still life with game, champagne, and vegetables :: chiyuma elliott

If there’s a point, it ends
with the quail’s head resting
on a bunch of radishes.
Here’s champagne: black bottle, gold foil.
Here’s a cauliflower the same dull white
as some of the breast feathers.
You’re taught not to leave things out like this.
Pathogens will creep up from the skin
in two hours. Taught: the rhythms of a body
breaking down on a table, which, if it’s wood,
should be cleaned periodically:
one part bleach to sixteen of water.
There are so many ways to arrange the dead.
This way, and you’re meant to feel hungry.

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making a fist :: naomi shihab nye

    We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
        –Jorge Luis Borges

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

cpr or no cpr :: leo dangel

We bring Aunt Martha to the nursing home.
They weigh her, barely a hundred pounds,
and we help her lie down for a nap.
She closes her eyes, and the lines
of her frail body almost vanish
in her loose-fitting black dress.
I remember how this woman,
after her husband died,
ran the farm herself,
operating tractors and combines,
digging post holes and stretching barbed wire,
dehorning cattle and castrating pigs.
She cooked, too, and baked bread,
and fixed her daughters’ hair.
Everyone knew Martha could do anything.
Now the nurse adjusts the Venetian blinds
and, speaking softly, tells us
we’ll have to talk it over with Martha
when she wakes up and decide which box
to check on her chart—“No CPR” means
that if she ever stops breathing,
they won’t try to bring her back.
Standing near her bed, we talk in whispers,
wondering how we’ll raise this subject,
when, without opening her eyes, she speaks
in the voice she once used to direct
a crew of men shelling corn or filling silo,
“I’ll kill anyone who brings me back.”

visit to st. elizabeths :: elizabeth bishop

This is the house of Bedlam.

This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the time
of the tragic man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a wristwatch
telling the time
of the talkative man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the honored man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the roadstead all of board
reached by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the old, brave man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls of the ward,
the winds and clouds of the sea of board
sailed by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the cranky man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
beyond the sailor
winding his watch
that tells the time
of the cruel man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a world of books gone flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
of the batty sailor
that winds his watch
that tells the time
of the busy man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is there, is flat,
for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
waltzing the length of a weaving board
by the silent sailor
that hears his watch
that ticks the time
of the tedious man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to feel if the world is there and flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances joyfully down the ward
into the parting seas of board
past the staring sailor
that shakes his watch
that tells the time
of the poet, the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the soldier home from the war.
These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is round or flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances carefully down the ward,
walking the plank of a coffin board
with the crazy sailor
that shows his watch
that tells the time
of the wretched man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

consider the hands that write this letter :: aracelis girmay

                  after Marina Wilson

Consider the hands
that write this letter.
The left palm pressed flat against the paper,
as it has done before, over my heart,
in peace or reverence
to the sea or some beautiful thing
I saw once, felt once: snow falling
like rice flung from the giants’ wedding,
or the strangest birds. & consider, then,
the right hand, & how it is a fist,
within which a sharpened utensil,
similar to the way I’ve held a spade,
match to the wick, the horse’s reins,
loping, the very fists
I’ve seen from the roads to Limay & Estelí.
For years, I have come to sit this way:
one hand open, one hand closed,
like a farmer who puts down seeds & gathers up
the food that comes from that farming.
Or, yes, it is like the way I’ve danced
with my left hand opened around a shoulder
& my right hand closed inside
of another hand. & how
I pray, I pray for this
to be my way: sweet
work alluded to in the body’s position
to its paper:
left hand, right hand
like an open eye, an eye closed:
one hand flat against the trapdoor,
the other hand knocking, knocking.

imaginary number :: vijay seshadri

The mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
is not big and is not small.
Big and small are

comparative categories, and to what
could the mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
be compared?

Consciousness observes and is appeased.
The soul scrambles across the screes.
The soul,

like the square root of minus 1,
is an impossibility that has its uses.