Come Back

by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

copyright ©Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin 2009

Although there is no paper yet, no ink
There is already the hand
That moves, needing to write
Words never shouted from balconies of rock
Into the concave hills
To one far away, whose hair
On a collarbone resembles
That break in the dunes, that tufted ridge
He must have passed, faring away.

If the railway does not exist yet, there is, even
Now, a nostril to recognize
The smells of fatigue and arrival,
An ear cocked for the slow beginning,
Deliberated, of movement, wheels rolling.

If the telephone has not been invented
By anyone, still the woman in the scratchy shirt,
Strapped to her bed, on a dark evening,
With rain beginning outside, is sending
Impulses that sound and stop and ask
Again and again for help, from the one
Who is far away, slowly
Beginning her day’s work,
Or, perhaps, from one already in his grave.


by Hoa Nguyen

copyright ©2016 by Hoa Nguyen

January long light
Janus     I see you
God of locks and doorways

two-faced looking in Capricorn
Capricious like the snowy owl

We fear heavy body collisions

January     time of doors
time looking back on itself
    God of gates

    spelt and salt

They say when you
walk through a door

you can forget what
   you came for

from Venus Velvet No. 2

by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

copyright ©2010 by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

How could I turn and say: but this is him.
How could I say: he bounded when he walked.
How could I say: when he came home at night,
A gust of snowy air around his coat,
I drew him closer, holding his lapels;
He caught me by the wrists and closed his eyes.

How could I say I tried to memorize
The truthful face, his smile a truthful blaze
Untrammeled still. I tried to learn by heart
The light-brown gaze: unguarded chrysolite
From such another world that heaven made.
Left iris, with a comet-fleck of gold.
How could I memorize his gentle ways.
The way he mingled friendliness with passion,
Plain dealing, open-handed, unafraid.
The swift, reflexive generosity.

His striking conversation, magic ease
In seeking what the other could, then more,
In understanding, warmly understood;
A quest for truth but not certainty.

And the integrity I idolized:
Another’s mystery never trifled with.
No one was belittled in those eyes.

Nothing denied, held back, or kept apart.
And never lost his gentle ways with me.
And wanted power over no one else,
But master of his heart, and of himself,
A mind that never darkened, mastermind,
Fountain of pulsing energy at play,
Unshackled, unentangled, unconfined.

Beneath the reading light, his pillowed head
A crimson-outlined silhouette at night,
His profile marble-carved, noble, sun-warmed,
Even at night, in winter, ruddy-tinged.
Red-gold of Titian’s pigment-laden brush.

The red-lit aureate curving of his ear,
Warm-blooded velvet, made for lips to find.
I kissed his brow good night and felt the touch
Of lashes brush my chin before they closed.
Untroubled love. Unmarred. And quiet sleep,

His head a silken weight against my chest,
Velvet inner elbow, dangled foot,
Voluptuous surrender, unarmed Mars,
Even in sleep, composed. Even in sleep
Possessive of my hand. Still self-possessed.

Never again our idyll-nights of peace,
Never again to have him to myself.

from The Prodigal Son

by Spencer Reece

copyright ©Spencer Reece 2014

The bishop places a paperweight atop my reports on his desk,
our professional talk is measured by the silence of the dead
who are always flinging open their shutters,
religion being the work of the living and the dead,
the hope and release of children turning to their parents –
all that business in life that remains unrehearsed.

from Houses (Plural); Love (Singular)

by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld, translating from the Hebrew by Yehuda Amichai

copyright ©2000 by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

We lived in many houses and left remnants of memory
in every one of them: a newspaper, a book face-down, a crumpled map
of some faraway land, a forgotten toothbrush standing sentinel in a cup –
that too is a memorial candle, an eternal light.

My mother’s every exhale is

by Jane Mead

copyright ©2016 by Jane Mead

My mother’s every exhale is
somewhere between a rasp
and a scream now.

Hospice says they’ll bring
phenobarbital in the morning.

Between us we have
–new bottle of morphine
–the dog’s phenobarbital
–three syringes of Parry’s insulin
–methadone, Haldol, etc.

Parry and I discuss combinations.
We want the best for our mother.

We do not want
to fuck this
one up.

   — October 22, +/- 2 a.m.






                              On the phone, my brother Whit
                              says Don’t Google it.


by Ian Williams

copyright ©Ian Williams 2012

                                            Were we twins earlier
we might have saved the other from learning to speak,

to speak dead, to speak dead romance, to speak dead romance
languages. Utter embouchure. The aftertaste of hurt knots the tongue,

an unripe persimmon. An echo tumbles from the mountain range
of a French horn, hunt long finished, rabbits interrupted

by bullets. Then skinned. Then opened wide. There is no translation
for rescue save breath. How we speak to and only to each other.

By the routine of lung. After years of half-formed, airtight Hebrew
the lonely heart’s grammar relaxes, allows one vowel. U.

