March 26th, 2008

Saying Your Names // Richard Silken.

Chemical names, bird names, names of fire
and flight and snow, baby names, paint names,
delicate names like bones in the body,
Rumplestiltskin names that are always changing,
names that no one's ever able to figure out.
Names of spells and names of hexes, names
cursed quietly under the breath, or called out
loudly to fill the yard, calling you inside again,
calling you home. Nicknames and pet names
and baroque French monikers, written in
shorthand, written in longhand, scrawled
illegibly in brown ink on the backs of yellowing
photographs, or embossed on envelopes lined
with gold. Names called out across the water,
names I called you behind your back,
sour and delicious, secret and unrepeatable,
the names of flowers that open only once,
shouted from balconies, shouted from rooftops,
or muffled by pillows, or whispered in sleep,
or caught in the throat like a lump of meat.
I try, I do. I try and try. A happy ending?
Sure enough—Hello darling, welcome home.
I'll call you darling, hold you tight. We are
not traitors but the lights go out. It's dark.
Sweetheart, is that you? There are no tears,
no pictures of him squarely. A seaside framed
in glass, and boats, those little boats with
sails aflutter, shining lights upon the water,
lights that splinter when they hit the pier.
His voice on tape, his name on the envelope,
the soft sound of a body falling off a bridge
behind you, the body hardly even makes
a sound. The waters of the dead, a clear road,
every lover in the form of stars, the road
blocked. All night I stretched my arms across
him, rivers of blood, the dark woods, singing
with all my skin and bone Please keep him safe.
Let him lay his head on my chest and we will be
like sailors, swimming in the sound of it, dashed
to pieces.
Makes a cathedral, him pressing against
me, his lips at my neck, and yes, I do believe
his mouth his heaven, his kisses falling over me
like stars. Names of heat and names of light,
names of collision in the dark, on the side of the
bus, in the bark of the tree, in ballpoint pen
on jeans and hands and the backs of matchbooks
that then get lost. Names like pain cries, names
like tombstones, names forgotten and reinvented,
names forbidden or overused. Your name like
a song I sing to myself, your name like a box
where I keep my love, your name like a nest
in the tree of love, your name like a boat in the
sea of love—O now we're in the sea of love!
Your name like detergent in the washing machine.
Your name like two X's like punched-in eyes,
like a drunk cartoon passed out in the gutter,
your name with two X's to mark the spots,
to hold the place, to keep the treasure from
becoming ever lost. I'm saying your name
in the grocery store, I'm saying your name on
the bridge at dawn. Your name like an animal
covered with frost, your name like a music that's
been transposed, a suit of fur, a coat of mud,
a kick in the pants, a lungful of glass, the sails
in wind and the slap of waves on the hull
of a boat that's sinking to the sound of mermaids
singing songs of love, and the tug of a simple
profound sadness when it sounds so far away.
Here is a map with your name for a capital,
here is an arrow to prove a point: we laugh
and it pits the world against us, we laugh,
and we've got nothing left to lose, and our hearts
turn red, and the river rises like a barn on fire.
I came to tell you, we'll swim in the water, we'll
swim like something sparkling underneath
the waves. Our bodies shivering, and the sound
of our breathing, and the shore so far away.
I'll use my body like a ladder, climbing
to the thing behind it, saying farewell to flesh,
farewell to everything caught underfoot
and flattened. Names of poisons, names of
handguns, names of places we've been
together, names of people we'd be together.
Names of endurance, names of devotion,
street names and place names and all the names
of our dark heaven crackling in their pan.
It's a bed of straw, darling. It sure as shit is.
If there was one thing I could save from the fire,
he said, the broken arms of the sycamore,
the eucalyptus still trying to climb out of the yard—
your breath on my neck like a music that holds
my hands down, kisses as they burn their way
along my spine—or rain, our bodies wet,
clothes clinging arm to elbow, clothes clinging
nipple to groin—I'll be right here. I'm waiting.

Say hallelujah, say goodnight, say it over
the canned music and your feet won't stumble,
his face getting larger, the rest blurring
on every side. And angels, about twelve angels,
angels knocking on your head right now, hello,
hello, a flash in the sky, would you like to
meet him there, in Heaven? Imagine a room,
a sudden glow. Here is my hand, my heart,
my throat, my wrist. Here are the illuminated
cities at the center of me, and here is the center
of me, which is a lake, which is a well that we
can drink from, but I can't go through with it.
I just don't want to die anymore.

Blue to Earth in You // Julia de Burgos.

The sky where I have leaned back to dream you
looks like a sea...

If you could see my gaze,
like a bird hunting horizons and stars...

The universe is mine since you made yourself
a roof of butterflies for my heart.

The air is so blue when you move your wings,
that flight is born eternal, in repeated tireless waves.

