i’ve always enjoyed her sense of humor :: gerald locklin

She’s an old friend
And I don’t see her very often,
But she has a way of turning up
When I’m talking to a girl I’ve just met,

And she will invariably storm up to us
And confront me with, “where is the child support check?!”

Then turn on her heel and storm from the room,
Leaving me to make inadequate explanations.

invitation to a ghost :: donald justice

I ask you to come back now as you were in youth,
Confident, eager, and the silver brushed from your temples.
Let it be as though a man could go backwards through death,
Erasing the years that did not much count,
Or that added up perhaps to no more than a single brilliant forenoon.

Sit with us. Let it be as it was in those days
When alcohol brought our tongues the first sweet foretaste of oblivion
And what should we speak of but verse? For who would speak of
      such things now but among friends?
(A bad line, an atrocious line, could make you wince: we have all
      seen it.)

I see you turn again toward the cold and battering sea.
Gull shadows darken the skylight; a wind keens among the chimney
      pots;
Your hand trembles a little.
                                                What year was that?

Correct me if I remember it badly,
But was there not a dream, sweet but also terrible,
In which Eurydice, strangely, preceded you?
And you followed, knowing exactly what to expect, and of course she
      did turn.

Come back now and help me with these verses.
Whisper to me some beautiful secret that you remember from life.

do not go gentle into that good night :: dylan thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

looking at the sea :: pamela kircher

      Stiff tone of death
      in every wave
      what more can wave have
      save perhaps a little love

            Marsden Hartley

Not in anger does the sea
fold to the source of its gray waves
the tired boy; not in hatred
does it choke him.

Before and afterwards a weight
breaks each wave, but not remorse

nor does forgiveness move the tides
to coax the shriveled kelp and barnacles,
the stinking whelks to trust
the sea’s embrace again.

We who travel with our feelings
can’t believe the sea responds mechanically
to the earth’s rotation or the moon
giving up another sliver every night.

White edging on the waves leads the eye
from horizon into shore, from rocks
to a plume of spray dissolving into blue
oblivion,

abandonment,
convincing evidence
that prior to this breath
we were protected;

just yesterday
seagulls sang like doves.

good night :: wilhelm müller

I came as a stranger; as a stranger now I leave. The flowers of May once
welcomed me warmly; a young girl spoke of love, her mother even of marriage.
Now all is bleak–the pathway covered with snow.
The time of departure is not mine to choose; I must find my way alone in
this darkness. With the shadow of the moon at my side, I search for traces of
wildlife in the white snow.
Why should I linger and give them reason to send me away? Let stray hounds
howl outside their master’s house. Love likes to wander from one to another,
as if God willed it so. My darling, farewell.
A quiet step, a careful shutting of the door so your sleep is not disturbed,
and two words written on the gate as I leave, “Good night,” to let you know I
thought of you.

the nose on your face :: susan browne

In all your life, you will never see your actual face.
If you close one eye, you can gaze
at the side of your nose, but that’s it.
Is that why when looking at group photographs,
it’s yourself you stare at the longest?
Sometimes you’re mistaken for someone else,
And you want to meet her, see for yourself yourself,
but even if you met a gang of doppelgangers,
you will continue searching in hubcaps, sauce pans,
toasters, the backs of spoons, the bases of lamps,
in sunglasses, in another person’s eyes,
and if that person is standing in just the right light,
there you are, trying to get closer.

Courtesy The Writer’s Almanac

flight :: linda bierds

Osseous, aqueous, cardiac, hepatic—
back from bone the echoes stroke, back
from the halved heart, the lungs
three years of weightlessness have cinched to gills.
From a leather chaise, the astronaut’s withered legs
dangle, as back they come, sounds
a beaked percussion hammer startles into shape.
The physician cocks his head and taps—exactly
as a splitter halves his slate, the metamorphic rock
chisel-shocked, then shocked again, halved

and halved, until a roof appears, black as space.
I’m gaining ground, he says, the astronaut,
who knows, from space, earth is just a blue-green glow,
a pilot light he circled once, lifted, swiftly flown
above the rafters and atmospheres, half himself
and half again some metamorphic click,
extinct as memory. I’m gaining ground,
he says, and back it comes, his glint
of cloud-crossed world: a pilot light
or swaddled leaf, green in the season’s infancy.

tortoise gallantry :: d. h. lawrence

Making his advances
He does not look at her, nor sniff at her,
No, not even sniff at her, his nose is blank.

