the manufacture of rain :: jonathan greene

As the rain starts
it is as if the first drops
are the hardest
to produce.

Some set up time is required,
minute calibrations, calculating
a storm’s severity so that the wrath
of God will be noticed.

Or tuned for the slightest drizzle
so a couple might need to
lean into each other
wordlessly declaring their love.

Once the engines have warmed up,
there is an ease to its repetition.
The walkers with eyes downcast.
The rain returning from foreign seas.

dawn chorus :: sasha dugdale

March 29, 2010

Every morning since the time changed
I have woken to the dawn chorus
And even before it sounded, I dreamed of it
Loud, unbelievably loud, shameless, raucous

And once I rose and twitched the curtains apart
Expecting the birds to be pressing in fright
Against the pane like passengers
But the garden was empty and it was night

Not a slither of light at the horizon
Still the birds were bawling through the mists
Terrible, invisible
A million small evangelists

How they sing: as if each had pecked up a smoldering coal
Their throats singed and swollen with song
In dissonance as befits the dark world
Where only travelers and the sleepless belong

the ghazal of what hurt :: peter cole

Pain froze you, for years—and fear—leaving scars.
But now, as though miraculously, it seems, here you are

walking easily across the ground, and into town
as though you were floating on air, which in part you are,

or riding a wave of what feels like the world’s good will—
though helped along by something foreign and older than you are

and yet much younger too, inside you, and so palpable
an X-ray, you’re sure, would show it, within the body you are,

not all that far beneath the skin, and even in
some bones. Making you wonder: Are you what you are—

with all that isn’t actually you having flowed
through and settled in you, and made you what you are?

The pain was never replaced, nor was it quite erased.
It’s memory now—so you know just how lucky you are.

You didn’t always. Were you then? And where’s the fear?
Inside your words, like an engine? The car you are?!

Face it, friend, you most exist when you’re driven
away, or on—by forms and forces greater than you are.

song for future books :: joanna fuhrman

The book is made of glass and I look
through it and see more books.

Many glass books.

Is someone speaking?

A muffled voice is telling me
to make soup which I think
means I am loved.

What other kind of cup
fills itself?

Can there be a cup of cup?

A cup of itself?

Outside a black squirrel has wiggled
to the end
of a very skinny branch.

When the squirrel breathes
the whole tree shakes,

as if the squirrel were the soul
of the tree.

Have you ever felt like
such a tree?

Not sayin’
I have.

hour :: reginald gibbons

Sleepless
in the cold dark,
I look
through the closed dim
door be-
fore me, which be-
comes an
abyss into
which my
memories have
fallen
past laughter or
horror,
passion or hard
work—my
memories of
our past
laughter, horror,
passion,
hard work. An ache
of be-
ing. An ache of
being,
over love. An
ache of
being over
love. Like
projections on
the screen
of the heavy
window
curtains, flashing
lights of
a slow-scraping
after-
midnight snowplow
for a
moment pulse in
this room.

it is difficult to speak of the night :: jack gilbert

It is difficult to speak of the night.
It is the other time. Not
an absence of day.
But where there are no flowers
to turn away into.
There is only this dark
and the familiar place of my body.
And the voices calling out
of me for love.
This is not the night of the young:
their simple midnight of fear.
Nor the later place to employ.
This dark is a major nation.
I turn to it at forty
and find the night in flood.
Find the dark deployed in process.
Clotted in parts, in parts
flowing with lights.
The voice still keen of the divorce
we are born into.
But they are farther off,
and do not interest me.
I am forty, and it is different.
Suddenly in midpassage
I come into myself. I left
gigantically. An empire yields
unexpectedly: cities, summer forests,
satrapies, horses.
A solitude: an enormity.
Thank god.

the map of the world confused with its territory :: susan stewart

In a drawer I found a map of the world,
folded into eighths and then once again
and each country bore the wrong name because
the map of the world is an orphanage.

