the whole world is gone :: jennifer grotz

Driving alone at night, the world’s pitch, black velvet
stapled occasionally by red tail lights
on the opposite highway but otherwise mild
panic when the eyes’ habitual check
produces nothing at all in the rearview mirror,
a black blank, now nothing exists
but the dotted white lines of the road,
and the car scissors the blackness open
like the mind’s path through confusion,
but still no clarity, no arrival, only Pennsylvania darkness,
rocks, cliffs, vistas by day that thicken to black. It’s
sensual, though, too, and interestingly mental. What
I do alone, loving him in my mind. Trying not to
let imagination win over reality. Hurtling through the night
passions so spent become facts one observes. Not tempered,
just momentarily out of view by the body that perceives them.
Turning that into my prayer: to be deprived.

tell me where the past is and I’ll learn better :: esther lin

There’s one way to talk about beauty
and it hasn’t changed since Spanish ponies,
born from wreckage off the coast
of Assateague, swam to become island
wildings, alone and windblown. Feral.
American. Hasn’t changed since
the vase painter of Attica chose
a flutist and dancer for her subject
in the fire. It’s twenty fourteen that I love
this girl on panpipes. She peers down
at her hands at work, one foot hitched up
as if she too were to spring to dance.
But no. The making of this music
pins her to her seat, the black behind her
not the field of the contending mind
but its best warmth, a gift to her
compatriot who works without instrument,
save the spinning dress and upraised arms
elegant in honor of the next time
she would see the flutist and ask her
to play in celebration of their friendship.
And so with my sisters and me, on that
island known for its salt-eating horses,
where we promised to return year after year
for a swim and reminder of what carries us
aloft in the darkening waters, whether it’s
refusal or a special imagination on how
to flourish without a mother. Mother,
and one flows to the sacred hair-braidings
laying out of clothes, sacred good mornings.
One flows to these things even if there was
none but what a child understands
of capture and release, before and after,
while the sun is pinking the beachgrass
and the Atlantic grays. And how these
restate all I want to ask about motherlessness,
of how it’s possible not to vanish because
she does. I don’t mean this as a keening
of grief, though others agree it must be.
The vase painter has long since vanished,
and the two continue practicing their love.
It’s that easy, yes?
An old thought, and so is its arrival, rolling
in like the water. Like the pitching arms
of a young woman still learning her craft.

compass rose :: anne m. doe overstreet

The cartographer married the exile,
tantalized by the taste of road
when he took her into his mouth,
wanted her, with that wander eye,
as if the last veil
was composed of miles
between them—the revelation
of contour, of gully and incline
in delicate copper, ochre, viridian blue.
She murmurs a litany between
the pillow hours—
Quemado, Puye,
Cebolleta—names he cannot find
on any map,
suspects are old lovers.
It is his delight
to name the constellations crossing
her shoulder
in his own language,
to watch weather
shape them back again
to what she knew,
to what he guesses
her landscape was.

ode to a flower in casarsa :: pier paolo pasolini

Desert flower, flowers from the garland
of our houses where families
bicker in the open air,

you browse on the stones of the day,
simple, while field and sky
like sky and sea
appear all around.

Rustic desert flower,

no evening streaming with lights.

No shepherds drenched by dew,

slender fire of the hedges.

No marsh-marigold, bilberry, swamp-violet
or Florentine iris, or gentian, no angelica,
no Parnassian grass or marsh-myrtle.

You’re Pieruti, Zuan
and tall Bepi with his walking-sticks of bone,
slim at the helm of his wagon,

pasture flower.

You become hay. Burn, burn,
sun of my town, little desert flower.

The years pass over you,
and so do I, with the shadow of the acacia tree,
with the sunflower, on this quiet day.

wind, water, stone :: octavio paz

translated by Eliot Weinberger

for Roger Caillois

Water hollows stone,
wind scatters water,
stone stops the wind.
Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,
stone’s a cup of water,
water escapes and is wind.
Stone, wind, water.

Wind sings in its whirling,
water murmurs going by,
unmoving stone keeps still.
Wind, water, stone.

Each is another and no other:
crossing and vanishing
through their empty names:
water, stone, wind.

who’s who :: w.h. auden

A shilling life will give you all the facts:
How Father beat him, how he ran away,
What were the struggles of his youth, what acts
Made him the greatest figure of his day;
Of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night,
Though giddy, climbed new mountains; named a sea:
Some of the last researchers even write
Love made him weep his pints like you and me.

