the goddess tires of being holy :: vandana khanna

Call yourself whatever you want: girl or goddess.
Truth is, no one loves you any better. There’s
not enough gold in the world to make you feel
holy, hallowed, whole. No gloss pretty enough
to save a face marked by ash. For your trouble—
a handful of thorns, a bit of marigold dust.

This is what you get for begging to be
chosen: every god in the universe eyeing
you through the clouds like a hot wound
he can’t help but press. That terrible beating

under your skin, so loud it makes your
blood hurt, that’s the part of the story
you always get wrong—the one where
they watch you burn and burn.

in the mushroom summer :: david mason

Colorado turns Kyoto in a shower,
mist in the pines so thick the crows delight
(or seem to), winging in obscurity.
The ineffectual panic of a squirrel
who chattered at my passing gave me pause
to watch his Ponderosa come and go—
long needles scratching cloud. I’d summited
but knew it only by the wildflower meadow,
the muted harebells, paintbrush, gentian,
scattered among the locoweed and sage.
Today my grief abated like water soaking
underground, its scar a little path
of twigs and needles winding ahead of me
downhill to the next bend. Today I let
the rain soak through my shirt and was unharmed.

the valley of its making :: nate marshall

for Page

poetry makes nothing happen
—W. H. Auden

the people in the streets
are plucked up like
radishes from dark earth,
heads beat the purplish-red
of ripeness. the women lead
the stupid & brutish to a
future they don’t deserve.
the organized are still
unbearably human, they
still fuck & hurt & harm
& are not actually sorry.
the people still fight
each other too much &
the system not enough
& too often it is not a fight
but a bullet. too many men
want to be in the front
& don’t want to march
anywhere in particular.
some of us have degrees
& noses to look down.
so many want a version
of old days that never
existed. many are still unwilling
to grow a vocabulary for personhood,
even from the words already in them.
so many will deny they to a sibling
simply because. our people are
messy & messed up & a mess.
nothing about our people is romantic
& it shouldn’t be. our people deserve
poetry without meter. we deserve our
own jagged rhythm & our own uneven
walk toward sun. you make happening happen.
we happen to love. this is our greatest
action.

dreamwood :: adrienne rich

In the old, scratched, cheap wood of the typing stand
there is a landscape, veined, which only a child can see
or the child’s older self, a poet,
a woman dreaming when she should be typing
the last report of the day. If this were a map,
she thinks, a map laid down to memorize
because she might be walking it, it shows
ridge upon ridge fading into hazed desert
here and there a sign of aquifers
and one possible watering-hole. If this were a map
it would be the map of the last age of her life,
not a map of choices but a map of variations
on the one great choice. It would be the map by which
she could see the end of touristic choices,
of distances blued and purpled by romance,
by which she would recognize that poetry
isn’t revolution but a way of knowing
why it must come. If this cheap, mass-produced
wooden stand from the Brooklyn Union Gas Co.,
mass-produced yet durable, being here now,
is what it is yet a dream-map
so obdurate, so plain,
she thinks, the material and the dream can join
and that is the poem and that is the late report.

a rite :: allyson paty

When a person dies the hours. That comprise
a total life. Have stripped their clothes
and buried them in mud. The days have.
Shaved their perfect heads. Floated the hair
downriver. And out. Out to sea. A body
of water where day. After day the ships are.
Carrying their freight. To market to uses
to garbage. Once beyond the shore where
land. Is worked and fucked and full for
harvest. Like a field in wartime the weeks
have already lit themselves. Have smoldered.
And we with our timeless. Ashes to rake.

thirsting :: alicia ostriker

It’s not that the old are wise
But that we thirst for the wisdom

we had at twenty
when we understood everything

when our brains bubbled
with tingling insights

percolating up from
our brilliant genitals

when our music rang like a global siege
shooting down all the lies in the world

oh then we knew the truth
then we sparkled like mica in granite

and now we stand on the shore
of an ocean that rises and rises
but is too salt to drink