Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Imaginary Paintings

Imaginary Paintings
by Lisel Mueller

1. HOW I WOULD PAINT THE FUTURE
A strip of horizon and a figure,
seen from the back, forever approaching.

2. HOW I WOULD PAINT HAPPINESS
Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No—
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
to beautiful to touch.

3. HOW I WOULD PAINT DEATH
White on white or black on black.
No ground, no figure. An immense canvas,
which I will never finish.

4. HOW I WOULD PAINT LOVE
I would not paint love.

5. HOW I WOULD PAINT THE LEAP OF FAITH
A black cat jumping up three feet
to reach a three-inch shelf.

6. HOW I WOULD PAINT THE BIG LIE
Smooth, and deceptively small
so that it can be swallowed
like something we take for a cold.
An elongated capsule,
an elegant cylinder,
sweet and glossy,
that pleases the tongue
and goes down easy,
never mind
the poison inside.

7. HOW I WOULD PAINT NOSTALGIA
An old-fashioned painting, a genre piece.
People in bright and dark clothing.
A radiant bride in white
standing above a waterfall,
watching the water rush
away, away, away.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

stroke

Stroke
by Aurora Levins Morales

stroke
stroke
stroke

when it happened the right side of my body disappeared from the map
left only tangled lines. Everything dragged down towards earth
except for my pinkie that curled up and out like a twig.

when it happened my foot was pierced with fire, but cold and swollen
as waterlogged wood. my skin couldn’t bear the weight of my sheets.
touch made me scream and weep.

when it happened my hand was scalded, wracked with spasms,
a dense slab of pain. Five fingers set adrift from my brain
couldn’t cup, grip, press, pinch.

therapy began with holding my right foot in my left hand and squeezing
so it would know where it was. so the crazy screaming nerves would
calm down and remember to be foot.

Therapy was holding my runaway fingers together
reuniting the pinkie with the ring finger, teaching them to be hand.

Therapy was stepping on needles, on burning asphalt, on
glaciers. Ten steps. Fifteen. Try again.

start rubbing the skin with silk, they said,
with wool
with terry cloth
put sandpaper on the toilet seat.
apply texture to the hypersensitive and the dulled.
the arm, the hand, the leg, the foot, the face

no one asked, no one ever asked
about inner skin
about silk and touch and stiff

uno dos tres cuatro cinco
all summer at the gym in Havana
all day every day step, step, step
up down open close
my hand clenching, spreading, uncurling
my foot stepping, bending, arching
walking
strongly
on the earth
but no one asked, no one ever asked
do you feel this?

the injured brain forgets the places it’s lost connection with
blank spaces in the atlas, unexplored oceans
find your missing continents, they said
grasp with your hand, put weight on your foot, touch your face
use it or lose it
but no one asked
do you feel this?
or this?
no one said,

pleasure is a lost continent
touch yourself with silk
how is your clitoris today?
use it or lose it.
stroke, stroke, stroke

No one helps me.
I explore the dry places and the wetlands.
Struggle to clench and release muscles that forgot how.
Rub dry sticks trying to raise a spark.

open, close, open, close
tracing the tips of nerves that have been sleeping
hoping they will wake up and remember to be delicious

The hand that dives in is still thick as a novacained cheek.
It cramps on the vibrator.
How do I tell which is numb,
the slick, ridged wall or the finger.
clench and release, clench and release

breath takes me down
breath is a bridge across numbness
closing gaps in the circuits
streaming past burnt neurons
chi dancing naked in the dead places
becomes my instructor
exercise imagination she murmurs,
remember
wet tongue, long finger, velvet cock

breathe them into bound muscle
conjure sensation out of thin air
the imprint of memory
begins restoring the coastline of pleasure
mirages shimmer in the air, forgotten peaks
floating above flesh

breathe them in
breathe them out
become what I have lost
until nothing is missing

stroke

stroke

stroke

stroke

stroke

biter

biter 
by Michelle Tea

i lost the poem
i woke up with.
it was dangerous
something beautiful
about victory
and danger
i woke up with it
spilling into the white
of your room the fat brown towers
of boxes
packed tight
with your whole
life.

the beautiful poem
slipped away
and there you were
sleeping
your magnificent
sleep.

inside the night
i bit you.
why
am i compelled
to act like such a shit
around you, i mean
i like you
a lot.
you kick my ass
with your eyes,
every glance,
wham
i'm struck
yet i can't
stop
chewing your arm
like the excitable puppy
i become
in your presence.

i must confess
i live
for this exquisite
nervousness
rushing like coffee
through all my body's
tunnels.
the luxury
of your hands
at my throat
before sleep.

lucky me,
i get to fall
to sleep
beside
the sun. there she is,
sleeping darkly
like the cat
on the chair,
commanding
unconsciousness
like she commands
attention
in the light.

this girl
is a meal
am i making
that clear
a crescendo
of sleep
keeping me awake
and biting.

Alley Violinist

Alley Violinist 
by Robert Lax

If you were an alley violinist

and they threw you money
from three windows

and the first note contained
a nickel and said:
when you play, we dance and
sing, signed
a very poor family

and the second one contained
a dime and said:
I like your playing very much,
signed
a sick old lady

and the last one contained
a dollar and said:
beat it.

would you:
stand there and play?

beat it?

walk away playing your fiddle?

The Last Words of My English Grandmother

The Last Words of My English Grandmother 
by William Carlos Williams

There were some dirty plates
and a glass of milk
beside her on a small table
near the rank, disheveled bed -

Wrinkled and nearly blind
she lay and snored
rousing with anger in her tones
to cry for food,

Gimme something to eat -
they're starving me -
I'm all right I won't go
to the hospital. No, no, no

Give me something to eat
Let me take you
to the hospital, I said
and after you are well

you can do as you please.
She smiled. Yes
you do what you please first
then I can do what I please -

Oh, oh, oh! she cried
as the ambulance men lifted
her to the stretcher -
Is this what you call

making me comfortable?
By now her mind was clear -
Oh you think you're smart
you young people,

she said, but I'll tell you
you don't know anything.
Then we started.
On the way

we passed a long row
of elms. She looked at them
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,

What are all those
fuzzy-looking things out there?
Trees? Well I'm tired
of them and rolled her head away.