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Category archive for: Poems

Girl Friend

When I first saw her a few summers ago I felt.

Her photogenic spit.

I was climbing a coruscating staircase.

In my flammable skin. To be so full of.

Everything. At her age. It is very difficult.

A singer manqué. Among a small host of poets.

Noisier

than the men. Quaffing schnapps. No lens

could describe her.

Shoulders. Hands.

Such longings: Errant. Verdant.

To have a good time. And dream. In one’s own

country. The lack. Of. Everything.

The confusion. It is very difficult. One needs.

One’s own set of golden books. What if.

A ladder were. Miraculous. Extended. Across

a nursery for new stars.

And then.

for Nina

from Steal AwayFind it in the library

Copyright © 2002 C.D. Wright
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

There Is No You Are Everywhere

I’m not sure how it got this early or why we needed

to keep the evening in what we would much later

agree was motion. What could grow so marvelous

and where might I’ve met you—only endless want

lay ahead, but we figured we’d earned it. Desire our

birthright, rebate checks clog the mailbox and spill

onto the lobby floor—account for them when

you get home; now run naked at the gulls

all you like, I’m waiting for August right here.

Whatever you say sounds better with your thigh

against mine and caught in the camera-phones

of our undoing. Yes you told me what I need

but Brooklyn’s awfully far to go for something

you don’t even believe; what’s miraculous is that

we ever managed to be specific. What’s tedious:

insufficiently scandalous secrets. We dig up fire

from nearly anywhere but you’re too burnt to burn

or admit we wanted to try what feels almost new.

from The Dance of No Hard FeelingsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Mark Bibbins
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

The Red Blues

There is a dawn between my legs,

a rising of mad rouge birds, overflowing

and crazy-mean, bronze-tailed hawks,

a phoenix preening

sharp-hot wings, pretty pecking procession,

feathers flashing like flames

in a Semana Santa parade.

There are bulls between my legs,

a torera

stabbing her banderillas,

snapping her cape, tippy-toes scraping

my mottled thighs, the crowd’s throats open,

shining like new scars, cornadas glowing

from beneath hands and white handkerchiefs

bright as bandages.

There are car wrecks between my legs,

a mess of maroon Volkswagens,

a rusted bus abandoned in the Grand Canyon,

a gas tanker in flames,

an IHS van full of corned beef hash,

an open can of commodity beets

on this village’s one main road, a stoplight

pulsing like a bullet hole, a police car

flickering like a new scab,

an ambulance driven by Custer,

another ambulance

for Custer.

There is a war between my legs,

’ahway nyavay, a wager, a fight, a losing

that cramps my fists, a battle on eroding banks

of muddy creeks, the stench of metal,

purple-gray clotting the air,

in the grass the bodies

dim, cracked pomegranates, stone fruit,

this orchard stains

like a cemetery.

There is a martyr between my legs,

my personal San Sebastián

leaking reed arrows and sin, stubbornly sewing

a sacred red ribbon dress, ahvay chuchqer,

the carmine threads

pull the Colorado River, ’Aha Haviily, clay,

and creosotes from the skirt,

each wound a week,

a coral moon, a calendar, a begging

for a master, or a slave, for a god

in magic cochineal pants.

There are broken baskets between my legs,

cracked vases, terra-cotta crumbs,

crippled grandmothers with mahogany skins

whose ruby shoes throb on shelves in closets,

who teach me to vomit

this fuchsia madness,

this scarlet smallpox blanket,

this sugar-riddled amputated robe,

these cursive curses scrawling down my calves,

this rotting strawberry field, swollen sunset,

hemoglobin joke with no punch line,

this crimson garbage truck,

this bloody nose, splintered cherry tree, manzano,

this métis Mary’s heart,

guitarra acerezada, red race mestiza, this cattle train,

this hand-me-down adobe drum,

this slug in the mouth,

this ’av’unye ’ahwaatm, via roja dolorosa,

this dark hut, this mud house, this dirty bed,

this period of exile.

from When My Brother Was an AztecFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Natalie Diaz
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Elegy

It wasn’t you,

the hummingbird

unexpectedly in the yard,

and it wasn’t finding

what it was looking for either

skirting the empty tree.

A body by the river is a cliché,

but they found one

and cordoned off the road.

Newspapers remind us

we know more about decay

than we like to let on—

there are experts among us

who know death to the hour,

death by the degree. Then

there’s what our own bodies tell us

day by day or sometimes

all of a sudden. The crime-scene

tape comes down. The parade-route

flags, the missing-person flyers,

the mourning cloths come down.

The sun sets differently by degrees

and again the river is a garden,

a mirrored highway for ruby-throats

with exacting coordinates

etched into their flight brains,

a gushing vein that feeds

and feeds the sea.

from Little StrangerFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Lisa Olstein
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Factory

He can say it was a painting

He can say we were the painting

Or that the painting wasn’t painting

And we only happen to ourselves

We can say we kept things running

by creating distractions

from the hideous truth

of how things run

That we were broken

That we lingered near a broken factory

That we had broken

We can say that the disappointment

of slicing into a leek

and not finding the requisite layers

but a thick white inedible core

is not the disappointment

of approaching a sleeping animal

only to learn that it is dead

but it does nudge one slightly

further into despair

We said despair

We meant the strings of impossible

instruments that they made

in the factory

That we had seen

That were broken

That there were different paintings

That could be played as songs

We had seen other things

That we had seen

That had come unstrung

And blown between adjacent bridges

Whose river had presented us a city

That was broken

That we had been

That we were broken

That was our city

This was our city

that was a song replaying itself in the dark

from They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re FullFind it in the library

Copyright © 2014 Mark Bibbins
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Sorry, T.

but I’m a ghost. Do you understand

that the person you love

is fleshy and heavy from hip

to boot to make up for this?

