your hair of snakes and flowers :: hakan sandell

see notes by translator bill coyle

When I saw one of those men touch your hair,
I heard for the first time in many a year
the ancient battle trumpets and I saw
the banners of an army winding off to war
and felt that blind power urging me to knock
him out with one punch, send him tumbling to the floor.
If nobody had held me back, stopped me,
I would—God help me—have killed him on the spot,
stomped out his blood, and spit in it. I’m sorry,
but you must be aware your winding hair
is different now, a hornets’ nest, a snakes’ lair!
Yes, like a ball of snakes in a flower basket, dear.

variations on a trance :: joanna klink

Robins in the cottonwoods,
holding still as the thin snow comes.
The sun seems to flood them with blood.
They have settled in the empty branches
while the storm-lamps spit in your limbs,
red evening swinging across the sky then dropping,
ragged, into your frame to stay with you
as you move and smile and have opinions.
Then a woman’s torso white with dawn—
their rich perch is yours, there is nothing you need
to expect or retrieve, like warm fields
floating toward an invisible moon.
A person learns stone-throated composures
and barters for days of calm weather,
like a man in a dream who understands the answering
pressure of eyes—you ask too much.
But the birds are not reckless.
Every minute their fat shapes are filling with sun,
and I apprentice myself to their candor.
Their bodies drift on the moving branches, solid—
they are not taking and keeping.
They are not torn papers in a rumor of wind,
their small backs brown fields holding thunderclouds up.
Inside their bodies, nothing falls to the earth and dies.

not writing :: anne boyer

When I am not writing I am not writing a novel called 1994 about a young
woman in an office park in a provincial town who has a job cutting and
pasting time. I am not writing a novel called Nero about the world’s richest
art star in space. I am not writing a book called Kansas City Spleen. I am
not writing a sequel to Kansas City Spleen called Bitch’s Maldoror. I am not
writing a book of political philosophy called Questions for Poets. I am not
writing a scandalous memoir. I am not writing a pathetic memoir. I am not
writing a memoir about poetry or love. I am not writing a memoir about
poverty, debt collection, or bankruptcy. I am not writing about family
court. I am not writing a memoir because memoirs are for property owners
and not writing a memoir about prohibitions of memoirs.

When I am not writing a memoir I am also not writing any kind of poetry,
not prose poems contemporary or otherwise, not poems made of frag-
ments, not tightened and compressed poems, not loosened and conversa-
tional poems, not conceptual poems, not virtuosic poems employing many
different types of euphonious devices, not poems with epiphanies and not
poems without, not documentary poems about recent political moments,
not poems heavy with allusions to critical theory and popular song.

I am not writing “Leaving the Atocha Station” by Anne Boyer and certain-
ly not writing “Nadja” by Anne Boyer though would like to write “Debt”
by Anne Boyer though am not writing also “The German Ideology” by
Anne Boyer and not writing a screenplay called “Sparticists.”

I am not writing an account of myself more miserable than Rousseau.
I am not writing an account of myself more innocent than Blake.

I am not writing epic poetry although I like what Milton said about lyric
poets drinking wine while epic poets should drink water from a wooden
bowl. I would like to drink wine from a wooden bowl or to drink water
from an emptied bottle of wine.

I am not writing a book about shopping, which is a woman shopping.
I am not writing accounts of dreams, not my own or anyone else’s.
I am not writing historical re-enactments of any durational literature.

I am not writing anything that anyone has requested of me or is waiting
on, not a poetics essay or any other sort of essay, not a roundtable re-
sponse, not interview responses, not writing prompts for younger writers,
not my thoughts about critical theory or popular songs.

I am not writing a new constitution for the republic of no history.
I am not writing a will or a medical report.

I am not writing Facebook status updates. I am not writing thank-you
notes or apologies. I am not writing conference papers. I am not writing
book reviews. I am not writing blurbs.

