Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Teasers by William Empson


The Teasers

Not but they die, the teasers and the dreams, 
Not but they die, 
and tell the careful flood 
To give them what they clamour for and why. 

You could not fancy where they rip to blood 
You could not fancy 
nor that mud 
I have heard speak that will not cake or dry. 

Our claims to act appear so small to these 
Our claims to act 
colder lunacies 
That cheat the love, the moment, the small fact. 

Make no escape because they flash and die, 
Make no escape
build up your love,
Leave what you die for and be safe to die.

 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Baptism by Erika L. Sánchez

Baptism
 
When the soft mouth of a word unhinges,
it is sticky, it is feral. Beneath the plum tree
I’ve woven my gray hair into a blanket.
Do you think I’m pretty crouched like this?
See, I am my own whore. Watch me
swallow my own fingers. My head a wild tangle
full of creatures. Do you hear that — the lovely hooves
and mangled pianos? The egg I hold inside my chest,
it’s what the darkness ate. In the hot swamp,
in the battering sunlight, I tie my braid
around my neck and bury my name
until it’s silent as a jewel. Feel my salt
burn in the cracks of your lips, feel the fat
pulse of my tender throat.
It’s the shudder of beauty. No,
no, the shutter. Watch me dance
on borders in this dirty dress,
until my wig catches fire. 

 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Florida Again by Randall Mann


Florida Again

             I forgave myself for having had a youth.
                                                    —Thom Gunn 

At the Fashion
Square mall,
back
of Waldenbooks, 

I saw my younger self
haunting
the magazine rack.
Ripping out pages 

of Blueboy,
tucking them 
in a Trapper
Keeper. 

Turn back.
His eyes met mine,
animal
and brittle, 

a form
of gratitude
that a man
kept his stare. 

Any man.
I half-smiled
some admission,
and though 

he couldn’t
see it coming,
I excused him
his acid jeans; 

two Swatch
watches,
two guards.
He, I, 

must have been
nineteen:
sex was “safer”
then— 

scribbles
on the mall
men’s room stall;
malaise 

of saxophone
and PSAs.
How
did I 

even
learn how to live
in 1991?
Landlocked, 

cock-blocked,
Spanish moss
festering.
I forgive him.

 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas


Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light. 

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
      Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams. 

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark. 

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise. 

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace, 

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea. 

 

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Year the Law Changed by Carol Muske-Dukes


The Year the Law Changed
 
Waiting hours, each of us in a curtain-stall.
Two men outside, mopping the floor and hall,
Shouting “Murderers!” at us. Were they janitors?
Or medics who’d read our charts & diagnosed?
If men could get pregnant, it would end up
a sacrament, Gloria said. Simone said We
know that no woman takes it lightly. So
could both be true. In class in San Francisco
our teacher spoke of his wife who lost
a child to leukemia, haunted by her ghost
& told by her shrink to write about blood.
She wrote about a vampire and her book shot
to fame so maybe she forgot the one who
never grew into her name. When my name
was called I went to have it done and then knew
I had my life back but covered myself with blood —
mine and some not — but still of me. I don’t know
what I mean by “of me,” it’s undefined & even
the shouting accusers won’t cross that line. I had to
swear I was clinically mad to have it done. What’s
madness to the men in white: they clean the world
of residue like me and all the blood from both of us. 

 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Few Words on the Soul by Wisława Szymborska


A Few Words on the Soul

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.
 
Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.
 
Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.
 
It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.
 
It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.
 
For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.
 
Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.
 
It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.
 
Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.
 
We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.
 
Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.
 
It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.
 
We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

(Translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

To a Straight Man by Eduardo C. Corral


To a Straight Man

All zodiac all 
        radar your voice
                I carried it
across the Atlantic
        to Barcelona
                I photographed
cathedrals
        cacti mosaic
                salamanders
I even photo-
        graphed my lust
                always
your voice skimming
        a woman’s skin
                mattress springs
so noisy so birdlike
        you filled her room
                with cages
camera bright
        in my pocket map
                unfolding
in my mind
        I explored a park
                leaves notched
& enormous
        graffitied boulders
                then
three men

                tall & clean
closed in
        they broke open
                my body
with their fists
        insufferable
                your red wool cap
insufferable the way
        you walked
                away from me
come back please
        the buttons
                on your jacket
are finches
        I wanted to yell
                as you vanished
into a hotel
        to drink with
                your friends
there was nothing
        more
                you could do
after my attackers left
        before I got up
                I touched my face
almost tenderly

 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Remaking the Music Box by Geoffrey Hilsabeck


Remaking the Music Box
 
First unhurt the accidents.
Plant yourself in what remains
dressed in bright colors a brightly colored urn.
Hear a frequency distant, spectral.
 