Only he senses the vulnerable folds of skin
That work beneath her while she sprawls along
In her ungainly pace,
Her folds of skin that work and row
Beneath the earth-soiled hovel in which she moves.

And so he strains beneath her housey walls
And catches her trouser-legs in his beak
Suddenly, or her skinny limb,
And strange and grimly drags at her
Like a dog,
Only agelessly silent, with a reptile’s awful persistency.

Grim, gruesome gallantry, to which he is doomed.
Dragged out of an eternity of silent isolation
And doomed to partiality, partial being,
Ache, and want of being,
Want,
Self-exposure, hard humiliation, need to add himself on to her.

Born to walk alone,
Forerunner,
Now suddenly distracted into this mazy side-track,
This awkward, harrowing pursuit,
This grim necessity from within.

Does she know
As she moves eternally slowly away?
Or is he driven against her with a bang, like a bird flying in the dark against a window,
All knowledgeless?

The awful concussion,
And the still more awful need to persist, to follow, follow, continue,
Driven, after æons of pristine, fore-god-like singleness and oneness,
At the end of some mysterious, red-hot iron,
Driven away from himself into her tracks,
Forced to crash against her.

Stiff, gallant, irascible, crook-legged reptile,
Little gentleman,
Sorry plight,
We ought to look the other way.

Save that, having come with you so far,
We will go on to the end.

duality :: tina chang

Perhaps I hold people to impossible ideals,
I tell them, something is wrong with your
personality
, (you’re a drinker, you’re
too dependent, or I think you have
a mother/son fixation). This is usually
followed by passionate lovemaking,
one good long and very well meaning
embrace, and then I’m out the door.

In daylight, I’ll tip my sunglasses forward,
buy a cup of tea and think of the good
I’ve done for the world, how satisfying
it feels to give a man something to contemplate.
The heart is a whittled twig. No, that is not
the right image, so I drop the heart in a pile
of wood and light that massive text on fire.

I walk the streets of Brooklyn looking
at this storefront and that, buy a pair of shoes
I can’t afford, pumps from London, pointed
at the tip and heartbreakingly high, hear
my new heels clicking, crushing the legs
of my shadow. The woman who wears
these shoes will be a warrior, will not think
about how wrong she is, how her calculations
look like the face of a clock with hands
ticking with each terrorizing minute.

She will for an instant feel so much
for the man, she left him lying in his bed
softly weeping. He whispers something
to himself like bitch, witch, cold hearted
______, but he’ll think back to the day
at the promenade when there was no one there
but the two of them, the entire city falling away
into a thin film of yellow and then black,

and how she squeezed his hand, kissed him
on his wrist which bore a beautifully healed
scar, he will love her between instances
of cursing her name. She will have long
fallen asleep in her own bed, a thin nude
with shoes like stilts, shoes squeezing
the blood out of her feet, and in her sleep
she rises above a disappearing city, her head
touching a remote heaven, though below her,
closer to the ground, she feels an ache at the bottom.

the wheel :: vinda karandikar

Someone is about to come but doesn’t. Is about
to turn on the stairs but doesn’t.
I button my shirt
come from the laundry with all its dazzling blots,
like one’s peculiar fate.
I shut the door, sit quietly.
The fan begins to whirl
and turn the air into a whirlpool of fire,
making a noise bigger than the house.
Someone is about to come and doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter.
Calmly I lean against the wall,
become a wall.
A wounded bird on my shoulder laughs raucously,
laughs at the shoulder it perches on!

