“Sadness” by Michael Blumenthal

Sooner or later it comes to everyone:
the beautiful prom queen who has lost a breast,
the Don Juan of the tenth grade who has
turned up impotent, the fleet chiropodist
who has developed a limp. Sooner or later it comes,
and you are never prepared for it quite yet,
you who had hoped to be spared through another epoch
of your rightful happiness, you who had always
given to charity. Like a gargantuan tackle
lumbering toward you, it comes and comes,
and—though you may double lateral all you wish,
though you may throw a perfect spiral
up the middle to some ecstatic receiver
and be blessed blue-green some night
by the ministrations of strangers—it will not
spare you. It comes and comes, inevitable
as sunrise, palpable as longing,
and we must go on
laughing it right in the face
until it learns to sing again.

“Sadness” by Michael Blumenthal, from No Hurry: Poems 2000-2012. © Etruscan Press, 2012.

“This Morning, I Wanted Four Legs” by Jane Hirshfield

Nothing on two legs weighs much,
or can.
An elephant, a donkey, even a cookstove—
those legs, a person could stand on.
Two legs pitch you forward.
Two legs tire.
They look for another two legs to be with,
to move one set forward to music
while letting the other move back.
They want to carve into a tree trunk:
2gether 4ever.
Nothing on two legs can bark,
can whinny or chuff.
Tonight, though, everything’s different.
Tonight I want wheels.

 

Published in The New Yorker, July 2, 2012

“Waiting for Rain” by Ellen Bass

Finally, morning. This loneliness
feels more ordinary in the light, more like my face
in the mirror. My daughter in the ER again.
Something she ate? Some freshener

someone spritzed in the air?
They’re trying to kill me, she says,
as though it’s a joke. Lucretius
got me through the night. He told me the world goes on

making and unmaking.  Maybe it’s wrong
to think of better and worse.
There’s no one who can carry my fear
for a child who walks out the door

not knowing what will stop her breath.
The rain they say is coming
sails now over the Pacific in purplish nimbus clouds.
But it isn’t enough. Last year I watched

elephants encircle their young, shuffling
their massive legs without hurry, flaring
their great dusty ears. Once they drank
from the snowmelt of Kilimanjaro.

Now the mountain is bald. Lucretius knows
we’re just atoms combining and recombining:
star dust, flesh, grass. All night
I plastered my body to Janet,

breathing when she breathed. But her skin,
warm as it is, does, after all, keep me out.
How tenuous it all is.
My daughter’s coming home next week.

She’ll bring the pink plaid suitcase we bought at Ross.
When she points it out to the escort
pushing her wheelchair, it will be easy
to spot on the carousel. I just want to touch her.

From Like a Beggar. Copyright ©2014 by Ellen Bass.

“Double Exposure” by May Swenson

Taking a photo of you taking a photo of me, I see
the black snout of the camera framed by hair, where

your face should be. I see your arms and one hand
on the shutter button, the hedge behind you and

beyond, below, overexposed water and sky wiped white.
Some flecks out of focus are supposed to be boats.

Your back toward what light is left, you’re not
recognizable except by those cutoff jeans that I

gave you by shooting from above, forgetting your
legs. So, if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t know who

you are, you know. I do know who, but you, you know,
could be anybody. My mistake. It was because I

wanted to trip the shutter at the exact moment you
did. I did when you did, and you did when I did.

I can’t wait to see yours of me. It’s got to be
even more awful. A face, facing the light, pulled up

into a squint behind the lens, which must reflect
the muggy setting sun. Some sort of fright mask

or Mardi Gras monster, a big glass Cyclopean eye
superimposed on a flattened nose, that print,

the one you took of me as I took one of you. Who,
or what, will it be—will I  be, I wonder? Can’t wait.

 

May Swenson. From May Swenson: Collected Poems (Library of America, 2013).