Friday, February 15, 2019

What's Right With Kansas


After we flew across the country we
got into bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

— Sharon Olds, The Gold Cell, Knopf (1987)

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Inside Our Bodies


by Lisel Meuller

It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

It spills on the floor so fine
we step all over it

We carry a pinch behind each eyeball

It breaks out on our foreheads

We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins

At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.

From "Alive Together: New and Selected Poems" (LSU Press, 1996)

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Leaning Funny

from “Plan Upon Arrival”

7. Letters arrived in intervals, as with everything else one might come, one might not regardless of whether there’d been a response. We prepared at all times. Bent over. We dreamed things would be different. Every time the door opened we each smiled in a way to make clear we’d never seen our own face. 

8. An appendix washed up, pages current-smoothed, leaning funny. We stood and watched the skin stretched and sewn. The so-called imaginary, so-called interior, so-called paradoxical private sphere. 

13. Dailiness was the anxiety through which we waited. Buttons undone, like clearance. Not what we wanted but what we didn’t know we had to have. Private acts to attempt in public. Productive relationships to sites of violence. Lace-fronts. A dollar to run to the store. 

19. However useful, the language was degrading, incompatible and lacked necessary verbs. The ability to compress, overflow and alter the landscape through a low swollen hum. To smell strongly in the morning, at the grocery or over the phone.

About This Poem

“‘Plan Upon Arrival’ is a book-length poem set in the landscape of my family’s farm of over eighty years in the Florida panhandle. I’m interested in the intimate accounting of rural black life as a means to register and transcribe the region’s physical transformations conditioned by indigenous dispossession, chattel slavery, anti-black resource management, the placement of a federal prison, and increasingly aggressive coastal storms.”
Saretta Morgan
Saretta Morgan

Saretta Morgan is the author of Plan Upon Arrival, forthcoming from Selva Oscura/Three Count Pour in 2020, and Feeling Upon Arrival(Ugly Duckling Press, 2018), among other books. She teaches poetry at Arizona State University and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sidewalk Concert

Leo: sings "Harmony" at full volume in ascending tones
Friend: "I don't think you know what 'harmony' means."
Me, grabs air mic and announces: "Ladies, today Leo B will be playing the role of Annoying Little Brother and perform the amazing feat of singing solo harmony! #posterity The Humor Code

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Notes on a Book Club Evening

From Rebecca Solnit's 2015 essay, "80 Books No Woman Should Read,"

"There are good and great books on the Esquire list, though even Moby-Dick, which I love, reminds me that a book without women is often said to be about humanity, but a book with women in the foreground is a woman's book. And that list would have you learn about women from James M. Cain and Philip Roth, who just aren't the experts you should go to, not when the great oeuvres of Doris Lessing and Louise Erdrich and Elena Ferrante exist."

which gave me the courage, together with my own reading of Erdrich in 2006, to suggest "The Master Butcher's Singing Club," by Louise Erdrich for our founding meeting.

It's an imperfect or inconsistent novel, which makes it easy to dismiss in frustration and also easy to forgive and enter into its magical moments--Eva's kitchen, in flight with Franz and Eva, beneath the earth with Marcus, standing on a street selling all your sausages with Fidelis. All of the characters revolve around Delphine. She is a fine woman from whom to learn about women. She creates herself and her story, never compromising what she sees as truth and also bearing the knowledge that at the heart of every person lives a secret, either one they hold or one that is withheld from them.

This first of book club meetings I hosted and prepared a feast. In fine form, I did not inform the guests that dinner would be served. Having eaten with their families at home, or eaten on the fly commuting to my home, they persisted to dine, nevertheless. Duck fat spread on thick, white bread with salt and red onion, and sausages (nod to the butcher, Fidelis), and ratatouille and salad (nod to Eva's garden, where I want to live forever). Chocolates and red wine, nod to our own desires.



by Ada Limon

was how horses simply give birth to other
horses. Not a baby by any means, not
a creature of liminal spaces, but a four-legged
beast hellbent on walking, scrambling after
the mother. A horse gives way to another
horse and then suddenly there are two horses,
just like that. That’s  how I loved you. You,
off the long train from Red Bank carrying
a coffee as big as your arm, a bag with two
computers swinging in it unwieldily at your
side. I remember we broke into laughter
when we saw each other. What was between
us wasn’t a fragile thing to be coddled, cooed
over. It came out fully formed, ready to run.



by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
                     It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Sunday, November 04, 2018


when instead of asking, "Is that a man or woman," I said, you should have asked, "What pronouns do they prefer?" And he said, "Why are you making this difficult?" (Why are you disrupting my funny anecdote?) Snap. I felt firm in my role as a feminist killjoy thanks to @SaraNAhmed 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Monday, October 08, 2018

Just Ajar

The Bench

by Peter Schmitt

It's all like a bad riddle, our widow friend
said at the time.  If a tree falls in the woods
and kills your husband, what can you build from it?
That she was speaking quite literally
we did not know until the day months later
the bench arrived, filling that foyer space
in the house the neighbors pitched in to finish.
She'd done it, she said, for the sake of the boys,
and was never more sure of her purpose
than when they were off, playing in the woods
their father loved, somewhere out of earshot
and she would be struggling in with groceries.
For her, it was mostly a place to rest
such a weight, where other arms might have reached
to lift what they could.  Or like the time we knocked
at her door, and finding it just ajar,
cautiously entered the sunstruck hallway,
and saw her sitting there staring into space,
before she heard our steps and caught herself,
turning smiling toward us, a book left
lying open on the bench beside her.
column 707