those who wake :: gregory orr

Those who wake in the middle
Of the night read a different book.
For one thing, the world’s all dark
Around them, as if it disappeared.
The poems they read are anxious,
As if they feared the world
Might not return next morning
Or if it did might bring them
Sorrow or bad news. More sorrow.
More bad news.
                        A little light.
On the book’s white pages
While they read for an hour:
Pages lit up like a sail at dawn.

The boat alone on the sea
But the wind steady, pulling them along.

a slice of wedding cake :: robert graves

Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
      Married impossible men?
Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
      And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.

Repeat ‘impossible men’: not merely rustic,
      Foul-tempered or depraved
(Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
      How well women behave, and always have behaved).

Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
      Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
For whose appearance even in City parks
      Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.

Has God’s supply of tolerable husbands
      Fallen, in fact, so low?
Or do I always over-value woman
      At the expense of man?
                                Do I?
                                    It might be so.

Courtesy Writer’s Almanac

road tar :: chase twichell

A kid said you could chew road tar
if you got it before it cooled,
black globule with a just-forming skin.
He said it was better than cigarettes.
He said he had a taste for it.

On the same road, a squirrel
was doing the Watusi to free itself
from its crushed hindquarters.
A man on a bicycle stomped on its head,
then wiped his shoe on the grass.

It was autumn, the adult word for fall.
In school we saw a film called Reproduction.
The little snake-father poked his head
into the slippery future,
and a girl with a burned tongue was conceived.

cozy apologia :: rita dove

          For Fred

I could pick anything and think of you—
This lamp, the wind-still rain, the glossy blue
My pen exudes, drying matte, upon the page.
I could choose any hero, any cause or age
And, sure as shooting arrows to the heart,
Astride a dappled mare, legs braced as far apart
As standing in silver stirrups will allow—
There you’ll be, with furrowed brow
And chain mail glinting, to set me free:
One eye smiling, the other firm upon the enemy.

This post-postmodern age is all business: compact disks
And faxes, a do-it-now-and-take-no-risks
Event. Today a hurricane is nudging up the coast,
Oddly male: Big Bad Floyd, who brings a host
Of daydreams: awkward reminiscences
Of teenage crushes on worthless boys
Whose only talent was to kiss you senseless.
They all had sissy names—Marcel, Percy, Dewey;
Were thin as licorice and as chewy,
Sweet with a dark and hollow center. Floyd’s

Cussing up a storm. You’re bunkered in your
Aerie, I’m perched in mine
(Twin desks, computers, hardwood floors):
We’re content, but fall short of the Divine.
Still, it’s embarrassing, this happiness—
Who’s satisfied simply with what’s good for us,
When has the ordinary ever been news?
And yet, because nothing else will do
To keep me from melancholy (call it blues),
I fill this stolen time with you.

signal :: mark doty

LOST COCKATIEL, cried the sign, hand-lettered,
taped to the side of a building: last seen on 16th

between Fifth and Sixth, gray body, orange cheek patches,
yellow head. Name: Omar. Somebody’s dear, I guess,

though how do you lose a cockatiel on 16th Street?
Flown from a ledge, into the sky he’s eyed

for months or years, into the high limbs of the ginkgos,
suddenly free? I’m looking everywhere in the rustling

globes and spires shot through with yellow,
streaking at the edges, for any tropic flash of him. Why

should I think I’d see him, in the vast flap this city is?
Why wander Chelsea when that boy could be up and gone,

winging his way to Babylon or Oyster Bay,
drawn to some magnet of green. Sense to go south?

Not likely; Omar’s known the apartment and the cage,
picked his seeds from a cup, his fruits and nuts from the hand

that anchored him — and now he’s launched, unfindable,
no one’s baby anymore but one bit…

Think of the great banks of wires and switches
in the telephone exchange, every voice and signal

a little flicker lighting up — that’s Omar now,
impulse in the propulsive flow. Who’ll ever know?

Then this morning we’re all in the private commuter blur
when a guy walks into the subway car whistling,

doing birdcalls: he’s decked in orange and lime,
a flag pluming his baseball cap; he’s holding out a paper cup

while he shifts from trills to caws. Not much of a talent,
I think, though I like his shameless attempt at charm,

and everybody’s smiling covertly, not particularly tempted
to give him money. Though one man reaches into his pocket

and starts to drop some change into the cup,
and our Papageno says, “That’s my coffee, man,

but thanks, God bless you anyway,”
and lurches whistling out the door.

the schooner “flight” :: derek walcott

1 Adios, Carenage

In idle August, while the sea soft,
and leaves of brown islands stick to the rim
of this Caribbean, I blow out the light
by the dreamless face of Maria Concepcion
to ship as a seaman on the schooner Flight.
Out in the yard turning gray in the dawn,
I stood like a stone and nothing else move
but the cold sea rippling like galvanize
and the nail holes of stars in the sky roof,
till a wind start to interfere with the trees.
I pass me dry neighbor sweeping she yard
as I went downhill, and I nearly said:
“Sweep soft, you witch, ’cause she don’t sleep hard,”
but the bitch look through me like I was dead.
A route taxi pull up, park-lights still on.
The driver size up my bags with a grin:
“This time, Shabine, like you really gone!”
I ain’t answer the ass, I simply pile in
the back seat and watch the sky burn
above Laventille pink as the gown
in which the woman I left was sleeping,
and I look in the rearview and see a man
exactly like me, and the man was weeping
for the houses, the streets, that whole fucking island.

Christ have mercy on all sleeping things!
From that dog rotting down Wrightson Road
to when I was a dog on these streets;
if loving these islands must be my load,
out of corruption my soul takes wings.
But they had started to poison my soul
with their big house, big car, big-time bohbohl,
coolie, nigger, Syrian, and French Creole,
so I leave it for them and their carnival–
I taking a sea bath, I gone down the road.
I know these islands from Monos to Nassau,
a rusty head sailor with sea-green eyes
that they nickname Shabine, the patois for
any red nigger, and I, Shabine, saw
when these slums of empire was paradise.
I’m just a red nigger who love the sea,
I had a sound colonial education,
I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
and either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation,

But Maria Concepcion was all my thought
watching the sea heaving up and down
as the port side of dories, schooners, and yachts
was painted afresh by the strokes of the sun
signing her name with every reflection;
I knew when dark-haired evening put on
her bright silk at sunset, and, folding the sea,
sidled under the sheet with her starry laugh,
that there’d be no rest, there’d be no forgetting.
Is like telling mourners round the graveside
about resurrection, they want the dead back,
so I smile to myself as the bow rope untied
and the Flight swing seaward: “Is no use repeating
that the sea have more fish. I ain’t want her
dressed in the sexless light of a seraph,
I want those round brown eyes like a marmoset, and
till the day when I can lean back and laugh,
those claws that tickled my back on sweating
Sunday afternoons, like a crab on wet sand.”
As I worked, watching the rotting waves come
past the bow that scissor the sea like silk,
I swear to you all, by my mother’s milk,
by the stars that shall fly from tonight’s furnace,
that I loved them, my children, my wife, my home;
I loved them as poets love the poetry
that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea.

You ever look up from some lonely beach
and see a far schooner? Well, when I write
this poem, each phrase go be soaked in salt;
I go draw and knot every line as tight
as ropes in this rigging; in simple speech
my common language go be the wind,
my pages the sails of the schooner Flight.
But let me tell you how this business begin.

2 Raptures of the Deep

Smuggled Scotch for O’Hara, big government man,
between Cedros and the Main, so the Coast Guard couldn’t touch us,
and the Spanish pirogues always met us halfway,
but a voice kept saying: “Shabine, see this business
of playing pirate?” Well, so said, so done!
That whole racket crash. And I for a woman,
for her laces and silks, Maria Concepcion.
Ay, ay! Next thing I hear, some Commission of Inquiry
was being organized to conduct a big quiz,
with himself as chairman investigating himself.
Well, I knew damn well who the suckers would be,
not that shark in shark skin, but his pilot fish,
khaki-pants red niggers like you and me.
What worse, I fighting with Maria Concepcion,
plates flying and thing, so I swear: “Not again!”
It was mashing up my house and my family.
I was so broke all I needed was shades and a cup
or four shades and four cups in four-cup Port of Spain;
all the silver I had was the coins on the sea.

You saw them ministers in The Express,
guardians of the poor–one hand at their back,
and one set o’ police only guarding their house,
and the Scotch pouring in through the back door.
As for that minister-monster who smuggled the booze,
that half-Syrian saurian, I got so vex to see
that face thick with powder, the warts, the stone lids
like a dinosaur caked with primordial ooze
by the lightning of flashbulbs sinking in wealth,
that I said: “Shabine, this is shit, understand!”
But he get somebody to kick my crutch out his office
like I was some artist! That bitch was so grand,
couldn’t get off his high horse and kick me himself.
I have seen things that would make a slave sick
in this Trinidad, the Limers’ Republic.

