We Were Never Meant to Break Like This

Billy-Ray Belcourt

copyright ©2017 by Billy-Ray Belcourt

1. follow me out of the backdoor of the world.

2. how do you tell someone that they are helping you stay tuned into life?

3. what does it mean that her first breath was also her last?

4. i am so sad that i burrow into the absence of every boy who has held me.

5. i kiss him knowing that when i wake up i will be in a body differently.

6. the future is already over, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anywhere else to go.

from Apparition of Objects

Robert Majzels and Erin Moure, translated from the French written by Nicole Brossard

copyright ©English translation copyright © Robert Majzels and Erin Moure, 2007

winter water blue melt backlit
life suddenly in thin chemise
in questions and old silences

in the puzzle of proper nouns
and barking city: February
slow eyelashes that beckon to love
and spinning tops

foliage of word for word
gentleness that evades meaning
plunge into the dark
with metronome

I’d have liked

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French by Etel Adnan

copyright ©2019 by Etel Adnan / English translation © 2019 by Sarah Riggs

I’d have liked to go to the corner
café, to watch the cold file by while I’m
in the warm, or even to make love …
but bombs are raining down on Baghdad

this evening, my friends, I’m going to bed
early because the dark is too thick. I’ll try,
contrary to what’s usual in dreams, not to let
myself be carried by waves, nor hunt
for my key. I’m going to try to sleep,
I believe, as children do

there’s a time in autumn when the
trees change their nature, and
wake up beyond
matter; then one sees them come back to
their ordinary selves

My mother was a white sheet drying on the line

Eve Joseph

MY MOTHER WAS A WHITE SHEET DRYING ON THE LINE. Wooden clothespins held her tight as she lifted and snapped and filled like a sail. At night, when she covered me, I inhaled lily of the valley, burning leaves, the starched collar of a nurse’s uniform and the stillness of a recently abandoned room. She taught me how to iron the creases out of a man’s shirt after all the men had disappeared. My mother played piano by ear in the basement. A long line of hungry people gathered outside to hear her play. They wanted news from home. Overhead, handkerchiefs fluttered in the breeze. Little telegrams sent but never delivered.


Gerald Stern

copyright ©Gerald Stern, 2002

I had to see La Bohème again just to
make sure for there was a little part of
me that kept the regret though when I tried
the argument again I used both hands
in order to explain and I was especially
sensitive to the landlord for I lived
both inside and outside even when I was angry
I paid my debts for I have listened to
and lived with grasshoppers and they bore me, but
Mimi, Mimi, when your hand dropped every
woman in my row was weeping and I
gave in too instead of gripping the armrest
or rubbing the back of my head; I loved it the most that
you lived inside and outside too, the snowdrop
was what you thought of, wasn’t it? You were
the one who came back, three times, it was your stubbornness,
your loyalty. One time I stood in the street
and watched a moon so thin the clouds went through it
as if there were no body, as if the cold
was so relentless nothing could live there, you with
the blackened cancle, you who stitched the lily.

The Banal

Elaine Equi

copyright ©2007 Elaine Equi

Even with its shitload of artifacts, the everyday
is radiant, while the banal is opaque and often
obscure. I prefer the latter, with its murky
agate, mushroom, ochre background music –
its corridor of lurk. One hardly knows where
one stands with/in the banal. Walls come
together with hardly a seam. Wherever we are, we
feel we have always been. Poe, for all his special
effects, is rather banal in his approach to the
supernatural, i.e. overly familiar. Against the
inarticulate velvet of this mood, one grasps at
the everyday for relief. Thus any object can
bring us back with the fast-acting power of
aspirin. Any object shines.

Kingdom Come

Rowan Ricardo Phillips

copyright ©2015 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Not knowing the difference between Heaven
And Paradise, he called them both Heaven.
So when he shrugged at the thought of a god
Blanched in the lights of implausible heights,
Thumbing the armrests of a throne, that was
Heaven. And when he stared out at the sea,
Feeling familiar to himself at last,
He called that Heaven, too. And nothing changed
About either Paradise or Heaven
For it: Paradise retained its earthen
Glamour; and Heaven, because it can’t stand
For anything on its own, like the color
Of rice or a bomb, was happy to play
Along, was happy just to be happy
For once, and not an excuse for mayhem.

Citation for Raymond Antrobus’ The Perseverance

the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize judges

‘The truth is I’m not /a fist fighter,’ writes Raymond Antrobus, ‘I’m all heart, no technique.’ Readers who fall for this streetwise feint may miss out on the subtle technique – from the pantoum and sestina to dramatic monologue and erasure – of The Perseverance. But this literary debut is all heart, too. Heart plus technique. All delivered in a voice that resists over-simple categorization. As a poet of d/Deaf experience, his verse gestures toward a world beyond sound. As a Jamaican/British poet, he deconstructs the racialized empire of signs from within. Perhaps that slash between verses and signs is where the truth is.


Paul Muldoon

copyright ©Paul Muldoon, 2002

That Boxing Day morning, I would hear the familiar, far-off gowls and

over Keenaghan and Aughanlig
of a pack of beagles, old dogs disinclined to chase a car suddenly quite

themselves, pups coming helter-skelter
across the plowlands with all the chutzpah of veterans
of the trenches, their slate-grays, cinnamons, liver-browns, lemons, rusts,
                    and violets

turning and twisting, unseen, across the fields,
their gowls and gulders turning and twisting after the twists and turns
of the great hare who had just now sauntered into the yard where I stodd
                    on tiptoe

astride my new Raleigh cycle,
his demeanor somewhat louche, somewhat lackadaisical
under the circumstances, what with him standing on tiptoe
as if to mimic me, standing almost as tall as I, looking as if he might for a
                    moment put
himself in my place, thinking better of it, sloping off behind the lorry bed.