Tuesday, November 29, 2016

from Hours Near the Crossing by John Peck


from Hours Near the Crossing


Glass breaking and then laughter 
under the open window— 
a rabble of carousers 
drains through the night, blotted 
quickly, although still 
trickles of their abandon 
silver the great cave: 
this is a taste longer 
than echo. And their strength 
is to drink quickly, hear 
only their jangle strike, 
tinkling day into blank— 
the slaves of Tigellinus 
smashing a flagon, young 
fascists, and not so young, 
in brotherly numbness. 
Their bar lies two streets over. 
And dumbly I drift out 
on that sound when I meant 
only to listen further, 
go while my body darkens 
at the cool window, out 
where the night weave tatters through— 
blacker bitch of the crossroads, 
moon in your tooth and hearth 
in the smoky geometry 
of your throat, from a whelp 
we have known you and yet 
only in the weight 
of our having done nothing well 
do you press home. 
                             The men 
vanishing down there, being 
your brats, draw to your pelt 
like iron-filings, smoothing 
to your vast underbelly. 
But I too feel the suction, 
the night is too much yours. 
Closing my eyes I slowly 
bring back the afternoon, 
courtyard and plug stone well 
where a finch without splashing 
dover from one side to slice 
that blue, his font and mine 
in a pact too immediate 
to revoke now. 
And strength not to be claimed, 
strength of the keen forerunners 
unrepeatable, all 
pouted out, itself the air 
burning over burnt hills, 
while the bowl of clear fire 
remains to be walked into. 
At each step remains. 
Little knots of people 
talking cleared ground above 
the city inch through strength 
poured out and trembling and 
unseizable. 
                 It need not 
have been wrong to be strenuous 
though inadequate. 
                            A bald man 
tumbles awake from his roof-chair 
where the heat ripples him, 
disciple gaping up 
at swarms of shape—perhaps now 
he'll hear the command fashioned 
to his one need: Kill and eat! 
It need not have been wrong. 
And one life. Little cracks 
life itself will take care of 
widening. I need no poker 
to find that seam where the ember 
breaks open to burn brighter.
                       *
Pebble into air, 
and the boy's hand cupped upward 
and death not yet mature 
running after. 
                    Birth with sun 
pouring, and in the square 
the common bread lies scattered. 
eaten in urgency, 
stupor, or a blithe 
unconcern for what comes. 
Nocturnals into day, 
a full weave not forgotten 
but not sung through, the whole 
singing not wholly woven. 
Death with us. 
                     And the mongrel 
sure of his rounds trots past 
with his morsel, delegating 
care to the willing. 
                           Listen,
the sound of harpers striking up
in places where the women
draw water. . . .
 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Enemies by Wendell Berry


Enemies

If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come—love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Consequences of the Laws of Thermodynamics by Samiya Bashir


Consequences of the Laws of Thermodynamics

When Albert Murray said
the second law adds up to
the blues that in other words
ain’t nothing nothing he meant it

not quite the way my pops says
nomads don’t show emotions
but more how my grandmother
warned that men like women

with soft hands blood red
nails like how Mingus meant
truth if  you had time for it
facts if  you got no time that

years pass. Zero
one two three and
the man you used

to flirt with you can
no longer flirt with
thank goodness.

He’s now a man
you can’t wear
your  jaw out on

about weather
news or work

a perfect
strawberry

buried
beneath

a peck.

 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Election Day, November, 1884 by Walt Whitman


Election Day, November, 1884

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene
   and show,
’Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor
   your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyserloops
   ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor
   Mississippi’s stream:
This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small
   voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadrennial
   choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to
        Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling— (a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s): the
peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants,
      life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Campo dei Fiori by Czesław Miłosz


Campo dei Fiori

In Rome on the Campo dei Fiori 
baskets of olives and lemons, 
cobbles spattered with wine 
and the wreckage of flowers. 
Vendors cover the trestles 
with rose-pink fish; 
armfuls of dark grapes 
heaped on peach-down. 

