Billet-Doux

Nobody lied; left to themselves, the waves
do find a pattern, and it is an old one,
yes: one roar,

                    another. And, in between,
a silence only relative—narrow, but
not so narrow that it can’t hold, too,

at the window, the sound of bees making
of an act like thumping against glass or
a screen—any same thing,

                    and always—
the one habit that it is. How many times
have I taken you into

                    my body? is neither
a steep bill nor the money, out of nowhere
rising, with which to pay it,

                    but—as
if as tangible—is a question, that comes
toward and then

                    leaves me. From mountains,
only a couple of hours, not worlds away,
you write of the trees, “each is a lesson

in how to live half-broken,” how to draw
a life from what at first—rock, and
the soil just as hard—seems unable to

give any. You have given the flowers new,
simpler names: Little Purple, Little Yellow,
Little Green….

                    Eventually, any bruise—
however bad—lifts, disperses. I have
always admired that about the flesh. I

admire you. If I always want to remember
to say so more—then forget—I still want
to remember.

                    I’m not so sure I want as
much, anymore, to understand where we are
different….

                    Just yesterday, in the wake
of a day’s rain, I looked out and saw what
I’d never seen,

                    a double rainbow. Had you
been here, you would have taken a picture,
being a man who takes

                    pictures. I thought
Only if I tell him will he say he missed
something; and I was sorry: aren’t phenomena,

if that’s what you want to call them,
brief, in general—slight, compared to
the ordinary life

                    that meanwhile manages,
beneath, to go on? You would say it
depends, I suppose—who is asking,

who is asked. You’d probably remind me
there are other things besides rainbows,
ask what about earthquakes,

                                         or those
moments—like earthquakes—when what
matters most is, suddenly, location;

when the words of least value, because
also the most used, come down to help and
where are you

                    The sea is everything,
This morning: blue luck, a stone hand;
coins, that all but give themselves up.

Carl Phillips

from Doubts

Sometimes I’m afraid
you’re no better than Judas
dipping his fingers in the dish.

It’s then I go round and round
like that fish
with its wounded lip,
taken in
by the immediate mercy.

Elisabeth Murawski

Book of Ancestors

iii

Midwinter, the window
is luminous with blown snow, the fire
burns inside its bars

          On the floor you body curves,
like that: the ancient pose, neck slackened, arms
thrown above the head, vital
throat and belly lying
undefended. light slides over you,
this is not an altar, they are not
acting or watching

You are intact, you turn
towards me, your eyes opening, the eyes
intricate and easily bruised, you open

yourself to me gently, what
they tried, we
tried but could never do
before . without blood, the killed
heart . to take
that risk, to offer life and remain

alive, open yourself like this and become whole

Margaret Atwood

from Wanted

where the swans are: they veil the water in
wakes that idly recall the less visible wake of

him turning toward sleep and away, done
with the motions of love, of come…. It’s
only later, in the sudden, long-necked grace

of them ascending, disappearing, that you
can understand the swans for what they are
—the necessary clues to lead you nowhere,

they refuse you all assistance, save that
oldest trick you know already, have always
used, elimination: not him, not him, not him….

Carl Phillips

Sometimes I Am Alive Because With 


sometimes i am alive because with

me her alert treelike body sleeps

which i will feel slowly sharpening

becoming distinct with love slowly,

who in my shoulder sinks sweetly teeth

until we shall attain the Springsmelling

intense large togethercoloured instant



the moment pleasantly frightful



when, her mouth suddenly rising, wholly

begins with mine fiercely to fool

(and from my thighs which shrug and pant

a murdering rain leapingly reaches the upward singular deepest flower which she

carries in a gesture of her hips)

e e cummings

Penitent

Long ago my knuckles mended, and I forgot how to want
to clash again. I was once hipshot and erratic, but now I’m glass,

the slicked leavings of earth. Oils from hands mar me no more
than a smudge. I’ll not melt for a thousand years. I’ll not shatter

but for fire or force. I’ve realized there’s no glory in pliancy,
no succor in the softness of clay or breast, for to be supple

is to wait for bruises to rise. And I forgot how to want
to fight, but tyrants are walking around so heavily.