I am not writing about contemporary art. I am not writing accounts of
my travels. I am not writing reviews for The New Inquiry and not writ-
ing pieces for Triple Canopy and not writing anything for Fence. I am not
writing a daily accounting of my reading, activities, and ideas. I am not
writing science fiction novels about the problem of the idea of the au-
tonomy of art and science fiction novels about the problem of a society
with only one law which is consent. I am not writing stories based on

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s unwritten story ideas. I am not writing online dat-
ing profiles. I am not writing anonymous communiqués. I am not writing
textbooks.

I am not writing a history of these times or of past times or of any future
times and not even the history of these visions which are with me all day
and all of the night.

hospital parking lot :: terri kirby erickson

Headscarf fluttering in the wind,
stockings hanging loose on her vein-roped
legs, an old woman clings to her husband

as if he were the last tree standing in a storm,
though he is not the strong one.

His skin is translucent—more like a window
than a shade. Without a shirt and coat,

we could see his lungs swell and shrink,
his heart skip. But he has offered her his arm,
and for sixty years, she has taken it.

horned toads :: richard schiffman

If they were about a thousand times bigger,
no one would think them cute anymore;
their unswerving reptilian stare might appear
life-threatening rather than goofy and endearing.
As it is, their antediluvian rock-like posture,
leathery dorsal spines, ashen-scaled underbelly,
general lack of elan vital, not to mention ambition,
good looks and animal magnetism, disqualify them
from the World Wildlife Fund’s list of charismatic species.
Still, they soldier on with all the squat charm of armored
vehicles hunched between a bayonet yucca and a mountain sage
awaiting lunch, or to become some raptor’s lunch–
whatever the next roll of the Darwinian dice ordains.
Poster children of the food chain, they never complain,
just do their lizard pushups, swivel turret heads– then wait.
The toughest muscle in their body is the heat-seeking missile
of the tongue. If you mess with horned toads, they’ll spit blood
in your eyes. With two pinholes for ears, they can hear an ant
scurry from a foot away. Dust-colored, cold-blooded, gumby boy
pterodactyls from the bottom of nature’s cracker jack box
hugging their square inch in the sun.

night vision :: john foy

You’ll never see it if you look
directly at it in the dark.
It’s just a shifting, black
on black, something just
a part of the perimeter,
no claim upon it as it comes
along the bales of razor wire
deftly and alone,
and it is near you now, has
somehow gotten in, at peace
with what it does
in the darkness, and why.

another feeling :: ruth stone

Once you saw a drove of young pigs
crossing the highway. One of them
pulling his body by the front feet,
the hind legs dragging flat.
Without thinking,
you called the Humane Society.
They came with a net and went for him.
They were matter of fact, uniformed;
there were two of them,
their truck ominous, with a cage.
He was hiding in the weeds. It was then
you saw his eyes. He understood.
He was trembling.
After they took him, you began to suffer regret.
Years later, you remember his misfit body
scrambling to reach the others.
Even at this moment, your heart
is going too fast; your hands sweat.

vacation poem :: steve langan

At home I was mama’s “little dreamer.”
At work the boss whispered get busy.
I tried, with little success, to forget it all.

The method is common: out the window
you imagine a forest (too dense),
so you imagine an ocean, it’s azure.

But oceans are especially unruly.
Oceans are unforgiving.
A rogue wave…

and now the town is drowning.
For a minute it’s beautiful,
the chairs and all the tables.

But then the realization
everyone is drowning.
Wake up, be good, smile.

Life will never be as good
as it is right now.

older, younger, both :: joyce sutphen

I feel older, younger, both
at once. Every time I win,
I lose. Every time I count,
I forget and must begin again.

I must begin again, and again I
must begin. Every time I lose,
I win and must begin again.

Everything I plan must wait, and
having to wait has made me old, and
the older I get, the more I wait, and everything
I’m waiting for has already been planned.

I feel sadder, wiser, neither
together. Everything is almost
true, and almost true is everywhere.
I feel sadder, wiser, neither at once.

