broom :: connie wanek

A blossom on its long stem
the broom is a hag of a tulip.
It is a woman who ties back
her hair with wire,
who wears burlap,
who eats clay.

For its fidelity
the broom has been granted
the ability to carry the witch
to the clouds. Who was the first
to slip it between her legs
and vanish?

friends of his youth :: stephen dobyns

Friends of his youth, friends of his prime: they had been the audience for the stories of his ambition. But as he grew older his listeners became fewer and his triumphs never materialized. Then, when he spoke with the more fortunate, it was to describe what had stood in his path, why he had never joined them—he had put his family first, he had offended certain critics. Without these obstacles, surely, there would have been no limit to his success. But even these listeners fell away; a new generation was hurrying down a road not his own, and behind that still another was preparing itself and no one knew or had any interest in his gifts. Soon he realized that he was receding into his own shadow. Indeed, in his final isolation the many versions of his story composed his tombstone: not one of marble but of living vapor, which his death—his ultimate listener—would, with a sympathetic whistle, casually disperse.

the wind sleepers :: h. d.

Whiter
than the crust
left by the tide,
we are stung by the hurled sand
and the broken shells.

We no longer sleep
in the wind—
we awoke and fled
through the city gate.

Tear—
tear us an altar,
tug at the cliff-boulders,
pile them with the rough stones—
we no longer
sleep in the wind,
propitiate us.

Chant in a wail
that never halts,
pace a circle and pay tribute
with a song.

When the roar of a dropped wave
breaks into it,
pour meted words
of sea-hawks and gull
sand sea-birds that cry
discords.

friend :: frannie lindsay

An old blonde dog takes care of me.
I found him starving in the snow.

His face is scarred, his hips protrude.
His joints are stiff. Doddering along,

he lists a bit, and more and more
he is incontinent.

Yet when I’m most alone, he brings me
his old polar bear, the sock

he likes to chew. His white chin fits
my darkest aches, and settles there.

cuffs :: jonathan greene

Off to the city, hitchhikers
secreted in folded denim:
grass seed, sawdust, gravel,
duff, country living’s cache,
hidden chaff.

Kicking up my heels, falling down
drunk, a small dump truck from home
spreads its load on the coddled
carpet of clean uptight
apartment living.

this island :: andrew waterman

At peace, limbs interlaced, we lie and drowse.
On, as it seems, this island we’ve discovered.
Distantly lapping now all adverse seas
of circumstance. Warmed by your loving vows,
our fluent thrills of sexual embrace,
I pull the quilt so you are covered,
hoping that lulled here in our proper place
we’ll sleep, to wake together and at ease.

You think, and stir, slip from the bed, and dress,
bound back to husband, children. ‘Yes, the time
will come,’ you tell me. When we are downstairs
deliciously your lips browse my nakedness.
A last flash of your face in night. Content,
I hear your car start. Once more I’m
pillowed on your departed body’s scent
and impress, where my tongue finds long blonde hairs.

disarmed :: wendy videlock

I should be diligent and firm,
I know I should, and frowning, too;
again you’ve failed to clean your room.
Not only that, the evidence
of midnight theft is in your bed—
cracked peanut shells and m&m’s
are crumbled where you rest your head,
and just above, the windowsill
is crowded with a green giraffe
(who’s peering through your telescope),
some dominoes, and half a glass
of orange juice. You hungry child,

how could I be uncharmed by this,
your secret world, your happy mess?

the wrong ones :: james tolan

There are those who make us sad,
maybe not at first; maybe at first

we love them and have been waiting
to love them all our lives, but maybe

they’re really only second chances
to love those we had neglected

to love before—our mothers
and lovers, fathers and strangers—

and maybe we were right
not to love them the first time;

maybe our love was holding out
for a world of its own choosing

and those who make us sad now
make us sad because we’re loving

the wrong ones, the ones we’d hoped
would grow smaller as we walked away

instead of showing themselves again
in those we have failed to love anew.

wasps’ nest :: michael schmidt

It was the fruit I wanted, not the nest.
The nest was hanging like the richest fruit
against the sun. I took the nest

and with it came the heart, and in my hand
the kingdom and the queen, frail surfaces,
rested for a moment. Then the drones

awoke and did their painful business.
I let the city drop upon the stones.
It split to its deep palaces and combs.

