song of the city at night :: carol frost

Whatever hid the sun and moon inside a mountain
brought people there to found the night
where a city swans on river water
laving with light each passing wake,
mesmerizing a couple on the riverbrink.
They seem unaware what is myth
or real, taken up, as it were, by a swan’s bill
and flown to a milkwater world
where it’s possible to drink only the milk
and eat pearls. A gunshot, a siren
interrupts the quiet. Something is thrown
into the river, then the swan is mute.
To sing of this the swan would have to out-swan
itself, Sibelius out-Sibelius Sibelius.

my childhood :: matthew zapruder

the orange ball arcs perfectly into the orange hoop

making a sound like a drawer closing

you will never get to hold that

I am here and nothing terrible will ever happen

across the street the giant white house full of kids

turns the pages of an endless book

the mother comes home and finds the child animal sleeping

I left my notebook beside the bed

the father came home and sat and quietly talked

one square of light on the wall waiting patiently

I will learn my multiplication tables

while the woman in the old photograph looks in a different direction

after :: leonora speyer

I will not walk in the wood to-night,
I will not stand by the water’s edge
And see day lie on the dusk’s bright ledge
Until it turn, a star at its breast,
To rest.

I will not see the wide-flung hills
Closing darkly about my grief,
I wore a crown of their lightest leaf,
But now they press like a cold, blue ring,
Imprisoning.

I dare not meet that caroling blade,
Jauntily drawn in the sunset pine,
Stabbing me with its thrust divine,
Knowing my naked, aching need,
Till I bleed.

Sheathe your song, invincible bird,
Strike not at me with that flashing note,
Have pity, have pity, persistent throat,
Deliver me not to your dread delight
To-night!

I am afraid of the creeping wood,
I am afraid of the furtive trees,
Hiding behind them, memories,
Ready to spring, to clutch, to tear,
Wait for me there.

empty poem :: trevor ketner

A field cannot be empty, only full
of fieldness. A factory near the tracks

next to a field can be empty. A home
is often empty. Sometimes the train

goes so quickly for so long,
it becomes difficult

to think of ever walking again,
the delicacy of that motion

to which the entire body commits itself.
And sometimes the heart turns

into an engine, surging
at the thought of being elsewhere, elated

that, so solid a muscle,
it persists, even through Trenton,

or seeing some old church in Pennsylvania,
the steeple cardboarded

against the dead-computer sky.
I’ve been in a suburb before, though

it’s so long since I was outside of something,
but not so far away as to be elsewhere.

claustrophilia :: alice fulton

It’s just me throwing myself at you,
romance as usual, us times us,

not lust but moxibustion,
a substance burning close

to the body as possible
withut risk of immolation.

Nearness without contact
causes numbness. Analgesia.

Pins and needles. As the snugness
of the surgeon’s glove causes hand fatigue.

At least this procedure
requires no swag or goody bags,

stuff bestowed upon the stars
at their luxe functions.

There’s no dress code,
though leg irons

are always appropriate.
And if anyone says what the hell

are you wearing in Esperanto
—Kion diable vi portas?—

tell them anguish
is the universal language.

Stars turn to trainwrecks
and my heart goes out

admirers gush. Ground to a velvet!
But never mind the downside,

mon semblable, mon crush.
Love is just the retaliation of light.

It is so profligate, you know,
so rich with rush.

the human zoo :: rachel eliza griffiths

Soon I appear through the fog, my face presses against the cage. There is a scrim of dark edging the metal. You are there, pushing life toward my mouth with your fingers. Now I reach without biting. In the dark my own hands grasp how small & tame I am. You say, stay wild with your eyes & ideas. But imagine if my hand could not find your hand. Through the skin of what has survived. If I come up for air but then slip again beneath the current, remember how I glittered, with water pouring from every pore. You would walk down into our earth & watch me race behind the captive green glass. I leave you the gills of my faith, the jaw of my empathy. The flowers will remember my rain & my murmurs. How absurd I am. Even the thunderheads will remember a woman who shook with fire. You sink my net to the floor & work fast. It is how we must perform kindness. My flesh opens like a black claw. Why are you still not afraid of me? I want to see how close the sun will near the water. How the end will hold a woman’s wings above the flames.