My soul of flesh and blood puts a long thread in the needle’s eye.
I stitch a patch on my son’s umbrella.
I pick his nose and name the pickings:
I call one “Elephant” and another “Lion.”
Someone is about to come and doesn’t. Is about
to turn on the stairs and doesn’t.
I tickle my children,
they tickle me in turn; I laugh,
with a will; for I do not feel tickled.
It doesn’t matter.
I scan their fingers for signs:
Nine conches and one wheel.

Note: “Nine conches and one wheel” are formations of lines on the tips of fingers which, in Indian palmistry, foretell a happy life.

from another sky :: pierre reverdy

What shall become of me
I feel myself dying
Help me
Ah Paris…the Pont Neuf
I know this town
Brief pleasures
Brief sorrows
My life
Is it really worth mentioning
Anyone could say the same
And how else to pass the time
I dream of another landscape
A forgotten friend reveals his features
Region of shadows
And pale skies
Native country that returns to me every morning
The journey was a long one
I lost some feathers on the way
And my illusions fell one by one
Still I was then in the midst of springtime
Hardly more than a child
I kept moving on
A clamorous train conveyed me
Little by little I forgot nature
Then the railway station was upon us
We changed cars
And on the station platform no one was waiting
The skeletal dead city
Raises its blast furnaces over there
What shall become of me
Some one touches my forehead with a
     fantastic shadow
A hand
But what I thought I saw is only train smoke
I am alone
Yes all alone

No one has come to take my hand

the wounded cupid. song. :: anacreon

translated by Robert Herrick

Cupid as he lay among
Roses, by a Bee was stung.
Whereupon in anger flying
To his Mother, said thus crying;
Help! O help! your Boy’s a dying.
And why, my pretty Lad, said she?
Then blubbering, replied he,
A winged Snake has bitten me,
Which Country people call a Bee.
At which she smil’d; then with her hairs
And kisses drying up his tears:
Alas! said she, my Wag! if this
Such a pernicious torment is:
Come tell me then, how great’s the smart
Of those, thou woundest with thy Dart!

the lullaby of history :: kevin boyle

The Lullaby of History By Kevin Boyle

I put the bookmark in the page after Lincoln’s
silence during the 1860 campaign, after no one
in the Gulf States cast a single vote for him,
then march off to the car, carseat in tow, drive on
cruise, mainly, to the site in Durham where Sherman
coaxed the Southern general—Johnston—
to submit twice, sign twice. The six hundred thousand
dead were like the shucks inside the reconstructed
bed, the smoke the chimney slewed, the clayish mud.
In the museum, name-tagged women watch our daughter,
four months here, while we investigate the flags
with gunshot holes, the uniforms with gunshot holes,
the shells of the Union Army with three rings, the shells
of the Confederate’s with two. We take our daughter
to the filmstrip, where she sleeps through
the stills of uniformed corpses in ditches and cries
at war’s end, one flag for all these states. We ride,
strapped, to the Greek restaurant known for its sauces
and lamb, stroll inside the tobacco warehouse transformed
into a mall, each glass pane so large a truck
could drive through and pick up brightleaf to ship.
They say this section profited when South met North
and troops took in the smoke of this leaf, spreading
by word of mouth the flavor, until the profits
were so large owners began to donate. In the antique store
we happen upon a map my father might love
of Ireland before division, just as it appeared
when he was born, the north a section, not another country,
Ulster’s counties awash in the orange the mapmakers
stained it. But we can’t commit to buy for this price,
or prevent our daughter from falling asleep as we discuss
facts the map makes clear: battles marked in bold,
our side losing again and again, the Flight of the Earls,
Vinegar Hill, the Battle of the Boyne, and we donate
a moment during the drive home to feel
the weight of the centuries’ dead, almost cry for all
those men who gave their skin to the ground so young,
so young brought their lips to earth and let their mouths
cave in, accept the soil as their voice. We did not wake
our girl through this. Let her sleep, we said.

