rabbits and fire :: alberto ríos

Everything’s been said
But one last thing about the desert,
And it’s awful: During brush fires in the Sonoran desert,
Brush fires that happen before the monsoon and in the great,
Deep, wide, and smothering heat of the hottest months,
The longest months,
The hypnotic, immeasurable lulls of August and July—
During these summer fires, jackrabbits—
Jackrabbits and everything else
That lives in the brush of the rolling hills,
But jackrabbits especially—
Jackrabbits can get caught in the flames,
No matter how fast and big and strong and sleek they are.
And when they’re caught,
Cornered in and against the thick
Trunks and thin spines of the cactus,
When they can’t back up any more,
When they can’t move, the flame—
It touches them,
And their fur catches fire.
Of course, they run away from the flame,
Finding movement even when there is none to be found,
Jumping big and high over the wave of fire, or backing
Even harder through the impenetrable
Tangle of hardened saguaro
And prickly pear and cholla and barrel,
But whichever way they find,
What happens is what happens: They catch fire
And then bring the fire with them when they run.
They don’t know they’re on fire at first,
Running so fast as to make the fire
Shoot like rocket engines and smoke behind them,
But then the rabbits tire
And the fire catches up,
Stuck onto them like the needles of the cactus,
Which at first must be what they think they feel on their skins.
They’ve felt this before, every rabbit.
But this time the feeling keeps on.
And of course, they ignite the brush and dried weeds
All over again, making more fire, all around them.
I’m sorry for the rabbits.
And I’m sorry for us
To know this.

storage :: faith shearin

That year we left the house we couldn’t afford and put
our belongings in storage. We were free now
to travel or live in tiny spaces. We kept our chairs

and tables in a cement cell, our bookshelves,
our daughter’s old toys, clothes we wouldn’t wear
or discard. There were books we liked but did not

need and mattresses and pots and pans. Sometimes
we went to visit our things: sat in our rocking chairs,
searched for a jacket, listened to an old radio. It was like

visiting someone I loved in a hospital: the way, removed
from the world, a person or object becomes thin,
diminished. The furniture on which we lived

our young life had no job but to wait for us.
It remembered our dinners, the light through
our windows, the way the baby once played on the floor.

chord :: stuart dybek

A man steps out of sunlight,
sunlight that streams like grace,

still gaping at blue sky
staked across the emptiness of space,

into a history where shadows
assume a human face.

A man slips into silence
that began as a cry,

still trailing music
although reduced to the sigh

of an accordion
as it folds into its case.

the barcelona inside me :: robin becker

Give me, again, the fairy tale grotto
with the portico-vaulting overhead.
Let me walk beneath the canted columns
of Gaudí’s rookery, spiral
along his crenelated Jerusalem
of broken tiles, crazy shields.
Yes, it’s hot as hell and full
of tourists at the double helix,
but the anarchists now occupy
the Food Court, and the arcadian dream
for the working class includes this shady
colonnade cut into the mountainside.
I’ve postponed my allegiance to
the tiny house movement, to the 450
square feet of simple, American maple
infrastructure and the roomy
mind suspended like a hammock
between joists. Serpents and castle
keeps shimmer, and a mosaic invitation
to the Confectionery gets me a free
café con leche on the La Rambla,

where honeycombed apartments bend
on chiseled stone and host
floating, wrought-iron balconies.
I think I’ll move into Gaudí’s dream
of recycled mesh, walk barefoot
on his flagstone tiles
inscribed with seaweed
and sacred graffiti
from pagan tombs.
O, Barcelona of chamfered corners!
And chimneys of cowled
warriors! From Gaudí’s Book
of Revelations, I invite the goblet
and the stone Mobius strip
to a tapas of grilled prawns and squid.
Gaudí’s book of Revelations.

apology :: mary szybist

I didn’t mean to say so much to you.
I should have thought to let the evening end
by looking at the stars subdued

into their antique blue and alabaster hues.
Such looking would have fit with my intent.
I didn’t mean to speak that way to you.

If I could take it back, I’d take it, undo
it, and replace it with the things I meant
to give—not what I let slip (it’s true)

like any pristine star of ornamental hue.
I do not always do what I intend.
I didn’t mean to say so much to you.

It slipped before I saw, before I knew.
Or do we always do what we intend?
Perhaps it’s true and all along I knew

what I was saying—but how I wanted you.
I should have thought to let the evening end.
The placid stars seemed filled and then subdued
by what I did and did not want to do.

ordinary time :: jay parini

Days come and go:
this bird by minute, hour by leaf,
a calendar of loss.