On this same square 
they burned Giordano Bruno. 
Henchmen kindled the pyre 
close-pressed by the mob. 
Before the flames had died 
the taverns were full again, 
baskets of olives and lemons 
again on the vendors' shoulders. 

I thought of the Campo dei Fiori 
in Warsaw by the sky-carousel 
one clear spring evening 
to the strains of a carnival tune. 
The bright melody drowned 
the salvos from the ghetto wall, 
and couples were flying 
high in the cloudless sky. 

At times wind from the burning 
would drift dark kites along 
and riders on the carousel 
caught petals in midair. 
That same hot wind 
blew open the skirts of the girls 
and the crowds were laughing 
on that beautiful Warsaw Sunday. 

Someone will read as moral 
that the people of Rome or Warsaw 
haggle, laugh, make love 
as they pass by the martyrs' pyres. 
Someone else will read 
of the passing of things human, 
of the oblivion 
born before the flames have died. 

But that day I thought only 
of the loneliness of the dying, 
of how, when Giordano 
climbed to his burning 
he could not find 
in any human tongue 
words for mankind, 
mankind who live on. 

Already they were back at their wine 
or peddled their white starfish, 
baskets of olives and lemons 
they had shouldered to the fair, 
and he already distanced 
as if centuries had passed 
while they paused just a moment 
for his flying in the fire. 

Those dying here, the lonely 
forgotten by the world, 
our tongue becomes for them 
the language of an ancient planet. 
Until, when all is legend 
and many years have passed, 
on a new Campo dei Fiori 
rage will kindle at a poet's word. 

Warsaw, 1943
(Translated by Louis Iribarne)

 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mirror by James Merrill


Mirror

I grow old under an intensity
Of questioning looks. Nonsense,
I try to say, I cannot teach you children
How to live.—If not you, who will?
Cries one of them aloud, grasping my gilded
Frame till the world sways. If not you, who will?
Between their visits the table, its arrangement
Of Bible, fern and Paisley, all past change,
Does very nicely. If ever I feel curious
As to what others endure,
Across the parlor you provide examples,
Wide open, sunny, of everything I am
Not. You embrace a whole world without once caring
To set it in order. That takes thought. Out there
Something is being picked. The red-and-white bandannas
Go to my heart. A fine young man
Rides by on horseback. Now the door shuts. Hester
Confides in me her first unhappiness.
This much, you see, would never have been fitted
Together, but for me. Why then is it
They more and more neglect me? Late one sleepless
Midsummer night I strained to keep
Five tapers from your breathing. No, the widowed
Cousin said, let them go out. I did.
The room brimmed with gray sound, all the instreaming
Muslin of your dream . . .
Years later now, two of the grown grandchildren
Sit with novels face-down on the sill,
Content to muse upon your tall transparence,
Your clouds, brown fields, persimmon far
And cypress near. One speaks. How superficial
Appearances are! Since then, as if a fish
Had broken the perfect silver of my reflectiveness,
I have lapses. I suspect
Looks from behind, where nothing is, cool gazes
Through the blind flaws of my mind. As days,
As decades lengthen, this vision
Spreads and blackens. I do not know whose it is,
But I think it watches for my last silver
To blister, flake, float leaf by life, each milling-
Downward dumb conceit, to a standstill
From which not even you strike any brilliant
Chord in me, and to a faceless will,
Echo of mine, I am amenable.

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In November by Lisel Mueller


In November

Outside the house the wind is howling 
and the trees are creaking horribly. 
This is an old story 
with its old beginning, 
as I lay me down to sleep. 
But when I wake up, sunlight 
has taken over the room. 
You have already made the coffee 
and the radio brings us music 
from a confident age. In the paper 
bad news is set in distant places. 
Whatever was bound to happen 
in my story did not happen. 
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken. 
Perhaps a name was changed. 
A small mistake. Perhaps 
a woman I do not know 
is facing the day with the heavy heart 
that, by all rights, should have been mine.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First Fight. Then Fiddle by Gwendolyn Brooks


First Fight. Then Fiddle

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering.
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Somoza Unveils Somoza’s Statue of Somoza at the Somoza Stadium by Ernesto Cardenal


Somoza Unveils Somoza’s Statue of Somoza at the Somoza Stadium

It’s not that I think the people raised this statue to me,
because I know better than you that I ordered it myself.
Nor that I have any illusions about passing with it into posterity
because I know the people will one day tear it down.
Nor that I wished to erect to myself in life
the monument you’ll not erect to me in death:
I put up this statue just because I know you’ll hate it.

