Taking care of one’s health is important to us. We understand that poetry is one of the many art forms that can love, heal, and make one feel less alone.
In the spirit of our Waiting Room Reader series, we would like to offer poems and excerpts from our latest books on a regular basis throughout the coronavirus outbreak. It is our hope that these selections will offer comfort and companionship through this season of isolation and quarantine.
From the press and our authors to you: here are some words to keep you company.
Read this love letter to life. Its pages turn in the ice-fling
off of the fast car’s roof. Follow the traveling carillon,
the communism of the gospels, the ice rink’s joyful
four-fold spotlight, how it shines the hair and adds grace.
Eyes and words swerve into focus, nouns marry in metaphor,
lines enter a stranger’s memory and stay for seven years,
Smell the multiflora roses, honeysuckle, burning leaves.
Feel the inside of the body, the smooth core, watch the wren
pull the dead fledgling from the hole feather by dusty feather.
Guess the stories: tailless squirrel on the woodpile, condom
under the old folks home sofa, the lady’s internal monologue
as she guards the Lamborghini at the auto show, red guts spilt
like berries from rabbit mouth. I’d write even if each page’s
only destination were the stove, for winter heat. Again and again.
The warm shadows are back along the streets,
and the world loves us again, so lovely,
like the small octopus in a tank,
an exhibit for children. See it there,
its tentacles like gauze stretching
along the sides of the tank. If I tap,
one tentacle or another reaches upward
toward my finger, a ghostlike and translucent
blue-grey. How impossibly delicate
it seems, each sucker independently
holding or releasing, the limb
like the large fire engines in Boston
with the second man driving the back wheels
around the curved city streets, and the other,
so that each tentacle seems under
its own control, slowly waving along the tank
toward my fingers on the glass.
There is a sign off to one side,
informing us that the octopus ‘sees’
by feeling pressure waves, which, I imagine
is what my tapping brings up,
though my fanciful wife suggests
that the tentacles long for some connection
with me. Touching, one might say.
Tasting is more likely the case.
The water, too, seems as warm and forgiving
as the air in the small exhibit room
where children come to learn about touch,
about the gauzy longing like hunger in them.
It is spring, and in us, too.
Beyond lithe triceps, bulging biceps,
above taut calves and washboard abs,
unsurpassed by lats and hams
is our mother muscle hustling
blood through her brood of tubes,
muscle by which all other muscles flex.
wafts through the Doppler mic
held against the slight, gelled
swell of your mother’s uterus.
Your body’s first voice
utters a stutter
I have no answer for.
Praise the four-chambered
orchestra playing staccato
sonate da camera in your chest,
percussive as the timpani,
or more so: allegro, vivace, presto—
how would Mozart mark
one hundred sixty sixteenth notes
per sixty seconds? Prestissimo.
We’ll take you home to four small rooms,
one just for you: your name brilliant
in bubbled letters, glass balloons
like buoys in the corner. Your mother
pressing you to her breast, we’ll step
into our asthmatic old apartment,
an April wind rushing in behind,
fresh oxygen borne in our blood.
When they were little I read
to them at night until my tongue
got tired. They would poke me
when I started to nod off after twenty
pages of Harry Potter or one of
the Lemony Snickett novels. I read to
them to get them to love reading
but a parent is never sure if the
stories are having an impact or if it
just looks like the right thing to do.
But one day, my daughter (fifteen then)
was finishing Of Mice and Men in the car
on our way somewhere. She was at
the end of it when I heard her say,
No, in that frightened voice and I
knew right away where she was,
“Let’s do it now,” Lennie begged,
“Let’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta.”
And she stared crying, then I started
crying, and it was as if Steinbeck
was sitting in the backseat telling
nodding his head and it felt right,
like I’d done something right,
and I wanted to tell her to keep going,
read it to me, please, please, I can take it.
Wonder what I’d be today if I was still married to my Wall Street
husband besides married to a Wall Street husband and puking gin
in a silk sheath outside Delmonico’s. I might be a size 4. I might
be a secret Democrat or a weekend lesbian. This morning five planes
flew over the yard in a V as I was about to dig into a pile of lavender
pancakes al fresco. The V flew low and slow. It flew loud and ominous.
It alarmed me, sounding a lot like the war movies of my fifties’ childhood.
My cranky Chihuahua was proverbially biting at flies and I was sitting there
not thinking about hate. Recently, I experienced life with cancer. An
intoxicating time, richly infused with the liquor of death, but good too
because no one expected much of me and I was left to my own mind,
which is what I’m missing most these days. Unless that’s it over there,
screeching on two wheels around the racetrack. Today I typed gnos
instead of song and I wondered if it was some new app designed
to mess with me. I’ve never thought to call the world sweet before.
Surviving something can do that, make things taste different.
Suddenly you’re a hero/ine. All this devastation—
and you’re still standing in the middle of it.
to understand them better.
Know how this muscle pumps,
contracts to its function.
In his palm the rabbit’s heart
still flutters, as he injects
the enzymes, breaks it down.
Brought to its single self
under the microscope, each cell
reveals to him its nature,
gives measured answers.
Chromatographic shades of meaning
extracted, written down, definitive.
At night, he lays his head
on the soft billow of her breast:
hears the measuring of time, and all
heart’s anarchies beat in his ear.