directions :: joseph stroud

                 How weary, stale, fiat, and unprofitable
                Seem to me all the uses of this world

                — Hamlet

Take a plane to London.
From King’s Cross take the direct train to York.
Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
and soon you’ll be on the moors. There’s a pub,
The Drovers, where it’s warm inside, a tiny room,
you can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculier.
For a moment everything will be all right. You’re back
at a beginning. Soon you’ll walk into Yorkshire country,
into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
You’ll walk for hours. You’ll walk the freshness
back into your life. This is true. You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
cheeks flushed, curlews rising in front of him, walking,
making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.

safe sounds :: carol ann duffy

You like safe sounds:
the dogs lapping at their bowls;
the pop of a cork on a bottle of plonk
as your mother cooks;
the Match of the Day theme tune
and Doctor Who-oo-oo.

                         Safe sounds:
your name called, two happy syllables
from the bottom to the top of the house;
your daft ring tone; the low gargle
of hot water in bubbles. Half asleep
in the drifting boat of your bed,
you like to hear the big trees
sound like the sea instead.

august morning :: albert garcia

It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? Curtains
hang heavily from their rods.
Ficus leaves tremble
at my footsteps. Yet
the colors outside are perfect–
orange geranium, blue lobelia.
I wander from room to room
like a man in a museum:
wife, children, books, flowers,
melon. Such still air. Soon
the mid-morning breeze will float in
like tepid water, then hot.
How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?

hello, the roses :: mei-mei berssenbrugge


My soul radially whorls out to the edges of my body, according to the same laws
by which stars shine, communicating with my body by emanation.

When you see her, you feel the impact of what visual can mean.

Invisibility comes through of deep pink or a color I see clairvoyantly.

This felt sense at seeing the rose extends, because light in the DNA of my cells
receives light frequencies of the flower as a hologram.

The entire rose, petals in moving air, emotion of perfume records as a sphere, so
when I recall the emotion, I touch dimensionality.

From a small bud emerges a tight wound bundle of babyskin coral petals, held in
a half globe, as if by cupped hands.

Then petals are innumerable, loose, double, sumptuous, unified.

I look through parted fingers to soften my gaze, so slow light shining off the
object is filtered; then with feeling I look at swift color there.

It’s swiftness that seems still as noon light, because my seeing travels at the same

I make a reciprocal balance between light falling on the back of my eye to optic
nerve to pineal gland, radiance stepping down to matter, and my future self
opening out from this sight.

A moment extends to time passing as sense impression of a rose, including new
joys where imagined roses, roses I haven’t yet seen or seen in books record as my

Then experience is revelation, because plants and people have in their cells
particles of light that can become coherent, that radiate out physically and also
with the creativity of metaphor, as in a beam of light holographically, i.e., by
intuition, in which I inhale the perfume of the Bourbon rose, then try to separate
what is scent, sense, and what you call memory, what is emotion, where in a
dialogue like touching is it so vibratory and so absorbent of my attention and
longing, with impressions like fingerprints all over.

I’m saying physical perception is the data of my embodiment, whereas for the
rose, scarlet itself is matter.


The rose communicates instantly with the woman by sight, collapsing its
boundaries, and the woman widens her boundaries.

Her “rate of perception” slows down, because of its complexity.

There’s a feeling of touching and being touched, the shadings of color she can sense
from touch.

There’s an affinity between awareness and blossom.

The rose symbolizes the light of this self-affinity.

I come to visit drooping white cabbage roses at dusk.

That corner of the garden glows with a quality of light I might see when light
shines through mist or in early morning reflects off water.

I stand quietly and allow this quality to permeate air around me.

Here, with a white rose, color is clairsentient, this color in the process of being
expressed, like seeing Venus in the day.

Walking, I move in and out of negative space around which each rose is engaged
and become uncertain of my physical extent as an object.

Look at the energy between people and plants; your heart moves into depth
perception; for depth, read speed of light.

I set my intention through this sense of moving into coherence with the bio-photons
of a plant and generate feeling in response.

A space opens and awareness gathers it in, as at night my dream is colorless and
weaves into the nuance.

