Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Journey by Mary Oliver


The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Taking My Father and Brother to The Frick by Derrick Austin


Taking My Father and Brother to The Frick

Disembark the Turners seem to say,
those starburst barges glowing in the dusk,
but I can’t read old Rembrandt,
his guarded eyes are jewels, like black men.
Even the loaned, marble busts
of kings and soldiers fail to arrest you.
It’s nearly closing time. The elderly linger,
rapt. Who has looked at either of you lately
with such tenderness?
                                      Entering the narrow hall,
I ignore my favorite portraits, their ruffles
and bodices, carnations and powder puffs,
afraid to share my joy with you,
yet your bearing in this space—the procession
of your shoulders, the crowns of your heads—
makes them sing anew.
                                      You are both good men. 
Walk into the Fragonard Room. You both seem bored still.
It’s fine. Perhaps we can progress like these panels,
slowly and without words, here—the city
where I first knew men in the dark—
in this gold and feminine room.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Tongue Says Loneliness by Jane Hirshfield


The Tongue Says Loneliness

The tongue says loneliness, anger, grief,
but does not feel them. 

As Monday cannot feel Tuesday, 
nor Thursday 
reach back to Wednesday 
as a mother reaches out for her found child. 

As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it. 

Not a bell, 
but the sound of the bell in the bell-shape, 
lashing full strength with the first blow from inside the iron.

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For Women Who Are Difficult to Love by Warsan Shire


For Women Who Are Difficult to Love

you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn't you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
prettier
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can't make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Barking by Jim Harrison


Barking

The moon comes up.
The moon goes down.
This is to inform you
that I didn’t die young.
Age swept past me
but I caught up.
Spring has begun here and each day
brings new birds up from Mexico.
Yesterday I got a call from the outside
world but I said no in thunder.
I was a dog on a short chain
and now there’s no chain.

 

Monday, April 25, 2016

5:46, Andheri Local by Arundhathi Subramaniam


5:46, Andheri Local

In a women’s compartment
of a Bombay local
we seek
no personal epiphanies.
Like metal licked by relentless acetylene
we are welded—
dreams, disasters,
germs, destinies,
flesh and organza,
odours and ovaries.
A thousand-limbed
million-tongued, multi spoused
Kali on wheels.

When I descend
I could choose
to dice carrots
or a lover.
I postpone the latter.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Aureole by Nikky Finney


The Aureole

(for E)

               I stop my hand midair.

               If I touch her there everything about me will be true.
               The New World discovered without pick or ax.

               I will be what Brenda Jones was stoned for in 1969.
               I saw it as a girl but didn’t know I was taking in myself.

               My hand remembers, treading the watery room,
               just behind the rose-veiled eyes of memory.

Alone in the yard tucked beneath the hood of her car,
lucky clover all about her feet, green tea-sweet necklace
for her mud-pie crusty work boots.

She fends off their spit & words with silent two-handed
twists & turns of her socket wrench. A hurl of sticks &
stones and only me to whisper for her, from sidewalk far,

break my bones. A grown woman in grease-pocket overalls
inside her own sexy transmission despite the crowding of
hurled red hots. Beneath the hood of her candy-apple Camaro:

souped, shiny, low to the ground.

               The stars over the Atlantic are dangling
               salt crystals. The room at the Seashell Inn is
               $20 a night; special winter off-season rate.
               No one else here but us and the night clerk,
               five floors below, alone with his cherished
               stack of Spiderman. My lips are red snails
               in a primal search for every constellation
               hiding in the sky of your body. My hand
               waits for permission, for my life to agree
               to be changed, forever. Can Captain Night
               Clerk hear my fingers tambourining you
               there on the moon? Won’t he soon climb
               the stairs and bam! on the hood of this car?
               You are a woman with film reels for eyes.
               Years of long talking have brought us to the
               land of the body. Our skin is one endless
               prayer bead of brown. If my hand ever lands,
               I will fly past dreaming Australian Aborigines.
               The old claw hammer and monkey wrench
               that flew at Brenda Jones will fly across the
               yard of ocean at me. A grease rag will be
               thrust into my painter’s pants against my
               will. I will never be able to wash or peel
               any of this away. Before the night is over
               someone I do not know will want the keys
               to my ’55 silver Thunderbird. He will chase
               me down the street. A gaggle of spooked
               hens will fly up in my grandmother’s yard,
               never to lay another egg, just as I am jump-
               ed, kneed, pulled finally to the high ground
               of sweet clover.

 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Painter of the Night by James Tate


The Painter of the Night

Someone called in a report that she had 
seen a man painting in the dark over by the 
pond. A police car was dispatched to go in- 
vestigate. The two officers with their big 
flashlights walked all around the pond, but 
found nothing suspicious. Hatcher was the 
younger of the two, and he said to Johnson, 
'What do you think he was painting?' Johnson 
looked bemused and said, 'The dark, stupid. 
What else could he have been painting?' Hatcher, 
a little hurt, said, 'Frogs in the Dark, Lily- 
pads in the Dark, Pond in the Dark. Just as 
many things exist in the dark as they do in 
the light.' Johnson paused, exasperated. Then 
Hatcher added, 'I'd like to see them. Hell, 
I might even buy one. Maybe there's more out 
there than we know. We are the police, after- 
all. We need to know.' 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Why I Am Not a Painter by Frank O'Hara


Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is 
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a 
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Guitar by Frederico García Lorca

The Guitar

The weeping of the guitar
begins.
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
begins.
Useless
to silence it.
Impossible 
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
Impossible
to silence it.
It weeps for distant 
things.
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

(Translated by Cola Franzen)

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hour by Reginald Gibbons


Hour

Sleepless 
in the cold dark, 
I look 
through the closed dim 
door be- 
fore me, which be- 
comes an 
abyss into 
which my 
memories have 
fallen 
past laughter or 
horror, 
passion or hard 
work—my 
memories of 
our past 
laughter, horror, 
passion, 
hard work. An ache 
of be- 
ing. An ache of 
being, 
over love. An 
ache of 
being over 
love. Like 
projections on 
the screen 
of the heavy 
window 
curtains, flashing 
lights of 
a slow-scraping 
after- 
midnight snowplow 
for a 
moment pulse in 
this room.

 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No More Cake Here by Natalie Diaz


No More Cake Here

When my brother died
I worried there wasn’t enough time
to deliver the one hundred invitations
I’d scribbled while on the phone with the mortuary:
Because of the short notice no need to rsvp.
Unfortunately the firemen couldn’t come.
(I had hoped they’d give free rides on the truck.)
They did agree to drive by the house once
with the lights on— It was a party after all.

I put Mom and Dad in charge of balloons, 
let them blow as many years of my brother’s name, 
jails, twenty-dollar bills, midnight phone calls, 
fistfights, and er visits as they could let go of. 
The scarlet balloons zigzagged along the ceiling 
like they’d been filled with helium. Mom blew up 
so many that she fell asleep. She slept for ten years— 
she missed the whole party.

My brothers and sisters were giddy, shredding
his stained T-shirts and raggedy pants, throwing them up
into the air like confetti.

When the clowns came in a few balloons slipped out
the front door. They seemed to know where
they were going and shrank to a fistful of red grins
at the end of our cul-de-sac. The clowns played toy bugles
until the air was scented with rotten raspberries.
They pulled scarves from Mom’s ear—she slept through it.
I baked my brother’s favorite cake (chocolate, white frosting).
When I counted there were ninety-nine of us in the kitchen.
We all stuck our fingers in the mixing bowl.

A few stray dogs came to the window.
I heard their stomachs and mouths growling
over the mariachi band playing in the bathroom.
(There was no room in the hallway because of the magician.)
The mariachis complained about the bathtub acoustics.
I told the dogs, No more cake here, and shut the window.
The fire truck came by with the sirens on. The dogs ran away.
I sliced the cake into ninety-nine pieces.

I wrapped all the electronic equipment in the house, 
taped pink bows and glittery ribbons to them— 
remote controls, the Polaroid, stereo, Shop-Vac, 
even the motor to Dad’s work truck—everything 
my brother had taken apart and put back together 
doing his crystal meth tricks—he’d always been 
a magician of sorts.

Two mutants came to the door.
One looked almost human. They wanted
to know if my brother had willed them the pots
and pans and spoons stacked in his basement bedroom.
They said they missed my brother’s cooking and did we
have any cake. No more cake here, I told them.
Well, what’s in the piñata? they asked. I told them
God was and they ran into the desert, barefoot.
I gave Dad his slice and put Mom’s in the freezer.
I brought up the pots and pans and spoons
(really, my brother was a horrible cook), banged them
together like a New Year’s Day celebration.

My brother finally showed up asking why
he hadn’t been invited and who baked the cake.
He told me I shouldn’t smile, that this whole party was shit
because I’d imagined it all. The worst part he said was
he was still alive. The worst part he said was
he wasn’t even dead. I think he’s right, but maybe
the worst part is that I’m still imagining the party, maybe
the worst part is that I can still taste the cake.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Aboard the Ship by Constantine P. Cavafy

Aboard the Ship

It certainly resembles him, this small
pencil likeness of him.

Quickly done, on the deck of the ship:
an enchanting afternoon.
The Ionian Sea all around us.

It resembles him. Still, I remember him as handsomer.
To the point of illness: that’s how sensitive he was,
and it illumined his expression.
Handsomer, he seems to me,
now that my soul recalls him, out of Time.

Out of Time. All these things, they’re very old—
the sketch, and the ship, and the afternoon.

(Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Night Walk by Franz Wright


Night Walk

The all-night convenience store’s empty
and no one is behind the counter.
You open and shut the glass door a few times
causing a bell to go off,
but no one appears. You only came
to buy a pack of cigarettes, maybe
a copy of yesterday’s newspaper —
finally you take one and leave
thirty-five cents in its place.
It is freezing, but it is a good thing
to step outside again:
you can feel less alone in the night,
with lights on here and there
between the dark buildings and trees.
Your own among them, somewhere.
There must be thousands of people
in this city who are dying
to welcome you into their small bolted rooms,
to sit you down and tell you
what has happened to their lives.
And the night smells like snow.
Walking home for a moment
you almost believe you could start again.
And an intense love rushes to your heart,
and hope. It’s unendurable, unendurable.

I Have Started to Say by Philip Larkin


I Have Started to Say

I have started to say
“A quarter of a century”
Or “thirty years back”
About my own life.

It makes me breathless
It’s like falling and recovering
In huge gesturing loops
Through an empty sky.

All that’s left to happen
Is some deaths (my own included).
Their order, and their manner,
Remain to be learnt.

 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Two Hands by Anne Sexton


Two Hands

From the sea came a hand,
ignorant as a penny,
troubled with the salt of its mother,
mute with the silence of the fishes,
quick with the altars of the tides,
and God reached out of His mouth
and called it man.
Up came the other hand
and God called it woman.
The hands applauded
And this was no sin.
It was as it was meant to be.

I see them roaming the streets:
Levi complaining about his mattress,
Sarah studying a beetle,
Mandrake holding his coffee mug,
Sally playing the drum at a football game,
John closing the eyes of the dying woman,
and some who are in prison,
even the prison of their bodies,
as Christ was prisoned in His body
until the triumph came.

Unwind hands,
you angel webs,
unwind like the coil of a jumping jack,
cup together and let yourselves fill up with sun
and applaud, world,
applaud.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pig by Henri Cole


Pig

Poor patient pig—trying to keep his balance, 
that’s all, upright on a flatbed ahead of me,
somewhere between Pennsylvania and Ohio,
enjoying the wind, maybe, against the tufts of hair
on the tops of his ears, like a Stoic at the foot
of the gallows, or, with my eyes heavy and glazed 
from caffeine and driving, like a soul disembarking, 
its flesh probably bacon now tipping into split-
pea soup, or, more painful to me, like a man 
in his middle years struggling to remain
vital and honest while we’re all just floating 
around accidental-like on a breeze. 
What funny thoughts slide into the head, 
alone on the interstate with no place to be.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Measure for Measure by Rowan Ricardo Phillips


Measure for Measure

Alone in Woody Creek, Colorado,
I fell asleep reading “Measure for Measure,”
Right at the part where the Duke delivers
His Old Testament decision of haste
Paying for haste, and leisure answering
Leisure, like quitting like, and (wait for it)
Measure for measure. I saw it performed
Once, in Stratford; I was maybe twenty.
I only remembered the “measure still
For measure” part, until now. It stuck
With me. But the rest of it was wiped clean
From my memory, all of Stratford, too.
Still, the way the actor leaned on that half
Line, “measure still for measure,” as though it
Were the measure of his self, measure still
For measure, all these years, I remembered
Being the heart of the play, its great gist;
But I forgot it was a death sentence.
Whether Angelo deserved such a fate,
Or Isabella’s ability to
Rise above the mire doesn’t matter:
Death, not beauty, woke me.
                  My neck aches.
All of Shakespeare feels like lead on my chest,
Not for death, let’s face it, death awaits us,
Usually with less prescient language,
But death measures us with a noun’s contempt
For our imagination, being death
But not dying, making do, like when I
Turn from the Bard, look outside and behold
A herd of a hundred elk, surviving
The snow as they know how––being elk.
An hour ago they were in the hills,
But now they graze a mere five feet away,
Their world othered by these austere windows;
The massive seven-pointer, chin held high
To prevent his thick neck from crashing down,
Hoofs the snow and starts toward me, but then turns
To compass the valley between his horns.

