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Added by mika_ on 2 Jan 2016 03:07
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The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
"Remember that you and I made this journey together to a place where there was nowhere left to go."


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The Hours - Michael Cunningham
"She could have had a life as potent and dangerous as literature itself."

"Take me with you. I want a doomed love. I want streets at night, wind and rain, no one wondering where I am."

"Yes, Clarissa thinks, it's time for the day to be over. We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep--it's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself. There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.
Heaven only knows why we love it so."


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The Outsiders - S. E. Hinton
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Welcome to Braggsville: A Novel - T. Geronimo Johnson
"...a town of Priuses and pedalers, both of which yeilded patiently to pedestrians. Laid back, liberal, loose. The locals' mantra, No worries; the transplants' motto, It looks like a peninsula but feels like an island."

"Don't curse a child for doing childish things, but don't 'courage him none neither."

"...there was a difference between apologizing and anthropologizing, and neither excuse the desecration of a body."

"Racism is white peoples' problem. They made it and they'll have to fix it."

"I'd thought only poor people were that homophobic. To be bullied into suicide. I think of it now as a lynching from a distance."

"It was high school. We're never as liberal as we want to be then."


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This Census-Taker - China Mieville
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Dhalgren - Samuel R. Delany
"Rhythm is the only thing secure."

"It does not offer me any protection, this mist; rather a refracting grid through which to view the violent machine, explore the technocracy of the eye itself, spelunk the semi-circular canal. I am traveling my own optic nerve. Limping in a city without source, searching a day without shadow, am I deluded with the inconstant emblem? I don't like pain. With such disorientation there is no way to measure the angle between such nearly parallel lines of sight, when focusing on something at such distance."

"It is not that I have no past. Rather, it continually fragments on the terrible and vivid ephemera of now."

"'I realized something. About art. And psychiatry. They're both self-perpetuating systems. Like religion. All three of them promise you a sense of inner worth and meaning, and spend a lot of time telling you about the suffering you have to go through to achieve it. As soon as you get a problem in any one of them, the solution it gives is always to go deeper into the same system. They're all in rather uneasy truce with one another in what's actually a mortal battle. Like all self-reinforcing systems. At best, each is trying to encompass the other two and define them as sub-groups. You know: religion and art are both forms of madness and madness is the realm of psychiatry. Or, art is the study and praise of man and man's ideals, so therefore a religious experience just becomes a brutalized aesthetic response and psychiatry is just another tool for the artist to observe man and render his portraits more accurately. And the religious attitude I guess is that the other two are only useful as long as they promote the good life. At worst, they all try to destroy one another. Which is what my psychiatrist, whether he knew it or not, was trying, quite effectively, to do to my painting. I gave up psychiatry too, pretty soon. I just didn't want to get all wound up in any systems at all.'"

"There is no articulate resonance. The common problem, I suppose, is to have more to say than vocabulary and syntax can bear. That is why I am hunting in these desiccated streets. The smoke hides the sky's variety, stains consciousness, covers the holocaust with something safe and insubstantial. It protects from greater flame. It indicates fire, but obscures the source. This is not a useful city. Very little here approaches any eidolon of the beautiful."


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"The Opening of Eyes"

"That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground."

Excerpt from "Forgive"

"Amid a crowd, we live a strange anonymous maturity,
not knowing how deep inside the body,
or how, with each turned leaf of experience
the word mother lies waiting to be read again."

"The Well of Stars"

"Blue lights on the runway like stars
on the surface of a well
into which I fall each night from the sky,
emerging through the tunnel door
of the jetway, and the black waters
of the night, in the cities of America.

In the lit rooms of glass and steel,
in the still and secret towers,
under the true stars hid by cloud
and the steam shrouded roofs
of the mansions of money and hope,
I come with my quiet voice and
my insistence, and my stories,
and out of that second and
deeper well I see again those other
blue stars and that other darkness
closer even than the night outside,
the one we refuse to mention,
the darkness we know so well
inside everyone.

I have a few griefs and joys
I can call my own
and through accident it seems,
a steadfast faith in each of them
and that’s what I will say
matters when the story ends.

But it takes a little while to get there,
all the unburdening
and the laying down
and the willingness
to really tire of yourself,
and then step by step
the ways
the poets through time
generously gave themselves
to us,
walking like pilgrims
through doubt,
combining their fear
their fierceness and their faith.

And you now,
in the front of the room
under the fluorescent light
by the reflected window
hiding all the stars
you have forgotten.

One more member
of the prison population
whose eyes have caught
the open gate at last.
You are the one for whom the gift was made.

Keep that look in your eyes
and you’ll gladly grow tired of your reflection.

All this way through
the great cloud race between
here and Seattle, just
to look beneath your face.

There, for all to see,
the well of stars,
and the great night from which you were born."

Excerpt from "Ten Years Later"

"...one small thing
I've learned these years,

how to be alone,
and at the edge of aloneness
how to be found by the world."

Excerpt from "Tiananmen"

"I thought of loneliness,
how it works at the edge
of all experience."


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"First Kiss"

"Afterwards you had that drunk, drugged look
my daughter used to get, when she had let go
of my nipple, her mouth gone slack and her eyes
turned vague and filmy, as though behind them
the milk was rising up to fill her
whole head, that would loll on the small
white stalk of her neck so I would have to hold her
closer, amazed at the sheer power
of satiety, which was nothing like the needing
to be fed, the wild flailing and crying until she fastened
herself to me and made the seal tight
between us, and sucked, drawing the liquid down
and out of my body; no, this was the crowning
moment, this giving of herself, knowing
she could show me how helpless
she was—that’s what I saw, that night when you
pulled your mouth from mine and
leaned back against a chain-link fence,
in front of a burned-out church: a man
who was going to be that vulnerable,
that easy and impossible to hurt."

"Dead Girls"

"show up often in the movies, facedown
in the weeds beside the highway.
Kids find them by the river, or in the woods,

under leaves, one pink-nailed hand thrust up.
Detectives stand over them in studio apartments
or lift their photos off pianos

in the houses they almost grew up in.
A dead girl can kick a movie into gear
better than a saloon brawl, better

than a factory explosion, just
by lying there. Anyone can play her,
any child off the street

can be hog-tied and dumped from a van
or strangled blue in a kitchen, a bathroom,
an alley, a school. That’s the beauty

of a dead girl. Even a plain one
who feels worthless
as a clod of dirt, broken

by the sorrow of gazing all day
at a fashion magazine,
can be made whole, redeemed

by what she finally can’t help being,
the center of attention, the special,
desirable, dead, dead girl."

"In Dreams"

"After eighteen years there’s no real grief left
for the man who was my father.
I hardly think of him anymore,
and those dreams I used to have,

in which he’d be standing in a room of people
I didn’t know—maybe his new friends,
if the dead have friendships—
those dreams no longer trouble my sleep.

He’s not in the crooked houses I wander through
or in the field by the highway
where I’m running, chasing down
some important piece of paper,

desperate to reach it
as it’s lifted in the wake of trucks
or flattened and marked by passing cars,
as it’s lifted again to swirl over

a broken wood fence. I don’t know why
the paper’s so important, or if anything
is even written there.
I don’t know where the dead go,

or why it’s good to forget them,
not to see them if they come crowding
the windows or trying to lay themselves down
and press along our bodies at night

and ask that we love them again,
that our sorrows include them once more.
This morning I couldn’t get up.
I slept late, I dreamed of the single

sheet of paper, which I never managed to reach
as it stuttered and soared over the grass
and a few flowers, so that I woke
with a sense of loss, wondering who

or what I had to mourn besides
my father, whom I no longer mourn,
father buried in the earth beneath grass,
beneath flowers I trample as I run."

Excerpt from "Dear Reader"

"Right now, somewhere I am not,
the history of the world is being decided,
and the terrible things I’d rather not think of
go on and on without stopping, while I separate

the two halves of another cookie and lick
the cream filling, and pour myself one more
and drink to you, dear reader, amazed
that you are somewhere in the world without me,
listening, trying to hold me in your hands."


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Come and See: Poems - Fanny Howe
Excerpt from "On the Wall"

"A map of heaven
shows clouds
for each soul
being prayed for."

Excerpt from "Written on Steps in Winter"

"I can't rescue what never happened
though I came here to do so."

"The Witness"

"Behold the broken
Hearts, backs and parts
Of nature
Evolved to follow
A finite path.

Behold the gray rain
In a house of mirrors.
Oak leaves shining
On glass, two kisses
In one spot exactly.

Behold the scabs and cuts
Of city streets.
Crusts, stones, smoke.
As many people
As nails from a factory.

Behold the space
Between each star
Or a child under nine
Laying her hand
On another’s face.

Behold the foundation
And the secret of it.
Close your eyes
And breathe.
When seized, don’t speak."

Excerpts from "After Watching Klimov's Agoniya"

"Without an element of atheism, no religion can be credible."

"To the seeker all objects are lonely and dangerous"

"Since love came over and knocked me down,
Then kicked me in the side and fled,
I have suffered from a prolonged perplexity.
God is the object of my wonder and the closest to me.
Especially near sleep. My sheets are like the wings of a guardian angel.
There is no other fabric so near to my feelings."

Excerpts from "A Hymn"

"I traveled to the page where scripture meets fiction.
The paper slept but the night in me woke up.

Black letters were now alive
and collectible in a material crawl.

I could not decipher their intentions anymore.
To what end did their shapes come forth?

To seduce or speak truth?"

"Remember the map is flat but everything else is not."


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"Depth of Field"

"Desire is not this road of light on water
the half-moon leaves in its wake at one
A.M., white flakes of stone or snow
paving a lane between Lake Michigan
and a clearing sky. All day it was raining
or about to rain. It's not this long-necked bird
standing just off a fenced-in spit of sand
at the marina (NO FISHING WADING
OR SNAGGING BEYOND THIS POINT),
gray heron wading polluted currents

in sight of Lake Shore Drive. The eye admits
all this and more, water diffused to air
against a backdrop of falling temperatures
and rising barometric pressures. Something
can be made of anything at all, a couple fucking
with their clothes on against the hood of a red Ford,
a runner with a reflecting visor on the jogging path,
a gang of boys with baggy shorts and a boom box
dancing on the man-made rocks, no diving
or swimming allowed, but not desire.

The field of vision makes room for all these
things that aren't: desire, this information
poured through the widened lens, the light
from several sources, then just one. The boathouse
is outlined in mist behind a huddled clutch
of bobbing cabin cruisers. Passing headlights
fix rocks, dandelions, and my silhouette
against any horizon, then depart, leaving
behind rocks and weeds, my overshadowed form,
a trail of bone-white waves unchanged. Soon
the moon will take its boat out too far to be reflected
on by any body. The lake is completely still
this once, the distance filled in with visual detail
and every object perfectly clear. So much, but not
desire, caught against the items of this world."

Excerpt from "'Orpheus and Eros' by George Platt Lynes"

"Light traces itself shut
on paper, where nothing can be touched just once."

Excerpt from "Follow Me"

"I spread my arms
and shine like broken glass, rise into one sky's
aftermath, a lexicon of amethysts and unsolved parables.
The air's too thin to breathe, and nothing
has been proven true."

