a note :: wislawa szymborska

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;
and to keep on not knowing
something important.

rock of two mouths :: luisa a. igloria

Each rock here has a face:
inscrutable, not even looking
at the water which threads
through the silence
in the only way
silence can possibly be
allowed to sing;
not even looking at the clear
light that flickers like each
day’s votive candle—tinged blue
in the mornings, washed
grey or trembling gold
in the lengthening
afternoons. A hand
carved these hollows in stone.
They open their mouths
lined with moss and clover,
inconsequential weeds and wild-
flowers, that we might write of secrets:
of ways to woo a heart that has stood
too long, gaping first at one side
of the river, then at the other.

From Sweet: A Literary Confection, Issue 2.3

a pot of red lentils :: peter pereira

simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.

vegetable love :: barbara crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth’s tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth’s voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

variation on the word sleep :: margaret atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

making things clean :: wesley mcnair

One would hardly recognize him like this,
the high-school shop teacher, glasses off,
bent over the kitchen sink. Nearby,
house dresses and underpants flutter
in the window of the Maytag he bought
for his mother. Its groaning is the only
sound while she washes his hair,
lifting the trembling water in her hands
as she has always done, working foam up
from his gray locks like the lightest
batter she ever made. Soon enough,
glasses back on. He will stand
before students who mock his dullness;
soon, putting up clothes, she’ll feel
the ache of a body surrendering to age,
A little longer let him close his eyes
against soap by her apron, let her move
her fingers slowly, slowly, in this way
the two of them have found to be together,
this transfiguring moment in the world’s
old work of making things clean.

the humbled heart :: siegfried sassoon

Go your seeking, soul.
Mine the proven path of time’s foretelling.
Yours accordance with some mysteried whole.
I am but your passion-haunted dwelling.

Bring what news you can,
Stranger, loved of body’s humbled heart.
Say one whispered word to mortal man
From that peace whereof he claims you part.

Hither-hence, my guest,
Blood and bone befriend, where you abide
Till withdrawn to share some timeless quest.
I am but the brain that dreamed and died.

requiem :: bei dao

translated by eliot weinberger and iona man-cheong

for Shanshan

The wave of that year
flooded the sands on the mirror
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and the meaning of leaving
the instant when all languages
are like shadows cast from the west

life’s only a promise
don’t grieve for it
before the garden was destroyed
we had too much time
debating the implications of a bird flying
as we knocked down midnight’s door

alone like a match polished into light
when childhood’s tunnel
led to a vein of dubious ore
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and poetry rectifying life
rectifies poetry’s echo

ballad of the comely woman :: t. alan broughton

As I walked out one day
I met on my path a woman
ugly as sin and walking a dog.
She stopped me and said, “Young man,

would you lie with me here
in this field where we’re alone,
only my dog as companion?”
The dog went chasing a squirrel.

I placed a hand most gently
on her arm and said, “Old woman,
I’ve a wife and loving son
dearer to me than my life.

I could not betray such presences.”
“Then,” she said, “how like you this?”
and stepping to me her limbs grew slim,
her bare breasts brushed my chest.

O love, more than my hair stood on end,
and the grass looked so very green
I could not resist lying down
with her beneath me. “What if,”

I said between our kisses, “you change
again?” “I’m always the same,” she said,
and therewith I was left with my face
in the sod and my own restless heart.

the leaving :: brigit pegeen kelly

My father said I could not do it,
but all night I picked the peaches.
The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily.
I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden.
How many ladders to gather an orchard?
I had only one and a long patience with lit hands
and the looking of the stars which moved right through me
the way the water moved through the canals with a voice
that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering
and those who had gathered before me.
I put the peaches in the pond’s cold water,
all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands
twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors,
all night my back a straight road to the sky.
And then out of its own goodness, out
of the far fields of the stars, the morning came,
and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses
just after it has been rung, before the metal
begins to long again for the clapper’s stroke.
The light came over the orchard.
The canals were silver and then were not.
and the pond was–I could see as I laid
the last peach in the water–full of fish and eyes.

poppies :: mary oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

I looked for life and did a shadow see :: james galvin

Some little splinter
Of shadow purls
And weals down
The slewed stone
Chapel steps,
Slinks along
The riverrock wall
and disappears
Into the light.
Now ropy, riffled,
Now owlish, sere,
It smolders back
To sight beneath
A dwarfish, brindled tree
That chimes and sifts
And resurrects
In something’s sweet
And lethal breath.
This little shadow
Seems to know
(How can it know?
How can it not?)
Just when to flinch
Just where to loop and sag
And skitter down,
Just what to squirrel
And what to squander till
The light it lacks
Bleeds it back
And finds
My sleeping dark-haired girl —
O personal,
Impersonal,
Continual thrall —
And hammocks blue
In the hollows of her eyes.

hullo :: wendy videlock

The word, the stone,
the ringing phone,
the part of me
that wants to be alone,

the vow of silence
in the reeds;
God descends
in ravenese.

