checking a trap

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Mysterious Neighbors
Connie Wanek

Country people rise early
as their distant lights testify.
They don’t hold water in common. Each house
has a personal source, like a bank account,
a stone vault. Some share eggs,
some share expertise,
and some won’t even wave.
A walk for the mail elevates the heart rate.
Last November I saw a woman down the road
walk out to her mailbox dressed in blaze orange
cap to boot, a cautious soul.
Bullets can’t read her No Trespassing sign.
Strange to think they’re in the air
like lead bees with a fatal sting.
Our neighbor across the road sits in his kitchen
with his rifle handy and the window open.
You never know when. Once
he shot a trophy with his barrel resting on the sill.
He’s in his seventies, born here, joined the Navy,
came back. Hard work never hurt a man
until suddenly he was another broken tool.
His silhouette against the dawn
droops as though drought-stricken, each step
deliberate, down the driveway to his black mailbox,
prying it open. Checking a trap.

 

husband dying

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Not knowing…

The Woman Whose Husband Was Dying
Ted Kooser

She turned her eyes from mine, for within mine
she knew there wasn’t room for all her sorrow.
She needed a plain that she could flood with grief,
and as she stood there by the door I saw the distance
before her slowly filling, as if from hidden springs,
and she stepped outside, and placed one foot
and then the other on the future, and it held her up.

eastern standard time

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Eastern Standard Time
Billy Collins

Poetry speaks to all people, it is said,
but here I would like to address
only those in my own time zone,
this proper slice of longitude
that runs from pole to snowy pole
down the globe through Montreal to Bogota.

Oh, fellow inhabitants of this singular band,
sitting up in your many beds this morning—
the sun falling through the windows
and casting a shadow on the sundial—
consider those in other zones who cannot hear these words.

They are not slipping into a bathrobe as we are,
or following the smell of coffee in a timely fashion.

Rather, they are at work already,
leaning on copy machines,
hammering nails into a house-frame.

They are not swallowing a vitamin like us;
rather they are smoking a cigarette under a half moon,
even jumping around on a dance floor,
or just now sliding under the covers,
pulling down the little chains on their bed lamps.

But we are not like these others,
for at this very moment on the face of the earth,
we are standing under a hot shower,

or we are eating our breakfast,
considered by people of all zones
to be the most important meal of the day.

Later, when the time is right,
we might sit down with the boss,
wash the car, or linger at a candle-lit table,
but now is the hour for pouring the juice
and flipping the eggs with one eye on the toaster.

So let us slice a banana and uncap the jam,
lift our brimming spoons of milk,
and leave it to the others to lower a flag
or spin absurdly in a barber’s chair—
those antipodal oddballs, always early or late.

Let us praise Sir Stanford Fleming
the Canadian genius who first scored
with these lines the length of the spinning earth.

Let us move together through the rest of this day
passing in unison from light to shadow,
coasting over the crest of noon
into the valley of the evening
and then, holding hands, slip into the deeper valley of night.

 

unearthly love

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Christ Loved Being Housed
Linda Gregg
The time of passion is younger than us.
It does not live in memories
or metaphors, but in living things:
quail, bay trees, the sun leaving
and returning. Going and being there.
Dark, rain and colors spreading
through the late sky afterward.
So much like the Apache and Tarahumara
who live differently now, as I do.
But I want to ask you about the nature
of love. Do you think it is unearthly?
I want to tell you it is, and more.
Christ did not want to leave the body.
Love resides entirely in the part of us
that is the least defended or safe.
The part that has no alternative
to loss, defeat and dying.
All else is tested by its flint
in what it strikes upon in the darkness.

exiled tongue

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Exile
Hilde Domin

The mouth dying,
The mouth twisted
The mouth trying
to say the word right
in a strange language.

Original

Exil

Der sterbende Mund
müht sich
um das richtig gesprochene
Wort
einer fremden
Sprache.

lost fragment

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For a Lost Fragment
Carol Moldaw

for C.H.

It’s a definite lack, being landlocked, bay-and-ocean-less:
I envy you the lapping ferry, especially on your way home,
as you face the receding city to catch the sunset’s neon sprawl.

Life itself can feel like a sprawl these days, but I’m grateful
emotions no longer roil needlessly inside me, unchecked
as the flash flood that yesterday surged through the Pojoaque,

lifting it beyond its sand-grit bed and churning up a swill
of watered-down mud. When we were young, on the coast
of Spain, it was all I could do to keep my agitations down.

Who knew how to admit to the furious flurry caged inside?
At the overpass, a long line of cars—it looked like a pileup—
had emptied out to spectate the tumult moiling below.

To see the swollen river up close, once home I put on
waders and crossed our field, flooded only in pockets
until near the back V-gate, where suddenly the water rose

knee-high with a pushing force and a continuous roar
like a full-on stampede—the escaped river trampling its bed,
flattening cottonwood, salt cedar, Russian olive, in its wake.

Submerged like a floodplain, the past’s reshaped by brush
and bracken being swept downstream, by the water that,
subsided, reveals corrective contours, blank spaces, scraps

missing, regretted, newly understood. I wish I still had
that unfinished love poem I scrawled in a long-lost ledger.
As if it could ferry us back, redirect one moment’s course.

regret

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Regret
Naomi Shihab Nye
To forgive ourselves for what we didn’t do
Replay a scene over and over in mind
Change it change
Apologizing to our own story handful of soil
I could have planted something better here

To walk without remembering another walk
To wash off the hope of a darkened day
Make a new one

This is normal here, the fathers say
bombs exploding
tourists stepping carefully over grenades
Excuse us this is not the life
we would have made or the way
we would have welcomed you
tear gas billowing over our streets
Regular
Usual
SOS
We are so tired.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

sex

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What Sex Becomes
Olivia Gatwood
I remember being a waitress
on Valentine’s Day and loving
the newness on a couple’s face,

how I watched, like the only patron
at a matinee, as they shared
everything they ate.

I would deliver their sundae
with an extra cherry–
the one she would slide into her mouth–
a preview of what was to come.

I felt like a school teacher
who goes home to no children,
a cab driver without a car,

a therapist who cries
in the middle of the night
and can’t figure out why.