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
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
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

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.

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)