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Category archive for: Poems

Beached

Carrying the water I saved today

in the leaky cup of my hands,

I approach Earth,

beached on her belly

but stirring slightly

in a miserable wind.

As high on one side as I can reach

I let my pittance spill

down the cracked blue skin,

careful of her blowhole,

and I think her squint eye’s moon

rolls to see more,

but a hurricane clouds the pupil,

ringed with smoke on fire.

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.

After Love

Look, the wind’s causing the corn to chatter.

A mule slips through the gossip like a tongue.

Once, I let a ghost ride me over a row of pews

as a harvest wagon rides a mule. Once, I was

a soft tongue pressed against your collarbone.

It broke. And there was no honey inside the house.

And Indian summer had finally quit,

committing suicide in the stream out back.

But let’s forget the three-legged foal I shot,

out behind the barn. Listen to the corn

husk scuttling along the road in this fog.

Pretend this is the first time you’ve seen me

reach into the hollow of a tree and snap a comb

of honey from a hive. Let’s pretend it doesn’t sting.

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.

Elephants 4

by Chris Abani

There is a place on the veld where elephants go to die.

Here they come across the skeletons of other elephants.

They pause amid the whiteness, raise their trunks and howl

to the absent flesh, circling the bones, picking up each one,

putting it down; circling one last time, they stand still in silence

for an age, then move. Steps less assured, slower.

Why was it so hard to tell my mother, I love you,

like the man in Sarah’s translation of Gennady’s poem

tracing a woman’s face with a flower?

To cling to death, to a metaphor as real as a dying parent,

is to wrap language around an absence.

There are stories that can kill you.

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.

Above Love (excerpt)

From stem to stem

we can walk beneath the cherries

above the red foam

above love

and live

Their glass stems shake quietly in the dark

Glass skins

What will we do when we don’t have bodies anymore?

I want to hold you between my teeth

On the shore

we grow new skins

new glass

new skins

Between our teeth cherry blossoms

fall into the treeless

singing

from FliesFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Michael Dickman
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

The Usual Decision-Making Process

All day I gather signs: my scars shine,

a rope ladder hangs from a bolted window,

in the corner store a shimmering robe

drapes a headless, hollow monster

and I still think of your body.

On my table a ladybug searches

for someplace to cram herself

like a note she didn’t want to know

she’d written. It only gets dark

half the sky at a time. An hour later,

my watch, glowing, hasn’t moved.

Earlier, I think, the river showed me

places to disappear but it was fooling itself,

the river wasn’t going anywhere. Impossible

to cut out your own heart but if you do,

maybe you’ll grow another.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

I Watch Her Eat the Apple

She twirls it in her left hand,

a small red merry-go-round.

According to the white oval sticker,

she holds apple #4016.

I’ve read in some book or other

of four thousand fifteen fruits she held

before this one, each equally dizzied

by the heat in the tips of her fingers.

She twists the stem, pulls it

like the pin of a grenade, and I just know

somewhere someone is sitting alone on a porch,

bruised, opened up to their wet white ribs,

riddled by her teeth—

lucky.

With her right hand, she lifts the sticker

from the skin. Now,

the apple is more naked than any apple has been

since two bodies first touched the leaves

of ache in the garden.

Maybe her apple is McIntosh, maybe Red Delicious.

I only know it is the color of something I dreamed,

some thing I gave to her after being away

for ten thousand nights.

The apple pulses like a red bird in her hand—

she is setting the red bird free,

but the red bird will not go,

so she pulls it to her face as if to tell it a secret.

She bites, cleaving away a red wing.

The red bird sings. Yes,

she bites the apple and there is music—

a branch breaking, a ship undone by the shore,

a knife making love to a wound, the sweet scrape

of a match lighting the lamp of her mouth.

This blue world has never needed a woman

to eat an apple so badly, to destroy an apple,

to make the apple bone—

and she does it.

I watch her eat the apple,

carve it to the core, and set it, wobbling,

on the table—

a broken bell I beg to wrap my red skin around

until there is no apple,

there is only this woman

who is a city of apples,

there is only me licking the juice

from the streets of her palm.

If there is a god of fruit or things devoured,

and this is all it takes to be beautiful,

then God, please,

let her

eat another apple

tomorrow.

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.

Childhood Friend

Is this what you asked for, my friend, these words, is

this

what you meant when you said—?

On the bus, it settled between us, the dead

skin of living

children in a blizzard. Sand

from the stars. Ancient violets. The crushed

wings of bees and the dander of birds. So

much small stuff, yes, on the breeze, but at our desks

the sun

made a circus of it. Asthma, weeping, elephants,

and clowns. A man slipped screaming from his trapeze

as a sequined girl twirled

over him in a noose—

Excuse me? I couldn’t

hear what you said

over the roar of the billion

specks descending, over the accumulation of flakes

and scales.

You asked me for something, I know that much, I know

you called my name

as you stumbled down the garden

path beneath my bed, gasping, as you knelt down there

and died

among the childhood flowers made of dust and human

hair.

from Gardening in the DarkFind it in the library

Copyright © 2004 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Radium

His gifts to her were theory, patience,

equilibrium, and a pile of dirt—

industrial waste. He loved to watch his wife

aglow with determination, pursuing

discovery of a hidden element, past uranium,

by the light of her hunger. “I should

like it to have a beautiful color,” he said.

He would buy her boots to wipe at the Sorbonne.

Heated, she leaned over a boiling vat,

stirring her dirt reduction, hour on hour.

She looked like any skinny hausfrau

bent to her bubbling sauerkraut.

She looked like the first woman who would be

awarded a Nobel Prize, as well as

the first to fall to her knees before

a hill of brown dust shot through with pine needles

and press her filled hands to her face.

She boiled her tons of pitchblende down

to a scraping of radium nearly the size

of their baby’s smallest fingernail—just the white.

Proof of its existence, and hers.

It permeated their clothes, their papers,

peeled their fingers,

entered their marrow and slowly burned.

He mildly alluded to rheumatism.

He stroked her radioactive hair

with a radioactive hand.

Colorless, shining radium darkened

in contact with air. Chemically

much like calcium, it could stream

like calcium through her brain cells

in her later years alone

and make memories glow in the dark:

illegal schooling, unheated rooms,

subsistence on tea and chocolate. Lying

with her husband for a few hours’ sleep,

cracked hands and weakened legs entwined,

united gaze resting on the vial

of radium salts they kept beside them every night

for the lovely light it shed.

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.

Clouds Mistaken for Nearby Clouds

You could resist a melody

but who will be killed

if one just appears,

as a moon in daylight might.

If I believed in god

I’d thank it for making

irony: tiny neon frogs

and baroque jellyfish

so beautiful they can

go ahead and kill you

without even having

to feel like it.

Hush, everyone

screaming down there,

we can’t hear the new

album everyone loves,

you have to be serious

all the time or else

everyone dies. Well,

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.

Drinking Song

She and her hat came over

She crossed her legs in the sun

her sheer hands

in the gloves they love they wear

She came over, smelling of wine

nothing of hers

being yours to accept or decline

————————, she said

and a ship groaned in the boatyards

to the west, heard by a backhoe

its jaw to the ground

and it couldn’t dig its own grave

She was all switchgrass

and began to sway, and

————————, she said

and on came the pollen engine,

the injury machine, tocking

double-time between every tick

Nothing of hers

being yours to accept or decline

she came over

her purse full of codeine,

and cigarettes, and twine

from Charms Against LightningFind it in the library

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

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