Featured Poems


by Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy - Human Dark with Sugar - Drift


by Laura Kasischke

Laura Kasischke - Lillies Without - Manna



by Laura Kasischke

Laura Kasischke - Lillies Without - Elegy


by Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown - The New Testament - Cain


by Dean Young

Dean Young - Fall Higher - Opal

Getting to Know You

by Jeanne Marie Beaumont
Beaumont. Burning of the Three Fires. Getting to Know You
What is your favorite flower, favorite bird? I really want you to tell me. If you had twins what would you name them? Or two goldfish? How about two cats from the same litter? Mittens or gloves? What letter did you most love learning to write so when you scripted it over and over in your copybook you tingled with graphic pleasure? Pick a crayon. What's the best time of day? When you play Monopoly, which little token represents you on the board? Have a seat. This could take a while. Cup or mug? Placemats or tablecloth? Would you rather live in a world where no one cared? When you were six, what was your favorite song? It's sad to forget. Uh huh. What suit of cards do you prefer? Which fairy tale? Seashore or mountains? You must choose your horse on the merry-go-round or you can't ride—a lesson of long ago. What were the most comfortable shoes you ever owned? (Here I could tell a strange story; let's just say I have evidence—somewhere there's someone who could fill your shoes exactly.) What do you want for dinner?—speak or starve. My head hurts too. As it happens, you've stumbled into my humble democracy. Here's your cup of coffee, your violet-blue crayon, your miniature iron, your hummingbird . . . , now, friend (if I may call you friend), let's get to work.


by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Fuel. Ducks
We thought of ourselves as people of culture. How long will it be till others see us that way again? Iraqi friend In her first home each book had a light around it. The voices of distant countries floated in through open windows, entering her soup and her mirror. They slept with her in the same thick bed. Someday she would go there. Her voice, among all those voices. In Iraq a book never had one owner—it had ten. Lucky books, to be held often and gently, by so many hands. Later in American libraries she felt sad for books no one ever checked out. She lived in a country house beside a pond and kept ducks, two male, one female. She worried over the difficult relations of triangles. One of the ducks often seemed depressed. But not the same one. During the war between her two countries she watched the ducks more than usual. She stayed quiet with the ducks. Some days they huddled among reeds or floated together. She could not call her family in Basra which had grown farther away than ever nor could they call her. For nearly a year she would not know who was alive, who was dead. The ducks were building a nest.


by Li-Young Lee
Lee. Rose. Persimmons
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker slapped the back of my head and made me stand in the corner for not knowing the difference between persimmon and precision. How to choose persimmons. This is precision. Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted. Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one will be fragrant. How to eat: put the knife away, lay down newspaper. Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat. Chew the skin, suck it, and swallow. Now, eat the meat of the fruit, so sweet, all of it, to the heart. Donna undresses, her stomach is white. In the yard, dewy and shivering with crickets, we lie naked, face-up, face-down. I teach her Chinese. Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I've forgotten. Naked: I've forgotten. Ni, wo: you and me. I part her legs, remember to tell her she is beautiful as the moon. Other words that got me into trouble were fight and fright, wren and yarn. Fight was what I did when I was frightened, fright was what I felt when I was fighting. Wrens are small, plain birds, yarn is what one knits with. Wrens are soft as yarn. My mother made birds out of yarn. I loved to watch her tie the stuff; a bird, a rabbit, a wee man. Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class and cut it up so everyone could taste a Chinese apple. Knowing it wasn't ripe or sweet, I didn't eat but watched the other faces. My mother said every persimmon has a sun inside, something golden, glowing, warm as my face. Once in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper, forgotten and not yet ripe. I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill, where each morning a cardinal sang, The sun, the sun. Finally understanding he was going blind, my father sat up all one night waiting for a song, a ghost. I gave him the persimmons, swelled, heavy as sadness, and sweet as love. this year, in the muddy lighting of my parents' cellar, I rummage, looking for something I lost. My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs, black cane between his knees, hand over hand, gripping the handle. He's so happy that I've come home. I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question. All gone, he answers. Under some blankets, I find a box. Inside the box I find three scrolls. I sit beside him and untie three paintings by my father: Hibiscus leaf and a white flower. Two cats preening. Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth. He raises both hands to touch the cloth, asks, Which is this? This is persimmons, Father. Oh the feel of the wolftail on the silk, the strength, the tense precision in the wrist. I painted them hundreds of times eyes closed. These I painted blind. Some things never leave a person: sent of the hair of one you love, the texture of persimmons, in your palm, the ripe weight.

Farmer's Market Sweet Plums: Apology to the Flower Lady

by Geffrey Davis
Davis. Revising the Storm. Farmer's Market Sweet Plums Apology to the Flower Lady
We have no issue with her, per se. Guilty, we knew already what we wanted long before we noticed the slow gesture of her fingers: flower to scissors, to vase, to flower again. Her painful carefulness—: that anonymous labor for more beauty qua beauty. She almost convinces us to forget the fruit and choose the flower in her hands:—to take from her that burden of belief. Leaving the market, with bags of plums bumping at our hips, we begin to offer strangers that rounded sweetness, one by one, desperate for her gentleness, for her certainty in what the living need.

Shaking the Grass

by Janice N. Harrington
Harrington. Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone. Shaking the Grass
Evening, and all my ghosts come back to me like red banty hens to catalpa limbs and chicken-wired hutches, clucking, clucking, and falling, at last, into their head-under-wing sleep. I think about the field of grass I lay in once, between Omaha and Lincoln. It was summer, I think. The air smelled green, and wands of windy green, a-sway, a-sway, swayed over me. I lay on green sod like a prairie snake letting the sun warm me. What does a girl think about alone in a field of grass, beneath a sky as bright as an Easter dress, beneath a green wind? Maybe I have not shaken the grass. All is vanity. Maybe I never rose from that green field. All is vanity. Maybe I did no more than swallow deep, deep breaths and spill them out into story: all is vanity. Maybe I listened to the wind sighing and shivered, spinning, awhirl amidst the bluestem and green lashes: O my beloved! O my beloved! I lay in a field of grass once, and then went on. Even the hollow my body made is gone.

semi semi dash

by Jillian Weise
Weise. The Book of Goodbyes. semi semi dash
The last time I saw Big Logos he was walking to the Quantum Physics Store to buy magnets. He told me his intentions. He was wearing a jumpsuit with frayed cuffs. I thought the cuffs got that way from him rubbing them against his lips but he said they got that way with age. We had two more blocks to walk. "Once I do this, what are you going to do?" he asked. "I wish you wouldn't do it," I said. Big Logos bought the magnets and a crane delivered them to his house. After he built the 900-megahertz superconductor, I couldn't go to his house anymore because I have all kinds of metal in my body. I think if you love someone, you shouldn't do that, build something like that, on purpose, right in front of them.


by Janice N. Harrington
Harrington. The Hands of Strangers. Poems from the Nursing Home. Rot
This little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home We cared for her and watched the furious streaks, the flesh gone yellow, gray-green, then black, the darkness creeping from toe to toe, from toe to arch, till through the ruptured skin we could see her graying muscle. We could see her bones. But we turned her every hour, as the nurses directed, turned her gingerly so as not to lose the softened flesh. We lifted the ruined foot, wrapped in a paper layer, and eased it into a garbage bag to catch its leaking. That the bag was airless, a plastic kiln for already burning flesh, we did not consider, doing the best we could, doing what the nurses told us, giving her codeine with sips of water, watching as her urine darkened. But it didn't matter. She slept mostly, moaning when we lifted her head to press a cup against her lips, moaning as we turned her. Each day, the nurse begged her family: Reconsider, please reconsider. How many days? How many hours? Enough for the foot to fall from the ankle, for the Achilles' string to slacken, rotted through, for us to reel away, dizzied by wretchedness, afraid that we would watch the gangrenous blackening from ankle to calf. But at last the nurse called enough times. The son's wife came. She went in and hurried out, saying Oh. Oh, we didn't know. And we hated them.

Hit and Run

by Jim Daniels
Daniels. Birth Marks. Hit and Run
The girl was crossing the street, birthday cake in hand. The bus against the curb blocked traffic. My daughter dances three nights a week with graceful insects—level three, purple leotards. Last night playing softball in the park, I leaned against the fence where the girl's friends left flowers. You will never be forgotten, the scrawled sign read. I was dropping my daughter off at dance that night right after the accident. Body parts strewn across the road in front of the studio. Even the police looked stricken. I swerved around them, kept going. My daughter claims she closed her eyes and saw nothing. At softball, I eyed the frayed flowers, the plaintive sign streaked by rain. Liquid life goes on, and everyone is forgotten. I was 2 for 3 and made a nice play at second. I cannot tell you the final score. I cannot tell you who that birthday cake was for, splattered amid the gore. The ritual singing of sirens. The other team had some asshole pitching, whining about every call. Old guy my age who should've known better than to care: Ball. Strike. Safe. Out. Who cares? Nobody got hurt— at our age, isn't that enough, oh worthy opponent? A severed leg in the road. You can still see the imperfect yellow circles drawn by police, fading. Oh, dancing daughter. Watch me make a catch. Watch me run the bases. Open your eyes, girl.


by Kim Addonizio
Addonizio. Tell Me Fine
You're lucky. It's always them and not you. The family trapped in the fire, the secretary slain in the parking lot holding her coffee and Egg McMuffin, the ones rushed to emergency after the potluck. You're lucky you didn't touch the tuna casserole, and went for the baked chicken instead. Your friend with breast cancer that was detected too late—metastasized to the lymph nodes, the lungs, a few months to live—lucky there's no history in your family. Another friend's fiancé, heart attack at forty-seven. You lie in bed at night, your head on your lover's chest, and you're grateful. Your teenaged daughter, unlike all her friends, hasn't become sullen or combative, addicted to cigarettes or booze. She's not in the bathroom with her finger down her throat to throw up dinner. You and your family are fine. You're happy. It's like you're in your own little boat, just you, sailing along, and the wind is up and nothing's leaking. All around you you can see other boats filling up, flipping over, sliding under. If you look into the water you can watch them for a while, going down slowly, getting smaller and farther away. Soon, if nothing happens to you, if your luck holds, really, holds, you'll end up completely alone.


by Cecilia Woloch
Woloch. Carpathia. Fireflies
And these are my vices: impatience, bad temper, wine, the more than occasional cigarette, an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed, a hunger that isn't hunger but something like fear, a staunching of dread and a taste for bitter gossip of those who've wronged me—for bitterness— and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart to children whose names I don't even know and driving too fast and not being Buddhist enough to let insects live in my house or those cute little toylike mice whose soft gray bodies in sticky traps I carry, lifeless, out to the trash and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book to a human being, and humming and living inside my head and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt at twilight across the lawn and learned to catch fireflies in my hands, to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.

The Half King

by Wyn Cooper
Cooper. Chaos is the New Calm. The Half King
What reigns here is not a king but confusion so great half the people think they really have a king, making him Half King, the name of a bar in Chelsea owned by a friend of a friend whom I hope someday to lend advice at his place by the sea, which was falling to pieces when he bought it from someone as famous as he has become, though not on the level of Jesus, who watches over us all, waits and waits for us to call.

Dear Tiara

by Sean Thomas Dougherty
Dougherty. All You Ask For is Longing. Dear Tiara
I dreamed I was a mannequin in the pawnshop window of your conjectures. I dreamed I was a chant in the mouth of a monk, saffron-robed syllables in the religion of You. I dreamed I was a lament to hear the deep sorrow places of your lungs. I dreamed I was your bad instincts. I dreamed I was a hummingbird sipping from the tulip of your ear. I dreamed I was your ex-boyfriend stored in the basement with your old baggage. I dreamed I was a jukebox where every song sang your name. I dreamed I was an elevator, rising in the air shaft of your misgivings. I dreamed I was a library fine, I've checked you out too long so many times. I dreamed you were a lake and I was a little fish leaping through the thin reeds of your throaty humming. I must've dreamed I was a nail, because I awoke beside you still hammered. I dreamed I was a tooth to fill the absences of your old age. I dreamed I was a Christmas cactus, blooming in the desert of my stupidity. I dreamed I was a saint's hair-shirt, sewn with the thread of your saliva. I dreamed I was an All Night Movie Theater, showing the flickering black reel of my nights before I met you. I must've dreamed I was gravity, I've fallen for you so damn hard.

For My Grandmother's Feet, Swollen Again

by Nickole Brown
Brown. Fanny Says. For My Grandmother's Feet Swollen Again
But for one pair of storebought boots, your two feet grew up barefoot with no idea you'd be bedridden, expecting for the last time at forty your seventh child. And your sixth— your youngest daughter—my mother, would play shoe shop with a string. It's her favorite story: how she laced your feet with pretend ribbon, pretend satin, pretend lace, how she tied a bow and said, How about this pair, Mama, would these do? I can't say I was there, but the half of me that was round and fully formed nested in the mouth of her ovary, waiting to be allowed down its long swan throat, and at times when I'm too sick to get out of bed, I curl the edge of a haunted sheet between my toes to feel a pair of imaginary slippers made by a little girl who waits for me at the edge of my bed. This memory— is it mine to have? My feet are three sizes too big, paddle feet, unpolished, feet that never bore the weight of child and might never will. But still, when my body fevers, when I am weak, there is something bittersweet threading the loneliest part of me, something that says, Now, it's time. I've made you new shoes. Stand up.

Night Jar

by Michael Teig
Teig. There's a Box in the Garage You Can Beat with a Stick. Night Jar
In a light rain flowers light the highway where everyone's motor is already running. The world is baroque: my apartment is small. America is monstrous. The phone rings in everyone's pocket, but I remove my feet. I'm finished. For a long time a rat in the wall, a dog in a panic, an abandoned season by the sink to which the moon makes an excessive offer. Yesterday's moth broke down on the sill. Yesterday's headlines flattened like veterans. One dumpster, four pigeons. All manner of men.

Under the Lemon Tree

by Marsha de la O
de la O. Antidote for Night. Under the Lemon Tree
Not rain, but fine mist falls from my lemon tree, a balm of droplets in green shadow. Six years now my mother gone to earth. This dew, light as footsteps of the dead. She often walked out here, craned her neck, considered the fruit, hundreds of globes in their leathery hides, figuring on custard and pudding, meringue and hollandaise. But her plans didn't work out. The tree goes on unceasingly—lemons fall and fold into earth and begin again— me, I come here as a salve against heat, come to languish, to let the soft bursts— essence of citrus, summer's distillate— drift into my face and settle. Water and gold brew in the quiet deeps at the far end of the season. Leaves swallow the body of light and the breath of water brims over. My hands cup each other the way hers did.

Birthday Poem

by Keetje Kuipers
Kuipers. The Keys to the Jail. Birthday Poem
My earliest memory is someone else's. A few years later, I eat all the yellow flowers off the clover, the first of 1000 small secrets I'll forget. The little boys are my neighbors and I spend each afternoon making us a home. Soon my legs grow so long they are other than myself. More parts follow, scaffolding becomes necessary. The marching band plays songs I know by heart; I mean that I memorize all the words. Each time I get on a plane, I'm someone new, until I'm so good I don't need to fly to transform. When my parents are suddenly more tired than they've ever been, I take over the farm, the spoonfeeding. One minute I'm becoming myself, the next I'm forgetting how.


by Adrie Kusserow
Kusserow. Refuge. Borders
The phone rings, you're there, all sun, war and heat. You've decided to drive over the Ugandan border, the jeep all rigged— it's a done deal, but I beg anyway. Nairobi's slums burned, ports closed, no gasoline, so you fill up with what you can get, strap the jeep with tools and jerrycans. In the morning our daughter hovers at my bedroom door lunar and rumpled, she must have overheard me on the phone pleading. Silently she assumes her throne over the heater, plots her revolution, the warm air puffing her white nightgown like a Queen Toad. She reading me, reading her. When her brother Will tries to share her space she jabs him hard in the ribs, anger spilling red down her face and chest. And it happens again, whereby war, however diluted, however transformed, however many times removed, has spread, whereby the suffering of Kenya begets Uganda, begets my husband, begets me, begets Ana, begets her brother… Later in the mudroom, getting ready for school I see Will kick our tiny old mutt. Perhaps it will end here, with this dog who pees all over the house, sleeping on the couch all day long, cataracts like clouded moons, for now, noble keeper of the passing flame. The school bus arrives, my children chatter, emptied of their small wars they skip lightly toward its open door, the dog limping eagerly behind.

good times

by Lucille Clifton
Clifton. good times. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton
my daddy has paid the rent and the insurance man is gone and the lights is back on and my uncle brud has hit for one dollar straight and they is good times good times good times my mama has made bread and grampaw has come and everybody is drunk and dancing in the kitchen and singing in the kitchen oh these is good times good times good times oh children think about the good times

All the Boredoms in the World

by Rick Bursky
Bursky. I'm No Longer Troubled By The Extravagance. All the Boredoms in the World.
I forget if young girls still sleep with their boredom beneath their pillows until a boy says, I love you. My mother planted her boredom in a garden but never said what grew. There's a pattern developing here. No one is allowed in the basement of sleep but an old nun sits at the door and sells postcards with a colorful, but badly lit, photograph of it. There are times when boredom is a hand over a flame until the smell of burning flesh. For miles that night, silverfish, dead, floating at the surface, a piece of the moon on each. I drove past people looking up at the roof of a bank, arms motionless at their sides, a staggering scene of languor. It's always a warm afternoon when things like this happen, a man on a roof preparing to jump.