I couldn’t shake the sea noise out of my head,
the shell of my ears sang Maria Concepcion,
so I start salvage diving with a crazy Mick,
name O’Shaugnessy, and a limey named Head;
but this Caribbean so choke with the dead
that when I would melt in emerald water,
whose ceiling rippled like a silk tent,
I saw them corals: brain, fire, sea fans,
dead-men’s-fingers, and then, the dead men.
I saw that the powdery sand was their bones
ground white from Senegal to San Salvador,
so, I panic third dive, and surface for a month
in the Seamen’s Hostel. Fish broth and sermons.
When I thought of the woe I had brought my wife,
when I saw my worries with that other woman,
I wept under water, salt seeking salt,
for her beauty had fallen on me like a sword
cleaving me from my children, flesh of my flesh!

There was this barge from St. Vincent, but she was too deep
to float her again. When we drank, the limey
got tired of my sobbing for Maria Concepcion.
He said he was getting the bends. Good for him!
The pain in my heart for Maria Concepcion,
the hurt I had done to my wife and children,
was worse than the bends. In the rapturous deep
there was no cleft rock where my soul could hide
like the boobies each sunset, no sandbar of light
where I could rest, like the pelicans know,
so I got raptures once, and I saw God
like a harpooned grouper bleeding, and a far
voice was rumbling, “Shabine, if you leave her,
if you leave her, I shall give you the morning star.”
When I left the madhouse I tried other women
but, once they stripped naked, their spiky cunts
bristled like sea eggs and I couldn’t dive.
The chaplain came round. I paid him no mind.
Where is my rest place, Jesus? Where is my harbor?
Where is the pillow I will not have to pay for,
and the window I can look from that frames my life?

3 Shabine Leaves the Republic

I had no nation now but the imagination.
After the white man, the niggers didn’t want me
when the power swing to their side.
The first chain my hands and apologize, “History”;
the next said I wasn’t black enough for their pride.
Tell me, what power, on these unknown rocks–
a spray-plane Air Force, the Fire Brigade,
the Red Cross, the Regiment, two, three police dogs
that pass before you finish bawling “Parade!”?
I met History once, but he ain’t recognize me,
a parchment Creole, with warts
like an old sea bottle, crawling like a crab
through the holes of shadow cast by the net
of a grille balcony; cream linen, cream hat.
I confront him and shout, “Sir, is Shabine!
They say I’se your grandson. You remember Grandma,
your black cook, at all?” The bitch hawk and spat.
A spit like that worth any number of words.
But that’s all them bastards have left us: words.

I no longer believed in the revolution.
I was losing faith in the love of my woman.
I had seen that moment Aleksandr Blok
crystallize in The Twelve. Was between
the Police Marine Branch and Hotel Venezuelana
one Sunday at noon. Young men without flags
using shirts, their chests waiting for holes.
They kept marching into the mountains, and
their noise ceased as foam sinks into sand.
They sank in the bright hills like rain, every one
with his own nimbus, leaving shirts in the street,
and the echo of power at the end of the street.
Propeller-blade fans turn over the Senate;
the judges, they say, still sweat in carmine,
on Frederick Street the idlers all marching
by standing still, the Budget turns a new leaf.
In the 12:30 movies the projectors best
not break down, or you go see revolution. Aleksandr Blok
enters and sits in the third row of pit eating choc-
olate cone, waiting for a spaghetti West-
ern with Clint Eastwood and featuring Lee Van Cleef.

4 The Flight, Passing Blanchisseuse

Dusk. The Flight passing Blanchisseuse.
Gulls wheel like from a gun again,
and foam gone amber that was white,
lighthouse and star start making friends,
down every beach the long day ends,
and there, on that last stretch of sand,
on a beach bare of all but light,
dark hands start pulling in the seine
of the dark sea, deep, deep inland.

5 Shabine Encounters the Middle Passage

Man, I brisk in the galley first thing next dawn,
brewing li’l coffee; fog coil from the sea
like the kettle steaming when I put it down
slow, slow, ’cause I couldn’t believe what I see:
where the horizon was one silver haze,
the fog swirl and swell into sails, so close
that I saw it was sails, my hair grip my skull,
it was horrors, but it was beautiful.
We float through a rustling forest of ships
with sails dry like paper, behind the glass
I saw men with rusty eyeholes like cannons,
and whenever their half-naked crews cross the sun,
right through their tissue, you traced their bones
like leaves against the sunlight; frigates, barkentines,
the backward-moving current swept them on,
and high on their decks I saw great admirals,
Rodney, Nelson, de Grasse, I heard the hoarse orders
they gave those Shabines, and that forest
of masts sail right through the Flight,
and all you could hear was the ghostly sound
of waves rustling like grass in a low wind
and the hissing weeds they trailed from the stern;
slowly they heaved past from east to west
like this round world was some cranked water wheel,
every ship pouring like a wooden bucket
dredged from the deep; my memory revolve
on all sailors before me, then the sun
heat the horizon’s ring and they was mist.

Next we pass slave ships. Flags of all nations,
our fathers below deck too deep, I suppose,
to hear us shouting. So we stop shouting. Who knows
who his grandfather is, much less his name?
Tomorrow our landfall will be the Barbados.

6 The Sailor Sings Back to the Casuarinas

You see them on the low hills of Barbados
bracing like windbreaks, needles for hurricanes,
trailing, like masts, the cirrus of torn sails;
when I was green like them, I used to think
those cypresses, leaning against the sea,
that take the sea noise up into their branches,
are not real cypresses but casuarinas.
Now captain just call them Canadian cedars.
But cedars, cypresses, or casuarinas,
whoever called them so had a good cause,
watching their bending bodies wail like women
after a storm, when some schooner came home
with news of one more sailor drowned again.
Once the sound “cypress” used to make more sense
than the green “casuarinas,” though, to the wind
whatever grief bent them was all the same,
since they were trees with nothing else in mind
but heavenly leaping or to guard a grave;
but we live like our names and you would have
to be colonial to know the difference,
to know the pain of history words contain,
to love those trees with an inferior love,
and to believe: “Those casuarinas bend
like cypresses, their hair hangs down in rain
like sailors’ wives. They’re classic trees, and we,
if we live like the names our masters please,
by careful mimicry might become men.”

7 The Flight Anchors in Castries Harbor

When the stars self were young over Castries,
I loved you alone and I loved the whole world.
What does it matter that our lives are different?
Burdened with the loves of our different children?
When I think of your young face washed by the wind
and your voice that chuckles in the slap of the sea?
The lights are out on La Toc promontory,
except for the hospital. Across at Vigie
the marina arcs keep vigil. I have kept my own
promise, to leave you the one thing I own,
you whom I loved first: my poetry.
We here for one night. Tomorrow, the Flight will be gone.

8 Fight with the Crew

It had one bitch on board, like he had me mark–
that was the cook, some Vincentian arse
with a skin like a gommier tree, red peeling bark,
and wash-out blue eyes; he wouldn’t give me a ease,
like he feel he was white. Had an exercise book,
this same one here, that I was using to write
my poetry, so one day this man snatch it
from my hand, and start throwing it left and right
to the rest of the crew, bawling out, “Catch it,”
and start mincing me like I was some hen
because of the poems. Some case is for fist,
some case is for tholing pin, some is for knife–
this one was for knife. Well, I beg him first,
but he keep reading, “O my children, my wife,”
and playing he crying, to make the crew laugh;
it move like a flying fish, the silver knife
that catch him right in the plump of his calf,
and he faint so slowly, and he turn more white
than he thought he was. I suppose among men
you need that sort of thing. It ain’t right
but that’s how it is. There wasn’t much pain,
just plenty blood, and Vincie and me best friend,
but none of them go fuck with my poetry again.

9 Maria Concepcion & the Book of Dreams

The jet that was screeching over the Flight
was opening a curtain into the past.
“Dominica ahead!”
                         ”It still have Caribs there.”
“One day go be planes only, no more boat.”
“Vince, God ain’t make nigger to fly through the air.”
“Progress, Shabine, that’s what it’s all about.
Progress leaving all we small islands behind.”
I was at the wheel, Vince sitting next to me
gaffing. Crisp, bracing day. A high-running sea.
“Progress is something to ask Caribs about.
They kill them by millions, some in war,
some by forced labor dying in the mines
looking for silver, after that niggers; more
progress. Until I see definite signs
that mankind change, Vince, I ain’t want to hear.
Progress is history’s dirty joke.
Ask that sad green island getting nearer.”
Green islands, like mangoes pickled in brine.
In such fierce salt let my wound be healed,
me, in my freshness as a seafarer.
That night, with the sky sparks frosty with fire,
I ran like a Carib through Dominica,
my nose holes choked with memory of smoke;
I heard the screams of my burning children,
I ate the brains of mushrooms, the fungi
of devil’s parasols under white, leprous rocks;
my breakfast was leaf mold in leaking forests,
with leaves big as maps, and when I heard noise
of the soldiers’ progress through the thick leaves,
though my heart was bursting, I get up and ran
through the blades of balisier sharper than spears;
with the blood of my race, I ran, boy, I ran
with moss-footed speed like a painted bird;
then I fall, but I fall by an icy stream under
cool fountains of fern, and a screaming parrot
catch the dry branches and I drowned at last
in big breakers of smoke; then when that ocean
of black smoke pass, and the sky turn white,
there was nothing but Progress, if Progress is
an iguana as still as a young leaf in sunlight.
I bawl for Maria, and her Book of Dreams.

