orchestra :: nina cassian

Translated from Romanian by Dana Gioia

Climbing the scales three octaves at a time,
I search for you among the high notes where
the tender flute resides. But where are your
sweet eyelashes? Not there.

Then I descend among the sunlit brasses—
their funnels glistening like fountain tips.
I let them splash me with their streaming gold,
but I can’t find your lips.

Then daring ever deeper I explore
the depths the elemental strings command.
Their bows will not create a miracle
without your stroking hand.

The orchestra is still. The score is blank.
Cold as a slide rule the brasses, strings, and flute.
Sonorous lover, when will you return?
The orchestra is mute.

great sleeps i have known :: robin becker

Once in a cradle in Norway folded
like Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir
as a ship in full sail transported the dead to Valhalla

Once on a mountain in Taos after making love
in my thirties the decade of turquoise and silver

After your brother walked into the Atlantic
to scatter your mothers ashes his khakis soaked
to the knees his shirtsleeves blowing

At the top of the cottage in a thunderstorm
once or twice each summer covetous of my solitude

Immediately following lunch
against circadian rhythms, once
in a bunk bed in a dormitory in the White Mountains

Once in a hollow tree in Wyoming
A snow squall blew in the guide said tie up your horses

The last night in the Katmandu guest house
where I saw a bird fly from a monk’s mouth
a consolidated sleep of East and West

Once on a horsehair mattress two feet thick
I woke up singing
as in the apocryphal story of my birth
at Temple University Hospital

On the mesa with the burrowing owls
on the mesa with the prairie dogs

Willing to be lucky
I ran the perimeter road in my sleep
entrained to the cycles of light and dark
Sometimes my dead sister visited my dreams

Once on the beach in New Jersey
after the turtles deposited their eggs
before my parents grew old, nocturnal

bildungsromangst :: patrick moran

Two cups of squalor & three heaping teaspoons of overcast/oppressive village, add several cases of undiagnosed childhood consumption with a dash of petty larceny, stir over a low heat of human indifference, cool with a blast of bitter accusations & serve thick/black wedges to starving artists on the eve of the only war they will ever regret.

horses at midnight without a moon :: jack gilbert

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise 
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing. 
Our spirit persists like a man struggling 
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

aubade :: maria hummel

I have grown used to your second departures,
after the car is already thrumming in the driveway,
but the checkbook, the wallet perches on the back

of the couch, and you must charge in for it again,
the cold reaching through the open door, the intensity
of geese just as they sweep the earth, your arrival,

my second chance at good-bye. I used to resent it,
young enough to think we should remember all
our necessities before we left, my pockets stuffed

with lists, my handbag swinging like a heart
on a string. What is it, I would say, impatient
at your return, until I learned to find for you the item

you left behind, usually your money. That was
before the door became another kind of window,
held fast, crossed by storms like the rest of them,

whistled in the high wind. Before the house ached
around us like stretched skin, and the possibility
of children, and we were no longer alone in the world,

two people beneath a bird-shattered sky, but
accountable to hold each other, like roots and riverbank,
air and branches. Although every year we grow less

divisible, as clay and tree-knot gleaming with a steep,
worn loveliness, as leaf hush and the quiet of sky
unfolding into rain, I still can’t forget things. I always

take them when I leave, and much as I long for a second
departure, to find you standing there, handing me the one
lost glove, the mashed hat, I already know one of us

must go first, entering the singing canopy of streets,
and one of us will wait, hope for the sound of a door
opening, that love is the last remembered thing.

From the Fishouse; Courtesy of MEM

forecast :: melanie mccabe

The wind that bends the pin oak to the bedroom glass,
that pries my porch roof jagged from the torn flashing
to betray how little stands between me and rain, will be

your wind tomorrow. Moving east in gales, it’s bound
to whip up whitecaps on your Atlantic; to lash the flags
along the boardwalk till they clang, metal grommets

and snap-locks against metal poles; to tangle the kites
aloft beside the Henlopen. The bench we sat on will be
spackled in salt. Dune grasses will buckle and succumb.

That wind will have to suffice, will have to be my envoy.
If it whines against the eaves that cover your sleep, agitates
the composure of Silver Lake and the inlet, my bidding

will be done. If it whistles in window cracks as you drive
Route 1 past the Great Marsh Preserve, or cries down
Broadkill Road until you reach the end, and then draws in

a ragged breath to let it out against your ear, the dumb pulse
of your throat, there will be no need for me to break my word
or utter one. There will be nothing new that I could add.

things shouldn’t be so hard :: kay ryan

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.