perfect for any occasion :: alberto ríos

1.

Pies have a reputation.
And it’s immediate—no talk of potential

Regarding a pie. It’s good
Or it isn’t, but mostly it is—sweet, very sweet

Right then, right there, blue and red.
It can’t go to junior college,

Work hard for the grades,
Work two jobs on the side.

It can’t slowly build a reputation
And a growing client base.

A pie gets one chance
And knows it, wearing as makeup

Those sparkling granules of sugar,
As a collar those diamond cutouts

Bespeaking Fair Day, felicity, contentment.
I tell you everything is great, says a pie,

Great, and fun, and fine.
And you smell nice, too, someone says.

A full pound of round sound, all ahh, all good.
Pies live a life of applause.

2.

But then there are the other pies.
The leftover pies. The ones

Nobody chooses at Thanksgiving.
Mincemeat? What the hell is that? people ask,

Pointing instead at a double helping of Mr.
“I-can-do-no-wrong” pecan pie.

But the unchosen pies have a long history, too.
They have plenty of good stories, places they’ve been—

They were once fun, too—
But nobody wants to listen to them anymore.

Oh sure, everybody used to love lard,
But things have changed, brother—things have changed.

That’s never the end of the story, of course.
Some pies make a break for it—

Live underground for a while,
Doing what they can, talking fast,

Trying to be sweet pizzas, if they’re lucky.
But no good comes of it. Nobody is fooled.

A pie is a pie for one great day. Last week,
It was Jell-O. Tomorrow, it’ll be cake.

recuerdo :: edna st. vincent millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

the perfect poem :: kaveh akbar

In god’s gleaming empire, herds of triceratops
lunge up on their hind legs to somersault
around the plains. The angels lie in the sun
using straight pins to eat hollyhocks. Mostly
they just rub their bellies and hum quietly

to themselves, but the few sentences
they do utter come out as perfect poems.
Here on earth we blather constantly, and
all we say is divided between combat
and seduction. Combat: I understand you perfectly.
Seduction: Next time don’t say so out loud.
Here the perfect poem eats its siblings

in the womb like a sand shark or a star turning
black hole, then saunters into the world
daring us to stay mad. We know most of our
universe is missing. The perfect poem knows
where it went. The perfect poem is no bigger
than a bear. Its birthday hat comes with
a black veil which prattles on and on about

comet ash and the ten thousand buds of
the tongue. Like people and crows, the
perfect poem can remember faces and hold
grudges. It keeps its promises. The perfect
poem is not gold or lead or a garden gate
locked shut or a sail slapping in a storm.
The perfect poem is its own favorite toy.

It is not a state of mind or a kind of doubt
or a good or bad habit or a flower of any
color. It will not be available to answer
questions. The perfect poem is light as dust
on a bat’s wing, lonely as a single flea.

care :: craig santos perez

My 16-month old daughter wakes from her nap
and cries. I pick her up, press her against my chest

and rub her back until my palm warms
like an old family quilt. “Daddy’s here, daddy’s here,”

I whisper. Here is the island of Oʻahu, 8,500 miles
from Syria. But what if Pacific trade winds suddenly

became helicopters? Flames, nails, and shrapnel
indiscriminately barreling towards us? What if shadows

cast against our windows aren’t plumeria
tree branches, but soldiers and terrorists marching

in heat? Would we reach the desperate boats of
the Mediterranean in time? If we did, could I straighten

my legs into a mast, balanced against the pull and drift
of the current? “Daddy’s here, daddy’s here,” I

whisper. But am I strong enough to carry her across
the razor wires of sovereign borders and ethnic

hatred? Am I strong enough to plead: “please, help
us, please, just let us pass, please, we aren’t

suicide bombs.” Am I strong enough to keep walking
even after my feet crack like Halaby pepper fields after

five years of drought, after this drought of humanity.
Trains and buses rock back and forth to detention centers.

Yet what if we didn’t make landfall? What if here
capsized? Could you inflate your body into a buoy

to hold your child above rising waters? “Daddy’s
here, daddy’s here,” I whisper. Drowning is

the last lullaby of the sea. I lay my daughter
onto bed, her breath finally as calm as low tide.

