now what :: solmaz sharif

And so I sat at a tall table
in an Ohio hotel,
eating delivery:
cheese bread

with garlic butter, only it was
not butter, but partially
hydrogenated soy
bean oil

and regular soybean oil and it
came in a little tub like
creamer that’s also not
dairy.

America in 2019
means a poem will have to
contain dairy that is,
in fact,

not dairy. On Instagram: a man
has bought a ten foot by four
foot photo of a bridge
he lives

beside, bridge he can see just outside
his window, window which serves
as a ten foot by four
foot frame.

My materialist mind, I can’t
shake it. Within a perfect
little tub of garlic
butter,

a relief of workers, of sickles,
fields of soy. We were tanners
pushed to the edge of the
city

once, by the stench, the bubble of vats
of flesh and loosening skin,
back when the city pulled,
leather

bucket by leather bucket, its own
water from wells. Then we worked
the cafeterias
at the

petroleum offices of the
British. Then, revolution—

Simple.

beatitudes :: khaled mattawa

1.

My child wants to know if the mountains really cowered.

“How do you know when a sea or a river is afraid?

How do you know when the sky is thinking yes or no?

And why did Adam say yes—Did he know that

all the other creatures refused? Was he arrogant

or just ignorant? Was he God’s last choice?”

2.

“Did you really have a party the day the dictator died?

And you had a cake decorated with all the flags?

Did you think his death will fix everything?

Why did we spend all that time there?

Why couldn’t we just stay here?

Isn’t this our country too?

And all these people fleeing and drowning,

what are they hoping for? Whose fault is it?

How long must we wait for things to improve?”

3.

She speaks to me in our language

in front of her friends, to share a secret,

or—cool and beaming—to show off.

I wonder how long it will last, this pride,

this intimacy. Sometimes she puts her arm

next to mine and tells me I have the lighter skin.

“Why are you doing this,” I ask.

But she doesn’t point to the flag

or say, “It’s the way of the world.”

Instead she tells me not to worry, that she is “the most

kid kid in my class, the least mature one, Baba!”

Not all kinds of wisdom console, I tell her.

Then I begin to think of words she’ll soon hear

that can make her wish she wasn’t who she is.

Lead me to virtue, O love, through the smoke of despair.

4.

“Let’s walk through the woods,” she tells me.

“Let’s walk by the rocky shore at sunrise.”

“Let’s walk through the clover fields at noon.”

In the rainforest she is silent, mesmerized.

She’d never prayed—we never taught her—

but she seemed to then, eyes alert with joy.

She points to a chameleon the size of a beetle,

teaches me the names of flowers and trees,

insects we can eat if we’re ever lost here.

“I’m teaching you how to entrust the world

to me,” she says. “You don’t have to live

forever to shield me from it.”

cento between the ending and the end :: cameron awkward-rich

Sometimes you don’t die

when you’re supposed to

& now I have a choice

repair a world or build

a new one inside my body

a white door opens

into a place queerly brimming

gold light so velvet-gold

it is like the world

hasn’t happened

when I call out

all my friends are there

everyone we love

is still alive gathered

at the lakeside

like constellations

my honeyed kin

honeyed light

beneath the sky

a garden blue stalks

white buds the moon’s

marble glow the fire

distant & flickering

the body whole bright-

winged brimming

with the hours

of the day beautiful

nameless planet. Oh

friends, my friends—

bloom how you must, wild

until we are free.

survivor :: vijay seshadri

We hold it against you that you survived.
People better than you are dead,
but you still punch the clock.
Your body has wizened but has not bled

its substance out on the killing floor
or flatlined in intensive care
or vanished after school
or stepped off the ledge in despair.

Of all those you started with,
only you are still around;
only you have not been listed with
the defeated and the drowned.

So how could you ever win our respect?–
you, who had the sense to duck,
you, with your strength almost intact
and all your good luck.

instructions on not giving up :: ada limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

the resistance and its light :: pier paolo pasolini

translated by Brandon Brown

so I came to the days of the Resistance
I didn’t know anything but style
it was a style made totally of light
memorable recognition
of sun. It could never fade
not even for an instant
even as Europe trembled
on its deadliest evening
we escaped from Casarsa
with our stuff in a cart
to a ruined village
among canals and vineyards it was pure light
my brother left, it was a mute morning
March, in a train, disguised
his pistol in a book it was pure light
he lived a long time in the mountains
which shone like paradise in the blue gloom
of Friulian plains it was pure light
in the attic of our farmhouse my mother
always stared at those mountains
hopeless, she saw the future it was pure light
with a few poor people I lived
a glorious life, persecuted
by despicable rhetoric it was pure light
the day of death came
Independence Day, the martyred world
knew itself again in the light…

the light was the thought of justice
I didn’t know what kind of justice
all light equal to all other light
then it changed, the light like an uncertain morning
a waxing dawn that spread all over
Friulian fields and canals
struggling workers in the light
the rising dawn was a light I mean
beyond the eternity of style
in history, justice has been
the realization of a humane
distribution of money, hope
maybe, brighter than that
new light

quarantine :: eavan boland

In the worst hour of the worst season
     of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
     Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
     Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

In Memoriam

streets :: naomi shihab nye

A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
in this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.

Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.

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.

a glittering :: sarah manguso

One mourner says if I can just get through this year as if salvation comes in January.

Slow dance of suicides into the earth:

I see no proof there is anything else. I keep my obituary current, but believe that good times are right around the corner

Una grande scultura posse rotolare giù per una collina senza rompersi, Michelangelo is believed to have said (though he never did): To determine the essential parts of a sculpture, roll it down a hill. The inessential parts will break off.

That hill, graveyard of the inessential, is discovered by the hopeless and mistaken for the world just before they mistake themselves for David’s white arms.

They are wrong. But to assume oneself essential is also wrong: a conundrum.

To be neither essential nor inessential—not to exist except as the object of someone’s belief, like those good times lying right around the corner—is the only possibility.

Nothing, nobody matters.

And yet the world is full of love . . .

blessings :: jay parini

Blessings for these things:
the dandelion greens I picked in summer
and would douse with vinegar and oil
at grandma’s little house in Pennsylvania,
near the river. Or the small potatoes
she would spade to boil and butter,
which I ate like fruit with greasy fingers.

Blessings for my friend, thirteen
that summer when we prayed by diving from a cliff
on Sunday mornings in the church
of mud and pebbles, foam and moss.
I will not forget the fizz and tingle,
sunning in wet skin on flat, cool rocks,
so drenched in summer.

And for you, my love, blessings
for the times we lay so naked in a bed
without the sense of turbulence or tides.
I could just believe the softness of our skin,
those sheets like clouds,
how when the sunlight turned to roses,
neither of us dared to move or breathe.

Blessings on these things and more:
the rivers and the houses full of light,
the bitter weeds that taste like sun,
dirt-sweetened spuds,
the hard bright pebbles, spongy mosses,
lifting of our bodies into whiffs of cloud,
all sleep-warm pillows in the break of dawn.

the song of empty rooms :: wale owoade

The fire you wore is the color
of my eyes. I have mistook a quiet

room once for your laughter
and the curtains once for your hair.

My shadow: plural and your absence:
a chorus—a fistful of light through

the crack—cobwebs as piano keys—
cupboards and drawers for keeping

memories—green blessings growing
in the sink—your shadow stepping

out of the wall. I am waiting for when
you will open the door. An empty

room is another word for music,
the song of the man, the woman,

the boy and the girl that slipped
out and left their shadows behind.

Your voice is my favorite album,
you left but your bones are still here.

for keeps :: joy harjo

Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.
Where have you been? they ask.
And what has taken you so long?
That night after eating, singing, and dancing
We lay together under the stars.
We know ourselves to be part of mystery.
It is unspeakable.
It is everlasting.
It is for keeps.

hymn to time :: ursula k. le guin

Time says “Let there be”
every moment and instantly
there is space and the radiance
of each bright galaxy.

And eyes beholding radiance.
And the gnats’ flickering dance.
And the seas’ expanse.
And death, and chance.

Time makes room
for going and coming home
and in time’s womb
begins all ending.

Time is being and being
time, it is all one thing,
the shining, the seeing,
the dark abounding.

looking out the window poem :: denis johnson

The sounds of traffic
die over the back lawn
to occur again in the low
distance.

The voices, risen, of
the neighborhood cannot
maintain that pitch
and fail briefly, start
up again.

Similarly my breathing rises
and falls while I look out
the window of apartment
number three in this slum,
hoping for rage, or sorrow.

They don’t come to me
anymore. How can I lament
anything? It is all
so proper, so much
as it should be, now

the nearing cumulus
clouds, ominous,
shift, they are like the
curtains, billowy,
veering at the apex
of their intrusion on the room.
If I am alive now,
it is only

to be in all this
making all possible.
I am glad to be
finally a part
of such machinery. I was
after all not so fond
of living, and there comes
into me, when I see
how little I liked
being a man, a great joy.

