quatrains :: gwendolyn bennett

1
Brushes and paints are all I have
To speak the music in my soul—
While silently there laughs at me
A copper jar beside a pale green bowl.

2
How strange that grass should sing—
Grass is so still a thing …
And strange the swift surprise of snow
So soft it falls and slow.

cityscape 1 :: pablo medina

Let the aroma of need
waft across the river to New Jersey:

all the snow and hills,
a sky that moves and moves.

I saw a rose in the clouds,
I saw happiness on fire.

the white porch :: cathy song

I wrap the blue towel
after washing,
around the damp
weight of hair, bulky
as a sleeping cat,
and sit out on the porch.
Still dripping water,
it’ll be dry by supper,
by the time the dust
settles off your shoes,
though it’s only five
past noon. Think
of the luxury: how to use
the afternoon like the stretch
of lawn spread before me.
There’s the laundry,
sun-warm clothes at twilight,
and the mountain of beans
in my lap. Each one,
I’ll break and snap
thoughtfully in half.

But there is this slow arousal.
The small buttons
of my cotton blouse
are pulling away from my body.
I feel the strain of threads,
the swollen magnolias
heavy as a flock of birds
in the tree. Already,
the orange sponge cake
is rising in the oven.
I know you’ll say it makes
your mouth dry
and I’ll watch you
drench your slice of it
in canned peaches
and lick the plate clean.

So much hair, my mother
used to say, grabbing
the thick braided rope
in her hands while we washed
the breakfast dishes, discussing
dresses and pastries.
My mind often elsewhere
as we did the morning chores together.
Sometimes, a few strands
would catch in her gold ring.
I worked hard then,
anticipating the hour
when I would let the rope down
at night, strips of sheets,
knotted and tied,
while she slept in tight blankets.
My hair, freshly washed
like a measure of wealth,
like a bridal veil.
Crouching in the grass,
you would wait for the signal,
for the movement of curtains
before releasing yourself
from the shadow of moths.
Cloth, hair and hands,
smuggling you in.

passion for solitude :: cesare pavese

translated by geoffrey brock

I’m eating a little supper by the bright window.
The room’s already dark, the sky’s starting to turn.
Outside my door, the quiet roads lead,
after a short walk, to open fields.
I’m eating, watching the sky—who knows
how many women are eating now. My body is calm:
labor dulls all the senses, and dulls women too.

Outside, after supper, the stars will come out to touch
the wide plain of the earth. The stars are alive,
but not worth these cherries, which I’m eating alone.
I look at the sky, know that lights already are shining
among rust-red roofs, noises of people beneath them.
A gulp of my drink, and my body can taste the life
of plants and of rivers. It feels detached from things.
A small dose of silence suffices, and everything’s still,
in its true place, just like my body is still.

All things become islands before my senses,
which accept them as a matter of course: a murmur of silence.
All things in this darkness—I can know all of them,
just as I know that blood flows in my veins.
The plain is a great flowing of water through plants,
a supper of all things. Each plant, and each stone,
lives motionlessly. I hear my food feeding my veins
with each living thing that this plain provides.

The night doesn’t matter. The square patch of sky
whispers all the loud noises to me, and a small star
struggles in emptiness, far from all foods,
from all houses, alien. It isn’t enough for itself,
it needs too many companions. Here in the dark, alone,
my body is calm, it feels it’s in charge.

lunchbox love note :: kenn nesbitt

Inside my lunch
to my surprise
a perfect heart-shaped
love note lies.

The outside says,
“Will you be mine?”
and, “Will you be
my valentine?”

I take it out
and wonder who
would want to tell me
“I love you.”

Perhaps a girl
who’s much too shy
to hand it to me
eye to eye.

Or maybe it
was sweetly penned
in private by
a secret friend

Who found my lunchbox
sitting by
and slid the note in
on the sly.

Oh, I’d be thrilled
if it were Jo,
the cute one in
the second row.

Or could it be
from Jennifer?
Has she found out
I’m sweet on her?

My mind’s abuzz,
my shoulders tense.
I need no more
of this suspense.

My stomach lurching
in my throat,
I open up
my little note.

Then wham! as if
it were a bomb,
inside it reads,
“I love you—Mom.”

mirrors :: tada chimako

The mirror is always slightly taller than I
It laughs a moment after I laugh
Turning red as a boiled crab
I cut myself from the mirror with shears

*

When my lips draw close, the mirror clouds over
And I vanish behind my own sighs
Like an aristocrat hiding behind his crest
Or a gangster behind his tattoos

*

Oh traveler, go to Lacedaemon and say that in the mirror,
Graveyard of smiles, there is a single gravestone
Painted white, thick with makeup
Where the wind blows alone

the edges of time :: kay ryan

It is at the edges
that time thins.
Time which had been
dense and viscous
as amber suspending
intentions like bees
unseizes them. A
humming begins,
apparently coming
from stacks of
put-off things or
just in back. A
racket of claims now,
as time flattens. A
glittering fan of things
competing to happen,
brilliant and urgent
as fish when seas
retreat.