1. October

    O hushed October morning mild,
    Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
    Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
    Should waste them all.
    The crows above the forest call;
    Tomorrow they may form and go.
    O hushed October morning mild,
    Begin the hours of this day slow.
    Make the day seem to us less brief.
    Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
    Beguile us in the way you know.
    Release one leaf at break of day;
    At noon release another leaf;
    One from our trees, one far away.
    Retard the sun with gentle mist;
    Enchant the land with amethyst.
    Slow, slow!
    For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
    Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
    Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
    For the grapes’ sake along the wall.


    By Robert Frost.

     
  2. Eating Together

    In the steamer is the trout
    seasoned with slivers of ginger,
    two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
    We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
    brothers, sister, my mother who will
    taste the sweetest meat of the head,
    holding it between her fingers
    deftly, the way my father did
    weeks ago. Then he lay down
    to sleep like a snow-covered road
    winding through pines older than him,
    without any travelers, and lonely for no one.


    By Li-Young Lee.

     
  3. On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City

    The white woman across the aisle from me says ‘Look,
    look at all the history, that house
    on the hill there is over two hundred years old, ‘
    as she points out the window past me

    into what she has been taught. I have learned
    little more about American history during my few days
    back East than what I expected and far less
    of what we should all know of the tribal stories

    whose architecture is 15,000 years older
    than the corners of the house that sits
    museumed on the hill. ‘Walden Pond, ‘
    the woman on the train asks, ‘Did you see Walden Pond? ‘

    and I don’t have a cruel enough heart to break
    her own by telling her there are five Walden Ponds
    on my little reservation out West
    and at least a hundred more surrounding Spokane,

    the city I pretended to call my home. ‘Listen, ‘
    I could have told her. ‘I don’t give a shit
    about Walden. I know the Indians were living stories
    around that pond before Walden’s grandparents were born

    and before his grandparents’ grandparents were born.
    I’m tired of hearing about Don-fucking-Henley saving it, too,
    because that’s redundant. If Don Henley’s brothers and sisters
    and mothers and father hadn’t come here in the first place

    then nothing would need to be saved.’
    But I didn’t say a word to the woman about Walden
    Pond because she smiled so much and seemed delighted
    that I thought to bring her an orange juice

    back from the food car. I respect elders
    of every color. All I really did was eat
    my tasteless sandwich, drink my Diet Pepsi
    and nod my head whenever the woman pointed out

    another little piece of her country’s history
    while I, as all Indians have done
    since this war began, made plans
    for what I would do and say the next time

    somebody from the enemy thought I was one of their own.


    By Sherman Alexie.

     
  4. What Became

    What became of the dear
    strands of hair pressed
    against the perspiration
    of your lover’s brow
    after lovemaking as you gazed
    into the world of those eyes,
    now only yours?

    What became of any afternoon
    that was so vivid you forgot
    the present was up to its old
    trick of pretending
    it would be there
    always?

    What became of the one
    who believed so deeply
    in this moment he memorized
    everything in it and left
    it for you?

    By Wesley McNair.

     
  5. Diving into the Wreck

    First having read the book of myths,
    and loaded the camera,
    and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
    I put on
    the body-armor of black rubber
    the absurd flippers
    the grave and awkward mask.
    I am having to do this
    not like Cousteau with his
    assiduous team
    aboard the sun-flooded schooner
    but here alone.

    There is a ladder.
    The ladder is always there
    hanging innocently
    close to the side of the schooner.
    We know what it is for,
    we who have used it.
    Otherwise
    it is a piece of maritime floss
    some sundry equipment.

    I go down.
    Rung after rung and still
    the oxygen immerses me
    the blue light
    the clear atoms
    of our human air.
    I go down.
    My flippers cripple me,
    I crawl like an insect down the ladder
    and there is no one
    to tell me when the ocean
    will begin.

    First the air is blue and then
    it is bluer and then green and then
    black I am blacking out and yet
    my mask is powerful
    it pumps my blood with power
    the sea is another story
    the sea is not a question of power
    I have to learn alone
    to turn my body without force
    in the deep element.

    And now: it is easy to forget
    what I came for
    among so many who have always
    lived here
    swaying their crenellated fans
    between the reefs
    and besides
    you breathe differently down here.

    I came to explore the wreck.
    The words are purposes.
    The words are maps.
    I came to see the damage that was done
    and the treasures that prevail.
    I stroke the beam of my lamp
    slowly along the flank
    of something more permanent
    than fish or weed

    the thing I came for:
    the wreck and not the story of the wreck
    the thing itself and not the myth
    the drowned face always staring
    toward the sun
    the evidence of damage
    worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
    the ribs of the disaster
    curving their assertion
    among the tentative haunters.

