when I heard the learn’d astronomer :: walt whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the      lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

stone on watch at dawn :: brynn saito

See the writer again
at the gate of memory?

The land cracks open with wind
and shots of rain.

She should drown her pages
in the sky, take to the ground
like a dogged gardener.

Turn the soil into something new —

Survive the past.

Whispers at the barbed wire
no longer suffice. What works is singing
from the cave of the self

where memories of knives
and clouds shaped like tiger faces

live together like children
unaware of their potential.

like stride :: cedar sigo

We will live forever misaligning the changes
into further time stinted tricks
giving up post kickflip failures
scribbling prepared remarks to notebooks
unlocked over dry spells flooded with demand
salt crystals crushed, the past flashed
and I was a working writer, nursing the pools
in everyone’s hearts, disembarking
soothing the air around a final question
away in the country toweling off
my doing the most proper thing turned
somehow slick, of feminine wiles, a clap trap
case book, the dream at the end so delicate
and put out. Makes light so pained
two reclining long in the turn of the neck
in like stride, imparting poetic asides
(bored to tears in Taos) cross out words
and tunnel the line, the guts will sit atop
glistening, hand stamped valves really
toying with release, a lighted display
corresponding controls, to repave
an entire arcade in release of our well
whiskey texting back dimension
We are poor and not cheap, in love
with the same little song slashed booklet

hymnal :: hafizah geter

At nine, my father couldn’t stop
placing a shotgun near the temple
of his grandfather, who couldn’t stop
pulling switches from birch trees,
nor unbuckling the unbloomed hips of my aunts,
who now cover their couches in plastic.
Potpourri coats my aunts like wool,
their lips damp in a fever hum of Amens.
By eleven, my father knows the shape of moonshine
in a grown man’s mouth,
cannot remove the rot
that roots my aunts
at the trunk of their grandfather.
Sundays my aunts dress like roses,
wear smiles hard as Baptist pews.
They do their best to catch the spirit,
though he has a sprinter’s legs.

song :: frank bidart

You know that it is there, lair
where the bear ceases
for a time even to exist.

Crawl in. You have at last killed
enough and eaten enough to be fat
enough to cease for a time to exist.

Crawl in. It takes talent to live at night, and scorning
others you had that talent, but now you sniff
the season when you must cease to exist.

Crawl in. Whatever for good or ill
grows within you needs
you for a time to cease to exist.

It is not raining inside
tonight. You know that it is there. Crawl in.

artspeak :: dorothea tanning

If Art would only talk it would, at last, reveal
itself for what it is, what we all burn to know.

As for our certainties, it would fetch a dry yawn
then take a minute to sweep them under the rug:

certainties time-honored as meaningless as dust
under the rug. High time, my dears, to listen up.

Finally Art would talk, fill the sky like a mouth,
clear its convulsive throat while flashes and crashes

erupted as it spoke—a star-shot avalanche of
visions in uproar, drowned by the breathy din

of soundbites as we strain to hear its august words:
“a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z.”

the night begins with sugar :: natasha sajé

Salt Lake City

here in our state of yes and smug
crystalline over mountains and horizon melt
such pretty clouds such drifting light

who is it enough for what kind of person
lives in this sweetness this clear
beauty and does not utter a single oh or no

or even I my hand clapped over my mouth my tongue caught by
what’s left in the right hand the dominant and clenched
what’s right in the left hand easily tossed

catching instead malaise a coma of indifference
swirling in our stunning vestibule
mourning the self just getting by

in a theocracy of pretense and defense
here in my state of smog and so what

the moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings. :: donika kelly

I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs

and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead

on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow

feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.

I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot

feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls

skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.

To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white

petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am

in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.

accomplishments :: michael chitwood

What you have not done
is without error. What you
have not said is beyond contradiction.

What you understand of God
was yesterday. Today a bicycle
waits, chained to a bench.

The success of this afternoon’s nap
is the dream of lifting seven boxes,
your week, sealed with clear tape.

