scrub jays :: ishmael reed

Free as a bird
You wish
Grounded
And cross old man
Glaring from the
Kitchen window
As I stab my beak into
The choice apples at
The top of your tree
You can ball your fists
All you want
You can grit your
Plastic teeth
But there’s nothing that
You can do about it

What good are apples
To old men, anyway
You have lost your bite
You have run out of
Ladders to climb

Your ultrasonic solar-powered
Animal repellent
The Honda among dissuaders
Might rid your garden of
The capo cats, but
The bandit raccoons
Figured out that one
Within 48 hours

Getting rid of one pest
Only invites others
You’re in your 70s
And haven’t learned that

Now that the coast
Is clear, our entire
Family can fly in
I know
We are warble-less
We are born thieves
We’ll steal an acorn
From a woodpecker

We’ve beat you out
Of your harvest
We, who are not the decorous
Fluorescent song bird of your
Dreams

hear the audio

a night fragrance :: w. s. merwin

Now I am old enough to remember
people speaking of immortality
as though it were something known to exist
a tangible substance that might be acquired
to be used perhaps in the kitchen
every day in whatever was made there
forever after and they applied the word
to literature and the names of things
names of persons and the naming of other
things for them and no doubt they repeated
that word with some element of belief
when they named a genus of somewhat more than
a hundred species of tropical trees and shrubs
some with flowers most fragrant at night
for James Theodore Tabernaemontanus
of Heidelberg physician and botanist
highly regarded in his day over
four centuries ago immortality
might be like that with the scattered species
continuing their various evolutions
with the flowers opening by day or night
with no knowledge of bearing a name
of anyone and their fragrance if it
reminds at all not reminding of him

bomb crater sky :: lam thi my da

They say that you, a road builder
Had such love for our country
You rushed out and waved your torch
To call the bombs down on yourself
And save the road for the troops

As my unit passed on that worn road
The bomb crater reminded us of your story
Your grave is radiant with bright-colored stones
Piled high with love for you, a young girl

As I looked in the bomb crater where you died
The rain water became a patch of sky
Our country is kind
Water from the sky washes pain away

Now you lie down deep in the earth
As the sky lay down in that earthen crater
At night your soul sheds light
Like the dazzling stars
Did your soft white skin
Become a bank of white clouds?

By day I pass under a sun-flooded sky
And it is your sky
And that anxious, wakeful disc
Is it the sun, or is it your heart
Lighting my way
As I walk down the long road?

The name of the road is your name
Your death is a young girl’s patch of blue sky
My soul is lit by your life

And my friends, who never saw you
Each has a different image of your face

tonight no poetry will serve :: adrienne rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon’s eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
elsewhere

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb      disgraced      goes on doing

now diagram the sentence

in memoriam (May 16, 1929 – March 27, 2012)

h1n1 :: robyn schiff

God knows how our neighbors manage to breathe.
No one is allowed
to touch me

for infection is a hazard of mercy
I will not transmit
as Legion transcribed from the mouth

of Error into his body
and sent into a herd of swine
who sent it to the sea

who’s been trying to return
to earth since creation
and nearly succeeds every day.

I just took my temperature.
98 degrees. I am better than healthy.
I am cooling even as earth

heats, even as it meets the sea
further inland and negotiates
distance from increasingly

disadvantaged position. I
am cooling because nothing
touches me.

