Poem submission by Nichole Knabe
ocean skies that widen
in a big way
like the earth splitting
at its seams
like girls with
breaking at the joints
and the sensitive
and at her hips
the wide world ends
and sends him packing
there are components she
so she’ll have to recover
sometime in the morning
from learning that
most truths come
Poem submission by r0und-here
I sit straight in my chair, taking the red-eye out west.
Above me, my life is packed away in the overheard compartment.
I can’t help but be thankful the rest of my row is asleep.
My insomnia prevents rest,
but the idea of human interaction
sparks a wave of depression.
“Any trash, sir?”
The stewardess stands above me,
equipped with an open plastic bag.
I cringe at her false smile.
and see myself in her eyes,
filled with exhaustion and self-pity.
She privately resents each passenger:
The headsets with housewives attached,
The screeching children who are too young to understand,
The wanderlust teenagers looking to belong.
The sight of adolescence hit her hard,
She too once had dreams to catch.
Dreams that were abandoned
in a distant city long ago.
Now she longs to escape,
to forget her broken desires,
But each sight she sees
brings a painful memory.
I look up at her.
“Why, yes, I do”, I answer, but did not move.
Her eyes flash confusion, but she walks on,
repeating her question to the next passenger.
She is a robot, programmed to assist.
She doesn’t have time for pathetic old men,
who look for meaning in their five dollar wine.
But that pretty little lady,
one day she will be me.
For I was once her.
And now I’m taking the red-eye out west,
to catch my dreams
as bright as the rising sun.
Franz Wright’s most recent collection, Kindertotenwald, is book of prose poems that serve to remind us how tragic is the loss of childhood, not just when we first lose it but throughout our lives. Wright, now in his late fifties, has remained alert to the hauntings of youth, as well as to surreal visitations like that of the seagull in the corn below.
Seagull in the corn, postage stamp-size cornfield in the woods,
in the middle of the state, and how you ever got here. Weather
of heaven, July Massachusetts, the blue sky one endless goodbye.
Give me a minute, maggot-swarming preview of the future, give
me a moment. You can hone a blade until there is no blade, or
dwell with magnifying glass so long on a word that finally it darkens,
is not, and fire in widening circles consumes the world. For a moment
only, stay with me, mystery. Before you change completely into
something other, slow cloud, entrance, spell, not yet remembered
name, stay; tell me what you mean. A dead bird is not a dead bird
I was once told by someone who knows.
Excerpt from KINDERTOTENWALD © 2011 by Franz Wright. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Poem submission by joancarr
Hamako lies in a watery grave, sad eyes watching as her life floats by.
There goes the roof of her house - her mother’s wedding kimono - her favourite doll.
There goes her grandfather’s pen. He writes such beautiful characters.
He was teaching Hamako but no the pen is gone she will never learn.
There goes the fan that her mother saved from the earthquake when all else was gone.
It was silk. It belonged to her great grandmother.
A year goes by and on a distant shore, where children of a different race play on the beach, the doll, eyeless, dismembered, sprawls unnoticed
Why are the fish dead, the children ask as they dip theri nets into the rock pools.
Why are the fish dead the fishermen ask as they pull their meagre harvest from the sea.
The world turns and the tides run and the huge wave that took Hamako from her family has spread itself wide across the ocean and brought sadness to another country where another people, smug in their western affluence, thought themselves safe from such disasters!
Poem submission by Shaun Shane
we would be
Poem submission by another-kind-of-blue
I came today to where I was
Which seems so long ago.
For days must pass
And wheels must turn
To lead us down our road.
I met a man who I once knew
Beneath the hollow oak.
From rolling stone to stepping stone,
I told him where I’ve been;
He stopped and smiled and spoke:
“Anywhere is everywhere
And here I am today.
What makes a man
Is how he walks
Not where he makes his way.”
There is nothing else in American poetry like the late James Merrill’s multiple-prize-winning The Changing Light at Sandover, a 560-page epic poem about his evenings spent at the Ouija board with his partner, David Jackson, first published in one volume in 1982. Among other things, it is one of the only accounts of a longtime domestic partnership that we have in verse; as they sit in their candle-lit Stonington, Connecticut dining room, using a five-&-dime Willowware cup as the “pointer” in their alphabetical soundings of the beyond, “JM” and “DJ” learn much about themselves, and process the events of their daily lives as they communicate with the past presences who come to call. Beginning in the summer of 1955, when they first experiment with the Ouija process and meet with their “familiar” and guiding spirit, Ephraim, a first-century Greek Jew, they will make contact with many departed luminaries in the course of their decades-long journey, including Plato, W. B. Yeats, W. H. Auden, and the eminence “God B” (“God Biology”). Readers of the now classic Sandover have often argued about the degree to which Merrill’s account is “real,” but those who knew him still tell how they sat in the dining room and witnessed the cup flying around the board - whether guided by spirits or by poetic genius is perhaps irrelevant now. It is impossible to read the volume without at some point giving oneself over to the radiance of otherworldly lessons, and marveling at this monumental reflection on our endangered efforts to make a good life here on earth.
