Title given by the Monks of Wat Mixayaram, Vientiane, Laos
The village held a vote; it was decided to expel the poets—for various infractions, mainly their refusals to stop describing work, and start working.
Beyond that, they were processing details of the drought's death-dry chokehold on the dirt, instead of spreading manure and seeds.
When the rains came, they got drunk, all of them, in a thatched roof hut by the small river, wondering aloud if rain fell in sheets or each droplet contained a universe.
The rest of the village weaved in their homes, consumed by the doing, not by its meaning, or how it looked from the eyes of houseflies.
The temple was no longer a turquoise- crusted palace of spirits, it was quiet and merely felt, not catalogued or thought of,
and the fields didn't echo with voices expounding images—the mountain backdrop! the devastation of earth! the slow crawl
of millipedes! There was simply sky, work to be done, air to be inhaled, an unhindered life over description.
— Brendan Walsh, Avon, CT
— question asked by Jennifer Hall-Farley
Do not expect too much of your feet. They itch, they tickle, they ache, they strain to curl inside your boots like pink armadillos protecting themselves from the car that crushes them. Forgive them their murderous rampage through damp grass over acorn hats, jagged bits of rock & glass, bee stings inciting violence to your toes. There is always one more indignity, one last howl burning its brand in your heel. Try not to feel sorrow for newer wounds. They will have their days to languish in their lavish scars. Today, forgive each suicidal lunge your littlest rapscallion takes against a corner of the coffee table. Allow your fearless ankle to dance the Twist. When you think you have suffered enough, you will suffer more— juking, jumping & walking away. Your feet betray you. Let them have their moments. Bathe them in the trickle of a stream scented with coppery oils. Lead them, powdered & regal, along the broken streets to the guillotine.
— Ace Boggess, Charleston, WV
Oxygen streams from the wall through a tube to your nose. The lace of your lungs occluded or gone, the power of your diaphragm endangered.
The pole on wheels, with hooks in the 4 directions slips rudimentary fluids, spiked with reductive relatives of earth's compounds, directly into your river.
There is no smoke here, no drum, no song. If you receive messages, any messages beeps, buzzers, blather drown them out.
They plow you every ritual properly dispatched, keeping you away as long as possible from the boatman.
Someone watches your fire blip across a screen. They will come with iron paddles to reignite it should this last bit flutter.
— Karin Spitfire, Belfast, ME
"Help us out today and find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble." Wizard of Oz (1939)
The things I've seen—dust stirred up from tires like smoke after a bombing, the black
boots and shiny merchandise of salesmen passing through en route to Salt Lake or Los Angeles,
men with their mouths full of gold, suitcases saddled with pistols and time pieces, men with tobacco-stained fingertips
and gasoline breath, who'll leave you where they found you: in the barn, in the pen, men whose wives'
red lips ignite in your face, spit "Get your pig-sweat hands off my husband." And just last week Sheriff found two girls hog-tied
and strangled out by the river, their bodies bloomed with bruises, their lips split red on the rocks—so you understand
why I can't just let her wander, stroll down the sole-paved road of this county with her wet-lipped
whistles and her wind-blown skirts, her fingers strumming the neighbor's picket fence until they catch splinters. She needs
a distraction from all those Ford pick-ups and slaughter trucks careening past in silvery swirls of exhaust. She needs
a horseshoe to scrape, a well to pump, the grounding weight of the water buckets she carries to the trough.
— Christina Clark, Durham, NC
Sucking halved limes in my mouth. This is a sourness that must be borne.
Tell me about fish, but he does not. Brings them to me to be washed and split. Glimmering presents from his other world.
sinking to our stomachs. Unbidden visions of dark water and mud. He smells of salt.
Fever swims through my veins. I plunge my hands into the fish water.
See the child that we have. Lives still in silence and coos. The child is a waiting. Woven in free days and spare minutes. He wants ten of them, wait-children,
to surround me and wash me with their water-cries.
He rises from the waves like a dog, crying out and shaking off the water. When I would have him as a pelican,
gulping and diving. There is the baby by my side at night. My days are a boat too, pitching and gliding from one wall to the other.
— Lillian Kwok, Nyköping, Sweden
Sealed in our cellar every night my brother quickly lost count of reps as he wheezed and writhed
like an electric weasel atop a black aluminum bench, thrusting firsts toward heaven
while rusty York plates clanged like chains on a Victorian ghost. He groaned red prayers
to the patron saint of dumbbells who squeezed all the baby fat and smiles from his face,
gnarled his fingers into brambles so he couldn't dial a phone, expanded the nave of his ribcage
into a massive temple of self- loathing, the swarm of doubts inside buzzing so loudly they drowned out
dulcet tones of our mother when she tried to call him back to the world above.
— Noel Sloboda, York, PA
At Cronan beach down in Broinn Not so far that I could walk From home
Suzanne a mermaid in the salt water With her red hair Like to sing with no harmony
Gordan a soccer player With a ball in his hand Listens faithfully to her fresh song
Tiana is selling lemonade on the main beach Lemonade with lime And blackberries, all frozen and adored
Night time Light fades and the moon Shines from the sky Shines from the lemonade cart The soccer ball, and Suzanne's long red hair
— Amaya Cary, Hudson, MA, Youth Poet
A year gone by, one Saturday they came wandering back to town, the daughter, son, or foundling through our folly lost, the same children the piper stole, some one by one like stray dogs, some in herds like pigs. Each face was a broken heart's desire returned, but they refused to speak to, nor would they embrace their parents, and so joy became dismay. No sympathy for father or for mother, they shuffled through our homes and fields with eyes filled with the faerie absence of another world, and ours they only would despise. Sorrow revived. Yet even this we might have borne had not the rats returned that night.
— Duane Caylor, Dubuque, IA
Sky full of ghosts, a war in mind, I hear tactical voices. Been discharged three years, feel empty as a vacant apartment. Still got fumes in my blood. Sometimes, I hear fizzing, too, like positive and negative leads, touching, feel like I'm breathing nails.
Before she left, my wife said she started to dream my nightmares, said she's seen brighter eyes in the faces of the dead.
Now, my car is my living room. Got Rhode Island plates, smallest state in the union. Can barely see it on aerial recon.
I pull into the parking lot of this Cineplex, put on my night-vision goggles. Even if my blood's been hypnotized, no one can find me. Not here. I wait for a while, tune the car radio to the designated station, decipher the grey, static hum.
A good Marine, I await further orders.
— Brad Rose, Wellesley, MA
The arms keep vigil over your bed ticking away the minutes and hours in military time. Children, unfamiliar to you sit nearby peeling onions and wiping each other's tears while sparrows fling their small brown bodies against the window. Clowns bother you blocking your limited line of sight with their big red noses tugging at the tubes in your throat with their white gloved hands and the onion peelers approach your bedside tentatively adjusting the thin flannel blanket covering your legs and even putting a pair of pink fuzzy socks on your cold feet. At night the sparrows give way to bats that somehow find their way in and hang upside down on your IV pole. The clowns poke and prod-- their giant rubber shoes squeaking so with each step that you cannot rest. At least the onion peelers have said goodnight leaving a mess of papery skins on the floor unaware that you'll be gone by morning. p
— Barbara Caceres, Kent, WA