All I wanted was to be in your blood, and be quiet. But soldiers
dare me to hazard out in the world with my prison face,

the one that shifts with the shadows, contorts, lacks control.
My hands won’t lie softly in my lap any longer, for listeners

and liars are close. All I wanted was to be a splinter under your skin,
to be wrapped in your body and wait for you to heal over me.

CJ Evans

from What’s Wrong With

What’s wrong with taking him in
the way you would a galaxy

on a moonless night, this
pattern you have traveled by

dipping its cup
and spilling light.

Sage Cohen

Untitled

The way you say dicey and delectable and octogenarian
in the same sentence— that really turns me on.
The way you describe the oranges in your backyard
using anarchistic and intimate in the same breath.
I would follow the legato and staccato of your tongue
wrapping around your diction
until listening become more like dreaming
and dreaming became more like kissing you.
I want to jump off the cliff of your voice
into the suicide of your stream of consciousness.
I want to visit the place in your heart where the wrong words die.
I want to map it out with a dictionary and points
of brilliant light until it looks more like a star chart
than a strategy for communication.
I want to see where your words are born.
I want to find a pattern in the astrology.
I want to memorize the scripts of your seductions.
I want to live in the long-winded epics of your disappointments,
in the haiku of your epiphanies.
I want to know all the names you’ve given your desires.
I want to find my name among them,
‘cause there is nothing more wrecking sexy than the right word.
I want to thank whoever told you
there was no such thing as a synonym.
I want to throw a party for the heartbreak
that turned you into a poet.
And if it is true that a man is only as good as his word
then, sweet jesus, let me be there
the first time you are speechless,
and all your explosive wisdom becomes
a burning ball of sun in your throat,
and all you can bring yourself to utter is, oh god, oh god.

Mindy Nettifee

from Is / Not

ii

I am not a saint or a cripple,
I am not a wound; now I will see
whether I am a coward.

I dispose of my good manners,
you don’t have to kiss my wrists.

This is a journey, not a war,
there is no outcome,
I renounce predictions

and aspirins, I resign the future
as I would resign an expired passport:
picture and signature are gone
along with holidays and safe returns.

We’re stuck here
on this side of the border
in this country of thumbed streets and stale buildings

where there is nothing spectacular
to see and the weather is ordinary

where love occurs in its pure form only
on the cheaper of the souvenirs

where we must walk slowly,
where we may not get anywhere

or anything, where we keep going,
fighting our ways, our way
not out but through.

Margaret Atwood

from The Mathematician

She’s taken to sleeping late.
Only recently have I come to stare
on her as phenomenon.
Solid, almost vaporous in sheer morning light.
I’m obsessed, after thirty years,
how her mind keeps things,
how her body stores, how the runnels and rills
operate, how they order.
Unclothed.
Simon was pulled from her. A birth like theft.
A numb seam opposite her spine,
a bright ridge that reddens
when she sinks into the bath. Her reminder.
A mark more violent
than the navel. This is how you no longer live.
Naked. Unbelievably naked.
Each morning she sublimates into fluidity
but for hours I just watch.
A severe meandering. I see her life and then can’t
say it. Painstaking and then lost.
Serene then helpless.
And when my mind is unable to focus
I get up and look from the other side of the room.

***

[…]

Her heart could house a cathedral.

***

She told me her dreams
are water and bone, grief, ash and mold.
She is fifty-four.
Gray strands tangle in the white bedding.
How do you collect the details of her,
the creases that lay by the eye?
Painters could spend months on the curve
of her arm when it’s stretched
over her head, hand on the pillow,
armpit exposed.
A thousand sketches before color is contemplated.

[…]

I think of her as a fugue,
as relief in metal, as a chamber
comprehending music,
as a monument people touch in winter.

[…]

If I could press my thumb to the arch of her foot
and convince her,
if I could trace the line of her calf, thigh,
hard rise of her hip,
to show her that the living are not monsters,
that we act out of necessity, I would,
but to her,
the guilty live and the dead become sovereign,
exalted, protected from change.
She is in the act of forgetting
why the light was made to overtake their bodies.

Carl Adamshick