Sunday, December 30, 2012

Love Song for Love Songs

By Rafael Campo

A golden age of love songs and we still
can't get it right. Does your kiss really taste
like butter cream? To me, the moon's bright face
was neither like a pizza pie nor full;
the Beguine began, but my eyelid twitched.
"No more I love you's," someone else assured
us, pouring out her heart, in love (of course)—
what bothers me the most is that high-pitched,
undone whine of "Why am I so alone?"
Such rueful misery is closer to
the truth, but once you turn the lamp down low,
you must admit that he is still the one,
and baby, baby he makes you so dumb
you sing in the shower at the top of your lungs.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Worship Service

By Kigen Dogen

In a snowfall
    that obscures the winter grasses
a white heron -
using his own form
    to hide himself away.

Translated by Steven Carter

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


By Luanne Castle

When I glance up at the malignant spider
against the bone white wall above the couch,
I ought not to startle
like a horse.  Look what happens to them.
But I do.
My right foot in its last painless moment
strikes the carpet, a conductor’s baton
slicing the first shrieking note of agony out of the air.

So fitting that this all starts in April—
the month of shoot-outs and bombings
and beginnings like spring.

The foot specialist, Dr. B, has student doctors
read my x-ray and examine
the foot of this unstable woman
exaggerating the discomfort
(I can just imagine them conferring about me,
their impressions formed by him)
of plantar fasciitis,
the most common cause of heel pain.
But it’s not my heel.
Exercise it five times a day, you lazy cow.
Dr. B never touches my foot.

The year my foot changes my life
is visited by three seasons
in fourteen months.
A year sounds tidier, kinder,
like it might be over and done with.

The first season is called Inferno; it’s known as
what the hell happened?

In three months
I receive another appointment with Dr. B. 
His PA meets me in my wheelchair.
I’m carrying a symphony in my body,
I tell her.  She looks away.
Woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings
all play their own melodies, each message
more terrifying than the others.
Marshal, a strong man, begs her to ask the doctor
to see my wife for just one minute.
She leaves and comes back to say he will not.

In the fifth month
by accident
I go to the emergency room
of a hospital used to unusual cases.
I learn that the foot is a fan
and must be unfurled for an x-ray.
The intern, so young, holds the small bones spread
with his unshielded hands
and there it is:  the tumor which has partaken of
the meat and lives now in the eggshell of the central bone.

We can find no report in any medical journal of a tumor in this particular bone.

The biopsy handled by a different young doctor
goes bad, the needle inserted in the wrong part of the foot, and the nurse
weeps when she tells my husband how I clung
to her, how we were suctioned by each other’s sweat,
with pain shattering glass planets.

We have a recommendation for a surgeon,
and he is far away from us.
How do they stay in business
if they don’t want customers?
They dismiss me into my wheelchair
and we drive from Minnesota to Santa Monica.
Out of seventeen restrooms, only one has handicap access.
My foot is booted in steel and leather for protection,
secured in the footrest of the wheelchair
and between cushions in the car.

The last mist of summer settles over Santa Monica
at the end of the continent.
Over the gray beach, the gray water,
the empty pier.

My surgeon, I like calling Dr. Eckhart that.
My surgeon sculpts in expensive materials,
ceramics, polymers, cadaver fibula,
but the one he prizes is my own iliac crest,
although the pain might be worse than the main surgery site.

Season two, Purgatorio,
is the long sleep
of the anesthesia, the pain meds, the foot resting in one
cast after another,
and me tethered to the hospital bed in my living room
like a scraggly debarked dog
who has given up and falls asleep at the end of the chain.

I wonder how many people have died
in this bed, I say,
and Marshal turns away.
Three—no, four--months of sleep
broken only by meds, light meals, bathroom statistics,
and daily physical therapy visits spent
sitting on the edge of the bed with turquoise light weights
until Anne-Marie the over-qualified PT
is the only person in the magic circle around me.

I don’t feel the site of the harvesting
through the cacophony of the foot.

Every month we drive to Santa Monica,
my legs out and propped amidst a flurry
of pillows where Dr. Eckhart examines
x-rays and CT scans of my foot and lungs,
hugs my arch with both his big hands.
He sends me to an orthotics builder, a pulmonologist,
a pain management clinic.
He jokes with me, but not too much.
I say, How long do I need to keep coming here?
For the rest of your life.

Paradiso is not the third season.
Or maybe I’m just ungrateful.
Maybe heaven is all relative, like the Yiddish folktale
where the rabbi has the man load up his house
with animals who sound like bad relatives
only to turn them outside so his cottage
feels spacious and comfortable.

I am out of the hospital bed and send it back
to the medical supply house for someone else.
Marshal takes the wheelchair
to storage
in case the tumor comes back.
I walk carefully in built-up New Balance shoes the way Anne-Marie
shows me, heels first, rolling through the foot.

I try to follow my feet: the left goes in front
and then the right. 
I am not allowed to run,
even to catch the bus or escape a ferocious dog,
or dance to “Doctor Beat” in a spandex unitard.
When can I run, I ask.
Dr. Eckhart says, Never.
I can’t blame him.
He’s an artist.
I am the museum of his masterpiece.

Now, mated to its New Balance,
my foot lets me walk as I need.
Only occasionally does the oboe inside
sound the concert A note,
prompt a tuning against my will.
I continue to visit Santa Monica every season.
Occasionally there is no mist,
and the beach glints under the sun rays.

Luanne Castle received an MFA from Western Michigan University and a PhD from the University of California, Riverside.  She taught at California State University, San Bernardino before moving to Arizona, where she now lives with a herd of javelina.  Her poems have been published in Redheaded Stepchild, Visions, Front Range, The Black Boot, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and others.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Word on Statistics

By Wislawa Szymborska

Out of every hundred people,
those who always know better:
Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.
Ready to help,
if it doesn't take long:
Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four -- well, maybe five.
Able to admire without envy:
Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.
Those not to be messed with:
Living in constant fear
of someone or something:
Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.
Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.
when forced by circumstances:
it's better not to know,
not even approximately.
Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.
Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).
Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.
Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.
But if it takes effort to understand:
Worthy of empathy:
one hundred out of one hundred --
a figure that has never varied yet.

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christ Came Down

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
and German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I’ve Been Known

to spread it on thick to shoot off my mouth to get it off my chest
          to tell him where
          to get off
to stay put to face the music to cut a shine to go under to sell
          myself short to play
          myself down
to paint the town to fork over to shell out to shoot up to pull a
          fast one to go haywire
          to take a shine to
to be stuck on to glam it up to vamp it up to get her one better to
          eat a little higher
          on the hog
to win out to get away with to go to the spot to make a stake to
          make a stand to
          stand for something to stand up for
to snow under to slip up to go for it to take a stab at it to try out
          to go places to play
          up to get back at
to size up to stand off to slop over to be solid with to lose my
          shirt to get myself off
          to get myself off the hook.

By Denise Duhamel 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Keeping Quiet

By Lisa Steinman

I've never heard a snow-free
night so still. Are you there, ears?
There are not even crickets -- no frogs --

trafficking with darkness.
No one's going
anywhere, but
nothing stays put.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Light the Festive Candles

By Alicia Lucia Fisher

Light the first of eight tonight—
the farthest candle to the right.
Light the first and second, too,
when tomorrow's day is through.
Then light three, and then light four—
every dusk one candle more
Till all eight burn bright and high,
honoring a day gone by
When the Temple was restored,
rescued from the Syrian lord,
And an eight-day feast proclaimed—
The Festival of Lights—well named
To celebrate the joyous day
when we regained the right to pray
to our one God in our own way.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Hate Telling People I Teach English