Others may go to the petting zoo
and country fair
but don’t even tell me what they touch

there. I’m taking my temperature again;
my thermometer is digital and pink
and its beep is my name

being read from the book of life,
which is available on Kindle
and allows me to avoid the public library

but contains peculiar punctuation
errors and is transcribed by
evangelists while they wait

in line at gates you can’t see from here. 98.5.
Still cooler than life. I have another
glass of water, and feel you turning in me,

my little book, flipping over and over,
it’s time for bed little sow, little sow.
The book of death is open on my bedside

table and is called The Pregnancy
Countdown, and contains “advice from the
trenches” about how to level

the enemy the body.
It’s time for bed, little bee, little bee. I open my window
and find ten dead between the pane and the screen

which apparently has tears big enough
to enter and I leave them in state
in a pile and watch

the wind lift their
mighty wings in deathly
aspiration. It is the beginning

of flu season, Rosh Hashanah.
Every tear is recorded. I say tear
to rhyme with the chair by my window,

not tear to rhyme with the fear of God
here at the Fair of God
where the just

leer at the milk cow
and brush up against
captivity and slaughter

in the name of zoonosis
and the vector. Nothing touches me,
little scale, little scale

I will not be meted I will
not give the mosquito
her share even though the blood meal

is all she has to nurture her eggs
and mother to mother I hear
her flight even as she’s drawn

to my breath by fate and nature,
which are one and as interchangeable
as babies in soap operas. Dangerous angel,

I will not lie down
with the lamb who is
contagious. I will not

hear your name recalled for I
have not named you and fear
tempers my love of the letters

of this world which are as
pins through the body
while the wings flail, but I

will not fail to meet you
when you get here
with your shadow

attached and your
failure a promise
entering the success

of your first breath. On what
grounds, on what faith,
dare we aspire

together where Legion
hears the ventilator
and enters the wire?

read the q & a

variations on a passage in edward abbey :: robert hass

A dune begins with an obstacle—a stone, a shrub, a log,
anything heavy enough to resist being moved by wind.

This obstacle forms a wind shadow on its leeward side,
making eddies in the currents, now fast, now slow, of the air,

exactly as a rock in a stream causes an eddy in the water.
Within the eddy the wind moves with less force and less velocity

than the airstreams on either side, creating what geologists call
the surface of discontinuity. And it is here that the wind

tends to drop part of its load of sand. The sand particles,
which hop or bounce along the earth before the wind,

begin to accumulate,
        creating a greater eddy in the air currents
and capturing still more sand.
                                            It’s thus a dune is formed.

Viewed in cross section, sand dunes display a characteristic profile.
On the windward side the angle of ascent is low and gradual—

twenty to twenty-five degrees from the horizontal. On the leeward side
the slope is much steeper, usually about thirty-four degrees—

the angle of repose of sand and most other loose materials.
The steep side of the dune is called the slip face
                                                                        because of the slides
that occur as sand is driven up the windward side
and deposited on or just over the crest.
                                                        The weight of the crest
eventually becomes greater than can be supported by the sand beneath,
so the extra sand slumps down the slip face
                                                                and the whole dune
advances in the direction of the prevailing wind, until some obstacle
like a mountain intervenes.
                                        This movement, this grand slow march
across the earth’s surface, has an external counterpart in the scouring
movement of glaciers,
                                    and an internal one in the movement of grief
which has something in it of the desert’s bareness
and of its distances.

text messages :: jordan davis

A wave of love for you just knocked me off my chair

I will love you and love you

I will reach out my hand to you in the noise of carhorns and merengue and pull you close by the waist

I will call you my museum of everything always

I will call you MDMA

I love you ecstatic exalted sublime

I wish you were here—there’s an enormous cloud sitting off in the distance

It’s a beautiful walk from there to my place

I’m buzzing but the buzzer may not be working

There’s a raccoon rearing on hind legs twitching its nose from behind a short fence

Let me stew you some tomatoes

As long as I keep moving the overtones don’t jackhammer my skull

I am waiting for something very very good

My phone is like, what, I’m a phone

thinking of work :: james shea

A brief storm
blew the earth clean.

There was much
to do: sun to put up,
clouds to put out,
blue to install,
limbs to remove,
grass to implant.

(The grass failed.
We ordered new grass.)

A limb had cracked
in half in the short storm,
short with its feeling.

We saw its innards,
all the hollow places.

