work without hope


Work without Hope

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.
         Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.

flight training


flight training

Shayla Lawz
sometimes i want to ask the earth,
was it beautiful          here
without us

or maybe you were lonely too

my nephew asks me why his paper airplane
never really flies    from here

& i ask the same of our bodies
is it the vessel; is it the way that we’re made
was the sky all lilac & orange for you too

how many nights have i been
at this window & when did it become a door
lately, i’ve been dreaming

of catapulting to a bright moon
& all this grief turned to
to ocean
to blue light

all this dreaming makes me wonder
if there’s always been a sky
this close

in the air i am briefly starlit
& everything
is alive

Photo by Michael on Unsplash

what bodies move


What Bodies Move
Kristene Kaye Brown

Let the world come hungry at me.
Let the hours learn the tender curve

of this neck. For so long I’ve wanted

to believe that I’m made of star stuff,
a glittering spigot

funneled from the blue spiraling arms
of our milky way.

I hear
the clap of hands inside my chest.
I swallow. The body

softening against it. Who hasn’t wanted

to climb atop a roof and jump,
prove we too can come back

like the tulips after a bitter winter. A small body
pulled from dark,

a city of animated dust. I believe
sleep is night’s apology for day,

dreams the only respite from dark. I dream

of fog, fog slowing morning minutes.
Another day drained. Still,

there has only ever been one setting sun,

one rotating light chasing one unreachable
for billions of years.

A small good miracle,
were I swallowed into a black hole

I could live without shadow. I could live
inside that sunless system of tunnels.

I would be fine

dying there. And still, there is the question:
More god or less?
Me, I could go either way.

I have been told
that nearly all the atoms in the oxygen

we breathe
and the carbon in our skin

fell from the hydrogen furnace of a star,

which makes us less star stuff and more
nuclear waste,

weeds in a field of buttercups.

Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

The Extravagant Stars


The Extravagant Stars
Nicole Callihan

Everybody says the stars are dead.

By the time the light reaches us blah blah blah.

As if the light itself is not enough—

Or maybe everybody says most stars are dead? Or some of the people say all the stars are dead, and all of the people say some of the stars are dead.

Is the sun dead?

I don’t know. I can’t remember.

1 in 2 women can’t remember 1 in 2 things.

I have all these “facts” in my “head.”

These “claims” about the “world.”

Caterpillars, supernovas, the days getting shorter, longer again.

The riverbed. Our great confluence.

The buzz of that particular fly.

Did you ever get my postcard from Mexico?

Mostly, I write the same word over and over, and mostly that word is light.

I keep saying, it seems very unlikely that this will kill me.

But why unlikely?

Medically speaking, you have a 1 in 500 chance of being born with 11 fingers or toes.

I had a student once without thumbs.

I wanted him to write a poem about it.

He used his hands like lobster claws; he made me so sad. Or I was so sad, and he reminded me of my sadness.

He didn’t want to write about his thumbs, he said. Okay, I said.

Probably he wrote about outer space.

Some years after that, I had a terrible late-term miscarriage and had to go to a terrible late-term abortion clinic with terrible, terrible lighting. Afterwards, they gave me a rootbeer-flavored lollipop. I sat in a blue chair and sucked on my lollipop. I was an old woman and a little girl. I cried audibly. I was in my prime.

1 in 4 women this. 1 in 8 women that. 1 in 15 women thisandthat.

And yet, the death rate of stars is only one about every 10,000 years or so.

Meaning, the naked eye will probably never see a dead star. You’re looking into the past, yes, but it’s unlikely, though not impossible, you’re seeing a dead star.

Looking into the past is like sticking your thumb in the dirt of a Dixie Cup.

But a high-powered telescope changes everything.

I think what I’m saying is: I’d rather live than not live.

When I was writing about my terrible late-term miscarriage, I gave a reading on the upper eastside. Afterwards, several women came up to me to tell me I was brave. So brave, they said.

I didn’t want to be brave; I wanted to be brilliant.

In hindsight, this strikes me as incredibly dim-witted.

1 in 1 women will look back on something and feel foolish.

Now, I will take brave any day.

I will take brave and fold it into my little kerchief and tie it to my stick and carry it to the top of the highest hill I can find, and when I get there, I’ll rest my tired legs, unwrap my little hunk of pie from its wax paper, and stare up at the brilliant, extravagant stars, knowing that they are not dead, not even one of them, not dead at all, but living, pulsing, pressing their light as far as it can reach.

Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

city lake


City Lake
Chelsea DesAutels

Almost dusk. Fishermen packing up their bait,
a small girl singing there’s nothing in here nothing in here
casting a yellow pole, glancing at her father.
What is it they say about mercy? Five summers ago
this lake took a child’s life. Four summers
ago it saved mine, the way the willows stretch
toward the water but never kiss it, how people laugh
as they walk the concrete path or really have it out
with someone they love. One spring the path teemed
with baby frogs, so many flattened, so many jumping.
I didn’t know a damn thing then. I thought I was waiting
for something to happen. I stepped carefully
over the dead frogs and around the live ones.
What was I waiting for? Frogs to rain from the sky?
A great love? The little girl spies a perch
just outside her rod’s reach. She wants to wade in.
She won’t catch the fish and even if she does
it might be full of mercury. Still, I want her
to roll up her jeans and step into the water,
tell her it’s mercy, not mud, filling each impression
her feet make. I’m not saying she should
be grateful to be alive. I’m saying mercy
is a big dark lake we’re all swimming in.

Photo by eberhard 🖐 grossgasteiger on Unsplash

life preserver


Life Preserver
Javier Velaza

It’s not pointless to love,
Just like training snakes, it calls for
a refined technique and losing our shame
of performing in front of the world in loincloths.
And nerves of steel.
But loving is a job
with benefits, too: its liturgy soothes
the idleness that maddens—as Catullus knew—
and ruined the happiest cities.
Under the tightrope there stretches—don’t ask
for a net, it’s not possible—another rope,
so loose, but ultimately
so pointless at times,
below which there is nothing.
And half-open
windows that air out your anger and show
to your night other nights that are different, and like that
only love saves us at last from the grip
of the worst danger we know of:
to be only–and nothing else—ourselves.
This is why,
now that everything is said and I have
a place in the country of blasphemy,
now that the pain of making words
from my own pain
has crossed the thresholds
of fear,
I need from your love an anesthetic;
come with your morphine kisses to sedate me,
come encircle my waist with your arms,
making a life preserver, to keep the lethal weight
of sadness from drowning me;
come dress me in the clothes of hope—I almost
had forgotten a word like that—,
even if they fit me big as on a child
wearing his father’s biggest shirt;
come supervise my oblivion and the gift of unconsciousness;
come protect me—my worst enemy
and most tenacious—, come make me a haven
even if it’s a lie
—because everything is a lie
and yours is merciful—;
come cover my eyes
and say it passed, it passed, it passed,
—even if nothing passed, because nothing passes—,
it passed,
it passed,
it passed,
it passed.
And if nothing will free us from death
at least love will save us from life.

Photo by Jude Mack on Unsplash

poem that leaves behind the ocean


Poem That Leaves Behind the Ocean
Jim Moore

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.

Photo by Conor Sexton on Unsplash

the spring cricket


The Spring Cricket Repudiates His Parable of Negritude
Rita Dove


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.
No ––

this is hell.

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

el mar


El Mar
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
Gently out.

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.
Sometime ago

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
And pity?

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash



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

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash