Poppies

by Yusef Komunyakaa

copyright ©2011 by Yusef Komunyakaa



These frantic blooms can hold their own
when it comes to metaphor & God.
Take any name or shade of irony, any flowery
indifference or stolen gratitude, & our eyes,
good or bad, still run up to this hue.
Take this woman sitting beside me,

a descendant of Hungarian Gypsies
born to teach horses to dance & eat sugar
from her hand, does she know beauty
couldn’t have protected her, that a poppy
tucked in her hair couldn’t have saved her
from those German storm troopers?

This frightens me. I see eyes peeping
through narrow slats of cattle cars
hurrying toward forever. I see “Jude”
& “Star of David” scribbled across a depot,
but she says, That’s the name of a soccer team,
baby. Red climbs the hills & descends,

hurrying out to the edge of a perfect view,
& then another, between white & violet.
It is a skirt or cape flung to the ground.
It is old denial worked into the soil.
It is a hungry new vanity that rises
& then runs up to our bleating train.

I am a black man, a poet, a bohemian,
& there isn’t a road my mind doesn’t travel.
I also have my cheap, one-way ticket
to Auschwitz & know of no street or footpath
death hasn’t taken. The poppies rush ahead,
up to a cardinal singing on barbed wire.

A View of the House from the Back of the Garden

by David Harsent

copyright ©David Harsent, 2011



In darkness. In rain. Yourself at the very point
where what’s yours bleeds off through the palings
to terra incognito, and the night’s blood-hunt
starts up in the brush: the notion of something smiling
as it slinks in now for the rush and sudden shunt.

A women is laying a table; the cloth
billows as it settles; a wine-glass catches the light.
A basket for bread, spoons and bowls for broth
as you know, just as you know how slight
a hold you have on this: a lit window, the faint
odour of iodine in the rainfall’s push and pull.

Now she looks out, but you’re invisible
as you planned, though maybe it’s a failing
to stand at one remove, to watch, to want
everything stalled and held on an indrawn breath.

The house, the woman, the window, the lamplight falling
short of everything except bare earth –
can you see how it seems, can you tell
why you happen to be just here, where the garden path
runs off to black, still watching
as she turns away, sharply, as if in fright,
while the downpour thickens and her shadow on the wall,
trembling, is given over to the night?

Surely it’s that moment from the myth
in which you look back and everything goes to hell.

9/11

by Fanny Howe

copyright ©2004 by Fanny Howe



The first person is an existentialist

like trash in the groin of the sand dunes
like a brown cardboard home beside a dam

like seeing like things the same
between Death Valley and the desert of Paran

An earthquake a turret with arms and legs
The second person is the beloved

like winners taking the hit
like looking down on Utah as if

it was Saudi Arabia or Pakistan
like war-planes out of Miramar

like a split cult a jolt of coke New York
like Mexico in its deep beige couplets

like this, like that … like Call us all It
Thou It. “Sky to Spirit! Call us all It!”

The third person is a materialist.

The Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart

by David Kirby

copyright ©2003 David Kirby



I’m bouncing across the Scottish heath in a rented Morris Minor
                    and listening to an interview with Rat Scabies, drummer
of the first punk band, The Damned, and Mr. Scabies,
          who’s probably 50 or so and living comfortably on royalties,
is as recalcitrant as ever, as full of despair and self-loathing,

but the interviewer won’t have it, and he keeps calling him “Rattie,”
                    saying, “Ah, Rattie, it’s all a bit of a put-on, isn’t it?”
and “Ah, you’re just pulling the old leg now, aren’t you, Rattie?”
          to which Mr. Scabies keeps saying things like
“We’re fooked, ya daft prat. Oh, yeah, absolutely – fooked!”

Funny old Rattie – he believed in nothing, which is something.
                    If it weren’t for summat, there’d be naught, as they say
in that part of the world. I wonder if his dad wasn’t a bit of a bastard,
          didn’t drink himself to death, say, as opposed to a dad like mine,
who, though also dead now, was as nice as he could be when he was alive.

A month before, I’d been in Florence and walked by the casa di cura where
                    my son Will was born 27 years ago, though it’s not a hospital
now but a home for the old nuns of Le Suore Minime del Sacra Cuore
          who helped to deliver and bathe and care for him when he was just
a few minutes old, and when I look over the gate, I see three

of these holy sisters sitting in the garden there, and I wave at them,
                    and they wave back, and I wonder if they were on duty
when Will was born, these women who have had no sex at all,
          probably not even very much candy, yet who believe in something
that may be nothing, after all, though I love them for giving me my boy.

They’re dozing and talking, these mystical brides of Christ,
                    and thinking about their Husband, and it looks to me
as though they’re having their version of the sacra conversazione,
          a favorite subject of Renaissance artists in which people who care
for one another are painted chatting together about noble things,

and I’m wondering if, as I walk by later when the shadows are long,
                    their white faces will be like stars against their black habits,
the three of them a constellation about to rise into the vault
          that arches over Tuscany, the fires there now twinkling,
now steadfast in the chambered heart of the sky.

At Ursula’s

by Derek Mahon

copyright ©Derek Mahon 2008



A cold and stormy morning
   I sit in Ursula’s place
and fancy something spicy
   served with the usual grace

by one of her bright workforce
   who know us from before,
a nice girl from Tbilisi,
   Penang or Baltimore.

