mercifulserpent: (Default)
"Coming and Going"
Tony Hoagland

My marriage ended in an airport long ago.
I was not wise enough to cry while looking for my car,

walking through the underground garage;
jets were roaring overhead, and if I had been wise

I would have looked up at those heavy-bellied cylinders
and seen the wheelchairs and the frightened dogs inside;

the kidneys bedded in dry ice and Styrofoam containers.
I would have known that in synagogues and churches all over
town

couples were gathering like flocks of geese
getting ready to take off, while here the jets were putting down

their gear, getting ready for the jolt, the giant tires
shrieking and scraping off two

long streaks of rubber molecules,
that might have been my wife and I, screaming in our fear.

It is a matter of amusement to me now,
me staggering around that underground garage,

trying to remember the color of my vehicle,
unable to recall that I had come by cab--

eventually gathering myself and going back inside,
quite matter-of-fact,

to get the luggage
I would be carrying for the rest of my life.
mercifulserpent: (Default)

I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.

Infinitely will I trust nature's instincts and promptings, but I will not call my own perversions nature.

Each receives but that which is his own returning.
Each hears but that which is the echo of his own call.
Each feels but that which has eaten into his own heart.

I do not bemoan misfortune. To me there is no misfortune. I welcome whatever comes; I go out gladly to meet it.

It is no stigma to wear rags; the disgrace is in continuing to wear them.

Say not that this or that thing came to thwart you; it only came to test you.

There is hope for that genius who must overcome poverty, but there is almost none for that one who must overcome wealth.

The Aeolian must be in your breast, else the winds are in vain.

A great work demands a great sacrifice, and who is not capable of a great sacrifice is not capable of great work.

The earth shall yet surrender to him, and the fates shall do his will, who marches on, though the promised land proved to be but a mirage and the day of deliverance was cancelled. The gods shall yet anoint him, and the morning stars shall sing.

Not alone for that which is mine will I rejoice, but for that which has been withheld, which was coveted and longed for but denied, for I am what I am for having had to rise superior to the need.

His to rejoice with exceeding great joy who plucks the fruit of his planting, but his the divine anointing who watched and waited and toiled and prayed,—and failed,—and can yet be glad.

I would travel in all climes that I might return and tell you of the beauty of my own little garden plot.
I would explore heaven and hell that I might come back and tell you what a charming place is the earth.

Wishing will bring things in the degree that it incites you to go after them.

If the populace marched in file, 'twere my signal to break from the ranks.
If a thousand generations did thus and so, 'twere my cue to do otherwise.

I longed to build as you had builded, but I knew that your joy lay in the conception of your own design.
I longed to follow where your feet had trod, but I had watched your exhilaration as you felled a new way.
I longed to do that thing you did and be that thing you are, but I knew life's fulness was yours because you were yourself.

Let my grave be unmarked; I fear not to be forgotten.

Better than tiaras—the diadem of freedom.
Better than broad acres—a garden of heartsease.
Better than mines of gold—a mint of dreams.
Better than bars of molten silver—the silver of a laugh.
Better than strings of pearls—the crystal of a tear.
Better than bands of choristers—a lute in the soul.

I am life's mystery,—and I alone am its solution.
I am the dreamer of dreams,—and I am dreams come true.
I am the supplicant,—and I am the god that answers prayers.


Originally published in The Open Court, Vol XVII (No. 8), August, 1903

mercifulserpent: (Default)

Sometimes




Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

by Sheenagh Pugh

Good Day

Feb. 13th, 2014 03:56 pm
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Yesterday, I spent 60 dollars on groceries,
took the bus home,
carried both bags with two good arms back to my studio apartment
and cooked myself dinner.
You and I may have different definitions of a good day.
This week, I paid my rent and my credit card bill,
worked 60 hours between my two jobs,
only saw the sun on my cigarette breaks
and slept like a rock.
Flossed in the morning,
locked my door,
and remembered to buy eggs.
My mother is proud of me.
It is not the kind of pride she brags about at the golf course.
She doesn’t combat topics like, ”My daughter got into Yale”
with, “Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs”
But she is proud.
See, she remembers what came before this.
The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,
how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.
She thought each phone call from an unknown number was the notice of my suicide.
These were the bad days.
My life was a gift that I wanted to return.
My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.
Depression, is a good lover.
So attentive; has this innate way of making everything about you.
And it is easy to forget that your bedroom is not the world,
That the dark shadows your pain casts is not mood-lighting.
It is easier to stay in this abusive relationship than fix the problems it has created.
Today, I slept in until 10,
cleaned every dish I own,
fought with the bank,
took care of paperwork.
You and I might have different definitions of adulthood.
I don’t work for salary, I didn’t graduate from college,
but I don’t speak for others anymore,
and I don’t regret anything I can’t genuinely apologize for.
And my mother is proud of me.
I burned down a house of depression,
I painted over murals of greyscale,
and it was hard to rewrite my life into one I wanted to live
But today, I want to live.
I didn’t salivate over sharp knives,
or envy the boy who tossed himself off the Brooklyn bridge.
I just cleaned my bathroom,
did the laundry,
called my brother.
Told him, “it was a good day.
Kait Rokowski (A Good Day)
mercifulserpent: (Default)



The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.

The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.

The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.

Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”

No offense.


Read more... )

mercifulserpent: (Default)

In late August when the streams dry up



and the high meadows turn parched and blond,

bears are squeezed out of the mountains
down into the valley of condos and housing developments.

All residents are therefore prohibited
from putting their garbage out early.

The penalty for disobedience will be
bears: large black furry fellows

drinking from your sprinkler system,
rolling your trashcans down your lawn,

bashing through the screen door of the back porch to get their
first real taste of a spaghetti dinner,

while the family hides in the garage
and the wife dials 1-800-BEARS on her cell phone,

a number she just made up
in a burst of creative hysteria.

Isn't that the way it goes?
Wildness enters your life and asks

that you invent a way to meet it,
and you run in the opposite direction

as the bears saunter down Main Street
sending station wagons crashing into fire hydrants,

getting the police department to phone
for tranquilizer guns,

the dart going by accident into the
neck of the unpopular police chief,

who is carried into early retirement
in an ambulance crowned with flashing red lights,

as the bears inherit the earth,
full of water and humans and garbage,

which looks to them like paradise.
mercifulserpent: (Default)


Pole Dancer // Andrea Gibson



She pole dances to Gospel hymns
Came out to her family in the middle of Thanksgiving grace.
I knew she was trouble
two years before our first date.
But my heart was a Labrador Retriever
with its head hung out the window of a car
tongue flapping in the wind
on a highway going 95
whenever she walked by.

So I mastered the art of crochet
and I crocheted her a winter scarf
and one night at the bar I gave it to her with a note
that said something like,
I hope this keeps your neck warm.
If it doesn't give me a call.

The key to finding love
is fucking up the pattern on purpose
is skipping a stitch,
is leaving a tiny, tiny hole to let the cold in
and hoping she mends it with your lips.

This morning I was counting her freckles.
She has five on the left side of her face, seven on the other
and I love her for every speck of trouble she is.
She's frickin' awesome.
Like popcorn at a drive-in movie
that neither of us has any intention of watching.
Like Batman and Robin
in a pick-up truck in the front row with the windows steamed up.
Like Pacman in the eighties,
she swallows my ghosts.

Slaps me on my dark side and says,
"Baby, this is the best day ever."
So I stop listening for the sound of the ocean
in the shells of bullets I hoped missed us
to see there are white flags from the tips of her toes
to her tear ducts
and I can wear her halos as handcuffs
'cause I don't wanna be a witness to this life,
I want to be charged and convicted,
ear lifted to her song like a bouquet of yes
because my heart is a parachute that has never opened in time
and I wanna fuck up that pattern,
leave a hole where the cold comes in and fill it every day with her sun,
'cause anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
knows it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go.

And I want to grow
strong as the last patch of sage on a hillside
stretching towards the lightning.
God has always been an arsonist.
Heaven has always been on fire.
She is a butterfly knife bursting from a cocoon in my belly.
Love is a half moon hanging above Baghdad
promising to one day grow full,
to pull the tides through our desert wounds
and fill every clip of empty shells with the ocean.
Already there is salt on my lips.

