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

buried song

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Buried Song

Amy Gerstler

When our love first became alien to me,
when you first peered at me like I was smeared
and illegible, then a rude-humored voice
began to leak from some objects, a tube of anise
toothpaste, for example, a taste I can’t sanction
given licorice’s near-opiate sweetness,
so like that of a well-told lie. So I questioned
the right of that toothpaste, and later a lamp,
to disparage me. But that was as far as I got
in defending myself. There’s something crushing
about being judged by the butterknife you just
buttered your muffin with. When I took issue
with its critique, I was met by aggressive
metallic laughter. How long have objects been
nursing these grievances? Though the authority
they seized seemed like a disease, I was nonetheless
hurt by what they implied. This winter, while seated
beneath a chestnut tree, trying to unite my mind
long enough to understand a paragraph, the tree
spoke to me, though at first I mistook its voice
for tuba music, a rake scraping flagstone, or
someone snaking a drain. Though the tree
astonished me with its equanimity, though it talked
gently about how to treat ailments not easily named,
when I left the tranquil courtyard that afternoon and
ran into smack you and you looked at me askance,
it took several days to recover from your glance.

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

 

From a Trilogy of Birds

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From a Trilogy of Birds
Andrei Codrescu

in birds is our stolen being. from summer to summer
they carry on my destruction, more obvious
as i get closer to death.
in the kitchen powerful lights stay on at night
watching the summer passage of birds.
the sea contains
their thick excrement, our longing to fly,
the sea changes color.
weak ships over the water.
i am seasonal.
i offer poisoned lights to passing birds
through the guarded door of the kitchen.
it suddenly opens.
i catch the sea when it is taken away
by disciplined clouds of birds.

Photo by Praveen kumar Mathivanan on Unsplash

no emptiness

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If There Were No Emptiness
Margaret Atwood

If there were no emptiness, there would be no life.
Think about it.
All those electrons, particles, and whatnot
crammed in next to each other like junk in an attic,
like trash in a compactor
smashed together in a flat block
so there’s nothing but plasma:
no you no me.

Therefore I praise vacancy.
Vacant lots with their blowing plastics and teasels,
vacant houses, their furze of dust,
vacant stares, blue as the sky through windows.
Motels with the word Vacancy
flashing outside, a red neon arrow pointing,

pointing at the path to be taken
to the bored front desk, to the key-shaped key
on the dangling brown leather key holder,

the key that opens the vacant room
with its scored linoleum floor a blear-eyed yellow
its flowery couch and wilted cushions
its swaybacked bed, smelling of bleach and mildew
its stuttering radio
its ashtray that was here
seventy years ago.

That room has been static for me so long:
an emptiness a void a silence
containing an unheard story
ready for me to unlock.

Let there be plot.

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 

moon cherries

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Moon Cherries
Wanda Coleman

1.

smudged fingerprints

cheap water-based paint, lust ten layers
deep
over and over the walls speak
voices clear and without accent tell me
what one so-called friend kept secret
a terrible penalty will be paid for trust
(o and to think i brought it into the
house)
who was the Hecuba who believed good
potlikker
could rule out genetic predisposition
and nullify cradle-to-grave social abuse?
who was the Hecuba who could

 

2.

midnights bring on poisoned sleep
spells for success fail
and a wedding day bodes an abiding and
relentless bleeding. downfall will
come with the muted cries of lock-key
kids
his pleasure restricted to the pursuit of
his dope-fed illusions & her deluded
belief
that not only can she overcome adversity,
but bad advice and the jealousy of knaves.
their journey is a shock-ridden careen
through a wasteland of slashed wrists,
amphetamines and unscratchable itches.
their deep-Hollywood story will
come to its predictable ending: the rape of
beauty, a secret bludgeoning, the
death of an angel

 

3.

but when this grim heart
slips into its grimmer past of
terror shame rage
where broken dreamless nights
are interred, there is no relief
in pretense. fantasy is an affront.
ordinariness was wanted yet denied. what
was never learned in time proved the
undoing. mind be still. the crack-up
intensifies these recollections,
resurrects the flood of a bitter spring
4.

you know it’s your fault you
kept doing it when you should’ve
stopped. you squandered irretrievable
bliss. you. the reason of you the
mirror says you, the highball glass
contains
you, your face floats up from the ash and
smoke at the end of this cigarette.
the clock spun backwards around you.
from
behind the closed door out you stepped.
you.
under the merciless light you were
revealed.
these are the dark currents in which
you do the butterfly stroke upstream. you. so
rude & tender & strong. you are a
guardian,
no, a watcher, no, a warden. you are what
was
so dearly paid for. you are the gas pedal
to the floor. your beauty is a maker of
myths. on your tongue piss turns to milk

you devastate me

 

5.

do not remember. forget

a dream among objects

outside that closed door of
the rosewashed room, framed
against the doorway, a Queen Anne’s
chair
the sitter waits in shadow

we did not meet. there was
no entanglement of tongues
i did not experience love
race did matter
and my hymen did not break
you were unconcerned about impressing
anyone, least of all my parents
our stars did not cross
there is nothing to the past

forget my name

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

 

monday

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Monday
Alex Dimitrov

I was just beginning
to wonder about my own life
and now I have to return to it
regardless of the weather
or how close I am to love.
Doesn’t it bother you sometimes
what living is, what the day has turned into?
So many screens and meetings
and things to be late for.
Everyone truly deserves
a flute of champagne
for having made it this far!
Though it’s such a disaster
to drink on a Monday.
To imagine who you would be
if you hadn’t crossed the street
or married, if you hadn’t
agreed to the job or the money
or how time just keeps going—
whoever agreed to that
has clearly not seen
the beginning of summer
or been to a party
or let themselves float
in the middle of a book
where for however briefly
it’s possible to stay longer than
you should. Unfortunately
for me and you, we have
the rest of it to get to.
We must pretend
there’s a blue painting
at the end of this poem.
And every time we look at it
we forget about ourselves.
And every time it looks at us
it forgives us for pain.