The edges of the earth had a margin
as frayed as the hem of the falling night
and a crease moved down toward the center of
the earth, halving the identical stars.

Every river ran with its thin blue
brother out from the heart of a country:
there cedars twisted toward the southern sky
and reeds plumed eastward like an augur’s pens.

No dates on the wrinkles of that broad face,
no slow grinding of mountains and sand, for—
all at once, like a knife on a whetstone—
the map of the world spoke in snakes and tongues.

The hard-topped roads of the western suburbs
and the distant lights of the capitol
each pull away from the yellowed beaches
and step into the lost sea of daybreak.

The map of the world is a canvas turning
away from the painter’s ink-stained hands
while the pigments cake in their little glass
jars and the brushes grow stiff with forgetting.

There is no model, shy and half-undressed,
no open window and flickering lamp,
yet someone has left this sealed blue letter,
this gypsy’s bandana on the darkening

Table, each corner held down by a conch
shell. What does the body remember at
dusk? That the palms of the hands are a map
of the world, erased and drawn again and

Again, then covered with rivers and earth.

message bones :: thomas reiter

(The Oregon Trail, 1871)

All across Wyoming, notes
are showing up scratched on bones
wedged in sandstone ledges
and flying bright strips of cloth.
And so the unwritten dead turn out
to someone’s advantage. Reading
a femur or clavicle, you learn
the distance to sweet water
or grassland for the oxen
or the next trading post. Here’s
a skull the color of fair-weather
cumulus advertising
Peeler’s Physicing Pills.
With ten crosses to the high plains
mile left by wagon trains
and by Mormons pulling handcarts
lettered “A Glorious Way to Zion,”
there’s no time to reopen the earth
for pilgrims pulled from shallow
graves by wolves. Another month
and blizzards will close
passes to the Willamette Valley.
A woman’s betrothed, gone on
ahead to start their orchard
of apples, cherries, pears,
has poured out his heart
in this long rain shadow,
and so she’ll bring to trail’s end
a hope chest of bones.

the stranger :: w. s. merwin

After a Guarani legend recorded by Ernesto Morales

One day in the forest there was somebody
who had never been there before
it was somebody like the monkeys but taller
and without a tail and without so much hair
standing up and walking on only two feet
and as he went he heard a voice calling Save me

as the stranger looked he could see a snake
a very big snake with a circle of fire
that was dancing all around it
and the snake was trying to get out
but every way it turned the fire was there

so the stranger bent the trunk of a young tree
and climbed out over the fire until he
could hold a branch down to the snake
and the snake wrapped himself around the branch
and the stranger pulled the snake up out of the fire

and as soon as the snake saw that he was free
he twined himself around the stranger
and started to crush the life out of him
but the stranger shouted No No
I am the one who has just saved your life
and you pay me back by trying to kill me

but the snake said I am keeping the law
it is the law that whoever does good
receives evil in return
and he drew his coils tight around the stranger
but the stranger kept on saying No No
I do not believe that is the law

so the snake said I will show you
I will show you three times and you will see
and he kept his coils tight around the stranger’s neck
and all around his arms and body
but he let go of the stranger’s legs
Now walk he said to the stranger Keep going

so they started out that way and they came
to a river and the river said to them
I do good to everyone and look what they
do to me I save them from dying of thirst
and all they do is stir up the mud
and fill my water with dead things

the snake said One

the stranger said Let us go on and they did
and they came to a carandá-i palm
there were wounds running with sap on its trunk
and the palm tree was moaning I do good
to everyone and look what they do to me
I give them my fruit and my shade and they cut me
and drink from my body until I die

the snake said Two

the stranger said Let us go on and they did
and came to a place where they heard whimpering
and saw a dog with his paw in a basket
and the dog said I did a good thing
and this is what came of it
I found a jaguar who had been hurt
and I took care of him and he got better

and as soon as he had his strength again
he sprang at me wanting to eat me up
I managed to get away but he tore my paw
I hid in a cave until he was gone
and here in this basket I have
a calabash full of milk for my wound
but now I have pushed it too far down to reach