By Wendy Barker

Like last August, after they’d finished my bone scan,
          this combed-over mid-sixties guy starts chatting about the novel
he’s written in his head, he only needs someone like me
          to work it up, he never liked punctuation, parts of speech, all that junk
from junior high, and I couldn’t get my print-out fast enough
          to take to my GP, who likes to quote from his inspirational speeches
to local luncheon clubs. He’s determined to collect them
          in a book, though he’d need a good editor, do I know any, and meanwhile
I’ve been waiting fifty-seven minutes for help with recharging
          my sluggish thyroid, and I haven’t met any doctors who like giving
free advice about your daughter’s milk allergy or your friend’s
          migraines or the thumb you slammed in the stairwell door, splitting it
open so badly your students interrupted your lecture on
          pronoun agreement to note you were dripping blood from your hand
and wow, what happened? But it’s mostly at parties I hate
          admitting I teach English. I’ve never been quick enough to fudge,
the way a Methodist minister friend says he’s in “support
          services” so he doesn’t get called to lead grace. I guess I could dub myself
a “communications facilitator,” but since I’m in the business
          of trying to obviate obfuscation, I own up, though I dread what I know
is coming: Oh, they say, I hated English, all that grammar,
          you won’t like the way I talk, you’ll be correcting me, and suddenly
they need another Bud or merlot or they’ve got to check out
          the meatballs or guacamole over on the table and I’m left facing
blank space, no one who can even think about correcting
          my dangling participles. Once when the computer guy was at the house,
bent over my laptop trying to get us back online,
          he asked what it was I wrote, and when I told him “poetry,” said, “Ah—
fluffy stuff,” and I wasn’t sure whether he was kidding
          or not, but I figured at least it was better than his saying he hated poetry
or that he had a manuscript right outside in his Camry and
          could I take a look, no hurry, but he knew it would sell, could I tell him
how to get an agent for his novel about his uncle
          moving to Arizona and running a thriving ostrich farm until the day
hot-air balloons took off a half mile away
          and stampeded the birds, till all he was left with were feathers and bloody tangled
necks on fence posts, the dream of making two million
          from those birds a haunting sentence fragment—but then, I think:
I would never have wanted to miss the time a dentist,
          tapping my molars, asked if I’d like to hear him recite Chaucer’s Prologue
to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, which he did
          while I lay back in his chair, open-mouthed, pierced to the root.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Laughing Heart

By Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Street Corner Savior

By John Grey

I'm impatient with this bedraggled savior.
Here's a quarter. No I don't want the book.
What are you doing in that alley-way.
And when did Jesus ever beg.
Died for sins yes but didn't smell like them.
Okay, I'll repent if that's what it takes
to move away from here.
By the time my foot touches the next
crack in the sidewalk, I'll be a changed man,
Saul on the way to Damascus,
if that's what it takes to have you
bathed, hair combed, chin shaven.
Maybe I should lecture you instead.
Put the book away, the grubby hand
back in your pocket.
If you're going to convert,
you have to look the part.
Smart suit, solemn tie, smarmy grin,
hair parted on the right,
and a telephone number scrolling
across your midriff.
Here's a buck, preacher man,
go get yourself a cable television show.
From that shiny alley-way,
you can save thousands at a time.
Dollars, sinners... you won't know.

John Grey is an Australian born poet, works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Bryant Poetry Review, Tribeca Poetry Review and the horror anthology, “What Fears Become”with work upcoming in Potomac Review, Hurricane Review and Pinyon.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sharks' Teeth

By Kay Ryan

Everything contains some
silence. Noise gets
its zest from the
small shark's-tooth-
shaped fragments
of rest angled
in it. An hour
of city holds maybe
a minute of these
remnants of a time
when silence reigned,
compact and dangerous
as a shark. Sometimes
a bit of a tail
or fin can still
be sensed in parks.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ode to Bicycles

By Pablo Neruda

I was walking
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.

A few bicycles
me by,
the only
that dry
moment of summer,
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
beetle backs
of the whirling
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn't
a translucent insect
through summer
a cold
that will return to
when it's needed,
when it's light,v that is,
of each day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fishing in Winter

By Ralph Burns

A man staring at a small lake sees
His father cast light line out over
The willows. He's forgotten his
Father has been dead for two years
And the lake is where a blue fog
Rolls, and the sky could be, if it
Were black or blue or white,
The backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
Following where the good strikes
Seem to lead. It's cold. The shape
Breath takes on a cold day is like
Anything else--a rise on a small lake,
The Oklahoma hills, blue scrub--
A shape already inside a shape,
Two songs, two breaths on the water.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


By Ruth Stone

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, "No pets! No pets!"
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it's like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Man Who Never Heard of Frank Sinatra

By Aaron Fogel

The man who had never heard of Frank Sinatra: he lived
A perfectly ordinary life in America. Born in 1915,
He followed all the fads, read the newspapers, listened

To Television, knew who Dean Martin and Sammy whathisname
Were (Sinatra's friends), but somehow, by a one in a
Zillion fluke, whenever Sinatra came up, he was out of the room.

