I saw no Way---The Heavens were stitched---
I felt the columns close---
The Earth reversed her Hemispheres---
I touched the Universe---
And back it slid---and I alone---
A speck upon a ball---
Went out upon Circumference---
Beyond the Dip of Bell---
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It turns out those buttons
at all the crosswalks in Brooklyn
don’t do a goddamned thing anymore:
the dead wires hidden
deep in their lampposts
all capped and corroded decades ago.
And yet just this morning,
waiting to cross
in a herd of commuters, by the ice-blackened road,
I could hear that old click,
click-click, as we shivered
and squinted out into the snow.
Patrick Phillips, The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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I will consider a slice of pizza.
For rare among the pleasures in Gotham, it is both exquisite
and blessedly cheap.
For its warmth is embracing, its smell the quintessence of hope.
For it can be found in all boroughs, every few blocks, yet
never two slices the same.
For its makers speak many tongues.
For dusting the counter with cornmeal and flower, without
looking down, they pummel and roll out the dough.
For they heap out the still-steaming sauce and with a touch
of the ladle paint it in rings like a bullseye, or a tree-
stump, or a thumb.
For they howl at each other’s jokes, grasping great handfuls
For wiping both hands on an apron, they nod at the phrase
“not too hot,” and start one of a hundred little
clocks in their heads.
For their corded forearms reach deep in the oven with a
long-handled paddle, giving each pie, with a flick, its
For heat bubbles and blisters and browns the miraculous crust.
For even in the tiniest shop you can find every style: sagging
with mushrooms and bacon, broccoli and pineapple,
chicken, and sausage, and onions.
For time passes slowly awaiting a slice, and reminds us how
sweet it is to be alive at this moment on earth.
For it slides to a stop in a little city of shakers, where with pepper and
oregano, garlic and parmesan, we citizens
make it our own.
For you can fold it in half like a taco and eat it while
standing, or driving, or walking and working your phone.
For I have seen the bearded young men of Brooklyn sit
upright to eat it, riding bicycles through red lights, at
midnight, in the rain.
For with each bite the paper plate glows more translucent
with grease, till it glows like stained glass over the trash can.
For it has nourished our children and soothed many sorrows.
For in a time of deceit it is honest and upright, steadfast and good---
beloved and modest and known.
For its commerce makes nobody rich and nobody poor.
For that, to us, it is home.
Patrick Phillips, The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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The sky is full of lightning
and the sound is coming in.
You’re alone, pulling weeds
up from the ground.
There is mica in the roots:
gold glitter clinging to the thread---
it’s terrifying to realize
anything all at once,
as the first drop of rain to touch you
makes you realize it is raining.
Chessy Normile, The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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Jung-Eun Lee aka Jung Eun Lee aka 이정은 aka Lee Jung Eun (Korean, b. 1971, Seoul, South Korea) - Cats and Bookshelf I + II, 2020, Paintings: Color on Jangji (Korean Paper)
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The Blue Door
Not every field was a forest once. That’s a myth, a kind of story---
call it snowfall, spring, October, all that’s left, sometimes, of
history, to explain history. Likewise, approximate doesn’t always
have to mean less true: think of how often as close as we could get,
or ever hoped to, wound up being the truth. You’re all I’ve got,
he said to me once, or maybe I said it---to no one, maybe. Sure,
it’s hard not knowing what exactly to be afraid of; but that we
recognize pattern---that it comforts us---that’s what makes pattern
dangerous. Plastic flags in a steady wind, sustained applause, wasps
settling into the juniper, rising from it...As if meaning refused, by
definition, chaos. In general, the hunter’s eye moves first toward
what’s not perfect. The blue door, half shut, at the end of a lie
that includes horses. How easily, tonight, the sea’s motion makes it
almost forgettable that the stars reflected there have their own motion.
Carl Phillips, The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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[...] I try to keep regret far from me,
though like any song built to last, there’s a
rhythm to it that, once recognized, can be hard
to shake: one if by fear, with its double flower---
panic, ambition; two if by what’s the worst thing
you’ve ever done?