Throughout the book, Merrill uses upper-case letters to indicate when voices are speaking from the board. Thus Ephraim’s words are given in caps below, in this section which tells of his initial instructional visit with JM (whom the spirits called “scribe”) and DJ (called “hand”).
Correct but cautious, that first night, we asked
Our visitor’s name, era, habitat.
EPHRAIM came the answer. A Greek Jew
Born AD 8 at XANTHOS Where was that?
In Greece WHEN WOLVES & RAVENS WERE IN ROME
(Next day the classical dictionary yielded
A Xanthos on the Asia Minor Coast.)
NOW WHO ARE U We told him. ARE U XTIANS
We guessed so. WHAT A COZY CATACOMB
Christ had WROUGHT HAVOC in his family,
ENTICED MY FATHER FROM MY MOTHER’S BED
(I too had issued from a broken home
The first of several facts to coincide.)
Later a favorite of TIBERIUS Died
AD 36 on CAPRI throttled
By the imperial guard for having LOVED
THE MONSTERS NEPHEW (sic) CALIGULA
Rapidly he went onchanging the subject?
A long incriminating manuscript
Boxed in bronze lay UNDER PORPHYRY
Beneath the deepest evacuations. He
Would help us find it, but we must please make haste
Because Tiberius wanted it destroyed.
Oh? And where, we wondered to the void,
Was Tiberius these days? STAGE THREE
Why was he telling us? He’d overheard us
Talking to SIMPSON Simpson? His LINK WITH EARTH
His REPRESENTATIVE A feeble nature
All but bestial, given to violent
Short livesone ending lately among flames
In an Army warehouse. Slated for rebirth
But not in time, said Ephraim, to prevent
The brat from wasting, just now at our cup,
Precious long distance minutesdon’t hang up!
So much facetiousnesswell, we were young
And these were matters of life and deathdismayed us.
Was he a devil? His reply MY POOR
INNOCENTS left the issue hanging fire.
As it flowed on, his stream-of-consciousness
Deepened. There was a buried room, a BED
WROUGHT IN SILVER I CAN LEAD U THERE
IF If? U GIVE ME What? HA HA YR SOULS
(Another time he’ll say that he misread
Our innocence for insolence that night,
And meant to scare us.) Our eyes met. What if …
The blood’s least vessel hoisted jet-black sails.
Five whole minutes we were frightened stiff
But after all, we weren’t that innocent.
The Rover Boys at thirty, still red-blooded
Enough not to pass up an armchair revel
And pure enough at heart to beat the devil,
Entered into the spirit, so to speak,
And said they’d leave for Capri that same week.
Pause. Then, as though we’d passed a test,
Ephraim’s whole manner changed. He brushed aside
Tiberius and settled to the task
Of answering, like an experienced guide,
Those questions we had lacked the wit to ask.
Here on Earthhuge tracts of information
Have gone into these capsules flavorless
And rhymed for easy swallowingon Earth
We’re each the REPRESENTATIVE of a PATRON
Are there that many patrons? YES O YES
These secular guardian angels fume and fuss
For what must seem eternity over us.
It is forbidden them to INTERVENE
Save, as it were, in the entr’acte between
One incarnation and another. Back
To school from the disastrously long vac
Goes the soul its patron crams yet once
Again with savoir vivre. Will the dunce
Neverby rote, the hundredth time roundlearn
What ropes make fast that point of no return,
A footing on the lowest of NINE STAGES
Among the curates and the minor mages?
Patrons at last ourselves, an upward notch
Our old ones move THEYVE BORNE IT ALL FOR THIS
And take delivery from the Abyss
Of brand-new little savage souls to watch.
One difference: with every rise in station
Comes a degree of PEACE FROM REPRESENTATION
Odd phrase, more like a motto for abstract
Artor for AutocracyIn fact
Our heads are spinningFrom the East a light
BUT U ARE TIRED MES CHERS SWEET DREAMS TOMORROW NIGHT
Excerpt from THE CHANGING LIGHT AT SANDOVER © 1980, 1982 by James Merrill. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Poem submission by doodlebimbee
Her life was a string of awkward moments no one else remembered.