With all his honours on, he sighed for one
Who, say astonished critics, lived at home;
Did little jobs about the house with skill
And nothing else; could whistle; would sit still
Or potter round the garden; answered some
Of his long marvellous letters but kept none.

sometimes :: sheenagh pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

the master speed :: robert frost

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste,
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still —
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

love at first sight :: wislawa szymborska

They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways—
perhaps they’ve passed by each other a million times?

I want to ask them
if they don’t remember—
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?—
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.

They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
beforehand.
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

tell it slant :: sally bliumis-dunn

Have to sail at an angle,
never directly into the wind –
other things too –

can’t look right at the sun,
the world, only visible
in the light that falls around it;

and in books as well,
the best drawn characters most often
evolve through indirection:

a lipstick smear on a collar,
contents of a bedroom drawer.

I imagine, for some reason,
a single two by twelve board
I need to lean against a barn –

it won’t even stand unless
I place it at an angle.

I don’t know how many other
things like this are true,

but I like trying
to see her words –

the tall right triangle the barn
and board create together,

the purple tufts of clover
slightly darker in the grass.

footsteps, heartbeats, laughter :: adrian matejka

One high top after
the other, the floor

creaks like a concave chest.

One big, white shoe
in front of the other while
the music pushes

the sphere’s roof up
to its taller, more
celestial & cogent self.

One after the other

above the crack ups & giggles
of parent parties

& a refrigerator huffing, so full
of fresh produce & red meat

the whole, lit sky

sounds like a heart in love—
pressed into wax,
ready for the next question.

county fair :: mary karr

On the mudroad of plodding American bodies,
         my son wove like an antelope from stall
to stall and want to want. I no’ed it all: the wind-up
         killer robot and winged alien; knives
hierarchical in a glass case; the blow-up vinyl wolf
         bobbing from a pilgrim’s staff.
Lured as I was by the bar-b-que’s black smoke,
         I got in line. A hog carcass,
blistered pink on a spit, made its agonized slow roll,
         a metaphor, I thought, for anyone
ahead of me—the pasty-faced and broad. I half-longed
         for the titanium blade I’d just seen
curved like a falcon’s claw. Some truth wanted cutting
         in my neighbors’ impermanent flesh.
Or so my poisoned soul announced, as if scorn
         for the body politic
weren’t some outward form of inner scorn,
         as if I were fit judge.
Lucky my son found the bumper cars. Once I’d hoped
         only to stand tall enough
to drive my own. Now when the master switch got thrown
         and sparks skittered overhead
in a lightning web, I felt like Frankenstein or some
         newly powered monster.
Plus the floor was glossy as ice. Even rammed head-on,
         the rubber bumper bounced you off unhurt
and into other folks who didn’t mind the jolt, whose faces
         all broke smiles, in fact,
till the perfect figure-eight I’d started out to execute
         became itself an interruption. One face
after another wheeled shining at me from the dark,
         each bearing the weight of a whole self.
What pure vessels we are, I thought, once our skulls
         shut up their nasty talk.
We drove home past corn at full tassel, colossal silos,
         a windmill sentinel. Summer was starting.
My son’s body slumped like a grain sack against mine.
         My chest was all thunder.
On the purple sky in rear view, fireworks unpacked—silver
         chrysanthemum, another in fuchsia,
then plum. Each staccato boom shook the night. My son
         jerked in his sleep. I prayed hard to keep
the frail peace we hurtled through, to want no more
         than what we had. The road
rushed under us. Our lush planet heaved toward day.
         Inside my hand’s flesh,
anybody’s skeleton gripped the wheel.

the path :: emily fragos

There is so little to go on: a pale
trembling hand as I stand over you,
my finger tracing the words on the page,
a foreign language you are learning
for a journey without me. You will do
fine, I say. You will wrap your tongue
around these sounds and be understood,
be given what you desire: a loaf of bread,
change for your money, an antique doll
with violent eyes. Paintings are hanging
on walls, behind glass, waiting for you
to admire them. Their plaintive beauty
will move through you and you will walk
back to your hotel through the park
I know well. I spent years there walking
its bridle path, a gray cat in my arms,
moving toward you, blind, in another life.

in the dream :: jenny johnson

I was alone in a dyke bar we’d traversed before
or maybe it was in a way all our dives

merging together suddenly as one intergalactic composite,
one glitter-spritzed black hole,

one cue stick burnished down to a soft blue nub.
Picture an open cluster of stars

managing to forever stabilize in space
without a landlord scheming to shut the place down.

