the cloister

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The Cloister
William Matthews

The last light of a July evening drained
into the streets below: My love and I had hard
things to say and hear, and we sat over
wine, faltering, picking our words carefully.

The afternoon before I had lain across
my bed and my cat leapt up to lie
alongside me, purring and slowly
growing dozy. By this ritual I could

clear some clutter from my baroque brain.
And into that brief vacancy the image
of a horse cantered, coming straight to me,
and I knew it brought hard talk and hurt

and fear. How did we do? A medium job,
which is well above average. But because
she had opened her heart to me as far
as she did, I saw her fierce privacy,

like a gnarled, luxuriant tree all hung
with disappointments, and I knew
that to love her I must love the tree
and the nothing it cares for me.

Image (c) 2002 by Mitzi.humphrey used under CC BY-SA 4.0

 

means to an end

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Means to an End
Thomas Ligotti
Only one way
to arrive
(that swollen body)
yet so many ways
to leave.
You could spend
your whole life
counting those ways,
thinking about them.
But you can never
know the way
you will take
until it takes you.
It’s very strange,
that’s for sure.

“the lesson you’ve got…

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Mary Karr
…to learn is the someday you’ll someday
stagger to, blinking in cold light, all tears
shed, ready to poke your bovine head
in the yoke they’ve shaped.

Everyone learns this. Born, everyone
breathes, pays tax, plants dead
and hurts galore. There’s grief enough
for each. My mother

learned by moving man to man,
outlived them all. The parched earth’s
bare (once she leaves it) of any who watched
the instants I trod it.

Other than myself, of course.
I’ve made a study of bearing
and forbearance. Everyone does,
it turns out, and note

those faces passing by: Not one’s a god.

past-lives therapy

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Past-Lives Therapy
Charles Simic
They explained to me the bloody bandages
On the floor in the maternity ward in Rochester, N.Y.,
Cured the backache I acquired bowing to my old master,
Made me stop putting thumbtacks round my bed.

They showed me an officer on horseback,
Waving a saber next to a burning farmhouse
And a barefoot woman in a nightgown,
Throwing stones after him and calling him Lucifer.

I was a straw-headed boy in patched overalls.
Come dark a chicken would roost in my hair.
Some even laid eggs as I played my ukulele
And my mother and father crossed themselves.

Next, I saw myself inside an abandoned gas station
Constructing a spaceship out of a coffin,
Red traffic cone, cement mixer and ear warmers,
When a church lady fainted seeing me in my underwear.

Some days, however, they opened door after door,
Always to a different room, and could not find me.
There’d be only a small squeak now and then,
As if a miner’s canary got caught in a mousetrap.

today was

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Today I was happy, so I made this poem
James Wright
As the plump squirrel scampers
across the roof of the corncrib,
the moon suddenly stands up in the darkness,
and I see that it is impossible to die.
Each moment of time is a mountain.
An eagle rejoices in the oak trees of heaven,
Crying,
This is what I wanted.

leaky

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The Leaky Faucet
Ted Kooser
All through the night, the leaky faucet
searches the stillness of the house
with its radar blip: who is awake?
Who lies out there as full of worry
as a pan in the sink? Cheer up,
cheer up, the little faucet calls,
someone will help you through your life.

adultery

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to the endless paranoiac suspicion

In Defense of Adultery
Julia Copus
We don’t fall in love: it rises through us
the way that certain music does –
whether a symphony or ballad –
and it is sepia-coloured,
like spilt tea that inches up
the tiny tube-like gaps inside
a cube of sugar lying by a cup.
Yes, love’s like that: just when we least
needed or expected it
a part of us dips into it
by chance or mishap and it seeps
through our capillaries, it clings
inside the chambers of the heart.
We’re victims, we say: mere vessels,
drinking the vanilla scent
of this one’s skin, the lustre
of another’s eyes so skilfully
darkened with bistre. And whatever
damage might result we’re not
to blame for it: love is an autocrat
and won’t be disobeyed.
Sometimes we manage
to convince ourselves of that.

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

cease not

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We Shall Not Cease (from Little Gidding)
T.S. Eliot
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

artless

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Artless
Brenda Shaughnessy
is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,
tartless.

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,
roofless.

No poetry. Plain. No
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

All I’ve ever made
with these hands
and life, less

substance, more rind.
Mostly rim and trim,
meatless

but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
no less.

Fatted from the day,
overripe and even
toxic at eve. Nonetheless,

in the end, if you must
know, if I must bend,
waistless,

to that excruciation.
No marvel, no harvest
left me speechless,

yet I find myself
somehow with heart,
aloneless.

With heart,
fighting fire with fire,
fightless.

That loud hub of us,
meat stub of us, beating us
senseless.

Spectacular in its way,
its way of not seeing,
congealing dayless

but in everydayness.
In that hopeful haunting
(a lesser

way of saying
in darkness) there is
silencelessness

for the pressing question.
Heart, what art you?
War, star, part? Or less:

playing a part, staying apart
from the one who loves,
loveless.

Photo by Jiroe on Unsplash