Altarpiece

by Clayton Eshleman, translating from the Spanish by César Vallejo

copyright ©2007 The Regents of the University of California



   I tell myself: at last I have escaped the noise;
no one sees me on my way to the sacred nave.
Tall shadows attend,
and Darío who passes with lyre in mourning.

   With innumerable steps the gentle Muse emerges,
and my eyes go to her, like chicks to corn.
Ethereal tulles and sleeping titmice harass her,
while the blackbird of life dreams in her hand.

   My God, you are merciful, for you have bestowed this nave,
where these blue sorcerers perform their duties.
Darío of celestial Americas! They are so much
like you! And from your braids they make their hair shirts.

   Like souls seeking burials of absurd gold,
those wayward archpriests of the heart,
probe deeper, and appear … and addressing us from afar,
bewail the monotonous suicide of God!

from Periscope

by Susan Howe

copyright ©2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Susan Howe



Closed book who stole
who away do brackets
signify emptiness was
is a rift in experience

Mackerel and porpoise
was this the last of us

These tallied scraps float
like glass skiffs quietly for
love or pity and all that

What an idea in such a time
as ours Pip among Pleiads

If to sense you are
alive is pleasant itself
or can be nearly so –
If I knew what it is
I’d show it – but no

What I lack is myself

Unde malum?

by Joanna Trzeciak, translating from the Polish by Tadeusz Rozewicz

copyright ©English translation copyright © 2011 by Joanna Trzeciak



Where does evil come from?
what do you mean “where”

from a human being
always a human being
and only a human being

a human being is a work-related
accident
of nature
an error

if humankind
disentangles
itself
from flora and fauna

the earth will regain
its beauty and lustre

nature its purity
and innocence

human beings are the only beings
who use words
which can serve as tools of crime

words that lie
wound infect

evil does not come from an absence
or out of nothingness

evil comes from a human being
and only a human being

we differ in thought – as Kant said –
and for that matter in being
from pure Nature

Winter Wheat

by Paul Muldoon

copyright ©Paul Muldoon, 2002



I

The plowboy was something his something as I nibbled the lobe
of her right ear and something her blouse
for the Empire-blotchy globe
of her left breast on which there something a something louse.

II

Those something lice like something seed pearls
and her collar something with dandruff
as when Queen Elizabeth entertained the Earls
in her something something ruff.

III

I might have something the something groan
of the something plowboy who would with such something urge
the something horses, a something and a roan,

had it not been for the something splurge
of something like the hare
which even now managed to something itself from the something
                                                  plowshare.

When You Look Up

by Jan Zwicky

copyright ©Jan Zwicky, 2011



When you look up, or out,
or in, your seeing is
a substance: stuff: a density
of some kind, like a pitch
that’s just outside the range
of hearing: numb
nudge of the real.
                I saw air
once, in its nothingness
so clear it was a voice
almost, a kind of joy. I thought
of water – breath as drinking –
and the way it shows us
light. Or maybe it was light
I thought of – as though
water were the solid form
of wind, and air
a language with a single word
transparent to the world.
Your glance is this,
meltwater, mountain light.
The plunge and thunder of the pool.
The ripple at its farthest edge.

The landlord said he lost his phone.

by Aisha Sasha John

copyright ©2017 by Aisha Sasha John



The tenant she said call it.
He said I did, I did
And then the tenant’s boyfriend was like
I called you and a girl picked up and
Said it was the wrong number.
(And I’m like okay so it was the wrong number why are you even
Telling the guy that)
And then her boyfriend was like ya, I called it four times
She said it was the wrong number.
And then, then I was like okay. Hmm what the fuck.
And the tenant was like maybe it was your wife?
And her boyfriend was like no it
Was a girl.
So there’s a
Question there.

Also apparently the dog likes the cat
But the cat
Does not like the dog.

Anniversaries, End of August

by Russell Thornton

copyright ©Russell Thornton 2014



Anniversaries circle round again. My grandparents
marrying in the sun. The guests in their best attire.
The filled vaulted room. Then the clinking glasses.
Then the private rites of those who waited long.
It is there in the light. Light that is a window.
And is a mirroring seas for my grandmother
out in the sailing ship of her wedding dress. Her ashes.

Someone I loved dying alone. The month the wide frame
of her final leaving. It was also her birth month. Light
opens its window, and is window upon window.
Her living hair darkens beyond its living black.
That black is another light, no visible sun
burning in its origins but a dark transparency,
and it arrives like another her, again and again.

I too am a window. In August, two people
among the dead look out of it. They do not know
the window is me. And I am what a window can wish.
To open endlessly because it is light,
and because it is a mirror, let the silver erase itself
and arrive and wait flawless on the glass,
and darken, and erase itself, like life, like death.

Slow Black Dog

by David W. McFadden

copyright ©David W. McFadden 2007



Meditating in the back
of Jack’s green Volkswagen
rolling along Highway 2
east of Paris

I’m conscious only of the motion
of things speeding against me
on both sides of my head,
eyes closed, and a sudden braking

and a breaking of that dream.
I’m in a moving car among green hills
and cow grazings of the world,
motels, gas stations of Ontario

and a dog slowly walking across
into our speeding lane, a black dog,
and in tall grass at roadside, a boy,
waving his arms, screaming.

from The Dragon of History

by Fanny Howe

copyright ©2004 by Fanny Howe



I have seen it happen
A face with fangs and gills

represents history and an angel
is beating the beast on the back

Both are made of marble
One is a dragon

Its head is flat
like the iron tanks
in muddy water
that drove the men into the Gulf of Tonkin.

In my experience

the angel with his wings up
is trying to kill the dragon of history

to prove that air
is stronger than the objects in it

and if he wasn’t made of stone, he would.

The Storm

by Mira Rosenthal, translating from the Polish by Tomasz Rózycki

copyright ©English Translation and Introduction Copyright © 2013 by Mira Rosenthal



At night three elements enjoy our bodies.
Fire, water, air. One moment you’re water
then air the next, but flame encircles all.
At night we are reduced, small bits of tar,

soot on our skins, in cups. A storm enters
the room and clouds the mirror. There are others
from far away who look on us as food,
they eat and drink. They find each orifice

and enter us. Our bodies then become
the final element of earth and turn
to ash, dust, coal, compost where insects live
and snails leave tracks you ask about at dawn.

Once, at the world’s end, I threw a stone into
the open mouth of hell; I can’t complain.