The Minds of the Higher Animals

by Ken Babstock

copyright ©2006 Ken Babstock

are without exception irresponsible. Which
sounds alarming and is, admittedly, an aberration
(perhaps not funny) of a more valid, thinkable notion,
that dolphins, wolves, chimps, etc., flip a switch

in us, casting klieg light on the frightening solitude
engendered by the very Fifties idea — I know —
that we alone are responsible for our own
consciousness. A friend, who’d taken work as tutor

to a high-school student, leaned over the back wall
of a booth in a pub and told me: of all the thumbnail
sketches he’d done for her, from Plato to Pascal
and beyond, this Sartrean concept of taking ownership over all

that you know, feel, and do, had proved the most opaque,
the singularly most inconceivable stupidity
ever designed to befall a girl
, driving her to kick some shitty
desk chair in frustrated disbelief. Now, Reader, make

a face that’s meant to express some woeful sense
of pity and surprise, while feeling a cold sickness underneath.
That was my face. I was mumbling things so far from the truth
of what I felt, I could have been a clergy entering the manse,

touching tops of heads, asking how days went, seeking food,
while wishing one or the other end of this circus dead.
The sight of a pint glass didn’t cause me to vomit. I didn’t
reel, sweating and murderous, out into the street; but my mood

stiffened, grew intractable, opaque; I felt blue flashes inside
that were flares of all the moments I’d sought causality,
a why for each failing of character, somewhere outside
of myself, amounting to a web of reflexive sophistry

that reached back into the years of my life like illness
discovered late, or how rot sets into wood compromising
the strength of a structure by softening its centre. Rising
from my seat, I went and faced a woman whose caress

had eased my passage through some months I couldn’t pass
through on my own, she’d been more than kind, I’d
found I couldn’t love her at the time, and fled.
So I faced her, and apologized as best I could, given the mass

of people in the pub. ‘This is a poem,’ she said, ‘and that’s not
good enough. Around here, we don’t let art, no matter
how acutely felt, stand in for what’s necessary, true, and right.
Next time you face me, maybe leave you here. End quote.’

from Strange Birds; Twitching Birds

by Sylvia Legris

copyright ©Sylvia Legris, 2005


What a witches’ sabbath of wings
– Robinson Jeffers

Little bird, little bird, LET ME OUT. Not-a-chance Not-a-chance Forget-get-get-get-it

Damn this cracked crow! Damn this wicked net! A snare of ritual and vexation: Icterinæ Tyranny. Grackle Sacrament. Sins of the Feather. Banging your head till you’re blackbird and blue.

All the time in Hell on your hands and an eternity of bird devotions on an endless string of millet … Ave Aviary, Ave Oriole, Hail bob-bob-bob Bobolink …

Dead of night and captive to an unremitting chorus of blackbirds: Rusty Falsetto (creaking demons and doors and coming unhinged!), Nasal-Toned Tricolour (triple-glazed windows, blue in the face), Quiscalus mexicanus … Arriba! Arriba! Arriba!

Grisly dreams. A palpitating litany of shadowy birds: Quiscalus quiscula (Commonest Common Grackle), Euphagus cyanocephalus (Brewer’s Blackbird, volcanic stomach), Euphagus … esophagus (a nagging bird in the throat and your hands

won’t stop trembling).

Northwest Passage

by James Pollock

copyright ©2012 by James Pollock

after Cavafy
The Franklin Expedition, 1845-48

When you set out to find your Northwest Passage
and cross to an empty region of the map

with a headlong desire to know what lies beyond,
sailing the thundering ice-fields on the ocean,

feeling her power move you from below;
when all summer the sun’s hypnotic eye

won’t blink, and the season slowly passes, an endless
dream in which you’re forever diving into pools,

fame’s image forever rising up to meet you;
when the fall comes, at last, triumphantly,

and you enter Victoria’s narrow frozen Strait,
and your Terror and Erebus freeze in the crushing floes;

in that long winter night among the steeples
of jagged ice, and the infinite, empty plain of wind and snow,

when the sea refuses to be reborn in spring,
three winters pass without a thaw, and the men,

far from their wives and children, far from God,
are murdering one another over cards;

when blue gums, colic, paralysis of the wrists
come creeping indiscriminately among you;

and you leave the ships, and set out on the ice,
dragging the lifeboats behind, loaded

with mirrors and soap, slippers and clocks,
into the starlit body of the night,

with your terrible desire to know what lies beyond;
then, half-mad, snow blind, even then,

before you kill the ones who’ve drawn the fatal lots,
and take your ghastly communion in the snow,

may you stumble at last upon some band of Inuit
hauling their catch of seal across the ice,

and see how foolish you have been:
forcing your way by will across a land

that can’t be forced, but must be understood,
toward a passage just now breaking up within.