in cities, be alert

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In Cities, Be Alert
Annie Finch

You may hear that your heartbeat is uneven
and let new tension climb around your shoulders,
thinking you’ve found the trick for going mad.
But try to keep a grip on where you are.
Remember: all around you is pure city;
try to stay alert. On the wide streets,
so empty late at night, streaking in glass,
the color of an alley, or the fall
of a sideways flicker from a neon sign
may utterly and briefly disconcert you—
but as you go, you’ll find that noise is worse.
Prepare for noise. But never scream. Even tensing
ears too far in advance can sharpen sirens,
and as for horns. … When you’re back to
your normal rhythm after such encounters,
just try to stay alert. You’ll never know
exactly who is coming up behind you,
but the sudden movement of pedestrians
will finally, of course, be what disarms you.

 

Photo by Malte Schmidt on Unsplash

the darker sooner

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The Darker Sooner
Catherine Wing

Then came the darker sooner,
came the later lower.
We were no longer a sweeter-here
happily-ever-after. We were after ever.
We were farther and further.
More was the word we used for harder.
Lost was our standard-bearer.
Our gods were fallen faster,
and fallen larger.
The day was duller, duller
was disaster. Our charge was error.
Instead of leader we had louder,
instead of lover, never. And over this river
broke the winter’s black weather.

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

the breather

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The Breather
Billy Collins

Just as in the horror movies
when someone discovers that the phone calls
are coming from inside the house
so too, I realized
that our tender overlapping
has been taking place only inside me.
All that sweetness, the love and desire—
it’s just been me dialing myself
then following the ringing to another room
to find no one on the line,
well, sometimes a little breathing
but more often than not, nothing.
To think that all this time—
which would include the boat rides,
the airport embraces, and all the drinks—
it’s been only me and the two telephones,
the one on the wall in the kitchen
and the extension in the darkened guest room upstairs.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

a fixed idea

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A Fixed Idea
Amy Lowell

What torture lurks within a single thought
When grown too constant; and however kind,
However welcome still, the weary mind
Aches with its presence. Dull remembrance taught
Remembers on unceasingly; unsought
The old delight is with us but to find
That all recurring joy is pain refined,
Become a habit, and we struggle, caught.
You lie upon my heart as on a nest,
Folded in peace, for you can never know
How crushed I am with having you at rest
Heavy upon my life. I love you so
You bind my freedom from its rightful quest.
In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.

 

Photo by Josh Howard on Unsplash

need

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Need
Babette Deutsch

What do we need for love—a midnight fire
Flinging itself by fistfuls up the chimney
In soft bright snatches? Do we need the snow,
Gentle as silence, covering the scars
Of weeks of hunger, years of shabby having?
Summer or winter? A heaven of stars? A room?
The smiling mouth, the sadness of desire
Are everywhere the same. If lovers go
Along an unknown road, they find no less
What is familiar. Let them stay at home,
And all will still be strange. This they know
Who with each heartbeat fight the fear of change.

 

Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

poem beginning with a line by milosz

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Poem Beginning with a Line by Milosz
Mark Irwin

“The most beautiful bodies are like transparent glass.”
They are bodies of the selfless or of those newly
dead. What appears transparent is really flame
burning so brightly it appears like glass. What
you’re looking through is the act of giving: One
thing in life needed desperately, given to another,
or perhaps life itself. The most beautiful bodies
are not transparent, but sometimes the color
of lead, like the elephant whom a child with some
peanuts lifts by the trunk in his hand in the swirling
dust, so that it appears he has lifted a monument
or a city with all its pain. The bodies that seem
transparent are made of an ice so pure it appears
to be glass sweating, where you, desiring another,
glimpse your own face that weighs nothing and is burning.

 

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

food of love

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Food of Love
Carolyn Kizer

Eating is touch carried to the bitter end.
-Samuel Butler II
I’m going to murder you with love;
I’m going to suffocate you with embraces;
I’m going to hug you, bone by bone,
Till you’re dead all over.
Then I will dine on your delectable marrow.
You will become my personal Sahara;
I’ll sun myself in you, then with one swallow
Drain your remaining brackish well.
With my female blade I’ll carve my name
In your most aspiring palm
Before I chop it down.
Then I’ll inhale your last oasis whole.
But in the total desert you become
You’ll see me stretch, horizon to horizon,
Opulent mirage!
Wisteria balconies dripping cyclamen.
Vistas ablaze with crystal, laced in gold.
So you will summon each dry grain of sand
And move toward me in undulating dunes
Till you arrive at sudden ultramarine:
A Mediterranean to stroke your dusty shores;
Obstinate verdure, creeping inland, fast renudes
Your barrens; succulents spring up everywhere,
Surprising life! And I will be that green.
When you are fed and watered, flourishing
With shoots entwining trellis, dome, and spire,
Till you are resurrected field in bloom,
I will devour you, my natural food,
My host, my final supper on the earth,
And you’ll begin to die again.

 

Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

bye bye

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Bye-bye
Derek Sheffield

The animal of winter is dying,
its white body everywhere
in collapse and stabbed at
by straws of   light, a leaving
to believe in as the air
slowly fills with darkness
and water drains from the tub
where my daughter, watching it
lower around her, feeling it
go, says about the only thing
she can as if it were a long-
kept breath going with her
blessing of dribble and fleck.
Down it swirls a living drill
vanishing toward a land
where tomorrow already
fixes its bright eye on a man
muttering his way into a crowd,
saying about the only thing
he can before his body
goes boom. And tomorrow,
I will count more dark shapes
tumbling from the sky, birds
returning to scarcity, offering
in their seesawing songs
a kind of   liquidity.

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash