you shall love your crooked neighbor

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.

the cure | cathy smith bowers

long after i thought
i had done with grieving
there arose in my chest
between the sternum and clavicle
a soft commotion, like the gerbils
caged in my niece’s room
that race all night across the furious wheel.
it would start when i least expected—
in the theater during credits
or among the squash and spinach
of the produce aisle. my breath
would catch, my hand flutter to that spot
the way a mother’s hand
rises instinctively to her child’s brow
as if touch itself could bring the fever down.

anxiety attacks, my doctor said,
scribbling in hieroglyphics his perfect cure.
i took the pills, and sure enough
the palpitations stopped, packed up and moved
like a band evicted from the premises.
but i found i missed
that little tuning up of cymbals and drums
the way i still missed you
and threw the pills away.


cleopatra’s palace, or why i didn’t call you back | clementine von radics

grammatolatry | clementinevonradics

when i think of your heart, i think of a snakebite to
the chest.

uncountable lifetimes ago there was an empire in 
egypt. we burned the libraries. we destroyed the
temples. everything that was beautiful then is lost
to us now.

these days, poetry is the only language i know how
to speak. but you speak anthropology. you speak
hieroglyphs. you spend your life studying things i
only bury in metaphors.

when i think of my heart, i think of stone tombs.

last year, they found cleopatra’s palace sunk deep
in the mediterranean sea. but anything they could 
learn from the ruins of her home is not worth empty-
ing oceans for.

(Source: clementinevonradics)

you were you are elegy | mary jo bang

i love you like i love
all beautiful things.
true beauty is truly seldom.
you were. you are
in may. may now is looking onto
the june that is coming up.
this is how i measure
the year. everything was my fault
has been the theme of the song
i’ve been singing,
even when you’ve told me to quiet.
i haven’t been quiet.
i’ve been crying. i think you
have forgiven me. you keep
putting your hand on my shoulder
when i’m crying.
thank you for that. and
for the ineffable sense
of continuance. you were. you are
the brightest thing in the shop window
and the most beautiful seldom i ever saw.

in praise of the defective | paul guest

when the best of it is prized from the dung
of the sumatran common palm civet,
sweetened like a cherry in the gut
of this little island cat, i feel better
about not drinking coffee, sipping instead sweet
tea crude as a hammer. i feel
better that i never read much
tolstoy, stopped at the bulwark of so much
french. i should begin
a second life. i should not dream
of my macrobiotic afterlife
in which i am what i do not eat
and the animals i loved enough
to eat grass, to pretend one thing was another,
purr and sing and chirp
sweet hosannas outside my bedroom window
where sometimes we made
love but never continuances
of our selves which we’d name
hank or emily while saving up for harvard.
i feel better that none of me
works well at all,
that for twenty years the fog
has never lifted
from the landscape i mean to cease defiling
someday. thank you
cards i should have mailed
and gifts given
and favors repaid with crippling interest
i grow to love
the way i once loved
shame. what will i do with my days
now that my nights
are sublimely alone
and how will i make use of this wound
i carried like a map
so that i would never, never
lose you?


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