Even after all this time
the sun never says
to the earth,
‘You owe me.”
Look what happens
with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky.
—Daniel Ladinsky, American Sufi poet
a light knocking on the sleep door
like the sound of a rope striking the side of a boat
boats pulling up alongside each other
beneath the surface we rub up against each other
will we capsize in
the surge and silence
of waking from sleep
you are a lost canoe, navigating by me
I am the star map tonight
all the failed echoes
the painted-over murals
you can find your way to me
by the faint star-lamp
we are a fleet now
our prows zeroing in
praying in the wind
to spin like haywire compasses
toward whichever direction
will have us
I miss the way it comes:
as a smell, on curved feet,
a sliver of apple.
The way it unfurls from students’ lips:
I thrive on summer. I live.
I miss the way the days stumble over each other in waves,
fast and warm like a pulse,
and I miss the hungry marketplace
that gorges itself on fruit;
the way the leaves swallow people whole-heartedly
I miss the little white wildflowers
I crush beneath my feet, the
dandelions scorching tiny suns
I remember most the way it leaves:
cooling sweat from sultry skin
in a barely whispered apology;
sucking soil dry,
leaving in the middle of the stagnant, dreamless night,
so that the garden dies before it ever begins,
and cherry blossoms sprawl like
dead ballerinas in the dirt,
and the cicadas
forget how to sing.
What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.
What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was
whispered the jasmise so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever
was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them
so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is
being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.
The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,
in love with the one to whom every that belongs!
Rumi (Coleman Barks)
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
My beautiful was all hush and glitter. It was too moist to grasp. My beautiful had no tongue with which to lick— no discernible wallowing gnaw. It was really a breed of destruction like a nick in a knife. It was a notch in the works or a wound like a bell in a fat iron mess. My beautiful was a drink too sopping to haul up and swig!
Ask me if I speak for the snail and I will tell you
I speak for the snail.
speak of underneathedness
and the welcome of mosses,
of life that springs up,
little lives that pull back and wait for a moment.
I speak for the damselfly, water skeet, mollusk,
the caterpillar, the beetle, the spider, the ant.
from the time before spinelessness was frowned upon.
Ask me if I speak for the moon jelly. I will tell you
one thing today and another tomorrow
and I will be as consistent as anything alive
on this earth.
I move as the currents move, with the breezes.
What part of your nature drives you? You, in your cubicle
ought to understand me. I filter and filter and filter all day.
Ask me if I speak for the nautilus and I will be silent
as the nautilus shell on a shelf. I can be beautiful
and useless if that’s all you know to ask of me.
Ask me what I know of longing and I will speak of distances
between meadows of night-blooming flowers.
I will speak
the impossible hope of the firefly.
You with the candle
burning and only one chair at your table must understand
such wordless desire.
To say it is mindless is missing the point.
Camille T. Dungy
oh, I don’t know.
The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine… - J. Crickillon
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter, or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air…
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and - somehow - the wine.