Jet by Tony Hoagland

 

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Sometimes I wish I were still out

on the back porch, drinking jet fuel

with the boys, getting louder and louder

as the empty cans drop out of our paws

like booster rockets falling back to Earth

and we soar up into the summer stars.

Summer. The big sky river rushes overhead,

bearing asteroids and mist, blind fish

and old space suits with skeletons inside.

On Earth, men celebrate their hairiness,

and it is good, a way of letting life

out of the box, uncapping the bottle

to let the effervescence gush

through the narrow, usually constricted neck.

And now the crickets plug in their appliances

in unison, and then the fireflies flash

dots and dashes in the grass, like punctuation

for the labyrinthine, untrue tales of sex

someone is telling in the dark, though

no one really hears. We gaze into the night

as if remembering the bright unbroken planet

we once came from, 
to which we will never

be permitted to return. 
We are amazed how hurt we are.

We would give anything for what we have.

 

Tony Hoagland

 

Letter Home by Natasha Trethewey

Natasha_Trethewey

– New Orleans, November 1910

Four weeks have passed since I left, and still
I must write to you of no work. I’ve worn down
the soles and walked through the tightness
of my new shoes calling upon the merchants,
their offices bustling. All the while I kept thinking
my plain English and good writing would secure
for me some modest position. Though I dress each day
in my best, hands covered with the lace gloves
you crocheted –no one needs a girl. How flat
the word sounds, and heavy. My purse thins.
I spend foolishly to make an appearance of quiet
industry, to mask the desperation that tightens
my throat. I sit watching –

though I pretend not to notice – the dark maids
ambling by with their white charges. Do I deceive
anyone? Were they to see my hands, brown
as your dear face, they’d know I’m not quite
what I pretend to be. I walk these streets
a white woman, or so I think, until I catch the eyes
of some stranger upon me, and I must lower mine,
a negress again. There are enough things here
to remind me who I am. Mules lumbering through
the crowded streets send me into reverie, their footfall
the sound of a pointer and chalk hitting the blackboard
at school, only louder. Then there are women, clicking
their tongues in conversation, carrying their loads
on their heads. Their husky voices, the wash pots
and irons of the laundresses call to me.

I thought not to do the work I once did, back bending
and domestic; my schooling a gift – even those half days
at picking time, listening to Miss J–. How
I’d come to know words, the recitations I practiced
to sound like her, lilting, my sentences curling up
or trailing off at the ends. I read my books until
I nearly broke their spines, and in the cotton field,
I repeated whole sections I’d learned by heart,
spelling each word in my head to make a picture
I could see, as well as a weight I could feel
in my mouth. So now, even as I write this
and think of you at home, Goodbye

is the waving map of your palm, is
a stone on my tongue.