the bugs of childhood :: danusha laméris

Don’t you remember them, the furred legs
of a caterpillar moving along your arm, each follicle
prickling beneath their touch? The crumpling
of the ladybug’s underwings as it tucked them back
beneath its glossy shell. The butterfly on your finger
unfurling its long, spiral tongue. Rows and rows of ants,
hefting their white eggs. The fly’s head
bowed, antennae bent under the careful work
of forelegs as it bathed its large composite eye.

One, no bigger than a speck, left tufts of foam
in your palm; another, a pool of green. Some
rolled themselves into a pill-shaped ball at the slightest touch,
while others, no matter how you tried, refused.
What was it about the workings of their small bodies,
the click of the mandibles or the steady pulse
of the thorax, so nipped at the center it seemed
tied with string? Almost electric,
the way they zipped through the grass,
sunlight caught in iridescence.
Remember? How the dirt glinted
and shimmered, how the blind earth
once writhed, alive in your hands.

harvest :: michael shewmaker

Ruth speaks in old age

To watch him in the fields,
his tempered violence
against the grain, the long
silent sweep of the scythe,
the gathering of sheaves,
recalls a happiness
brief as kindled chaff.

Beneath the tilting sun,
the same strict sun of childhood,
bound by the rhythm of
his labor, he ignores
the frailness of his body,
the failing light, his shadow
rising slowly to meet him.

How long will the moon stall
over the edge of the fields?
The day-moon, a lone ghost
above the grain? The stalks
stir in a subtle wind
that starts along the length
of the descending blade—

and as the barley yields
to the wide arc of his
endeavoring, it whispers
in another tongue,
and of another time,
when, like the grain, he laid
me on the threshing floor.

amusing our daughters :: carolyn kizer

after Po Chü-i,
for Robert Creeley

We don’t lack people here on the Northern coast,
But they are people one meets, not people one cares for.
So I bundle my daughters into the car
And with my brother poets, go to visit you, brother.

Here come your guests! A swarm of strangers and children;
But the strangers write verses, the children are daughters like yours.
We bed down on mattresses, cots, roll up on the floor:
Outside, burly old fruit trees in mist and rain;
In every room, bundles asleep like larvae.

We waken and count our daughters. Otherwise, nothing happens.
You feed them sweet rolls and melon, drive them all to the zoo;
Patiently, patiently, ever the father, you answer their questions.
Later, we eat again, drink, listen to poems.
Nothing occurs, though we are aware you have three daughters
Who last year had four. But even death becomes part of our ease:
Poems, parenthood, sorrow, all we have learned
From these of tenderness, holds us together
In the center of life, entertaining daughters
By firelight, with cake and songs.

You, my brother, are a good and violent drinker,
Good at reciting short-line or long-line poems.
In time we will lose all our daughters, you and I,
Be temperate, venerable, content to stay in one place,
Sending our messages over the mountains and waters.

yesterday from my fever :: galway kinnell

Yesterday from my fever,
My first illness in these
Three years, I reached out
And telephoned you; and today,
For the first time, I was able to go out
Into the streets, the satisfying light,
Where the plane-trees were green and the green-
hearted chestnut leaves hung burning their edges.
Tomorrow I will come to you
In full foreknowledge, yes,
In the deliberate innocence of one
Risen from his body’s fevers and about to be
Into the loves and seasons he foreknows
And dreads, the fevered earth, plunged gratefully
           again.

decorating a cake while listening to tennis :: peg duthie

The commentator’s rabbiting on and on
about how it’s so easy for Roger, resentment
thick as butter still in a box. Yet word
from those who’ve done their homework
is how the man loves to train—how much
he relishes putting in the hours
just as magicians shuffle card after card,
countless to mere humans
but carefully all accounted for.
At hearing “luck” again, I stop
until my hands relax their clutch
on the cone from which a dozen more
peonies are to materialize. I make it look easy
to grow a garden on top of a sheet
of fondant, and that’s how it should appear:
as natural and as meant-to-be
as the spin of a ball from the sweetest spot
of a racquet whisked through the air like a wand.