I want a door opening in me that I can enter

In the spirit of celebrating tenderness, here is the last poem from Jason Shinder’s (1955-2008) Stupid Hope, which was assembled and published after he died from leukemia and lymphoma. I loved this raw collection when I first encountered it years ago and am grateful it recently found its way back to my bedside.

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“Untitled”

If there is no cure, I still want to correct a few things

and think mostly of people, and have them all alive.
I want a door opening in me that I can enter

and feel the clarity of evening and the stars beginning.

One after another, I want my mistakes returning
and to approach them on a beach like a man

for whom there is no division between one way or another.

My most faithful body, you are not in the best of shape,
far from the glitter of the river in which you once swam.

But I want good tears when I stand on the street

and, from the sky, drifts down the finest mist on my face.
Not everything is given and it should not permit sadness.

Let me
Let me keep on describing things to be sure they happened.

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it’s easy to pretend that we don’t love the world

In French, “aubade” means “dawn serenade” and the word has also come to mean songs or poems for lovers parting in the morning. If a poet has an aubade in his or her collection, I often for some reason find myself gravitating towards it, as I was to this poem by Patrick Phillips (1970-) from his newest collection, Elegy for a Broken Machine. As I make my way through this book, I’m appreciating his meditations on the elegant and cruel mechanics of life, the broken machines that surround us and comprise us as human beings.

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“Aubade”

It’s easy to pretend
that we don’t love

the world.
But then there is

your freckled skin. Then:
your back’s faint

lattice-work of bones.
I’m not saying this

makes up for suffering,
or trying to pretend

that each day’s little ladder
of sunlight, creeping

across the bed at dawn,
somehow redeems it

for the thousand ways
in which we’ll be forsaken.

Maybe, sweet sleeper,
breathing next to me

as I scratch and scrawl
these endless notes,

I’m not saying anything
but what the sparrows out

our window sing,
high in their rotten oak.

A half-life can be deepend by the whole

The prolific and acclaimed Henri Cole (1956-) is yet another poet I’ve only recently encountered whose work I can’t wait to further explore.

“A Half-Life”

There is no sun today,
save the finch’s yellow breast,
and the world seems faultless in spite of it.
Across the sound, a continuous
ectoplasm of gray,
a ferry slits the deep waters,

bumping our little motorboats
against their pier.
The day ends like any day,
with its hour of human change
lifting even the chloreic heart.
If living in someone else’s dream

makes us soft, then I am so,
spilling out from the lungs
like green phlegm of spring.
My friend resting on the daybed
fills his heart with memory,
as July’s faithful swallows

weave figure eights above him,
vaulting with pointed wings and forked tails
for the ripe cherries he tosses them,
then ascending in a frolic
of fanned umbrella-feathers
to thread a far, airy steeple.

To my mind, the cherries form an endless
necklace-like cortex rising out
of my friend’s brain, the swallows
unraveling the cerebellum’s pink cord.
In remission six months,
his body novocained and irradiant,

he trembles, threadbare, as the birds unwheel him.
The early evening’s furnace casts
us both in a shimmering sweat.
In a wisp Gabriel might appear to us,
as to Mary, announcing a sweet
miracle. But there is none.

The lilies pack in their trumpets,
our nesting dove nuzzles her eggs,
and chameleons color their skin with dusk.
A half-life can be deepened by the whole,
sending out signals of a sixth sense,
as if the unabashed youthful eye

sees clearest to the other side.
A lemon slice spirals in the icy tea,
a final crystal pulse of the sun reappears,
and a newer infinite sight
takes hold of us like the jet of color
at the end of winter. Has it begun:

the strange electric vision of the dying?
Give me your hand, friend.
Come see the travelers arrive.
Beneath the lazy, bankrupt sky,
theirs is a world of joy trancing
even the gulls above the silver ferry.