Or his attention was diverted by something else, and
(You will say this is impossible, that it cannot be), never
Heard him sing, like a man in my generation who somehow

Missed the Beatles though he had heard everything else.
Once, just as he was about to hear the name Frank Sinatra
A plane flew overhead--he was fifty-five years old--his hearing

A little more impaired. He had heard of Humphrey Bogart,
Of Elizabeth Taylor, of Walter Cronkite, and of perhaps a hundred
Forty thousand other celebrities names by the time he died,

And yet he had never heard of Frank Sinatra. The Greeks had
That famous saying, "The luckiest man is he who was never born."
Which is kind of gloomy, but I think they were wrong.

The luckiest man is he who never heard of Frank Sinatra

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

June 4th Elegies

By Liu Xiaobo

Remember those black-haired dead souls
who hold up the white-haired mothers
If my feet are chained, I'll use my ten fingers to climb to you
If my hands are tied, I'll use my knees and chin to climb to you
If my legs are smashed, I'll use my broken bones to support you
If my throat's strangled, I'll use my stifled breath to call you
If my mouth's muzzled, I'll use the tip of my nose to kiss you
If my teeth are knocked out, I'll use my toothless mouth to nip you
If my hair's torn out, I'll use my bald head to nudge you
If my eyes are plucked out, I'll use my eye sockets to stare at you
If my body's eaten away, I'll use my scent to embrace you
If my heart's crushed, I'll use my nerves to remember you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Pear

By Jane Kenyon

There is a moment in middle age
when you grow bored, angered
by your middling mind, afraid.
That day the sun
burns hot and bright,
making you more desolate.
It happens subtly, as when a pear
spoils from the inside out,
and you may not be aware
until things have gone too far.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Family Stories

By Dorianne Laux

I had a boyfriend who told me stories about his family,
how an argument once ended when his father
seized a lit birthday cake in both hands
and hurled it out a second-story window. That,
I thought, was what a normal family was like: anger
sent out across the sill, landing like a gift
to decorate the sidewalk below. In mine
it was fists and direct hits to the solar plexus,
and nobody ever forgave anyone. But I believed
the people in his stories really loved one another,
even when they yelled and shoved their feet
through cabinet doors, or held a chair like a bottle
of cheap champagne, christening the wall,
rungs exploding from their holes.
I said it sounded harmless, the pomp and fury
of the passionate. He said it was a curse
being born Italian and Catholic and when he
looked from that window what he saw was the moment
rudely crushed. But all I could see was a gorgeous
three-layer cake gliding like a battered ship
down the sidewalk, the smoking candles broken, sunk
deep in the icing, a few still burning.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Thanksgivings

Translated by Harriet Maxwell Converse from a traditional Iroquois prayer

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be  
          living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us  
         light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged  
         to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Advice to Myself

By Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adelaide Crapsey

By Carl Sandburg

Among the bumble-bees in red-top hay, a freckled field of brown-eyed Susans dripping
yellow leaves in July,
I read your heart in a book. 

And your mouth of blue pansy—I know somewhere I have seen it rain-shattered.

And I have seen a woman with her head flung between her naked knees, and her head held
there listening to the sea, the great naked sea shouldering a load of salt.

And the blue pansy mouth sang to the sea:
Mother of God, I’m so little a thing,
Let me sing longer,
Only a little longer.