a dictionary of preserving the hydrangea’s bloom :: jennifer militello

First, soften its one thousand grand catastrophes of smoke,
small-fisted exotics, unaware of death. Startle the petals’
parchment paper, all in grays beneath the flesh,

scents that have been pinched and rounded, planted down
the hurricane loam, equal parts peat, leaf mold, senile
elegies, lime-free grit. At the center

of the hand, a map for each is pinned. Gestation weeps
more acidity for each deciduous bruise, suggesting
understanding beyond the human crush. Bend

the panicle until it splits, glitters, lords over
the grasp of the stem’s relenting vine. Splinter the iris’s
dimness, a fine gauze between contrasting eyes. Flay

of the seedless, swimless flutter, lord of the smolder,
the yellow sky’s mouths. The last sad vendor
of the intricate’s decline. Cover flat with glass and wait.

Architecture: the last occupants, sorrows that are picked,
with fertile or perfect florets, bottles containing poison,
notched, so as to be detected in the dark, by touch.

you, if no one else :: tino villanueva

                                     Listen, you
who transformed your anguish
into healthy awareness,
put your voice
where your memory is.
You who swallowed
the afternoon dust,
defend everything you understand
with words.
You, if no one else,
will condemn with your tongue
the erosion each disappointment brings.

You, who saw the images
of disgust growing,
will understand how time
devours the destitute;
you, who gave yourself
your own commandments,
know better than anyone
why you turned your back
on your town’s toughest limits.

Don’t hush,
don’t throw away
the most persistent truth,
as our hard-headed brethren
sometimes do.
Remember well
what your life was like: cloudiness,
and slick mud
after a drizzle;
flimsy windows the wind
kept rattling
in winter, and that
unheated slab dwelling
where coldness crawled
up in your clothes.

Tell how you were able to come
to this point, to unbar
History’s doors
to see your early years,
your people, the others.
Name the way
rebellion’s calm spirit has served you,
and how you came
to unlearn the lessons
of that teacher,
your land’s omnipotent defiler.

despite my efforts even my prayers have turned into threats :: kaveh akbar

Holy father I can’t pretend
I’m not afraid to see you again
but I’ll say that when the time
comes I believe my courage
will expand like a sponge
cowboy in water. My earth-
father was far braver than me — 
coming to America he knew
no English save Rolling Stones
lyrics and how to say thanks
God
. Will his goodness roll
over to my tab and if yes, how
soon? I’m sorry for neglecting
your myriad signs, which seem
obvious now as a hawk’s head
on an empty plate. I keep waking
up at the bottom of swimming
pools, the water reflecting
whatever I miss most: whiskey-
glass, pill bottles, my mother’s
oleander, which was sweet
and evergreen but toxic in all
its parts. I know it was silly
to keep what I kept from you;
you’ve always been so charmed
by my weaknesses. I just figured
you were becoming fed up with
all your making, like a virtuoso
trying not to smash apart her
flute onstage. Plus, my sins
were practically devotional:
two peaches stolen from
a bodega, which were so sweet
I savored even the bits I flossed
out my teeth. I know it’s
no excuse, but even thinking
about them now I’m drooling.
Consider the night I spent reading
another man’s lover the Dream
Songs
in bed — we made it to
“a green living / drops
limply” before we were
tangled into each other, cat
still sleeping at our feet. Allow
me these treasures, Lord.
Time will break what doesn’t
bend — even time. Even you.

not verb, but vertigo :: eleni sikelianos

          —after Alejandra Pizarnik

A yellow scraping across my skin when
I write the word “sky”

