Chapel of Inadvertent Joy
One minute you’re hissing at your wife about something trivial,
the next you’re stomping derelict train tracks, when it emerges,
its spires shooting up between your ribs,
your gaze swivels skyward and catches a clutch of birds,
glittering over a smokestack, sparkling back and forth in the sky,
in various formations, like a math equation being worked out
in the mind of a genius. Always pull the car over when you spot
a teen punk rock show at dusk in a public park. Always drink
a glimpse of a white horse in a sunlit pasture at the end of summer.
Always laugh when the garden hose slips out of your hand
and sprays you in the face. When they said smell the roses,
they didn’t tell you that every day the rose changes,
that first you must identify the rose. Today you’re in a field
by the Hudson. Ribbons of nectar spool from a folk singer’s lips,
your wife and daughter lollygag in the grass. Sunlight
drizzles through tree leaves, an organic stained-glass window.
Feel the convergence of all your stray voltage. Don’t pull out
of that feeling. Let the father standing next to you
see your eyes well up, the inverse of how the neighbors
sometimes hear you yelling fuck. It’s true—you don’t deserve this,
but it’s yours anyway: the gold-tipped spurs of this moment,
a red bird flinging praise through the sky.
From Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of PIttsburgh Press, 2013)
- 21 hours ago
Chapel of Inadvertent Joy
Every Day You Play
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.
You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.
Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.
You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.
Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.
How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the grey light unwind in turning fans.
My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, blue-bells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you
what spring does with the cherry trees.
Juegas Todo Los Días
Juegas todos los días con la luz del universo.
Sutil visitadora, llegas en la flor y en el agua.
Eres más que esta blanca cabecita que aprieto
como un racimo entre mis manos cada día.
A nadie te pareces desde que yo te amo.
Déjame tenderte entre guirnaldas amarillas.
Quién escribe tu nombre con letras de humo entre las estrellas del sur?
Ah, déjame recordarte cómo eras entonces, cuando aún no existías.
De pronto el viento aúlla y golpea mi ventana cerrada.
El cielo es una red cuajada de peces sombríos.
Aquí vienen a dar todos los vientos, todos.
Se desviste la lluvia.
Pasan huyendo los pájaros.
El viento. El viento.
Yo sólo puedo luchar contra la fuerza de los hombres.
El temporal arremolina hojas oscuras
y suelta toda las barcas que anoche amarraron al cielo.
Tú estás aquí. Ah tú no huyes
Tú me responderás hasta el último grito.
Ovíllate a mi lado como si tuvieras miedo.
Sin embargo alguna vez corrió una sombra extraña por tus ojos.
Ahora, ahora también, pequeña, me traes madreselvas,
y tienes hasta los senos perfumados.
Mientras el viento triste galopa matando mariposas
yo te amo, y mi alegría muerde tu boca de ciruela.
Cuánto te habrá dolido acostumbrarte a mí,
a mi alma sola y salvaje, a mi nombre que todos ahuyentan.
Hemos visto arder tantas veces el lucero besándonos los ojos
y sobre nuestras cabezas destorcerse los crepúsculos en
Mis palabras llovieron sobre ti acariciándote.
Amé desde hace tiempo tu cuerpo de nácar soleado.
Hasta te creo dueña del universo.
Te traeré de las montañas flores alegres, copihues,
avellanas oscuras, y cestas silvestres de besos.
Quiero hacer contigo
lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos.
From Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, trans. W.S. Merwin (Penguin Classics, 2006)
- 2 days ago
National Poetry Month: Q&A with Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Marie-Elizabeth Mali is the author of Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2011) and co-editor with Annie Finch of the anthology, Villanelles (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets, 2012). Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, and RATTLE, among others. She can be found online at here.
1. Imagine you’re a poetry lobbyist in D.C.: What would be the first thing on your agenda?
Besides affordable healthcare for poets? To slip poems of heart and witness on to the desks of every lawmaker in town. Better yet, paper their bathrooms with poems and remove the magazines.
2. Name one other poet who has influenced you profoundly and why.
Mark Doty. Because of the depth with which he looks at the world and humanity. Because of the gorgeousness of his language and descriptions. Because of that consciousness in his poems always reaching for more. Because, heart.
3. Recommend one print and one online publication you think everyone should read this month.
Print: RATTLE because it’s one of the few literary magazines that purely features poetry, I generally like the poems they choose, they publish good interviews, and they have a good web presence. Online: diodepoetry.com. They choose interesting poets to publish, have a nice layout (easy to navigate and read), and I like that they often publish longer poems.
