Glass fragments dropped from wholeness to hodgepodge
Yet fasten to each edge
The opal signature of imperfection
Whose rays, though disarrayed, will postulate
More than a network of cross-angled light
When through the dusk they point unbruised directions
And chart upon the room
Capacities of fire it must assume.
The splendid curvings of glass artifice
Informed its flawlessness
With lucid unities. Freed from these now,
Like love it triumphs through inconsequence
And builds its harmony from dissonance
And lies somehow within us, broken, as though
Time were a broken bowl
And our last joy knowing it shall not heal.
~ James Merrill, from “The Broken Bowl”
I give, and I give, and I give. It’s the way it is.
Like a river feeding itself to the ocean.
The pattern’s not undone, yet.
There may be rocks, obstructing the way.
Or lesser streams forking from my body,
And drying up in the sun.
A traveler may pause, squat next to my belly
Where an accidental leaf rattles like a canoe,
Cup a mouthful of what makes me me.
Still, the pattern’s not undone.
Like a river feeding itself to the ocean,
Child, I continue to give myself to you
Until I become undone—scattered pockets
of primitive earth, peeled bare.
~ Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, “A River on its Way,” from Not a Muse
A rough sound was polished until it became a smoother sound, which was polished until it became music. Then the music was polished until it became the memory of a night in Venice when tears of the sea fell from the Bridge of Sighs, which in turn was polished until it ceased to be and in its place stood the empty home of a heart in trouble. Then suddenly there was sun and the music came back and traffic was moving and off in the distance, at the edge of the city, a long line of clouds appeared, and there was thunder, which, however menacing, would become music, and the memory of what happened after Venice would begin, and what happened after the home of the troubled heart broke in two would also begin.
~ Mark Strand, “The Everyday Enchantment of Music”
Things I Want Decided
Which shouldn’t exist
in this world,
the one who forgets
or the one
who is forgotten?
Which is better,
one who has died
or not to see
each other when you are alive?
Which is better,
the distant lover
you long for
or the one you see daily
Which is the least unreliable
among fickle things—
the swift rapids,
a flowing river,
or this human world?
— Izumi Shikibu, trans. Jane Hirshfield, in The Ink Dark Moon (via growing orbits)
Soon the world will amaze you, and you
will give back its bird-warble, its dove call,
singing that blue note which deepens the song,
that longing for what no one can recall,
your small night cry roused from the wholeness
you carry into this broken world.
~ Betsy Sholl, from “Lulliby in Blue”
Show me the body that brides its quest,
that sleeps its seemings, tremblant inconnue,
jeweled Ophelia of diaphanous hue
in all her slippings, weed-wedded, water-dressed,
the sluice and swooning of her semblant rest—
the river ruptures, the weeds branch blue—
day’s jaune eyes (wide lucencies) bleed new
hollow spaces where the breathings nest…
~ Karen Volkman, from “[Show me the body that brides its quest]”
Let night come
with its austere grandeur,
ancient superstitions and fears.
It can do us no harm.
We’ll put some music on,
open the curtains,
let things darken as they will.
~ Stephen Dunn, from “Here and Now”
Kisses, too, tasted of iron
the year we lived in twilights. They tilted warily
like bags of groceries I’d carry up the stairs
to find you in boxers, the smell of coffee mixed with vinegar
from the bowl of pickle juice you soaked your fingers in
trying to hurry the callouses. We trafficked in the grief
of incompatible day and night, we stretched the hours
as best we could, but mostly we practiced
a kind of starving, excruciating to recall
how hard we tried. I’d unpack the groceries
and tell you about the day, and after dinner
you’d pick out a tune on the guitar
(it was the year you apprenticed to the blues).
Before each night shift, in uniform and socks,
you’d climb into bed and hold me until I fell asleep.
Then you would slip quietly out.
And when I dreamed, I glimpsed the gods in you,
I dreamt you were Hephaestus with the iron forge,
the sweat covering you when you jogged home
was holy, it was the sweat of the whole city,
even the roses, even the bus exhaust.
The mind circles back like a record spinning,
a little molten, a little wobbly, a record
shiny as your black hair, a record player
crackling and stuttering over a scratch, an urge
to ask forgiveness even though it’s dark now
and you’ve already forgiven me.
~ Jeffifer Grotz, “The Record,” from The Southern Review
If you hear the rush, the swish of mottled sand
and dust kicked up under the striving paws,
its cessation, falling into the sharp and brittle grass
like the tick of a tin roof under sun
or hint of rain that nightly wakes you,
try to stand your ground. Try not to scream,
for it devalues you. That tawny head and burled
mange, the flattened ears of its sleek engine
will seem only a blur, a shock, a shadow
across your neck that leaves you cold.
It may seem soft, barely a blow,
more like a falling, an exquisite giving
of yourself to the ground, made numb
by those eyes. It may be easier just to watch,
for fighting will only prolong things,
and you will have no time to notice the sky,
the texture of dust, what incredible leaves
the trees have. Instead, focus on your life,
its crimson liquor he grows drunk on.
Notice the way the red highlights his face,
how the snub nose is softened, the lips made
fuller; notice his deft musculature, his rapture,
because in all of creation there is not art
to compare with such elegance, such simplicity.
Notice this and remember it,
this way in which you became beautiful
when you thought there was nothing more.
~ Michael Johnson, “How to Be Eaten by a Lion,” Mid-American Review
Roberto Palladini - The Window, 2012.
Five roofers are wedging off the old,
scraping it over the edge. Great black birds
diving in front of the window.
In another place, a nail gun goes off in patterns
of four, sometimes five. They’re nice guys:
one has a funny beard that sticks
straight out, one has a lip ring. One is pounding,
testing for rot. One is flipping the sections of shingles
down: I hear them slap like clown’s feet,
something out of Shakespeare. These guys know
what they’re doing and they do it,
great rolls of thunder, the roof
of heaven cluttered with gods: Homer’s
Tityus, Leto, Tantalus—the ones
who work the obscure jobs, who come
when called, the ones before Milton’s great-
voiced dignitary, before Hopkins’s rod bearer,
the ones from the old days, from my old days,
when over my head there was music
in the air, the pitch of my church-camp voice
raised out of the heat and the breeze
and the sun on the spillway rocks, all of it
holding me in as if I were in a shadow box,
the kind where someone looks through
a peephole and everything is 3-D, so the eye
is like the Important God. I am filled
with tenderness for the little world I had going on
inside, my grief that it was not the world.
~ Fleda Brown, “Roofers,” The Georgia Review
Weeping, weeping, weeping.
No wonder the oceans are full;
No wonder the seas are rising.
It’s not the beloved’s fault.
Dying is part of the story.
It’s not your fault either:
Tears are also.
You can’t read when you’re
Crying. Sobbing, you won’t
Hear the song that resurrects
The body of the beloved.
Why not rest a while? If weeping
Is one of the world’s tasks,
It doesn’t lack adherents.
Someone will take your place,
Someone will weep for you.
~ Gregory Orr, “From Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved,” Rattle