They stack, three to a column,
with the seventh like a capstone.
What you do not know they contain.

night by the harbor :: eamon grennan

Orion overheard and the coal-black water
inching over the sand in perfect silence, wind
blowing into port from the land side, drilling
legs and head and hands and coasting over
the faintly luminescent anchor buoys that barely
bob on the rising tide. Orion and the other stars
far off and imperturbable, the black depths of ocean
edging under my feet, I imagine—shivering—
the cold intolerable absolute that water holds, the
knowing that would come over you, dipped in it
and held there or swept out in it, the current
taking you the way some decisions do, irrevocable
and at top speed, sweeping the solid land away.

distance :: peter everwine

The light pulling away from trees,
the trees speaking in shadows
to whatever listens…

Something as common as water
turns away from our faces
and leaves.

The stars rise out of the hills
—old kings and animals
marching in their thin tunnels of light.

Once more I find myself
standing on a dark pier, holding
an enormous rope of silence.

sightseers :: leslie monsour

A string of pelicans in gliding file
Traversed the setting sun. We watched awhile
Before the captain shared an observation:
“The pelicans die early, from starvation.
They waste ashore, unable to take flight;
They haven’t lost their wings, they’ve lost their sight.
The reason they go blind is said to be
The force with which they plunge into the sea
To nab their catch; it massacres their eyes.”

Hard nature made them rash instead of wise.
They threaded to a point. We kept our eyes on
Their drift, above the gaudy-hued horizon,
Where sun’s last glimmer sipped the darkening side,
And night awaited, opulently eyed.

branch library :: edward hirsch

I wish I could find that skinny, long-beaked boy
who perched in the branches of the old branch library.

He spent the Sabbath flying between the wobbly stacks
and the flimsy wooden tables on the second floor,

pecking at nuts, nesting in broken spines, scratching
notes under his own corner patch of sky.

I’d give anything to find that birdy boy again
bursting out into the dusky blue afternoon

with his satchel of sccrawls and scribbles,
radiating heat, singing with joy.

greek statue :: wislawa szymborska

translated from the polish by clare cavanagh and stanisław barańczak

With the help of people and the other elements,
time hasn’t done a bad job on it.
It first removed the nose, then the genitalia,
next, one by one, the toes and fingers,
over the years the arms, one after the other,
the left thigh, the right,
the shoulders, hips, head, and buttocks,
and whatever dropped off has since fallen to pieces,
to rubble, to gravel, to sand.

When someone living dies that way
blood flows at every blow.

But marble statues die white
and not always completely.

From the one under discussion only the torso lingers
and it’s like a breath held with great effort,
since now it must
draw
to itself
all the grace and gravity
of what was lost.

And it does,
for now it does,
it does and it dazzles,
it dazzles and endures—

Time likewise merits some applause here,
since it stopped work early,
and left some for later.

cleaning a fish :: dave smith

In her hand the knife, brisk, brilliant as moon-claw,
shaves the flesh. It grazes the white
belly just over the heart.
Underneath, the coiled fingers
are cradling a soft flesh
as if it were the jowls of the aged

man propped for a while on the bench in the park.
The head is not severed, the eyes not out.
Blue, they appear to flash odd ways
where a tree makes a live shadow.
Mostly the eyes are dead.
Nothing is in them

except the intense blue of sky the tree allows.
There is no conspiring of nerves,
no least event recalled
by a limb’s high arching,
or even a girl’s ascension
from a forgotten distance of water.

But there is something as she lifts the meat.
It is enough to draw down her gaze.
Now her arm rises against
yellow hair fallen
white in a childish face.
She is still as a leaf barely clinging.

I come to her like a cat in the stunned grass
and touch her to see the startled,
upthrusted gleam of her face.
At brow and each cheek
like gathered beads of mist
scales leap with the sun, and are dead.