I don't know if I should open my tenderness in a wave or cloud
to roll myself to the dream where you sleep.

The wind is so quiet,
that I have been able to attain you in the echoes.

I am all daylight to embrace you...

I have seen you with eyes alive like the open eyes of the woods,
imagining myself in laughter and ravines swimming to the ocean.

I have gathered you in traces of chanteys
where you once left hearts of water in love.

I have taken you out of time...

How I have lifted you in a lily of light
that flowered my hand at remembering you!

Why does the sea run in me?

You are a live universe answering me...

A Small Part // Stephen Dunn.

The summer I discovered my heart
is at best an instrument of approximation
and the mind is asked to ratify
every blood rush sent its way

was the same summer I stared
at the slate gray sea well beyond dusk,
learning how exquisitely
I could feel sorry for myself.

It was personal--the receding tide,
the absent, arbitrary wind.
I had a small part in the great comedy,
and hardly knew it. No excuse,

but I was so young I believed
Ayn Rand had a handle on truth--
secular, heroically severe. Be a man
of unwavering principle, I told others,

and what happens to the poor
is entirely their fault. No wonder
that girl left me in August, a stillness
in the air. I was one of those lunatics

of a single idea, or maybe even worse--
I kissed wrong, or wasn't brave enough
to admit I was confused.
Many summers later I'd learn to love

the shadows illumination creates.
But experience always occurs too late
to undo what's been done. The hint
of moon above an unperturbable sea,

and that young man, that poor me,
staring ahead--everything is as it was.
And of course has been changed.
I got over it. I've never been the same.

Sunday, August 31, 2003 // Dallas Wiebe.

Tomorrow everything will be all right.
I'll come to the cemetery
   and bring you home.
I'll prepare for you a meal
   of oranges, apples and peanut butter on bread.
I'll pour you a glass
   of carbonated water.
While you eat,
I'll tell you how lonely I am.
I'll tell you how empty my life is.
I'll tell you that prayer changes nothing.
You'll tell me about the darkness
   and how you like my flowers.
You'll tell me about the cold
   and the endless hours.
You'll tell me how much
   you miss your family.
I'll tell you I'll come soon
   to join you,
   not to be impatient.
You'll say,
   "Don't hurry."

The New Me // Gaylord Brewer.

I adored my home, so I burnt
it to the ground
and slept in ashes.
I worshiped the moon, so I embraced
cold earth.

My dog was irreplaceable,
so I dropped him in wilderness
and drove away,
watched him grow small in the mirror
watching me.

Traveling was my life,
so I abandoned my car in weeds,
sheared my wings,
slashed my feet,
moved forward on my belly.

I loved you above
all others. So I betrayed you,
left clues crumbled
for your pillow, waited
beneath our garden's unturned stones.

Accidental Potatoes // Derek Economy.

The history of intentions is overgrown
with rogue vines and unwanted blossoms.
Our potatoes, you might call them weeds,
sprouted from compost amid the peppers,
unplanned if not unplanted.
We simply lacked purpose, our vision
clouded by our own designs.
Yet here was a plan, not ours,

that we performed like true disciples.
And they in turn did as potatoes
have come to do in the fertile underground,
springing shoots so green and pert
we hadn't the heart to yank them out.
In the end we ate them, praised their flavor,
and boasted of our fine crop.

People speak of accidental children,
but what does that mean? Unwitting
as birds that feed on fruit and scatter seeds
in potluck orchards, we're all providers
to future generations. I turn the ground
and wait. Grace could break
from any random source, a clue, a cure,
a ripple of laughter, growing wild
in some otherwise garden.

A Poem for the Epiphany // Pablo Medina.

It snows because the door to heaven is open,
because God is tired of working
and the day needs to be left alone.
It snows because there is a widow hiding
under her mother's bed,
because the birds are resting their throats
and three wise men are offering gifts.
Because the clouds are singing
and trees have a right to exist,
because the horses of the past are returning.
They are gray and trot gently into the barn
never touching the ground.

It snows because the wind wants
to be water, because water
wants to be powder and powder wants
to seduce the eye. Because once in his life
the philosopher has to admit
to the poverty of thought.
Because the rich man cannot buy snow
and the poor man has to wear it on his eyebrows.
Because it makes the old dog think
his life has just begun. He runs
back and forth across the parking lot.
He rolls on the snow. He laps it up.

It snows because light and dark
are making love in a field where old age
has no meaning, where colors blur,
silence covers sound, sleep covers sorrow,
everything is death, everything is joy.

Rednecks // Martín Espada.

At Scot Gas, Darnestown Road,
the high school boys
pumping gas
would snicker at the rednecks.
Every Saturday night there was Earl,
puckering his liquor-smashed face
to announce that he was driving
across the bridge, a bridge spanning
only the whiskey river
that bubbled in his stomach.
Earl's car, one side crumpled like his nose,
would circle closely around the pumps,
turn signal winking relentlessly.

