• Poetry Mixtape by Shinji Moon

    1. “Sonnet XVII,” Pablo Neruda
    I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
    or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
    I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
    in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

    I love you as the plant that never blooms
    but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
    thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
    risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

    I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way

    than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
    so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
    so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

    2. “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart,” Jack Gilbert
    How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
    and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
    God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
    get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
    to which nation. French has no word for home,
    and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
    in northern India is dying out because their ancient
    tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
    vocabularies that might express some of what
    we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
    finally explain why the couples on their tombs
    are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
    of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
    they seemed to be business records. But what if they
    are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
    Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
    O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
    as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
    Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
    of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
    pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
    my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
    desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
    is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
    no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

    3. “That Romantic Sunset,” Laura Van Slyke
    I remember you said something like,
    “the sun doesn’t set anywhere unless it sets in Tucson,”
    that dusk when we sat on the hood of my car,
    folded into each other like the specks of white
    inside the stitches of denim jeans.

    That was back when we used to laugh at how
    we had become

    who parents and lambs
    and various shades of pure white
    stayed up late wringing their hands over.

    That was back when we smiling
    nailed judgements by their carpenter
    hands to the floorboards under the carpet.

    They could eat our bread bodies for all we cared,
    drink our wine blood.

    But, stars die all the time.

    Now it’s ten months past
    “you ain’t got nothing I never had,”
    and all I can do

    is press my hot forehead
    into the inside of a dirty window

    and squint

    at how people find it romantic
    when the blue sky turns deep purple

    like a swollen bruise.

    4. “Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem,” Matthew Olzmann
    Here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why our marriage
    might work: Because you wear pink but write poems
    about bullets and gravestones. Because you yell
    at your keys when you lose them, and laugh,
    loudly, at your own jokes. Because you can hold a pistol,
    gut a pig. Because you memorize songs, even commercials
    from thirty years back and sing them when vacuuming.
    You have soft hands. Because when we moved, the contents
    of what you packed were written inside the boxes.
    Because you think swans are overrated.
    Because you drove me to the train station. You drove me
    to Minneapolis. You drove me to Providence.
    Because you underline everything you read, and circle
    the things you think are important, and put stars next
    to the things you think I should think are important,
    and write notes in the margins about all the people
    you’re mad at and my name almost never appears there.
    Because you make that pork recipe you found
    in the Frida Khalo Cookbook. Because when you read
    that essay about Rilke, you underlined the whole thing
    except the part where Rilke says love means to deny the self
    and to be consumed in flames. Because when the lights
    are off, the curtains drawn, and an additional sheet is nailed
    over the windows, you still believe someone outside
    can see you. And one day five summers ago,
    when you couldn’t put gas in your car, when your fridge
    was so empty—not even leftovers or condiments—
    there was a single twenty-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew,
    which you paid for with your last damn dime
    because you once overheard me say that I liked it.

    5. “Privilege of Being,” Robert Hass
    Many are making love. Up above, the angels
    in the unshaken ether and crystal
    of human longing
    are braiding one another's hair, which is

    strawberry blond
    and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
    down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy--
    it must look to them like featherless birds
    splashing in the spring puddle of a bed--
    and then one woman, she is about to come,
    peels back the man's shut eyelids and says,
    look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
    tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?
    Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
    two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
    startled, connected at the belly
    in an unbelievably sweet
    lubricious glue, stare at each other,
    and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They
    shudder pathetically
    like lithographs of Victorian beggars
    with perfect features and alabaster
    skin hawking rags
    in the lewd alleys of the novel.
    All of creation is offended by this distress.
    It is like the keening sound
    the moon makes sometimes,
    rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
    it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
    they close their eyes again and hold
    each other, each
    feeling the mortal singularity of the body

    they have enchanted out of death
    for an hour or so,
    and one day, running at sunset, the woman
    says to the man,
    I woke up feeling so sad this morning
    because I realized
    that you could not, as much as I love you,
    dear heart, cure my loneliness,
    wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
    that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
    And the man is not hurt exactly,
    he understands that life has limits, that people
    die young, fail at love,
    fail of their ambitions. He runs beside
    her, he thinks
    of the sadness they have gasped and crooned
    their way out of
    coming, clutching each other with old, invented
    forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
    to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
    companionable like the couples
    on the summer beach
    reading magazine articles about intimacy
    between the sexes
    to themselves, and to each other,
    and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

