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.

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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

1

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
speed.

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
experience.

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.

2

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
perfume.

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.