    This is the place.
    And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
    streams black, the merman in his armored body.
    We circle silently
    about the wreck
    we dive into the hold.
    I am she: I am he

    whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
    whose breasts still bear the stress
    whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
    obscurely inside barrels
    half-wedged and left to rot
    we are the half-destroyed instruments
    that once held to a course
    the water-eaten log
    the fouled compass

    We are, I am, you are
    by cowardice or courage
    the one who find our way
    back to this scene
    carrying a knife, a camera
    a book of myths
    in which
    our names do not appear.


    By Adrienne Rich.

     
  6. To a Poor Old Woman

    munching a plum on
    the street a paper bag
    of them in her hand

    They taste good to her
    They taste good
    to her. They taste
    good to her

    You can see it by
    the way she gives herself
    to the one half
    sucked out in her hand

    Comforted
    a solace of ripe plums
    seeming to fill the air
    They taste good to her


    By William Carlos Williams

     
  7. Мне голос был./I have heard the voice.

    Мне голос был. Он звал утешно.
    Он говорил: “Иди сюда,
    Оставь свой край глухой и грешный.
    Оставь Россию навсегда.
    Я кровь от рук твоих отмою,
    Из сердца выну черный стыд,
    Я новым именем покрою
    Боль порожений и обид”.
    Но равнодушно и спокойно
    Руками я замкнула слух,
    Чтоб этой речью недостойной
    Не осквернился скорбный слух.


    Анна Ахматова.


    I heard the voice. It promised solace.
    “Come here,” it seemed so softly call.
    “Leave Russia, sinning, lost and graceless,
    Leave your land, pray, for good and all.
    I’ll cleanse your hands from blood that stains you,
    And from your heart draw back black shame,
    The hurts of failure, wrongs that pain you
    I’ll veil with yet another name.”
    With even calm deliberation
    I raised my hands to stop my ears,
    Lest that ignoble invitation
    Defile a spirit lost in tears.

    By Anna Akhmatova, Translated from the Russian by Gladys Evans.

     
  8. Artichoke

    For all the bother, it’s the peeling away
    we savored, the slow striptease
    toward a tender heart—

    how each petal dipped in the buttery sauce
    was raked across our lower
    teeth, its residue

    less redolent of desire than sweet restraint,
    a mere foretaste of passion,
    but the scaly plates

    piled up like potsherds in a kitchen midden,
    a history in what’s now
    useless, discarded—

    so we strained after less and less as the barbs
    perhaps drew a little blood
    and we cut our way

    into the core to rid us of the fiber
    that would stifle every ut-
    terance between us.

    In our quest for that morsel,
    how we risked silence,
    risked even
    love.

    By Richard Foerster.

     
  9. Cracked Ice

    When I return, I’ll come in clapboard, stained
    chestnut, with lead-based paint on radiators,
    old-fashioned, and a little bit insane

    but sturdy to a fault. A spalting grain
    on punky myrtle and no refrigerator
    when I return. I’ll come in clapboard, stained

    shake shingles skittering on skewed roof planes
    that snarl the corner lot like unpaid panders,
    old-fashioned and a little bitten, saying,

    “Leave our sightlines sharp. Let dormers train
    What angles water sheds.” They congregate for
    when I return. I’ll come in clapboard, stained

    with varnished truth: you ran me down. You caned
    old rockers with prefab splints, hack renovator
    refashioning me bit by bit, insane

    to strip as spilth fine bulrush. I’ll maintain
    myself, then. There will be no mediators
    when I return. I’ll come in clapboard. Stained,
    old-fashioned, I’ll come a little bit insane.


    By Julie Sheehan.

     
  10. I Am Not a Myth

    Marlene Dietrich remembers the night of the Marilyn Monroe
    Productions press conference, New York City, January 1955

    I wanted to be that trace of scarlet lipstick
    when you arrived, tipsy, a bit chartreuse
    a subdued platinum angel, a white mink

    stole. I am at heart—Come up for a drink
    a gentleman. You, a question here to seduce,
    a pink thought traced by scarlet lipstick

    a deer drawn to a salt lick. I am the brick-
    back, brick-thrown widow of a caboose.
    I lift my black veil. I drop my black mink.

    To the bird, flown—we toast with a clink.
    You created ‘‘the girl.’ “Their golden goose
    is now a scarlet smudge.” Your lips stick

    to the wine glass and all I can do is wink
    out a song, the tricks of an aging chanteuse.
    You call a cab and grab your white mink

    while I play my saw, and all I can think
    is I am not a myth a recluse who will recuse
    you to remain a trace of scarlet lipstick
    caught on the collar of a white mink.

    By Matthew Hittinger.