On Friendship | Hagit Grossman

Mar. 23rd, 2017 09:35 pm
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“On Friendship”
Hagit Grossman

If a friend calls out to you late at night from beneath your window
Never send him on his way. And if you’ve sent him away and still
Insist on rigid rules, regain your composure after a moment
And run to the window and shout his name: “Come, Merhav!
Come back! I’ve got some corn cooking! Come eat something.”
And he’ll placidly retrace his steps and gladly accept
The key you toss down from your window,
Will come upstairs to the first floor and will be impressed
By the large pictures on the walls.
He’ll sit and wait for you to slip into a clean shirt and you’ll put on
The movie in the kid’s room and your baby daughter
Will rush to the kitchen and come back with a red pepper for him.
He’ll decline the warm corn and say he’s already had dinner.
In the meantime your husband will chat with him about Tai Chi
And pour him a glass of cold sweet pineapple juice.
You’ll return to the living room
And go out to the balcony and light a cigarette and sip
A cold beer. You don’t yet realize
That this is a sublime moment in your life.
One of the most sublime you’ll ever know.

Translated from the Hebrew by Benjamin Balint

After Long Illness | Ellen Bass

Mar. 22nd, 2017 09:32 pm
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“After Long Illness”
Ellen Bass

My wife calls. She left the eggs
she’d gathered in a small tin pail

and would I bring them in
so the dog doesn’t eat them. Or maybe

he already has. They’re by the shed
where we’re trying to trap the rat

or maybe by the greenhouse.
I walk out in my robe and slippers, crushing

some mint which rewards me
with its sharp identity. And there
is the pail by the coop.
And there are two eggs, cold and whole

with a fleck of wood shaving stuck to one,
as though a child had just begun

to decorate it, maybe making a horse
with a tiny fetlock.
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“Why I Stayed, 1997—2001”
Brenda Shaughnessy

Each time we moved to a new apartment,
and we did three times, I knew
I shouldn’t, that I should

leave while I had the chance, but each
time we moved to a new apartment
we were desperate,

had been kicked out or priced out
and we only had one bed,
no savings, just friends

some of whom knew that you fractured
your hand punching through a wall,
inches from my head,

and some of whom were aware
that you threw things at me
when I said things

you didn’t like, as if my words were
things I threw at you first.
It made sense to you.

I can’t remember the bad things
I said—my self-serving
memory enraged

you, and why not: I always
remembered the bad
things you did.

And, yes, I do remember
everything you threw:
a chair

over our heads at a bar (Liz was
there), a mirror like a frisbee
aimed at my knees,

a carton of fried rice that splat
on the shade of our only
nice lamp, oil stains

patterned it with tiny bugs.
Also, you threw
me against a

wall, but you always said it was because
I made you so mad because
you loved me so much

and didn’t want to lose me
that you’d lose control
instead and later

beg me to stay, that if I left you
it meant you would never
be loved and I couldn’t

bear to have you think that
about either one of us.
I wasn’t someone

who’d let herself be hit; I’d never
take that from a man. A man
would be a criminal

if he did what you did.
But you had been
hurt and all that

pain and anger needed more
time, and I made you so
crazy, I was so

stubborn and good at mean
words, what else were you
supposed to do?

You liked to raise your fist pretending
to hit me and then
half-smile when

I winced or cringed. It was important
that you had never actually hit me,
never punched me

with a closed fist: you’d only grabbed me
and choked me and flung me and made
dents in the wall next to me,

and narrowly missed me, but we knew you
meant to miss, never truly
meant to clobber me

on the head with something heavy,
something light, maybe,
like a book I loved.

When a woman you love hits you
on the head with a book
you love, is that love?

I was so ashamed and afraid someone
would find out about us, then I was
afraid and ashamed

people already knew but didn’t know
what to do. Did I really think
this was a secret?

Not from the cops we called during two bad
fights or from Peggy who let you stay
with her rent-free that month

I kicked you out. You two had a blast.
But I couldn’t pay the rent
on my own,

so you moved back in, triumphant,
Peggy still in love with you,
and you gloated about

how much money you’d saved.
Surrounded by friends,
whom could I tell?

Why would I tell anyone who didn’t
already know us well enough
to already know?

If everyone knew, none of us said so.
We talked, all of us, almost
constantly, intimately,

so how did we keep ourselves so quiet?
You and I, together in this,
were alone with this,

alone among women who loved us.
The two of us never more alone
than when together.
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“A Letter of Recommendation”
Yehuda Amichai

On summer nights I sleep naked
in Jerusalem. My bed
stands on the brink of a deep valley
without rolling down into it.

In the daytime I walk around with the Ten
Commandments on my lips
like an old tune someone hums to himself.

Oh touch me, touch me, good woman!
That’s not a scar you feel under my shirt, that’s
a letter of recommendation, folded up tight,
from my father:
“All the same, he’s a good boy, and full of love.”

I remember my father waking me for early prayers.
He would do it by gently stroking my forehead, not
by tearing away the blanket.

Since then I love him even more.
And as his reward, may he be wakened
gently and with love
on the Day of the Resurrection.

Translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch

Speech | Kazim Ali

Mar. 19th, 2017 09:34 pm
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Kazim Ali

How struck I was by that face, years ago, in the church mural:
Eve, being led by Christ through the broken gates of Hell.

She’s been nominated for the position of Featured Saint
on the Icon of Belief, up against the dark horse candidate—

me: fever-ridden and delirious, a child in Vellore, unfolding
the packet around my neck that I was ordered not to open.

Inside, a folk cure, painted delicately in saffron.
Letters that I could not read.

Why I feel qualified for the position
based on letters I could not read amounts to this:

Neither you nor I can pronounce the difference
between the broken gates and the forbidden letters.

So what reason do we need to believe in icons or saints?
How might we otherwise remember—

without an image to fasten in that lonely place—
the rock on which a Prophet flung himself into fever?

Without an icon or church, spell “gates of Hell.”
Spell “those years ago unfolding.”

Recite to me please all the letters you are not able to read.
Spell “fling yourself skyward.”

Spell “fever.”
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“Different Ways to Pray"
Naomi Shihab Nye

There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,  
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow  
fuse them to the sky.

There were the men who had been shepherds so long  
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,  
and were happy in spite of the pain,  
because there was also happiness.

Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen  
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.  
When they arrived at Mecca  
they would circle the holy places,  
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,  
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,  
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.  
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
     Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.  
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,  
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,  
and was famous for his laugh.
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“Malcolm X, February 1965”
E. Ethelbert Miller

i will die this month. how
i do not know. still there
is much work to be done. i
am afraid not for myself but
for betty and the girls. some
nights i stay awake looking
out the window, a gun in my
hand. i know how cruel people
can be. i have known hatred and
blindness. there are brothers
waiting to do me harm. i will
die for them. i will love them
as only i can. may allah be my

Morning | Leila Chatti

Mar. 16th, 2017 09:35 pm
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Leila Chatti

I take the last grapefruit from the bowl and hold it
to know its weight. The doctor told me
the tumor has grown, is now this size. In my hands,
it feels conquerable, rind giving in to the press
of my thumb, pliable and sweet. A miniature
dimpled sun. I cleave it open and begin
plucking out its seeds. Beside me, a waiting
cup, an empty bowl. I watch as they fill slowly,
cradle morning’s flush of light.

A Walk to Caesaria | Hannah Szenes

Mar. 15th, 2017 09:30 pm
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הליכה לקיסריה 

אלי, אלי, שלא יגמר לעולם
החול והים
רשרוש של המים
ברק השמים
תפילת האדם

“A Walk to Caesaria”
Hannah Szenes

My God, my God, may it be that these things never end:
the sand and the sea
the rush of the waters
the crash of the heavens
the prayers of the heart.

Before | Ada Limón

Mar. 14th, 2017 09:35 pm
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Ada Limón

No shoes and a glossy
red helmet, I rode
on the back of my dad’s
Harley at seven years old.
Before the divorce.
Before the new apartment.
Before the new marriage.
Before the apple tree.
Before the ceramics in the garbage.
Before the dog’s chain.
Before the koi were all eaten
by the crane. Before the road
between us, there was the road
beneath us, and I was just
big enough not to let go:
Henno Road, creek just below,
rough wind, chicken legs,
and I never knew survival
was like that. If you live,
you look back and beg
for it again, the hazardous
bliss before you know
what you would miss.

excerpt from Gabriel | Edward Hirsch

Mar. 13th, 2017 09:38 pm
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excerpt from GabrielEdward Hirsch

Mr. Impulsive walked out of class
When he did not like what the teacher said
It was boring  
Mr. Impulsive scurried out in a storm
Wearing shorts and a wife beater
Soon he was shivering  
The neighbors complained to the landlord
Complained to me but Mr. Impulsive
Could not be bothered to close the gate  
Mr. Impulsive left the house without his keys
I don’t know how many times
He camped out on the front stoop  
One night he convinced a neighbor
To shimmy the lock with a credit card
He was never locked out again  
Mr. Impulsive will not be sleeping at home
He’d rather stay out and crash
Wherever he finds himself at five a.m.  
He could be oddly well-mannered
To the parents of his friends
He was usually welcome  
From the notebook of Mr. Impulsive
It is better to sneak through a side door
Than to wait in line like a sucker  
It is not necessary to get directions
It’s much better to head out right now
Time doesn’t matter  
These were the antics of Mr. Impulsive
Who never knew where he was going
Until he got there
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“Eve Recollecting the Garden”
Grace Bauer

Was it your nakedness
or the knack you had

for naming I learned
to love?  Crow, you whispered

and wings flapped black
as satin in the sky

Bee, and sweetness thickened
on my tongue, Lion

And something roared beneath
the ribs you claimed

you sacrificed.  Our first quarrel
arose about the beast

I thought deserved a nobler tag
Than Dog.  And Orchid–­

a sound more delicate.  Admit it!Dolphin.  Starling.  Antelope

were syllables you stole
from me, and you

were the one who swore
we’d have to taste those blood

red globes of fruit
before we’d find the right word

for that god-forsaken tree.


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