Something flew out of
the window and then
the window flew out of the window.

the effort :: billy collins

Would anyone care to join me
in flicking a few pebbles in the direction
of teachers who are fond of asking the question:
“What is the poet trying to say?”

as if Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson
had struggled but ultimately failed in their efforts—
inarticulate wretches that they were,
biting their pens and staring out the window for a clue.

Yes, it seems that Whitman, Amy Lowell
and the rest could only try and fail
but we in Mrs. Parker’s third-period English class
here at Springfield High will succeed

with the help of these study questions
in saying what the poor poet could not,
and we will get all this done before
that orgy of egg salad and tuna fish known as lunch.

Tonight, however, I am the one trying
to say what it is this absence means,
the two of us sleeping and waking under different roofs.
The image of this vase of cut flowers,

not from our garden, is no help.
And the same goes for the single plate,
the solitary lamp, and the weather that presses its face
against these new windows–the drizzle and the
morning frost.

So I will leave it up to Mrs. Parker,
who is tapping a piece of chalk against the blackboard,
and her students—a few with their hands up,
others slouching with their caps on backwards—

to figure out what it is I am trying to say
about this place where I find myself
and to do it before the noon bell rings
and that whirlwind of meatloaf is unleashed.

the skin’s broken aria :: jennifer chang

I cross the street
and my skin falls off. Who walks
to an abandoned lake? Who
abandons lakes? I ask questions
to evade personal statements. When you are
skinless, you cannot bear to be
more vulnerable. With skin, I
would say I am in love with
Love
as in that old-time song
crooners like to croon. With skin,
I would wear elbow-length opera gloves
of pearly satin. Protect my skin.
Hide it. There is no skin
like my skin. How I miss it —
I miss it as I would a knitted bonnet, a
pewter teaspoon to stir sugar into hot water.
My great passion was my skin. The lover
I loved. They don’t
sell skin at Wal-Mart. And really, how
could I, humanely, buy it? Would you ever
give me your skin? This is a terrible world
we live in. There are mistakes and
batteries littering a junk drawer,
where Mother would hide my house keys and Father
would store his eyeballs. Do you know
Puccini? Do you spill silk
at the gorgeous onslaught of love, of Pinkerton’s
lurking return? Butterfly had no skin either
but you could not tell from the outer left
balcony. As I lay in a bed
of my dead skin, I dream of Butterfly
and what she could have done instead:
run away to this little room
to lose her aching voice, to listen
to the hourly ringing of bells
that is really the souring birdsong
of a child, skinned and
laughing, a child that will never be hers.

haiku journey :: kimberly blaeser

       i. Spring

the tips of each pine
the spikes of telephone poles
hold gathering crows

may’s errant mustard
spreads wild across paved road
look both ways

roadside treble cleft
feeding gopher, paws to mouth
cheeks puffed with music

yesterday’s spring wind
ruffling the grey tips of fur
rabbit dandelion

       ii. Summer

turkey vulture feeds
mechanical as a red oil rig
head rocks down up down

stiff-legged dog rises
goes grumbling after squirrel
old ears still flap

snowy egret—curves,
lines, sculpted against pond blue;
white clouds against sky

banded headed bird
this ballerina killdeer
dance on point my heart

       iii. Fall

leaf wind cold through coat
wails over hills, through barren trees
empty garbage cans dance

damp September night
lone farmer, lighted tractor
drive memory’s worn path

sky black with migration
flocks settle on barren trees
leaf birds, travel songs

october moon cast
over corn, lighted fields
crinkled sheaves of white

       iv. Winter

ground painted in frost
thirsty morning sun drinks white
leaves rust golds return

winter bare branches
hold tattered cups of summer
empty nests trail twigs

lace edges of ice
manna against darkened sky
words turn with weather

now one to seven
deer or haiku syllables
weave through winter trees

Northern follows jig
body flashes with strike, dive:
broken line floats up.

after a rainstorm :: robert wrigley

Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
They let me stroke their long faces, and I note
in the light of the now-merging moon

how they, a Morgan and a Quarter, have been
by shake-guttered raindrops
spotted around their rumps and thus made
Appaloosas, the ancestral horses of this place.

Maybe because it is night, they are nervous,
or maybe because they too sense
what they have become, they seem
to be waiting for me to say something

to whatever ancient spirits might still abide here,
that they might awaken from this strange dream,
in which there are fences and stables and a man
who doesn’t know a single word they understand.

the buddha’s last instruction :: mary oliver

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

health :: rafael campo

While jogging on the treadmill at the gym,
that exercise in getting nowhere fast,
I realized we need a health pandemic.
Obesity writ large no more, Alzheimer’s
forgotten, we could live carefree again.
We’d chant the painted shaman’s sweaty oaths,
We’d kiss the awful relics of the saints,
we’d sip the bitter tea from twisted roots,
we’d listen to our grandmothers’ advice.
We’d understand the moonlight’s whispering.
We’d exercise by making love outside,
and afterwards, while thinking only of
how much we’d lived in just one moment’s time,
forgive ourselves for wanting something more:
to praise the memory of long-lost need,
or not to live forever in a world
made painless by our incurable joy.

the cricket in the sump :: catherine tufariello

He falls abruptly silent when we fling
A basket down or bang the dryer shut,
But soon takes up again where he left off.
Swept by a rainstorm through a narrow trough
Clotted with cobwebs into Lord knows what
Impenetrable murk, he’s undeterred—
You’d think his dauntless solo was a chorus,
This rusty sump, a field or forest spring.
And there is something wondrous and absurd
About the way he does as he is bidden
By instinct, with his gift for staying hidden
While making sure unseen is plainly heard.

All afternoon his tremolo ascends
Clear to the second story, where a girl
Who also has learned blithely to ignore us
Sings to herself behind her bedroom door.
Maybe she moves to her invented score
With a conductor’s flourish, or pretends
She’s a Spanish dancer, lost in stamp and whirl
And waving fan—notes floating, as she plays,
Through the open window where the willow sways
And shimmers, humming to another string.
There is no story where the story ends.
What does a singer live for but to sing?

the chair she sits in :: alberto ríos

I’ve heard this thing where, when someone dies,
People close up all the holes around the house—

The keyholes, the chimney, the windows,
Even the mouths of the animals, the dogs and the pigs.

It’s so the soul won’t be confused, or tempted.
It’s so when the soul comes out of the body it’s been in

But that doesn’t work anymore,
It won’t simply go into another one

And try to make itself at home,
Pretending as if nothing happened.

There’s no mystery—it’s too much work to move on.
It isn’t anybody’s fault. A soul is like any of us.

It gets used to things, especially after a long life.
The way I sit in my living-room chair,

The indentation I have put in it now
After so many years—that’s how I understand.

It’s my chair,
And I know how to sit in it.

drench :: anne stevenson

You sleep with a dream of summer weather,
wake to the thrum of rain—roped down by rain.
Nothing out there but drop-heavy feathers of grass
and rainy air. The plastic table on the terrace
has shed three legs on its way to the garden fence.
The mountains have had the sense to disappear.
It’s the Celtic temperament—wind, then torrents, then remorse.
Glory rising like a curtain over distant water.
Old stonehouse, having steered us through the dark,
docks in a pool of shadow all its own.
That widening crack in the gloom is like good luck.
Luck, which neither you nor tomorrow can depend on.

line poem :: caroline knox

Long jetty, long shell-racked jetty, cracked warped planks.

Beautiful fish, beautiful sea-bass poached with an August tomato, on an ironstone plate.

A snake’s slough, a snake’s spinal cord, a dry-rot stump.

A twill tape measure, an audiotape cassette unspooled and puckered, shining.

Agate prayer beads, kazoos, whistles, rattles.

A bike-chain and a bungy cord. A moebius strip and a broccoli elastic.

Split vanilla pod inset with paltry-looking flat oily brown seeds.

Egg-and-dart molding of vitreous fake sandstone. Contrails, mares’ tails, mackerel sky.

envying the crows :: ronald baatz

A cold winter day spent
reading, collecting tinder.
But, my god, the loneliness
of the hours was overwhelming.
With age it becomes more and
more apparent that I need to be
among people. I have to stop living
like a monk. Although, it is true,
monks do live with other monks.
They pray, take their meals together,
and perhaps life at the monastery
is not such a burden. I would never
have to eat alone in such a place.
Earlier, I stood eating a can of sardines
and a piece of unbuttered bread.
I envied the crows. From the
kitchen window I had seen them pecking
at the leftover rice I had thrown out.
The crows, that had arrived in a group
and that had left in a group.
Same as the sardines.

reminder :: michael ryan

Torment by appetite
is itself an appetite
dulled by inarticulate,
dogged, daily

loving-others-to-death—
as Chekhov put it, “compassion
down to your fingertips”—
looking on them as into the sun

not in the least for their sake
but slowly for your own
because it causes
the blinded soul to bloom

like deliciousness in dirt,
like beauty from hurt,
their light—their light—
pulls so surely. Let it.

hear him read it

one night :: mathias svalina

I am scared of one night. One night might come upon me while I sleep. One night might kiss me & never unzip its lips. I never try to leave the bed, never try to sit up. One night is always there like a tumor: a drum machine fear. I’ve known one night my whole life. It chases me off the edge of the screen at the end of each act. It speaks & I listen with all my wounds & all my fingerprints. I want an operation to connect me to one night. It is lost in the dark, surely alone, surely shivering, & there is nothing I can do to protect it.

wild swans :: edna st. vincent millay

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

me and the otters :: dorothea lasky

Love makes you feel alive
Johnny my animal you have no idea
How beautiful you are to me in the morning
When it is 5 a.m. and I am lonely
Everyone is dying around me
I eat spinach bread to keep my sanity, I am
Like Lisa in the mental unit with my father
I am Muriel who throws tables
I play blackjack with the clowns
Oh yes I do all that for a salad
Your black hair is better than a piece of fate
I find in the sky when I am looking
45,000 miles above the earth
For things that make it all worthwhile
I do this for you but you will never know
How dear you are to me
You chop leaves in your house in New York City
Dream of glamorous women and even too they are great
No one will ever love you like I do that is certain
Because I know the inside of your face
Is a solid block of coal and then it too
Something that is warm like warm snow
I hold the insides of you in my palm
And they are warm snow, melting even
With the flurries glutted out of the morning
When I get on the plane the stewardess tells me to let loose
My heart, the man next to me was the same man as last week
Whoever those postmodernists are that say
There is no universal have never spent any time with an animal
I have played tennis with so many animals
I can’t count the times I have let them win
Their snouts that were wet with health
Dripping in the sun, then we went and took a swim
Just me and the otters, I held them so close
I felt the bump of ghosts as I held them.
There is no poem that will bring back the dead
There is no poem that I could ever say that will
Arise the dead in their slumber, their faces gone
There is no poem or song I could sing to you
That would make me seem more beautiful
If there were such songs I would sing them
O they would hear me singing from here until dawn

hardware sparrows :: r. t. smith

Out for a deadbolt, light bulbs
and two-by-fours, I find a flock
of sparrows safe from hawks

and weather under the roof
of Lowe’s amazing discount
store. They skitter from the racks

of stockpiled posts and hoses
to a spill of winter birdseed
on the concrete floor. How

they know to forage here,
I can’t guess, but the automatic
door is close enough,

and we’ve had a week
of storms. They are, after all,
ubiquitous, though poor,

their only song an irritating
noise, and yet they soar
to offer, amid hardware, rope

and handyman brochures,
some relief, as if a flurry
of notes from Mozart swirled

from seed to ceiling, entreating
us to set aside our evening
chores and take grace where

we find it, saying it is possible,
even in this month of flood,
blackout and frustration,

to float once more on sheer
survival and the shadowy
bliss we exist to explore.

first light edging cirrus :: jane hirshfield

1025 molecules
are enough
to call woodthrush or apple.

