37. Aluminum Oxide

No one offered you a courtyard

where sometimes you’d see

pin-headed soldiers

standing beneath the trees

Apples fallen everywhere

A good many women

in seemingly good spirits

speak incomprehensibly

jabbering as they pass by

legs reflected in the water

Many flowers

two buds

by Gu Cheng, China



out of work,
out of workman’s compensation,
he works a paper route.
Seven days a week at six a.m.,
he places the papers gently.
Never lobs them,
never leaves them in the dewy lawn .
He abides every instruction:
      If the Buick is gone, leave the paper on the porch.
      Throw it over the dogs, if they’re out.
      Come on in, help yourself to some coffee.
He delivers his papers to people:
Dusty. Double D. Agnes. Herbie.
He knows about their kids–
how many they have,
how often they visit.
They know how he takes his coffee, black.
Tony Mac.
Husband of Sue.
Father of three.
Retired machine operator,
with bad back, neck, knees.
Their paperboy,
a man measured in more than column inches, rides a Harley without a helmet, drives his mother to her appointments, and has two Shih Tzu, Zed and Dude.
Little do they know
about the Thursdays
before the dumpsters roll through,
when he works over the trash waiting to be collected.
He collects the remnants of lives discarded, and leaves newspapers in exchange for their VCRs, lawn chairs, trinkets.
He takes his coffee black and quick
and returns to his route. He’s home by 7 to help his wife off to work.
In with her sandwich, a note
scratched out on a purple Post-it:
Tonight, you will have a present waiting, my love.
by Autumn Konopka

The Question Mark

Poor thing. Poor crippled measure of

punctuation. Who would know,

who could imagine you used to be

an exclamation point?

What force bent you over?

Age, time and the vices

of this century?

Did you not once evoke,

call out and stress?

But you got weary of it all,

got wise and turned like this.

by Gevorg Emin, Armenia

Envoy to Palestine

I’ve come to this one grassy hill
in Ramallah, off Tokyo Street,
to a place a few red anemones
& a sheaf of wheat on Darwish’s grave.
A borrowed line transported me beneath
a Babylonian moon & I found myself
lucky to have the shadow of a coat
as warmth, listening to a poet’s song
of Jerusalem, the hum of a red string
Caesar stole off Gilgamesh’s lute.
I know a prison of sunlight on the skin.
The land I come from they also dreamt
before they arrived in towering ships
battered by the hard Atlantic winds.
Crows followed me from my home.
My coyote heart is an old runagate
redskin, a noble savage, still Lakota,
& I knew the bow before the arch.
I feel the wildflowers, all the grasses
& insects singing to me. My sacred dead
is the dust of restless plains I come from,
& I love when it gets into my eyes & mouth
telling me of the roads behind & ahead.
I go back to broken treaties & smallpox,
the irony of barbed wire. Your envoy
could be a reprobate whose inheritance
is no more than a swig of firewater.
The sun made a temple of the bones
of my tribe. I know a dried-up riverbed
& extinct animals live in your nightmares
sharp as shark teeth from my mountains
strung into this brave necklace around
my neck. I hear Chief Standing Bear
saying to Judge Dundy, “I am a man,”
& now I know why I’d rather die a poet
than a warrior, tattoo & tomahawk.
–Yusef Komunyakaa

House Of Spring

Hundreds of open flowers

all come from

the one branch


all their colors

appear in my garden

I open the clattering gate

and in the wind

I see

the spring sunlight

already it has reached

worlds with out number

–Muso Soseki, Japan


To Ophelia

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
  Doubt that the sun doth move,
  Doubt truth to be a liar,
  But never doubt I love.
 O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers. I have not art to reckon my groans, but that I love thee best, oh, most best, believe it. Adieu.
  Thine evermore, most dear lady,
  whilst this machine is to him,
–William Shakespeare

Old Mountains Want To Turn To Sand

I have my roots inside me,

a skein of red threads.

The stones have their roots inside them,

like fine little ferns.

Wrapped around their softness

the stones sleep hard.

For centuries they have rested

under the sun.

Old mountains

want to turn to sand.

They let themselves go

and open up to water.

After centuries of thirst!

Like language–

that great mountain broken up

by our tongues.

We turn language to sand,

immersing the tongue

in a running stream

that moves mountains.

–Tommy Olofsson, Sweden


The Meaning Of Simplicity

I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me,

if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things,

you’ll touch what my hand has touched,

our hand prints will merge.


The August moon glitters in the kitchen

like a tin-plated pot (it gets that way

because of what I’m saying to you),

it lights up the empty house and

the house’s kneeling silence–

always the silence remains kneeling.


Every word is a doorway

to a meeting, one often cancelled,

and that’s when a word is true:

when it insists on the meeting.

–Yannis Ritsos, Greece

The Garden Of A Child

I entered the garden of my childhood days after

the storm had passed over. A gentle breeze was

blowing and the sky was blue. Seeing in the

undergrowth a bird that had come out of an egg

only a little while ago and had fallen down, I

put it back in its nest.

It all happened yesterday. Today I am a grown-up

man again, and I just can’t put anything back in

its proper place.

–Nirendranath Chakravarti, India