The Epistemology of Gentleness

by Geffrey Davis
Davis. Revising the Storm. The Epistemology of Gentleness
—for R When you're in love with someone whose father has committed suicide, you demand that the world be gentle with her now. The world, of course, will not listen. Still you go through the motions—smile to her assure her of the small, human ways the world will bend softly, now that you have set it straight. And suddenly, to spite you, suicide shows up everywhere. No story is safe, and people these days will kill themselves over anything: the home-team loss, stalled traffic, sappy love songs overplayed on the radio. You find yourself turning the conversations, the channels, storming out together midway through movies. At the rental store, hand in hand, you learn to predict nooses and medicine cabinets, suicidal tendencies coded in DVD descriptions. And you lie: The reviews got this one all wrong—or —I've seen this one, darling. It would put us both to sleep.


by Matthew Shenoda
Shenoda. Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone. Oasis
it is not enough to lament to acquiesce to the bordered divisions of country only once in a person's life can the sun become perfectly whole imbedded at the nape reminiscent of home all other moments are those of simple humanity cacophonous tapestries of sun & cloud, sea & river for a wanderer to savor for an artist to breathe here in this scorching sun a signal towards life beyond a road sign or a finely finished chair beyond the temple of a windstorm inside the gliding stone of remembrance beyond a box of ivory or wood despite cowry adornment a lover stands bare in this desert facing her lover offering only the sweat from the small of her back

Ode to the Little "r"

by Aracelis Girmay
Girmay. Kingdom Animalia. Ode to the Little r
Little propeller working between the two fields of my a's, making my name a small boat that leaves the port of old San Juan or Ponce, with my grandfather, Miguel, on a boat, or in an airplane, with a hundred or so others, leaving the island for work, cities, in winters that would break their bones, make old, old men out of all of them, factory workers, domino players, little islands themselves who would eat & be eaten by Chicago, New York, the wars they fought without being able to vote for the president. Little propeller of their names: Francisco, Reymundo, Arelis, Margarita, Hernán, Roberto, Reina. Little propeller of our names delivering the cargo of blood to the streets of Holyoke, Brooklyn, New London, Ojai, where the teacher says, "Say your name?" sweetly, & the beautiful propeller working between the two fields of my a's & the teacher saying, "Oh! You mean, 'Are-Raw-Sell-Lease.'" Or "Robe-Bert-Toe" or "Marred-Guh-Reetuh, like the drink!" & the "r" sounding like a balloon deflating in the room, sad & sagging. I am hurt. It is as if I handed her all my familiar trees & flowers, every drawing of the family map & boats & airplanes & cuatros & coquis, & she used her English to make an axe & tried to chop them down. But, "r," little propeller of my name, small & beautiful monster changing shapes, you win. You fly around the room, little bee, upsetting the teacher & making all of Class-310A laugh, you fly over the yard, in our mouths, as our bodies make airplanes over the grass, you, little propeller, are taking over the city, you are the sound of cars racing, the sound of bicycle spokes fitted with playing cards to make it sound like we are going fast, this is our ode to you, little "r," little machine of our names, simple as a heart, just working, always, there when we go to the grocery, there in the songs we sing in our sleep.

The Inarticulate

by Michael Waters
Waters. Parthenopi. The Inarticulate
Touching your face, I am like a boy who bags groceries, mindless on a Saturday, jumbling cans of wax beans and condensed milk among frozen meats, the ribboned beef and chops like maps of continental drift, extremes of weather and hemisphere, egg carton perched like a Napoleonic hat, til he touches something awakened by water, a soothing skin, eggplant or melon or cool snow pea, and he pauses, turning it in his hand, this announcement of color, purple or green, the raucous rills of the aisles overflowing, and by now the shopper is staring when the check-out lady turns and says "Jimmy is anything the matter?" Touching your face, I am like that boy brought back to his body, steeped in the moment, fulfilled but unable to speak.


by Meg Kearney
Kearney. An Unkindness of Ravens. Curse
The difference between a raven and a crow is the intent of their blackness. The crow is a raven's shadow. The crow is a memory of a raven. Only a raven can transcend the raven to become a prophecy. We dream of crows but the raven lands in our bed, wakes us wide-eyed and sweating rivers, rivers of our body's water running hot between our breasts, hot across our forehead and into our own black hair. It's a river I'm drowning in now, a river fed by my own murder of crows, and I alone can save me. Two thousand years ago perhaps we rescued each other, and a thousand years ago a raven slid between us. Now here we are, clinging to opposite shores, each reaching a hand out toward the river's tongue, thinking somehow our tongues might save us this time, break the spell if we could just name it. I wish I could talk beyond surviving, beyond breathing, but I have a raven in my mouth, I have a river in my lungs and no name is coming to me, only blackness, the lateness of the hour, the sound of wings beating.


by John Gallaher
Gallaher. In A Landscape. XLIX
The college mascot is visiting the elementary school. It's celebrity reading day, and it strikes me as suddenly funny, as mascots are mute creatures best experienced from a distance. Last week the university president was the celebrity reader. He read a book called T Is for Turkey. I asked Robin if it was an autobiography. I love it when life gives us these little punch lines. Like the way "that's what she said," keeps making the rounds, which was once, apparently "Said the actress to the bishop," which comes from Britain, and might date from Elizabethan times, or, the much better, to some at least, when someone says something with an "-er" ending to you, you can reply, "but you brought her." Soccer? You brought her. Sucker? You get the drift. Hold a screw in your palm, and ask someone if they wanna screw. If someone is wearing something with a heart on it, you can say, "I see you've got a heart on." (That one doesn't work well on paper.) One of the ones I've known for a long time, I picked up from a guy in high school, Vick Vanucci: pick up a leaf and then hand it to someone, saying, "leaf me alone." A couple months after I heard him say that, I got to use a similar one on him. He was flipping my social studies book closed while I was trying to read (it was reading aloud day in social studies class), and writing "YOU ARE A DI_K" on the inside heal of my sneakers that were under my desk for gym class next period. I'd had enough. So I waited my chance and then hit him as hard as I could across the back of his trumpet playing hand with my gym lock. It was a dial combination lock with a big circular knob on the front. There was already swelling by the end of class. So then, next period, there we were in the gym. He does the whole arm-up-behind-my-back-smashing-my-faceinto- the-lockers thing. Ah, high school. He said, "Tell everybody you're a dick!" And I replied, "OK, you're a dick." I sometimes think it was the greatest moment of my life.


by Ray Gonzalez
Gonzalez. Beautiful Wall. Axis
The volcano in my grandmother's Mexican village smothered the town, though the girl escaped because the axis of revolution sent her family into exile, black clouds covering their journey to the north. The axis of the earth is a skeletal bone extending from pole to pole, the arm of someone holding on. The Japanese earthquake shifted the axis of the earth, moving Japan twelve feet closer to North America, each day shortened by one second. When a poet said the past never happens because it is always present, the other one proclaimed the past is in the future, the axis bending to allow these words to skip the water like stones thrown by a boy in search of his father, the axis of yesterday sinking the stones the boy hurled across the pond.

The country from a distance

by Jennifer Kronovet
Kronovet. Awayward. The country from a distance
At dusk the birds roost in the same two trees: American. Don't look at me walking making me that person walking. We don't meet at the questions. Why these trees? They stand beside the bakery that decorates pastries with sugar made to look like sawdust. We meet at the corners of fact: Subway tunnels present ads appearing to move but we are moving. Two children smile closer together because they are eating bread.


by Ira Sadoff
Sadoff. True Faith. Id
It comes from that voice dogs can hear, the glassbreaking high C that makes life sylphlike. Of course sylphlike's for pussies. If I say I want a dancer's body, I don't want to dance: I want to be lithe, lasting a little longer to take in the traffic jams. I don't want to look inward, reflect on, stare at my reflection, nail another deer on the mantle. Be indelible— all cobble and boarded-up windows. Dear reader, I left cupboards open for your perusal. So trespass my secrets: I have never cast the petulance aside, not even just sat with that humlessness. Can I call that my own personal abyss? I'm not exempt, I'm no special case, I won't go around with scissors and a razor blade, cutting into things, inspecting, shutting down the operation. I don't want to say nimbus when I mean shotgun. Or be my friend when I mean slip it in. Penthouse, when I mean pent-up house.

Summer Evening

by Isabella Gardner
Gardner. Isabella Gardner the collected poems. Summer Evening
The salmon west leapt soft, spawned wild to sunset, and the poaching lovers stood heron-still in the foam of the orchard, baited to catch some sound of home, while no dog barked and no door slammed and no child shouted. But poplar leaves clashed like cymbals in the thin wind that blew and at last the moon boomed out of the apple-tree and the two lovers drove into the amorous dusk and swam like swans through the clamorous air.

The War Was Good, Thank You

by Hugh Martin
Martin. The Stick Soldiers.The War Was Good, Thank You
— In the college cafeteria, a freshman girl asks, So, how was the war? 1. We live in small steel hooches shaped like boxcars. We fill bags with sand and sweat to pile beside us. Our rifles collect dust when we sleep. Our rifles collect dust when we fire them. 2. In Jalula, I stood in the turret, hands on the Fifty. I looked over mud walls and fences into backyards, alleyways. A man and a woman backed from a doorway; I watched them through dark sunglasses and the sight aperture. They kissed, then turned—they saw me. The man smiled, as if wanting me to keep it a secret. I didn't tell anyone. 3. Some afternoons, I lay outside shirtless and set ice cubes on my closed eyelids. I let them melt. 4. After weddings, people point rifles to the sky, and fire, as if wanting to put holes through heaven. 5. Groups send care packages. There's always so much ChapStick, baby wipes; we pile it in boxes or throw it to the children. I spoil myself with ChapStick, balm my lips even when it's not needed. Outside the wire, I raise my chin to the sun, flex my lips, kiss them together, not afraid of anything, not afraid at all.

The Puffball

by Fleda Brown
Brown. No Need of Sympathy. The Puffball
Was beauteously, bulbously huge—redundant as a luminous moon—puffed and balled, seized by Uncle Richmond from the deep woods, plucked with both hands and brought to the doorstep for our amazement and accolades, and to be sliced and fried, tasting like nothing but slightly singed butter, which we happily shared back then, several years before he collapsed on the porch at 85 with a heart attack, having driven forty miles from Petoskey home clutching his chest, sweat streaming after the meeting where the argument was made to inject toxic wastes under the "perfectly safe" shelf of rock to mingle in the underground seas and sift slowly out to the Great Lakes as has happened before. He stood and said so, hands shaking more than usual, so that on the dark road home he had to stop for a minute near King's Orchard then drive on, legs finally giving way on his own front porch, Lee luckily hearing something like a branch falling, so he survived, lean and leaving to range through the forests after the fantastical and favor us with the tale of it, again, or occasionally with the whole thing, harbored and carried into our presence, a careful joy, mysteriously magnified, come upon as if the earth had started suddenly over.

Cloud of Witness

by G.C. Waldrep
Waldrep. Disclamor. Cloud of Witness
Day's cage again and this time I try for a breeze, I open a window to the east and a window to the west and I think that this is something like the holly that lifts its blood- fruit bright to the morning sun, to the afternoon sun, to the evening breeze though with less fervor, and I think the phone will ring. It always has. It is not ashamed of this, its function, like the hollyberries in their naked plenty which bob and weave, the bees which, seeking their gilded herm, their bone-skep pene- trate and stop at one single point, as light in certain media. I crave the aftersilence. Angry buzz as night falls: that artificial sun, a carnegie of lovers. I had rather been weeping. It is beautiful. It is almost fearfully beautiful. It is most fearsomely beautiful. I am still thinking, I am still waiting for the phone to ring. The holly plays host to its spare nation. If I believed you what would change. Tell me.

Big Box Encounter

by Erika Meitner
Meitner. Copia. Big Box Encounter
My student sends letters to me with the lights turned low. They feature intricate vocabulary, like soporific and ennui. Like intervening and kinetic and tumult. He strings words together like he's following a difficult knitting pattern. He is both more and less striking without a shirt on. I know this from the time I ran into him at Walmart buying tiki torches and margarita mix and, flustered, I studied the white floor tiles, the blue plastic shopping cart handle, while he told me something that turned to white noise and I tried not to look at his beautiful terrible chest, the V-shaped wings of his chiseled hipbones. I write him back. I tell him there are two horses outside my window and countless weeds. I tell him that the train comes by every other hour and rattles the walls. But how to explain my obsession with destruction? Not self-immolation, but more of a disintegration, slow, like Alka-Seltzer in water. Like sugar in water. I dissolve. He writes enthralling. He writes epiphany and coffee machine. He is working in an office, which might as well be outer space. I am in the mountains. The last time I worked in an office, he was ten. I was a typewriter girl. I was a maternity-leave replacement for a fancy secretary. I helped sell ads at TV Guide. I was fucking a guy who lived in a curtain-free studio above a neon BAR sign on Ludlow Street and all night we were bathed in pot smoke and flickering electric pink light. Here, the sun goes down in the flame of an orange heat-wave moon. The train thrums and rattles the distance, and I think of his chest with the rounded tattoo in one corner and my youth, the hollows of his hipbones holding hard, big-box fluorescent light.


by Dan Albergotti
Albergotti. The Boatloads. Vestibule
I sometimes wish I could find Cindy to thank her for agreeing with my fine idea that we sneak into the university chapel late one night in 1983 to make love. I don't just want to thank her for giving me the trump card—"house of worship"— I hold in every stupid party game that begins, "Where's the strangest place you've ever…?" No, I want to thank her for the truth of it. For knowing that the heart is holy even when our own hearts were so frail and callow. Truth: it was 1983; we were nineteen years old; we lay below the altar and preached a quiet sermon not just on the divinity of skin, but on the grace of the heart beneath. It was the only homily we knew, and our souls were beatified. And if you say sentiment and cliché, then that is what you say. What I know is what is sacred. Lord of this other world, let me recall that night. Let me again hear how our whispered exclamations near the end seemed like rising hymnal rhythm, and let me feel how those forgotten words came from somewhere else and meant something. Something, if only to the single moth that, in the darkened air of that chapel, fluttered its dusty wings around our heads.

Race Relations

by Carolyn Kizer
Kizer. Yin. Race Relations
I sang in the sun of my white oasis as you broke stone Then I sang and paraded for the distant martyrs loving the unknown They lay still in the sun of Sharpeville and Selma while you broke stone When you fled tyranny face down in the street signing stones with your blood Far away I fell silent in my white oasis ringed with smoke and guns Martyred in safety I signed for lost causes You bled on You bled on Now I recommence singing in a tentative voice loving the known I sing in the sun and storm of the world to the breakers of stone You are sentenced to life in the guilt of freedom in the prison of memory Haunted by brothers who still break stone I am sentenced to wait And our love-hate duet is drowned by the drum of the breakers of stone for D.B.

Blessed is the Field

by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Kelly. Orchard. Blessed is the Field
In the late heat the snakeroot and goldenrod run high, White and gold, the steaming flowers, green and gold, The acid-bitten leaves….It is good to say first An invocation. Though the words do not always Seem to work. Still, one must try. Bow your head. Cross your arms. Say: Blessed is the day. And the one Who destroys the day. Blessed is the ring of fire In which we live….How bitter the burning leaves. How bitter and sweet. How bitter and sweet the sound Of the single gold and black insect repeating Its two lonely notes. The insect's song both magnifies The field and casts a shadow over it, the way A doorbell ringing through an abandoned house Makes the falling rooms, papered with lilies and roses And two-headed goats, seem larger and more ghostly. The high grasses spill their seed. It is hard to know The right way in or out. But here, you can have Which flower you like, though there are not many left, Lady's thumb in the gravel by the wood's fringe And on the shale spit beneath the black walnut that houses The crow, the peculiar cat's-paw, sweet, everlasting, Unbearably soft. Do not mind the crow's bark. He is fierce and solitary, but he will let us pass, Patron of the lost and broken-spirited. Behind him In the quarter ring of sumacs, flagged like circus tents, The deer I follow, and that even now are watching us, Sleep at night their restless sleep. I find their droppings In the morning. And here at my feet is the self-heal, Humblest of flowers, bloomless but still intact. I ate Some whole once and did not get well but it may strike Your fancy. The smell of burning rubber is from A rabbit carcass the dog dragged into the ravine. And the smell of lemon is the snakeroot I am crushing Between my thumb and forefinger….There could be Beneath this field an underground river full Of sweet liquid. A dowser might find it with his witching Wand and his prayers. Some prayers can move Even the stubborn dirt….Do you hear? The bird I have never seen is back. Each day at this time He takes up his ominous clucking, fretting like a baby, Lonely sweetling. It is hard to know the right way In or out. But look, the goldenrod is the color Of beaten skin. Say: Blessed are those who stand still In their confusion. Blessed is the field as it burns.

Killed in Childbirth

by Janice N. Harrington
Harrington. Even the Hollow My Body Made is Gone. Killed in Childbirth
Dust, stillness, the stench of raw earth, each year, this same solemnity— lifting the trapdoor to take the rungs down and down into a room of sand in search of a box that held nothing. Nothing? A cardboard box tied by twine, storage for two skirts, a cotton blouse, a tea-colored slip, a lady's handkerchief stitched with purple floss by hands she had never touched, though she knew the pockets their fingers had reached into, and the hems they had raised and pushed aside. Heirlooms washed and folded over a garden fence, left for the sun to dry and the heat to billow full again, as clothes will always seek dimension. See—she was a short woman and wide-hipped. She sewed. On Sundays she wore a blue cotton blouse with velvet panels. Her hems swished and smelled of red sand. Nothing more. And the one who raised the trapdoor and lifted the box asks, asks, and asks, but they know nothing more. Slip, skirts, blouse, hanky, she brings them in, smooths the folds into fresh creases, mummies each piece into sheet or pillow sham, and restores them in a cardboard box to sand, to darkness and cool unmoving air. Will anyone save the cloth-skin that once held your shape? Will anyone wash away its darkness?

Oh What a Red Sweater

by Alan Michael Parker
Parker. Elephants & Butterflies. Oh What a Red Sweater
Too young for her body's changes, but ready anyway, the angle of her teen years practiced every night— watching TV from the plush sofa, one hand dangling— she knows just how to try on the fish-net, body hugging, calf-length red sweater as she steps from the dressing room of the thrift store, met by her mother's panic: Mama, can I have it please? And oh, how I want Mama to say yes, and oh, how I want Mama to say no, because how can you choose? And which body will be my next body, within this life? (It isn't you, I tell the mirror, and put back the pork pie hat.) Behind the register a gaggle of figurines, blind beneath their fezzes, beams upon us all— glazed thrift shoppers, the odd lot, gleeful and desperate. What brightly painted doodads, what riches on the racks, and oh, the girl and the $4 red sweater. She's still a little girl, middle school three weeks away, and an hour's bumpy bus ride in the summer rain, wending down the coastal highway: she'll listen to her Mama. Me? I'll listen to the rain typing gibberish on my umbrella, and try on word after word after word, always getting wrong the color of those rose hips along the muddy ditch, a blurred swath of pink and green by the thrift store sign, wedged in the present where a little girl twirls a shopping bag and stomps in every puddle in the parking lot.


by Louis Simpson
Simpson. StrugglingTimes. Consolations
Dickinson had a cockatoo she called Semiramis and loved dearly. Whitman was a trencherman, his favorite dish a mulligan stew. Frost went for long walks. Eliot played croquet. Pound took fencing lessons. There is a snapshot of Yeats with a woman in a garden, naked to the waist and smiling. Auden, when he was old, counted the sheets of toilet paper that a visitor used.

The Genius of Time

by Katy Lederer
Lederer. The Heaven-Sent Leaf.The Genius of Time
How much time do we waste in this way? With this wish to be penniless, free? I am feeling these, the confines of the spirit, so I must give in. To this scene: of a boy in a sandbox, now playing, His castle is drying to wind. He thinks that time belongs to him, That time does not annihilate according to its ancient will. He stands in the box, his palms out, the loud wind passing over his fingers. Within his small fingers, the granules of pleasure. Within his small pleasure, the granules of need. Let us slake this mind to nothingness, This body, then to nothingness. Let us call this the genus of time.


by Devin Becker
Becker. Shame Shame. Data
If you believe everything is data, a pulsing sphere of inputs and outputs feeding off each other—circumstance being both the mold and what is molded—an act of Terrorism (that constant), however gratuitous, must be considered a kind of natural disaster, as it is, at base, a release, from the system, of a tension built by the rubbing together of opposite and incongruous desires. One birthday, ever the Protestant, I decided I should remind myself the world suffered while I celebrated, so I downloaded the lead New York Times photo—an Iraqi woman crying over the charred spot where her boy had perished—and let it devastate me for a while. Now it's stored with my other image files—paintings I like, photos from bars, etc.—and like them, it comes up sometimes on my screensaver. I'm so used to it now, I barely see it anymore—the charred spot like a brushstroke, her white teeth above the black O of her open mouth. The scene floats by without charge; the shock of it used up when? That first day? (My life consumed by itself, myself, my data. My dataset, my healthy dataset—) When the photo comes up with guests over and someone notices, I use the occasion to anecdote about my Midwestern/Protestant guilt-ethic. Oh and we laugh. We laugh for what seems ages.


by Wyn Cooper
Cooper. Chaos is the New Calm. Weave
From the mosque the muezzin calls through speakers on minarets, sounds that weave down every alley, that find me where I lie and lure me toward another prayer. I stay in a slum, don't bat an eye when people cry at the door. I can't close it on those who wonder why I'm here at all. I follow directions when they're given in language I don't understand. I watch the Turks as they converse, watch their hands weave the air, how they tell their stories here.

The throat-flute uttering

by Karen Volkman
Volkman. Nomina. The throat flute uttering
The throat-flute uttering its constant note of claim and name and wake and never-same and nuanced cadences of sate, remote days translated into a breathing frame, knows its viewless voice is future's lend, surpassing present where it grows and dwells momently, glancing vocable, to spend blooming fullness as it spills and swells in the air, ear, othered. Heard, is it the same? Future-fathered, present-mothered—instrument of mute contingencies its songs declaim note by note by stopless increment in the sounding, silenced. Audible degree nights the note that lets mind's nighttime see.

A Family Story

by Deborah Brown
Brown. Walking the Dog's Shadow. A Family Story
Like that mouse who clung to the cabin wall by its pale, delicate nails, its shapely knuckles curved tight, and then its tail flicking side to side like a tongue over its plump thumb of a body, as if joining the argument, clawing its way up, swaying until, in the morning, the soft collapsed body of the mouse, stuck half in, half out of the wall, as though he'd heard beckoning noises from the field, as though he'd tried to drive straight through and batter his small way there.

The Shipfitter's Wife

by Dorianne Laux
Laux. Smoke. The Shipfitter's Wife
I loved him most when he came home from work, his fingers still curled from fitting pipe, his denim shirt ringed with sweat, smelling of salt, the drying weeds of the ocean. I'd go to where he sat on the edge of the bed, his forehead anointed with grease, his cracked hands jammed between his thighs, and unlace the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles and calves, the pads and bones of his feet. Then I'd open his clothes and take the whole day inside me—the ship's gray sides, the miles of copper pipe, the voice of the foreman clanging off the hull's silver ribs. Spark of lead kissing metal. The clamp, the winch, the white fire of the torch, the whistle, and the long drive home.


by Erika Meitner
Meitner. Copia. Niagara
Witness this: peonies and roses on the bedspread. Her red dress. The motel curtains sliding together to cover their view of parking lot oil stains and cigarette butts, the billboard that asks How Will The Falls Transform You? Their bodies give way, unresolved and stumbling. Afterwards, he stands in the rented doorframe listening to her shifting, her breath. In the half-melting drifts. In the creak of the car door before the slam. And how she breathes, like an accordion or a jewel box, and the sky opens. It's not the first time he prays for wonders instead of happiness. Cave of the Winds. Maid of the Mist. Rushing torrents of neon bouncing off the pavement between gaps in the motel curtains: aperture of plastic, chrome, electric light. Love is thrown and it is caught. It lives a long time in the air, floats on the surface of the skin. It can overflow, bounce like a fiddle string. It can be blurred, shaped like an onion peel. The half-moon of her body in this stained place, vertiginous. He hasn't written these words in a long time. He writes them with the motel pen. If there was an apartment and I had a decent job and you felt happy and thought there could be a nice history together, would you come home?

The Widow's Yard

by Isabella Gardner
Gardner. Isabella Gardner the collected poems. The Widow's Yard
For Myra "Snails lead slow idyllic lives . . ." The rose and the laurel leaves in the raw young widow's yard were littered with silver. Hard- ly a leaf lacked the decimal scale of the self of a snail. Frail in friendship I observed with care these creatures (meaning to spare the widow's vulnerable eyes the hurting pity in my gaze). Snails, I said, are tender skinned. Excess in nature. . . sun rain wind are killers. To save themselves snails shrink to shelter in their shells where they wait safe and patient until the elements are gent- ler. And do they not have other foes? the widow asked. Turtles crows foxes rats, I replied, and canned heat that picnickers aband- on. Also parasites invade their flesh and alien eggs are laid inside their skins. Their mating too is perilous, The meeting turns their faces blue with bliss and consummation of this absolute embrace is so extravagantly slow in coming that love begun at dawn may end in fatal sun. The widow told me that her husband knew snails' ways and his gar- den had been Eden for them. He said the timid snail could lift three times his weight straight up and haul a wagon toy loaded with a whole two hundred times his body's burden. Then as we left the garden she said that at the first faint chill the first premonition of fall the snails go straight to earth . . . excrete the lime with which they then secrete the opening in their shells . . . and wait for spring. It is those little doors which sing, she said, when they are boiled. She smiled at me when I recoiled.

The End of Pink

by Kathryn Nuernberger
Nuernberger. The End of Pink. The End of Pink
My nipples are brown now. One way to describe me is mouse- like. Like fur on the one decapitated in the silverware drawer this morning. Once we set a trap for a mouse so fat the hinge could do no more than pinch his neck contorted. for hours he clinked around the spoons. If you survive your own execution, the only justice is that you be permitted to walk away with your decapitated head in your hands, as Saint Denis did, up the hill into the chapel of the rest of his life, where we would come to eat sandwiches on a bench, holding hands as we would when we took the mouse to a grassy lot in the alley behind the First Presbyterian. Because a hawk noticed and became restless on his branch, we stood guard watching the mouse try to organize himself. It's disgusting to touch a rodent, so we used tongs to straighten the sideways spine trapped so unaccountably wrong. The fat creature limped himself into the yellow grass and further, the bird moved on, and we went home to dinner happy, knowing happy for the mouse was unlikely, but then so was Denis— how wide-eyed he must have been! When I told Brian about my nipples, he told me a little joke: A boy was in a terrible accident. He finally woke in the hospital and cried, "Doctor! I can't feel my legs!" The doctor was reassuring, "Of course you can't. We had to amputate your arms."

Words for Worry

by Li-Young Lee
Lee. Book of My Nights. Words for Worry
Another word for father is worry. Worry boils the water for tea in the middle of the night. Worry trimmed the child's nails before singing him to sleep. Another word for son is delight, another word, hidden. And another is One-Who-Goes-Away. Yet another, One-Who-Returns. So many words for son: He-Dreams-for-All-Our-Sakes. His-Play-Vouchsafes-Our-Winter-Share. His-Dispersal-Wins-the-Birds. But only one word for father. And sometimes a man is both. Which is to say sometimes a man manifests mysteries beyond his own understanding. For instance, being the one and the many, and the loneliness of either. Or the living light we see by, we never see. Or the sole word weighs heavy as a various name. And sleepless worry folds the laundry for tomorrow. Tired worry wakes the child for school. Orphan worry writes the note he hides in the child's lunch bag. It begins, Dear Firefly….

If You Wish to Be Removed from This List

by Jeanne Marie Beaumont
Beaumont. Burning of the Three Fires. If You Wish To Be Removed from This List
You must be more careful. You must wash your hands up to your elbows and dry them with a linen towel. You must say please. You must swallow your lumpy medicine. You must draw a card and return it to the deck. You must deny deny deny. You must put it in writing. You must write your name on a cup and pee in it. You must read Moby Dick. You must read Moby Dick again. You must perform forty hours of public penance. You must eat your spinach and finish your milk. You must shave. You must do windows. You must name names. You must demonstrate your ability to parallel park. You must share. You must lock the door and leave the key under the mat. You must change diapers. You must sift the dry ingredients and fold them into the wet ingredients. You must learn to work around the pain. You must drop a sack of unmarked bills in the trash bin by the sweetgum tree. You must forget what you just saw. You must produce your passport when asked: now. You must slip into something more uncomfortable. You must revise. You must, for your own protection, put on the blindfold. You must reset your clock. You must let the dog lie at the foot of the bed. You must pay the piper and leave a generous tip; use exact change. You must burn the dark letters. You must bail some water. You must forgive your mother. You must march to the river's edge. You must stop crying. You must give away your possessions to the poor. You must soak in bleach. You must pledge allegiance. You must summon the energy to clear the last hurdle. You must be very very brave. You must click your heels three times. Wish to be removed from this list, moved from this list, emptied of all words.


by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Fuel. Messenger
Someone has been painting NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE across the backs of bus benches, blotting out the advertisements beneath with green so the strong silver letters appear clearly at corners, in front of taco stands and hardware stores. Whoever did this must have done it in the dark, clanging paint cans block to block or a couple of sprays— they must have really wanted to do it. Among the many distasteful graffiti on earth this line seems somehow honorable. It wants to help us. It could belong to anyone, Latinas, Arabs, Jews, priests, glue sniffers. Mostly I wonder about what happened or didn't happen in the painter's life to give her this line. I don't wonder about the person who painted HIV under the STOPs on the stop signs in the same way. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE Did some miracle startle the painter into action or is she waiting and hoping? Does she ride the bus with her face pressed to the window looking for her own message? Daily the long wind brushes YES through the trees.

Parable of House and Broom

by Katy Lederer
Lederer. The Heaven-Sent Leaf. Parable of House and Broom
The gap between wanting and having is Great. What does the house care when brooms Shake? The minaret When the sky breaks Over it? Nothing. The tall trees are whispering to the wind That they are comely. The wind brings its tidy joy And in its wake, Removes.

The Lynching Postcard, Duluth, Minnesota

by Ray Gonzalez
Gonzalez. Beautiful Wall. The Lynching Postcard. Duluth, Minnesota
There is a postcard in an antique shop in Duluth with a photograph of the infamous lynching of a black man carried out in the town in the 1930s. The owner was turned down by eBay when he wanted to sell it there. Tourists walk into his shop and stare at the lone card in the glass case. The owner says it is better to sell it than donate it to a museum where it would be locked away in a drawer. Some people want it removed. Others snicker and stare, shake their heads and accept the fact this is "only Minnesota." Each morning, the shop owner glances at the case to make sure the postcard is there. Thousands have bowed over the glass. At night, when the shop is closed, the postcard lies in the case, the body hanging in the cold moonlight from Lake Superior, the shadow from the swinging body forming a shape that rises through the glass to darken the shop. Over a dozen people have come across it. They don't know the act of bending over the glass to study the dead body on the pole is forming an invisible arc of light over time, a shadow where those who bow to look imitate the shape of a hanging tree.

Second Estrangement

by Aracelis Girmay
Girmay. the black maria.Second Estrangement
Please raise your hand, whomever else of you has been a child, lost, in a market or a mall, without knowing it at first, following a stranger, accidentally thinking he is yours, your family or parent, even grabbing for his hands, even calling the word you said then for "Father," only to see the face look strangely down, utterly foreign, utterly not the one who loves you, you who are a bird suddenly stunned by the glass partitions of rooms. How far the world you knew, & tall, & filled, finally, with strangers.