I shift through woods, sifting
the air for August cadences
and walk beyond the boundaries I’ve kept

for months, past loose stone walls,
the fences breaking into sticks,
the poems always spilling into prose.

A low sweet meadow full of stars
beyond the margin
fills with big-boned, steaming mares.

The skies above are bruised like fruit,
their juices running,
black-veined marble of regret.

The road gusts sideways:
sassafras and rue.
A warbler warbles.

Did I wake the night through?
Walk through sleeping?
Shuffle for another way to mourn?

Dawn pinks up.
In sparking grass I find beginnings.
I was cradled here.
I gabbled and I spun.
And gradually the many men inside me
found their names,

acquired definition, points of view.
There was much to say,
not all of it untrue.

As the faithful seasons fell away,
I followed till my thoughts
inhabited a tree of thorns

that grew in muck of my own making.
Yet I was lifted and laid bare.
I hung there weakly: crossed, crossed-out.

At first I didn’t know
a voice inside me speaking low.
I stumbled in my way.

But now these hours that can’t be counted
find me fresh, this ordinary time
like kingdom come.

In clarity of dawn,
I fill my lungs, a summer-full of breaths.
The great field holds the wind, and sways.

a journey :: nikki giovanni

It’s a journey . . . that I propose . . . I am not the guide . . . nor technical assistant . . . I will be your fellow passenger . . .

Though the rail has been ridden . . . winter clouds cover . . . autumn’s exuberant quilt . . . we must provide our own guide-posts . . .

I have heard . . . from previous visitors . . . the road washes out sometimes . . . and passengers are compelled . . . to continue groping . . . or turn back . . . I am not afraid . . .

I am not afraid . . . of rough spots . . . or lonely times . . . I don’t fear . . . the success of this endeavor . . . I am Ra . . . in a space . . . not to be discovered . . . but invented . . .

I promise you nothing . . . I accept your promise . . . of the same we are simply riding . . . a wave . . . that may carry . . . or crash . . .

It’s a journey . . . and I want . . . to go . . .

luna :: patricia traxler

Can this be the same one that beckoned then,
dazzling, zaftig, generous, from its bright eternity?
I remember its pull on the skin, its promise—we felt it
then, called it love, or knowledge.

Tonight it looms, flat as a coin, unspent, curiously cold.
Luna. Glyphs of warning. Was it always so? How can I
know—time transfigures everything, even memory.
You. Did you think it could save us?

Summer night, a beach in Mexico, sweet rot of seaweed; I stole
from a tent, stood in the sand beneath the swollen moon;
vapor of sex rose from my skin in the chill, black air.
Between waves that lashed the land I heard my heart;
fierce, unfamiliar din of desire; knew I was changing
everything, knew the damage, yet I stayed.

Tonight a light spring rain soaks the garden past my window,
the earth all moonlit, astir with emerging crocus. I could go
out there now this minute, be in it once again, the clamor
and gnaw of growing things, stir of limbs in the wet raw air,
my skin taking it in, what remains.

But no, let it sleep, let the limbs, the longings. After a time one becomes accustomed to a mild, dreamless expanse, and it’s possible to settle there, inviolate, for as long as it takes. And there, the moon, aloof in its realm, see how it endures so well without us.

listening to her practice: my middle daughter, on the edge of adolescence, learns to play the saxophone :: barbara crooker

Her hair, that halo of red gold curls,
has thickened, coarsened,
lost its baby fineness,
and the sweet smell of childhood
that clung to her clothes
has just about vanished.
Now she’s getting moody,
moaning about her hair,
clothes that aren’t the right brands,
boys that tease.
She clicks over the saxophone keys
with gritty fingernails polished in pink pearl,
grass stains on the knees
of her sister’s old designer jeans.
She’s gone from sounding like the smoke detector
through Old MacDonald and Jingle Bells.
Soon she’ll master these keys,
turn notes into liquid gold,
wail that reedy brass.
Soon, she’ll be a woman.
She’s gonna learn to play the blues.

the mirror does it for the bug :: j. allyn rosser

I can’t stop staring at this stuck-up bug
clamped to its reflection on the glass.
Is it merely a cool surface, a pause
in its bug day, with an approving twin
for partner—silent, yes, but not remote—
one whose feelers, at last, match its own?

