Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I’m Over the Moon by Brenda Shaughnessey


I’m Over the Moon

I don’t like what the moon is supposed to do.
Confuse me, ovulate me,

spoon-feed me longing. A kind of ancient
date-rape drug. So I’ll howl at you, moon,

I’m angry. I’ll take back the night. Using me to
swoon at your questionable light,

you had me chasing you,
the world’s worst lover, over and over

hoping for a mirror, a whisper, insight.
But you disappear for nights on end

with all my erotic mysteries
and my entire unconscious mind.

How long do I try to get water from a stone?
It’s like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.

Better off alone. I’m going to write hard
and fast into you, moon, face-fucking.

Something you wouldn’t understand.
You with no swampy sexual

promise but what we glue onto you.
That’s not real. You have no begging

cunt. No panties ripped off and the crotch
sucked. No lacerating spasms

sending electrical sparks through the toes.
Stars have those.

What do you have? You’re a tool, moon.
Now, noon. There’s a hero.

The obvious sun, no bullshit, the enemy
of poets and lovers, sleepers and creatures.

But my lovers have never been able to read
my mind. I’ve had to learn to be direct.

It’s hard to learn that, hard to do.
The sun is worth ten of you.

You don’t hold a candle
to that complexity, that solid craze.

Like an animal carcass on the road at night,
picked at by crows,

taunting walkers and drivers. Your face
regularly sliced up by the moving

frames of car windows. Your light is drawn,
quartered, your dreams are stolen.

You change shape and turn away,
letting night solve all night’s problems alone.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sunlight by Jim Harrison


Sunlight 

After days of darkness I didn't understand
a second of yellow sunlight
here and gone through a hole in clouds
as quickly as a flashbulb, an immense
memory of a moment of grace withdrawn.
It is said that we are here but seconds in cosmic
time, twelve and a half billion years,
but who is saying this and why?
In the Salt Lake City airport eight out of ten
were fiddling relentlessly with cell phones.
The world is too grand to reshape with babble.
Outside the hot sun beat down on clumsy metal
birds and an actual ten-million-year-old
crow flew by squawking in bemusement.
We're doubtless as old as our mothers, thousands
of generations waiting for the sunlight.

 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Song of Wandering Aengus by W. B. Yeats


The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Clouds Gathering by Charles Simić


Clouds Gathering

It seemed the kind of life we wanted.
Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.
Sunlight in every room.
The two of us walking by the sea naked.

Some evenings, however, we found ourselves
Unsure of what comes next.
Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,
With birds circling over our heads,
The dark pines strangely still,
Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.

We were back on our terrace sipping wine.
Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?
Clouds of almost human appearance
Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely
With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.

The night suddenly upon us, a starless night.
You lighting a candle, carrying it naked
Into our bedroom and blowing it out quickly.
The dark pines and grasses strangely still. 


Friday, March 25, 2016

For Night To Fall by Carl Phillips


For Night To Fall

You could tell from the start that the best

were frailing. We made the wishes we made,
beside the wishes we also hoped would
come true, for there’s always a difference,

the way what we remember of what happened
is just memory, not history exactly, and
not the past, which is truth, but by then

who cared? The truth by then as a snowy
owl becoming steadily more indistinguishable
from the winter sand in twilight, feathered

emptiness filling/unfilling itself for no one,
no apparent reason—who? who says?
who says the dead are farther away from me

than you are?—across the hard, hard shore.

 

Giving and Getting by Tony Hoagland


Giving and Getting

I like that, he said in the hospital, where I was rubbing his feet
which were dry and smelled a bit.

Ahh, he said, ahhh, as I worried
what the nurse in the corridor might think,

pushing my thumbs into the pads and calluses,
the skin that had grown leathery and hard

                                     over a lifetime of streets and shoes—

and me trying but unable to forget
some of the things he had done

over the course of our long friendship.
Rubbing his feet was like reaching into some

thick part of my heart that couldn’t feel
and kneading away at it—

Blame caught inside the love
like a fishhook, or a bug in honey.

It is in my character,
this persistent selfishness—

one of my hands offering the gift,
the other trying to take something back.

Giving and getting
like two horses arriving at the same time

from opposite directions
at the stone gate

that will allow only one to pass.

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Horse and Rider by Louise Glück


The Horse and Rider

Once there was a horse, and on the horse was a rider. How handsome they looked in the autumn sunlight, approaching a strange city! People thronged the streets or called from the high windows. Old women sat among flowerpots. But when you looked about for another horse or another rider, you looked in vain. My friend, said the animal, why not abandon me? Alone, you can find your way here. But to abandon you, said the other, would be to leave a part of myself behind, and how can I do that when I do now know which part you are?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

To You by Kenneth Koch


To You

I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut
That will solve a murder case unsolved for years
Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window
Through which he saw her head, connecting with
Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red
Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;
For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not
Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a
Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails
In the wind, when you’re near, a wind that blows from
The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;
I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields
Always, to be near you, even in my heart
When I’m awake, which swims, and also I believe that you
Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to
The place where I again think of you, a new
Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow
Of a ship which sails
From Hartford to Miami, and I love you
Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun
Receives me in the questions which you always pose.

 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Postcard from the Volcano by Wallace Stevens


Postcard from the Volcano

Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once   
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes   
Made sharp air sharper by their smell   
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones   
We left much more, left what still is   
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow   
Above the shuttered mansion-house,   
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion's look   
And what we said of it became

A part of what it is ... Children,   
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,

Will say of the mansion that it seems   
As if he that lived there left behind   
A spirit storming in blank walls,

A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,   
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.

 


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hedgehog by Paul Muldoon


Hedgehog

The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.

We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.

The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.

We forget the god
Under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
Will a god trust in the world.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Tell Me Something Good by Ocean Vuong


Tell Me Something Good

You are standing in the minefield again.
Someone who is dead now

told you it is where you will learn
to dance. Snow on your lips like a salted

cut, you leap between your deaths, black as god’s
periods. Your arms cleaving little wounds

in the wind. You are something made. Then made
to survive, which means you are somebody’s

son. Which means if you open your eyes, you’ll be back
in that house, beneath a blanket printed with yellow sailboats.

Your mother’s boyfriend, his bald head ringed with red
hair, like a planet on fire, kneeling

by your bed again. Air of whiskey & crushed
Oreos. Snow falling through the window: ash returned

from a failed fable. His spilled-ink hand
on your chest. & you keep dancing inside the minefield—

motionless. The curtains fluttering. Honeyed light
beneath the door. His breath. His wet blue face: earth

spinning in no one’s orbit. & you want someone to say Hey…Hey
I think your dancing is gorgeous. A little waltz to die for,

darling. You want someone to say all this
is long ago. That one night, very soon, you’ll pack a bag

with your favorite paperback & your mother’s .45,
that the surest shelter was always the thoughts

above your head. That it’s fair—it has to be—
how our hands hurt us, then give us

the world. How you can love the world
until there’s nothing left to love

but yourself. Then you can stop.
Then you can walk away—back into the fog

-walled minefield, where the vein in your neck adores you
to zero. You can walk away. You can be nothing

& still breathing. Believe me.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Lost Art of Letter Writing by Eavan Boland


The Lost Art of Letter Writing

The ratio of daylight to handwriting
Was the same as lacemaking to eyesight.
The paper was so thin it skinned air.

The hand was fire and the page tinder.
Everything burned away except the one
Place they singled out between fingers

Held over a letter pad they set aside
For the long evenings of their leave-takings,
Always asking after what they kept losing,

Always performing—even when a shadow
Fell across the page and they knew the answer
Was not forthcoming—the same action:

First the leaning down, the pen becoming
A staff to walk fields with as they vanished
Underfoot into memory. Then the letting up,

The lighter stroke, which brought back
Cranesbill and thistle, a bicycle wheel
Rusting: an iron circle hurting the grass

Again and the hedges veiled in hawthorn
Again just in time for the May Novenas
Recited in sweet air on a road leading

To another road, then another one, widening
To a motorway with four lanes, ending in
A new town on the edge of a city

They will never see. And if we say
An art is lost when it no longer knows
How to teach a sorrow to speak, come, see

The way we lost it: stacking letters in the attic,
Going downstairs so as not to listen to
The fields stirring at night as they became

Memory and in the morning as they became
Ink; what we did so as not to hear them
Whispering the only question they knew

By heart, the only one they learned from all
Those epistles of air and unreachable distance,
How to ask: is it still there?

 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Heart Condition by Jericho Brown

Heart Condition

I don’t want to hurt a man, but I like to hear one beg.
Two people touch twice a month in ten hotels, and
We call it long distance. He holds down one coast.
I wander the other like any African American, Africa
With its condition and America with its condition
And black folk born in this nation content to carry
Half of each. I shoulder my share. My man flies
To touch me. Sky on our side. Sky above his world
I wish to write. Which is where I go wrong. Words
Are a sense of sound. I get smart. My mother shakes
Her head. My grandmother sighs: He ain’t got no
Sense. My grandmother is dead. She lives with me.
I hear my mother shake her head over the phone.
Somebody cut the cord. We have a long distance
Relationship. I lost half of her to a stroke. God gives
To each a body. God gives every body its pains.
When pain mounts in my body, I try thinking
Of my white forefathers who hurt their black bastards
Quite legally. I hate to say it, but one pain can ease
Another. Doctors rather I take pills. My man wants me
To see a doctor. What are you when you leave your man
Wanting? What am I now that I think so fondly
Of airplanes? What’s my name, whose is it, while we
Make love. My lover leaves me with words I wish
To write. Flies from one side of a nation to the outside
Of our world. I don’t want the world. I only want
African sense of American sound. Him. Touching.
This body. Aware of its pains. Greetings, Earthlings.
My name is Slow And Stumbling. I come from planet
Trouble. I am here to love you uncomfortable.

 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Our Dust by C. D. Wright


Our Dust

I am your ancestor. You know next-to-nothing
about me.
There is no reason for you to imagine
the rooms I occupied or my heavy hair.
Not the faint vinegar smell of me. Or
the rubbed damp
of Forrest and I coupling on the landing
en route to our detached day.

You didn’t know my weariness, error, incapacity,
I was the poet
of shadow work and towns with quarter-inch
phone books, of failed
roadside zoos. The poet of yard eggs and
sharpening shops,
jobs at the weapons plant and the Maybelline
factory on the penitentiary road.

A poet of spiderwort and jacks-in-the-pulpit,
hollyhocks against the tool shed.
An unsmiling dark blond.
The one with the trowel in her handbag.
I dug up protected and private things.
That sort, I was.
My graves went undecorated and my churches
abandoned. This wasn’t planned, but practice.

I was the poet of short-tailed cats and yellow
line paint.
Of satellite dishes and Peterbilt trucks. Red Man
Chewing Tobacco, Black Cat Fireworks, Triple Hut
Creme Soda. Also of dirt dobbers, nightcrawlers,
martin houses, honey, and whetstones
from the Novaculite Uplift. What remained
of The Uplift.

I had registered dogs 4 sale; rocks, dung,
and straw.
I was a poet of hummingbird hives along with
redhead stepbrothers.

The poet of good walking shoes—a necessity
in vernacular parts—and push mowers.
The rumor that I was once seen sleeping
in a refrigerator box is false (he was a brother
who hated me).
Nor was I the one lunching at the Governor’s
mansion.

I didn’t work off a grid. Or prime the surface
if I could get off without it. I made
simple music
out of sticks and string. On side B of me,
experimental guitar, night repairs and suppers
such as this.
You could count on me to make a bad situation
worse like putting liquid make-up over
a passion mark.

I never raised your rent. Or anyone else’s by God.
Never said I loved you. The future gave me chills.
I used the medium to say: Arise arise and
come together.
Free your children. Come on everybody. Let’s start
with Baltimore.

Believe me I am not being modest when I
admit my life doesn’t bear repeating. I
agreed to be the poet of one life,
one death alone. I have seen myself
in the black car. I have seen the retreat
of the black car.

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Name by Tomas Tranströmer


The Name

I grow sleepy during the car journey and I drive in under the trees at the side of the road. I curl up in the back seat and sleep. For how long? Hours. Darkness has fallen.

Suddenly I’m awake and don’t know where I am. Wide-awake, but it doesn’t help. Where am I? WHO am I? I am something that wakens in a backseat, twists about in panic like a cat in a sack. Who?

At last my life returns. My name appears like an angel. Outside the walls a trumpet signal blows (as in the Leonora Overture) and the rescuing footsteps come smartly down the overlong stairway. It is I! It is I!

But impossible to forget the fifteen-second struggle in the hell of oblivion, a few meters from the main road, where the traffic glides past with its lights on.

(Translated by Robin Fulton)

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Only Animal by Franz Wright


The Only Animal

The only animal that commits suicide
went for a walk in the park,
basked on a hard bench
in the first star,
traveled to the edge of space
in an armchair
while company quietly
talked and abruptly
returned,
the room empty.

The only animal that cries
that takes off its clothes
and reports to the mirror, the one
and only animal
that brushes its own teeth—

Somewhere

the only animal that smokes a cigarette,
that lies down and flies backward in time,
that rises and walks to a book
and looks up a word
heard the telephone ringing
in the darkness downstairs and decided
to answer no more.

And I understand,
too well: how many times
have I made the decision to dwell
from now on
in the hour of my death
(the space I took up here
scarlessly closing like water)
and said I’m never coming back
and yet

this morning
I stood once again
in this world, the garden
ark and vacant
tomb of what
I can’t imagine,
between twin eternities,
some sort of wings,
more or less equidistantly
exiled from both,
hovering in the dreaming called
being awake, where
You gave me
in secret one thing
to perceive, the
tall blue starry

strangeness of being
here at all.

You gave us each in secret something to perceive.

Furless now, upright, My banished
and experimental
child

You said, though your own heart condemn you

I do not condemn you.

 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Speech at the Lost-and-Found by Wisława Szymborska


A Speech at the Lost-and-Found

I lost a few goddesses while moving south to north,
and also some gods while moving east to west.
I let several stars go out for good, they can’t be traced.
An island or two sank on me, they’re lost at sea.
I’m not even sure exactly where I left my claws,
who’s got my fur coat, who’s living in my shell.
My siblings died the day I left for dry land
and only one small bone recalls that anniversary in me.
I’ve shed my skin, squandered vertebrae and legs,
taken leave of my senses time and again.
I’ve long since closed my third eye to all that,
washed my fins of it and shrugged my branches.

Gone, lost, scattered to the four winds. It still surprises me
how little now remains, one first person sing., temporarily
declined in human form, just now making such a fuss
about a blue umbrella left yesterday on a bus.

(Translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

When All the Others Were Away at Mass by Seamus Heaney


When All the Others Were Away at Mass

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wanting To Be White by Charif Shanahan


Wanting To Be White

How easy for the waterfall to turn back
into the river, the long, silent face
holding all that has passed through it
as though untouched,
undisturbed…. Then, within it,
a shadow moves—a turtle, or
kelp wavering, drifting, reaching,
trying to exist beyond its own watery nest—
and the face darkens,
quickens, stills. The waterfall
insists on its own incessant breaking, an anxiety,
a completion at once its own negation,
merging at its most opaque
with the waiting body, froth gathering, evaporating.
Sometimes I’ll come this far from home
merely to taste the air,
the always witness to this relentless constructed flow
unable to hold itself
beyond the falling of its own nature,
asserting itself only to destroy
itself. The sky is
sunless, ill-fitting, unhinging, barely awake. The river,
taking its motion from the surging above, urges,
persists, knowing
no way out, no way to extract
itself from its own circular endurance,
tenacious, whole, singularly minded
until it carries itself back to its own source.

 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka


Telephone Conversation

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey - I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully.
“HOW DARK?”...I had not misheard....”ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?” Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar.
It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfoundment to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis-
“ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT” Revelation came
“You mean- like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her accent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted
I chose. “West African sepia”_ and as afterthought.
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness chaged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece “WHAT'S THAT?” conceding “DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”
“THAT'S DARK, ISN'T IT?”
“Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but madam you should see the rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet.
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused-
Foolishly madam- by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black- One moment madam! - sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears- “Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn't you rather
See for yourself?”

Elegy with Oil in the Bilge by Patrick Phillips


Elegy with Oil in the Bilge

By the time we got out on the water
the sun was so low, it wasn’t like water

but a field of gray snow that we plowed
in one endless white furrow of water

as I skirted the rocks and wrecked trawlers
and abandoned old jetties just under the water,

while you moaned in the bow, slick with fever,
whispering back to whatever the water

chattered and hissed through the hull—
until at last there were lights on the water

and I let the old Mercury rattle and sputter
its steaming gray rainbows out onto the water

as we drifted, at idle, for the last time in your life,
through that beloved, indifferent harbor.

 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Constructive by Heather McHugh

Constructive

You take a rock, your hand is hard.   
You raise your eyes, and there's a pair   
of small beloveds, caught in pails.
The monocle and eyepatch correspond.

You take a glove, your hand is soft.   
The ocean floor was done
in lizardskin. Around a log or snag   
the surface currents run

like lumber about a knot. A boat
is bent to sea—we favor the medium   
we're in, our shape's
around us. It takes time.

At night, the bed alive, what   
teller of truth could tell
the two apart? Lover, beloved,   
hope is command. Your hand

is given, when you take a hand.

 

Monday, March 7, 2016

I Don't Miss It by Tracy K. Smith


I Don't Miss It

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Leaves by C. K. Williams


Leaves

A pair of red leaves spinning on one another
in such wildly erratic patterns over a frozen field
it's hard to tell one from another and whether
if they were creatures they'd be in combat or courting
or just exalting in the tremendousness of their being.

Humans can be like that, capricious, aswirl,
not often enough in exalting, but courting, yes,
and combat; so often in combat, in rancour, in rage,
we rarely even remember what error or lie
set off this phase of our seeming to have to slaughter. 

Not leaves then, which after all in their season
give themselves to the hammer of winter,
become sludge, become muck, become mulch,
while we, still seething, broiling, stay as we are,
vexation and violence, ax, atom, despair.