To all the parents who brave the crossing: you and your
children matter. I hope your love will teach the nations

that emit the most carbon and violence that they should,
instead, remit the most compassion. I hope, soon,

the only difference between a legal refugee and
an illegal migrant will be how willing

we are to open our homes, offer refuge, and
carry each other towards the horizon of care.

may day :: tess taylor

They go, the early flags, the gory maples—
so too the daffodils & Lenten roses.
Other petals swirl & nights warm.

Buds thicken and cast shadows:
in a thunderstorm
I almost forget the ice that was.

Narcissi suckle watery paths;
meadows heap up emerald masses.
How green & I want to delight

except this undertow—it pulls so fast
passing before I recognize it—
like souls in Dante who can’t see the present,

white lilacs curdle in pre-summer heat.
The parade I barely noticed was beginning
is already halfway down the street.

everybody has a heartache: a blues :: joy harjo

In the United terminal in Chicago at five on a Friday afternoon
The sky is breaking with rain and wind and all the flights
Are delayed forever. We will never get to where we are going
And there’s no way back to where we’ve been.
The sun and the moon have disappeared to an island far from 
anywhere.

Everybody has a heartache — 

The immense gatekeeper of Gate Z–100 keeps his cool.
This guardian of the sky teases me and makes me smile through the mess,
Building up his airline by stacking it against the company I usually travel:
Come on over to our side, we’ll treat you nice.
I laugh as he hands me back my ticket, then he turns to charm
The next customer, his feet tired in his minimum wage shoes.

Everybody has a heartache — 

The man with his head bobbing to music no one else can hear has that satisfied
Feel — a full belly of sweet and a wife who sings heartache to sleep.
In his luggage (that will be lost and never found) is a musty dream of flying
Solo to Africa, with a stop on the return to let go the stories too difficult to
Carry home. He’ll take off his shoes to walk in a warm, tropical sea.
He’ll sing to the ancestors:
Take me home to mama. No one cooks like her.
But all the mamas worked to the bone gone too young.
Broken by The Man.

Everybody has a heartache — 

Everyone’s mouthing fried, sweet, soft and fat,
While we wait for word in the heart of the scrambled beast.
The sparkle of soda wets the dream core.
That woman over there the color of broth did what she was told.
It’s worked out well as can be expected in a world
Where she was no beauty queen and was never seen,
Always in the back of someplace in the back — 
She holds the newest baby. He has croup.
Shush, shush. Go to sleep, my little baby sheepie.
He sits up front of her with his new crop of teeth.

Everybody has a heartache — 

This man speaks to no one, but his body does.
Half his liver is swollen with anger; the other half is trying
To apologize — 
What a mess I’ve made of history, he thinks without thinking.
Mother coming through the screen door, her clothes torn,
Whimpering: It’s okay baby, please don’t cry.
Don’t cry. Baby don’t cry.

And he never cries again.

Everybody has a heartache — 

Baby girl dressed to impress, toddles about with lace on this and ruffle on that — 
Her mother’s relatives are a few hundred miles away poised to 
welcome.
They might as well live on a planet of ice cream.
She’s a brand new wing, grown up from a family’s broken hope.
Dance girl, you carry our joy.
Just don’t look down.

Everybody has a heartache — 

Good-looking punk girl taps this on her screen
to a stranger she has never seen:
Just before dawn, you’re high again beneath a marbled sky,
I was slick fine leather with a drink in my hand.
Flying with a comet messenger nobody sees.
The quick visitor predicts that the top will be the bottom
And the bottom will flatten and dive into the sea.

I want to tell her:
You will dine with the lobster king, and
You will dance with crabs clicking castanets. You will sleep-
Walk beyond the vestibule of sadness with a stranger
You have loved for years.

Everybody has a heartache — 

This silence in the noise of the terminal is a mountain of bison skulls.
Nobody knows, nobody sees — 
Unless the indigenous are dancing powwow all decked out in flash and beauty
We just don’t exist. We’ve been dispersed to an outlaw cowboy tale.
What were they thinking with all those guns and those handcuffs
In a size for babies?
They just don’t choose to remember.
We’re here.

In the terminal of stopped time I went unsteady to the beat,
Driven by a hungry spirit who is drunk with words and songs.
What can I do?
I have to take care of it.
The famished spirit eats fire, poetry, and rain; it only wants love.

I argue:

You want love?
Do you even know what it looks like, smells like?

But you cannot argue with hungry spirits.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going; I only know where I’ve been,
I want to tell the man who sifted through the wreck to find us here
In the blues shack of disappeared history — 
I feel the weight of his heart against my cheek.
His hand is on my back pulling me to him in the dark, to a place
No soldiers can reach.
I hear the whoop-cries of warriors calling fire for a stand
Against the brutality of forgetfulness — 

Everybody has a heartache — 

We will all find our way, no matter fire leaping through holes in jump time,
No matter earthquake, or the breaking of love spilling over the dreck of matter
In the ether, stacking one burden
Against the other — 

We have a heartache.

bird :: dorianne laux

For days now a red-breasted bird
has been trying to break in.
She tests a low branch, violet blossoms
swaying beside her, leaps into the air and flies
straight at my window, beak and breast
held back, claws raking the pane.
Maybe she longs for the tree she sees
reflected in the glass, but I’m only guessing.
I watch until she gives up and swoops off.
I wait for her return, the familiar
click, swoosh, thump of her. I sip cold coffee
and scan the room, trying to see it new,
through the eyes of a bird. Nothing has changed.
Books piled in a corner, coats hooked
over chair backs, paper plates, a cup
half-filled with sour milk.
The children are in school. The man is at work.
I’m alone with dead roses in a jam jar.
What do I have that she could want enough
to risk such failure, again and again?

plex :: lisa robertson

The shore of the lake is gradual and drawn
With rivers threading into land
Then suddenly it’s all land
Now the land is dark
And you can’t distinguish it from the water
And the hot orange sun
Turns everything dark purple
Like a painting by Joan Mitchell

It is unknowable
It is knowable
It is a sum of these
It is not without birds and animals
He is very elegant and kind
Her intellectual complexion
It is a beautiful word
The flank of their poem goes to the lake
To enter sweet new time
Trees express the sky energetically
So do they
With all the rarity of tenderness
Like the place where the base of the vase touches earth
To speak into time deeply
All the animals lie down together
This is what they prefer
It is explicitly their preference
New roses happen
Their Latin pleats
Together they harbor the intimate excess of philosophy
Which loves gardens

Now admire their breadth
Every flower is inverted
And what the flower produces
Is unknown
You call this beauty
As a way to express care
Now call it wildrose

Wildrose is resourceful
Its geophysiology is vast
It threw runners
To make landbridge
It threw pollen
With voracious joy

Underground network of wildrose
Linking all the political lovers
And infinite breathing flesh
In each temporality experienced
Is resurgent insurrection
The form of life of wildrose
Is experiment in relationship
Also named Plex

Earth the tousled rosebed!
From which the brocaded and tarnishing yardgoods unfurl
Some of the bronze threads blackening
So that the ornate pattern is obscured
Like dusk in a borderless tableau
It glows from beneath
Now time ripples from beneath
Now they enter dusk’s happiness
Rosebed is the lovepoem

Belly and horizon!
Wildrose suckers freely from underground stems and roots
Forming dense colonies that run wild
This wedding names everyone wildrose.

open country :: floyd skloot

It is both spring and summer here
where we have stopped, halfway home.
Lupine blues the hillside still capped
in snow, the air braces as it warms
between drifting clouds, and a late
afternoon squall brews to the west.
We walk to the fence and stretch.
Calves bolting from our shadows lose
themselves in the sheer joy of play.
We can almost touch a rippled ridge
of Ponderosa Pine that could be five
miles away. Now the light we saw leave
the tops of those trees flows downslope.
It seems to stagger across a fold of land,
then ripple through the grass on its way
to find us where we stand together.

hard life with memory :: wislawa szymborska

translated from the Polish by clare cavanagh and stanisław barańczak

I’m a poor audience for my memory.
She wants me to attend her voice nonstop,
but I fidget, fuss,
listen and don’t,
step out, come back, then leave again.

