first kiss :: kim addonizio

Afterwards you had that drunk, drugged look
my daughter used to get, when she had let go
of my nipple, her mouth gone slack and her eyes
turned vague and filmy, as though behind them
the milk was rising up to fill her
whole head, that would loll on the small
white stalk of her neck so I would have to hold her
closer, amazed at the sheer power
of satiety, which was nothing like the needing
to be fed, the wild flailing and crying until she fastened
herself to me and made the seal tight
between us, and sucked, drawing the liquid down
and out of my body; no, this was the crowning
moment, this giving of herself, knowing
she could show me how helpless
she was—that’s what I saw, that night when you
pulled your mouth from mine and
leaned back against a chain-link fence,
in front of a burned-out church: a man
who was going to be that vulnerable,
that easy and impossible to hurt.

i am offering this poem :: jimmy santiago baca

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

                      I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

                      I love you,

Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

                      I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
remember,

                      I love you.

when the violin :: hafiz

translated by daniel ladinsky

When
The violin
Can forgive the past

It starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying
About the future

You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God
Will then lean down
And start combing you into
His
Hair.

When the violin can forgive
Every wound caused by
Others

The heart starts
Singing.

via AM

the angel with the broken wing :: dana gioia

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadow up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.

medusa :: louise bogan

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door.
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.

smokers of paper :: cesare pavese

translated by geoffrey brock

He’s brought me to hear his band. He sits in a corner
mouthing his clarinet. A hellish racket begins.
Outside, through flashes of lightning, wind gusts
and rain whips, knocking the lights out
every five minutes. In the dark, their faces
give it their all, contorted, as they play a dance tune
from memory. Full of energy, my poor friend
anchors them all from behind. His clarinet writhes,
breaks through the din, passes beyond it, releasing
like a lone soul, into a dry, rough silence.

The poor pieces of brass have been dented too often:
the hands working the stops also work in the fields,
and the obstinate brows stay fixed on the ground.
Miserable worn-out blood, weakened
by too many labors—you can hear it groan
in their notes, as my friend struggles to lead them,
his own hands hardened from swinging a hammer,
from pushing a plane, from scraping a living.

He’s lost all his old comrades, and he’s only thirty.
Part of the postwar group that grew up on hunger.
They all came to Turin, to look for a life,
and discovered injustice. He learned, without smiling,
how to work in a factory. He learned how to measure
the hunger of others with his own fatigue—
injustice was everywhere. He tried to find peace
by walking, at night, down streets without ends,
half-asleep, but found only thousands of streetlamps
blazing down on iniquity: hoarse women and drunks,
staggering puppets, far from their homes, He came,
one winter, to Turin—factory lights, smoke and ash—
and he learned what work is. He accepted that work
was part of a man’s hard fate; if all men did that,
there just might be some justice in this world.
And he found new comrades. He suffered their long words,
he listened and waited for them to be over.
He made them his comrades. Families of them
in each house, the city surrounded by them, the face
of the world covered with them. And each of them
felt desperate enough to conquer the world.

They sound harsh tonight, despite all the time
he spent coaching each player. He ignores the loud rain
and the flickering lights. His face is severe,
fixed on some grief, almost biting the mouthpiece.
I’ve seen this expression before, one evening, just us
and his brother, who’s ten years sadder than him.
We were up late in the dim light, the brother studying
a lathe he had built that didn’t work right,
and my poor friend cursing the fate that kept him there,
bound to his hammer and plane, feeding a pair
of old people he never asked for.
                                         That’s when he yelled
that it wasn’t fate that made the world suffer
or made the daylight spark blasphemous outbursts:
man is the guilty one. If we only could just leave,
and be hungry and free, and say no
to a life that uses our love and our piety,
our families, our patches of dirt, to shackle our hands.