Anyways, I was searching for someone there
whom we hadn’t seen in years—in what

could have been Sisters, Babes, the Lex, the Pint,
the Palms, or the E Room? but the room

had no end and no ceiling.
Though I could see all of our friends or exes

with elbows up or fingers interlocked
on table tops zinging with boomerangs.

Maybe the tables were spinning, too. I can’t be sure.
But just as a trap that trips before

hammering a mouse is not humane
the dream changed—or the alarm

that I carry in my breast pocket in my waking life
was sounding. Because in the dream,

three people on bar stools, who were straight
or closeted? but more importantly angry

turned and the room dwindled
like a sweater full of moths eating holes

through wool. Or they were humans, sure,
but not here to love

with jawlines set to throw epithets like darts
that might stick or knick or flutter past

as erratically as they were fired.
You could say their hostility was a swirl

nebulous as gas and dust,
diffuse as the stress

a body meticulously stores.
Like how when I was shoved in grade school

on the blacktop in my boy jeans
the teacher asked me if I had a strawberry

because the wound was fresh as jam, glistening
like pulp does after the skin of a fruit is

peeled back clean with a knife.
I was in the dream as open to the elements,

yet I fired back. And I didn’t care who eyed me
like warped metal to be pounded square.

I said: Do you realize where you are?

And with one finger I called our family forth
and out of the strobe lights, they came.

another planet :: dunya mikhail

I have a special ticket
to another planet
beyond this Earth.
A comfortable world, and beautiful:
a world without much smoke,
not too hot
and not too cold.
The creatures
are gentler there,
and the governments
have no secrets.
The police are nonexistent:
there are no problems
and no fights.
And the schools
don’t exhaust their students
with too much work
for history has yet to start
and there’s no geography
and no other languages.
And even better:
the war
has left its “r” behind
and turned into love,
so the weapons sleep
beneath the dust,
and the planes pass by
without shelling the cities,
and the boats
look like smiles
on the water.
All things
are peaceful
and kind
on the other planet
beyond this Earth.
But still I hesitate
to go alone.

prayer :: nathan parker

our Father I do love to walk
down to the shore at dawn
while the ground is cold
and there sprinkle my cells
to smashed ocean radios
I dream that I was born
with no tongue and that
I can neither ask nor
answer nor understand
questions about where
I come from that the waves
are my clapping sisters
so many dark swallowed
ships my deleted thoughts
cannon and coin pulp
my new body and that any
one of a million canyons
trembling with the psalms
of stones is my easily
remembered mother who
easily remembers me

elegy for a dead labrador :: lars gustafsson

Here there may be, in the midst of summer,
a few days when suddenly it’s fall.
Thrushes sing on a sharper note.
The rocks stand determined out in the water.
They know something. They’ve always known it.
We know it too, and we don’t like it.
On the way home, in the boat, on just such evenings
you would stand stock-still in the bow, collected,
scouting the scents coming across the water.
You read the evening, the faint streak of smoke
from a garden, a pancake frying
half a mile away, a badger
standing somewhere in the same twilight
sniffing the same way. Our friendship
was of course a compromise; we lived
together in two different worlds: mine,
mostly letters, a text passing through life,
yours, mostly smells. You had knowledge
I would have given much to have possessed:
the ability to let a feeling—eagerness, hate, or love—
run like a wave throughout your body
from nose to tip of tail, the inability
ever to accept the moon as fact.
At the full moon you always complained loudly against it.
You were a better Gnostic than I am. And consequently
you lived continually in paradise.
You had a habit of catching butterflies on the leap,
and munching them, which some people thought disgusting.
I always liked it. Why
couldn’t I learn from you? And doors.
In front of closed doors you lay down and slept
sure that sooner or later the one would come
who’d open up the door. You were right.
I was wrong. Now I ask myself, now this
long mute friendship is forever finished,
if possibly there was anything I could do
which impressed you. Your firm conviction
that I called up the thunderstorms
doesn’t count. That was a mistake. I think
my certain faith that the ball existed,
even when hidden behind the couch,
somehow gave you an inkling of my world.
In my world most things were hidden
behind something else. I called you “dog,”
I really wonder whether you perceived me
as a larger, noisier “dog”
or as something different, forever unknown,
which is what it is, existing in that attribute
it exists in, a whistle
through the nocturnal park one has got used to
returning to without actually knowing
what it is one is returning to. About you,
and who you were, I knew no more.
One might say, from this more objective
standpoint, we were two organisms. Two
of those places where the universe makes a knot
in itself, short-lived, complex structures
of proteins that have to complicate themselves
more and more in order to survive, until everything
breaks and turns simple once again, the knot
dissolved, the riddle gone. You were a question
asked of another question, nothing more,
and neither had the answer to the other.

