phlebotomist :: dianne silvestri

The corridors seethe with nocturnal predators,
their voices low.

My door latch coughs, a figure hisses,
I’ve come to draw blood,

wrenches my arm like a lamb shank,
rasps it with alcohol, plunges her spike,

pops one after another color-coded
rubber-stoppered vial into the sheath,

unplugs each loaded one to add
to the crimson log pile weighting my thigh,

steals more, it seems, than ample sample
of the provisional liquor of my life.

a doubt :: lisa russ spaar

It is nothing, a mordent
of the spirit,
a small fall
like the exhalation
of a breath;
the way that,
for just a moment
after the rib cage sinks
in a house
where someone is dying,
there is a silence
so deep, it is impossible
to tell its source,
or to believe
the veracious beating,
whispering
like a small, sharp scruple
in your own breast.

where the use of cannon is impractical :: lisa olstein

Stranger, mislaid love, I will
sleepwalk all night not girlish
but zombie-like, zombie-lite
through the streets in search of
your arms. Let’s meet at dawn
in the park to practice an ancient art
while people roll by in the latest
space-age gear blank as mirrors
above the procedure in the stainless
steel theaters where paper-gowned
we take ourselves to take ourselves
apart. Tap-tap-spark. So little blazes.
Cover the roofs with precision hooves.
Push back the forest like a blanket.
A bird the right color is invisible,
only movement catches the eye.
My most illustrious Lord, I know
how to remove water from moats
and how to make an infinite number
of bridges. Here we are at the palace.
Here we are in the dark, dark woods.

this hour :: saskia hamilton

This hour, while a child sleeps, before he wakes
and those arcadian hours we make together—
is it a continued arch, vaulted, open at both ends, is it
a bending?—recommence. Yes, a bending.
Light before you’d call it light bluing the sky.
The old city below, a fidget toy’s
string of buildings; doves calling and answering
from ledges in the cavities; a low
branching into divisions of memory;
a hot afternoon’s lunch on the grounds
of the museum, children at play in
tethered circles; traffic and voices from the avenues
carrying along the bright cold mornings
on the lawns of big houses near the hotel;
those who saw me home, whoever they were
(though I know who they are), I also saw them home.
I rode in their cars. I rode with the mother of the boy
who lost all his words, she gave us a ride, the boys
with their large eyes, sitting up high beside
each other and smiling; the empty avenues
of asphalt from the station to the new
hospital to the corner we rounded
and, past the galvanized fence, a school;
the city narrows there;
there is the river, suddenly;
and then a spread of houses like a cowl on the head
of the island; a journey whose meaning
was as yet unknown though I know it sometimes;
sheep on a patch of land at the convergence
of two superhighways; no silence in the train;
harvesters in orange and red slickers
among the lettuces; swifts overhead;
apricots flecked with rose; lichen spreading
on corrugated iron; short-wave voices of those
who are gone now remembered in the intonation
of throwaway phrases; it should not follow
but it follows; and are their fathers here;
one of them is, white stubble where his razor
didn’t pass that calls up his morning,
the temperature of his cheek, and how
luck befriended us then, and at this hour,
which rests on a child’s sleeping.

grace :: maxine kumin

Hens have their gravel; gravel sticks
The way it should stick, in the craw.
And stone on stone is tooth
For grinding raw.

And grinding raw, I learn from this
To fill my crop the way I should.
I put down pudding stone
And find it good.

I find it good to line my gut
With tidy octagons of grit.
No loophole and no chink
Make vents in it.

And in it vents no slime or sludge;
No losses sluice, no terrors slough.
God, give me appetite
for stone enough.

home :: ani gjika

It’s snowing in a way that reminds me
of people who rarely complain.

I imagine the oldest woman eating bread: silent,
half asleep, softly chewing mngna, mngna, mngna.

I am thankful for snow
and the black stillness of evergreens
the way they line up on the street
here in my New England.

I have made it mine, the way
a young girl finds someone’s lipstick
and makes it hers.

It doesn’t matter that it’s half used
it matters that it’s lipstick and she wears it
down to her chin.

what is the grass? :: mark doty

On the margin
in the used text
I’ve purchased without opening

—pale green dutiful vessel—

some unconvinced student has written,
in a clear, looping hand,
Isn’t it grass?

