Dylan Thomas | The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Either | Glyn Maxwell

A northern hill aghast with weather
Scolds and lets me hurry over.
Someone phoned to tell my father
Someone died this morning of a
Stroke. The news has tapped me with a
Stick. I vaguely knew his brother.
No one knows where I am either.

Now I’m lost. I don’t know whether
This road runs along the river
Far enough. I miss my lover,
Town and all the south. I’d rather
Die than be away forever,
What’s the difference. Here’s another
Field I don’t remember either.

Nouvelle Vague | In a Manner of Speaking

Karen Holmberg | Still Life With Yews

Walking to my office I had stopped
to listen – where are you? where are
A robin cast her flute notes
off a frost blanched roof peak,
triplets ascendant,
sweetly querulous, piercing
the heart’s rim, tugging through it
the long thread of music.
The world that bled back to my eye
had changed. The east had flushed the rose
of a cheek when the cold
compress is lifted. Narcissi
were lifting the gray mat of leaves.

The mind and body can be
separate places, that’s what had and –ing
prove, I was thinking as I rubbed my thumb
along paper, listening to my print’s
stuttering rasp. I was not turning
the page, not seeing the words, my eye
compelled to the tender new bristles
tipping the yew’s black wands.
Without the aid of any wind,
they nodded; some pulse rubbed
the blood-in-milk berry cups along the pane.
Faint static through the glass.
The pianissimo had faded; the needle
was about to lift.

And it was still the crinkle
of the paper drape I heard, the hand
outside the door, rustling through my file.
The cordial, imperturbable voice explaining
how the body mistakes
part of itself for enemy, launches cells
to kill it. That I must take a replacement
the rest of my life.
My legs hung like stopped pendulums.
I was still, somehow, in that
still life: mirror in its stainless frame,
Lucite jars of swabs and packaged
gauze. Propping my torso
with my hands’ heels, I was nodding
like the yew outside my window, with each jet of blood
downward from the heart, into the body
that was not me, and was me.

Rigoberto Gonzalez | The Strangers Who Find Me in the Woods

        after Thomas James

The strangers in the woods must mimic squirrels and crackle
with the undergrowth. They must not flinch at the cruelty
of breaking golden leaves with their feet, or of interring stones.
And like any of these deciduous trees in autumn they must be

stingy with shadow and move deceptively across the sludge.
I listen to these strangers stirring with the evenings. I invent paths
for them to the soft edge of the lake. Each descent is as graceful
as a sinking ship, but less tragic somehow because these strangers

don’t possess a lung. I cannot hear them breathe, yet the air
is all whispers, all sighs—the same ethereal muscle that rubs
the color off the foliage. I lost my way out of the woods on the night
every bird went south or numb. A plump rat snatched the moon

and dragged it by the white rope of its tail. The strangers were
a cloak of silhouettes flattening against a trunk like bark.
I must have disappeared among them because the mouth I touched
was not my own and was cruelly closing in on someone’s rib. I carried

such a bite on me, an arc of green and yellow on my side from the man
who said he loved me. In that darkness I knew as much about him
as I did of the amputee swimming his way up the hill with his
only arm. So this is the home of the unturned stone where

the fugitive keeps his kiss! Archaeologists will discover a paradise
in the place no touch died of neglect. Is it any wonder all things
forgotten or abandoned find their way here? The winter is back, so too
the bloated body of a book I tossed over the bridge last week.

And there on the bench, is my old smoking habit, a cigarette
glowing on my mouth like a beacon. I’m patient, waiting for the fugitive
to claim me as his own. I’m as wise as any stranger here, alone but with
the knowledge that the grief of separation is always brief.

Christina Davis | From ‘Mankindness’


Because he, because she,
in so far as
she (in so far as he) exists

is on the way
to battle.

Not what is your name,
but what
the battle?


“Each one of us has come
here and changed” —

is the battle. Born
a loved one,
borne a loved one.


My father fought in this war, thus I can speak of it.
My mother fought in this, thus I can speak.
My friends, my lovers have fought, have worn
(like the tree) their several directions at once. And I,

in so far as I
can say “I”

have fought to be related to these —
we strive and strain
but also try to ripen the entity
of the Other.


We kiss on lips, where the tenses attach.

We enter the conundrum
of another’s becoming.

We look for someone who can raise us
up again to feet, or near to standing.

We tend in our terrors to forget (we
do not store them) felicities.

I try each day to stay near beings,
mornings when I am most
mild. And may I nothing harm,
in case it is them.

Mary Szybist | To You Again

Again this morning my eyes woke up too close

to your eyes,

their almost green orbs

too heavy-lidded to really look back.

To wake up next to you

is ordinary. I do not even need to look at you

to see you.

But I do look. So when you come to me

in your opulent sadness, I see

you do not want me

to unbutton you

so I cannot do the one thing

I can do.

Now it is almost one a.m. I am still at my desk

and you are upstairs at your desk a staircase

away from me. Already it is years

of you a staircase

away from me. To be near you

and not near you

is ordinary.


are ordinary.

Still, how many afternoons have I spent

peeling blue paint from

our porch steps, peering above

hedgerows, the few parked cars for the first

glimpse of you. How many hours under

the overgrown, pink Camillas, thinking

the color was wrong for you, thinking

you’d appear

after my next


Soon you’ll come down the stairs

to tell me something. And I’ll say,

okay. Okay. I’ll say it

like that, say it just like

that, I’ll go on being

your never-enough.

It’s not the best in you

I long for. It’s when you’re noteless,

numb at the ends of my fingers, all is

all. I say it is.

Peter Campion | Magnolias

Ambition. Jealousy. The numbing flow

of adrenaline pumped along the blood.

