when death comes :: mary oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

NIGHTMORNINGSKY :: peter cooley

I’d like to see the tree as it once stood
before me, childhood, the branch and leaf
a single form of transport, ecstasy
shaking my body I give to the leaves,
the leaves return, my stare all interchange.

But that was when I had a sky to name
since I had a belief in constancy
like everyone. The sky was my background,
the drama of the tree and me, one act,
then three, then five, a Shakespearean play script.
some tragic flaw in hero, heroine,
yet to be discovered.
                      But now the sky
clouds even dawn with a black mist that falls
from all things and all imaginings.

The tree in my backyard is caught in this.
When I look for the sky it is still there
but now a matter of my memory
or prophecy.
           Where is the root, bough, stem
set clearly against a morning, clearing?

smell and envy :: douglas goetsch

You nature poets think you’ve got it, hostaged
somewhere in Vermont or Oregon,
so it blooms and withers only for you,
so all you have to do is name it: primrose
—and now you’re writing poetry, and now
you ship it off to us, to smell and envy.

But we are made of newspaper and smoke
and we dunk your roses in vats of blue.
Birds don’t call, our pigeons play it close
to the vest. When the moon is full
we hear it in the sirens. The Pleiades
you could probably buy downtown. Gravity
is the receiver on the hook. Mortality
we smell on certain people as they pass.

blur :: andrew hudgins

Storms of perfume lift from honeysuckle,
lilac, clover—and drift across the threshold,
outside reclaiming inside as its home.
Warm days whirl in a bright unnumberable blur,
a cup—a grail brimmed with delirium
and humbling boredom both. I was a boy,
I thought I’d always be a boy, pell—mell,
mean, and gaily murderous one moment
as I decapitated daises with a stick,
then overcome with summer’s opium,
numb—slumberous. I thought I’d always be a boy,
each day its own millennium, each
one thousand years of daylight ending in
the night watch, summer’s pervigilium,
which I could never keep because by sunset
I was an old man. I was Methuselah,
the oldest man in the holy book. I drowsed.
I nodded, slept—and without my watching, the world,
whose permanence I doubted, returned again,
bluebell and blue jay, speedwell and cardinal
still there when the light swept back,
and so was I, which I had also doubted.
I understood with horror then with joy,
dubious and luminous joy: it simply spins.
It doesn’t need my feet to make it turn.
It doesn’t even need my eyes to watch it,
and I, though a latecomer to its surface, I’d
be leaving early. It was my duty to stay awake
and sing if I could keep my mind on singing,
not extinction, as blurred green summer, lifted
to its apex, succumbed to gravity and fell
to autumn, Ilium, and ashes. In joy
we are our own uncomprehending mourners,
and more than joy I longed for understanding
and more than understanding I longed for joy.

clock :: pierre reverdy

translated by lydia davis

    In the warm air of the ceiling the footlights of dreams are illuminated.
       The white walls have curved. The burdened chest breathes confused words. In the mirror, the wind from the south spins, 
carrying leaves and feathers. The window is blocked. The heart is 
almost extinguished among the already cold ashes of the moon — the hands are without shelter ­­­­— as all the trees lying down. In the wind from the desert the needles bend and my hour is past.

it is tuesday :: matthew zapruder

From room to room
after you left
I wandered a while
in the hours
as instructed
I have cooked
the mushroom soup
picked up a paperback
I have read
but forgotten
had some coffee
it is quiet
I don’t know why
all afternoon
I think of you
in the traffic
the rain
peacefully falling
like some plastic beads
from the ‘70’s
when they took all the doors
off the closets
and our parents smoked
all night downstairs
and laughed too loud
we couldn’t hear
what they were
and what they knew
if you hate me
it must be
for ancient reasons

after history :: carol vanderveer hamilton

“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”
—Ulysses

The sky, fragile like old parchment
scriven and torn past repair,

floats over us. Cities, villages, vistas
of the past—faded, irradiated—

the names of wars, statues of kings,
symphonic themes forgotten.

Now only the clouds seem
familiar, like wedding guests

just arrived from a funeral, their dark coats
ironed and shiny, their white shirts

soiled with tears. Yesterday
there was this figment in the mirror.

There were these ghosts in the machine.
Today is flat, stale, and profitable.

While snow flurries over their faces,
people queue up for part-time jobs,

buy lottery tickets, kneel
outside the Stock Exchange, and dream

of some large clear place
devoid of pain. After history,

with its sieges, plagues, and massacres,
chieftains, serfs, conquistadors, and slaves,

guillotines, oubliettes, and racks,
time will float aimlessly, without referents.

The sky will be seamless again.

After history we will all drive home alone
through present darkness and impending rain

and count the seconds that cluster, dying,
on the windshield, like flies.