Look out our astounding
clear windows before evening.
It is almost as if
the world were blue
with some lubricant,
it shines so.

time to be the fine line of light :: carrie fountain

between the blind and the sill, nothing
really. There are so many things

that destroy. To think solely of them
is as foolish and expedient as not

thinking of them at all. All I want
is to be the river though I return

again and again to the clouds.
All I want is to stop beginning sentences

with All I want. No—no really all
I want is this morning: my daughter

and my son saying “Da!” back and forth
over breakfast, cracking each other up

while eating peanut butter toast
and raspberries, making a place for

the two of them I will, eventually,
no longer be allowed to enter. Time to be

the fine line. Time to practice being
the line. And then maybe the darkness.

migrant earth :: deema k. shehabi

So tell me what you think of when the sky is ashen?
—Mahmoud Darwish

I could tell you that listening is made for the ashen sky,
and instead of the muezzin’s voice, which lingers
     like weeping at dawn,
I hear my own desire, as I lay my lips against my mother’s cheek.

I kneel down beside her, recalling her pleas
the day she flung open the gates of her house
     for children fleeing from tanks.

My mother is from Gaza, but what do I know of the migrant earth,
as I enter a Gazan rooftop and perform ablutions in the ashen
     forehead of sky? As my soul journeys and wrinkles with homeland?

I could tell you that I parted with my mother at the country
     of skin. In the dream,
my lips were bruised, her body was whole again, and we danced
     naked in the street.

And no child understands absence past the softness
     of palms.

As though it is praise in my father’s palms
as he washes my mother’s body in the final ritual.

As though it is God’s pulse that comes across
her face and disappears

like you :: roque dalton

translated by Jack Hirschman

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.
And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.
And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

i, this body :: ilya kaminsky

I, this body into which the hand of God plunges,
empty-chested, stand.

At the funeral—
Momma Galya’s girls rise up to shake my hand.

I fold our child in a green handkerchief,
brief gift.

You left, my doorslamming wife; and I,
a fool, live.

But the voice I don’t hear when I speak to myself is the clearest voice:
when my wife washed my hair, when I kissed

between her toes:
in the empty streets of our district, a bit of wind

called for life.
Wife taken, child

not three days out of the womb, in my arms, our apartment quiet. I say
this slowly:

our apartment quiet, on the floor
dirty snow from her boots

move to the city :: nathaniel bellows

live life as a stranger. Disappear
into frequent invention, depending
on the district, wherever you get off
the train. For a night, take the name
of the person who’d say yes to that
offer, that overture, the invitation to
kiss that mouth, sit on that lap. Assume
the name of whoever has the skill to
slip from the warm side of the sleeping
stranger, dress in the hallway of the
hotel. This is a city where people
know the price of everything, and
know that some of the best things
still come free. In one guise: shed
all that shame. In another: flaunt the
plumage you’ve never allowed
yourself to leverage. Danger will
always be outweighed by education,
even if conjured by a lie. Remember:
go home while it’s still dark. Don’t
invite anyone back. And, once inside,
take off the mask. These inventions
are the art of a kind of citizenship,
and they do not last. In the end, it
might mean nothing beyond further
fortifying the walls, crystallizing
the questioned, tested autonomy,
ratifying the fact that nothing will be
as secret, as satisfying, as the work
you do alone in your room.

i loved the world so i married it :: josé olivarez

music, even on the day my grandma died
there were mangos though i tasted nothing.

but slowly i came back to the world & carne asada.
better than i remembered, smoke off the meat.  i could not

contain my happiness even though it felt offensive
to smile with my grandma buried & getting eaten

by the flowers. & sometimes, i look at my love &
think i would like to stay, to put a welcome mat

on our doorstep with our names hyphenated.
when i was young i believed in forever. then

my uncle died & i knew forever included none
of my family, included no friends, their stories

rotting in my head until i lose them again, so
i know i will divorce the world & let it keep

my most treasured possessions: a six piece
with lemon pepper & mild sauce on, all the honey

of a slow kiss, my Apple Music playlists,
the way mi abuelita smiled & called me Lupito.

i hated that name except when she said it.

small kindnesses :: danusha laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

the part of the bee’s body embedded in the flesh :: carol frost

The bee-boy, merops apiaster, on sultry thundery days
filled his bosom between his coarse shirt and his skin
with bees—his every meal wild honey.
He had no apprehension of their stings or didn’t mind
and gave himself—his palate, the soft tissues of his throat—
what Rubens gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing his fingers across a woman’s thigh
and Van Gogh’s brushwork heightened.
Whatever it means, why not say it hurts—
the mind’s raw, gold coiling whirled against
air currents, want, beauty? I will say beauty.

origin story :: jenny xie

I was profligate like a floodlight to the sun.

Hoarded saccharine and toothmarks,
wanted only the thickest rhymes, two of each.

Full I was of promises I never intended to keep:
puckered laughter, lines to feast.

I let everyone who entered my life enter through me.
Demanded nonsense love and bodies that would ring.

Not to mention higher kilowatts
of creeping joy, more red in everything—