George Bowering

copyright ©2004 by George Bowering

I walkt to the back of the house in the
yard near the garage & saw him in a
white shirt playing ping pong with a patient
or friend or someone else who lived in the
house & there he was.
I sat at the table where we were reading
aloud together & heard him from behind where
he was crying aloud & wearing his pink
leather number on the west coast & I
must tell you he is a star.
Maybe Holofernes.
He tried to grow a mustache & took his
vacation in a classy hotel in bermuda where
he sat & drank bourbon with ice, a poet
taking his own kind of holiday, hooray.
Judy lookt as if she wanted to be him
or be with him or kill him.
I think that all the time he was listening
to the ice in the glass his ear was thinking
One time he placed a bottle of Pinch on the
coat hook on the back of the door in our
clothes closet & we opened & closed the door
for two months before we found the bottle
of Pinch & it should have fallen off many
times so we drank it & later I bought him
a bottle of Pinch in August because the night
before we had been drinking bourbon on his
credit card in the bar where he goes to
drink his own way, the poet.
There he was, on the tape, all over the
country, making personal appearances, Captain
Poetry, listening to the voice of the four
horsemen in the children’s fiery
chamber of verse.

Lima Limón :: Infancia

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

copyright ©2019 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

I want to be the lemons in the bowl
on the cover of the magazine. I want
to be round, to be yellow, to be pulled

from branches. I want to be wax, to be
white with pith, to be bright, to be zested
in the corners of a table. I want you

to say my name like the word: lemon.
Say it like the word: limón. Undress me
in strands of rind. I want my saliva to be

citrus. I want to corrode my husband’s
wedding ring. I want to be a lemon
with my equator marked in black ink –
small dashes to show my shape: pitted & convex.

Verso 32.2

Dionne Brand

copyright ©2018 Dionne Brand

My ancestral line to John Locke. When he wrote “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” in 1689 he had already been the Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations. No one disputes this. He had, too, investments in the Royal African Company, whose holdings along the Gambia included forts, factories, and military command of West Africa, etc., … etc., … No dispute here either. These statements – an essay on human understanding, and the board of trade and plantations – these identifiers can lie beside each other with no discomfort, apparently. But as I said, I am a soft-hearted person. I cannot get past this. I am just a lover with a lover’s weaknesses, with her manifest of heartaches.

My Hand and Cold

Natalie Shapero

copyright ©2017 by Natalie Shapero

Of surgeons putting their knives to erroneous

body parts, stories abound. So can you really blame
my neighbor for how, heading into the operation,
he wrote across his good knee NOT THIS KNEE?

The death of me: I’m never half so bold. You will
feel, the doctor said, my hand and cold –

and I thought of the pub quiz question: which three
countries are entirely inside of other countries?
I bought the bound ONE THOUSAND NAMES
FOR BABY, made two lists: one if she’s born breathing,

one if not. The second list was longer. So much

that I might call her, if she were never to bear
the name, never turn to it, suffer shaming, mull its
range and implications, blame it, change it, move

away to San Marino, Vatican City, Lesotho.

My Poem Without Me in It

Sharon Olds

copyright ©2019 by Sharon Olds

My poem without me in it – would it be like
my room when I had returned to it
after my mother was done with me.
Under my bed, only the outer
space balls, of dust, only
the asteroids of hair, no bent-legs
spider drawstring purse, no fly, no
I. My poem without me in it, would it
be like her house before I was granted
the right to close my door – it had been one
hive, one queen five times my size, her
long stomach lolling like a tucker-bag.
My poem without me – like the mahogany
bookcase, with its spiral pillars,
without a book by a woman in it.
My poem without
a simile in it.
My poem like my head, as a child, when I learned
how not to have
a thought in it,
in case it were a thought one would burn for.
My poem without this ordinary female
in it – like the body politic
of a teenage woman without her special
blood in it. This old girl’s
poem without a girl in it.
I have been a child without a soul.
The poem is a vale of soul-making.

