let us go then :: ciaran carson

through the trip
wired minefield

hand in hand
eyes for nothing

but ourselves
alone

undaunted by
the traps & pits

of wasted land
until

you stoop
& pluck

a stem
of eyebright

adam’s curse :: william butler yeats

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
                                          And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

in my dreams :: stevie smith

In my dreams I am always saying goodbye and riding away,
Whither and why I know not nor do I care.
And the parting is sweet and the parting over is sweeter,
And sweetest of all is the night and the rushing air.

In my dreams they are always waving their hands and saying goodbye,
And they give me the stirrup cup and I smile as I drink,
I am glad the journey is set, I am glad I am going,
I am glad, I am glad, that my friends don’t know what I think.

holy shit :: peter pereira

It used to be more private—just the
immediate family gathered after mass,
the baptismal font at the rear
of the church tiny as a bird bath.
The priest would ladle a few teaspoons’
tepid holy water on the bundled baby’s
forehead, make a crack about the halo
being too tight as the new soul wailed.
We’d go home to pancakes and eggs.

These days it’s a big Holy-wood production—
midmass, the giant altar rolls back to reveal
a Jacuzzi tub surrounded by potted palms.
The priest hikes up his chasuble, steps
barefoot out of his black leather loafers
and wades in like a newfangled John as
organ music swells and the baby-bearing families
line up like jumbo jets ready for takeoff.

But when the godparents handed my niece’s newborn
naked to their parish priest, and he dunked her
into the Jacuzzi’s bath-warm holy water,
her little one grew so calm and blissful she
pooped—not a smelly three-days’ worth, explosive
diaper load, but enough to notice. As the godparents
scooped the turds with a handkerchief,
the savvy priest pretended he hadn’t seen,
swept through the fouled water with his palm
before the next baby in line was submerged.

After mass, my niece sat speechless,
red-faced, not knowing what to say—
or whether—as church ladies, friends, and
family members presented one by one to
the tub where the babies had been
baptized. As they knelt and bowed
and dipped their fingers in,
and blessed themselves.

Hear the reading at Poetry Foundation

silt :: alex lemon

After Charles Baxter

In the dark, I count fingers,
Watch lightning spider
Over the mountain’s toothy peaks.
All the while, the cupola grows
Cloudy with accidents—
Dark blossoms sticky and wet,
Clinging shadowy with reincarnation.
Yesterday eight and now, eleven,
Memories distilled, frayed.
The neck-breaking spiral
Of this morning’s junco
Landing on a gnarled fence,
A surgeon’s fingers tapping
His way through afternoon sleep,
Breaking a heart into ballet
Or the several postures of pain
A body makes falling unconscious
In the bathroom while violins roar
On a television straining with blue
Light. The fatigue of healing
Interrupted by the susurrus
Of an empty shower. An ear, blood-
Smeared cheek and bit lip—
A sterile, sweating tiled floor.

hug :: ron padgett

The older I get, the more I like hugging, When I was little the
people hugging me were much larger. In their grasp I was a rag
doll. In adolescence, my body was too tense to relax for a hug.
Later, after the loss of virginity—which was anything but a
loss—the extreme proximity of the other person, the smell of
hair, the warmth of the skin, the sound of breathing in the
dark—these were mysterious and delectable. This hug had
two primary components: the anticipation of sex and the plea-
sure of intimacy, which itself is a combination of trust and
affection. It was this latter combination that came to character-
ize the hugging I have experienced only in recent years, a hug-
ging that knows no distinctions of gender or age. When this
kind of hug is mutual, for a moment the world is perfect the
way it is, and the tears we shed for it are perfect too. I guess it
is an embrace.