She wants all my time and attention.
She’s got no problem when I sleep.
The day’s a different matter, which upsets her.

She thrusts old letters, snapshots at me eagerly,
stirs up events both important and un-,
turns my eyes to overlooked views,
peoples them with my dead.

In her stories I’m always younger.
Which is nice, but why always the same story.
Every mirror holds different news for me.

She gets angry when I shrug my shoulders.
And takes revenge by hauling out old errors,
weighty, but easily forgotten.
Looks into my eyes, checks my reaction.
Then comforts me, it could be worse.

She wants me to live only for her and with her.
Ideally in a dark, locked room,
but my plans still feature today’s sun,
clouds in progress, ongoing roads.

At times I get fed up with her.
I suggest a separation. From now to eternity.
Then she smiles at me with pity,
since she knows it would be the end of me too.

gloire de dijon :: d. h. lawrence

When she rises in the morning
I linger to watch her;
She spreads the bath-cloth underneath the window
And the sunbeams catch her
Glistening white on the shoulders,
While down her sides the mellow
Golden shadow glows as
She stoops to the sponge, and her swung breasts
Sway like full-blown yellow
Gloire de Dijon roses.

She drips herself with water, and her shoulders
Glisten as silver, they crumple up
Like wet and falling roses, and I listen
For the sluicing of their rain-dishevelled petals.
In the window full of sunlight
Concentrates her golden shadow
Fold on fold, until it glows as
Mellow as the glory roses.

teaching english from an old composition book :: gary soto

My chalk is no longer than a chip of fingernail,
Chip by which I must explain this Monday
Night the verbs “to get;” “to wear,” “to cut.”
I’m not given much, these tired students,
Knuckle-wrapped from work as roofers,
Sour from scrubbing toilets and pedestal sinks.
I’m given this room with five windows,
A coffee machine, a piano with busted strings,
The music of how we feel as the sun falls,
Exhausted from keeping up.
                                            I stand at
The blackboard. The chalk is worn to a hangnail,
Nearly gone, the dust of some educational bone.
By and by I’m Cantiflas, the comic
Busybody in front. I say, “I get the coffee.”
I pick up a coffee cup and sip.
I click my heels and say, “I wear my shoes.”
I bring an invisible fork to my mouth
And say, “I eat the chicken.”
Suddenly the class is alive—
Each one putting on hats and shoes,
Drinking sodas and beers, cutting flowers
And steaks—a pantomime of sumptuous living.

At break I pass out cookies.
Augustine, the Guatemalan, asks in Spanish,
“Teacher, what is ‘tally-ho’?”
I look at the word in the composition book.
I raise my face to the bare bulb for a blind answer.
I stutter, then say, “Es como adelante.”
Augustine smiles, then nudges a friend
In the next desk, now smarter by one word.
After the cookies are eaten,
We move ahead to prepositions—
“Under,” “over,” and “between,”
Useful words when la migra opens the doors
Of their idling vans.
At ten to nine, I’m tired of acting,
And they’re tired of their roles.
When class ends, I clap my hands of chalk dust,
And two students applaud, thinking it’s a new verb.
I tell them adelante,
And they pick up their old books.
They smile and, in return, cry, “Tally-ho.”
As they head for the door.

poetry :: claude mckay

Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower,
And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee,
Bowing my head in deep humility
Before the silent thunder of thy power.
Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light,
As from the specter of pursuing death;
Intimidated lest thy mighty breath,
Windways, will sweep me into utter night.
For oh, I fear they will be swallowed up—
The loves which are to me of vital worth,
My passion and my pleasure in the earth—
And lost forever in thy magic cup!
I fear, I fear my truly human heart
Will perish on the altar-stone of art!

a pity, we were such a good invention :: yehuda amichai

translated by Assia Gutmann

They amputated
Your thighs off my hips.
As far as I’m concerned
They are all surgeons. All of them.

