please :: laura kasischke

Stay in this world with me.

There go the ships.
The little buses.
The sanctity, the subway.
But let us stay.

Every world has pain,
I knew it when I brought you

to this one. It’s true–
the rain is never stopped
by the children’s parade. Still

I tell you, it weakens
you after a while into love.

The plastic cow, the plastic barn,
The fat yellow pencil, the smell of paste.

Oh, I knew it wasn’t perfect
all along.
Its tears and gravities.
Its spaces and caves.
As I know it again today

crossing the street
your hand in mine
heads bowed in a driving rain.

victims of the latest dance craze :: cornelius eady

The streamers choking the main arteries
Of downtown.
The brass band led by a child
From the home for the handicapped.
The old men
Showing their hair (what’s left of it),
The buttons of their shirts Popping in time
To the salsa flooding out
Of their portable headphones,

And mothers letting their babies
Be held by strangers.
And the bus drivers
Taping over their fare boxes
And willing to give directions.

Is there any reason to mention
All the drinks are on the house?
Thick, adolescent boys
Dismantle their BB guns.
Here is the world (what’s left of it),
In brilliant motion,
The oil slick at the curb
Danced into a thousand
Splintered steps.
The bag ladies toss off their
Garments
To reveal wings.

“This dance you do,” drawls the cop,
“What do you call it?”
We call it scalding the air.
We call it dying with your
Shoes on.

And across the street
The bodies of tramps
Stumble
In a sober language.

And across the street
Shy young girls step behind
Their nameless boyfriends,
Twirling their skirts.

And under an archway
A delivery boy discovers
His body has learned to speak,
And what does this street look like
If not a runway,
A polished wood floor?

From the air,
Insects drawn by the sweat
Alight, when possible,
On the blur
Of torsos.
It is the ride
Of their tiny lives.
The wind that burns their wings,
The heaving, oblivious flesh,
Mountains stuffed with panic,
An ocean
That can’t make up its mind.
They drop away
With the scorched taste
Of vertigo.

And under a swinging light bulb
Some children
Invent a game
With the shadow the bulb makes,
And the beat of their hearts.
They call it dust in the mouth.
They call it horse with no rider.
They call it school with empty books.

In the next room
Their mother throws her dress away to chance.
It drops to the floor
Like a brush sighs across a drum head,
And when she takes her lover,
What are they thinking of
If not a ballroom filled with mirrors,
A world where no one has the right
To stumble?

In a parking lot
An old man says this:
“I am a ghost dance.
I remember the way my hair felt,
Damp with sweat and wind.

When the wind kisses the leaves, I am dancing.
When the subway hits the third rail, I am dancing.
When the barrel goes over Niagara Falls, I am dancing.
Music rings my bones like metal.

O, Jazz has come from heaven,” he says,
And at the z he jumps, arcing his back like a heron’s neck,
And stands suddenly revealed
As a balance demon,
A home for
Stetson hats.

We have all caught the itch:
The neon artist
Wiring up his legs,
The tourist couple
Recording the twist on their
Instamatic camera,
And in a factory,
A janitor asks his broom
For a waltz,
And he grasps it like a woman
He’d have to live another
Life to meet,
And he spins around the dust bin
And machines and thinks:
Is everybody happy?
And he spins out the side door,
Avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk,
Grinning as if he’d just received
The deepest kiss in the world.

the sky :: william stafford

I like it with nothing. Is it
what I was? What I will be?
I look out there by the hour,
so clear, so sure. I could
smile, or frown—still nothing.
Be my father, be my mother,
great sleep of blue; reach
far within me; open doors,
find whatever is hiding; invite it
for many clear days in the sun.

When I turn away I know
you are there. We won’t forget
each other: every look is a promise.
Others can’t tell what you say
when it’s the blue voice, when
you come to the window and look for me.

Your word arches over
the roof all day. I know it
within my bowed head where
the other sky listens.
You will bring me
everything when the time comes.

Read by Naomi Shihab Nye in this short video on inspiration

the storm :: nora marks dauenhauer

Like people
emerging from a steambath,
bending over,
steaming from their heads
and shoulders,
the ring of the mountains
from the Chilkat Range
to the Juneau ice field
as if in steambath towels
of snow flurries;
at their feet
are foaming white caps of sea
like water thrown on rocks
steaming from the heat.

song of the barren orange tree :: federico garcía lorca

translate by w. s. merwin

Woodcutter.
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.

