“Utopia” by Louise Glück (repost)

When the train stops, the woman said, you must get on it. But how will I
know, the child asked, it is the right train? It will be the right train, said the
woman, because it is the right time. A train approached the station; clouds
of grayish smoke streamed from the chimney. How terrified I am, the child
thinks, clutching the yellow tulips she will give to her grandmother. Her hair
has been tightly braided to withstand the journey. Then, without a word,
she gets on the train, from which a strange sound comes, not in a language
like the one she speaks, something more like a moan or a cry.

“Utopia” by Louise Glück, from Faithful and Virtuous Night. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

 

(originally posted December 11, 2016)

“February 14” by Kim Addonizio

This is a valentine for the surgeons
ligating the portal veins and hepatic artery,
placing vascular clamps on the vena cava
as my brother receives a new liver.

And a valentine for each nurse;
though I don’t know how many there are
leaning over him in their gauze masks,
I’m sure I have enough—as many hearts

as it takes, as much embarrassing sentiment
as anyone needs. One heart
for the sutures, one for the instruments
I don’t know the names of,

and the monitors and lights,
and the gloves slippery with his blood
as the long hours pass,
as a T-tube is placed to drain the bile.

And one heart for the donor,
who never met my brother
but who understood the body as gift
and did not want to bury or burn that gift.

For that man, I can’t imagine how
one heart could suffice. But I offer it.
While my brother lies sedated,
opened from sternum to groin,

I think of a dead man, being remembered
by others in their sorrow, and I offer him
these words of praise and gratitude,
oh beloved whom we did not know.

Kim Addonizio, from What Is This Thing Called Love. © W.W. Norton, 2004.

“Start Here” by Caitlyn Siehl (repost)

Start by pulling him out of the fire and
hoping that he will forget the smell.
He was supposed to be an angel but they took him
from that light and turned him into something hungry,
something that forgets what his hands are for when they
aren’t shaking.
He will lose so much, and you will watch it all happen
because you had him first, and you would let the world
break its own neck if it means keeping him.
Start by wiping the blood off of his chin and
pretending to understand.
Repeat to yourself
“I won’t leave you, I won’t leave you”
until you fall asleep and dream of the place
where nothing is red.
When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.
Oh, when you used to sing it to sleep.
Here are your upturned hands.
Give them to him and watch how he prays
like he is learning his first words.
Start by pulling him out of another fire,
and putting him back together with the pieces
you find on the floor.
There is so much to forgive, but you do not
know how to forget.
When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you are the reason it has become so mangled.
Here is your humble offering,
obliterated and broken in the mouth
of this abandoned church.
He has come back to stop the world
from turning itself inside out, and you love him, you do,
so you won’t let him.
Tell him that you will never know any better.
Pretend to understand why that isn’t good enough.

– “Start Here” by Caitlyn Siehl

Caitlyn Siehl is the author of What We Buried
Her Tumblr page is: alonesomes

*originally posted on July 25, 2014.

“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin

Read by (an emotional) Christy. If the above doesn’t play for you, try clicking this link.


At a certain point he decided they could not afford
the dogs. It was someone’s job to take them one by one
behind a pile of ice and shoot them. I try to imagine
the arctic night which descended and would not lift,

a darkness that clung to their clothes. Some men objected
because the dogs were warmth and love, reminders
of their previous life where they slept in soft beds,
their bellies warm with supper. Dog tails were made

of joy, their bodies were wrapped in a fur of hope.
I had to put the book down when I read about the dogs
walking willingly into death, following orders,
one clutching an old toy between his teeth. They trusted

the men who led them into this white danger,
this barren cold. My God, they pulled the sleds
full of provisions and barked away the Sea Leopards.
Someone was told to kill the dogs because supplies

were running low and the dogs, gathered around
the fire, their tongues wet with kindness, knew
nothing of betrayal; they knew how to sit and come,
how to please, how to bow their heads, how to stay.

“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin, from Moving the Piano. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011.

Related reading: Ernest Shackleton’s biography and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.

“Adios” by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with,
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.

“Adios” by Naomi Shihab Nye. From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995).