What the Woman Said

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What the Woman Said
Marie Howe

I don’t want to offend anybody but I never did like
fucking all that much. Like I always say

the saw enjoys the wood more than the wood enjoys
the saw—know what I mean?
I used to think

I could be like the girl in the movies—
then I watched myself—when it was happening—

my eyes closed, my head tilted back as if I were
him seeing me—and I couldn’t feel anything.

I was watching me, and I was someone else who
looked like she was having a good time. Seems like

I spent years like that, watching him (whoever he was)
watching me—I have to admit

it was easier when he left. I’d watch myself watch him
leave and hear the strain of music swell up like a story.

watch myself walk back into the house and close the door
and lean against it.

I want to tell you everything I know about being alive but I
missed a lot of living that way—

My life was a story, dry as pages. Seems like he should have known
enough to lick them even lightly with his thumb

But he didn’t. And I have to admit I didn’t much like the idea
of telling him how.

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

certain days

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Certain Days
Grace Paley

On certain days I am not in love
and my heart turns over

crowding the lungs for
air

driving blood in and out of
the skull improving my mind

working muscles to the bone

dashing resonance out of a roaring sea
at my nerve endings

Not much is needed

air

good sense

power

a noisy taking in and a
loud giving back

Then my heart like any properly turned
motor takes off in sparks dragging all that machinery
through the blazing day
like grass
which our lord knows
I am

Photo by Peter Yost on Unsplash

wishes for sons

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Wishes for Sons
Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.
i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.
later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn’t believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.
let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

snatched book

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On the Train, A Man Snatches My Book
Paige Lewis

On the train, a man snatches my book, reads
the last line, and says I completely get you,

you’re not that complex. He could be right–lately
all my what ifs are about breath: what if

a glass-blower inhales at the wrong
moment? What if I’m drifting on a sailboat

and the wind stops? If he’d ask me how I’m
feeling, I’d give him the long version–I feel

as if I’m on the moon listening to the air hiss
out of my spacesuit, and I can’t find the rip. I’m

the vice president of panic and the president is
missing. Most nights, I calm myself by listing

animals still on the least concern end of the
extinction spectrum: aardvarks and blackbirds

are fine. Minnows thrive–though this brings
me no relief–they can swim through sludge

if they have to. I don’t think I’ve ever written
the word doom, but nothing else fits.

Every experience seems both urgent and
unnatural–like right now, this train

is approaching the station where my lover
is waiting to take me to the orchard so we can

pay for the memory of having once, at dusk,
​plucked real apples from real trees.

 

Postscript to mania

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Ode to Lithium #18 – Postscript to Mania
Shira Erlichman

It’s not easy dying every second
for the sake of some mission.
What-the-Fuck-ologist, leading me
by the softest whim toward the blade.
Chicken wire undulated behind my lids
& the sky looked beat to death.
I’ve been going through my files. Who
was that? At what precise moment
did my brain tattle on itself? Everything
was a wick. Even God was worn down
by my false sirening. It’s not easy dying
without dying. Before I ever took the pills
I took so much. So much was taken. I’m
done. I’m here. A fish thrown back
to the river can’t help but swallow fistfuls
of self.

dissent as cheer

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Definition
Grace Paley

My dissent is cheer
a thankless disposition
first as the morning star
my ambition: good luck

and why not a flight
over the wide dilemma
and then good night to
sad forever

desire field

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From the Desire Field
Natalie Diaz

I don’t call it sleep anymore.
             I’ll risk losing something new instead—

like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.

But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
             fruit to unfasten from,

despite my trembling.

Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.

Maybe this is what Lorca meant
             when he said, verde que te quiero verde—

because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.

My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
             hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion

beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—

bewildered in its low green glow,

belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
             and many petaled,

the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.

I am struck in the witched hours of want—

I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
             Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth

green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.

Fast as that, this is how it happens—
             soy una sonámbula.

And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
             to say, I don’t feel good,

to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
             or again—

until I can smell its sweet smoke,
             leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.

Photo by Runze Shi on Unsplash

negative return

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Negative Return
Karen Wild Díaz

i

grant me an afternoon sadness
turn, tiny wheel of ardor, turn!

ii

the lost look of sadness
synecdoche of a love returning

iii

torrid fist straight to the chest
when it arrived in the stomach
opened itself into ten fleshy petals
and held me back

iv

i had a watery prairie
modest pool
of calming dark rings, rain-damp hair
moving slowly
to doze aware
of the tornado

v

fierce warmth enormous eyes
pure expressive faces
all mortgaged realism
concentration of thought
assimilated to swarm
…wander into familiar
walls

vi

nothing as predictable today as the body:
with warm compresses, with gentle caresses
my breasts draw near the fire
test the embrace in the silence
of this stiff ruggedness you will make defoliate me
I return: dressed
by your fingers

vii

all was revealed that evening
an order never existed
swirling like a sea
feigned a drowning
suddenly stopped on the surface
we saw at last the bodies
but we were going:
profile, back, end of the album.

stiff sparrows pile up on the balcony
and i will not place them in a crate
to carry them away

 

Translation

negativo del regreso

i

dame tristeza a la tarde
gira, diminuta rueda de ardor, gira!

ii

la mirada perdida de la tristeza
sinécdoque del amor que vuelve

iii

puño tórrido en la boca al pecho
cuando llegó al estómago
se abrió en diez carnosos pétalos
y me contuvo

iv

tuve llanura acuosa
modesto estanque
de serena ojera, cabello llovido
movimiento lento
donde dormitar consciente
del tornado

v

tibieza feroz ojos enormes
rostros de expresivo puro
todo realismo hipotecado
concentración de pensamiento
asimilado a enjambre
..deambulé contra paredes
reconocidas

vi

nada tan predecible hoy como el cuerpo:
con tibias compresas, con caricias dóciles
acerca mi pecho a la lumbre
prueba abrazar en silencio
de esta rígida rugosidad harás que me deshoje
regreso: desde tus dedos
vestida

vii

todo se supo a la tarde
nunca existió consigna
arremolinado como un mar
se simuló un ahogo
de pronto detenido en superficie
vimos al fin los cadáveres
pero nos estábamos yendo:
perfil, espalda, fin del álbum.

se apilan en el balcón gorriones tiesos
y no quiero meterlos al cajón
llevarlos fuera