six days on the road :: ann campanella

When I was young and searching for my life,
I climbed into the cab of a semi.
The Aussie trucker pointed with his thumb
to the compartment behind him.
Get some sleep. I don’t remember
if he was old or young.
His face was so plain
it left no impression.

I climbed into the narrow space,
closed my eyes, my body vibrating
to the hum of eighteen rolling tires.
Hours later, when I woke, the dashboard
glowed like a field of lightning bugs.
I flipped through his eight-tracks,
surprised to find familiar songs – Johnny Cash,
Willie and Waylon.
We sang Six Days on the Road,
over and over.

He taught me what it’s like to keep moving.
Towns flew by our windows,
stoplights, billboards, traffic signs
became a blur. On the open road,
miles of white line and fence
separated gravel from the grass.

reading biographies :: gary soto

Perhaps Frost was poking his secretary,
The apple core of his good-living chewed
To the bitter seed. Perhaps he buttoned up,
Disgusted with the dead lizard cupped in his palm.
And his woman? She was as large as Gilbraltar,
A chunk of cheese in each armpit.
She took a deep breath
And wiggled the goose of her tasty fanny
Into the kitchen. There, she poured pancakes
Onto a skillet as old as this country,
And Frost, a pioneer for all writers,
Picked up his beaver-thrashed pencil and proclaimed,
O Sweet Youth, etc.

                  I don’t know how to read
Biographies, the dead words of dead writers
Etched on my eyes, then gone. I read them,
And drive my car recklessly through leaves,
The cushion for my own eventual death.
Sure, I reflect, like a chip of mirror,
And then I forget them, these subjects,
These writers with lungs and straight-A penmanship.
They’re of no use. I’m not saved
By the repetitions of jealousy and all-day drinking.
Wind frisked the trees, hair fell like wheat,
And the liver, saddlebag of disease,
Bulged with inoperable knots.

I touch my own hip, then hobble home
Where a pumpkin glows in a window.
Birds shrug into their coats of dirt.
Crickets stop the violin action of their thighs.
A fire is built, and I’m lit in the living room.
I’m a democrat, I slur to the couch,
And add, Venus is a star and fly trap.
Thank God, I’ve learned nothing.

bat cave :: eleanor wilner

The cave looked much like any other
from a little distance but
as we approached, came almost
to its mouth, we saw its walls within
that slanted up into a dome
were beating like a wild black lung—
it was plastered and hung with
the pulsing bodies of bats, the organ
music of the body’s deep
interior, alive, the sacred cave
with its ten thousand gleaming eyes
near the clustered rocks
where the sea beat with the leather
wings of its own dark waves.

Below the bat-hung, throbbing walls,
an altar stood, glittering with guano,
a stucco sculpture like a Gaudi
church, berserk
Baroque, stone translated into
flux–murk and mud and the floral
extravagance of wet sand dripped
from a giant hand, giving back
blessing, excrement–return
for the first fruits offered to the gods.

We stayed outside, superior
with fear, like tourists
peering through a door, whose hanging
beads rattle in the air from
one who disappeared into the dim
interior; we thought of the caves
of Marabar, of a writer who entered
and never quite emerged–
the caves’ echoing black
emptiness a tunnel in the English
soul where he is wandering still. So
the bat cave on the Bali coast, not far
from Denpasar, holds us off, and beckons …

Standing there now, at the mouth
of the cave–this time we enter, feel
inside the flutter of those
many hearts, the radiant heat of pumping
veins, the stretch of wing on bone
like a benediction, and the familiar
faces of this many-headed god,
benevolent as night is
to the weary–the way at dark
the cave releases them all,
how they must lift like the foam
on a wave breaking, how many
they are as they enter
the starlit air, and scatter
in wild wide arcs
in search of fruit, the sweet bites
of mosquito …

while the great domes of our
own kind slide open, the eye
that watches, tracks the skies,
and the huge doors roll slowly back
on the hangars, the planes
push out their noses of steel,
their wings a bright alloy
of aluminum and death, they roar
down the runways, tear into
the night, their heavy bodies fueled
from sucking at the hidden
veins of earth; they leave a trail of fire
behind them as they scar
the air, filling the dreams
of children, sleeping–anywhere,
Chicago, Baghdad,–with blood,
as the bombs drop, as the world
splits open, as the mothers
reach for their own
in the night of the falling
sky, madness in
method, nature gone
into reverse …

here, nearly unperturbed,
the bats from the sacred cave
fill the night with their calls,
high-pitched, tuned to the solid world
as eyes to the spectrum of light, gnats
to the glow of a lamp–the bats
circle, the clouds wheel,
the earth turns
pulling the dome of stars
among the spinning trees, blurring
the sweet globes of fruit, shaped
exactly to desire–dizzy, we swing
back to the cave on our stiff dark
wings, the sweet juice of papaya
drying on our jaws, home
to the cave, to attach ourselves
back to the pusling dome, until,
hanging there, sated and sleepy,
we can see what was once our world
upside down as it is
and wonder whose altars
those are, white,
encrusted with shit.

Courtesy of K.W.

how to make a rainbow on a rainy day :: tom kryss

Locate, in the overcast, some thread of
involvement with backlit sheets of crayoned
manila paper vacuum sealed to the yellow
eyes of an elementary school. Open up the
floodgates to the eccentricities of leaves; find
an alcove, an unused entrance, to lean in,
noting the widening concentric circles in
standing water on pavements commissioned
by raindrops. Take the coins out of your
pocket and throw them, one at a time,
into the fountains of Trevi made by the
intersecting arcs of traffic and rainfall; permit
silver spray to have its way with your face.
Wonder at the beaded pearlescence at the
sides of warm Styrofoam. Internalize
windshield wipers and the lift of umbrellas.
Without going overboard, initiate eye
contact, return the wave.

via poetrydispatch

the late worm :: kay ryan

The worms
which had been
thick are thin
upon the ground
now that it’s gotten
later. They stick
against the path,
their pink chapped
and their inching
labored. It’s a
matter of moisture
isn’t it? Time, a
measure of wet,
shrinking, the
drier you get.

yellow beak :: stephen dobyns

A man owns a green parrot with a yellow beak
that he carries on his shoulder each day to work.
He runs a pet shop and the parrot is his trademark.

Each morning the man winds his way from his bus
through the square, four or five blocks. There goes
the parrot, people say. Then at night, he comes back.

The man himself is nondescript—a little overweight,
thinning hair of no color at all. It’s like the parrot owns
the man, not the reverse. Then one day the man dies.

He was old. It was bound to happen. At first people
feel mildly upset. The butcher thinks he has forgotten
a customer who owes him money. The baker thinks

he’s catching a cold. Soon they get it right—the parrot
is gone. Time seems out of sorts, but sets itself straight
as people forget. Then years later the fellow who ran

the diner wakes from a dream where he saw the parrot
flying along all by itself, flapping by in the morning
and cruising back home at night. Those were the years

of the man’s marriage, the start of his family, the years
when the muddle of his life began to work itself out;
and it’s as if the parrot were at the root of it all, linking

the days like pearls on a string. Foolish of course, but
do you see how it might happen? We wake at night
and recall an event that seems to define a fixed period

of time, perhaps the memory of a beat-up bike we had
as a kid, or a particular chair where we sat and laughed
with friends; a house, a book, a piece of music, even

a green parrot winding its way through city streets.
And do you see that bubble of air balanced at the tip
of its yellow beak? That’s the time in which we lived.