halloween party :: kenn nesbitt

We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs.
I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.

I put on some makeup to paint my face white,
like creatures that only come out in the night.
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.

My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.

all she wrote :: harryette mullen

Forgive me, I’m no good at this. I can’t write back. I never read your letter.
I can’t say I got your note. I haven’t had the strength to open the envelope.
The mail stacks up by the door. Your hand’s illegible. Your postcards were
defaced. Wash your wet hair? Any document you meant to send has yet to
reach me. The untied parcel service never delivered. I regret to say I’m
unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. I didn’t get the book you sent.
By the way, my computer was stolen. Now I’m unable to process words. I
suffer from aphasia. I’ve just returned from Kenya and Korea. Didn’t you
get a card from me yet? What can I tell you? I forgot what I was going to
say. I still can’t find a pen that works and then I broke my pencil. You know
how scarce paper is these days. I admit I haven’t been recycling. I never
have time to read the Times. I’m out of shopping bags to put the old news
in. I didn’t get to the market. I meant to clip the coupons. I haven’t read
the mail yet. I can’t get out the door to work, so I called in sick. I went to
bed with writer’s cramp. If I couldn’t get back to writing, I thought I’d catch
up on my reading. Then Oprah came on with a fabulous author plugging
her best selling book.

condolence note: los angeles :: carol muske-dukes

The sky is desert blue,
Like the pool. Secluded.
No swimmers here. No smog—

Unless you count this twisting
Brush fire in the hills. Two kids
Sit, head-to-head, poolside,

Rehearsing a condolence note.
Someone has died, “Not an intimate,
Perhaps a family friend,” prompts

The Manners Guide they consult.
You shouldn’t say God never makes
Mistakes
, she quotes, snapping her

Bikini top. Right, he adds–You
Could just say, He’s better off–or
Heaven was always in his future.

There’s always a better way to say
We’re sorry that he’s dead–but
they’re back inside their music now,

Pages of politeness fallen between them.
O do not say that the Unsaid drifts over us
Like blown smoke: a single spark erupts

In wildfire! Cup your hands, blow out
This wish for insight. Say: Forgive me
For living when you are dead. Say pardon

My need to praise, without you, this bright
Morning sky. It belongs to no one–
But I offer it to you, heaven in your future–

Along with silent tunes from the playlist,
The end-time etiquette book dropped
From the hand of the young sleeper.

It’s all we have left to share. The book
Of paid respects, the morning’s hot-blue
iPod, sunlit words on a page, black border.

blowing the fluff away :: robyn sarah

For E.B.

The sprig of unknown bloom you sent last fall
spent the long winter drying on my wall,
mounted on black. But it had turned to fluff
some months ago. Tonight I took it down
because I thought that I had had enough
of staring at it. Brittle, dry and brown,
it seemed to speak too plainly of a waste
of friendship, forced to flower, culled in haste.

So, after months of fearing to walk past
in case the stir should scatter it to bits,
I took it out to scatter it at last
with my own breath, and so to call us quits.
—Fooled! for the fluff was nothing but a sheath,
with tiny, perfect flowers underneath.

happy as a dog’s tail :: anna swir

Happy as something unimportant
and free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
and which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
and which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason.
As a yell able to outyell itself.
Happy as no matter what,
as any no matter what.

Happy
as a dog’s tail.

to autumn :: louise glück

      —for Keith Althaus

Morning quivers in the thorns; above the budded snowdrops
caked with dew like little virgins, the azalea bush
ejects its first leaves, and it is spring again.
The willow waits its turn, the coast
is coated with a faint green fuzz, anticipating
mold. Only I
do not collaborate, having
flowered earlier. I am no longer young. What
of it? Summer approaches, and the long
decaying days of autumn when I shall begin
the great poems of my middle period.

literature in the 21st century :: ronald wallace

Sometimes I wish I drank coffee
or smoked Marlboros, or maybe cigars—
yes, a hand-rolled Havana cigar
in its thick, manly wrapping,
the flash of the match between
worn matchbook and stained forefinger,
the cup of the palm at the tip,
the intake of air, and the slow and
luxuriant, potent and pleasurable
exhale. Shall we say also a glass
of claret? Or some sherry with its
dark star, the smoke blown into the bowl
of the glass, like fog on portentous
morning, the rich man-smell of gabardine
and wool, of money it its gold clip?

Sometimes I wish I had habits
a man wouldn’t kick, faults a good man could
be proud of. I’d be an expatriate from
myself, all ink-pen and paper in a Paris café
where the waiters were elegant and surly,
the women relaxed and extravagant
with their bobbed hair and bonbons, their
perfumed Galoises, their oysters and canapés,
and I’d be writing about war and old losses—
man things-and not where I am, in this
pristine and sensitive vessel, all
fizzy water, reticence, and care, all reduced
fat and purified air, behind my deprived
computer, where I can’t manage even
a decaf cap, a mild Tiparillo, a glass of
great-taste-less-filling light beer.