Friday, April 29, 2011

In a Beautiful Country

By Kevin Prufer

A good way to fall in love
is to turn off the headlights
and drive very fast down dark roads.

Another way to fall in love
is to say they are only mints
and swallow them with a strong drink.

Then it is autumn in the body.
Your hands are cold.
Then it is winter and we are still at war.

The gold-haired girl is singing into your ear
about how we live in a beautiful country.
Snow sifts from the clouds

into your drink. It doesn't matter about the war.
A good way to fall in love
is to close up the garage and turn the engine on,

then down you'll fall through lovely mists
as a body might fall early one morning
from a high window into love. Love,

the broken glass. Love, the scissors
and the water basin. A good way to fall
is with a rope to catch you.

A good way is with something to drink
to help you march forward.
The gold-haired girl says, Don't worry

about the armies, says, We live in a time
full of love. You're thinking about this too much.
Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Thief

By Dorianne Laux

What is it when your man sits on the floor
in sweatpants, his latest project
set out in front of him like a small world, maps
and photographs, diagrams and plans, everything
he hopes to build, invent or create,
and you believe in him as you always have,
even after the failures, even more now
as you set your coffee down
and move toward him to where he sits
oblivious of you, concentrating
in a square of sun -
you step over the rulers and blue graph-paper
to squat behind him, and he barely notices,
though you're still in your robe
which falls open a little as you reach
around his chest, feel for the pink
wheel of each nipple, the slow beat
of his heart, your ear pressed to his back
to listen - and you are torn,
not wanting to interrupt his work
but unable to keep your fingers
from dipping into the ditch in his pants,
torn again with tenderness
for the way his flesh grows unwillingly
toward your curved palm, toward the light,
as if you had planted it, this sweet root,
your mouth already an echo if its shape -
you slip your tongue into his ear
and he hears you, calling him away
from his work, the angled lines of his thoughts,
into the shapeless place you are bound
to take him, over bridges of bone, beyond
borders of skin, climbing over him
into the world of the body, its labyrinth
of ladders and stairs - and you love him
like the first time you loved him,
with equal measures of expectancy
and fear and awe, taking him with you
into the soft geometry of the flesh, the earth
before its sidewalks and cities,
its glistening spires,
stealing him back from the world he loves
into this other world he cannot build without you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

may i feel said he

By e.e. cummings

may i feel said he
(i'll squeal said she
just once said he)
it's fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let's go said he
not too far said she
what's too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you're willing said he
(but you're killing said she

but it's life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don't stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you're divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Our Doughboys Aren’t Rising Today

By Eve Lyons

The last surviving
World War One vet
died in West Virginia today.
Corporal Frank Buckles was
one hundred and ten years old.
Born in 1901, he lived long enough
to see two centuries,
two world wars,
two police actions,
two more undeclared
illegal wars.
Have we learned our lesson yet?
What was the lesson we were learning?

The last surviving
World War One vet
died in West Virginia today.
Today, we have no draft.
Today, our wars are fought by paid militia,
the battle scars are kept
off our television screen,
out of newspapers.
Yet still soldiers keep on fighting,
poor people still sign up to battle,
since it’s the one way they can get
health insurance and go to college.

We’ve learned war is good for business,
bad for public relations.

Frank Buckles was born by lantern light in Missouri,
Dropped out of school at sixteen,
Lied and snuck his way into the army
Only to outlive all the other doughboys.

The doughboys fought when war meant something
even if what it meant made no sense.
War is just another business venture
lining the pockets of corporations,
making citizens into indentured servants.

This isn’t what anybody dies for.

First published in protestpoems in April of 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Brief Famine

By Ben Nardolilli

No harvest this year, the shade and water
Have turned the stalks to brown
And made the leaves drop off early,
No fruits have shown up and fallen,
The squirrels and other mammals
Have given me no trouble over this patch,
I have only grown a home for flies,
Beetles, and spiders to crawl through,
Nothing of my mother’s luck remains
Though she once reserved all her violence
For a trowel, hoe, and small shovel
To tear through this clay choked ground.

