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“I Want To Write Different Words For You”
Nizar Qabbani

I want to write different words for you
To invent a language for you alone
To fit the size of your body
And the size of my love.
I want to travel away from the dictionary
And to leave my lips
I am tired of my mouth
I want a different one
Which can change
Into a cherry tree or a match box,
A mouth from which words can emerge
Like nymphs from the sea,
Like white chicks jumping from the magician’s hat.

Translated from the Arabic by Bassam K. Frangieh and Clementina R. Brown.

Nothing in Common | Freya Manfred

“Nothing in Common”
Freya Manfred

Sometimes I feel I have nothing in common with anyone.
I shamble through the day, dragging my knuckles in the grass,
and each new hour with each new person is a cliff I can’t climb —

yet I know I’m alive now — inside a song as deep as forever,
that stretches to the infinite future and the bottomless past,
connecting every place I’ve lived or nearly died —

and I shouldn’t worry so much about losing what’s most precious,
my simian balance, shaggy fur, bold fleas,
my plentiful fingers and opposable thumbs,

and my curious, glowing, ape-like eyes that still shine
with radiant chaos, wondrous animal calm,
and so much love, for everyone.
Away In Virginia, I See a Mustard Field And Think Of You
Barbara Crooker

because the blue hills are like the shoulder and slopes
of your back as you sleep. Often I slip a hand under
your body to anchor myself to this earth. The yellow
mustard rises from a waving sea of green.

I think of us driving narrow roads in France, under
a tunnel of sycamores, my hair blowing in the hot wind,
opera washing out of the radio, loud. We are feeding
each other cherries from a white paper sack.

And then we return to everyday life, where we fall
into bed exhausted, fall asleep while still reading,
forget the solid planes of the body in the country
of dreams. I miss your underwear, soft from a thousand
washings, the socks you still wear from a store
out of business thirty years. I love to smell your sweat
after mowing grass or hauling wood; I miss the weight
on your side of the bed.

Sort of Coping | Farrah Field

“Sort of Coping”
Farrah Field

Why is anyone in the world so terrible. Real catastrophe
and catastrophizing. If we only knew when it was going to happen.

I saw you put your hands on the floor. Intimacy without disturbances.
The scope here of memorization, planets. The history of children

sitting still. You are so cute in all your facebook photos.
When you moved to Portland I forgot we used to call you

Tumbleweed Tex. All those barking dogs, feathered hair.
We have something in common I never mention. I wish

I’d written it down and folded it into one of your piles
saying I want to read every one of these books! Do you think

you’ll have read them all before the end of time. Did you go in
to see her when she was dead. Maybe you already knew.

Natural Disasters | Faith Shearin

“Natural Disasters”
Faith Shearin

During natural disasters two enemy animals
will call a truce, so during a hurricane
an owl will share a tree with a mouse
and, during an earthquake, you might find
a mongoose wilted and shivering
beside a snake. The bear will sit down
in a river and ignore the passing salmon
just as the lion will allow the zebra
to walk home without comment.
I love that there are exceptions.
At funerals and weddings, for example,
the aunts who never speak nod
politely to one another. When my mother
was sick even the prickly neighbors
left flowers and cakes at our door.
“If You Really Aren’t Racist Take This Online Test”
Lisa Martin

It wears my heart out to talk like this.
In the city of the heart the bomb goes off
and everything else goes dark. It is always
the heart affected: the central chambers.
Paris is greater than or equal to Beirut.
True, or False? Solve for Y. This test has
been produced such that everyone fails.
Tweet your top 5 solutions to 5 friends.
If you break the chain someone dies.
I will no sooner surrender my paradoxes.
Than what. The answer is either “Love”
or “Systemic Racism” or something my
friend, refreshing the screen, keeps trying
to see before he falls asleep in videos of
human beings blown to smithereens.
I don’t know if he is looking for evidence
of brutish truth or proof of his own flesh
or resilience in the face of it. Meanwhile,
pigeons congregate on power lines cooing
peacefully and the cold is damper than it
used to be this time of year. You can feel it
in your bones, strangers have started saying
to other strangers in coffee shops making
contact, via the eyes, with terror. It’s homelike,
this cold. Above zero and coastal, with
smells of piss and spruce, the turned season
rotting in the air. You can’t fool me anymore
with your trick questions. I know the answer
is always “All of the Above.” Any kid with
an HB pencil and row upon row of circles
before her waiting to be filled in knows this
whether her mother or father or guardian
other has told her lovingly the night before
or not: All you can do now is get a good
night’s sleep, eat a healthy breakfast.

No matter how hard we try, we’re gonna
bomb this. I can feel it in my bones. I just keep
showing up anyway. I make eyes at strangers.
I sit at this window and watch rain become
snow and I make my marks on paper
anyway. I show my failed work and hope
it counts for something. None of the answers
are right. They never were. You have to pick
the response that seems the least wrong.

Tired | Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

I am so tired of waiting.
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two—
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.

Prayer | Keetje Kuipers

Keetje Kuipers

Perhaps as a child you had the chicken pox
and your mother, to soothe you in your fever
or to help you fall asleep, came into your room
and read to you from some favorite book,Charlotte’s Web or Little House on the Prairie,
a long story that she quietly took you through
until your eyes became magnets for your shuttering
lids and she saw your breathing go slow. And then
she read on, this time silently and to herself,
not because she didn’t know the story,
it seemed to her that there had never been a time
when she didn’t know this story—the young girl
and her benevolence, the young girl in her sod house—
but because she did not yet want to leave your side
though she knew there was nothing more
she could do for you. And you, not asleep but simply weak,
listened to her turn the pages, still feeling
the lamp warm against one cheek, knowing the shape
of the rocking chair’s shadow as it slid across
your chest. So that now, these many years later,
when you are clenched in the damp fist of a hospital bed,
or signing the papers that say you won’t love him anymore,
when you are bent at your son’s gravesite or haunted
by a war that makes you wake with the gun
cocked in your hand, you would like to believe
that such generosity comes from God, too,
who now, when you have the strength to ask, might begin
the story again, just as your mother would,
from the place where you have both left off.

“Try To Praise The Mutilated World”

Adam Zagajewski
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Seeing the Body | Rachel Eliza Griffiths

“Seeing the Body”
Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Not hers but mine. Not hers ever again. Ever
hers, my body pulled through, two
long windows open in the dark of birth,
the gold cord raised too in its wake. Awake,
the first morning. The first morning & all,
all the windows were closed inside. A blindness
scalding broken sight. The silence pulled through
my nostrils & veins, the ether of air failing
flesh. I get up from the shape I once was
& open the white blinds in my brother’s house.
The light is specific. It is the 29th morning
of July. Last night they dragged me howling from her
body in the room. The room had a name,
number 3315, in the cardiac wing. In the room
I saw her winged shape leave, rise, forgive the
vessel that fled her. Now mine or ours, I
stare in the mirror while everyone sleeps
the aggrieved sleep of the living. Behind my eyes
a dead woman looks back at me with no trace
of recognition. I say “Mother” & my own
feral mouth opens. Closes without any light.


Read more of Rachel Eliza Griffiths’s poetry in Lighting the Shadow


poetry, exceptindreams
a poem some days

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