Poem for the Day: October 22nd, 2021

SHORELINES by Adil Jussawalla

Bells by Adil Jussawalla

Their bells replaced by tins they rattle,
the city’s lepers don’t mean to warn
but in your face seek the metal you think
they’re worth. For once, for some moments,
as I drop my ransom and make my getaway
— it’s a street that housed the port’s warehouses once —
I hear bells from Surat ringing an evening’s close,
the murmur of crowds dispersing,
watch the harbour’s torches light up a quay
I never stepped on and a grandfather I never met,
his eye on his watch, just beginning to know
how little it takes for a day to be extinguished,
how long for bells to make us believe it has gone.

© 2019 Adil Jussawalla. “Bells” appears in Jussawalla’s collection SHORELINES, which was published in 2019 by Poetrywala and is now available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 21st, 2021

Traveling by Malena Mörling

Like streetlights
still lit
past dawn,
the dead
stare at us
from the framed
photographs.

You may say otherwise,
but there they are,
still here
traveling
continuously
backwards
without a sound
further and further
into the past.

© 2006 Malena Mörling and the University of Pittsburgh Press. “Traveling” appears in Astoria, which was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2006 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 20th, 2021

the tenderness of autumn by Madisen Kuhn

i hold onto 
the way the air feels in october
it brings out the best in me
unlike the violating heat
of august that fills the space between
the dirt and the heavens
only a handful of moons prior to
the golden treetops and the
ritualistic pumpkin and maple
that stir our hearts and reveal
our need for stupid, cheery things

the earth is falling asleep
lying its head to rest
in the fading foliage on the ground
folding up the day into smaller
and smaller glimpses of light
but here i am
bathing in the soft wind
here i am
grinning in a grey sweater
here i am
waking up

© 2018 Madisen Kuhn.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 19th, 2021

Pluto Shits on the Universe by Fatimah Asghar

On February 7, 1979, Pluto crossed over Neptune’s orbit and became the eighth planet from the sun for twenty years. A study in 1988 determined that Pluto’s path of orbit could never be accurately predicted. Labeled as “chaotic,” Pluto was later discredited from planet status in 2006.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops.
My bad. Your graph said I was supposed
to make a nice little loop around the sun.

Naw.

I chaos like a motherfucker. Ain’t no one can
chart me. All the other planets, they think
I’m annoying. They think I’m an escaped
moon, running free.

Fuck your moon. Fuck your solar system.
Fuck your time. Your year? Your year ain’t
shit but a day to me. I could spend your
whole year turning the winds in my bed. Thinking
about rings and how Jupiter should just pussy
on up and marry me by now. Your day?

That’s an asswipe. A sniffle. Your whole day
is barely the start of my sunset.

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.
Somewhere in the mess of graphs and math and compass
you tried to make me follow rules. Rules? Fuck your
rules. Neptune, that bitch slow. And I deserve all the sun
I can get, and all the blue-gold sky I want around me.

It is February 7th, 1979 and my skin is more
copper than any sky will ever be. More metal.
Neptune is bitch-sobbing in my rearview,
and I got my running shoes on and all this sky that’s all mine.

Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos.
I chaosed all the hell you have yet to feel. Now all your kids
in the classrooms, they confused. All their clocks:
wrong. They don’t even know what the fuck to do.
They gotta memorize new songs and shit. And the other
planets, I fucked their orbits. I shook the sky. Chaos like
a motherfucker.

It is February 7th, 1979. The sky is blue-gold:
the freedom of possibility.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad.

© 2015 Fatimah Asghar. “Pluto Shits on the Universe” first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Poetry.

“Pluto Shits on the Universe” is now probably in my top ten favorite poems of all time. I love Asghar’s irreverence here, the way she plays with the multiple meanings of certain words. Consider this part of the poem:

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.

Order here conveys certain ideas singularly and in conjunction with one another:

Order as “a state in which everything is in its correct or appropriate place”.*

Order as “the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method”.”

