from Verso 4

Dionne Brand

copyright ©2018 Dionne Brand

To verse, to turn, to bend, to plough, a furrow, a row, to turn around, toward, to traverse

When I was nine coming home one day from school, I stood at the top of my street and looked down its gentle incline, toward my house obscured by a small bend, taking in the dipping line of the two-bedroom scheme of houses, called Mon Repos, my rest. But there I’ve strayed too far from the immediate intention. When I was nine coming home from school one day, I stood at the top of my street and knew, and felt, and sensed looking down the gentle incline with the small houses and their hibiscus fences, their rosebush fences, their ixora fences, their yellow and pink and blue paint washes; the shoemaker on the left upper street, the dressmaker on the lower left, and way to the bottom the park and the deep culvert where a boy on a bike pushed me and one of my aunts took a stick to his mother’s door. Again, when I was nine coming home one day in my brown overall uniform with the white blouse, I stood on the top of my street knowing, coming to know in that instant when the sun was in its four o’clock phase and looking down I could see open windows and doors and front door curtains flying out. I was nine and I stood at the top of the street for no reason except to make the descent of the gentle incline toward my house where I lived with everyone and everything in the world, my sisters and my cousins were with me, we had our bookbags and our four o’clock hunger with us and our grandmother and everything we loved in the world were waiting in the yellow washed house, there was a hibiscus hedge and a buttercup bush and zinnias waiting and for several moments all this seemed to drift toward the past; again when I was nine and stood at the head of my street and looked down the gentle incline toward my house in the four o’clock coming-home sunlight, it came over me that I was not going to live here all my life, that I was going away and never returning some day.

from Love Toward the Ashes

Joanna Trzeciak, translating from the Polish written by Tadeusz Rózewicz

copyright ©English translation copyright © 2011 by Joanna Trzeciak

What sprouts out of the ashes of
Samuel Beckett?

somewhere in this space is
his fading breath
and then a motionless utterance

in the beginning was the word
in the end of the body

What decomposes? What suffers?
meat still full of love
spoils in time
one has to bury it


Michael Palmer

copyright ©2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Michael Palmer

Soon the present will arrive
at the end of its long voyage

from the Future-Past to Now
weary of the endless nights in cheap motels

in distant nebulae
Will the usual host

of politicians and celebrities
show up for the occasion

or will they huddle out of sight
in confusion and fear


Clayton Eshleman, translating from the Spanish written by César Vallejo

copyright ©2007 The Regents of the University of California

Poet and translator Clayton Eshleman

   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 No Sky

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French written by Etel Adnan

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

Truths are
department stores:
you are going up,
you take the escalator,
you don’t come back

In the tentative
darkness of the
raisins there was
half of the
then the shadow
of the past

Sometimes I get ready for the
  voyage of no return,
but dawn raises the curtains,
  and my adolescence
  is standing at the corner
      of nowhere

Under the wonder of
cold skies

The Next to Last Draft

C.D. Wright

copyright ©C.D. Wright, 2002

More years pass and the book does not leave the drawer.
According to our author the book does not begin but opens on
a typewriter near a radiator. The typing machine has been
aimed at the window overlooking a park. It’s been oiled and
blown out. At heart it is domestic as an old washer with them
white sheets coming off the platen. In the missing teeth much
has been suppressed. In the space and a half, regrettable things
have been said. Nothing can be taken back. The author wanted
this book to be friendly, to say, Come up on the porch with
me, I’ve got peaches; I don’t mind if you smoke. It would be written
in the author’s own voice. A dedication was planned to
Tyrone and Tina whose names the author read in a sidewalk on
Broad. The machine’s vocation was to type, but its avocation
was to tell everyone up before light, I love you, I always will; to
tell the sisters waiting on their amniocenteses, Everything’s
going to be fine. And to make something happen for the
hundreds of Floridians betting the quinella. It would have
dinner ready for people on their feet twelve house a day. And
something else for the ones making bread hand over fist, the
gouging s-o-bs. But the book was too dependent. Women were
scattered across pages who loved the desert, but moved into
town to meet a man. The women, understand, weren’t getting
any younger. Some of these women were pecking notes into the
text when the author was out walking. One note said: John Lee
you’re still in my dreambooks, et cetera. The author had no
foresight. In previous drafts the good died right off like notes
on an acoustic guitar. Others died of money, that is, fell of
odorless, invisible, utterly quiet wounds. The work recorded
whatever it heard: dog gnawing its rump, the stove’s clock, man
next door taking out his cans, and things that went on farther
down, below buildings and composts, all with the patience of a
dumb beast chewing grass, with the inconsolable eyes of the
herd. Basically the book was intended as a hair-raising
document of the organisms. Thus and so the book opens: I have
been meaning to write you for a long long time. I’ve been
feeling so blue John Lee.