Lay down newspaper
(like the roses covering your bones)
and drag your palm across the surface
as if it were a horse’s heaving flank.
 
Be proud, disagreeable, hidden, joyful, bewildered:
you’ll need a Kent
to carry your rainbow, a Fool to insist that a
rainbow is just a rusty parabola.
 
No sadness just disaster
no meanness just thrift.
Out of nothing something and out of something
nothing: all in a day’s work. 

 

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Cry by Paisley Rekdal


The Cry

A man can cry, all night, your back
shaking against me as your mother
sleeps, hooked to the drip
to clear her kidneys from their muck
of sleeping pills. Each one white
as the snapper’s belly I once watched a man
gut by the ice bins in his truck, its last 
bubbling grunt cleaved in two
with a knife. The way my uncle’s rabbit
growled in its cage, screamed
so like a child that when I woke the night
a fox chewed through the wires
to reach it, I thought it was my own voice
frozen in the yard. And then the fox,
trapped later by a neighbor, who thrashed
and barked, as did the crows
that came for its eyes: the sound
of one animal’s pain setting off a chain
in so many others, until each cry dissolves
into the next grown louder. 
Even if I were blind
I would know night by the noise it made:
our groaning bed, the mewling
staircase, drapes that scrape
against glass panes behind which
stars rise, blue and silent.
But not even the stars
are silent: their pale waves
echo through space, the way my father’s
disappointment sags at my cheek,
and his brother’s anger
whitens his temple. And these
are your mother’s shoulders shaking
in my arms tonight, her thin breath
that drags at our window
where coyotes cry: one calling to the next
calling to the next, their tender throats
tipped back to the sky.

 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Endangered Species by Dan Beachy-Quick

Endangered Species
 
Even this
brief thought is endless. A
man speaks as if unaware of the
erotic life of the ampersand. In the
isolate field he comes to count one by
one the rare butterflies as they
die. He says witness is to say what
you mean as if you mean it. So many
of them are the color of the leaves
they feed on, he calls sympathy a fact, a
word by which he means to make a claim
about grace. I have in my
 
life said many things I did not
exactly mean. Walk
graceless through the field. Graceless so
the insects leap up into the blank
page where the margins fill
with numbers that speak diminishment.
Absence as it nears also offers astonishment.
Absence riddles even this
briefest thought, here
is your introduction to desire, time’s
underneath where the roots root down
into nothing like loose threads
hanging from the weaving’s underside.
No one seeing the roots
can guess
 
at the field above. Green
equation that ends in yellow
occasions. Theory is
insubstantial. The eye latches on
to the butterflies as they fly
and the quick heart follows, not
a root in nothing but a thread across
abstraction. They fly away.
What in us follows we do not name.
What the butterflies pull out us
as in battle horses pull
chariot, we do not
 
name. But there is none, no battle,
no surge, no retreat, a field
full not of danger, but the endangered,
where dust-wings pull from us
what we thought we lost, what theory
denies, where in us ideas go to die,
and thought with the quaking grass quakes.
Some call it breath but I’m still breathing.
So empty I know I’m not any emptier.
On slim threads they pull it out me,
disperse—no
one takes notes—disappear, &

Friday, July 6, 2018

The American Defense Against Foreign Enemies Act by Lucie Brock-Broido


The American Defense Against Foreign Enemies Act

Why do you feel “most vulnerable.” Where,
In Damascus, were you born. To whom do you
Pray. What does it mean to have winged
Brows. Have you ever spoken through
A mesh. Was it dark speech that you made.
Is it hot inside your burqa. Who
Was Frank Sinatra. Why was our war
Called “Civil” and who won.
Can you keep a bright gaze. How tall
Was Allah. What once was Palestine.
What most displaces you. Have you visited
Somalia. Have you ever crossed a border
In a boat, by night, to another land.
Sir, in all how many died.
Is your wife considered meek.
Point to Mecca from right here.
Why is our court Supreme.
What does “The Sound and the Fury”
Mean to you. Who was Huckleberry Finn.
Has your husband ever travelled to Afghanistan.
In Sharia, when a woman’s hair is loose,
Is she a prostitute or slave.
Do you understand what “Red State” means.
Do you speak American. Here,
Read that aloud.
Do you have tattoos. What does
Paranoia mean. In what season
Do we vote for President. How much freedom
Does the First Amendment cost.
Which is the tallest tree. You were once
A doctor; how is it, as you say, you’ve
Come to selling vegetables.
How tall was Jesus in bare feet;
Do you consider him a refugee.
Have you a disease that is contagious.
What are “The Hunger Games.”
Who sang “Moon River” best.
Do you have friends or relatives
Who are barbarians.
What is the Blues.
What is a Second Sleep. What
Most once made you weep.
When was Lincoln. Who is Stephen King.
Explain what “obfuscation” means.
Have you been lashed.
Who were our pilgrims; why did they come.
Have you ever eaten eel.
Why do you bring just one small son.
Where are the other ones.
What are your other sons.