I can intentionally engage with the coherence of light beams, instant as though
lightless, or the colored light of a dimension not yet arrived, as our hearts are not
outside affinity with respect to wavelength, shaping meaning, using the capacity
for feeling to sense its potency in a rose and to cultivate inter-being with summer

a summer night :: w. s. merwin

Years later the cloud brightens in the east
the moon rises out of the long evening
just past midsummer of a cold year
the smell of roses waves through the stone room
open to the north and its sleeping valley
gnarled limbs of walnut trees and brows of extinct
barns blacken against the rising silver of night
so long I have known this that it seems to me
to be mine it has gone for so long
that I think I have carried it with me
without knowing it was there in the daytime
through talk and in the light of eyes and travelling
in windows it has been there the whole way
on the other side like a face known from
another time from before and afterwards
constantly rising and about to appear

orange :: april lindner

Though his taste buds were dying and every meal
made him grimace and wonder out loud
why we were such lousy cooks, he kept on
hungering for remembered dishes—
lobster Cantonese, corned beef,
bacon and eggs, a good strong mug of joe—
and we who wanted him stronger
seized on this longing, brought plate after plate
to his bed. One bite. He’d spit it out
and start musing on his next desire.
A Manhattan. Pork tacos. A Cuban cigar.
We took turns heaving a shopping cart
aisle by florescent aisle, dodging
Christmas carols, canned comfort and joy,
hesitant, as if the perfect choice
could save him or at least could buy
a day or two. We loaded up on juice—
—pineapple, mango, tamarind, banana—
after he’d taken a single sip
and leaned back on the pillow, sated.
Sweets became the last thing he could taste—
Häagen Dazs, Ensure, vanilla yogurt.
He was diabetic, we couldn’t tell:
were we killing him faster? Sometimes,
when we urged him—a sip, just one sip, Daddy—
he would comply, meek and eager to please,
and other times glower, his brown-green eyes
hard as marbles. His flesh waned,
curling before us like paper in flame.
Still, there remained one taste
he could enjoy, an orange freeze pop
in its plastic cylinder. He’d hold it
with relief, drink a few sips
of melted ice, then fall asleep,
the magic wand still in his hand.
We’d tuck it safely back
among the freezer’s frosted-over tubs
and like the loaves and fishes it never
seemed to run out, still there each time
we opened the freezer, still there
after he died, a waning
quarter moon, its crayon brightness
filmed thinly with ice, the flavor
of something approaching hope.

a bowl of spaghetti :: kimiko hahn

“To find a connectome, or the mental makeup of a person,”
researchers experimented with the neurons of a worm

then upgraded to mouse hoping
“to unravel the millions of miles of wire in the [human] brain”

that they liken to “untangling a bowl of spaghetti”

of which I have an old photo: Rei in her high chair delicately
picking out each strand to mash in her mouth.

Was she two? Was that sailor dress from Mother?
Did I cook from scratch? If so, there was a carrot in the sauce

as Mother instructed and I’ll never forget
since some strand determines infatuation as a daughter’s fate.

! :: wendy videlock

Dear Writers, I’m compiling the first in what I hope is a series of publications I’m calling artists among artists. The theme for issue 1 is “Faggot Dinosaur.” I hope to hear from you! Thank you and best wishes.
—Ali, editor, Artists among Artists

I think that I shall never fear
a brontosaurus that is queer,

iguanodon as fetisheer,
a mammoth bringing up the rear,
an astrodon with extra gear,

metrosexual squirrel and deer,
a breeder with a dance career,
a fruit with cauliflower ear,

a lesbianic Chanticleer,
a grinning limpish-wristed Lear,
the weird one or the mutineer,

but those who perfectly adhere,
stay clear, stay clear, stay clear, stay clear.

frightening things :: david mura

After wandering years
Basho returned
to gaze at his umbilical cord
pickled in a jar. Plopped
in brine years ago
like the frog in the pond
in his famous haiku.
Of course
fame meant nothing
to him. He stood
in the blazing rain
in his family graveyard
and as a crow squawked overhead
the stones proclaimed him
the last of his line. He
kept feeling inside his
straw raincoat for a missing
limb or the hole where
the wind and rain
flew in. I’ll get drunk
tonight, he thought,
and his eyelashes glistened
as he trudged back
to his hermit’s hut
to gaze again at the jar.