I want to live without seeing myself.
And I will dream that ants
and thistleburrs are my
leaves and my birds.

Woodcutter.
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

next morning letter :: margaret gibson

Savoring each summer moment
lush and brief
I close my eyes to see

your white robe, falling open

as you call for your scroll
and ink stone, a brush
As your brush passes over the paper

my body shivers

How closely now you watch
at the open lattice
as your servant hurries away

the next morning letter

tethered to
a spray of clematis
whose blossoms will not open

until they reach me

In the washbasin
your face is
the bridge that spans

the floating world of dreams

Now you are yawning
Now you are reciting sutras
bowing to the wind

When the letter arrives

all the leaves of the maple
outside my window
are stirred

I read your words

just once, then once again
bringing my fingers
to my lips, my hair

tucked back behind one ear

On the dawn’s trellis
the scent of clematis
Now smell your fingers
The petals of my body
gather in your empty arms

How shall I respond?
The cry of the stag
is so loud

the echo answers

from the empty mountains
as if it were a doe
I tell you only what you know

Clematis—the scent
of your teaching surrounds me
My empty arms fill
Come night, the fragrant petals
fall in a heap at my feet

(Kaigetsudo Doshin, Beauty Writing a Letter, a hanging scroll)

9773 comanche ave. :: david trinidad

In color photographs, my childhood house looks
fresh as an uncut sheet cake—
pale yellow buttercream, ribbons of white trim

squeezed from the grooved tip of a pastry tube.
Whose dream was this confection?
This suburb of identical, pillow-mint homes?

The sky, too, is pastel. Children roller skate
down the new sidewalk. Fathers stake young trees.
Mothers plan baby showers and Tupperware parties.
The Avon Lady treks door to door.

Six or seven years old, I stand on the front porch,
hand on the decorative cast-iron trellis that frames it,
squinting in California sunlight,
striped short-sleeved shirt buttoned at the neck.

I sit in the backyard (this picture’s black-and-white),
my Flintstones playset spread out on the grass.
I arrange each plastic character, each dinosaur,
each palm tree and round “granite” house.

Half a century later, I barely recognize it
when I search the address on Google Maps
and, via “Street view,” find myself face to face—

foliage overgrown, facade remodeled and painted
a drab brown. I click to zoom: light hits
one of the windows. I can almost see what’s inside.

the empty dance shoes :: cornelius eady

My friends,
As it has been proven in the laboratory,
An empty pair of dance shoes
Will sit on the floor like a wart
Until it is given a reason to move.

Those of us who study inertia
(Those of us covered with wild hair and sleep)
Can state this without fear:
The energy in a pair of shoes at rest
Is about the same as that of a clown

Knocked flat by a sandbag.
This you can tell your friends with certainty:
A clown, flat on his back,
Is a lot like an empty pair of
       dancing shoes.

An empty pair of dancing shoes
Is also a lot like a leaf
Pressed in a book.
And now you know a simple truth:
A leaf pressed in, say, The Colossus
       by Sylvia Plath,
Is no different from an empty pair of dance shoes

Even if those shoes are in the middle of the Stardust Ballroom
With all the lights on, and hot music shakes the windows
       up and down the block.
This is the secret of inertia:
The shoes run on their own sense of the world.
They are in sympathy with the rock the kid skips
       over the lake
After it settles to the mud.
Not with the ripples,
But with the rock.

A practical and personal application of inertia
Can be found in the question:
Whose Turn Is It
To Take Out The Garbage?
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the answer to this question,
As well as book-length poems
Set in the Midwest.

To sum up:
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the sand the 98-pound weakling
       brushes from his cheeks
As the bully tows away his girlfriend.
Later,

When he spies the coupon at the back of the comic book,
He is about to act upon a different set of scientific principles.
He is ready to dance.

eating together :: li-young lee

In the steamer is the trout
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
brothers, sister, my mother who will
taste the sweetest meat of the head,
holding it between her fingers
deftly, the way my father did
weeks ago. Then he lay down
to sleep like a snow-covered road
winding through pines older than him,
without any travelers, and lonely for no one.

destiny :: marin sorescu

translated by d. j. enright and ioana russell-gebbett

The chicken I bought last night,
Frozen,
Returned to life,
Laid the biggest egg in the world,
And was awarded the Nobel Prize.

