When we made love you had
the dense body of a Doberman
and the square head of a Rottweiler.
With my eyes closed I saw:
a light green plate with seared scallops
and a perfect fillet of salmon on a cedar plank.
Now I am safe in the deep V of a weekday
wanting to tell you how the world
is full of street signs and strollers
and pregnant women in spandex.
The bed and desk both want me.
The windows, the view, the idea of Paris.
With my minutes, I chip away at the idiom,
an unmarked pebble in a fast current. Later,
on my way to the store, a boy with a basketball
yells, You scared? to someone else, and the things
on the list to buy come home with me.
And the baby. And your body.
— Rachel Zucker
Choose the butterfly over the chrysalis.
Choose light, the ballroom, the well-lit restaurant.
You have for lifetimes strummed minor chords
on the coast of a dead sea. Think major, spindrift.
The sex between you and grief is becoming mechanical.
Despite your vestigial sentiments to the contrary,
a scab’s story is much greater than that of a scar.
Your cock is not an umbilical cord, it is your
heart’s mouthpiece. Choose sunrise, please.
It is time to do something that might cause
embarrassment. Let emptiness mother your child.
Put away the map, where we’re going won’t be on it.
There is nothing particularly inspiring about a death wish.
You have learned all there is to learn from the woman in black.
It is time to stop insulting ecstasy. Masochism
is an empty udder. What was is a cipher. Pick
the rose over the injured dove. Pick warm waters.
Attend a circus. Go for the comic. There is nothing
more mediocre than the association of dysfunction with genius.
Indulge in color. Believe me, there is not a problem.
Plumb bright places for new symbols.
Recommendation: study evergreens.
Find me. We have much to talk about.
after James Wright
Startled by my breath it bolts
to the other end of the field.
The horizon’s brow rasps
against a green cloud
which seems both
desperate and sincere.
Into a dead tree
a flame of bird
drives its burning beak.
And somewhere out here
I have come to terms
with my brother’s suicide.
I wish the god of this place
would put me in its mouth
until I dissolve, until
the field doesn’t end
and I am broken open
like a shotgun,
Let us remember… that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both
- Christian Wiman, Editor of Poetry
A lady asked me
what poets do
and visions. I said
that between poems
I provided for death.
—Jack Gilbert, openings lines to “Between Poems” from Monolithos: Poems, 1962 and 1982 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982)
Maybe tomorrow will be the day everyone wakes up to write a poem. Or maybe just you and me, fallen asleep on duty, fallen asleep to duty forever. No one knows what will happen, but you and I at least, while the music of the murmur invents us, will have no part in anyone’s war, we will waste nothing, a signal going through us, like an inkling of god or a hunger for strawberries or the indisputable fact of love.
- Dean Young, from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction
In this language, no industrial revolution;
no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
The middle class can hardly speak it.
In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
The door groans; the old smell comes
up from under the earth to meet you.
But this language believes in ghosts;
chairs rock by themselves under the lamp; horses
neigh inside an empty gully, nothing
at the bottom but moonlight and black rocks.
The woman with marble hands whispers
this language to you in your sleep; faces
come to the window and sing rhymes; old ladies
wind long hair, hum, tat, fold jam inside pancakes.
In this language, you can’t chit-chat
holding a highball in your hand, can’t
even be polite. Once the sentence starts its course,
all your grief and failure come clear at last.
Old inflections move from case to case,
gender to gender, softening consonants, darkening
vowels, till they sound like the sea moving
icebergs back and forth in its mouth.
- Bill Holm
After years of marriage, he stands at the foot of the bed and
tells his wife that she will never know him, that for everything
he says there is more that he does not say, that behind each
word he utters there is another word, and hundreds more be-
hind that one. All those unsaid words, he says, contain his true
self, which has been betrayed by the superficial self before her.
“So you see,” he says, kicking off his slippers, “I am more than
what I have led you to believe I am.” “Oh, you silly man,” says
his wife, “of course you are. I find that just thinking of you
having so many selves receding into nothingness is very excit-
ing. That you barely exist as you are couldn’t please me more.”