Five Branch Tree
--Zitkála-ŠáLike tiny drops of crystal rain,In every life the moments fall,To wear away with silent beat,The shell of selfishness o’er all.And every act, not one too small,That leaps from out the heart’s pure glow,Like ray of gold sends forth a light,While moments into seasons flow.Athwart the dome, Eternity,To Iris grown resplendent, flyBright gleams from every noble deed,Till colors with each other vie.’Tis glimpses of this grand rainbow,Where moments with good deeds unite,That gladden many weary hearts,Inspiring them to seek more Light.
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…Dante’s Commedia, too, beginsnot in hell but on earth: that famous dark wood,not a garden of delights, not at all, but a kindof garden nevertheless, and thatan arrival in Paradise might well takethe form, as in that remarkable finalshot of Tarkovsky’s Solaris, ofa return to Earth, a real Earth ora reconstructed Earth, an imaginedgarden or a painted garden, or simplythe garden where you were born. The leafyglobe, perhaps, that we see when the triptychis closed. It is the earth that is ours,and Dante’s cosmic love, though it movesthe stars that track their paths through the skies,is a leafy thing, a fleshly thing,a thing of the soil, a thing that demandsto be lived out on this surface, on the faceof this terrestrial sphere, this localunheavenly orb, this, our planet,our neighborhood, if, that isto say, it is to be lived at all.”--from “The Garden of Earthly Delights”; Troy Jollimore
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--Blanca Varela (trans. by Carlos Lara)flowers everywhereand just now I found them by listeningflowers for the earslow silent hastenedflowersfor the earwalking toward the streetbeing jackhammered apartI felt the horror of springof many flowersblooming in the airand closingwith many echoescurly black petalstrailingto the edge of the seashorenewly openedI know that one of these daysI will end in the mouth of some flower
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--Anis MojganiSometimes when you start to rambleor rather when you feel you are starting to rambleyou will say Well, now I’m ramblingthough I don’t think you ever are.And if you ever are I don’t really care.And not just because I and everyone reallyat times falls into our own unspooling—which really I think is a beautiful softnessof being human, trying to show someone elsethe color of all our threads, wanting another to knoweverything in us we are trying to to show them—but in the specific,in the specific of youhere in this car that you are drivingand in which I am sitting beside youwith regards to youand your specific mouthparting to give wayto the specific sweetness that isthe water of your voicetumbling forth—like I saidI don’t ever really mindhow much moreyou might keep speakingas it simply meansI get to hear youspeak for longer.What was a streamnow a river.
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No shadows here, only mud.
Praise the caked-up trowel, hand rake,
and grass scissor. I want to kiss each crumble
of sunbaked earth as my sons welcome iris
and drunk ants whirl-rush over each juicy peony bud.
After warm rains come the spring peepers shivering
out of the mud and sitting half in, half out of a puddle.
You must know the bees have come early
this year too: I see them visit aster, sweet Williams,
bleeding hearts, and azalea blossoms hardy enough
to not have crisped with the last late frost. Whatever light
bees give off after the last snow, I hold up to you now.
I cannot explain the click-step of beetles.
You are on your own for that. I grew up with patience
for soil and stars. Lace and pyrite. I believe
in an underworld littered with gems.
In another life, I have to. Sometimes I lose track
of all the bees and their singing.
You thought I said stinging.
Maybe you’re right: let us stop explaining.I know those ants too — soonthey’ll slurp caves into the handful of applesthat come on the pipsqueak tree out back,or scurry dizzy on the sugarglazing the sweetest bean I’ve ever tasted,the beans themselves tonguingthrough the spent cherry bush.Terrified as I am — and I am —the bumblebees furrow the pursedand purple lips of false indigofor the dusty blushand I want to go make a hallelujahof my own simple body. Not to mentionthe cup plants just coming up out backcan hold mouthfuls of wetdespite the months-long drought.All is never lost.Some of what remainsof my father swims amidst the breathingroots of the plum tree. You could almostsee him look out from the leaves’ stomatain spring, or his fingerprints pressed intothe delicate whorls of the young bark.And when the tree makes its firstfruit next year, or the next,it won’t only be in dreamshe’s back. I think I too will beso lucky some day. Some day,I think, so too will you be.— RG
--from Letters from Two Gardens, Ross Gay and Join Aimee
No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color's green. I'm spring.