 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Surly One by Theodore Roethke


The Surly One

1
When true love broke my heart in half,
I took the whiskey from the shelf,
And told my neighbors when to laugh
I keep a dog, and bark myself.

2
Ghost cries out to ghost–
But whose afraid of that?
I feel those shadows most
That start from my own feet.

 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Accidental Pastoral by Maggie Smith


Accidental Pastoral

I must have just missed a parade—
horse droppings and hard candy
in the road, miniature American
flags staked into the grass, plastic
chairs lining the curb down this

two-lane highway, 36 in the open
country, briefly Main Street in town.
When I was small, I sat on a curb
only a dozen miles from here, my feet
in the ashtray-dirty gutter, and watched

stars-and-stripes girls wheeling
their batons, slicing the sun-dumb
air into streamers. I can still hear
the click of cellophaned candies
on pavement. I didn’t want to

leave town, not then, and I never left.
I am not a parade, my one car passing
through Centerburg, Ohio, too late.
The chairs are empty. The children
are unwrapping golden butterscotches

in the cool, shuttered houses.
But look up—the clouds are stories
tall, painted above Webb’s Marathon,
and flat-bottomed as if resting on something
they push against though it holds them.

 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Independence Day by Gerald Stern


Independence Day

There were packs of dogs to deal with and broomsticks
whacking rubber balls and everyone stopping for
aeroplanes and chasing fire engines
and standing around where sidewalks on hills turned almost
level, and horses and horseshit, and ice in the cellars;
and Saturday I wore a dark suit and leaned
against my pillar and Sunday I put on a necktie
and stood in front of a drugstore eating a Clark bar.
The Fourth of July I stayed in my attic resting in
filthy cardboard and played with my bats, I stretched
their bony wings, and put a burning match
to the bundle of papers, especially to the ropes
that held them together, and read the yellow news
as it went up in smoke and spoke for the fly and raged
against the spider, say what you will, and started
my drive to Camden to look at the house on Mickle Street
and walked—with him—down to the river to skip
some stones, since Ty Cobb did it and Jim Thorpe did it
though it was nothing compared to George Washington
throwing silver dollars, and for our fireworks
we found some brown beer bottles and ran down Third Street
screaming, but he had to go back home and sit
in his rocking chair for there was a crowd of Lithuanians
coming and he was a big hit in Vilnius
the way he sat in his mound of papers and gripped
the arms, though I was tired of Lithuanians
who didn’t know shit, not to mention Romanians,
to pick a country out of a hat—or I was
just tired and Anne Marie was right, I shouldn’t
be driving at night, I should be dead, I don’t
even know how to give instructions, I don’t even know
my rabbi’s name—she and her motorcycle—
imagine them speaking Babylonian over
my shoebox—imagine them throwing flowers—fleabane,
black-eyed Susans, daisies—along with the dirt.

 

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Galleons by Rick Barot


The Galleons
 
The galleons want to go to the opera
because they want to hear emotions as big as their emotions.
 
When the spurned lover sings
his booming aria, they think of the oceans that cover
 
the world almost completely.
When the young maid sings her way
 
to being the queen of a kingdom,
they think of the months-long journeys that will pick off
 
their crews one by one, in terrifying
weather followed by boredom. And then the galleons want
 
to shop in the mall in the suburbs.
Everything they see there is like the secrets
 
they once carried in their holds.
Racks of blouses like sacks of gold, tiers of blenders
 
like crates of silver. The food courts
remind them of their full bellies before the trips home,
 
the weight in the center of the body
after it has eaten everything, the stomach glossy and pink
 
as a shopping bag. And then the galleons
want to visit the boy who loves making model boats
 
in the basement that his parents have given up
to his hobby. Wearing a magnifying
 
visor, at a table with glues and tweezers and exact
bits of wood, the boy puts together long ships
 
and carracks in exquisite minute scale.
The galleons approve of the galleon he has been making
 
for months, imagining the huge tonnage
of the actual ships, their cannons arrayed on the sides
 
like judges. And then the galleons, on certain
other days, want to go back to the forests
 
they came from, to reel the blood-soaked narrative
back to the stands of pines and oaks
 
that will become their keels and decking,
hulls and masts. Back to the mountains being mountains,
 
their iron in the ground like gray thoughts.
Back to the birds being birds.
 
