Mitochondrial Eve

July 21, 2019

Estimated to have lived approximately 100,000-200,000 years ago,
Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor of all humans alive today.

Please go down and thank her
under the arched branches
where she sits on her heels

arranging a circle of leaves
for a good bed. And on the inside
of her skin thank the mosaic.

Take what little she has and
give it back – one piece
and another, marked with plastic

tags. How high can she count
from your sieves submerged
in water sorting her shards

that lay a mosaic over the earth?
You know the entry when
you see it, in fact

you’d recognize her anywhere –
Reclining in pain on her bed
under a mile of boulders

always with the door open.

Sarah Rose Nordgren

Light and Clay

July 21, 2019

“Will the dust praise thee?”—Psalm 30:9

The page was a place
before morality
before Gilgamesh
before the second prophet
of revealed law

The page was a hybrid
of value and valuelessness
a hybrid of community
and selfishness
a foster child of devotion

The page was experience
in semantic terms
a folie a deux
a terminal location

Cowboys and princes
offered their lives
the cult of the dead
worshipped there too
lacking in value
it saw only faces

The page was a room,
a picnic, a heaven
the utopia of words
in a region of want

The page was a bride groom,
a bride and a lover,
the child of the union
of religion and anarchy

“I will reflect it,” the page
said on Sunday
“I will absorb it,”
the page meant to add

Between death and rebirth
the page stood waiting
words came to call
speechless at best

Maxine Chernoff

Goodbye To Tolerance

July 20, 2019

Genial poets, pink-faced
earnest wits —
you have given the world
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.
Goodbye, goodbye,
I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,
neutral fellows, seers of every side.
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
forever
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,
your loaves grow mouldy,
a gulf has split
the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again —
unless you leap it, leaving
behind you the cherished
worms of your dispassion,
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,
wry-humoured balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? … then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle
for joy …

Denise Levertov

Beatrix Potter, on the stout side, dressed
“in tweeds thick enough to stop a bullet”
woven from the wool of your own sheep,
looking back across those green fields in
your old age you said, If I had been
caught young enough I could have become
anything. I salute what you became
and you, Louisa May, on record claiming

I was born with a boy’s spirit under my bib
and tucker, working to keep the clan afloat
that Bronson Alcott dreamily left drift,
inventions on a tribe, book after book.
Eight Cousins was my favourite, orphaned Rose
saved from invalidism by Uncle Alec…

and you, Helen Nearing, almost ninety, kneeling
to dig potatoes for a guest’s lunch, confessing
I was twenty-six before I planted so much
as a radish. Oh, I was lily-handed,
square-knuckled, liver-spotted, laying up
the house you built with Scott stone by stone,
tending the sugarbush, the raised-bed garden,

I salute you all, I take you with me wherever
I go to fire me with your fevers.

Maxine Kumin

A History in Furniture

July 11, 2019

An entire empire hangs in the chintz curtain,
Ming jars and roses suspended in a yellow
hue, look as if they will never fall.
Three tropical bird prints above my bed,
like small decorative hand pistols in a drawer.
The lamp is a vase with flowers on the outside,
shade, a dowdy garden tea party hat,
light steams below in strands of fair hair.
The Chippendale chest with brass
handles: mouths, tell silence is golden,
where dark bodies of trees fell in forests
to build chairs wing tipped as thrones,
the seated about to ascend. The ceiling
fan blade, a cricketer’s bat, sends the sun’s ball away, away in
every possible direction.

Nancy Anne Miller

Teeth

July 7, 2019

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the dangers beneath
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

I wish I’d been that much more willin’
When I had more tooth there than fillin’
To give up gobstoppers,
From respect to me choppers,
And to buy something else with me shillin’.

When I think of the lollies I licked
And the liquorice allsorts I picked,
Sherbet dabs, big and little,
All that hard peanut brittle,
My conscience gets horribly pricked.

My mother, she told me no end,
‘If you got a tooth, you got a friend.’
I was young then, and careless,
My toothbrush was hairless,
I never had much time to spend.

Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right,
I flashed it about late at night,
But up-and-down brushin’
And pokin’ and fussin’
Didn’t seem worth the time – I could bite!

If I’d known I was paving the way
To cavities, caps and decay,
The murder of fillin’s,
Injections and drillin’s,
I’d have thrown all me sherbet away.

So I lie in the old dentist’s chair,
And I gaze up his nose in despair,
And his drill it do whine
In these molars of mine.
‘Two amalgam,’ he’ll say, ‘for in there.’

How I laughed at my mother’s false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath.
But now comes the reckonin’
It’s methey are beckonin’
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

Pam Ayres

Warning

July 6, 2019

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

On Loving Helen

July 6, 2019

one. All of this was written in the stars.
Don’t think for a moment that you are the one
holding the pen. Don’t think for a moment
that the skies aren’t already laughing.

two. When you first see her, she will be light
refracted, splintered divinity, some unlovely portrait
of a goddess misremembered. Go home.
Ready the ships. Practice swallowing the sea.

three. You won’t remember much about the war.
All you’ll know for certain is that now and forever,
every word you say will be a battle cry.
Every day you will be careful with
your earthquake hands.

four. She will not let you touch her
at first. Instead she will ask about
the city, burning. The men turned to ash.
She will ask you if you remember their names.

five. Your voice does not drown out
her beating heart. Your words do not muddy
her pulse. Come to terms with this quickly—
no, it doesn’t get easier. Lay down. Be still
for once in your life. Let her tread over your chest.

six. Love will arrive unannounced
on a Friday night; love will catch you trembling.
Love will take the golden apple from your hand
and into its mouth. Love will smile.
Love will bite down.

seven. You will bleed.

eight. When you watch her sleeping,
as you’ll no doubt do, convince yourself
she is a statue. Tell yourself
the swan’s egg she was born in never cracked.
Call it marble. Call it pure. Someday
you will stop looking for the lie.

nine. Recall that you are being watched
and the fates are getting bored.
At night you think you hear them,
passing the scissors back and forth.
Don’t let them fade you to black just yet.
You owe her at least that much.

ten. On the bad days, show her your hands.
They haven’t unlearned the cataclysm
that they are and will always be.
The ground beneath your feet
will still bend for them. Tell her
here I am.

eleven. And remember: you will bleed.

Christina Im

Room

July 5, 2019

There’s a room inside myself
I’ve never seen.
There’s

a bed there, and
on a nightstand, photographs
in frames. But

whose faces?

A violet
vase on a vanity: I’ve

held it in my hands. Tearful
apology. And
under my bed
in narrow boxes?
And if I open the desk
drawer, or
the dresser?

Well, just
the usual soft
folded things.
Silky
rectangles.
Knitted
squares.
A glove.
A stocking.

A loss, eternally.
And a window
(I’m sure of this)
that looks
out onto the green.
An apple tree.

And, beneath the tree, my
grandmother
in a housedress
in a lounge chair, sipping
a cool drink, not

even wondering
where she went or
where,
all these years,
she’s been.

Laura Kasischke

Song

July 4, 2019

Bells on our eyelashes
and the death throes of words,
and I among fields of speech,
a knight on a horse made of dirt.
My lungs are my poetry, my eyes a book,
and I, under the skin of words,
on the beaming banks of foam,
a poet who sang and died
leaving this singed elegy
before the faces of poets,
for birds at the edge of sky.

Ali Ahmad Said Esber
translated by Khaled Mattawa
Elegy for the First Century