The phenomenal egg
Was passed from hand to hand,
In a few weeks had gone all round the earth,
And round the sun
In 365 days.

The hen received who knows how much hard currency,
Assessed in buckets of grain
Which she couldn’t manage to eat

Because she was invited everywhere,
Gave lectures, granted interviews,
Was photographed.

Very often reporters insisted
That I too should pose
Beside her.
And so, having served art
Throughout my life,
All of a sudden I’ve attained to fame
As a poultry breeder.

forms of love :: kim addonizio

I love you but I’m married.
I love you but I wish you had more hair.
I love you more.
I love you more like a friend.
I love your friends more than you.
I love how when we go into a mall and classical muzak is playing,
you can always name the composer.
I love you, but one or both of us is/are fictional.
I love you but “I” am an unstable signifier.
I love you saying, “I understand the semiotics of that” when I said, “I
had a little personal business to take care of.”
I love you as long as you love me back.
I love you in spite of the restraining order.
I love you from the coma you put me in.
I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone, except for this one
guy.
I love you when you’re not getting drunk and stupid.
I love how you get me.
I love your pain, it’s so competitive.
I love how emotionally unavailable you are.
I love you like I’m a strange backyard and you’re running from the
cops, looking for a place to stash your gun.
I love your hair.
I love you but I’m just not that into you.
I love you secretly.
I love how you make me feel like I’m a monastery in the desert.
I love how you defined grace as the little turn the blood in the
syringe takes when you’re shooting heroin, after you pull back
the plunger slightly to make sure you hit the vein.
I love your mother, she’s the opposite of mine.
I love you and feel a powerful spiritual connection to you, even
though we’ve never met.
I love your tacos! I love your stick deodorant!
I love it when you tie me up with ropes using the knots you
learned in Boy Scouts, and when you do the stoned Dennis
Hopper rap from Apocalypse Now!
I love your extravagant double takes!
I love your mother, even though I’m nearly her age!
I love everything about you except your hair.
If it weren’t for that I know I could really, really love you.

temper :: beth bachmann

Some things are damned to erupt like wildfire,

windblown, like wild lupine, like wings, one after

another leaving the stone-hole in the greenhouse glass.

Peak bloom, a brood of blue before firebrand.

And though it is late in the season, the bathers, also,

obey. One after another, they breathe in and butterfly

the surface: mimic white, harvester, spot-celled sister,

fed by the spring, the water beneath is cold.

dead butterfly :: ellen bass

For months my daughter carried
a dead monarch in a quart mason jar.
To and from school in her backpack,
to her only friend’s house. At the dinner table
it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast.
She took it to bed, propped by her pillow.

Was it the year her brother was born?
Was this her own too-fragile baby
that had lived—so briefly—in its glassed world?
Or the year she refused to go to her father’s house?
Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?

This plump child in her rolled-down socks
I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me
and carry safe again. What was her fierce
commitment? I never understood.
We just lived with the dead winged thing
as part of her, as part of us,
weightless in its heavy jar.

the fish :: sandra beasley

Bullet dodged, meant your thrust. Another: Load the gun.
You bit my shoulder and I thought Turn, turn and fire
those nights we barely surfaced from sleep to go at it,
pulling each into the other’s half-dreamed agenda: Liftoff.
Touchdown in ten yards. Umbrella, unfurling in hard rain.

For two months I felt the drift of your hand to my thigh
as fish, fish, fish, Japanese tails muscling through unseen water.
Always, the body just an alias for something more urgent—
one morning sex was a fist pounding on the submarine hatch;
once you reported our fuck rescued a dozen Croatian children.
Once you tried to call it making love and I said I don’t think
that counts, what we do
. Now my room is silent, save for
three fish plucking their gold mouths at the water’s skin.
They make it look easy—that blind gasp for something
you need. O, O, O. They make it look like breathing.

hear the reading

the king’s breakfast :: a. a. milne

The King asked
The Queen, and
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid:
“Could we have some butter for
The Royal slice of bread?”
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid,
The Dairymaid
Said, “Certainly,
I’ll go and tell
The cow
Now
Before she goes to bed.”

