another night at sea level :: meg day

On the third day, I wrote to you
about the sky, its elastic way
of stretching so ocean-wide
that the only way to name it
was to compare it to Montana’s.
Lately, the sky is a ceiling
I wake to: broad & blank
& stubborn, stiff at the edges
like a fever cloth wrung out
& gone cold in the night, damp
with the wicking of latent ache.
But tonight I was walking
home along the coastline
& caught the huge moon
in my throat. There’s a man
somewhere on the planet
who has been to that moon,
who has stepped out of that sky,
& will never sleep the same
because of it. Will always be
sad or feel small, or wonder
how it is a person can be
a person, if being a person
is worrying about things;
whose eyes cannot see
what things are, but only
the slightness of them.
I think of writing to you
in this way—welcoming
the adventure of it—
& of being wrecked
proper, of being ruined.

sorrow is not my name :: ross gay

—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

—for Walter Aikens

naming the heartbeats :: aimee nezhukumatathil

I’ve become the person who says Darling, who says Sugarpie,
Honeybunch, Snugglebear—and that’s just for my children.
What I call my husband is unprintable. You’re welcome. I am
his sweetheart, and finally, finally—I answer to his call and his
alone. Animals are named for people, places, or perhaps a little
Latin. Plants invite names for colors or plant-parts. When you
get a group of heartbeats together you get names that call out
into the evening’s first radiance of planets: a quiver of cobras,
a maelstrom of salamanders, an audience of squid, or an ostentation
of peacocks. But what is it called when creatures on this earth curl
and sleep, when shadows of moons we don’t yet know brush across
our faces? And what is the name for the movement we make when
we wake, swiping hand or claw or wing across our face, like trying
to remember a path or a river we’ve only visited in our dreams.

the tent :: naomi shihab nye

When did hordes of sentences start beginning with So?

As if everything were always pending,

leaning on what came before.

What can you expect?

Loneliness everywhere, entertained or kept in storage.

So you felt anxious to be alone.

Easier to hear, explore a city, room,

mound of hours, no one walking beside you.

Talking to self endlessly, but mostly listening.

This would not be strange.

It would be the tent you slept in.

Waking calmly inside whatever

you had to do would be freedom.

It would be your country.

The men in front of me had whole acres

in their eyes. I could feel them cross, recross each day.

Memory, stitched. History, soothed.

What we do or might prefer to do. Have done.

How we got here. Telling ourselves a story

till it’s compact enough to bear.

Passing the walls, wearing the sky,

the slight bow and rising of trees.

Everything ceaselessly holding us close.

So we are accompanied.

Never cast out without a line of language to reel us back.

That is what happened, how I got here.

So maybe. One way anyway.

A story was sewn, seed sown,

this was what patriotism meant to me—

to be at home inside my own head long enough

to accept its infinite freedom

and move forward anywhere, to mysteries coming.

Even at night in a desert, temperatures plummet,

billowing tent flaps murmur to one other.

the weight of the sun :: charlotte pence

I like the 4 a.m. feedings best, tilting
the rocking chair back and forth
with my toes, observing how the invisible

lines of our dark yard rest against
the lines of other yards—of other lives.
Before the sun rises, this small wedge

of the world momentarily in agreement:
everyone on this block wishing for sleep,
for peace, for the coming day to be better

than the last. I like thinking how the grass
growing a thousandth of an inch every
fifteen minutes is celebrating something

as I celebrate solving small mysteries
like learning that a red fox is the one who
flattens the path through the lawn.

Mainly I like pretending I am the only one
awake, the only one seeing the world
at this instant. The navy sky, thick as blood,

is my blood, as the fracture of stars, bright
as raw bone, is my bone. I like being
reminded that we all began in dark and stars,

that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen
in our bodies was created 4.5 billion
years ago in another generation of stars,

that somehow if we could weigh the sun,
all rising 418 nonillion pounds of it,
we’d see that strength is never needed

to begin the day. No, it’s something else.
Behind every square of light flipped on,
someone is standing or slouching, stretching

or sighing, someone is covering her face
or uncovering it, someone is thinking,
Today, I will I will I will….

each moment a white bull steps shining into the world :: jane hirshfield

If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.

Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.

Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift arrives from the sea.

Treat it as you yourself
would be treated,
brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.

And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even an instant—

Stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling dewlaps
you’ve come to believe were yours,
and plunge in the knife.

Not once
did you enter the pasture
without pause,
without yourself trembling.
That you came to love it, that was the gift.

Let the envious gods take back what they can.