I end in beginning, in ending I find
that beginning is the first thing to do.
I stop when I start, but my heart keeps on beating,
so I must go on starting in spite of the stopping.

I must stop my stopping and start to start—
I can end at the beginning or begin at the end.
I feel older, younger, both at once.

improvisation :: susanna lang

             Bring me all your
             Heart melodies
             —Langston Hughes

Bring me the songs that stretch out like yarn
the cat has played with, songs like snow
ghosting behind commuter trains coming
into the city; bring me the old stories, some

boys changed into flowers and others hung
from the trees; bring me the silver rain, broken
machines, lost keys, dead dogs, ice on the road;
the moment when streetlamps light in the evening

and the moment when they become invisible.
Bring me the arguments about who knows what
and the ones where everyone knows; bring
your intimacy with rivers, your trumpet, honey

mixed with liquid fire; bring your arm upraised
to grasp justice like a brass ring while music turns
the carrousel. Bring me chords that open a box of silence
and the ones that reach into the jazzy city night.

after we deplane :: james k. zimmerman

someone has the job
when the pilot drops
the ponderous bird back
to earth, when passengers
and bags pour out
of its portals like eggs
from a spider or maggots
from an open wound

someone has the job
when the flight crew
thanks us, smiling
in so many friendly
languages for riding
over clouds and mounds
of brown and green below

someone has the job
when we come to roost
when the great bird nests
before it rises once again

someone has the job
of cleaning out the cisterns
that pend beneath the lavs
where we go to piss or shit
or vomit or just to stretch
our legs a little when
the seatbelt sign is off

and of course someone
knows the better job is up
in business class or first
someone knows to work
up through the ranks
to where the pool is clean
and clear and odorless

unlike the fetid mess
left behind in economy
by the rest of us

before summer rain :: rainer maria rilke

translated by Jay Hopler

And just like that, from all the green in the garden,
you don’t know what, some…thing, is taken away;
you feel it come near the window
and be quiet. From the hedgerow

is heard the call of the plover, as plaintive
as it is strong. You think of Jerome:
there is in this one voice such an intense loneliness,
only a downpour

could answer it. The chamber walls
with their pictures of us step away, so as not to overhear our conversation.
And the faded wallpaper shines

with the uncertain light of those
childhood afternoons, in which you were
so very, very scared.

each one the other’s phantom limb in the sea :: sumita chakraborty

saying a fable three times
turns it into plainest vision
thrice I say fugitive home
fugitive home fugitive home

this the dunes know
as wind strips
their bodies of the dirt
that forms them
I dreamed my mother
onto this beach
bejeweled by erosion
that turns tree-bones into clay
this the dunes know
as wind strips
their bodies of the dirt
that forms them
I dreamed my mother
face-down in the salt
I practice saying fugitive
unable to say home
this the dunes know
as wind strips
their bodies of the dirt
that forms them

Note: The title of “Each one the other’s phantom limb in the sea” comes from a translation of Sorescu by Seamus Heaney.

bat :: rodney gomez

It hung in the nave
& refused to pray.

The parishioners thought
it was a hand
of plantains,

the vicar a sign
from God to let
good things in.

He refused to spring
for an exterminator.

It sailed down one day
during the Parable
of the Weeds

to attack a black mantilla
more bat than silk.

As it flapped
& clawed its way
to climax,

the woman beneath
cried out for a beating.

The vicar complied,
using the monstrance
to quiet her down
while the bat remained.

Heaven is only
for the innocent.

more than enough :: marge piercy

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

the seekers of lice :: arthur rimbaud

translated by wallace fowlie

When the child’s forehead, full of red torments,
Implores the white swarm of indistinct dreams,
There come near his bed two tall charming sisters
With slim fingers that have silvery nails.

They seat the child in front of a wide open
Window where the blue air bathes a mass of flowers
And in his heavy hair where the dew falls
Move their delicate, fearful and enticing fingers.

He listens to the singing of their apprehensive breath.
Which smells of long rosy plant honey
And which at times a hiss interrupts, saliva
Caught on the lip or desire for kisses.