afternoons :: jorge h. aigla

Those afternoons, the Saturdays of my tender childhood
in Mexico City
were just lovely.
It was the time when fathers
were one on one with their sons,
and took them to see friends, have an ice,
talk in the park, or to intriguing stores
from their youth.
I remember going to a store
that sold mountain climbing equipment:
my father knew “The Goat,”
one of the climbers of the great Popocatepetl,
and he would show us boots, ropes, and hammers,
and photographs of the Valley of Mexico and of snow.
Another place in my fantasy was a corner
in the old section of the city,
where they sold model airplanes
with gasoline engines;
I would watch the wealthy kids buy
and we in our dreams would fly.
Another place was the small shop of the Japanese man, Osawa,
who sold shells, butterflies, spiders, beetles,
and other vermin and dried creepers;
for a few pesos one could well
enlarge a modest collection.
A labyrinth in the basement of a mansion
led one to the abode of the Old Catalán
who sold stamps and postal seals;
he had in his possession the first stamp of Juárez,
and promised never to sell it,
though perhaps, he might give it to me some day.
In a garage Don Leopoldo sold supplies for engineers:
slide rules with many rows, squares,
fine pens, india ink, complicated compasses,
and with all this my father’s friend
traced a world for me.
Those crammed afternoons, already abandoned,
shadowed by death,
undone by a fast and coarse world,
taught me what it is to fill out
the alertness of time.

*****

Tardes

Esas tardes, los sábados de mi tierna niñez
en la Ciudad de México
fueron simplemente hermosas.
Era el tiempo en que los padres
estaban uno a uno con sus hijos,
y los llevaban a ver a amigos, a tomar un helado,
a platicar al parque, o a tiendas interesantes
desde que eran chiquitos.
Me acuerdo ir a una tienda
que vendía equipo de alpinista:
mi padre conocía a “El Cabrito”,
un escalador del gran Popocatépetl,
y él nos enseñaba botas, sogas y martillos,
y fotografías del Valle de México y de la nieve.
Otro lugar de mis ensueños era una esquina
en una parte antigua de la ciudad,
donde vendían modelos de aviones
con motorcitos de gasolina;
yo veía a los niños ricos comprar,
y nosotros volábamos en nuestros sueños.
Otro lugar era la tiendita del japonés Osawa,
que vendía conchas, mariposas, arañas, escarabajos
y otras alimañas y sabandijas disecadas;
por un par de pesos uno podía
aumentar una modesta colección.
Un laberinto en el sótano de una mansión
lo llevaba a uno al recinto de El Viejo Catalán
que vendía timbres y sellos postales;
tenía en su posesión la primera estampa de Juárez,
y prometió que nunca la vendería,
aunque tal vez me la regalaría algún día.
En un garaje Don Leopoldo vendía cosas de ingeniero:
reglas de cálculo con muchas filas, escuadras,
plumas finas, tinta china, compases complicados,
y con todo ello el amigo de mi padre
me trazó un mundo.
Esas tardes repletas, ya abandonadas,
ensombradas por la muerte,
deshechas por un mundo rápido y grosero,
me enseñaron lo que es llenar
el tiempo alerta.

sperm oil :: yusef komunyakaa

Housed in a boom of blubber
& bone, harpooned six times,
the giant grew into a dynamo
hitched to six taut rope-lines
skipping the boat across waves
toward the blurry lighthouse.

It bled out a long silence
but men in oilskins labored
with hydraulics of light
on water, walked its flank,
& tore it down to a storeroom
of Nantucket scrimshaw.