And the sea shouldered its salt in long gray combers hauling new shapes on the beach sand.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


By Adelaide Crapsey

I know
Not these my hands
And yet I think there was
A woman like me once had hands
Like these.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Winter Again

By Ce Rosenow

Grey clouds & snowfall
frozen streams
sun setting over Elliot Bay -
traveling together
warm breath
percussion music
hotels -
our final hand-clasp
& kiss farewell
so close to you
when the ice gave way

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Failing and Flying

By Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New York Notes

By Harvey Shapiro

1. Caught on a side street in heavy traffic, I said to the cabbie, I should have walked. He replied, I should have been a doctor. 2. When can I get on the 11:33 I ask the guy in the information booth at the Atlantic Avenue Station. When they open the doors, he says. I am home among my people.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Selecting Precedents

By Guy Kettelhack

Maybe there are small and intimate
and subtle aspects to electing presidents,
but finding them would be like searching
in the sea for a pellucid jellyfish in midst
of a tsunami: all conspires to crush
the singular: nothing, now, conduces to

the sole and vulnerable breath. However,
little in what’s happening today, tomorrow
or the next day has much chance
of changing what I see: a graceful brace
of branches with an army of attendant
yellow leaves beyond the sashes, frames

and shutters of my outer sight – which
seamlessly connects to secret windows
that afford my mind its inner light. Each
fractal surface of each fragile leaf portends
a geometric destiny: symmetrical
exactitudes of reaching out and falling in

which leave me vulnerably breathless
and as full of rich unknowing as we all
are now, and as we will be when we
know what we will know tonight.
I wonder if selecting precedents has any
lasting power to give joy or sorrow flight.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Exquisite Candidate

By Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton

I can promise you this: food in the White House
will change! No more granola, only fried eggs
flipped the way we like them. And ham ham ham!
Americans need ham! Nothing airy like debate for me!
Pigs will become the new symbol of glee,
displacing smiley faces and "Have A Nice Day."
Car bumpers are my billboards, billboards my movie screens.
Nothing I can say can be used against me.
My life flashes in front of my face daily.
Here's a snapshot of me as a baby. Then
marrying. My kids drink all their milk which helps the dairy industry.
A vote for me is not only a pat on the back for America!
A vote for me, my fellow Americans, is a vote for everyone like me!
If I were the type who made promises
I'd probably begin by saying: America,
relax! Buy big cars and tease your hair
as high as the Empire State Building.
Inch by inch, we're buying the world's sorrow.
Yeah, the world's sorrow, that's it!
The other side will have a lot to say about pork
but don't believe it! Their graphs are sloppy coloring books.
We're just fine—look at the way
everyone wants to speak English and live here!
Whatever you think of borders,
I am the only candidate to canoe over Niagara Falls
and live to photograph the Canadian side.
I'm the only Julliard graduate—
I will exhale beauty all across this great land
of pork rinds and gas stations and scientists working for cures,
of satellite dishes over Sparky's Bar & Grill, the ease
of breakfast in the mornings, quiet peace of sleep at night.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Veronika Prepares to Move to Nebraska

By Mitch Grabois

Veronika, a Soviet poster girl, enters
a beatnik bar
Out in the San Francisco street
car tires in traffic cut cd’s of
chanting Benedictine monks

The bartender reaches under the counter and hands Veronika
false documents
You don’t need these, you know, he says

Though there are no other customers in the bar to witness
she slaps him across the face
I can still beat you up, she says, in a Russian accent
just like when we were kids

Mitch Grabois’ poetry and short fiction has appeared in over seventy literary magazines, most recently The Examined Life, Memoir Journal, and Haggard and Halloo. His novel, Two-Headed Dog was published in April by Dirt e-books, founded by NY agent Gary Heidt. He was born in the Bronx and now lives in Denver.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reasons to Survive November

By Tony Hoagland

November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Pumpkin Tide

By Richard Brautigan

I saw thousands of pumpkins last night
come floating in on the tide,
bumping up against the rocks and
rolling up on the beaches;
it must be Halloween in the sea.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Search Party

By W.S. Merwin

By now I know most of the faces
that will appear beside me as
long as there are still images
I know at last what I would choose
the next time if there ever was
a time again I know the days
that open in the dark like this
I do not know where Maoli is

I know the summer surfaces
of bodies and the tips of voices
like stars out of their distances
and where the music turns to noise
I know the bargains in the news
rules whole languages formulas
wisdom that I will never use
I do not know where Maoli is

I know whatever one may lose
somebody will be there who says
what it will be all right to miss
and what is verging on excess
I know the shadows of the house
routes that lead out to no traces
many of his empty places
I do not know where Maoli is

You that see now with your own eyes
all that there is as you suppose
though I could stare through broken glass
and show you where the morning goes
though I could follow to their close
the sparks of an exploding species
and see where the world ends in ice
I would not know where Maoli is

Monday, October 29, 2012


By Nicole Cooley

Marshy spillover is first to flood: where water
first met sand and pilings lost all anchor.