[the predictability of these rooms] :: ben lerner

The predictability of these rooms is, in a word, exquisite. These rooms in a word. The moon is predictably exquisite, as is the view of the moon through the word. Nevertheless, we were hoping for less. Less space, less light. We were hoping to pay more, to be made to pay in public. We desire a flat, affected tone. A beware of dog on keep off grass. The glass ceiling is exquisite. Is it made of glass? No, glass.

a work of artifice :: marge piercy

The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

vacating an apartment :: agha shahid ali

Efficient as Fate,
each eye a storm trooper,

the cleaners wipe my smile
with Comet fingers
and tear the plaster
off my suicide note.

They learn everything
from the walls’ eloquent tongues.

Now, quick as genocide,
they powder my ghost for a cinnamon jar.

They burn my posters
(India and Heaven in flames),

whitewash my voicestains,

make everything new,
clean as Death.

When the landlord brings new tenants,
even Memory is a stranger.

The woman, her womb solid with the future,
instructs her husband’s eyes
to clutch insurance policies.

They ignore my love affair with the furniture,
the corner table that memorized
my crossed-out lines.

Oh, she’s beautiful,
a hard-nippled Madonna.

The landlord gives them my autopsy;
they sign the lease.

The room is beating with bottled infants,
and I’ve stopped beating.

I’m moving out holding tombstones in my hands.

a private singularity :: john koethe

I used to like being young, and I still do,
Because I think I still am. There are physical
Objections to that thought, and yet what
Fascinates me now is how obsessed I was at thirty-five
With feeling older than I was: it seemed so smart
And worldly, so fastidiously knowing to dwell so much
On time — on what it gives, what it destroys, on how it feels.
And now it’s here and doesn’t feel like anything at all:
A little warm perhaps, a little cool, but mostly waiting on my
Life to fill it up, and meanwhile living in the light and listening
To the music floating through my living room each night.
It’s something you can only recognize in retrospect, long after
Everything that used to fill those years has disappeared
And they’ve become regrets and images, leaving you alone
In a perpetual present, in a nondescript small room where it began.
You find it in yourself: the ways that led inexorably from
Home to here are simply stories now, leading nowhere anymore;
The wilderness they led through is the space behind a door
Through which a sentence flows, following a map in the heart.
Along the way the self that you were born with turns into
The self that you created, but they come together at the end,
United in the memory where time began: the tinkling of a bell
On a garden gate in Combray, or the clang of a driven nail
In a Los Angeles backyard, or a pure, angelic clang in Nova Scotia — 
Whatever age restores. It isn’t the generalizations that I loved
At thirty-five that move me now, but particular moments
When my life comes into focus, and the feeling of the years
Between them comes alive. Time stops, and then resumes its story,
Like a train to Balbec or a steamer to Brazil. We moved to San Diego,
Then I headed east, then settled in the middle of the country
Where I’ve waited now for almost forty years, going through the
Motions of the moments as they pass from now to nothing,
Reading by their light. I don’t know why I’m reading them again — 
Elizabeth Bishop, Proust. The stories you remember feel like mirrors,
And rereading them like leafing through your life at a certain age,
As though the years were pages. I keep living in the light
Under the door, waiting on those vague sensations floating in
And out of consciousness like odors, like the smell of sperm and lilacs.
In the afternoon I bicycle to a park that overlooks Lake Michigan,
Linger on a bench and read Contre Sainte-Beuve and Time Reborn,
A physics book that argues time is real. And that’s my life — 
It isn’t much, and yet it hangs together: its obsessions dovetail
With each other, as the private world of my experience takes its place
Within a natural order that absorbs it, but for a while lets it live.
It feels like such a miracle, this life: it promises everything,
And even keeps its promise when you’ve grown too old to care.
It seems unremarkable at first, and then as time goes by it
Starts to seem unreal, a figment of the years inside a universe
That flows around them and dissolves them in the end,
But meanwhile lets you linger in a universe of one — 
A village on a summer afternoon, a garden after dark,
A small backyard beneath a boring California sky.
I said I still felt young, and so I am, yet what that means
Eludes me. Maybe it’s the feeling of the presence
Of the past, or of its disappearance, or both of them at once — 
A long estrangement and a private singularity, intact
Within a tinkling bell, an iron nail, a pure, angelic clang — 
The echo of a clear, metallic sound from childhood,
Where time began: “Oh, beautiful sound, strike again!”

one boy told me :: naomi shihab nye

Music lives inside my legs.
It’s coming out when I talk.

