islands

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Ö
Rita Dove

Shape the lips to an o, say a.
That’s island.

One word of Swedish has changed the whole neighborhood.
When I look up, the yellow house on the corner
is a galleon stranded in flowers. Around it

the wind. Even the high roar of a leaf-mulcher
could be the horn-blast from a ship
as it skirts to the misted shoals.

We don’t need much more to keep things going.
Families complete themselves
and refuse to budge from the present,
the present extends its glass forehead to sea
(backyard breezes, scattered cardinals)

and if, one evening, the house on the corner
took off over the marshland,
neither I nor my neighbor
would be amazed. Sometimes

a word is found so right it trembles
at the slightest explanation.
You start out with one thing, end
up with another, and nothing’s
like it used to be, not even the future.

Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash

different heights

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Each from Different Heights
Stephen Dunn
That time I thought I was in love
and calmly said so
was not much different from the time
I was truly in love
and slept poorly and spoke out loud
to the wall
and discovered the hidden genius
of my hands.
And the times I felt less in love,
less than someone,
were, to be honest, not so different
either.
Each was ridiculous in its own way
and each was tender, yes,
sometimes even the false is tender.
I am astounded
by the various kisses we’re capable of.
Each from different heights
diminished, which is simply the law.
And the big bruise
from the longer fall looked perfectly white
in a few years.
That astounded me most of all.

Photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash

still-lived memory

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Cleave
David Whyte

To hold together and to split apart
at one and the same time,
like the shock of being born,
breathing in this world
while lamenting for the one we’ve left.

No one needs to tell us
we are already on our onward way,
no one has to remind us
of our everyday and intimate
embrace
with disappearance.

We were born saying goodbye
to what we love,
we were born
in a beautiful reluctance,
not quite ready
to breathe in this new world,
we are here and we are not,
we are present while still not
wanting to admit we have arrived.

Not quite arrived in our minds
yet always arriving in the body,
always growing older
while trying to grow younger,
always in the act
of catching up,
of saying hello
or saying goodbye
finding strangely,
in each new and imagined future
the still-lived memory
of a previous,
precious life.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

cause of death

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Cause of Death: Fox News
Tony Hoagland
Toward the end he sat on the back porch,
sweeping his binoculars back and forth
over the dry scrub-brush and arroyos,

certain he saw Mexicans
moving through the creosote and sage
while the TV commentators in the living room,

turned up loud enough for a deaf person to hear,
kept pouring gasoline on his anxiety and rage.

In the end he preferred to think about illegal aliens,
about welfare moms and healthcare socialists,
than about the uncomfortable sensation of the disease

crawling through his tunnels in the night,
crossing the river between his liver and his spleen.
It was just his luck

to be born in the historical period
that would eventually be known
as the twilight of the white male dinosaur,

feeling weaker and more swollen every day,
with the earth gradually looking more like hell
and a strange smell rising from the kitchen sink.

In the background those big male voices
went on and on, turning the old crank
about hard work and god, waving the flag

and whipping the dread into a froth.
Then one day my father had finished
his surveillance, or it had finished him,

and the cable-TV guy
showed up at the house apologetically
to take back the company equipment:

the complicated black box with the dangling cord,
and the gray rectangular remote control,
like a little coffin.

Photo by Kev Seto on Unsplash