“Every Day You Play” by Pablo Neruda

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water,
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a bunch of flowers, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind.  The wind.
I alone can contend against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here.  Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Curl round me as though you were frightened.
Even so, a strange shadow once ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the grey light unwinds in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
Until I even believe that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells, dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

 

The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda

“Read poetry every day of your life… (Bradbury)

“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing.

What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don’t force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass T. S. Eliot on your way to other pastures. You say you don’t understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you can read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over an endless green meadow on a windy day.”

 

“Under the Lemon Tree” by Marsha de la O

Not rain, but fine mist
falls from my lemon tree,
a balm of droplets in green shadow.

Six years now my mother gone to earth.
This dew, light as footsteps of the dead.
She often walked out here, craned her neck,
considered the fruit, hundreds of globes
in their leathery hides, figuring on
custard and pudding, meringue and
hollandaise.

But her plans didn’t work out.

The tree goes on unceasingly—lemons fall
and fold into earth and begin again—
me, I come here as a salve against heat,
come to languish, to let the soft bursts—
essence of citrus, summer’s distillate—
drift into my face and settle. Water and gold
brew in the quiet deeps at the far end
of the season. Leaves swallow the body
of light and the breath of water brims over.

My hands cup each other the way hers did.

Marsha de la O, “Under the Lemon Tree” from Antidote For Night. Copyright © 2015 by Marsha de la O.

“I Knew It Was Over” by Daphne Gottlieb

I KNEW IT WAS OVER

when tonight you couldn’t make the phone ring
when you used to make the sun rise
when trees used to throw themselves
in front of you
to be paper for love letters
that was how i knew i had to do it

swaddle the kids we never had
against january’s cold slice
bundle them in winter
clothes they never needed
so i could drop them off at my mom’s
even though she lives on the other side of the country
and at this late west coast hour is
assuredly east coast sleeping
peacefully

her house was lit like a candle
the way homes should be
warm and golden
and home
and the kids ran in
and jumped at the bichon frise
named lucky
that she never had
they hugged the dog
it wriggled
and the kids were happy
yours and mine
the ones we never had
and my mom was

grand maternal, which is to say, with style
that only comes when you’ve seen
enough to know grace

like when to pretend it’s christmas or
a birthday so
she lit her voice with tiny
lights and pretended
she didn’t see me crying

as i drove away
to the hotel connected to the bar
where i ordered the cheapest whisky they had

just because it shares your first name
because they don’t make a whisky
called baby
and i only thought what i got
was what
i ordered

i toasted the hangover
inevitable as sun
that used to rise
in your name

i toasted the carnivals
we never went to
and the things you never won
for me
the ferris wheels we never
kissed on and all the dreams
between us
that sat there
like balloons on a carney’s board
waiting to explode with passion
but slowly deflated
hung slave
under the pin-
prick of a tack

hung
heads down
like lovers
when it doesn’t
work, like me
at last call
after too many cheap

too many sweet
too much
whisky makes me
sick, like the smell of cheap,

like the smell of
the dead

like the cheap, dead flowers
you never sent
that i never threw
out of the window
of a car
i never
really
owned
Daphne Gottlieb, from Final Girl

“The Small Country” by Ellen Bass

Unique, I think, is the Scottish tartle, that hesitation
when introducing someone whose name you’ve forgotten.

And what could capture cafuné, the Brazilian Portuguese way to say
running your fingers, tenderly, through someone’s hair?

Is there a term in any tongue for choosing to be happy?

And where is speech for the block of ice we pack in the sawdust of our hearts?

What appellation approaches the smell of apricots thickening the air
when you boil jam in early summer?

What words reach the way I touched you last night—
as though I had never known a woman—an explorer,
wholly curious to discover each particular
fold and hollow, without guide,
not even the mirror of my own body.

Last night you told me you liked my eyebrows.
You said you never really noticed them before.
What is the word that fuses this freshness
with the pity of having missed it?

And how even touch itself cannot mean the same to both of us,
even in this small country of our bed,
even in this language with only two native speakers.

Ellen Bass, via The New Yorker