Not sky but scything :
       to let day be scraped out
             by night

I scratched down the word “flower” & felt
  the parts draw away from the tongue.
     Not gnomon, grown*man, but ghost :
           to gnaw on the crisp
                 skin once it’s been stripped
                 down from the meat

the neat meat

hiding under the table
of the skin’s
tablatures

right at the juncture where day/night meet
you can see it indicated by the perforated lines

what parts of us that don’t cast a shadow

chinese dream 14 :: timothy yu

Race, friends, is boring. Everyone says so.
Hashtag all lives matter, the channel turns,
we ourselves live and turn,
and moreover the TV told me yesterday
(unendingly) ‘Ever to talk about race
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
Inner Resources, because all I see is race.
People have race,
literature has race, especially great literature,
Henry has race, with his blacks & whites
made up as his feelings

about love & sex & art, which have race.
And our social ills, & sin, in Chinese drag
are somehow a dog
that’s eaten itself, & its tail miserably remains
as our mirror, bone or breaker, heaving
on tide: us, flag.

america :: fatimah asghar

am I not your baby?
brown & not allowed

my own language?
my teeth pulled

from mouth, tongue
bloated with corn syrup?

america, didn’t you raise me?
bomb the country of my fathers

& then tell me to go back to it?
didn’t you mold the men

who murder children in schools
who spit at my bare arms

& uncovered head?
america, wasn’t it you?

who makes & remakes
me orphan, who burns

my home, watches me rebuild
& burns it down again?

wasn’t it you, who uproots
& mangles the addresses

until there are none
until all I have are my own

hands & even those you’ve
told me not to trust? america

don’t turn your back on me.
am I not your baby?

brown & bred to hate
every inch of my skin?

didn’t you raise me?
didn’t you tell me bootstraps

& then steal my shoes?
didn’t you make there no ‘back’

for me to go back to?
america, am I not your refugee?

who do I call mother, if not you?

passengers :: denis johnson

The world will burst like an intestine in the sun,
the dark turn to granite and the granite to a name,
but there will always be somebody riding the bus
through these intersections strewn with broken glass
among speechless women beating their little ones,
always a slow alphabet of rain
speaking of drifting and perishing to the air,
always these definite jails of light in the sky
at the wedding of this clarity and this storm
and a woman’s turning—her languid flight of hair
traveling through frame after frame of memory
where the past turns, its face sparking like emery,
to open its grace and incredible harm
over my life, and I will never die.

three songs at the end of summer :: jane kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket….
                                In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

sita considers her rebellions :: vandana khanna

She remembers from inside the story,
inside the forest’s heart (a flush of green):
a dowry of twigs. Tree trunks as thick as lies.

When she is allowed, she misses herself,
covets the clean corners where her bones
meet, the dull pulse of her tongue on his.

All those misplaced stars, a misery
she can’t find. She has killed things
(though it is forbidden) with her hands

(the wedding mehndi long-faded),
has eaten on the wrong day, forgotten
to fast. She has pulled the strings

of the jungle behind her like a black net,
a wide-mouthed yawn. She holds it tight
so it can’t grow when she isn’t looking.

ongoing :: jenny xie

Never mind the distances traveled, the companion
she made of herself. The threadbare twenties not
to be underestimated. A wild depression that ripped
from January into April. And still she sprouts an appetite.
Insisting on edges and cores, when there were none.
Relationships annealed through shared ambivalences.
Pages that steadied her. Books that prowled her
until the hard daybreak, and for months after.
Separating new vows from the old, like laundry whites.
Small losses jammed together so as to gather mass.
Stored generations of filtered quietude.
And some stubbornness. Tangles along the way
the comb-teeth of the mind had to bite through, but for what.
She had trained herself to look for answers at eye level,
but they were lower, they were changing all the time.

complaint :: william logan

The faucets squeeze
out a dribble of rust.
The stained slip-covers

fray like seaweed. Scruffy, haggled
weeds confined to broken pots;
shy, disfigured poppies;

a barked rose succumbing
to white-frocked aphids—
the garden doesn’t work. The heater

doesn’t work. Nothing works.
Who lives in such a house?
The pipes piss and moan,

as if forced to pay taxes.
If there are dream houses,
are there undreamed houses

full of the things we desire,
or only those we deserve?
Perhaps they are the homes

of strange gods with some
incomprehensible, whimsical
way of looking at things.