Excerpt from "Blue"

"Color me or leave me vacant."


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The Lives of the Heart: Poems - Jane Hirshfield
Excerpt from "Salt Heart"

"I begin to believe the only sin is distance, refusal.
All others stemming from this. Then, come.
Rivers, come. Irrevocable futures, come. Come even joy.
Even now, even here, and though it vanish like him."

"The Adamantine Perfection of Desire"

"Nothing more strong
than to be helpless before desire.
No reason,
the simplified heart whispers,
the argument over,
only This.

No longer choosing anything but assent.

Its bowl scraped clean to the bottom,
the skull-bone cup no longer horrifies,
but, rimmed in silver, shines.

A spotted dog follows a bitch in heat.
Gray geese flying past us, crying.
The living cannot help but love the world."

"Clappered Heart"

"As always,
the day flares up
in the shape
of a small brown
bird. She is
inconsequential
and lovely;
as you were,
one night's beloved,
now long ago.
Two decades
appear and vanish
while I ponder
why you are
suddenly here,
standing
between her singing
and the red pine.
In the distance,
a truck gears down,
the bells
of morning begin.
But because I can,
I silence them.
I stay
a little longer
behind these
ink-stilled clappers,
to watch you shift
in puzzlement and wonder."

"Orange Oil in Darkness"

"The useful part
of things is elegance --
in mathematics, bridges.

Even in hedges
of ripe persimmons
or mandarin oranges,

elegance solves
for the minimum possible,
then dissolves.

The art is what is extra:
a fragrance penciled in,
or long division's inescapable remainder.

Not quite unplanned for,
more the unexpected, impractical gift.
Not the figures traced

in the bridges' stanchions,
but the small
and lovely sounds they make in the wind.

Who drew that in?
Who could have?
For years now I've mistaken

art for beauty,
but it is not beauty.
Art lives in a plenitude more iro,

more empty, less demanding.
Art doesn't care,
except in moments of despair.

Those it lets pass, recognizing weakness."

"Love amid Owl Cries"

"It is not
the altar that matters,
not that,
nor the shape
that is found there.
The ghostly ideas
come and go, one after another.
But the place endures.
The fact that there is a door."


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Nine Horses: Poems - Billy Collins
"Litany"

"You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine.

-Jacques Crickillon


You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine."

Excerpt from "The Listener"

"You must be asleep
For it to be this quiet,
So I will sit and wait
For the rustle of your blanket
Or a noise from your dream."


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Picnic, Lightning - Billy Collins
"Marginalia"

"Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive--
'Nonsense.' 'Please!' 'HA!!'--
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
who wrote 'Don't be a ninny'
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls 'Metaphor' next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of 'Irony'
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
'Yes.' 'Bull's-eye.' 'My man!'
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written 'Man vs. Nature'
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird singing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."


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"Man Dancing with a Baby"

"Before balance, before counting, before
The record glistens and the needle slides,
Grating, into the overture, there is the end
Of weight, the leaning into nothing and then

A caught breath, the record listens, the needle slides
Over slowly, and all at once around us a woman’s voice
Stretches weightless, leaning into nothing.
Like a clothesline, the taut chorus: oh, hilarious

Oh baby, all around us, over slowly, a woman’s voice
Gathers above the pick me up, pick me up
And the desperate put, put me down. First the tightrope,
Then the light foot, and the taunting chorus

Pick me up, pick me up. Oh, oh baby.
The slippery floor shimmers and spins like a record while
The light is swinging footloose on its rope
Out of time. The shadows

Slip, shimmering black, and spin across the floor,
Then turn back and pick up again. Oh seedpod stuck for just
One moment on the cattail, out of time, out of shadows,
Downy cheek against a beard: oh scratches

On the record, oh baby, oh measure
Oh strange balance that grips us
On this side of the world."

"The Evening of Montale's Death"

"A green light trailed through the park at dusk
like a lantern slowly lifted
by a search party, but it was only

A fisherman starting out
to avenge some private grief.

Two by two, the couples hurried
into the inn with its dulled music of spoons
against linen. This was the first

Evening of autumn.
The dogwood smouldered at its edges;

Soon every shadow would be blazing
into the black winter rains.
This was the last summer evening; a mist fell

Softly on the benches and on the lightning-scarred faces
of the pine trees. What the sun had tried to make simple

The night was about to obscure.
Because out of that mist with its comings and goings,
its rich promise of darkness,

Rode all the particular errors of God:
the june bugs carrying their swollen bellies

On frail and pitiful wings, while above
the mulberry trees tried to hide
their aborted, patchwork leaves.

A pair of runners limped by with the arms thrown
around each other, and a small woman

In a large winter coat dragged
her wheel-less bicycle beside them.
There was a Boy Scout troop whose marching

Song was in the fabulous alphabet of the deaf,
and a man who swore over and over

To himself that he would never again
return. They all ran after the trailing
green light and toward the promise of winter,

Away from some sure place of beginning,
which one by one

They had neither remembered nor forgotten;
just as at dawn a search party
gathers in an open field

And a lantern is held up to each face
to be certain that nothing has changed."

Excerpt from "The Map of the World Confused with its Territory"

"What does the body remember at
dusk? That the palms of the hands are a map
of the world, erased and drawn again and

Again, then covered with rivers and earth."



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The Night Parade: Poems - Edward Hirsch
"Incandescence at Dusk"
(Homage to Dionysius the Areopagite)

"There is fire in everything,
shining and hidden--

Or so the saint believed. And I believe the saint:
Nothing stays the same
in the shimmering heat
Of dusk during Indian summer in the country.