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Today my heart is so goddamned fat with grief
that I’ve begun hauling it in a wheelbarrow. No. It’s an anvil
dragging from my neck as I swim
through choppy waters swollen with the putrid corpses of hippos,
which means lurking, somewhere below, is the hungry
snout of a croc waiting to spin me into an oblivion
worse than this run-on simile, which means only to say:
I’m sad. And everyone knows what that means.
And in my sadness I’ll walk to a café,
and not see light in the trees, nor finger the bills in my pocket
as I pass the boarded houses on the block. No,
I will be slogging through the obscure country of my sadness
in all its monotone flourish, and so imagine my surprise
when my self-absorption gets usurped
by the sound of opera streaming from an open window,
and the sun peeks ever-so-slightly from behind his shawl,
and this singing is getting closer, so that I can hear the
delicately rolled r’s like a hummingbird fluttering the tongue
which means a language more beautiful than my own,
and I don’t recognize the song
though I’m jogging toward it and can hear the woman’s
breathing through the record’s imperfections and above me
two bluebirds dive and dart and a rogue mulberry branch
leaning over an abandoned lot drags itself across my face,
staining it purple and looking, now, like a mad warrior of glee
and relief I run down the street, and I forgot to mention
the fifty or so kids running behind me, some in diapers,
some barefoot, all of them winged and waving their pacifiers
and training wheels and nearly trampling me
when in a doorway I see a woman in slippers and a floral housedress
blowing in the warm breeze who is maybe seventy painting
and friends, it is not too much to say
it was heaven sailing from her mouth and all the fish in the sea
and giraffe saunter and sugar in my tea and the forgotten angles
of love and every name of the unborn and dead
from this abuelita only glancing at me
before turning back to her earnest work of brushstroke and lullaby
and because we all know the tongue’s clumsy thudding
makes of miracles anecdotes let me stop here
and tell you I said thank you.
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--Gerald Locklinif you don’t look closely atthe rings of the branches,it could be by anyone.well, anyone who was amongthe greatest painters of thecentury: matisse, perhaps.anyone who had studiedprints from the japanese.anyone who loved light,and living things.anyone who believed inthe rebirth of nature,the seasons of existence,the blossoming of the creative.anyone who hadabsorbed the centuries,had mastered his techniquesand from whose eyesthe scales had fallen.
Gerald Locklin: “I turn 60 in 2001, and most of my time is taken up teaching, writing, corresponding, swimming laps, or walking the dog. I think it’s probably a bad idea for poets to aspire to be interesting. Simplify, simplify!”
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In memory of Gerald Locklin (1941-2021)--Clint MargraveNobody is more surprised than he is.First of all, Toad doesn't believe in heaven,and secondly, even if he did,he never expected to visit.In fact, he's minorly disappointed.Has he failed to achieve the properlydebauched life he so often courted?But the food tastes good.And you can drink all the frothy beer you wantand never have to go the bathroom.The salads are made just the way he likes them too,with lots of crunchy iceberg lettuceand a good Roquefort dressing.(But who is he kidding?Nobody eats salads here.)At least there aren't any pearly gates,or saints with haloes,just a dive bar with a few pretty angels.They even have a poetry night!And though the audience is deadand the open mic literally goes on forever,this time it isn't annoying,but filled with names like Dante and Homerand Shakespeare and Szymborska..."Hello Toad," says his old pal Bukowski,who approaches the bar and pulls up a stool."Good to see you again, Hank," says Toad,as they clink their glasses and take a drink,not to their health, but ours.
--Gerald Locklinthe horoscope this morningreally put me on my guard,sent the adrenalin coursingthrough my veins,as it predicted a crucial confrontationthat would require all the will andingenuity that i could muster …until i remembered i was looking ata week-old student newspaper.
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--Rowan Ricardo Phillips
I mean, the only zone I think I might
Know, and by ‘know’ I mean ‘this thing hasn’t
Quite killed me yet’ is the triumph of song.
