— Cynthia Huntington, from “The Attic,” The Radiant (Four Ways Books, 2003)
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.
Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
— li-young lee
— For What Binds Us, Jane Hirshfield
After Terrance Hayes
This trip. This seat. This wine. This bottle. This wine.
This sleep. This empty heart. This love, quickly crawling,
light floating outside the window of the plane. This silence.
This glass. This trembling. That is where I lie on the bed
by the wall, next to a window in the light of dawn. How
soon, how well, should a man and a woman make love?
How soon, how well, have I loved? On the bed, on the couch,
on the couch, on the bed. Love, like a train wreck, love, like
a cold bath. Love, like a brimming purse and a brimming
purse heavy and overpowering. This trip. This seat. This wine,
this torture. This book. This poem in a book. This wine
on the tongue. This memory in the wine.
— hope maxwell snyder
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
— mary oliver
You want to know what it was like?
It was like my whole life had a fever.
Whole acres of me were on fire.
The sun talked dirty in my ear all night.
I couldn’t drive past a wheatfield without doing it violence.
I couldn’t even look at a bridge.
I used to go out in the brush sometimes,
So far out there no one could hear me,
And just burn.
I felt all right then.
I couldn’t hurt anyone else.
I was just a pillar of fire.
It wasn’t the burning so much as the loneliness.
It wasn’t the loneliness so much as the fear of being alone.
Christ look at you pouring from the rocks.
You’re so cold you’re boiling over.
You’ve got stars in your hair.
I don’t want to be around you.
I don’t want to drink you in.
I want to walk into the heart of you
And never walk back out.
— Nico Alvarado
“I used to go out in the brush sometimes,/So far out there no one could hear me,/And just burn.” In the new issue of Gulf Coast, Nico Alvarado writes poems from the perspective of Friday Night Lights’s Tim Riggins including “Tim Riggins Speaks of Waterfalls” and “Tim Riggins Invents a New Number.”