Children of Grass is an ongoing project, to make conceptual portraits of America's most notable living poets- its poets laureate, its Pulitzer Prize winners, its best literary artists. The images are visual riffs on pieces by the poets themselves.

As a close relative of the poet Walt Whitman and a professional photojournalist, I am acting as a literal heir to take a census of Whitman's cultural heirs, two hundred years after his birth.

Anis Mojgani, national slam poetry champion.


[we were horses]

I was in a dream country. You were there.
And all those little blonde hairs that run up your legs
and over your shoulders.


Nikki Giovanni.



I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her

I don't think
I'm allowed

To kill something

Because I am



Rita Dove, U.S. Poet Laureate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of the Arts, and the National Humanities Medal.



This alone is what I wish for you: knowledge.

To understand each desire has an edge,

to know we are responsible for the lives

we change. No faith comes without cost,

no one believes without dying.

Now for the first time

I see clearly the trail you planted,

what ground opened to waste,

though you dreamed a wealth

of flowers.

There are no curses⸺only mirrors

held up to the souls of gods and mortals.

And so I give up this fate, too.

Believe in yourself,

go ahead⸺ see where it gets you.


Gregory Pardlo, Pulitzer Prize-winner.


Sam Cooke reminds you how Ol' Man River just keeps rolling
and you begin to wonder what makes a river tick so you go sit
on Union Street Bridge to study the unruffled Gowanus Canal
with its tempting reflections and perfect your knack for reading
water's Om through the clockwork of the air and you think it's like
you which is not much of a river but wise enough water to hush your
regrets for the bloated casualties of your myriad indiscretions since
the first African was made to scoop the marsh to irrigate Dutch arms
until this moment when you see you are that African and you are
the Gowanus just as you are the baby whale lost and barging so far
along the canal you are blessed now and breaking and love this
one the Daily News will name Sludgy whom you will birth still
upon your bay at Red Hook after the sewer spills a glum baptismal
across his fontanel and children will stand around and amen
the Coast Guard atop the fly-flecked carcass preaching that wisdom
bends light into the eye of the whale where if you look close children
you'll find the water bears a flower, and the flower bears your name.

(Gregory Pardlo)


X.J. Kennedy.


Once upon a midnight dreary,

Blue and lonesome, missed my dearie.

Would I find her? Any hope?

Quoth the raven six times, "Nope."


Robert Hass, Poet Laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry.

The woman I love is greedy,
but she refuses greed.
She walks so straightly.
When I ask her what she wants,
she says, “A yellow bicycle.”

Sun, sunflower,
coltsfoot on the roadside,
a goldfinch, the sign
that says Yield, her hair,
cat's eyes, his hunger,
and a yellow bicycle.

Once, when they had made love in the middle of the night and it was very sweet, they decided they were hungry, so they got up, got dressed, and drove downtown to an all-night donut shop.
Chicano kids lounged outside, a few drunks, and one black man, selling dope. Just at the entrance there was an old woman in a thin floral print dress. She was barefoot. Her face was covered with sores and dry peeling skin. The sores looked like raisins and her skin was the dry yellow of a parchment lampshade ravaged by light and tossed away. They thought she must have been hungry and, coming out with a white paper bag full of hot rolls, they stopped to offer her one. She looked at them out of her small eyes, bewildered, and shook her head for a little while and said, very kindly, "no."


Dorianne Laux.


The man I love hates technology, hates
that he’s forced to use it: telephones
and microfilm, air conditioning,
car radios and the occasional fax.

He wishes he lived in the old world,
sitting on a stump carving a clothespin
or a spoon. He wants to go back, slip
like lint into his great-great-grandfather’s
pocket, reborn as a pilgrim, a peasant,
a dirt farmer hoeing his uneven rows.

He walks when he can, through the hills
behind his house, his dogs panting beside him
like small steam engines. He’s delighted
by the sun’s slow and simple
descent, the complicated machinery
of his own body. I would have loved him
in any era, in any dark age; I would take him
into the twilight and unwind him, slide
my fingers through his hair and pull him
to his knees. As it is, this afternoon, late
in the twentieth century, I sit on a chair
in the kitchen with my keys in my lap, pressing
the black button on the answering machine
over and over, listening to his message,
his voice strung along the wires outside my window
where the birds balance themselves
and stare off into the trees, thinking
even in the farthest future, in the most
distant universe, I would have recognized
this voice, refracted, as it would be, like light
from some small, uncharted star.


