justice, come down :: minnie bruce pratt

A huge sound waits, bound in the ice,
in the icicle roots, in the buds of snow
on fir branches, in the falling silence
of snow, glittering in the sun, brilliant
as a swarm of gnats, nothing but hovering
wings at midday. With the sun comes noise.
Tongues of ice break free, fall, shatter,
splinter, speak. If I could write the words.

Simple, like turning a page, to say Write
what happened
, but this means a return
to the cold place where I am being punished.
Alone to the stony circle where I am frozen,
the empty space, children, mother, father gone,
lover gone away. There grief still sits
and waits, grim, numb, keeping company with
anger. I can smell my anger like sulfur-
struck matches. I wanted what had happened
to be a wall to burn, a window to smash.
At my fist the pieces would sparkle and fall.
All would be changed. I would not be alone.

Instead I have told my story over and over
at parties, on the edge of meetings, my life
clenched in my fist, my eyes brittle as glass.

Ashamed, people turned their faces away
from the woman ranting, asking: Justice,
stretch out your hand. Come down, glittering,
from where you have hidden yourself away.

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how to be perfect :: ron padgett

                   Everything is perfect, dear friend.
                  —KEROUAC

Get some sleep.

Don’t give advice.

Take care of your teeth and gums.

Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don’t be afraid, for
instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone
you love will suddenly drop dead.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes
four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.

Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression
of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.

Make eye contact with a tree.

Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of
them.

Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.

Do not speak quickly.

Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball
collection.

Be loyal.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance
and variety.

Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you
become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at
them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!

Live with an animal.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

If you need help, ask for it.

Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.

If someone murders your child, get a shotgun and blow his head off.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you
have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.

Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.

Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far
more defective than you imagined.

When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.

As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal
ones.

Look at that bird over there.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have
expressed a desire to kill you.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.
What is out (in) there?

Sing, every once in a while.

Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy
excuse.

Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.

“Walk upstairs.

Do not practice cannibalism.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.

Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.

Keep your windows clean.

Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.

Don’t use the word extirpate too often.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go
to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Grow something.

Do not wander through train stations muttering, “We’re all going to
die!”

Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.

Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the
pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a
cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.

Do not exclaim, “Isn’t technology wonderful!”

Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.

Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even
older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty
minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and
gravity.

Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.

Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you
should be.

Enjoy sex, but don’t become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods
in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.

Contemplate everything’s opposite.

If you’re struck with the fear that you’ve swum out too far in the
ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.

Keep your childish self alive.

Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a
tornado on it.

Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate
how much better you feel. Don’t be embarrassed about feeling better.

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the
street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped
in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.

Be good.

Walk down different streets.

Backwards.

Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice
that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.

Stay out of jail.

In later life, become a mystic.

Use Colgate toothpaste in the new Tartar Control formula.

Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it is
time to leave, do so.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.

Read and reread great books.

Dig a hole with a shovel.

In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.

Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a
27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink,
say, “Water, please.”

Ask “Where is the loo?” but not “Where can I urinate?”

Be kind to physical objects.

Beginning at age forty, get a complete “physical” every few years
from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.

Don’t read the newspaper more than once a year.

Learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “chopsticks”
in Mandarin.

Belch and fart, but quietly.

Be especially cordial to foreigners.

See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the
characters. Or all of them.

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.

memory :: lawson fusao inada

Memory is an old Mexican woman
sweeping her yard with a broom.
She has grown even smaller now,
residing at that vanishing point
decades after one dies,
but at some times, given
the right conditions—
an ordinary dream, or practically
anything in particular—
she absolutely looms,
assuming the stature
she had in the neighborhood.

This was the Great Valley,
and we had swept in
to do the grooming.
We were on the move, tending
what was essentially
someone else’s garden.
Memory’s yard was all that
in miniature, in microcosm:
rivers for irrigation,
certain plants, certain trees
ascertained by season.
Without formal acknowledgment,
she was most certainly
the head of a community, American.

Memory had been there forever.
We settled in around her;
we brought the electricity
of blues and baptized gospel,
ancient adaptations of icons,
spices, teas, fireworks, trestles,
newly acquired techniques
of conflict and healing, common
concepts of collective survival. . .

Memory was there all the while.
Her house, her shed, her skin,
were all the same— weathered—
and she didn’t do anything, especially,
except hum as she moved;
Memory, in essence, was unmemorable.

