Rain

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one big thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a starlit gutter, running gold
with the neon drugstore sign
and I’d read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood

we rose up from the falling waters

the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.

– Don Paterson

A Note

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes;

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important

– Wislawa Szymborksa

Figs

I held the fruit the way I might have held
a feather, turning it to view each side.
I loved the story of the fig wasp,

Agaonidae, how in each fig’s center
was a wingless and silent creature, disintegrated,
eaten. Led by food to become food. This was

when I still felt whole ownership
of myself, before any part of me was undone.
Before I sat in rooms I could only define

by those who’d left them—flightless and rended.
When I eat a fig, it leaves my throat scratchy
and swollen. The body, whether suddenly

or over time, can develop such an aversion,
held in the place where old and new pain meet.

– Jim Whiteside

Storm

Night squall raging,
black branches
batter every window
as the sky lashes
the city. Without devices,
all I can do is shelter in place
& wait the latest nightmare
out, find other sources
of power as I sit in the dark
save for a candle burning
for my mother writhing
in an ICU & for the world
to make it against all odds.
In every sense, I burn
in the unseen places, head
filling with smoke, each hour
lived in a dense haze.

Millions weather this
21st century unholy
Passover, homes
bereft & singed forever.
The unruly rich in charge
elect themselves
gods, maniacal &
merciless. Every warning
unheeded, no bona fide mark
of protection
this time, no choice
in the losses raining
almost everywhere.

Candlelight for two
is a date; I faintly
remember those.
Candlelight
alone
is a séance—
forgive me,
my dearly departed
for crying out
so often, for still needing you
so damn much.

– Kamila Aisha Moon

After Love

Afterward, the compromise.
Bodies resume their boundaries

These legs, for instance, mine.
Your arms take you back in.

Spoons of our fingers, lips
admit their ownership.

The bedding yawns, a door
blows aimlessly ajar

and overhead, a plane
singsongs coming down.

Nothing is changed, except
there was a moment when

the wolf, the mongering wolf
who stands outside the self

lay lightly down, and slept.

– Maxine Kumin

The Gardener

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man, 
is tending his children, the roses.

– Mary Oliver

Nostos

There was an apple tree in the yard—
this would have been
forty years ago—behind,
only meadows. Drifts
of crocus in the damp grass.
I stood at that window:
late April. Spring
flowers in the neighbor’s yard.
How many times, really, did the tree
flower on my birthday,
the exact day, not
before, not after? Substitution
of the immutable
for the shifting, the evolving.
Substitution of the image
for relentless earth. What
do I know of this place,
the role of the tree for decades
taken by a bonsai, voices
rising from the tennis courts—
Fields. Smell of the tall grass, new cut.
As one expects of a lyric poet.
We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.

– Louise Glück

Blue Rotunda


I am tired of having hands
she said
I want wings—

But what will you do without your hands
to be human?

I am tired of human
she said
I want to live on the sun—

Pointing to herself:

Not here.
There is not enough
warmth in this place.
Blue sky, blue ice

the blue rotunda
lifted over
the flat street—

and then, after a silence:

I want
my heart back
I want to feel everything again—

That’s what
the sun meant: it meant
scorched—

It is not finally
interesting to remember.
The damage

is not interesting.
No one who knew me then
is still alive.

My mother
was a beautiful woman—
they all said so.

I have to imagine
everything
she said

I have to act
as though there is actually
a map to that place:

when you were a child—

And then:

I’m here
because it wasn’t true; I

distorted it—

I want she said
a theory that explains
everything

in the mother’s eye
the invisible
splinter of foil

the blue ice
locked in the iris—

Then:

I want it
to be my fault
she said
so I can fix it—

Blue sky, blue ice,
street like a frozen river

you’re talking
about my life
she said

except
she said
you have to fix it

in the right order
not touching the father
until you solve the mother

a black space
showing
where the word ends

like a crossword saying
you should take a breath now

the black space meaning
when you were a child—

And then:

the ice
was there for your own protection

to teach you
not to feel—

the truth
she said

I thought it would be like
a target, you would see

the center—

Cold light filling the room.

I know where we are
she said
that’s the window
when I was a child

That’s my first home, she said
that square box—
go ahead and laugh.

Like the inside of my head:
you can see out
but you can’t go out—

Just think
the sun was there, in that bare place

the winter sun
not close enough to reach
the children’s hearts

the light saying
you can see out
but you can’t go out

Here, it says,
here is where everything belongs

– Louise Glück

The Stars Are Words

Thinking of the stars night after night I begin to realize

“The stars are words”

and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words,
and so is this world too.

And I realize that no matter where I am,
whether in a little room full of thought,

or in this endless universe of stars and mountains,
it’s all in my mind.

– Jack Kerouac

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvellous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

– Mary Oliver