‘American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin’ by Terrance Hayes

I only intend to send word to my future
Self perpetuation is a war against Time
Travel is essentially the aim of any religion
Is blindness the color one sees under water
Breath can be overshadowed in darkness
The benefits of blackness can seem radical
Black people in America are rarely compulsive
Is forbidden the only word God doesn’t know
You have to heal yourself to truly be heroic
You have to think once a day of killing your self
Awareness requires a touch of blindness & self
Importance is the only word God knows
To be free is to live because only the dead are slaves


Source: Hayes, Terrance. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, 2018, p. 79

‘When Adults Talk’ by Mary Ruefle

Broken Lance, Joseph M. Gerace, 2019

I am not even vaguely interested,
though for a quarter I could be.

I was not allowed to move but when my leg went dead
I cheered it on in the first place.

When they whisper they ought to wear a lead vest.
Their lips look like personified oysters.

When they shout it is usually addressed
to the dead body who owned it before us.

We can safely assume one of them is born
every minute of the day.

When my rabbit ran away it was a great relief.
I could not say so—who would understand?—

So I cried for a week.

Source: Ruefle, Mary. “When Adults Talk.” Selected Poems. Seattle: Wave Books, 2011. Print.

‘Shhh’ by Eileen Myles

Shhh

I don’t think
I can afford the time to not sit right down &
write a poem about the heavy lidded
white rose I hold in my hand
I think of snow
a winter night in Boston, drunken waitress
stumble on a bus that careens through
Somerville the end of the line
where I was born, an old man
shaking me. He could’ve been my dad.
You need a ride? Wait, he said.
This flower is so heavy in my hand.
He drove me home in his old blue
Dodge, a thermos next to me,
cigarette packs on the dash
so quiet like Boston is quiet
Boston in the snow. It’s New York
plates are clattering on St. Mark’s
Place. Should I call you?
Can I go home now
& work with this undelivered
message in my fingertips
It’s summer
I love you.
I’m surrounded by snow.

from Eileen Myles’s “I Must Be Living Twice”

“Ballad of the Savage Tiger” by Li He

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No one attacks it with a long lance,
No one plies a strong cross-bow.
Suckling its grandsons, rearing its cubs,
It trains them into savagery.
Its reared head becomes a wall
Its waving tail becomes a banner.
Even Huang from the Eastern Sea,¹
Dreaded to see it after dark,
A righteous tiger, met on the road,²
Was quite enough to upset Niu Ai.
What good is it for that short sword
To hang on the wall, growling like thunder?
When from the foot of Tai mountain
Comes the sound of a woman weeping,
Government regulations forbid
Any official to dare to listen.³

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Notes from The Collected Poems of Li He:

A satire on oppressive government, of which the tiger was the symbol. Caught between the Central Government and the warlords, the people are harassed as though by tigers.

  1. Huang, of Dong-hai, had magical powers which enabled him to control snakes and tigers. Unfortunately for him, he lost these powers through drinking to excess and was eventually killed by a tiger.
  2. The zhou-yu was a white tiger with black markings which appeared only when a state was perfectly governed. It would not tread on grain nor eat living things. Niu Ai was a duke turned were-tiger, who ate his own elder brother. He is pointing out that some tigers are worse than others.
  3. Confucius found a woman weeping at the foot of Mount Tai. Though her whole family had been killed by tigers she refused to leave the district, because there was no oppressive government there. This caused Confucius to remark that an oppressive government was more savage than any tiger.

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More about Li He from The New York Review of Books:

Li He is the bad-boy poet of the late Tang dynasty. He began writing at the age of seven and died at twenty-six from alcoholism or, according to a later commentator, “sexual dissipation,” or both. An obscure and unsuccessful relative of the imperial family, he would set out at dawn on horseback, pause, write a poem, and toss the paper away. A servant boy followed him to collect these scraps in a tapestry bag.

Long considered far too extravagant and weird for Chinese taste, Li He was virtually excluded from the poetic canon until the mid-twentieth century. Today, as the translator and scholar Anne M. Birrell, writes, “Of all the Tang poets, even of all Chinese poets, he best speaks for our disconcerting times.” Modern critics have compared him to Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Keats, and Trakl.

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Source: Li He, Ballad of the Savage Tiger. “The Collected Poems of Li He.” Translated by J.D. Frodsham, New York Review Books, 2016.

 

‘Afro’ by Morgan Parker

from There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

“Da Aforismi e Magie” by Alda Merini

Sono una piccola
ape furibonda.

Confondere la merda
con la cioccolata
é un privilegio delle persone
estremamente colte.

Oguno é amino
della sua
patalogia.

Non parlo mai
se non sono
accesa.

La pistola
che ho puntato alla tempia
si chiama Poesia.

Ogni tibia ama la sua fibula.

Alda Merini
é stanca di ripetere
che é pazza.


Source: FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry: An Anthology. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015. Print. P 492.

 

‘Delirium for the Four Legs of a Love’ by Dimitris Athinakis (trans. Karen Emmerich)

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I see your yesses coming from afar
and my own, like candles,
brandish
and burn
awaiting the centuries

A strong wind
carries off my hat my glasses my tattoo my arm
        carries off
my leg and an eye

       [I'm left there smiling before jets
        gushing the joy of nothingness]

joy —
 it too alone

Stay, if you want, by my side
— even if no one understands us

        [Why let that, too, smother us]

Just let it flow
let time
the wine
the smoke
flow

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Source:

  • Athinakis, Dimitris. “Delirium for the Four Legs of a Love.” Translated by Karen Emmerich. Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry, edited by Karen Van Dyck, New York: New York Review of Books, 2016, p. 11.

Additional reading:

“Primrose” by Patrick Kavanagh

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Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, said I, to find
One small page of Truth’s manuscript made clear.
I looked at Christ transfigured without fear—
The light was very beautiful and kind,
And where the Holy Ghost in flame had signed
I read it through the lenses of a tear.
And then my sight grew dim, I could not see
The primrose that had lighted me to Heaven,
And there was but a shadow of a tree
Ghostly among the stars. The years that pass
Like tired soldiers nevermore have given
Moments to see wonders in the grass.

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Source & further reading:
Kavanagh, Patrick. "Primrose." Collected Poems. New York: W. W. Norton, 1964. Print, p. 75.
Fitts, Dudley. "Loving Evocation of Irish Life." New York Times, 24 August 1947. Web.
Garratt, Robert F., "Patrick Kavanagh and the Killing of the Irish Revival." 
            Colby Library Quarterly, Volume 17, no.3, September 1981. Web.

“The Struggles of Words”, 1928, by Pierre Reverdy

Torment wanders into the light beyond the roof. At midday, without sunlight. The walls are covered with snow, against a gray background. The eye stops and vainly seeks a better path.

They’ve rubbed away the designs that gave life to the crumbling walls. Some words raise themselves affirmatively. And the flood, too high, carries off the shore where the grass smooths the bank into well-combed hair. And while across the bluish rays turbulences whirl and slowly rise, silence falls heavily on the ground, without breaking.

— Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960), trans. Michael Benedikt

“Shocked (8 January 1963)” by Jackson Mac Low

Stunt.

Their groom shocked shock-
ed Police suspended suspensions though
     good Shocked thrown two shocked shock-
ed Police suspended suspensions though
     good shocked Chief two shock-
ed that though Shocked their groom shocked
     the two force,
Shocked The two shocked drank coffee relaxed.

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Source: Mac Low, Jackson. Thing of Beauty: New and Selected Works. Ed. Anne Tardos. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 2009. Page 112. Print.