from “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”

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.

Death Spell for a Departing Lover by Kate Braverman

We are good at opening dialogue. 
It's our specialty.
That and the goodbye scene
we could recite in our sleep.
It's the middle that defies us,
the substance, the ordinary progressions
that weave events into patterns,
textures, the three-dimensional.

No. You cannot read my letters. 
You cannot take your eyes off 
your reflection in the mirror,
your extravagant rhetoric
and unshakable conviction
that you will always look thirty-four,
that your charm will be indelible
and bankable, like an occupation.

You sense I know your secret name. 
You fear I will say it out loud
and I will. Whore.
You who live from interchangeable beds,
feeling passion a pressure
you can't deliver,
tangled in ambivalence,
trying to make love
while adjusting your silk tie,
shining your Italian shoes 
spare sports jacket in the back 
of your broken car. 

Your secret name is whore.
You are in love with your mother.
No woman is perfect enough,
as pretty as you or her.
Know this, whore.
I am your greatest mistake.
I will hate you as the seasons turn 
in August heat and sudden storms 
as you drive from one woman to another,
one slice of city view after another.
You will sense this following,
this uniquely fashioned arrow,
this intangible wound that will not heal.

I am the shadow on the corner
and a certain way the neon will scratch 
one window after another,
relentless and haunting.
You will come to know it,
taste it, dream it.

Me, lit from the inside,
whispering your whore name
mixing my burned mouth
with the Santana winds,
becoming part of you and the landscape.
In the smog, in the mist
in the moonlight and jasmine
digging in under your skin
in a way you will never forget.

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.

Green, Green Is My Sister’s House by Mary Oliver

Don’t you dare climb that tree
or even try, they said, or you will be
sent away to the hospital of the
very foolish, if not the other one.
And I suppose, considering my age,
it was fair advice.

But the tree is a sister to me, she
lives alone in a green cottage
high in the air and I know what
would happen, she’d clap her green hands,
she’d shake her green hair, she’d
welcome me. Truly

I try to be good but sometimes
a person just has to break out and
act like the wild and springy thing
one used to be. It’s impossible not
to remember wild and want it back. So

if someday you can’t find me you might
look into that tree or — of course
it’s possible — under it.