The vinegar tasters
dip their fingers,
make their faces:
stoic, bitter,

strangely sweet.
The seeker leaves
for Bangladesh,
the prophets check

for signs of theft,
the singers sing
for what is left.
The children breathe.

Come of age.
Search the faces
for a taste of
what’s to come:

the widening road,
the row your boat,
he choked with weeds,
the rabbit hole.

This holding on.

The word, the stone,
the ringing phone.
The part of we
that answers when alone.

constricting aubade :: oliver de la paz

The geese are a dark purple as they pass over the lake.
There are too many crystals glinting in the early sun
which blind the fliers but not enough to throw them.

The arms of the formation remind you of a schoolmate
who was born with a deformed left hand,
the thumb and small finger stretched outward
with three missing middle digits.

You are frightened by this memory
as one who happens upon a machinery accident.

The shadows of the flock burn
their arrows over the ground in their haze and yours.

The winter comes. The early memory of the child with the hand
plows past the horizon. The grasses along the lake
will grow frantic and freeze. Soon you will wake me
and tell me the story of the geese, how they sounded
like small voices in a storm.

From Oliver de la Paz’s website

a small moment :: cornelius eady

I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:
What’s that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking

What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Name of it. I ask the woman
Behind the counter for a percentage
Of her sale. Am I flirting?
Am I happy because the days
Are longer? Here’s what

She does: She takes her time
Choosing the slices. “I am picking
Out the good ones,” she tells me. It’s
April 14th.. Spring, with five to ten
Degrees to go. Some days, I feel my duty;
Some days, I love my work.

account :: czesław miłosz

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own—but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.

the clasp :: sharon olds

She was four, he was one, it was raining, we had colds,
we had been in the apartment two weeks straight,
I grabbed her to keep her from shoving him over on his
face, again, and when I had her wrist
in my grasp I compressed it, fiercely, for a couple
of seconds, to make an impression on her,
to hurt her, our beloved firstborn, I even almost
savored the stinging sensation of the squeezing, the
expression, into her, of my anger,
“Never, never again,” the righteous
chant accompanying the clasp. It happened very
fast-grab, crush, crush,
crush, release-and at the first extra
force, she swung her head, as if checking
who this was, and looked at me,
and saw me-yes, this was her mom,
her mom was doing this. Her dark,
deeply open eyes took me
in, she knew me, in the shock of the moment
she learned me. This was her mother, one of the
two whom she most loved, the two
who loved her most, near the source of love
was this.

too much snow :: louis jenkins

Unlike the Eskimos we only have one word for snow but we have a lot of modifiers for that word. There is too much snow, which, unlike rain, does not immediately run off. It falls and stays for months. Someone wished for this snow. Someone got a deal, five cents on the dollar, and spent the entire family fortune. It’s the simple solution, it covers everything. We are never satisfied with the arrangement of the snow so we spend hours moving the snow from one place to another. Too much snow. I box it up and send it to family and friends. I send a big box to my cousin in California. I send a small box to my mother. She writes “Don’t send so much. I’m all alone now. I’ll never be able to use so much.” To you I send a single snowflake, beautiful, complex and delicate; different from all the others.

jeopardy :: ron padgett

Sometimes when I phoned
my mother back in Tulsa, she would
say, “Hold on a minute, Ron, let me
turn this thing down,” the thing
her TV, and she would look
around for the remote and then fumble
with its little buttons as an irritation
mounted in me and an impatience
and I felt like blurting out “You watch TV
too much and it’s too loud and why
don’t you go outside” because I was
unable to face my dread of her aging
and my heart made cold toward her
by loving her though not wanting to give up
my life and live near her so she
could see me every day and not
just hear me, which is why she
turned the TV down and said,
“Okay, that’s better,” then sometimes
launched into a detailed account
of whatever awful show she was watching.

the thrift shop dresses :: frannie lindsay

I slid the white louvers shut so I could stand in your closet
a little while among the throng of flowered dresses
you hadn’t worn in years, and touch the creases
on each of their sleeves that smelled of forgiveness
and even though you would still be alive a few more days
I knew they were ready to let themselves be
packed into liquor store boxes simply
because you had asked that of them,
and dropped at the door of the Salvation Army
without having noticed me
wrapping my arms around so many at once
that one slipped a big padded shoulder off of its hanger
as if to return the embrace.

mama, come back :: nellie wong

Mama, come back.
Why did you leave
now that I am learning you?
The landlady next door
how she apologizes
for my rough brown skin
to her tenant from Hong Kong
as if I were her daughter,
as if she were you.

How do I say I miss you
your scolding
your presence
your roast loin of pork
more succulent, more tender
than any hotel chef’s?

The fur coat you wanted
making you look like a polar bear
and the mink-trimmed coat
I once surprised you
on Christmas morning.

Mama, how you said “importment”
for important,
your gold tooth flashing
an insecurity you dared not bare,
wanting recognition
simply as eating noodles
and riding in a motor car
to the supermarket
the movie theater
adorned in your gold and jade
as if all your jewelry
confirmed your identity
a Chinese woman in America.

