pine :: chase twichell

The first night at the monastery,
a moth lit on my sleeve by firelight,
long after the first frost.

A short stick of incense burns
thirty minutes, fresh thread of pine
rising through the old pine of the hours.

Summer is trapped under the thin
glass on the brook, making
the sound of an emptying bottle.

Before the long silence,
the monks make a long soft rustling,
adjusting their robes.

The deer are safe now. Their tracks
are made of snow. The wind has dragged
its branches over their history.

early sunday morning :: edward hirsch

I used to mock my father and his chums
for getting up early on Sunday morning
and drinking coffee at a local spot
but now I’m one of those chumps.

No one cares about my old humiliations
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.

It’s like this: just when you think
you have forgotten that red-haired girl
who left you stranded in a parking lot
forty years ago, you wake up

early enough to see her disappearing
around the corner of your dream
on someone else’s motorcycle
roaring onto the highway at sunrise.

And so now I’m sitting in a dimly lit
café full of early morning risers
where the windows are covered with soot
and the coffee is warm and bitter.

colophon :: dean young

More than the beetles turned russet,
sunset, dragging their shield, more than
the crickets who think it’s evening all afternoon,
it’s the bees I love this time of year.

Sated, maybe drunk, who’ve lapped at the hips
of too many flowers for one summer but
still must go on hunting, one secret
closing, another ensuing, picking

lock after lock, rapping the glass,
getting stuck in a puddle of dish soap,
almost winter, almost dark, reading far past
the last paragraph into the back blank page,

acknowledgments, and history of type.
I think when my head finally cracks
out will come one of those ravening scouts
autumnal with hunger beyond any sipping,

swallowing, beyond the hive’s teeming
factory’s needs. I think maybe then,
when I’m dying like a bug in a puddle
of dish soap, I’ll be relieved,

my wings wet capes and not working,
antennae slicked back and not working,
eye that sees the ruby above going out,
eye that sees the ruby within getting brighter

as I drag myself to a tomato ripening
on the window sill, reddest, softest
island of my last planet, last aureola,
stinger waving and useless. I’ll wait then,

while air from the north rushes gulf air,
a tree indicating wildly, each leaf woke
in orange outcry. It won’t be suffering,
exactly. Rain coming, then gone, a chill

that means all my barbarous kind are alone
and perishing, our unrecognizable young
buried and waiting, bodies of fire becoming
bodies of air. I don’t think there’s any way

to prepare.

working at wal-mart :: brandon kreitler

The checkout girls don’t give it up so easy anymore
and seem to be growing in their sense that this place,
despite its efforts, is not sequestered and free of consequence.
I stand only to lose from such revelations,

but going to the indoor McDonald’s still counts
as going somewhere else and I get the sense that Ginny,
the greeter, thinks I’m one of her dozen grandchildren.
I wouldn’t tell her otherwise.

I’ve tried every delight offered and have boxes to show for it.
My floating walks have become aimless. Yesterday I saw a man
lying prostrate in Electronics before a bank of TV screens
on which the populace yearns to be singers.

In these moments it’s hard not to feel good about what we offer people,
an unbroken chain of indistinguishable days and nights.
An unassuming totalness of things. The easing of the sense that out there
America means having your heart broken by your heart…

Someone has gotten control of the loudspeaker and it squeals.
The thin filament of music is gone.
A baby left for a moment in the center aisle
cries like small animal alone in the pale floodlight.

In the pall of that hunger forbidden language
I feel again the soft husk of my body.
And everyone is kind of looking around,
half surprised by shadow.

the type :: sarah kay

Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else. – Richard Siken

If you grow up the type of woman men want to look at,
you can let them look at you. But do not mistake eyes for hands.

Or windows.
Or mirrors.

Let them see what a woman looks like.
They may not have ever seen one before.

If you grow up the type of woman men want to touch,
you can let them touch you.

Sometimes it is not you they are reaching for.
Sometimes it is a bottle. A door. A sandwich. A Pulitzer. Another woman.

But their hands found you first. Do not mistake yourself for a guardian.
Or a muse. Or a promise. Or a victim. Or a snack.

You are a woman. Skin and bones. Veins and nerves. Hair and sweat.
You are not made of metaphors. Not apologies. Not excuses.

If you grow up the type of woman men want to hold,
you can let them hold you.

All day they practice keeping their bodies upright—
even after all this evolving, it still feels unnatural, still strains the muscles,

holds firm the arms and spine. Only some men will want to learn
what it feels like to curl themselves into a question mark around you,

admit they do not have the answers
they thought they would have by now;

some men will want to hold you like The Answer.
You are not The Answer.

