Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.
Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.
Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren’t good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.
But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

– Anne Sexton

After Paradise

Don’t run any more. Quiet. How softly it rains
On the roofs of the city. How perfect
All things are. Now, for the two of you
Waking up in a royal bed by a garret window.
For a man and a woman. For one plant divided
Into masculine and feminine which longed for each other.
Yes, this is my gift to you. Above ashes
On a bitter, bitter earth. Above the subterranean
Echo of clamorings and vows. So that now at dawn
You must be attentive: the tilt of a head,
A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror
Are only forever once, even if unremembered,
So that you watch what it is, though it fades away,
And are grateful every moment for your being.
Let that little park with greenish marble busts
In the pearl-gray light, under a summer drizzle,
Remain as it was when you opened the gate.
And the street of tall peeling porticos
Which this love of yours suddenly transformed.

– Czeslaw Milosz

Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell

leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses,
you make him call before
he visits, you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.

– Marty McConnell

The Jungle

“I only have two hands,”
the beautiful flight attendant
says. She continues
up the aisle with her tray and
out of his life forever,
he thinks. Off to his left,
far below, some lights
from a village high
on a hill in the jungle.

So many impossible things
have happened,
he isn’t surprised when she
returns to sit in the
empty seat across from his.
“Are you getting off
in Rio, or going on to Buenos Aires?”

Once more she exposes
her beautiful hands.
The heavy silver rings that hold
her fingers, the gold bracelet
encircling her wrist.

They are somewhere in the air
over the steaming Mato Grosso.
It is very late.
He goes on considering her hands.
Looking at her clasped fingers.
It’s months afterwards, and
hard to talk about.

– Raymond Carver

Lake Natron

There is a lake in Tanzania
That turns everything it touches into stone—
Petrified animals washing up on shore.
I’ve known people like that:
Who drag loved ones into their waters
And send out dead things with the tide.
People who walk into your life
With poison fingers and Midas touches
That leave hearts hardened and calcified.
People who spit back love covered in salt.
I have walked back alleys and lost loves
That looked red and cracked like the water.
I have seen people
Who are calm and flat like the lake.
I have watched Beauty
Break Trust over her knee
And lay her, gentle, on the shoreline.
I have been among the bodies
Left crumbling in the waves.
Because sometimes, no amount of knowing
Is enough to keep you from the water.
Sometimes, the desire to drink
Is stronger than anything else.

– Ashe Vernon

The First Lie

I’m the little toy you’ll shatter,
the garden with miraculous
hiding places. You dart in and out
just to be half-found.

I’m the wind that sings in Braille,
your own shadow getting longer,
the beautiful holes that whimper
in your brain.

– Jo Shapcott

Every Time

The street was white again,
all the bushes covered with heavy snow
and the trees glittering, encased in ice.

I lay in the dark, waiting for the night to end.
It seemed the longest night I had ever known,
longer than the night I was born

I write about you all the time, I said aloud.
Every time I say “I,” it refers to you.

– Louise Glück, from Visitors Abroad


“we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is”

–  W. S. Merwin, from Thanks