Fairytale

Sometimes, when they disappear,
men take a jelly jar of whiskey
with them, and in late summer,
when the river shrinks back
from its skin like a child ashamed
of undressing, the jars surface,
full of sand and crumpled snail shell,
in its seams.  The daughters collect them,
and we fill each one—with milk, silver
buttons, crimson leaves losing color—
though never with whiskey.  We’re
not trying to bring the fathers back.

– Keetje Kuipers

Romantics: Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann

The modern biographers worry
“how far it went,” their tender friendship.
They wonder just what it means
when he writes he thinks of her constantly,
his guardian angel, beloved friend.
The modern biographers ask
the rude, irrelevant question
of our age, as if the event
of two bodies meshing together
establishes the degree of love,
forgetting how softly Eros walked
in the nineteenth century, how a hand
held overlong or a gaze anchored
in someone’s eyes could unseat a heart,
and nuances of address not known
in our egalitarian language
could make the redolent air
tremble and shimmer with the heat
of possibility. Each time I hear
the Intermezzi, sad
and lavish in their tenderness,
I imagine the two of them
sitting in a garden
among the late-blooming roses
and dark cascades of leaves,
letting the landscape speak for them,
leaving us nothing to overhear.

– Lisa Mueller

Against Still Life

Orange in the middle of a table:
It isn’t enough
to walk around it
at a distance, saying
it’s an orange:
nothing to do
with us, nothing
else: leave it alone

I want to pick it up
in my hand
I want to peel the
skin off; I want
more to be said to me
than just Orange:
want to be told
everything it has to say
And you, sitting across
the table, at a distance, with
your smile contained, and like the orange
in the sun: silent:

Your silence
isn’t enough for me
now, no matter with what
contentment you fold
your hands together; I want
anything you can say
in the sunlight:
stories of your various
childhoods, aimless journeyings,
your loves; your articulate
skeleton; your posturings; your lies.

These orange silences
(sunlight and hidden smile)
make me want to
wrench you into saying;
now I’d crack your skull
like a walnut, split it like a pumpkin
to make you talk, or get
a look inside

But quietly:
if I take the orange
with care enough and hold it
gently

I may find
an egg
a sun
an orange moon
perhaps a skull; center
of all energy
resting in my hand

can change it to
whatever I desire
it to be

and you, man, orange afternoon
lover, wherever
you sit across from me
(tables, trains, buses)

if I watch
quietly enough
and long enough

at last, you will say
(maybe without speaking)

(there are mountains
inside your skull
garden and chaos, ocean
and hurricane; certain
corners of rooms, portraits
of great grandmothers, curtains
of a particular shade;
your deserts; your private
dinosaurs; the first
woman)

all I need to know
tell me
everything
just as it was
from the beginning.

– Margaret Atwood

The Secret

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

– Denise Levertov

When I Am Among The Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

– Mary Oliver

In The Space Between Seasons

If I have something important to say
I hope I live here long enough
To say it gracefully. The wind moves
Everything. Nothing is exempt.

In the space between seasons
Which is one night in a life,
The corn beats inside its stalks, waiting for bloom.
The wheat flowers, falls easily.
The clouds become enormous & have names.

– from Lucie Brock-Broido, Magnum Mysterium