Carl Phillips, from “The Enchanted Bluff,” The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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If most real letters are conversation by other means, think of this as a different version. Imagine a room at dusk, with daylight almost gone. I can do this because I associate that light, that hour, with ease and conversation. I was born at dusk. Right in the center of Dublin in fact, in a nursing home beside Stephen's Green. Big, cracking heaps of sycamore and birch leaves are burned there in autumn and I like to think of the way blue, bitter smoke must have come the few hundred yards or so towards the room where I was born.
And so I have no difficulty imagining us sitting there and talking in that diminishing light. Maybe the sights of late summer were visible through the window only moments ago. Fuchsia and green leaves, perhaps. But now everything is retreating into skeletal branches and charcoal leaves. My face is in shadow. You cannot see it, although your presence shapes what I am saying. And so in the last light, at the end of the day, what matters is language. Is the unspoken at the edge of the spoken. And so I have made a fiction to sustain what is already a fiction: this talking across time and absence.
But about what? What name will I give it? In the widest sense, I want to talk about the past. The past, that is, of poetry: the place where so much of the truth and power of poetry is stored. 'Poetry is the past which breaks out in our hearts,' said Rilke, whose name should be raised whenever one poet writes to another. But the past I want to talk about is more charged and less lyrical than that for women poets. It is, after all, the place where authorship of the poem eluded us. Where poetry itself was defined by and in our absence. There has been a debate since I was a young poet, about whether women poets should engage with that past at all. 'For writers, and at this moment for women writers in particular,' Adrienne Rich wrote eloquently in 'When We Dead Awaken,' 'there is the challenge and promise of a whole new psychic geography to be explored. But there is also a difficult and dangerous walking on ice, as we try to find language and images for a consciousness we are just coming into and with little in the past to support us.'
Then why go there? Why visit the site of our exclusion? We need to go to that past: not to learn from it, but to change it. If we do not change that past, it will change us. And I, for one, do not want to become a grateful daughter in a darkened house. But in order to change the past of poetry, we have to know what happened there. We have to be able to speak about it as poets, and even that can be difficult. Ever since I began as a poet I have heard people say that fixed positions--on gender, on politics of any kind--distort and cloud the question of poetry. In those terms, this letter can seem to be a clouding, a distortion. But poetry is not a pure stream. It will never be sullied by partisan argument. The only danger to poetry is the reticence and silence of poets. This piece is about the past and our right as women poets to avail of it. It is about the art and against the silence. Even so, I still need to find a language with which to approach that past. The only way of doing that, within the terms of this fiction, is to go back to the space you now occupy: in other words, to the beginning.
Eavan Boland, from “Letter to a Young Woman Poet,” A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet
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My Mother Would Be a Falconress
My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,
where I dream in my little hood with many bells
jangling when I’d turn my head.
My mother would be a falconress,
and she sends me as far as her will goes.
She lets me ride to the end of her curb
where I fall back in anguish.
I dread that she will cast me away,
for I fall, I mis-take, I fail in her mission.
She would bring down the little birds.
And I would bring down the little birds.
When will she let me bring down the little birds,
pierced from their flight with their necks broken,
their heads like flowers limp from the stem?
I tread my mother’s wrist and would draw blood.
Behind the little hood my eyes are hooded.
I have gone back into my hooded silence,
talking to myself and dropping off to sleep.
For she has muffled my dreams in the hood she has made me,
sewn round with bells, jangling when I move.
She rides with her little falcon upon her wrist.
She uses a barb that brings me to cower.
She sends me abroad to try my wings
and I come back to her. I would bring down
the little birds to her
I may not tear into, I must bring back perfectly.
I tear at her wrist with my beak to draw blood,
and her eye holds me, anguisht, terrifying.
She draws a limit to my flight.
Never beyond my sight, she says.
She trains me to fetch and to limit myself in fetching.
She rewards me with meat for my dinner.
But I must never eat what she sends me to bring her.
Yet it would have been beautiful, if she would have carried me,
always, in a little hood with the bells ringing,
at her wrist, and her riding
to the great falcon hunt, and me
flying up to the curb of my heart from her heart
to bring down the skylark from the blue to her feet,
straining, and then released for the flight.
My mother would be a falconress,
and I her gerfalcon raised at her will,
from her wrist sent flying, as if I were her own
pride, as if her pride
knew no limits, as if her mind
sought in me flight beyond the horizon.
Ah, but high, high in the air I flew.
And far, far beyond the curb of her will,
were the blue hills where the falcons nest.
