1. Orion

    Far back when I went zig-zagging
    through tamarack pastures
    you were my genius, you
    my cast-iron Viking, my helmed
    lion-heart king in prison.
    Years later now you’re young

    my fierce half-brother, staring
    down from that simplified west
    your breast open, your belt dragged down
    by an old-fashioned thing, a sword
    the last bravado you won’t give over
    though it weighs you down as you stride

    and the stars in it are dim
    and maybe have stopped burning.
    But you burn, and I know it;
    as I throw back my head to take you in
    and old transfusion happens again:
    divine astronomy is nothing to it.

    Indoors I bruise and blunder
    break faith, leave ill enough
    alone, a dead child born in the dark.
    Night cracks up over the chimney,
    pieces of time, frozen geodes
    come showering down in the grate.

    A man reaches behind my eyes
    and finds them empty
    a woman’s head turns away
    from my head in the mirror
    children are dying my death
    and eating crumbs of my life.

    Pity is not your forte.
    Calmly you ache up there
    pinned aloft in your crow’s nest,
    my speechless pirate!
    You take it all for granted
    and when I look you back

    it’s with a starlike eye
    shooting its cold and egotistical spear
    where it can do least damage.
    Breath deep! No hurt, no pardon
    out here in the cold with you
    you with your back to the wall.

    By Adrienne Rich.

  2. The Rider

    A boy told me
    if he roller-skated fast enough
    his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,

    the best reason I ever heard
    for trying to be a champion.

    What I wonder tonight
    pedaling hard down King William Street
    is if it translates to bicycles.

    A victory! To leave your loneliness
    panting behind you on some street corner
    while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
    pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
    no matter how slowly they fell.

    By Naomi Shihab Nye.

  3. Snowshoe Hare

    The fox
    is so quiet—
    he moves like a red rain—
    even when his
    shoulders tense and then
    snuggle down for an instant
    against the ground
    and the perfect
    gate of his teeth
    slams shut
    there is nothing
    you can hear
    but the cold creek moving
    over the dark pebbles
    and across the field
    and into the rest of the world—
    and even when you find
    in the morning
    the feathery
    scuffs of fur
    of the vanished
    snowshoe hare
    on the pale spires
    of the broken flowers
    of the lost summer—
    fluttering a little
    but only
    like the lapping threads
    of the wind itself—
    there is still
    nothing that you can hear
    but the cold creek moving
    over the old pebbles
    and across the field and into
    another year.

    By Mary Oliver.

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  5. Shoveling Snow With Buddha

    In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
    you would never see him doing such a thing,
    tossing the dry snow over a mountain
    of his bare, round shoulder,
    his hair tied in a knot,
    a model of concentration.

    Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
    for what he does, or does not do.

    Even the season is wrong for him.
    In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
    Is this not implied by his serene expression,
    that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

    But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
    one shovelful at a time.
    We toss the light powder into the clear air.
    We feel the cold mist on our faces.
    And with every heave we disappear
    and become lost to each other
    in these sudden clouds of our own making,
    these fountain-bursts of snow.

    This is so much better than a sermon in church,
    I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
    This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
    and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
    I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

    He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
    as if it were the purpose of existence,
    as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
    you could back the car down easily
    and drive off into the vanities of the world
    with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

    All morning long we work side by side,
    me with my commentary
    and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
    until the hour is nearly noon
    and the snow is piled high all around us;
    then, I hear him speak.

    After this, he asks,
    can we go inside and play cards?

    Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
    and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
    while you shuffle the deck.
    and our boots stand dripping by the door.

    Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
    and leaning for a moment on his shovel
    before he drives the thin blade again
    deep into the glittering white snow.

    By Billy Collins.

  6. [i am accused of tending to the past]

    i am accused of tending to the past
    as if i made it,
    as if i sculpted it
    with my own hands. i did not.
    this past was waiting for me
    when i came,
    a monstrous unnamed baby,
    and i with my mother’s itch
    took it to breast
    and named it
    she is more human now,
    learning language everyday,
    remembering faces, names and dates.
    when she is strong enough to travel
    on her own, beware, she will.

    By Lucille Clifton.

  7. Moonburn

    I stayed under the moon too long.
    I am silvered with lust.

    Dreams flick like minnows through my eyes.
    My voice is trees tossing in the wind.

    I loose myself like a flock of blackbirds
    storming into your face.

    My lightest touch leaves blue prints,
    bruises on your mind.

    Desire sandpapers your skin
    so thin I read the veins and arteries

    maps of routes I will travel
    till I lodge in your spine.

    The night is our fur.
    We curl inside it licking.

    By Marge Piercy.

  8. Late Fragment

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.

    By Raymond Carver.

  9. Stationary

    The moon did not become the sun.
    It just fell on the desert
    in great sheets, reams
    of silver handmade by you.
    The night is your cottage industry now,
    the day is your brisk emporium.
    The world is full of paper.

    Write to me.

    By Agha Shahid Ali.

  10. Thoughts of You

    There were times when I was with him and it was too much. Does that make sense? When someone stirs a world of emotion in you and it’s so intense you can barely stand to be with them.

    During those moments, I wanted so desperately to leave - to go home, walk in my bedroom and shut the door behind me. Crawl into bed and lay there in the dark, tracing the outline of my lips with my fingers - replaying everything he said, everything we did. I wanted to be left alone - with nothing other than my thoughts of him.

    By Lang Leav.