Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Monomoy by Carl Phillips


Somewhere, people must still do things like fetch
water from wells in buckets, then pour it out
for those animals that, long domesticated, would
likely perish before figuring out how to get
for themselves. That dog, for example, whose
refusal to leave my side I mistook, as a child,
for loyalty — when all along it was just blind ... What
is it about vulnerability that can make the hand
draw back, sometimes, and can sometimes seem
the catalyst for rendering the hand into sheer force,
destructive? Don’t you see how you’ve burnt almost
all of it, all the tenderness, away, someone screams
to someone else, in public — and looking elsewhere,
we walk quickly past, as if even to have heard
that much might have put us at risk of whatever fate
questions like that
                                     spring from. Estrangement — 
like sacrifice — begins as a word at first, soon it’s
the stuff of drama, cue the follow-up tears that
attend drama, then it’s pretty much the difference
between waking up to a storm and waking up
inside one. Who can say how she got there — 
in the ocean, I mean — but I once watched a horse
make her way back to land mid-hurricane: having
ridden, surfer-like, the very waves that at any moment
could have overwhelmed her in their crash to shore, she
shook herself, looked back once on the water’s restlessness — 
history’s always restless — and the horse stepped free.


Postlude by William Carlos Williams


Now that I have cooled to you
Let there be gold of tarnished masonry,
Temples soothed by the sun to ruin   
That sleep utterly.
Give me hand for the dances,            
Ripples at Philae, in and out,         
And lips, my Lesbian,         
Wall flowers that once were flame.         

Your hair is my Carthage         
And my arms the bow,         
And our words arrows         
To shoot the stars         
Who from that misty sea         
Swarm to destroy us.         

But you there beside me—         
Oh how shall I defy you,         
Who wound me in the night         
With breasts shining         
Like Venus and like Mars?         
The night that is shouting Jason         
When the loud eaves rattle         
As with waves above me         
Blue at the prow of my desire.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Break by Aracelis Girmay

When the boys are carnivals
we gather round them in the dark room

& they make their noise while drums
ricochet against their bodies & thin air
below the white ceiling hung up like a moon
& it is California, the desert. I am driving in a car,
clapping my hands for the beautiful windmills,
one of whom is my brother, spinning,
on a hillside in the garage
with other boys he’ll grow old with, throw back.
How they throw back their bodies
on the cardboard floor, then spring-to, flying
like the heads of hammers hitting strings
inside of a piano.
                                  Again, again.
This is how they fall & get back up. One
who was thrown out by his father. One
who carries death with him like a balloon
tied to his wrist. One whose heart will break.
One whose grandmother will forget his name.
One whose eye will close. One who stood
beside his mother’s body in a green hospital. One.
Kick up against the air to touch the earth.
See him fall, then get back up.
Then get back up. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Incantation by Czesław Miłosz


Human reason is beautiful and invincible.
No bars, no barbed wire, no pulping of books,
No sentence of banishment can prevail against it.
It establishes the universal ideas in language,
And guides our hand so we write Truth and Justice
With capital letters, lie and oppression with small.
It puts what should be above things as they are,
It is an enemy of despair and a friend of hope.
It does not know Jew from Greek or slave from master,
Giving us the estate of the world to manage.
It saves austere and transparent phrases
From the filthy discord of tortured words.
It says that everything is new under the sun,
Opens the congealed fist of the past.
Beautiful and very young are Philo-Sophia
And poetry, her ally in the service of the good.
As late as yesterday Nature celebrated their birth,
The news was brought to the mountains by a unicorn and an echo,
Their friendship will be glorious, their time has no limit,
Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction.

(Translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Pinsky)


Friday, August 18, 2017

The Leash by Ada Limón

The Leash

After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what’s
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to
say, Don’t die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn’t there still
something singing? The truth is: I don’t know.
But sometimes, I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don’t die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps, we are always hurtling our body towards
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Worry by Sam Sax


is a woman
burying bread

beneath her lawn.
praying for summer

to make whole loaves
break in their plastic

shells through dirt
like so many hands.

worry is how i thumb
a groove in the stolen

jewel case in my back
pocket at tower

records, the man
puts his hands

on me & i’m cooked,
i’m crooked, red

handed, red thumbed.
had enough money

in my pocket
for music

& who really needs
that bad? all my father’s

overtime stocked
in our pantry.

all my mother’s
edges worried

smooth below
the river of her

boss’s hands.
who am i

who steals music
who sells drugs

because i love
how it sounds.

who sold my own
good mouth

for gold. a man
puts his hands

on me &
i’m his & i’m paid.

in the old country
women buried

what little we had
in the dirt & hoped

it would make more
better on earth.

in this country
all food is unzipped

from its plastic
& passes clean through us.

my grandmother’s
panic is a relic, is bread

unearthed from
some forgotten dust

bowl still dark
& moldy & whole.

why not eat the hand
that feeds you, i think,

why not eat the arm,
the elbow,

the shoulder? why
not eat the whole

damned body alive

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Spire by Ellen Bryant Voigt

The Spire

In the Bavarian steeple, on the hour, 
two figures emerge from their scalloped house 
carrying sledges that they clap, in turn, 
against the surface of the bell. By legend 
they are summer and winter, youth and age, 
as though the forces of plenty and of loss 
played equally on the human soul, extracted 
easily the same low bronze note spreading 
upward from the encumbrance of the village, 
past alluvial fields to the pocked highland 
where cattle shift their massive heads 
at this dissonance, this faint redundant 
pressure in the ears, in the air. 
From the village, the mountain seems 
a single stone, a single blank completion. 
Seeing the summit pierce the abstract heavens, 
we reconstruct the valley on the mountain— 
a shepherd propped against his crook, birds 
enthralled on a branch, the branch feathering 
the edge of the canvas—transposing 
such forms as can extend the flawed earth 
and embody us, intact, unaltering, among 
the soft surprising trees of childhood, 
mimosa, honey locust and willow. 
Wood in the midst of woods, the village 
houses are allied in a formal shape 
beside a stream, the streets concluding 
at the monument. Again the ravishing moment 
of the bell: the townspeople, curious 
or accustomed, stop to count the strokes, 
odd or even—the confectioner counting out 
the lavender candies for his customer, 
the butcher, the greengrocer, the surgeon 
and the constable—as the housewife 
stands on the stoop, shaking her mop, 
and sees the dust briefly veil the air, 
an algebra of swirling particles.