you shall love your crooked neighbor

don’t tell anyone | tony hoagland

We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—

that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day.

Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
concealing anything,
not as if I should consider myself

personally the cause of her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
right that minute on the kitchen table,

—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,

then down again into the cold wet mask of the unconscious.
For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
as they go through life, silently,

politely keeping the big secret
that it is not all fun
to be ripped by the crooked beak

of something called psychology,
to be dipped down
again and again into time;

that the truest, most intimate
pleasure you can sometimes find
is the wet kiss

of your own pain.
There goes Kath, at one pm, to swim her twenty-two laps
back and forth in the community pool;

—what discipline she has!
Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
that will never be read by anyone.


swamp | clementine von radics


        All of this is to say
I’m having the kind of day 
where I break a dish and stand 
over the kitchen sink staring
at the two irreparable halves.
Willing myself to feel anything 
other than this.

        There is no longer a woman
in my body. Just this screaming child
Who does not listen. 
She only wants. And wants. And wants.
Stubborn in her devotion.

        And he is still gone. 
And grief is a swamp that sinks 
much deeper than you’d expect.
And I’m still here. I still remember him.

Yesterday, I spent 60 dollars on groceries,
took the bus home,
carried both bags with two good arms back to my studio apartment
and cooked myself dinner.
You and I may have different definitions of a good day.
This week, I paid my rent and my credit card bill,
worked 60 hours between my two jobs,
only saw the sun on my cigarette breaks
and slept like a rock.
Flossed in the morning,
locked my door,
and remembered to buy eggs.
My mother is proud of me.
It is not the kind of pride she brags about at the golf course.
She doesn’t combat topics like, ”My daughter got into Yale”
with, ”Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs”
But she is proud.
See, she remembers what came before this.
The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,
how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.
She thought each phone call from an unknown number was the notice of my suicide.
These were the bad days.
My life was a gift that I wanted to return.
My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.
Depression, is a good lover.
So attentive; has this innate way of making everything about you.
And it is easy to forget that your bedroom is not the world,
That the dark shadows your pain casts is not mood-lighting.
It is easier to stay in this abusive relationship than fix the problems it has created.
Today, I slept in until 10,
cleaned every dish I own,
fought with the bank,
took care of paperwork.
You and I might have different definitions of adulthood.
I don’t work for salary, I didn’t graduate from college,
but I don’t speak for others anymore,
and I don’t regret anything I can’t genuinely apologize for.
And my mother is proud of me.
I burned down a house of depression,
I painted over murals of greyscale,
and it was hard to rewrite my life into one I wanted to live
But today, I want to live.
I didn’t salivate over sharp knives,
or envy the boy who tossed himself off the Brooklyn bridge.
I just cleaned my bathroom,
did the laundry,
called my brother.
Told him, “it was a good day.

Kait Rokowski, “A Good Day” (via oofpoetry)

There were days when it looked like love,
especially if you turned down the volume.
But even if you didn’t.
Bus rides asleep on each other’s
shoulders, sharing an ear-bud
plugged into a song
as if sharing a secret.

Afternoons where we stayed in
our pajamas and played video games
after he bought us twin bodega sandwiches
and remembered mine without the meat.

And while I look back
on the memories with equal, if not more
repulsion, I know that I wasn’t an idiot
to stay. That my heart invented
its own verb which meant To Love
The Dog Who Licks The Scar It Gave You.

On a dirty bar couch on Valentine’s Day
he said I would fight with you every morning
if it meant I could kiss you at night and at the time
it didn’t sound like the Codependent National Anthem
or a vending machine where you put in fury
and get out passion

or even like the things I read now
in pamphlets—the ones I thrust upon other women
like my own righteous gospel—

it sounded like the sweetest thing
he’d ever said to me. A poem
I could fold real small and carry
around in my locket, not noticing, for months
how it also kind of

Megan Falley, “The Balance” (via oofpoetry)

adam talking | lucille clifton

stolen from my bone
is it any wonder
i hunger to tunnel back
inside desperate
to reconnect the rib and clay
and to be whole again

some need is in me
struggling to roar through my
mouth into a name
this creation is so fierce
i would rather have been born


because she thinks she is going to hell | theresa davis

regret doesn’t live in my heart
it simply can’t afford the rent
and I am no test dummy
no one takes advantage of me
without my permission

if your tongue is tied
my prayer is that your thoughts are not
I am drawn to all things beautiful
and like it or not you were
you are beautiful

