Thursday, May 14, 2015



Melody notices forget-me-not
because her mother loved it.
Pale knot, a name I’ve forgotten
until Melody brings it back.

Memory survives not in our brains
but in time, ever present, future, & past.

One midnight I wake next to a stranger,
lie cautious & listening, knowing 
the drug’s drone, the body’s ache.
Next shot, I collect T-shirt & jeans,
tiptoe between men on coil-shot couches.
Pan to a streetlight @ Otis & Pearl,
panhandle a dime for the phone.

A long time ago 
doesn’t mean it’s harder to remember.
What’s found on the stoop of an orphanage
marks the soul’s handoff
from one tired body to a fresh one,
or not tired, merely surprised.

The child asks, “What happens
at a funeral? What goes in the hole?”
& after, “I didn’t know about coffins.
I thought the dirt fell in the dead person’s eyes.”
“I was 30,” says Melody, “when my mother died.”

Because she doesn’t touch the flower
I touch it for her. 
The pattern on a turtle’s shell 
remembers every other, yet each is unique, 
a life shell grown inside a birth shell 
from memory all turtles share.

I don’t tell her
how carefully we close the body’s eyes.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Youna Kwak

Youna Kwak [The Conversant]

Before the Avant-Garde
by Youna Kwak

O Mistress of stars, O Almanac of gazing,
What else can we smash?

                      A woman's leg
is no longer
deliciously curved to be licked or reckoned or a shape wanting remedy,
       an ever-after of delight and looking, and
deep kisses and not caring
who sees or thinks or how they might judge
our sexist-leg-loving.

The curve or form or arc of flesh
              no longer what it seemed, not the juicy summer pear it seemed, New York
       before the avant-garde, sidewalks broiling
              as if seams will fly open, crack — it would be cruel
not to want better, think we
know better,

Think we know everything. Intemperance, knowing
              everything. So much to smash.

To want to smash is not strange.

Even if
we remain bourgeois in the kitchen (where our mouths are open most and longest)
       and proletariat in the other rooms.

       before the avant-garde,
       we will go to a costume party — the air rippling
with the disturbance or presence of some strain,
saintly or smug.
We'll have freshly shucked oysters —
                                    you shuck them yourself, I'll slurp them, coquettish.
                     Your ex-morosing, carnivalesque, scooching in her pockets for
                  cab fare. Her silk pouch full of quarters rustling. Imagine,

                    if you had no use for quarters, laundry, parking, games, or sweets. Imagine if
                                  as you rose with a sudden flap of wing, red flashed underneath.

It is the moment before. It's not time to be morose,

morose in the kitchen, stay put. Yellow the color
                                   you wear to face disaster, like:

How the war is not won
how the little boys are drowning in the Rio Grande
their pants pockets full of mud
subway fare gone up
postal fare gone up
homicide gone up
baby on the stovetop, burned up

               you want to shout or smash something:

Conscripted army, bury your hatchet!
                     Everyone who has disappeared will rise. Every inconsequent
will someday be named.

               Even the rudest, the loudest, the poorest, the most deformed
                             will cry out with gladness
       and the satisfaction of the whole, they will
                             eat radishes, drink beer, laugh for love as if love were intact.

What else do you want to smash? Tell me, I'll smash it.

When the resistance comes you'll have to throw everything out once more again and

       Give up your armies,
your duties, your battles,
                       drink straight from the bottle,
then smash the bottle —

                       It is a story of obsession.
       It starts out political but it ends in romance.
Romance is expert everywhere there is danger.
       Romance flits its sniper's eye, pretending
not to see you, and it does.
       Whether it fixes you in metal crosshairs,
your skin is merely light but opaque.
                                                          Merely a layer. Not
       an ebony fly in the water making black swirl.

Don't waste our last moment!
              — before the dense slaughter of kindness,
       tender pricked probe of a baby's eyes gleaming,
              widows and orphans, bark stink of vanilla, constellar sorrow
              like a sky umbrella, breathing distilled to dry blue hexagons, and the air
       then porous and immense and misty letters spelling out our names
                      then other words then god knows what else we could not read it.

In the moment after shall we remember
                                           thick rays of heat jolting off the pavement all summer.
How it felt
       to show up at a gallery dolled up, all your friends dolled up, all your friends
               wearing fuchsia lipstick melting in drowsy blots. Everyone everywhere
                                     patting, blotting, refreshing, putting on lipstick.
                             Foreheads and noses pooled to an obsequious lather.
                                           When it comes I will never

       reproach you, you poached egg of kindness, my Labrador.
                                                                                              Afterwards, there will be no pets.

       Even your love for me, which is well-preserved and historical,
             in the careening violet-edged ring-ding of the moment
       when you contemplate your disruptive possibilities —
                                                                                             will chime suddenly, then
       like hundreds of telephones left
in a room without people.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Tony Hoagland

Tony Hoagland [High Volumes]
Special Problems in Vocabulary
by Tony Hoagland

There is no single particular noun
for the way a friendship,
stretched over time, grows thin,
then one day snaps with a popping sound.

No verb for accidentally
breaking a thing
while trying to get it open
— a marriage, for example.

No idiomatic phrase for losing a book
in the middle of reading it,
and therefore
never learning the end.

There is no expression — in English, at least
— for avoiding the sight
of your own body in the mirror,
for disliking the touch

of the afternoon sun,
for walking into the long flatland
that stretches out before you
after your adventures are done.

No adjective for gradually speaking less, and less,
because you have stopped being able
to say the one thing that would
break your life loose from its grip.

Certainly no name that one could imagine
for the aspen tree outside,
its spade-shaped leaves

spinning on their stems,
working themselves into
a pale-green, vegetable blur.

No word for waking up one morning
and looking around,
because the mysterious spirit

which drives all things
seems to have returned,
and is on your side again.