Some red basil linguine
   would surely hit the spot,
something light and shiny,
   mint-yoghurty and hot;

a frosty but delightful
   pistachio ice-cream
and some strong herbal
   infusion wreathed in steam.

Once a tomato sandwich
   and a pint of stout would do
but them days are over.
   I want to have a go

at some amusing fusion
   Thai and Italian both,
a dish of squid and pine-nuts
   simmered in lemon broth,

and catch the atmospherics,
   the happy lunchtime crowd,
as the cold hand gets warmer
   and conversation loud.

Boats strain at sea, alas,
   gales rattle the slates
while inside at Ursula’s
   we bow to our warm plates.

Funeral Mass

by P.K. Page

copyright ©P.K. Page, 2002



In his blackest suit
the father carries the coffin

It is light as a box of Kleenex
He carries it in one hand

It is white and gold
A jewel box

Their baby is in it

In the unconscionable weather
the father sweats and weeps

The mother leans
on the arms of two women friends

By the sacred light of the church
they are pale as gristle

The priests talk Latin
change their elaborate clothes

their mitres, copes
their stoles embroidered by nuns

Impervious to grief
their sole intention

is the intricate ritual
of returning a soul to God

this sinless homunculus
this tiny seed

Agitated Sky Etiology

by Sylvia Legris

copyright ©Sylvia Legris, 2005



Stumped Sky (Questions of Missing Weather and Birds)

4

Everything fades to …

Whiteout. Hypnotic and nose-close to hypothermia.
Blizzard-blinding (snow like something out of Fargo).
Winter a mile-high silver screen

tarnished to monotone. Unrelenting;
an eight-months’ sustained
sub-zero note.

Look down,
look down,
look waaay down …

It’s as if you were never here (you start to believe this).
Walk the same footprints every day
and every day they disappear — drowning
in the whiteness of it all, hyper-invisibly visible;
white trudging white.

I Interview Elaine Equi on the Four Elements

by Elaine Equi

copyright ©2007 Elaine Equi



Q: What is your favorite element?
A: Definitely air. It’s the medium of thought.
Ethereal. Invisible. And even better than air,
I love heights. I’m the opposite of someone with
acrophobia. Space travel sounds appealing.
Q: Which element do you like least?
A: Water. It makes me nervous. You can’t walk on it.
Both my parents are Pisces so perhaps that explains …
I’m a terrible swimmer.
Q: Being a Leo, do you feel at home with fire?
A: I like light, but not heat. I don’t even like hot
sauce. I could never see myself as a pyromaniac.
Q: Which brings us to earth, what associations do you have with it?
A: The earth has always supported me in all my
endeavors. I trust it.

The Quality of Sprawl

by Les Murray

copyright ©2000 by Les Murray



Sprawl is the quality
of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce
into a farm utility truck, and sprawl
is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts
to buy the vehicle back and repair its image.

Sprawl is doing your farming by aeroplane, roughly,
or driving a hitchhiker that extra hundred miles home.
It is the rococo of being your own still centre.
It is never lighting cigars with ten-dollar notes:
that’s idiot ostentation and murder of starving people.
Nor can it be bought with the ash of million-dollar deeds.

Sprawl lengthens the legs; it trains greyhounds on liver and beer.
Sprawl almost never says Why not? with palms comically raised
nor can it be dressed for, not even in running shoes worn
with mink and a nose ring. THat is Society. That’s Style.
Sprawl is more like the thirteenth banana in a dozen
or anyway the fourteenth.

Sprawl is Hank Stamper in Never Give an Inch
bisecting an obstructive official’s desk with a chainsaw.
Not harming the official. Sprawl is never brutal
though it’s often intransigent. Sprawl is never Simon de Montfort
at a town-storming: Kill them all! God will know his own.
Knowing the man’s name this was said to might be sprawl.

Sprawl occurs in art. THe fifteenth to twenty-first
lines in a sonnet, for example. And in certain paintings;
I have sprawl enough to have forgotten which paintings.
Turner’s glorious Burning of the Houses of Parliament
comes to mind, a doubling bannered triumph of sprawl –
except, he didn’t fire them.

Sprawl gets up the nose of many kinds of people
(every kind that comes in kinds) whose futures don’t include it.
Some decry it as criminal presumption, silken-robed Pope Alexander
dividing the new world between Spain and Portugal.
If he smiled in petto afterwards, perhaps the thing did have sprawl.

Sprawl is really classless, though. It’s John Christopher Frederick Murray
asleep in his neighbours’ best bed in spurs and oilskins
but not having thrown up;
sprawl is never Calum who, drunk, along the hallways of our house,
reinvented the Festoon. Rather
it’s Beatrice Miles going twelve hundred ditto in a taxi,
No Lewd Advances, No Hitting Animals, No Speeding,
on the proceeds of her two-bob-a-sonnet Shakespeare readings.
An image of my country. And would that it were more so.

No, sprawl is full-gloss murals on a council-house wall.
Sprawl leans on things. It is loose-limbed in its mind.
Reprimanded and dismissed
it listens with a grin and one boot up on the rail
of possibility. It may have to leave the Earth.
Being roughly Christian, it scratches the other cheek
and thinks it unlikely. Though people have been shot for sprawl.