Lover, this is not just another poem.
This is my goddamn revolt.
I am done holding my tongue like a bible.
There is too much war in every verse of our silence.
We have all dug too many trenches away from ourselves.

This time I want to melt like a snowman in Georgia,
'til my smile is a pile of rocks you can pick up
and skip across the lake of your doubts.

Trust me,
I have been practicing my ripple.
I have been breaking into mannequin factories
and pouring my pink heart into their white paint.
I have been painting the night sky upon the inside of doorframes
so only moonshine will fall on your head in the earthquake.
I have been collecting your whispers and your whiplash
and your half-hour-long voice mail messages.
Lover, did you see the sunset tonight?
Did you see Neruda lay down on the horizon?
Do you know it was his lover who painted him red,
who made him stare down the bullet holes
in his country's heart?

I am not looking for roses.
I want to break like a fever.
I want to break like the Berlin Wall.
I want to break like the clouds
so we can see every fearless star,
how they never speak guardrail,
how they can only say fail.

mercifulserpent: (Default)



Near the book a notebook
near the notebook a glass
near the glass a child
in the child's hand a cat.
And far away stars stars.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Wait
by Galway Kinnell



Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

mercifulserpent: (Default)
Unusable Elegy // Zachary Harris

Sometimes the living make us very sad. This is not an unusual condition.

There is a fine bronze threaded through the pears and butter. I am sad

for this bronze. I am sad when I watch Bea Arthur on television. Once

I saw a dead fish, unblemished, half-buried in the mud on the lip of a

pond. I mistook it for a knife, and I was sad first for the fish, and sad

second for myself, who so easily lapsed into the sinister. I am sad when

Bea slips on a beaded caftan the color of a nightcat because now that

caftan is empty and guileless. There is a certain way in which the sunset

directs the light in my third-floor walk-up. I am sad to have to pick up

these pieces. Bea eats cheesecake, and I am sad first for her because

no one should eat that much cheesecake, and sad second for myself,

for having none. It makes me sad to read Oliver Twist because I have

often felt orphaned. There is a way in which everyone is an orphan.

Bea is going out on a date. She kisses her smallish mother goodnight,

opens the door, and sees that there are no stars.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
When I woke up, it was the middle of the night and
my building was on fire. The hallway was not filled
with smoke, and then quickly it was. I rescued a few
older men from their bathtubs, a few babies from
their cribs. Outside, the air was filled with hair.
Everyone but me was holding a plastic cage with a
cat in it. We weren’t supposed to have cats in my
building, but there they all were, an invisible nation
suddenly uncurtained into a blinding and brutal
world. Everyone looked at me with a face that said
let’s never speak of this. Let’s not look directly at what
is meant to be loved in secret. Let’s, for example,
imagine the sea is always, constantly, and forever
spilling toward us, that our screaming building is
something worth escaping.

Zachary Schomburg
mercifulserpent: (Default)

My sweetheart says I can no longer watch the news.
You worry too much. And he is right. My fear is a drilling.
Constant. Bloodthick. That girl in the suitcase,
that wife in the river, that woman in the elevator needed me.

I worry too much, it is my right. My fear is a drilling,
a songless bird perched upon my shoulder.
That wife in the river, that woman in the elevator needed me.
But I have three girls of my own, they are mine mine mine

and the songless bird perched upon my shoulder
watches over them, my sweet little Gretels who follow me home,
these three girls who are mine mine mine
gobble up my heart like a hunk of bread. When men

see them, my dear little Gretels, they follow me home.
When there is a knock at the door, I stash my darlings in a cupboard.
They come to gobble up my girls like hunks of bread. Men
line up like ants to take them away, to carry them home.

When there is a knock at my door, I hide my darlings inside a cupboard
like bowls of sugar. When they sleep, I wrap them in kite strings,
line them up like ants so no one can take them and carry them home.
They clutch their dolls and all night long they wish for boys

like bowls of sugar. As they sleep, I hold them like kite strings.
Constant. Bloodthick. That girl in the suitcase,
clutched her doll and all night long wished she'd been a boy.
It is why my sweetheart says I can no longer watch the news.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
I Could Not Tell
- Sharon Olds

I could not tell I had jumped off that bus,
that bus in motion, with my child in my arms,
because I did not know it. I believed my own story:
I had fallen, or the bus had started up
when I had one foot in the air.

I would not remember the tightening of my jaw,
the irk that I’d missed my stop, the step out
into the air, the clear child
gazing about her in the air as I plunged
to one knee on the street, scraped it, twisted it,
the bus skidding to a stop, the driver
jumping out, my daughter laughing
Do it again.

I have never done it
again, I have been very careful.
I have kept an eye on that nice young mother
who lightly leapt
off the moving vehicle
onto the stopped street, her life
in her hands, her life’s life in her hands.
mercifulserpent: (Default)

And with the camps came extremely significant designations and

distinctions that are with us to this very day: “What camp were
you in?”  Or as my great-grandchildren in the next century will
say: “What camp were they in?”

—Lawson Fusao Inada, Legends from Camp

There’s no place like home.
—Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

1.

My grandmother remembered little about Minidoka
because her husband remembered it for them both—
fabricating home from splintered timber and
a lingering taste of horses.  She remembered life
before the war—dancing with her husband
in hay-filled barns, fearless walks across
meadow and township, through forests deep
with greedy tigers, through Chinatown.
After the war, she rebuilt her family in that house
brimming with shadows, the forgotten odor
of livestock.  After her husband died, she reread
old newspapers in the dim light of her living
room, she gazed at outlines of barbed wire
just beyond her curtains.

2.

My father remembers Minidoka differently—
I remember it all wrong, he says, then explains
how the crows kept him awake, their sorrow
drizzling through morning.  When the wolf loped
into camp, my father climbed on its back, rode it
through laundry lines, his fingers digging into fur
reeking of brimstone.  He battled hordes of rats
in the hollyhocks, drove them out of gardens
and into fissures beneath other families’ barracks.
The memories I have are all that I have,
my father says.  They’re just memories—
flocks of sheep devoured hillsides
like earthbound clouds, the hills
caught fire and set the sky ablaze for days,
the children were set to play
cat’s cradle only to find they had no thumbs,
all they had were hooves.

3.

When I visited Minidoka, all that remained
was a scar—that debris of family reclaimed
by the earth, that rubble of guard towers
left like broken mousetraps in the remote
curves of the yard.  My grandfather’s great hands
are buried out somewhere in the thistles.
My father’s childhood lies overrun
by knotweed because this is all we have—
the landscape is coated with a black sheen
of memory.  The land feels nothing.
mercifulserpent: (Default)

1. I told you that I was a roadway of potholes, not safe to cross. You said nothing, showed up in my driveway wearing rollerskates.


2. The first time I asked you on a date, after you hung up, I held the air between our phones against my ear and whispered, “You will fall in love with me. Then, just months later, you will fall out. I will pretend the entire time that I don’t know it’s coming.”

3. Once, I got naked and danced around your bedroom, awkward and safe. You did the same. We held each other without hesitation and flailed lovely. This was vulnerability foreplay.

4. The last eight times I told you I loved you, they sounded like apologies.

5. You recorded me a CD of you repeating, “You are beautiful.” I listened to it until I no longer thought in my own voice.

6. Into the half-empty phone line, I whispered, “We will wake up believing the worst in each other. We will spit shrapnel at each other’s hearts. The bruises will lodge somewhere we don’t know how to look for and I will still pretend I don’t know it's coming.”

7. You photographed my eyebrow shapes and turned them into flashcards: mood on one side, correct response on the other. You studied them until you knew when to stay silent.

8. I bought you an entire bakery so that we could eat nothing but breakfast for a week. Breakfast, untainted by the day ahead, was when we still smiled at each other as if we meant it.

9. I whispered, “I will latch on like a deadbolt to a door and tell you it is only because I want to protect you. Really, I’m afraid that without you I mean nothing.”

10. I gave you a bouquet of plane tickets so I could practice the feeling of watching you leave.

11. I picked you up from the airport limping. In your absence, I’d forgotten how to walk. When I collapsed at your feet, you refused to look at me until I learned to stand up without your help.

12. Too scared to move, I stared while you set fire to your apartment – its walls decaying beyond repair, roaches invading the corpse of your bedroom. You tossed all the faulty appliances through the smoke out your window, screaming that you couldn’t handle choking on one more thing that wouldn’t just fix himself.