You said we waded through the mysteries to get here.

in the clearing :: patricia hooper

After last night’s rain the woods
smell sensual—a mixture of leaves and musk.
The morels have disappeared, and soon I’ll come across
those yellow chanterelles, the kind they sell
in town at the farmers’ market. Once I saw
the Swedish woman who raises her own food
foraging for them, two blond boys
quarreling near the pickup, and the next morning
they were selling them from their stand beside the road.

Out here, among last year’s dead
leaves with the new shoots of spruces
poking through them, I’ve come to the place where light
brightens a glade of ferns and the log someone else
placed here—carved “B.W.”—where I sometimes sit
to listen to the birds. Today the sun is breaking through
the wet branches, revealing a clean sky,
brilliant, cerulean. Then, suddenly, a raft of scudding clouds

promising more rain. If it comes, I’ll read all afternoon—
Henry James, or maybe Eudora Welty’s
Delta Wedding, where so many characters
vie for attention I can never keep them straight.
Here, there’s no one else, no one to worry over
or argue with or love. Maybe the earth was meant
only for this: small comings and goings
on the forest floor, the understory astir
with its own secret life. If I sit still enough
among the damp trees, sometimes I see the world
without myself in it, and—it always surprises me—
nothing at all is lost.

the august preoccupations :: catherine barnett

So this morning I made a list

of obsessions and you were on it.

And waiting, and forgiveness, and five-dollar bills,

and despots, telescopes, anonymity, beauty,

silent comedy, and waiting.

I could forswear all these things

and just crawl back into the bed

you and I once slept in.

What would happen then?

Play any film backwards and it’s elegy.

Play it fast-forward it’s a gas.

I try not to get attached.

But Lincoln!

I see stars when I look at him.

voyage :: mark irwin

When we could no longer walk or explore, we decided to wear

the maps and would sit talking, pointing to places, sometimes

touching mountains, canyons, deserts on each other’s body,

and that was how we fell in love again, sitting next to

each other in the home that was not our home, writing letters

with crooked words, crooked lines we handed back and forth,

the huge hours and spaces between us growing smaller and smaller.

buzkashi :: diana khoi nguyen

A husband puts an afghan over the dead goat’s
torso, combs the knots out of  her beard.
The goat smells chalk, wonders when the riders
will come in their wool pakols red from walnuts, spurs
chirring like castanets. The buzkashi whips
will grow damp in their mouths, their rope belts
slowly twisting in place. She knows
not to be devoured is a perfect sentiment
because she has thoughts to gather, faces to grow,
hunger this morning and no throat, only
the song in her teeth that goes on
indefinitely as he saws off each hoof, just
above the ankle, her knees bent for praying.
Her head is axed. Her collar
falls to the ground, its circle unbroken. She looks to see
how deep is the pool of  blood is a river
of  no one becoming her. With salt in her heart
she’ll stay good for days. He’s been to her like her father
he killed. He’s been to her like the father he killed.
He turns her face to the window: mountains
oddly still in the milk broth of oblivion. Intercourse:
the sun drove a man in the ground like a stake.

bed in summer :: robert louis stevenson

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

summer day :: boris pasternak

With us in springtime, until dawn,
In orchards blazing bonfires flame
—As pagan altars may have shone
When fertile rites received acclaim.

The virgin soil is dried and baked,
And steaming vapors from it swarm,
And all the earth is fire-caked
As are in winter stove-beds warm.

When toiling and in earth engrossed,
My shirt I strip and throw away,
With scorching sun my back is glossed
And baked like some big lump of clay.