The Dairymaid
She curtsied,
And went and told
The Alderney:
“Don’t forget the butter for
The Royal slice of bread.”

The Alderney
Said sleepily:
“You’d better tell
His Majesty
That many people nowadays
Like marmalade
Instead.”

The Dairymaid
Said, “Fancy!”
And went to
Her Majesty.
She curtsied to the Queen, and
She turned a little red:
“Excuse me,
Your Majesty,
For taking of
The liberty,
But marmalade is tasty, if
It’s very
Thickly
Spread.”

The Queen said
“Oh!”
And went to
His Majesty:
“Talking of the butter for
The Royal slice of bread,
Many people
Think that
Marmalade
Is nicer.
Would you like to try a little
Marmalade
Instead?”

The King said,
“Bother!”
And then he said,
“Oh, dear me!”
The King sobbed, “Oh, deary me!”
And went back to bed.
“Nobody,”
He whimpered,
“Could call me
A fussy man;
I only want
A little bit
Of butter for
My bread!”

The Queen said,
“There, there!”
And went to
The Dairymaid.
The Dairymaid
Said, “There, there!”
And went to the shed.
The cow said,
“There, there!
I didn’t really
Mean it;
Here’s milk for his porringer
And butter for his bread.”

The Queen took
The butter
And brought it to
His Majesty;
The King said,
“Butter, eh?”
And bounced out of bed.
“Nobody,” he said,
As he kissed her
Tenderly,
“Nobody,” he said,
As he slid down
The banisters,
“Nobody,
My darling,
Could call me
A fussy man—
BUT
I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!

practicing to walk like a heron :: jack ridl

My wife is at the computer. The cat
is sleeping across the soft gold cushion

of my chair. Last night there was a frost.
I am practicing to walk like a heron.

It’s the walk of solemn monks
progressing to prayer on stilts,

the deliberate cadence of a waltz
in water. I lift my right leg within

the stillness, within the languid
quiet of a creek, slowly, slowly,

slowly set my foot on the dog-haired
carpet, pause, hold a half note, lift

the left, head steady as a bell before
the ringer tugs the rope. On I walk,

the heron’s mute way, across the
room, past my wife who glances

up, holds her slender hands
above the keys until I pass.

now that we live :: jane kenyon

Fat spider by the door.

Brow of hayfield, blue
eye of pond.
Sky at night like an open well.

Whip-Poor-Will calls
in the tall grass:
I belong to the Queen of Heaven!

The cheerful worm
in the cheerful ground.

Regular shape of meadow and wall
under the blue
                   imperturbable mountain

hangover :: billy collins

If I were crowned emperor this morning,
every child who is playing Marco Polo
in the swimming pool of this motel,
shouting the name Marco Polo back and forth

Marco Polo Marco Polo

would be required to read a biography
of Marco Polo-a long one with fine print—
as well as a history of China and of Venice,
the birthplace of the venerated explorer

Marco Polo Marco Polo

after which each child would be quizzed
by me then executed by drowning
regardless how much they managed
to retain about the glorious life and times of

Marco Polo Marco Polo

Heard on “The Prairie Home Companion

it’s obvious :: greg hewett

It’s obvious
beauty is a postage stamp,
a composed self-portrait
of Frida Kahlo
wearing a simple necklace,
an image chosen by the USPS
not because it was like one she painted
for Trotsky. Of course
beauty could not include
imagery of hammer and sickle
or black monkey leering
over her shoulder or parrot
twisted under her chin.
And not the one with snakes.
Not the one of her
all butched-up, hair cropped short,
wearing one of Diego’s suits
after they split for the final time.
Not one with wheelchair, spinal-brace,
or scar down her long trunk.
Forget the one of her cloven wide open,
a jungle of history and myth, of poetry
burgeoning forth from her innermost.
Most definitely not
the one of her wearing the collar
of thorns in memory
of Jesus and Trotsky
and revolution
lost.

lupine ridge :: peggy simson curry

Long after we are gone,
Summer will stroke this ridge in blue;
The hawk still flies above the flowers,
Thinking, perhaps, the sky has fallen
And back and forth forever he may trace
His shadow on its azure face.