I’m going to send my valentines
to people you don’t even know.

Oatmeal cookies make my throat gallop.

Grown-ups keep their feet on the ground
when they swing. I hate that.

Look at those 2 o’s with a smash in the middle—
that spells good-bye.

Don’t ever say “purpose” again,
let’s throw the word out.

Don’t talk big to me.
I’m carrying my box of faces.
If I want to change faces I will.

Yesterday faded
but tomorrow’s in BOLDFACE.

When I grow up my old names
will live in the house
where we live now.
I’ll come and visit them.

Only one of my eyes is tired.
The other eye and my body aren’t.

Is it true all metal was liquid first?
Does that mean if we bought our car earlier
they could have served it
in a cup?

There’s a stopper in my arm
that’s not going to let me grow any bigger.
I’ll be like this always, small.

And I will be deep water too.
Wait. Just wait. How deep is the river?
Would it cover the tallest man with his hands in the air?

Your head is a souvenir.

When you were in New York I could see you
in real life walking in my mind.

I’ll invite a bee to live in your shoe.
What if you found your shoe
full of honey?

What if the clock said 6:92
instead of 6:30? Would you be scared?

My tongue is the car wash
for the spoon.

Can noodles swim?

My toes are dictionaries.
Do you need any words?

From now on I’ll only drink white milk
on January 26.

What does minus mean?
I never want to minus you.

Just think—no one has ever seen
inside this peanut before!

It is hard being a person.

I do and don’t love you—
isn’t that happiness?

(Hear an older version.)

cassady :: sam cornish

barber’s boy

“Uncle Sam’s
no relative of mine”

broke in Kansas
hungry in Kansas

horny in Kansas
alone in the West

Buick and Plymouth
my home

writer & drunk

of the Denver

bus stop
and barber

letter writer

of the eternal


“go go go go”
to Negroes

and bop

verse poets


out of flophouses
into America

five hundred

stolen cars

lookin’ for chicks
and Kerouac

you are the map :: danielle legros georges

There is the territory,
And there is the map,

There is the space between,
And there is you.

You are the map,
You are the territory,

You have arrived
At a portal of you.

Step through

You are yourself, also two,
A doubling, re-doubling,
Continuing company,
Communal: a truth.

You are an ocean
A vastness,
A changing-ever.

Here is your day,
Here a brightness,
A current
And current (of you).

Now is your time,
Prismatic, turned-
Forward, immutably

Step through.

written for the Lesley University 2015 commencement

boston year :: elizabeth alexander

My first week in Cambridge a car full of white boys
tried to run me off the road, and spit through the window,
open to ask directions. I was always asking directions
and always driving: to an Armenian market
in Watertown to buy figs and string cheese, apricots,
dark spices and olives from barrels, tubes of paste
with unreadable Arabic labels. I ate
stuffed grape leaves and watched my lips swell in the mirror.
The floors of my apartment would never come clean.
Whenever I saw other colored people
in bookshops, or museums, or cafeterias, I’d gasp,
smile shyly, but they’d disappear before I spoke.
What would I have said to them? Come with me? Take
me home? Are you my mother? No. I sat alone
in countless Chinese restaurants eating almond
cookies, sipping tea with spoons and spoons of sugar.
Popcorn and coffee was dinner. When I fainted
from migraine in the grocery store, a Portuguese
man above me mouthed: “No breakfast.” He gave me
orange juice and chocolate bars. The color red
sprang into relief singing Wagner’s Walküre.
Entire tribes gyrated and drummed in my head.
I learned the samba from a Brazilian man
so tiny, so festooned with glitter I was certain
that he slept inside a filigreed, Fabergé egg.
No one at the door: no salesmen, Mormons, meter
readers, exterminators, no Harriet Tubman,
no one. Red notes sounding in a grey trolley town.

names :: lisel mueller

A few names tell it all,
the whole incredible history
of one generation, mine;
names that we cannot manage
with a drum-roll, like Waterloo,
nor pitch to the eloquence
of tragic Gettysburg.