He hears their black eyelashes beating in the perfumed
Silence; and their gentle electric fingers
Make in his half-drunken indolence the death of the little lice
Crackle under their royal nails.

Then the wine of Sloth rises in him,
The sigh of an harmonica which could bring on delirium;
The child feels, according to the slowness of the caresses
Surging in him and dying continuously a desire to cry.

haiku :: etheridge knight

1
Eastern guard tower
glints in sunset; convicts rest
like lizards on rocks.

2
The piano man
is stingy, at 3 A.M.
his songs drop like plum.

3
Morning sun slants cell.
Drunks stagger like cripple flies
On jailhouse floor.

4
To write a blues song
is to regiment riots
and pluck gems from graves.

5
A bare pecan tree
slips a pencil shadow down
a moonlit snow slope.

6
The falling snow flakes
Cannot blunt the hard aches nor
Match the steel stillness.

7
Under moon shadows
A tall boy flashes knife and
Slices star bright ice.

8
In the August grass
Struck by the last rays of sun
The cracked teacup screams.

9
Making jazz swing in
Seventeen syllables AIN’T
No square poet’s job.

jet plane :: donald f. drummond

Within the cracking air the plane defies
My listening ears: aluminum has spanned
Horizon and horizon, while the hand
Has scarcely settled over seeking eyes.
The sound remains to throb against the drums:
A mortal thunder nurtured in the head,
And brought to being when the fact has sped
Beyond recall of all the down-turned thumbs.

The cancer of the mind refuses treatment,
Usurps the lightning and complains of thunder,
Digs out the keystone under the escarpment,
Reviles the avalanche which returns it under.
The mind is color-blind and tired and set:
The color of its flaming wake is jet.

garden :: boris pasternak

The drowsy garden scatters insects
Bronze as the ash from braziers blown.
Level with me and with my candle,
Hang flowering worlds, their leaves full-grown.

As into some unheard-of dogma
I move across into this night,
Where a worn poplar age has grizzled
Screens the moon’s strip of fallow light,

Where the pond lies, an open secret,
Where apple-bloom is surf and sigh,
And where the garden, a lake-dwelling,
Holds out in front of it the sky.

the mango :: mary oliver

One evening
I met the mango.
At first there were four or five of them
in a bowl.
They looked like stones you find
in the rivers of Pennsylvania
when the waters are low.
That size, and almost round.
Mossy green.
But this was a rich house, and clever too.
After salmon and salads,
mangoes for everyone appeared on blue plates,
each one cut in half and scored
and shoved forward from its rind, like an orange flower,
cubist and juicy.
When I began to eat
things happened.
All through the sweetness I heard voices,
men and women talking about something—
another country, and trouble.
It wasn’t my language, but I understood enough.
Jungles, and death. The ships
leaving the harbors, their holds
filled with mangoes.
Children, brushing the flies away
from their hot faces
as they worked in the fields.
Men, and guns.
The voices all ran together
so that I tasted them in the taste of the mango,
a sharp gravel in the flesh.
Later, in the kitchen, I saw the stones
like torn-out tongues
embedded in the honeyed centers.
They were talking among themselves—
family news,
a few lines of a song

thought as philosophical torment :: will alexander

In the mirror of excessive drift
there exist those values
which exist within schisms
within error wracked spectrums
which glow by means of vapour
above anti-dimensional obstruction

the visage of metrics
tuned to a mesmeric lisp
to a rancid facial dice
thrown across ethers
across 3 or 4 sierras or voids

so that each sculpting
each prism
advances
the apparitional understanding
to a macro-positional scalding
which collapses
which takes on the centigrade of absence
bound to invisible comradery

provisional :: catherine bowman

When he procured her, she purveyed
him. When he rationed her out,
she made him provisional. On being

provisional, he made her his trough.
On being a trough, she made him her silo.
At once a silo, he made her his cut. On being a cut,

she made him her utensil. On being
a utensil, he turned her downhill. So being
downhill, she made him her skis.