All my poems mean that, I think, really —
This is the edge of my observable
Universe: I can’t see what does not sing,
Or what I have not coaxed notes from out of
Thin air. Like the first time I must have heard
Strawberry Fields Forever. I was twelve
And cupped the soft black sponges to my ears
While sitting cross-legged on a friend’s twin bed
As the janky copy of the cassette
Copied over my memory of where
I was, with whom I was, and even who
I was. All I remember is the song,
All that confident lack of confidence,
Which is what making art is really like.
The dark blood zoning forward and backward
In the brain, the heart like grass in a bowl,
And the burning horizon’s sharp swagger
All of it part physics, part faith, part void.
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--Rowan Ricardo PhillipsThis night sky won’t always have a meaning,Won’t always mean something it’s meant before,For if it did it would always be butMerest meaning, and how then would I knowMyself from any other self, my selfBeached at the sea of my soul, as it turnsTo sing back to this star-seized evening that’sUnreeling and unreals like Paradise?
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--Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Walking across the PCH, we looked
Up and saw, big as the butt of a pen,
Jupiter, fat with light and unheighted.
I looked back at the waiting traffic stalled
At the seaside road’s salt-rimmed traffic lights
As they swayed to the Pacific’s not-quite-
Anapestic song of sea and air —
The raw and sudden crick of crickets —
The cars, suddenly silent as cows —
And blue Malibu blackening like a bee.
A poem is a view of the Pacific
And the Pacific, and the Pacific
Taking in its view of the Pacific,
And the Pacific as the Pacific
(Just like that: as though there’s no Pacific)
Ends. A poem is the palm of the ocean,
Closing. It or she or he is merely,
Which means it or she or he is a mar.
But a mar made up of temperament and
Tempo — the red weather in the heart.
I’m about to get this all wrong, I know:
Santa Monica behind me, the ocean
To my left, Jupiter high above me,
And Malibu somewhere in my mind, flecked
With mist and dusk and Dylan and strange grays
In the sunsets that stripe the seaside hills
Like the tricolor of a country made
Of beauty, the dream of beauty, and smog.
Sadly, in my mind it’s always snowing;
Which is beautiful but austere, unlike here.
Along the thin pedestrian passage
Beside the PCH, just off Sunset,
Mel Gibson chants of beginnings and ends
And lies and facts — Jews and Blacks being
Both the lies and facts. His face is ruddy
Like bruschetta. He storms at the police
Because fuck them. He’s wearing his T-shirt
Like a toga. He schools them his toga
Wisdom from toga times. He offers them
His toga. They offer him a ride — .
Arun’s car carried us like metaphor
In a poem or painting; moving meaning;
Moving the current; being the current;
The terse tug of tides: still the great glamour;
Still, even as we speed on the 110,
The music in my head, the Jupiter
Of the mind’s unstemmed Pacific Ocean
As it unfurls in the vapor trail of
Malibu, fragrant in far-off fluorescents,
Like a nocturnal flower calling you.
Then, Downtown LA and LA Live surged
Up, like marginalia on a newly
Turned page, spangled with bland suggestions,
Fiery accusations of its own
Brilliance that descend into indifference.
We speed nearer and it grows. We veer and
It grows. We park and it grows. Close your eyes.
Now look. And it has grown. Yo la quiero.
But I should know better, if just because
You can smell the injustice in the air.
The Pacific encircles me. Slowly.
As though it doesn’t trust me. Or, better
Said, I only understand it this way:
By feeling like a stranger at its blue
Door. The poet with the sea stuck in his
Enjambments can’t call out to some Cathay
As though some Cathay exists and be glad.
No, the differences we have should be felt
And made, through that feeling, an eclipsed lack;
A power to take in what you can’t take back.
The old hocus of this ocean’s focus
On pulling its waves over the soft surf
Like a skin pulled down tight over the top
Of a drum was, to her, a new hocus.
We stared out with her, out toward Hokusai’s
Tiny boats and rising lace-fringed sea swells
No chunk of haiku could think to charter.
It was like the eighth day of creation
In the eighth line of a poem — she sang,
She didn’t sing, the sea sang, then stopped.
