My Desire Has Made Me Radiantly Unspecial

  a spoon among spoons.
When we argue I go out at night

to the eucalyptus grove alone to stew.
That’s dramatic but it’s local.

But if it’s my darkness that matters
then I’ll matter the dark too, the way plants do.

I like the soggy moss, the diaphanous foghorn.
It makes me feel naked

and molecular. Look, here’s what it’s come to:
you are safe and dry somewhere else,

and I’m tired of being a ten-fingered thing, belligerent.
I don’t want to be too Buddhist about it

but when the foliage stirs
I get unhooked from myself, my awful oars.

A naughty vanishing act—
I become many-bellied and inarticulate,

as multifarious as root in the soil.
What is the contour of the living? I exist

and I am burrowed
and I am loving this world, piecemeal—

partly because I have no choice in the matter,
partly because you are in it.

I could become rock and birch-bark,
I could destroy the ego,

but what good would that do? I’m a simple darling.
I enjoy my amenities,

my washing machine, your box of tools.
We’ve filled our house with innumerable goods.

Beyond these bending trees,
my fear is wet-haired and brackish:

I have climbed myself out to the edge tonight
and I will climb myself back.


Angelo Nikolopoulos

Stag’s Leap

Then the creature on the label of our favorite red
looks like my husband, casting himself off a 
cliff in his fervor to get free of me.
His fur is rough and cozy, his face
placid, tranced, ruminant,
the bough of each furculum reaches back
to his haunches, each tine on it grows straight up
and branches, a model of his brain, archaic,
unwieldy. He bears its bony tray
level as he soars from the precipice edge,
dreamy. When anyone escapes, my heart
leaps up. Even when it’s I who am escaped from,
I am half on the side of the leaver. It’s so quiet,
and empty, when he’s left. I feel like a landscape,
a ground without a figure. Sauve
qui peut. Once I saw a drypoint of someone
tiny being crucified
on a fallow deer’s antlers. I feel like his victim, 
and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched
legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he
throws himself off. Oh my love. I was vain of his
faithfulness, as if it was
a compliment, rather than a state
of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he
feel he had to walk around
carrying my books on his head like a stack of 
posture volumes, or the rack of horns
hung where a hunter washes the venison
down with the sauvignon? Oh leap,
leap! Careful of the rocks! Does true 
love have to wish him happiness
in his new life, even sexual 
joy? I think so. Below his shaggy 
belly, in the distance, lie the even dots
of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots
clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their
blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans.

Sharon Olds

The Great Fires

Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love
also change everything to a newness
at first. Passion is clearly the path
but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit
so that we might find the love which is
a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods,
each of which gives off its special odor
so we can know the many kinds
that are not love. Passion is the paper
and twigs that kindle the flames
but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes
because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different
from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire
for his sins. Love allows us to walk
in the sweet music of our particular heart.

Jack Gilbert

Countdown


I’m taking six steps back. Because if I meant it,
six steps could be the postage stamp
that sends me away from you. Winter is a bad season
to be lonely. Frozen rivers, impermeable.
The promise of movement underneath is a promise
for another day. A body needs a body. Five times
in one hour, but I can’t talk about what your body does
to mine. Live wires. I’ll focus on the lamp
instead, how it flickers four times before settling
into light. Call my bluff. It’s not fair to the other people
I’ve taken to bed (stripper, bartender, cabinet maker).
(Here I am, naming in threes. This is what we do:
blue bones and blank maps. Winding stories.)
You ran away with my dumb heart. Love
is for losers, anyway, two-fingered fools, Picasso’s harlequins.
I’m waiting on the bottom step, wind slicing
through a wool jacket missing buttons. It’s not your job
to save me from the cold, but if you whispered,
come inside. Only the wind says anything.
It is the loudest thing. Says San Francisco was a dream,
and Brooklyn, and the boat. You’re standing
at the door, sly fox. Inside the light is on
and bright. Frostbitten toes and feet that
won’t budge. One more time again.

Hannah Oberman-Breindel

Bleecker Street, Summer

Summer for prose and lemons, for nakedness and languor,
for the eternal idleness of the imagined return,
for rare flutes and bare feet, and the August bedroom
of tangled sheets and the Sunday salt, ah violin!
When I press summer dusks together, it is
a month of street accordions and sprinklers
laying the dust, small shadows running from me.

It is music opening and closing, Italia mia, on Bleecker,
ciao, Antonio, and the water-cries of children
tearing the rose-coloured sky in streams of paper;
it is dusk in the nostrils and the smell of water
down littered streets that lead you to no water,
and gathering islands and lemons in the mind.

There is the Hudson, like the sea aflame.
I would undress you in the summer heat,
and laugh and dry your damp flesh if you came.

DEREK WALCOTT

A Bronze God, or a Letter on Demand

I like to think of your silence as the love letters you will not write me,
as two sax solos from two ages across a stage, learning the languages
of kissing with your eyes closed. I like to think of you as a god
to whom I no longer pray, as a god I aspire to. I like the opening of your joined
palms,
which is like an urn where my ashes find a home. The music of your lashes;
the silent way your body wears out mine.
Mostly, I like to think of you at night when a black screen of shining dust shines
from your mines to the edge of my skin, where you are a lamp of flutters.
I remember the spectral lashes–marigold, tamarind, secret thing between your thighs,
of closed kissing eyes. At night, the possibility of you is a heavy
sculpture of heavy bronze at the side of my bed,
a god. And I pray you into life. Into flesh.