Out here it is possible to perceive
That those brilliant red welts
slashed into the horizon
Are like a drunken whip
whistling across a horse’s back,
And that round ball flaring in the trees
Is like a coal sizzling
in the mouth of a desert prophet.

Be careful.
Someone has called the orange leaves
sweeping off the branches
The colorful palmprints of God
brushing against our faces.
Someone has called the banked piles
of twigs and twisted veins
The handprints of the underworld
Gathering at our ankles and burning
through the soles of our feet.
We have to bear the sunset deep inside us.
I don’t believe in ultimate things.
I don’t believe in the inextinguishable light
of the other world.
I don’t believe that we will be lifted up
and transfixed by radiance.
One incandescent dusky world is all there is.

But I like this vigilant saint
Who stood by the river at nightfall
And saw the angels descending
as burnished mirrors and fiery wheels,
As living creatures of fire,
as streams of white flame. . . .

1500 years in his wake,
I can almost imagine
his disappointment and joy
When the first cool wind
starts to rise on the prairie,
When the soothing blue rain begins
to fall out of the cerulean night."

Excerpt from "Proustian"

"Sometimes it is enough just to remember
There was once a time before we knew about time
When the self and the world fit snugly together."


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Saturday - Ian McEwan
"Henry liked to put to himself when he was a schoolboy: what are the chances of this particular fish, from that shoal, off that continental shelf ending up in the pages of this copy of the Daily Mirror? Something just short of infinity to one. Similarly, the grains of sand on a beach, arranged just so. The random ordering of the world, the unimaginable odds against any particular condition, still please him. Even as a child, and especially after Aberfan, he never believed in fate or providence, or the future being made by someone in the sky. Instead, at every instant, a trillion trillion possible futures; the pickiness of pure chance and physical laws seemed like freedom from the scheming of a gloomy god."

"When anything can happen, everything matters."


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Seventh Heaven - Alice Hoffman
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"Night Ray" - Paul Celan

"Most brightly of all burned the hair of my evening loved one:
to her I send the coffin of lightest wood.
Waves billow round it as round the bed of our dream in Rome;
it wears a white wig as I do and speaks hoarsely:
it talks as I do when I grant admittance to hearts.
It knows a French song about love, I sang it in autumn
when I stopped as a tourist in Lateland and wrote my letters
to morning.

A fine boat is that coffin carved in the coppice of feelings.
I too drift in it downbloodstream, younger still than your eye.
Now you are young as a bird dropped dead in March snow,
now it comes to you, sings you its love song from France.
You are light: you will sleep through my spring till it's over.
I am lighter:
in front of strangers I sing."

"The Desert" - Edmond Jabes

"Hidden language, not that of hands or eyes, a language beyond gesture, beyond looks, smiles or tears that we had to learn! Ah, what desert will revive it now?
We thought we were done with crossing the desolate stretch of land where the word had dragged us, making us and our wanderings bear amazed witness to its perennial nature.
And here silence leads us into its glass kingdom, vaster yet at first sight, breaking all trace of our passage.
...primal silence which we cannot escape.

Do not confuse hothouse and desert, plant and speech. Silence shelters, sand shifts.
Princely, the plant; the word, a particle of dust.

Image stripped of its verbal eloquence - don't we speak of a telling likeness? - representing nothing. Yellowed. Does forgetting have a color? Ah, this yellow, color of awakened sand.
There lies the better part of my past. What persists, writing recovers in fragments.
Write, write, write in order to remember.

You only understand what you destroy."

Excerpt from "My Name" - Daniel Berrigan

"Only the innocent die.
Take up, take up
the bloody map of the century.
The long trek homeward begins
into the land of unknowing."

Excerpt from "Another Night in the Ruins" - Galway Kinnell

"How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren't, after all, made
from that bird which flies out of its ashes,
that for a man
as he goes up in flames, his one work
is
to open himself, to be
the flames?"

"The Song Taught to Joseph" - Ray A. Young Bear

"I was born unto this snowy-red earth
with the aura and name of the Black Lynx.
When we simply think of each other,
night begins. My twin the Heron
is on a perpetual flight northward,
familiarizing himself with the landscape
of Afterlife, but he never gets there...
because the Missouri River descends
from the Northern Plains
into the Morning Star.

One certain thing though,
he sings the song of the fish
below him in the mirror
of Milky Way.

It goes:

In this confrontation,
the gills of the predator
overtake me in daylight near home;
in this confrontation,
he hinders my progress with a cloud of mud he stirs. Crying, I ask that I not feel each painful part
he takes, at least not until I can grasp
in the darkness the entrance
of home.
"

"Silence: 2" - Sipho Sepamla

"The silence I spear of
stretches the moment to Pretoria
Bloemfontein and Cape Town
it is the same silence
that has walled in
tense remembrances of days
making each moment
pebbles of time

the silence I speak of
tends to confound my tongue
I gurgle speech sounds
like a river sipping
the marrow of aged rocks

the silence I speak of
crouches the night
to make shadows that terrorize
even the illusions I fabricate

daily I collide with ghosts
that walk day-night streets
hourly I feel the howling of
their wintered hearts
break into the ease
I've learnt to pace

I've sought to read
the brooding silence
that betrays itself with
dry coughs
or unfolding wrinkles

sometimes I've gone down
on all fours
raking the earth with one ear
to pick what murmurs
may glide down there
beneath the roots

how this silence
I hear
breeds
on avenues of despair
I'll never know

I speak
of a silence
I fear"

"Accomplices" - Bei Dao

"Many years have passed, mica
gleams in the mud
with a bright and evil light
like the sun in a viper's eyes
in a jungle of hands, roads branch off and disappear
where is the young deer
perhaps only a graveyard can change
this wilderness and assemble a town
freedom is nothing but the distance
between the hunter and the hunted
when we turn and look back
the arc drawn by bats
against the vast background of our fathers' portraits
fades with the dusk

we are not guiltless
long ago we became accomplices
of the history in the mirror, waiting for the day
to be deposited in lava
and turn into a cold spring
to meet the darkness once again"


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"In a world of diminishing mystery, the unknown persists."