No word passes between us, but something electric
as a flash of steel makes her
cry out just once. Squatting
at the yard’s edge, she
sings beyond any thought.
Her knife flies as lethal as love
and cuts quickly in like a hurried kiss.

winter splinters :: lucia cherciu

She went to confession,
asked the priest for atonement,
and he said, “I saw you
waiting for the bus in that frost yesterday—
boulders were cracking with cold—
and one hour later when I returned
you were still there:
that’s penance enough.”

That night she dreamed
of walking to the margin of town
looking for a tree to cut down.
In her sleep, someone was splitting wood
in front of her window. She could hear
his breath as he heaved the ax,
the bolt as he hit
right in the middle.
He mumbled something under his breath.
The words themselves she couldn’t decipher;
just woke up and found a stash of wood
next to her door
stacked like a sculpture.
Ice splintered into the walls
just enough not to crack the pipes.

i had just hung up from talking to you :: jessica greenbaum

I had just hung up from talking to you
and we had been so immersed in the difficulty
you were facing, and forgive me,
I was thinking that as long as we kept talking,
you in your car in the parking lot of the boys’ school
as the afternoon deepened into early evening,
and me in the study, all the books around
that had been sources of beauty to us,
as long as we stayed in the conversation
padded with history like the floor of the pine forest,
as long as I thought out loud, made a joke
at my own expense, you would be harbored in that exchange,
but the boys were leaving the track
and after we hung up I looked out the window
to see the top of the bare January trees spotlit to silvery red,
massive but made from the thinnest
twigs at the ends of the branches at the ends of the limbs
they were waving and shining in a light
like no other and left only to them.

ketchup and heaven :: mark halliday

When you want ketchup on your french fries
and you upend the new bottle and nothing comes out
and you begin thumping the bottom of the bottle
with the heel of your palm till it hurts
and the restaurant staff and clientele glance at you
with mild disdain for your vulgar and ineffectual
   Stone Age behavior,
you know that you are not in heaven.
Heaven is going to be a place where the ketchup flows
freely, like milk and honey in the rivers,
and you won’t have to stick your knife in
and wiggle it vigorously till at last
the seduced ketchup consents to blurt out
in gobbets much larger than you intended
on the lip of your plate. Heaven
will in fact be a place where you don’t even need
ketchup, because the french fries will already be
somehow sufficiently flavorful and interesting in their
   own right,
or come to think of it
you won’t even want french fries at all,
in fact you won’t even remember what a french fry
   was
because you’ll be so happy eating just ice cream
with angels who kiss you so gently and humorously
but also intensely till your whole body becomes
a pure violin of pleasure.

Another thing about heaven, it will be a place where
you only need to give one example to make a point,
one example will be plenty if it is a good vivid
   example,
a bright sanguine example,
and if some other angel provides two examples or ten
it won’t be any kind of victory for him or her
because all heaven will know that your one example
said all there really was to say.
As a result heaven will be a bit quieter than here,
And the books will be shorter.

deborah digges is dead :: brittany perham

The vein was never opened by the needle’s little head; the carbon dioxide did not ratchet up any
debt in the blood.
No part was shaved.
The stomach was not plumed by syringe, nor was there tubing for urine, for spit.
The pulse was well contained in the bed of the neck: with the naked eye, no one could detect it.
The sun did not come up in rooms walked by those who each day heard the birds’ first call.
The blankets remained cool, the skin not sweated, nor marked by unchanged linen.
A gown was never tied about the shoulders.
There were no visitors. No vase of circus roses. No water poured from the pitcher, nor ice given on
the worst nights, in the usual way of things.

Nevertheless, a teacup slipped its hook.
It was not meant to be painless.
In the sink, a regular shattering, though it was not without
the sound of barking dogs. And still the water boiled.
All it meant was that a woman had opened a window from her fitted sleep
as we stood watching a crow fling to the air haphazardly, as though just-then released from well
below the earth.

factory town :: austin smith

The factory stands on the train
of your town’s wedding gown,
dirtying it and smoking

unfiltered cigarettes. Embarrassed,
the clouds rush to cover up
the track marks of the stars.

