to martha: a new year :: audre lorde

As you search over this year
with eyes your heart has
sharpened
remember longing.

I do not know your space now
I only seek a woman whom I love
trapped there
by accident.
but places do not change
so much
as what we seek in them
and faith will serve
along the way
to somewhere else
where work begins.

Courtesy of S.T.

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matters about which unfortunately I have no brilliant opinion to offer readers :: sandra santana

translated by forrest gander

With the arrival of the night
some of his words, like the intermittent
flare [Here, I detected a point
of inflection provoked by the peculiar
nature of desire.

Which came to me
even faster than imagination
since it needs not move at all,
waiting hidden always
everywhere] of a cigarette,
called my attention to a luminous
moment before it faded away.

the cats will know :: cesare pavese

translated by Geoffrey Brock

Rain will fall again
on your smooth pavement,
a light rain like
a breath or a step.
The breeze and the dawn
will flourish again
when you return,
as if beneath your step.
Between flowers and sills
the cats will know.

There will be other days,
there will be other voices.
You will smile alone.
The cats will know.
You will hear words
old and spent and useless
like costumes left over
from yesterday’s parties.

You too will make gestures.
You’ll answer with words—
face of springtime,
you too will make gestures.

The cats will know,
face of springtime;
and the light rain
and the hyacinth dawn
that wrench the heart of him
who hopes no more for you—
they are the sad smile
you smile by yourself.

There will be other days,
other voices and renewals.
Face of springtime,
we will suffer at daybreak.

creatures :: billy collins

Hamlet noticed them in the shapes of clouds,
but I saw them in the furniture of childhood,
creatures trapped under surfaces of wood,

one submerged in a polished sideboard,
one frowning from a chair-back,
another howling from my mother’s silent bureau,
locked in the grain of maple, frozen in oak.

I would see these presences, too,
in a swirling pattern of wallpaper
or in the various greens of a porcelain lamp,
each looking so melancholy, so damned,
some peering out at me as if they knew
all the secrets of a secretive boy.

Many times I would be daydreaming
on the carpet and one would appear next to me,
the oversize nose, the hollow look.

So you will understand my reaction
this morning at the beach
when you opened your hand to show me
a stone you had picked up from the shoreline.

“Do you see the face?” you asked
as the cold surf circled our bare ankles.
“There’s the eye and the line of the mouth,
like it’s grimacing, like it’s in pain.”

“Well, maybe that’s because it has a fissure
running down the length of its forehead
not to mention a kind of twisted beak,” I said,

taking the thing from you and flinging it out
over the sparkle of blue waves
so it could live out its freakish existence
on the dark bottom of the sea

and stop bothering innocent beachgoers like us,
stop ruining everyone’s summer.

ascension :: kathleen norris

     Why do you stand looking up at the skies?
                                                     Acts I:II

It wasn’t just wind, chasing
thin gunmetal clouds
across the loud sky;
it wasn’t the feeling that one might ascend
on that excited air,
rising like a trumpet note.

And it wasn’t just my sister’s water breaking,
her crying out,
the downward draw of blood and bone…

It was all of that,
the mud and new grass
pushing up through melting snow,
the lilac in bud
by my front door, bent low
by last week’s ice storm.

Now the new mother, that leaky vessel,
begins to nurse her child,
beginning the long good-bye.

the slow pacific swell :: yvor winters

Far out of sight forever stands the sea,
Bounding the land with pale tranquillity.
When a small child, I watched it from a hill
At thirty miles or more. The vision still
Lies in the eye, soft blue and far away:
The rain has washed the dust from April day;
Paint-brush and lupine lie against the ground;
The wind above the hill-top has the sound
Of distant water in unbroken sky;
Dark and precise the little steamers ply-
Firm in direction they seem not to stir.
That is illusion. The artificer
Of quiet, distance holds me in a vise
And holds the ocean steady to my eyes.

Once when I rounded Flattery, the sea
Hove its loose weight like sand to tangle me
Upon the washing deck, to crush the hull;
Subsiding, dragged flesh at the bone. The skull
Felt the retreating wash of dreaming hair.
Half drenched in dissolution, I lay bare.
I scarcely pulled myself erect; I came
Back slowly, slowly knew myself the same.
That was the ocean. From the ship we saw
Gray whales for miles: the long sweep of the jaw,
The blunt head plunging clean above the wave.
And one rose in a tent of sea and gave
A darkening shudder; water fell away;
The whale stood shining, and then sank in spray.

A landsman, I. The sea is but a sound.
I would be near it on a sandy mound,
And hear the steady rushing of the deep
While I lay stinging in the sand with sleep.
I have lived inland long. The land is numb.
It stands beneath the feet, and one may come
Walking securely, till the sea extends
Its limber margin, and precision ends.
By night a chaos of commingling power,
The whole Pacific hovers hour by hour.
The slow Pacific swell stirs on the sand,
Sleeping to sink away, withdrawing land,
Heaving and wrinkled in the moon, and blind;
Or gathers seaward, ebbing out of mind.

happiness :: robert hass

Because yesterday morning from the steamy window
we saw a pair of red foxes across the creek
eating the last windfall apples in the rain—
they looked up at us with their green eyes
long enough to symbolize the wakefulness of living things
and then went back to eating—
and because this morning
when she went into the gazebo with her black pen and yellow pad
to coax an inquisitive soul
from what she thinks of as the reluctance of matter,
I drove into town to drink tea in the café
and write notes in a journal—mist rose from the bay
like the luminous and indefinite aspect of intention,
and a small flock of tundra swans
for the second winter in a row was feeding on new grass
in the soaked fields; they symbolize mystery, I suppose,
they are also called whistling swans, are very white,
and their eyes are black—

and because the tea steamed in front of me,
and the notebook, turned to a new page,
was blank except for a faint blue idea of order,
I wrote: happiness! it is December, very cold,
we woke early this morning,
and lay in bed kissing,
our eyes squinched up like bats.