamity.
The third night, when my own loud scream
Had waked me from the fiendish dream,
O’ercome with sufferings strange and wild,
I wept as I had been a child;
And having thus by tears subdued
My anguish to a milder mood,
Such punishments, I said, were due
To natures deepliest stained with sin,—
For aye entempesting anew
The unfathomable hell within,
The horror of their deeds to view,
To know and loathe, yet wish and do!
Such griefs with such men well agree,
But wherefore, wherefore fall on me?
To be loved is all I need,
And whom I love, I love indeed.

tonight I can write :: pablo neruda

translated by w. s. merwin

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, “The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.”

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

it was over :: john talbot

Something expired. At the turning,
A spirit was gone. That which was
Turned to sepia: high collars, punting,
Waxed mustaches, parasols.

From bridges, children stared in the river
And felt themselves, also, halved.
Old manners were patently over.
New manners had not yet arrived.

The old, without waiting to speak
Their parting lines in the act,
Learned to exit the way of pipe-smoke.
Uttered nothing. Utter tact.

Steamy ghosts rose from horses’
Maws as they champed at their bits.
The ladies reached for their purses.
The gentlemen tipped their hats.

babies :: alice fulton

born gorgeous with nerves, with brains
the pink of silver polish or
jellyfish wafting ornately
through the body below.
An invertebrate cooing
on the mother
tongue shushes and lulls them into thinking
all is well. As they grow they learn

salvage: tear-out
guides to happiness say apologies can outshine
lies, guilt be lickspittled from their lives, bad
glycerined to good. Like a child’s first school pencils
in their formal brilliance
and sharp new smells, they lie

as lovers. Maybe one cries
the wrong name and the night skinning
them pleasantly alive
leaps away in shards.
Then it’s time for restitution:
a tin of homebaked,
holding gingham safety, fetal
as the light through mason jars of beets and brine,
or jewelry, clasping and unclasping
aisles of fluorescence from great department stores,
a distracting plenitude, and tempting.

Still, the beloved may stay bitter as an ear
the tongue pressed
into, unwanted.
And the word end: spiney, finally-formed,
indents them and is
understood. They learn

the hard way as hurts
accrue, and the brain is cratered as a rock
by rain that fell ages past
on unprotected mud. An insult keeps
despite apologies. When it vaporizes at last,
its space fills with grains that harden
to a fossil shaped exactly
like the insult.
They grow up when they know that

sometimes
only a gesture responsive as a heart-
shaped parachute above a jump
a life depends on
to be perfect
the first time will ever do.

remember :: christina rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

to a dead lover :: louise bogan

The dark is thrown
Back from the brightness, like hair
Cast over a shoulder.
I am alone,

Four years older;
Like the chairs and the walls
Which I once watched brighten
With you beside me. I was to waken
Never like this, whatever came or was taken.

The stalk grows, the year beats on the wind.
Apples come, and the month for their fall.
The bark spreads, the roots tighten.
Though today be the last
Or tomorrow all,
You will not mind.

That I may not remember
Does not matter.
I shall not be with you again.
What we knew, even now
Must scatter
And be ruined, and blow
Like dust in the rain.

You have been dead a long season
And have less than desire
Who were lover with lover;
And I have life—that old reason
To wait for what comes,
To leave what is over.

before :: mark halliday

Before you were you,
before your bicycle appeared under the street-lamp,
before you met me at the airport in a corduroy jacket,

before you agreed to hold my five ballpoint pens
while i ran to play touch football,
before your wet hair nearly touched the piano keys

and in advance of how your raincoat was tightly cinched
when you asked about nonviolent anti-war activity
and before you said “Truffaut,”

before your voice supernaturally soft sang
“I aweary wait upon the shore,”
before you suddenly stroked my thigh in the old Volvo,

when you had not yet said “Marcus Aureliius at 11:15”
and before your white shirt on the train,
before Pachelbel and “My Creole Belle”

and before your lips were so cool under that street-lamp
and before Buddy Holly in Vermont on the sofa
and Yeats in the library lounge,

prior to your denim cutoffs on the porch,
prior to my notes and your notes
and before your name became a pulsing star,

before all this
ah safer and smoother and smaller was my heart.

scrabble with matthews :: david wojahn

Jerboa on a triple: I was in for it,
my zither on a double looking feeble

as a “promising” first book. Oedipal & reckless,
my scheme would fail: keep him a couple drinks

ahead, & perhaps the muse would smile
upon me with some ses or some blanks.

