end of days advice from an ex-zombie :: michael derrick hudson

To think I used to be so good at going to pieces
gobbling my way through the cops

and spooking what’s left of the girls. How’d I

get so far, sloughing off one knuckle at a time,
jerking my mossy pelt along

ruined streets? Those insistent, dreadful thuds

when we stacked our futile selves
against locked doors. Our mumbles and groans!

Such hungry nights! Staggering through the grit

of looted malls, plastered with tattered
flags of useless currency, I’d slobbered all over

the busted glass and merchandise of America …

But first you’ll have to figure out those qualities
separating what’s being alive from

who’s already dead. Most of you will flunk that.

Next learn how to want one thing over and over,
night after night. Most of you

are good at that. Don’t get tired. Don’t cough

into your leftovers. Don’t think. Always stand
by your hobgoblin buddies. Clutch

at whatever’s there. Learn to sniff out sundowns.

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self-portrait on the street of an unnamed foreign city :: jennifer grotz

The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.

Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman

at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound

along with the ubiquitous smell of something baking.
It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.

Who knew this could be a life, having languages
instead of relationships, struggling even then,

finding out what it means to be a woman
by watching the faces of men passing by.

I went to distant cities, it almost didn’t matter
which, so primed was I to be reverent.

All of them have the beautiful bridge
crossing a grey, near-sighted river,

one that massages the eyes, focuses
the swooping birds that skim the water’s surface.

The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier
because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.

I spent so much time alone, when I actually turned lonely
it was vertigo.

Myself estranged is how I understood the world.
My ignorance had saved me, my vices fueled me,

and then I turned forty. I who love to look and look
couldn’t see what others did.

Now I think about currencies, linguistic equivalents, how
   lop-sided they are, while
my reflection blurs in the shop windows.

Wanting to be as far away as possible exactly as much as still
   with you.
Shamelessly entering a Starbucks (free wifi) to write this.

fragment :: amy lowell

What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought
Into a pattern? Rather glass that’s taught
By patient labor any hue to take
And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make
Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught,
Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught
With storied meaning for religion’s sake.

long after :: matthew thorburn

A break in the clouds spills a quick shimmer—
slivers of light that lick the river: white
puckers, coins, bits of crumpled foil, glimmers
too bright to look at long, or else a flight
of silver birds, their flickering wings. How
you define space, inhabit it: blue light
breaks behind the alders. How your faint glow
makes this world knowable again: the sleight
of hand of light and dew working against
each other on the grass: sprinkling half-moons,
sparks, glister, glisten, a glissando longed
for long after it’s gone, known only in its
moving, moving away. Too soon, too soon,
the silver birds call, as if somehow wronged.

my faithful mother tongue :: czeslaw milosz

Faithful mother tongue,
I have been serving you.
Every night, I used to set before you little bowls of colors
so you could have your birch, your cricket, your finch
as preserved in my memory.

This lasted many years.
You were my native land; I lacked any other.
I believed that you would also be a messenger
between me and some good people
even if they were few, twenty, ten
or not born, as yet.

Now, I confess my doubt.
There are moments when it seems to me I have squandered my life.
For you are a tongue of the debased,
of the unreasonable, hating themselves
even more than they hate other nations,
a tongue of informers,
a tongue of the confused,
ill with their own innocence.

But without you, who am I?
Only a scholar in a distant country,
a success, without fears and humiliations.
Yes, who am I without you?
Just a philosopher, like everyone else.

I understand, this is meant as my education:
the glory of individuality is taken away,
Fortune spreads a red carpet
before the sinner in a morality play
while on the linen backdropp a magic lantern throws
images of human and divine torture.

Faithful mother tongue,
perhaps after all it’s I who must try to save you.
So I will continue to set before you little bowls of colors
bright and pure if possible,
for what is needed in misfortune is a little order and beauty.

heirloom :: nikky finney

Sundown, the day nearly eaten away,

the Boxcar Willies peep. Their
inside-eyes push black and plump

against walls of pumpkin skin. I step
into dying backyard light. Both hands

steal into the swollen summer air,
a blind reach into a blaze of acid,

ghost bloom of nacre & breast.
One Atlantan Cherokee Purple,

two piddling Radiator Charlies
are Lena-Horne lured into the fingers

of my right hand. But I really do love you,
enters my ear like a nest of yellow jackets,

well wedged beneath a two-by-four.

But I really didn’t think I would (ever leave),
stings before the ladder hits the ground.

I swat the familiar buzz away.
My good arm arcs and aims.

My elbow cranks a high, hard cradle
and draws a fire. The end of the day’s

sweaty air stirs fast in a bowl, the coming
shadows, the very diamond match I need.

One by one, each Blind Willie
takes his turn Pollocking the back

fence, heart pine explodes gold-leafed in
red and brown-eyed ochre. There is practice

for everything in this life. This is how
you throw something perfectly good away.

conflict with a god :: maría luisa arroyo

for Lucie Brock-Broido

I find it
in the cupboard
above the stove

it sits behind
the gluey
jug of syrup

it hides behind
the yogurt container
of congealed lard

the apple welded
to the saucer
resists my pull

the apple sticks with honey,
its slightly puckered skin
still intact

—a healthy shrunken head—
the sliced top tied
with a red satin ribbon

I untie,
lift to look
and see pennies

strong hands
jerk me off the chair
“¡Dejaste salir a los espíritus malos!”

pero, mami,
there are no such things
as bad spirits,
are there?