the emergency room :: allison eir jenks

Independence Day

Even in a room crammed with agony, we’re suspicious
when the doctor escorts the well-dressed man first,

or the blonde with a nosebleed and cocaine on her collar.
We’re sick of loathing, of watching each other read

about wealth and weight loss, fed up with the hooker
who keeps telling us to feel her hollow leg,

and the schizophrenic who’d plucked
every hair on his body, and counts peanuts

and sunflower seeds, then plants them outside.
Outside, a nurse smokes, bragging of her firm thighs,

and the cop adjusts his balls when he asks her questions.
Someone turns up the volume—the war letters of dignitaries.

The newscaster’s combustible lips pop open.
She makes the former president cry for the public.

But we can’t stop thinking about bee stings and flesh
wounds, the veins on the doctor’s sanitary hands,

hearts in jars and color-coded diagrams of the body.
When the bone-faced man who tried to blow

his head off is lugged in, pleading for us to shoot him,
we almost lose interest in our own afflictions.

The doctors can’t find the skin to sew his face back on.
Fuck God, his voice vibrates like a transmitter.

And we flicker off into the secret sea that fills
our bodies with loneliness—a darkness

never touched by moonlight or a shark’s eyes,
while new patients leave shoeprints in his blood.

love sleeps in the poet’s heart :: federico garcía lorca

You’ll never understand my love for you,
because you dream inside me, fast asleep.
I hide you, persecuted though you weep,
from the penetrating steel voice of truth.

Normalcy stirs both flesh and blinding star,
and pierces even my despairing heart.
Confusing reasoning has eaten out
the wings on which your spirit fiercely soared:

onlookers who gather on the garden lawn
await your body and my bitter grief,
their jumping horses made of light, green manes.

But go on sleeping now, my life, my dear.
Hear my smashed blood rebuke their violins!
See how they still must spy on us, so near!

in the evening :: anna akhmatova

There was such inexpressible sorrow
in the music in the garden.
The dish of oysters on ice
smelt fresh and sharp of the sea.

He said to me ‘I am a true friend!’
He touched my dress.
There is no passion
in the touch of his hands.

This is how one strokes a cat or a bird,
this is how one looks at a shapely horsewoman.
There is only laughter in his eyes
under the light gold of his eyelashes.

The violins’ mourning voices
sing above the spreading smoke:
‘Give thanks to heaven:
you are alone with your love for the first time.’

the world we want is us :: alice walker

It moves my heart to see your awakened faces;
the look of “aha!”
shining, finally, in
so many
wide open eyes.
Yes, we are the 99%
all of us
refusing to forget
each other
no matter, in our hunger, what crumbs
are dropped by
the 1%.
The world we want is on the way; Arundhati
and now we
are
hearing her breathing.
That world we want is Us; united; already moving
into it.

a face, a cup :: molly peacock

The thousand hairline cracks in an aged face
match the hairline cracks in an aged cup
and come from similar insults: careless, base
self-absorbed gestures from a younger face,
cruel and fine. Bang! Each disturbed trace
deepens to a visible crack. A break-up,
a mix-up, a wild mistake: these show in a face
like the hairline cracks in an ancient cup.

Neither wholly broken nor all used up
the cup becomes a visage, unstable.
One never knows what will crack it open
and finish it. Banged too hard on a table?
Yet happiness might crack a face open
in a better way: hairline tracery as laugh lines
releasing the joys of ancient thoughts
cupped into use, and suddenly able.

the laughing child :: w. s. merwin

When she looked down from the kitchen window
into the back yard and the brown wicker
baby carriage in which she had tucked me
three months old to lie out in the fresh air
of my first January the carriage
was shaking she said and went on shaking
and she saw I was lying there laughing
she told me about it later it was
something that reassured her in a life
in which she had lost everyone she loved
before I was born and she had just begun
to believe that she might be able to
keep me as I lay there in the winter
laughing it was what she was thinking of
later when she told me that I had been
a happy child and she must have kept that
through the gray cloud of all her days and now
out of the horn of dreams of my own life
I wake again into the laughing child

love poem :: dora malech

If by truth you mean hand then yes
I hold to be self-evident and hold you in the highest—
KO to my OT and bait to my switch, I crown
you one-trick pony to my one-horse town,
dub you my one-stop shopping, my space heater,
juke joint, tourist trap, my peep show, my meter reader,
you best batteries-not-included baring all or
nothing. Let me begin by saying if he hollers,
end with goes the weasel. In between,
cream filling. Get over it, meaning, the moon.
Tell me you’ll dismember this night forever,
you my punch-drunking bag, tar to my feather.
More than the sum of our private parts, we are some
peekaboo, some peak and valley, some
bright equation (if and then but, if er then uh).
My fruit bat, my gewgaw. You had me at no duh.

here :: wislawa szymborska

I don’t know about other places,
but here on Earth there’s quite a lot of everything.
Here chairs are made and sadness,
scissors, violins, tenderness, transistors,
water dams, jokes, teacups.

