available light

Standard

Available Light
Robert Wrigley
And what would I do with another picture

of her nude? The one I have I show to no one,

not even her anymore,
for fear she might

want them back, or worse. But the one
I regret not taking most was that hot

summer night I rose for
a drink of water,

not even noticing at first I was alone,

until, in the hallway of the too-small house
we lived in then, I saw
her fully extended

on our son’s bed. He had a summer cold

and a little lifelong jones for the breast.

He was two, almost.
He’s been fussy from the
heat,

so she went to him there, and then there
she was too, sleeping – and all her long back,
head to heel.

In my half-wakefulness I
stood, ciphering

such a photograph’s mechanics: tripod, cable release,

the long moon- and night-lighted, sepia-
toned exposure….

When I told her years
later how close I’d come,

she said I should have, it would have been fine,

and there lies the source of my regret: her late permission.

Though I think of it now
only as I slip the others

from the safe place they’re hidden in,

six in all: three along a mountain river;

one in a galvanized tub
at the hot springs;

another, fishing from the shore of a mountain lake, in sunglasses –

and then the absent one, framed by the doorway:
on the nearest edge of a
twin bed,

a stuffed bear looking on from the cast-off sheets,

the rasping boy out of sight on the other side of her,

and a particular sheen
on her skin, as if

she’d been basted or entirely, relentlessly kissed,

even the bottoms of her slender, delectable feet

aglow.

Photo by Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash

 

outlasted

Standard

On a Picture by Burchfield
Donald Justice
Writhe no more, little flowers. Art keeps long hours.
Already your agony has outlasted ours.

Photo by César Abner Martínez Aguilar on Unsplash

special problems

Standard

Special Problems in Vocabulary
Tony Hoagland
There is no single particular noun
for the way a friendship,
stretched over time, grows thin,
then one day snaps with a popping sound.

No verb for accidentally
breaking a thing
while trying to get it open
—a marriage, for example.

No particular phrase for
losing a book
in the middle of reading it,
and therefore never learning the end.

There is no expression, in English, at least,
for avoiding the sight
of your own body in the mirror,
for disliking the touch

of the afternoon sun,
for walking into the flatlands and dust
that stretch out before you
after your adventures are done.

No adjective for gradually speaking less and less,
because you have stopped being able
to say the one thing that would
break your life loose from its grip.

Certainly no name that one can imagine
for the aspen tree outside the kitchen window,
in spade-shaped leaves

spinning on their stems,
working themselves into
a pale-green, vegetable blur.

No word for waking up one morning
and looking around,
because the mysterious spirit

that drives all things
seems to have returned,
and is on your side again.

Photo by Andrew Preble on Unsplash

neither seen nor heard

Standard

Parting
Gane Todorovski
you’re leaving and not looking back
the age-old fear of turning into stone
now germinates in you like pain
that something passes and you’re left alone

you’re leaving and you carry much
in that mute threat of yours
without a note, forgiveness, or farewell
cold marble, dry-eyed, no remorse.

You’re leaving hurriedly and without voice
and flapping like a startled bird:
you disappear beyond return and soon
become a shadow, neither seen nor heard.

backlash

Standard

The Backlash Blues
Langston Hughes
Mister Backlash, Mister Backlash,
Just who do you think I am?
Tell me, Mister Backlash,
Who do you think I am?
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages,
Send my son to Vietnam.

You give me second-class houses,
Give me second-class schools,
Second-class houses
And second-class schools.
You must think us colored folks
Are second-class fools.

When I try to find a job
To earn a little cash,
Try to find myself a job
To earn a little cash,
All you got to offer
Is a white backlash.

But the world is big,
The world is big and round,
Great big world, Mister Backlash,
Big and bright and round—
And it’s full of folks like me who are
Black, Yellow, Beige, and Brown.

Mister Backlash, Mister Backlash,
What do you think I got to lose?
Tell me, Mister Backlash,
What you think I got to lose?
I’m gonna leave you, Mister Backlash,
Singing your mean old backlash blues.

You’re the one,
Yes, you’re the one
Will have the blues.