(Translated by Donald Walsh)

 

My Most Recent Position Paper by Bob Hicok


My Most Recent Position Paper

A little bit of hammering
goes a long way toward making
the kind of noise I want my heart
to look up to—or have you ever
gone into a woods and applauded the light
that fights its way to the ground,
and the shadows, and the explosions
of feathers where blue jays
have been ripped into the bright
and hungry future of hawks—
and there’s this—writing an etude
by pushing pianos off a cliff
until one of them howls or whispers
just so—like a vagrant
slipping into a clean bed
or a man lifting a dying child
toward the sun and begging help,
rescue—if my eyes could speak,
they’d be mouths—the tongues
of my fingers ask to be words
against your skin—and when I
was a librarian, I lost my job
for exhorting patrons to sing
“Bye Bye Miss American Pie”—
it’s not what we do here, I was told—
yet I know this is a world
made by volcanoes, and don’t want
to keep this awareness of kaboom
to myself—so have picked up
my zither and begun walking
and strumming like an idiot
who thinks music is all
a body needs to feed itself—
and though I haven’t eaten
in years, I have been fed.

 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

For What Binds Us by Jane Hirshfield


For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest-

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Modern Declaration by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Modern Declaration

I, having loved ever since I was a child a few things, never having
       wavered
In these affections; never through shyness in the houses of the rich
       or in the presence of clergymen having denied these loves;
Never when worked upon by cynics like chiropractors having grunted
       or clicked a vertebra to the discredit of these loves;
Never when anxious to land a job having diminished them by a
       conniving smile; or when befuddled by drink
Jeered at them through heartache or lazily fondled the fingers of
      their alert enemies; declare 

That I shall love you always.
No matter what party is in power;
No matter what temporarily expedient combination of allied interests
       wins the war;
Shall love you always.

 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky


The Performance of Becoming Human

On the side of the highway a thousand refugees step off a school bus and into a sun that can only be described as “blazing.”

The rabbi points to the line the refugees step over and says: “That’s where the country begins.”

This reminds me of Uncle Antonio. He would have died had his tortured body not been traded to another country for minerals.

Made that up.

This is a story about diplomatic protections.

The refugees were processed through Austria or Germany or maybe Switzerland.

Somehow they were discovered in some shit village in some shit country by European soldiers and taken to an embassy where they were promptly bathed, injected with vaccines, interrogated, etc.

Their bodies were traded by country A in exchange for some valuable natural resource needed by country B.

There was only one gag, says the rabbi, as he tucks his children into bed. So the soldiers took turns passing the filthy thing back and forth between the mouths of the two prisoners. The mother and son licked each other’s slobber off the dirty rag that had been in who knows how many other mouths.

You love to write about this, don’t you?

I am paid by the word for my transcriptions. Just one more question about the gag.

He wants to know what color the gag was, what it was made of, how many mouths had licked it. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands?

They used their belts to bind them by the waist to the small cage they were trapped in.

Everything reminds me of a story about an ape captured on a boat by a group of European soldiers who showed him how to become human by teaching him how to spit and belch.

Everything is always about the performance of becoming human.

Observing a newly processed refugee, the rabbi says: “I have seen those blue jeans before.”

At times like this, he thinks: I can say just about anything right now.

This is, after all, a bedtime story for the end of the world.

I am moving beneath the ground and not sleeping and trying to cross the border from one sick part of the world to another.

But where is the light and why does it not come in through your bloody fingers?

You hold your bloody fingers before my eyes and there is light in them but I cannot see it.