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Poetry shining summit of the universe
Even your mortal attire is charming
Ancient things of flesh and sinew
Living beings with their earthly fate
Shadows now nailed down with a clear and fixed sign
Typefaces transubstantiation of infinite mysteries
Alphabets letters dentelles batistes bows
Ornaments of the naked idea
Je m’abîme dans ce fouillis de tiédeurs charnelles
I breathe the rich odors of your secrets
I kiss your golden scarves that are but a small part of your great body
Old cosmopolitan satyr of future mythologies
Voilà I possess you completely
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Mysteries mysteries on sale cheap
Paid for with 24 hours of youth per day
Joy beauty miseries
Dissolved in the depths of harmonies
In the cubic vat minute by minute
Just open the crystal vials and magic spells will smother you
Pull aside the curtain
Facing the street that rises and falls
The twilight that festers in the white basin
Smokestacks towers chimneys stars
Cities of Europe deep in the night
And trains speeding through lit up like theaters trains laden with nostalgia
All the earth comes to rest
Halcyon bird tired of flying
Unfurled like a flag over our hearts
--from Atelier, Ardengo Soffici
--Ardengo Soffici (trans. by Olivia E. Sears)
Dip 7 brushes into your heart that was 36 years old yesterday April 7th
And touch up that face worn down by the passing seasons
You’ve ridden life like a nickel-plated carousel mermaid
From city to city from philosophy to frenzy
From love to passion from royalty to poverty
There isn’t a church movie theater newsroom or bar that you don’t know
You’ve slept in every family’s bed
There should be a carnival
Of all the sorrows
Forgotten along with umbrellas in the cafés of Europe
Gone in a cloud of smoke with handkerchiefs in the sleeping cars of express trains
heading north or south
There are voices that follow you everywhere like the moon or a dog
But also the whistle of a smokestack
That mixes up the colors of the morning
And of dreams
No, you won’t forget the fragrance of certain nights drowned in armpits of topaz
These cold narcissus that I keep on the table by the inkwell
Were painted on the walls of Room 19 of the Hôtel des Anglais in Rouen
A train was rambling along the quay late at night
Beneath our window
Beheading the reflections of multicolored lanterns
Among casks of Sicilian wine
And the Seine was a garden of blazing flags
There is no more time
Is a twilight worm coiled in a drop of phosphorus
Everything is present
Just as in 1902 you’re in a garret in Paris
Sheltered by 35 square centimeters of sky
Melting across the glass of the skylight
La Ville offers you again each morning
The flowering bouquet of Square de Cluny
From Boulevard Saint-Germain bursting with trams and buses
The evening arrives with the hoarse cry of the paperboy
On Rue de la Harpe
Pari-cûrses L’Intransigeant La Presse
The shoe store Chaussures Raoul still rivals the stars
And I rub my hands stained with the liquors of sunset
Like that time I thought about suicide near Rigoletto’s house
Yes my friend
The fortunate man knows how to live with uncertainty like the flowers
Look at that gentleman strolling past
As he lights his cigar proud of his manly vigor
Restored by the page-four spreads in the daily papers
Or that cavalryman galloping through the indigo darkness of his barracks
A sprig of lilac between his teeth
Eternity shines in the flight of a housefly
Place the colors of your eyes side by side
And draw your own arc
History is as fleeting as a nod at the train station
And the tricolor automobile of the sun keeps breaking its own record pointlessly amid the used machinery of the cosmos
You remember along with a kiss planted in darkness
The window of a German bookshop in Avenue de l’Opéra
And the goat grazing on yellow broom
Among the ruined stairs of the palace of Darius at Persepolis
You need only look around
And write as you dream
To revive the face of our joy
I remember all the climates that caressed my skin like a lover
All the countries and cultures
Shining on my desire
Carmine of Bombay burnt gold of Iran
Whose hieroglyph I carry on this black wing
Sunflower soul the phenomenon converges here in the center of this dance
But the most beautiful song is still that of the naked senses
Silence music of the south
Here and in the world circular poetry
Today marries always
In the crown of the rising rainbow
I sit at my table and I smoke and stare
A young leaf is trilling in the garden before me
White doves flutter through the air like love letters thrown from the window
I know the symbol the code the electrical
The attraction of faraway things
But we’ll need fruit and lights and crowds
To festoon this Easter with miracles
The day sinks into the scarlet basin of summer
And there are no more words
For that bridge of fire and jewels
Youth you’ll pass like the end of every play
Tant pis Never mind I’ll make myself a magnificent suit out of old posters
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--Stevie SmithIn the flame of the flickering fireThe sins of my soul are fewAnd the thoughts in my head are the thoughts of a bedWith a solitary view.But the eye of eternal consciousnessMust blink as a bat blinks brightOr ever the thoughts in my head be stilledOn the brink of eternal night.Oh feed to the golden fish his eggWhere he floats in his captive bowl,To the cat his kind from the womb born blind,And to the Lord my soul.