will you help me he said to the snake
and the snake liked milk better than anything
so he slid off the stranger and into the basket
and when he was inside the dog snapped it shut
and swung it against a tree with all his might
again and again until the snake was dead

and after the snake was dead in there
the dog said to the stranger Friend
I have saved your life
and the stranger took the dog home with him
and treated him the way the stranger would treat a dog

advice for a stegosaurus :: jessica goodheart

Never mind the asteroid,
the hot throat of the volcano,
a sun that daily drops into the void.

Comb the drying riverbed for drink.
Strut your bird-hipped body.
Practice a lizard grin. Don’t think.

Stretch out your tail. Walk, as you must,
in a slow deliberate gait.
Don’t look back, Dinosaur. Dust is dust.

You’ll leave your bones, your fossil feet
and armored eye-lids.
Put your chin to the wind. Eat what you eat.

death as a way of life [it began:] :: anna moschovakis

It began:

1. Life is not fair
2. How can I be happy while others suffer
3. How can I not be happy while others suffer
4. Others will suffer whether or not I am happy
5. It is not the suffering of others that causes my happiness
6. It is not the not-suffering of others that causes my unhappiness
8.

I have been attracted to the idea that naming is a form of violence
but does that mean we should go around calling everyone Hey You
which seems like another sort of violence
even though it is a way of recognizing the other
as other

What can be said on this point?

winter stars :: larry levis

My father once broke a man’s hand
Over the exhaust pipe of a John Deere tractor. The man,
Rubén Vásquez, wanted to kill his own father
With a sharpened fruit knife, & he held
The curved tip of it, lightly, between his first
Two fingers, so it could slash
Horizontally, & with surprising grace,
Across a throat. It was like a glinting beak in a hand,
And, for a moment, the light held still
On those vines. When it was over,
My father simply went in & ate lunch, & then, as always,
Lay alone in the dark, listening to music.
He never mentioned it.

I never understood how anyone could risk his life,
Then listen to Vivaldi.

Sometimes, I go out into this yard at night,
And stare through the wet branches of an oak
In winter, & realize I am looking at the stars
Again. A thin haze of them, shining
And persisting.

It used to make me feel lighter, looking up at them.
In California, that light was closer.
In a California no one will ever see again,
My father is beginning to die. Something
Inside him is slowly taking back
Every word it ever gave him.
Now, if we try to talk, I watch my father
Search for a lost syllable as if it might
Solve everything, & though he can’t remember, now,
The word for it, he is ashamed . . .
If you can think of the mind as a place continually
Visited, a whole city placed behind
The eyes, & shining, I can imagine, now, its end—
As when the lights go off, one by one,
In a hotel at night, until at last
All of the travelers will be asleep, or until
Even the thin glow from the lobby is a kind
Of sleep; & while the woman behind the desk
Is applying more lacquer to her nails,
You can almost believe that the elevator,
As it ascends, must open upon starlight.

I stand out on the street, & do not go in.
That was our agreement, at my birth.

And for years I believed
That what went unsaid between us became empty,
And pure, like starlight, & that it persisted.

I got it all wrong.
I wound up believing in words the way a scientist
Believes in carbon, after death.

Tonight, I’m talking to you, father, although
It is quiet here in the Midwest, where a small wind,
The size of a wrist, wakes the cold again—
Which may be all that’s left of you & me.

When I left home at seventeen, I left for good.

That pale haze of stars goes on & on,
Like laughter that has found a final, silent shape
On a black sky. It means everything
It cannot say. Look, it’s empty out there, & cold.
Cold enough to reconcile
Even a father, even a son.

verities :: kim addonizio

Into every life a little ax must fall.
Every dog has its choke chain.
Every cloud has a shadow.
Better dead than fed.
He who laughs, will not last.
Sticks and stones will break you,
and then the names of things will be changed.
A stitch in time saves no one.
The darkest hour comes.

a secret kept :: judah al-harizi

translated by david goldstein

The girl brought me into the house of love.
She was as pure and perfect as Abigail.
When she took off her veil she revealed a form
That put to shame the beauty of Esther.
Her light shone in the darkness, made everything tremble.
The hills started to dance like rams.
I thought; ‘Now our secrets are discovered.’
But she stretched out her hand like a woman of strength
And enveloped me with her jet-black hair.
So the day was immediately turned into night.

basal cell :: george bilgere

The sun is still burning in my skin
even though it set half-an-hour ago,
and Cindy and Bob and Bev and John
are pulling on their sweatshirts
and gathering around the fire pit.

John hands me a cold one
and now Bev comes into my arms
and I can feel the sun’s heat,
and taste the Pacific on her cheek.

I am not in Vietnam,
nor is John or Bob, because
our deferments came through,
and we get to remain boys
for at least another summer
like this one in Santa Cruz,
surfing the afternoons in a sweet
blue dream I’m remembering now,

as the nurse puts my cheek to sleep,
and the doctor begins to burn
those summers away.

rain and the tyrants :: jules supervielle

translated by david gascoyne

I stand and watch the rain
Falling in pools which make
Our grave old planet shine;
The clear rain falling, just the same
As that which fell in Homer’s time
And that which dropped in Villon’s day
Falling on mother and on child
As on the passive backs of sheep;
Rain saying all it has to say
Again and yet again, and yet
Without the power to make less hard
The wooden heads of tyrants or
To soften their stone hearts,
And powerless to make them feel
Amazement as they ought;
A drizzling rain which falls
Across all Europe’s map,
Wrapping all men alive
In the same moist envelope;
Despite the soldiers loading arms,
Despite the newspapers’ alarms,
Despite all this, all that,
A shower of drizzling rain
Making the flags hang wet.

inertia :: jane kenyon

My head was heavy, heavy;
so was the atmosphere.
I had to ask two times
before my hand would scratch my ear.
I thought I should be out
and doing! The grass, for one thing,
needed mowing.

Just then a centipede
reared from the spine
of my open dictionary. It tried
the air with enterprising feelers,
then made its way along the gorge
between 202 and 203. The valley
of the shadow of death
came to mind
inexorably.

It can’t be easy for the left hand
to know what the right is doing.
And how, on such a day, when the sky
is hazy and perfunctory, how
does a centipede get started
without feeling muddled and heavy-hearted?

Well, it had its fill of etymology.
I watched it pull its tail
over the edge of the page, and vanish
in a pile of mail.

the boat-header :: henri cole

I saw you
unexpectedly
on the street today.
Though it was midday
your eyes were dilated,

and you seemed
almost electrically
charged with thought,
with an increased
speed of speaking:

“I garden, I grill meat,
I prowl the bars.”
But I was having
difficulty listening.
Your teeth were growing.

A muscle
spasmed against
my diaphragm;
I needed
a bag of ice.

Still, I could see
those rooms
with perfect clarity:
the coat rack
and bureau,

the dinner plates
with congealed meat,
the flea market Piranesi,
and the long mirrors
like camera lenses

freezing us
as the boat-header
gave you his final
thrusts, preparatory
to the cutting-in.

today :: billy collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

carmel point :: robinson jeffers

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads—
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.—As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

kissing a horse :: robert wrigley

Of the two spoiled, barn-sour geldings
we owned that year, it was Red—
skittish and prone to explode
even at fourteen years—who’d let me
hold to my face his own: the massive labyrinthine
caverns of the nostrils, the broad plain
up the head to the eyes. He’d let me stroke
his coarse chin whiskers and take
his soft meaty underlip
in my hands, press my man’s carnivorous
kiss to his grass-nipping upper half of one, just
so that I could smell
the long way his breath had come from the rain
and the sun, the lungs and the heart,
from a world that meant no harm.