It bled the insect gold,
the pupa queens like tiny eyes
wriggled from their sockets, and somewhere

the monarch cowered in a veil of wings
in passages through which at evening
the labourers had homed,

burdened with silence and the garden scents.
The secret heart was broken suddenly.
I, to whom the knowledge had been given,

who was not after knowledge but a fruit,
remember how a knot of pains
swelled my hand to a round nest;

blood throbbed in the hurt veins
as if an unseen swarm mined there.
The nest oozed bitter honey.

I swaddled my fat hand in cotton.
After a week pain gave it back to me
scarred and weakened like a shrivelled skin.

A second fruit is growing on the tree.
Identical—the droning in the leaves.
It ripens. I have another hand.

see-saw :: willie perdomo

Spent a whole day
and night
playing on my see-saw
see if I could forget
saw that it was over
before it started

I never change
the way I get over it
some brothers I know
buy new CDs
or join a new gym
sisters chop off their locks
order new magazines
and start practicing yoga

I go up in smoke
and come down
in a nod
I go up in smoke
and come down
in a nod

then I play with my old journals
so I can hear myself
screaming for help
promising to stop
as soon as I finish
the last one
but beware my foolish heart
wants to play forget again

so I go up in smoke
and come down
in a nod
I go up in smoke
and come down
in a nod

and tell myself
that everything is alright
I can live without her
as long as I got
my see-saw

wealth :: sherman alexie

When other Indians want to give thanks
For my poems, stories, readings, and movies,
They often give me Pendleton blankets.
I think I own twenty-five or thirty

And actively use ten or twelve of them,
Which is, according to custom, rather odd.
Growing up on the Spokane Indian Rez,
I never saw a blanket leave its box

Because my mom thought they were gifts from God.

the great poem :: lawrence raab

The great poem is always possible.
Think of Keats and his odes.
But we shouldn’t have to be dying,

What I’m writing now is not
the great poem. After a few lines
I could tell. It may not even be

a particularly good poem, although
it’s too early to decide about that.
Keep going, I say. See what happens.

But trying hard is one of the problems.
since it shows in the lines as a strain
or struggle that reminds the reader

too much of the writer, whereas
most readers want to listen alone.
The great poem, I think, will arrive

when I no longer care. Perhaps
I’ll have abandoned art altogether,
and I won’t even want to write

the poem down. But then I’ll remember
what I once would have given
for this moment, and I’ll go back

to my desk. And I’ll write the poem
as though I were another person,
someone I will never be again.

doing without :: david ray

      ‘s an interesting
custom, involving such in-
      visible items as the food
that’s not on the table, the clothes
      that are not on the back
the radio whose music
      is silence. Doing without
is a great protector of reputations
      since all places one cannot go
are fabulous, and only the rare and
      enlightened plowman in his field
or on his mountain does not overrate
      what he does not or cannot have.
Saluting through their windows
      of cathedral glass those restaurants
we must not enter (unless like
      burglars we become subject to
arrest) we greet with our twinkling
      eyes the faces of others who do
without, the lady with the
      fishing pole, and the man who looks
amused to have discovered on a walk
      another piece of firewood.

champagne :: laura kasischke

A cold wind, later, but no rain.
A bus breathing heavily at the station.
Beggars at the gate, and the moon
like one bright horn of a white
cow up there in space. But

really, must I think about all this
a second time in this short life?
This crescent moon, like a bit
of ancient punctuation. This

pause in the transience of all things.

Up there, Ishtar in the ship
of life he’s sailing. Has

he ripped open again his sack of grain?
Spilled it all over the place?
Bubbles rising to the surface, breaking.

Beside our sharpened blades, they’ve
set down our glasses of champagne.
A joke is made. But, really, must

I hear this joke again?

Must I watch the spluttering
light of this specific flame? Must I
consider forever the permanent
transience of all things:

The bus, breathing at the station.
The beggars at the gate.
The girl I was.
Both pregnant and chaste.
The cold wind, that crescent moon.
No rain. What difference

can it possibly make, that
pain, now that not a single
anguished cry of it remains?

Really, must I grieve it all again
a second time, and why tonight
of all the nights, and just
as I’m about to raise, with the
blissful others, my

glass to the silvery, liquid
chandelier above us?

the palace of contemplating departure :: brynn saito

You wandered through my life like a backwards wish
when I was ready for deliverance.

I was ready for release
like a pinball in God’s mouth
like charanga on Tuesdays
like the summer in Shanghai

when we prayed for a rainstorm
and bartered our shame, then we tore open oranges
with four dirty thumbs.

And the forecast said Super
so we chartered a yacht
and we planted a garden on the unbending prow

but the sea said Surrender
with its arms full of salt, and wind shook the seeds
from our shirt coat pockets

so when we washed up on the shoreline of sunlight
near the city of wind
we were broken and thin, like wraiths at a wake.

But you tilted your head up and told me I was wild
so I lifted my life
and I lifted your life

and we wandered through the gate of radiant days
then we married our splendor
in the hall of bright rule.

And I thank you again: you gave madness a chance
and you lassoed the morning
and we met on a Tuesday
in a dance hall in Shanghai
and I left you in a leap year for the coveted shoreline

and you wept like a book when it’s pulled from a well.

But you were the one who told me I was wild
and you were the one who wrestled the angel

and I knew when I left you
that courage was a choice
and memory, a spear,
and the X of destination is etched on my iris
and shifts with the seasons—

don’t think of the phoenix, think of the mountain.

But where will I go now with my tireless wonder?
And when will I again be brave like that?
 
 
 
The Palace Of Contemplating Departure (2013), via AP
(Listen.)

little song :: rowan ricardo phillips

Both guitars run trebly. One noodles
Over a groove. The other slushes chords.
Then they switch. It’s quite an earnest affair.
They close my eyes. I close their eyes. A horn
Blares its inner air to brass. A girl shakes
Her ass. Some dude does the same. The music’s
Gone moot. Who doesn’t love it when the bass
Doesn’t hide? When you can feel the trumpet peel
Old oil and spit from deep down the empty
Pit of a note or none or few? So don’t
Give up on it yet: the scenario.
You know that it’s just as tired of you
As you are of it. Still, there’s much more to it
Than that. It does not not get you quite wrong.

heat wave :: robert b. shaw

That power-sapping fan that hacks the air,
sending the tepid slices of it flying,
lacks power and aim alike to land them where
you and I are inconveniently lying,

all of a midnight on the third day straight
of stifling in our inner-city furnace—
as if the town, reflecting urban hate,
had mustered all its surfaces to burn us.

The neighbor’s radio whines out wise advice,
dictating to the audience it serves:
lights out and lemonade and lots of ice.
Diminish bodily contact. Save your nerves.

But temperate counsels such as these are lost
on you and me who meet to mingle sweat,
clinging as though to foil invading frost.
Tonight our native heats are happily met;

tonight considerations pitched beyond
comfort endure, and, having drawn together
the pair of us in such a godly bond,
stand fair to weather out ungodly weather.

the heat of autumn :: jane hirshfield

The heat of autumn
is different from the heat of summer.
One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.
One is a dock you walk out on,
the other the spine of a thin swimming horse
and the river each day a full measure colder.
A man with cancer leaves his wife for his lover.
Before he goes she straightens his belts in the closet,
rearranges the socks and sweaters inside the dresser
by color. That’s autumn heat:
her hand placing silver buckles with silver,
gold buckles with gold, setting each
on the hook it belongs on in a closet soon to be empty,
and calling it pleasure.

a valediction :: patrick phillips

I watched you snap a rabbit’s spine
while stroking it and cooing.

I heard a shot from the hill you climbed
with a gray-faced dog I loved.

And when I winged a sparrow perching
on a sway-backed power line

you laid your thick hand to its skull
and made the shrieking air stand still.

Did you mean that there’s no heaven
on earth but dignity? Did you mean

we too will pray some day for mercy?
All I can do is guess now what you

never said but meant. And pretend
somehow you hear this as you rise,

like when I watched the stillness then,
whispering Wake up. Fly.

elegy for a year :: jay deshpande

I’m going to get drunk tonight, in my home, by the side
of my own side, like a fishing village preparing for winter.

I’m going to unite myself with the hair of every former tenant
of my disconsolate thirty-year form. Something stifles

through the tender-grass. Strokes the pond on its hot slept heart.
I reach for my ghosts like Horatio. When I wake up again,

the day will have a saddle on. Even though it’s not yet sun o’clock.
Flashback, new years: my friend drops the hatchet on the hatchet

on love, and I can’t ignore the clacking in my shirt pocket
any longer. I reach up with a hand of milk: inside I find in threes

the small cool stones I meant to leave on the shelf of a memory
of the persons I lost. It’s what you do when someone’s family tree

falls in the forest and no one is around.
April rises like a giddy burn, its fists of one night

trading badges with the constables of the next.
I want to be shorn again as much as I want to never go back.

When someone lets me speak my anchor-song to Central Park,
spraying enormous air over the summer-ready company,

I feel briefly guilty. The crank I turn the world with
is such a hot thing. It uses the lungs of others like a coal-engine.

And it is for this reason that tonight I will be alone.
With my madness. With my menu of hors-d’oeuvres

with dug-out cores. And when I wake up again
to the tune of another year older, a clock in the sink,

I’ll see me as the remarkable being at the center
of a flat myth elephants think of as they sleep

on the talkative plains. I’ll be there among the tusks inside of me.
With the thing I hold that holds the thing I need.

the noisiness of sleep :: ada limón

Careful of what I carry
in my head and in my hollow,

I’ve been a long time worried
about grasping infinity

and coaxing some calm
out of the softest part

of the pins and needles
of me. I’d like to take a nap.

But not a nap that’s eternal,
a nap where you wake up

having dreamt of falling, but
you’ve only fallen into

an ease so unknown to you
it looks like a new country.

Let me slip into a life less messy.
Let me slip into your sleeve.

Be very brave about my
trespass, the plan is simple—

the plan is the clock tower
and the lost crow. It’ll be rich.

We’ll live forever. Every moon
will be a moon of surrender

and lemon seeds. You there,
standing up in the crowd,

I’m not proud. The stove
can’t boast of the meal.

All this to say—consider this,
with your combination of firefly

and train whistle, consider this,
with your maze and steel,

I want to be the rough clothes
you can’t sleep in.

the wilde woman of aiken :: robin coste lewis

I am not supposed to be
Beautiful. I am not
Supposed to sit
Before the observant eye
Of a sunflower. I am incapable
Of having a voice
Like a robin’s singing
Of springtime’s newborn impatiens,
Its balsams and touch-me-nots
Crouched so low to the ground. Vases and I are not permitted
To dally. If I were a name,
It would be Wall Paper. My hair is made of
A million breathing paisleys.
I have listened to you think aloud
About a five thousand year
Old world
That does not exist.
I am sitting here
In the open,
And you are there,
Dripping beneath your dark
Velvet, waiting for the light
To reach you.
I have wondered
Where you really live,
Why you cannot hear
All the glass inside your syllables
Slide off the table
Whenever your mouth
Opens and is then closed.
The story has not even begun.
The only thing left inside
My hand is my own quiet hand.
I am the fourth sister.
My florets stand together
At golden angles. My head
Is packed with eager seeds
Crisscrossing in spirals
One hundred garlands long.
It’s over now.
About my waist, dark
And bright: there is a satin sash
The color of sun
Warmed eggplant
Still fetching
On the vine.
You
Cannot
Prevent me.

god is an american :: terrance hayes

I still love words. When we make love in the morning,
your skin damp from a shower, the day calms.
Shadenfreude may be the best way to name the covering
of adulthood, the powdered sugar on a black shirt. I am

alone now on the top floor pulled by obsession, the ink
on my fingers. And sometimes it is a difficult name.
Sometimes it is like the world before America, the kin-
ship of fools and hunters, the children, the dazed dream

of mothers with no style. A word can be the boot print
in a square of fresh cement and the glaze of morning.
Your response to my kiss is I have a cavity. I am in
love with incompletion. I am clinging to your moorings.

Yes, I have a pretty good idea what beauty is. It survives
alright. It aches like an open book. It makes it difficult to live.

a braid of garlic :: marilyn hacker

Aging women mourn while they go to market,
buy fish, figs, tomatoes, enough today to
feed the wolf asleep underneath the table
who wakes from what dream?

What but loss comes round with the changing season?
He is dead, whom, daring, I called a brother
with that leftover life perched on his shoulder
cawing departure.

He made one last roll of the dice. He met his
last, best interlocutor days before he
lay down for the surgery that might/might not
extend the gamble.

What they said belongs to them. Now a son writes
elegies, though he has a living father.
One loves sage tea, one gave the world the scent of
his mother’s coffee.

Light has shrunk back to what it was in April,
incrementally will shrink back to winter.
I can’t call my peregrinations ‘exile,’
but count the mornings.

In a basket hung from the wall, its handle
festooned with cloth flowers from chocolate boxes,
mottled purple shallots, and looped beside it,
a braid of garlic.

I remember, ten days after a birthday
(counterpoint and candlelight in the wine-glass),
how the woman radiologist’s fingers
probed, not caressing.

So, reprise (what wasn’t called a ‘recurrence’)
of a fifteen-years-ago rite of passage:
I arrived, encumbered with excess baggage,
scarred, on the threshold.