 CLIFTON GACHAGUA

Circumference of Chance

When possibility whispers, treat it gently. -Tara Betts

I could not sleep in my bed
of leaves, so I moved to the dry
river bed—

last night I tossed,
turned on a stone—
its smooth curve bruised

my hip, as it settled under
the small of my back.
With my aching gratitude

I kept it warm hoping
it would hatch. I whispered
the only prayer I knew

over its roundness again,
and again until I had
nearly believed, nearly formed

my religion from this
repetition. Here was my hope,
here in the dust,

pocked with grit.
I swear it cracked open
while I attempted rest

and in its place
small opportunities appeared,
I keep one in my pocket

a sparrow’s egg
I run my finger over
its circumference of chance

and sometimes
someone will touch
my shoulder, ask

what is that prayer
always under
your breath, and I

touch the stone
to make sure
it’s still there.

jp dancing bear

SILK WOMAN

The silk which she loves
flows against her skin,
the white silk spun
from a cocoon of words,
spun and shimmering in her dark eyes
against dark skin
which tells her who she is
and who she is not,

am I the moth inside
her mouth where words
form, silk cocoon dark skin
against the words of need
I did not say love
until which of us can tell
I cannot
who is the spinner
who, the moth
who, the silk.

Alan Fox


WHAT YOU WANTED 

(You thought I didn’t know)

You wanted something
of beauty   long
tall around your table
arching back
penciled brows
something pretty high
up on your downsizing
something lovely
laughing straight line
teeth and red
something on the sofa
cross-legged sitting
pretty   still life
something nestled between
your pillows
dazzled and charmed
shooting stars and
those granulated whispers
of hope and loss.
You wanted something
priceless, penniless
something full and wise
to show how
much of this world
you own   me
in my second division
mitosis
thighs spread   clean
slated, penciled in
thin line
with three degrees
and separation
something smart
and funny
a butter mint
at your reception.

Holley Dottley

ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF HER FIRST MARRIAGE

had i never leapt across the yellow grasses
of that meadow near Point Reyes to the sound
of the Hallelujah chorus     never wound my adulterous
legs around my flute playing lover     never been so blatant
so lewd     i might still be married to that boy
from high school     still be small and hidden in the pocket
of his green corduroy jacket     peering out at other people’s
lives     had i never danced to the bongos and the setting
sun at Big Sur     never almost run away with that ferryman
masseur who could transport me to the land
of naked bodies and temple whore lore     had i never been
such a bitch such a floozy     never danced topless
in a bar     never known the lotus flower
to blossom in my own goddess body     never lived alone
with three children     fed them eternal
soup of the week     never been apprenticed
to a witch     studied spells and incantations     never sat on a wooden
floor howling with what came to me out of a cave     never seen yellow
bellied death sitting on my bed forcing me to face
my real life—     get up     wash face     bring fever down     stay alive
to raise the children—     would i have found my place     in this sweet
bed     where wanton and wild are loved by a man
who has light in his eyes     where tigers and lions roam     yellow hills
in my dreams     and both sun and moon shine upon me?

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

We Have So Little Time

I do not want to be calm.
I understand what it means to turn
Back into stone,
The elephant’s huge eye closing…

I wanted to be the first breath on the first skin,
The air wild there.
A china cup on the motorway.
New blood striding out of my heart.

Look at me when you say that.
Look at me. One wet red petal in a marble bowl,
O the fate of my name sliding
In your throat.

The Claim

I kept looking for you
The way a sky looks

For you. The way a widow
Looks for you. I climbed stone, wild

& stunned as rose. I was a revolution
At midnight, I went man to man lighting towns

On fire. I let them come
With their engines, their declarations.

I went inland with spices
In my hair. I gave up like a tide. I built

Boats for the children, animals,
The telegraph machine, the cinemas,

The sidewalks. I sent them all away so I could finally be
Alone, a tree in a field burning

Through its ringed wet heart.
It rained forever the day

You arrived. How the spade twisted down, down,
And I, like a country, began.

 

Eve Jones

She Shrugs

I do not. Snow piles up outside the kitchen window. Feta cheese.

Cucumber, sliced thinly. Olive oil. Pita. Get on a plane. Visit me. From
France, Italy, New Mexico. A lover warned me once to be more patient. I
emailed my doctor this morning. My left ankle swells at night. Doesn’t
throb though. Ibuprofen. Some water. Lukewarm. I might have married
once if not for bells and cellos and leashes. And affairs. There’s something
lost in the transcription of beauty. Trust. Champagne. The average person
shrugs forty times a day. Let’s travel. Everything turns up straw. How
much I want you. How much a boat. How much a box, a mouth. A tongue-
tied jester. How much I eat when I close my eyes. How much you are gone
now and I’m not. How much bread I really need. A blue pillow where I rest
my head. At night. And in the morning I think how I’ll sell my blood to pay
the rent, how I’ll pull my hair and trade it to the wind.

Gary McDowell

Housewife

Says the wife to the house,
we are not together. You have no heart
at all, no percussive blunder to ruin you.
Your rooms are cool and languid,
your doors open and close,
even the knives are stacked like kindling.
You give back everything you take.
The cacti peer from their clay pots
like waterless periscopes.
Nothing in me is where it belongs

Chelsea Wagenaar

Take Me To Church, Sinead O’Connor