Or does it recognize them as its own,
those glistening, compound eyes? Can a bug
be vain, see in its own gaze a mote
of Zeus-like, loving gold, and sip a glass
of self agog before its bug-eyed twin,
embrace ambrosial soi? Skip the applause,

Walt Whitman. This bug’s a pig. It appalls
to think that even insects want their own marquee to bill bugself above bugother, win
the prize for uniqueness! Why should it bug
me to see vanity in this looking glass
of fellow creature, genetically remote?

Yet we’re riveted. Why must I emote
about its penchant to high-five its paws
with its own paws, pat itself on the glass,
interfacing with, basking in, its own
hairy-thorax image, like a shutterbug
on a self-timer jag, spending self to win

more gorgeous self to gorge on, a win-
win thing, a queenless king with a fishless moat,
safe to hover close upon, for a bug
whose mug’s the spitting image of his pa’s
although they’ve never met. He’s his own
maker, far as he can tell. In my glass

he can see himself as peerless. My glass
shows me aging. In my glass I can’t win.
Win what? Just how loathsome is my own
longing to be more than one more mote
among the dust-spun masses, soul on pause,
hand clamped on the damned remote? The bug

is moot—won’t impose its image on its own,
as I do, on bugs, landscape, songs, seaglass
someone sent me once when I was young and winsome.

landslide :: floyd skloot

A week of rain has brought the hillside
down. They watch from the washed-out
road as their house shudders, slumps
over its open front door, and lowers itself
into the flow, turning from their gaze
like a shy bather. Now a great white oak
that shaded three generations born there
to river life follows the buckling land down.
Its long roots brush the eaves in passing.

They had always understood the language
of storm, knew what cracking foundations,
tilting decks, or the sudden gush of buried
springs meant in a place dry since late June.
They grasped the implication of sodden limbs
visible through widening gaps in the living
room wall. But even when the first windows
bulged and sang with tension, the back door
jammed and power lines snapped, small breaks
in the clouds were enough to keep hope afloat.
Tonight’s forecast is for a gradual clearing
and cold winds coming from the east.

recreation :: audre lorde

Coming together
it is easier to work
after our bodies
meet
paper and pen
neither care nor profit
whether we write or not
but as your body moves
under my hands
charged and waiting
we cut the leash
you create me against your thighs
hilly with images
moving through our word countries
my body
writes into your flesh
the poem
you make of me.

Touching you I catch midnight
as moon fires set in my throat
I love you flesh into blossom
I made you
and take you made
into me.

deep lane [june 23rd, evening of the first fireflies] :: mark doty

June 23rd, evening of the first fireflies,
we’re walking in the cemetery down the road,
and I look up from my distracted study of whatever,

an unfocused gaze somewhere a few feet in front of my shoes,

and see that Ned has run on ahead
with the champagne plume of his tail held especially high,
his head erect,

which is often a sign that he has something he believes he is not allowed to have,

and in the gathering twilight (what is it that is gathered,
who is doing the harvesting?) I can make out that the long horizontal
between his lovely jaws is one of the four stakes planted on the slope

to indicate where the backhoe will dig a new grave.

Of course my impulse is to run after him, to replace the marker,
out of respect for the rule that we won’t desecrate the tombs,
or at least for those who knew the woman
whose name inks a placard in the rectangle claimed by the four poles

of vanishing—three poles now—and how it’s within their recollection,
their gathering, she’ll live. Evening of memory. Sparklamps in the grass.
I stand and watch him go in his wild figure eights,
I say, You run, darling, you tear up that hill.

pathos of the momentary smile :: mark halliday

Like nearly all women under sixty she would have deftly
avoided meeting the eyes of an unknown man—
but occasionally an exception happens by chance
and her unconscious skill at avoidance gets instantly
replaced by a human generosity which is either
inherently feminine or gender-trained, as you please;
she glanced at me exactly when I glanced at her
in the store at the mall and so she gave me
that momentary slight smile which implies
Though many men are dangerous, and I do not intend
to suggest the slightest likelihood that you and I will
meet or talk, much less make love and
much less together conceive a sweet helpless child,
still our eyes have just met and in this there is
an undeniable contact between your humanity and mine
and you are probably coping with some difficulties
of masculine humanity while I cope with those
of feminine humanity; and so I wish you well.

Her smile said this
but I did not smile back because—
because guys don’t do that—because
we are strong and separate and firm and without softness!