“Who is this
Chameleon Girl?” when she entered a room they pretended not to notice her.
And she pretended to be a ghost.
She walked through hallways filled with glances that warped around and through her
always going somewhere
never where she was but she took up more space than a ghost.
She had a room full of memories that didn’t belong to her.
Sometimes she made up stories about the girl who lived there.
she looked at photos of fickle smiles and wondered,
Who is this
Poem submission by asimplenobody
From the bowels of the dark room
came “I’ll do it later.”
Its source, the quiet mumble of
Its body smelled of dirt and grime,
its hair was unshaven,
the deep black seemed to seep out from
its ungodly haven.
The TV flickered COPS reruns,
frozen food for dinner -
would it get the work done in time,
this great slothful sinner?
The screen was half-filled with some text
of incomplete paper
from long before, when its focus
was so prone to taper.
The mind lost track and did wander
Its thoughts, they were scattered
It was busy scanning Tumblr;
Its right mission - shattered.
So say a prayer for the writer
of this piece so pallid
for The Procrastinator was
author of this ballad.
Poem submission by E.K.Merrick
That ache for the sound of the rain on a tin roof,
to be held tight during a summer’s storm,
or lie awake in each other’s sweat on a
humid Sydney night.
Familiar voices, horizons like the scars on my hands
and that soothing lick of a language.
That ache to drive north on the Pacific, speeding away from
the harbour and lights. And for an hour,
but the gums and the great expanse of the Hawkesbury.
And that ache to go back to those small coastal places
that define us more than we want to admit.
These places that we flee from, for fear that their rips
will drag us down and coerce us to stay in the sea,
a life lived as it always has been.
But it’s in these places to fall into the
arms of people loved forever,
despite our ever-shifting and contrasting landscapes.
And it’s these small coastal places that soothes this ache,
And it’s there to return home to, smiling.
Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem is a surprising little volume from our Everyman’s Pocket Poets library. It contains everything from anonymous “murder ballads” and verse by the likes of Thomas Hardy and Robert Browning to more contemporary entries by Frank Bidart, Carol Ann Duffy, and Kimiko Hahn. The below, by Marie Howe, is one of those rare poems that actually captures a conversation as it takes shape, in this case a particularly Manhattan, walking-in-the-West-Village sort of conversation.
After the Movie
My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing
about the movie.
He says that be believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.
I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment.
Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone,
then come to a day
when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me”
think “me” and kill him.
I say, Then it’s not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.
I say, Maybe we mean different things by the
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist
even in the murderous heart.
I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then
what is it?
We’re walking along West 16th Street - a clear
unclouded night - and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is
action, I used to say to him.
Simone Weil says that when you really love you are
able to look at someone you want to eat and not
Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart
Meister Eckhart says that as long as we love any
image we are doomed to live in purgatory.
Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue
I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just
again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and
suck the stuff from the hole the flip top made.
What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict.
You are a nun.”
Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him
to think these things of me even if he’s not
Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns
clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to
we both know the winter has only begun.
Poem © 2008 from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe, used by gracious permission of W.W. Norton. Excerpt from KILLER VERSE © 2011 by Everyman’s Library. Excerpted by permission of Everyman’s Library, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Poem submission by life-between-words
Thoughtless, I wander,
aimlessly roam streets
on this spring evening
when I saw it.
Is it a dream –
in this big city
such a tranquil place
– I don’t know.
I find myself looking,
can’t quite define
what or who
I’m looking for.
Golden sunset bathes
small windows of serene
happy shiny people.
Somebody’s husband and child
so similar to my
husband and child
who I don’t have.
So I’m watching, guarding
in this floating world.
Breathe in, breath out, let go.
I bring myself to walk away
side by side with the future
I can’t hold on to.
Poem submission by Melissa Watt
Poem submission by samcrossman1981
How did you know what you were meant to be?
The Kingfisher said, to his friend in the tree,
I didn’t they said, I was born with this beak,
I can dive really well, for the fish that I seek,
I leap off this branch and with speed and with poise,
I fish for my fish, without making a noise,
The Kingfisher sighed and agreed it’s innate,
But confessed to his friend in the tree, that of late,
Whilst kingfishing, he’s wishing that he’s somewhere else,
Deciding what he wants in life, for himself,
It’s all well and all good, if his family and friends,
Spend their lives, doing just, what their body best lends,
But for him, he can see that although he is built,
as a fishing machine, there’s no feeling of guilt,
When next he wakes up, and he steps from his tree,
He will fly to the heavens, good heavens he’s free.