How could I answer the child?
I do not exaggerate,
I think of her question for years.

And while first I imagine her the very type
of the incurious, revealing the difference
between a mind at rest and one that cannot,

later I come to imagine that she
had faith in language,
that was the difference: she believed

that the word settled things,
the matter need not be looked into again.

And he who’d written his book over and over, nearly ruining it,
so enchanted by what had first compelled him
—for him the word settled nothing at all.

irony :: layli long soldier

I wake to
red sand I
sleep here
coral brick
hooghaan I
walk thin
rabbit brush
trails side-
step early
autumn
tarantulas
pick desert
white flowers
on full days I
inhale fe-
male rain
I stop wheels
slow sheep
bounce drop
sheep shit
across
highways
potholed
me I grass
nothing
here I meta-
grass I sleep-
walk grasses
open eyes to
blue corn sky
to cook up
stews chunks
half-chewed thru
I am this
salivating
mouth without
hands with-
out arms
bent down
shameless
face to plate to
some origin(al)
hunger aware
that I’m alone
and I alone am
the one -> pushing
the head
to eat

before :: khaled mattawa

Somewhere beyond faith and grace there is
the footprint of logic lost in the purest light.

Not hidden at all, but a vehicle, a necessity, neither
mop nor bucket, but whatever gives the floor its shine.

The sun through the window pours on the floor,
and the wood glistens as if in praise.
As if a child breaking into a run. That is what I see

through the window now. A child breaking
into a run for the simple flame that must burn
and because there are such words.

Of course, I could be wailing.
Of course, the child is not a memory,
only a gesture on my part.

Yesterday, I fed a friend’s cat and talked to her,
the town was emptied and filled with
snow embroidered with tire tracks.

I fed a friend’s cat and she rubbed her sides against my calves.

The thing to say now is that I am in the middle of a life
in a house with the owners on holiday.

Or to say a car engine hums (the owner forgetting
the keys inside), and is on its way to a crystalline loss.

Here deduction is howling at an oncoming storm.

The thing is, I fed a friend’s cat and later poured
a bowl of milk for her and she sniffed it,
barely licked it, and left.

The thought is. The life is.

I’ve visited graves—tombstones ten feet high.
I ran through the cemetery and laughed my Cairo laugh.
I wanted to be arrested by the police, wanted

someone to take down what I had to say.
Whatever I would have said then would have been the truth.

But there was no one there.
Only dust and a shitload of romance.

Only dust and the hum of the interstate. Detroit,
Toledo, the hitchhiker hums a foreign song.

I feed the cat and talk to her.
I take the milk away and begin to forget
and the cat stares at the missing milk.

Billions of snowflakes in between,
and the befores that follow the first before.

echolocation :: sally bliumis-dunn

The whales can’t hear each other calling
in the noise-cluttered sea: they beach themselves.
I saw one once— heaved onto the sand with kelp
stuck to its blue-gray skin.
Heavy and immobile

it lay like a great sadness.
And it was hard to breathe with all the stink.
Its elliptical black eyes had stilled, were mostly dry,
and barnacles clustered on its back
like tiny brown volcanoes.

Imagining the other whales, their roving weight,
their blue-black webbing of the deep,
I stopped knowing how to measure my own grief.
And this one, large and dead on the sand
with its unimaginable five-hundred-pound heart.