On your way home from the factory
-run theater, it’s too dark to say
hello to the pale-faced people

plummeting past you and your son.
Who knows what bright things
they conceal in their black coats

now that they’ve rationed the rations.
Home before curfew, the iodine
tablets fume in the bedtime

glass of water your son requests.
He sips it as if it were hot tea
while you read to him yet again

that ancient story you three
loved. You stumble over the new
language, but even it is becoming

beautiful. You close the book,
kiss his forehead, stand the flashlight
upright by the fuming glass

and stumble to your bed in the dark.
Your son will wake in the night
and turn on the flashlight

so he can see the water
that he will turn into urine
that you will carry in an armful

of sheets down to the river,
that gray, dappled,
broken thing running

through the dying trees
like an app
-aloosa spooked by gunfire.

fresco :: richie hofmann

I have come again to the perfumed city.
Houses with tiered porches, some decorated with shells.
You know from the windows that the houses
are from a different time. I am not
to blame for what changes, though sometimes
I have trouble sleeping.
Between the carriage houses,
there are little gardens separated by gates.
Lately, I have been thinking about the gates.
The one ornamented with the brass lion, I remember
it was warm to the touch
even in what passes here for winter.
But last night, when I closed my eyes,
it was not the lion that I pictured first.

meaning :: carl dennis

If a life needn’t be useful to be meaningful,
Then maybe a life of sunbathing on a beach
Can be thought of as meaningful for at least a few,
The few, say, who view the sun as a god
And consider basking a form of worship.

As for those devoted to partnership with a surfboard
Or a pair of ice skates or a bag of golf clubs,
Though I can’t argue their lives are useful,
I’d be reluctant to claim they have no meaning
Even if no one observes their display of mastery.

No one is listening to the librarian
I can call to mind as she practices, after work,
In her flat on Hoover Street, the viola da gamba
In the one hour of day that for her is golden.
So what if she’ll never be good enough
To give a concert people will pay to hear?

When I need to think of her with an audience,
I can imagine the ghosts of composers dead for centuries,
Pleased to hear her doing her best with their music.

And isn’t it pleasing, as we walk at dusk to our cars
Parked on Hoover Street, after a meeting
On saving a shuttered hotel from the wrecking ball,
To catch the sound of someone filling a room
We won’t be visiting with a haunting solo?

And then the gifts we receive by imagining
How down at the beach today surfers made sure
The big waves we weren’t there to appreciate
Didn’t go begging for attention.
And think of the sunlight we failed to welcome,
How others stepped forward to take it in.

autobiography of eve :: ansel elkins

Wearing nothing but snakeskin
boots, I blazed a footpath, the first
radical road out of that old kingdom
toward a new unknown.
When I came to those great flaming gates
of burning gold,
I stood alone in terror at the threshold
between Paradise and Earth.
There I heard a mysterious echo:
my own voice
singing to me from across the forbidden
side. I shook awake—
at once alive in a blaze of green fire.

Let it be known: I did not fall from grace.

I leapt
to freedom.

my dissent and my love are woven inside me :: wendy xu

I commune with the text by way of railing against the text

The molecular processes of you are never finished

I move through air in the early fall, a cooling spittle, high heat
            days are gone

When the troops leave the replica city, you see that its
            battlements are written in green

A Western style of defense, no birds, all men

Same plaza, white stones, black columns, no memory

You want to walk along the path meant for military vehicles
            and are denied

You want to try falling down where others had before you, and
            are unceremoniously denied

You wanted permission to travel to the mainland to see your
            mother

All of your desires were completely impractical

That is, you did not want to atone for anything you had done

just around the house, early in the morning :: mary oliver

Though I have been scorned for it,
let me never be afraid to use the word beautiful.
For within is the shining leaf
and the blossoms of the geranium at the window.
And the eyes of the happy puppy as he wakes.
The colors of the old and beloved afghan lying
by itself, on the couch, in the morning sun.
The hummingbird’s nest perched now in a
corner of the bookshelf, in front of so many
books of so many colors.
The two poached eggs. The buttered toast.
The ream of brand-new paper just opened,
white as a block of snow.
The typewriter humming, ready to go.

