Vespers by Louise Glück

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

Seated Figure by Louise Glück

It was as though you were a man in a wheelchair,
your legs cut off at the knee.
But I wanted you to walk.
I wanted us to walk like lovers,
arm in arm in the summer evening,
and believed so powerfully in that projection
that I had to speak, I had to press you to stand.
Why did you let me speak?
I took your silence as I took the anguish in your face,
as part of the efforts to move —
It seemed I stood forever, holding out my hand.
And all that time, you could no more heal yourself
than I could accept what I saw.

You Don’t Know What Love Is by Kim Addonizio

but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she’ll try to eat solid food. She’ll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she’s headed, you know she’ll wake up
with an ache she can’t locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.

My Romance by Kim Addonizio

On the car radio, the song we heard
that night at the hotel. I remember sitting
on the edge of the bed while you smoked
near the window, how you looked out
at the parking lot, then flicked away
the cigarette’s dead end. The way you came
to me then, and stood there while I
pressed my face against you and the song
receded and returned through random static.
Of course I knew nothing would be right
between us for long, despite the elegant room,
the expensive wine, the years I had wanted
exactly this, the two of us again
as we had been. Your hand stroking my hair,
my arms around your waist – I knew
what I was doing, listening hard to the tenderness
in the singer’s voice, tenderness threading
its way toward us so that what was missing
would be there later – in case our parting
didn’t mark me as I needed to be marked,
that memory would come back to hurt me.

Muse by Kim Addonizio

When I walk in,
men buy me drinks before I even reach the bar.

They fall in love with me after one night,
even if we never touch.

I tell you I’ve got this shit down to a science.

They sweat with my memory,
alone in cheap rooms they listen

to moans through the wall
and wonder if that’s me,

letting out a scream as the train whines by.

But I’m already two states away, lying with a boy
I let drink rain from the pulse at my throat.

No one leaves me, I’m the one that chooses.
I show up like money on the sidewalk.

Listen, baby. Those are my high heels dangling from the
phone wire.

I’m the crow flapping down,
that’s my back slip

you catch sight of when the pain
twists into you so deep

you have to close your eyes and weep like a goddamned
woman.

For My Lover, Returning to His Wife by Anne Sexton

She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.

Let’s face it, I have been momentary.
A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.

She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,

has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter’s wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,

done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.

She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.

I give you back your heart.
I give you permission—

for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound—
for the burying of her small red wound alive—

for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother’s knee, for the stockings,
for the garter belt, for the call—

the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.

She is so naked and singular.
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.

As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.

Forgetting by Roque Dalton

Last night I dreamed that someone told me: your love is dead.

Your love, the girl you loved when you were young,
has died.

In a cold city in the South
where the parks are one huge dewdrop,
at the hour when the fog is still virgin
and the city turns its back
on the gaze of desperate souls.

And she died- they told me – without saying your name.