When she was his stethoscope,
he was her steady beat. From beat
she was dog, from dog he was fetch,

from fetch she was jab, from jab
he was fake. When he was her complex
equation, she was his simple math.

So she turned him into strong evidence,
accessory after the fact. So he turned
her eyes private, made her his man

on the lam. So he became her psalm,
so she became his scrubby tract. When he
became an aesthete, she became his

claw-foot bath. So she made him a rudimentary
fault line; so he made her a volcanic rim.
So she made him her unruly quorum;

so he made her his party whip.
That’s when they both became
mirror, and then both became lips.

From lips she was trumpet, from trumpet
he was mute. Then he made her his margin
of error. Then she made him stet.

summary between bodies :: alexandra mattraw

When we reach the summit, you tell of repetition. The way an orange unpeels itself in such heat. : All bruised skin wants to give way in the manner of water. We stop field center, but the green world sweats, thickens like hair. Each pasture clots a day’s naming. We share corner store bread : Fingers break the body in two. Darkness trembles light waning bees. My styrofoam anxiety a cup misplaced I bite into moons. Then print-crescents : Your foot on soil as proof of where sadness went. Why I didn’t have reason to change my mind, pick each wild iris apart : I see you not. Your foot shores my other. This pattern to sea pebbles larger notions of stability. Sodden bread spreads where we left it. Your arm confused with mine. The envy of sands, rocks war up waves to tell them.

detail of the hayfield :: richard siken

I followed myself for a long while, deep into the field.
Two heads full of garbage.

Our scope was larger than I realized,
which only made me that much more responsible.

Yellow, yellow, gold, and ocher.
We stopped. We held the field. We stood very still.

Everyone needs a place.

You need it for the moment you need it, then you bless it—
thank you soup, thank you flashlight

and move on. Who does this? No one.

ghazal: america the beautiful :: alicia ostriker

Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
in first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
and say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first grade hearts
we felt proud to be citizens of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
when we learned how to behave in America

What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
who didn’t understand us or America

Only later learning the Banner and the Beautiful
live on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering the Nation is divisible
by money by power by color by gender by sex America

We comprehend it now this land is two lands
one triumphant bully one still hopeful America

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

the year of not dancing :: cahal dallat

Hours passed languid as the flap of a hawk’s wing
in a last July before the awkward initiations
of fifteen and lifts to far-afield jiving.

He’d work for an uncle, cutting hay, fixing
shingles with bradawls and hot, smoking pitch —
evenings, hung round with fairground hands

till the sideshows lit at eight. Then he’d sidestroke
from the main pier, alone, on a full tide as far
as the bobbing Perpetua, its line of cork floats

with dock and fairground small as a snow-bubble town,
bull-horns carrying Frank Ifield’s When the angels ask
me to recall out across a calm, irredentist blackness.

a joke about how old we’ve become :: adam clay

I take a break from one thought or another
to pay a credit card bill,
to take the dog out, to water the two

plants in the hanging basket
because Kim asked me to,
but why not instead take a walk

through the early August morning
before the heat wave hits
while the body still stretches itself out?

The music goes from minor to major
when you flip the album, but sometimes
the minor starts over before you

cross the room (it’s a big room)
and sometimes it’s best to just listen,
it’s best to not fill any space with words

but the stars and the stripes catch
the eye more so than the white
blank space like a life to be filled up with

something bigger than itself. My dad
last night on the phone telling me the tests
came back positive but not to worry (but how

not to worry?), his almost three decades
ahead of me and what is a year
really when they pile up, time to dust

the furniture again, to check
on the sink that’s draining slow,
clean it out, start the day with a list

of what a day should even mean
or be, not minding how fast the hours go by
until I will mind, which by then it will

be too late, though I do not mean
my life means anything in the scheme
of stepping back we all do, chipping

at some unmovable block of rock
as if time won’t eventually
undo even its looming shape too.