Promise Song
Don Bogen
When the taps ran blood
she set her books on fire –
then she was in a white place
where everyone lied.

Words, words, words:
smoke puffed out from mouths,
stick figures of her name
in riot on the forms.

The fat door hides the rules
under its mattress pad.
A conference room is calm.
If you promise, they said,

and told me in the silence
after they put her back,
Don’t listen – everything
she tells you is a lie.

Photo by R_ R on Unsplash



Animal Languages
Chase Twichell
In snow, all tracks
–animal and human—
speak to one another,

a long conversation that keeps breaking off
then starting up again.

I want to read those pages
instead of the kind
made of human words.

I want to write in the language of those
who have been to that place before me.



A Widow
Ted Kooser
She’s combed his neckties out of her hair
and torn out the tongues of his shoes.
She’s poured his ashes out of their urn
and into his humidor. For the very last time,
she’s scrubbed the floor around the toilet.
She hates him even more for dying.

blue river


Waking at Night
Jack Gilbert
The blue river is grey at morning
and evening. There is twilight
at dawn and dusk. I lie in the dark
wondering if this quiet in me now
is a beginning or an end.



Kay Ryan
If we could love
the blunt
and not
the point

we would
almost constantly
have what we want.

What is the
blunt of this
I would ask you

our conversation
weeding up
like the Sargasso.

the earth’s throat


Vicki Feaver
This is the earth’s throat.
When we shout, it shouts back.
It only has to wait to eat:

boys hurling stones
over the precipice, poised
as if a breath

could topple them
into the abyss; a girl
laid fainting on the ledge.

A cyclist passes, wheels
inches from a lip
crumbling like biscuit.

You hug the rock-wall,
grasping at ferns
sprouting wherever water

has trickled into crevices.
I walk behind you, repeating
the psalm: Thy rod and staff

comfort me… though I walk
through the valley
of the shadow of death…

I don’t know why we’re here:
why we didn’t turn back
at the first bend where the path
seemed to travel into air;
why we’re honeymooning
in mountains at all;

unless we’ve slipped
through the crust of the earth
and arrived in a circle of hell

and this is the punishment
for coming to the end of love
and daring to love again:

to walk along a path
cut into soft red rock
high on the wall of a gorge

in a dance where the caller cries
two steps to the left,
a little push

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

death’s secret


Death’s Secret
Gösta Ågren
It is not true
that death begins after life.
When life stops
death also stops.



Philippe Jaccottet
Swifts turn in the heights of the air;
higher still turn the invisible stars.
When day withdraws to the ends of the earth
their fires shine on a dark expanse of sand.

We live in a world of motion and distance.
The heart flies from tree to bird,
from bird to distant star,
from star to love; and love grows
in the quiet house, turning and working,
servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand.