O my enemy. Do I terrify?

Lady Lazarus
Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

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June 29, 2018: Exactly

These Hands, If Not Gods
Natalie Diaz

Haven’t they moved like rivers—
like Glory, like light—
over the seven days of your body?

And wasn’t that good?
Them at your hips—

isn’t this what God felt when he pressed together
the first Beloved: Everything.
Fever. Vapor. Atman. Pulsus. Finally,
a sin worth hurting for. Finally, a sweet, a
You are mine.

It is hard not to have faith in this:
from the blue-brown clay of night
these two potters crushed and smoothed you
into being—grind, then curve—built your form up—

atlas of bone, fields of muscle,
one breast a fig tree, the other a nightingale,
both Morning and Evening.

O, the beautiful making they do—
of trigger and carve, suffering and stars—

Aren’t they, too, the dark carpenters
of your small church? Have they not burned
on the altar of your belly, eaten the bread
of your thighs, broke you to wine, to ichor,
to nectareous feast?

Haven’t they riveted your wrists, haven’t they
had you at your knees?

And when these hands touched your throat,
showed you how to take the apple and the rib,
how to slip a thumb into your mouth and taste it all,
didn’t you sing out their ninety-nine names—

Zahir, Aleph, Hands-time-seven,
Sphinx, Leonids, locomotura,
Rubidium, August, and September—
And when you cried out, O, Prometheans,
didn’t they bring fire?

These hands, if not gods, then why
when you have come to me, and I have returned you
to that from which you came—bright mud, mineral-salt—
why then do you whisper O, my Hecatonchire. My Centimani.
My hundred-handed one?

let me tell you what it was like

“Poetry is one vehicle for this humanizing, reanimating version of language, because the features of a poem insist upon a different value system. Rather than numbing or drowning out the difficult-to-describe but urgently sensed feelings that are part of being human, poetry invites us to tease them out, to draw them into language that is rooted in intricate thought and strange impulse. Rather than putting up a buffer between ourselves and those outside our immediate sphere, poems devise means to contemplate those others and to take in their perspectives.

Rather than solving, sidestepping or denying problems, poems bear witness to dark facets of experience, they give us vocabulary for the terror, the shame, the regret — as well as the terms of hope — resulting from the choices we make and those we consent to.

In other words, poems say, ‘Hey, come here, let me tell you what it was like.’ And they ask us to submit to another experience of reality. They disorient us from our home base, and they teach us to admit and submit to the feeling of vulnerability, to act upon empathy and curiosity, and to follow along allowing sense to accrue at its own pace and upon its own terms.”

From U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s remarks for her lecture at the Library of Congress. Read the entire thing here.

the blizzard’s accountant

Heart/mind
Laura Kasischke

A bear batting at a beehive, how

clumsy the mind

always was with the heart. Wanting

what it wanted.

The blizzard’s

accountant, how

timidly the heart approached the business

of the mind. Counting

what it counted.

Light inside a cage, the way the heart —

Bird trapped in an airport, the way the mind —

How it flashed on the floor of the phone booth, my

last dime. And

this letter

I didn’t send

how surprising

to find it now.

All this love I must have felt.

When I say Jesus was my boyfriend

But why should love

be any more resilient than the bodies

we do this loving with? Why shouldn’t

love flab and crease, spot and sag,

developing a weird but specific smell?

their long obsidian hairdos in the style of the time

Mambo
Jaime Manrique

translated by Edith Grossman

Against a topaz sky
and huge windows starry
with delirious heartsease
and sensual red cayenne;
the sweet twilight breeze
fragrant with almond and Indian orange;
on the Moorish tiles,
wearing their spike-heeled shoes,
lowcut dresses and wide swirling skirts;
their long obsidian hairdos
in the style of the time;
perfumed, olive-skinned, smiling,
my aunts danced the mambo
and sang: “Doctor, tomorrow,
you can’t pull my tooth
even if I die of the pain.”

those evenings of my childhood
when my aunts were young and belonged to me,
and I danced hiding in their skirts,
our lives were a happy mambo—
I remember.

whose tear had snapped off, a tiny icicle he put in his mouth

The Letter
Mary Ruefle

Beloved, men in thick green coats came crunching
through the snow, the insignia on their shoulders
of uncertain origin, a country I could not be sure of,
a salute so terrifying I heard myself lying to avoid
arrest, and was arrested along with Jocko, whose tear
had snapped off, a tiny icicle he put in his mouth.
We were taken to the ice prison, a palace encrusted
with hoarfrost, its dome lit from within, Jocko admired
the wiring, he kicked the walls to test the strength
of his new boots. A television stood in a block of ice,
its blue image still moving like a liquid center.
You asked for my innermost thoughts. I wonder will I
ever see a grape again? When I think of the vineyard
where we met in October—when you dropped a cluster
custom insisted you be kissed by a stranger—how after
the harvest we plunged into a stream so icy our palms
turned pink. It seemed our future was sealed. Everyone
said so. It is quiet here. Not closing our ranks
weakens us hugely. The snowflakes fall in a featureless
bath. I am the stranger who kissed you. On sunny days
each tree is a glittering chandelier. The power of
mindless beauty! Jocko told a joke and has been dead
since May. A bullethole in his forehead the officers
call a third eye. For a month I milked a barnful of
cows. It is a lot like cleansing a chandelier. Wipe
and polish, wipe and polish, round and round you go.
I have lost my spectacles. Is the book I was reading
still open by the side of our bed? Treat it as a bookmark
saving my place in our story.

(here the letter breaks off)