Every idea I have is nostalgia.

I adore this delicate yet sharp love poem from Mary Szybist (1970-).

“The Troubadours Etc”

Just for this evening, let’s not mock them.
Not their curtsies or cross-garters
or ever-recurring pepper trees in their gardens
promising, promising.

At least they had ideas about love.

All day we’ve driven past cornfields, past cows poking their heads
through metal contraptions to eat.
We’ve followed West 84, and what else?
Irrigation sprinklers fly past us, huge wooden spools in the fields,
lounging sheep, telephone wires,
yellowing flowering shrubs.

Before us, above us, the clouds swell, layers of them,
the violet underneath of clouds.
Every idea I have is nostalgia. Look up:
there is the sky that passenger pigeons darkened and filled—
darkened for days, eclipsing sun, eclipsing all other sound
with the thunder of their wings.
After a while, it must have seemed that they followed
not instinct or pattern but only
one another.

When they stopped, Audubon observed,
they broke the limbs of stout trees by the weight of the numbers.

And when we stop we’ll follow—what?
Our hearts?

The Puritans thought that we are granted the ability to love
only through miracle,
but the troubadours knew how to burn themselves through,
how to make themselves shrines to their own longing.
The spectacular was never behind them.

Think of days of those scarlet-breasted, blue-winged birds above you.
Think of me in the garden, humming
quietly to myself in my blue dress,
a blue darker than the sky above us, a blue dark enough for storms,
though cloudless.

At what point is something gone completely?
The last of the sunlight is disappearing
even as it swells—

Just for this evening, won’t you put me before you
until I’m far enough away you can
believe in me?

Then try, try to come closer—
my wonderful and less than.


Love no country and hate none

So many beautiful and important and difficult questions are woven into this poem by the incredible Palestinian-American poet, translator, and physician Fady Joudah (1971-). Let them sink in, then read it again. And again.

“Twice a River”

After studying our faces for months
My son knows to beam
Is the thing to do

He’ll spend years deciphering love
The injustice or the illusion
Having been brought into this world
Volition is an afterthought

What will I tell him
About land and language and burial
Places my father doesn’t speak of
Perhaps my mother knows

In the movie the dispossessed cannot return
Even when they’re dead
The journalist felt

Rebuke for not having thought
It mattered or for having thought it mattered too much

Will I tell my son all nations arise after mass
Murder that I don’t know

Any national anthem by heart can’t sing
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game?”

I should turn to flowers and clouds instead
Though this has already been said well
It is night

When he gazes
Into his mother’s eyes at bath time
Qyss & Laila she announces after a long day’s work

He giggles with his shoulders not knowing
He’s installing a web

In his amygdala or whichever
Places science thinks love dwells

Even love is place? O son
Love no country and hate none
And remember crimes sometimes

Immortalize their victims
Other times the victimizer

Remember how you used to gaze at the trampoline
Leaves on their branches?

Don’t believe the sound of the sea
In a seashell believe the sea
The endless trope and don’t say

Much about another’s language
Learn to love it

While observing silence
For the dead and the living in it


from Alight by Copper Canyon Press