13. I whispered, “We will each weed through the last year and try to spot the moment we began breaking. We will repel sprint away from each other. Your voice will take months to drain out from my ears. You will throw away your notebook of tally marks from each time you wondered if I was worth the work. The invisible bruises will finally surface and I will still pretend that I didn’t know it was coming.”

14. The entire time, I was only pretending that I knew it was coming.
mercifulserpent: (Default)

Fast forward ten years. The first thing you will notice is that you are taller. Not necessarily farther from the ground, but closer to the sky. This may at first be dizzying, especially if you never learned how to breathe. Practice. Meet your lungs. Take note of the way your skin fits, how your bones have grown into your skeleton. Your shoulders are perfectly balanced at the top of your spine. Your arms are long enough to reach your hands. This, you will discover, is what people who know anything mean when they say beautiful.

Investigate the body you are in. Reach for both horizons at once and discover your wingspan. Crack your knuckles. Lick the gap between your teeth. Place your fingers against the underside of your wrist and feel for a pulse. If you have one, it means you’re lonely. That’s good. This is a good world to be lonely in. Explore the space you take up, the way your body displaces air in the shape of: calves, hips, belly, chin. Trace the path of tingling from lips to nipples to between your legs. Notice that your skin is the color of new skin after the old skin has peeled away. Feel underneath your sternum: there. A scar. Your body has opened up, allowed egress to something it no longer needed, like an appendix. This was painful once, as doorways always are.

Excavate yourself. Turn inside out like a pocket and examine what falls to the ground. There should be just enough coins to take a bus to anywhere. A pressed flower with a breath of purple left in it, the exact shade of I will always remember you fondly. Keys meant to open something old and worthy. Lint. The lint means you have been places, smelled dust, shaken off dead cells. A piece of paper with a name on it. Nothing sharp: you don’t carry razor blades under your fingernails anymore.

The suitcase you packed before leaving your parents’ house is here, spine-creased books and a one-eyed stuffed dog. The green dress that made your collarbone a lie. Your first lipstick. Jeans that will always have the stain from that night, an empty whiskey bottle. Spread them out like tarot cards on the pavement: the past, the present, the wish. Where the tenth and final card would be, place yourself.

Practice listening to sounds other than the grinding of your teeth. Songs are a good place to start, especially songs with piano accompaniment and lyrics about changing seasons. Listen to crickets. Learn how to divine the temperature from their chirps. Listen to the ground underneath you. Gravity will keep you here until you are ready to leave.

You can still recite those sad poems from memory, but they don’t resonate in your chest the way they used to. You can walk across a bridge without counting the seconds between your bones and the concrete below. There is an ocean, but it is far away, not filling up your mouth. There will be people who want to touch you gently. You know that you can still feel pain, in your eyes and hands especially. But in this moment, all you know of your body is open arms.
mercifulserpent: (RAWR)
morning glory -
the truth is
the flower hates people

Chiyo-ni (1703-1775)
mercifulserpent: (RAWR)

Now they are no longer

any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance… for instance,

how he never clipped and kept her hair, or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush

at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept like buried cutlery –

two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
or made the most of some heavy weather –

walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
or did the gears while the other was driving.

How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segments of her lips

from breaking the news,
or tasted the fruit

or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart

was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.

Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.

And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,

the another,
or knew her

favourite colour,
her taste, her flavour,

and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair

into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
of lather, or acted out of turn, or misbehaved

when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been, or walked back home

through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand

to his butterfly heart
in its two blue halves.

And never almost cried,
and never once described

an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt

nursed in his hand her breast,
her left, like a tear of flesh

wept by the heart,
where it hurts,

or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.

Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,

a pilot light,
or stayed the night,

or steered her back to that house of his,
or said “Don’t ask me how it is

I like you.
I just might do.”

How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand

were a solid ball
of silver foil

and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.

But said some things and never meant them –
sweet nothings anybody could have mentioned.

And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.
mercifulserpent: (RAWR)
The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.
mercifulserpent: (RAWR)
“I Have Always Confused Desire With Apocalypse”, Daphne Gottlieb

We met over a small
earthquake. Now, my knees

shake whenever
you come around

and I've noticed your hand
has a slight tremor.

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