You say: There are countries in my bloody fingers. I am interested in the borders.

Or: I am interested in the gas chambers in your collapsible little fingers.

You put them to my face and I see your hands open and in them I see a thick wall and a sky and an ocean and ten years pass and it is still nighttime and I am falling and there are bodies on the ground in your bloody hands.

Think about the problem really hard then let it go and when you least expect it a great solution will appear in your mind.

The broken bodies stand by the river and wait for the radiation to trickle out of the houses and into their skin.

They stand under billboards and sniff paint and they know the eyes that watch them own their bodies.

A more generous interpretation might be that their bodies are shared between the earth, the state and the bank.

The sentences are collapsing one by one and the bodies are collapsing in your bloody hands and you stitch me up and pray I will sleep and you tell me of the shattered bus stops where the refugees are waiting for the buses to take them to the mall where they are holding us now and there is a man outside our bodies making comments about perspective and scale and light and there is light once more in your bloody fingers.

All I see is the sea and my mother and father falling into it.

Again? That’s like the most boring image ever.

The water is frozen and we are sleeping on the rocks, watching the cows on the cliff and you tell me they might fall and break open and that sheep and humans and countries will fall out of them and that this will be the start of the bedtime story you will tell me on this our very last night on earth.

Come closer, you say, with your eyes.

Move your bloody face next to mine and rub me with it. We are dying from so many stories. We are not complete in the mind from so many stories of burning houses, missing children, slaughtered animals. Who will put the stories back together and who will restore the bodies? I am working towards the end but first I need a stab, a small slice. The stories they are there but we need a bit more wit. We need something lighter to get us to the end of this story. Did you hear the one about the guy who picked up chicks by quoting the oral testimonies of the illiterate villagers who watched their brothers and sisters get slaughtered?

Or:

Andalé andalé arriba arriba welcome to Tijuana you cannot eat anymore barbecued iguana.

Have you met Speedy Gonzales’ cousin?

His name is Slow Poke Rodrigues.

En español se llama Lento Rodrigues.

He’s a drunk little fucking mouse.

His predator, the lazy cat baking in the sun, thinks he will taste good with chili peppers but there’s something I forgot to tell you. Slow Poke always pack a gun and now he’s going to blow your flabbergasted feline face off.

It was 1987 and my friends from junior high trapped me on the floor and mashed bananas in my face and sang: It’s no fun being an illegal alien!

You know you can die from so many stories.

The puddy cat guards the AJAX cheese factory behind the fence, right across the border.

The wetback mice see the gringo cheese.

They smell the gringo cheese.

Your gringo cheese it smells so good.

They need Speedy Gonzales to get them some ripe, fresh, stinky gringo cheese.

Do you know this Speedy Gonzales, asks one of the starving wetback mice.

I know him, Speedy Gonzales frens with my seester (the mice laugh). Speedy Gonzales frens with everybody’s seester.

Ha ha ha the little border-crossing, sneak-fucking mouses think it’s cute that they’re invading our culture to steal our cheese but it don’t make a difference because you and I (cue the rhythm and blues) we are taking a stroll on the electrified fence of love cause I feel a little Southern Californian transnational romance coming on right about now.

I feel like Daniel from the Karate Kid because I too once had a Southern Californian experience where I wasn’t aware I was learning ancient Japanese secrets when I was waxing on and waxing off.

And I am with you Mr. Miyagi in Reseda.

I am with you Mr. Miyagi in Pasadena.

And I am with you Mr. Miyagi at the All Valley Karate tournament.

And I am with you Mr. Miyagi in Okinawa where you went in Karate Kid II to meet your long lost girlfriend when you discovered she wasn’t married off when she was just a teenager to your fiercest Okinawan rival.

And I am with you Mr. Miyagi in Tijuana where it’s murder and diarrhea and always kinda kinky.

But seriously, friends:

What do you make of this darkness that surrounds us?

They chopped up two dozen bodies last night and today I have to pick up my dry cleaning.

In the morning I need to assess student learning outcomes as part of an important administrative initiative to secure the nation’s future by providing degrees of economic value to the alienated, urban youth.