psalm :: paisley rekdal

Too soon, perhaps, for fruit. And the broad branches,
ice-sheathed early, may bear none. But still the woman
waits, with her ladder and sack, for something to break.
A gold, a lengthening of light. For the greens to burst
into something not unlike flame: the pale fruit
blushing over weeks through the furred cleft creases:
a freckling of blood. Then the hot, sweet scent
of August rot, drawing wasps and birds and children
through the month. So much abundance, and the only cost
waiting. Looking at the tree, I almost expect the sound of bells,
a stone church, sheep in flocks. But no sound of bells,
no clarion call. The church is far down in the valley.
This tree should be a revered thing, placed at the ancient
heart of a temple. Instead, it is on a common
lot, beside a road, apartment buildings, a dog
sleeping in its yard. The woman has come here
neither as master nor supplicant. She simply plans
to fill a plastic sack with whatever she can take:
the sweet meat giving under the press of a thumb,
covering what is its true fruit: the little pit, hard
and almond-brown that I’ve scooped out,
palmed and planted, but to no avail. A better gardener
could make demands of such a seed, could train a tree
for what desire anticipates. But here the tree grows
only for itself. And if it bears no fruit for the killing
frost, or if it flowers late because of a too-warm winter,
what debt am I owed? At whose feet should I lay
disappointment? Delight no more comforting
nor wounding than hunger. The tree traffics
in a singular astonishment, its gold tongues
lolling out a song so rich and sweet, the notes
are left to rot upon the pavement. Is this the only religion
left to us? Not one only of mortification or desire,
not one of suffering, succor, not even of pleasure.
The juice of summer coils in the cells. It is a faith
that may not come to more than waiting.
To insist on pleasure alone is a mark
of childishness. To believe only in denial
the fool’s prerogative. You hunger
because you hunger. And the tree calls to this.
But the fruit is real. I have eaten it. Have plucked
and washed and cut the weight, and stewed it
with sugar and lemon peel until the gold
ran rich and thick into jars. I have spooned it
over bread and meat. I have sucked it
from my husband’s fingers. I have watched it sour
in its pots until a mist of green bubbled up
for a crust. I have gathered and failed it, as the tree
for me both ripens and fallows. But now, it is perhaps
too soon for fruit. The winter this year was hard,
the air full of smokes, and do I know if spring
reached the valley in time? Who planted this tree?
How long has it stood here? How many more years
can such a thing remain? The woman reaches a hand
up into the branches, palm cupped, weighing
the leaf knots. She is looking to see
what instincts, what weathers still grow here.
She snakes her hand through the greening branches.
Up from the valley, come the golden tongues of bells.

enlightenment :: vijay seshadri

“It’s all empty, empty,”
he said to himself.
“The sex and drugs. The violence, especially.”
So he went down into the world to exercise his virtue,

thinking maybe that would help.
He taught a little kid to build a kite.
He found a cure,
and then he found a cure

for his cure.
He gave a woman at the mercy of the weather
his umbrella, even though
icy rain fell and he had pneumonia.
He settled a revolution in Spain.

Nothing worked.
The world happens, the world changes,
the world, it is written here,
in the next line,
is only its own membrane—

and, oh yes, your compassionate nature,
your compassion for our kind.

private equity :: sophie cabot black

To put one and one together making
Two and so on. A house appears, room
With a bed in it. To configure anyway,

Even without enough information.
We work into it, the chosen. To measure
Everything out until the one who takes over

Becomes taken. This as strategy, the art
Of how we build until management
In turn builds us, elegant the logic

Used. To draw out more than what is put in.
Everyone wants beyond; even with the one
Last page as exit plan it is by return

How we will be known. To end up where we start
Again and to look as if we gained.

to a magazine :: mary ruefle

I am rejecting your request for a letter of rejection. One must reject everything in order to live. That may be true, but the rejected know another knowledge—that if they were not rejected, heaven would descend upon the earth in earthly dreams and an infinite flowering of all living forms would form a silveresque film over our sordid history, which has adventitiously progressed through violent upheavals in reaction to rejection; without rejection there would be no as-we-know-it Earth. What is our ball but a rejected stone flung from the mother lode? The rejected know that if they were nonrejected a clear cerulean blue would be the result, an endless love ever dissolving in more endless love. This is their secret, and none share it save them. They remain, therefore, the unbelieved, they remain the embodiment of heaven herself. Let others perpetuate life as we know it—that admixture, that amalgam, the happy, the sad, the profusion of all things under the sunny moon existing in a delicate balance, such as it is. Alone, the rejected walk a straight path, they enter a straight gate, they see in their dreams what no one else can see—an end to all confusion, an end to all suffering, an elysian mist of eternally good vapor. Forgive me if I have put your thoughts into words. It was the least I could do for such a comrade, whose orphaned sighs reach me in my squat hut.

the waking :: theodore roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

soave sia il vento :: adrian matejka

after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In the wobbly pirouette between song
& dust, dog-nosed living room windows
& a purple couch that should have been curbed
last July: Saturday sunlight cuts it all every
time you lean into some kind of ballet pose.
Your belly & knobby elbow & leotarded knee
wavering in a slim balance. Jeté, effacé
I don’t know what they mean & nod anyway.
You reach & spin & dog hair hangs
in the air like the start of heartfelt applause.

a blurry photograph :: martha ronk

The tree azalea overwhelms the evening with its scent,
defining everything and the endless fields.