Where nothing rose above the surge, that wall
of black, black water. Where houses buckled, crumbled.

Where the storm's uneven scrawl erased.
While miles away I watched a map of TV weather,

the eyewall spinning closer. A coil of white, an X-ray.
I imagined my parents' house swept to its stone slab.

While I remembered sixth grade science, how we traced the city
like a body, arterials draining in the wrong direction.

We shaded blue the channel called MR GO that pours
from the River to the Gulf, trench the storm water swallowed.

The levees overfilled, broke open. And I came home to see
the city grieving. The city drained then hacked apart

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Problems with Hurricanes

By Victor Hernández Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it's not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I'll tell you he said:
it's the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water
Don't worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Loudest Sound I Ever Heard

By Shelby Wilson

Her silence was the loudest sound I ever heard
Gaps in the space where nothing moved or changed
Non-existent facial expressions in a crucial moment
Left me in limbo
Unable to speak to fill the silence
I allowed it to linger like coffee stains on a wooden table
Looking in her eyes for a signal
An indication that it was safe to communicate
Her silence holding my words hostage
My voice on pause, my thoughts spinning out of control
Waiting for her to move or utter a word
Nothing, not a single response
Her body frozen in time
Leaving me longing to hear even a breath
Wanting her to hold my hand, giving me permission to relax
Instead the stillness left me internally screaming
Anxious and scared like a child looking for parental approval
How could her silence hold so much power?
It was more than just the silence that frightened me
Wishing for some form of awareness that she heard
An acknowledgement that my words penetrated her ears
Yet the silence stings my soul
Inadequacy and unworthiness come to my frontal lobe
As I try to comprehend this emotional affliction,
I feel to the emptiness
It was in that moment, I realized we had been filling the spaces
Ignoring the stillness, expecting the awkwardness to pass
Using sound and movement to carry our feelings and emotions.
Now aware, how do we fully express Devoid of physical contact
Her silence said so much without ever uttering a single word
It was the loudest sound I ever heard
Just before she shattered my heart.

Shelby Wilson is a performance poet and writer who has facilitated poetry workshops for YWCA and women-empowered seminars for Black Feather Poets. Shelby has self-published a book entitled Broken Wings and a chapbook entitled Serenity.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


By Sonia Sanchez

(after the spanish)

forgive me if i laugh
you are so sure of love
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

the rain exploding
in the air is love
the grass excreting her
green wax is love
and stones remembering
past steps is love,
but you. you are too young
for love
and i too old.

once. what does it matter
when or who, i knew
of love.
i fixed my body
under his and went
to sleep in love
all trace of me
was wiped away

forgive me if i smile
young heiress of a naked dream
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border

By William Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed — or were killed — on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Place Where We Are Right

By Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Ross Perot Guide to Answering Embarrassing Questions

By Calvin Trillin

When something in my history is found
Which contradicts the views that I propound,
Or shows that I am surely hardly who
I claim to be, here's what I usually do:

I lie
I simply, baldly falsify.
I look the fellow in the eye,
And cross my heart and hope to die -
And lie.

I don t apologize. Not me. Instead,
I say I never said the things I said
Nor did the things that people saw me do.
Confronted with some things they know are true,

I lie.
I offer them no alibi,
Nor say, "You oversimplify."
I just deny, deny, deny.
I lie.

I hate the weasel words some slickies use
To blur their pasts or muddy up their views.
Not me. I'm blunt. One thing that makes me great
Is that I'll never dodge nor obfuscate.

I'll lie.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Mitt Romney-O

By Ralph Maxwell

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou, Mitt Romney?
You flip-flop here, you flip-flop there,
You flip-flop almost ev'rywhere.

