turn of a year :: joan houlihan

This is regret: or a ferret. Snuffling,
stunted, a snout full of snow.

As the end of day shuffles down
the repentant scurry and swarm—

an unstable contrition is born.
Bend down. Look into the lair.

Where newborn pieties spark and strike
I will make my peace as a low bulb

burnt into a dent of snow. A cloth to keep me
from seeping. Light crumpled over a hole.

Why does the maker keep me awake?
He must want my oddments, their glow.

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the radio animals :: matthea harvey

The radio animals travel in lavender clouds. They are always chattering, they are always cold. Look directly at the buzzing blur and you’ll see twitter, hear flicker—that’s how much they ignore the roadblocks. They’re rabid with doubt. When a strong sunbeam hits the cloud, the heat in their bones lends them a temporary gravity and they sink to the ground. Their little thudding footsteps sound like “Testing, testing, 1 2 3” from a far-away galaxy. Like pitter and its petite echo, patter. On land, they scatter into gutters and alleyways, pressing their noses into open Coke cans, transmitting their secrets to the silver circle at the bottom of the can. Of course we’ve wired their confessionals and hired a translator. We know that when they call us Walkie Talkies they mean it scornfully, that they disdain our in and outboxes, our tests of true or false.

a retired farmer working as a greeter at wal-mart :: leo dangel

The store went up last year outside of town.
There was a cornfield where I’m standing now,
smiling, saying hello, and handing out ads
for plastic purses, towels, and microwaves.
The job doesn’t pay much, but neither did farming.
Pete, my old neighbor, wearing clean overalls,
comes in. I say, “Hey, you lazy fart, I see
you’re taking a day off to loaf in town.”
And Pete says, “You should talk, getting paid
for standing around in an air-conditioned store.”
While we talk about the rain last night,
the possibility of early frost, the price of hogs,
a dozen customers pass by ungreeted,
and I feel uneasy about not doing my job.

In one way, it’s like farming – spending hours
on the tractor, with lots of time to daydream.
Now, I invent secrets I’d like to tell customers.
“Every third mineral water bottle is filled
with Russian vodka. Snakes have been found
in the cups of the imported brassieres.”
But I only say, “Hello, how are you,”
and send them on their way down the aisles,
which are nothing like rows of corn.

the dandelion :: vachel lindsay

O dandelion, rich and haughty,
King of village flowers!
Each day is coronation time,
You have no humble hours.
I like to see you bring a troop
To beat the blue-grass spears,
To scorn the lawn-mower that would be
Like fate’s triumphant shears.
Your yellow heads are cut away,
It seems your reign is o’er.
By noon you raise a sea of stars
More golden than before.

spirit birds :: stanley plumly

The spirit world the negative of this one,
soft outlines of soft whites against soft darks,
someone crossing Broadway at Cathedral, walking
toward the god taking the picture, but now,
inside the camera, suddenly still. Or the spirit
world the detail through the window, manifest
if stared at long enough, the shapes of this
or that, the lights left on, the lights turned off,
the spirits under arcs of sycamores the gray-gold
mists of migratory birds and spotted leaves recognize.

Autumnal evening chill, knife-edges of the avenues,
wind kicking up newspaper off the street,
those ghost peripheral moments you catch yourself
beside yourself going down a stair or through
a door—the spirit world surprising: those birds,
for instance, bursting from the trees and turning
into shadow, then nothing, like spirit birds
called back to life from memory or a book,
those shadows in my hands I held, surprised.
I found them interspersed among the posthumous pages

of a friend, some hundreds of saved poems: dun
sparrows and a few lyrical wrens in photocopied
profile perched in air, focused on an abstract
abrupt edge. Blurred, their natural color bled,
they’d passed from one world to another: the poems,
too, sung in the twilit middle of the night, loved,
half-typed, half-written-over, flawed, images
of images. He’d kept them to forget them.
And every twenty pages, in xerox ash-and-frost,
Gray Eastern, Gold Western, ranging across borders.

the happiness :: jack hirschman

There’s a happiness, a joy
in one soul, that’s been
buried alive in everyone
and forgotten.

It isn’t your barroom joke
or tender, intimate humor
or affections of friendliness
or big, bright pun.

They’re the surviving survivors
of what happened when happiness
was buried alive, when
it no longer looked out

of today’s eyes, and doesn’t
even manifest when one
of us dies, we just walk away
from everything, alone

with what’s left of us,
going on being human beings
without being human,
without that happiness.