to jacques pépin :: shanna compton

Touch me
with your impeccably clean hands.
Go ahead: Say beutter, instead of butter.
I can take it.

I love your rhapsodies of oil.
You are hypnotic as you pat
a chicken’s rump with your right hand, swirl
your ruby glass in the left.

For a Frenchman,
you are remarkably open
to wines vinted by Californians.
Don’t misunderstand.

I never intended any innuendo,
but I dream of being food in your kitchen.
Every night I become a perfect tomato,
a parcel of pastry, crimped and tender.

Give me away in a frock of parchment paper. Fold
me in. Slick me a little clarified gold.

this morning i could do a thousand things :: robert hedin

I could fix the leaky pipe
   Under the sink, or wander over
   And bother Jerry who’s lost
   In the bog of his crankcase.
   I could drive the half-mile down
   To the local mall and browse
   Through the bright stables
   Of mowers, or maybe catch
   The power-walkers puffing away
   On their last laps. I could clean
   The garage, weed the garden,
   Or get out the shears and
   Prune the rose bushes back.
   Yes, a thousand things
   This beautiful April morning.
   But I’ve decided to just lie
   Here in this old hammock,
   Rocking like a lazy metronome,
   And wait for the day lilies
   To open. The sun is barely
   Over the trees, and already
   The sprinklers are out,
   Raining their immaculate
   Bands of light over the lawns.

poem :: cynthia arrieu-king

A pink dozen sunshine trapezoids—
It’s good to be breathing
says an array of rosemary shrubs.
A field of illicit rocks, shrapnel, bees, germs unknown.
Hands held. Back seats checked for sleeping.

I have made a Tuesday monument
of a baby’s toothbrush lying on the sidewalk alone.

The far lake no one knows about, bitching its ripples.

In this case it
doesn’t matter what other people need
in measures of solitude; You
need a few years, a few more years
alone. And it’s such a popular
slur to hurl: You will always be alone.
I’ve been told that—
(Eight years ago.)

(And knowing slowly as I go how to hold a garden here.)

this deepening takes places again :: emily kendal frey

What if everything
were revealed: where I was
last night. You, etc. The rain
is coming down like salad.
My sister’s hair
reminds me of my sister
so much I can’t
stop looking. Who am I
to have arms? On the plane
one short dream:
a baby so small
it wasn’t even human,
just a bouquet
of light with wise
cellular eyes. If losing me
is the worst thing to happen,
your life is still a good life.

atlantis—a lost sonnet :: eavan boland

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

before you came :: faiz ahmed faiz

translated by Agha Shahid Ali

Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a color at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the color of poison, of thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don’t leave now that you’re here—
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.

eletelephony :: laura elizabeth richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

cautionary tales :: mark vinz

Beyond the field of grazing, gazing cows
the great bull has a pasture to himself,
monumental, black flanks barely twitching
from the swarming flies. Only a few strands of
wire separate us—how could I forget
my childhood terror, the grownups warning
that the old bull near my uncle’s farm
would love to chase me, stomp me, gore me
if I ever got too close. And so I
skirted acres just to keep my distance,
peeking through the leaves to see if he still
was watching me, waiting for some foolish move—
those fierce red eyes, the thunder in the ground—
or maybe that was simply nightmares. It’s
getting hard to tell, as years themselves keep
gaining ground relentlessly, their hot breath
on my back, and not a fence in sight.

the fury that breaks :: michelle boisseau

      After César Vallejo

The fury that breaks a grown-up into kids,
a kid into scattered birds
and a bird into limp eggs,
the fury of the poor
takes one part oil to two parts vinegar.

The fury that breaks a tree into leaves,
a leaf into deranged flowers
and a flower into wilting telescopes,
the fury of the poor
gushes two rivers against a hundred seas.

The fury that breaks the true into doubts,
doubt into three matching arches
and the arch into instant tombs,
the fury of the poor
draws a sharpening stone against two knives.

The fury that breaks the soul into bodies,
the body into warped organs,
and the organ into eight doctrines,
the fury of the poor
burns with one fire in two thousand craters.

to you again :: mary szybist

Again this morning my eyes woke up too close
to your eyes,

their almost green orbs
too heavy-lidded to really look back.

To wake up next to you
is ordinary. I do not even need to look at you

to see you.
But I do look. So when you come to me

in your opulent sadness, I see
you do not want me

to unbutton you
so I cannot do the one thing

I can do.
Now it is almost one a.m. I am still at my desk

and you are upstairs at your desk a staircase
away from me. Already it is years

of you a staircase
away from me. To be near you

and not near you
is ordinary.

You
are ordinary.

Still, how many afternoons have I spent
peeling blue paint from

our porch steps, peering above
hedgerows, the few parked cars for the first

glimpse of you. How many hours under
the overgrown, pink Camillas, thinking

the color was wrong for you, thinking
you’d appear

after my next
blink.

Soon you’ll come down the stairs
to tell me something. And I’ll say,

okay. Okay. I’ll say it
like that, say it just like

that, I’ll go on being
your never-enough.

It’s not the best in you
I long for. It’s when you’re noteless,

numb at the ends of my fingers, all is
all. I say it is.

unjust praise :: ghirmai yohannes

translated by Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash

In the beginning
The spirit moving
Upon the face of the waters
And in the breaking waves
Tasted salt

And I see fields of it
Drying on the shore.
We let in shallow lakes of sea
To evaporate,
And the salt

Accumulates along their edge
Thanks to the sunlight:
Crystal white,
Enough for everyone,
Harvested and sold

In every shop and on the roads:
Salt!—
In proper measure
Bringing out the taste,
The flavor and spirit

Of our food, hot or cold.
Why should pepper get
So much admiration
When salt does all the work?

poem :: billy collins

It’s like writing a short letter
to everyone in the world at once,

only I don’t have anyone’s address
and there is no thin blue envelope to carry it,

no tiny picture of a famous aviator
or of a blooming flower to speed it on its way.

going :: wendell berry

Like a city, lighted,
the body resists the dark.
Its studies and complaints
burn like windows, the mind
watching in the distance.

But the weight of the body
pulls it down,
an irresistible darkening.
One by one its lights
go out, an itch somewhere
igniting and dwindling
like a flare, the windows
each suddenly blacking out
—each like a bat wakes
to the night, turns loose
and flies outward and high,
black into black.

And finally the mind too,
released from the last
of its beacons, goes.

telescope :: louise glück

There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on the cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.

You realize afterward
not that the image is false
but the relation is false.

You see again how far away
every thing is from every other thing.

the seeing eye :: ezra pound

The small dogs look at the big dogs;
They observe unwieldy dimensions
And curious imperfections of odor.

Here is a formal male group:
The young men look upon their seniors,
They consider the elderly mind
And observe its inexplicable correlations.

Said Tsin-Tsu:
It is only in small dogs and the young
That we find minute observation.

at twenty-eight :: amy fleury

It seems I get by on more luck than sense,
not the kind brought on by knuckle to wood,
breath on dice, or pennies found in the mud.
I shimmy and slip by on pure fool chance.
At turns charmed and cursed, a girl knows romance
as coffee, red wine, and books; solitude
she counts as daylight virtue and muted
evenings, the inventory of absence.
But this is no sorry spinster story,
just the way days string together a life.
Sometimes I eat soup right out of the pan.
Sometimes I don’t care if I will marry.
I dance in my kitchen on Friday nights,
singing like only a lucky girl can.

why poetry can be hard for most people :: dorothea lasky

Because speaking to the dead is not something you want to do
When you have other things to do in your day
Like take out the trash or use the vacuum
In the edge between the stove and cupboard
Because the rat is everywhere
Crawling around
Or more so walking
And it doesn’t even notice you
It has its own intentions
And is searching for that perfect bag of potato chips like you once were
Because life is no more important than eating
Or fucking
Or talking someone into fucking
Or talking someone into something
Or sleeping calmly and soundly
And all you can hope for are the people who put that calm in you
Or let you go into it with dignity
Because poetry reminds you
That there is no dignity
In living
You just muddle through and for what
Jack Jack you wrote to him
You wrote to all of us
I wasn’t even born
You wrote to me
A ball of red and green shifting sparks
In my parents’ eye
You wrote to me and I just listened
I listened I listened I tell you
And I came back
No
Poetry is hard for most people
Because of sound

aerialist :: victoria hallerman

Her life is the wire—she can never come down.
Sometimes she stops and sits on it to eat,
even sleeps there, her whole body stretched
as the wire is stretched. In sleep
she keeps her balance,
feet curled like a monkey’s
the habit of grasping:

she has never fallen.
She never will, not entirely.
Once in a while a slip
causes her to hang for a moment by her hands.
It isn’t the danger of falling that slices through her dreams
but the wire itself, drawing
a line through her body,
leaving a mark on the soles of her feet,

her buttocks, her back.
If she were to cut the wire (she dreams of this)
the sky would break like a mirror into the sea
and nothing would be whole again.
Virgin of the Apocalypse standing on a crescent moon,
she is keeping
Heaven and Earth apart.

escape :: elinor wylie

When foxes eat the last gold grape,
And the last white antelope is killed,
I shall stop fighting and escape
Into a little house I’ll build.

But first I’ll shrink to fairy size,
With a whisper no one understands,
Making blind moons of all your eyes,
And muddy roads of all your hands.

And you may grope for me in vain
In hollows under the mangrove root,
Or where, in apple-scented rain,
The silver wasp-nests hang like fruit.

goodbyes :: jillian weise

begin long before you hear them
and gain speed and come out of
the same place as other words.
They should have their own
place to come from, the elbow
perhaps, since elbows look
funny and never weep. Why
are you proud of me? I said
goodbye to you forty times.
I see your point. That is
an achievement unto itself.
My mom wants me to write
a goodbye poem. It should fit
inside a card and use the phrase,
“You are one powerful lady.”
There is nothing powerful
about me though you might
think so from the way I spit.
I don’t want to say goodbye
to you anymore. I heard
the first wave was an accident.
It happened in the Cave
of the Hands in Santa Cruz.
The four of them were drinking
and someone killed
a wild boar and someone else
said, “Hey look, I put my hand
in it. Saying goodbye is like that.
You put your hand in it and then
you take your hand back.

parenthesis :: valerie mejer

translated by forrest gander

Nothing’s in the nest. No needles. No newborn ravens.
Maybe something like night in the deep hollow,
an eggshell planet, cracked in the middle, an empty bowl of soup.
Nothing’s in the nest. No thread. No webs of words.
Maybe something like my navel, the eclipse of a magnifying glass.
A slice, mute with regard to its empty depths.
In the nest, nothing. The web unwoven. Dismembered.
In the space, something, yes. A piece of cloth. Sounding like flags
taking wing, a worm in its beak and suddenly, eyes, my eyes
which, cutting across the empty air, direct themselves at something noiseless over there.

the storm is over :: jason guriel

But now it’s raining
below the greener clouds
of trees that were absorbent
but only up to a point.
And these raindrops
strained by treetops
should (you would think)
be filtered and finer
and therefore pure
(and not Chinese
water torture’s
fatter, darker drops
that always pick out
of all possible bull’s-eyes
your bald spot).
But these are late, last drops
and a little bloated
like late, last poems
by name your poet.

detail of the woods :: richard siken

I looked at all the trees and didn’t know what to do.

A box made out of leaves.
What else was in the woods? A heart, closing. Nevertheless.

Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.
I kept my mind on the moon. Cold moon, long nights moon.

From the landscape: a sense of scale.
From the dead: a sense of scale.

I turned my back on the story. A sense of superiority.
Everything casts a shadow.

Your body told me in a dream it’s never been afraid of anything.

the earth is a living thing :: lucille clifton

is a black shambling bear
ruffling its wild back and tossing
mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling
the burying ground circling the bones
picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water
is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing
is a favorite child
of the universe
feel her rolling her hand
in its kinky hair
feel her brushing it clean