Ballast stone or sledge?
They bashed in the skull
& lowered down the boy
to haul up buckets of oil
for candles that burned
a slow, clean, white glow.

At ten, he was almost a man
whose feet sank into the waxy
muck of ambergris. His sweat
dripped into a long hour.
Big as a barrel, the head
echoed a temple nave.

to my last period :: lucille clifton

well, girl, goodbye,
after thirty-eight years.
thirty-eight years and you
never arrived
splendid in your red dress
without trouble for me
somewhere, somehow.

now it is done,
and i feel just like
the grandmothers who,
after the hussy has gone,
sit holding her photograph
and sighing, wasn’t she
beautiful? wasn’t she beautiful?

living tree :: robert morgan

It’s said they planted trees by graves
to soak up spirits of the dead
through roots into the growing wood.
The favorite in the burial yards
I knew was common juniper.
One could do worse than pass into
such a species. I like to think
that when I’m gone the chemicals
and yes the spirit that was me
might be searched out by subtle roots
and raised with sap through capillaries
into an upright, fragrant trunk,
and aromatic twigs and bark,
through needles bright as hoarfrost to
the sunlight for a century
or more, in wood repelling rot
and standing tall with monuments
and statues there on the far hill,
erect as truth, a testimony,
in ground that’s dignified by loss,
around a melancholy tree
that’s pointing toward infinity.

ararat :: mark doty

Wrapped in gold foil, in the search
and shouting of Easter Sunday,
it was the ball of the princess,
it was Pharoah’s body
sleeping in its golden case.
At the foot of the picket fence,
in grass lank with the morning rain,
it was a Sunday school prize,
silver for second place, gold
for the triumphant little dome
of Ararat, and my sister
took me by the hand and led me
out onto the wide, wet lawn
and showed me to bend into the thick nests
of grass, into the darkest green.
Later I had to give it back,
in exchange for a prize,
though I would rather have kept the egg.
What might have coiled inside it?
Crocuses tight on their clock-springs,
a bird who’d sing himself into an angel
in the highest reaches of the garden,
the morning’s flaming arrow?
Any small thing can save you.
Because the golden egg gleamed
in my basket once, though my childhood
became an immense sheet of darkening water
I was Noah, and I was his ark,
and there were two of every animal inside me.

saint francis and the sow :: galway kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

fierce girl playing hopscotch :: alice fulton

You sway like a crane to the tunes of tossed stones.
I am what you made to live in
from what you had: hair matted as kelp, bad schools.

Oh, you will never know me. I wave and you go
on playing in the clouds
boys clap from erasers. I am the pebble
you tossed on the chalked space and war-
danced toward, one-leg two-leg, arms treading air.

In this, your future, waves rechristen the sea
after its tiny jeweled lives
that hiss “Us Us” to the shore all day.
Where’s the kid called Kateydid? the moonfaced
Kewpiedoll? The excitable pouting
Zookie? The somber O-Be-Joyful?

Lost girl, playing hopscotch, I will do what you could.
Name of father, son, ghost. Cross my heart and hope.
While the sea’s jewels build shells and shells
change to chalk and chalk to loam and gold
wheat grows where oceans teetered.

accidental pastoral :: maggie smith

I must have just missed a parade—
horse droppings and hard candy
in the road, miniature American
flags staked into the grass, plastic
chairs lining the curb down this

two-lane highway, 36 in the open
country, briefly Main Street in town.
When I was small, I sat on a curb
only a dozen miles from here, my feet
in the ashtray-dirty gutter, and watched

stars-and-stripes girls wheeling
their batons, slicing the sun-dumb
air into streamers. I can still hear
the click of cellophaned candies
on pavement. I didn’t want to

leave town, not then, and I never left.
I am not a parade, my one car passing
through Centerburg, Ohio, too late.
The chairs are empty. The children
are unwrapping golden butterscotches

in the cool, shuttered houses.
But look up—the clouds are stories
tall, painted above Webb’s Marathon,
and flat-bottomed as if resting on something
they push against though it holds them.

