swifts :: anne stevenson

Spring comes little, a little. All April it rains.
The new leaves stick in their fists; new ferns still fiddleheads.
But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child
You shout, ‘The swifts are back!’

Sure enough, bolt nocks bow to carry one sky-scyther
Two hundred miles an hour across fullblown windfields.
Swereee swereee. Another. And another.
It’s the cut air falling in shrieks on our chimneys and roofs.

The next day, a fleet of high crosses cruises in ether.
These are the air pilgrims, pilots of air rivers.
But a shift of wing, and they’re earth-skimmers, daggers
Skilful in guiding the throw of themselves away from themselves.

Quick flutter, a scimitar upsweep, out of danger of touch, for
Earth is forbidden to them, water’s forbidden to them,
All air and fire, little owlish ascetics, they outfly storms,
They rush to the pillars of altitude, the thermal fountains.

Here is a legend of swifts, a parable —
When the Great Raven bent over earth to create the birds,
The swifts were ungrateful. They were small muddy things
Like shoes, with long legs and short wings,

So they took themselves off to the mountains to sulk.
And they stayed there. ‘Well,’ said the Raven, after years of this,
‘I will give you the sky. You can have the whole sky
On condition that you give up rest.’

‘Yes, yes,’ screamed the swifts, ‘We abhor rest.
We detest the filth of growth, the sweat of sleep,
Soft nests in the wet fields, slimehold of worms.
Let us be free, be air!’

So the Raven took their legs and bound them into their bodies.
He bent their wings like boomerangs, honed them like knives.
He streamlined their feathers and stripped them of velvet.
Then he released them, Never to Return

Inscribed on their feet and wings. And so
We have swifts, though in reality, not parables but
Bolts in the world’s need: swift
Swifts, not in punishment, not in ecstasy, simply

Sleepers over oceans in the mill of the world’s breathing.
The grace to say they live in another firmament.
A way to say the miracle will not occur,
And watch the miracle.

please :: yusef komunyakaa

Forgive me, soldier.
Forgive my right hand
for pointing you
to the flawless
tree line now
outlined in my brain.
There was so much
bloodsky at daybreak
in Pleiku, but I won’t say
those infernal guns
blinded me on that hill.

Mistakes piled up men like clouds
pushed to the dark side.
Sometimes I try to retrace
them, running
fingers down the map
telling less than a woman’s body—
we followed the grid coordinates
in some battalion commander’s mind.
If I could make my mouth
unsay those orders,
I’d holler: Don’t
move a muscle. Stay put,
keep your fucking head
down, soldier.

Ambush. Gutsmoke.
Last night while making love
I cried out, Hit the dirt!
I’ve tried to swallow my tongue.
You were a greenhorn, so fearless,
even foolish, & when I said go,
Henry, you went dancing on a red string
of bullets from that tree line
as it moved from a low cloud.

late summer :: jennifer grotz

Before the moths have even appeared
to orbit around them, the streetlamps come on,
a long row of them glowing uselessly

along the ring of garden that circles the city center,
where your steps count down the dulling of daylight.
At your feet, a bee crawls in small circles like a toy unwinding.

Summer specializes in time, slows it down almost to dream.
And the noisy day goes so quiet you can hear
the bedraggled man who visits each trash receptacle

mutter in disbelief: Everything in the world is being thrown away!
Summer lingers, but it’s about ending. It’s about how things
redden and ripen and burst and come down. It’s when

city workers cut down trees, demolishing
one limb at a time, spilling the crumbs
of twigs and leaves all over the tablecloth of street.

Sunglasses! the man softly exclaims
while beside him blooms a large gray rose of pigeons
huddled around a dropped piece of bread.

what begins bitterly becomes another love poem :: g. c. waldrep

The earth has a taste for us, in its unknowing
appetite there yet resides a hunger, incompletion
that draws all life to its dark self. What, then,
shall we say of the flesh’s own desire, distal
thumb-brush at evening? There is nothing to say,
the vowels cluster uncertain in the beautiful vase
the throat makes, fricatives corralled behind
ridge of gum and bone-splinter. Flesh and earth:
fire is an illusion, to which water is the antidote.
The day was a bright one, there seemed no need
to move about with mirrors, the usual circumspection
and indirect approach. The abundance of small life
argued some measure of clemency, likewise
the Jerseys lowing in the paddock breeze, tender
shoots of cress and sweetpea spiralling upward.
But fire is a cruel hoax: now you see it,
now you don’t, the object of your affection
cast in carbon on the hard ground which will,
in time, receive. Roadside the irises bloomed
two or three feet max above soil’s surface,
rough tongue resting lightly on each leaf, each
violet exclamation. In full sun your hand guided mine
to the wound. A small one. Water and blood,
like the nurse said: prestidigitation of the body.
We stood without shadows on asphalt at midday.
What we call patience is only fire again, compressed.
I remember: your face flushed, stray petal lodged
in the damp whorl of your dishevelled hair.