Smoke Tree

by Richard Foerster
Foerster. The Burning of Troy. Smoke Tree
Cotinus coggygria I was hiking half a world from home when I saw a smoke tree on the trail ahead smolder into a lather of light, plush as powder in the heat-choked air— and clustered along spinules, thin as capillaries, a tiny arson flared, then rose into a stratosphere where the ash of all I was and had was rushing toward some distant ground I'd planted once with such as this in memory of someone dead, and from that half a world away, a cloud returned faltering with rain: I was no longer sad.


by G.C. Waldrep
Waldrep. Disclamor. Wildwood
The lights come on in the valley below. When did you last believe shutters were for shutting? A domestic penance: these accoutrements, spall and mixed design breaking like ribbons of speech on ribbons of water. Dialect is the truest gift, self speaking self the way the trees did, For we are one yet we are many and we rise. There was a time I could not hear because my ears were stopped with pure honey. I was standing still. At what point do thieves cease to steal our stories, our painted shadows? —Proverb and joke. Carefully I copy the image of empire's currency, abstraction of the leader, abstraction from the mode: thus sex as artifact. Lilith, take heart. I have not let anyone in. Scientists now project the pollen count millennia into the past— If I refuse to remove my hand from the guiding thread it is only because I have not yet pledged allegiance to foreskin, shent villa, sweet crystal psalm.


by Ryan Teitman
Teitman. Litany for the City. Cathedrals
We tent our fingers to make a cathedral. This is how it's always been done—how a whisper between two palms becomes an architecture we can't fit into our mouths. We hear words like nave and remember shoveling piles of tulips into a burnt-out flatbed. An old man says cupola, and I think of knotty loaves of rye stacked like cordwood in the baker's pantry. I dream of a church's unfinished dome squinting upward like the battered eye-socket of a bare-knuckle boxer. Every dream is its own kind of shaky cathedral— joists and vaults bracing it against the weight of another morning invoked against us. There's a cathedral built from the leg bones of draft horses and saints. A cathedral of birds scaffolding the sky. A cathedral of bodies opening to each other on beds smooth as altars. A cathedral of hands unbuttoning the skin of every prayer within reach.

We Were Similar in That Way

by Rick Bursky
Bursky. I'm No Longer Troubled By The Extravagance. We Were Similar in That Way
It was windy in the snow globe. Our windowpanes rattled. Snow piled at the door. We held hands and sat cross-legged on the floor. We didn't know when the storm would pass. Take whatever you want, she said. I said the same. And neither of us took a thing. After we let go of each other I couldn't decide what to do with my hands. She decided to run sobbing from the house, into the swirling snow. That was the last time I saw her. Yes, we were once that small.


by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Transfer. Dusk
where is the name no one answered to gone off to live by itself beneath the pine trees separating houses without a friend or a bed without a father to tell it stories how hard was the path it walked on all those years belonging to none of our struggles drifting under the calendar page elusive as residue when someone said how have you been it was strangely that name that tried to answer

Home from Iraq, Barking Spider Tavern

by Hugh Martin
Martin. The Stick Soldiers. Home from Iraq, Barking Spider Tavern
—Cleveland, Ohio Outside on the smoker's patio, the Army vet shakes my hand for the twentieth time, yells about loyalty, country, duty. Between gulps, he explains his shame for missing the Storm— a bum knee, ten thousand beers later, and now, another war to miss. We finish the cans, throw them at a wall, crack new ones. The summer sweat sticks to his face and in his eyes is the horror of not going, that he'd live all his life having to say no, blaming a bum knee, hitting it hard with a palm to punish it. He shakes my hand again, grabs my shoulder, and then seems to want to kiss me, suck out whatever was left since he wanted to taste it so badly.

An American Story

by Lucille Clifton
Clifton. An American Story. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton
one year a naked white guy parked his car by our elementary school kids called him The Nude Dude and laughed when they told the story i didn't believe it because i was on the honor roll until the afternoon he hopped at me all pink and sweaty and asked me little girl have you ever seen a white mans pride and i replied oh yes sir many times many times

for Lower Nubia

by Matthew Shenoda
Shenoda. Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone. for Lower Nubia
There was a time in this very spot before the dam was resurrected before the now dead president flooded a culture when everything was black and brown. Nubia thrived by the grace of Horus people styled tombs. Villages moved with the pace of elders temples changed by time of day everything was black and brown. Now beneath the glimmer of a beautiful lake relics evaporate from the surface masks reflect in the ripples their images stretching to the shore and the only color left is blue.


by Ryan Teitman
Teitman. Litany for the City. Ephesians
Beloved, Remember what we used to know: the owl perched in the barn rafters with a kitten dangling from its beak, the summers so dry that the wheat withered underfoot as we walked through the field with ice-cream-coated hands. I remember the day you went crazy with fever and took a hatchet to the hives in the apiary. You stood in the swarm and shouted, "I am the Lord God of all creation!" before your father ran in and cradled you to the house. That night, the doctor dipped bandages in honey and wrapped your welted limbs, while your father read to you from Aesop's Fables. You opened your mouth and let the doctor reach in with pliers, let him pull one bee after another from under your swollen tongue, and let him hold each corpse—glistened with spit—up to the windowpane, before dropping it in a jar at your bedside. You carried that jar with you always, half-filled with their dried bodies, like kernels of corn. On the last night of summer, we fell asleep in the hayloft. In your dream, you whispered, wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead. In the morning, the jar was empty, and our eyes were the color of nectar.


by Aracelis Girmay
Girmay. Kingdom Animalia. Elegy
Elegy What to do with this knowledge that our living is not guaranteed? Perhaps one day you touch the young branch of something beautiful. & it grows & grows despite your birthdays & the death certificate, & it one day shades the heads of something beautiful or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out of your house, then, believing in this. Nothing else matters. All above us is the touching of strangers & parrots, some of them human, some of them not human. Listen to me. I am telling you a true thing. This is the only kingdom. The kingdom of touching; the touches of the disappearing, things.

Ghost Hunger

by Cecilia Woloch
Woloch. Carpathia. Ghost Hunger
Sometimes when I wipe the bowl with my bread when I scramble one egg, two eggs, with milk when I stir the kasha until it's thick when I sit at the table and bow my head I think of how my father ate how he bowed his head—though he didn't pray at least not in the usual way of grace but always that posture over his plate of supplication, gratitude— the hungry shoulders of the boy who'd stuffed his mouth with pulled grass once who never got over that there was enough Sometimes I wipe the bowl with my bread Sometimes I feed his ghost this prayer

Dream of a Large Lady

by Carolyn Kizer
Kizer. Yin. Dream of a Large Lady
The large lady laboriously climbs down the ladder from a gun emplacement. She had gone up to contemplate the blue view and to damage the gun. She has done neither for the view was a baize haze and the rooted gun immovable in stone. So she climbs down the shaky ladder with a few rungs missing carrying her mostly uneaten picnic lunch of which she has consumed a single hard-boiled egg leaving the shell not as litter but as symbolism on the sullen gun in its grey rotunda. At the foot of the ladder she finds sand; and one brown, shuttered house from which another lady stares. This one wears a blurry face and an orange dress matching her orange hair in a bun. The large lady perforates along the beach on her high-heeled pumps by the water's verge, as a large, pale water-bird might do. When she reaches her own cottage near the bay, she finds a letter from the strange orange lady in its crisp white envelope lying on the table: "I am an admirer of your poesy, so I am baking you a fresh peach pie," the nice note reads. "Do come to my house near the bay," she speaks in her head, "Orange lady who admires my poesy." "We will sit here quietly, in twlilght, and drink a cup of carefully brewed tea." With a sigh, she puts aside the memory of the grey gun she could only decorate but not destroy. Though clear in her eye she holds a vision; the thin, ceremonious shell of her eaten egg painted by the sun against the sky.


by Debra Kang Dean
Dean. Precipitates. Hail
I was eleven the first time I saw it, the November afternoon gone heavy and gray. I'd begun to doze when something— not palm fronds rustling nor monkey pods rattling, but more like spoons against glass or small bells—something began clinking against the second story's blue palings and rails, lightly at first, bringing all of us, even the teacher, to our feet and out the door. Not since, three years before, when the staticky Standard Oil broadcast had been interrupted by news that brought to tears even Miss Engard (who didn't tax our imaginations too hard playing the part of witch at Halloween) had there been so much commotion. Seeing our teachers openly weeping had frightened us even more than a word like assassination. Above us, concrete. Under our feet, concrete. And all of us stretching our hands beyond the blue rails to catch, as they fell, clear pieces of sky that burned a second, melting in our hands.

Angels of Film

by A. Poulin Jr.
Poulin. Selected Poems. The Angels of Film
Eyes. Eyes. They are the eyes that feed on children in the sun, on brides, birds, grandmothers, stars. They're always there, loaded revolvers blinking too loudly at parties, shooting at smiling faces with more vengeance than crime or conscience. They capture our gestures, helpless in their sight, just to prove the past or present real. We were children, once; beneath this face there is another we have never wanted. Our bodies just keep going, developing reproductions of ourselves. Our souls are prisoners of eyes forever.

War Metaphysics for a Sudanese Girl

by Adrie Kusserow
Kusserow. Refuge. War Metaphysics for a Sudanese Girl
War Metaphysics for a Sudanese Girl For Aciek Arok Deng I leave the camp, unable to breathe, me Freud girl, after her interior, she "Lost Girl," after my purse, her face: dark as eggplant, her gaze: unpinnable, untraceable, floating, open, defying the gravity I was told keeps pain in place. Maybe trauma doesn't harden, packed tight as sediment at the bottom of her psyche, dry and cracked as the desert she crossed, maybe memory doesn't stalk her with its bulging eyes. Once inside the body, does war move up or down? Maybe the body pisses it out, maybe it dissipates, like sweat and fog under the heat of yet another colonial God? In America, we say, "Tell us your story, Lost Girl you'll feel lighter, it's the memories you must expel, the bumpy ones, the tortures, the rapes, the burnt huts." So Aciek brings forth all the war she can muster, and the doctors lay it on a table, like a stillbirth, and pick through the sharpest details bombs, glass, machetes and because she wants to please them she coughs up more and more, dutifully emptying the sticky war like any grateful Lost Girl in America should when faced with a flock of white coats. This is how it goes at the Trauma Center: all day the hot poultice of talk therapy, coaxing out the infection, at night, her host family trying not to gawk, their veins pumping neon fascination, deep in the suburbs, her life flavoring dull muzungu lives, spicing up supper, really, each Lost Girl a bouillon cube of horror.

The Cat

by Alan Michael Parker
Parker. Love Song With Motor Vehicles.The Cat
War Metaphysics for a Sudanese Girl For Aciek Arok Deng I leave the camp, unable to breathe, me Freud girl, after her interior, she "Lost Girl," after my purse, her face: dark as eggplant, her gaze: unpinnable, untraceable, floating, open, defying the gravity I was told keeps pain in place. Maybe trauma doesn't harden, packed tight as sediment at the bottom of her psyche, dry and cracked as the desert she crossed, maybe memory doesn't stalk her with its bulging eyes. Once inside the body, does war move up or down? Maybe the body pisses it out, maybe it dissipates, like sweat and fog under the heat of yet another colonial God? In America, we say, "Tell us your story, Lost Girl you'll feel lighter, it's the memories you must expel, the bumpy ones, the tortures, the rapes, the burnt huts." So Aciek brings forth all the war she can muster, and the doctors lay it on a table, like a stillbirth, and pick through the sharpest details bombs, glass, machetes and because she wants to please them she coughs up more and more, dutifully emptying the sticky war like any grateful Lost Girl in America should when faced with a flock of white coats. This is how it goes at the Trauma Center: all day the hot poultice of talk therapy, coaxing out the infection, at night, her host family trying not to gawk, their veins pumping neon fascination, deep in the suburbs, her life flavoring dull muzungu lives, spicing up supper, really, each Lost Girl a bouillon cube of horror.

The Chiming of the Hour

by Dan Albergotti
Albergotti. The Boatloads.The Chiming of the Hour
The low tone of heavy December wind moving through the attic's slatted vents awakens the woman lying on her side. She sees how the muted morning light drifts through window blinds and how her husband, who was alive in her dream, is again in the earth. This is the gray day that the Lord hath made. She hears the soft, rapid ticking of the clock beside her bed and how it mingles with the bells outside. The woman does not know why the wind chimes sound altogether different in winter months. She does not know what puts her in her navy dress and heels, behind the wheel of her husband's old sedan, and into the pew they sat in all those years. But she stands with the parishioners and mouths the words of the doxology, her whisper lost in the throng. She sits back down with them. Back home, she will read the bulletin and listen to the cable news anchorman as if he were a bothersome neighbor child. She does not know why she will not clean the tables and mantelpiece of the gathering dust nor why she has to check each windup clock before she puts herself back into the dark. Sometimes she wakes up singing.

Small Sorrows

by Deborah Brown
Brown. Walking the Dog's Shadow. Small Sorrows
You can start anywhere, you can start with the hummingbird that quivers at the feeder, or with a moon lost in the corner, or the stray dog who creeps to my window and breathes. But not with the Lebanese woman on TV who sobs as she trudges back to her house of rubble. How can I tell you my small sorrows? In Slovenia, at the Nazi prison in Begunje, you can see the last writing of two British soldiers. On the stone of a shared cell, each scraped the facts he pared himself down to: name, address, parents, schools, date of enlistment, rank, battalion, date and place taken prisoner, and the date which became the year of death. I didn't want to start there. I don't want to end there. But no matter where I start, or end, I will tell you—that if I could touch you, I would become a hummingbird, a hidden, shining center. And the dog—she would press her small, strong back into my hip.

They Are World Travelers

by Christopher Kennedy
Kennedy. Ennui Prophet. They Are World Travelers
I'm sick of them arriving on the backs of rogue elephants, and I tire of their stories of aborigines. I burrow in my basement while they traverse oceans. When I visit them, I sit in chairs made of rare bamboo and mispronounce, while they speak fluent Cantonese, a rare dialect, spoken only by a cohort of twenty on a remote, exotic plateau that can only be reached on foot. Dishwashers are a type of marsupial, I've decided. So I carry several photographs of my own to show at their dinner parties. They feign interest and project their slides of an ancient fertility ritual, involving the pregnant bellies of black widow spiders they say improved their sex lives yet again. Their papaya sorbet tastes like dung, but I'm forced to smile and watch them hula across the living room in authentic Hawaiian garb. If only their skin were a different shade of umber; if only I weren't reduced to tears by the stories told by their bodies' sway and the graceful movement of their pertinacious, birdlike hands.

Late Poem

by Craig Morgan Teicher
Teicher. To Keep Love Blurry. Late Poem
I was alone inside a book as I'd wished. It was fifty years from now. I didn't live that long. The book was lost, in an attic, a locked trunk, a storage space, under rubble. It was the last copy, the only. Immortality seemed a memory. My journals were lost or incinerated, those fervent transcriptions and wonderings and hopeful evenings, scripts for wild lives unlived, unloved long since disintegrated. Whatever power I encoded had escaped and moved on. I was neither I nor eye nor lie. No one cared or could. Even what was left of me wasn't. My bones were as brittle as a text, religious, with no teacher. Looking back, there was no future, no future.

For My Daughter on her Twenty-First Birthday

by Ellen Bass
Bass. Mules of Love. For My Daughter on Her Twenty-First Birthday
When they laid you in the crook of my arms like a bouquet and I looked into your eyes, dark bits of evening sky, I thought, of course this is you, like a person who has never seen the sea can recognize it instantly. They pulled you from me like a cork and all the love flowed out. I adored you with the squandering passion of spring that shoots green from every pore. You dug me out like a well. You lit the deadwood of my heart. You pinned me to the earth with the points of stars. I was sure that kind of love would be enough. I thought I was your mother. How could I have known that over and over you would crack the sky like lightning, illuminating all my fears, my weaknesses, my sins. Massive the burden this flesh must learn to bear, like mules of love.


by Isabella Gardner
Gardner. Isabella Gardner the collected poems. Knowing
Mon moi, Ils m'arrachent mon moi —Michelet I will be lonely at half past dead Weep none one or many beside my bed. At the dead center of all alone I must unwillingly work at dying I will be crying crying crying Not I not I this flesh these bones.

When One Is So Far from Home, Life Is a Mix of Fact and Fiction

by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Transfer. When One Is So Far from Home, Life Is a Mix of Fact and Fiction
No one should hold that against you. It's a means of survival. Sometimes I thought my best talent was taking a skinny story, adding wings and a tail. Dressing it in a woolen Bedouin cloak with stitching around the edges. Putting a headdress on it. Making a better picture. Your mother got mad at me sometimes for telling a story differently but it wasn't a lie, just a story in different clothes with other things emphasized. My own mother dressed up stories for 106 years till that last winter she rode in her bed like a boat, sitting up to sleep. Maybe it's our duty to be shaped a hundred times by the same stories. We think we're telling them but really they're keeping us alive, memory oxygen breathed out and in.


by Lucille Clifton
Clifton.birth.day. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton
today we are possible. the morning, green and laundry-sweet, opens itself and we enter blind and mewling. everything waits for us: the snow kingdom sparkling and silent in its glacial cap, the cane fields shining and sweet in the sun-drenched south. as the day arrives with all its clumsy blessings what we will become waits in us like an ache.