You are not the problem. You are not the poem
or the punchline or the riddle or the joke.

Woman. If you grow up the type men want to love,
You can let them love you.

Being loved is not the same thing as loving.
When you fall in love, it is discovering the ocean

after years of puddle jumping. It is realizing you have hands.
It is reaching for the tightrope when the crowds have all gone home.

Do not spend time wondering if you are the type of woman
men will hurt. If he leaves you with a car alarm heart, you learn to sing along.

It is hard to stop loving the ocean. Even after it has left you gasping, salty.
Forgive yourself for the decisions you have made, the ones you still call

mistakes when you tuck them in at night. And know this:
Know you are the type of woman who is searching for a place to call yours.

Let the statues crumble.
You have always been the place.

You are a woman who can build it yourself.
You were born to build.

near mt. lassen :: keith ekiss

October snow last night against the peaks,
—here only rain on the waterproof tent.
I heard the detailed complaint of thunder,
how it argued with itself, restless, relentless,
but it was lightning that had me plotting
last will and testament in the sleeping bag,
that epileptic flash, a blast that seemed
to well up inside the fearful part of me.

Today, everything that’s living looks
almost dead. The sight was terribly grand,
a witness wrote of the last eruption.
Roots work the ash, pygmied pines
drop stunted cones, less than a finger length.
The smallest one held in my pocket for you.

mille-fleur :: j. p. grasser

The whole house smelled of lavender
from your soap and body oils,
and if my synesthesia were more refined,
I’d have seen the scent spread its taproot
from beneath the shower door
and blossom into a cloud of lilac
against the kitchen backsplash,
purple the record player puttering in the corner
where we’d forgotten it in our haste.
As you lathered your hair
with shampoo, overpriced—gardenia
and grapefruit—I watched Antiques Road Show.
What disappointment that woman found
surrounded by beauty, the lowball appraisal
of her 18th century mille-fleur china,
all 51 pieces intact. So began my accounting,
as I lay beneath our floral duvet—
fuchsia hyacinths with lime stalks and vines
and sepals which do not seem to belong
to a hyacinth at all—I began counting
the thousand flowers in my life. By then
you’d joined me, and your heart bloomed
and withered and bloomed below my ear.
A figure, I thought, for the movement
of seasons. A figure I might’ve forgotten,
if not for this morning, when, rising early,
I saw your cheeks, rosy with warmth,
and a tuft of your hair, sprouting
from the hyacinths like wild onions
in April and frosted with sleep,
and I remembered wild onions flowering
in the heartland, millions of wild onions,
their blooms each discrete tesserae
in the greater lavender mosaic,
which is whole and is beautiful,
and I sensed it then, on the edge
of sleep myself, there is nothing
in this world which disappoints.

the tree sparrows :: joseph o. legaspi

We suffer through blinding equatorial heat,
refusing to unfold the suspended bamboo shade
nested by a pair of hardworking, cheerless sparrows.
We’ve watched them fly in-and-out of their double
entryways, dried grass, twigs clamped in their beaks.
They skip, nestle in their woodsy tunnel punctured
with light, we presume, not total darkness, their eggs
aglow like lunar orbs. What is a home? How easily
it can be destroyed: the untying of traditional ropes,
pull, the scroll-unraveling. For want of a sweltering
living room to be thrown into relief by shadow.

The sunning couple perch open-winged, tube lofty
as in Aristophanes’ city of birds, home made sturdy
by creature logic and faith that it will all remain afloat.

yours & mine :: alice fulton

Through your lens the sequoia swallowed me
like a dryad. The camera flashed & forgot.
I, on the other hand, must practice my absent-
mindedness, memory being awkward as a touch
that goes unloved. Lately your eyes have shut
down to a shade more durable than skin’s. I know you
love distance, how it smooths. You choose an aerial view,
the city angled to abstraction, while I go for the close
exposures: poorly-mounted countenances along Broadway,
the pigweed cracking each hardscrabble backlot.
It’s a matter of perspective: yours is to love me
from a block away & mine is to praise the grain-
iness that weaves expressively: your face.