    6. “Photograph,” Robert Hass

    7. “Collision Theory,” Marty McConnell

    I swear she kissed me first, but I have
    no evidence. I know the wine danced

    in the glass like a siren, all lean in and slow blink,
    I know the magnets in my palms spun until keys
    flung themselves toward us from all

    directions. conjurers always have to be watching
    our hands. spells dove from simple gesture, simple

    wishing, glancing touch. I know that I make things
    happen. I’m less good at making them stop. the want
    always wants more. that the wine danced

    is just evidence of magic messing
    with the everyday. this happens

    most often after dark. after the sun’s been forgotten
    long enough for the moon to seem like honest
    light. for the cab to seem like a vocabulary lesson

    and the long ride to a small room, a test
    of how much our tongues can lift before the temperature

    shifts. to dove is to rise like a creature
    with perfect bones. to drift a hand across a forearm
    at a bar is not magic or a promise, but evidence

    of how want flints against itself to become visible.
    when asked to explain how magnets work

    in layman’s terms, the scientist said
    I really can't do a good job, any job
    of explaining magnetic force in terms

    of something else that you’re more familiar with
    because I don’t understand it in terms

    of anything else that you’re more familiar with.
    why does the word palm dissolve in the mouth?
    how to explain what stays on the body

    for days, the kissed arm a stain of mouths,
    the belly a well of hands, hands, want

    and want and unstopping want. to watch
    our hands is not to stop them from conjuring
    but to know where they’re headed. to know

    what they’ve sheltered, all they’ve let go. to dove
    is to build something for as long as it’s needed,

    then release. this does not stop the wanting.
    does not unravel the spell or make the magnet
    any less magic. it does make for a more beautiful

    morning, though. the sun so much promise,
    so lit, it almost hurts to look at it.

    8. “Please Move To Vermont and Break My Heart,” Gregory Sherl 
    I am writing a book on how to write a book so I can learn how to properly explain why you look better with the lights on. I listen to a song but it doesn’t mention your name so I stop listening to the song. Your heart is noise pop. White noise is ghosts missing the streamers that fall from your ears while you sing in the car. Vermont is not far if you are already in Vermont. My cat looks at me and then walks away. He is named either after a famous musician or a body of water. There are so many words I refuse to learn how to spell. Still, I spell check your thighs after I bend you over my desk. I spell check the inside of your left ear while you bite yourself on the kitchen table. Prostrate. Today I am writing in grunts, I am playing in fonts. My chest hair is size 44 Comic Sans. My eyebrows are whittled away before I leave the mall. I have sat under the same sun as you for 25 years. Sometimes I have walked under the same sun as you. Once, I played tennis under the same sun as you. Repetition sun. Staccato sun. Wrinkled sun. I tell your skin that covers your clavicle We’ve got at least 53 more years of holding hands on a bench under the same sun. The sequel to this poem is John Cusack holding a boombox over his head under barely any sun. Fact: I want to kiss your nose even when I’m not inside you.

    9. “The Four Moon Planet,” Billy Collins
    I have envied the four-moon planet.
    -The Notebooks of Robert Frost

    Maybe he was thinking of the song
    "What a Little Moonlight Can do"
    and became curious about
    what a lot of moonlight might be capable of.

    But wouldn't this be too much of a good thing?
    and what if you couldn't tell them apart
    and they always rose together
    like pale quadruplets entering a living room?

    Yes, there would be enough light
    to read a book or write a letter at midnight,
    and if you drank enough tequila
    you might see eight of them roving brightly above.

    But think of the two lovers on a beach,
    his arm around her bare shoulder,
    thrilled at how close they were feeling tonight
    while he gazed at one moon and
    she another.

    10. “Scheherazade,” Richard Siken
    Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
                                                           and dress them in warm clothes again.
             How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
    until they forget that they are horses.
                       It's not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
             it's more like a song on a policeman's radio,
                     how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
    were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
                                                                                           to slice into pieces.
    Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it's noon, that means
             we're inconsolable.
                                   Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
    These, our bodies, possessed by light.
                                                                    Tell me we'll never get used to it.

    11. “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife,” Michael Ondaatje
    If I were a cinnamon peeler
    I would ride your bed
    and leave the yellow bark dust
    on your pillow.

    Your breasts and shoulders would reek
    you could never walk through markets
    without the profession of my fingers
    floating over you. The blind would
    stumble certain of whom they approached
    though you might bathe
    under rain gutters, monsoon.

    Here on the upper thigh
    at this smooth pasture
    neighbor to your hair
    or the crease
    that cuts your back. This ankle.
    You will be known among strangers
    as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.

    I could hardly glance at you
    before marriage
    never touch you
    – your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
    I buried my hands
    in saffron, disguised them
    over smoking tar,
    helped the honey gatherers…

    When we swam once
    I touched you in water
    and our bodies remained free,
    you could hold me and be blind of smell.
    You climbed the bank and said

    this is how you touch other women
    the grasscutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
    And you searched your arms
    for the missing perfume.
    and knew
    what good is it
    to be the lime burner’s daughter
    left with no trace
    as if not spoken to in an act of love
    as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.

    You touched
    your belly to my hands
    in the dry air and said
    I am the cinnamon
    peeler’s wife. Smell me.

    1 comments → Poetry Mixtape by Shinji Moon

    1. Beauty and rapture. Thanks be.

    Post a Comment