Back to the lakes being lakes, deeply shining,
like the black velvet gloves of a prince in an old painting. 

 

Morning Song by Sylvia Plath

Morning Song
 
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements. 
 
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls. 
 
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand. 
 
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear. 
 
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s.  The window square 
 
Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons. 

 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

My Hero Bares His Nerves by Dylan Thomas


My Hero Bares His Nerves

My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
 That rules from wrist to shoulder,
 Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
 Leans on my mortal ruler,
 The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

 And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
 Ache on the lovelorn paper
 I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
 That utters all love hunger
 And tells the page the empty ill.

 My hero bares my side and sees his heart
 Tread, like a naked Venus,
 The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
 Stripping my loin of promise,
 He promises a secret heat.

 He holds the wire from the box of nerves
 Praising the mortal error
 Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
 And the hunger’s emperor;
 He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.

 

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Young Man by Jericho Brown


A Young Man
 
We stand together on our block, me and my son,
Neighbors saying our face is the same, but I know
He’s better than me: when other children move 
 
Toward my daughter, he lurches like a brother
Meant to put them down. He is a bodyguard
On the playground. He won’t turn apart from her, 
 
Empties any enemy, leaves them flimsy, me
Confounded. I never fought for so much—
I calmed my daughter when I could cradle 
 
My daughter; my son swaggers about her. 
He won’t have to heal a girl he won’t let free. 
They are so small. And I, still, am a young man. 
 
In him lives my black anger made red.
They play. He is not yet incarcerated. 

 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Omen to Get Your Ass Up by Angel Nafis


Omen to Get Your Ass Up

It’s hard for me to believe, but, believe
I do       the morning passed me by without
a thought or surrender           I am a miserable
Sunday shut-in           thirst caked up
without a quench in sight         until

I see my homie           waiting to cross
the impossible intersection of Flatbush & Woodruff
It could be         any nigga         afro’d, with metallic
red headphones, gym shoes, unbothered by the day,
but I know         who I know       So I tear open the

bedroom window           force my own messy head
through the metal bars           which are really just
suggestions anyway                     & right away the air
is kind as ever against my chin           trailing my neck,
my breast-plate, an alarm       as good as a homie who

I yell down to      who sees me now & is Hey Boo-ing
rushing past a zillion strangers with her take-out chicken
to the door of my building      no matter
the dice game                or puddles of piss
She says a walk around the hood
got her whole situation right
so now it’s clear who I can be
Summoning her             is summoning me

Here I am           glad to be another loud mouth
through an open window           exercising the right
to be beloved                I am saved for a moment  
the suspended heaven of being recognized
Hollering
Ashley!           Ashley!           Ashley!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Afterlife by Christopher Reid

Afterlife
 
As if she couldn't bear not to be busy and useful
after her death, she willed her body to medical science.
 
Today, as a number of times before, I walked
past the institution that took her gift, and thought,
 
'That's where my dead wife lives. I hope they're treating her kindly.'
 
The dark brick, the depthless windows, gave nothing away,
but the place seemed preferable to either Heaven or Hell,
 
whose multitudes meekly receive whatever the design teams
and PR whizzes of religion have conjured up for them.
 
My wife is in there, somewhere, doing practical work:
her organs and tissues are educating young doctors
 
or helping researchers outwit the disease that outwitted her.
So it's a hallowed patch of London for me now.
 
But it's not a graveyard, to dawdle and remember and mope in,
and I had work to do, too, in a different part of town. 

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dear Reader by Rita Mae Reese


Dear Reader

You have forgotten it all.
You have forgotten your name,
where you lived, who you
loved, why.
                      I am simply
your nurse, terse and unlovely
I point to things
and remind you what they are:
chair, book, daughter, soup.

And when we are alone
I tell you what lies
in each direction: This way
is death, and this way, after
a longer walk, is death,
and that way is death but you
won’t see it
until it is right
in front of you.

              Once after
your niece had been to visit you
and I said something about
how you must love her
or she must love you
or something useless like that,
you gripped my forearm
in your terrible swift hand
and said, she is
everything—you gave
me a shake—everything
to me.
               And then you fell
back into the well. Deep
in the well of everything. And I
stand at the edge and call:
                  chair, book, daughter, soup.

 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Her Long Illness by Donald Hall


Her Long Illness

Daybreak until nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped
through the catheter into her heart.
He drank coffee and read
the Globe. He paced; he worked
on poems; he rubbed her back
and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
they wept and affirmed
their love for each other, witlessly,
over and over again.
When it snowed one morning Jane gazed
at the darkness blurred
with flakes. They pushed the IV pump
which she called Igor
slowly past the nurses' pods, as far
as the outside door
so that she could smell the snowy air.