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"A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty."
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The Heart of Haiku - Jane Hirshfield
"To read a haiku is to become its co-author, to place yourself inside its words until they reveal one of the proteus-shapes of your own life."

"Zen is less the study of doctrine than a set of tools for discovering what can be known when the world is looked at with open eyes. Poetry can be thought of in much the same way."

"Haiku's suggestiveness is penumbra, not umbrella."

"Art can be defined as beauty able to transcend the circumstances of its making."

"Under this world's long rains,
here passes
poetry's makeshift shelfter." - Bashō


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"'Pain is what gives rise to meditation. It has nothing to do with age...'"

"'As we go through life we gradually discover who we are, but the more we discover, the more we lose ourselves.'"


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The Ice Queen : A Novel - Alice Hoffman
"The possibility of being blown out like a match made us burn."


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334: A Novel - Thomas M. Disch
"Creativeness is the ability to see relationships where none exist."


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Behind My Eyes: Poems - Li-Young Lee
Excerpt from "In His Own Shadow"

"He reads: While all bodies share
the same fate, all voices do not.
"

"Have You Prayed"

"When the wind
turns and asks, in my father’s voice,
Have you prayed?

I know three things. One:
I’m never finished answering to the dead.

Two: A man is four winds and three fires.
And the four winds are his father’s voice,
his mother’s voice . . .

Or maybe he’s seven winds and ten fires.
And the fires are seeing, hearing, touching,
dreaming, thinking . . .
Or is he the breath of God?

When the wind turns traveler
and asks, in my father’s voice, Have you prayed?
I remember three things.
One: A father’s love

is milk and sugar,
two-thirds worry, two-thirds grief, and what’s left over

is trimmed and leavened to make the bread
the dead and the living share.

And patience? That’s to endure
the terrible leavening and kneading.

And wisdom? That’s my father’s face in sleep.

When the wind
asks, Have you prayed?
I know it’s only me

reminding myself
a flower is one station between
earth’s wish and earth’s rapture, and blood

was fire, salt, and breath long before
it quickened any wand or branch, any limb
that woke speaking. It’s just me

in the gowns of the wind,
or my father through me, asking,
Have you found your refuge yet?
asking, Are you happy?

Strange. A troubled father. A happy son.
The wind with a voice. And me talking to no one."

"A Hymn to Childhood"

"Childhood? Which childhood?
The one that didn’t last?
The one in which you learned to be afraid
of the boarded-up well in the backyard
and the ladder in the attic?

The one presided over by armed men
in ill-fitting uniforms
strolling the streets and alleys,
while loudspeakers declared a new era,
and the house around you grew bigger,
the rooms farther apart, with more and more
people missing?

The photographs whispered to each other
from their frames in the hallway.
The cooking pots said your name
each time you walked past the kitchen.

And you pretended to be dead with your sister
in games of rescue and abandonment.
You learned to lie still so long
the world seemed a play you viewed from the muffled
safety of a wing. Look! In
run the servants screaming, the soldiers shouting,
turning over the furniture,
smashing your mother’s china.

Don’t fall asleep.
Each act opens with your mother
reading a letter that makes her weep.
Each act closes with your father fallen
into the hands of Pharaoh.

Which childhood? The one that never ends? O you,
still a child, and slow to grow.
Still talking to God and thinking the snow
falling is the sound of God listening,
and winter is the high-ceilinged house
where God measures with one eye
an ocean wave in octaves and minutes,
and counts on many fingers
all the ways a child learns to say Me.

Which childhood?
The one from which you’ll never escape? You,
so slow to know
what you know and don’t know.
Still thinking you hear low song
in the wind in the eaves,
story in your breathing,
grief in the heard dove at evening,
and plentitude in the unseen bird
tolling at morning. Still slow to tell
memory from imagination, heaven
from here and now,
hell from here and now,
death from childhood, and both of them
from dreaming."

"Trading for Heaven"

"I saw you at the top of the stairs.
Now I live a secret life.

I saw you holding open the door.
Now I’m filling pages with

things I can’t tell anyone.
Now I’m more alone than I’ve ever been.

I traded every beyond, every someday,
for heaven in my lifetime. Now I’m dying

of my life. Now I’m alive
inside my death.

Do you see the space between our bodies?
Barely a hand, hardly a breath,

it is the space mountains and rivers are made of.
It is the beginning of oceans, the space

between either and or, both and neither,
the happiness of forgetting

our names and the happiness of hearing them
for the first time. I heard you

singing yourself to sleep.
It was a song from both of our childhoods.

And now I don’t know if singing
is a form of helplessness,
Time’s architecture revealed,

or some inborn motive all blood
and breath obey
to enact a savage wheel.

I found you at dawn
sitting by the open kitchen window.
You were sorting seeds in a plate.

And if you were praying out loud,
I’ll never tell.

And if you were listening to the doves,
and if their various whoo-ing, and coo-ing,
and dying in time,
are your earliest questions blown back to you
through the ragged seasons,

and if you’ve lived your life
in answer to those questions,
I’ll never tell.

Your destiny is safe with me.
Your childhood is safe with me.
What you decide to bury is safe with me."

Excerpt from "Descended from Dreamers"

"Why are you crying? my father asked
in my dream, in a which we faced each other,
knees touching, seated in a moving train.

He had recently died,
and I was wondering if my life would ever begin.

Looking out the window,
one of us witnessed what kept vanishing,
while the other watched what continually emerged."

"Bring Home Her Name"

"Whose house is this? Nobody knows.
Birds flying in and out of every window
all year long and doors swinging wide
in the wind both ways, toward the glow

of an imagined past, and toward the bride,
that fleeing girl, the future. She hides
by changing, escapes by standing still.
The secret of possession? Go outside.

She’ll come to rest inside you. Leave your will.
Meet your dark lender, Evening, below the hill.
Her father, he’ll tell you her name.
Then you’ll ransom the hours and heart you spent
playing house on property lent,
taste her name and for what your life is meant."


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Outer Dark - Cormac McCarthy
"It's a hard thing to know what daylight will bring any day."

"Hard people makes hard times. I've seen the meanness of humans till I don't know why God ain't put out the sun and gone away."

"What needs a man to see his way when he's sent there anyhow?"


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Captain Alatriste - Arturo Perez-Reverte
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Go Tell It on the Mountain - James Baldwin
"There are people in the world for whom 'coming along' is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive."


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Dream Work - Mary Oliver
Excerpt from "Dogfish"

"You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun."

Excerpt from "The Chance to Love Everything"

"Fear defeated me. And yet,
not in faith and not in madness
but with the courage I thought
my dream deserved,
I stepped outside."


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Talk Radio - Eric Bogosian
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"'Innocence is something one chooses, and something one chooses for the same reason one chooses any other thing--because it seems best.'"


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"'You think you know what is just and what is not. I understand. We all think we know.' I had no doubt, myself, then, that at each moment each one of us, man, woman, child, perhaps even the poor old horse turning the mill-wheel, knew what was just: all creatures come into the world bringing with them the memory of justice. 'But we live in a world of laws,' I said to my poor prisoner, 'a world of the second-best. There is nothing we can do about that. We are fallen creatures. All we can do is to uphold the laws, all of us, without allowing the memory of justice to fade.'"

"I truly believe I am not afraid of death. What I shrink from, I believe, is the shame of dying as stupid and befuddled as I am."


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The Children's Book - A.S. Byatt
"The young desired to be free of the adults, and at the same time were prepared to resent any hint that the adults might desire to be free of them."


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Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk
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The Book of Men: Poems - Dorianne Laux
Excerpt from "Juneau"

"I slept
in my small room and all night — or what passed for night
that far north – the geography of the world
outside my window was breaking, changing shape.
And I woke to it and looked at it and didn’t speak."

"Learning to Drive"

"The long miles down the back road
I learned to drive on. The boy riding
shotgun. his hand on my hand on

the gear shift knob, our eyes locked
on the dusty winshield, the cracked
asphalt, old airstrip, the nothing spreading

for miles: scrub brush, heat waves, sky,
a few thin contrails. His patience
endless. My clumsiness: the grinding

gears, the fumbled clutch. The wrench
of it popped like an arm from its socket,
his blue, beloved ‘57 Ford lurching,

stalled in the dirt. I was 16, he was older,
his football-player shoulders muscular,
wide. Where did he get his kindness?

Why spend it on a girl like me: skinny,
serious, her nails bitten, her legs
bruised. Hours under summer’s

relentless heat, his car stumbling
across the barren lot until I got it,
understood how to lift my left foot,

press my right hand, in tandem, like dancing,
which I never learned to do, never wanted
to turn circles on the polished floor

of a dark auditorium, the bleachers
hemming me in. I drove toward the horizon,
gravel jitterbugging under his tires. Lizards

skittering. Jays rising to the buzz
of telephone wires. He taught me
how to handle a car, how to downshift

into second, peel out from a dead stop.
His fist hung from the open window,
knuckles clamped on a lit cigarette,

dragging smoke, we couldn’t guess
where we were going. He didn’t know
he was flying to Vietnam

and I was learning how to get out of there,
The Byrds singing “Eight Miles High”
when he turned up the radio

and told me to brake, opened his door,
slid out and stood on the desert road
to let me go it alone. his back pressed

against all that emptiness."

"Men"

"It's tough being a guy, having to be gruff
and buff, the strong silent type, having to laugh
it off—pain, loss, sorrow, betrayal—or leave in a huff
and say No big deal, take a ride, listen to enough
loud rock and roll that it scours out your head, if
not your heart. Or to be called a fag or a poof
when you love something or someone, scuffing
a shoe across the floor, hiding a smile in a muffler
pulled up nose high, an eyebrow raised for the word quaff
used in casual conversation—wine, air, oil change at the Jiffy
Lube—gulping it down, a joke no one gets. It's rough,
yes, the tie around the neck, the starched white cuffs
too long, too short, frayed, frilled, rolled up. The self
isn't an easy quest for a beast with balls, a cock, proof
of something difficult to define or defend. Chief or chef,
thief or roofer, serf or sheriff, feet on the earth or aloof.
Son, brother, husband, lover, father, they are different
from us, except when they fall or stand alone on a wharf."

Excerpt from "Dark Charms"

"We continue to speak, if only in whispers,
to something inside us that longs to be named.
We name it the past and drag it behind us,
bag like a lung filled with shadow and song,
dreams of running, the keys to lost names."


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Facts About the Moon: Poems - Dorianne Laux
"Facts About the Moon"

"The moon is backing away from us
an inch and a half each year. That means
if you’re like me and were born
around fifty years ago the moon
was a full six feet closer to the earth.
What’s a person supposed to do?
I feel the gray cloud of consternation
travel across my face. I begin thinking
about the moon-lit past, how if you go back
far enough you can imagine the breathtaking
hugeness of the moon, prehistoric
solar eclipses when the moon covered the sun
so completely there was no corona, only
a darkness we had no word for.
And future eclipses will look like this: the moon
a small black pupil in the eye of the sun.
But these are bald facts.
What bothers me most is that someday
the moon will spiral right out of orbit
and all land-based life will die.
The moon keeps the oceans from swallowing
the shores, keeps the electromagnetic fields
in check at the polar ends of the earth.
And please don’t tell me
what I already know, that it won’t happen
for a long time. I don’t care. I’m afraid
of what will happen to the moon.
Forget us. We don’t deserve the moon.
Maybe we once did but not now
after all we’ve done. These nights
I harbor a secret pity for the moon, rolling
around alone in space without
her milky planet, her only love, a mother
who’s lost a child, a bad child,
a greedy child or maybe a grown boy
who’s murdered and raped, a mother
can’t help it, she loves that boy
anyway, and in spite of herself
she misses him, and if you sit beside her
on the padded hospital bench
outside the door to his room you can’t not
take her hand, listen to her while she
weeps, telling you how sweet he was,
how blue his eyes, and you know she’s only
romanticizing, that she’s conveniently
forgotten the bruises and booze,
the stolen car, the day he ripped
the phones from the walls, and you want
to slap her back to sanity, remind her
of the truth: he was a leech, a fuckup,
a little shit, and you almost do
until she lifts her pale puffy face, her eyes
two craters, and then you can’t help it
either, you know love when you see it,
you can feel its lunar strength, its brutal pull."

"What's Broken"

"The slate black sky. The middle step
of the back porch. And long ago

my mother’s necklace, the beads
rolling north and south. Broken

the rose stem, water into drops, glass
knobs on the bedroom door. Last summer’s

pot of parsley and mint, white roots
shooting like streamers through the cracks.

Years ago the cat’s tail, the bird bath,
the car hood’s rusted latch. Broken

little finger on my right hand at birth—
I was pulled out too fast. What hasn’t

been rent, divided, split? Broken
the days into nights, the night sky

into stars, the stars into patterns
I make up as I trace them

with a broken-off blade
of grass. Possible, unthinkable,

the cricket’s tiny back as I lie
on the lawn in the dark, my heart

a blue cup fallen from someone’s hands."

Excerpt from "For Matthew Shepard"

"O Shakespeare didn’t care if a hobo
wore a dress, a crown, as long as the day
was long, lovely. Each word a cut rhinestone.
Each touch, kiss, a dab of perfume, cologne."

"Afterlife"

"Even in heaven, when a former waitress goes out
for lunch, she can’t help it, can’t stop wiping down
the counter, brushing crumbs from the bottoms
of ketchup bottles, cleaning the chunky rim
around the cap with a napkin, tipping big.
Old habits die hard. Old waitresses
die harder, laid out in their cheap cardboard coffins
in their lacy blue varicose veins, arches fallen
like grand cathedrals, a row of female Quasimodos:
each finely sprung spine humped from a lifetime
hefting trays. But they have smiles on their faces,
feet up, dancing shoes shined, wispy hair nets
peeled off and tossed in the trash, permed strands
snagged in the knots. You hover over their open caskets
with your fist full of roses and it’s their hands
you can’t stop staring at. Hands like your, fingers
scarred, stained, rough, muscles plump
between each knuckle, tough as a man’s,
useless now, still as they never were
even at shift’s end, gnarled wings folded
between the breasts of faceless women done
with their gossip, their earthly orders,
having poured the days dark brew
into the last bottomless cup, finished
with mice in the rice bags, roaches
in the walk-in, their eyes sealed shut, deaf
forever to the clatter, the cook, the cries
of the living. Grateful as nuns. Quite dead."


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"As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat"

"I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.
Elsewhere we are as sitting in a place where sunlight
Filters down, a little at a time,
Waiting for someone to come. Harsh words are spoken,
As the sun yellows the green of the maple tree....

So this was all, but obscurely
I felt the stirrings of new breath in the pages
Which all winter long had smelled like an old catalogue.
New sentences were starting up. But the summer
Was well along, not yet past the mid-point
But full and dark with the promise of that fullness,
That time when one can no longer wander away
And even the least attentive fall silent
To watch the thing that is prepared to happen.

A look of glass stops you
And you walk on shaken: was I the perceived?
Did they notice me, this time, as I am,
Or is it postponed again? The children
Still at their games, clouds that arise with a swift
Impatience in the afternoon sky, then dissipate
As limpid, dense twilight comes.
Only in that tooting of a horn
Down there, for a moment, I thought
The great, formal affair was beginning, orchestrated,
Its colors concentrated in a glance, a ballade
That takes in the whole world, now, but lightly,
Still lightly, but with wide authority and tact.

The prevalence of those gray flakes falling?
They are sun motes. You have slept in the sun
Longer than the sphinx, and are none the wiser for it.
Come in. And I thought a shadow fell across the door
But it was only her come to ask once more
If I was coming in, and not to hurry in case I wasn't.

The night sheen takes over. A moon of cistercian pallor
Has climbed to the center of heaven, installed,
Finally involved with the business of darkness.
And a sigh heaves from all the small things on earth,
The books, the papers, the old garters and union-suit buttons
Kept in a white cardboard box somewhere, and all the lower
Versions of cities flattened under the equalizing night.
The summer demands and takes away too much,
But night, the reserved, the reticent, gives more than it takes."

"Forties Flick"

"The shadow of the Venetian blind on the painted wall,
Shadows of the snake-plant and cacti, the plaster animals,
Focus on the tragic melancholy of the bright stare
Into nowhere, a hole like the black holes in space.
‘In bra and panties she sidles to the window:
Zip! Up with the blind. A fragile street scene offers itself,
With wafer-thin pedestrians who know where they are going.
The blind comes down slowly, the slats are slowly titled up.

