Poem That Leaves Behind the Ocean
I’ve always wanted to write a poem that ends
at the ocean. How the poem gets there
doesn’t much matter, just so at last
it arrives. The manatee will be there
we saw all those years ago,
almost motionless under the water
like a pendant swaying at an invisible throat,
the one my mother used to wear
on the most special of occasions. My God
is still there, the one I prayed to as a boy:
he never answered but that didn’t keep me
from calling out to him.
I turn off the notification app for good,
no longer needing to know exactly how many gone.
After all, clinging to life
is what we have always done best.
We are still trying to hide
from the truth of things and who
can blame us.
Lists don’t make sense anymore,
unless toilet paper and peanut butter head them.
Last-stage patients are not being told
how crowded the ferry will be
that will take them across the river.
We are forbidden cafés, churches, even cemeteries.
Fishing by ourselves, however, is still permitted. As long
as we keep nothing at all. As long as we walk
back home, in darkness, empty-handed,
breathing deeply, having thrown back
what was never ours to keep.
The Spring Cricket Repudiates His Parable of Negritude
we just climbed. Reached the lip
and fell back, slipped
and started up again––
climbed to be climbing, sang
to be singing. It’s just what we do.
No one bothered to analyze our blues
until everybody involved
was strung out or dead; to solve
everything that was happening
while it was happening
would have taken some serious opium.
Seriously: All wisdom
is afterthought, a sort of helpless relief.
So don’t go thinking none of this grief
belongs to you: Even if
you don’t know how it
feels to fall, you can get my drift;
and I, who live it
daily, have heard
that perfect word
enough to know just when
to use it––as in:
Oh hell. Hell, no.
this is hell.
–Tracy K. Smith
There was a sea in my marriage.
And air. I sat in the middle
In a tiny house afloat
On night-colored waves.
The current rolled in
From I don’t know where.
We’d bob atop, drift
I liked best
When there was nothing
That I could
Or could not see.
But I know
There was more.
A map drawn on a mirror.
Globe cinched in at the poles.
Marriage is a rare game,
Its only verbs: am
And are. I aged.
We sailed past bottles,
The strangest signs inside:
A toy rig. A halo of tears.
Rags like trapped doves.
Why didn’t we stop?
Didn’t sirens sing our names
In voices that begged with promise
–Phillip B. Williams
When you were mine though not
mine at all permanently, just a body borrowed
without permission, a body interrupted,
the sky opened like a secret in a mouth
mouth with a word in it
word with an arrowhead in its flank: Love, small
creature it was
crying in the night beneath me
–Maggie SmithLife is short, though I keep this from my children.Life is short, and I’ve shortened minein a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,a thousand deliciously ill-advised waysI’ll keep from my children. The world is at leastfifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservativeestimate, though I keep this from my children.For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,sunk in a lake. Life is short and the worldis at least half terrible, and for every kindstranger, there is one who would break you,though I keep this from my children. I am tryingto sell them the world. Any decent realtor,walking you through a real shithole, chirps onabout good bones: This place could be beautiful,right? You could make this place beautiful.
When you appeared it was as if
magnets cleared the air.
I had never seen that smile before
or your hair, flying silver. Someone
waving goodbye, she was silver, too.
Of course you didn’t see me.
I called softly so you could choose
not to answer—then called again.
You turned in the light, your eyes
seeking your name.
–Hilda RazI am sick with worry when you call.You tell me a story about earsHow the doctor asked about your earachesPeered in and pronounced “Pristine.Clean as a whistle.” And you were cured.Because I am a maker of poemsAnd you are a maker of musicYou tell me the word pristine was perfect.It was the cure.Yesterday I went to the hospitalTo hear my heart beat in her various chambers.I knew the sounds:The Fly Bird from the right ventricleThe Go Go from the leftThe Here I am from under the rib.