It anchored her sleep, that insomniac’s Bible,
a soiled orange booklet with a cyclop’s eye
center, from the Dominican Republic.
Its coarse pages were black with the usual
symbols of prophecy, in excited Spanish;
an open palm upright, sectioned and numbered
like a butcher chart, delivered the future.
One night; in a fever, radiantly ill,
she say, “Bring me the book, the end has come.”
She said: “I dreamt of whales and a storm,”
but for that dream, the book had no answer.
A next night I dreamed of three old women
featureless as silkworms, stitching my fate,
and I scream at them to come out my house,
and I try beating them away with a broom,
but as they go out, so they crawl back again,
until I start screaming and crying, my flesh
raining with sweat, and she ravage the book
for the dream meaning, and there was nothing;
my nerves melt like a jellyfish—that was when I broke—
they found me round the Savannah, screaming:

All you see me talking to the wind, so you think I mad.
Well, Shabine has bridled the horses of the sea;
you see me watching the sun till my eyeballs seared,
so all you mad people feel Shabine crazy,
but all you ain’t know my strength, hear? The coconuts
standing by in their regiments in yellow khaki,
they waiting for Shabine to take over these islands,
and all you best dread the day I am healed
of being a human. All you fate in my hand,
ministers, businessmen, Shabine have you, friend,
I shall scatter your lives like a handful of sand,
I who have no weapon but poetry and
the lances of palms and the sea’s shining shield!

10 Out of the Depths

Next day, dark sea. A arse-aching dawn.
“Damn wind shift sudden as a woman mind.”
The slow swell start cresting like some mountain range
with snow on the top.
                               “Ay, Skipper, sky dark!”
“This ain’t right for August.”
                                  “This light damn strange,
this season, sky should be clear as a field.”

A stingray steeplechase across the sea,
tail whipping water, the high man-o’-wars
start reeling inland, quick, quick an archery
of flying fish miss us! Vince say: “You notice?”
and a black-mane squall pounce on the sail
like a dog on a pigeon, and it snap the neck
of the Flight and shake it from head to tail.
“Be Jesus, I never see sea get so rough
so fast! That wind come from God back pocket!”
“Where Cap’n headin? Like the man gone blind!”
“If we’s to drong, we go drong, Vince, fock-it!”
“Shabine, say your prayers, if life leave you any!”

I have not loved those that I loved enough.
Worse than the mule kick of Kick-‘Em-Jenny
Channel, rain start to pelt the Flight between
mountains of water. If I was frighten?
The tent poles of water spouts bracing the sky
start wobbling, clouds unstitch at the seams
and sky water drench us, and I hear myself cry,
“I’m the drowned sailor in her Book of Dreams.”
I remembered them ghost ships, I saw me corkscrewing
to the sea bed of sea worms, fathom pass fathom,
my jaw clench like a fist, and only one thing
hold me, trembling, how my family safe home.
Then a strength like it seize me and the strength said:
“I from backward people who still fear God.”
Let Him, in His might, heave Leviathan upward
by the winch of His will, the beast pouring lace
from his sea-bottom bed; and that was the faith
that had fade from a child in the Methodist chapel
in Chisel Street, Castries, when the whale-bell
sang service and, in hard pews ribbed like the whale,
proud with despair, we sang how our race
survive the sea’s maw, our history, our peril,
and now I was ready for whatever death will.
But if that storm had strength, was in Cap’n face,
beard beading with spray, tears salting his eyes,
crucify to his post, that nigger hold fast
to that wheel, man, like the cross held Jesus,
and the wounds of his eyes like they crying for us,
and I feeding him white rum, while every crest
with Leviathan-lash make the Flight quail
like two criminal. Whole night, with no rest,
till red-eyed like dawn, we watch our travail
subsiding, subside, and there was no more storm.
And the noon sea get calm as Thy Kingdom come.

