Two Untitled Prose Poems

by Gary Young

It’s a joy to be subtracted from the world. Holding my son’s naked body against my own, all I feel is what he is. I cannot feel my own skin. I cannot feel myself touching him, but I can recognize his hair, the heft of his body, his warmth, his weight. I cannot measure my own being, my subtle boundaries, but I know my son’s arms, the drape of his legs, smooth and warm in a shape I can measure. I have become such a fine thing, the resting-place for a body I can know.

+          +        +

My son stepped between two mirrors positioned to reveal an endless train of reflections stretching to infinity. When he looked at the string of his reflections left and right, I expected him to laugh, but he said, come home, all you children, come home.

(Both from Pleasure: Poems by Gary Young)

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 12:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hiking Alone

Hiking Alone
by Timothy Green

I shimmy out on sandstone and slate rock,
past the soft ledges where the last shrubs

grow. I’ve got my camera, unshuttered and
silent, ready to take back with me whatever

I’ve come here for—sore arms and a sunburn,
blue sky like something new. At the floor

of the canyon far below a stream flows from
nowhere to nothing, from one unseen cavern

to the next. I could think of a fish gazing up
at that quick flash of sky as it passes through

the white froth of the rapids, the silky silver
where the water pools. Oh, I am grey, I could

have him say, personified—moved, even
full of emotion. Oh, my scales are golden-

green—I could give him color just as easily
in the kind God of my imagination before

plunging him back into his comfortable
dark, this eyelet the only opening for miles.

How easy it is to paint epiphany, I think, like
the gaudy sunset now settling above the tree-

line I could call a bruise or a blush, windburn
on a woman’s cheek, though it’s only the

scattering of dust in low light, what one shakes
from a shoe, combs out of stiffened hair.

How easy, too, it would be to slip off this ledge,
to get lost out here, fall asleep on this rock and

let the cold night wake me. I could hold out
on figs and freshwater; I could chew the fibrous

bark off a Joshua tree. I could love the moon
like a mountain lion, stalk shadows, sharpen

sticks. Come morning I’d find the dirt road
and then my car at the end of it. Brush the dust

off my pants. Buckle myself back into habit
with a metal click like the sound of my one hand

clapping for joy—however briefly—at all we
ever wanted: a little darkness to climb out of.

(from the stunning collection,American Fractal , published by Ren Hen Press)

Published in: on May 16, 2009 at 5:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Quiet World

The Quiet World

by Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at the chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-twp and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

(from The Forgiveness Parade.)

Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 5:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Naming Water

Naming Water

by Lois Klein

“…to come out of the prison of silence,
where no tone of love, no song of bird,
no strain of music ever pierces the stillness…”
– Helen Keller

This scene always made me weep,
waiting as I was for my own miracle,
for someone who would release me
form a different sort of silence,
for someone to touch my face
and teach me —

a teacher unafraid of wildness,
otherwordly grunts,
unnerving cries, who every day
dipped my hand in water
and made the word for water
next to it on my skin, who held
unwilling fingers to her throat
to feel the word ripple
across vocal cords rising and falling.
And then one day, after the long
journey to trust, realizing
that touch was the word for water,
that water could be named
between two people, could be
asked for and received.

(From A Soldier’s Daughter: Poems by Lois Brown Klein)

Published in: on April 11, 2009 at 4:25 am  Comments (1)  
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The Two

The Two
by Philip Levine

When he gets off work at Packard, they meet
outside a diner on Grand Boulevard. He’s tired,
a bit depressed, and smelling the exhaustion
on his own breath, he kisses her carefully
on her left cheek. Early April, and the weather
has not decided if this is spring, winter, or what.
The two gaze upwards at the sky which gives
nothing away: the low clouds break here and there
and let in tiny slices of a pure blue heaven.
The day is like us, she thinks; it hasn’t decided
what to become. The traffic light at Linwood
goes from red to green and the trucks start up,
so that when he says, “Would you like to eat?”
she hears a jumble of words that mean nothing,
though spiced with things she cannot believe,
“wooden Jew” and “lucky meat.” He’s been up
late, she thinks, he’s tired of the job, perhaps tired
of their morning meetings, but when he bows
from the waist and holds the door open
for her to enter the diner, and the thick
odor of bacon frying and new potatoes
greets them both, and taking heart she enters
to peer through the thick cloud of tobacco smoke
to the see if “their booth” is available.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there were no
second acts in America, but he knew neither
this man nor this woman and no one else
like them unless he stayed late at the office
to test his famous one liner, “We keep you clean
Muscatine,” on the woman emptying
his waste basket. Fitzgerald never wrote
with someone present, except for this woman
in a gray uniform whose comings and goings
went unnoticed even on those December evenings
she worked late while the snow fell silently
on the window sills and the new fluorescent lights
blinked on and off. Get back to the two, you say.
Not who ordered poached eggs, who ordered
only toast and coffee, who shared the bacon
with the other, but what became of the two
when this poem ended, whose arms held whom,
who first said “I love you” and truly meant it,
and who misunderstood the words, so longed
for, and yet still so unexpected, and began
suddenly to scream and curse until the waitress
asked them both to leave. The Packard plant closed
years before I left Detroit, the diner was burned
to the ground in ’67, two years before my oldest son
fled to Sweden to escape the American dream.
“And the lovers?” you ask. I wrote nothing about lovers.
Take a look. Clouds, trucks, traffic lights, a diner, work,
a wooden shoe, East Moline, poached eggs, the perfume
of frying bacon, the chaos of language, the spices
of spent breath after eight hours of night work.
Can you hear all I feared and never dared to write?
Why the two are more real than either you or me,
why I never returned to keep them in my life,
how little I now mean to myself or anyone else,
what any of this could mean, where you found
the patience to endure these truths and confessions?

( Levine’s most recent collection, Breath: Poems)

Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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