And then I saw west to the dying sun–
it seemd my human soul went down in flames.
I tore at her wrist, at the hold she had for me,
until the blood ran hot and I heard her cry out,
far, far beyond the curb of her will
to horizons of stars beyond the ringing hills of the world where the falcons nest
I saw, and I tore at her wrist with my savage beak.
I flew, as if sight flew from the anguish in her eye beyond her sight,
sent from my striking loose, from the cruel strike at her wrist,
striking out from the blood to be free of her.
My mother would be a falconress,
and even now, years after this,
when the wounds I left her had surely heald,
and the woman is dead,
her fierce eyes closed, and if her heart
were broken, it is stilld
I would be a falcon and go free.
I tread her wrist and wear the hood,
talking to myself, and would draw blood.
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Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
Arundhati Roy, War Talk
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The French Church---
never much on looks, red brick leaning
in the direction of Romanesque---
settled into modest circumstances
how many decades on West 16th?
Nothing divine in the details,
veneer peeling from doors never
meant for here, never open. No light,
evenings, through colored glass,
though by day you could discern,
twenty feet above the sidewalk,
Christ stepping onto the waters of Galilee,
sea and savior oiled by exhaust,
nearly indistinguishable. Weeknights,
downstairs, a dozen groups renounced
at length crystal or alcohol, skin or smoke,
and what each circle resisted glowed
at the center of their ring of chairs,
nearly visible; there you could consecrate
relinquishment, or find someone already ruined
to pursue whatever made you, for the night,
unsinkable. The rent, collected each time
they passed the hat, kept the church afloat.
Of the congregation eight souls remained,
Haitian evangelicals. Only once
I saw someone mount the stairs
toward those slapdash doors
---who could have missed her?
Under a plane tree clearly considering
giving up all ambition, an idling towncar’s
rear door opened, she stepped out,
and I knew at once that if she’d ever
been thwarted, she simply summoned
more of some alloy of metal and will
she drew up from beneath the pavement,
maybe from Haiti itself, from generations
that stood unbending in her.
In her green hat, in the forgiving archways
of her dress, her capacious black purse,
she conquered the stairs, and raised her hand
to open the door. Just once.
The meeting schedule disappeared
from the basement entry’s wire-gridded glass,
the rooms stayed dark, addicts no longer
smoking and talking under the miserable tree.
Twilights, before they were gone, I’d walk
through a climate so thick I could almost taste it,
meet the gaze of men whose eyes locked
into mine. Was this the night they knew
was coming, the night they’d fall?
I recognized them, I wanted
to put my hand into the wound
at their sides, that we might be real
to one another. A barrier went up
around the entry, papered with signs
and permits, and an ‘artist’s rendering’
---fourteen stories clad in bluestone,
suspended above the somehow
freshened brick of the church.
A flyer in our vestibule said they’d sold
the space between their sanctuary
and heaven for a cool eight million,
and units in what would be
the highest stepped-back Nineveh tower
on our block: raise the faithful high,
plunge the neighbors into shadow.
Lord thou preparest a banquet for me...
Workers boxed the plane tree’s trunk
in a cage of 2 x 4s, heavy equipment scooped
a new foundation, hammered the pilings in.
How do they stand it, in Cairo or Rome,
when any shaft in sand reaches down
five thousand years? Bad enough in New York:
artifacts of quarantine and revolt,
bullets that did or didn’t strike rioters,
squatters or immigrants, Irish or black.
Cemetery slabs etched with the hex
of David’s star. Oyster middens,
pipe-stems, crockery stamped with eagles
and shields. And in the Historical Society,
dug from a site like this one,
an object I can’t forget,
nightmare thing, its plutonium half-life
still ticking: brass shackles,
superbly made, locked into place
by a brass bar, sized to fit
the wrists of a child.
That sign the angel placed outside
of Eden, forbidding re-entry?
No arrow, but these joined zeroes
fetched up out of the mud,
their poison seeping into
the groundwater. The backhoe clawed,
rebar spiked its way up, and some days
traffic stopped while the concrete mixer’s
rotating drum poured into place more
of the solid substance of our block.
The city stopped work more than once.
I saw, where they’d poured the footing
a little short, workers float a three-inch layer
along the top of the foundation: sure to crack,
maybe one day bring the whole thing down?
Though walking home, after hours,
late winter, I found towering at midnight’s center
a vertical representation of heaven,
nine episodes of the exaltations of light:
builders’ lamps diffused by silver ceiling joists,
filtered through layers of tarps,
an unfinished model of the spirit’s progress,
a pilgrim ladder. Where did it lead?
Each story occupied a rectangle
of what once was formless,
unglazed windows opening
on a flecked and spattered galactic swirl...
Up there above the streets,
might not desire be articulated,
spoken till seen through?
Half-finished, swathed in black netting,
translucent scrims veiling the lights
left burning within, that building
would never be so beautiful again.
Thank you, Haitian evangelicals, for that.
Now the Bradford pears open
dusty blooms against a scaffolding
crowning the new Barney’s down the block,
and black girders sketch out more floors
above a French Church caged
in spars of steel, wave-walking Jesus
shadowed by the bristling supports
of a terrace just above. Do the faithful
look up toward a future in a world of light,
more square feet? More power to them;
who doesn’t want a privacy to fill with memory
or anticipation, room for the self
to billow out in dreaming?
The shadow pooling the street’s grown cooler,
gained in depth. Sometimes I walk
a city block and notice everyone’s
looking at a screen, or talking to someone
who’s somewhere else, so that here seems
to thin out, dispersed and characterless.
I miss the addicts. I’ve done time
in that school of longing and resistance,
a sometime citizen of the knot
I threaded nights on my way to anywhere,
under what the builders have chopped
to a lame, broken arm of a tree.
Nearly everything we said beneath it
concerned our endless desires,
the thing that doth shine and so torment us,
our coins passed from hand to hand until
their inscriptions all but wore away.
Those old longings---at least we said them
to each other. We are of interest to one another,
are we not? The evangelical woman,
in her superb hat, will she look down
from that glassy paradise and find me
of interest, or the men and women who unroll
blankets over flattened cardboard
under Barney’s stainless awning,
its steel-cloud sheen? They sleep and dream
before a chamber gleaming with refusal
all night, inviting no one in,
sealed plate glass displaying
---ready?---necklaces, shown on featureless,
streamlined busts, under relentless halogen,
to foreground shine. Ten feet away, tulips
fenced in iron spear-tips wrap
wings around their furnace flames, heat
drawn up from the center of the earth;
a strength never bridled yet,
even the mutilated tree aura’d
in a froth of green. No intention
to quit, none whatsoever.
The new tower’s blank surface
offers fewer chances to engage,
an old church’s ramshackle intimacy
shrinks beneath what we all see coming:
a seamless façade interested only in itself,
dwarfing the red brick it doesn’t crush
because---why should it? The air rights
are for sale. Fit yourself around whatever
it is you want, pay them some fraction
---enormous, in their eyes, but nothing
to the unreal numbers you’ll accrue;
build, and keep on display what you
swallowed to erect this chilly Babel tower
on my block. I’m all judgment, I know;
the Congregation won’t regret the sale
of light and air, and those who sleep
on Seventh Avenue, their midnights raked
by precious glitter
---on the space between their skulls
and the empyrean, no one puts a price.
The new tower’s a glacial expanse.
The tulips ember in their spiky bed.
We dwell down here in shadow
and in spring.
Mark Doty, The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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What had I prayed for as I knelt, I prayed to be a messenger---to record whatever wanted to stream through, regardless of it being met with failure, silence or star---
Dana Levin, from “Pledge,” The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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This Year I Mean to Be an Elephant
by Wendy Xu
I don’t know if you understand me when
I say hopefully there is a future and we
are both allowed in it. I mean last year it
was OK just to be flattened by our ideas.
I sat in so many rooms and eventually felt
interesting and not like a chair. Do you
feel like a straight line? I worry about how
I don’t. I worry that when I turn on
the radio this morning it sounds just like
I expect. I am thinking about kicking what
I expect in the shin. Last year I forgot
whole people until having lunch again
with those people. Last year I forgot really
embarrassing secrets like how I am allergic
to regular soap. Cue all different kinds
of light and what music makes you feel
not dead. Last night I dreamt about sand.
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tr. Ellen Watson
Once in a while God takes poetry away from me.
I look at a stone, I see a stone.
The world, so full of departments,
is not a pretty ball flying free in space.