Through the mild winter sun in February,
two or three times weekly to Gobelins, the
geriatric hospital where my friend was
getting her nerve back.

At the end of elegant proofs and lyric,
incoherent furious trolls in diapers.
Fragile and ephemeral as all beauty:
the human spirit –

while the former journalist watched, took notes and
shocked, regaled her visitors with dispatches
from the war zone in which she was embedded,
biding her time there.

Now in our own leftover lives, we toast our
memories and continence. I have scars where
breasts were, her gnarled fingers, these days, can hardly
hold the pen steady.

Thousands mourn him, while in the hush and hum of
life-support for multiple organ failure,
utter solitude, poise of scarlet wings that
flutter, and vanish.

knife :: mary oliver

Something
just now
moved through my heart
like the thinnest of blades
as that red-tail pumped
once with its great wings
and flew above the gray, cracked
rock wall.
It wasn’t
about the bird, it was
something about the way
stone stays
mute and put, whatever
goes flashing by.
Sometimes,
when I sit like this, quiet,
all the dreams of my blood
and all outrageous divisions of time
seem ready to leave,
to slide out of me.
Then, I imagine, I would never move.
By now
the hawk has flown five miles
at least,
dazzling whoever else has happened
to look up.
I was dazzled. But that
wasn’t the knife.
It was the sheer, dense wall
of blind stone
without a pinch of hope
or a single unfulfilled desire
sponging up and reflecting,
so brilliantly,
as it has for centuries,
the sun’s fire.

sea foam palace :: amy gerstler

(Bubbling and spuming
as if trying to talk under
water, I address you thus:)
Must I pretend not to love
you (in your present bloom,
your present perfection — soul
encased in fleshly relevance)
so you won’t believe me
just another seabed denizen
vying for your blessed attention?
Some of us (but not you)
are so loosely moored
to our bodies we can
barely walk a straight line,
remaining (most days) only
marginally conscious.
We stagger and shudder
as buckets of   blood or sperm
or chocolate mousse or spittle
or lymph or sludge sluice
continually through us…

I love the way you wear your
face, how you ride this life.
I delight in the sight of you,
your nervous, inquisitive eyes,
though I try to act otherwise.
Being stoned out of thy mind
only amps up thy fearsome
brain wattage. Pardon my
frontal offensive, dear chum.
Forgive my word-churn, my
drift, the ways this text message
has gotten all frothy. How was it
you became holy to me? Should
I resist, furiously? Is this your
true visage, shaken free, flashing
glimpses of what underlies
the world we can see? Do not forget me
murmurs something nibbled
by fish under the sea.

After dark you’re quick-silvery,
wet /slick /glistening. Don’t
make me chase you, dragging
my heavy caresses, a pair of
awkward, serrated claws,
hither and yon. Give me a swig
of   whatever you’re drinking,
to put me in tune with the cosmos’s
relentless melt, with the rhythms
of dish-washing, corn-shucking,
hard-fucking, bed-wetting, and
the folding of   bones of other loves
into well-dug graves…    may we
never become lost to the world.

becoming a horse :: ross gay

It was dragging my hands along its belly,
loosing the bit and wiping the spit
from its mouth that made me
a snatch of grass in the thing’s maw,
a fly tasting its ear. It was
touching my nose to his that made me know
the clover’s bloom, my wet eye to his that
made me know the long field’s secrets.
But it was putting my heart to the horse’s that made me know
the sorrow of horses. Made me
forsake my thumbs for the sheen of unshod hooves.
And in this way drop my torches.
And in this way drop my knives.
Feel the small song in my chest
swell and my coat glisten and twitch.
And my face grow long.
And these words cast off, at last,
for the slow honest tongue of horses.

ars poetica :: tom disch

Some people actually manage to make money by it,
But most of us just enjoy it as it enters our lives
With the intermittent periodicity
Of those optional holidays—Arbor Day or Mardi Gras—
We can celebrate or ignore as we choose.
Of course, a devotee can fill his calendar
(As Henry James notoriously did, dining out
Every night of the week in his London years),
But a majority are, as it were, hobbyists,
And once they exit adolescence lose
That special drive that keeps the driven few driven—
Who rarely ask why they feel this peculiar need.
Is it to please? Not on the evidence.
Exceptional competence can lead to celebrity
On a par with a movie star’s, but do you
Honestly believe most aspirants aspire so far?
They do it for love. They do it because
At some point in their green youth
They were pierced, like apples, or bull’s-eyes,
By the everlasting dart. Of art?
Goodness no. Haven’t you been listening?