Dear Pistachio

by Sean Thomas Dougherty
Dougherty. All You Ask For is Longing. Dear Pistachio
My dear impertinent pistachio, my lady-slipper's largesse, my eucalyptus, my Calypso bent calla lily, my earth-cauled cauliflower, O my babushka'd cabbage, my dear ragamuffin ragweed— my heliotropical sunflower, my honeyed locust, my vituperative violet, my delicately cloaked artichoke—my lima bean, Lie down my shady lady-fern, my blue bell, my willow, my rapturous rain-washed radish.


by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Red Suitcase. Shoulders
A man crosses the street in rain, stepping gently, looking two times north and south, because his son is asleep on his shoulder. No car must splash him. No car drive too near to his shadow. This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo but he's not marked. Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE. His ear fills up with breathing. He hears the hum of a boy's dream deep inside him. We're not going to be able to live in this world if we're not willing to do what he's doing with one another. The road will only be wide. The rain will never stop falling.

Be Always Late

by Cecilia Woloch
Woloch. Carpathia. Be Always Late
—after Baudelaire One should always be late. One should always be running/half-running in high-heeled boots through the streets with the church bells ringing the hour one should have already arrived. And be still en route, still a bridge away, still a sliver of silvery river to go. One should have clouds at one's shoulders like breath, panting clouds and a gasp of wind at the nape of the neck to keep one cool. The heart should be clicking against the ribs: I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. One should be turning just then past the church, past evening beginning in every cafe, past the poor little park with its late little flowers, disheveled little flames. Because somewhere someone waits. Because somewhere one has already arrived and will never rush past this again. One's self with one's coat like a black sky flung; one's own shadow flaring out behind. And the sound of those bells in one's hair, in one's bones. Now and ever. Not never: late.

Max Jacob's Leather Coat and the Possibility of Grief

by Ray Gonzalez
Gonzalez. Beautiful Wall. Max Jacob's Leather Coat and the Possibility of Grief
On the day the Gestapo came and took him away, the last three prose poems he was writing were left at the kitchen table along with his old leather coat that hung on the chair, until Jacob's landlord entered the room and grabbed it. One can retrace the history of the coat and notice the silhouette of a man sitting at the kitchen table without the coat that accompanied him all over Paris. The last three poems he wrote in freedom were about the leather coat because the sheets were found two weeks later by the young woman who rented Jacob's apartment. When she entered the kitchen for the first time, she picked up the pieces of paper, but did not know how to read, so she set the poems on the dirty table and went to inspect the other room. Max Jacob's last three poems before he was taken away by the Nazis were finally read by the figure sitting at the table, alone and bent over, squinting at the tiny handwriting, his leather coat worn tightly on his shoulders.

The Gift

by Li-Young Lee
Lee. Rose. The Gift
To pull the metal splinter from my palm my father recited a story in a low voice. I watched his lovely face and not the blade. Before the story ended, he'd removed the iron sliver I thought I'd die from. I can't remember the tale, but hear his voice still, a well of dark water, a prayer. And I recall his hands, two measures of tenderness he laid against my face, the flames of discipline he raised above my head. Had you entered that afternoon you would have thought you saw a man planting something in a boy's palm, a silver tear, a tiny flame. Had you followed that boy you would have arrived here, where I bend over my wife's right hand. Look how I shave her thumbnail down so carefully she feels no pain. Watch as I lift the splinter out. I was seven when my father took my hand like this, and I did not hold that shard between my fingers and think, Metal that will bury me, christen it Little Assassin, Ore Going Deep for My Heart. And I did not lift up my wound and cry, Death visited here! I did what a child does when he's given something to keep. I kissed my father.


by Keetje Kuipers
Kuipers. Beautifull InTheMouth. Finally
It's summer. Eighty-five degrees. We've spent all day on a blanket in the high grass of an abandoned cemetery. The backs of my thighs are sunburned and tomorrow I'll shiver as the heat pours out of my skin. Earlier, when I climbed onto you for the second time, I could see a row of headstones through the trees. And when I rocked over you their round and rain-worn scalps rose into my line of sight until I could imagine the bodies beneath them propped up, watching us make love. Each one of their wide skulls silently smiled as if remembering something sweet and fleeting, and not wanting to tell me so. I needed to explain to them then that my body has been a bell that's waited years to be rung by you. That the cartilage grinding in my hip sockets when I move against you makes a dust finer than the finest semolina flour and I pay it out from my body willingly. That finally coming to love you has been a hard-earned pleasure, so that every time you enter me I want to cry out, Bury me, bury me. Put me in the ground.

My Uncanny Resemblance to a Young Sean Connery

by Rick Bursky
Bursky. I'm No Longer Troubled By The Extravagance. My Uncannany Resemblance to a Young Sean Connery.
Walking out of a Thai restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica I was hit on the head with a wine bottle. It was night. At the instant of impact, a Santa Monica policewoman was leaving the See's Candies across the street. I didn't see the man who attacked me. The policewoman did. I didn't feel the bottle against my skull, opened my eyes an hour later in the emergency room. In the parking lot behind the restaurant my attacker put his hands behind his head and allowed himself to be handcuffed rather than test the discipline of the policewoman's finger on the trigger of her black Beretta. Doctors shined small beams of light into my eyes. Bursts of color. I slipped back to sleep. This was fourteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. My attacker, an unemployed Russian immigrant, claimed to be a one-time KGB agent, who believed early James Bond movies were documentaries. He decided on the attack when he saw me eating shrimp Pad Thai and talking with Alexis about the New York Review of Books. She was in the restroom when I was struck, held my hand in the ambulance as it carried me through the night. After killing an infamous enemy agent my attacker would return to Russia and find work with one of the many ex-KGB officers running a security company. This was real life, not a movie. The bottle didn't break. I spent three days in the hospital. After thirteen months in the Los Angeles County Jail my attacker was deported to Russia. I was upset to learn that the crime he was deported for was stealing the wine bottle and not what he did with it.

What Does This Mean?

by Barton Sutter
Sutter. The Reindeer Camps. What Does This Mean
In those days, eighth-grade boys drove cars, Grain trucks, and tractors on the farm, So Dad was only half-surprised The little men he catechized Drove themselves to the village school (Cream and milk, not church and state, Were what they worked to separate) Where he recounted Luther's rules. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. What does this mean? We lived so near to Canada No one was shocked that Saturday a Black bear loomed outside the glass Where Dad was questioning his class. The kids evacuated, rushed To pickup trucks and beater Fords To chase the bear down gravel roads But lost him in the underbrush. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, Nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, Nor his ox, nor his ass, Nor anything that is thy neighbor's. What does this mean? My father's teaching was homespun: Father, Holy Ghost, and Son Were peanuts in a single shell. His ways were easy, slow, soft-sell. To those who could not memorize, He'd feed the answers, phrase by phrase. Some girls would stammer in his gaze, Distracted by his light blue eyes. Thou shalt not commit adultery. What does this mean? They'd work an hour, then take a break For thirty minutes the boys would make The most of, charging through our woods, Chasing rabbits, hot for blood, Armed with pebbles and slingshots, Helter-skelter, crashing brush, With shouts and yelps when one would flush, And then return to talk of God. Thou shalt not kill. What does this mean? Less than a dozen years before, My father had come back from war, Where many of his friends had died. These churches in the countryside Called him to marry, bury, bless, Ambitionless for wealth or fame. Those few who still recall his name Remember best his gentleness. Honor thy father and thy mother That thy days may be long upon the land. What does this mean?

Weather Report

by Debra Kang Dean
Dean. Precipitates. Weather Report
Fifteen miles west of Boston and mostly the news is of small creatures and snow. A self-appointed snow inspector, I tune in to the weather: snow and sun, sometimes clouds or showers or wind or chattering letters that spell chilly. As with everywhere I've lived the forecasters look like Vanna White surrogates or used-car salesmen. Still, they grow on you like poker pals upping the ante— with shifts of pressure. Sometimes the weather calls their bluff. Still, they, at least, seem to know where they are. Right now a light snow is falling, a steady downpour of flakes fine as gnats. To her usual, "What's up?" I give my old friend the usual answer: "Same old shit shoveled a different way." I bundle up. Before I thread my fingers through the shovel's handle, it flashes a conspiratorial grin.

The Fact Remains

by Christopher Kennedy
Kennedy. Ennui Prophet. The Fact Remains
I'm heavier than some animals, lighter than others. Also, I'm more threatening than most animals, less threatening than a few; faster than some, slower than most. I don't bite, though, unless provoked by desire. What I want to say is: I still measure distance in years. And swans mate for life. At least that's what I believe. I want a pair of somethings to refer to when I'm trying to make a point. The point is this: I'm an animal who knows where he stands among other animals. I can outrun a snail and threaten a housefly. I can conquer an anthill and mate for life. But the fact remains: My favorite dog has bitten the entire neighborhood. Here, boy, I say, but he ignores me, intent on running down another frightened child on a bicycle. He's mangy, too. His collar's too tight, and there's no quenching his thirst. Raw meat's the answer, but I'm too lazy to go to the store. This is the story of a boy and his dog. Though as far as I can tell, the dog ran off a long time ago.

Dear John Letter, Never Sent

by Keetje Kuipers
Kuipers. The Keys to the Jail. Dear John Letter, Never Sent
The weather came in just as I left town, a farewell show over the hood of the car. There has to be a way to put the beauty inside, to carry it along: snow flurries freckling my belly, cedar fence post ribs expanding with each breath. But you want to know what to do with the dead cow we saw in the winter pasture, where to hide the old mill pouring her bitter steam— All those landmarks that hold a body under, pin it down, belong in narrow little books with loose spines where folded ferns fall out moth-riddled, worm-worn pages pinpricked through with light. I couldn't be the crutch of cloudless days against your dog-eared sadnesses. But maybe I was wrong to think I understood despair's whittling hand any better than you did, now walking among all that beauty I left behind.


by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Kelly.Song. Petition
These are the long weeks. The weeks Of waiting. Let them be Longer. Let the days smolder Like the peat slung In plastic sacks by the greenhouse And let the seedlings not rush Into growth but climb the air slowly As if it were a ladder, One small foot at a time. Let the fetid smell of bone meal Be the body unlocking As the river does, slowing to a hazy laze That pulls the boaters in And makes the fish rise up. And As the wide-wheeled yellow tractors Roll along the highway, Stalling traffic in their wakes, And the dust from the playing fields Settles over us like pollen, Like the balls dropping softly Into our mitts, let The willow's love of water— Its dark and beaded rain— Be the only storm we long for.

Venus de Milo

by Fleda Brown
Brown. No Need of Sympathy. Venus de Milo
The moon is a bleached marble the color of the Venus de Milo. It gets so full of itself it breaks through whole centuries. In this twenty-first one, I am called upstairs by my grandson Noah to see the full moon over Paris. I tell him about the centuries inside the marble, layers and streaks. How the sculptor studies the grain. How even then it can break out of control. Jab the chisel too far, it leaves a white bruise. Mystery is both cool and cruel, I'm thinking, if you stay with it, as Noah and I do on the balcony trying to take a picture that didn't come out, that resisted us, the way the Venus de Milo did in the afternoon, with her missing arms, holding herself in, turning us back toward details. I explain to Noah how rasps and rifflers are used for the final shaping. I explain love and beauty in the language of work, what else is there to say? Why mention how much is free-fall—accident—the combination of genes and skill that turn them to face each other like two mirrors making their long corridor of escape? I just climb the 64 stairs to the balcony, panting. I say it's nothing. But then we step into the dark and enter beauty, where there never was a foothold. I might have told him that, but just then we were looking at the moon.

To an Editor Who Said I Repeat Myself and Tell Too Much

by Craig Morgan Teicher
Teicher. To Keep Love Blurry. To an Editor Who Said I Repeat Myself and Tell Too Much
The mouth works all its life to spit a vowel— some long sound with feeling fenced in by the sharp stops of a few consonants, a howl and a pen to keep it tame, a calm din that won't drown out the life it tries to say, but won't deny, either, that hell is the sound we're born making, the cry in the womb, which we tell and tell—too much, of course— in the hope of exhausting it. Stated plain, there is no other subject—rejoice, remorse, repress—all words stand for pain. Over and over I say—what else can I do? All words stand for pain. Fuck you.

My Mother at Swan Lake

by Barton Sutter
Sutter. The Reindeer Camps. My Mother at Swan Lake
This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. —Psalms 118:24 A maniac for picnicking, She'd pack us up to go The very first thing in the spring; Sometimes we sat in snow! But we were well into the year; The swans had all long gone. We'd shed, like leaves, our nagging fears. The lake went pink and calm. Her hair'd come back; her light, low laugh; Her cancer in "remission," A state that gave us some relief From pain and vain religion. My dad had let me start the fire. I saw my mom was proud Of how the flames kept growing higher; They wouldn't flicker out. I've clutched this day near fifty years But always felt so stupid That it could bring the sting of tears When there was nothing to it: My sister makes a small bouquet Of weeds and faded asters, But I can't hear my mother say What she bends low to ask her. My brother's down beside the shore; I see his silhouette. My father calls out, as before, "Now don't go getting wet!" My mother leans against a tree. She sighs. I hear her say Across the half a century, "It's been a lovely day."

mother-tongue: babylon

by Lucille Clifton
Clifton. mother tongue babylon. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton
our children will not remember a place where the wind does not sleep at night like this, at ease in the arms of trees. they will know no waters more lovely than these where we, in our exile, weep. though we are lovely, we suffer from such loneliness, the way even these moonlit waters would suffer if only the blind stars looked on night after night after night. who could bear for long the weight of such beauty as this?

Antidote for Night

by Marsha de la O
de la O. Antidote for Night. Antidote for Night
So much as close my eyes and a flayed Labrador is laid at my doorstep. And here's the same bone lodged in the slippery pottage of my heart where this man croons, Baby you're so sweet until I take his head between my hands and lay it on my breast. There's the moon in the high window, her wall-eye glancing off me, and a few bobbing stars, every tawdry shining thing. I've identified Venus more times than I can count as an agent for insomnia, a broad sail that catches the wind and slides away. Not even halfway through the hours, his fitful sleep, wheeze of a saber-saw, waves receding on a rocky shore, breath whip-snaking down a chute, until his body forgets—how still, how close the kingdom, one stalled-gulp away, and I jostle his dying shoulder—he recoils, yes, rebels, back now, mouth full of silver, What? he moans to darkness, what?

Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum

by Michael Waters
Waters. Parthenopi. Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum
How often the names of trees consoled me, how I would repeat to myself green ash while the marriage smoldered in the not-talking, red maple when the less-than-tenderness flashed, then black gum, black gum as I lay next to you in the not-sleeping, in the not-lovemaking. Those days I tramped the morass of the preserve, ancient ash smudging shadows on stagnant pools, the few wintry souls skulking abandoned wharves. In my notebook I copied plaques screwed to bark, sketching the trunks' scission, a minor Audubon bearing loneliness like a rucksack. And did the trees assume a deeper silence? Did their gravity and burl and centuries-old patience dignify this country, our sorrow? So as I lay there, the roof bursting with invisible branches, the darkness doubling in their shade, the accusations turning truths in the not-loving, green ash, red maple, black gum, I prayed, in the never-been-faithful, in the don't-touch-me, in the can't-bear-it-any-longer, black gum, black gum, black gum.

Fanny Linguistics: Superstition

by Nickole Brown
Brown. Fanny Says. Fanny Linguistics Superstition
In Fanny's house, there were ways of killing someone by walking alone: I could step over my youngest uncle sprawled watching TV, could step over his boy heart or leg or arm— it wouldn't matter which—because unless you step back over him, right quick, by morning he'll be gone. Same goes for a bird let in the house—a sparrow in the laundry room had wings of the Great Scythe, and a black crow tangled in the living room curtains could well wipe the whole family out. And should you dream of losing your teeth—that meant death coming sure as an owl shits tiny bones of mice in the middle of the night; it was a full-on omen, start baking the funeral casseroles now. Funny, all that hoo-doo about dying with no intent to remember the dead—how Fanny hated photographs: I don't take pictures, she said. It just makes me sad, and if anything ever did happen to one of the kids, I don't want to be left staring at their face.


by Richard Foerster
Foerster. The Burning of Troy. Stone
But for the thirteen letters of his name and the chiseled dates that a hyphen spans— as if it were the only vital bridge between two chartless lands: those vast oblivions of before he was and after— I might mistake this granite for something winter heaved carelessly into the thawed New England light, a stepping- stone in mud season, yet one a farmer would nevertheless take a shovel to, as would I were it not so precisely set flush with the green earth and I could undo the mason's marks.