I mean
we were a head-on collision that night
and I never saw you coming
until I did



neil hilborn & renee schminkey | “one color”

you know, it wasn’t like they said it’d be

they didn’t teach me that I could be with someone
but not always want them,
that being curious about sex
doesn’t mean I was asking for it.

with a love like that
you hardly have to ask

the last poem in the world | benny andersen

if this were the last poem in the world 
i would make it as long as possible 
                                 infinitely long 
but i would slow down the last few lines 
and stop just before it ended 
afraid of falling into space 
or i would lie down 
and creep on my belly out to the edge 
hang on to the very last words 
and carefully lean over the abyss 
where all poems end 
and try to look under the poem 
use this rare opportunity 
to see a poem from the other side 
and just imagine if there i would see 
the first poem in the world 
then like a fly i would move 
along this underside 
clinging to every word 
until i knew it by heart 
and when i was done with the last line 
try to get back on top 
hanging and kicking and panting a little 
twist myself up over the edge 
and turn up in the first line of this poem 
or maybe some place completely different

if this were the last poem in the world 
i would refuse to believe it 
or i’d put it off until later 
and work on another one

if this were the last poem in the world 
i would refuse to write it 
in any case i would stop as soon as possible 
                                           like right here


leda | kim bridgford

i’m tired of all the games: the giant swan,
the other transformations you tried on.
with every thought equated to an action,
you didn’t blame yourself. just liked the sheen
if fear tied up in rope, and stiff with blood.
you liked the way you shamed and sullied good.

but listen to me now: i’m done. i’m human,
sick of all the things gods do to women,
your narcissism clear, your shifting weathers, 
the sudden suffocation by your feathers.

i’m cleaning myself off, to find a moral. 
see yourself for what you are: a debacle
on a cloud. on earth, we find it different, zeus.
look: all the ropes you tied me with are loose.


landays | poetry of afghan women

your eyes aren’t eyes. they’re bees.
i can find no cure for their sting.


the color of low self esteem | nayyirah waheed

what i never 
from my mother
was that
just because someone desires you
not mean they value you.
desire is the kind of thing that
eats you
leaves you starving.


wishes | ted berrigan

now i wish i were asleep, to see my dreams taking place
i wish i were more awake
i wish a sweet rush of tears to my eyes
wish a nose like an eagle
i wish blue sky in the afternoon
bigger windows, & a panorama—light, buildings & people in street air
wish my teeth were white and sparkled
wish my legs were not where they are—where they are
i wish the days warmly cool & clothes i like to be inside of
wish i were walking around in chelsea (ny) & it was 5:15 a.m., the
           sun coming up, alone, you asleep at home
i wish red rage came easier
i wish death, but not just now
i wish i were driving alone across america in a gold cadillac
           toward california, & my best friend
i wish i were in love, & you here


poem | jill alexander essbaum

a clementine
of inclement climate
grows tart.

a crocus
too stoic to open,

like an oyster
that cloisters a spoil of pearls,

the heart that’s had
stays shut.


dear jack | jill stengel


so there you have it, jack…
my desire and my withholding.
what i can and cannot give.

wandering around an albuquerque airport terminal | naomi shihab nye


after learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
i heard the announcement:
if anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-a understands any arabic,
please come to the gate immediately.

well — one pauses these days. gate 4-a was my own gate. i went there.
an older woman in full traditional palestinian dress,
just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
help, said the flight service person. talk to her. what is her
problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
did this.

i put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
sho bit se-wee?

the minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -
she stopped crying.

she thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
she needed to be in el paso for some major medical treatment the
following day. i said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

who is picking you up? let’s call him and tell him.
we called her son and i spoke with him in english.
i told him i would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
would ride next to her — southwest.

she talked to him. then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in arabic and
found out of course they had ten shared friends.

then i thought just for the heck of it why not call some palestinian
poets i know and let them chat with her. this all took up about 2 hours.

she was laughing a lot by then. telling about her life. answering

she had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered
sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag —
and was offering them to all the women at the gate.

to my amazement, not a single woman declined one. it was like a
sacrament. the traveler from argentina, the traveler from california,
the lovely woman from laredo — we were all covered with the same
powdered sugar. and smiling. there are no better cookies.

and then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers —
non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one african
american, one mexican american — ran around serving us all apple juice
and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

and i noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands —
had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

with green furry leaves. such an old country traveling tradition. always
carry a plant. always stay rooted to somewhere.

and i looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
this is the world i want to live in. the shared world.

not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped
— has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

they took the cookies. i wanted to hug all those other women too.
this can still happen anywhere.

not everything is lost.

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