So then the next moment had come and we had walked apart
in our two differently inflected kinds of routine loneliness.

boob job :: kim dower

Trying on clothes in the backroom
of Loehmann’s, a stranger invites me
to feel her breasts, a stranger trying on
dresses that don’t fit and I can see
her breasts are larger than they want
to be, and she can see I’m watching,
asks me to help zip her up and I struggle
to pull her in, smooth out her sunburned skin,
tug, ask her to shake herself in, she tells me
she just got them, didn’t know they’d come out
so big isn’t sure she likes them, not even her
husband cares, he’s not a breast man, she says,
he’s an ass man but I’m not getting an ass job,
good, I say, because how do you even get an ass job,
do you want to feel them, she asks, and I do, so I do
and they feel like bean bags you’d toss at a clown’s face
at a kid’s party, I squeeze them both at the same time,
cup my hands underneath them, she says, go ahead,
squeeze some more, it’s not sexual, aren’t they heavy,
I don’t want to have them around every day
, her nipples
headlights staring into the dressing room mirror, red scars
around their circumferences, angry circles I want to run
my finger around, you should have seen them before
I had them lifted, they were long drooping points,
couldn’t stand looking at them anymore, can I see yours
,
so I show her, so small hers could eat mine alive,
nipples like walnuts, do you think I should make mine
bigger, and there we are examining one another’s boobs,
touching, talking about them like they aren’t there,
don’t matter, forgetting how it felt when we were twelve
or thirteen, one morning when they first appeared
sore, swollen, exciting, new, when they had the power
to turn us into women we no longer knew.

her kid brother ran beside the car :: marjorie saiser

After phoning her father
she caught a ride from the depot.
Her kid brother waited at the bridge
and then ran, grinning, beside the car
all the way to the house.
He was taller and bonier than the day she left,
bib overalls hanging on his shirtless shoulders,
thick dark hair shaking with his running.

He clammed up and backed off when she
got out. She held her squirming baby
and stood at the driver’s window to thank
the neighbor who had given her a ride,
a long thanks protocol called for.
Neither father nor mother came to the door,
one reading the county paper
and one peeling an extra potato, and it was
her kid brother who reached for the suitcase
and ran ahead over the cedar needles
to open the heavy door.

night flight :: george bilgere

I am doing laps at night, alone
In the indoor pool. Outside
It is snowing, but I am warm
And weightless, suspended and out
Of time like a fly in amber.

She is thousands of miles
From here, and miles above me,
Ghosting the stratosphere,
Heading from New York to London.
Though it is late, even
At that height, I know her light
Is on, her window a square
Of gold as she reads mysteries
Above the Atlantic. I watch

The line of black tile on the pool’s
Floor, leading me down the lane.
If she looks down by moonlight,
Under a clear sky, she will see
Black water. She will see me
Swimming distantly, moving far
From shore, suspended with her
In flight through the wide gulf
As we swim toward land together.

card 19: the sun :: brenda shaughnessy

When you show yourself to the woman
you love, you don’t know your fear

is not fear, itself. You have never been good,
but now you are so good,

who are you? Is it the liquidity of her skin
that bathes the world for you,

or her face, captured like a she-lion
in your own flesh?

This summerbed is soft with ring upon ring
upon ring of wedding, the kind

that doesn’t clink upon contact, the kind
with no contract,

the kind in which the gold is only (only!) light.
Cloud covers and lifts,

and sleep and night and soon enough, love’s
big fire laughs at a terrible burn,

but only (only!) because pain absorbs excess
joy and you shouldn’t flaunt

your treasures in front of all day’s eyes.

grandmother eliza :: nora marks dauenhauer

My grandmother Eliza
was the family surgeon.
Her scalpel made from a pocketknife
she kept in a couple of pinches of snoose.
She saved my life by puncturing
my festering neck twice with her knife.
She saved my brother’s life twice
when his arm turned bad.
The second time she saved him
was when his shoulder turned bad.
She always made sure
she didn’t cut an artery.
She would feel around for days
finding the right spot to cut.
When a doctor found out
she saved my brother’s life
he warned her,
“You know you could go to jail for this?”