I feel ugly, gazing in mirrors to try to provoke them,
thrashing the brush through my hair,
susceptible to believing in omens.
I become a terrible Christian.
Every day at this time the sound of a giant mortar and pestle:
Here comes Gimpy, I think, and sadden with fear.
"What day is today?" says Mother;
"Friday is the day of sorrowful mysteries."
The night-light glimmers its already humble ray,
narrowing once and for all the black of night.
Enter, in the calm of the hour, the buzz
of the factory, in continuous staccato.
And I am in heat, unceasingly,
I persist in going to the garden to attract butterflies
and the memory of the dead.
I fall in love once a day,
I write horrible letters, full of spasms,
as if I had a piano and bags under my eyes,
as if my name were Anne of the Cross.
Except for the eyes in photographs,
no one knows what death is.
If there were no clover in the garden,
I don't know if I would write this;
no one knows what talent is.
I sit on the porch watching the street,
waiting for the sky to sadden with dusk.
When I grow up I'll write a book:
"You mean fireflies are the same thing as lightning bugs?" they asked, amazed.
Over leftover coals, the beans
balloon in the black pot.
A little jolt: the end of the prayer long gone.
The young pullets did not all fit
under the mother hen;
she clucked a warning.
This story is threatening to end, stopped up with stones.
No one can stand to be merely Lenten.
A pain this purple induces fainting,
a pain this sad doesn't exist.
School cafeterias and radio broadcasts
featuring calisthenics set to music
sustain the order of the world, despite me.
Even the thick knots extracted from the breast,
the cobalt, its ray pointed at pained flesh —
upon which I have cast this curse:
I refuse to write one line to you — even these
settle in among the firewood,
longing for a place in the crucifixion.
I started this letter bursting with pride,
overestimating my ability to yell for help,
tempted to believe that some things,
in fact, have no Easter.
But sleep overpowered me and this story dozed off
letter by letter. Until the sun broke through.
The flies awoke.
And the woman next door had an attack of nerves;
they called me urgently from the garden wall.
Death leaves behind photographs, articles of clothing,
half-full medicine bottles, disoriented insects
in the sea of flowers that covers the body.
This poem has gone sticky on me. He won't shake loose.
He disgusts me, with his big head;
I grab my shopping bag.
I'll stroll around the market.
But there he is, brandy in his spittle,
heels callused like a woman's,
coins in the palm of his hand.
It's not an exemplary life, this, robbing an old man
of the sweet pleasure of grandchildren.
My sadness was never mortal,
it's reborn every morning.
Death doesn't stop the pitter-pat of rain on the umbrella,
innumerable as the constellations.
I trail behind the funeral precession,
mixing with holy women,
I wipe the Sacred Visage.
"All you who pass by, look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. . . ."
Happiness alone has body:
Head hung low,
glassy eyes and mouth,
bruised feelings and bruised limbs.
"Passion" Adélia Prado
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I note that I’ve lived longer in the past, now, than I can expect to live in the future. I have more to remember than I have to look forward to. Memory fades, not much of the past stays, and I wouldn’t mind forgetting a lot more of it.￼
Once in a while I lie there, as the television runs, and I read something wild and ancient from one of several collections of folk tales I own. Apples that summon sea maidens, eggs that fulfill any wish, and pears that make people grow long noses that fall off again. Then sometimes I get up and don my robe and go out into our quiet neighborhood looking for a magic thread, a magic sword, a magic horse.￼
– Denis Johnson, from “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden,” The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories (Random House, 2018)
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Alison Bechdel as Harriet the Spy in a perfect self-illustration for this sunday’s NYT Book Review thus merging my childhood and young adult icons. I may have felt completely lost when I woke up this morning, but much less so in the moments after seeing this.