Now Rough, Now Gentle

Carl Phillips

copyright ©2013 by Carl Phillips

Never mind the parts that came later, with all
the uselessness, as usual, of hindsight: regret’s
what it has to be, in the end, in which way it is
like death, any bowl of sliced-fresh-from-the-tree
stolen pears, this body that stirs
                                            or fails to, as I
turn away, meaning Make it yours, or Hold tight,
or I begin to think maybe you were rightthat
there’s nothing, after … thought whether or not like
one of those moments just past having woken to
yet another stranger,
                          how the world can seem
to have completely stopped when, finally, it’s just
a stillness – who can say? First I envied them,
then I ame to love them for it, how the stars each
day become again invisible, while going nowhere.

Shebutnoy (trans. Salmon-fisher)

Abigail Chabitnoy

copyright ©2019 Abigail Kerstetter

(Michael) Chabitnoy. Aleut.

Because they were “of the water.”
Because they were given Russian names.
He was born with hushed words.
Because his mother had a bad heart and his father was traumatized.
They took him from the sea.

Because he came to the school charitably, before.
Because there is only one photo, after.
They told the skeptics, yes, it can be done.

Because it could be done.
Because “Indian Marries White Girl.”
Because he died of consumption.
There are words I can’t say.

Because he was survived by two sons.
Because they were called half-breed.
Because that second son took to drink.
I’ve always been afraid of the sea.

Because it doesn’t mean salmon-fisher.
Because I need to know I can say these words.
Because it means “mischievous, energetic.”
Mischievous men (and women) fish for salmon energetically.

Because he was an orphan.
Because in summer, my skin turns redder than my father’s.
Because they asked my mother, Is she adopted?

Because I too am of the water.
Because I hear these words.
I will split my bones and fit my skin to the sea.
I will shape my mouth to angle these words with the wind.


Denise Riley

copyright ©Denise Riley, 2016

I’ve lived here dead for decades – now you
pitch up gaily among us shades, with your
freshly dead face all lit up, beaming – but
after my long years without you, don’t think
it will be easy. It’s we dead who should run
whispering at the heels of the living, yet you
you’d put the frighteners on me, ruining
the remains of your looks on bewailing me
not handling your own last days with spirit.
Next you’ll expect me to take you around
introducing some starry goners. So mother
do me proud and hold your white head high.
On earth you tried, try once again in Hades.


Sarah Tolmie

copyright ©Sarah Tolmie 2018

In memoriam Tennyson said
Nine years of things about his friend
Who’d died. He brought him back by slow
Degrees, from sunsets, wind in the trees,

Gathering pieces painstakingly.
Tennyson, in his purity,
He never lied, never missed his line.
Grief became him metrically.

It made him blind. All he could see
Was Hallam’s absence: the whole world
A cancelled cheque, crumpled and furled,
Unspent inside his pocketbook.

There its yellowing edges curled
Until his friend crept out, imbued
Everything and made it new.
At second look, he saw it through

Lost eyes, and it was dearer far
Than it had been before. A borrowed
Death does that for you. Your own cannot.
We each will miss the lesson that

We’ve taught. Compassion is what we learn
From those who die and don’t return.
Grief gives us that hitch in the eye,
Catching on things as they pass by.

The Adorable Little Boy

Matthew Rohrer

copyright ©2004 by Verse Press

Today my ski boots disintegrated on my feet.
It is getting more difficult to play
the role of The Adorable Little Boy
now, and I will confirm what most of you
have suspected: I am ill,
I have the distinct sensation that my head
is donut-shaped. But don’t let that
stop me from wriggling my way
into your hearts, those of you
who are not empty blue suits.
I am still very aware, I am hyper-aware.
A beautiful ass makes me sneeze and cough!
But now I suspect you are looking for something
and here it is: Pliny described trees that speak.