reading to the blind man :: david shumate

We start with the classics. Homer. Shakespeare. Chaucer. But
he becomes bored and wants to read romances. Stories of
people adrift on the tides of their passion. He is afraid he is
missing more than sight. That there are continents of
emotions he has never explored. As I read, his lips move as if
he now can see the words. As if he were one of those lovers
about to collide. As if it were his hands on her breasts. His
body atop hers. He whispers for me to slow down. It has taken
him this long to get here. He would like to linger now for a
while.

courtesy of The Writer’s Almanac

weather report :: david budbill

The weather is horrible here on Judevine Mountain.
It’s dark and cold all winter. Every day, rain and snow

beat on your head, and the sun never shines. Then
it’s spring and more rain, and ice and mud too. And

after that, the black flies eat you alive, and then the
deerflies, and then the mosquitoes, and then it’s fall

before you even noticed it was summer. Then there
might be a couple of weeks of decent weather and

then it starts to rain and snow again. It’s just awful
living here. I don’t think you’d like it here at all.

You’d better find your own miserable place to live.

Courtesy of The Writer’s Almanac

coming close :: philip levine

Take this quiet woman, she has been
standing before a polishing wheel
for over three hours, and she lacks
twenty minutes before she can take
a lunch break. Is she a woman?
Consider the arms as they press
the long brass tube against the buffer,
they are striated along the triceps,
the three heads of which clearly show.
Consider the fine dusting of dark down
above the upper lip, and the beads
of sweat that run from under the red
kerchief across the brow and are wiped
away with a blackening wrist band
in one odd motion a child might make
to say No! No! You must come closer
to find out, you must hang your tie
and jacket in one of the lockers
in favor of a black smock, you must
be prepared to spend shift after shift
hauling off the metal trays of stock,
bowing first, knees bent for a purchase,
then lifting with a gasp, the first word
of tenderness between the two of you,
then you must bring new trays of dull
unpolished tubes. You must feed her,
as they say in the language of the place.
Make no mistake, the place has a language,
and if by some luck the power were cut,
the wheel slowed to a stop so that you
suddenly saw it was not a solid object
but so many separate bristles forming
in motion a perfect circle, she would turn
to you and say, “Why?” Not the old why
of why must I spend five nights a week?
Just, “Why?” Even if by some magic
you knew, you wouldn’t dare speak
for fear of her laughter, which now
you have anyway as she places the five
tapering fingers of her filthy hand
on the arm of your white shirt to mark
you for your own, now and forever.

the caution :: catherine cockburn

Soft kisses may be innocent;
But ah! too easy maid, beware;
Tho’ that is all thy kindness meant,
’Tis love’s delusive, fatal snare.

No virgin e’er at first design’d
Thro’ all the maze of love to stray;
But each new path allures her mind,
Till wandering on, she lose her way.

’Tis easy ere set out to stay;
But who the useful art can teach,
When sliding down a steepy way,
To stop, before the end we reach?

Keep ever something in thy power,
Beyond what would thy honour stain:
He will not dare to aim at more,
Who for small favours sighs in vain.

doctor frolic :: robert pinsky

Felicity the healer isn’t young
And you don’t look him up unless you need him.
Clown’s eyes, Pope’s nose, a mouth for dirty stories,
He made his bundle in the Great Depression

And now, a jovial immigrant success
In baggy pinstripes, he winks and wheezes gossip,
Village stories that could lift your hair
Or lance a boil; the small town dirt, the dope,

The fishy deals and incestuous combinations,
The husband and the wife of his wife’s brother,
The hospital contract, the certificate …
A realist and hardy omnivore,

He strolls the jetties when the month is right
With a knife and lemons in his pocket, after
Live mussels from among the smelly rocks,
Preventative of impotence and goitre.

