cannot rest

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You Cannot Rest
Frank Bidart

The trick was to give yourself only to what
could not receive what you had to give,

leaving you as you wished, free.
Still you court the world by enacting yet once

more the ecstatic rituals of enthrallment.
You cannot rest. The great grounding

events in your life (weight lodged past
change, like the sweetest, most fantastical myth

enshrining yet enslaving promise), the great
grounding events that left you so changed

you cannot conceive your face without their
happening, happened when someone

could receive. Just as she once did, he did—past
judgment of pain or cost. Could receive. Did.

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

 

pungency

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*
Carmen Giménez Smith

we smear the map
with pungency you want
to swab us but you can’t
making us more terrifying
we coagulate and compound
into a virulent fetid stream
bisecting your dreams
we’re those who aren’t there
this land made us
old phantoms

Everywhere a River

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Everywhere a River

Emily Ransdell

I do remember darkness, how it snaked
through the alders, their ashen flanks
in our high-beams the color of stone.
That hollow slap as floodwater hit
the sides of the car. Was the radio on?
Had I been asleep?
Sometimes you have to tell a story
your entire life to get it right.
Twenty-two and terrified, I had married you
but barely knew you. And for forty years
I’ve told this story wrong. In my memory
you drove right through it, the river
already rising on the road behind us,
no turning around.
But since your illness I recall it
differently. Now that I know it’s possible
to lose you, I’m finally remembering
it right. That night,
you threw that car in reverse,
and gunned it. You found us
another way home.

 

earthquake

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Earthquake
Eloisa Avoletta

I lie down
in the face of what I’ll never be able to say
entranced by salt still existing in this battered body
I bet we weren’t able to name that rock a hundred thousand years ago
and she was rock in each stony fiber
she called herself rock until someone listened and said “rock”
until the silent sea wore away her firmness and made her sand
like her, I break up into pieces
I lie down
on earth
so still
so emergent
so everyone’s
the colors
that I feel
and am
a landscape, beating
submerged in its own echoes
in all our echoes

Translation

Me tumbo
Ante lo que nunca podré decir
Absorta de que aún exista sal en este cuerpo maltratado
¿A que no sabíamos nombrar aquella roca hace cien mil años?
Y ella era roca en cada fibra pétrea
Se dijo roca hasta que alguien la escuchó y le dijo “roca”
Hasta que el mar silencioso fue desmoronando su entereza y la volvió arena
Como ella me desarmo
Me tumbo
En la tierra
Tan quieta
Tan emergente
Tan de todos
los colores
Que me siento
Y soy
Paisaje latiendo
Sumergido en sus ecos propios
en todos los ecos nuestros

will praise

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I Will Praise Your Plain Songs
Sarah Ruhl

I will praise your plain songs.
I will praise your plant songs.
You will give me weeds
and distraught calendars.

I will praise you for the things you choose:
the color of your shirts.
I will praise you for unchosen things:
the contour of your chin.

You will give me subscriptions, brevity,
towers of flat, sweet grass.
You will give me pointed flower arrangements.

When summer flags and ships slow
and I am tired of waiting, tired of praising
bits and pieces, thumbs and drawers—anatomy—
then I will praise you without purpose,
your empty hands, your hollow ear…

When your nothing things are incomplete
(when your nothing is complete)
the work of conspiring solitudes—
I will praise your nothing best and most of all,
I will praise you in the smallest, saddest words:
so, then, to, cup, go.

fury

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Fury
Tina Chang

My son rubs his skin and names it brown,
his expression gleeful as I rub a damp cloth
over his face this morning. Last night,
there were reports that panthers were charging
through the streets. I watched from my seat
in front of the television, a safe vista.
I see the savannah. Sometimes, though,
my son wakes to a kind of nightmare.
He envisions words on the wall and cannot
shake them. He tries to scratch them away
or runs out of the room but the words
follow him. None of it makes any sense
but it’s the ghost of his fear that I fear.

What is a safe distance from the thoughts
that pursue us and what if the threat persists
despite our howling? Buildings collapse,
a woman falls down the stairs and lands
on her back with only one eye open, half
awake to her living damage. I think
my son senses what is happening
on the street, his heart fiercely tethered
to mine. I know the world will find him
and tell him the history of his skin.
Harm will come searching for him
and pour into him its scorching mercury,
its nails, its bitter breath against his boyhood
skin still smelling of milk and wonder.

Somewhere, the panthers are running
starting fires fueled by a distinct hunger.
Somewhere there is a larger fire, a pyre
stoked by the fury of all that we have come
to understand, all that we could have done
but did not. Its flames lick the underside
of the earth. It propagates needing
only a frenzy of air to fan it to inferno.
I’ll call that the Forest. The deep woods
are ahead and if the panthers could just reach it.
If I told you that all of this happens at night,
you wouldn’t believe me. If I told you
all of this happens in the future, always
the Future you would continue following
the scent you could only describe as smoke.
I’ll call that Justice.

But aren’t we talking about mercy and its dark
twin? Isn’t that what is pummeling history
in the side as I write this? Isn’t it the thorn
and the taser? Isn’t it the chokehold
and the gold arm of vengeance? I say it
from my mouth and when it spills forth
it lands on the ground in a pool of light
reflecting back at me the one true blasphemy:
Love and love and love and love and
love and love and love and love and love
and love and love and love and love and
love and love and love and love and love
and love and love and love and love and
love is crowding the street and needs only air
and it lives, over there, in the distance burning.

the difference

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The Difference
Ishion Hutchinson

They talk oil in heavy jackets and plaid over
their coffee, they talk Texas and the north cold,

but mostly oil and Obama, voices dipping
vexed and then they talk Egypt failing,

Greece broken and it takes cash for France not
charity and I rather speak Russia than Ukraine

one says in rubles than whatever, whatever
the trouble, because there is sea and gold,

a tunnel, wherever right now, an-anyhow-Belarus,
oh, I will show you something, conspiring

coins, this one, China, and they marvel,
their minds hatched crosses, a frontier

zeroed not by voyage or pipeline nor the milk
foam of God, no, not the gutsy weather they talk

frizzled, the abomination worsening
opulence to squalor, never the inverse.

you think this happened

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You Think This Happened Only Once and Long Ago
Marie Howe

You think this happened only once and long ago?
Think of a summer night and someone
talking across the water,
maybe someone
you loved in a boat, rowing. And you could
hear the oars dripping in the water, from
half a lake away, and they were far and
close at once. You didn’t need to touch them
or call to them or talk about it later.
–the sky? It was what you breathed. The lake?
sky that fell as rain. I have been like you
filled with worry, worry — then relief.
You know the wind is sky moving. It happens all the time.