 

Poem (As the Cat) by William Carlos Williams


Poem (As the Cat)

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot

carefully
then the hind
stepped down

into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

September by Deborah Landau


September

Dazzling emptiness of the black green end of summer no one
running in the yard pulse pulse the absence.

Leave them not to the empty yards.

They resembled a family. Long quiet hours. Sometimes
one was angry sometimes someone called her "wife"
someone's hair receding.

An uptick in the hormone canopy embodied a restlessness
and oh what to do with it.

(How she arrived in a hush in a looking away and not looking.)

It had been some time since richness intangible
and then they made a whole coat of it.

Meanwhile August moved toward its impervious finale.
A mood by the river. Gone. One lucid rush carrying them along.

Borderless and open the days go on—

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka


Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note

Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus...

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there...
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.
 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Practicing by Marie Howe


Practicing

I want to write a love poem for the girls I kissed in seventh grade,
a song for what we did on the floor in the basement

of somebody’s parents’ house, a hymn for what we didn’t say but thought:
That feels good or I like that, when we learned how to open each other’s mouths

how to move our tongues to make somebody moan. We called it practicing, and
one was the boy, and we paired off—maybe six or eight girls—and turned out

the lights and kissed and kissed until we were stoned on kisses, and lifted our
nightgowns or let the straps drop, and, Now you be the boy:

concrete floor, sleeping bag or couch, playroom, game room, train room, laundry.
Linda’s basement was like a boat with booths and portholes

instead of windows. Gloria’s father had a bar downstairs with stools that spun,
plush carpeting. We kissed each other’s throats.

We sucked each other’s breasts, and we left marks, and never spoke of it upstairs
outdoors, in daylight, not once. We did it, and it was

practicing, and slept, sprawled so our legs still locked or crossed, a hand still lost
in someone’s hair . . . and we grew up and hardly mentioned who

the first kiss really was—a girl like us, still sticky with moisturizer we’d
shared in the bathroom. I want to write a song

for that thick silence in the dark, and the first pure thrill of unreluctant desire,
just before we’d made ourselves stop.

Late Ripeness by Czesław Miłosz


Late Ripeness

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year, 
I felt a door opening in me and I entered 
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing, 
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas 
assigned to my brush came closer, 
ready now to be described better than they were before.

I was not separated from people, 
grief and pity joined us. 
We forget—I kept saying—that we are all children of the King.

For where we come from there is no division 
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part 
of the gift we received for our long journey.

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago— 
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror 
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel 
staving its hull against a reef—they dwell in us, 
waiting for a fulfillment.

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard, 
as are all men and women living at the same time, 
whether they are aware of it or not.

(Translated by Robert Hass)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Vanitas by Richie Hofmann


Vanitas

In my dream about death, I come upon a hill,
silhouetted, and draw back behind the darkening
of a sheltered niche. There, upright in rows

of wooden chairs, the dead, their bodies still,
stare forward like children at school. Sitting
near the front, a teacher I’d once had, in a pose

from a Puritan portrait: his hair cropped,
conservative, in strands the color of ash;
his hands are folded loosely in his lap.

The surviving sun polishes a map
of light upon the grass, the sky unlashed
like leaves. Another flash drops,

brindled, across his face. He does not look
at me, but unfolds his hands and tugs gently
at my sleeve, confesses no one can remit

his crimes—mine also; that death, as from a book,
had torn the pages of years; that this memento mori
was not his life as he had left it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Some Say by Maureen N. McLane


Some Say

Some say a host
of horsemen, a horizon
of ships under sail
is most beautiful &
some say a mountain
embraced by the clouds &
some say the badass
booty-shakin’ shorties
in the club are most
beautiful and some say
the truth is most
beautiful dutifully singing
what beauty might
sound under stars
of a day. I say
what they say
is sometimes
what I say
Her legs long
and bare shining
on the bed the hair
the small tuft
the brown languor
of a long line
of sunlit skin I say
whatever you say
I’m saying is beautiful
& whither truth beauty
and whither whither
in the weather of an old day
suckerpunched by a spiral
of Arctic air blown
into vast florets of ice
binding the Great Lakes
into a single cracked sheet
the airplanes fly
unassuming over     O they eat
and eat the steel mouths
and burn what the earth
spun eons to form
Some say calamity
and some catastrophe
is beautiful     Some say
porn     Some jolie laide
Some say beauty
is hanging there at a dank bar
with pretty and sublime
those sad bitches left behind
by the horsemen