Ben Nardolilli is a twenty five year old writer currently living in Montclair, New Jersey. His work has appeared in the Houston Literary Review, Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, One Ghana One Voice, Baker’s Dozen, Thieves Jargon, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, Poems Niederngasse, Gold Dust, Scythe, Anemone Sidecar, The Delmarva Review, Contemporary American Voices, SoMa Literary Review, Gloom Cupboard, Shakespeare’s Monkey Revue, Black Words on White Paper, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. He maintains a blog and is looking to publish his first novel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Miriam Talks Back

By Bonnie Lyons

Against men
I have only the usual
womanly rage. Even in
their accounts I am
a prophetess, but where
are my prophecies recorded?
I am silenced and erased,
invisible and unheard.

But my argument is with you
who spoke to Moses mouth to mouth.
After you parted the Red Sea,
who took timbrel in hand,
led all the women in music and dance?
Who sang “Sing ye to the Lord,
for he hath triumphed gloriously”
to celebrate how you threw
Pharoah’s chariots into the sea?
You who love songs and again
and again commanded us to sing,
who cannot have forgotten –
have forgotten.

When Aaron and I spoke
against Moses’ marriage
to that Ethiopian woman
and said you spoke through us
as well as through him,
we believed we spoke the truth.
We felt infused with your spirit.

But you heard only pride
and struck me – only me –
white as snowy death
with leprosy. And when
Moses cried “Heal her now,”
Instead you ordered him to shut
me out of camp for seven days.

Leprosy and exile killed my young self;
seven days, all alone, I mourned her.
That’s when I became the prophetess
to women.

God of Miriam as well as Moses,
I will never stop disputing you,
wrestling with you until
like Jacob’s angel
you bless me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Final Tanka

By Tricia Schwennesen

Autumn leaves hang stagnant
gold leaves now brown and brittle
lie dead in the street gutters
the mind continues to grow
while the heart lays dormant.

Tricia Schwennesen is the editor of Conexión, a bilingual weekly publication of the San Antonio Express-News. She is the board chairwoman for the non-profit Martinez Street Women's Center and The Media Justice League. She lives in San Antonio and is a graduate of the University of Oregon. She had several small parts in the skits of the 2009 Gridiron sponsored by the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Her Garden

By Eve Lyons

She comes to me
so anxious she is
unable to finish her sentences
scared by the official looking letters
she cannot read
from the IRS, Social Security,
lawyers, Mass Health. She is not
stupid. Thanks to NPR
she is better informed
about the world
than most Americans.
She makes less
than seven thousand
a year and works a little
on the side
even though her body
cannot really take the work
she does, and she
is too ashamed
to let her children know
she cannot read
too proud
to seek help. She would rather
muddle along
in her perpetual confusion
and fear
than admit what
many have already figured out.
This world is not friendly
for those
who will never know
this poem.
“A book is like a garden
carried in the pocket,”
or so the Chinese proverb goes
but her pocket
is already full
and her garden is full of weeds
which don’t need watering.

Previously published in Contemporary World Poetry Journal, Spring 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Seven Of Pentacles

By Marge Piercy

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

After the Movie

By Marie Howe

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that's not love. That's attachment.
Michael says, No, that's love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you're forced to think "it's him or me"
think "me" and kill him.

I say, Then it's not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the
murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We're walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say
to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at
someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to
live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can't drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I've just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he's saying is "You are too strict. You are
a nun."

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things
of me even if he's not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Things

By Donald Hall

When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I've cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial—a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother's rocker,
a dead dog's toy—valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother's souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How is your heart?

By Charles Bukowski

during my worst times
on the park benches
in the jails
or living with
I always had this certain
I wouldn’t call it
it was more of an inner
that settled for
whatever was occurring
and it helped in the
and when relationships
went wrong
with the
it helped
through the
wars and the
the backalley fights
to awaken in a cheap room
in a strange city and
pull up the shade-
this was the craziest kind of

and to walk across the floor
to an old dresser with a
cracked mirror-
see myself, ugly,
grinning at it all.
what matters most is
how well you
walk through the

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Voyage

By Martin Rosner

I am overboard in open sea,
My empty little boat, serenely
Sailing out of sight, towards
Prospects I will never see.
Somehow I seem to understand
That all the years I thought
I was on land were really
On the sea, in an empty
Little boat, that was only
Lent to me.
It was mine for a time,
Though how that came to be
I do not know, and where
It’s going I will never be.
So now I float and wait
And look from sky to sea,
Waiting to awaken from the dream
Or sink back to sleep
To the depths that I call me.

Martin Rosner, M.D. has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including 17 poems in "The New York Times" and is currently part of the course in modern poetry at American International College. He lives in New Jersey.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


With a bit of madness in me,
Which is poetry,
I plod along like Chikusai
Among the wails of the wind.

