the most gentle revolution :: nikita gill

There are still versions of you that remember
a soft childhood filled with caring for everything
that the grown ups around you simply ignored.

The baby bird with a broken wing you healed,
the thirsty plants you always gave water to
the lonely and sad children you befriended.

We learn when we are young how to be kind,
we are so certain back then that we are here to help
each other through sorrow and through sadness too.

But when we grow up we forget the magic
that lies within each act of kindness, that it has
the facility to build true hope the way revolutions do.

Kindness was always your superpower.
And your gentle heart can still change the world
if only you believe you can and truly want to.

finale :: pablo neruda

translated by william o’daly

Matilde, years or days
sleeping, feverish,
here or there,
gazing off,
twisting my spine,
bleeding true blood,
perhaps I awaken
or am lost, sleeping:
hospital beds, foreign windows,
white uniforms of the silent walkers,
the clumsiness of feet.

And then, these journeys
and my sea of renewal:
your head on the pillow,
your hands floating
in the light, in my light,
over my earth.

It was beautiful to live
when you lived!

The world is bluer and of the earth
at night, when I sleep
enormous, within your small hands.

an escape :: ha jin

We sat in the neon light
on a cool evening of a summer day
drinking beer and eating salad.
You told me your story
similar to those of many others:
All your savings are gone,
the managers, the secretaries, the supervisors,
the police in charge of passports
all having received a handsome share.
Now you have nothing left there,
your color TV and refrigerator were sold
to get the cash for the plane ticket.

“But I was lucky,” you assured me.
“Many people have spent fortunes
and still cannot leave the country.”

“What are you going to do here?
Don’t think this is a place where
you can make a fortune by snapping fingers.
Starting poor, we have to labor for every dollar.
It is a place where money
can hire the devil to make bean curd
and your growth is measured by financial figures.
There is no way for us to get beyond
a social security number.”

“Anything, I would do anything,
as long as I can make a living.
At least, I am free here and don’t
hate others. Do you know what I wanted
when I was back there?
I always imagined how to get a gun
so I could shoot all the bastards.
That country is not a place to live—
I would rather die than go back.”

We stopped to watch seagulls.
An airplane was writing the word
FUN in the distant sky.
I wish I had left the same way,
but I brought with me all my belongings,
even my army mug and a bunch of old letters.

on the term of exile :: bertolt brecht

translated from the german by adam kirsch

No need to drive a nail into the wall
To hang your hat on;
When you come in, just drop it on the chair
No guest has sat on.

Don’t worry about watering the flowers—
In fact, don’t plant them.
You will have gone back home before they bloom,
And who will want them?

If mastering the language is too hard,
Only be patient;
The telegram imploring your return
Won’t need translation.

Remember, when the ceiling sheds itself
In flakes of plaster,
The wall that keeps you out is crumbling too,
As fast or faster.

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.