frog :: chard deniord

My tongue leapt out of my mouth
when I lied to her and hopped away
to the stream below the house.
Mute then, I started to write the truth.
My tongue turned wild in the stream,
for which I was glad and unashamed.
I listen now from my porch to the complex things
it says in the distance about my heart.
How hard it is to tell the truth inside my mouth.
How much it needs to sing in the dark.

repartidor de carbón :: ramón cote baraibar

Repartidor de carbón

Como encontrar una barra de aluminio atravesada en la mandíbula de un buey. Como descubrir una breve cabeza de obsidiana en un arcón. Como mirar por una cerradura y ver un amanecer no merecido. Tan imposible como todo esto, tan melancólico y solitario a la vez, era ver aquel camión verde que con la puntualidad de un sacramento repartía cada mes el carbón. En la cuesta su esforzado corazón se anunciaba vociferante, moribundo, y se detenía al frente de la casa como si entregara agónico la noticia de la caída de la ciudad de Troya. Después un hombre, envuelto en costales, arrojaba su carga resonante y angulosa en un baúl pintado de naranja.

Como abrir una biblia y encontrar tres hojas de laurel. Como levantar una piedra y recordar un nombre. Como reconocer al mismo caracol a cien kilómetros de distancia. Tan imposible como todo esto, tan melancólico y solitario a la vez, resulta encontrar quince años más tarde al mismo repartidor del carbón realizando su oficio, doblado por el esfuerzo, empeñado en demostrarle al cielo que un hombre ha hecho ese trabajo durante toda su vida, que escarbó entre las minas, que le robó el hilo a su mujer para coser sus costales, que soñó con excavaciones infinitas, con túneles, y que lo perdonen por no haber hecho nada más que eso.

Botella papel (1998)

Coal deliveryman

Like finding a bar of aluminum wedged in a bull’s jaw. Like discovering in a sea chest a short obsidian head. Like looking through a padlock and seeing an undeserved dawn. As impossible as all these, as melancholy and lonely, was it to see the green truck that with the punctuality of a sacrament delivered the coal each month. On the slope its strained heart would announce itself vociferously, at the brink of death, and it would stop in front of the house as if to deliver the agonizing news of the fall of Troy. And then a man, wrapped in sacking, would pitch his cargo, resonant and angular, into an orange-painted crate.

Like opening a Bible and finding three leaves of laurel. Like lifting a stone and remembering someone’s name. Like finding the same snail again a hundred miles away. As impossible as all these, as melancholy and lonely, would it be to find, fifteen years later, the same coal deliveryman carrying on his trade, bent from the strain, determined to show the heavens that a man might do that job his entire life, that he scraped in the mines, that he stole thread from his wife to sew his sacking, that he dreamed of infinite excavations, of tunnels, and that they might forgive him for not having done more than that.

Translated from the Spanish by Craig Arnold

Poetry (April 2009)

minor miracle :: marilyn nelson

Which reminds me of another knock-on-wood
memory. I was cycling with a male friend,
through a small midwestern town. We came to a 4-way
stop and stopped, chatting. As we started again,
a rusty old pick-up truck, ignoring the stop sign,
hurricaned past scant inches from our front wheels.
My partner called, “Hey, that was a 4-way stop!”
The truck driver, stringy blond hair a long fringe
under his brand-name beer cap, looked back and yelled,
               “You fucking niggers!”
And sped off.
My friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
We remounted our bikes and headed out of town.
We were pedaling through a clear blue afternoon
between two fields of almost-ripened wheat
bordered by cornflowers and Queen Anne’s lace
when we heard an unmuffled motor, a honk-honking.
We stopped, closed ranks, made fists.
It was the same truck. It pulled over.
A tall, very much in shape young white guy slid out:
greasy jeans, homemade finger tattoos, probably
a Marine Corps boot-camp footlockerful
of martial arts techniques.

“What did you say back there!” he shouted.
My friend said, “I said it was a 4-way stop.
You went through it.”
“And what did I say?” the white guy asked.
“You said: ‘You fucking niggers.’”
The afternoon froze.