if you could :: danny bryck

I know, I know
If you could go back you
would walk with Jesus
You would march with King
Maybe assassinate Hitler
At least hide Jews in your basement
It would all be clear to you
But people then, just like you
were baffled, had bills
to pay and children they didn’t
understand and they too
were so desperate for normalcy
they made anything normal
Even turning everything inside out
Even killing, and killing, and it’s easy
for turning the other cheek
to be looking the other way, for walking
to be talking, and they hid
in their houses
and watched it on television, when they had television,
and wrung their hands
or didn’t, and your hands
are just like theirs. Lined, permeable,
small, and you
would follow Caesar, and quote McCarthy, and Hoover, and you would want
to make Germany great again
Because you are afraid, and your
parents are sick, and your
job pays shit and where’s your
dignity? Just a little dignity and those kids sitting down in the highway,
and chaining themselves to
buildings, what’s their fucking problem? And that kid
That’s King. And this is Selma. And Berlin. And Jerusalem. And now
is when they need you to be brave.
Now
is when we need you to go back
and forget everything you know
and give up the things you’re chained to
and make it look so easy in your
grandkids’ history books (they should still have them, kinehora)
Now
is when it will all be clear to them.

mambo :: jaime manrique

translated by Edith Grossman

Against a topaz sky
and huge windows starry
with delirious heartsease
and sensual red cayenne;
the sweet twilight breeze
fragrant with almond and Indian orange;
on the Moorish tiles,
wearing their spike-heeled shoes,
lowcut dresses and wide swirling skirts;
their long obsidian hairdos
in the style of the time;
perfumed, olive-skinned, smiling,
my aunts danced the mambo
and sang: “Doctor, tomorrow,
you can’t pull my tooth
even if I die of the pain.”

those evenings of my childhood
when my aunts were young and belonged to me,
and I danced hiding in their skirts,
our lives were a happy mambo—
I remember.

i live in music :: ntozake shange

i live in music
is this where you live?
i live here in music
i live on c# street
my friend lives on b-flat avenue
do you live here in music
sound
falls round me like rain on other folks
saxophones wet my face
cold as winter in st. louis
hot like peppers i rub on my lips
thinkin they waz lilies
i got 15 trumpets where other women got hips
& a upright bass for both sides of my heart
i walk round in a piano like somebody
else be walkin on the earth
i live in music
live in it
wash in it
i cd even smell it
wear sound on my fingers
sound falls so fulla music
ya cd make a river where yr arm is &
hold yrself
hold yrself in a music

if I were paul :: mark jarman

Consider how you were made.

Consider the loving geometry that sketched your bones, the passionate symmetry that sewed flesh to your skeleton, and the cloudy zenith whence your soul descended in shimmering rivulets across pure granite to pour as a single braided stream into the skull’s cup.

Consider the first time you conceived of justice, engendered mercy, brought parity into being, coaxed liberty like a marten from its den to uncoil its limber spine in a sunny clearing, how you understood the inheritance of first principles, the legacy of noble thought, and built a city like a forest in the forest, and erected temples like thunderheads.

Consider, as if it were penicillin or the speed of light, the discovery of another’s hands, his oval field of vision, her muscular back and hips, his nerve-jarred neck and shoulders, her bleeding gums and dry elbows and knees, his baldness and cauterized skin cancers, her lucid and forgiving gaze, his healing touch, her mind like a prairie. Consider the first knowledge of otherness. How it felt.

Consider what you were meant to be in the egg, in your parents’ arms, under a sky full of stars.

Now imagine what I have to say when I learn of your enterprising viciousness, the discipline with which one of you turns another into a robot or a parasite or a maniac or a body strapped to a chair. Imagine what I have to say.

Do the impossible. Restore life to those you have killed, wholeness to those you have maimed, goodness to what you have poisoned, trust to those you have betrayed.

Bless each other with the heart and soul, the hand and eye, the head and foot, the lips, tongue, and teeth, the inner ear and the outer ear, the flesh and spirit, the brain and bowels, the blood and lymph, the heel and toe, the muscle and bone, the waist and hips, the chest and shoulders, the whole body, clothed and naked, young and old, aging and growing up.

I send you this not knowing if you will receive it, or if having received it, you will read it, or if having read it, you will know that it contains my blessing.

l.a. by night :: elizabeth alexander

We’re in a postcard, driving
down Hollywood Boulevard:
the car has fins, the palm trees
are pink, we wear cat-eye sun-
glasses in the L.A. night
glare, the neon chatter, blurred
white lights of speeding cars.
We are speed and light, flame
and fingers; all night
is a fistful of minutes,
a fast car, stars.

                                  Later,
we will make love loudly
in a room which belongs
to neither one of us, a room
strewn with our clothes and our
belongings. We will repeat
what we love most, our tongues
wise and specific. You’ll say
I am a glow-worm, a cobalt star.