introduction to poetry :: billy collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

a quick one before I go :: david lehman

There comes a time in every man’s life
when he thinks: I have never had a single
original thought in my life
including this one & therefore I shall
eliminate all ideas from my poems
which shall consist of cats, rice, rain
baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants
red brick houses where I shall give up booze
and organized religion even if it means
despair is a logical possibility that can’t
be disproved I shall concentrate on the five
senses and what they half perceive and half
create, the green street signs with white
letters on them the body next to mine
asleep while I think these thoughts
that I want to eliminate like nostalgia
0 was there ever a man who felt as I do
like a pronoun out of step with all the other
floating signifiers no things but in words
an orange T-shirt a lime green awning

the skin’s broken aria :: jennifer chang

I cross the street
and my skin falls off. Who walks
to an abandoned lake? Who
abandons lakes? I ask questions
to evade personal statements. When you are
skinless, you cannot bear to be
more vulnerable. With skin, I
would say I am in love with
Love
as in that old-time song
crooners like to croon. With skin,
I would wear elbow-length opera gloves
of pearly satin. Protect my skin.
Hide it. There is no skin
like my skin. How I miss it —
I miss it as I would a knitted bonnet, a
pewter teaspoon to stir sugar into hot water.
My great passion was my skin. The lover
I loved. They don’t
sell skin at Wal-Mart. And really, how
could I, humanely, buy it? Would you ever
give me your skin? This is a terrible world
we live in. There are mistakes and
batteries littering a junk drawer,
where Mother would hide my house keys and Father
would store his eyeballs. Do you know
Puccini? Do you spill silk
at the gorgeous onslaught of love, of Pinkerton’s
lurking return? Butterfly had no skin either
but you could not tell from the outer left
balcony. As I lay in a bed
of my dead skin, I dream of Butterfly
and what she could have done instead:
run away to this little room
to lose her aching voice, to listen
to the hourly ringing of bells
that is really the souring birdsong
of a child, skinned and
laughing, a child that will never be hers.

tang :: bruce cohen

If I do not witness these leaves turning orange, who will?

I stir myself:
I like to think

Of myself as a reincarnated Poet from the Tang Dynasty,
Dehydrated orange drink
Astronauts gulped orbiting this planet
That became a fun ‘60’s breakfast staple,

The bitter tang of a car’s squealing tires as it peels out,
Any distinguishing characteristic that provides special individuality.

Isn’t it a very personal moment when each of us
Recognizes we are failing,
That we’re incomplete, outdated perhaps,
& need something new to make us valid,

Sobbing on the mudroom floor,
Praying hands through a broken screen door,
Begging the aftermath of someone to come back,

Or watching our planet grow
Smaller below us
That we discover it is
Impossible
To ever become
One hundred percent reconstituted?

I am not where I am right now, in this autumn.

My mind is not what it used to be either.
There is no more just-add water.

None of us can prove our previous lives.

I mean pervious: I meant disprove:

heaven for helen :: mark doty

Helen says heaven, for her,
would be complete immersion
in physical process,
without self-consciousness—

to be the respiration of the grass,
or ionized agitation
just above the break of a wave,
traffic in a sunflower’s thousand golden rooms.

Images of exchange,
and of untrammeled nature.
But if we’re to become part of it all,
won’t our paradise also involve

participation in being, say,
diesel fuel, the impatience of trucks
on August pavement,
weird glow of service areas

along the interstate at night?
We’ll be shiny pink egg cartons,
and the thick treads of burst tires
along the highways in Pennsylvania:

a hell we’ve made to accompany
the given: we will join
our tiresome productions,
things that want to be useless forever.

But that’s me talking. Helen
would take the greatest pleasure
in being a scrap of paper,
if that’s what there were to experience.

Perhaps that’s why she’s a painter,
finally: to practice disappearing
into her scrupulous attention,
an exacting rehearsal for the larger

world of things it won’t be easy to love.
Helen I think will master it, though I may not.
She has practiced a long time learning to see
I have devoted myself to affirmation,

when I should have kept my eyes on the ground.

along with youth :: ernest hemingway

A porcupine skin,
Stiff with bad tanning,
It must have ended somewhere.
Stuffed horned owl
Pompous
Yellow eyed;
Chuck-wills-widow on a biassed twig
Sooted with dust.
Piles of old magazines,
Drawers of boy’s letters
And the line of love
They must have ended somewhere.
Yesterday’s Tribune is gone
Along with youth
And the canoe that went to pieces on the beach
The year of the big storm
When the hotel burned down
At Seney, Michigan.

little father :: li-young lee

I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning
and pull the blanket up to his chin
every night.

