onions :: william matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It’s true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there’s nothing to an onion
but skin, and it’s true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It’s there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

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maurice ravel :: frank o’hara

That in the living, the fastening
seashells onto skyscrapers, syncopating
the lozenges, oh beauty! indestructible
you have become by his hands.

The harmful distances of silence
somewhat abated, he can finally rest
in your brain companioned by tempestuous
thoughts, walking him up and down,

waltzing him round, always with
love and discrimination self-taught.
Removing the silencer from the gun
he shot agates into your eyes, fell

upon the weak cries of infants
with leonine roars from backyard fences
and did not falter before the bolero’s
dumb desert. His wrist dropped oases.

If, at the untellable hour of quiet,
he had not put fingernail to
waterglass, what trees we’d’ve
turned to! fugitive, quivering.

if feeling isn’t in it :: john brehm

You can take it away, as far as I’m concerned—I’d rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I’m not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play the ability to impart warmth, elation . . . .
Howard Moss

Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can’t reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they’re dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don’t try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I’ve seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn’t come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she’s gone
and I’m tied to a post surrounded by people
who don’t look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It’s almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.

shifting the sun :: diana der-hovanessian

When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses. May you inherit
his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.

friend :: jean valentine

Friend I need your hand every morning
but anger and beauty and hope
these roses make one rose.

Friend I need a hand every evening
but anger and hope and beauty
are three roses
that make one rose.

Let’s fix our bed it’s in splinters
and I want to stay all year.

Let’s fix our bed it’s in splinters
and I want to stay all year.

Did you hear what that woman on Grafton Street was saying?

You won’t be killed today.
We don’t even know we’re born.

leaves fell :: juhan liiv

translated from the estonian by h.l. hix & jüri talvet

A gust roused the waves,
leaves blew into the water,
the waves were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

It was good for my heart:
there my feelings were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

The breath of wind brought cooler air,
the waves of mourning brought separation:
autumn and autumn
befriend each other.

Read the translator’s notes