Order as “an authoritative command, direction, or instruction”.*

Order as the opposite of Chaos, in Chaos Theory, which is “an interdisciplinary theory and branch of mathematics focusing on the study of chaos: dynamical systems whose apparently random states of disorder and irregularities are actually governed by underlying patterns and deterministic laws that are highly sensitive to initial conditions”.**

*Definition taken from Oxford Languages

**Definition taken from Wikipedia

There is the forced classification, the imposition of hierarchies, the reification of unnatural (human-made) systems, and the stark dismissal of them all.

Chaos like a motherfucker. / And you tried to order me. Called me ninth. There is an acknowledgment of the would-be controlling outside power and its unequivocal rejection. There is the forced classification, the imposition of hierarchies, the reification of unnatural (human-made) systems, and the stark dismissal of them all.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad. Y’all. That slaps.

Fatimah Asghar Recites Her Poem, “Pluto Shits on the Universe”

You can learn more about Fatimah Asghar and her work at her website. Her debut poetry collection, If They Come for Us: Poems, was published by One World in August 2018 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 18th, 2021

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The awful shadow of some unseen Power 
Floats though unseen among us; visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower;
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form, where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
Ask why the sunlight not for ever
Weaves rainbows o'er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom, why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
To sage or poet these responses given:
Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavour:
Frail spells whose utter'd charm might not avail to sever,
From all we hear and all we see,
Doubt, chance and mutability.
Thy light alone like mist o'er mountains driven,
Or music by the night-wind sent
Through strings of some still instrument,
Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
Thou messenger of sympathies,
That wax and wane in lovers' eyes;
Thou, that to human thought art nourishment,
Like darkness to a dying flame!
Depart not as thy shadow came,
Depart not—lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I call'd on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard; I saw them not;
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shriek'd, and clasp'd my hands in ecstasy!

I vow'd that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine: have I not kept the vow?
With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in vision'd bowers
Of studious zeal or love's delight
Outwatch'd with me the envious night:
They know that never joy illum'd my brow
Unlink'd with hope that thou wouldst free
This world from its dark slavery,
That thou, O awful LOVELINESS,
Wouldst give whate'er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past; there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Thus let thy power, which like the truth
Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply
Its calm, to one who worships thee,
And every form containing thee,
Whom, SPIRIT fair, thy spells did bind
To fear himself, and love all human kind.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 17th, 2021

Signs by Larry Levis

All night I dreamed of my home,
of the roads that are so long
and straight they die in the middle—
among the spines of elderly weeds
on either side, among the dead cats,
the ants who are all eyes, the suitcase
thrown open, sprouting failures.

2.
And this evening in the garden
I find the winter
inside a snail shell, rigid and
cool, a little stubborn temple,
its one visitor gone.

3.
If there were messages or signs,
I might hear now a voice tell me
to walk forever, to ask
the mold for pardon, and one
by one I would hear out my sins,
hear they are not important—that I am
part of this rain
drumming its long fingers, and
of the roadside stone refusing
to blink, and of the coyote
nailed to the fence with its
long grin.

And when there are no messages
the dead lie still—
their hands crossed so strangely
like knives and forks after supper.

4.
I stay up late listening.
My feet tap the floor,
they begin a tiny dance
which will outlive me.
They turn away from this poem.
It is almost Spring.