the transmigration of souls :: deborah digges

Inside the starboard window
of his room in a boat at sea,
the piece of earth he’s scraped from a dead gull’s leg
sprouts eighty different species, green
under bell glass. By the sunlight
of the oil lamp he makes rain
as the wind picks up toward Chiloe,
Port Famine, Concepcion, and then Galapagos.
Here he finds shipwrecked sailors’ epitaphs cut
into the shell of an old tortoise
who’s tame enough to ride,
too huge to slaughter.
Here the birds are fearless.
He can catch them with his hands, let them
perch on his finger before he
breaks their necks and wraps them
in his shirt and sets their eggs on branches drifting
from the shoreline, island to island.
Now everywhere he meets himself.
He’s tired, and half the world from home.
But his mind has entered the morning
the way all the animals
kept in his cabin in jars along the wall grow
smaller in sequence
until the window opens on the sea,
so that what he’ll remember
are the wasted spaces, the desert rock spread out for miles
as if the earth were flat again,
dangerous at the horizon,
where the stones, piled, shine
against lava black.
Dew pools in the evenings.
A few pale leaves appear.

skinny poem :: john koethe

write some skinny poems—
James Schuyler

Life is rough, as
Rough as you make it.
Is it better to be the
Best at something, or is a
Gentleman’s C enough,
At least occasionally?
I used to think it was—
I used to think whatever
Felt like thought was sheer
Pleasure, but I’m old now:
It’s all edges, edges and
Scraps, like a collage.
I thought that continuity
Was everything, and now I
Think it’s a mirage, like a
Sound-effect or an echo,
A reflection of what flows
Inexorably beneath. “Man
Is the measure of all things”:
Protagoras. Plato refuted
Him, to no avail—you can’t
Argue with a blank stare:
“Here I stand.” I hate poems
Of affirmation, poems too
Unaware, too smooth
To be true. Life is rough.

horses :: jennifer gray

The neighbor’s horses idle
under the roof
of their three-sided shelter,
looking out at the rain.

Sometimes
one or another
will fade into the shadows
in the corner, maybe
to eat, or drink.

Still, the others stand,
blowing out their warm
breaths. Rain rattles
on the metal roof.

Their hoof prints
in the corral
open gray eyes to the sky,
and wink each time
another drop falls in.

picasso :: tim nolan

How can we believe he did it—
every day—for all those years?

We remember how the musicians
gathered for him—and the prostitutes

arranged themselves the way he wanted—
and even the helmeted monkeys

with their little toy car cerebella—
posed—and the fish on the plate—

remained after he ate the fish—
Bones—What do we do with this

life?—except announce: Joy.
Joy. Joy
—from the lead—

to the oil—to the stretch of bright
canvas—stretched—to the end of it all.

maze without a minotaur :: dana gioia

If we could only push these walls
apart, unfold the room the way
a child might take apart a box
and lay it flat upon the floor—
so many corners cleared at last!
Or else could rip away the roof
and stare down at the dirty rooms,
the hallways turning on themselves,
and understand at last their plan—
dark maze without a minotaur,
no monsters but ourselves.
               Yet who
could bear to see it all? The slow
descending spirals of the dust
against the spotted windowpane,
the sunlight on the yellow lace,
the hoarded wine turned dark and sour,
the photographs, the letters—all
the crowded closets of the heart.

One wants to turn away—and cry
for fire to break out on the stairs
and raze each suffocating room.
But the walls stay, the roof remains
strong and immovable, and we
can only pray that if these rooms
have memories, they are not ours.

absences :: mark vinz

      “Even when you are not in a room,
      you are in it, your voice everywhere.”
–Bill Holm

The message that’s recorded on the phone
is unmistakably bad news, and then
another call tells us it’s one we love—
a sudden death while traveling, somehow
appropriate for one who always
seized life too completely to stand still.

