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Category Archives: poetry

“Nor the police, hyenas on hearing five confessions, four false and
one too irresistible. Nor the mental-health elephant, tusked by the state.
Nor the common-sense stork twisting at the prosecutor’s feet. Nor the one
the one juror, uneasy facing eleven pale sheep that bay all day
all night for conviction. Nor the Governor, sir! Nor the common-sense
stork, now in a knot. Nor the shots. Nor the clause, unbending. Nor
the clause, bending. Nor, seeing his fitful approach, did one turn back
to flip the window latch for the lifeform nearly breaking himself on glass.
Nor the next Governor. Nor the state—carriage horses trotting ever
steady blinders acute to the eye. Nor the widower how could he, puma
in pull-focus. Nor the defense counsel, not for lack of it. Nor the stork,
is she breathing? Is there such a thing as breathing here and does it mean—?
The polyester the royal blue the blanket on the bed of the mother of two.”

– Zoe Hitzig

The second stage is sleeplessness.
At first there was worry.
The third stage is “ordinary people.
”The fourth: what to do.

The first stage is chaos.
The second is invention.
The steam engine. The napkin.
The picnic table. Money.

First you were walking across a bridge.
Then you were flying.
Then you were sweeping the floor.

First comes love.
Then nausea.

First pleasure.
Just a little pinch.

First the pupa, then the wings.
Wordlessness. Night.

The first thing is labor.
The second, we don’t know.

First comes water.
Then air.
A hurricane. A sigh.
Abigail. Norma. Laquisha.
Molly. Sylvia. Roxanne.
Temperance. Emma. Delilah.
Daphne. Wilhelmina. Georgette.
Landfall. Rubble.

The first stage was childhood.
The second stage was Beatrice.

The first stage was Beatrice.
The second stage was hell.

First the city, then the forest.
The second stage was Virgil.
The third stage was expurgated.
The fourth went unnoticed.
The last stage was a letter.
A single meaningless hum.

What came first the money launderers or the flatterers.
What came first the Catherine wheel or the icebox.

In the beginning a voice.
In the beginning paramecia.

First carbon.Then electricity.
Then shoes.

In the beginning a tree.

Before the house, a cave.
Before the cave, a swamp.
Before the swamp, a desert.

The garden was in the middle.
Between the sidewalk and the street.

In the beginning soup.

Then tables. The stock market.
Things on four legs.

In the beginning I was frightened.
Then the darkness told a joke.

Which came first the river or the bank.
Which came first the priest or the undertaker.
Which came first crime or punishment.
Which came first the firemen or the cops.
Which came first conquest or discovery.
The fork or the spoon.
The point or the lineup.
The FBI or the CIA.

Which came first gravity or grace.
Which came first cotton or wool.
Which came first the slaver or the ship.
Which came first the ankle or the wing.
The hummingbird or the frog.
Puberty or ideology.

Which came first memory or forgiveness.
Which came first prohibition or women’s suffrage.
Coffee or tea.

What came first yes or no.
What comes first silver or gold.
Porcelain or silk.Pen or paper.

What came first Kyoto or Dresden.
What came first the renaissance or the reformation.
What would you rather be a rabbit or a duck.
Who is more powerful Mephistopheles or Marguerite.
Who’s it going to be me or you.
What would you rather do burn or drown.

In the beginning I was invincible.
In the middle I came apart.

First there was a library then there was a café.
Then there was a wall of glass.

Which came first The Melancholy of Departure or The Double Dream of Spring.

Which came first repression or resistance.
Grammar or syntax.
The siren or the gunshot.
Which came first granite or marble.
The army or the drone.
The whistling or the blackbird.
Which came first sugar or rum. Pineapple or bananas.
The senate or the corporation.

Was the story half-empty or half-full.

What feels better pity or anger.
What scares you more life or death.
What describes you best, the steam in the engine or a penny on the tracks.
What were you thinking, a whimper or a bang.
What would you choose, a sandwich or a phone call.
What did you expect, a question or an answer.
A piano or a clock.
Take all the time you want.