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Your Empty Bowl
The doctor makes a curving incision in the left top
back of my skull and
lifts the cap---“What area
am I here to work on?” But I
just want to wish his son a Happy Birthday---
It had been my aim, the reason I’d
walked right in
to this Doctor dream---In the morning,
my neighbor reports from his year
of losses: a well dried up and the threat of fire, the offer
of haven, now his sister’s
stroke---“I feel,” he said, “like a bowl
that God keeps scooping out---”
It made me nervous, how emptied he was---how every few months
a place, a face, that mattered to him,
crumbled into gone---
My solution was ridiculous, so I extolled it with fervor. I said,
“You should meditate
on an empty bowl, you should go outside and sit
with an empty bowl in real
life---” For weeks,
I’d been battering him over the head with hope and will---as if
hope and will
could make magic---
And the little man with the bowl in Central Park that spring thirty years ago
when I did not know
how to change my life---
What a strange little man he was, so small and the bowl
He could barely get each arm around it, as he
picked me out of the throng
on the new spring Lawn, I must have looked
drifty and aimless---
“Make a wish,” he said, standing under me, “Ring the bell---Don’t listen
to the neighbors---”
I looked down
into the giant mixing bowl, and in the bowl a bell---
And what did I want, what did I want, I’d just,
the night before,
walked by a man stabbed in the chest
on Second Avenue---
Shine-blue of streetlights in the blood soaking his shirt---
People three-deep in a wide ring around his breaths---
A three foot distance between his bleeding body and everyone
watching him bleed, and no one
extending a hand, no one speaking---no one
breaking through the circle to say “What? What?” then
sirens, and I knew
someone had called. And I stood there,
outside a ring of forty living motionless people watching one
dying in the middle, and all of us there
really needing some help---
I wanted, I thought, to leave
“That’s it!” The little man cried, as I picked up the bell
and rang it and rang it---
While another man, tall and lanky (the two of them
must’ve been a team), into my ear
with a hiss and a lean, “Your wish
will never come true,” and the little man shouting, “DON’T
TO THE NEIGHBORS---”
And the tall man striding away. And the little man
then offering me
“You give me a dollar, you get back ten,
You give me a ten, you get back a hundred,
whatever you give me, you get back
ten times ten---”
So I gave him a ten. And a week later made a surprise
hundred bucks showing slides
for an auction
What story am I trying to tell.
of unexpected loss and the one
of unexpected gain, I guess.
The story of No, and then the story
Was Yes “Thank you Sir may I have another---”
Was it curving your hands like an empty bowl and saying, “Yes,
Was it giving
At Sotheby’s, I don’t remember
what was for sale. I remember
the wound of money and the fact of it---chasing it, getting it, losing it,
needing it---like blood or breath.
if my neighbor sat with an empty bowl, maybe
he’d get an idea---some kind of American Aha!---
to fix everything---
But he could sit
for an entire night, glean nothing
but a bowl of dew---not even
a poet could eat it.
Before the ambulance arrived, a woman
broke through the ring and ran to the wounded
body. She knelt
in the blood in the street and took up
the stabbed man’s hand---which is when I
walked away. Just like me, to stay
for the bleeding but not the healing.
To tell a friend
to sit outside with an empty bowl
when he confides his loss---why didn’t he
sock me in the mouth---why didn’t I
Should’ve rung the bell and wished for something else---
my own advice and gone outside to sit
with an empty bowl in real
wait for whatever my Aha...
Happy Birthday! I’d wanted to wish
the boy in my dream, Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Before I was
by the Father of Surgery, who set my skull-top
down like a cap, and advanced
with his silver needles
on the gray lobes of my open brain, saying, “I’m just
going to make
Dana Levin, The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,
that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein
that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.
She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.
It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down
whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,
that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.
Robert Duncan, The Opening of the Field (1960)
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80% Blue Tint
I saw my reflection in the smoke
and mirrored lenses of a cop’s
aviator shades huffing gunpowder
and steam from my flared nostrils---
hoping my hands aren’t tinted red
in the revolving flash of the blues
& twos. By Yemọja’s grace my blue-
black skin only caught the gaze
of the moon so I continued
my midnight walk in the company
of whistling winds. As I approached
the end of Bluefield Road
your shadow reached out to greet me
as your sweet hello rode the tide
of winter breeze. My heavy-
lidded eyes faced yours as I swallowed
the moon---waiting for your lips
at the meeting place of breath
and breeze. The sudden call of the siren’s
blaring cry pierced the rousing silence
between us and briskly drove us apart.
I returned home that night wishing I could
savor the sweet warmth of your kiss
but my lips only felt the familiar
caress of wind and longing
for a man to coat his lips with mine.
Dāshaun Washington, The American Poetry Review (Vol. 49/No. 6, November/December 2020)
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