Maybe somewhere else there is more of everything,
only for some reason there are no paintings there,
cathode-ray tubes, dumplings, tissues for tears.
There are plenty of places here with surroundings.
Some you can particularly get to like,
name them your own way
and protect them from evil.

Maybe somewhere else there are similar places,
But no one considers them beautiful.

Maybe like nowhere else, or in few other places,
here you have your own body trunk,
and with it the tools needed,
to add your children to those of others.
Besides that your hands, legs, and the amazed head.

Ignorance here is hard at work,
constantly measuring, comparing, counting,
drawing conclusions and finding square roots.

I know, I know what you’re thinking.
Nothing is permanent here,
for since ever forever in the power of the elements.
But notice—the elements get easily tired
and sometimes they have to take a long rest
before the next time.

And I know what else you’re thinking.
Wars, wars, wars.
But even between them there happen to be breaks.
Attention—people are evil.
At ease—people are good.
At attention we produce wastelands.
At ease by the sweat of our brows we build houses
and quickly live in them.

Life on earth turns out quite cheap.
For dreams for instance you don’t pay a penny.
For illusions—only when they’re lost.
For owning a body—only with the body.

And as if this was not enough,
you spin without a ticket in the carousel of the planets,
and along with it, dodging the fare, in the blizzard of galaxies,
through eras so astounding,
that nothing here on Earth can even twitch on time.

For take a good look:
the table stands where it stood,
on the table the paper, exactly as placed,
through the window ajar just a waft of the air,
and in the walls no terrifying cracks,
through which you could be blown out to nowhere.

the story, around the corner :: naomi shihab nye

is not turning the way you thought
it would turn, gently, in a little spiral loop,
the way a child draws the tail of a pig.
What came out of your mouth,
a riff of common talk.
As a sudden weather shift on a beach,
sky looming mountains of cloud
in a way you cannot predict
or guide, the story shuffles elements, darkens,
takes its own side. And it is strange.
Far more complicated than a few phrases
pieced together around a kitchen table
on a July morning in Dallas, say,
a city you don’t live in, where people
might shop forever or throw a thousand stories
away. You who carried or told a tiny bit of it
aren’t sure. Is this what we wanted?
Stories wandering out,
having their own free lives?
Maybe they are planning something bad.
A scrap or cell of talk you barely remember
is growing into a weird body with many demands.
One day soon it will stumble up the walk and knock,
knock hard, and you will have to answer the door.

the hope I know :: thomas centolella

doesn’t come with feathers.
It lives in flip-flops and, in cold weather,
a hooded sweatshirt, like a heavyweight
in training, or a monk who has taken
a half-hearted vow of perseverance.
It only has half a heart, the hope I know.
The other half it flings to every stalking hurt.
It wears a poker face, quietly reciting
the laws of probability, and gladly
takes a back seat to faith and love,
it’s that many times removed
from when it had youth on its side
and beauty. Half the world wishes
to stay as it is, half to become
whatever it can dream,
while the hope I know struggles
to keep its eyes open and its mind
from combing an unpeopled beach.
Congregations sway and croon,
constituents vote across their party line,
rescue parties wait for a break
in the weather. And who goes to sleep
with a prayer on the lips or half a smile
knows some kind of hope.
Though not the hope I know,
which slinks from dream to dream
without ID or ally, traveling best at night,
keeping to the back roads and the shadows,
approaching the radiant city
without ever quite arriving.

bright walls :: richie hofmann

It was not penitence I sought, standing outside
the bedroom in the old apartment

where you had spent the night alone.
To bend, to kneel before some greater force—

that was no longer what I wished.
Clouds blew in from the coast, and I felt

the sun abandoning the window behind me,
making the bright walls suddenly colorless,

obscuring everything, for a moment,
that I wanted. When I finally entered,

I saw you still asleep—a wet strand
of hair tucked behind your ear, the husk

of your body—and lingered there for a minute,
before walking upstairs to shut the windows.

ducks sat :: michele glazer

Where ducks sat we sat next

And wanted to be Dutch.

If we would walk upright and not

Glance right or left the intersections

Would not come at us

Sideways, is what we thought.

But after a time it is hard

To keep feeling you are making this the best time

To look back on.

We talked. Some times I would walk

By a beetle thrashing

On the rocking of its domed-back and flip

It rightside. To say I’m here, and you be there.

Now the cicadas. Their long curving

Sound, and I turn

The thick line of their music into

Us. Even the ducks.

Then look back at the trip, how

Better than to be on it it is to be

Well bathed, and able to read the coins

And translate their value.

falling back :: tasha graff

Something shifts
in that in-between
November light—

sends questions
of color, cold
and time
through my body.