yesterday at the Oakland zoo
I was walking alone for a moment
past the enclosure holding the sun bear
also known as beruang madu
it looked at me without interest
it has powerful jaws and truly loves honey
it sleeps in a high hammock
its claws look made out of wood
and if it dreams at all it is of Malaysia
home of its enemy the clouded leopard
a gorgeous arboreal
hunting and eating machine
whose coat resembles a python
now it is night and the zoo is closed
some animals are sleeping
the nocturnals moving in their cages
getting ready to hunt nothing
I don’t know why but I feel sure
something has woken the sun bear
it is awake in the dark
maybe it is my spirit animal
I am reading about the early snow
that has fallen on the Northeast
all the power shutting down
the weather going insane
the animals cannot help us
they go on moving without love
though we look into their eyes and feel
sure we see it there and maybe
we are right nothing
can replace animal love
not even complicated human love
we sometimes choose to allow
ourselves to be chosen by
despite what everyone knows
the problem is
in order to love anything
but an animal you cannot allow
yourself to believe in those things
that are if we don’t stop them
going to destroy us
Whom You Love
"Tell me whom you love, and I’ll tell you who you are."—Creole Proverb
The man whose throat blossoms with spicy chocolates
Tempers my ways of flurrying
Is my inner recesses surfacing
Paints the bedroom blue because he wants to carry me to the skies
Pear eater in the orchard
Possesses Whitmanesque urge and urgency
Boo Bear, the room turns orchestral
Crooked grin of ice cream persuasion
When I speak he bursts into seeds & religion
Poetry housed in a harmonica
Line dances with his awkward flair
Rare steaks, onion rings, Maker’s on the rocks
Once-a-boy pilfering grenadine
Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska
Wicked at the door of happiness
At a longed-for distance remains sharply crystalline
Fragments, but by day’s end assembled into joint narrative
Does not make me who I am, entirely
Heart like a fig, sliced
Peonies in a clear round vase, singing
A wisp, a gasp, sonorous stutter
Tuning fork deep in my belly, which is also a bell
Evening where there is no church but fire
Sparks, particles, chrysalis into memory
Moth, pod of enormous pleasure, fluttering about on a train
He knows I don’t need saving and rescues me anyhow
Our often-misunderstood kind of love is dangerous
Darling, fill my cup; the bird has come to roost
Joseph O. Legaspi
From Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Series, 2014)
- 4 days ago
I Have a Problem with the Erotic History of Musk
Those red, jellied secretions from the guts
of East Asian deer
make the base notes in many
perfumes labeled musk. What I learned next
shivered from a scent
to a bleat as I read that ancient
shepherds first discovered the scent
of musk from sheep-fucking,
from the pungent fragrance
released by the animals’
anal glands. And this
is a problem for me. This
bothers me, even though the vials
of musk in my medicine
cabinet were brewed
from synthetic recipes. I don’t want
even these bruised
approximations or the way
a dab of musk under each
pulsing earlobe calls near
a cornered or kicking animal
and a cry in which I find myself
on which side of this struggle?
What did you say
last night when you
bent near my ear?
What were you coming here for
if not to dissolve
one time into another, this
brick house into a Bronze
Age field. The scent of
that body—ancient—as it yields.
From the literary journal, Field, No. 90, Spring 2014
Threshold of the Oblivious Blossoming
When I said one blossom desires the air,
Another the shadows, I was free
Of desires. Beyond the doorsill the café tables
Were empty because it was raining.
The rain was empty as well, & there was no poignancy
Left in it when I looked up at it falling, & went on
Sitting inside & waiting for my dealer to show up so I could buy
Two grams of crystal methedrine from her, talk for a moment,
And finish my coffee.
When I thought of the petals of the magnolia blossom
Flattened by passing traffic to the pavement & the gradual
Discoloration of them, their white like that of communion dresses
Becoming gray & a darker gray moment by moment,
When I knew I wanted them to mean nothing
And suggest everything, desire rushed back into things,
But not into the blossoms & not into the air.
Larry Levis (1946-1996)
From the literary journal, Field, No. 90, Spring 2014
Nail parings, tooth bits, rubbed eyelashes, blood—
what if over the broken bedstead of the past
there hovers for each of us an effigy
made from all the parts we let go,
the shot sparrows of ourselves, lost pages,
beetle-eaten leaves? Some nights
the world is a banging shutter
or a dream of crows scraping the sky,
some nights a tape measure coiled
and sleeping in a drawer.
What if along the road, in a truck’s tailwind
you found a black stone with a white
quartz cross embedded within?
Surely it would be a sin to want back
all the skin we’ve shed,
holding on when all instructions say, Let go—
of these shards, these shadowy parts,
scars and wounds,
till they’re gathered up
into a kind of angel-other,
all particle and wave, moving
like metal shavings toward
some great magnet whose force
is invisible until it inhabits us.
From the literary magazine, Field, No. 90, Spring 2014
- 1 week ago
La Boda del Mar y Arena
If we, for long enough, look,
with the clean eyes of children
at what this big house is saying,
we will start to understand
the language of our parents,
what the salt means.
I do not want to marry the wind
who leaves me things the color of gold,
whose tracks mark a serpent round the house.
More, more than parrots, more than gold,
I want my love to know my ear.
My love, I want to know your ear, & in this
instant that is as long as my life, I stand,
rigged with bones, beside the window:
beneath the purple dark of evening coming,
the sea & beach move into each other’s mouths
particle by particle; each one wanders
the big rooms of the other.
O, god, let us love
like they love.
From Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions, 2011)
The sky is something
From their hotel windows, men are fishing for sharks.
Beneath them, I am in love with a boy with eyes dark
from his mother’s apartment on the other side of the boardwalk.
I hold his tongue in my teeth in the back of a rusted truck—
80 mph over a beach dotted with bonfires.
Some part of his body is always moving—leg-twitch, fingers, arms
—like fire, like a shark sleeping.
At fifteen, photographs of water make me seasick with longing.
I wear the same T-shirt for weeks,
charming myself. WBCN, “The Rock
of Boston,” and the sun setting over my body that is hookey
from dance studios, from moving in unison,
in leotards and jazz shoes, from moving
up the back staircase to my own coiled room.
The boy’s hair smells like cumin, turmeric,
like his mother’s doughy arms, like soup cooking.
Tell me something beautiful, I say to him; what two bodies can do.
Beautiful—like the speed of the truck, cheap beer,
the forced squint of his face against wind, beer, sun—the sky, he says,
the sky is something.
I think of the fishermen: the smell of shark on their finger tips,
the stained hotel pillows.
Love is an arm roped in fishing line: invisible,
cutting. I suck the small gold cross on the chain
at my neck like a restaurant mint, wonder
what it will be like to finally lie next to him: the still compartments
of his eyes, his skin of rough stones, and his incessant motion,
even when sleeping, as if his heart, swimming into his throat,
wanted to be caught there.
From Bandit Letters (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2001)