Waiting for This Story to End Before I Begin Another

Waiting for This Story to End Before I Begin Another

All my stories are about being left,
all yours about leaving. So we should have known.
Should have known to leave well enough alone;
we knew, and we didn’t. You said let’s put
our cards on the table, your card
was your body, the table my bed, where we didn’t
get till 4 am, so tired from wanting
what we shouldn’t that when we finally found our heads,
we’d lost our minds. Love, I wanted to call you
so fast. But so slow you could taste each
letter licked into your particular and rose-like ear.
L, love, for let’s wait. O, for oh no, let’s not. V
for the precious v between your deep breasts
(and the virtue of your fingers
in the voluptuous center of me.)

Okay, E for enough.

Dawn broke, or shattered. Once we’ve made
the promises, it’s hard to add the prefix if. . . .
But not so wrong to try.
That means taking a lot of walks,
which neither of us is good at,
for different reasons, and nights up till 2
arguing whose reasons are better.
Time and numbers count a lot in this. 13
years my marriage. 5 years you my friend.
4th of July weekend when something that begins
in mist, by mistake (whose?), means too much
has to end. I think we need an abacus to get our love
on course, and one of us to oil the shining rods
so we can keep the crazy beads clicking,
clicking. It wasn’t a question
of a perfect fit. Theoretically,
it should be enough to say I left a man
for a woman (90% of the world is content
to leave it at that. Oh, lazy world) and when the woman
lost her nerve, I left
for greater concerns: when words like autonomy
were useful, I used them, I confess. So I get
what I deserve: a studio apartment he paid the rent on;
bookshelves up to the ceiling she drove
the screws for. And a skylight I sleep alone
beneath, and two shiny quarters in my pocket
to call one, then the other, or to call one

twice. Once, twice, I threatened to leave him—
remember? Now that I’ve done it, he says
he doesn’t. I’m in a phonebooth at the corner of Bank
and Greenwich; not a booth, exactly,
but two sheets of glass to shiver between.
This is called being street-smart: dialing
a number that you know won’t be answered,
but the message you leave leaves proof that you tried.
And this, my two dearly beloveds, is this called
hedging your bets? I fish out my other
coin, turn it over in my fingers, press
it into the slot. Hold it there. Let it drop.

– Jan Heller Levi

 

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle

We cannot push ourselves away
from this quiet, even in our sprees
of inattention, the departing passengers
stubbing out their smokes, arrivees in tears,
lots of cellophane, the rumpus over parking.

Wind scrapes leaves across the road,
first flashes of snow, it is dark then
it’s really dark. Forgive me for not
writing for so long, I’ve been
right beside you, one of the vaguer
divinities blocking your way with its need
to confess all its botched attempts at love,
what started the whole mess. I love this place,
its absurd use of balustrade, the chairs
that dig into the spine, motorcyclists
propping their drunk girlfriends in the sun,
men playing timed chess with themselves,
the guarantees and warnings that entice us
to the brink of what they warn about.

But we can do no more than pass through
these rooms and their sudden chills
where once a plea was entered almost
unintentionally that seemed at last
to reveal ourselves to ourselves,
immaculate, bereft, deserving to be found.

– Dean Young

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice

I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.

– Stacie Cassarino

 

I always want summer when it snows.

I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say
how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.

Undertow

Undertow

People looking at the sea,
makes them feel less terrible about themselves,
the sea’s behaving abominably,
seems never satisfied,
what it throws away it dashes down
then wants back, yanks back.
Comparatively, thinks one vice president,
what are my frauds but nudged along
misunderstandings already there?
I can’t believe I ever worried
about my betrayals, thinks the analyst
benefitting facially from the sea’s raged-up mist.
Obviously I’m not the only one suffering
an identity crisis knows the boy
who wants to be a lawyer no more.
Nothing can stay long, cogitates the dog,
so maybe a life of fetch is not a wasted life.
And the sea heaves and cleaves and seethes,
shoots snot out, goes to bed only to wake
shouting in the mansion of the night, pacing,
pacing, making tea then spilling it,
sudden outloud laughter snort, Oh what the
heck, I probably drove myself crazy,
thinks the sea, kissing all those strangers,
forgiving them no matter what, liars
in confession, vomitters of plastics
and fossil fuels but what a stricken
elixir I’ve become even to my becalmed depths,
while through its head swim a million
fishes seemingly made of light
eating each other.

– Dean Young

And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day

And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day

Things are not as they seem: the innuendo of everything makes
itself felt and trembles towards meanings we never intuited
or dreamed. Take, for example, how a warbler, perched on a

mere branch, can kidnap the day from its tediums and send us
heavenwards, or how, held up by nothing we really see, our
spirits soar and then, in a mysterious series of twists and turns,

come to a safe landing in a field, encircled by greenery. Nothing
I can say to you here can possibly convince you that a man
as unreliable as I have been can smuggle in truths between tercets

and quatrains on scraps of paper, but the world as we know
is full of surprises, and the likelihood that here, in the shape
of this very bird, redemption awaits us should not be dismissed

so easily. Each year, days swivel and diminish along their inscrutable
axes, then lengthen again until we are bathed in light we were not
prepared for. Last night, lying in bed with nothing to hold onto

but myself, I gazed at the emptiness beside me and saw there, in the
shape of absence, something so sweet and deliberate I called it darling.
No one who encrusticates (I made that up!) his silliness in a bowl,

waiting for sanctity, can ever know how lovely playfulness can be,
and, that said, let me wish you a Merry One (or Chanukah if you
prefer), and may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you,

and may the robin find many a worm, and our cruelties abate,
and may you be well and happy and full of mischief as I am,
and may all your nothings, too, hold something up and sing.

– Michael Blumenthal

 

happy holidays to every ex worth counting. 

The Meaning Of Leaving

The Meaning Of Leaving

Maybe it was there
all along, in our shirtsleeves,
on the heavy trees, every time we turned
left—as in the opposite
of right, which is also
wrong, as in the mistakes
I’m bound to keep making as long
as I long. I still love you but I can’t
stay still, that’s why I’m bound
for the coast in the old
truck blazoned with rust, crest
of snow, crust of salt, the bed
that was our bed, you
in the rearview for hundreds
then thousands of miles—you
the cornfield, you the semi, you
the sirens pulling me over
and over. I’ve got my eyes
on the road’s gray throat, its soft
shoulder, its sign that says
yield. Maybe I was here
all along, driving away in the driving
rain, in the space between left
meaning remaining and left
meaning already gone.

– Ali Shapiro

 

new favorite

A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention

A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention

They amputated
Your thighs off my hips.
As far as I’m concerned
They are all surgeons. All of them.

They dismantled us
Each from the other.
As far as I’m concerned
They are all engineers. All of them.

A pity. We were such a good
And loving invention.
An aeroplane made from a man and wife.
Wings and everything.
We hovered a little above the earth.

We even flew a little.

– Yehuda Amichai, Translated by Assia Gutmann