11 After the Storm

There’s a fresh light that follows a storm
while the whole sea still havoc; in its bright wake
I saw the veiled face of Maria Concepcion
marrying the ocean, then drifting away
in the widening lace of her bridal train
with white gulls her bridesmaids, till she was gone.
I wanted nothing after that day.
Across my own face, like the face of the sun,
a light rain was falling, with the sea calm.

Fall gently, rain, on the sea’s upturned face
like a girl showering; make these islands fresh
as Shabine once knew them! Let every trace,
every hot road, smell like clothes she just press
and sprinkle with drizzle. I finish dream;
whatever the rain wash and the sun iron:
the white clouds, the sea and sky with one seam,
is clothes enough for my nakedness.
Though my Flight never pass the incoming tide
of this inland sea beyond the loud reefs
of the final Bahamas, I am satisfied
if my hand gave voice to one people’s grief.
Open the map. More islands there, man,
than peas on a tin plate, all different size,
one thousand in the Bahamas alone,
from mountains to low scrub with coral keys,
and from this bowsprit, I bless every town,
the blue smell of smoke in hills behind them,
and the one small road winding down them like twine
to the roofs below; I have only one theme:

The bowsprit, the arrow, the longing, the lunging heart–
the flight to a target whose aim we’ll never know
vain search for one island that heals with its harbor
and a guiltless horizon, where the almond’s shadow
doesn’t injure the sand. There are so many islands!
As many islands as the stars at night
on that branched tree from which meteors are shaken
like falling fruit around the schooner Flight.
But things must fall, and so it always was,
on one hand Venus, on the other Mars;
fall, and are one, just as this earth is one
island in archipelagoes of stars.
My first friend was the sea. Now, is my last.
I stop talking now. I work, then I read,
cotching under a lantern hooked to the mast.
I try to forget what happiness was,
and when that don’t work, I study the stars.
Sometimes is just me, and the soft-scissored foam
as the deck turn white and the moon open
a cloud like a door, and the light over me
is a road in white moonlight taking me home.
Shabine sang to you from the depths of the sea.

quick black hole spin-change :: edward sanders

I don’t like it–

two massive Black Holes
each twirling at the core of
                      two merging galaxies

get close enough
to fuse together

then quick as a wink
just as they are melting into a New Black Hole Blob

they undergo something called a “spin-flip”

they change the axes of their spins
and the fused-together Black Hole Blob
gets its own
          quick as a cricket’s foot

Don’t like it at all

And then the new Black Hole Blob sometimes
bounces back and forth inside
                              its merged Galaxy

till it settles at the center
but sometimes a “newly” up-sized Black Hole
leaves its Galaxy
to sail out munchingly on its own
                                 into the Universal It

I don’t like it

Nothing about it
in the Bhagavad Gita
the Book of Revelation
Shakespeare, Sappho, or Allen Ginsberg

safe sex :: donald hall

If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words;

if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other

as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,

no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated

apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge

we live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths :: philip james bailey

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
And he whose heart beats quickest lives the longest:
Lives in one hour more than in years do some
Whose fat blood sleeps as it slips along their veins.
Life’s but a means unto an end; that end,
Beginning, mean, and end to all things—God.
The dead have all the glory of the world.

god went to beauty school :: cynthia rylant

He went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy
about nails
so He opened up His own shop.
“Nails by Jim” He called it.
He was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands–
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds’ wings,
and after He’d done that
awhile,
He could paint all the nails
any color He wanted,
then say,
“Beautiful,”
and mean it.

ecclesiastes :: khaled mattawa

The trick is that you’re willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you’re doing them a favor.

The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.

The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.

The trick is that you’re providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.

The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.

The rule is to make them feel they’ve come too late.
The trick is that you’re willing to make exceptions.

The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.

And when they say “too much,”
give them a plan.

And when they say “anger” or “rage” or “love,”
say “give me an example.”

The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.

The rule is you don’t care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.

another failed poem about the greeks :: sandra beasley

His sword dripped blood. His helmet gleamed.
He dragged a Gorgon’s head behind him.

As first dates go, this was problematic.
He itched and fidgeted. He said Could I

save something for you? But I was all out
of maidens bound to rocks. So I took him

on a roller coaster, wedging in next to
his breastplated body in the little car.

He put his arm around me, as the Greeks do.
On the first dip he laughed. On the first drop

he clutched my shoulder and screamed like
a catamite. When we ratcheted to a full stop

he said Again. We went on the Scrambler,
the Apple Turnover, the Log Flume.