“Well,” said the white guy,
shoving his hands into his pockets
and pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot,
“I just want to say I’m sorry.”
He climbed back into his truck
and drove away.

the house gift :: joanie mackowski

Egg-white house, old
ache in the rafters,
small as a button but
yearning for zero:
a sparrow parts the chimney
and veers for my face.
I wanted my nevers
again, my immaculate
touch-down to the durable
granite of love too
heavy to move: this
gift, implacable
bird’s-eye sorrow
reared from the original
fairy tale’s page—
I don’t like it. I offered
no signature, my nature
altered, and I’m over
my hurricane. Rocking
room to room, this bird
threatens my gravity,
threaded through like a pearl
from the evening’s stem.
Didn’t I break all
eighty-eight bones
of my compass, my wingspan
spun from my awkwardness?
This bird returns
to the shell with monstrous
wings, wings clumsy as shovels
in a fist of dirt. It’s covered
with ashes, sloughing off
in my hair, brown
tumor bulged upside
down on the floor
to meet the applause:
this blessing’s too
unwieldy. But open
one door, one terrible
goodbye, hello—the sparrow
flings like a shout for the trees.

shells :: mark nickels

Essentially, for some time, in an effort
to determine whether I loved you or not,
I’ve been praying to you, even though
the inside of the tabernacle, as I thought,
is empty: oxygen, carbon dioxide,
brass, nickel, and a sheet, a sheet
of gilded plywood. (And in the rectory,
the housekeeper is cooking pasta, stamped
in the shape of shells, all of a uniform size
and color.) In an effort to determine,
in an effort to determine whether I loved you,
whether I loved you or not,
I learned old lovers are christs or bodhisattvas.
Slowly at first, and then with greater skill,
in an effort to determine whether I loved you,
I loved you or not,
I’ve been praying without knowing it,
in the daylight, in the white afternoon,
and singing, and singing with records,
my head tilted up into the black walnut,
the windows alive with listening ravens
to whom I sing about your boxy feet
with rind of callus at the heel,
(as elsewhere noted), your smiting eyes,
your nose pugged slightly, like Socrates,
your dark skin, your dark.
Your voice like a woodwind, a basset clarinet;
the wind you went out on, the wind you came in on,
your hair the color of a violin,
the unambiguous quality of many of your pronouncements,
i.e., the time you said I was tortured by life,
your eyes boring through me, right
for the wrong reasons, again.
The time in New Orleans you were so angry,
I was so drunk, lurching in the curio shops full of shells.
A shell grows around itself, folding over
the first pattern, calcified into a whorled shape, not dissimilar
to the whorl on the top of our two heads,
the pattern of gorgeous irreplaceable error,
and for a while the only assurance we belonged,
we belonged to the same species.
And the joy was piercing, this piercing joy
came up in me, a whirring train, night,
on the way home, somewhere before Memphis.
The singing in my ears. A hurricane,
a hurricane outside to my right was photographed from a satellite
even as a criminal was being printed,
his thumb whorl down, twisted clockwise,
and the trees out in the dark strained,
growing, forming knots, their flesh burled in the timedrift.
I’ve wondered: does the twisting hurt them,
and did all your turnings and hidings wound you
as they did me, and did you notice my imprint,
my concealment in that fold of air beside you,
when into your boxy feet and brown hands
nails, nails were driven,
when you got into that car and went west,
when you sat under that tree almost forever?

practicing :: marie howe

I want to write a love poem for the girls I kissed in seventh grade,
a song for what we did on the floor in the basement

of somebody’s parents’ house, a hymn for what we didn’t say but thought:
That feels good or I like that, when we learned how to open each other’s mouths

how to move our tongues to make somebody moan. We called it practicing, and
one was the boy, and we paired off—maybe six or eight girls—and turned out

the lights and kissed and kissed until we were stoned on kisses, and lifted our
nightgowns or let the straps drop, and, Now you be the boy:

concrete floor, sleeping bag or couch, playroom, game room, train room, laundry.
Linda’s basement was like a boat with booths and portholes

instead of windows. Gloria’s father had a bar downstairs with stools that spun,
plush carpeting. We kissed each other’s throats.

We sucked each other’s breasts, and we left marks, and never spoke of it upstairs
outdoors, in daylight, not once. We did it, and it was

practicing, and slept, sprawled so our legs still locked or crossed, a hand still lost
in someone’s hair . . . and we grew up and hardly mentioned who

the first kiss really was—a girl like us, still sticky with moisturizer we’d
shared in the bathroom. I want to write a song

for that thick silence in the dark, and the first pure thrill of unreluctant desire,
just before we’d made ourselves stop.