Elizabeth Willis

“The states when they black out and lie there rolling when they turn
To something transcontinental move by drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays she rummages for a blanket and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs frozen she is black
Out finding herself with the plane nowhere and her body taken by the throat
The undying cry of the void falling living beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through screaming without enough air
Still neat lipsticked stockinged girdled by regulation her hat
Still on her arms and legs in no world and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air taking her time she holds it
In many places and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow she develops interest she turns in her maneuverable body

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her
Self in low body-whistling wrapped intensely in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her floating finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath as the levels become more human seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right riding slowly toward them she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields can go down on her back with a feeling
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her and can turn turn as to someone
In bed smile, understood in darkness can go away slant slide
Off tumbling into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread
Or whirl madly on herself in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon. There is time to live
In superhuman health seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it arriving
In a square town and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches
The moon by its one shaken side scaled, roaming silver My God it is good
And evil lying in one after another of all the positions for love
Making dancing sleeping and now cloud wisps at her no
Raincoat no matter all small towns brokenly brighter from inside
Cloud she walks over them like rain bursts out to behold a Greyhound
Bus shooting light through its sides it is the signal to go straight
Down like a glorious diver then feet first her skirt stripped beautifully
Up her face in fear-scented cloths her legs deliriously bare then
Arms out she slow-rolls over steadies out waits for something great
To take control of her trembles near feathers planes head-down
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head gold eyes the insight-
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops a taste for chicken overwhelming
Her the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars
Freight trains looped bridges enlarging the moon racing slowly
Through all the curves of a river all the darks of the midwest blazing
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white the smothering chickens
Huddle for over them there is still time for something to live
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop a hurtling a fall
That is controlled that plummets as it wills turns gravity
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon shining
New Powers there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing
But the whole night time for her to remember to arrange her skirt
Like a diagram of a bat tightly it guides her she has this flying-skin
Made of garments and there are also those sky-divers on tv sailing
In sunlight smiling under their goggles swapping batons back and forth
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion white teeth nowhere
She is screaming singing hymns her thin human wings spread out
From her neat shoulders the air beast-crooning to her warbling
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world now
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape watching it lose
And gain get back its houses and peoples watching it bring up
Its local lights single homes lamps on barn roofs if she fell
Into water she might live like a diver cleaving perfect plunge

Into another heavy silver unbreathable slowing saving
Element: there is water there is time to perfect all the fine
Points of diving feet together toes pointed hands shaped right
To insert her into water like a needle to come out healthily dripping
And be handed a Coca-Cola there they are there are the waters
Of life the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir so let me begin
To plane across the night air of Kansas opening my eyes superhumanly
Bright to the damned moon opening the natural wings of my jacket
By Don Loper moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water
One cannot just fall just tumble screaming all that time one must use
It
she is now through with all through all clouds damp hair
Straightened the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing
New darks new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos

And night a gradual warming a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own
Country a great stone of light in its waiting waters hold hold out
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body
And fly and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned
Water stored up for her for years the arms of her jacket slipping
Air up her sleeves to go all over her? What final things can be said
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night
Air to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward the blazing-bare lake
Her skirts neat her hands and face warmed more and more by the air
Rising from pastures of beans and under her under chenille bedspreads
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed dreaming of female signs
Of the moon male blood like iron of what is really said by the moan
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight passing
Over brush fires burning out in silence on little hills and will wake
To see the woman they should be struggling on the rooftree to become
Stars: for her the ground is closer water is nearer she passes
It then banks turns her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must
Do something with water fly to it fall in it drink it rise
From it but there is none left upon earth the clouds have drunk it back
The plants have sucked it down there are standing toward her only
The common fields of death she comes back from flying to falling
Returns to a powerful cry the silent scream with which she blew down
The coupled door of the airliner nearly nearly losing hold
Of what she has done remembers remembers the shape at the heart
Of cloud fashionably swirling remembers she still has time to die
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour
Of cornfields and have enough time to kick off her one remaining
Shoe with the toes of the other foot to unhook her stockings
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair
Near death when the body will assume without effort any position
Except the one that will sustain it enable it to rise live
Not die nine farms hover close widen eight of them separate, leaving
One in the middle then the fields of that farm do the same there is no
Way to back off from her chosen ground but she sheds the jacket
With its silver sad impotent wings sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece
Of her skirt the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse the intimate
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost
Of a virgin sheds the long windsocks of her stockings absurd
Brassiere then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming
Off her: no longer monobuttocked she feels the girdle flutter shake
In her hand and float upward her clothes rising off her ascending
Into cloud and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe
Like a dumb bird and now will drop in SOON now will drop

In like this the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas down from all
Heights all levels of American breath layered in the lungs from the frail
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after
Her last superhuman act the last slow careful passing of her hands
All over her unharmed body desired by every sleeper in his dream:
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves
Arisen at sunrise the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn
Toward clouds all feel something pass over them as she passes
Her palms over her long legs her small breasts and deeply between
Her thighs her hair shot loose from all pins streaming in the wind
Of her body let her come openly trying at the last second to land
On her back This is it THIS
All those who find her impressed
In the soft loam gone down driven well into the image of her body
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep
In her mortal outline in the earth as it is in cloud can tell nothing
But that she is there inexplicable unquestionable and remember
That something broke in them as well and began to live and die more
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth
Caught her interrupted her maiden flight told her how to lie she cannot
Turn go away cannot move cannot slide off it and assume another
Position no sky-diver with any grin could save her hold her in his arms
Plummet with her unfold above her his wedding silks she can no longer
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls or all the back-breaking whores
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one
Breath it is all gone and yet not dead not anywhere else
Quite lying still in the field on her back sensing the smells
Of incessant growth try to lift her a little sight left in the corner
Of one eye fading seeing something wave lies believing
That she could have made it at the best part of her brief goddess
State to water gone in headfirst come out smiling invulnerable
Girl in a bathing-suit ad but she is lying like a sunbather at the last
Of moonlight half-buried in her impact on the earth not far
From a railroad trestle a water tank she could see if she could
Raise her head from her modest hole with her clothes beginning
To come down all over Kansas into bushes on the dewy sixth green
Of a golf course one shoe her girdle coming down fantastically
On a clothesline, where it belongs her blouse on a lightning rod:

Lies in the fields in this field on her broken back as though on
A cloud she cannot drop through while farmers sleepwalk without
Their women from houses a walk like falling toward the far waters
Of life in moonlight toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands that tragic cost
Feels herself go go toward go outward breathes at last fully
Not and tries less once tries tries ah, GOD—”

– James L. Dickey, “Falling”

That year they said I was miserable, and it became an epithet, a destiny, an excuse.

They thought me miserable because they couldn’t imagine themselves behaving so badly out of weakness or choice, but only if they were overcome by a superior force, like gravity or misery. They were wrong. I behaved badly on my own, and they can do it, too.

It was a sort of kindness, their myth of my misery: presently I’d be the real and better me. And it was a sort of malice: The Big Cheese is all parings.

But I was not miserable. the more the theory grew among them the more I grew secret – almost without effort, for they had given me an identity through which I couldn’t be seen. And I grew happy.

And so it came to seem to me that they must be, because of their common error, miserable. Though I don’t suppose they know it, and I won’t say a word about it. I hate gossip.

– William Matthews

“…Nothing of me
Is here because this is not my house,
This is not the driver’s seat of my car
Nor the memory of someone who loved me
Nor the distant classroom in which I
Fell asleep and dreamed of lamb. This
Is dirt, a filled hole of earth, stone
That says return to stone, a broken fence
That mumbles Keep Out, air above nothing,
Air that cannot imagine the sweet duties
Of wildflowers and herbs, this is cheap,
Common, coarse, what you pass by
Everyday in your car without a thought,
This is an ordinary grave.”