Walking away, suddenly, it slices off and is gone.

The visible object blurs open in front of you,
the outline of a branch folds back into itself, then clarifies—just as you turn away—

and the glass hardens into glass

as you go about taking care of things abstractedly
one thing shelved after another, as if they were already in the past,

needing nothing from you until, smashing itself on the tile floor,
the present cracks open the aftermath of itself.

about not writing :: naomi replansky

Tongue-tied, I stand before
Myself as inquisitor.

I loved to mark time
With a beat, with rhyme.

Time marked me with its thumb,
Slowed down the pendulum.

Slowed it down, or stopped:
Words were lopped, words dropped—

No use to devise
Reasons or alibis.

Now, strangely, I draw breath
Well past my ninetieth.

What’s begun is almost done,
Still I must brood upon

The much that I sought,
The little that I wrought,

Till time brings its own
Lockjaw of stone.

my love for nature :: fatimah asghar

All this tall grass has ruined my gold
acrylic nails & I know something’s dead
just beyond my window. I grew up
with rats running my floorboards
& know the smell straining from a body
once caught in a trap. In the city
what little I have of an ass
is always out, a simple wind blow
from Marilyn Monroe-ing the street.

Here, in all this nature, there is nobody
but me & my 5 friends for a week
& I promised myself I’d be naked
but the first day I found a tick
clinging to my arm hair for dear
life & decided no way I’m exposing
my pussy to the elements. My love
for nature is like my love for most things:
fickle & theoretical.

Too many bugs & I want a divorce.
Last week, before I was here
my uncle drove me from our city
to the suburbs & sang “Project Chick”
in the car. When we parked
he asked me to take off my shoes
& there we walked, silent, barefoot
circling the lake, trying to not step
in goose shit.

He walked in front & I trailed behind
both our hands clasped behind our backs.
     When you were my daughter,
     those were the happiest days of my life.
     I wish you would come home.

My love for the past is like my love
for most things. I only feel it when
I’m gone. Best to stay gone
so I’m always in love. If I look
at something too long it forgets
its joy. All the floorboards carry
death. My gold nails are fake
& chipped. My bare feet skirt the shit.

attention deficit :: katy lederer

Focus for
us was a thing hard to
come by. We would have to make due with
whatever

we had: these
were pills and a pencil,
blue earplugs to block out the voices
inside of

our heads, which
would tell us time passed and
these thoughts that would shine like soft lights on
our brains would

one day fade
into invisible
relief. We would write in our binders,
pass classes,

allow for
a moment of grief. We
were deeply aware we would have to
make up for

lost time, but
when we took our pills, the
world would seem fine, seem as if it had
always been

fine. Once we
had adequate supplies
we’d sell, but until then we decid-
ed to re-

fill. We had
determined that we would
not brood. Instead we charted out our
moods and light-

ened up our
loads. Before the rest of
time unfolds, we would like to hold on-
to this life,

feel like it’s
beating, there, deep inside
of our chests, not out of fear. We are
just children.

praisesong :: sarah browning

At the coffee shop you love,
white mugs heavy on the table
between us, young baristas—
spiky haired and impatient—
cannot imagine how two people
so old to them can feel so wanton,
coffee growing cold between us,
middle-aged bodies growing hot
under the other’s gaze. Even now,
apart, you send me songs so I may
listen to love from the golden throat
of a saxophone, piano keys playing
jazz across my soft belly.
How is it the tide of terror
has quit rising in me, or rises
and recedes as tides do, bringing
sea glass worked smooth
and lovely by the sheer fact
of time, bringing trash—
plastic mesh and old sneakers—
useless things now we might
bag up and remove, bringing
a lapping tongue of water up
over our toes as we hold hands
and walk along its edge—
carefully, gleefully, both.

hey you :: adrian blevins

Back when my head like an egg in a nest
was vowel-keen and dawdling, I shed my slick beautiful
and put it in a basket and laid it barefaced at the river
among the taxing rocks. My beautiful was all hush
and glitter. It was too moist to grasp. My beautiful
had no tongue with which to lick—no discernable
wallowing gnaw. It was really a breed of destruction
like a nick in a knife. It was a notch in the works
or a wound like a bell in a fat iron mess. My beautiful
was a drink too sopping to haul up and swig!
Therefore with the trees watching and the beavers abiding
I tossed my beautiful down at the waterway against
the screwball rocks. Even then there was no hum.
My beautiful was never ill-bred enough, no matter what
you say. If you want my blue yes everlasting, try my
she, instead. Try the why not of my low down,
Sugar, my windswept and wrecked.