They dismantle us
Each from the other.
As far as I’m concerned
They are all engineers. All of them.

A pity. We were such a good
And loving invention.
An aeroplane made from a man and wife.
Wings and everything.
We hovered a little above the earth.

We even flew a little.

parts of speech :: rebecca foust

We came to a grove and you drew me in;
I wondered about our right to wander
where we would in that wood of old pine,
my hand in yours and yours in mine.
Fair was the raiment of cloud overhead.
Or it was not fair, or it was just
beginning to clear. In truth all I saw
was your face and the white-capped cove,
and the old boat we dragged in to shore.
In truth, there was no grove, no cove,
no clouds, no scow—the only nouns
being voice, face and hands—or, the pine
and the wood were just active and aching
verbs. Or, that is all I remember now.

the street of broken dreams :: minnie bruce pratt

The dog lunged at me and choked on its chain
guarding a house on the street of broken dreams.
What does it take to be safe? A sun-porch window
barred shut with a wood-spooled bed frame. Fradon
lock store down the block, a giant curlicue key
advertising sleep all night, sweet dreams. A bumble-
bee in the clover fumbling to find its damp-dirt home.

No way to tell who owns my neighborhood homes
until the for-sale-by-bank signs grow overnight,
and of course there’s the bank at James and Lodi
with the blue light, CHASE, that stays on 24/7.
On my street some people harrow a vacant lot,
green turned under into small rows, they harvest
weathered rocks and pile those up in the corner.
In another city, some foreclosed people got so angry
the big finance company had to hide its sign, AIG.
The people were so angry. That makes me feel more
safe, the people come out of their houses to shout:

We demand. Not rabble and rabid, not shadow, not terror,
the neighbors stand and say: The world is ours, ours, ours.

swan’s elegy :: jaime manrique

translated by Eugene Richie

          for Grace Schulman

Lounging in a beach chair
I am moved by the meekness of the ocean,
the distances it has traveled
to unfold in frothing ringlets by my feet.
At high tide, rippling iridescent serpents
form under the aquamarine skin.
The sky is a luminous scarlet arch;
the spring sunset, a perfect cliché.
In the warm glow of the setting sun,
the images are serene, gentle, stripped of all haste—
the hush of this supple silence
makes me close my eyes,
and the old white swan
I saw yesterday in the twilight appears.
I see it crane its neck toward the sky
opening its beak ever so briefly
to puncture my heart
with its desolate song.

summer was forever :: chen chen

Time dripped from the faucet like a magician’s botched trick.
I did not want to applaud it. I stood to one side & thought,
What it’s time for is a garden. Or a croissant factory. What kind
of work do I need to be doing? My parents said: Doctor,
married to lawyer.
The faucet said: Drip, drop,
your life sucks.
But sometimes no one said anything & I saw
him, the local paper boy on his route. His beanstalk frame
& fragile bicycle. & I knew: we would be so terribly
happy. Our work would be simple. Our kissing would rhyme
with cardiac arrest. Birds would overthrow the cathedral towers.
I would have a magician’s hair, full of sleeves & saws,
unashamed to tell the whole town our first date was
in a leaky faucet factory. How we fell in love during jumps
on his tragic uncle’s trampoline. We fell in love in midair.

boketto :: susan rich

Outside my window it’s never the same—
some mornings jasmine slaps the house, some mornings sorrow.

There is a word I overheard today, meaning lost
not on a career path or across a floating bridge:

Boketto—to stare out windows without purpose.
Don’t laugh; it’s been too long since we leaned

into the morning: bird friendly coffee and blueberry toast. Awhile
since I declared myself a prophet of lost cats—blind lover

of animal fur and feral appetites. Someone should tag
a word for the calm of a long marriage. Knowledge

the heat will hold, and our lights remain on— a second
sight that drives the particulars of a life: sea glass and salt,

cherry blossoms and persistent weeds. What assembles in the middle
distance beyond the mail truck; have I overlooked oceans,

ignored crows? I try to exist in the somehow, the might still be—
gaze upward to constellations of in-between.

