Self-Portrait, 1969

He’s still young—; thirty, but looks younger—
or does he? … In the eyes and cheeks, tonight,
turning in the mirror, he saw his mother,—
puffy; angry; bewildered … Many nights
now, when he stares there, he gets angry:—
something unfulfilled there, something dead
to what he once thought he surely could be—
Now, just the glamour of habits …
                                                                 Once, instead,
he thought insight would remake him, he’d reach
—what? The thrill, the exhilaration
unravelling disaster, that seemed to teach
necessary knowledge … became just jargon.

Sick of being decent, he craves another
crash. What reaches him except disaster?

Frank Bidart

Calle Principe, 25


Without warning we lose
the vastness of the fields
singular enigmas
the clarity we swear
we’ll preserve

but it takes us years
to forget someone
who merely looked at us

José Tolentino Mendonça



All worlds begin with asking. Instinctively

the chlorophyll of the new and briefly

edenic asks, “Am I home? Can I stop

inventing these engines?” And end and begin

with asking, with a wild fecund of ambitions

on the lip, on the edge. Sometimes I can feel

my bones resting in the mass of me and sometimes

I can’t. I ache to move, I think of moving.

"If-then," I say, "if-then."

Ryan Flaherty


Something of an arrow in him,
and something of a flower.

I brought him down just after dawn
in cold and pearly weather.

The echo from my Wingmaster
ripped blue air asunder.

In the hound’s mouth his gloss was fading,
eyes still embered, amazed, reflecting

sunrise bloody on the quiet river,
wingtips sharp against my fingers.

I shiver now as I remember
reading: when you’re ready to cross over

they’ll judge your heart’s failings
against the weight of a feather.

R.T. Smith

Sad Steps

Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by   
The rapid clouds, the moon’s cleanliness.

Four o’clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie   
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.   
There’s something laughable about this,

The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow   
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart   
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)

High and preposterous and separate—   
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,

One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain   
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare

Is a reminder of the strength and pain   
Of being young; that it can’t come again,   
But is for others undiminished somewhere.

Philip Larkin

Hare Amongst Poppies by Robert Gillmor

Hare Amongst Poppies by Robert Gillmor

Birder’s Last Blessing


Leave the binoculars behind.
What good has bringing birds closer
brought them, anyway?

Let species spring
unidentified branch
to branch

and catapult
into the scrambled alphabet
of clouds.

Let wings alone
be sufficient, a glint of indigo,
dusk’s fluted calling

spiraling to earth
like a handful of leaves,
the feathered thing before you.

May the names of all thirty-six warblers
—if you ever had them—
be the first to go.

May nothing fly from
the field guide of your mind
when iridescent emerald zipping

zips by a Kool-Aid-red feeder
hooked like bait
on the neighbor’s gutter.

May you hover sipping nectar
from scarlet trumpets mid-flight
in nobody’s garden.

John Smith

Snowy Owl Goddess

Loudell, in a loose cotton dress
            the color of delphiniums,
                        her hair, owl-feathered and quiet
as her naked toes in their pale sandals
             is a friend from this harvest part
                         of our lives,
a Minerva woman
             of herbs and salsas, hellebore, trumpet vines
                        and heirloom tomatoes. She glides
among us all,
                          as if we too might be
live plants.

            Almost in a trance from the heady
                        August evening, and perhaps from the corner
of my indolent eye, more absorbing the murmur
            than watching, I registered
                          this Snowy Owl of a woman
as she stripped an olive through her raptor’s mouth,
             then delicately flung the pit
                           into the narrow garden verge next
to her deck chair.

             Usually fastidious as a pharmacist
                         weighing crystals,
she surprised me in this seeming-act
           of littering, until I realized “oh, the pit might take root,
                         grow!” It was her planter’s instinct/
give every seed a place.

            Sipping her chardonnay and, with one hand cracking
                          some pistachios to neatly deposit
their shells in a bowl with pits from olives
             the rest of us had eaten,
                          she reminds me that even
with abundance
            there need not be waste.