bottled water :: kim dower

I go to the corner liquor store
for a bottle of water, middle
of a hectic day, must get out
of the office, stop making decisions,
quit obsessing does my blue skirt clash
with my hot pink flats; should I get
my mother a caregiver or just put her
in a home, and I pull open the glass
refrigerator door, am confronted
by brands—Arrowhead, Glitter Geyser,
Deer Park, spring, summer, winter water,
and clearly the bosses of bottled water:
Real Water and Smart Water—how different
will they taste? If I drink Smart Water
will I raise my IQ but be less authentic?
If I choose Real Water will I no longer
deny the truth, but will I attract confused,
needy people who’ll take advantage
of my realness by dumping their problems
on me, and will I be too stupid to help them
sort through their murky dilemmas?
I take no chances, buy them both,
sparkling smart, purified real, drain both bottles,
look around to see is anyone watching?
I’m now brilliantly hydrated.
Both real and smart my insides bubble
with compassion and intelligence
as I walk the streets with a new swagger,
knowing the world is mine.

fourth of july at santa ynez :: john haines

         I
Under the makeshift arbor of leaves
a hot wind blowing smoke and laughter.
Music out of the renegade west,
too harsh and loud, many dark faces
moved among the sweating whites.

         II
Wandering apart from the others,
I found an old Indian seated alone
on a bench in the flickering shade.

He was holding a dented bucket;
three crayfish, lifting themselves
from the muddy water, stirred
and scraped against the greasy metal.

         III
The old man stared from his wrinkled
darkness across the celebration,
unblinking, as one might see
in the hooded sleep of turtles.

A smile out of the ages of gold
and carbon flashed upon his face
and vanished, called away
by the sound and the glare around him,
by the lost voice of a child
piercing that thronged solitude.

         IV
The afternoon gathered distance
and depth, divided in the shadows
that broke and moved upon us . . .

Slowly, too slowly, as if returned
from a long and difficult journey,
the old man lifted his bucket
and walked away into the sunlit crowd.

the chorus :: rachel hadas

A Greek I worked for once would always say
that tragedies which still appall and thrill
happen daily on a village scale.
Except that he put it the other way:
dark doings in the sleepiest small town
loom dire and histrionic as a play.
Cosmic? Perhaps. Unprecedented? Not
to the old women sitting in the sun,
the old men planted in cafes till noon
or midnight taking in the human scene,
connoisseurs of past-passing-and-to-come.
These watchers locate in their repertory
mythic fragments of some kindred story
and draw them dripping out of memory’s well.
Incest and adultery; exile
and murder; divine punishment; disgrace:
the trick is to locate the right-sized piece
of the vast puzzle-patterned tapestry
from which one ripped-out patch makes tragedy.

This highly skilled and patient process—find
a larger context, match and patch and mend—
is what the chorus in Greek tragedy
has always done. And to this very day
spectators comb the tangles of a tale,
compare, remember, comment—not ideal,
but middle-aged or older, and alert.
Beyond the hero’s rashness or the hurt
heart of the heroine, they’ve reached the age
when only stars still lust for center stage.
The chorus, at a point midway between
the limelight and the audience, is seen
and unseen. Lady chaperones at balls
once sat on brittle chairs against the walls.
“My dancing days are over,” they’d both sigh
and smile. Or take the case of poetry.
Mine used to play the heroine—me me me—
but lately, having had its fill of “I,”
tries to discern, despite its vision’s flaws,
a shape. A piece of myth. A pattern. Laws.

a dog has died :: pablo neruda

translated by alfred yankauer

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.

25th reunion :: barbara crooker

A quarter of a century
since we left high school,
and we’ve gathered at a posh restaurant.
A little heavier, a little grayer,
we look for the yearbook pictures
caught inside these bodies of strangers.
Some of our faces are etched with lines,
the faint tracing of a lover’s touch,
and some of our hair is silver-white,
a breath of frost. And some of us are gone.
But he’s here, the dark angel,
everyone’s last lover, up at the microphone
singing Save the last dance for me;
he’s singing a cappella, the notes rising
sweetly, yearningly toward the ceiling,
which is now festooned with tissue flowers,
paper streamers, balloons.
And we’re all eighteen again,
lines and wrinkles erased, gray hairs gone,
our slim bodies back, the perfect editing.
A saxophone keens its reedy insistence;
scents of gardenias and tea roses float in the air
from our wrist corsages and boutonnieres.
No children or lovers have broken our hearts,
it’s just all of us, together,
in our fresh young skin,
ready to do it all over again.