So for now hasta luego compadres and don’t worry too much about the bucket of murmuring shit that is the unitedstatesian night.

What does it say? What does it say? What do you want it to say?

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Knees of a Natural Man by Henry Dumas


Knees of a Natural Man

my ole man took me to the fulton fish market
we walk around in the guts and the scales

my ole man show me a dead fish, eyes like throat spit
he say “you hongry boy?” i say “naw, not yet”

my ole man show me how to pick the leavings
he say people throw away fish that not rotten

we scaling on our knees back uptown on lenox
sold five fish, keepin one for the pot

my ole man copped a bottle of wine
he say, “boy, build me a fire out in the lot”

backyard cat climbin up my leg for fish
i make a fire in the ash can

my ole man come when he smell fish
frank williams is with him, they got wine

my ole man say “the boy cotch the big one”
he tell big lie and slap me on the head

i give the guts to the cat and take me some wine
we walk around the sparks like we in hell

my ole man is laughin and coughin up wine
he say “you hongry boy” i say “naw, not yet”

next time i go to fulton fish market
first thing i do is take a long drink of wine

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay


Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Friends, will you bear with me today,
for I have awakened
from a dream in which a robin
made with its shabby wings a kind of veil
behind which it shimmied and stomped something from the south
of Spain, its breast aflare,
looking me dead in the eye
from the branch that grew into my window,
coochie-cooing my chin,
the bird shuffling its little talons left, then right,
while the leaves bristled
against the plaster wall, two of them drifting
onto my blanket while the bird
opened and closed its wings like a matador
giving up on murder,
jutting its beak, turning a circle,
and flashing, again,
the ruddy bombast of its breast 
by which I knew upon waking
it was telling me
in no uncertain terms
to bellow forth the tubas and sousaphones,
the whole rusty brass band of gratitude
not quite dormant in my belly—
it said so in a human voice,
“Bellow forth”—
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?

Hear ye! hear ye! I am here
to holler that I have hauled tons—by which I don’t mean lots,
I mean tons — of cowshit
and stood ankle deep in swales of maggots
swirling the spent beer grains
the brewery man was good enough to dump off
holding his nose, for they smell very bad,
but make the compost writhe giddy and lick its lips,
twirling dung with my pitchfork
again and again
with hundreds and hundreds of other people,
we dreamt an orchard this way,
furrowing our brows,
and hauling our wheelbarrows,
and sweating through our shirts,
and two years later there was a party
at which trees were sunk into the well-fed earth,
one of which, a liberty apple, after being watered in
was tamped by a baby barefoot
with a bow hanging in her hair
biting her lip in her joyous work
and friends this is the realest place I know,
it makes me squirm like a worm I am so grateful,
you could ride your bike there
or roller skate or catch the bus
there is a fence and a gate twisted by hand,
there is a fig tree taller than you in Indiana,
it will make you gasp.
It might make you want to stay alive even, thank you;

and thank you
for not taking my pal when the engine
of his mind dragged him
to swig fistfuls of Xanax and a bottle or two of booze,
and thank you for taking my father
a few years after his own father went down thank you
mercy, mercy, thank you
for not smoking meth with your mother
oh thank you thank you
for leaving and for coming back,
and thank you for what inside my friends’
love bursts like a throng of roadside goldenrod
gleaming into the world,
likely hauling a shovel with her
like one named Aralee ought,
with hands big as a horse’s,
and who, like one named Aralee ought,
will laugh time to time til the juice
runs from her nose; oh
thank you
for the way a small thing’s wail makes
the milk or what once was milk
in us gather into horses
huckle-buckling across a field;

and thank you, friends, when last spring
the hyacinth bells rang
and the crocuses flaunted
their upturned skirts, and a quiet roved
the beehive which when I entered
were snugged two or three dead
fist-sized clutches of bees between the frames,
almost clinging to one another,
this one’s tiny head pushed
into another’s tiny wing,
one’s forelegs resting on another’s face,
the translucent paper of their wings fluttering
beneath my breath and when
a few dropped to the frames beneath:
honey; and after falling down to cry,
everything’s glacial shine.