The City That Swallowed the Sea

by Ryan Teitman
Teitman. Litany for the City. The City That Swallowed the Sea
I want to forget the city that swallowed the sea, where the churches unbreak bread and send old men onto their hymnaled knees, where the streets sing like handbells and the night cracks like a broken bottle crushed under the heel of a priest taking confessions, where the newsmen huddle on a street corner under evening editions while the rain skins their stubbled chins and the creeping asphalt licks at the face of the shoreline still, sipping at the sea, sipping at the salt that steams up from the waves each sweaty night and blankets the shoreline in a tight knit of creamy silt, and I remember the prayers I said, with my knees cupped in sand, how I prayed to the saints for an intercession, how it came like a punch to the blood, wrapped its fingers around the throat of my blood, squeezed the ribs of my blood until I could feel the nicked edges of broken-blood ribs tickling my blood's tiny lungs, those neat, unfurled sails tacking up and down my veins, and I remember the saint of the city, our patron and the patron of bookkeepers, the patron against lead poisoning, the patron of shims and tambourines, the patron of hiccups and tin whistles, patron of pandemics and against pandemics, of ironworkers and against ironworkers, and I want to forget when I was five, and our teacher told us to draw a picture of ourselves, and I drew the skyline above the sea, said I was changing my name to "The City," and she leaned in close and said that I would never be the city that swallowed the sea, and my face turned warm, and her breath was the dry hush of the sea as it slides each day from the city, and we rope it and haul it back like a brindle calf with three legs tied, and we drink it a little each day, and the censusman knocks every morning to measure how much we drank, and I want to forget our duty to be the city that swallowed the sea, to be the saints of the city that swallowed the sea, and I want to forget those streets that ribboned and choked and split my bones, that sea that skipped down the avenues of my nerves and planted a kiss on the tiny bronze bell that hangs—unpolished—from the stem of my brain.

The Unimaginable World

by Christopher Kennedy
Kennedy. Ennui Prophet. The Unimaginable World
If I stab you with the crescent moon, you can't be mad at me. You can be surprised, but not angry. No one can admonish me for using the moon as a weapon. In the unimaginable world, a moon stabbing is perfectly acceptable. I know this type of romance takes patience. I'm busy in so many realms, I'm not always available. I sleep with my eyes open so I can keep you amused. If I smother you with a rain cloud, it's just another illusion. Don't hold it against me. None of it's real. I'm throwing stars at you, but you don't even feel it. I've crushed you three times today with a mountain, and you go on as if nothing happened. I rose from the dead just to see what's for dinner. I slipped though the silk membrane of time so you wouldn't have to sleep alone tonight. I'm body and blood. I'm the good with the bad. I'm not what you think when you think you're thinking about love.

Dear Minnie, Dear Ms.

by Aracelis Girmay
Girmay. Kingdom Animalia. Dear Minnie Dear Ms.
for Minnie Riperton & Ms. Lucille This earth of the dagger-toothed & hawks, whose names we know, taking bones for diamonds, full of hair & snakes, earth eating you, slowly, below the sound of gold horns. This earth with a jaw in its hand. Brown-chariot, take-you-home earth, chew you up with the quiet work of animals & trees, underworld churning you through the dark engines of its appetite. This earth we opened up & buried you in, our treasure, we miss you, we miss you with all life. This night we think we will never close again. We are pinned open like a scientist's moths to leave you there dressed in a box & earth around you. This box earth, coffin earth. Teeth earth eat your chest through, laced by the wrangle of beetles & worms & ants who carry your bright pieces like market cloth over their heads to feed you to the queen in the deeper corridors of mysteries & dirt. Trust the queen is you. Trust the mud is you, & the soft, silver afro of the dandelion. Trust the grass-whistle might be your speech, high as the whistle of the whale. Trust we'll know your shape, whatever species in you answers when we put our faces to the dirt & call you by your old & human name.

The Wonders of Nature

by Russell Edson
Edson. The Rooster's Wife. The Wonders of Nature
A circus manager, who secretly likes to wear women's clothes, has run out of money and is selling his wonders-of-nature show. A slightly damaged fat lady, who for lack of a watercress salad has lost a couple of ounces of carefully nourished heft, priced for quick sale. A contortionist who has twisted himself into an emotional knot being offered as a piece of modern sculpture. A special bargain, Siamese twins, buy one, and get one free. Two for the price of one. A three-legged man who has only two, but insists on a third; you have only to open his fly—By appointment only. Ladies preferred. Finally, the bearded lady, who is actually a man wearing a dress. Otherwise the circus manager himself with a goatee pasted on his chin. . . .

Where Are You Now?

by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Transfer. Where Are You Now
I position my head on the pillow where you told your last folktale, mixing donkey, camel, mouse, journey, kitchen, trees, so the story grew jumbled, uncharacteristically long. I listened from the other small bed thinking, not about the story, but, it's the last one I'll hear from this voice, remembering two and four and six when this voice calmed me every night, thinking, how will I live without this voice? At one point, you hallucinated. Politics came in, a rare speck of religion, even a bad nurse you'd had at the clinic, frustration of long illness tangling with the tale, Oh Dad, you've been so brave, to which you replied, What else can I do? and returned to the comforting donkey, bucket of olives, smoke curling up from twig fire over which anyone, a lost girl, a wanderer, a dying man, could warm his hands.


by W.D. Snodgrass
Snodgrass. Not For Specialists. Invitation
Come live with me and be my last Resource, location and resort, My workday's focus and steadfast Distraction to a weekend's sport. Come end up with me, close my list; Blank my black book, block every e-mail From ex-loves whose mouths won't be missed; Let nothing else alive look female. Come couch with me mit Freud und Lust As every evening's last connection. Talk to me; prove the day like Proust; Let what comes next rise to inspection. Come, let old aftermaths get lost, Let failures and betrayals mend, Cancel repayments; clear the cost; Once more unto the breach, dear friend. Come lay us down to sleep at least, Sharing this pillow's picture show. Who's been my braintrust and best beast? Who else knows what I need to know?

i. reflected light

by Debra Kang Dean
Dean. Precipitates. i. reflected light
On a two-lane, near the shoulder, bracing itself against speed, a turtle's green face that is my face. At the heart of the desert, an oasis amid fasting and prayer. Lean face that is my face, though I hunger, I am singing these praises that rise like incense. A serene face, that is my face. Not to the swift goes the race; time flies—and erases, says the moon, sweet face that is my face. I am walking into the dark woods' embrace by a reflected light. Unseen face, that is my fate.


by Devin Becker
Becker. Shame Shame. Self Portrait
I have never seen (I have never seen a painting) a painting I don't like. Even small paintings (SMALL PAIN TIN GS), even small paintings of trees I love. Also Abstracts made done by the hands of teenagers. I want one day (one day) to have a portrait painted, by a painter, a painter of no particular particulars who will take my face by its squares and even out its bits until the whole of it (the all of its features) smooths out and down to nothing, canvas, and I am puny, and of no import, fascinated as a speck of dirt in a small painting of teenagers.

At the Museum of Modern Art

by Keetje Kuipers
Kuipers. The Keys to the Jail. At the Museum of Modern Art
They say the modern condition is one of isolation, and if I'm anything, I'm modern. That must be why missing you feels so inauthentic. Even in the pastel glow of a Diebenkorn, I can't forget that I belong alone. Unlike the homeless couple, curled together under a yellow blanket in the doorway of the Chinese bakery each night, I hate the intimacy we share. But if I can imagine these solitary pictures removed from their frames and pressed together in a kind of awkward kiss, and if the photograph of a woman naked on a park bench were to reveal the figure perched beside her, a hand resting on her breast just above that scuttling heart, then I can say this: Come home. Help me find a way.

The Geography of Detroit

by Jim Daniels
Daniels. Birth Marks. The Geography of Detroit
requires no assembly. Requires the stubborn faith of the abandoned child at the locked church door clutching his get out of jail free card. Requires the illusion of covering your tracks when no one gives a damn to start with. I felt I was off to a good start, then ended up with swearing and a preposition. That's how it works here, 6 Mile Road to 36 Mile Road, praying for the optical illusion of cliffs to justify free fall. Someone carved the history of the auto industry on a piece of rock salt. That piece of salt went on to melt a small slice of ice and contribute to the construction of the world's largest pothole. I was going to say, "That's another story," but there is no other story. Going to need some gas soon. Shouldn't be the last word but it is.

my dream about being white

by Lucille Clifton
Clifton. my dream about being white. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton
hey music and me only white, hair a flutter of fall leaves circling my perfect line of a nose, no lips, no behind, hey white me and i'm wearing white history but there's no future in those clothes so i take them off and wake up dancing.

I Abandoned My Plans

by Michael Teig
Teig. There's a Box in the Garage You Can Beat with a Stick. I Abandoned My Plans. I Had No Plans
Some men are so lazy they should be revered as saints. Not improved. Not working. No lift or tilt. Trying to put on one sock in the morning they are one man. A centipede of trouble. He pretends to be hit with a stick. He looks at the world as though it arrived in an airplane. The new world's new, quickening sun taps the stadium whose retractable roof pulls back till a single crow comes out, sideways, slurring over the skyline and wires. It lays out evidence and empty space: A woman beside you sleeping. A little clerk hurrying past like all the capitals of Europe. Drowsy projectionist, the sun does nothing but ticket the leaves. Some men are so beautiful that their insides are lined with the skin of lions, with the narrow skin of birds. With no help from me, the names of ships, with the teeth of mice, the overdue snow.

"What Do Women Want?"

by Kim Addonizio
Addonizio. Tell Me. What Do Women Want
I want a red dress. I want it flimsy and cheap, I want it too tight, I want to wear it until someone tears it off me. I want it sleeveless and backless, this dress, so no one has to guess what's underneath. I want to walk down the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store with all those keys glittering in the window, past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. I want to walk like I'm the only woman on earth and I can have my pick. I want that red dress bad. I want it to confirm your worst fears about me, to show you how little I care about you or anything except what I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment from its hanger like I'm choosing a body to carry me into this world, through the birth-cries and the love-cries too, and I'll wear it like bones, like skin, it'll be the goddamned dress they bury me in.

Her version, with interruptions

by Jennifer Kronovet
Kronovet. Awayward. Her version with interruptions
Once she stole a boat—is this how it started— at night to bring the pond a gift— it was a bird of salt—which was taken into its reflection. But the pond is not the sea. This is where you lived. The lesson of dissolve—but it was a bird—sifted to the bottom of all her actions. Is this the start of us? How she traveled to the sea—will you— is not open for discussion. She went back for the worst winter—the worst winter in years—and took him—this is where— to see how the pond—embodied by cold—ended in an edge of ice on the sand. She knew it would be foolish to go out on the ice. But she did. And he followed. They started. They started to see the crack rising between them. Meaning nothing—meaning something must still be living underneath.


by Ellen Bass
Bass. Mules of Love. Worry
"You always think the worst is going to happen," Janet says as we walk with our son along the Amsterdam canals. "What do you think—he's going to fall in and drown?" I have worried all over the world. It comes to me easily. Formed slowly through childhood like stalactites in a cave. My mother worried to keep going— a sick husband, the store, children she wanted everything for. I call her distraught. Janet's been dizzy for days. In the E.R. they inked small x's on the parchment map of her skin. Her doctor's at a conference in Paris, and I'm afraid there's a blood clot near her brain. "Go buy a plant," she says. "I'm not going to die." My mother tells me I learned it from her— how to panic. She was thirteen, oldest of five, when her father left. My grandmother worried to keep food on the table. Every week she'd board the bus to buy dry goods, children's clothes, socks to sell in her corner store. When she didn't climb down from the six o'clock—winter, it was already dark—my mother sat in the window, tears rumpling her face, praying, Let her come home. And in Russia—my father was a baby when his mother carried him and two brothers to the border. Hiding in the forest undergrowth, my father crying, she heard boots bite through the crusted snow. Some women smothered infants. What must have gone through her mind when the steps hesitated, before turning away? Janet doesn't think about what might happen. She thinks about what is. But I carry dread on my shoulders like a knapsack, like the extra pounds my grandmother wanted me to gain. She'd read about a girl in a plane crash. All she had to eat was snow.

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

by Dan Albergotti
Albergotti. The Boatloads. Things to Do In the Belly of the Whale
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days. Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals. Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices. Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review each of your life's ten million choices. Endure moments of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you. Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart. Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope, where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all the things you did and could have done. Remember treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes pointing again and again down, down to the black depths.

I asked every flower

by Karen Volkman
Volkman. Nomina. I asked every flower
I asked every flower I met had they seen my palest friend. The chant of the roots will beget petals that blazon and bend and erasable eyes to forget the sun and the storm and the wind, the sky which wheels in its net, the black of the blurrest portend. "We see in the sheerest clair the nothing that vitals and vides. No friend of your night and your debt will blight our murmur with seeds of the mortal flower, regret, which roots in the arc of the air."

My First Roses

by Ira Sadoff
Sadoff. True Faith. My First Roses
My first roses brought me to my senses. All my furies, I launched them like paper boats in the algaed pond behind my house. First they were pale, then peach and blood red. You could be merciless trimming them back. You could be merciless and I needed that. Emerald green with crimson tips, these were no crowns of thorns. They would not portend nor intimate. But if you fed them they'd branch out: two generations in a single summer. One had a scent of fruit & violet, the other blazed up, a flotilla of lips on the lawn.

Nocturne, Traffic Control Point

by Hugh Martin
Martin. The Stick Soldiers. Nocturne, Traffic Control Point
In armor, sweat, and skin, I sat in the Humvee's shell of steel. Miles of traffic moved down the freeway, north to Baghdad, engines shaking, vehicles blurring against pavement-heat ghosts. A white car curved left, leapt the curb, and came at us like the line of a bullet. Jenkins traversed the 240, there were shouts and shots—then I hovered high above the roaring earth on an orange bed of smoke when the man's body, gone at the torso, twisted toward me, flailing out his thin, dead arm, like he wanted to hold my hand.

String Theories

by Deborah Brown
Brown. Walking the Dog's Shadow. String Theories
I say nothing about how fast the light travels or of Einstein's problem catching up with it, or of Ludwig Boltzmann, who killed himself when scientists mocked his belief in other dimensions. Today the strings of Boltzmann's theory have stories to tell, they pulsate to anyone's rhythm. I hold you in ten dimensions, wish you safe in all of them. I know space and time curl around strings that give rise to the gravity which holds us here, the way the notes of Mozart's Requiem scrolled on his last staves. The invisible strings in us spin themselves into specks of light, and two new forces one strong and one weak, draw us together. This is the complicated shape of our time together, our past and present woven into a fragment of the sky. It is an elegy to you.

Parking Lot

by Devin Becker
Becker. Shame Shame. Parking Lot
I am looking for a spot that will retain no meaning, no charge. So I drive her to a dentist's office—not my dentist, not hers—and in the parking lot I tell her it's over, the whole thing. I tell her our relationship "is untenable." We look out the windshield into the office, the rooms all fluorescent, those horrible, reclined chairs, and white, white everywhere. She tells me this just proves what she's always thought, what she believes on "a very personal level," that she's "a character actor in her own life." It's a phrase she's been savoring, I realize, and so accurate a description I'm surprised she hasn't told me sooner, during a lull in one of our many restaurant dinners. But I would have lied and told her it wasn't true, and she didn't want to be unconvinced of it, her revelation. (And what, asks the protagonist, is so bad about being a character actor? Everyone steals from you.) Some security guy drives past us so I start the car up, relieved to have a reason. He's got these scraggly whiskers that hang inches off his cheeks, and as he passes, he gives me a look. This is his spot, I think. We're in his spot.

God and the G-Spot

by Ellen Bass
Bass. Mules of Love. God and the G-Spot
He didn't want to believe. He wanted to know. —Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan's wife, on why he didn't believe in God I want to know too. Belief and disbelief are a pair of tourists standing on swollen feet in the Prado—I don't like it. I do. —before the Picasso. Or the tattoo artist with a silver stud in her full red executive lips, who, as she inked in the indigo blue, said, I think the G-spot's one of those myths men use to make us feel inferior. God, the G-spot, falling in love. The earth round and spinning, the galaxies speeding in the glib flow of the Hubble expansion. I'm an East Coast Jew. We all have our opinions. But it was in the cabin at La Selva Beach where I gave her the thirty tiny red glass hearts I'd taken back from my husband when I left. He'd never believed in them. She, though, scooped them up like water, let them drip through her fingers like someone who has so much she can afford to waste. That's the day she reached inside me for something I didn't think I had. And like pulling a fat shining trout from the river she pulled the river out of me. That's the way I want to know God.

