More than this by David Kirby

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MORE THAN THIS

When you tell me that a woman is visiting the grave
of her college friend and she’s trying not to get irritated
at the man in the red truck who keeps walking back and forth
and dropping tools as he listens to a pro football
game on the truck radio, which is much too loud, I start
to feel as though I know where this story is going,
so I say Stop, you’re going to make me cry.
How sad the world is. When young men died in the mud
of Flanders, the headmaster called their brothers out
of the classroom one by one, but when the older brothers
began to die by the hundreds every day, they simply handed
the child a note as he did his lessons, and of course the boy
wouldn’t cry in front of the others, though at night
the halls were filled with the sound of schoolboys sobbing
for the dead, young men only slightly older than themselves.
Yet the world’s beauty breaks our hearts as well:
the old cowboy is riding along and looks down
at his dog and realizes she died a long time ago
and that his horse did as well, and this makes him
wonder if he is dead, too, and as he’s thinking this,
he comes to a big shiny gate that opens onto a golden
highway, and there’s a man in a robe and white wings,
and when the cowboy asks what this place is, the man tells
him it’s heaven and invites him in, though he says animals
aren’t allowed, so the cowboy keeps going till he comes
to an old rusty gate with a road full of weeds and potholes
on the other side and a guy on a tractor, and the guy
wipes his brow and says you three must be thirsty,
come in and get a drink, and the cowboy says okay,
but what is this place, and the guy says it’s heaven,
and the cowboy says then what’s that place down
the road with the shiny gate and the golden highway,
and when the guy says oh, that’s hell, the cowboy
says doesn’t it make you mad that they’re pretending
to be you, and the guy on the tractor says no,
we like it that they screen out the folks who’d desert
their friends. You tell me your friend can’t take it
any more, and she turns to confront the man
who’s making all the noise, to beg him to leave her alone
with her grief, and that’s when she sees that he’s been
putting up a Christmas tree on his son’s grave
and that he’s grieving, too, but in his own way,
one that is not better or worse than the woman’s,
just different, the kind of grief that says the world
is so beautiful, that it will give you no peace.

Meditation at Lagunitas by Robert Hass

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All the new thinking is about loss.

In this it resembles all the old thinking.

The idea, for example, that each particular erases

the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-

faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk

of that black birch is, by his presence,

some tragic falling off from a first world

of undivided light. Or the other notion that,

because there is in this world no one thing

to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,

a word is elegy to what it signifies.

We talked about it late last night and in the voice

of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone

almost querulous. After a while I understood that,

talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,

pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman

I made love to and I remembered how, holding

her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,

I felt a violent wonder at her presence

like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river

with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,

muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish

called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.

Longing, we say, because desire is full

of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.

But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,

the thing her father said that hurt her, what

she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous

as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.

Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,

saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

LOVE BY EAVAN BOLAND

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Dark falls on this mid-western town
where we once lived when myths collided.
Dusk has hidden the bridge in the river
which slides and deepens
to become the water
the hero crossed on his way to hell.Not far from here is our old apartment.
We had a kitchen and an Amish table.
We had a view. And we discovered there
love had the feather and muscle of wings
and had come to live with us,
a brother of fire and air.
We had two infant children one of whom
was touched by death in this town
and spared: and when the hero
was hailed by his comrades in hell
their mouths opened and their voices failed and
there is no knowing what they would have asked
about a life they had shared and lost.

I am your wife.
It was years ago.
Our child was healed. We love each other still.
Across our day-to-day and ordinary distances
we speak plainly. We hear each other clearly.

And yet I want to return to you
on the bridge of the Iowa river as you were,
with snow on the shoulders of your coat
and a car passing with its headlights on:

I see you as a hero in a text —
the image blazing and the edges gilded —
and I long to cry out the epic question
my dear companion:
Will we ever live so intensely again?
Will love come to us again and be
so formidable at rest it offered us ascension
even to look at him?

But the words are shadows and you cannot hear me.
You walk away and I cannot follow

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

 

Calypso by Mary O’Malley

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The moon juts her high rump over the town,                                                                                      the tide rises with intent to clarify and drown.

In a dream, a boat moves over the grass.
I know her, twenty-eight foot and a mast.

The Lister engine drums like a snipe. She cuts
towards me. Two swift strokes,

Matisse blue, part the water in a V.
All I want, after the fire’s hard craquelure,

is this shape, the square root of love reduced
to longing, a soft vowel held by two hard

consonants. The dreamworld insists
it is dangerous to burn away more than this.

The debris of my years is plaited into her rough tide.
I steer for the point, with its shield of stormcloud.

I will try to find, on this journey, someone
who has the recipe for honeycombs.

I leave my home – there are no companions –
and step aboard my father’s boat with this instruction:

forget the stars. The cleated angle where the sky
meets to form a roof is all you can rely on now.

Two flicks of the oars and she responds, light as a wishbone,
the gods’ capricious gift for this art of being alone.