We went on the Pirate Ship three times,
swooshing forward, back, upside down,

and he cried Aera!, waving his sword,
until the operator asked him to please keep

all swords inside the car. He was a good sport,
letting the drachmas fall out of his pockets;

sparing the girl who spilled punch on his shield;
waving as I rode the Carousel’s hippogriff

though it was a slow ride, and I made him
hold my purse. On the way home

he said We should do this again sometime,
though we both knew it would never happen

since he was Greek, of course, and dead,
and somewhere a maiden rattled her chains.

fifteen :: leslie monsour

The boys who fled my father’s house in fear
Of what his wrath would cost them if he found
Them nibbling slowly at his daughter’s ear,
Would vanish out the back without a sound,
And glide just like the shadow of a crow,
To wait beside the elm tree in the snow.
Something quite deadly rumbled in his voice.
He sniffed the air as if he knew the scent
Of teenage boys, and asked, “What was that noise?”
Then I’d pretend to not know what he meant,
Stand mutely by, my heart immense with dread,
As Father set the traps and went to bed.

note: my parents cut this out from a newspaper during college and mailed it to me…

the love cook :: ron padgett

Let me cook you some dinner.
Sit down and take off your shoes
and socks and in fact the rest
of your clothes, have a daiquiri,
turn on some music and dance
around the house, inside and out,
it’s night and the neighbors
are sleeping, those dolts, and
the stars are shining bright,
and I’ve got the burners lit
for you, you hungry thing.

mother and child :: louise glück

We’re all dreamers; we don’t know who we are.

Some machine made us; machine of the world, the constricting family.
Then back to the world, polished by soft whips.

We dream; we don’t remember.

Machine of the family: dark fur, forests of the mother’s body.
Machine of the mother: white city inside her.

And before that: earth and water.
Moss between rocks, pieces of leaves and grass.

And before, cells in a great darkness.
And before that, the veiled world.

This is why you were born: to silence me.
Cells of my mother and father, it is your turn
to be pivotal, to be the masterpiece.

I improvised; I never remembered.
Now it’s your turn to be driven;
you’re the one who demands to know:

Why do I suffer? Why am I ignorant?
Cells in a great darkness. Some machine made us;
it is your turn to address it, to go back asking
what am I for? What am I for?

butter :: andrea cohen

I’ve never seen the land
of milk and honey, but at

the Iowa State Fair I glimpsed
a cow fashioned of butter.

It lived behind a window
in an icy room, beneath klieg lights.

I filed past as one files
past a casket at a wake.

It was that sad: a butter cow
without a butter calf. Nearby I spied

a butter motorcycle, motorcycle-
sized, a mechanical afterthought

I thought the cow might have liked to ride.
You don’t drive a motorcycle; you ride it.

But not if you’re a butter cow, not
if you’re a butter cow who’s seen, if

not the land of milk and honey, the land
of milk, and dwelled within it.

It had a short life span, the butter cow.
Before it died, I looked

deep into its butter eyes. It saw
my butter soul. I could

have wept, or spread myself,
for nobody, across dry toast.

son of fog :: dean young

When the fog burns off and the air’s pulverized
diamonds and you can see beyond the islands
of forever!—far too dramatic for me. It hurts
something behind my eyes near the sphenoid,
not good. I prefer fog with fog behind it,
uninflammable fog. Then there’s no competition
for brightness, no Byron for your Shelley,
no Juno eclisping your Athena, no big bridge
statement about bringing unity to landmasses.
All the thought balloons are blank. The marching
band can’t practice, even a bird’s got to get
within five feet before it can start an argument.
Like dead flies on the sill of an abandoned
nursery, we too are seeds in the rattle
of mortality. A foglike baby god
picks it up, shakes it, laughs insanely
then goes back to playing with her feet.
I have felt awful cold and lonely and fog
has been blotting paper to my tears.
My dog is fog and I don’t have to scoop
its poop with my hand in a plastic bag.
There are sensations that begin in the world,
the mind responding with ideas but then
those ideas cause other sensations.
What a mess. We stand at the edge
of a drop that doesn’t answer back,
fog our only friend although it’s hell
on shrimpboats. There, there, says the fog.
Where, where? You can’t see a thing.

untitled :: chŏng ch’ŏi

translated by Richard Rutt

The Great String of the Black Lute sounds
                       as I move the goosefoot along,
Like water that was icebound
                       bursting booming into the stream.
Now I hear raindrops falling on lotus leaves:
                       are they trying to match this music?

june :: chris lott

It’s hard to imagine that
in just a few months it
will be 45 degrees below zero
and my breath will freeze
and fall to the ground with
the sound of distant surf.
Now, a hidden bird sings
a sighing, dog-like whine
from the trees and the bees,
who will live only a few days,
move from flower to flower
touching them like thoughts.
If they could, they would each ask
me how I’ve survived so long and
and what it’s like to expect so much.

via Cosmopoetica

consolation :: chungmi kim

I emptied my brain
laid out
and baked in the Hawaiian sun.