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--Stevie SmithI walked abroad in Easter Park,I heard the wild dog's distant bark,I knew my Lord was risen again, -Wild dog, wild dog, you bark in vain.
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After reading Dr Rieu’s translation of St Mark’s Gospel.
Who is this that comes in splendour, coming from the blazing East?
This is he we had not thought of, this is he the airy Christ.
Airy, in an airy manner in an airy parkland walking,
Others take him by the hand, lead him, do the talking.
But the Form, the airy One, frowns an airy frown,
What they say he knows must be, but he looks aloofly down,
Looks aloofly at his feet, looks aloofly at his hands,
Knows they must, as prophets say, nailèd be to wooden bands.
As he knows the words he sings, that he sings so happily
Must be changed to working laws, yet sings he ceaselessly.
Those who truly hear the voice, the words, the happy song,
Never shall need working laws to keep from doing wrong.
Deaf men will pretend sometimes they hear the song, the words,
And make excuse to sin extremely; this will be absurd.
Heed it not. Whatever foolish men may do the song is cried
For those who hear, and the sweet singer does not care that he was crucified.
For he does not wish that men should love him more than anything
Because he died; he only wishes they would hear him sing.
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--Michael Joseph Walsh
You can grow some things,
whether you want them or not.
The air that surrounds us here we call music,
the force of which is old, and full of life.
It imagines us here, and finds pleasure in the shape of our wound.
The door is open, and above and about
the common flowers the adventure of prolonging
other logics spreads weakly in two directions.
To this I give myself, and it heals me,
reinfects me with the shape of this place.
I sleep, I form opinions. When it rises to the surface of the mind,
........I greet the sun.
How otherwise should I have devised this dance of omission?
To falter before the building,
to fall over every inch of it.
And thus the music lives
the ghosts wind up the spirit;
shortcuts to pleasure, wounded springs.
But what happens tomorrow will change all that,
like a diamond left out in the cold.
And yet I would, if you wished,
tear a hole in this fabric we've made,
and so distend the earth,
and grow drunk on our non-continuance. The cipher burns
slowly the thing it pleases,
and this is knowing, but like the heart not knowing quite how.
The waves breathe long, and the smell of earth
in the half-shade points to a sex that would be myriad,
and shimmer, and derive from touch
what in stillness will come to pass—
here where the wind blows, and a body lives,
and where the grasses that are not dead
will tell the story of what that means.
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Maybe there’s no need for us to go anywhere more far than here,
said the dogwood leaves, mistaking speech
for song, to the catalpa leaves, imitating silence. It was like
sex when, push the tenderness to either side of it, it’s
just sex; hardly sex at all . . . Hardly worth mentioning,
except forgetting seems so much a shame, lately, and why
shouldn’t there be records, however small, of our having
felt something without for once having to name it, I know
what my dirt is, as if that were enough, might well
even have to be, to have moved mostly with the best
intentions, at least, before we stopped, that’s
all that happens, I think; we stop moving forever.
from Giant Night--Anne WaldmanAwake in a giant nightis where I amThere is a river where my soul,hungry as a horse drinks beside meAn hour of immense possibility flies byand I do nothing but sit in the presentwhich keeps changing moment to momentHow can I tell you my mind is a blanket?It is an amazing story you won’t believeand a beautiful landwhere something is always doing in the barnsespecially in autumnSliding down the hayrick!By March the sun is lingering and the land turns wetBrooks grow loudThe eddies fill with green scumCrocuses lift their heads to say helloSoon it is good to be plantingBy then the woods are overflowingwith dogwood, redbud, hickory, red and white oaks,hazelnut bushes, violets, jacks-in-the-pulpit,skunk cabbages, pawpaws and May appleswhose names thrill you because you can name them!There are quail and rabbits too—but I go on too longLike the animal, I must stop by the water’s edgeto have a drink and think things over
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