I met my solitude :: naomi replansky

I met my Solitude. We two stood glaring.
I had to tremble, meeting her face to face.
Then she saying, and I with bent head hearing:
“You sent me forth to exile and disgrace,

“Most faithful of your friends, then most forsaken,
Forgotten in breast, in bath, in books, in bed.
To someone else you gave the gifts I gave you,
And you embraced another in my stead.

“Though we meet now, it is not of your choosing.
I am not fooled. And I do not forgive.
I am less kind, but did you treat me kindly?
In armored peace from now on let us live.”

So did my poor hurt Solitude accuse me.
Little was left of good between us two.
And I drew back: “How can we stay together,
You jealous of me, and I laid waste by you?

“By you, who used to be my good provider,
My secret nourisher, and mine alone.
The strength you taught me I must use against you,
And now with all my strength I wish you gone.”

Then she, my enemy, and still my angel,
Said in that harsh voice that once was sweet:
“I will come back, and every time less handsome,
And I will look like Death when last we meet.”

“the female seer will burn upon this pyre” :: elizabeth alexander

Sylvia Plath is setting my hair
on rollers made from orange-juice cans.
The hairdo is shaped like a pyre.

My locks are improbably long.
A pyramid of lemons somehow
balances on the rickety table

where we sit, in the rented kitchen
which smells of singed naps and bergamot.
Sylvia Plath is surprisingly adept

at rolling my unruly hair.
She knows to pull it tight.
                                                 Few words.
Her flat, American belly,

her breasts in a twin sweater set,
stack of typed poems on her desk,
envelopes stamped to go by the door,

a freshly baked poppyseed cake,
kitchen safety matches, black-eyed Susans
in a cobalt jelly jar. She speaks a word,

“immolate,” then a single sentence
of prophecy. The hairdo done,
the nursery tidy, the floor swept clean

of burnt hair and bumblebee husks.

ah moon :: galway kinnell

I sat here as a boy
On these winter rocks, watching
The moon0shapes change on the skies;
Nor did I know then the moon
Only affects her mortality.

Now no more does a boy
Ah Moon! from these rocks
Or through a frosted window, cry;
And for a dying curve
The wiser heart weeps not.

Then why to these rocks
Do I return, why,
The last quarter being nearly
Wasted, does the breath
Return dragoning the night?

Unless it be the soul
Is such and such a country
Cut by shape and light
That would be whole again,
So must be dark.

terrebonne bay :: joanna klink

THE DEEP EVENING-COLORED ROSE of the sea
is closing. Sweet crude oil, orange as rust,
finds an open pathway into the marsh.
And what you thought would be your home,
lush with grasses, is no home, drives you out into the gray-glazed
gates of sleep. Blood flowers
where we don’t see it. And every chance event
is a high note racing from stars in sea-depths of brightness,
and every shock we feel we feel only with the slack
ropes of our arms. Someone
wants to hide the body of oil and cannot.
Someone wants to hide their hands from shame.
Shark, dolphin, manatee, fish,
each slick skin an undreamt tine threading its red
flute-dusk through fumes.
Sound of the flood-dark pulse.
Then the second when the water makes no sound.

we make a thing we marvel :: mario chard

We make a thing we marvel
and learn to worry.

Light
through the red glass of a prophet’s robe
makes us red.

We see the horse return the hour before storm
in distress.

We distress.

The thing we make
learns to marvel light.

We think worry is a robe
we can outgrow.

In the mirror we see our bodies without robes
distressed.

It storms.

The prophet marvels at the horse
that spoke.

[persian letters] :: solmaz sharif

Dear Aleph,

Like Ovid: I’ll have no last words.
This is what it means to die among barbarians. Bar bar bar
was how the Greeks heard our speech —
sheep, beasts — and so we became
barbarians. We make them reveal
the brutes they are, Aleph, by the things
we make them name. David,
they tell me, is the one
one should aspire to, but ever since
I first heard them say Philistine
I’ve known I am Goliath
if I am anything.

poetry’s debt to invention :: ron carlson

Oh god what shall we put in this poem?
I know, a house; there’s the bedroom
and we need the kitchen about here.
Let’s put the guy in there leaning
against the counter smoking a cigarette.
People still smoke.
Now what’s he thinking about?
Love? World War III? His father?
It gets tough about here.
His career? Fear? Why he seemed
To be twenty yesterday?
We’re about as far as we can go
in this poem. He nears the end of
his cigarette; we don’t even have
an ashtray. And what’s he thinking?
What else does poetry require?
Oh, the kitchen window, of course,
and outside, oh my god, it’s the ocean
breaking on the beach. We nearly forgot
the ocean

proem :: octavio paz

   At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of speech and the vertigo of death;
   the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena in submarine gardens;
   the laughter that sets on fire the rules and the holy commandments;
   the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
   the despair that boards a paper boat and crosses,
   for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-sorrow desert;
   the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipation of the self;
   the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors; the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and the garden of Netzahualcoyotl;
   the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the cave of thought;
   the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
   the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on the waves of language;
   the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid: the love in love.

Syllables seeds.

they took the mailbox away :: kim dower

on Cahuenga and Clinton.
I know because I wasn’t feeling right,
decided to take a walk, figure things out,
remember why I love the clouds.
Found my rent check still in my purse,
gave me a goal, a project I could complete.
But when I got to the corner it was gone,
just space in the place where the box had been,
where I’ve deposited countless bills,
birthday cards, where once I tossed
a sticky half-eaten ice cream dish.
There was no garbage can in sight.
I gave it some serious thought, but now realize
the mess I made: may have destroyed a young girl’s
last letter to her grandmother, stained a college
application — what did admissions people think
when it arrived with chocolate sprinkles stuck
to the stamps — worse yet a love letter someone
finally had the guts to send smeared with butterscotch
sauce, possibly obscuring the recipient’s address,
sender never knowing it was not received,
and when I saw the empty corner
where the mailbox used to be,
granted out of place on that isolated street,
it hit me: the lives I ruined,
the mailman’s soiled hands.

young man :: john haines

I seemed always standing
before a door
to which I had no key,
although I knew it hid behind it
a gift for me.

Until one day I closed
my eyes a moment, stretched
then looked once more.
And not surprised, I did not mind it
when the hinges creaked
and, smiling, Death
held out his hands to me.

after his ex died :: ada limón

We were quick to tell each other what we wanted. I said, I want to be cremated and then I want my ashes to be tossed in the Pacific and the Atlantic. He said I was greedy for wanting both coasts, but he’d do it. I made it specific: Herring Cove in Cape Cod and Salmon Creek on the Sonoma Coast (but also, I was thinking of the Calabazas Creek in Glen Ellen). He said any horse farm will do for him, and then he corrected himself to just any pretty pasture. He said we don’t believe in the afterlife. I stopped him and said, I don’t believe in God, but I do have some very interesting thoughts concerning ghosts. What he was trying to say, if I’d stop talking about ghosts for once, is that it’s important to have a spot to visit: a tree, a rock, any place where you can think of that person. We’ve got her two old cats downstairs now, hiding behind the water heater, the stairs, hissing and purring both. Last night, I dreamt that she didn’t like me, wouldn’t let me in a car that everyone else was getting into. Or rather she took the last seat in the car and everyone drove off without me. But this morning, I kissed the man she used to love and one of her cats crawled in my lap.
 
 
Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2017

telemachus :: ocean vuong

Like any good son, I pull my father out
of the water, drag him by his hair

through white sand, his knuckles carving a trail
the waves rush in to erase. Because the city

beyond the shore is no longer
where we left it. Because the bombed

cathedral is now a cathedral
of trees. I kneel beside him to see how far

I might sink. Do you know who I am,
Ba?
But the answer never comes. The answer

is the bullet hole in his back, brimming
with seawater. He is so still I think

he could be anyone’s father, found
the way a green bottle might appear

at a boy’s feet containing a year
he has never touched. I touch

his ears. No use. I turn him
over. To face it. The cathedral

in his sea-black eyes. The face
not mine—but one I will wear

to kiss all my lovers good-night:
the way I seal my father’s lips

with my own & begin
the faithful work of drowning.
 
 
Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2016)