Drenched in sweat
hypnotized by the sound of waves
and the winds
I knew where I stood
for the first time in years.

I threw the sordid words in the ocean
letting them drift away
to be eaten up by fish.

The fattened fish will return
in my dream to build
a seven story paradise where

all my people will have a feast
so unforgettable–
Even the frogs will learn
to laugh at a picnic.

Then I will pass by
the open doors of certain names
with a radiant smile

not cursing
but blessing them all
genuinely like a goddess.

affirmation :: donald hall

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.

time to shut up :: gregory orr

Time to shut up.
Voltaire said the secret
Of being boring
Is to say everything.

And yet I held
Back about love
All those years:
Talking about death
Insistently, even
As I was alive;
Talking about loss
As if all was loss,
As if the world
Did not return
Each morning.
As if the beloved
Didn’t long for us.

No wonder I go on
So. I go on so
Because of the wonder.

i have news for you :: tony hoagland

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don’t interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don’t walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others’ emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
                   unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
                          have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

poem with a hippo in it :: jason koo

Are you an idea? Or are you everything?
Love, I know I fall short of everything.
On the checklist of everything, I do not
include a country club membership,
soccer memorabilia, or the all-important
Caucasian Executive punch card.
I do come equipped with golf clubs
and a tee, but am missing the genteel spikes
and sticky left-hand glove that cinch
the look favored in Everything Magazine.
Well, at least you get the magazine, you say,
but it costs me a fortune, arriving
every second of every day as it does.
The subscription has completely
decimated my pile of spare change
(which I was saving for you), not to mention
rendering moot my magazine rack.
Can I offer you this double-handful
of ticket stubs? It comprises a sprawling
autobaseballconcertfilmography
of my past seven years, which isn’t everything,
but that’s better than two. And the years
before, I was in Everything Training,
which is to say, face to face with the Nothing,
who made me do time tables all night
and liked to hit me with a back scratcher.

How could I possibly know
you were coming? In my Morning Workbook,
which consisted entirely of Heidegger
and Emily Dickinson quotes (and which
my master affectionately called
“The Opening of the Pain”), I learned,
after long staring, that everything is an idea,
a coat we’re constantly trying to fill out
which always remains huge.
Darling, believe me, I’ve been applying
myself, I’ve been working out
with Kierkegaard, Emerson, Nietzsche,
all the heavy lifters, but look, I’m barely bigger
than you, I haven’t gained five pounds
since high school. The Brain is wider than the Sky,
but the sky is just a thin blue slice
of everything. The sky does not include
porpoises, hippos, and small pouches of candy,
for instance. Have you seen a hippo swim
up close? They’re horrible, ugly, and magnificent.
Hard to believe you can live without them
after that. Have I asked you, even once, are you
everything? I love what’s less

about you, your limitations, your smooth body
running under my hand only is
because it stops

at shoulder, elbow, nipple. Imagine
your body expanding to house the Antarctic Ocean,
all its seals, penguins, chunks of ice,
foundered ships and thermal-underweared explorers…
Sublime, a test of my endurance, surely,
but frigid. I want a coat that fits

as I boot my way against the polar blasts.
The coat may fail me, I the coat,
but we’re more than less than everything
together, we go further, and in the end,
gain a greater idea of our limitless capacity,

see that failure, too, is a part of everything.

cat’s dream :: pablo neruda

translated by alastair reid

How neatly a cat sleeps,
sleeps with its paws and its posture,
sleeps with its wicked claws,
and with its unfeeling blood,
sleeps with all the rings–
a series of burnt circles–
which have formed the odd geology
of its sand-colored tail.

I should like to sleep like a cat,
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams.

I have seen how the cat asleep
would undulate, how the night
flowed through it like dark water;
and at times, it was going to fall
or possibly plunge into
the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
like a tiger’s great-grandfather,
and would leap in the darkness over
rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.

Sleep, sleep cat of the night,
with episcopal ceremony
and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams;
control the obscurity
of our slumbering prowess
with your relentless heart
and the great ruff of your tail.