Philip Levine

Is it long as a noodle
or fat as an egg? Is it
lumpy like a potato or
ringed like an oak or an
onion and like the onion
the same as you go toward
the core? That would be
suitable, for is it not
the human core and the rest
meant either to keep it
warm or cold depending
on the season or just who
you’re talking to, the rest
a means of getting it from
one place to another, for it
must go on two legs down
the stairs and out the front
door, it must greet the sun
with a sigh of pleasure as
it stands on the front porch
considering the day’s agenda.
Whether to go straight ahead
passing through the ranch houses
of the rich, living rooms
panelled with a veneer of fake
Philippine mahogany and bedrooms
with ermined floors and tangled
seas of silk sheets, through
adobe walls and secret gardens
of sweet corn and marijuana
until it crosses several sets
of tracks, four freeways, and
a mountain range and faces
a great ocean each drop of
which is known and like
no other, each with its own
particular tang, one suitable
to bring forth the flavor
of a noodle, still another
when dried on an open palm,
sparkling and tiny, just right
for a bite of ripe tomato
or to incite a heavy tongue
that dragged across a brow
could utter the awful words,
“Oh, my love!” and mean them.
The more one considers
the more puzzling become
these shapes. I stare out
at the Pacific and wonder —
noodle, onion, lump, double
yolked egg on two legs,
a star as perfect as salt —
and my own shape a compound
of so many lengths, lumps,
and flat palms. And while I’m
here at the shore I bow to
take a few handfuls of water
which run between my fingers,
those poor noodles good for
holding nothing for long, and
I speak in a tongue hungering
for salt and water without salt,
I give a shape to the air going
out and the air coming in,
and the sea winds scatter it
like so many burning crystals
settling on the evening ocean.

– Philip Levine


Dreamed I was walking through a field of corn
And it was all men and women, chained where they were born,
The blades of the reaper turned in the sun
And nothing I could do would help anyone.

Went up on a mountain, looked as far as I could see,
The world was as dead as a petrified tree,
Only the sea moved up the shore
And all was winter for evermore.

Philip Larkin

“…
14

All my life, of rivers
I have heard
the longing cries, the rut-oar
of shifted wind
on gongs of beaten water:

the Ten Mile of Hornpout,
the Drac hissing in its bed of sand,
the Ruknabad scribbled over by nightingales,
the Passumpsic breaking up all down its length in spring,
the East River of Fishes, the more haunting for not having a past either,
the Mississippi coursing into the Gulf through the silt of all its days,
the snake-cracked Tangipahoa, lifting with a little rush from the hills and dwindling in the undernourished greenery.

27

On one bank
of the last river stands
a black man, on the other
a white man, on the water between
a man of no color,
body of beryl,
face of lightning,
eyes lamps of wildfire,
arms and feet polished brass.

There will come an agony upon you
beyond any
this nation has known;
and at that time thy people,
given intelligence, given imagination, given love, given…

Here his voice falters, he drops
to his knees, he is
falling to pieces
no nose left,
no hair,
no teeth,
limbs dangling from prayer-knots and rags,

he sits down and waits by the grief-tree
of the last river.”

Galway Kinnell

“Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to…”

Donald Justice

“Two women and a small girl— perhaps three or four years old—resting in the shade of the fir trees. From far off the roar of the world coming back one more time. First a few words tossed back and forth between awakening men and then the machines talking to themselves in the language they share with the heavenly bodies— planets, dust motes, distant solar systems— that know what needs to be done and do it. So long ago, you think, those days, so unlike these, blessed by favorable winds and forgotten in the anthems we hummed on the long walk home from work or the childish fables we tried to believe. No one notices the small girl and her caretakers are gone and no one huddles in the shade of the fir trees. The air, brilliant and calm, stays to witness, the single cloud lost between heaven and here stays, the mountains look down and keep their distance, somewhere far off the sea goes on working for itself. By the waters of the Llobregat no one sits down to weep for the children of the world, by the Ebro, the Tagus, the Guadalquivir, by the waters of the world no one sits down and weeps.”

Philip Levine

It was when or because she became two kinds
of mad, both a feral nail biting into a plank
and a deranged screw cranking into a wood beam,
the aunt—I shouldn’t say her name,

went at the fullest hour of the night,
the moon there like an unflowered bulb
in a darkness like mud, or covered in darkness
as a bulb or skull is covered in mud,

the small brown aunt who, before she went mad,
taught herself to carpenter and unhinged,
in her madness, the walls she claimed
were bugged with a tiny red-eyed device

planted by the State or Satan’s agents, ghosts
of atheists, her foes, or worse, the walls
were full of the bugs she believed crawled
from her former son-in-law’s crooked mouth,

the aunt, who knows as all creatures know,
you have to be rooted in something tangible
as wood if you wish to dream in peace,
took her hammer with its claw like a mandible

to her own handmade housing humming,
“I don’t know why God keeps blessing me,”
softly madly, and I understood, I was with her
when the pallbearers carried a box

made of mahogany from her church to a hearse
to a hole in the earth, it made me think
of the carpenter ant who carries within its blood
an evolved self-destructive property, and on its face

mandibles twice the size of its body,
and can carry on its back, as I have seen on tv,
a rotted bird or branch great distances
to wherever the queen is buried–Kingdom:

Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda, Tribe: Camponotini,
the species that lives on wood is, like mud, rain,
and time, the carpenter’s enemy, yes,
but I would love to devour the house I live in

until it is a permanent part of me,
I would love to shape, as Perumthachan,
the master sculptor, carpenter and architect
of India is said to have shaped, a beautiful tree

into the coffin in which I am to be buried,
I know whatever we place in a coffin, the coffin
remains empty, I know nothing buried is buried,
I don’t know why God keeps blessing me,

I don’t know why God keeps blessing me.

Terrance Hayes

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it–

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?–

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot–
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart–
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash–
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there–

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

– Sylvia Plath

…Now they ball in a mass,
Black
Mind against all that white.
The smile of the snow is white.
It spreads itself out, a mile-long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,
They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women —-
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanis walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.

– Sylvia Plath

I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appals me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

– Sylvia Plath

Anger,
as black as a hook,
overtakes me.
Each day,
each Nazi
took, at 8: 00 A.M., a baby
and sauteed him for breakfast
in his frying pan.

And death looks on with a casual eye
and picks at the dirt under his fingernail.

Man is evil,
I say aloud.
Man is a flower
that should be burnt,
I say aloud.
Man
is a bird full of mud,
I say aloud.

And death looks on with a casual eye
and scratches his anus.

Man with his small pink toes,
with his miraculous fingers
is not a temple
but an outhouse,
I say aloud.
Let man never again raise his teacup.
Let man never again write a book.
Let man never again put on his shoe.
Let man never again raise his eyes,
on a soft July night.
Never. Never. Never. Never. Never.
I say those things aloud.

I beg the Lord not to hear.

– Anne Sexton

I thought she was exaggerating a little
when she said that every one of her hummingbirds – she had five –
had a distinct name and that they flew
freely in her garden, where they had
distinct feeders. “If not, they fight too much.”

But it was like that, just like that:
I saw them once, when the house, alone,
invited a visit to the open back garden.

There they came flying like tiny
winged envoys
with urgent notices and warnings.
No name fit them well. Useless
words. Astonishment
at the rapid movement of the wings:
the not being able to look at them
the approach of their tiny hearts
beating so incredibly rapidly
close, very close,

and then suddenly shooting off, high,
unattainable.
Being of our world but also of another,
only theirs.

Circe Maia

Between water reading itself a story
with no people in it

and fields, illegible, and a sky
that promises nothing,

least of all what will happen now,
are the trees

that do no believe in
any version of themselves

not even the one in which
they are apparently everyday trees

and not a sequence of wooden frames
for ordinary trees.

Vena Groarke

A shampooist in an uptown hair salon warns a matron not to lean too far back on the sink. The salon is being renovated and the sink needs adjustment.

The shampooist is new. This time last year, she wasn’t a shampooist.
She was a chemist in a country now erased by a war.

This is an adventure, the matron observes, gingerly tilting her head back until it rests on the porcelain.

Yes, an adventure, the shampooist says, reaching for a towel to cushion her neck.

– Helen Klein Ross

We all want to see a mammal.
Squirrels & snowshoe hares don’t count
Voles don’t count. Something, preferably,
that could do us harm. There’s a long list:
bear, moose, wolf, wolverine. Even porcupine
would do. The quills. The yellowed
teeth & long claws.

Beautiful here. Peaks & avens.
Meltwater running its braided course, but we want
to see a mammal. Our day our lives incomplete
without a mammal. The gaze of something
unafraid, that we’re afraid of, meeting ours
before it runs off.

Linnaeus was called
indecent when he named them. Plenty
of other commonalities (hair, live young,
a proclivity to plot). But no. Mammal.
Maman. Breasted & nippled
& warm, warm, warm.

– Elizabeth Bradfield

“When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is.”

– Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?