is it real or a fable?

(on repeat, three days)

Death with Dignity
Sufjan Stevens

Spirit of my silence I can hear you, but I’m afraid to be near you
And I don’t know where to begin
And I don’t know where to begin

Somewhere in the desert there’s a forest, and an acre before us
But I don’t know where to begin
But I don’t know where to begin
Again I lost my strength completely, or be near me tired old mare
With the wind in your hair

Amethyst and flowers on the table, is it real or a fable?
Well I suppose a friend is a friend
And we all know how this will end

Chimney swift that finds me be my keeper, silhouette on the seater
What is that song you sing for the dead
What is that song you sing for the dead
I see the signal searchlight strike me, in the window of my room
Well I got nothing to prove
Well I got nothing to prove

I forgive you mother I can hear you, and I long to be near you
But every road leads to an end
Yes every road leads to an end
Your aberration passes through me, in the willows and five red hens
You’ll never see us again
You’ll never see us again


that scamper of feeling in my chest

I Don’t Miss It
Tracy K. Smith

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

knowing you would take the raft out further if it meant a few more minutes

On the General Being of Lostness
Jeff Latosik

Lostness is the You Are Here, the red star
that the mall map linked to GPS.
As if you’d stared into your nowhere
like a sun and photoreceptors
compensated with a point.
Lostness is an immaculately well-dressed
person or a room laid out like charcuterie.
It’s a feeling someone loves you after
a ten-minute talk. Oh yes, but lostness
is loving someone too, knowing you would
take the raft out further if it meant
a few more minutes. Sometimes,
I want to tell my dog that I’m the only one
in the world who knows her whereabouts
and that’s lostness but it’s lived in.

It isn’t sadness. Lostness is the job I had
in ’98 in a warehouse unpacking chic decor
where I began to unravel and unmake
the very things the company was selling.
It was the boxes I moved forward

on the shelves until they lined up well,
pop choruses that played again for the beautiful
and found. It’s almost gladness. It’s the walk
I took one day trying to decide should I live in Montreal?
and thinking that I knew something to make it plain.

Lostness is the many rains of money
that I once watched from an open window.
It’s long been here. It was the semilunate carpal
flowering in late-Cretaceous bones
where everything was going then never more unclear.

It was the first prokaryote closing off its little O
and all that it could be instead.
But lostness is a steady wage. I remember
when my grandfather would come home
from the squats and thousand double checks

of electrical work and wash his hands:
all the dirt moved in his laundry sink
like garter snakes that turned up under stones,
a living current so bearable in its lostness
that I could know it, only, for a hundred years

and still be happy. Lostness was the school
I went to where leaving crumbs on rectangles of paper
meant showing the way someone would have to come.
It was having your knapsack up on the table
like a personal flotation device. It wouldn’t be wrong

to say that lostness is always there on the lip of everything,
like lichen or a bomb. There is a loving lostness
that if you look deep into, you see a great
balance beam that everything
that was, or is, or that may be, is standing on.

we expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

Dear One Absent This Long While
Lisa Olstein

It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;
everything blooms coldly.

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.
We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires
over which young men and women leapt.

June efforts quietly.
I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall

so even if spring continues to disappoint
we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.

I have new gloves and a new hoe.
I practice eulogies. He was a hawk

with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs
of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.

Yours is the name the leaves chatter
at the edge of the unrabbited woods.

uncertainty is more beautiful still

Love at First Sight
Wislawa Szymborska, 1923 – 2012

They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways—
perhaps they’ve passed by each other a million times?

I want to ask them
if they don’t remember—
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?—
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.

They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

I would give up rock-fringes of coral and the inmost chamber of my island palace

Oh, exactly, exactly, exactly.

H. D.

It was easy enough
to bend them to my wish,
it was easy enough
to alter them with a touch,
but you
adrift on the great sea,
how shall I call you back?

Cedar and white ash,
rock-cedar and sand plants
and tamarisk
red cedar and white cedar
and black cedar from the inmost forest,
fragrance upon fragrance
and all of my sea-magic is for nought.

It was easy enough—
a thought called them
from the sharp edges of the earth;
they prayed for a touch,
they cried for the sight of my face,
they entreated me
till in pity
I turned each to his own self.

Panther and panther,
then a black leopard
follows close—
black panther and red
and a great hound,
a god-like beast,
cut the sand in a clear ring
and shut me from the earth,
and cover the sea-sound
with their throats,
and the sea-roar with their own barks
and bellowing and snarls,
and the sea-stars
and the swirl of the sand,
and the rock-tamarisk
and the wind resonance—
but not your voice.

It is easy enough to call men
from the edges of the earth.
It is easy enough to summon them to my feet
with a thought—
it is beautiful to see the tall panther
and the sleek deer-hounds
circle in the dark.

It is easy enough
to make cedar and white ash fumes
into palaces
and to cover the sea-caves
with ivory and onyx.

But I would give up
rock-fringes of coral
and the inmost chamber
of my island palace
and my own gifts
and the whole region
of my power and magic
for your glance.

love from the golden throat of a saxophone

Sarah Browning

At the coffee shop you love,
white mugs heavy on the table
between us, young baristas—
spiky haired and impatient—
cannot imagine how two people
so old to them can feel so wanton,
coffee growing cold between us,
middle-aged bodies growing hot
under the other’s gaze. Even now,
apart, you send me songs so I may
listen to love from the golden throat
of a saxophone, piano keys playing
jazz across my soft belly.
How is it the tide of terror
has quit rising in me, or rises
and recedes as tides do, bringing
sea glass worked smooth
and lovely by the sheer fact
of time, bringing trash—
plastic mesh and old sneakers—
useless things now we might
bag up and remove, bringing
a lapping tongue of water up
over our toes as we hold hands
and walk along its edge—
carefully, gleefully, both.