© 2000 University of Pittsburgh Press. “Signs” is taken from The Selected Levis, which was published in 2000 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Selected Levis is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 16th, 2021

First Course in Turbulence: Poems by Dean Young

The Infirmament by Dean Young

An end is always punishment for a beginning.
If you’re Catholic, sadness is punishment
for happiness, you become the bug you squash
if you’re Hindu, a flinty space opens
in your head after a long night of laughter
and wine. For waking there are dreams,
from French poetry, English poetry,
for light fire although sometimes
fire must be punished by light
which is why psychotherapy had to be invented.
A father may say nothing to a son for years.
A wife may keep something small folded deep
in her underwear drawer. Clouds come in
resembling the terrible things we believe
about ourselves, a rock comes loose
from a ledge, the baby just cries
and cries. Doll in a chair,
windshield wipers, staring off
into the city lights. For years
you may be unable to hear the word monkey
without a stab in the heart because
she called you that the summer she thought
she loved you and you thought you loved
someone else and everyone loved
your salad dressing. And the daffodils
come up in the spring and the snow covers
the road in winter and the water covers
the deep trenches in the sea where all the time
the inner stuff of this earth surges up
which is how the continents are made
and broken.

© 1999 Dean Young. “The Infirmament” is taken from Young’s collection First Course in Turbulence: Poems, which was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1999. You can order it here.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 15th, 2021

Notes from the Camoufleurs by Karen Skolfield

The light in Afghanistan
is not the light in Vietnam.
If  vegetation, describe the leaf.

If  rock, its striation. If city, its doorways
and lintels, its hosting of guests.
Its gestures of welcome and warning.

Describe the wattage of searchlights,
the color of streetlamps, the wakefulness
of men. Describe the cigarette’s blooded eye,

a crimp of smoke. Describe evening’s
lift of heat, the riming of sweat.
If olive trees, describe the olives.

How a fig feels in the hand.
Of the women to be outfitted calculate
their curvatures and needs, if they require

more or fewer pockets for pens.
Determine torso length, musculature,
what weapons may be carried; where

the ammo belt sits, if more men
dress right or left, if concertina wire
bares its teeth every three inches or four.

Study how nature tucks itself into grasses,
study the striping of zebras, the panther’s
darkness, a savannah and the jackal

folded within; how a seal’s belly blends
with the sky when viewed from below.
A ptarmigan feathering into snow.

Describe the mission: peacekeeping
or suppression. Shield or storm.
Consider that a pattern may dazzle

or disrupt. Describe the sight lines:
heat-seeking technology versus scopes.
Scopes versus the sharp-eyed.

When a friend is not always a friend.
When a back might be turned. Consider,
at times, how the jaguar wants to be seen.

© 2020 Karen Skolfield. Today’s poem was taken from the May 2020 issue of Poetry.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 14th, 2021

On Confinement by torrin a. greathouse

I sit across the table from my partner
in the atrium of the psychiatric holding facility

our hands churched into our laps. We are not allowed
to touch. The air between us thick as Perspex.

They tell me all the ways this place resembles a prison.




Everything a sterile white
so clean it could almost disinfect
a memory.




In 1787,
Jeremy Bentham conceived of what would become
the most common prison design:

the panopticon.

Intended to control prisoners through the illusion
that they are always under surveillance.




My partner tells their therapist
they are afraid of taking
their own life,

that they balanced on a building’s edge,
& three officers escort them from the room.



The first cop who ever handcuffed me
[was my father]
left me bound
till my fingers blued.

On the days when I can’t remember
his face,
he becomes the scent of
vodka & zip ties
the sound of
cuffs & a bottle
petaling into blades.




At the booking office they remove my glasses
& the guards blur into a procession
of fathers.




I bring my partner clothes & pads
when the hospital decides to hold them longer,

shove each shirt that could mark them
as queer back inside the closet & shut it [like a mouth].




The word faggot scrawls across
the jail guard’s lips like graffiti.



When I visit my partner
they insist on staying inside

the sky above
the patio cordoned
off  with chicken wire.




I plead my sentence down
in exchange for: my face, my prints, my DNA
& ten years probation.

When I see a cop, I fear
even my breath
criminal

& when my therapist asks me
if  I’m suicidal
I lie.


Perhaps
both are a kind
of  surveillance.




Tear gas floods the street,
sharpens water to a blade
hidden in the orbit of my eye.