Yet, ask any of us who have long since left,
who have all but forgotten that adulterated place
paved over and parceled out by the powers that be,
and what we remember, without even choosing to,
is an old woman humming, sweeping, smoothing her yard: Memory.

drinking :: anacreontea

6th century bc
translated by abraham cowley

The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
And drinks and gapes for drink again;
The plants suck in the earth, and are
With constant drinking fresh and fair;
The sea itself (which one would think
Should have but little need of drink)
Drinks ten thousand rivers up,
So filled that they o’erflow the cup,
The busy Sun (and one would guess
By’s drunken fiery face no less)
Drinks up the sea, and when he’s done,
The Moon and Stars drink up the Sun;
They drink and dance by their own light,
They drink and revel all the night:
Nothing in Nature’s sober found,
But an eternal health goes round.
Fill up the bowl, then, fill it high,
Fill all the glasses there, for why
Should every creature drink but I,
Why, man of morals, tell me why?

landscape, dense with trees :: ellen bryant voigt

When you move away, you see how much depends
on the pace of the days—how much
depended on the haze we waded through
each summer, visible heat, wavy and discursive
as the lazy track of the snake in the dusty road;
and on the habit in town of porches thatched in vines,
and in the country long dense promenades, the way
we sacrificed the yards to shade.
It was partly the heat that made my father
plant so many trees—two maples marking the site
for the house, two elms on either side when it was done;
mimosa by the fence, and as it failed, fast-growing chestnuts,
loblolly pines; and dogwood, redbud, ornamental crab.
On the farm, everything else he grew
something could eat, but this
would be a permanent mark of his industry,
a glade established in the open field. Or so it seemed.
Looking back at the empty house from across the hill,
I see how well the house is camouflaged, see how
that porous fence of saplings, their later
scrim of foliage, thickened around it,
and still he chinked and mortared, planting more.
Last summer, although he’d lost all tolerance for heat,
he backed the truck in at the family grave
and stood in the truckbed all afternoon, pruning
the landmark oak, repairing recent damage by a wind;
then he came home and hung a swing
in one of the horse-chestnuts for my visit.
The heat was a hand at his throat,
a fist to his weak heart. But it made a triumph
of the cooler air inside, in the bedroom,
in the maple bedstead where he slept,
in the brick house nearly swamped by leaves.

royalty :: arthur rimbaud

translated from the french by john ashbery

One fine morning, in the country of a very gentle people, a magnificent man and woman were shouting in the public square. “My friends, I want her to be queen!” “I want to be queen!” She was laughing and trembling. He spoke to their friends of revelation, of trials completed. They swooned against each other.
       In fact they were regents for a whole morning as crimson hangings were raised against the houses, and for the whole afternoon, as they moved toward groves of palm trees.

parable :: louise glück

First divesting ourselves of worldly goods, as St. Francis teaches,
in order that our souls not be distracted
by gain and loss, and in order also
that our bodies be free to move
easily at the mountain passes, we had then to discuss
whither or where we might travel, with the second question being
should we have a purpose, against which
many of us argued fiercely that such purpose
corresponded to worldly goods, meaning a limitation or constriction,
whereas others said it was by this word we were consecrated
pilgrims rather than wanderers: in our minds, the word translated as
a dream, a something-sought, so that by concentrating we might see it
glimmering among the stones, and not
pass blindly by; each
further issue we debated equally fully, the arguments going back and forth,
so that we grew, some said, less flexible and more resigned,
like soldiers in a useless war. And snow fell upon us, and wind blew,
which in time abated — where the snow had been, many flowers appeared,
and where the stars had shone, the sun rose over the tree line
so that we had shadows again; many times this happened.
Also rain, also flooding sometimes, also avalanches, in which
some of us were lost, and periodically we would seem
to have achieved an agreement; our canteens
hoisted upon our shoulders, but always that moment passed, so
(after many years) we were still at that first stage, still
preparing to begin a journey, but we were changed nevertheless;
we could see this in one another; we had changed although
we never moved, and one said, ah, behold how we have aged, traveling
from day to night only, neither forward nor sideward, and this seemed
in a strange way miraculous. And those who believed we should have a purpose
believed this was the purpose, and those who felt we must remain free
in order to encounter truth, felt it had been revealed.