And as though the sight of tissue healing crooked
Pleased him, like the ocean’s vaginal taste,
He’ll stitch your thumb up so it shows for life.
And where he once was the only quack in town

We all have heard his half-lame joke, the one
About the operation that succeeded,
The tangy line that keeps that clever eye
So merry in the punchinello face.

doing laundry on sunday :: brigit pegeen kelly

So this is the Sabbath, the stillness
in the garden, magnolia
bells drying damp petticoats

over the porch rail, while bicycle
wheels thrum and the full-breasted tulips
open their pink blouses

for the hands that pressed them first
as bulbs into the earth.
Bread, too, cools on the sill,

and finches scatter bees
by the Shell Station where a boy
in blue denim watches oil

spread in phosphorescent scarves
over the cement. He dips
his brush into a bucket and begins

to scrub, making slow circles
and stopping to splash water on the children
who, hours before it opens,

juggle bean bags outside Gantsy’s
Ice Cream Parlor,
while they wait for color to drench their tongues,

as I wait for water to bloom
behind me—white foam, as of magnolias,
as of green and yellow

birds bathing in leaves—wait,
as always, for the day, like bread, to rise
and, with movement

imperceptible, accomplish everything.

chance meeting :: susan browne

I know him, that man
walking- toward me up the crowded street
of the city, I have lived with him
seven years now, I know his fast stride,
his windy wheatfield hair, his hands thrust
deep in his jacket pockets, hands
that have known my body, touched
its softest part, caused its quick shudders
and slow releasings, I have seen his face
above my face, his mouth smiling, moaning
his eyes closed and opened, I have studied
his eyes, the brown turning gold at the centers,
I have silently watched him lying beside me
in the early morning, I know his loneliness,
like mine, human and sad,
but different, too, his private pain
and pleasure I can never enter even as he comes
closer, past trees and cars, trash and flowers,
steam rising from the manhole covers,
gutters running with rain, he lifts his head,
he sees me, we are strangers again,
and a rending music of desire and loss —
I don’t know him — courses through me,
and we kiss and say, It’s good to see you,
as if we haven’t seen each other in years
when it was just a few hours ago,
and we are shy, then, not knowing
what to say next.

Courtesy The Writer’s Almanac

what the dark angel knows :: eleanor lerman

A man is begging on his knees in the subway. Six-thirty
in the morning and already we are being presented with
moral choices as we rocket along the old rails, through the
old tunnels between Queens and Manhattan. Soon angels
will come crashing through the ceiling, wailing in the voices
of the castrati: Won’t you give this pauper bread or money?
And a monster hurricane is coming: we all heard about it
on the radio at dawn. By nightfall, drowned hogs will be
floating like poisoned soap bubbles on the tributaries
of every Southern river. Children will be orphaned and
the infrastructure of whole cities will be overturned. No one
on the East Coast will be able to make a phone call and we
will be boiling our water for days. And of course there are
the serial killers. And the Crips and the Bloods. And the
arguments about bilingual education. And the fact that all
the clothing made by slave labor overseas is not only the
product of an evil system but maybe worse, never even fits

so why is it that all I can think of (and will think of through
the torrential rains to come and the howling night) is
you, sighing so deeply in the darkness, you and the smell
of you and the windswept curve of your cheek? If this
train ever stops, I will ask that dark-eyed angel, the one
who hasn’t spoken yet. He looks like he might know

difference :: stephen vincent benét

My mind’s a map. A mad sea-captain drew it
Under a flowing moon until he knew it;
Winds with brass trumpets, puffy-cheeked as jugs,
And states bright-patterned like Arabian rugs.
“Here there be tygers.” “Here we buried Jim.”
Here is the strait where eyeless fishes swim
About their buried idol, drowned so cold
He weeps away his eyes in salt and gold.
A country like the dark side of the moon,
A cider-apple country, harsh and boon,
A country savage as a chestnut-rind,
A land of hungry sorcerers.

Your mind?

—Your mind is water through an April night,
A cherry-branch, plume-feathery with its white,
A lavender as fragrant as your words,
A room where Peace and Honor talk like birds,
Sewing bright coins upon the tragic cloth
Of heavy Fate, and Mockery, like a moth,
Flutters and beats about those lovely things.
You are the soul, enchanted with its wings,
The single voice that raises up the dead
To shake the pride of angels.

