m.o.

Report from the Subtropics


For one thing, there’s no more snow
to watch from an evening window,
and no armfuls of logs to carry into the house
so cumbersome you have to touch the latch with an elbow,

and once inside, no iron stove waiting like an old woman
for her early dinner of wood.

No hexagrams of frost to study carefully
on the cold glass pages of the bathroom.

And there’s no black sweater to pull over my head
while I wait for the coffee to brew.

Instead, I walk around in children’s clothes—
shorts and a T-shirt with the name of a band
lettered on the front, announcing me to nobody.

The sun never fails to arrive early
and refuses to leave the party
even after I go from room to room,
turning out all the lights, and making a face.

And the birds with those long white necks?
All they do is swivel their heads
to look at me as I walk past
as if they all knew my password
and the name of the city where I was born.
- Billy Collins

Beautiful Creature

There is a Beautiful Creature 
Living in a hole you have dug.

So at night 
I set fruit and grains 
And little pots of wine and milk 
Beside your soft earthen mounds, 
And I often sing.

But still, my dear, 
You do not come out.

I have fallen in love with Someone 
Who hides inside you.

We should talk about this problem— 
Otherwise, 
I will never leave you alone.

- Hafiz

A Lesson for This Sunday

The growing idleness of summer grass
With its frail kites of furious butterflies
Requests the lemonade of simple praise
In scansion gentler than my hammock swings
And rituals no more upsetting than a
Black maid shaking linen as she sings
The plain notes of some Protestant hosanna—
Since I lie idling from the thought in things—

Or so they should, until I hear the cries
Of two small children hunting yellow wings,
Who break my Sabbath with the thought of sin.
Brother and sister, with a common pin,
Frowning like serious lepidopterists.
The little surgeon pierces the thin eyes.
Crouched on plump haunches, as a mantis prays
She shrieks to eviscerate its abdomen.
The lesson is the same. The maid removes
Both prodigies from their interest in science.
The girl, in lemon frock, begins to scream
As the maimed, teetering thing attempts its flight.
She is herself a thing of summery light,
Frail as a flower in this blue August air,
Not marked for some late grief that cannot speak.

The mind swings inward on itself in fear
Swayed towards nausea from each normal sign.
Heredity of cruelty everywhere,
And everywhere the frocks of summer torn,
The long look back to see where choice is born,
As summer grass sways to the scythe’s design.

- Derek Walcott

Heavy Summer Rain

The grasses in the field have toppled,
and in places it seems that a large, now
absent, animal must have passed the night.
The hay will right itself if the day
turns dry. I miss you steadily, painfully.
None of your blustering entrances
or exits, doors swinging wildly
on their hinges, or your huge unconscious
sighs when you read something sad,
like Henry Adams’s letters from Japan,
where he traveled after Clover died.

Everything blooming bows down in the rain:
white irises, red peonies; and the poppies
with their black and secret centers
lie shattered on the lawn.
- Jane Kenyon

Insect Life of Florida

In those days I thought their endless thrum
   was the great wheel that turned the days, the nights.
      In the throats of hibiscus and oleander
I’d see them clustered yellow, blue, their shells
   enameled hard as the sky before the rain.
      All that summer, my second, from city

to city my young father drove the black coupe
   through humid mornings I’d wake to like fever
      parceled between luggage and sample goods.
Afternoons, showers drummed the roof,
   my parents silent for hours. Even then I knew
      something of love was cruel, was distant.

Mother leaned over the seat to me, the orchid
   Father’d pinned in her hair shriveled
      to a purple fist. A necklace of shells
coiled her throat, moving a little as she
   murmured of alligators that float the rivers
      able to swallow a child whole, of mosquitoes

whose bite would make you sleep a thousand years.
   And always the trance of blacktop shimmering
      through swamps with names like incantations—
Okeefenokee, where Father held my hand
   and pointed to an egret’s flight unfolding
      white above swamp reeds that sang with insects

until I was lost, until I was part
   of the singing, their thousand wings gauze
      on my body, tattooing my skin.
Father rocked me later by the water,
   the motel balcony, singing calypso
      with the Jamaican radio. The lyrics

a net over the sea, its lesson
   of desire and repetition. Lizards flashed
      over his shoes, over the rail
where the citronella burned merging our
   shadows—Father’s face floating over mine
      in the black changing sound

of night, the enormous Florida night,
   metallic with cicadas, musical
      and dangerous as the human heart.
- Lynda Hull

Summer Solstice

I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.
- Stacie Cassarino

Animals

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

- Frank O’Hara

(Source: fables-of-the-reconstruction)

She has what soul loves
to flow into. She’s kind, she weeps.

She makes quick personal decisions, and laughs so easily.

Rumi (via emotional-algebra)

The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections.

—Walt Whitman (via quietlotus)