Had I known the mundane package I carry under my arm was a bomb, I might have spent my life charged with anticipation. I might have unwrapped it to see if what's inside would emit an eerie glow. I might have felt some foreboding. Had I known that clean underpants and a package are metaphors, I might have pondered the beginning, the end, and the light more often, especially the light. I might have listened to the second hand's sweep on the doomsday clock that right now reads five minutes to midnight. In the beginning was the word and a rapid thump, thump, a jackhammer of beats. In the beginning, I am accelerating, about to take off or fall under. A dizzying scent of sugared cherry blossoms, freesia, notes of roses, a too brief whiff of chocolate. In the beginning was Mother, her perfume. The space between my hand and the nurse's call button is inches, but the word says that I am a mist that appears for a little time and vanishes, like mother. Body collapsing in on itself, brain in the stomach― arms and legs kaleidoscopes shutting up, turtle like, rumpled ball of paper, my affairs are in order, words, more words. Had I known the mundane package I carry under my arm was a bomb, I might have searched for a boat. I might have purchased new underpants to store in the drawers of grammar and words. I might have gone outside to sit in the light more often. The mundane package I carry under my arm is a bomb. Had I known, I might have pressed the button sooner.
— Teresa Sutton , Poughkeepsie, NY
Листвы петельчатые тени
обступили лицо – и молчат:
тленье встало над садами,
зубчатое как дальняя стена.
Не станем этими тенями,
отметём обесцвеченный хор;
нами что иное будет –
узор на здешней радужной волне?
(Вода умеет рыть подкопы,
выбираться из всякой беды:
тропы этого покоя
чисты от предосенней полумглы).
Кто через стену перелезет?
Растревожен, как ласточкин крик,
лепет – навсегда тенистый –
безлик в своём желании спастись.
— Aleksey Porvin, St. Petersburg, Russia
Looping shadows of foliage
have clustered around a face—and are silent:
decay has risen over the gardens,
crenellated like a distant wall.
We will not become these shades,
we'll brush away the colorless choir;
something other than this will be ours—
a pattern here on an iridescent wave?
(Water can hollow its own channels,
extract itself from any misery:
the pathways of this calm are scoured
clean of early autumnal gloom).
Who will get across the wall?
A babbling, like the cry of a swallow,
sounds an alarm—always in the shadows—
faceless in its own desire to escape.
— J. Kates, Fitzwilliam, NH
I can do anything until October 9, 2014, when I will die.
I have been naked in a wide range of settings in front of many different people for more than forty years. I have brazened it out. I have looked for clothing and struggled to put on tangled shirts without drawing more attention to my unprotected self. I have so much experience in this position that only last night I said, Damn, naked again?
I have secrets. I have kept them and I have conveyed them, as required. I know how to prepare ritual matzoh guaranteed to induce mystical experiences. With no training except watching TV I have defended myself in courts. I know how to escape wolves by waving my socks at them.
I admit: I can fly up into the air but I can no longer stay aloft. The train station would rather move around than let me find it. I cannot steer a car from the back seat. I once attended an orgy, but all I did was watch and brood. Sure, it looks like fun, but—is it Art?
I have fed cats of all sizes, wobbly kittens to toms like panthers. I have been rescued by a dying horse. Even my goldfish have faked their own deaths. I have waved my hands and communicated by radio xylophone. I met my cousins, who created Why did the chicken cross the road? They gave me the answer.
I have returned to college and high school more times than I can count. I have never missed a class or been unprepared for a test. I just never give up.
Please, check my references. Bill Clinton and Carl Jung are waiting to hear from you. Don't contact my mother or Bob Dylan, not until they get over my attempts to kill them. The last time I saw my father was at a party. He was wearing his lucky yellow shirt. We never got to talk, but he smiled and he waved. He had read my lips.
— Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Claremont, CA
It's the missing link, this
gauntlet of light or rather
the way she tilts before turning a page
as if she wants to guess at what's
Next door never seemed better
but above you Abbey's murals speak a finer truth.
Heaven's blessing comes seeping
and paint. Reality starts flaking off. Still
your heart tells you everything
must come full circle.
What remains bears repeating. Lingering
you lean against the glass
a stricken king, unable yet to let go
of good earth and the melting pleasures
of a face you've seen
So once again you become the fair unknown, plunging your hands
into the sloppy waters of the night.
You work the odd hours, the main hours, the hours
slanted against your very soul, you recall
beheading of time.
You work the kitchens the diners the washstands
the world-weary bars, the porter houses, the breakpoints of any
You work the sweet netherworld.
You soak the grace off your skin. You slouch to find
a bitter reprieve from her tapered smile. Yes,
you still pine for her, that
brightest flower in a bunch of leaves.
There has been another one. She begged
you not to go. In her eyes
you saw quiet assurance of the life
Slow hunting of mornings, thin veiled ice, a
love like catching your breath.
Easy to get lost in such smallness.
Her weight like a wet blanket wrapped
around you. She muttered warmth
and with each kiss you knew you were
lost for words.
Perhaps this truly is all there is.
Late light by the doorway, a window, a
pass at love. Her golden
frown as books end. Around you
knights withdraw towards
the frothed end of fiction
and outside a weary noontime
— Milla van der Have, Utrecht, Netherlands
On a ridge East of Elden, park your pickup
for a short spell and look toward the Hopi Buttes—
out there, North of Winslow—horizon made of mesas.
Don't worry about cell service because there is
none. Look beyond the junipers and you will find
it on the edge of the FM dial, KUYI, drifting in
clear as the sky. It is indigenous hour,
Willie Nelson one song, Snoop Dog the next;
Willie is Cherokee and Snoop is twenty three
percent native, according to the half-
laughing DJ. Cher follows, and you hear
her voice for the first time, raw and pure,
then a traditional chant with no name as far
as you know, but it rips through your bones
like that wind rocking your pick-up, sad and
strong as Billy Holliday, tragic and true as
Macbeth. It might be the antithesis of Brittany Spears,
but it might not be the antithesis of anything.
Emerson from Cameron calls in a shout out
to his bros in K-town. The fair and balanced
DJ asks which K Town, Kayenta or Kykotsmovi,
and there is a silence for a moment until
Emerson professes a shout out to any bro
in every K-town, and you find yourself laughing with them both.
It is now classic hour, time for Iron Maiden's
Run to the Hills, a story of true savagery,
followed by Merle Haggard's Bottle Let Me Down,
then Loretta Lyn's Coal Miner's Daughter,
and you become lulled into an ancient curriculum
as the DJ's station identification
reminds the listeners what the call letters mean:
Kuu-Yi, if you say it out loud, the Hopi word
for water. And now, a Bob Marley song you can
sing along with, One Love, you know most of
the words, and if your battery has died because
you listened to one more song before starting the
truck, you know that same rhythm flows through your
veins, sacred, like water from the mesa,
and even if your truck is dead you can
walk back to the highway and hitch a ride home.
— Doug McGlothlin, Flagstaff, AZ
Lajas, el campo de Lajas, is a place I connect to only in Spanish. El magnífico campo de Lajas con sus piñas, su monte, sus quenepas, mis tíos, primas, y abuelo. The Valley of Lajas is known for its sweet pineapples, which we bought by the side of the road almost every Sunday when we visited my mother's family.
When I think, in English, of my extended family, I feel as if I don't have any; no one comes to mind. But when Spanish floods my mind, mmm ... There is no more loneliness, no more isolation. I am a sobrina, nieta, prima.
I had an uncle. His name was Boro. I am talking about mi tío who was as black as the darkest night. If he walked the streets of New York City, people would have crossed the street. Yet, this man was the sweetest, funniest, wittiest man I've ever known. He pulled our patillas, pelitos and pellejos - sideburns, hair, skin - so hard my tía had to come and defend us. "¡Déjalas quietas ya!", she would say. "Leave them alone already" and he would laugh. Mi tío, who told my sister Astrid she came from Africa en una cajita de fósforos, a matchbox. Mi tío Boro, who was, like I said, as black as the darkest night ... and as big as a bear standing on its hind legs. Mi tío, with khaki pants, long sleeved white shirt leaving a domino game on a Sunday afternoon en la temporada de la zafra because he was el mayordomo and the fires set to burn the sugar cane had gotten out of control. He would come back blacker than himself, and we would receive him with silent pride.
I barely remember my uncle in English. He rarely comes up in conversation in the life I live nowadays.
Tío Boro, su vida latiendo in this translation, not in my original language. Mi tío, who was as black as the darkest night and as dark as … the good earth.
— Emma Suárez-Báez, the Bronx, NY