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.”
That Goddamn Moon
—for Maria MuldaurTonight the moon is like a tambourine,
like the one a woman played in a jug band
I saw once and fell in love with,
it must be thirty years ago now,
but I did that kind of thing back then, fell
in love as easily as that, and I still remember,
it had skin bruised brown from the serious heel of her hand,
and you could see she was serious, the way she laughed
and pranced back and forth across the crowded stage,
the moon shimmering in the hand over her head,
and with the heel of her other one ringing out a song,
while a bunch of her friends, all guys, stood around
or sat spooking at the mouths of fat clay jugs
and running clacking spoons along the length of their thighs,
even pulling at some kind of strings that ran from the bridge
of a old mop and over the belly of a big wash tub.
Maybe you had to be there, to see and hear
the magic of the music, the madness of the moon, but tonight…
I mean, would you look at that goddamn moon.
—Louis McKee. Mad Poets Review. Volume 23, 2009.
There’s a woman in me who drinks poison
like water, thinks it’s what she needs
to stay alive. I wish she’d learn to savor
water’s plain taste, enjoy quench and calm.
But give her hurricane and drowned
peony blooms and she smiles, raises
her face to the rain and says, Hit me.
I can’t stand feeling wind on my skin
because it’s not your hands.
I don’t know how not to hand you
the match, how not to let you strike it
and light this house on fire, how not
to relish disappearing into ash,
my bones crumbled, an exploded
plum all that’s left of my heart.
The ground that is not true
ground but spindled grief.
After you’ve swum in the ocean, felt
the current, wave-crash, and depth
that goes deeper, deeper, and darker,
to choose a lake, with its smooth
and silt, no matter how fresh the water,
how relieved the skin to be rid of
the salt’s sting, is to ignore the hunger
of the man brave enough to love the sea.
— marie-elizabeth mali
Some mornings are like this,
the stupor of longing or pure light,
stillness in a rifled grouse,
the black woods legible to a woman
whose heart is made of false starts,
the ruddy life of a hill gone blank
or what the face in the window
wants to believe of her past,
architecture of a white house,
this draft of rooms, paramour planets,
children with gentle hands, kindling
piled near the moon’s pillar, this draft
of despotic love, then distance, vacancy,
then forgiven words accumulating
like snow, just when the world
is finished with us, we build a wall
with rocks and the work is the whole
body inside the idea of belonging
somewhere, even if not for long,
mineral world of slate and flint,
numinous like these days and others
wintering, we test what will hold,
attenuated voices that lean
and fall, the argent sky, the worry
we don’t need anyone.
— stacie cassarino
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost."
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.”
Women like me do not fall gracefully,
we stumble over our spines, trip over
our vowels, and collapse into your arms.
Our hearts are open books,
Russian novels containing fifty pages
on the way your voice drifts across
the telephone wires each night.
Our hearts are first drafts,
unedited verses about each and every
person we have ever loved: the stranger
on the subway, the girl who gave us a balloon,
the boy who stole our virginity
but not our heart.
Women like me will love you from a distance
of a thousand syllables while laying in your bed,
we will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible,
and when we leave you will finally understand
why storms are named after people.
You remember how you were all alone at the end
of the afternoon, and shadows obscured the furniture like dust,
how the room suddenly became too small for you:
I was there. And that other morning, when you woke
to a sky white as a movie screen
before the picture starts, I was the glare
of the waiting camera, the tension of the audience.
Have you looked at the others’ faces lately
across the table, over a meal like any other,
and seen only the indistinct reflections
of strangers in a distant window?
I am that glass. Oh, when you are free,
I too am free as the garbage, the waste paper
that the wind blows along beside you as you walk.
Your lost appetites, the remembered decay
of all fruit (making you lose desire
for what you hold, throw away the half-eaten apple),
the sadness of abundance you don’t need—
I’ve given you all these. Already the deep sea
seems to welcome you more than the shallow.
On the roof, I saw you stand and listen
to the rush of wind in the depths between tall buildings,
stare down the perspective lines to the vanishing point
which is the impossible sidewalk. Soon you’ll fall
asleep, and I’ll be at the bottom
of the steps you dream you’re stumbling over
as your legs contract for the last time before rest.
I will be in your eyes instead of darkness.
I will be in your throat instead of breath.
— jendi reiter