A hummingbird, fewer.
A wristwatch: 1024.

An alphabet’s molecules,
tasting of honey, iron, and salt,
cannot be counted—

as some strings, untouched,
sound when a near one is speaking.

As it was when love slipped inside us.
It looked out face to face in every direction.

Then it was inside the tree, the rock, the cloud.

some of david’s story :: robert hass

“That first time I met her, at the party, she said,
‘I have an English father and an American mother
and I went to school in London and Providence, Rhode Island,
and at some point I had to choose,
so I moved back to London and became the sort of person
who says puh-son instead of purr-son.’
For the first person she had chosen an accent
halfway between the other two.
It was so elegant I fell in love on the spot. Later,
I understood that it was because I thought
that little verbal finesse meant
she had made herself up entirely.
I felt so much what I was and, you know,
that what I was was not that much,
so she just seemed breathtaking.”

*

“Her neck was the thing, and that tangle of copper hair.
And, in those days, her laugh, the way
she moved through a room. Like Landor’s line—
she was meandering gold, pellucid gold.”

 *

“Her father was a philosopher,
fairly eminent in that world, and the first time
I was there to dinner, they talked about California wines
in deference to me, I think, though it was a subject
about which I was still too broke to have a thing to say,
so I changed the subject and asked him
what kind of music he liked. He said, ‘I loathe music.’
And I said, ‘All music?’ And he said—
he seemed very amused by himself but also
quite serious, ‘Almost all music, almost all the time.’
and I said ‘Beethoven?’ And he said
‘I loathe Beethoven, and I loathe Stravinsky,
who loathed Beethoven.'”

*

“Later, in the night, we talked about it.
‘It’s feelings,’ she said, laughing. ‘He says
he doesn’t want other people putting their feelings into him
any more than he wants,’ and then she imitated
his silvery rich voice, ‘them putting their organs
into me at great length and without my consent.’
And she rolled onto my chest and wiggled herself
into position and whispered in my ear,
‘So I’ll put my feelings in you, okay?’
humming it as if it were a little tune.”

*

“Anyway, I was besotted. In that stage, you know,
when everything about her amazed me.
One time I looked in her underwear drawer.
She had eight pair of orange panties
and one pair that was sort of lemon yellow, none of them
very new. So that was something
to think about. What kind of woman
basically wears only orange panties.”

*

“She had the most beautiful neck on earth.
A swan’s neck. When we made love, in those first weeks,
in my grubby little graduate student bed-sit,
I’d weep afterward from gratitude while she smoked
and then we’d walk along the embankment to look at the lights
just coming on—it was midsummer—and then we’d eat something
at an Indian place and I’d watch her put forkfuls of curry
into that soft mouth I’d been kissing. It was still
just faintly light at midnight and I’d walk her home
and the wind would be coming up on the river.”

*

“In theory she was only part-time at Amnesty
but by fall she was there every night, later and later.
She just got to be obsessed. Political torture, mostly.
Abu Ghraib, the photographs. She had every one of them.
And photographs of the hands of some Iranian feminist journalist
that the police had taken pliers to. And Africa,
of course, Darfur, starvation, genital mutilation.
The whole starter kit of anguished causes.”

*

“I’d wake up in the night
and not hear her sleeper’s breathing
and turn toward her and she’d be looking at me,
wide-eyed, and say, as if we were in the middle of a conversation,
‘Do you know what the report said? It said
she had been raped multiple times and that she died
of one strong blow—they call it blunt trauma—
to the back of her head,
but she also had twenty-seven hairline fractures
to the skull, so they think the interrogation
went on for some time.'”