How you said “you better”
always your last words
glazed through your dark eyes
following me fast as you could
one November evening in New York City
how I thought “Hello, Dolly!”
showed you an America
you never saw.

How your fear of being alone
kept me dutiful in body
resentful in mind.
How my fear of being single
kept me
from moving out.

How I begged your forgiveness
after that one big fight
how I wasn’t wrong
but needed you to love me
as warmly as you hugged strangers.

permanence :: lawrence raab

I can’t remember how old I was,
but I used to stand in front
of the bathroom mirror, trying to imagine
what it would be like to be dead.
I thought I’d have some sense of it
if I looked far enough into my own eyes,
as if my gaze, meeting itself, would make
an absence, and exclude me.

It was an experiment, like the time
Michael Smith and I set a fire in his basement
to prove something about chemistry.
It was an idea: who I would
or wouldn’t be at the end of everything,
what kind of permanence I could imagine.

In seventh grade, Michael and I
were just horsing around
when I pushed him up against that window
and we both fell through—
astonished, then afraid. Years later

his father’s heart attack
could have hit at any time,
but the day it did they’d quarreled,
and before Michael walked out
to keep his fury alive, or feel sorry for himself,
he turned and yelled, I wish you were dead!

We weren’t in touch. They’d moved away.
And I’ve forgotten who told me
the story, how ironic it was meant
to sound, or how terrible.

We could have burned down the house.
We could have been killed going through
that window. But each of us
deserves, in a reasonable life,
at least a dozen times when death
doesn’t take us. At the last minute

the driver of the car coming toward us
fights off sleep and stays in his lane.
He makes it home, we make it home.
Most days are like this. You yell
at your father and later you say
you didn’t mean it. And he says, I know.

You look into your own eyes in a mirror
and that’s all you can see.
Until you notice the window
behind you, sunlight on the leaves
of the oak, and then the sky,
and then the clouds passing through it.

adlestrop :: edward thomas

Yes, I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

From Poetry Daily: Thomas was indeed on a train that made an unscheduled stop at Adlestrop (now, although the train station is gone, there’s a sign that says “Adlestrop” and a bus stop waiting bench and a plaque with the poem on it there). He took notes of what he experienced looking out the train window. A few of the images from these notes got imported into the poem. He was on his way to see his good friend, Robert Frost.

twenty-eight :: amy fleury

It seems I get by on more luck than sense,
not the kind brought on by knuckle to wood,
breath on dice, or pennies found in the mud.
I shimmy and slip by on pure fool chance.
At turns charmed and cursed, a girl knows romance
as coffee, red wine, and books; solitude
she counts as daylight virtue and muted
evenings, the inventory of absence.
But this is no sorry spinster story,
just the way days string together a life.
Sometimes I eat soup right out of the pan.
Sometimes I don’t care if I will marry.
I dance in my kitchen on Friday nights,
singing like only a lucky girl can.

domestic :: carl phillips

If, when studying road atlases
while taking, as you call it, your
morning dump, you shout down to
me names like Miami City, Franconia,
Cancún, as places for you to take
me to from here, can I help it if

all I can think is things that are
stupid, like he loves me he loves me
not? I don’t think so. No more
than, some mornings, waking to your
hands around me, and remembering
these are the fingers, the hands I’ve

over and over given myself to, I can
stop myself from wondering does that
mean they’re the same I’ll grow
old with. Yesterday, in the café I
keep meaning to show you, I thought
this is how I’ll die maybe, alone,

somewhere too far away from wherever
you are then, my heart racing from
espresso and too many cigarettes,
my head down on the table’s cool
marble, and the ceiling fan turning
slowly above me, like fortune, the

part of fortune that’s half-wished-
for only—it did not seem the worst
way. I thought this is another of
those things I’m always forgetting
to tell you, or don’t choose to
tell you, or I tell you but only

in the same way, each morning, I
keep myself from saying too loud I
love you until the moment you flush
the toilet, then I say it, when the
rumble of water running down through
the house could mean anything: flood,

your feet descending the stairs any
moment; any moment the whole world,
all I want of the world, coming down.

strangers :: annie finch

She turned to gold and fell in love.
She danced life upside down.

She opened her wild eyes again
and asked some strangers in.

The strangers felt her in and out.
They found her outsides thin.

Since her heart was still and hard,
they knocked her insides in.

mele ku-pe’e :: unknown

Aala kupukupu ka uka o Kane-hoa.
E ho-a!
Hoa na lima o ka makani, he Wai-kaloa.
He Wai-kaloa ka makani anu Lihue.
5 Alina lehua i kau ka opua—
Ku’u pua,
Ku’u pua i’ini e ku-i a lei.
Ina ia oe ke lei ’a mai la.

Fragrant the grasses of high Kane-hoa.
Bind on the anklets, bind!
Bind with finger deft as the wind
That cools the air of this bower.
5 Lehua bloom pales at my flower,
O sweetheart of mine,
Bud that I’d pluck and wear in my wreath,
If thou wert but a flower!

May Day is Lei Day!