Mark Doty, National Book Award winner and chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.



Grateful for their tour
of the pharmacy,
the first-grade class
has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped
to the window-glass,
faces wide to the street,
round and available,
with parallel lines for hair.

I like this one best: Brian,
whose attenuated name
fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible
legs descending from the ball
of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same
central sphere. He breathes here,

on his page. It isn’t craft
that makes this figure come alive;
Brian draws just balls and lines,
in wobbly crayon strokes.
Why do some marks
seem to thrill with life,
possess a portion
of the nervous energy
in their maker’s hand?

That big curve of a smile
reaches nearly to the rim
of his face; he holds
a towering ice cream,
brown spheres teetering
on their cone,
a soda fountain gift
half the length of him
—as if it were the flag

of his own country held high
by the unadorned black line
of his arm. Such naked support
for so much delight! Artless boy,
he’s found a system of beauty:
he shows us pleasure
and what pleasure resists.
The ice cream is delicious.
He’s frail beside his relentless standard.


Kim Addonizio.


I like to touch your tattoos in complete
darkness, when I can’t see them. I’m sure of
where they are, know by heart the neat
lines of lightning pulsing just above
your nipple, can find, as if by instinct, the blue
swirls of water on your shoulder where a serpent
twists, facing a dragon. When I pull you
to me, taking you until we’re spent
and quiet on the sheets, I love to kiss
the pictures in your skin. They’ll last until
you’re seared to ashes; whatever persists
or turns to pain between us, they will still
be there. Such permanence is terrifying.
So I touch them in the dark; but touch them, trying.


Robert Pinsky, three time U.S. Poet Laureate.


I drowned in the fire of having you, I burned
in the river of not having you, we lived
together for hours in a house of a thousand rooms
and we were parted for a thousand years.
Ten minutes ago we raised our children who cover
the earth and have forgotten that we existed

It was not maya, it was not a ladder to perfection,
it was this cold sunlight falling on this warm earth.

When I turned, you went to Hell. When your ship
fled the battle I followed you and lost the world
without regret but with stormy recriminations.
Someday far down that corridor of horror the future
someone who buys this picture of you for the frame
at a stall in a dwindled city will study your face
and decide to harbor it for a little while longer
from the waters of anonymity, the acids of breath.


Kaveh Akbar.


some boys aren't born they bubble
up from earth's crust land safely around
kitchen tables green globes of fruit already

in their mouths when they find themselves crying
they stop crying these boys moan
more than other boys they do as desire

demands when they dance their bodies plunge
into space and recover the music stays
in their breastbones they sing songs

about storms they dry their shoes on porches
these boys are so cold their pilot lights never light
they buy the best heat money can buy blue flames

swamp smoke they are desperate
to lick and be licked sometimes one will eat
all the food in a house or break every bone

in his jaw sometimes one will disappear into himself
like a ram charging a mirror when this happens
they all feel it afterwards the others dream

of rain their pupils boil they light black candles
and pray the only prayer they know 'oh lord
spare this body set fire to another'


Dana Gioia, poet laureate of California and former head of the National Endowment for the Arts.



Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds
start up again. The crickets, the invisible
toad who claims that change is possible,

And all the other life too small to name.
First one, then another, until innumerable
they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.

Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,
fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers
snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.

And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone
can bear to be a stone, the pain
the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.

Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,
rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall
and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.

The old windmill creaks in perfect time
to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,
and the last farmhouse light goes off.

Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt
these hills and packs of feral dogs.
But standing here at night accepts all that.

You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,
moving more slowly than the crippled stars,
part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,

Part of the grass that answers the wind,
part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows
there is no silence but when danger comes.


Daphne Gottlieb.


is not pretty

but I don’t care
about looks.
Set the dumpster

on fire. Break
the windows.
Don’t kiss me

like they do
in the movies.
Kiss me

like they do
on the emergency
broadcast system.


Rae Armantrout, Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry.

Quick, before you die,

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.


Sam Sax.



you know you have to pay, right?
the marquee does its neon work to draw you
but your wallet will be punished.

the big man sits in his tiny booth with his big hands
you wonder if he finds you disgusting, or sees you
place the bill right in his palm. feel meat

through the currency. fantasize he might follow you in,
leave your eyes in his mouth. what is a poem worth, anyway?
ten dollars at the door? the long staircase? the soiled

cloth seats? who uses cloth seats anymore, anyway?
you read they hold disease better than mosquitoes.
you feel the swarm beneath as you sit.

each tiny needle sucking you down. it is dark
as you imagined. but you do not do what you imagined
you would do. your body does not transform

into something with more limbs. prehensile and guttural.
you sit. hands decorative silk napkins folded in pockets.
the whole of your skin shrinking away from its lineage.

that accordion history opening all its doors into the dark.
imagine the actors dead now, forever blazing in celluloid
before the swarms of us, forced into the same positions

over and over, the desperate cocaine buzzing through
the screen. the same angry hives, the overdubbed screams.
in the pause between films, you wonder again,

the cost of a poem. is it the man wearing a dark suit
beside you? his face a candle of legs? his wet and demanding
skin? the next film begins … and you reach out for him.

the mosquito’s feeding the blood forward into your hands.
your hands, outstretched as though you’d expect him to save
you. but he pulls away. he fades into the dark. then

when you open your mouth one strange voice stumbles out
after another. pandemic of hair yawns down your back, a thin
tail gasps out from between your hind legs. so you walk

down the long staircase. your body transforming into something
so much smaller. the big man’s hands now are five stories wide.
in the cab ride home, you laugh at how you tried to speak

a dying language. how naive and brave you were.
how ludicrous you believed you might find something holy
in sweat, a new way to talk about perversion or release

or the genealogy of desire. you do not tell anyone you went.
so tiny you could climb inside a stranger’s pocket. and you want to.
and you paid to. ugly swarm of cloth still folded in the blood.

isn’t it funny how you once believed nothing
in this whole world could disgust you?


Jeffrey McDaniel.



In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.


Luis Alberto Ambroggio.


Veo en tu cuerpo
el universo de una historia,
la geografía tallada
de muchas conquistas y derrotas;
en la gloria de tus ojos,
las arrugas con su siembra,
las sonrisas y lágrimas,
veo el horizonte cotidiano
del amor y de las pérdidas,
la dulzura amarga del éxito,
la dolorosa esperanza del fracaso.

Veo en tu cuerpo
-que camina la naturaleza,
la ciudad, la montaña,
el campo de la vida-
el paso de la muerte
y el aliento de tu pupila,
hombre y mujer, joven y viejo,
esencia de multitudes,
gris anónimo y con el grito
de un nombre cierto.

Te veo en un cuerpo que abarca
simultáneo tiempo y eternidad,
al amanecer, al crepúsculo, sol, lunas llenas
y sus extensiones de luz, oscuridad
en una sangre inquieta y suave,
corazon liquido sin fronteras.

Veo en tu cuerpo
la raza y la ausencia de razas
exhalando sin indulgencia
la blasfemia de la discriminación
y su bienaventurada condena.

Eres todo, toda, en uno,
el mundo asombroso del Yo,
unido y disperso,
en la misma invitación:
conjuro de opuestos
que te definen,
como de definen a mí,
y a cada uno de los otros
existendo en mí y fuera de mí,
en la incesante alma compartida
de la calle abarrotada y sola.


Cornelius Eady.


We have all caught the itch:
The neon artist
Wiring up his legs,
The tourist couple
Recording the twist on their
Instamatic camera,
And in a factory,
A janitor asks his broom
For a waltz,
And he grasps it like a woman
He’d have to live another
Life to meet,
And he spins around the dust bin
And machines and thinks:
Is everybody happy?
And he spins out the side door,
Avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk,
Grinning as if he’d just received
The deepest kiss in the world.


Adrienne Su.



I never had to make one,
no sickening weeks by ocean,

no waiting for the aerogrammes
that gradually ceased to come.

Spent the babysitting money
on novels, shoes, and movies,

yet the neighborhood stayed empty.
It had nothing to do with a journey

not undertaken, not with dialect,
nor with a land that waited

to be rediscovered, then rejected.
As acid rain collected

above the suburban hills, I tried
to imagine being nothing, tried

to be able to claim, “I have
no culture,” and be believed.

Yet the land occupies the person
even as the semblance of freedom

invites a kind of recklessness.
Tradition, unobserved, unasked,

hangs on tight; ancestors roam
into reverie, interfering at the most

awkward moments, first flirtations,
in doorways and dressing rooms—

But of course. Here in America,
no one escapes. In the end, each traveler

returns to the town where, everyone
knew, she hadn’t even been born.


Stephanie Berger and Nicholas Adamski of the alternative performance group The Poetry Brothel.


What is the point of a memory
palace if I hang your portrait in every
room? As one might stuff a man
made of paper with more paper
so that he can burn
longer. I posit that.
It helps me remember. The desert
room, where I hung
a candelabra from the sky
and the weight of it was nothing
to a man like that. In every room
I kept the tape for measuring
mercilessly his shortcomings
& with luxurious scorn, wondered how
I had ensnared him there. In a glass
jar filled with knowledge, I keep
my children & they bond me
to the mountain palace where
I can never live. I am so tall.


Martin Espada.


At night,
with my wife
sitting on the bed,
I turn from her
to unbuckle
my belt
so she won't see
her father
his belt




"this is your
captain" Frank says from the cockpit

"all passengers wishing to bail out
any time during our flight


I have shredded the parachutes to confetti
in celebration of our arrival"


Marilyn Hacker, winner of the National Book Award for poetry.

I woke up, and the surgeon said, 'You're cured.'
Strapped to the gurney, in the cotton gown
and pants I was wearing when they slid me down
onto the table, made new straps secure
while I stared at the hydra-headed O.R.
lamp, I took in the tall, confident, brown-
skinned man, and the ache I couldn't quite call pain
from where my right breast wasn't anymore
to my armpit. A not-yet-talking head,
I bit dry my lips. What else could he have said?
And then my love was there in a hospital coat;
then my old love, still young and very scared.
Then I, alone, graphed clock hands' asymptote
to noon, when I would be wheeled back upstairs.


Anonymous 'Instagram poet' Atticus, author of "Love Her Wild.'


We are ghosts of ourselves
until they come along.
Love fills us in,
in all our thin places.
Love gives us skin.



Kazim Ali.



in case of warmth the oceans will rise
strange cup to move through
after the continents came together

after you swam crazy through the storm to shore
after you asked for it
after you drove yourself relentlessly into the sea

we listen to one gust after the other
a gorgeous scale in the most ordinary range
drumming the time of the sea into a signature of leaves

twenty minutes of ecstasy
blue and after the blue, blue-white
a buoy, a sandpiper, a wholesale slaughter of blue

either way the harp’s plucked chords
like the fog or the answer of water
dissolved into the shore’s copious footnotes

transcribing the music onto ebbing surface
a missing word where continents rub together
disappear or dispel the notion
there is any such word worth knowing

a bridge collapsing along unquelled cadences of sound
when you whisper yourself to eternity
whose name did you whisper and into whose ear


Danez Smith.


I hear music rise off your skin. Each hair on your arm a tiny viola.
A wind full of bows blows & all I hear is the brown

hum of your flesh, a symphony of pigment too often drowned out
by the gun songs & sirens. Don’t listen to that music.

You are the first light in the morning, the dark edge of the sun.
You are too beautiful for bullets. You, long the poster child for metal

wrecked bodies, are too precious for the dirt’s greedy teeth.
You are what was left when the hot, bright stars danced

with the black endlessness around them. You are the scraps
of the beginning, you are not meant to end so soon.

I want to kiss you. Not on your mouth, but on your most
secret scars, your ashy black & journeyed knees,

your ring finger, the trigger finger, those hands
the world fears so much. I am not your enemy,

not poison, not deadly sin, not ocean hungry for blood,
nor trying to trick you. I came from the same red clay,

same ship as you. You are my brother first, my lover
second & never a God. I am sick of people always

calling us Gods. What God do you know that dies this easy?
If I believed in fire, I would think you a thing scorched

& dangerous & glowing. But I no longer believe in embers,
we know you can burn down with no flame for miles.

So thank you. Thank you for not fading to ash & memory.
Your existence is so kind.


Jane Hirshfield, chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim, and first female graduate of Princeton University.

The woodpecker keeps returning
to drill the house wall.
Put a pie plate over one place, he chooses another.

There is nothing good to eat there:
he has found in the house
a resonant billboard to post his intentions,
his voluble strength as provider.

But where is the female he drums for? Where?

I ask this, who am myself the ruined siding,
the handsome red-capped bird, the missing mate.


Joan Naviyuk Kane.



A man goes on a journey, a woman does not.
Instead, birches murmur into the song
of a bird unseen, the forest endlessly receding.

To be alone and without purpose: a seed
borne on wind to flat stones arrayed
on the remote shore. Witness to news,

songs, myelin. One of our last
a succession of ribs distinct and vast
in sudden collapse. Mother, we make

no choices. Mother, he counts our frail bones.


Erika L. Sanchez.



Admit it—
you wanted the end

with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate

that strangling
mist, the fibrous


To cease to exist
and to die

are two different things entirely.

But you knew this,
didn’t you?

Some days you knelt on coins
in those yellow hours.

You lit a flame

to your shadow
and ate

scorpions with your naked fingers.

So touched by the sadness of hair
in a dirty sink.

The malevolent smell
of soap.

When instead of swallowing a fistful
of white pills,

you decided to shower,

the palm trees
nodded in agreement,

a choir
of crickets singing

behind your swollen eyes.

The masked bird
turned to you

with a shred of paper hanging
from its beak.

At dusk,
hair wet and fragrant,

you cupped a goat’s face

and kissed
his trembling horns.

The ghost?

It fell prostrate,
passed through you

like a swift
and generous storm.


Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz.



(Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz)

Let me tell you something.
When you wake up in the morning,
take a shower, get dressed, go to work,
and the first thing you do is turn on
your computer and look at photos
of two hot, hard guys doing each other
in the mouth and butt, you are either
on the road to getting fired

or you are me.

Let me tell you something.
When that cute guy from tech comes down
to audit your computer for “illegal hardware”
and finds three fisting videos, a Beginner’s
Guide to BDSM, and the complete trailer
for the film Ejacula, and all he can say is:
"Well, everything looks to be in order."

then honey, you can be safe
in the assumption that you are
the resident badass.

That’s right,
I’m my internet company’s
dirty little secret.

I’m the porn girl.

Only one on the floor. Only one in the building.
Only one getting paid cash money
to write copy like:

Panting for Panties:
Let us get you to the brink
with photos of ladies wearing
nothing but wet cotton!

I am getting people to the brink all day long,
and I don’t even have to be in the same country as them.

I’m the New Millennial Badass.

Call me up at two in the afternoon,
and I’ll tell you the URL where you can watch
Paris Hilton fuck for free.

Break up with your boyfriend,
and I will have him inserted
into an all ‘leather daddy’ gay erotica story,
where his name will be
the online gloryhole flashpoint
for so many cock-tugging burly bear men
that when he finally goes home
to the girl he broke up with you to be with,
he’ll cum HTML all over her Banana Republic
beige tweed skirt.

Oh yes.

I’m that girl.

I’m the trouble maker.
Piss me off, and guess whose head
will be photoshopped into a threesome
with Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?

I’m so hardcore, that compared to me,
Ron Jeremy is only double X.

I’m so hardcore, that my boss once yelled at me
for looking at

I’m so hardcore, that my computer dictionary
now accepts the words wetty, mangina,
and buttgasm: a word I created *myself.*

And I’m so hardcore, that I write poetry
during my lunch break.

And I’m so hardcore, that I am writing this poem
during my lunch break.
And I’m so hardcore, that I wish my lunch break
lasted all day, because I’d much rather be known
as the poet girl than the porn girl.

But I’m so hardcore, that I live in a country
that only spends 4 cents per citizen on the arts.

And I’m so hardcore, that when I tried to live
on my art alone, I had to budget myself
five pierogies a day just to pay rent.

And I’m so hardcore, that I took the first damn job
that came along and I lucked out with a rock ‘n’ roll job
where I watch naked people do naked things to each other
all day long and get paid for it.

But I am so hardcore, that I don’t even care.

Because no matter how cool working for porn
seems at cocktail parties or at poetry readings,

the truth of the matter is I am being paid
not to write my own stuff for eight hours a day,
forty hours a week. And if that ain’t the definition
of “anti-badass,” I don’t know what is.

But don’t worry about me, honey,
because I’ve got a plan.


Benjamin Alire Saenz.



I came to you one rainless August night.
You taught me how to live without the rain.
You are thirst and thirst is all I know.
You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,
The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand
Your breath into my mouth. You reach—then bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
You wrap your name tight around my ribs
And keep me warm. I was born for you.
Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.
I wake to you at dawn. Never break your
Knot. Reach, rise, blow, Sálvame, mi dios,
Trágame, mi tierra. Salva, traga, Break me,
I am bread. I will be the water for your thirst.


Tyler Knott Gregson.


Bring me a cut man, steady hands
still quick with stitch and sew.
I'm bruised and sliced
and these will scar.
Sit me on the stool,
sponge water til the red
runs clear,
I will stand again,
I will always get back up.
Wipe these eyes of the blood
that pooled,
I need to see
what's coming for me.
I will haunch over and gasp
for breath, I will
rise steady and slow,
I will shrug the blows absorbed,
and walking forward,
I will grin.


Terrance Hayes, poetry editor of the New York Times.



I will have to admit I was one of them. I believed the holes
would be erased. Our leader knew this floating up a mountain
on the backs of soldiers. I wanted only to be free, a cup of water,
if not rain. But the war spread to the edges of the state, narrow
closets opened in the field, the petals were white as cuffs.
What I had was the same as power, a dampness in the thread
of an old jacket. There was something sad and unforgiving
about our leader's accent, his short yellow tongue like a pencil
with no eraser. When they ask or wonder without asking
what I did when I saw the slick and shameful, the naked men
hanging an inch from the ground, when they ask what I did
when I heard of the prisoners, when I heard of the wars against
ideas, when they exiled strangers, what will I say? That's why
God et cetera? Who said you need not arm your children,
nor send them off to war? Who cares about the past worn
smooth by error and friction? The water of damage lay charged
in my mouth, bleeding its oil. I walked the back roads
of my property with one shoe untied and the other in my hand.


Sharon Olds, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.   Seven thousand still photographs.


At moments almost thinking of her, I was 

moving through the still life show while my mother 

had her stroke. She was teaching someone, three

time zones away, to peel and slice

a banana, in the one correct way,

and I was with the little leeks,

near the sweated egg, near the newts quick 

and the newts gone over on their backs. An orange

trailed from its shoulders the stole of its rind, 

the farther from the tree the more thinged and dried, 

the wasp was done with one sable guard-hair

in oil that had ground gold in it. She had 

alerted me, from the start, to objects, she'd cried 

out, in pain, from their shining. She held the 

banana and lectured like a child professor on its

longitudes and divisible threes, 

she raised her hands to her temples, and held them, 

and screamed, and fell to her bedroom floor, and I 

wandered, calm, among oysters, and walnuts, 

mice, apricots, coins, a golden 

smiling skull, even a wild flayed 

hare strung up by one foot like a dancer 

leaping, I strolled, ignorant 

of my mother, among the tulips, beetles in their 

holy stripes, she lay while I walked 

blind through music. When I learned her spirit 

had left her body while I was immersed 

in pretty matter, I almost felt something had 

served her right- what my mother had thought 

when her mother had died, what I'd comforted her for thinking. 

Once, in that comfort, I saw my face over her 

shoulder, in a gilded mirror. 


Nicole Sealey.



Scientists say the average human
life gets three months longer every year.
By this math, death will be optional. Like a tie
or dessert or suffering. My mother asks
whether I’d want to live forever.
“I’d get bored,” I tell her. “But,” she says,
“there’s so much to do,” meaning
she believes there’s much she hasn’t done.
Thirty years ago she was the age I am now
but, unlike me, too industrious to think about
birds disappeared by rain. If only we had more
time or enough money to be kept on ice
until such a time science could bring us back.
Of late my mother has begun to think life
short-lived. I’m too young to convince her
otherwise. The one and only occasion
I was in the same room as the Mona Lisa,
it was encased in glass behind what I imagine
were velvet ropes. There’s far less between
ourselves and oblivion—skin that often defeats
its very purpose. Or maybe its purpose
isn’t protection at all, but rather to provide
a place, similar to a doctor’s waiting room,
in which to sit until our names are called.
Hold your questions until the end.
Mother, measure my wide-open arms—
we still have this much time to kill.


Joshua Marie Wilkinson.



Memories (a torn open roof,
taste of marmalade or warm beer,
goldfinch smacked a window
or drawn into a book with three
kinds of color & some black)

Find us stopped in a doorway kissing
or whistling, pulling that door shut,
or a shirt off, a sliver out, a page
loose, a sky over,
a melon apart.
bad bridges & skiffs in chop.
You still must keep
at a certain distance
for the whole body to
in the photograph.


Javier Zamora.



as in you’re dragged to the darkest alleyway where dirt becomes beach for hours you can’t find a place to stand without noticing the stars’ sickness there’s a voice where forceps flay you can’t recall your hair memorizing
ditches the voice is built like invasion and says how did you raze the lines in the sand cerote your face sizzles as a wave the weight of bodies dressed in the uniform of a question blue crabs clamp your voice to night and your hands are no longer yours released all you can say is there’s not enough sand where blue crabs eat sleep out of me


Joy Harjo.



She says she is going to kill
herself. I am a thousand miles away.
To her voice in an ocean
of telephone sound. Grey sky
and nearly sundown; I don't ask her how.
I am already familiar with the weapons:
a restaurant that wouldn't serve her,
the thinnest laughter, another drink.
And even if I weren't closer
to the cliff edge of the talking
wire, I would still be another mirror,
another running horse.

Her escape is my own.
I tell her, yes. Yes. We ride
out for breath over the distance.
Night air approaches, the galloping

No sound.
No sound.

Dana Levin.



And blush for a cheek of stone.

Blush for the lips sewn tight with thread, no speech for the dead

You’ve got the razor. You can make each suture snap.

And watch the mouth
bloom up with foam,
as if he’d drowned himself in soap—

You lift the neck and let the head drop back.
The mouth yawns wide its prize—

White thrive.
The larval joy.
Hot in their gorge on the stew of balms,
a moist exhale—
as if there were a last breath, a taunt
into your inner ear, Good Dog, you dig your hands in,
the glossal

saying, Graduate
of the School of Flesh,
Father Conspirator—

I will learn it.
I will bite the tongue from the corpse.


Tony Hoagland.



Who would have imagined that I would have to go
a million miles away from the place where I was born
to find people who would love me?
And that I would go that distance and that I would find those people?
In the dream JoAnne was showing me how much arm to amputate
if your hand gets trapped in the gears of the machine;
if you acted fast, she said, you could save everything above the wrist.
You want to keep a really sharp blade close by, she said.
Now I raise that hand to scratch one of those nasty little
scabs on the back of my head, and we sit outside and watch
the sun go down, inflamed as an appendicitis
over western Illinois — which then subsides and cools into a smooth gray sea.
Who knows, this might be the last good night of summer.
My broken nose is forming an idea of what’s for supper.
Hard to believe that death is just around the corner.
What kind of idiot would think he even had a destiny?
I was on the road for so long by myself,
I took to reading motel Bibles just for company.
Lying on the chintz bedspread before going to sleep,
still feeling the motion of the car inside my body,
I thought some wrongness in my self had made me that alone.
And God said, You are worth more to me
than one hundred sparrows.
And when I read that, I wept.
And God said, Whom have I blessed more than I have blessed you?
And I looked at the mini bar
and the bad abstract hotel art on the wall
and the dark TV set watching like a deacon.And God said, Survive. And carry my perfume among the perishing.
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