Monday, June 26, 2017

Evening Walk by Charles Simić


Evening Walk

You give the appearance of listening 
To my thoughts, O trees, 
Bent over the road I am walking 
On a late summer evening 
When every one of you is a steep staircase 
The night is slowly descending.

The high leaves like my mother’s lips 
Forever trembling, unable to decide, 
For there’s a bit of wind, 
And it’s like hearing voices, 
Or a mouth full of muffled laughter, 
A huge dark mouth we can all fit in 
Suddenly covered by a hand.

Everything quiet. Light 
Of some other evening strolling ahead, 
Long-ago evening of silk dresses, 
Bare feet, hair unpinned and falling. 
Happy heart, what heavy steps you take 
As you follow after them in the shadows.

The sky at the road’s end cloudless and blue. 
The night birds like children 
Who won’t come to dinner. 
Lost children in the darkening woods.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summertime by Derrick Austin


Summertime

A pipe burst somewhere. The record kept turning
Porgy and Bess. Granddad sang the old blues tune.
I told him my name. The water was burning

when we went to the coast, green and churning
like collards in the kitchen. It was June.
A pipe burst somewhere. The record kept turning.

He took worm-colored pills at ten in the morning,
sometimes he wandered off. I’d find him at noon,
streets away, calling my name. Water was burning

from Gulf Breeze to Grand Isle, the Gulf swirling
like vinyl. Egrets blackened the bayou.
A pipe burst somewhere. The record kept turning

when we watched the news in the nursing
home: men in white scanned the dunes.
I told him my name, that the water was burning.

He looked through my eyes and sang fish are jumpin. . .
I said his name, washed his feet, left the room.
A pipe burst somewhere. The record kept turning.
I told him my name. The water was burning.

 

The Fury of Sunsets by Anne Sexton


The Fury of Sunsets

Something 
cold is in the air, 
an aura of ice 
and phlegm. 
All day I've built 
a lifetime and now 
the sun sinks to 
undo it. 
The horizon bleeds 
and sucks its thumb. 
The little red thumb 
goes out of sight. 
And I wonder about 
this lifetime with myself, 
this dream I'm living. 
I could eat the sky 
like an apple 
but I'd rather 
ask the first star: 
why am I here? 
why do I live in this house? 
who's responsible? 
eh?

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Swimming by Carl Phillips


Swimming

Some nights, I rise from the latest excuse for
Why not stay awhile, usually that hour when
the coyotes roam the streets as if they’ve always
owned the place and had come back inspecting now
for damage. But what hasn’t been damaged? History
here means a history of storms rushing the trees
for so long, their bowed shapes seem a kind of star—
worth trusting, I mean, as in how the helmsman,
steering home, knows what star to lean on. Do
people, anymore, even say helmsman? Everything
in waves, or at least wave-like, as when another’s
suffering, being greater, displaces our own, or
I understand it should, which is meant to be
different, I’m sure of it, from that pleasure
Lucretius speaks of, in witnessing from land
a ship foundering at sea, though more and more
it all seems related. I love the nights here. I love
the jetty’s black ghost-finger, how it calms
the harbor, how the fog hanging stranded just
above the water is fog, finally, not the left-behind
parts of those questions from which I half-wish
I could school my mind, desperate cargo,
to keep a little distance. An old map from when
this place was first settled shows monsters
everywhere, once the shore gives out—it can still
feel like that: I dive in, and they rise like faithfulness
itself, watery pallbearers heading seaward, and
I the raft they steady. It seems there’s no turning back.

 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When Lisa Told Me by Roberto Bolaño


When Lisa Told Me

When Lisa told me she’d made love
to someone else, in that old Tepeyac warehouse
phone booth, I thought my world
was over. A tall, skinny guy with
long hair and a long cock who didn’t wait
more than one date to penetrate her deep.
It’s nothing serious, she said, but it’s
the best way to get you out of my life. 
Parménides García Saldaña had long hair and 
could have been Lisa’s lover, but some
years later I found out he’d died in a psych ward
or killed himself. Lisa didn’t want to 
sleep with losers anymore. Sometimes I dream
of her and see her happy and cold in a Mexico
drawn by Lovecraft. We listened to music
(Canned Heat, one of Parménides García Saldaña’s
favorite bands) and then we made
love three times. First, he came inside me, 
then he came in my mouth, and the third time, barely
a thread of water, a short fishing line, between my breasts. And all
in two hours, said Lisa. The worst two hours of my life, 
I said from the other end of the phone.