There’s a name for it: Brenda,

but I can’t fool everyone.

Even if I have convinced you,

and I don’t bruise easily, that I am yours

to strong-arm and throttle.

Even when you force me to become

of this world—of this cold floor.

I can do so only for a moment.

When the moment falls off

and primal fool-seasons

affix their wintry incubus,

I tend to stomp around to another

bed. Hurting you vaporizes me,

which is why I love others.

I don’t leave a flukeprint in the sweat

of things. The ground won’t greet me

like a domestic animal when I walk.

When I talk you glaze over like the sun

on shifty pavement.

I won’t see the lip of a step

before I bloody my knees again.

(The blood isn’t so bad, but for a ghost

it doesn’t make sense.

Others can draw it, they don’t know.

They make it into a potion for themselves

but you try to make me look at it.)

from Human Dark with SugarFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Magnitude Aunt Lydia Does Stretching Exercises

A soft sweet cheese they make for daily bread,

and in the vat of milk and rennet set an egg,

to tell them when it’s done. While they’re

feeding the chickens or sowing corn, the whey

congeals in streaks and superstring curls.

Rifts develop, curdy lumps,

and gases congregate in spirals;

the smell grows desirably rank as elements

thicken into earths and metals,

and when our unhatched robin-blue planet

sinks, this batch will be ready.

Or maybe enough dark matter exists

for turning out firmer cheese,

a dark dark marbled Swiss with black holes

and delicious veins of stardust forming

from windborne impurities, along one of which

our Earth is a fleck of blue mold.

Maybe they wrap it in burlap, so

the rim of this universe bluntly prints

a coarse fabric weave on the next one.

Think of the milch cow they keep, its size,

the heat of its flanks, the weight of its hooves,

think of the one who comes to milk her,

whistling square roots, perhaps, or wave functions,

think of the breadth of space in the swinging pail.

And think how you’ve nonetheless fit the whole barn,

for a minute at least, in your head.

from Debt to the Bone-Eating SnotflowerFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Sarah Lindsay
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Wave Before Leaving, Wave

And then, the clawed feet of something

akin to speech crawling across the half-moon

of my lip. I, red-beetled and buzzed, come

crawling into bed tonight looking for the last

light of this evening’s rage in your hair. God,

how long the night trapped in the bottom

of a bottle thrown into a sewer or lodged

in a man’s dark hand? I am still holding the bird

I wrestled from the streetlamp of your anger.

It is pecking at my palm. I cover its mouth

and the avalanche in its throat when I come

into the house so as not to wake you.

The fountain, in the square, is still broken.

It leaks like a man. I’ve said this before: I come

as the children came before the closed door

of Noah’s ark: to plead for water. To beg you stay.

from King MeFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Roger Reeves
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Your Eyes Are the Color of a Lightbulb Floating in the Potomac River

Just when it is time to say goodbye

I think I am finally understanding the lightbulb

but not milk or NAFTA or for that matter paper money

let’s not get into my stove top coffeemaker

I don’t even get how this book is fastened or why that orchid

seems happier or at least its petals a little whiter

when it is placed right up against the window

or how certain invisible particles

leave the wall and enter the cord and somehow make

the radio make the air become

Moonlight Sonata or Neighborhood #3

basically a lamp is a mechanism

to shove too many electrons into a coil

or filament a lightbulb i.e. a vacuum surrounds

the first filament was made in 1802 out of platinum

as soon as it was made to turn deep untouchable orange

the air took the electrons away

which left it charred like a tiny bonfire

just like ones we have all seen when we squint and hold

the glass bulb that no longer emits

soft white light when we flip the switch

I wonder if my fear this morning sitting in the dark

and listening to music is anything like

the inventor of the telephone growing deaf

and knowing all those poles and wires

were starting to cover the land and someday everyone

would be able to get exactly what they want

from Sun BearFind it in the library

Copyright © 2014 Matthew Zapruder
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Divination 4

by Chris Abani

No I am not afraid of the eye chart:

in THE dmv

But i sHakE

at The Uniformed

COP who WaLks In.

My fear of uniforms is an old habit, comfortable.

Sometimes even the chief fryer at McDonald’s can

make me break into a hot sweat if I am not expecting his glance.

Monsters don’t crowd your psyche

but rather sit awkwardly on the remote control,

too polite to get up and move it, until

the constantly changing channel is unbearable.

The odds are that my political views won’t stop the invasion,

but to drink Ethiopian coffee during a bomb-

storm is still rebellious.

from SanctificumFind it in the library

Copyright 2010 Chris Abani
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.