*

“—So I said, ‘Yes, I can tell you exactly
what I want.’ She had her head propped up on one elbow,
she was so beautiful, her hair
that Botticellian copper. ‘Look,’ I said,
‘I know the world is an awful place, but I would like,
some night, to make love or walk along the river
without having to talk about George fucking Bush
or Tony fucking Blair.’ I picked up her hand.
‘You bite your fingernails raw.
You should quit smoking. You’re entitled, we’re entitled
to a little happiness.’ She looked at me,
coolly, and gave me a perfunctory kiss
on the neck and said, ‘You sound like my mother.'”

*

“We were at a party and she introduced me
to one of her colleagues, tall girl, auburn hair,
absolutely white skin. After she walked away,
I said, ‘A wan English beauty.’ I was really thinking
that she was inside all day breathing secondhand smoke
and saving the world. And she looked at me
for a long time, thoughtfully, and said,
‘Not really. She has lymphoma.’
I think that was the beginning of the end.
I wasn’t being callow, I just didn’t know.”

*

“Another night she said, ‘Do you know
what our countrymen are thinking about right now?
Football matches.’ ‘Games,’ I said. She shook her head.
‘The drones in Afghanistan? Yesterday they bombed a wedding.
It killed sixty people, eighteen children. I don’t know
how people live, I don’t know how
they get up in the morning.'”

*

“So she took the job in Harare and I got ready
to come back to Berkeley, and we said we’d be in touch
by e-mail and that I might come out in the summer
and we’d see how it went. The last night
I was the one who woke up. She was sleeping soundly,
her face adorably squinched up by the pillow,
a little saliva—the English word spittle came to mind—
a tiny filament of it connecting the corner of her mouth
to the pillow. She looked so peaceful.”

*

“In the last week we went to hear a friend
perform some music of Benjamin Britten.
I had been in the library finishing up, ploughing
through the back issues of The Criterion and noticing
again that neither Eliot nor any of the others
seemed to have had a clue to the coming horror.
She was sitting beside me and I looked at her hands
in her lap. Her beautiful hands. And I thought about
the way she was carrying the whole of the world’s violence
and cruelty in her body, or trying to, because
she thought the rest of us couldn’t or wouldn’t.
Our friend was bowing away, a series of high, sweet,
climbing and keening notes, and that line of Eliot’s
from The Wasteland came into my head:
‘This music crept by me upon the waters.'” 

if you forget me :: pablo neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Courtesy of MEM

calligraphy accompanied by the mood of a calm but definitive sauce :: dick allen

Make your strokes thus: the horizontal:
as a cloud that slowly drifts across the horizon;
the vertical: as an ancient but strong vine stem;
the dot: a falling rock;
and learn to master the sheep leg, the tiger’s claw,
an apricot kernel, a dewdrop, the new moon,
the wave rising and falling
. Do these
while holding your arm out above the paper
like the outstretched leg of a crane.
The strength of your hand
will give the stroke its bone.
But for real accomplishment, it would be well
if you would go to live solitary in a forest silence,
or beside a river flowing serenely.
It might also be useful
to look down a lonesome road,
and for the future
to stare into the gray static of a television screen,
or when lost in a video game
to accept you may never reach the final level,
where the dragon awaits, guarding the pot of gold,
and that you’ve left no footprints, not a single one,
despite all your adventures,
anyone following you could ever follow.

read the q&a

the orchid flower :: sam hamill

Just as I wonder
whether it’s going to die,
the orchid blossoms

and I can’t explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure
comes from one small bud
on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower

opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.

Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it’s
purely erotic,

pistil and stamen, pollen,
dew of the world, a spoonful

of earth, and water.
Erotic because there’s death
at the heart of birth,

drama in those old sunrise
prisms in wet cedar boughs,

deepest mystery
in washing evening dishes
or teasing my wife,

who grows, yes, more beautiful
because one of us will die.