Opticks

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Photo by TJ Parker

This is her descending
glance captured
in a hidden photograph

taken when I was
an infant and Mother held me
at arm’s length. I look back

for her, unsurprised
still questioning why she doesn’t return
my gaze. Her eyes

fix on a spot between
her face and my face. For the infant
there is no distinction.

Her disaffection stains the intimate
objects found years later
among her things of everyday:

a thimble embroidered with a single petal.
a slim gold watch-stopped.
Brushes held to

dry in a bamboo roll. A tiny lime
and fuchsia dress sewn by her
hands for my hundredth day.

His wedding band, scarred
a muted gray. In the gap between us
a vacancy swells and bellies

the air where her eyes avert mine
to slide off where? I wish I could see her
engage and ignite

these traces of the ordinary,
the minutely particular
totems of our daily life: holy.

In an old dream, I plot a little boy’s flight.
Like a fighter pilot, I drop
a homing device back in time to spy

into the landscape of my infancy
before she turned her face away-
before my need was extraordinary.

~Eleanor Chai, Standing Water Poems

Tuesday

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Photo by TJ Parker

Days been dark
don’t say “in these dark days”
done changed my cones and rods

Sometimes I’m the country
other times the countryside

I put my clothes back on
to take them off again

~ Fady Joudah

Song of the Open Road, IV

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Photo by TJ Parker

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?

O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.

~ Walt Whitman

Time I’m Not Here

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

All day on all my days,
the lives I’m not to process wash in;

 

anxieties lullaby on
and quite like to be gotten among;

but now—and now—one old,
abundant flower just screws up the room.

~Graham Foust

Detail Of The Hayfield

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Photo by TJ Parker

I followed myself for a long while, deep into the field.

Two heads full of garbage.

Our scope was larger than I realized,
which only made me that much more responsible.

Yellow, yellow, gold, and ocher.
We stopped. We held the field. We stood very still.

Everyone needs a place.

You need it for the moment you need it, then you bless it—
thank you soup, thank you flashlight—

and move on. Who does this? No one.

~Richard Siken

Accepting Heaven at Great Basin

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Photo by TJ Parker

When you doubt the world
look at the undivided darkness

look at Wheeler Peak
cliffs like suspended prayers

contemplate the cerulean
the gleaming limestone

the frozen shades
the wildflowers

look at the bristlecone pine
a labyrinth to winding wonders

listen to the caves
sing silently

remember the smell of sagebrush
after a thunderstorm

that Lexington Arch
is a bridge of questions

in the solitude of dreams
that here

distances disturb desire
to deliver a collision of breaths

the desert echoes
in this dark night sky

stars reveal the way
a heart can light a world.

~Nathalie Handal

Prayer

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Photo by TJ Parker

Its occasion
could be
a spot of sun,
bar sign, label
on jeans,
carnation, red
light where you
wait and
gratitude hits.
Or a name
the length
of a subway car
that only makes sense
when you say it aloud
in your head
as it passes.

~Lia Purpura