Her intern, my Auntie Anny, saved my life
when I cut a vessel on my toe.
While my blood was squirting out
she went out into the night
and cut and chewed the bark
of plants she knew.
She put the granules of chewed up bark
on my toe before the eyes of the folks
who came to console my mother
because I was bleeding to death.
Grandma’s other intern, Auntie Jennie,
saved our uncle’s life when his son
shot him through the leg by accident.
A doctor warned her, too,
when he saw how she cured.
Her relative cured herself of diabetes.
Now, the doctors keep on asking,
“How did you cure yourself?”

the lark :: bernart de ventadorn

translated by ezra pound

When I see the lark a-moving
For joy his wings against the sunlight,
Who forgets himself and lets himself fall
For the sweetness which goes into his heart;
Ai! what great envy comes unto me for him whom I see so rejoicing!

I marvel that my heart melts not for desiring.
Alas! I thought I knew so much
Of Love, and I know so little of it, for I cannot
Hold myself from loving
Her from whom I shall never have anything toward.
She hath all my heart from me, and she hath from me all my wit
And myself and all that is mine.
And when she took it from me she left me naught
Save desiring and a yearning heart.

the outstretched earth :: jane mead

Do you know what whole fields are?
They are fields with a dog and a moon.
Do you know the answer — for the many?

Except there would be vineyards.
Meaning there would, as usual, be commerce.
Money, and a game of sorts to play it.

Meanwhile — Emma lost in the cover-crop.
Top of her head bobbing through mustard-flower.
It is, after all, still here — 

The real world, the outstretched earth,
Rain, soil, copper for pennies.

going deaf :: miller williams

No matter how she tilts her head to hear
she sees the irritation in their eyes.
She knows how they can read a small rejection,
a little judgment, in every What did you say?
So now she doesn’t say What? or Come again?
She lets the syllables settle, hoping they form
some sort of shape that she might recognize.
When they don’t, she smiles with everyone else,
and then whoever was talking turns to her
and says, “Break wooden coffee, don’t you know?”
She pulls all she can focus into the face
to know if she ought to nod or shake her head.
In that long space her brain talks to itself.
The person may turn away as an act of mercy,
leaving her there in a room full of understanding
with nothing to cover her, neither sound nor silence.

ash ode :: dean young

When I saw you ahead I ran two blocks
shouting your name then realizing it wasn’t
you but some alarmed pretender, I went on
running, shouting now into the sky,
continuing your fame and luster. Since I’ve
been incinerated, I’ve oft returned to this thought,
that all things loved are pursued and never caught,
even as you slept beside me you were flying off.
At least what’s never had can’t be lost, the sieve
of self stuck with just some larger chunks, jawbone,
wedding ring, a single repeated dream,
a lullaby in every elegy, descriptions
of the sea written in the desert, your broken
umbrella, me claiming I could fix it.

Courtesy of J.J.

youth :: james wright

Strange bird,
His song remains secret.
He worked too hard to read books.
He never heard how Sherwood Anderson
Got out of it, and fled to Chicago, furious to free himself
From his hatred of factories.
My father toiled fifty years
At Hazel-Atlas Glass,
Caught among girders that smash the kneecaps
Of dumb honyaks.
Did he shudder with hatred in the cold shadow of grease?
Maybe. But my brother and I do know
He came home as quiet as the evening.

He will be getting dark, soon,
And loom through new snow.
I know his ghost will drift home
To the Ohio River, and sit down, alone,
Whittling a root.
He will say nothing.
The waters flow past, older, younger
Than he is, or I am.

this is your chance :: jill mcdonough

English Composition at South Middlesex Correctional Center.
Julie reads out loud, and I praise her super thesis, then show
how her paragraphs veer away from it, just summarize.
And is she pissed! Too pissed to listen when her classmates try
to help. Amanda offers Act 2 Scene 1—”Now I do love her
too”—as evidence of Iago’s state of mind. But Julie’s
shutting down, frowning at her handwritten draft, writing
that took her weeks. Hey Julie, I say. Julie doesn’t look up.
Says What. Says I hate this stupid paper now. So I say
Hey Julie. Amanda’s helping you—write down
what she’s saying.
She says I’m aggravated. I think
they take classes on naming their feelings. I say I know it
but you need to pull it together, or you’ll end up screwing
yourself. This is your chance.
We’re all quiet, breathing
together, willing her to break out of this. Then:
a little miracle. I look around the room and see
that everyone is beautiful. Each did something special
with her hair. Hey, I say, again. I say hey a lot in prison.
Hey wait a minute. What’s up with everybody’s hair?
Mabel got a haircut. Ellie’s hair is long and black and gleaming
down her back, Amanda’s in French braids. Julie’s freshly
blonde, down to the roots. You guys all look great!
They laugh. They’re happy I noticed.
Thank god I noticed; now, for a minute, we
are women in a room, talking about their hair. Julie says
Amanda did her highlights, and Sandy blew it out. Good job, guys;
she looks great.
And then I say, Julie. Look at you
all pissed off over your paper when you’re so lucky!
Look at all these good friends you have. Helping
with your paper, doing your hair . . .
She nods.
She looks me in the eye, back with us, back on track.
I know, she says. I need to work on my gratitude.