A door slams shut, a wall has dropped away,
and once again I’m driven back to
empty pages, insufficient words,
to rooms he always filled on entering—
rooms lined with books, piano music, and
good friends who raise their glasses one last time.

And now, as all the lights are blinking off
in every prairie town we’ve ever loved,
when all the toasts are made and songs are sung,
when leaving is the only certainty,
a single voice keeps echoing, along
each dark, untraveled hallway of the heart.

pedestrian :: thomas lux

Tottering and elastic, middle name of Groan,
ramfeezled after a hard night
at the corpse-polishing plant, slope-
shouldered, a half loaf
of bread, even his hair tired, famished,
fingering the diminished beans
in his pocket—you meet him.
On a thousand street corners you meet him,
emerging from the subway, emerging
from your own chest—this sight’s shrill,
metallic vapors pass into you.
His fear is of being broken,
of becoming too dexterous in stripping
the last few shoelaces of meat
from a chicken’s carcass, of being moved by nothing
short of the Fall of Rome, of being stooped
in the cranium over some loss he’s forgotten
the anniversary of…. You meet him,
know his defeat, though proper
and inevitable, is not yours, although yours also
is proper and inevitable: so many defeats
queer and insignificant (as illustration:
the first time you lay awake all night
waiting for dawn—and were disappointed), so many
no-hope exhaustions hidden,
their gaze dully glazed inward.—And yet we all
fix our binoculars on the horizon’s hazy fear-heaps
and cruise toward them, fat sails
forward…. You meet him on the corners,
in bus stations, on the blind avenues
leading neither in
nor out of hell, you meet him
and with him you walk.

here :: kim addonizio

After it ended badly it got so much better
which took a while of course but still
he grew so tender & I so grateful
which maybe tells you something about how it was
I’m trying to tell you I know you
have staggered wept spiraled through a long room
banging your head against it holding crushed
bird skulls in your hands your many hearts unstrung
unable to play a note their wood still beautiful
& carved so elaborately maybe a collector would want them
stupid collectors always preserving & never breaking open
the jars so everyone starves while admiring the view
you don’t own anyone everything will be taken from you
go ahead & eat this poem please it will help

before :: ada limón

No shoes and a glossy
red helmet, I rode
on the back of my dad’s
Harley at seven years old.
Before the divorce.
Before the new apartment.
Before the new marriage.
Before the apple tree.
Before the ceramics in the garbage.
Before the dog’s chain.
Before the koi were all eaten
by the crane. Before the road
between us, there was the road
beneath us, and I was just
big enough not to let go:
Henno Road, creek just below,
rough wind, chicken legs,
and I never knew survival
was like that. If you live,
you look back and beg
for it again, the hazardous
bliss before you know
what you would miss.

mysticism in the dark :: mira rosenthal

As children we were warned not to whistle at night for fear of evil spirits.
Dangerous animals became even more
sinister and uncanny in the dark.
A snake was never called by its name at night because it would hear.
It was called a string.
A beetle the size of a child’s fist was never pointed out to have pinchers.
It was called a button.
A spider in the web of its life didn’t have poison secreted away
nor the sticky means with which to entrap.
It was purely called an apple hanging on a branch.
A black bat wasn’t fast enough to swoop into anyone’s hair, get tangled there.
It was called a paper snowflake.
It was called a falling leaf.
A lizard bent around a branch
was a headband you wear to keep hair out of your face.
A cricket was simply a clothespin.

The bigger animals were nothing more than clothing tossed out.
A bear was a worn-through winter jacket.
A fox, a scarf rubbed down to beaded threads.
And that praying mantis stuck up against the wall,
only a necklace to adorn your thin collarbones.
A scorpion is merely the bent latch from a window.
A silverfish is just a drop of coffee.
Two cockroaches paused on cement,
plainly a pair of sunglasses dropped and forgotten in the hustle of the day.
A line of ants, straight stitches on the hem of the tablecloth
at which you’ll sit in the morning.

And what is that roll of toilet paper doing
hooting from the ridge of the roof?
And why is the lamp shade creeping stealthily through the courtyard
and hopping up on the rim of the open garbage can?
And how is that small water bottle inching slowly forward,
leaving its saliva, a trail of where it has been
pointing to where it is going?
And who scattered those twenty plump babies’ shoes under the bush
and what makes them chirp and dance around
like popcorn in the fryer?
They seem to be looking for something so small
they can’t find it, pecking as they are with their blunt toes.
A house is not a house and you are not inside the house.
You are not a body lying in bed
but a bench for something higher to sit down on.
If only you could move your wooden legs and stand up,
everything would be revealed in an instant.

land in sight :: anne michaels

All day the sky
whispered into the sea and the sails
would not fill. On the pier,
dogs drank the air dry
with searching tongues.
We were seared wherever clothes
revealed us. Down the boulevard,
shutters clapped loud against the sun.
Children slipped messages through the slats,
flecks of paper drifted into the street.

All through the city love looked for us, through
the crooked Altestrasse, under Lenin’s balcony,
past the terrace where Goethe drank his coffee.
Into cafés where coolness turns its key
in a shadow. All day love followed us
as we climbed, from fountain to bridge.
A gull hovered as if
broken. All day love drew its finger
across my belly, ascended my damp spine.
I kept turning my face
from its breath.

The city woke. Dogs unfolded their legs
and stood. One by one, shutters parted,
glimpses of voices
pressed the air.

The same loneliness that closes us
opens us again.

Like hair loosened by the sea,
slowly the darkness opens into darkness.

spring, san francisco :: brynn saito

        for Gabriel

You live in a house of sound and you live
with a ghost. The one who stole your heart
also lives in your heart so you cut it out
with a carving knife and send it flying.
You say sometimes you wake and wait
for the god of loneliness to leave you alone.
I say our city is small and teeming
with ghosts and there are no seasons
for hiding. So we let go of the ones
who called us by our names. We make
ourselves new names by tracing letters
in a sand tray with sharp stones.
This is called Patience or Practicing
Solitude or The Wind Will Ruin Everything
but what does it matter let’s go for beauty
every time. You say the price we pay for love
is loss. I say the price we pay for love
is love. Sometimes you’ve nothing
save your hand in the glove and the glove
against wind and you’re jabbing at the sky now
in the match of your life but the sky
never fights back so you praise it.

disciple :: mindy nettifee

The best advice I ever got about how to heal
came from a beleaguered camp counselor
who found herself suddenly surrounded
by a flock of heaving sobbing twelve year old girls.
It had been billed as a session on conflict resolution,
an alternative to wood cookie crafts, or horseshoes,
and maybe she should have seen it coming,
how water seeks the cracks in any dam.

One girl had been brutally sexually assaulted
by the preschool director, and had not slept
through the night alone since.
One had been molested by her foster brother,
who sliced his arms with scissors in the bedroom dark.
One had been strangled by her own mother,
who later found God and apologized,
and then punished her for not offering up

the fish and loaves of forgiveness instantly,
the forgiveness which her mother had been promised
by some pastor that she deserved now, and would receive
through the mysterious machines of grace;
the kind that multiplied and magnified and
fed the endless hunger at the center of things.
There were other stories.
Abuse is a word that sounds powerful in your head

and goes limp the moment you speak it,
hanging like a soaked wet curtain
around the things we can not bear to know.
I don’t remember the counselor’s name, or
what she looked like, just that she was an enormous
buoy of a woman. That her voice was deep
and calm and quavered at all the right turns.
That she sat in a way that trained gravity.

How unprepared she must have felt,
to see the sharks swimming in our eyes,
to have been handed the heavy anchors
of our trust. What well of strength did she draw from?
What inheritance of bedrock and granite and spine?
What gospel stolen from the bent melted steel of kitchen knives?
She absorbed every blow of every word.
When we had finished, when we were softened

by confession, she took a breath and began.
Without getting into the kind of details that get attention,
she told us the story of her own early ruin,
of the lifetimes of gentle obligation it left in its wake.
The heart and the mind and the body
might never align on the requirements of joy.
The mind must be taught patience with the heart.
The heart must learn faith from the body.

The body must be tended lovingly and unwaveringly, an infant.
The heart will take its own sweet time, and can not be rushed.
“Just fake it ’till you feel it,” she told us,
and like that, gave us permission
to put on the tight masks of adulthood,
to build walls around what was
too tender and shocked;
to survive.

aubade :: sandra lim

From the last stars to sunrise the world is dark and enduring
and emptiness has its place.

Then, to wake each day to the world’s unwavering
limits, you have to think about passion differently, again.