I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors
stand open at evening, receiving
guest after guest.
Sometimes I see past them
to the tables spread for a wedding feast.

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,
my little root who won’t drink milk,
little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,
little clock spring newly wet
in the fire, little grape, parent to the future
wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
little father I ransom with my life.

smoke in our hair :: ofelia zepeda

The scent of burning wood holds
the strongest memory.
Mesquite, cedar, piñon, juniper,
all are distinct.
Mesquite is dry desert air and mild winter.
Cedar and piñon are colder places.
Winter air in our hair is pulled away,
and scent of smoke settles in its place.
We walk around the rest of the day
with the aroma resting on our shoulders.
The sweet smell holds the strongest memory.
We stand around the fire.
The sound of the crackle of wood and spark
is ephemeral.
Smoke, like memories, permeates our hair,
our clothing, our layers of skin.
The smoke travels deep
to the seat of memory.
We walk away from the fire;
no matter how far we walk,
we carry this scent with us.
New York City, France, Germany—
we catch the scent of burning wood;
we are brought home.

the missing poem :: mark halliday

It would have been dark but not lugubrious. It would have been
fairly short but not slight. It would have contained a child
saying something inadvertently funny that was not said by my daughter,
something strangely like what your daughter or sister said once
if you could remember. The child’s voice flies across
a small parking lot where, in one of the cars,
a man and a woman sit listening to the silence between them.
The child’s voice probably hurts them momentarily
with a sense of beauty apparently very possible
yet somehow out of reach. In the missing poem this is
implied, conveyed, transmitted without being flatly said.
And it does a dissolve into the look of a soccer field
after a game—the last three or four players walk
slowly away, their shin-guards muddy, their cleats caked,
one player dragging a net bag full of soccer balls—
the players seem to have known what it was all for
yet now they look somehow depleted and aimless there
at the field’s far end; and a block away on a wood-grainy porch
the eyes of a thin woman sixty-three years old search the shadows
in each passing car, as the poem recalls what she wants to recall.
Hours later the field is dark

and the hills are dark and later even Firehouse Pizza has closed.
In the missing poem all this pools into a sense of how much
we must cherish life; the world will not do it for us.
This idea, though, in the missing poem is not smarmy.
Remember when you got the news of the accident—
or the illness—in the life of someone
more laced into your life than you might have thought;
the cool flash of what serious is. Well,
the missing poem brings that. Meanwhile not seeming like
an imitation of Mark Strand or Mark Doty or Mark Jarman!
Yet not like just another Halliday thing either.
Instead it would feel like a new dimension of the world,
the real world we imagine. With lightness!
With weight and lightness and, on the hypothetical radio,
that certain song you almost forgot to love.

young bachelor :: seamus heaney

From the mantel piece my lecture programme stares,
Five days all neatly chopped up into squares.

This timetable dictates the way I spend
Five nights a week and much of the weekend,

This single room I keep means that I cook,
Sleep and feed in one place. Here, too, I read my book.

I pad around the room as round a cage,
I fit the timetable as words a page:

Each moment regulated by a typed space,
Each day and night crammed in a single place.

And though these masters cramp my every move
I need the stricter discipline of love.

imperatives :: marilyn buck

Bring me out
mine the wild abandon
that was mine
once
when I was seventeen
a young wraith in black
bells ringing in flight
wrapped around a young man’s back
on a BMW that wound up mountains
to a naked lunch
on ice-planted crags
pounded by the Pacific

once when I was thirty
entrancing from clandestine
curtained brilliance
a subversive siren in a sea
of easily parted waves of dark-eyed lovers

awaken passion one more time
I am in danger!
the zodiac abandons me
to land-locked shadows
they smother me flat
I cannot breathe without
the vivid rainbow edge

find me
free me from pale dry days
of drab restraint

motive :: muriel rukeyser

The motive of all of it was loneliness,
All the panic encounters and despair
Were bred in fear of the lost night, apart,
Outlined by pain, alone. Promiscuous
as mercy. Fear-led and led again to fear
At evening toward the cave where part fire, part
Pity lived in that voluptuousness
To end one and begin another loneliness.