You ballyhoo what you're gonna do
And then you pull a switcheroo;
You now malign what you once found fine;
Seems like you've got a jellyfish spine.

Obamacare, by you begun,
Now you'd trash it on day one.
Gun control you did extol,
But now you're preaching decontrol.

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou, Mitt Romney?
We've got no clue what you will do
Or what new view you'll pander to.

Time was you championed women's choice,
But you no longer heed their voice;
On gay rights, too, guess you withdrew
Support they once enjoyed from you.

Global warming, EPA,
Immigration, minimum pay,
Roe V. Wade, also fair trade,
All joined your flip-flop cavalcade.

O, Romney-O, Romney-O
Wherefore art thou, Mitt Romney?
So many things that you were for
You've turned against and slammed the door.

Stimulus and cap and trade,
Education, foreign aid,
Campaign reform, tarp rescues, too,
All victims of your switcheroo.

You take your stand on shifting sand,
We never know where you will land;
You vacillate, you fabricate,
A wishy-washy candidate.

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou Mitt Romney?
As gov'nor you let taxes rise,
Now ev'ry tax you demonize.

You say regardless of the facts
You'd take an axe to millionaire's tax;
You'd feed the greed of the richest few
The poor and middle class you'd screw.

Your tax returns you hide from view
What evil there lurks we've no clue;
If they're not bad why hesitate?
Or is it they incriminate?

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou Mitt Romney?
At Bain you plundered with a flair
And walked away a zillionaire.

You shipped off-shore, good jobs galore
To China, India, Singapore;
A job creator you are not
And to boast you are is tommyrot.

As a total fraud, Mitt's got no peer
What we should do is crystal clear:
Let's give Obama four more years!
Yes, it's Obama -- four more years!

Ralph Maxwell is a 92 year old veteran who was assisted in posting this poem via Youtube.  Check it out. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012


By Kay Ryan

We turn out
as tippy as
eggs.  Legs
are an illusion.
We are held
as in a carton
if someone
loves us.
It's a pity
only loss
proves this.

Previously published in The NewYorker, Aug 6, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Call to Prayer

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

In a city hillocked and covered
with cherry blossoms
this time of the year
the runner
carrying the message of war
has reached

bales of cotton

Caravans bringing sugar and rice

The elders in their white gowns
have been moved
from their perch in the mosque

A cloud of quiet departs

The women are busying themselves
with salves
with feeding the horses that will carry
their men

The next call for prayer
will be made in full armor

Arrows threading the men’s bodies
will be removed during prayer

Previously published in Contemporary World Poetry Journal, Spring 2011

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mitt Doesn't Think That Nearly Half the People In This Country Are Moochers After All

By Calvin Trillin

He was, he says, completely wrong;
To care for everyone is vital.
He’s singing now a different song,
And “Etch A Sketch” is that song’s title.

Previously published in The Nation, 10/29/12

Sunday, October 14, 2012

God's World

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me, let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call