The birds sleep.

Am I mistaking morning
for gloaming? Perhaps
the other way around?

Something in my lungs
remembers: The leaves
have fallen, snow

is coming. I changed
my clock.

inarticulate :: ani gjika

I have no memory of it.
I believe a river caught up with us
when we curved the foot of the mountain.
Men and women got off the bus to drink.

My father cupped his hands
and I gulped mouthfuls.

Snow patches led the way to the cool
black smoke of the woods. Over our heads
eagles played tag with the white sun.

The way we changed the valley
entering it like winter shadows.

I never dream of it
but I remember being watched
as I stood at the edge of water
stirring images with my foot.

you were you are elegy :: mary jo bang

Fragile like a child is fragile.
Destined not to be forever.
Destined to become other
To mother. Here I am
Sitting on a chair, thinking
About you. Thinking
About how it was
To talk to you.
How sometimes it was wonderful
And sometimes it was awful.
How drugs when drugs were
Undid the good almost entirely
But not entirely
Because good could always be seen
Glimmering like lame glimmers
In the window of a shop
Called Beautiful
Things Never Last Forever.
I loved you. I love you. You were.
And you are. Life is experience.
It’s all so simple. Experience is
The chair we sit on.
The sitting. The thinking
Of you where you are a blank
To be filled
In by missing. I loved you.
I love you like I love
All beautiful things.
True beauty is truly seldom.
You were. You are
In May. May now is looking onto
The June that is coming up.
This is how I measure
The year. Everything Was My Fault
Has been the theme of the song
I’ve been singing,
Even when you’ve told me to quiet.
I haven’t been quiet.
I’ve been crying. I think you
Have forgiven me. You keep
Putting your hand on my shoulder
When I’m crying.
Thank you for that. And
For the ineffable sense
Of continuance. You were. You are
The brightest thing in the shop window
And the most beautiful seldom I ever saw.

lines written in the days of growing darkness :: mary oliver

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?
So let us go on

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

backside :: chika sagawa

translated by Sawako Nakayasu

Night eats color,
Flower bouquets lose their fake ornaments.
Day falls into the leaves like sparkling fish
And struggles, like the lowly mud,
The shapeless dreams and trees
Nurtured outside this shriveled, deridable despair.
And the space that was chopped down
Tickles the weeds there by its feet.
Fingers stained with tar from cigarettes
Caress the writhing darkness.
And then the people move forward.

the name of a fish :: faith shearin

If winter is a house then summer is a window
in the bedroom of that house. Sorrow is a river
behind the house and happiness is the name

of a fish who swims downstream. The unborn child
who plays the fragrant garden is named Mavis:
her red hair is made of future and her sleek feet

are wet with dreams. The cat who naps
in the bedroom has his paws in the sun of summer
and his tail in the moonlight of change. You and I

spend years walking up and down the dusty stairs
of the house. Sometimes we stand in the bedroom
and the cat walks towards us like a message.

Sometimes we pick dandelions from the garden
and watch the white heads blow open
in our hands. We are learning to fish in the river

of sorrow; we are undressing for a swim.

dark matter ode :: rowan ricardo phillips

You’ll say you can’t remember, you were too
Young, that the idea wasn’t yours. Or, maybe
You’ll feel the need to feel misunderstood
And say You don’t understand, You don’t
Understand, You don’t. But I was there
When the sky closed. I know that brief darkness
Feels good. That God works on no sleep as certain
As Bre’er Sleep reclining in your lampshade,
Sweet Bre’er Sleep who never knows sleep. His song
Swells in my wrists as they hang on your crib.
Leaning in, inspecting you like a crook,
I am the poet in his pillory.
I see you as free. I sing of the wood.
And I sing of the bars. I am the dunce
Of the stars who sings of the bars.
Poets know time is a dead man walking:
We are all the terrorist Tichborne—.
I love that you sleep so softly despite
The virus of my verbal flailings flowing
Through your veins. One day you will be facing
It, the reflective black immensity
Of it all, and you will seethe and set out
Into a world of science and anger
That I just can’t imagine. Today won’t
Matter to you because today to you
Won’t be by then today, which went like this:
There was the IMAX movie about Dark
Matter and the protests about how Black
Lives matter, but then for you the same sleep
And then a million years from now somewhere
Discovering that something like this one
Moment could have happened, could have mattered,
That you asleep in your crib were a god
In the machine and that poem your father
Wrote you was a fucking living weapon.

war photograph :: kate daniels

A naked child is running
along the path toward us,
her arms stretched out,
her mouth open,
the world turned to trash
behind her.

She is running from the smoke
and the soldiers, from the bodies
of her mother and little sister
thrown down into a ditch,
from the blown-up bamboo hut
from the melted pots and pans.
And she is also running from the gods
who have changed the sky to fire
and puddled the earth with skin and blood.
She is running–my god–to us,
10,000 miles away,
reading the caption
beneath her picture
in a weekly magazine.
All over the country
we’re feeling sorry for her
and being appalled at the war
being fought in the other world.
She keeps on running, you know,
after the shutter of the camera
clicks. She’s running to us.
For how can she know,
her feet beating a path
on another continent?
How can she know
what we really are?
From the distance, we look
so terribly human.

memoir of the present moment :: chen chen

it’s the middle of—the week? the street? the sentence,
please i need to borrow your basket because?

i’m looking for something. so ticklish with sound,
eerie with truth. like really good dance music.

like i’m in the middle of—a forest? a pancake? a pancake
burning in a forest while the forest remains calm?

perhaps i’m simply craving breakfast foods.
or what’s burning is me, the most oily of pronouns,

the life crisis that is not yet mid-, is always mid-,
is living. i’m the mid- of a foggy dialect,

garbled district. a primeval game
of telephone. i’m a muddle

trying to dial the cosmos. to sing out
another dizzying bit—of this.

stridulation sonnet :: jessica jacobs

Tiger beetles, crickets, velvet ants, all
know the useful friction of part on part,
how rub of wing to leg, plectrum to file,
marks territories, summons mates. How

a lip rasped over finely tined ridges can
play sweet as a needle on vinyl. But
sometimes a lone body is insufficient.
So the sapsucker drums chimney flashing

for our amped-up morning reveille. Or,
later, home again, the wind’s papery
come hither through the locust leaves. The roof
arcing its tin back to meet the rain.

The bed’s soft creak as I roll to my side.
What sounds will your body make against mine?

of history and hope :: miller williams

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.
The rich taste of it is on our tongues.
But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.

But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?
With waving hands—oh, rarely in a row—
and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow.

Who were many people coming together
cannot become one people falling apart.
Who dreamed for every child an even chance
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
We know what we have done and what we have said,
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become—
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free.

All this in the hands of children, eyes already set
on a land we never can visit—it isn’t there yet—
but looking through their eyes, we can see
what our long gift to them may come to be.
If we can truly remember, they will not forget.

november nocturne :: jessica goodfellow

Even planets turn away from the easement of light,
sometimes. Night’s a rehearsal for the orb
and distance of winter, its map-unmaking
and its unmap-making, its failure to ravel
wander from resist. All night the night sounds
like children not breathing. I am afraid
of a thing and its opposite: leaving and not,
subject unspecified. The curtain stirs
though the window is closed. Stars flash
like bees abandoning the hive, humming a lullaby
in drone, in monotone but with the Doppler effect
of a death mask, coming right at you, wind
pulsing around the edges because there is
no mouth-shaped hole, no eye-sized emptinesses.

i would like to describe :: zbigniew herbert

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water

to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin

but apparently this is not possible

and just to say—I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face

and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me
what white-haired gentlemen
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object

we fall asleep
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

in muted tone :: paul verlaine

translated by Norman R. Shapiro

Gently, let us steep our love
In the silence deep, as thus,
Branches arching high above
Twine their shadows over us.

Let us blend our souls as one,
Hearts’ and senses’ ecstasies,
Evergreen, in unison
With the pines’ vague lethargies.

Dim your eyes and, heart at rest,
Freed from all futile endeavor,
Arms crossed on your slumbering breast,
Banish vain desire forever.

Let us yield then, you and I,
To the waftings, calm and sweet,
As their breeze-blown lullaby
Sways the gold grass at your feet.

And, when night begins to fall
From the black oaks, darkening,
In the nightingale’s soft call
Our despair will, solemn, sing.

prophetic outlook :: ernest hilbert

Crooks run the whole world, and the Dow just fell.
Crap rules the airwaves. All your best plans stall.
The air is dirty, and you don’t feel well.
Your wife won’t listen. Friends no longer call.
Sad songs from youth no longer cast a spell.
Cancer research has run into a wall.
Some inflated hack just won the Nobel.
You witness clear signs of decline and fall.
The neighbors are cold, and your house won’t sell.
Your cat has bad teeth. Your paychecks feel small.
Maybe you’re really sick. It’s hard to tell.
Up ahead, traffic has slowed to a crawl.
The world didn’t just start going to hell.
You just noticed for the first time, that’s all.

the dark tree, the cold sea :: emily fragos

although I know you can never be found
although I know that from the highest height
you cannot be seen you are not hiding
from me or are you is it how you look now
or maybe how I look now all these years gone by
places seen people met not knowing at any time
who I was or how others saw me or did not see me
and how are you wherever you are if I write you a letter
I’ll get no answer if I cry out to you to come in my final
hour you will not come but I will still look for you