Sleeping on a grass pillow
I hear now and then
The nocturnal bark of a dog
In the passing rain.

Friday, April 8, 2011


By Raymond Carver

Left off the hill and
down the hill. At the
bottom, hang another left.
Keep bearing left. The road
will make a Y. Left again.
There’s a creek on the left.
Keep going. Just before
the road ends, there’ll be
another road. Take it
and no other. Otherwise,
your life will be ruined
forever. There’s a log house
with a shake roof, on the left.
It’s not that house. It’s
the next house, just over
a rise. The house
where trees are laden with
fruit. Where phlox, forsythia,
and marigold grow. It’s
the house where the woman
stands in the doorway
wearing sun in her hair. The one
who’s been waiting
all this time.
The woman who loves you.
The one who can say,
“What’s kept you?”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Domestic Bliss

By Patrick Califia

A love affair is something to survive.
This is a relationship -
something to keep tidy.

So my love for you reveals itself
In my exceptionally thorough grocery lists
And I know how much you love me when
You scrub out the shower
Two weekends in a row.

I am a romantic janitor,
Performing constant maintenance
on my happiness.

Give me a kiss.
I just took out the trash
And swept the sidewalk.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


By Wislawa Szymborska

I’m a tranquilizer.
I’m effective at home.
I work in the office.
I can take exams
on the witness stand.
I mend broken cups with care.
All you have to do is take me,
let me melt beneath your tongue,
just gulp me
with a glass of water.

I know how to handle misfortune,
how to take bad news.
I can minimize injustice,
lighten up God’s absence,
or pick the widow’s veil that suits your face.
What are you waiting for—
have faith in my chemical compassion.

You’re still a young man/woman.
It’s not too late to learn how to unwind.
Who said
you have to take it on the chin?

Let me have your abyss.
I’ll cushion it with sleep.
You’ll thank me for giving you
four paws to fall on.

Sell me your soul.
There are no other takers.

There is no other devil anymore.

Translated by Stanislaw and Clare Cavanagh

Monday, April 4, 2011


By Gary Beck

Within my mind’s imagining
are worlds of me that I invent.
I forget dreamlike visitations
when songless, selfless wonderings
submit their own realities
as substitutes for desire
confining me, a passenger
on a vessel of delusion.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His poetry has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines, and he has published several chapbooks. A collection of his poetry 'Days of Destruction' was published by Skive Press. Another collection 'Expectations' was published by Rogue Scholars press. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway and toured colleges and outdoor performance venues. He currently lives in New York City.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


By Rainer Maria Rilke

Be patient toward all that is unresolved
in your heart,
and try to love the questions themselves
like locked rooms or
books that are written in a foreign tongue.

The point is to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps you will then gradually,
without noticing it,
live your way some distant day
into the answers.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Same in Blues

By Langston Hughes

I said to my baby,
Baby, take it slow.
I can't, she said, I can't!
I got to go!

There's a certain
amount of traveling
in a dream deferred.

Lulu said to Leonard,
I want a diamond ring.
Leonard said to Lulu,
You won't get a goddamn thing!

A certain
amount of nothing
in a dream deferred.

Daddy, daddy, daddy,
All I want is you.
You can have me baby—
but my lovin' days is through.

A certain
amount of impotence
in a dream deferred.

Three parties
On my party line—
But that third party,
Lord, ain't mine!

There's liable
to be confusion
in a dream deferred.

From river to river,
Uptown and down,
There's liable to be confusion
when a dream gets kicked around.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Morning

By Charles Simic

Enter without knocking, hard-working ant.
I'm just sitting here mulling over
What to do this dark, overcast day?
It was a night of the radio turned down low,
Fitful sleep, vague, troubling dreams.
I woke up lovesick and confused.
I thought I heard Estella in the garden singing
And some bird answering her,
But it was the rain. Dark tree tops swaying
And whispering. "Come to me my desire,"
I said. And she came to me by and by,
Her breath smelling of mint, her tongue
Wetting my cheek, and then she vanished.
Slowly day came, a gray streak of daylight
To bathe my hands and face in.
Hours passed, and then you crawled
Under the door, and stopped before me.
You visit the same tailors the mourners do,
Mr. Ant. I like the silence between us,
The quiet--that holy state even the rain
Knows about. Listen to her begin to fall,
As if with eyes closed,
Muting each drop in her wild-beating heart.