In L.A., the palm trees
are more ancient than they look
and objects closer than they
seem, but no city’s myths
can explain our two moon faces
in the dark. We are zooming
and loud, fast hands, a bright
light, a magnificent
planet, L.A. by night.

beauty :: solmaz sharif

Frugal musicality is how Kristeva described depression’s speech

Cleaning out the sink drain

The melted cheese

The soggy muesli

My life can pass like this

Waiting for beauty

Tomorrow—I say

A life is a thing you have to start

The fridge is a thing with weak magnets, a little sweaty on the inside

A bag of shriveled lime

Arugula frozen then thawed then frozen again, still sealed

I haven’t touched anyone in a year

You asked for beauty, and one morning, a small blue eggshell on the stoop, shattered open, its contents gone

Likely eaten

M asked if I’ve ever made a choice to live and why

I lied the way you lie to the suicidal

A few times, I said—not Most days

Most mornings

No, not morning

Morning I am still new

Still possible, I’m still possibly

Usually by 3:00

When grandmother died, she hadn’t been called beautiful in at least half a century

Is never described as such

Her fallen stockings, the way she spit, thwack of the meat cleaver, the little bones she sucked clean and piled on her plate, not really looking at anyone, and certainly not me

the chance :: ron carlson

All right, we agree, a snowball gets to hell.

We don’t know how, we just know it is there,
in hell. Maybe some sinner died skiing
with a snowball in his pocket and there it is,
assuming that your clothes go to hell with you
which is a huge discussion in itself. Some bad
guy’s bad heart quits while he’s at the symphony
and he gets to show up in hell in a tux,
while the rest of us appear in cut off levis
and the upper half of a football jersey.

Regardless though, the snowball is in hell.
What could happen to it? A tender globe
of snow? There we are blinking in the inferno,
suddenly burning the way we knew we would,
none of us is surprised by this hot place,
the fire everywhere as promised,
and the stinging smoke almost familiar.
Forged in the instant is a certainty
that we will feed these flames forever.
Now we understand the strange phenomena
the snowball.

               It still has a chance.

dividing china :: leslie monsour

Our mother had a set of Royal Doulton—
Twelve place settings—my sister counts the bowls,
While I admire the formal Rondo pattern:
Its golden chain of flourishes and scrolls
Engirdles perfect alabaster spheres,
As fair as Mother felt all life should be,
Before her own lived up to all her fears;
So now it’s one for you, and one for me.

But here’s a pretty lid without its dish.
We search for something missing—Broken? Lost?
Decide to split the gravy boat and platter
To even up the score. Our gibberish
Is meant to mask some qualm, unspoken cost,
Some question about squaring love with matter.

back from the fields :: peter everwine

Until nightfall my son ran in the fields,
looking for God knows what.
Flowers, perhaps. Odd birds on the wing.
Something to fill an empty spot.
Maybe a luminous angel
or a country girl with a secret dark.
He came back empty-handed,
or so I thought.

Now I find them:
thistles, goatheads,
the barbed weeds
all those with hooks or horns
the snaggle-toothed, the grinning ones
those wearing lantern jaws,
old ones in beards, leapers
in silk leggings, the multiple
pocked moons and spiny satellites, all those
with juices and saps
like the fingers of thieves
nation after nation of grasses
that dig in, that burrow, that hug winds
and grab handholds
in whatever lean place.

It’s been a good day.

in a cornfield at the bottom of a sandstone canyon :: sherwin bitsui

In a cornfield at the bottom of a sandstone canyon,
wearing the gloves of this song tightly over closed ears;
the bursting sun presses licks of flame
into our throats swelling with ghost dogs
nibbling on hands that roped off our footprints
keeping what is outside ours tucked
beneath the warmth of their feet cooling to zero,
as they swarm luminous landmines like gnats,
as thunder shakes white sand from wet hair,
as police sirens trickle from water jars onto squash blossoms,
as starlight, opened inside a darkened room,
begins to tell its story from end to beginning                     again.

my lady is compared to a young tree :: vachel lindsay

When I see a young tree
In its white beginning,
With white leaves
And white buds
Barely tipped with green,
In the April weather,
In the weeping sunshine—
Then I see my lady,
My democratic queen,
Standing free and equal
With the youngest woodland sapling
Swaying, singing in the wind,
Delicate and white:
Soul so near to blossom,
Fragile, strong as death;
A kiss from far-off Eden,
A flash of Judgment’s trumpet—
April’s breath.

the sun rears :: jennifer bartlett

The sun rears her unlikely head
In this late spring,
I walk past rubber black boots decorated
With brightly colored umbrellas
In a useless attempt to block the rain.