Friday, October 12, 2012


By Andrea Gibson

i often repeat myself
and the second time's a lie
i love you
i love you
see what i mean i don't
...and i do
and i'm not talking about a girl i might be kissing on
i'm talking about this world i'm blissing on
and hating
at the exact same time
see life---doesn't rhyme
it's bullets...and wind chimes
it's lynchings...and birthday parties
it's the rope that ties the noose
and the rope that hangs the backyard swing
it's a boy about to take his life
and with the knife to his wrist
he's thinking of only two things
his father's fist
and his mother's kiss
and he can't stop crying
it's wanting tonight to speak
the most honest poem i've ever spoken in my life
not knowing if that poem should bring you closer
to living or dying
drowning of flying
cause life doesn't rhyme
last night i prayed myself to sleep
woke this morning
to find god's obituary scrolled in tears on my sheets
then walked outside to hear my neighbor
erasing ten thousand years of hard labor
with a single note of his violin
and the sound of the traffic rang like a hymn
as the holiest leaf of autumn fell from a plastic tree limb
beautiful ---and ugly
like right now
i'm needing nothing more than for you to hug me
and if you do
i'm gonna scream like a caged bird doesn't rhyme
sometimes love is a vulgar word
sometimes hate calls itself peace on the nightly news
i've heard saints preaching truths
that would have burned me at the stake
i've heard poets tellin lies that made me believe in heaven
sometimes i imagine hitler at seven years old
a paint brush in his hand at school
thinkin what color should i paint my soul
sometimes i remember myself
with track marks on my tongue
from shooting up convictions
that would have hung innocent men from trees
have you ever seen a mother falling to her knees
the day her son dies in a war she voted for
can you imagine how many gay teen-age lives were saved
the day matthew shepherd died
could there have been anything louder
than the noise inside his father's head
when he begged the jury
please don't take the lives of the men
who turned my son's skull to powder
and i know nothing would make my family prouder
than giving up everything i believe in
still nothing keeps me believing
like the sound of my mother breathing
life doesn't rhyme
it's tasting your rapist's breath
on the neck of a woman who loves you more
than anyone has loved you before
then feeling holy as jesus
beneath the hands of a one night stand
who's calling somebody else's name
it's you never feelin more greedy
than when you're handing out dollars to the needy
it's my not eating meat for the last seven years
then seeing the kindest eyes i've ever seen in my life
on the face of a man with a branding iron in his hand
and a beat down baby calf wailing at his feet
it's choking on your beliefs
it's your worst sin saving your fucking life
it's the devil's knife carving holes into you soul
so angels will have a place to make their way inside
life doesn't rhyme
still life is poetry --- not math
all the world's a stage
but the stage is a meditation mat
you tilt your head back
you breathe
when your heart is broken you plant seeds in the cracks
and you pray for rain
and you teach your sons and daughters
there are sharks in the water
but the only way to survive
is to breathe deep
and dive

For an audio recording of this poem go to:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Blood of Others

By Gioconda Belli

I read the poems of the dead.
I survived.
I lived to laugh and cry
and I shouted Patria Libre o Morir!
from the back of a truck
the day we enter Managua.

I read the poems of the dead,
watching the ants in the grass,
my bare feet,
your straight hair,
your back arched at the meeting.

I read the poems of the dead
Does the blood in our bodies that lets us love each other
belong to us?

Translated by Steven F. White

La sangre de otros

Leo los poemas del los muertos
yo que estoy viva
yo que vivi para reirme y llorar
y gritar Patria Libre o Morir
sobre un camion
el dia que llegamos a Managua.

Leo lose poemas de los muertos,
veo las hormigas sobre la grima,
mis pies descalzos,
tu pelo lacio,
espalda encorvada sobre la reunion.

Leo los poemas de los muertos
y siento que esta sangre con que nos amamos,
no nos pertence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems

By Yusef Komunyakaa

Was he looking for St. Lucia's light
to touch his face those first days
in the official November snow & sleet
falling on the granite pose of Lincoln?

If he were searching for property lines
drawn in the blood, or for a hint
of resolve crisscrossing a border,
maybe he'd find clues in the taste of breadfruit.

I could see him stopped there squinting
in crooked light, the haze of Wall Street
touching clouds of double consciousness,
an eye etched into a sign borrowed from Egypt.

If he's looking for tips on basketball,
how to rise up & guard the hoop,
he may glean a few theories about war
but they aren't in The Star-Apple Kingdom.

If he wants to finally master himself,
searching for clues to govern seagulls
in salty air, he'll find henchmen busy with locks
& chains in a ghost schooner's nocturnal calm.

He's reading someone who won't speak
of milk & honey, but of looking ahead
beyond pillars of salt raised in a dream
where fat bulbs split open the earth.

The spine of the manifest was broken,
leaking deeds, songs & testaments.
Justice stood in the shoes of mercy,
& doubt was bandaged up & put to bed.

Now, he looks as if he wants to eat words,
their sweet, intoxicating flavor. Banana leaf
& animal, being & nonbeing. In fact,
craving wisdom, he bites into memory.

The President of the United States of America
thumbs the pages slowly, moving from reverie
to reverie, learning why one envies the octopus
for its ink, how a man's skin becomes the final page.