The fear that loneliness is punishment

and that corrosive draining feeling down

the chest the natural and just result

of failures … What delicious leisure not

to feel it. What a sweet reprieve to linger

here with these ovals of purple and flamingo

plumed from the tree or splayed on the pavement.

If only for these seconds before returning

back to the open air those flowers keep

pushing out of themselves to die inside.

Ted Hughes | A Modest Proposal

There is no better way to know us
Than as two wolves, come separately to a wood.
Now neither´s able to sleep - even at a distance
Distracted by the soft competing pulse
Of the other; nor able to hunt - at every step
Looking backwards and sideways, warying to listen
For the other´s slavering rush. Neither can make die
The painful burning of the coal in its heart
Till the other´s body and the whole wood is its own.
Then it might sob contentment toward the moon.

Each in a thicket, rage hoarse in its labouring
Chest after a skirmish, licks the rents in its hide,
Eyes brighter than is natural under the leaves
(Where the wren, peeping around the leaf, shrieks out
To see a chink so terrifyingly open
Onto the red smelting of hatred)as each
Pictures a mad final satisfaction.

Suddenly they duck and peer.
And there rides by
The great lord from hunting. His embroidered
Cloak floats, the tail of his horse pours,
And at his stirrup the two great-eyed greyhounds
That day after day bring down the towering stag
Leap like one, making delighted sounds.

Glyn Maxwell | Stargazing

The night is fine and dry. It falls and spreads
the cold sky with a million opposites
that, for a moment, seem like a million souls
and soon, none, and then, for what seems a long time,
one. Then of course it spins. What is better to do
than string out over the infinite dead spaces
the ancient beasts and spearmen of the human
mind, and, if not the real ones, new ones?

But, try making them clear to one you love –
whoever is standing by you is one you love
when pinioned by the stars — you will find it quite
impossible, but like her more for thinking
she sees that constellation.

After the wave of pain, you will turn to her
and, in an instant, change the universe
to a sky you were glad you came outside to see.

This is the act of all the descended gods
of every age and creed: to weary of all
that never ends, to take a human hand,
and go back into the house.

Tamar Yoseloff | City Winter

There’s nothing more beautiful:
a smudge of taxis and buses
crawls across the empty grey; a muddle
of faces – lovers, long-lost friends –
rises to greet you. The mercury drops,
darkness yields to streetlights, headlights.
The edge of your known world.

What you’ve missed –
hidden behind the bright dome
of a church, the slashed glass
of an office block, massed clouds.
Last greens of summer
still in your head, a sudden recollection
of heat – nothing more beautiful

than knowing something is going
to be over. You walk the streets, the map
ingrained in your feet, stare
into uncurtained rooms
lit and ready for intimacies –
you’ve been outside yourself
too long. What you want

you won’t find here. A train
leaves the city, its complicated tracks
weave past buildings still to be built,
girders lifting beyond the horizon,
its passengers bound for those lit rooms
flickering like grubby stars
on the outskirts.

Joanna Klink | Half Omen Half Hope

When everything finally has been wrecked and further shipwrecked,

When their most ardent dream has been made hollow and unrecognizable,

They will feel inside their limbs the missing shade of blue that lingers

Against hills in the cooler hours before dark, and the moss at the foot of the forest

When green starts to leave it. What they take into their privacy (half of his embrace,

Her violence at play) are shadows of acts which have no farewells in them.

Moons unearth them. And when, in their separate dwellings, their bodies

Feel the next season come, they no longer have anyone to whom

To tell it. Clouds of reverie pass outside the window and a strange emptiness

Peers back in. If they love, it is solely to be adored, it is to scatter and gather

Themselves like hard seeds in a field made fallow by a fire someone years ago set.

In the quiet woods, from the highest trees, there is always something

Weightless falling; and he, who must realize that certain losses are irreparable,

Tells himself at night, before the darkest mirror, that vision keeps him whole.

On the verge of warm and simple sleep they tell themselves certain loves

Are like sheets of dark water, or ice forests, or husks of ships. To stop a thing

Such as this would be to halve a sound that travels out from a silent person’s

Thoughts. The imprint they make on each other’s bodies is worth any pain

They may have caused. Quiet falls around them. And when she reaches

For him the air greens like underwater light and the well-waters drop.

They will see again the shadows of insects.

They will touch the bark and feel each age of the tree fly undisturbed

Into them. If what is no longer present in them cannot be restored,

It can at least be offered. Through long bewildered dusks, stalks grow;

Rains fill and pass out of clouds; animals hover at the edges of fields

With eyes like black pools. For nothing cannot be transformed;

Pleasure and failure feed each other daily. Do not think any breeze,

Any grain of light, shall be withheld. All the stars will sail out for them.

Norman MacCaig | Ineducable Me

I don’t learn much. I’m a man

of no improvements. My nose still snuffs the air

in an amateurish way. My profoundest ideas

were once toys on the floor, I love them, I’ve licked

most of the paint off. A whisky glass

is a rattle I don’t shake. When I love

a person, a place, an object, I don’t see

what there is to argue about.

I learned words, I learned words: but half of them

died for lack of exercise. And the ones I use

often look at me

with a look that whispers, Liar.

How I admire the eider duck that dives

with a neat loop and no splash and the gannet that suddenly

harpoons the sea. - I’m a guillemot

that still dives

in the first way it thought of: poke your head under

and fly down.

Theodore Roethke | Night Journey

Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.

Louise Gluck | Confession

To say I’m without fear -

It wouldn’t be true.

I’m afraid of sickness, humiliation.

But I’ve learned to hide them,

To protect myself

From fulfilment: all happiness

Attracts the Fates’ anger.

They are sisters, savages - 

In the end they have

No emotion but envy.