This is the most intolerable motive: this
Must be given back to life again,
Made superhuman, made human, out of pain
Turned to the personal, the pure release:
The rings of Plato and Homer’s golden chain
Or Lenin with his cry of Dare We Win.

faint music :: robert hass

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

As in the story a friend told once about the time
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,
and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up
on the girder like a child—the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.

There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while—
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,
and go to sleep.
                    And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.

It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.
I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.

the language of the brag :: sharon olds

I have wanted excellence in the knife-throw,
I have wanted to use my exceptionally strong and accurate arms
and my straight posture and quick electric muscles
to achieve something at the center of a crowd,
the blade piercing the bark deep,
the haft slowly and heavily vibrating like the cock.
I have wanted some epic use for my excellent body,
some heroism, some American achievement
beyond the ordinary for my extraordinary self,
magnetic and tensile, I have stood by the sandlot
and watched the boys play.
I have wanted courage, I have thought about fire
and the crossing of waterfalls, I have dragged around
my belly big with cowardice and safety,
stool charcoal from the iron pills,
huge breasts leaking colostrum,
legs swelling, hands swelling,
face swelling and reddening, hair
falling out, inner sex
stabbed and stabbed again with pain like a knife.
I have lain down.
I have lain down and sweated and shaken
and passed blood and shit and water and
slowly alone in the center of a circle I have
passed the new person out
and they have lifted the new person free of the act
and wiped the new person free of that
language of blood like praise all over the body.
I have done what you wanted to do, Walt Whitman,
Allen Ginsberg, I have done this thing,
I and the other women this exceptional
act with the exceptional heroic body,
this giving birth, this glistening verb,
and I am putting my proud American boast
right here with the others.

when the world was ten years old he fell deep in love with egypt :: patricia lockwood

Just as he fell in love with the dinosaurs,
just as he would fall in love with the moon—
no women in the world yet, he was only ten years old.
A ten-year-old is made of time,
the world had forever to learn about Egypt.
He entered encyclopedias and looted every fact of
them and when he had finished looting
there he broke into the Bible. He snuck
into his mother’s room and drew thick lines
around his eyes and those were the borders of Egypt.
He carefully wrote in stiff small birds,
he carefully wrote in coiled snakes,
he carefully wrote in flatfooted humans.
The ten-year-old world needed so much
privacy, he learned to draw the door-bolt
glyph and learned to make the sound
it made. I am an old white British man,
decided the ten-year-old world, I wear a round
lens on my right eye, the Day, and see only a blur
with my left eye, the Night. When the sun shone
on him it shone on Egypt, all the dark for a while
was the dark in the Pyramids, the left lung
of his body was the shape of Africa
and one single square breath in it Egypt.
They never found all the tombs, he knew.
Anyone might be buried in Egypt, thought the ten-year-old
world in love with it, I will send my wind down
into my valley, and my wind will uncover the doors
to the tombs, and I will go down myself inside them,
and shine light on all the faces, and light on the rooms
full of gold, and light on even the littlest pets, on the mice
and the beetles of the ten-year-old kings, and shine light
on even their littlest names.

beloved :: michael field

Mortal, if thou art beloved
Life’s offences are removed;
All the fateful things that checked thee,
Hearten, hallow, and protect thee.
Grow’st thou mellow? What is age?
Tinct on life’s illumined page,
Where the purple letters glow
Deeper, painted long ago.
What is sorrow? Comfort’s prime,
Love’s choice Indian summer clime.
Sickness!—thou wilt pray it worse
For so blessed, balmy nurse.
And for death! when thou art dying
‘Twill be Love beside thee lying.
Death is lonesome? Oh, how brave
Shows the foot-frequented grave!
Heaven itself is but the casket
For Love’s treasure, ere he ask it,—
Ere with burning heart he follow,
Piercing through corruption’s hollow.
If thou art beloved, oh then
Fear no grief from mortal men.

