Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Teasers by William Empson


The Teasers

Not but they die, the teasers and the dreams, 
Not but they die, 
and tell the careful flood 
To give them what they clamour for and why. 

You could not fancy where they rip to blood 
You could not fancy 
nor that mud 
I have heard speak that will not cake or dry. 

Our claims to act appear so small to these 
Our claims to act 
colder lunacies 
That cheat the love, the moment, the small fact. 

Make no escape because they flash and die, 
Make no escape
build up your love,
Leave what you die for and be safe to die.

 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Baptism by Erika L. Sánchez

Baptism
 
When the soft mouth of a word unhinges,
it is sticky, it is feral. Beneath the plum tree
I’ve woven my gray hair into a blanket.
Do you think I’m pretty crouched like this?
See, I am my own whore. Watch me
swallow my own fingers. My head a wild tangle
full of creatures. Do you hear that — the lovely hooves
and mangled pianos? The egg I hold inside my chest,
it’s what the darkness ate. In the hot swamp,
in the battering sunlight, I tie my braid
around my neck and bury my name
until it’s silent as a jewel. Feel my salt
burn in the cracks of your lips, feel the fat
pulse of my tender throat.
It’s the shudder of beauty. No,
no, the shutter. Watch me dance
on borders in this dirty dress,
until my wig catches fire. 

 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Florida Again by Randall Mann


Florida Again

             I forgave myself for having had a youth.
                                                    —Thom Gunn 

At the Fashion
Square mall,
back
of Waldenbooks, 

I saw my younger self
haunting
the magazine rack.
Ripping out pages 

of Blueboy,
tucking them 
in a Trapper
Keeper. 

Turn back.
His eyes met mine,
animal
and brittle, 

a form
of gratitude
that a man
kept his stare. 

Any man.
I half-smiled
some admission,
and though 

he couldn’t
see it coming,
I excused him
his acid jeans; 

two Swatch
watches,
two guards.
He, I, 

must have been
nineteen:
sex was “safer”
then— 

scribbles
on the mall
men’s room stall;
malaise 

of saxophone
and PSAs.
How
did I 

even
learn how to live
in 1991?
Landlocked, 

cock-blocked,
Spanish moss
festering.
I forgive him.

 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas


Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light. 

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
      Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams. 

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark. 

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise. 

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace, 

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea. 

 

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Year the Law Changed by Carol Muske-Dukes


The Year the Law Changed
 
Waiting hours, each of us in a curtain-stall.
Two men outside, mopping the floor and hall,
Shouting “Murderers!” at us. Were they janitors?
Or medics who’d read our charts & diagnosed?
If men could get pregnant, it would end up
a sacrament, Gloria said. Simone said We
know that no woman takes it lightly. So
could both be true. In class in San Francisco
our teacher spoke of his wife who lost
a child to leukemia, haunted by her ghost
& told by her shrink to write about blood.
She wrote about a vampire and her book shot
to fame so maybe she forgot the one who
never grew into her name. When my name
was called I went to have it done and then knew
I had my life back but covered myself with blood —
mine and some not — but still of me. I don’t know
what I mean by “of me,” it’s undefined & even
the shouting accusers won’t cross that line. I had to
swear I was clinically mad to have it done. What’s
madness to the men in white: they clean the world
of residue like me and all the blood from both of us. 

 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Few Words on the Soul by Wisława Szymborska


A Few Words on the Soul

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.
 
Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.
 
Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.
 
It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.
 
It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.
 
For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.
 
Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.
 
It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.
 
Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.
 
We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.
 
Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.
 
It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.
 
We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

(Translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

To a Straight Man by Eduardo C. Corral


To a Straight Man

All zodiac all 
        radar your voice
                I carried it
across the Atlantic
        to Barcelona
                I photographed
cathedrals
        cacti mosaic
                salamanders
I even photo-
        graphed my lust
                always
your voice skimming
        a woman’s skin
                mattress springs
so noisy so birdlike
        you filled her room
                with cages
camera bright
        in my pocket map
                unfolding
in my mind
        I explored a park
                leaves notched
& enormous
        graffitied boulders
                then
three men

                tall & clean
closed in
        they broke open
                my body
with their fists
        insufferable
                your red wool cap
insufferable the way
        you walked
                away from me
come back please
        the buttons
                on your jacket
are finches
        I wanted to yell
                as you vanished
into a hotel
        to drink with
                your friends
there was nothing
        more
                you could do
after my attackers left
        before I got up
                I touched my face
almost tenderly