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.

poem for your pocket

Doyali Islam

copyright ©2019 by Doyali Islam

what my pockets have kept over seasons:

coffee change. house keys. ttc tokens.

emptiness and silence and my ungloved

reticent hands. poems. thoughts of miklós

radnóti – he who hid in his pocket

a thin notebook on his forced march toward

death in some unallied forest.

beyond reason to one mass grave, one mass
silence. still, one silence his overcoat

pocket would not keep: eighteen months
passed before his wife unpacked that pocket

of earth – rifled through corpses, clothing – found
what remained. it was love. love rifled through

miklós’s silences – love gave his damp
last pages back to sunlight’s keep. oh yes

yes, it was love announcing in him, i
will find my way to you, i will come back.

you aren’t going to like what i have to say

Donato Mancini

copyright ©2017 by Donato Mancini

before i start i want to say you shouldn’t blame yourself
there’s no point in beating around the bush
there’s something we need to talk about
this is the most difficult thing i’ve ever had to tell anyone
the longer i wait the harder it’s going to be
it’s best if we face this right now
what i’m about to tell you won’t be easy to hear
i know this will hurt but it has to be said
i don’t like being the bearer of bad news
please sit down, this could come as a shock
you knew this was coming, right?
i hope this won’t be a complete surprise
hate to break it to you
please don’t kill the messenger
i have some really bad news
how do i even say this
this is really really hard for me
there are no words for what i have to tell you
i can’t go on lying anymore
you aren’t going to like what i have to say

from We Were There When Jazz Was Invented

Joy Harjo

copyright ©2015 by Joy Harjo

I have lived 19,404 midnights, some of them in the quaver of
   fish dreams
And some without any memory at all, just the flash of the
From a night rainbow, to an island of fire and flowers – such
 a holy
Leap between forgetting and jazz. How long has it been
 since I called you back?
After Albuquerque with my baby in diapers on my hip; it
 was a difficult birth,
I was just past girlhood slammed into motherhood. What a

Beyond the door of my tongue is a rail and I’m leaning over
 to watch bears
Catch salmon in their teeth. That realm isn’t anywhere near
 Los Angeles. If I dream
It all back then I reconstruct that song buried in the muscle
 of urgency. I’m bereft
In the lost nation of debtors. Wey yo hey, wey yo hey yah
 hey. Pepper jumped
And some of us went with him to the stomp. All night,
 beyond midnight, back
Up into the sky, holy.