Don’t we forgive everything of a lover
if we are the motive,
if love promises to take us to many places, to even larger themes?

Faithlessness is a heart glancing down
a plumed avenue
in which one is serenaded by myriad, scattering birds.

Thunder in the air begins opening appetites;
everyone is being true to themselves, they think—

And then it is having your right arm sheared off,
and the whole world gets to touch you, chime your losses.

I turn to my imagination, but its eyes are still
green, as if from
too much looking on at equatorial gardens.

Still, if I were you I would linger here,
deepen in the rottenness,
learn something about the world, about the desire for safety.

Then, I’d make an instrument from the ruins,
something awfully beautiful.

I would sit down to eat as if I were reading a poem.
I would observe how the night went into the day with a special grandeur.

It could be like swallowing a sword and growing surprised
by how good it is, how it opens.

And then maybe to sing out with a throat like that—
saying look, look how the world has touched me.

where they lived :: marjorie saiser

One last time I unlock
the house where they lived

and fought and tried again:
the air of the place,

carpet with its unchanging green,
chair with its back to me.

On the TV set, the Christmas cactus
has bloomed, has spilled its pink flowers

down its scraggly arms
and died, drying into paper.

At the round oak table,
ghosts lean toward one another,

almost a bow, before rising,
before ambling away.

honey :: robert morgan

Only calmness will reassure
the bees to let you rob their hoard.
Any sweat of fear provokes them.
Approach with confidence, and from
the side, not shading their entrance.
And hush smoke gently from the spout
of the pot of rags, for sparks will
anger them. If you go near bees
every day they will know you.
And never jerk or turn so quick
you excite them. If weeds are trimmed
around the hive they have access
and feel free. When they taste your smoke
they fill themselves with honey and
are laden and lazy as you
lift the lid to let in daylight.
No bee full of sweetness wants to
sting. Resist greed. With the top off
you touch the fat gold frames, each cell
a hex perfect as a snowflake,
a sealed relic of sun and time
and roots of many acres fixed
in crystal-tight arrays, in rows
and lattices of sweeter latin
from scattered prose of meadow, woods.

what i learned from my mother :: julia kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

resolve :: leslie ullman

It’s a sudden hue
of feeling. The tint
that softens the edge between
act and dream. Blue as the bay
at noon, the huge
eye through which I swim

once I’ve stopped looking back.
It’s the flow of words after
a moment of doubt — drought
in the throat. It’s the slow rain
that fell this morning
on freeways and fields,

not the cold wink of cash, not
the steel or titanium
I thought it was, forged
by a man in goggles wielding fire,
not sword
or bolt out of the blue —

It is the blue, the translucent
cup whose accomplice
is gravity. It’s the cup’s water
born of polar ice and ozone,
the element that washed
ashore and held us

while our cells felt their
way into marvelous
folds, peninsulas and ridges,
and we stretched,
then opened our eyes, then
tried our legs for the long climb.

we had seen a pig :: marvin bell

1

One man held the huge pig down
and the other stuck an ice pick
into the jugular, which is when
we started to pay attention.
The blood rose ten feet with force
while the sow swam on its back
as if to cut its own neck.
Its fatty back smacked the slippery
cement while the assassins shuffled
to keep their balance, and the bloody
fountain rose and fell back and rose
less and less high, until
the red plume reentered the pig
at the neck, and the belly collapsed
and the pig face went dull.

2

I knew the pig
was the butcher’s, whose game
lived mainly behind our garage.
Sometimes turkeys, always
roosters and sheep. Once the windmill
turned two days without stopping.
The butcher would walk in his apron
straight for the victim. The others
would scratch and babble
and get in the way.
Then the butcher would lead the animal
to the back door of his shop,
stopping to kill it on a stump.
It was always evening, after closing.
The sea breeze would be rising,
cloaking the hour in brine.

3

The pig we saw slaughtered
was more than twice anything
shut up in the patch
we trespassed to make havoc.
Since the butcher was Italian,
not Jewish, that would be his pig.
Like the barber who carried
a cigar box of bets
to the stationery store, like
the Greek who made sweets
and hid Greek illegals,
immigrant “submarines,”
the butcher had a business, his
business, by which he took
from our hands the cleaver and serrated
knife for the guts,
and gave us back in butcher paper
and outer layers of brown wrapping
our lives for their cries.

