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.