                         Every day the image, planted in the hull of
twilight conversation, visits me: A Snowy Owl
                suddenly spreading her 10-foot wingspan
                              to cover this sacred earth,
its arcing motion, her arm unfolding into air
          with the olive pit
                     bowling earthward.

Diane Wakoski


Rumpus, Cohesion, Mess

The bed sheet knows the vices I’ve slept.
How quickly it nooses my feet. Someone said,
we’re wrong men in a right world, all that
zigzag anger. Not quite—that’s another movie.
We’re wrong men who’ve built a wrong world,
each with a knapsack full of crushed glass,
cigarette butts. Photos of our children march
off the walls to a music only the dog can hear.
Rumpus minus cohesion equals mess. So many
weapons, I’m waiting for the plunger to make
the first move. Why should the water play fair.
Is that a cross around your neck or the last bird?
Things forgotten scream out for help in dreams
but not as loudly as things remembered.

Thom Ward


O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

Walt Whitman

Temple Kiss


Obituarial, novelty’s wattage—
spirea, japonica—invades:

whetted, lacquered sparks
all reading the same book,

wedded to every mirroring meld.
I’m dizzy, but not with jealousy

this go-round. Why hemorrhage heaven?
Bees, yellow molars,

bluntly graze the dogwood’s
greeny infant stars,

bruised promises
promiscuous & intent.

But, Evergreen, woolen boltage,
truest friend: ravel & persist

in this quailing, pastel time.
Recall our very first. Our broken rhyme.

Lisa Russ Spaar


There’s a black bear
in the apple tree
and he won’t come down.
I can hear him panting,
like an athlete.
I can smell the stink
of his body.

Come down, black bear.
Can you hear me?

The mind is the most interesting thing to me;
like the sudden death of the sun,
it seems implausible that darkness will swallow it
or that anything is lost forever there,
like a black bear in a fruit tree,
gulping up sour apples
with dry sucking sounds,

or like us at the pier, somber and tired,
making food from sunlight,
you saying a word, me saying a word, trying hard,
though things were disintegrating.
Still, I wanted you,
your lips on my neck,
your postmodern sexuality.
Forlorn and anonymous:
I didn’t want to be that. I could hear
the great barking monsters of the lower waters
calling me forward.

You see, my mind takes me far,
but my heart dreams of return.
Black bear,
with pale-pink tongue
at the center of his face,
is turning his head,
like the face of Christ from life.
Shaking the apple boughs,
he is stronger than I am
and seems so free of passion—
no fear, no pain, no tenderness. I want to be that.

Come down, black bear,
I want to learn the faith of the indifferent.

Henri Cole

Too late for anything, too early for nothing

Unexpectedly we’ll meet again years later,
quite on purpose we’ll mix beer and wine
with vodka, to ride bicycles in the middle of the night
around the estate, unexpectedly bumping into the high

kerbstones, trampling flowerbeds, cutting our cheeks
on branches that have sprung up unexpectedly, then un-
expectedly to fall over, and pushing our
warped bicycles, come to my place, to dress

our wounds, and then lie down to sleep, in the morning
to copulate unexpectedly like animals, out
of fear that something will unexpectedly return

that we felt years ago, copulating like people.

Tadeusz Dąbrowski



Maybe my limbs are made
mostly for decoration,
like the way I feel about
persimmons. You can’t
really eat them. Or you
wouldn’t want to. If you grab
the soft skin with your fist
it somehow feels funny,
like you’ve been here
before and uncomfortable,
too, like you’d rather
squish it between your teeth
impatiently, before spitting
the soft parts back up
to linger on the tongue like
burnt sugar or guilt.
For starters, it was all
an accident, you cut
the right branch
and a sort of light
woke up underneath,
and the inedible fruit
grew dark and needy.
Think crucial hanging.
Think crayon orange.
There is one low, leaning
heart-shaped globe left
and dearest, can you
tell, I am trying
to love you less.

Ada Limón