I have said.

home is so sad :: philip larkin

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

on quitting :: edgar albert guest

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot?
You may talk of pluck; it’s an easy word,
And where’er you go it is often heard;
But can you tell to a jot or guess
Just how much courage you now possess?

You may stand to trouble and keep your grin,
But have you tackled self-discipline?
Have you ever issued commands to you
To quit the things that you like to do,
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed,
Those rigid orders have you obeyed?

Don’t boast of your grit till you’ve tried it out,
Nor prate to men of your courage stout,
For it’s easy enough to retain a grin
In the face of a fight there’s a chance to win,
But the sort of grit that is good to own
Is the stuff you need when you’re all alone.

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?
Have you ever tested yourself to know
How far with yourself your will can go?
If you want to know if you have grit,
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

It’s bully sport and it’s open fight;
It will keep you busy both day and night;
For the toughest kind of a game you’ll find
Is to make your body obey your mind.
And you never will know what is meant by grit
Unless there’s something you’ve tried to quit.

fountains in the sea :: marin sorescu

translated by Seamus Heaney and Ioana Russell-Gebbett

Water: no matter how much, there is still not enough.
Cunning life keeps asking for more and then a drop more.
Our ankles are weighted with lead, we delve under the wave.
We bend to our spades, we survive the force of the gusher.

Our bodies fountain with sweat in the deeps of the sea,
Our forehead aches and holds like a sunken prow.
We are out of breath, divining the heart of the geyser,
Constellations are bobbing like corks above on the swell.

Earth is a waterwheel, the buckets go up and go down,
But to keep the whole aqueous architecture standing its ground
We must make a ring with our bodies and dance out a round
On the dreamt eye of water, the dreamt eye of water, the dreamt eye of water.

Water: no matter how much, there is still not enough.
Come rain, come thunder, come deluged dams washed away,
Our thirst is unquenchable. A cloud in the water’s a siren.
We become two shades, deliquescent, drowning in song.

My love, under the tall sky of hope
Our love and our love alone
Keeps dowsing for water.
Sinking the well of each other, digging together.
Each one the other’s phantom limb in the sea.

moreover, the moon — :: mina loy

Face of the skies
preside
over our wonder.

Fluorescent
truant of heaven
draw us under.

Silver, circular corpse
your decease
infects us with unendurable ease,

touching nerve-terminals
to thermal icicles

Coercive as coma, frail as bloom
innuendoes of your inverse dawn
suffuse the self;
our every corpuscle become an elf.

across a table :: steven cordova

“I’m glad you’re positive.”
“I’m glad you’re positive,

too, though, of course, I wish
you weren’t.” I wish you weren’t

either is the response I expect,
and you say nothing.

And who can blame you?
Not me. I’m not the one

who’ll call you after dinner and a movie.
You’re not the one who’ll call me.

We both know we have
that—what?—that ultimate date

one night to come, one bright morning.
Who can blame us? Not the forks

and not the knives that carry on
and do the heavy lifting now.

apocalypse soliloquy :: scott hightower

I hope my death is not stolen from me
by a fiery blast of Fahrenheit or Celsius
or another calculatable accuracy.

I will gladly relinquish all the pleasures of daily
bread, the pride and dreams of art—even pulse;
but I hope my death will not be taken from me.

Actually, it is a modest policy;
little there to discuss as to solace
or in the way of privacy.

A valued moment of self-possession? Might it be
something to embrace more than to expulse?
I hope my death will not be pried from me.

My end is not to be just a cause in a public sea
of scientists teaming against a disease,
a private point in a welter of piracy.

After all, won’t it fundamentally and rightly
be mine and no one else’s? I hope my death is
not taken from me; better, it be
an appointment kept in a private sea.

final soliloquy of the interior paramour :: wallace stevens

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one…
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.