4

Hung up to drain, the great pig,
hacked into portions,
looked like a puzzle
we could put together in the freezer
to make a picture of
a pig of course, a map, clothes or other things
when we looked.

why i love swimming pools :: faith shearin

I grew up in a resort town where they were
as frequent as houses. I love their false blue

which is more vivid than the sky and their shapes:
rectangle, L, oval, diamond. Some have waterfalls,

palm trees that rustle just above your head.
I like the smell of chlorine, the ladies

in sunglasses as still as human sacrifices
on their chaise lounges. There are umbrellas,

those swirls of happiness, and lifeguards dressed
in eternal youth. We wear sunscreen

thick with coconut oil and the rooms where we change
into swimsuits are like the telephone booths

Superman used. Like him we are different in our new form:
weightless, able to jump from high places and survive.

old ladies by the sea :: pablo neruda

The old women come to the serious sea
with their withering shawls
and their fragile feet broken.

Alone on the beaches, they sit
without shifting their gaze or their hands
or the clouds or the quietness.

The ocean’s obscenity shatters and slashes,
descends in a mountain of trumpets,
shakes a bullock’s mustaches.

The matriarchs sit in their places, unmoved,
transparent like ships on a sea,
observing the terrorist waves.

Where do they come from, where go to?
They move out of corners,
from the quick of our lives.

The ocean is theirs, now,
the vacancy, freezing and burning,
the solitude crowded with bonfires.

They move in the fullness of time
from the once-fragrant houses
and the char of the twilight.

They see and do not see the waters,
they write signs with their walking sticks,
and the sea blots their signatures.

Then the ancients move off
on frail bird’s feet, upraised,
while a runaway surf
travels naked in wind.

green and gold :: rachel hadas

     Stivenson Magloire

Amidst the glossy dark green foliage
of trees around the hotel pool,
I spy a low-hanging golden fruit.
So many trees whose names I do not know
and for the first time do not care to learn.
The overwhelming now in its countless inflections
cancels vocabulary: eyes lips skin
instead of words. Still in the pool,
floating on my back as the sun gets low,
I look at the mango, if that is what it is
(I think it is some wholly other fruit),
and suddenly smell garlic sautéed in butter.
Chefs in the kitchen under the trees
are getting the hors d’oeuvres ready.

Yesterday in a dim, airless gallery,
following your lead,
I hunted down an iconography
written in a grisly alphabet
yet full of life, the haunting gaze direct,
transcending death. Death had in winning lost.
Art trumped death and life trumped art. Last night
(our third together — sleep
a whole new texture in a bed with you)
I gave you space and found myself at the border
of a far province in the king-sized bed,
a dimly lit hinterland where paintings ruled,
a region wholly devoted to the work
of the same painter, mysteriously killed,
stoned to death (“lapidated” was one word),
assassinated — why? A mystery
to be solved by iconography?
Death had won but also death had lost.

Garlic and butter. Glossy dark green leaves.
Voices across the pool. A hanging fruit.
An azure splash. And as the sun goes down,
you sit by the window in our room,
drawing pictures of this this this time.
What to call it? Colors in your hands
trump words. Like the fruit,
like the solution to the mystery,
something I am at a loss to name.

instructions for building straw huts :: yusef komunyakaa

First you must have
unbelievable faith in water,
in women dancing like hands playing harps
for straw to grow stalks of fire.
You must understand the year
that begins with your hands tied
behind your back,
worship of dark totems
weighed down with night birds that shift their weight
& leave holes in the sky. You must know
what’s behind the shadow of a treadmill—
its window the moon’s reflection
& silent season reaching
into red sunlight hills.
You must know the hard science
of building walls that sway with summer storms.
Locking arms to a frame of air, frame of oak
rooted to ancient ground
where the door’s constructed last,
just wide enough for two lovers
to enter on hands & knees.
You must dance
the weaverbird’s song
for mending water & light
with straw, earth, mind, bright loom of grain
untortured by bushels of thorns.

aperture :: nuar alsadir

I close the wardrobe, it opens.
I close the wardrobe, it opens.

Is that the way it will always be,
persistence as a form of flight;

my summons the rising and slamming tight
though rust will gather despite me?

I’ve folded my dresses, placed them
on shelves. I could affix

another hinge, but the walls
have become a cluster and repetition

a way to light—to light
through the absence it exposes.