achill :: derek mahon

im chaonaí uaigneach nach mór go bhfeicim an lá

I lie and imagine a first light gleam in the bay
    After one more night of erosion and nearer the grave,
Then stand and gaze from the window at break of day
    As a shearwater skims the ridge of an incoming wave;
And I think of my son a dolphin in the Aegean,
    A sprite among sails knife-bright in a seasonal wind,
And wish he were here where currachs walk on the ocean
    To ease with his talk the solitude locked in my mind.

I sit on a stone after lunch and consider the glow
    Of the sun through mist, a pearl bulb containèdly fierce;
A rain-shower darkens the schist for a minute or so
    Then it drifts away and the sloe-black patches disperse.
Croagh Patrick towers like Naxos over the water
    And I think of my daughter at work on her difficult art
And wish she were with me now between thrush and plover,
    Wild thyme and sea-thrift, to lift the weight from my heart.

The young sit smoking and laughing on the bridge at evening
    Like birds on a telephone pole or notes on a score.
A tin whistle squeals in the parlour, once more it is raining,
    Turf-smoke inclines and a wind whines under the door;
And I lie and imagine the lights going on in the harbor
    Of white-housed Náousa, your clear definition at night,
And wish you were here to upstage my disconsolate labour
    As I glance through a few thin pages and switch off the light.

short-order cook :: jim daniels

An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.

I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He pays.
He ain’t no average joe.

The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop, spit spit. . .
pssss. . .
The counter girls laugh.
I concentrate.
It is the crucial point–
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fried done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
Thirty cheeseburgers! Thirty fries!
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success.
Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.

kindness :: yusef komunyakaa

For Carol Rigolot

          When deeds splay before us
precious as gold & unused chances
stripped from the whine-bone,
we know the moment kindheartedness
walks in. Each praise be
echoes us back as the years uncount
themselves, eating salt. Though blood
first shaped us on the climbing wheel,
the human mind lit by the savanna’s
ice star & thistle rose,
your knowing gaze enters a room
& opens the day,
saying we were made for fun.
Even the bedazzled brute knows
when sunlight falls through leaves
across honed knives on the table.
If we can see it push shadows
aside, growing closer, are we less
broken? A barometer, temperature
gauge, a ruler in minus fractions
& pedigrees, a thingmajig,
a probe with an all-seeing eye,
what do we need to measure
kindness, every unheld breath,
every unkind leapyear?
Sometimes a sober voice is enough
to calm the waters & drive away
the false witnesses, saying, Look,
here are the broken treaties Beauty
brought to us earthbound sentinels.

flying home :: rachel hadas

Down milk-bright colonnades
the leper’s bell recedes.

Shades lowered against the gleaming waste of ice,
I sit back, bathe in lukewarm acquiescence.

Dutiful, prompt,
strapped, doped, a little drunk,

squinting at international afternoon
I’ll soon pass GO again.

And if these colored pencils, nose drops, passport
should plummet with the rest of the huge oval,

giant time capsule soft for the shark’s maw,
will a notebook ambered back to front with words

rescue me from oblivion?
Syrup of skittish travelers, fame. I yawn.

mountain :: clifton gachagua

On the day I set out on the climb,
grief saddled in my back like a bag of marbles,
my breath like clouds hanging on the low peaks of a mountain,
on the day I set out
leaving nothing behind, nothing on the bed, no version of myself,
just my voice through the night, the voice I use to ward off nightmares.
(My voice is a still life in itself, a shroud green and ultramarine deep blue,
a bowl of apples and tangerines on a table.)
On the day I set out,
the mountain is high in front of me, the unreliable god of mist and fog.
I have no voice to say how high
my fingers must lift as if on a lover’s upper lip,
to take in the breath of how high my mountain is—white teeth behind
a snow cap, numberless springs, cold like the enzymes in spit—
a version of me is still asleep: the moving of a limb in sleep.
Everything becomes lucid.