river through :: brynn saito

Mother, if you let me, I’ll lay down with you tonight—
your own mother dead, your brother long gone, your other brother

praising your eyesight and your long-stemmed intentions
making gardens happen. In the broken and choking

California valley, reservoirs sink into themselves, ghost-waters rain
over un-blossomed orchards, stones stand watch over souls.

We bury her body. Wind aches to be sung through us, sunlight
catches the rose tips near the silver casket. You call out

the scriptures like a child again, we are children again,
we call for her spirit and she comes. We cry without crying

and she comes. We were circling the body of a living saint,
though how could we have known it? She kept watch over us

the whole of our lives like a standing river. Now Leigh’s
in the kitchen and Stella’s in the garden and Father’s

growing funeral flowers where nothing was. Mother
if you let me, I’ll lay down with you tonight. I’ll summon

my body to meet your body. We’ll water the breathable world
with the bravery of our grief. We are bodies of water. We are one

body of water. We river through.
 
 
 
(via poemeleon)

impenetrable grotto :: leonard kress

after the Polish of Szymon Zimorowicz, 1608-1629

In this hidden grotto, no bird or bell
awakens you, no light can penetrate,
and memory-numbing waters always spill
from some deeper dungeon just to create
sweeter dreams. Let the black wings of night
rush over you, longing to get in. Here, where
poppies glow and silent blackbirds prepare
to nest—Orpheus has come to meet

the one he’s watched night after night in dream.
The pleasure is greater the shorter it lasts,
or so he thinks. She grows more beautiful
with each pass, and he tries to touch her breasts.
Doesn’t he know she isn’t what she seems,
doesn’t he know the multiple meanings of fall?

your kingdom :: eleni sikelianos

if you like let the body feel
all its own evolution
inside, opening flagella
& feathers & fingers
door by door, a ragged

neuron dangling like
a participle to
hear a bare sound

on the path, find
a red-eye-hole rabbit, fat
of the bulbous stalk pecked out
to the core so you can

bore back to the salamander you
once were straggling under the skin
grope toward the protozoa
snagging on the rise toward placental knowing

who developed eyes for you agape in open waters

the worm that made a kidney-like chamber burrows in
directing your heart leftward in nodal cascade, slow at your
hagfish spine who

will bury your bones
investigate a redwood rain or tap
the garnet of your heartwood, bark, put
your flat needles on dry ice to inquire
after your tree family, father or mother in the fairy-ring
next to you, find you
are most closely related to grass
your hexaploid breathing pores gently closing at night, when
did you begin your coexistence with flowering
plants from which arose the bee before the
African honey badger but after the dark
protoplanetary disk of dust grains
surrounding the sun become
the earth you
had no nouns, did you

spell to locate the unreachable :: sarah messer

As no assistance could be expected
of the ocean, I turned to the trumpeting
tunnel of sky and rummaged
the tops of plum birch turning
their leaves like coins, then
to the tumbler sweating
on the porch rail. The sky,
the color of whale oil. The wind,
a box of uncolored letters. And so
I was gris-gris with my lichen hair
and moonstone wound
around my neck, a raccoon
stuck under an electric
fence, or a photo showing
only one wick at a séance.
How to unpin this particular
corner of sky? I sing
an antler song to find
you, but there’s no trace
of the sky in the sky. I’ll have to
collapse the air to find you.

evening storm :: sharon dolin

I want to paint the livingness of appearances.
—Marsden Hartley

What of these evening storms
where foam becomes rock—wave
becomes cove. Inside the billow as
you always dreamed it would be
two men collapse into being.
Like so, the rocks give up their
solid stance. If Hart threw
himself from ship to sea, how
can you, Hartley, hardly alive
in this solitude, not find his
eye inside of you. There is a crest
a recurring tall wave that comes
for you. So little light gets through
other than in sea foam your desire
knit to storm—here is your Maine mountain where the upsurge
the passional thrust gets through.