Upraised Arms

by Richard Garcia
Garcia.The Chair. Upraised Arms
There was a man who slept on his back in the sand with his arms raised to the sky. My arms are the twin towers, he thought, attempting to resist a dream. My feet are Babylon. My stomach is where snipers hide. There was a man who came to rescue the people. Oh really, said the people. Let us greet you with arms full of f lowers. With arms. There was a man who lived in a tower, most disturbed by bees, by corrosive mold and dusty rust. By loving couples, strangers exchanging portraits in the dark, immune to peeling paint, curtains sailing about in the wind mimicking fog. We are embedded in the fog, said one stranger to another. It was dawn over Baghdad, but neither stranger believed in light.


by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Fuel. Hidden
If you place a fern under a stone the next day it will be nearly invisible as if the stone has swallowed it. If you tuck the name of a loved one under your tongue too long without speaking it it becomes blood sigh the little sucked-in breath of air hiding everywhere beneath your words. No one sees the fuel that feeds you.


by Meg Kearney
Kearney. An Unkindness of Ravens. Longing
Terror is a mirror in which your eyes belong to a woman wearing sunglasses. There she is now, pulling out of the parking lot across the street in a new convertible, bottle of Cabernet brooding like a teenager in the front seat. Longing is that bottle of wine you may never open. But there is the woman again, lighting a cigarette on the corner of Sixth and Twelfth. St. Vincent wraps a shadow around her shoulders as she flicks the cigarette onto the ground and ducks into the dark of Fat Tuesday's. You have spent years following this woman across the city, gathering her cigarette butts and stuffing them into your mouth. Longing is a form of terror. It is the same woman hovering over postcards in a small White Mountain town. First you are surprised she has anyone to write home to. Then you realize maybe she's been following you. But that's impossible. Because this is your mother. She abandoned you long ago.

luam cleaning house -umbertide

by Aracelis Girmay
Girmay. the black maria. luam cleaning house - umbertide
Moths, moths, this is our shelter, what one of our kind made for another of our kind. That light is not a moon. But an invention. It keeps us safe from stumbling up the walk or helps us to see what it is at the door. In the morning your bodies, shavings of flight, here & there, having surrendered. You were always dying in my sleep. & I, your last neighbor. Before I take the brown broom gently to your body, I see your once-was. With care, I study your eyes. It is my job.

The Job

by Dorianne Laux
Laux. What We Carry. The Job
for Tobey When my friend lost her little finger between the rollers of a printing press, I hadn't met her yet. It must have taken months for the stump to heal, skin stretched and stitched over bone, must have taken years before she could consider it calmly, as she does now in an airport café over a cup of black coffee. She doesn't complain or blame the unguarded machine, the noise of the factory, the job with its long unbroken hours. She simply opens her damaged hand and studies the emptiness, the loss of symmetry and flesh, and tells me it was a small price to pay, that her missing finger taught her to take more care with her life, with what she reaches out to touch, to stay awake when she's awake and listen, to pay attention to what's turning in the world.

Lines in the Rain

by Craig Morgan Teicher
Teicher. To Keep Love Blurry. Lines in the Rain
You, dear Brenda, are at home with our son, whose remarkable days have him laughing like any kid he isn't. When we made him out of the wish to make him, we knew nothing except our own parents couldn't be close or far enough. Our son can't run, which may be our fault, we'll never know, like sitting on separate daggers. Love is the need to escape the beloved, isn't it? So you can pretend you can't cause any pain? It's a mutation of guilt, isn't it? I hide beneath sheets, close to your belly, and apologize —to you, to my mother, to our son, to motherhood and fatherhood, to all those now fleeing what they love. It's grotesque, but I will cough something up, a bloody string of self, to tie you to me, me to him, him to you, then we can all go our ways, separate or not, or nowhere, and pluck that string, feel each other tensing, teasing the other end. You may not understand—I don't either—but someday we might: Someday shines on families like light.

In the First Stanza,

by Carolyn Kizer
Kizer. Yin. In the First Stanza
first, I tell you who I am: shadowed, reflective, small, pool in an unknown glade. It is easy to be a poet, brim with transparent water. In autumn, the leaves blow down over the ruffled surface, sink to rest, then resume their cycle. In the second stanza, you laugh, skipping pebbles across my surface charmed by the spreading circles. In the trees' perpetual twilight you are alone with the poet. Gently, you shake your head. You know me as turbulent ocean clouded with thunder and drama. In the third stanza, I die. Still, I insist on composing as my throes go on and on. I clench the pen in my teeth making those furious scratches that you will see, much later, as graceful calligraphy: drift of sails that sketch my horizon. My hands, in the fourth stanza, with the agonized clutch of the dying, draw your hand beneath the covers. I beg you to travel my body till you find the forest glade. Then your hand, like a leaf in autumn, is pulled into the pool. The rest of you doesn't believe it. The fifth stanza begins with water, and quiet laughter. Then I die. I really die. You pick up this piece of paper You read it aloud and explain me, my profile cast in prose. It drops from your hand like a leaf. This is all part of the cycle. Then, in the final stanza, I tell you who I am.

Dancing at Your Wedding

by Fleda Brown
Brown. No Need of Sympathy. Dancing at Your Wedding
I wish I hadn't danced like that, undignified, wild, but consider your groom's family, full press of uncles, aunts, parents, generations of sticking together, then your own scattered mess of faithlessness, and there you are, father on one arm, me on your other, two captive animals lured to the same pen. There I am on the old VCR tape, flouncing, you could say that, into the reception with my new man, your ex-stepfather crazily lurking in the background. I'm wearing the filmy, matronly mother-of-the bride-thing, grief and joy thrashing in me like sumo wrestlers. There we are, all layers of time licensed to be here, and I am the smoke of the speed of the rewind, in my smoky blue dress among the calla lilies and candles, and you a grand beaded snowy island, a bell-voice at the microphone, thanking us all, in general, and then I'm dancing and dancing, stricken and turning, turning my eyes. Imagine if Hades followed Persephone back into spring and summer, not speaking, sitting at a side table fingering the stem of his glass, cupping its bowl, smiling with his white teeth! Imagine if Rousseau got up to speak of the goodness of the human heart, and yours still bloody, the sweet smell of a gardenia loud as a band playing just under your chin.

Eating Together

by Li-Young Lee
Lee. Rose. Eating Together
In the steamer is the trout seasoned with slivers of ginger, two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil. We shall eat it with rice for lunch, brothers, sister, my mother who will taste the sweetest meat of the head, holding it between her fingers deftly, the way my father did weeks ago. Then he lay down to sleep like a snow-covered road winding through pines older than him, without any travelers, and lonely for no one.

wishes for sons

by Lucille Clifton
Clifton. wishes for sons. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton
i wish them cramps. i wish them a strange town and the last tampon. i wish them no 7-11. i wish them one week early and wearing a white skirt. i wish them one week late. later i wish them hot flashes and clots like you wouldn't believe. let the flashes come when they meet someone special. let the clots come when they want to. let them think they have accepted arrogance in the universe, then bring them to gynecologists not unlike themselves.

April Inventory

by W.D. Snodgrass
Snodgrass. Not For Specialists. April Inventory
The green catalpa tree has turned All white; the cherry blooms once more. In one whole year I haven't learned A blessed thing they pay you for. The blossoms snow down in my hair; The trees and I will soon be bare. The trees have more than I to spare. The sleek, expensive girls I teach, Younger and pinker every year, Bloom gradually out of reach. The pear tree lets its petals drop Like dandruff on a tabletop. The girls have grown so young by now I have to nudge myself to stare. This year they smile and mind me how My teeth are falling with my hair. In thirty years I may not get Younger, shrewder, or out of debt. The tenth time, just a year ago, I made myself a little list Of all the things I'd ought to know, Then told my parents, analyst, And everyone who's trusted me I'd be substantial, presently. I haven't read one book about A book or memorized one plot. Or found a mind I did not doubt. I learned one date. And then forgot. And one by one the solid scholars Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars. And smile above their starchy collars. I taught my classes Whitehead's notions; One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's. Lacking a source-book or promotions, I showed one child the colors of A luna moth and how to love. I taught myself to name my name, To bark back, loosen love and crying; To ease my woman so she came, To ease an old man who was dying. I have not learned how often I Can win, can love, but choose to die. I have not learned there is a lie Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger; That my equivocating eye Loves only by my body's hunger; That I have forces, true to feel, Or that the lovely world is real. While scholars speak authority And wear their ulcers on their sleeves, My eyes in spectacles shall see These trees procure and spend their leaves. There is a value underneath The gold and silver in my teeth. Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives, We shall afford our costly seasons; There is a gentleness survives That will outspeak and has its reasons. There is a loveliness exists, Preserves us, not for specialists.


by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye. Red Suitcase. Jerusalem
"Let's be the same wound if we must bleed. Let's fight side by side, even if the enemy is ourselves: lam yours, you are mine." -Tommy Olofsson, Sweden I'm not interested in who suffered the most. I'm interested in people getting over it. Once when myfather was a boy a stone hit him on the head. Hair would never grow there. Our fingers found the tender spot and its riddle: the boy who has fallen stands up. A bucket of pears in his mother's doorwaywelcomes him home. The pears are not crying. Later his friend who threw the stone says he was aiming at a bird. And my father starts growing wings. Each carries a tender spot: something our lives forgot to give us. A man builds a house and says, "I am native now." A woman speaks to a tree in place of her son. And olives come. A child's poem says, "I don't like wars, they end up with monuments." He's painting a bird with wings wide enough to cover two roofs at once. Why are we so monumentally slow? Soldiers stalk a pharmacy: big guns, little pills. If you tilt your head just slightly it's ridiculous. There's a place in my brain where hate won't grow. I touch its riddle: wind, and seeds. Something pokes us as we sleep. It's late but everything comes next.

The Day Biggie Smalls Died

by Sean Thomas Dougherty
Dougherty. All You Ask For is Longing. The Day Biggie Smalls Died
(aka Christopher Wallace, March 7, 1997) It was windless on Long Island Sound: The weather that kills from somebody else's life. A note cut like Thelonious Monk conjured, accidental beats, shining texts certified diamond disappeared— Brooklyn grieved five songs in his head he never wrote down. The DJ's discs spinning radiant mythological badness. A pair of stone prayers attempting flight. For hunger swung clean. For hunger's one-track wail, he stood. To know him by his susurrations. He blew seamless. A city named breath. The Black Frank White. Becoming the traffic to chance anything. His dizzyingly adagio delivery, a murmurous dictionary, wreathed. A torn riddle.

A Childhood

by Kim Addonizio
Addonizio. Tell Me. A Childhood
Our drinks came with paper umbrellas. My mother put on tennis whites. My father went to the bar the way he always did. My mother put on tennis whites. My brother threw me against a wall the way he always did. I believed in my guardian angel. My brother threw my mother against a wall. I walked in my sleep. I believed in my guardian angel. I woke up far from the house. I walked in my sleep. My mother read fairy tales and sang to me. I woke up far from the house. My mother was old, my father dead. My mother read fairy tales and sang to me. My father and brother crashed through the door. My mother was old, my father dead along with my guardian angel. My father and brother crashed through the door. I went to the bar along with my guardian angel and our drinks came with paper umbrellas.


by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Bosselaar. The Hour Between Dog & Wolf. Fallen
A friend had a Minnesota catalogue company send me plant-them-yourself dahlias by mail. The tubers nested in a rumpled mess of shredded paper. One strip, caught deep in a root's cleavage resisted, wouldn't come out. I pulled carefully at the white paper, reading its truncated sentence: . . . enclosed manuscript for your Poetry Prize. I hope . . . I remembered those publishers' guidelines: we will recycle those manuscripts not selected in a manner that will maintain the writers' privacy. Shredded, they sent the mess to nurseries, to protect other bundles from being mishandled, torn. It took me three hours to separate the fragments of that specific font and paper from the other strips. I saved seven lines. So this poem is for you—the one who wrote: blossom twigs in a glass jar by the bed and God of the hinge, potential or fallen: it's that time of doubt again. I want you to know I love that line, its surrendering tone, its rhythm—and pinned it to my wall. In Autumn, when my first red dahlia blooms, I'll put it in a glass jar, and place it under the word fallen.

What I Mean When I Say Truck Driver

by Geffrey Davis
Davis. Revising the Storm. What I Mean When I Say Truck Driver
During the last 50 miles back from haul & some months past my 15th birthday, my father fishes a stuffed polar bear from a Salvation Army gift-bin, labeled Boys: 6-10. I can almost see him approach the decision: cold, a little hungry, not enough money in his pocket for coffee. He worries he might fall asleep behind the wheel as his giant, clumsy love for that small word—son—guides his gaze to the crudely-sewn fabric of the miniature bear down at the bottom of the barrel. Seasons have flared & gone out with little change in his fear of stopping for too long in any city, where he knows the addict in him waits, patient as a desert bloom. Meanwhile, me: his eldest child, the uneasy guardian of the house. In his absence, I've not yet lost my virginity, but I've had fist-fights with grown men & seen my mother dragging her religious beliefs to the bitter border of divorce. For years my father's had trouble saying no to crack-cocaine & women flowered in cheap summer dresses. Watch his face as he arrives at last & stretches the toy out, my mother fixed on the porch behind me, the word son suddenly heavy in my father's mouth, his gray coat gathered around his shoulders: he's never looked so small. We could crush him—we hug him instead.

Fanny Linguistics: How to Say What you Mean

by Nickole Brown
Brown. Fanny Says. Fanny Linguistics How to Say What you Mean
If angry, simple—say, That really pisses me off. But just frustrated? That burns me up. Or if that lawyer is after you and he's all bent out of shape, you might decide not to pick up the phone, cause the more you stir shit, the more it stinks. If your daughter finally did something right, like fix the cable box, say, Shoot fire, bout time, or you may want to give encouragement (you want her to hook up your VCR too) so snap your fingers, exclaim, Handle it, Roy! Handle it! If someone tries to deceive you—a car dealer, rolling the Caddy's odometer back, or your granddaughter, blaming a dent in that new car on a mango that fell green from your tree—say, Don't you piss on my head and tell me it's raining. If winter, leave one window open, because you can't stand being closed in, but make sure to fuss—It's cold as a witch's tiddy, and if below zero, the witch should be in a metal bra. If hot, you're flashing, which happens most year-round, it will likely be hot as a dick, hot as piss, somebody get me a fresh Pepsi, crank up the air, quick. If hungry, this one's easy—I'm bout to starve—but if really hungry, add to death or my ass off. After two bowls of pinto beans and cornbread with green onion and sliced tomato and Frank's Red Hot, you're full, ask for your Tums, make a metaphor of your bloat to a tick, high up on a hog, about to pop. If a lamp's expensive, say, Shew, that's high, and use the card, but if you could never afford it, not in a million years, that lamp's as high as a cat's back. Say,You can keep your money, I won't let the back of your door hit me in the ass. If a girl's got pocked skin, buck teeth, and stringy hair, say God bless her, but if she's gone off and given head to every boy in the eleventh grade, the whore's heart might be peapicking, little, or worse—both—as in, God bless her little, pea-pickin heart. Now, if something real sad happens to the lady next door—the cancer took over, there's nothing left the doctor can cut away—say, Ain't that a cotton-pickin shame, but if her husband's running around while she's pumped with chemo, close the door, talk only in a whisper, even if no one else is in the whole house. Start the conversation with I ain't one to say nothing, but you wouldn't believe; end with We better not say nothing, no, not a word. If you're the one brought low because that neighbor is your sister and you heard what's in her tumor-blocked bowels has started to come out of her mouth, It ain't worth going into, there's nothing to say. Best to make the girls ammonia the chandelier and fluff the couch pillows and brush the shag rugs and windex the mirrored backsplash and take all the just-cleaned crystal down to clean again—This house is filthy. We ain't discussing it. Now, leave me be. Hey, I bet there's something good on the tee-vee. Don't give me no shit now, really. Don't you know Grandma's had enough—enough of tears?