Why must it always end this way?
A dais with woman reading, with the ruckus of her hair
And all that is unsaid about her pulling us back to her, with her
Into the silence that night alone can’t explain.
Silence of the library, of the telephone with its pad,
But we didn’t have to reinvent these either:
They had gone away into the plot of a story,
The “art” part—knowing what important details to leave out
And the way character is developed. Things too real
To be of much concern, hence artificial, yet now all over the page,
The indoors with the outside becoming part of you
As you find you had never left off laughing at death,
The background, dark vine at the edge of the porch."

Excerpt from "Grand Galop"

"The names we stole don't remove us"

"The One Thing That Can Save America"

"Is anything central?
Orchards flung out on the land,
Urban forests, rustic plantations, knee-high hills?
Are place names central?
Elm Grove, Adcock Corner, Story Book Farm?
As they concur with a rush at eye level
Beating themselves into eyes which have had enough
Thank you, no more thank you.
And they come on like scenery mingled with darkness
The damp plains, overgrown suburbs,
Places of known civic pride, of civil obscurity.

These are connected to my version of America
But the juice is elsewhere.
This morning as I walked out of your room
After breakfast crosshatched with
Backward and forward glances, backward into light,
Forward into unfamiliar light,
Was it our doing, and was it
The material, the lumber of life, or of lives
We were measuring, counting?
A mood soon to be forgotten
In crossed girders of light, cool downtown shadow
In this morning that has seized us again?

I know that I braid too much on my own
Snapped-off perceptions of things as they come to me.
They are private and always will be.
Where then are the private turns of event
Destined to bloom later like golden chimes
Released over a city from a highest tower?
The quirky things that happen to me, and I tell you,
And you know instantly what I mean?
What remote orchard reached by winding roads
Hides them? Where are these roots?

It is the lumps and trials
That tell us whether we shall be known
And whether our fate can be exemplary, like a star.
All the rest is waiting
For a letter that never arrives,
Day after day, the exasperation
Until finally you have ripped it open not knowing what it is,
The two envelope halves lying on a plate.
The message was wise, and seemingly
Dictated a long time ago, but its time has still
Not arrived, telling of danger, and the mostly limited
Steps that can be taken against danger
Now and in the future, in cool yards,
In quiet small houses in the country,
Our country, in fenced areas, in cool shady streets."


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Excerpt from "The Numbers"

"How many prayers
are there tonight, how many of us must stay awake and listen?"

"A Childhood"

"Our drinks came with paper umbrellas.
My mother put on tennis whites.
My father went to the bar
the way he always did.

My mother put on tennis whites.
My brother threw me against a wall
the way he always did.
I believed in my guardian angel.

My brother threw my mother against a wall.
I walked in my sleep.
I believed in my guardian angel.
I woke up far from the house.

I walked in my sleep.
My mother read fairy tales and sang to me.
I woke up far from the house.
My mother was old, my father dead.

My mother read fairy tales and sang to me.
My father and brother crashed through the door.
My mother was old, my father dead
along with my guardian angel.

My father and brother crashed through the door.
I went to the bar
along with my guardian angel
and our drinks came with paper umbrellas."

Excerpt from "New Year's Day"

"Today I want
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,
and lift my face to it."

Excerpt from "Generations"

"I walk the night city, looking up at lit windows,
and there is no table set for me, nowhere

I can go to be filled. This is the city
of grandparents, immigrants, arrivals,

where I’ve come too late with my name,
and empty plate. This is the place."

"'What Do Women Want?'"

"I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in."


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"Lives of the Poets"

"One stood among the violets
listening to a bird. One went to the toilet
and was struck by the moon. One felt hopeless
until a trumpet crash, and then lo,
he became a diamond. I have a shovel.
Can I turn it into a poem? On my stove
I’m boiling some milk thistle.
I hope it will turn into a winged thesis
before you stop reading. Look, I’m topless!
Listen: approaching hooves!
One drowned in a swimming pool.
One removed his shoes
and yearned off a bridge. One lives
with Alzheimer’s in a state facility, spittle
in his white beard. It
turns out words are no help.
But here I am with my shovel
digging like a fool
beside the spilth and splosh
of the ungirdled sea. I can’t stop.
The horses are coming, the thieves.
I still haven’t found lasting love.
I still want to hear viols
in the little beach hotel
that’s torn down and gone.
I want to see again the fish
schooling and glittering like a veil
where the waves shove
against the breakwater. Gone
is the girl in her white slip
testing the chill with one bare foot.
It’s too cold, but she goes in, so
carefully, oh."

Excerpt from "Scrapbook"

"Our blues

assume you understand
not much, and try to be alive, just as we do,

and that it may be helpful to hold the hand
of someone as lost as you."

"Heraclitean"

"In goes the cafeteria worker in her hairnet.
In goes the philosophy teacher
explaining the theory of eternal
return, and Anton Stadler with his clarinet,
still owing money to Mozart. In
goes Mozart. Everyone flopped into the creel
of the happy fisherman, everyone eaten.
Every river is Lethean,
so why should we care
if it’s not the same river? I hate
how everything changes, tree
to failing term paper, chatelaine
to beheaded plotter, drug dealer to narc.
The heart softening faster than cereal
but then hardening to a relic
which turns into another line
of depressed poetry to recite
to the next eager trainee
anxious to be more than lint.
Going up, you’re also going down, so either
way, as your mother said, Be nice.
When she went in, she was very thin.
Earth, air, fire, water, mother.
Fish pulse slowly under the river ice."


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Tracks - Louise Erdrich
"We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall."


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