last poem in may :: judith harris

After the late spring storm,
the downed roses lower their faces,
grazing in the wild grass…

Nervous mourning doves circle
the veranda, chitterling birdsongs,
blowing out their white puffs of seed
like ashes from a low fire.

The loam turns black and gold,
and black again. Stones hobble in place.
The bushes gleam vigorously, intact,
like menaced buildings still standing.

For each of us, there is a place we dare not enter
lest we trust the other has been there, too—
the star-shaped flowers splay backwards,
aiming their hoary cacti at the sun.

This is why the dead never come back:
because they want us to believe they are this happy.

habitation :: margaret atwood

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
                 the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

r & r :: brian turner

The curve of her hip where I’d lay my head,
that’s what I’m thinking of now, her fingers
gone slow through my hair on a blue day
ten thousand miles off in the future somewhere,
where the beer is so cold it sweats in your hand,
cool as her kissing you with crushed ice,
her tongue wet with blackberry and melon.

That’s what I’m thinking of now.
Because I’m all out of adrenaline,
all out of smoking incendiaries.

Somewhere deep in the landscape of the brain,
under the skull’s blue curving dome—
that’s where I am now, swaying
in a hammock by the water’s edge
as soldiers laugh and play volleyball
just down the beach, while others tan
and talk with the nurses who bring pills
to help them sleep. And if this is crazy,
then let this be my sanatorium,
let the doctors walk among us here
marking their charts as they will.

I have a lover with hair that falls
like autumn leaves on my skin.
Water that rolls in smooth and cool
as anesthesia. Birds that carry
all my bullets into the barrel of the sun.

the fallen protester’s song :: mohja kahf

These last few days were the most beautiful
I ever lived, my friends. For the first time
in our lives spent under martial law,
we took the secret freedom we’d been eating
out of the hidden cupboard, and ate it openly.
Then we took it right outside like melting ice cream
and started giving it away. To anyone.
After that, we were free.
I don’t know how to explain to those who haven’t tasted it.
Imagine an entire country with a calcium deficiency,
long-term, and everybody shrinks, but no one notices.
People smelled the free on us, like win on a horse, and loved us,
gave us secret bits of their food wrapped in warm bread,
beginning to free themselves, so that one day
the inside and the outside of people
will no longer be split bloody trembling down the middle,
like I was by the bullet spray of soldiers sent to shoot us,
then by the state’s torture-doctors. They cut my insides out,
trying to find the freedom and extract it surgically.
That’s what they do, those who have lost half
their humanity, they try to make half-humans out of everyone.
My friends, you are heaving a giant iron shelf,
off the limbs of people whose bones it crushes.
Soon it will yield to the weight of all your shoulders.
Remember me when that happens.
We worked for it together.
You were as ready to die for it as I was,
but it happened to be me. So when you write a word
on a wall for all to see
and it doesn’t have to be in code,
and no one breaks the hand that drew it,
when freedom is no longer treated like a narcotic,
dosed in hidden little baggies only for the few,
but becomes like photosynthesis in plants,
processing light in every leaf,
when everyone can be openly free,
when freedom falls like a deliverance rain,
then, my friends, remember me.

surreptitious kissing :: denis johnson

I want to say that
forgiveness keeps on

dividing, that hope
gives issue to hope,

and more, but of course I
am saying what is

said when in this dark
hallway one encounters

you, and paws and
assaults you—love

affairs, fast lies—and you
say it back and we

blunder deeper, as would
any pair of loosed

marionettes, any couple
of cadavers cut lately

from the scaffold,
in the secluded hallways

of whatever is
holding us up now.

praxis :: wendy xu

I had put down in writing my fear of the war

I too pined for pastoral description

The blue of the water was the blue of the world

Newness does not, for me, equal satisfaction

A finite number of concentric rings I push out into space

A tedious fabric moving through time without malice

An act of oration, rebellion, inventory, fantasy

The sound of the earth closing its one good eye over me

Imagine: you reach out towards the margin’s white hand

You do what your poems want and are clean

When you lay down your thorns you will be done

You do not take up arms against anyone

wanting to be white :: charif shanahan

How easy for the waterfall to turn back

into the river, the long, silent face

holding all that has passed through it

as though untouched,

undisturbed…. Then, within it,

a shadow moves—a turtle, or

kelp wavering, drifting, reaching,

trying to exist beyond its own watery nest—

and the face darkens,

quickens, stills. The waterfall

insists on its own incessant breaking, an anxiety,

a completion at once its own negation,

merging at its most opaque

with the waiting body, froth gathering, evaporating.

Sometimes I’ll come this far from home

merely to taste the air,

the always witness to this relentless constructed flow

unable to hold itself

beyond the falling of its own nature,

asserting itself only to destroy

itself. The sky is

sunless, ill-fitting, unhinging, barely awake. The river,

taking its motion from the surging above, urges,

persists, knowing

no way out, no way to extract

itself from its own circular endurance,

tenacious, whole, singularly minded

until it carries itself back to its own source.

after Jorie Graham