And standing where the heat’s most hot,
And with my eyes half in a daze,
From head to foot, upon this spot,
I’m covered with a coat of glaze.

But when the night invades my room,
And I peep through the windows dimmed,
As jugs are filled, so with the bloom
Of lilac, moisture, I am brimmed.

It washes off the outer shell
Of walls’ cooled evening face,
And offers it to any girl,
Born here and native of this place.

magnifera :: jaya savige

Ripeness was a semitone below
the bone clef of the elbow

keying the rain-slicked
cyclone fence: the firm, saclike rind

of a warped minim, golden
drupe note for which we longed.

Stone fruit are fine tutors.
This one unseals a sensual nose hit.

At dusk they go lambent
like chunks of bent gloam.

Sucked, their fibrous pith
is birth-pouf — 

punk oblong pits
belonging in a goblin’s pot,

infused with rich static
and the fresh electric scratchiti

of summer lightning. It’s fortune
gave us this softer unit,

surely. Edgewise the frangipani
made a rain-gap fin

for heads rife with fire
in the shade of the mango belt.

one with the sun :: a. f. moritz

Child
one with the sun
in trackless fields
of yellow grass and thistle, scent
of humid heavy air and the wing music
of bees and flies.

Child, slender
nakedness to itself unknown,
true colour of the light
dispersed invisibly
or glowing around the black hulls
of distant thunderheads, around
the grasshopper’s countenance,
solemn, vigilant and wise.

Green apples, poured full
of density, of crispness, float unmoved
under leaves on the slope. Brown
fallen apples nest
in secret whorls of grass. The apple tree:
alone in so much space. And below
in the woods by the water
a sweet dead branch
cracks lightly
in the shadow in the wind.

But here is an old track
through the grass head-high
to a child: who
made it? They must have
passed and passed by this one tree,
by the abandoned, tireless car
where rabbits peer out, and the circle
of black embers,
cans, springs, skeletons
of furniture. They too
passed here many times
on their way from the street’s end
to the oaks that screen
the river. There
the sun is nesting now, night
rises with pale flutterings
of white wings from roots
of plants and the black water.

she can’t work :: kim dower

if the chair is there
she can’t think
if the clothes are dirty

she can’t visualize
turquoise water in Bermuda
white chickens or what can happen next

if food is sticking
to this morning’s dishes
she can’t work

if the chair is there
itchy leopard pattern
too large for the space

was an impulse buy
back when furniture was exciting
when a chair

could change her life
she can’t work
so she drags it out

from its living room corner
scrapes the hardwood floors
pushes it into the front garden

where it sinks into the soft wet dirt
freshly watered glistening with
half dead peonies

now the chair out there
a trampoline for squirrels
a home for shedding leaves

self portrait :: frank marshall davis

I would be
A painter with words
Creating sharp portraits
On the wide canvas of your mind
Images of those things
Shaped through my eyes
That interest me;
But being a Tenth American
In this democracy
I sometimes sketch a miniature
Though I contract for a mural.

Of course
You understand this democracy;
One man as good as another,
From log cabin to White House,
Poor boy to corporation president,
Hoover and Browder with one vote each,
A free country,
Complete equality—
Yeah—
And the rich get tax refunds,
The poor get relief checks.

As for myself
I pay five cents for a daily synopsis of current history,
Two bits and the late lowdown on Hollywood,
Twist a dial for Stardust or Shostakovich,
And with each bleacher stub I reserve the right to shout “kill the bum” at the umpire—
Wherefore am I different
From nine other Americans?

But listen, you
Don’t worry about me
I rate!
I’m Convert 4711 at Beulah Baptist Church,
I’m Social Security No. 337-16-3458 in Washington,
Thank you Mister God and Mister Roosevelt!
And another thing:—
No matter what happens
I too can always call in a policeman!

if I had my life to live over again :: nadine stair

If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
you see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else- just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.