passing the orange :: leo dangel

On Halloween night
the new teacher gave a party
for the parents.
She lined up the women
on one side of the schoolroom,
the men on the other,
and they had a race,
passing an orange
under their chins along each line.
The women giggled like girls
and dropped their orange
before it got halfway,
but it was the men’s line
that we watched.
Who would have thought
that anyone could get them
to do such a thing?
Farmers in flannel shirts,
in blue overalls and striped overalls.
Stout men embracing one another.
Our fathers passing the orange,
passing the embrace – the kiss
of peace – complaining
about each other’s whiskers,
becoming a team, winning the race.

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waumandee :: mark wunderlich

A man with binoculars
fixed a shape in the field
and we stopped and saw

the albino buck browsing
in the oats—white dash
on a page of green,

flick of a blade
cutting paint to canvas.
It dipped its head

and green effaced the white,
bled onto the absence that
the buck was—animal erasure.

Head up again, its sugar legs
pricked the turf, pink
antler prongs brushed at flies.

Here in a field was the imagined world
made visible—a mythical beast
filling its rumen with clover

until all at once it startled,
flagged its bright tail—
auf Wiedersehen, surrender—

and leapt away—
a white tooth
in the closing mouth of the woods.

Poetry (March 2009)

of flesh and spirit :: wang ping

I was a virgin till I was 23. Then I always had more than one lover at the same time all secret.

In China, people are given the death sentence for watching a porno video while they can get free condoms and pills at any department store provided and mandated by law.

When my mother handed me my first bra which she made for me, I screamed and ran out the door in shame. She cut the bra into pieces because it was too small for her own use.

For 800 years, women’s bound feet were the most beautiful and erotic objects for Chinese men. Tits and buns were nothing compared to a pair of three-inch “golden lotuses.” They must be crazy or their noses must have had problems. My grandma’s feet, wrapped day and night with layers of bandages, smelled like rotten fish.

The asshole in Chinese: the eye of the fart.

A 25-year-old single woman in China worries her parents. A 28-year-old single woman worries her friends and colleagues. A 30-year-old single woman worries her bosses. A 35-year-old single woman is pitied and treated as a sexual pervert.

The most powerful curse: fuck your mother, fuck your grandmother, fuck your great grandmother of eighteen generations.

One day, my father asked my mother if our young rooster was mature enough to jump, meaning to “mate.” I cut in before my mother answered: “Yes, I saw him jump onto the roof of the chicken shed.” I was ten years old.

Women call menstruation “the old ghost,” the science book calls it “the moon period,” and the refined people say “the moonlight is flooding the ditch.”

My first lover vowed to marry me in America after he had my virginity. He had two kids, and an uneducated wife, and dared not ask for a divorce from the police. He took me to see his American Chinese cousin who was staying in the Beijing Hotel and tried to persuade his cousin to sponsor him to come to America. But his cousin sponsored me instead. That’s how I am here and why he went back to his wife and is probably still cursing me.

Chinese peasants call their wives: that one in my house; Chinese intellectuals call their wives and concubines: the doll in a golden house; in the socialist system, husbands and wives call each other “my lover.”

The story my grandma never tired of telling was about a man who was punished for his greed and had to walk around with a penis hanging on his forehead.

We don’t say “fall in love,” but “talk love.”

When I left home, my father told me: never talk love before you are 25 years old. I didn’t listen. Well, my first lover was a married coward. My first marriage lasted a week. My husband slept with me once, and I never saw him again.

again a solstice :: jennifer chang

It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked
for bacon in my sandwich, and then

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar:

I did not use a knife. I lied
about what he did to my faith
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake.
Faith in loneliness, my mother proclaimed,

is faith in self. My instinct, a poor polaris.
Not a mistake is the blue boredom
of a summer lake. O mud, sun, and algae!

We swim in glittering murk.
I tread, you tread. There are children

testing the deep end, shriek and stroke,
the lifeguard perilously close to diving.
I tried diving once. I dove like a brick.

It was a mistake to ask the $30 prophet
for a $20 prophecy. A mistake to believe.

I was young and broke. I swam
in a stolen reservoir then, not even a lake.
Her prophesy: from my vagrant exertion

I’ll die at 42. Our dog totters across the lake,
kicks the ripple. I tread, you tread.

What does it even mean to write a poem?
It means today
I’m correcting my mistakes.

It means I don’t want to be lonely.

the interrupted concert :: federico garcía lorca

translated by w. s. merwin

The frozen sleepy pause
of the half moon
has broken the harmony
of the deep night.

The ditches, shrouded in sedge,
protest in silence,
and the frogs, muezzins of shadow,
have fallen silent.

In the old village inn
the sad music has ceased,
and the most ancient of stars
has muted its ray.

The wind has come to rest
in dark mountain caves,
and a solitary poplar—Pythagoras
of the pure plain—
lifts its aged hand
to strike at the moon.

light :: rabindranath tagore

Light, my light, the world-filling light,
the eye-kissing light,
heart-sweetening light!

Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the center of my life;
the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love;
the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.

The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light.
Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.

The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling,
and it scatters gems in profusion.

Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling,
and gladness without measure.
The heaven’s river has drowned its banks
and the flood of joy is abroad.

ballistics :: billy collins

When I came across the high—speed photograph
of a bullet that had just pierced a book —
the pages exploding with the velocity —
I forgot all about the marvels of photography
and began to wonder which book
the photographer had selected for the shot.
Many novels sprang to mind
including those of Raymond Chandler
where an extra bullet would hardly be noticed.
Nonfiction offered too many choices —
a history of Scottish lighthouses,
a biography of Joan of Arc and so forth.
Or it could be an anthology of medieval literature,
the bullet having just beheaded Sir Gawain
and scattered the band of assorted pilgrims.
But later, as I was drifting off to sleep,
I realized that the executed book
was a recent collection of poems written
by someone of whom I was not fond
and that the bullet must have passed through
his writing with little resistance
at twenty—eight hundred feet per second,
through the poems about his childhood
and the ones about the dreary state of the world,
and then through the author’s photograph,
through the beard, the round glasses,
and that special poet’s hat he loves to wear.