the legend :: garrett hongo

In memory of Jay Kashiwamura

In Chicago, it is snowing softly
and a man has just done his wash for the week.
He steps into the twilight of early evening,
carrying a wrinkled shopping bag
full of neatly folded clothes,
and, for a moment, enjoys
the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper,
flannellike against his gloveless hands.
There’s a Rembrandt glow on his face,
a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek
as a last flash of sunset
blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street.

He is Asian, Thai or Vietnamese,
and very skinny, dressed as one of the poor
in rumpled suit pants and a plaid mackinaw,
dingy and too large.
He negotiates the slick of ice
on the sidewalk by his car,
opens the Fairlane’s back door,
leans to place the laundry in,
and turns, for an instant,
toward the flurry of footsteps
and cries of pedestrians
as a boy–that’s all he was–
backs from the corner package store
shooting a pistol, firing it,
once, at the dumbfounded man
who falls forward,
grabbing at his chest.

A few sounds escape from his mouth,
a babbling no one understands
as people surround him
bewildered at his speech.
The noises he makes are nothing to them.
The boy has gone, lost
in the light array of foot traffic
dappling the snow with fresh prints.

Tonight, I read about Descartes’
grand courage to doubt everything
except his own miraculous existence
and I feel so distinct
from the wounded man lying on the concrete
I am ashamed

Let the night sky cover him as he dies.
Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven
and take up his cold hands.

eighth sky :: michael palmer

It is scribbled along the body
Impossible even to say a word

An alphabet has been stored beneath the ground
It is a practice alphabet, work of the hand

Yet not, not marks inside a box
For example, this is a mirror box

Spinoza designed such a box
and called it the Eighth Sky

called it the Nevercadabra House
as a joke

Yet not, not so much a joke
not Notes for Electronic Harp

on a day free of sounds
(but I meant to write “clouds”)

At night these same boulevards fill with snow
Lancers and dancers pass a poisoned syringe,

as you wrote, writing of death in the snow,
Patroclus and a Pharaoh on Rue Ravignan

It is scribbled across each body
Impossible even to name a word

Look, you would say, how the sky falls
at first gently, then not at all

Two chemicals within the firefly are the cause
Twin ships, twin nemeses

preparing to metamorphose
into an alphabet in stone

St.-Benoît-sur-Loire
to Max Jacob

squirrel problem :: zachary schomburg

I watch a squirrel get run over by a car on my walk to work. She is lying dead in the street and still has an acorn in her little hands. I am amazed at how she is able to hold on to her acorn after being tumbled like that, after bouncing so high off the street. I walk over to the squirrel and see that her face is blown to bits and looks like uncased sausage spilling onto the asphalt. But that acorn is still so tight in her hands. I pick her up by her tail, take off my dress shirt and swaddle her in it, then put her in my bag. I know right where she is as I walk into work, everybody looking at me, everybody asking me about my shirtlessness. The world is as steady as if it were sewn into the skin of the universe.

after catullus :: lisa jarnot

            For Thomas

In the beginning
there was grief,
a garden in the
center of a city
lit in rose and green,
a quickening of the
air across the wing
of a plane upon the
tip of the Labrador Sea
there was gleaming
there, a torque
not finished or forestalling
there was the promise of
Paris’s perpetual pomme
pressed in gold,
there was only the hole
in the heel of a sock,
the steam of a since in a
fore-flung damp hotel
there was nothing baked
or boiled there was a stiffness,
a whiteness, a heaviness of
limbs and chips and silvered
peas, there was
this about it—a dipping
of the sun, a singular spoon,
a grid of hymns buried
under the finances of
a pickled cork, there
was finally that sense of it,
pharmacies or chemists
or high streets or the shape
of an ear of a baby asleep,
heavily there was that,
let me explain it again let it
be turned by the heave
of a hundred craven wivers
of verse, let the pendulous
balls of finest quality lead
render it into what I think
it is. Let me go back
to that garden in the
center of that city
to know I who I loved.

surrounded by sheep and low ground :: linda gregg

When death comes, we take off our clothes
and gather everything we left behind:
what is dark, broken, touched with shame.
When Death demands we give an accounting,
naked we present our lives in bundles.
See how much these weigh, we tell him,
refusing to deny what we have lived.
Everything that is touched by light
loves the light. We the stubborn-as-grass,
we who reel at the taste of sap and want
our spirits cleansed, will not betray
the weeds, snake, or crippled mare.
Never leave behind what the light shone on.

sita :: jason schneiderman

Do you remember Sita? How when Hanuman came to rescue her
she refused, how she insisted that Rama come openly,
defeat her captor Ravana openly? She had no desire for stealth,
no desire for intrigue, and though Ravana could not touch her
for the curse on his flesh, she remained captive until Rama came.
Do you remember that she was tortured? That Hunaman asked her
for permission to kill the women who had tortured her? Do you
remember how she walked through fire to prove her purity,
even though everyone knew of the curse on Ravana? How the people
said the fire didn’t matter because Fire was the brother of her mother,
Earth? How Rama was as weak in the face of his people as he
had been strong in the face of Ravana? Can you imagine the eyes
of Sita when she refused another test? When she looked at Rama,
a man she loved enough to die for, a man who was a god, and knew
it was over? Can you imagine her eyes in that moment, as she asked
her mother to take her back, to swallow her back into the earth? I think
my eyes are like that now, leaving you.

we who are your closest friends :: phillip lopate

we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
frustration
discontent and
torture
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us

in announcing our
association
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your
disastrous personality

then for the good of the collective