super bowl :: mary ruefle

Who won? I said.
The game’s tomorrow, he said.
And I became the snail I always was,
crossing the field in my helmet.
But I’d given it my all,
while the plane arced on its way
to a landing, when I overheard
the woman behind us say
I was gathering wildflowers to make a wreath
to lay on my mother’s grave when my son
fell off a mountain in Italy

and I felt such joy over the unknown
outcome of her words
I was not ashamed,
for I can feign interest
in the world, just as she
in that great green meadow
must have.

resignation :: nikki giovanni

I love you
          because the Earth turns round the sun
          because the North wind blows north
             sometimes
          because the Pope is Catholic
             and most Rabbis Jewish
          because the winters flow into springs
             and the air clears after a storm
          because only my love for you
             despite the charms of gravity
             keeps me from falling off this Earth
             into another dimension
I love you
          because it is the natural order of things

I love you
          like the habit I picked up in college
             of sleeping through lectures
             or saying I’m sorry
             when I get stopped for speeding
          because I drink a glass of water
             in the morning
             and chain-smoke cigarettes
             all through the day
          because I take my coffee Black
             and my milk with chocolate
          because you keep my feet warm
             though my life a mess
I love you
          because I don’t want it
             any other way

I am helpless
          in my love for you
It makes me so happy
          to hear you call my name
I am amazed you can resist
          locking me in an echo chamber
          where your voice reverberates
          through the four walls
          sending me into spasmatic ecstasy
I love you
          because it’s been so good
          for so long
          that if I didn’t love you
          I’d have to be born again
          and that is not a theological statement
I am pitiful in my love for you

The Dells tell me Love
          is so simple
          the thought though of you
          sends indescribably delicious multitudinous
          thrills throughout and through-in my body
I love you
          because no two snowflakes are alike
          and it is possible
          if you stand tippy-toe
          to walk between the raindrops
I love you
          because I am afraid of the dark
             and can’t sleep in the light
          because I rub my eyes
             when I wake up in the morning
             and find you there
          because you with all your magic powers were
             determined that
I should love you
          because there was nothing for you but that
I would love you

I love you
          because you made me
             want to love you
          more than I love my privacy
             my freedom          my commitments
                and responsibilities
I love you ’cause I changed my life
          to love you
          because you saw me one Friday
             afternoon and decided that I would
love you
I love you I love you I love you

my father moved through dooms of love :: e. e. cummings

34

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

this motionless forgetful where
turned at his glance to shining here;
that if (so timid air is firm)
under his eyes would stir and squirm

newly as from unburied which
floats the first who, his april touch
drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots

and should some why completely weep
my father’s fingers brought her sleep:
vainly no smallest voice might cry
for he could feel the mountains grow.

Lifting the valleys of the sea
my father moved through griefs of joy;
praising a forehead called the moon
singing desire into begin

joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer’s keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand,
so strictly (over utmost him
so hugely) stood my father’s dream

his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;
no cripple wouldn’t creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile.

Scorning the Pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain

septembering arms of year extend
less humbly wealth to foe and friend
than he to foolish and to wise
offered immeasurable is

proudly and (by octobering flame
beckoned) as earth will downward climb,
so naked for immortal work
his shoulders marched against the dark

his sorrow was as true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head;
if every friend became his foe
he’d laugh and build a world with snow.

My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)

then let men kill which cannot share,
let blood and flesh be mud and mire,
scheming imagine, passion willed,
freedom a drug that’s bought and sold

giving to steal and cruel kind,
a heart to fear, to doubt a mind,
to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of am

though dull were all we taste as bright,
bitter all utterly things sweet,
maggoty minus and dumb death
all we inherit, all bequeath

and nothing quite so least as truth
—i say though hate were why men breathe—
because my Father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all