Frederick Seidel

The Pierre Hotel, New York, 1946

The bowl of a silver spoon held candlelight,
A glistening oyster of gold.
The linen between us was snowblind, blinding white.
I felt a weight too light to weigh
Which was my wings.

I heard the quiet of his eyes.
I heard the candle flame stand still.
I saw the long line of her jaw become
Too beautiful to bear. I was a child.
I lifted my empty spoon and licked the light.

 

 

 

 

 

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Frederick Seidel

City

Right now, a dog tied up in the street is barking
With the grief of being left,
A dog bereft.
Right now, a car is parking.

The dog emits
Petals of a barking flower and barking flakes of snow
That float upward from the street below
To where another victim sits:

Who listens to the whole city
And the dog honking like a car alarm,
And doesn’t mean the dog any harm,
And doesn’t feel any pity.

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Spires

Small as a Seed

In everything, its opposite.
In the sun’s ascendancy,
its downfall.
In darkness, light
not yet apprehended.

At night in bed, I fear the falling-off.
Though falling, I will rise.
I fear. Fall arriving now.
In any word so small, the world.
In the world I walk in, a wild wood.

 

 

 

 

Wendy Videlock

Dear Universe

In all this calm,
in all this mist,
these vague shaped

continents

begin to drift.
A finger lifts,

falls again.
A foghorn sounds,

passionless.
Do you wonder

what we are
in all this calm,
in all this mist.

Wolf prints.

Red clay.

A slender wrist.

Murder. Magic.

Ballet.

 

 

 

 

James Arthur

Children’s Book

In which a newborn cricket walks across a field,
unable to reply to the greetings of the mantis, the moth,
and the dragonfly, until his rubbing of wing on wing

becomes a sound that can speak for him. When the last page turns,
the book itself makes a chirruping. Here is the church, and the steeple.
Here is the coffee table where the child lines up a squad

of plastic people. Can the child tell the difference
between himself and other things? He totters back and forth
on a tractor mounted on a spring. Here’s the tension

of a string pulled tight, and the child’s father rolling over and over
and over in the night: the cricket book, after much rough reading,
now chirrups nightly on its own. Finally the father, knowing

what must be done, cuts into the book with a sturdy paring knife,
looking for whatever little engine, whatever little part,
makes the lifelike cricket sound. Here is the trailer, the baler,

the harrow, the plough. Can a stem grow up from inside a stone?
Here is how to sit in silence and be alone. Here’s the yard
where yesterday the child sat watching as blowing branches made

and remade daggers of light and shade. The book’s voice box,
to the father’s eye, looks like a dime-sized bicycle bell,
and as he pries it free, the chirruping intensifies,

becoming something like the death cry of a creature
with an actual beating heart; something like a metal prong
banging indifferently on another metal part.

 


 

(first published in New York Review of Books, July 2016)

Stephen Kuusisto

Post-Orphic

Tonight I felt it in my ribs:
A flood of green in the marrow,

And I decided to live right here
And sing sometimes.

I pulled a book from its shelf,
Held the minutiae of the world

Open like a killdeer’s wings.
I’ve lived without names

For plants and trees.
What happens now?

What happens?

 

 

R. S. Thomas

This

I thought, you see, that on some still night,
When stars were shrill over his farm,
And he and I kept ourselves warm
By an old fire, whose bars were bright
With real heat, the truth might ripen
Between us naturally as the fruit
Of his wild hedges, or as the roots,
Swedes and mangolds, he grew then.

No luck; the thought hopefully sown
On such evenings never could break
The mind’s crust. Keeping my own
Company now, I have forsaken
All but this poor basement of bone,
Where the one dry flame is awake.