Another pickup truck morning,
and rednecks. Loitering
in our red uniforms, we watched
as a pickup rumbled through.
We expected: "Fill it with no-lead, boy,
and gimme a cash ticket."
We expected the farmer with sideburns
and a pompadour.
We, with new diplomas framed
at home, never expected the woman.
Her face was a purple rubber mask
melting off her head, scars rippling down
where the fire seared her freak face,
leaving her a carnival where high school boys
paid a quarter to look, and look away.

No one took the pump. The farmer saw us standing
in our red uniforms, a regiment of illiterate conscripts.
Still watching us, he leaned across the seat of the truck
and kissed her. He kissed her
all over her happy ruined face, kissed her
as I pumped the gas and scraped the windshield
and measured the oil, he kept kissing her.

Insomnia // Julia Kay.

Sleep is a friend I have fallen out with,
I wish she would come back to me.

I bring her Valerian, milk and honey,
I plead with her, I promise her dreams.

I wander the house listening for her voice
lisping in the cupboards, beyond the walls.

She has sent me here, it's not the same
as the world by day. I have no friends.

I am alone in slumbering rooms
with snoring chairs and bare faced clocks

I used to love her velvet arms,
her fur kisses, her soundless caves.

If only she would tell me what I'd done
and what it is she wants from me.

Fatima // Laura Kasischke.

God exists. Instead
we are a group of teenage girls, drunk
at one of those awful
carnivals in a field, out
between the airport and the mall.
It's raining, and this
has become a festival
of mud, which is just
fine with us. A man

with hundreds of tattoos
has taken a fancy to Heidi
and is slipping her extra darts
to lob at the balloons. There are sirens
every time she misses, and she wins
nothing. Why

is there straw in the mud, why
is it plastered now to the wet
sleeves of our leather jackets? Something
cruises into the air
with its light bulbs zapping,
and when we turn around, the man

has disappeared with Heidi. Am I wrong
or has every teenage girl been
at this same carnival in the rain, in 19-
78, with four wild friends and a fifth of peach
schnapps in her purse with its bit
of rawhide fringe? Music

spins at us and away from us
as the Octopus starts up
its scrambling disco dance. Am I

the one who says Don't worry
she'll be back
or have I
gone ot the Port-o-Potty
to barf again by now? Imagine

hours later
when we are terrified and sober and
still waiting, when she
re-appears with her hand
tucked into the back
pocket of the tattooed man
who has no T-shirt on now under
his black vinyl vest
so we can see all
his swastikas and naked
ladies - imagine

that we are just
a few peasant girls
on a hill in Portugal. It's night, but the sun's

swung out of the sky
like a wrecking ball on fire
and even the skinny whores

in their ice-cold brothel smile
when the Fascists are gripped
with cramps
and shudder in their shiny
uniforms with tassels. Imagine
when we see Heidi:

her blurred blue robes
in the distance, her soft
virgin voice, and the way
it knocks us to our knees
like a crate of fruit, tossed
off a truck
and smashing into the street.

Between-Living // Edith L. Tiempo.

When we love a wanderer,
We wait for footsteps
That may, or may not, come:
First the hours-the-days-
Then-years. Then, never.
Yet always we do know
Whereof we wait:
The creaking gate
The scraping of the steps
And at the door the level gaze;
For these we wait to know
The roving one is home.

We boast of a green thumb
And coax the stems to bloom:
Hibiscus, santan, the wholesome
Cabbage rose; and make ambitious room
For gardenias, irises, and orchids
(Taking time to scour the aphids),
And maybe, soon or late
The flowers show;
But always we do know
Whereof we wait:
The nectar and the odors,
And the windblown blazing colors.

So it's the space between
The wishing and the end
That is the true unknown;
The massive world's timekeeping
And our own agile flow
Never to blend.

And thus we care,
And thus we live
Not for the end
(Since that is not unknown),
It is the wait, creative
Life and love in full;
Unfinished, uncertain, unknown,
Yet mocking the known end
That comes sooner,
Later, or not at all.

Girls // Nicole Blackman.

When he leaves,
he leaves a space,
a big or little airless place
that begs to be filled.
A part of the weekend that says
What are you going to do now?

And you think if you fill it up
you'll survive.
So you work and clean and call
and cook and write and drink
and eat and sleep and shop
and say This is fine this is fine.
You can do this.

Laugh and go out drinking
with your friends when it's over.
Call everyone you know and say
Shrug, clear your throat.

It's kind of like losing a dog.
You'll miss him
but maybe it's better this way.

His friends are still your friends
and they watch you
because they send him messages
about how you're doing.
Sometimes they figure now is their chance
and they tell you they've always had it bad
for you.

Be careful with his friends.