Long after we are gone,
Evening wind will languish here
Between the lupine and the sage
To die a little death upon the earth,
As though over the sundown prairies fell
A requiem from a bronze-tongued bell.

Long after we are gone,
This ridge will shape the night,
Lifting the wine-streaked west,
Shouldering the stars. And always here
Lovers will walk under the summer skies
Through flowers the color of your eyes.

insomnia :: alicia suskin ostriker

But it’s really fear you want to talk about
and cannot find the words
so you jeer at yourself

you call yourself a coward
you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,
fool
, unable to sleep, unable to sleep

buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows
and a quilt, they call them comforters,
which implies that comfort can be bought

and paid for, to help with the fear, the failure
your two walnut chests of drawers snicker, the bookshelves mourn
the art on the walls pities you, the man himself beside you

asleep smelling like mushrooms and moss is a comfort
but never enough, never, the ceiling fixture lightless
velvet drapes hiding the window

traffic noise like a vicious animal
on the loose somewhere out there—
you brag to friends you won’t mind death only dying

what a liar you are—
all the other fears, of rejection, of physical pain,
of losing your mind, of losing your eyes,

they are all part of this!
Pawprints of this! Hair snarls in your comb
this glowing clock the single light in the room

litany :: rebecca lindenberg

O you gods, you long-limbed animals, you
astride the sea and you unhammocked
in the cyprus grove and you with your hair
full of horses, please. My thoughts have turned
from the savor of plums to the merits
of pity—touch and interrupt me,
chasten me with waking, humble me
for wonder again. Seed god and husk god,
god of the open palm, you know me, you
know my mettle. See, my wrists are small.
O you, with glass-colored wind at your call
and you, whose voice is soft as a turned page,
whose voice unrolls paper, whose voice returns
air to its forms, send me a word for faith
that also means his thrum, his coax and surge
and her soft hollow, please—friend gods, lend me
a word that means what I would ask him for
so when he says: You give it all away,
I can say: I am not sorry. I sing.

Courtesy of SLK

ode, elegy, aubade, psalm :: ryan teitman

1
The songbird that escapes
from a burning house
will build its nest
in the shape of a cage.

2
This is one thing
we know: song begs
for the places that make it
grow from seed to starling,

3
places that put the heart’s hemlock
in an empty rowboat
and heave it from the shore.

4
We only praise what we cannot
keep: violin strings berried with rain,
teacups overflowing with brandywine,
radios sickened with static.

5
Glass tossed out with the tide
will come back smoother and stranger,
but never to the same person.

6
This is something we want
to know. The woman in love
never touches her ears.

7
The man in his house is always lost
without her.

8
Morning pulls light
from the dark like a boy
hoisting a trout from the lake
by its clean, pink gills.

9
When the woman escapes
from a burning house
she will know the path of the wind,

10
how it writes its scripture
in peach blossoms blown
into a baby’s empty pram.

11
She’ll feel it compose its words
against her body, against the night,
against the water, in an endless, artless psalm.

from Diagram

gravity and center :: henri cole

I’m sorry I cannot say I love you when you say
you love me. The words, like moist fingers,
appear before me full of promise but then run away
to a narrow black room that is always dark,
where they are silent, elegant, like antique gold,
devouring the thing I feel. I want the force
of attraction to crush the force of repulsion
and my inner and outer worlds to pierce
one another, like a horse whipped by a man.
I don’t want words to sever me from reality.
I don’t want to need them. I want nothing
to reveal feeling but feeling—as in freedom,
or the knowledge of peace in a realm beyond,
or the sound of water poured into a bowl.

fons :: pura lópez-colomé

translated by forrest gander

Reanimated, spirit restored,
reincorporated, body restored,
I contemplate between dreams
the scene I’ve stolen
like the one who took fire,
like the one who opened the devil box
out of curiosity,
like the one who saw her equal
and her life’s love
were the same and so effortlessly
brought them together.
I took exactly
what was not mine,
with my eyes.
I saw the sea inside you:
on your surface, mud.
I kissed you like a shipwreck,
like one who insufflates the word.
With my lips I traveled
that entire continent,
Adam, from dirt, Nothing.
I knew myself in your substance,
grounded there,
emitting aromatic fumes,
an amatory banquet of ashes.