Up the subway to 14th street
Around the corner to 12th
I climb to the tenth or the eighth floor
Depending on your bodily condition.

I keep vigil over this resting.
My body is a candle, glowing
Until you make the transition
Back into or out of this life.

This is among the things that could happen.
This is among the things that happened.
For now, you reside in imposed silence.
Dying is just another commodity and

The soul wants routine.
The soul wants sameness, boredom.
The soul wants letting go.

Over us, the palmed stars.

you tell us what to do :: faiz ahmed faiz

When we launched life
on the river of grief,
how vital were our arms, how ruby our blood.
With a few strokes, it seemed,
we would cross all pain,
we would soon disembark.
That didn’t happen.
In the stillness of each wave we found invisible currents.
The boatmen, too, were unskilled,
their oars untested.
Investigate the matter as you will,
blame whomever, as much as you want,
but the river hasn’t changed,
the raft is still the same.
Now you suggest what’s to be done,
you tell us how to come ashore.

When we saw the wounds of our country
appear on our skins,
we believed each word of the healers.
Besides, we remembered so many cures,
it seemed at any moment
all troubles would end, each wound heal completely.
That didn’t happen: our ailments
were so many, so deep within us
that all diagnoses proved false, each remedy useless.
Now do whatever, follow each clue,
accuse whomever, as much as you will,
our bodies are still the same,
our wounds still open.
Now tell us what we should do,
you tell us how to heal these wounds.

mass effect :: katy lederer

Pushed together, pulled apart, we were purported pluripotent.
We developed as an organ, a benign and beating heart.

We sought physicians for histology. Discovered spinal symmetry.
Within the sacred bowl of life, our innards spilled in red array.

I wondered what you’d have to say if in your mouth you grew a tongue.
I wondered what I’d have to say if in my head I grew a mouth.

Instead we moved into a house, connected by a modem.
A surgical removal could have cured us of our malady.

But seeking to remain benign, we discoursed through telepathy.
How long could we have lived like this?

With our then-rudimentary eyes we saw shapes coming toward us:
amorphous and black, shedding tears. We had nothing to say.

late bloomer :: michele wolf

It flares up at sunrise, a blush in a bramble
Tumbling out of its bed by the city pavement—a single
Rose, coral heat, at the end of the season.
And you are drawn to it, to its scent, its silky
Layers, to its core. It gathers you into its
Body until you lose your balance, all you can see
Is a petaled grid, an endless repetition
Of roses. You sink swirling into the rose,
Deep into the rose, into the rose.
I hold you to me. Love, I am forty-four,
And you, love, you, my love,
You have planted me.

a bell, still unrung :: safiya sinclair

She daily effuses
the close-mouthed
tantrum of her fevers.

Hog-tied and lunatic.
Born toothsome,
unholy. Born uppity.

Blue-jawed and out-order.
Watched her sculptor
split her bitter seam

with his scalding knife;
mauled through the errant
flesh of her nature

and hemorrhaged mercury,
molted snakeroot, a smoke
of weeping silver.

She, accused.
Sprung from the head
of a thousand-fisted

wretch or a blood-dark
cosmos undoubling
her bound body.

Vexed shrew. Blight of moon.
She, armory. Pitched-milk pours
from her gold oracular.

Bred in her nest a lone
grenade, prized, unpried
its force-ripe wound.

She, disease. Often bruised
to brush the joy of anything.
Zombic. Un-groomed.

Her night slinks open
its sliding pin. One by one
these loose hopes

harpoon themselves
in, small-ghosts alighting
at her unwhoring.

She, infirmary.
God’s swallowed
lantern, tar-hair and thick.

Her black torchstruck.
A kindling stick.
No sinkle-bible fix

to cure this burning.
Shrill hell. Jezebel.

Isn’t it lonely.

four glimpses of night :: frank marshall davis

I

Eagerly
Like a woman hurrying to her lover
Night comes to the room of the world
And lies, yielding and content
Against the cool round face
Of the moon.

II

Night is a curious child, wandering
Between earth and sky, creeping
In windows and doors, daubing
The entire neighborhood
With purple paint.
Day
Is an apologetic mother
Cloth in hand
Following after.

III

Peddling
From door to door
Night sells
Black bags of peppermint stars
Heaping cones of vanilla moon
Until
His wares are gone
Then shuffles homeward
Jingling the gray coins
Of daybreak.

IV

Night’s brittle song, sliver-thin
Shatters into a billion fragments
Of quiet shadows
At the blaring jazz
Of a morning sun.

persimmons :: li-young lee

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked:   I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo:   you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.