31 January 2016

You are the snow I've never known

                                             by Robert Thomas

The Blizzard

You'll never take off your blue cashmere
for me, your jade belt, or even your white
walking shoes that squeak like a nurse's.

Who are you with now, taking his pulse?
Why am I just well enough not to warrant
your care? Those snow-white stockings
will never drift on my floor like waterlilies.

I will row the boat of my sleek, narrow bed
to the center of the lake and bask in the sun,
opening my basket of strawberries, a buttery
cheese, and a musky bottle of Spanish wine,
and very gently, carefully get drunk alone.

I've had the sun's pleasures, but you are the snow
I've never known. I can only imagine the falling
crystals on my tongue, each one the moist word
of a poem in a language I barely know, 
chaleursdouleurs ... the blizzard of your body.

I think of Ötzi, the Ice Man, 5,000 years ago
in the southern Alps, herding his sheep home.
He was prepared for anything: a quiver of cherry
and dogwood arrows, a longbow of yew, an ax
of burnished copper, mushrooms and einkorn
in a leather pouch, stripes and a cross of blue-
black soot tattooed on his ankles and back.

When the snow came, he didn't have a chance.
An unusually warm summer, tourists on a picnic,
salami and orange soda in their packs. They saw
the back of his skull jut from the thawing snow
and made a call from their cell phone, talking
excitedly in a language that meant nothing
to Ötzi: strange vowels, inhuman consonants.

I think if you gave yourself to me for just one
afternoon, sunlight lapping at the lace curtains,
I would be lost in a livid white storm within four
howling walls. My extremities would start to go
numb, sensation shrink to an azure flame, my lips
just starting to form the first words of your language.

The Atlantic Monthly, July 2002.

24 January 2016

The roar of our wedding march

                 by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Clare Cavanagh

My fallen, my turned to dust, my earth,
assumes the shape he has in the photograph:
with a leaf’s shadow on his face, with a seashell in his hand,
he sets out toward my dream.
He wanders through darknesses extinguished since never,
through emptinesses opened to themselves forever,
through seven times seven times seven silences.
He appears on the other side of my eyelids,
in the one and only world that he can reach.
His shot heart beats.
A first wind stirs from his hair.
A meadow spreads between us.
Skies come flying with clouds and birds,
mountains rise silently on the horizon
and a river flows downward, searching for the sea.
You can see so far, so far,
that day and night turn simultaneous,
and all seasons of the year occur at once.
A four-quartered moon unfolds its fan,
snowflakes swarm beside butterflies,
fruit falls from the blossoming tree.
We draw closer. In tears,
in smiles, I don’t know. Just one step more
and we’ll listen to your shell together,
to the roar of a thousand orchestras,
to the roar of our wedding march.

17 January 2016

Desires you nursed of a winter night

                                   by A. E. Stallings
The hounds, you know them all by name.
You fostered them from purblind whelps
At their dam’s teats, and you have come
To know the music of their yelps:
High-strung Anthee, the brindled bitch,
The blue-tick coated Philomel,
And freckled Chloe, who would fetch
A pretty price if you would sell—
All fleet of foot, and swift to scent,
Inexorable once on the track,
Like angry words you might have meant,
But do not mean, and can’t take back.
There was a time when you would brag
How they would bay and rend apart
The hopeless belling from a stag.
You falter now for the foundered hart.
Desires you nursed of a winter night —
Did you know then why you bred them—
Whose needling milk-teeth used to bite
The master’s hand that leashed and fed them?

A. E. Stallings, “Actaeon” from Hapax. 2006,

10 January 2016

The soft alabaster of the pectoral

 by Geffrey Davis

What I Mean When I Say Chinook Salmon

My father held the unspoken version of this story
along the bridge of his shoulders: 
This is how
we face and cast to the river — at angles.
This is how we court uncertainty. Here, he taught
patience before violence — to hold, and then
to strike. My fingers carry the stiff

memory of knots we tied to keep a 40-lb. King
from panicking into the deep current
of the stream. Back home, kneeling
at the edge of the tub with our kills, he showed
the way to fillet a King: slice into the soft
alabaster of the pectoral, study the pink-rose notes

from the Pacific, parse waste and bone from flesh. Then,
half asleep, he’d put us to bed, sometimes with kisses.

 From Geffrey Davis, Revising the Storm,’ 2014.

03 January 2016

Tipped myself like brimmed-over wine

by Laura Fargas


Most of what matters to me
can be touched, but must be left
untouched, the bell hunched
over its silence until the moment
of telling. Saint Augustine said
when he prayed, even the straw
beneath his knees shouted to
distract him. Today is the day
of the small-eared rabbit lying
on her side, at ease near me.
I don't believe animals can tell
who they don't need to be afraid of,
though if I had that gift, I would have
tipped myself like brimmed-over wine
into his arms anyway. The ducks
in front of me now sway in their
one-legged sleep like dreaming trees.
What would it feel like to stroke
a mallard's purple wingflash?
Every moment in this dulling light
at the edge of a lake brings
a harvest of desires. What tames
these ducks? Occasional food,
but they came to me a second time
after not receiving food. Not
trust, not stupidity, but a habit
of patience and a long wanting.

From The Atlantic Monthly, October 2002.