(Translated by Laura Healy)  

 

Dead Butterfly by Ellen Bass


Dead Butterfly 

For months my daughter carried 
a dead monarch in a quart mason jar. 
To and from school in her backpack, 
to her only friend’s house. At the dinner table 
it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast. 
She took it to bed, propped by her pillow.

Was it the year her brother was born? 
Was this her own too-fragile baby 
that had lived—so briefly—in its glassed world? 
Or the year she refused to go to her father’s house? 
Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?

This plump child in her rolled-down socks 
I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me 
and carry safe again. What was her fierce 
commitment? I never understood. 
We just lived with the dead winged thing 
as part of her, as part of us, 
weightless in its heavy jar.

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lullaby by Ilya Kaminsky


Lullaby

Little daughter
rainwater-

snow and branches protect you
white-washed wall—

and neighbors’ hands, also
child of my Aprils

little earth of
six pounds—

my white hair
keeps your sleep lit.

 

Monday, June 12, 2017

We Should Make a Documentary About Spades by Terrance Hayes


We Should Make a Documentary About Spades

And here is all we’ll need: a card deck, quartets of sun people
Of the sort found in black college dormitories, some vintage
Music, indiscriminate spirits, fried chicken, some paper,

A writing utensil, and a bottomless Saturday. We should explore
The origins of a derogatory word like spade as well as the word
For feeling alone in polite company. And also the implications
Of calling someone who is not your brother or sister,

Brother or Sister. So little is known of our past, we can imagine
Damn near anything. When I say maybe slaves held Spades
Tournaments on the anti-cruise ships bound for the Colonies,
You say when our ancestors were cooped on those ships

They were not yet slaves. Our groundbreaking film should begin
With a low-lit den in the Deep South and the deep fried voice
Of somebody’s grandmother holding smoke in her mouth
As she says, “The two of Diamonds trumps the two of Spades

In my house.” And at some point someone should tell the story
Where Jesus and the devil are Spades partners traveling
The juke joints of the 1930s. We could interview my uncle Junior
And definitely your skinny cousin Mary and any black man

Sitting at a card table wearing shades. Who do you suppose
Would win if Booker T and MLK were matched against Du Bois
And Malcolm X in a game of Spades? You say don’t talk
Across the table. Pay attention to the suits being played.

The object of the game is to communicate invisibly
With your teammate. I should concentrate. Do you suppose
We are here because we are lonely in some acute diasporafied
Way? This should be explored in our film about Spades.

Because it is one of the ways I am still learning what it is
To be black, tonight I am ready to master Spades. Four players
Bid a number of books. Each team adds the bids
Of the two partners, and the total is the number of books

That team must try to win. Is that not right? This is a game
That tests the boundary between mathematics and magic,
If you ask me. A bid must be intuitive like the itchiness
Of the your upper lip before you sip strange whiskey.

My mother did not drink, which is how I knew something
Was wrong with her, but she held a dry spot at the table
When couples came to play. It’s a scene from my history,
But this probably should not be mentioned in our documentary

About Spades. Renege is akin to the word for the shame
You feel watching someone else’s humiliation. Slapping
A card down must be as dramatic as hitting the face of a drum
With your palm, not hitting the face of a drum with a drumstick.

You say there may be the sort of outrage induced
By liquor, trash talk, and poor strategy, but it will fade
The way a watermark left on a table by a cold glass fades.
I suspect winning this sort of game makes you feel godly.

I’m good and ready for who ever we’re playing
Against tonight. I am trying to imagine our enemy.
I know you are not my enemy. You say there are no enemies
In Spades. Spades is a game our enemies do not play.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Truant by Margaret Hasse


Truant
 
Our high school principal wagged his finger
over two manila folders
lying on his desk, labeled with our names—
my boyfriend and me—
called to his office for skipping school.
 
The day before, we ditched Latin and world history
to chase shadows of clouds on a motorcycle.
We roared down rolling asphalt roads
through the Missouri River bottoms
beyond town, our heads emptied
of review tests and future plans.
 
We stopped on a dirt lane to hear
a meadowlark’s liquid song, smell
heart-break blossom of wild plum.
Beyond leaning fence posts and barbwire,
a tractor drew straight lines across the field
unfurling its cape of blackbirds.
 
Now forty years after that geography lesson
in spring, I remember the principal’s words.
How right he was in saying:
This will be part of
your permanent record.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Prescription by Franz Wright


Prescription

While you lie in bed
watching the movie
of every last terrible
thing you have done, you

consider with high admiration
and envy the one
of unscared face
and conscience come

with his own slip of paper
proclaiming
bearer’s incontrovertible
privilege to sleep,

to ask
and receive it
right now
by sidereal name.