Bolevard Du Montparnasse -Mary Jo Salter Once, in a doorway in Paris, I saw the most beautiful couple in the world. They were each the single most beautiful thing in the world. She would have been sixteen, perhaps; he twenty. Their skin was the same shade of black: like a shi ny Steinway. And they stood there like the four-legged instrument of a passion so grand one could barely ima gine them ever working, or eating, or reading a magazine. Even they could hardly believe it. Her hands gripped his belt loops, as they found each other ' s eyes, because beauty like this must be held onto, could easily run away on the power of his long, lean thighs; or the tiny feet of her laughter. I thought: now I will write a poem, set in a doorway on the Boulevard du Montparnasse, in which the brutishness of time rates only a mention; I will say simply that if either one should ever love another, a greater beauty shall not be the cause. by Robert Wrigley Wearing only moonglow and the fire ' s shawls of final smoke, she made her way from the tent at 2:00 A.M., then squatted to pee, and the heavenly light showed me everything: its cool tongues of silver lapping mountain stones and the never-motionless leaves of aspens, licking her back, her hips, haunches, and more, illuminating even the deep green eyes of whatever animal it was that watched her from the forest then? a deer, I believed, and still believe, though I confess I did not rise that night to make sure, did not shine my light or murmur but waited until she returned, letting my head settle slowly back down to the pillow made of my clothes and welcomed her shivering back into the tent, from which I had sworn I would not look. Highway 12, Just East of Paradise, Idaho by Robert Wrigley The doe, at a dead run, was dead the instant the truck hit her. In the headlights I saw her tongue extend and her eyes g o shocked and vacant. Launched at a sudden right angle?say from twenty miles per hour south to fifty miles per hour east?she skated many yards on the slightest toe-edge tips of her dainty deer hooves, then fell slowly, inside the speed of her new trajectory, not pole-axed but stunned, away from me and the truck ' s decelerating pitch. She skidded along the right lane ' s fog line true as a cue ball, until her neck caught a signpost that spun her across both lanes and out of sight beyond the edge. For which, I admit, I was grateful, the road there being dark, narrow, and shoulderless, and home, with its lights, not far away. A Display of Mackerel by Mark Doty They lie in parallel rows, on ice, head to tail, each a foot of luminosity barred with black band s, which divide the scales? radiant sections like seams of lead in a Tiffany window. Iridescent, watery prismatics: think abalone, the wildly rainbowed mirror of a soapbubble sphere, think sun on gasoline. Splendor, and splendor, and not a one in any way distinguished from the other ?nothing about them of individuality. Instead they?re all exact expressions of the one soul, each a perfect fulfilment of heaven?s template, mackerel essence. As if, after a lifetime arriving at this enameling, the jeweler?s made uncountable examples, each as intricate in its oily fabulation as the one before Suppose we could iridesce, like these, and lose ourselves entirely in the universe of shimmer?would you want to be yourself only, unduplicatable, doomed to be lost? They?d prefer, plain ly, to be flashing participants, multitudinous. Even now they seem to be bolting forward, heedless of stasis. They don?t care they?re dead and nearly frozen, just as, presumably, they didn?t care that they were living: all, all for all, the rainbowed school and its acres of brilliant classrooms, in which no verb is singular, or every one is. How happy they seem, even on ice, to be together, selfless, which is the price of gleaming. The Day Lady Died by Frank O ' Hara It is 12:20 in New York a Friday three days after Bastille day, yes it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner and I don?t know the people who will feed me I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun and have a hamburger and a malted and buy an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets in Ghana are doing these days I go on to the bank and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) doesn?t even look up my balance for once in her life and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or Brendan Behan?s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres of Genet, but I don?t, I stick with Verlaine after practically going to sleep with quandariness and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton of Picayu nes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT while she whispered a song along the keyboard to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing Facing It by Yusef Komunyakaa My black face fades, hiding inside the black granite. I said I wouldn ' t, dammit: No tears. I ' m stone. I ' m flesh. My clouded reflection eyes me like a bird of prey, the profile of night slanted against morning. I turn this way?the stone lets me go. I turn that way?I ' m inside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial again, depending on the light to make a difference. I go down the 58,022 names half-expecting to find my own in letters like smoke. I touch the name Andrew Johnson I see the booby trap ' s white flash. Names shimmer on a woman ' s blouse but when she walks away the names stay on the wall. Brushstrokes flash, a red bird ' s wings cutting across my stare. The sky. A plane in the sky. A white vet ' s image floats closer to me, then his pale eyes look through mine. I ' m a window. He ' s lost his right arm inside the stone. In the black mirror a woman?s trying to erase names: No, she ' s brushing a boy ' s hair. A Blessing by James Wright Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, Twil ight bounds softly forth on the grass. And the eyes of those two Indian ponies Darken with kindness. They have come gladly out of the willows To welcome my friend and me. We step over the barbed wire into the pasture Where they have been grazing all day, alone. They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness That we have come. They bow shyly as wet swans. They l ove each other. There is no loneliness like theirs. At home once more, They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms, For she has walked over to me And nuzzled my left hand. She is black and white, Her mane falls wild on her forehead, And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear That is delicate as the skin over a girl?s wrist. Suddenly I realize That if I stepped out of my body I would break Into blossom. The Colonel by Carolyn Forché WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in E nglish. Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man ' s legs or cut his hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them- selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground. May 1978 What He Thought by Heather McHugh for Fabbio Doplicher We were supposed to do a job in Italy and, full of our feeling for ourselves (our sense of being Poets from America) we went from Rome to Fano, met the mayor, mulled a couple matters over (what ' s a cheap date, they asked us; what ' s flat drink). Among Italian literati we could recognize our counterparts: the academic, the apologist, the arrogant, the amorous, the brazen and the glib?and there was one administrator (the conservative), in s uit of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated sights and histories the hired van hauled us past. Of all, he was the most politic and least poetic, so it seemed. Our last few days in Rome (when all but three of the New World Bards had flown) I found a book of poems this unprepossessing one had written: it was there in the pensione room (a room he ' d recommended) where it must have been abandoned by the German visitor (was there a bus of them ?) to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before. I couldn ' t read Italian, either, so I put the book back into the wardrobe ' s dark. We last Americans were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till, sensible it was our last big chance to be poetic, make our mark, one of us asked " What ' s poetry? " Is it the fruits and vegetables and marketplace of Campo dei Fiori, or the statue there? " Because I was the glib one, I identified the answer instantly, I didn ' t have to think? " The truth is both, it ' s both, " I blurted out. But that was easy. That was easiest to say. What followed taught me something about difficulty, for our underestimated host spoke out, all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said: The statute represents Giordano Bruno, brought to be burned in the public square because of his offense against authority, which is to say the Church. His crime was his belief the universe does not revolve around the human being: God is no fixed point or central government, but rather is poured in waves through all things. All things move. " If God is not the soul itself, He is the soul of the soul of the world. " Such was his heresy. The day they brought him forth to die, they feared he might incite the c rowd (the man was famous for his eloquence). And so his captors placed upon his face an iron mask, in which he could not speak. That ' s how they burned him. That is how he died: without a word, in front of everyone. And poetry? (we ' d all put down our forks by now, to listen to the man in gray; he went on softly)? poetry is what he thought, but did not say.
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