Hiroshima sticks in our throats;
we choke on the bones of Buchenwald,
spit out the stones of Berlin.
Who says Vietnam
burns his tongue,
and Mississippi, o Mississippi
scrubs out our mouths
till we cry mercy.

dog days of summer :: meena alexander

In the dog days of summer as muslin curls on its own heat
And crickets cry in the black walnut tree

The wind lifts up my life
And sets it some distance from where it was.

Still Marco Polo Airport wore me out,
I slept in a plastic chair, took the water taxi.

Early, too early the voices of children
Mimicking the clatter in the Internet café

In Campo Santo Stefano in a place of black coffee
Bordellos of verse, bony accolades of joy,

Saint Stephen stooped over a cross,
A dog licking his heel, blood drops from a sign

By the church wall—Anarchia è ordine
The refugee from Istria gathers up nails.

She will cobble together a gondola with bits of driftwood
Cast off the shores of the hunger-bitten Adriatic.

In wind off the lagoon,
A child hops in numbered squares, back and forth, back and forth,

Cap on his head, rhymes cool as bone in his mouth.
Whose child is he?

No one will answer me.
Voices from the music academy pour into sunlight

That strikes the malarial wealth of empire,
Dreams of an old man in terrible heat,

Hands bound with coarse cloth, tethered to a scaffold,
Still painting waves on the walls of the Palazzo Ducale.

that falling :: jane hirshfield

You turn towards meteor showers in August,
wishing yourself like that:
bright and burning wholly out.
When feeling finally comes it is
that falling, matter breaking away
from air, the sound
of crickets moving through the grass like fire—
and the strangely twisted metal
in the field that a child finds:
residue, crown.
Then there’s the story of the Chinese sage,
in anger and despair, who cut his body away in pieces,
flung them into the lake.
Each one, becoming finned and whole, swims off.

more females of the species :: charlotte anna perkins gilman

(After Kipling)

When the traveller in the pasture meets the he-bull in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside;
But the milch cow, thus accosted, pins the traveller to the rail —
For the female of the species is deadlier than the male.

When Nag, the raging stallion, meets a careless man on foot,
He will sometimes not destroy him, even if the man don’t shoot;
But the mare, if he should meet one, makes the bravest cowboy pale —
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When our first colonial settlers met the Hurons and Choctaws,
They were burned and scalped and slaughtered by the fury-breathing squaws;
‘Twas the women, not the warriors, who in war-paint took the trail —
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say
As to women, lest in speaking he should give himself away;
But when he meets a woman — see him tremble and turn pale —
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male

Lay your money on the hen-fight! On the dog-fight fought by shes!
On the gory Ladies Prize-fight — there are none so fierce as these!
See small girls each other pounding, while their peaceful brothers wail —
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

So in history they tell us how all China shrieked and ran
Before the wholesale slaughter dealt by Mrs. Genghis Khan.
And Attila, the Scourge of God, who made all Europe quail,
Was a female of the species and more deadly than the male.

Red war with all its million dead is due to female rage,
The names of women murderers monopolize the page,
The pranks of a Napoleon are nothing to the tale
Of destruction wrought by females, far more deadly than the male.

In the baleful female infant this ferocity we spy,
It glares in bloodshot fury from the maiden’s dewy eye,
But the really deadly female, when you see her at her best,
Has two babies at her petticoat and a suckling at her breast.

Yet hold! there is Another! A monster even worse!
The Terror of Humanity! Creation’s direst curse!
Before whom men in thousands must tremble, shrink and fail —
A sanguinary Grandma — more deadly than the male!

butter :: connie wanek

Butter, like love,
seems common enough
yet has so many imitators.
I held a brick of it, heavy and cool,
and glimpsed what seemed like skin
beneath a corner of its wrap;
the décolletage revealed
a most attractive fat!

And most refined.
Not milk, not cream,
not even crème de la crème.
It was a delicacy which assured me
that bliss follows agitation,
that even pasture daisies
through the alchemy of four stomachs
may grace a king’s table.