January, Vermont: snowflakes teased the windows
of the Burlington airport bar. The waitress

tallied tips & channel-surfed above the amber
stutter of the snowplow’s light: it couldn’t

keep up, either. Visibility to zero, nothing taking off
& his dulcimer before me (50 bonus points

for “bingos”) like a cautionary tale. The night
before I’d been his warm up act,

the audience of expensive preppies
doubling to twenty when he shambled

to the podium to give them Martial
& his then-new poems. “Why do you write

something nobody reads anymore?” queried one
little trust fund in a blazer. “Because

I’m willing to be honestly confused
& honestly fearful.” Il miglior fabbro,

a.k.a. Prez: sweet & fitting honorifics he has left
upon the living’s lips. Sweet & fitting too

that I could know the poems much better than
the man, flawed as I am told he was. Connoisseur

of word-root & amphibrach, of Coltrane
solo & of California reds, of box score & Horatian loss,

his garrulousness formidable & masking
a shyness I could never penetrate, meeting him

would always find me tongue-tied,
minding my ps & qs, the latter of which

I could not play, failing three times to draw a u.
The dead care nothing for our eulogies:

he wrote this many times & well.
& yet I pray his rumpled daimonion

shall guide our letters forward
as they wend the snow-white notebook leaves,

the stanzas scrolling down the laptop screens.
Game after game & the snow labored on.

Phalanx, bourboned whiteout & the board aglow
as he’d best me again & again. Qintar

& prosody, the runway lights enshrouded
& the wind, endquote, shook the panes.

welcome to your wish list tomohiko nakao :: cynthia arrieu-king

For this next thought, I wear the white crash helmet and jumpsuit
of heady speculation: A name I saw on the computer screen.

I grip the helm of my imaginary speedboat cutting the clean Pacific
thinking of you behind me in Japan, Tomohiko Nakao,
ass being packed into a Kyoto subway car, late as hell,
my crucial and unmet friend
choking down pristine rice

where you could not possibly be, since
you were just here in my damned library seat
trying to buy a book on-line.

I saw your wish-list exposed when I put down my keys.
I know what you have been through by virtue of your interest in foot yoga —
the book you picked about how to demolish the garage yourself.

Your wish for a transistor radio to listen to late at night
is my command,

as is your wish for a calendar to keep track of your days
as is your wish to go back
to something you
dreamed with no thought of me.

But, Tomohiko,
you were so recently here where the fabulous Olympics of wishing
can lead to the land of the distraught.

Whatever you added to your wish-list
cannot possibly eclipse
what you really need —

what you actually longed for
on your grey ride home from this cement building.

drinking wine :: tao qian

I made my home amidst this human bustle,
Yet I hear no clamour from the carts and horses.
My friend, you ask me how this can be so?
A distant heart will tend towards like places.
From the eastern hedge, I pluck chrysanthemum flowers,
And idly look towards the southern hills.
The mountain air is beautiful day and night,
The birds fly back to roost with one another.
I know that this must have some deeper meaning,
I try to explain, but cannot find the words.

Courtesy of AJM

storm catechism :: kim addonizio

The gods are rinsing their just-boiled pasta
in a colander, which is why
it is humid and fitfully raining
down here in the steel sink of mortal life.
Sometimes you can smell the truffle oil
and hear the ambrosia being knocked back,
sometimes you catch a drift
of laughter in that thunder crack: Zeus
knocking over his glass, spilling lightning
into a tree. The tree shears away from itself
and falls on a car, killing a high school girl.
Or maybe it just crashes down
on a few trash cans, and the next day
gets cut up and hauled away by the city.
Either way, hilarity. The gods are infinitely perfect
as is their divine mac and cheese.
Where does macaroni come from? Where does matter?
Why does the cat act autistic when you call her,
then bat a moth around for an hour, watching intently
as it drags its wings over the area rug?
The gods were here first, and they’re bigger.
They always were, and always will be
living it up in their father’s mansion.
You only crawled from the drain
a few millennia ago,
after inventing legs for yourself
so you could stand, inventing fists
in order to raise them and curse the heavens.
Do the gods see us?
Will the waters be rising soon?
The waters will be rising soon.
Find someone or something to cling to.

From Poetry Daily

to his books :: henry vaughan

Bright books! the perspectives to our weak sights,
The clear projections of discerning lights,
Burning and shining thoughts, man’s posthume day,
The track of fled souls, and their milkie way,
The dead alive and busie, the still voice
Of enlarged spirits, kind Heaven’s white decoys!
Who lives with you lives like those knowing flowers,
Which in commerce with light spend all their hours;
Which shut to clouds, and shadows nicely shun,
But with glad haste unveil to kiss the sun.
Beneath you all is dark, and a dead night,
Which whoso lives in wants both health and sight.
      By sucking you, the wise, like bees, do grow
Healing and rich, though this they do most slow,
Because most choicely; for as great a store
Have we of books as bees of herbs, or more:
And the great task to try, then know, the good,
To discern weeds, and judge of wholesome food,
Is a rare scant performance. For man dyes
Oft ere ’tis done, while the bee feeds and flyes.
But you were all choice flowers; all set and dressed
By old sage florists, who well knew the best;
And I amidst you all am turned a weed,
Not wanting knowledge, but for want of heed.
Then thank thyself, wild fool, that wouldst not be
Content to know — what was too much for thee!

Courtesy of Poetry Daily

first lesson :: philip booth

Lie back, daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man’s-float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.