I promise to try to remember who
I am. Wife gets up on one elbow,
says, I wanted to get married.
It seemed a fulfillment of some
several things, a thing to be done.
Even the diamond ring was some
thing like a quest, a thing they
set you out to get and how insane
the quest is; how you have to turn
it every way before you can even
think to seek it; this metaphysical
refraining is in fact the quest. Who’d
have guessed? She sighs, I like
the predictability of two, I like
my pleasures fully expected,
when the expectation of them
grows patterned in its steady
surprise. I’ve got my sweet
and tumble pat. Here on earth,
I like to count upon a thing
like that. Thus explained
the woman in contractions
to her lover holding on
the telephone for the doctor
to recover from this strange
conversational turn. You say
you’re whom? It is a pleasure
to meet you. She rolls her
eyes, but he’d once asked her
Am I your first lover? and she’d
said, Could be. Your face looks
familiar. It’s the same type of
generative error. The grammar
of the spoken word will flip, let alone
the written, until something new is
in us, and in our conversation.
Somewhere or Other by Christina Rossetti
Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet—never yet—ah me!
Made answer to my word.
Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
That tracks her night by night.
Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
With just a wall, a hedge, between;
With just the last leaves of the dying year
Fallen on a turf grown green.
Windchime by Tony Hoagland
She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,
windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.
She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
because it wasn’t there.
No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.
Take, Oh, Take Those Lips Away by John Fletcher
Take, oh, take those lips away
That so sweetly were forsworn
And those eyes, like break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn;
But my kisses bring again,
Seals of love, though sealed in vain.
Hide, oh, hide those hills of snow,
Which thy frozen bosom bears,
On whose tops the pinks that grow
Are of those that April wears;
But first set my poor heart free,
Bound in those icy chains by thee.
The Quiet World by 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.
Bar Napkin Sonnet #11 by Moira Egan
Things happen when you drink too much mescal.
One night, with not enough food in my belly,
he kept on buying. I’m a girl who’ll fall
damn near in love with gratitude and, well, he
was hot and generous and so the least
that I could do was let him kiss me, hard
and soft and any way you want it, beast
and beauty, lime and salt—sweet Bacchus’ pards—
and when his friend showed up I felt so warm
and generous I let him kiss me too.
His buddy asked me if it was the worm
inside that makes me do the things I do.
I wasn’t sure which worm he meant, the one
I ate? The one that eats at me alone?
A Broken Appointment by Thomas Hardy
You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb,—
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
–I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?
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