We have a yellow bowl near the toaster
where summer’s butter grows
soft and sentimental.
We love it better for its weeping,
its nostalgia for buckets and churns
and deep stone wells,
for the press of a wooden butter mold
shaped like a swollen heart.

delirium :: hailey leithauser

Such green, such green,
this apple-, pea- and celadon,

this emerald and pine and lime
unsheathed to make

a miser weep, to make his puny
bunions shrink; these seas

and seas of peony, these showy
tons of rose

to urge a musted monk disrobe,
an eremitic nun unfold;

such breathy, breathy moth
and wasp, such gleeful,

greedy bee to bid
the bully hearts of cops

and bosses sob,
to tell a stubby root unstub, a rusted

hinge unrust, the slug unsalt;
to stir the fusted

lungs to brim, the skin to sting,
the dormant,

tinning tongue to singe and hymn.

vestiges :: a. van jordan

I would like to swim in the Atlantic,
to swim with someone who understood
why my fear of drowning plays less dire

than my fear of bones, walking the ocean floor.
I would like to sync my stroke with a beloved.
I’d like to stand on deck on a boat

and jump in the sea and say, follow me,
and know you would. The sea is cold
and it’s deep, too
, I’d joke,

standing at the edge of the boat’s bow.
A wind breathes across the sea,
joining gently the edges of time.

With a dog paddling behind me,
I want to crawl across the water
without thinking about a future.

I have set my eyes upon the shore
and I hold you there—steady, in focus—
but let you go when, from below,

a voice breaks to the surface.

three o’clock slump :: sally bliumis-dunn

You know those afternoons:
too drowsy, the head nods.

The lines in the book
blur, the book

becomes a piece of driftwood

and your fingernails cake
with moss and mud from
trying to hang on.

The next thing you remember
is the soft muddy bottom,

and you, looking dreamily
up through the water
at your own thoughts

as though
at the underside of leaves,

that begin to look
like flattened hands or paws

without the mass of a body,
the orb of a head —

which is how you are
beginning to feel

about your body and your mind.

They have floated so far
away from each other.

eve revisited :: alison hawthorne deming

Pomegranates fell from the trees
in our sleep. If we stayed
in the sun too long
there were aloes
to cool the burn.
Henbane for predators
and succulents when the rain was scarce.

There was no glorified past
to point the way
true and natural
for the sexes to meet.
He kept looking to the heavens
as if the answer were anywhere
but here. I was so bored
with our goodness
I couldn’t suck the juice
from one more pear.

It’s here, I kept telling him,
here, rooted in the soil
like every other tree
you know. And I wove us
a bed of its uppermost branches.

up-hill :: christina rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
    Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
    From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
    A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
    You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
    Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
    They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
    Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
    Yea, beds for all who come.

hands :: andrew waterman

It is the hands
live on. I watch
wonderingly out of
the skull’s shell

their slow underwater
tensionings wring
suds through a shirt,
their firm grasp

to puncture a can
of coffee releasing
the fresh aroma.
Peeling an orange

or in a mirror
knotting my tie
they flex intricately
like animate things.

How peacably now
they rest, lightweight
on knees, blue-veined,
dusted with hair,

before moving
unfalteringly on
to construct the spare
scaffolding of deed

assuring tomorrow.
They dress me to meet it;
record on this page
its intimations.

perishable, it said :: jane hirshfield

Perishable, it said on the plastic container,
and below, in different ink,
the date to be used by, the last teaspoon consumed.

I found myself looking:
now at the back of each hand,
now inside the knees,
now turning over each foot to look at the sole.

Then at the leaves of the young tomato plants,
then at the arguing jays.

Under the wooden table and lifted stones, looking.
Coffee cups, olives, cheeses,
hunger, sorrow, fears—
these too would certainly vanish, without knowing when.

How suddenly then
the strange happiness took me,
like a man with strong hands and strong mouth,
inside that hour with its perishing perfumes and clashings.

drowning in wheat :: john kinsella

They’d been warned
on every farm
that playing
in the silos
would lead to death.
You sink in wheat.
Slowly. And the more
you struggle the worse it gets.
‘You’ll see a rat sail past
your face, nimble on its turf,
and then you’ll disappear.’
In there, hard work
has no reward.
So it became a kind of test
to see how far they could sink
without needing a rope
to help them out.
But in the midst of play
rituals miss a beat—like both
leaping in to resolve
an argument
as to who’d go first
and forgetting
to attach the rope.
Up to the waist
and afraid to move.
That even a call for help
would see the wheat
trickle down.
The painful consolidation
of time. The grains
in the hourglass
grotesquely swollen.
And that acrid
chemical smell
of treated wheat
coaxing them into
a near-dead sleep.