So cut your hair
and learn to play guitar.
Walk fast and yell back
at bike messengers who tell you
what they'd do to you
if you were theirs.

Stop wearing his coat and sell his CDs.
White out his name in your address book.
Buy new perfume and learn to masturbate
with the showerhead.
Turn the pain into something you can use.

And when it feels like you're imploding,
like you're the only one
who wants to lie down in the street,
know that there will always be girls
who stream through this city
with their mouths slightly open
trying to breathe
and waiting to be kissed.

The God Who Loves You // Carl Dennis.

t must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week--
Three fine houses sold to deserving families--
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you'd have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don't want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You'd have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you're used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You're spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you've chosen.

Winter Song // Carolyn Kizer.

So I go on, tediously on and on . . .
We are separated, finally, not by death but life.
We cling to the dead, but the living break away.

On my birthday, the waxwings arrive in the garden,
Strip the trees bare as my barren heart.
I put out suet and bread for December birds:
Hung from evergreen branches, greasy gray
Ornaments for the rites of the winter solstice.

How can you and I meet face to face
After our triumphant love?
After our failure?

Since this isolation, it is always cold.
My clothes don't fit. My hair refuses to obey.
And, for the first time, I permit
These little anarchies of flesh and object.
Together, they flick me toward some final defeat.

Thinking of you, I am suddenly old . . .
A mute spectator as the months wind by.
I have tried to put you out of my mind forever.

Home isn't here. It went away with you,
Disappearing in the space of a breath,
In the time one takes to open a foreknown letter.
My fists are bruised from beating on the ground.
There are clouds between me and the watery light.

Truly, I try to flourish, to find pleasure
Without an endless reference to you
Who made the days and years seem worth enduring.

Accepting This // Mark Nepo.

Yes, it is true. I confess,
I have thought great thoughts,
and sung great songs—all of it
rehearsal for the majesty
of being held.

The dream is awakened
when thinking I love you
and life begins
when saying I love you
and joy moves like blood
when embracing others with love.

My efforts now turn
from trying to outrun suffering
to accepting love wherever
I can find it.

Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here—
in flawed abundance.

We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
of compassion.

we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.

Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.

The Invitation // Oriah Mountain Dreamer.

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Where You Go When She Sleeps // T. R. Hummer.

What is it when a woman sleeps, her head bright
In your lap, in your hands, her breath easy now as though it had never been
Anything else, and you know she is dreaming, her eyelids
Jerk, but she is not troubled, it is a dream
That does not include you, but you are not troubled either,
It is too good to hold her while she sleeps, her hair falling
Richly on your hands, shining like metal, a color
That when you think of it you cannot name, as though it has just
Come into existence, dragging you into the world in the wake
Of its creation, out of whatever vacuum you were in before,
And you are like the boy you heard of once who fell
Into a silo full of oats, the silo emptying from below, oats
At the top swirling in a gold whirlpool, a bright eddy of grain, the boy
You imagine, leaning over the edge to see it, the noon sun breaking
Into the center of the circle he watches, hot on his back, burning
And he forgets his father's warning, stands on the edge, looks down,
The grain spinning, dizzy, and when he falls his arms go out, too thin
For wings, and he hears his father's cry somewhere, but is gone
Already, down in a gold sea, spun deep in the heart of the silo,
And when they find him, he lies still, not seeing the world
Through his body but through the deep rush of grain
Where he has gone and can never come back, though they drag him
Out, his father's tears bright on both their faces, the farmhands
Standing by blank and amazed—you touch that unnamable
Color in her hair and you are gone into what is not fear or joy
But a whirling of sunlight and water and air full of shining dust
That takes you, a dream that is not of you but will let you
Into itself if you love enough, and will not, will never let you go.

Morning // Frank O’Hara.

I've got to tell you
how I love you always
I think of it on grey
mornings with death

in my mouth the tea
is never hot enough
then and the cigarette
dry the maroon robe

chills me I need you
and look out the window
at the noiseless snow

At night on the dock
the buses glow like
clouds and I am lonely
thinking of flutes

I miss you always
when I go to the beach
the sand is wet with
tears that seem mine

although I never weep
and hold you in my
heart with a very real
humor you'd be proud of

the parking lot is
crowded and I stand
rattling my keys the car
is empty as a bicycle

what are you doing now
where did you eat your
lunch and were there
lots of anchovies it

is difficult to think
of you without me in
the sentence you depress
me when you are alone

Last night the stars
were numerous and today
snow is their calling
card I'll not be cordial

there is nothing that
distracts me music is
only a crossword puzzle
do you know how it is

when you are the only
passenger if there is a
place further from me
I beg you do not go

Fear Poem // Joy Harjo.

I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don't know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers
who burned down my home, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved,

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won't take you in my hands.
You can't live in my eye, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart
But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid
of dying.