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I always get goosebumps when I read this poem from the one of my favorites, the preeminent Iraqi writer and activist Saadi Youssef (1934-), who has spent much of his life in exile.

saadi

“Undead Nature”

Abu al-Khaseeb passes
blue
like morning fog,
a wooden bridge dripping dampness,
there are palm trees
and hyacinths.
The tenderness of happiness
is in the sky.
I will ask about you, son,
when things are cloudy;
I ask about you.
I ask about you.
But I already see you now:
day after day,
night after night.
So wait for me, O son,
we will meet
where the fog is blue
in the morning.

___

Translated by Sinan Antoon and Peter Money in Nostalgia my Enemy 

There is no poet who brings me to all of my senses in this physical world quite like the magnificent Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).

 
adrienne-rich-sized

“Itinerary”

i.

Burnt by lightning      nevertheless
she’ll walk this terra infinita

lashes singed on her third eye
searching definite shadows      for an indefinite future

Old shed-boards beaten silvery hang
askew as sheltering
some delicate indefensible existence

Long grasses shiver in a vanished doorway’s draft
a place of origins      as yet unclosured and unclaimed

Writing cursive instructions on abounding air

If you arrive with ripe pears, bring a sharpened knife
Bring cyanide with the honeycomb

              call before you come

ii.

Let the face of the bay be violet black the tumbled torn
kelp necklaces strewn alongshore

Stealthily over time arrives the chokehold
stifling ocean’s guttural chorales
                                        a tangle
of tattered plastic rags

iii.

In a physical world the great poverty would be
to live insensate      shuttered against the fresh

slash of urine on a wall
low-tidal rumor of a river’s yellowed mouth
a tumor-ridden face asleep on a subway train

What would it mean to not possess
a permeable skin
explicit veil to wander in

iv.

A cracked shell crumbles.
Sun moon and salt dissect the faint
last grains

An electrical impulse zings
out      ricochets
in meta-galactic orbits

a streak of nervous energy rejoins the crucible
where origins and endings meld

There was this honey-laden question mark
this thread extracted from the open
throat of existence—Lick it clean!
—let it evaporate—

This poem by the wonderful Yusef Komunyakaa (1947-) has been ringing in my head all month, so today I share it with you.

komunyakaa_web

“Rock Me, Mercy”

The river stones are listening
because we have something to say.
The trees lean closer today.
The singing in the electrical woods
has gone dumb. It looks like rain
because it is too warm to snow.
Guardian angels, wherever you’re hiding,
we know you can’t be everywhere at once.
Have you corralled all the pretty wild
horses? The memory of ants asleep
in daylilies, roses, holly, & larkspur.
The magpies gaze at us, still
waiting. River stones are listening.
But all we can say now is,
Mercy, please, rock me.

After a litany of heavier poems, here’s a joyful, color-full Marge Piercy piece I actually posted six years ago and still love.

margepiercy_newbioimage2015-irawood

“Colors Passing Through Us”

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Yellow as a goat’s wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour.

Here is my bouquet, here is a sing
song of all the things you make
me think of, here is oblique
praise for the height and depth
of you and the width too.
Here is my box of new crayons at your feet.

Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles.

Blue as cornflowers, delphiniums,
bachelors’ buttons. Blue as Roquefort,
blue as Saga. Blue as still water.
Blue as the eyes of a Siamese cat.
Blue as shadows on new snow, as a spring
azure sipping from a puddle on the blacktop.

Cobalt as the midnight sky
when day has gone without a trace
and we lie in each other’s arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.

Today I share a moment of spare brilliance from the great Afghan modernist poet Partaw Naderi (1953-).

partaw-naderi-portrait_427x0_400_266_90

“Star Rise”

I am the twin of light
I know the history of the sun

Stars
rise from the blisters on my hands.

Kabul
February, 1994
translated by Sarah Maguire and Yama Yari

I find myself drawn to this poem by the Cuban American poet Silvia Curbelo (1955-) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the Tampa Bay setting, a landscape I spent many years of my life and that I don’t often encounter in poems.

silvia

“Tonight I Can Almost Hear the Singing”

There is a music to this sadness.
In a room somewhere two people dance.
I do not mean to say desire is everything.
A cup half empty is simply half a cup.
How many times have we been there and not there?
I have seen waitresses slip a night’s
worth of tips into the jukebox, their eyes
saying yes to nothing in particular.
Desire is not the point.
Tonight your name is a small thing
falling through sadness. We wake alone
in houses of sticks, of straw, of wind.
How long have we stood at the end of the pier
watching that water going?
In the distance the lights curve along
Tampa Bay, a wishbone ready to snap
and the night riding on that half promise,
a half moon to light the whole damned sky.
This is the way things are with us.
Sometimes we love almost enough.
We say I can do this, I can do
more than this and faith feeds
on its own version of the facts.
In the end the heart turns on itself
like hunger to a spoon.
We make a wish in a vanishing landscape.
Sadness is one more reference point
like music in the distance.
Two people rise from a kitchen table
as if to dance. What do they know
about love?

__

from The Secret History of Water

Happy Earth Day from the one and only Walt Whitman (1819-1892), one of the most fervent lovers of our planet and its multitude of creatures that I’ve ever encountered on the written page. I usually post this section from Leaves of Grass, but this year I’ll share a different part that I love.

635897777875854202-2102625430_walt

from “Song of Myself”

32.

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d;
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied—not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me, and I accept them;
They bring me tokens of myself—they evince them plainly in their possession.

I wonder where they get those tokens:
Did I pass that way huge times ago, and negligently drop them?
Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them;
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers;
Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness—ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate, as my heels embrace him;
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure, as we race around and return.

I but use you a moment, then I resign you, stallion;
Why do I need your paces, when I myself out-gallop them?
Even, as I stand or sit, passing faster than you.

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