from Faceless

Tongo Eisen-Martin

copyright ©2017 by Tongo Eisen-Martin

My dear, if it is not a city, it is a prison.
If it has a prison, it is a prison. Not a city.

When a courtyard talks on behalf of military issue,
all walks take place outside of the body.

Dear life to your left
A medieval painting to your right

None of this makes an impression

Crop people living in thin air
You got five minutes
to learn how to see
through this breeze

When a mask goes sideways,
Barbed wire becomes the floor
Barbed wire becomes the roof
Forty feet into the sky
becomes out of bounds

When a mask breaks in half,
mind which way the eyes go.

Night-black silver, January’s luminous

Per Brask and Patrick Friesen, translating from the Danish written by Ulrikka S. Gernes

copyright ©Danish Copyright © 2015 by Ulrikka S Gernes / English Translation Copyright © 2015 by Per Brask and Patrick Friesen

morning-darkness leaves behind its blacking,
rubbing off on everything I touch.
It could be worse, it could
always be worse, but could it
be better? No, never better than
this moment, it’s perfect, it’ll never
come back. The child sleeps,
the cat plays with its tail, traffic
sighs past on Falkoner Allé. I jot this down
in the margin of the newspaper, drink
a cup of tea, somewhere someone
opens a book, the year has just begun,
and life, the late dawn sneaks in,
polishes the dark spots clean.

Her Birthday as Ashes in Seawater

Sharon Olds

copyright ©2019 by Sharon Olds

By now, my mother has been pulled to the top
of many small waves, carried in the curve that curls
over, onto itself, and unknots,
again, into the liquid plain,
as her ions had first been gathered from appearances
and concepts. And her dividend,
her irreducible, like violet
down, thrown to the seals, starfish,
wolf spiders on the edge-of-Pacific
floor, I like to follow her
from matter into matter, my little quester,
as if she went to sea in a pea-green
boat. Every separate bit,
every crystal shard, seems to
be here — her nature unknowable, dense,
dispersed, her atomization a miracle,
the earth without her a miracle
as if I had arrived on my own
with nothing to owe, nothing to grieve,
nothing to fear, it would happen with me
as it would, not one molecule
lost or sent to the School Principal
or held in a dried-orange-pomander strongbox
stuck with the iron-matron maces
of the cloves. My mother is a native of this place,
she is made of the rosy plates of the shell
of one who in the silt of a trench plays
music on its own arm, draws
chords, and then the single note —
rosin, jade, blood, catgut,
siren-gut, hair, hair,
hair — I miss her, I lack my mother, such
peace there is on earth now every
tooth of her head is safe, ground down
to filaments of rock-crab fractals
and claw facets, the whole color wheel
burst and released. Oh Mom. Come sit
with me at this stone table at the bottom
of the Bay, here is a barnacle of
egg custard, here is your tiny
spoon with your initials, sup with me
at dawn on your first day — we are all
the dead, I am not apart from you,
for long, except for breath, except for

Glass Box

Michael Longley

copyright ©Michael Longley, 2014

for Bel Mooney

Imagine a shallow glass box
About nine inches by seven,
She writes, a bundle of papers
Inside, tied with brown ribbon,
Photos of our battlefield trip
Interleaved with war poems
She has copied out in longhand.
A shrapnel ball (in cellophane
For protection) nestles there
And rusty shrapnel casing
And the chestnuts and acorns
We examine in one photo.
In another, under a cross,
What can we be looking at?
Embroidered postcards evoke
Men who fought and loved and died,
She says. I who wrote the poems
Imagine a shallow glass box.