And thank you, too. And thanks
for the corduroy couch I have put you on.
Put your feet up. Here’s a light blanket,
a pillow, dear one,
for I can feel this is going to be long.
I can’t stop
my gratitude, which includes, dear reader,
you, for staying here with me,
for moving your lips just so as I speak.
Here is a cup of tea. I have spooned honey into it.

And thank you the tiny bee’s shadow
perusing these words as I write them.
And the way my love talks quietly
when in the hive,
so quietly, in fact, you cannot hear her
but only notice barely her lips moving
in conversation. Thank you what does not scare her
in me, but makes her reach my way. Thank you the love
she is which hurts sometimes. And the time
she misremembered elephants
in one of my poems which, oh, here
they come, garlanded with morning glory and wisteria
blooms, trombones all the way down to the river.
Thank you the quiet
in which the river bends around the elephant’s
solemn trunk, polishing stones, floating
on its gentle back
the flock of geese flying overhead.

And to the quick and gentle flocking
of men to the old lady falling down
on the corner of Fairmount and 18th, holding patiently
with the softest parts of their hands
her cane and purple hat,
gathering for her the contents of her purse
and touching her shoulder and elbow;
thank you the cockeyed court
on which in a half-court 3 vs. 3 we oldheads
made of some runny-nosed kids
a shambles, and the 61-year-old
after flipping a reverse lay-up off a back door cut
from my no-look pass to seal the game
ripped off his shirt and threw punches at the gods
and hollered at the kids to admire the pacemaker’s scar
grinning across his chest; thank you
the glad accordion’s wheeze
in the chest; thank you the bagpipes.

Thank you to the woman barefoot in a gaudy dress
for stopping her car in the middle of the road
and the tractor trailer behind her, and the van behind it,
whisking a turtle off the road.
Thank you god of gaudy.
Thank you paisley panties.
Thank you the organ up my dress.
Thank you the sheer dress you wore kneeling in my dream
at the creek’s edge and the light
swimming through it. The koi kissing
halos into the glassy air.
The room in my mind with the blinds drawn
where we nearly injure each other
crawling into the shawl of the other’s body.
Thank you for saying it plain:
fuck each other dumb.

And you, again, you, for the true kindness
it has been for you to remain awake
with me like this, nodding time to time
and making that noise which I take to mean
yes, or, I understand, or, please go on
but not too long, or, why are you spitting
so much, or, easy Tiger
hands to yourself. I am excitable.
I am sorry. I am grateful.
I just want us to be friends now, forever.
Take this bowl of blackberries from the garden.
The sun has made them warm.
I picked them just for you. I promise
I will try to stay on my side of the couch.

And thank you the baggie of dreadlocks I found in a drawer
while washing and folding the clothes of our murdered friend;
the photo in which his arm slung
around the sign to “the trail of silences”; thank you
the way before he died he held
his hands open to us; for coming back
in a waft of incense or in the shape of a boy
in another city looking
from between his mother’s legs,
or disappearing into the stacks after brushing by;
for moseying back in dreams where,
seeing us lost and scared
he put his hand on our shoulders
and pointed us to the temple across town;

and thank you to the man all night long
hosing a mist on his early-bloomed
peach tree so that the hard frost
not waste the crop, the ice
in his beard and the ghosts
lifting from him when the warming sun
told him sleep now; thank you
the ancestor who loved you
before she knew you
by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long
journey, who loved you
before he knew you by putting
a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you
before she knew you by not slaughtering
the land; thank you
who did not bulldoze the ancient grove
of dates and olives,
who sailed his keys into the ocean
and walked softly home; who did not fire, who did not
plunge the head into the toilet, who said stop,
don’t do that; who lifted some broken
someone up; who volunteered
the way a plant birthed of the reseeding plant
is called a volunteer, like the plum tree
that marched beside the raised bed
in my garden, like the arugula that marched
itself between the blueberries,
nary a bayonet, nary an army, nary a nation,
which usage of the word volunteer
familiar to gardeners the wide world
made my pal shout “Oh!” and dance
and plunge his knuckles
into the lush soil before gobbling two strawberries
and digging a song from his guitar
made of wood from a tree someone planted, thank you;