English Flavors

by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Bosselaar. The Hour Between Dog & Wolf. English Flavors
I love to lick English the way I licked the hard round licorice sticks the Belgian nuns gave me for six good conduct points on Sundays after mass. Love it when 'plethora', 'indolence', 'damask', or my new word: 'lasciviousness,' stain my tongue, thicken my saliva, sweet as those sticks—black and slick with every lick it took to make daggers out of them: sticky spikes I brandished straight up to the ebony crucifix in the dorm, with the pride of a child more often punished than praised. 'Amuck,' 'awkward,' or 'knuckles,' have jawbreaker flavors; there's honey in 'hunter's moon,' hot pepper in 'hunk,' and 'mellifluous' has aromas of almonds and milk. Those tastes of recompense still bittersweet today as I roll, bend and shape English in my mouth, repeating its syllables like acts of contrition, then sticking out my new tongue— flavored and sharp—to the ambiguities of meaning.


by Richard Garcia
Garcia.The Chair.History
The wobbly ceiling fan threatens to decapitate the poetry workshop. They write quickly and nervously. Poetry, the instructor says, is fraught with happenstance and danger. Night in the American South, but the weather, apparently misdirected, has arrived from the Arabian Desert. History enters the room, when Lila, writing about a silk dress, remembers her childless grandfather, tailor to the Shah of Iran. He had laughed at the Shah, there on his knees with his nephews. The Shah, angry, gave him one week to find a second wife who could bear children. Or else. Now Lila sits writing about silk flowing through her grandfather's hands. The ceiling fan shakes like an airplane forcing its way through the wind.

Vandals, Horses

by Alan Michael Parker
Parker. the Vandals. Vandals, Horses
The vandals are dreaming, wolves are dreaming, The horses are staked to their deaths. In the poem of the vandals dreaming A word bites through a lip, Drawing blood. (The poem is in ruins.) The vandals dream their arms unseen, Dream themselves buried in the belly Of the birthing mare, as a foal is Torn to life. (The poem is banal As the barn is bloody.) And you and I, and you and I, we steal Each other's blankets, wrap ourselves In darkness, wind, in anything The night will let us, to feel safe. Do you feel safe? (Soft, The vandals sleep.) Because a word Is a dream of its meaning, you and I Must dream the vandals dreaming: Soft, the horses nicker in the barn. (Soft, our poem begins as vandals dream.)

New Prose About an Old Poem

by Russell Edson
Edson. The Rooster's Wife. New Prose About an Old Poem
One day an old poem is carried away by the wind. Its poet is relieved, now he won't have to be nice to it anymore. The poem was always too good to throw away, yet, not good enough to publish. It lived with him demanding to be reconsidered every so often. But, even so, he sees that he's not to be rid of the old poem, the wind in reverse has returned it to his desk. The old poem is glad to be home, and wants to be read again. The poet reads it and realizes once again that it's too good to be thrown away. Perhaps, he thinks, he'll send it out in the next mail, knowing, of course, that he won't; and that he'll have to go on being nice to it for the rest of his life. . . .

I asked every flower (2)

by Karen Volkman
Volkman. Nomina. I asked every flower (2)
I asked every flower I met had they seen my palest friend. The one called world-without-end shook from its august arrête. "A blink in the dark, pauvrette, this business of breach and mend." Then to search is only to spend? A bier in the air, oubliette? "Fertility's fraud is forget. The soil that strains in the eye breeding nuance, nascence, name re-blooming a world that will die. Each grain is a doorless my: To search is only to same."


by Meg Kearney
Kearney. An Unkindness of Ravens. Bonsai
You carry the tree home to me like a baby from a house about to burn. It was the potential for fire that drew me to you, though now, as you hand over this gift I've longed for, I worry if I can share my life with something else so needy. I study the instruction book: direct light, lots of water, human breath, and, every day, hands placed on the moss at the base of the trunk. Touch. Talk. I can do this. I am determined this tree will live, though when I discover aphids, tufts of cotton caught in the leaves like tiny laundry blown by a storm, I panic, pick up the phone — I am not afraid to say I need help. The woman at the nursery calms me: This happens, she says. Don't worry so much. I try — yet spraying insecticide, I think if junipers had eyes, this one would be crying like a child in the tub. I'm told I did the same as a baby — screamed as my mother scrubbed my face raw, baffled by the indelible dirt on my cheeks until my sister, to my rescue, realized they were freckles. My mother never had a child with freckles until I came along, as I never had a bonsai with brown spot — another phone call and soon I'm mixing vitamins, spraying for lush color, praying for leaves that spring back when squeezed between forefinger and thumb. When I must go away, I call long-distance — Is it drinking enough, getting lots of sun? Don't leave it in the sink unattended; it likes to be read to. I need you to say everything is going to be all right, say the tree is fine. Your voice across the wire is a rain I've needed for years; I tilt back my head, softening into a girl only you have recognized. The tree's body contains what I can't yet explain. When I am home, you pick me up, carry me to the bedroom. Your skin smells faintly of juniper. We burst in a heat so green it singes my eyelashes.

Voices from the Rubble

by Matthew Shenoda
Shenoda. Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone. Voices from the Rubble
I am through with this earth and its twisted roots wringing our veins the soil has molded like wheat frosting our vision and taste every street has run counter to our travels our hearts have been drained into the seas. It is time for us to dig unearth the earth from itself.

The Scale by Which the Mapped Concerns the Map

by Bruce Beasley
Beasley. Theophobia. The Scale by Which the Mapped Concerns the Map
1. We are the map's icons, the clot- black or gray hyphen- lines, the capital's isolate circled star. The key boxed underneath in the smallest font will tell us exactly what it is we mean to stand for. 2. Is there no difference between a legend and a key. We've never known a scale of more than one to one, imperceptible dis- proportion. . . 3. And here we are again, self-within: legended, aliased and atlased. 4. Without its scale, the map's a sumptuary object, quarter-inch a thousand miles, a yard a sliver of off-green. I'd chart your inwardness but where's the key. The scale-pan's weight subtractable from the measure. 5. If the scale is an arrangement of our notes and what's left inaudible between them 6. As diagnosis is to disease, so the map's legend, to the mapped. 7. All we do, Libra, is practice at our scales, finger the frets toward some unlearned nocturne's diminishment, its flats. 8. Will the key reexplain everything on the mapface that's been inscrutably abbreviated? 9. Legend is to history as map is to its legend. 10. We've grown so tired of persistent direction— is there still some way to unmap each other that the scales might fall from our eyes? 11. Then say to me something I can't expect, or negotiate- against, or boundary-draw: draw me a map wherein no legend's legible, or needed.

why I no longer skype

by Jillian Weise
Weise. The Book of Goodbyes. why i no longer skype
Skype is on your Mac on the table next to the Malbec and ashtray, next to the book that cost 120 pesos, b/c you had to have Ulysses in English. You're in some town where your name doesn't exist and they rename you, so you're never sure who they're talking to. The screen rings. It's Big Logos. He downloaded the thing. First a garbled voice comes from the keys then, "Can you hear me?" By the power of gods in Estonia, makers of software, haters of fees, the voice says your name and he's not anyone, though anyone from Terre Haute to Rome can Skype you, he's someone you know or knew. Which tense to use? Then his face appears by the folders, the clock, the Firefox, his face on his body in his bed 8,000 miles away and he says, "Give me a hug." You both grab hold of your machines. You show your eyeballs to each other, all impressed with yourselves, as if your eyeballs have not always been on your head. "Good to see you," he says. "Can you look in my eyes?" You try but you're always looking off. It's sad but it feels good like you love reading Ulysses and you love being alone near the Martial Mountains. He plays a cover of Bruce Springsteen by Lucero, and what a rad band. This is the life. This is your friend, your friend from way back, though let's be honest, he was more than that, and not to trouble you with facts, he's still more than that. You're so hot for technology. This is better than IM. You can't get enough of his pixels and it must, please tell me, it must add up, all those hours spent listening to Lucero, who is okay but, let's face it, not Springsteen, and all those hours spent watching Hulu together and now look at you, staring at your screen, which is not ringing, which will not ring. It has always been just a screen. You can't blame it for that.


by Li-Young Lee
Lee. Book of My Nights. Pillow
There's nothing I can't find under there. Voices in the trees, the missing pages of the sea. Everything but sleep. And night is a river bridging the speaking and the listening banks, a fortress, undefended and inviolate. There's nothing that won't fit under it: fountains clogged with mud and leaves, the houses of my childhood. And night begins when my mother's fingers let go of the thread they've been tying and untying to touch toward our fraying story's hem. Night is the shadow of my father's hands setting the clock for resurrection. Or is it the clock unraveled, the numbers flown? There's nothing that hasn't found home there: discarded wings, lost shoes, a broken alphabet. Everything but sleep. And night begins with the first beheading of the jasmine, its captive fragrance rid at last of burial clothes.

Self-Portrait in Ink

by Bruce Beasley
Beasley. Theophobia. Self Portrait in Ink
As the gone- translucent octopus jet-blasts into evasion, vanishing while its ink-sac spurts a cloud of defensive mucus & coagulant azure-black pigment, self-shaped octopus imago in ink, so the shark gnashes at that blobbed sepia phantom, pseudomorph that disperses into black nebulae & shreds with each shark-strike & the escaped octopus throbs beyond, see-through in the see-through water, untouched—: so, go little poem, little ink-smudge-on-fingertip & -print, mimicker & camouflage, self-getaway, cloud- scribble, write out my dissipating name on the water, emptied sac of self-illusive ink . . .

blessing the boats

by Lucille Clifton
Clifton. blessing the boats. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton
(at St. Mary's) may the tide that is entering even now the lip of our understanding carry you out beyond the face of fear may you kiss the wind then turn from it certain that it will love your back may you open your eyes to water water waving forever and may you in your innocence sail through this to that

Fourth of July

by Keetje Kuipers
Kuipers. Beautiful in the Mouth. Fourth of July
If I have any romantic notions left, please let me abandon them here on the dashboard of your Subaru beside this container of gas station potato salad and bottle of sunscreen. Otherwise, my heart is a sugar packet waiting to be shaken open by some other man's hand. Let there be another town after this one, a town with an improbable Western name—Wisdom, Last Chance—where we can get a room and a six-pack, where the fireworks end early, say nine o'clock, before it's really gotten dark enough to see them because everyone has to work in the morning. I'm not asking for love anymore. I don't care if I never see a sailboat again.

Tidewater Psalm

by Derrick Austin
Austin. Trouble the Water.Tidewater Psalm
…in heaven it is always Autumn —John Donne, Christmas Sermon, 1624 By sunset, the crickets' trilling begins in the airless damp, rich with salt and the sulfurous fumes the Gulf flags off. Bristling cattails brush my hands. The light-crested water rises and falls like a chest flecked with blonde hairs. I feel estranged from You. A shoal of minnows breaks, silvering my ankles, like a mirror; my heart swims in gladness at the changeable world. Tell me in heaven it's warm enough to wade into this fine transparence, never want for air, only light and water, and be as the river flowing into the sea which gives up its name.

I Concede the Point, I Concede the Point, I Concede the Point

by Kathryn Nuernberger
Nuernberger. The End of Pink. I Concede the Point...
A Man is a flesh monster with a mouthful of teeth in his scrotum. Haven't you seen the mouth of a man? I know it's there because when a man told me he thought my vagina had teeth, I wondered how a person could come to think such a thing. When I love a man it's like watching a wrestling match on the beach. We're standing at the rope and there are our mouths jaw-locked and tussling like badgers without bodies. A Man called me a man-hater once. I didn't hate men before, but I did after. Before, a man made me dolorous, now A Man is invigorating. Thanks, I thank you for this. There was a time when A Man called me a man-eater. I am very fond of that appellation. You have no idea. Even though people talk about rape as a matter of course, I was a woman with eye teeth before I understood that they might be talking about me. A Man on the front porch of a frat called out, "Why don't you come up here and get raped!" A Man laughed. A Man waited for another woman to walk on the sidewalk. A Man tried his joke again. "Why don't you come up here and get raped!" A Man thinks he's clever. A Man is staggering out of the bar on game day to catcall me across the street and then he is answering the aggression of my old-lady scolding glare with a hand pumping his own crotch. A Man walking next to me on game day gets so hung up on his personal experiences that he desperately wants to explain this misbehavior as boyish and age-appropriate. A Man can't get his mind around the fact that I do not care to give a fuck about A Man again, beyond figuring out how to make him and his friends feel a shame so great they start to wonder if they aren't fourteen-year-old girls sent by the teacher to the confessional because of a list found in some boy's locker. Ever since I started itching for A Man passing me on the street to say "Smile, honey" just one more time, men have taken up demure nodding. A Man can tell when a woman is looking for an opportunity. A Man is candid. A Man is live-action. A Man thinks he doesn't have a fleshy hairball of teeth. But I can hear them clicking down there. A Man thinks he knows where he's keeping his tongue. It's not for me to argue with A Man about where he imagines he's put it.

on poetry & history -after joy harjo

by Aracelis Girmay
Girmay. the black maria.on poetry & history -after joy harjo
On a panel of men who spoke about history & poetry, she sat quietly for much of it. They, the men, were saying strong things, good things but in authoritative voices, voices that knew they knew things. & she remained the only quiet one. She listened as if she weren't listening. Her face looked forward. Her quiet seemed distant. It had a straight back. & then she interrupted one of the men & said something like, "That reminds me of the time…" & she spoke of a fellow Native American teacher in her region who committed suicide near the end of one of the years, & how he must have been hurting & isolated & in pain, but not many people spoke about that, or spoke about his death or their loss when he died. It was swept under the rug, that was the phrase she used, & she said she was at home one day & looking out of the window & she noticed a black thread or string there, floating in the frame, & she observed it for a while, floating there, until she realized that that black string was grief. The grief of the professor, the grief of the students, her own grief, the grief of silence, a historical grief, & that she knew that it was her job to take that thread & put it somewhere, weave it into the larger tapestry (she made a gesture, then, as if that tapestry were just above her head). She said it was her job to put that grief in its place, or else someone else, some child or grown person would be out walking & just walk right into it, without knowing what it was they'd walked into, what they had, then, inherited in a way, what they were, then, carrying & feeling. The danger of that. The grief of that. & that was what she said about poetry & history. & that is all I remember from all of the things that were said that entire day.

Last Words

by Dorianne Laux
Laux. Smoke. Last Words
for Al His voice, toward the end, was a soft coal breaking open in the little stove of his heart. One day he just let go and the birds stopped singing. then the other deaths came on, as if by permission— beloved teacher, cousin, a lover slipped from my life the way a rope slithers from your grip, the ocean folding over it, your fingers stripped of flesh. A deck of cards worn smooth at a kitchen table, the jack of spades laid down at last, his face thumbed to threads. An ashtray full of pebbles on the window ledge, wave-beaten, gathered at day's end from a beach your mind has never left, then a starling climbs the pine outside— the cat's black paw, the past shattered, the stones rolled to their forever-hidden places. Even the poets I had taken to my soul: Levis, Matthews, Levertov— the books of poetry, lost or stolen, left on airport benches, shabby trade paperbacks of my childhood, the box misplaced, the one suitcase that mattered crushed to nothing in the belly of a train. I took a rubbing of the carved wings and lilies from a headstone outside Philadelphia, frosted gin bottles stationed like soldiers on her grave: The Best Blues Singer in the World Will Never Stop Singing. How many losses does it take to stop a heart, to lay waste to the vocabularies of desire? Each one came rushing through the rooms he left. Mouths open. Last words flown up into the trees.

City of Rivers

by Derrick Austin
Austin. Trouble the Water. City of Rivers
All this—the bridges, the market, epitaphs— were under silt not long before we came to the city that marks its years by rising floods. As we pass a shop on stained stone streets, a glassblower fashions an urn from fire and air. Lace-makers scrub rust from a door's agitated joints. This is the city, someone said, you never enter into the same way. I wanted this passage for us, abandonment and remaking, the cicada stripping itself from itself. Despite peach iced tea, the heat sticks to us like flies. Even the plaster walls of our rented room sweat. Where we going tomorrow, you ask, emerging, naked, from a cool shower. Rivulets chart your body's cartography; they steam and shine and lift themselves to you.

What Afterlife

by Keetje Kuipers
Kuipers. Beautiful in the Mouth. What Afterlife
Twilight might be called a gray scarf pulled over your lover's eyes. And the bicyclist's body cutting swiftly through it is a beautifully composed semaphore, like the shape meaning makes in a set of signal lights at the end of a darkening runway: two orange sticks crossed, then waving, motioning inward. I should be telling you about fireflies, the containment of light, how we work to bring it closer to us, into our bodies, into a glass jar with a screw-on lid where it can shine and reverberate in the ever-thinning air. Instead I think of my fifth summer, the day I lost one shoe over the side of a sailboat, its sinking away from me into the untreadable dark. The soul is composed of infinite planets sucked into black holes and what comes out the other side— light or its golden shadow—is each our own. Like those fishing boats that ride out to the world's curve each evening, their string of bobbing lamps nothing more than an infirm constellation pinned to your child's ceiling.