Photo by Jaeyoon Jeong on Unsplash

missing moss

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I Wonder If I Will Miss the Moss
Jane Mead

I wonder if I will miss the moss
after I fly off as much as I miss it now
just thinking about leaving.

There were stones of many colors.
There were sticks holding both
lichen and moss.
There were red gates with old
hand-forged hardware.
There were fields of dry grass
smelling of first rain
then of new mud. There was mud,
and there was the walking,
all the beautiful walking,
and it alone filled me—
the smells, the scratchy grass heads.
All the sleeping under bushes,
once waking to vultures above, peering down
with their bent heads the way they do,
caricatures of interest and curiosity.
Once too a lizard.
Once too a kangaroo rat.
Once too a rat.
They did not say I belonged to them,
but I did.

Whenever the experiment on and of
my life begins to draw to a close
I’ll go back to the place that held me
and be held. It’s O.K. I think
I did what I could. I think
I sang some, I think I held my hand out.

Photo by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

a faithful and virtuous night

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A faithful and virtuous night
Louise Glück

How old he seemed, older than this morning.
He set his books beside the umbrella stand
and went to wash his face.
The cuffs of his school uniform
dangled below his knees.

You have no idea how shocking it is
to a small child when
something continuous stops.

The sounds, in this case, of the sewing room,
like a drill, but very far away—
Vanished. Silence was everywhere.
And then, in the silence, footsteps.
And then we were all together, my aunt and my brother.

Then tea was set out.
At my place, a slice of ginger cake
and at the center of the slice,
one candle, to be lit later.
How quiet you are, my aunt said.

It was true—
sounds weren’t coming out of my mouth. And yet
they were in my head, expressed, possibly,
as something less exact, thought perhaps,
though at the time they still seemed like sounds to me.

Something was there where there had been nothing.
Or should I say, nothing was there
but it had been defiled by questions—

Questions circled my head; they had a quality
of being organized in some way, like planets—

Outside, night was falling. Was this
that lost night, star-covered, moonlight-spattered,
like some chemical preserving
everything immersed in it?

My aunt had lit the candle.

Darkness overswept the land
and on the sea the night floated
strapped to a slab of wood—

If I could speak, what would I have said?
I think I would have said
goodbye, because in some sense
it was goodbye—

Well, what could I do? I wasn’t
a baby anymore.

I found the darkness comforting.
I could see, dimly, the blue and yellow
sailboats on the pillowcase.

I was alone with my brother;
we lay in the dark, breathing together,
the deepest intimacy.

It had occurred to me that all human beings are divided
into those who wish to move forward
and those who wish to go back.
Or you could say, those who wish to keep moving
and those who want to be stopped in their tracks
as by the blazing sword.

My brother took my hand.
Soon it too would be floating away
though perhaps, in my brother’s mind,
it would survive by becoming imaginary—

Having finally begun, how does one stop?
I suppose I can simply wait to be interrupted
as in my parents’ case by a large tree—
the barge, so to speak, will have passed
for the last time between the mountains.
Something, they say, like falling asleep,
which I proceeded to do.

The next day, I could speak again.
My aunt was overjoyed—
it seemed my happiness had been
passed on to her, but then
she needed it more, she had two children to raise.

I was content with my brooding.
I spent my days with the colored pencils
(I soon used up the darker colors)
though what I saw, as I told my aunt,
was less a factual account of the world
than a vision of its transformation
subsequent to passage through the void of myself.

Something, I said, like the world in spring.

When not preoccupied with the world
I drew pictures of my mother
for which my aunt posed,
holding, at my request,
a twig from a sycamore.

As to the mystery of my silence:
I remained puzzled
less by my soul’s retreat than
by its return, since it returned empty-handed—

How deep it goes, this soul,
like a child in a department store,
seeking its mother—

Perhaps it is like a diver
with only enough air in his tank
to explore the depths for a few minutes or so—
then the lungs send him back.

But something, I was sure, opposed the lungs,
possibly a death wish—
(I use the word soul as a compromise).

Of course, in a certain sense I was not empty-handed:
I had my colored pencils.
In another sense, that is my point:
I had accepted substitutes.

It was challenging to use the bright colors,
the ones left, though my aunt preferred them of course—
she thought all children should be lighthearted.

And so time passed: I became
a boy like my brother, later
a man.

I think here I will leave you. It has come to seem
there is no perfect ending.
Indeed, there are infinite endings.
Or perhaps, once one begins,
there are only endings.

 

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash

what happens in a room

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What Happens in a Room
Madeleine Wattenberg

into constricting the eye.
To accept into or to envelop.
To receive, as evening does morning,
without question.

Photo by luis castro on Unsplash