thank you zinnia, and gooseberry, rudbeckia
and pawpaw, Ashmead’s kernel, cockscomb
and scarlet runner, feverfew and lemonbalm;
thank you knitbone and sweetgrass and sunchoke
and false indigo whose petals stammered apart
by bumblebees good lord please give me a minute...
and moonglow and catkin and crookneck
and painted tongue and seedpod and johnny jump-up;
thank you what in us rackets glad
what gladrackets us;

and thank you, too, this knuckleheaded heart, this pelican heart,
this gap-toothed heart flinging open its gaudy maw
to the sky, oh clumsy, oh bumblefucked,
oh giddy, oh dumbstruck,
oh rickshaw, oh goat twisting
its head at me from my peach tree’s highest branch,
balanced impossibly gobbling the last fruit,
its tongue working like an engine,
a lone sweet drop tumbling by some miracle
into my mouth like the smell of someone I’ve loved;
heart like an elephant screaming
at the bones of its dead;
heart like the lady on the bus
dressed head to toe in gold, the sun
shivering her shiny boots, singing
Erykah Badu to herself
leaning her head against the window;

and thank you the way my father one time came back in a dream
by plucking the two cables beneath my chin
like a bass fiddle’s strings
and played me until I woke singing,
no kidding, singing, smiling,
thank youthank you,
stumbling into the garden where
the Juneberry’s flowers had burst open
like the bells of French horns, the lily
my mother and I planted oozed into the air,
the bazillion ants labored in their earthen workshops
below, the collard greens waved in the wind
like the sails of ships, and the wasps
swam in the mint bloom’s viscous swill;

and you, again you, for hanging tight, dear friend.
I know I can be long-winded sometimes.
I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude
over every last thing, including you, which, yes, awkward,
the suds in your ear and armpit, the little sparkling gems
slipping into your eye. Soon it will be over,

which is precisely what the child in my dream said,
holding my hand, pointing at the roiling sea and the sky
hurtling our way like so many buffalo,
who said it’s much worse than we think,
and sooner; to whom I said
no duh child in my dreams, what do you think
this singing and shuddering is,
what this screaming and reaching and dancing
and crying is, other than loving
what every second goes away?
Goodbye, I mean to say.
And thank you. Every day.

 

Monday, November 14, 2016

To Have a Friend by Tomaž Šalamun


To Have a Friend

I see the devil’s head, people, I see his whole body
I never thought he could come so close
he longs for innocence, as we do, I have the sensation
he was crammed into the wall for a long time

I have the feeling that his hands ache, that he is tender
and absorbed in thoughts, he licks everything before killing it,
he bursts into tears, scraping meat, he is blessed
he has no friends, he is walking alone in the world

I have the feeling he is saying something to me
that he is watching me with regret
he knows I could never sleep with him
we are both humiliated

he reminds me of the English teacher
when he was pensioned off, and young secret-police recruits,
it seems his beatitude is failing
the souls squeal when he tortures them

he doesn’t drink them, as I imagined
it seems he derives no benefit from them
I think he would like to have a friend
to share goods and pleasure

he steps in the river and wets his head in it
he doesn’t know how to speak with it
he splashes on the surface
I will leave him as he is, I will not talk to him

(Translated by Anselm Hollo)

 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Book of Statues by Richie Hofmann


Book of Statues

Because I am a boy, the untouchability of beauty
is my subject already, the book of statues
open in my lap, the middle of October, leaves
foiling the wet ground
in soft copper. “A statue
must be beautiful
from all sides,” Cellini wrote in 1558.
When I close the book,
the bodies touch. In the west,
they are tying a boy to a fence and leaving him to die,
his face unrecognizable behind a mask
of blood. His body, icon
of loss, growing meaningful
against his will.