the blind leading the blind :: lisel mueller

Take my hand. There are two of us in this cave.
The sound you hear is water; you will hear it forever.
The ground you walk on is rock. I have been here before.
People come here to be born, to discover, to kiss,
to dream and to dig and to kill. Watch for the mud.
Summer blows in with scant of horses and roses;
fall with the sound of sound breaking; winter shoves
its empty sleeve down the dark of your throat.
You will learn toads from diamonds, the fist from the palm,
love from the sweat of love, falling from flying.
There are a thousand turnoffs. I have been here before.
Once I followed the thread unrolled by a voice
and when I returned my nails had grown into claws.
Once I fell off a precipice. Once I found gold.
Once I stumbled on murder, the thin parts of a girl.
Walk on, keep walking, there are axes above us.
Watch for the occasional bits and bubbles of light,
birthdays for you, recognitions: yourself, another.
Watch for the mud. Listen for bells, for beggars.
Something with wings went crazy against my chest once.
There are two of us here. Touch me.

growing a bear :: hannah gamble

Growing a bear — a midnight occupation,
the need for which you perhaps first realized
when you saw the wrong kind of shadow

under your chin — a convex when you expected
concave, so now it’s clear
you’re getting older. Your wife was in the shower

and you wanted to step inside
and soap her up like you did in college when she said

“I’ll shower with you, but I’m leaving
my underwear on,” and you enjoyed her
in every way you could enjoy a person with soap.

You didn’t join your wife in the shower.
She’s gotten funny about letting you see her
shave her legs or wash herself anywhere.

You think she read it somewhere — 
that letting your husband see you pluck anything,
trim anything, apply medicine to anything,
will make him feel like he’s furniture.

It’s exactly on cold nights like these that the basement
is not as forbidding as it should be, despite the fact
that you have to put gloves on
in what is part of  your own home.

Downstairs, a large bathtub, kept, for some reason,
after remodeling. It is there that your bear will be grown,
by you, though you have no idea how. Probably wishing

is most of it; fertilizer, chunks of raw stew meat,
handfuls of  blackberries, two metal rakes, and a thick rug
make up the rest. Then water.

You get an e-mail from a friend late at night
saying he can’t sleep. You write back
“I hope you feel sleepy soon” and think how childish
the word “sleepy” is. And you’re a man,
older than most of  the people you see on television.

You haven’t even considered how your wife will feel
when you have finished growing your bear. You could
write a letter to her tonight, explaining how your life
was just so lacking in bear:

“Janet, it’s nothing you’ve done — 
clearly you have no possible way of supplying me with a bear
or any of the activities I might be able to enjoy
after acquiring the bear.”

It might just be best
to keep the two worlds separate.
Janet clearly prefers things to be comfortable
and unchallenging. Janet soaps herself up. Janet puts herself
to bed, and you just happen to be next to her.

You go on your weekly bike ride with Mark and tell him
that you’ve been growing a bear. An eighteen-wheeler
flies by and he doesn’t seem to hear you — 
plus he’s focused on the hill.

You think about how not all friends know
what each other sounds like when struggling and
breathing heavy. Past the age of college athletics,
most friends don’t even know what each others’ bodies
look like, flushed, tired, showering, cold.

the gift :: li-young lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

vitamins and roughage :: kenneth rexroth

Strong ankled, sun burned, almost naked,
The daughters of California
Educate reluctant humanists;
Drive into their skulls with tennis balls
The unhappy realization
That nature is still stronger than man.
The special Hellenic privilege
Of the special intellect seeps out
At last in this irrigated soil.
Sweat of athletes and juice of lovers
Are stronger than Socrates’ hemlock;
And the games of scrupulous Euclid
Vanish in the gymnopaedia.

my autumn leaves :: bruce weigl

I watch the woods for deer as if I’m armed.
I watch the woods for deer who never come.
I know the hes and shes in autumn
rendezvous in orchards stained with fallen
apples’ scent. I drive my car this way to work
so I may let the crows in corn believe
it’s me their caws are meant to warn,
and snakes who turn in warm and secret caves

they know me too. They know the boy
who lives inside me still won’t go away.
The deer are ghosts who slip between the light
through trees, so you may only hear the snap
of branches in the thicket beyond hope.
I watch the woods for deer, as if I’m armed.