& just like this, a squad car
remakes my sadness a weapon.

If my partner snaps cuffs
around my wrists

[& I asked for this]

have they also weaponized
my desire?




A woman in the facility
tells my partner:
I know what you are.
Says:
Sinner.
Says:
Anti-christ.

My partner goads her on,
babbles in false
tongues & is confined
to their room for safety.




Once, a cop dragged me
into an alley &
beat me like he knew
exactly what I was.

What does it say if sometimes
when I ask my partner to hit me

I expect his fist
tightened in their throat, his voice
bruising their tongue?



I am arrested & placed
[in the men’s jail]
in solitary confinement.

They tell me this is protective
custody. That they couldn’t afford
the lawsuit if  I were killed. In this way,
they tell me I am a woman

only when I am no longer
breathing.




The origin of the word prison
is the Latin prehendere — to take.

It follows, then,
that to take your life is to prison
the body beneath dirt.




[Historically,
suicide is a criminal act].




Balanced on a building’s edge, I imagine
some permutation of  this moment

where to fail at death
would be a breach

of my probation.




We both weep for the first time

upon release

when we see the sky.

Pale blue

sliced through

with a single helix

of razor wire & bordered

in sterile white.

© 2018 torrin a. greathouse. Today’s poem first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Poetry.

torrin a. greathouse (she/they) is one of the most innovative and startlingly luminous poets we have writing today. I remember reading “On Confinement” the month it first appeared in Poetry and being arrested by the following lines:

The origin of the word prison

is the Latin prehendere— to take.

It follows, then,

that to take your life is to prison

the body beneath dirt.

Everything in their poem suggests a limitation, a box the world would build around the speaker. Whether the prison is literal (the men’s holding cell in solitary confinement) or metaphorical (the actions and assumptions of people with the authority to categorize and strip away the dignity of the speaker), the effect is the same, which is to police and draw lines of demarcation around the ways in which marginalized people, especially in this case people who are queer and disabled, are allowed to express their humanity and exercise agency.

“On Confinement” also brings into stark relief the Othering Trans* people undergo when they try to access basic social services. Any facility serving members of the general public ought to be devoid of the homo- and transphobia greathouse talks about. Historically, the Trans body is often a site of both state-sanctioned and private violence, and for all our high-handed talk of equality and progressiveness, this is still largely true today. Anyone able to bear witness to these acts of dehumanization and look away from them places their seal of approval on the acts themselves. And shame on them. Shame on a world that makes someone live in constant fear of violence because of who they are and calls it justice. Shame on all of us.

*Trans is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender identity and/or expression in any way deviates from what was assigned to them at birth. Trans people may identify as transgender, gender fluid, gender-expansive, bigender, agender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, etc. These are just a few of the identifying words Trans people may or may not use to express their identity(ies), but regardless of terminology all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is NEVER okay to deliberately misgender someone or use their dead name.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 13th, 2021

Not Even This by Ocean Vuong

Hey.

I used to be a fag now I’m a checkbox.

The pen tip jabbed in my back, I feel the mark of progress.

I will not dance alone in the municipal graveyard at midnight, blasting sad
songs on my phone, for nothing.

I promise you, I was here. I felt things that made death so large it was
indistinguishable from air—and I went on destroying inside it like wind in
a storm.

The way Lil Peep says I’ll be back in the mornin’  when you know how it ends.

The way I kept dancing when the song was over, because it freed me.

The way the streetlight blinks once, before waking up for its night shift, like
we do.

The way we look up and whisper sorry to each other, the boy and I, when
there’s teeth.

When there’s always teeth, on purpose.

When I threw myself into gravity and made it work. Ha.

I made it out by the skin of my griefs.

I used to be a fag now I’m lit. Ha.

Once, at a party set on a rooftop in Brooklyn for an “artsy vibe,” a young
woman said, sipping her drink, You’re so lucky. You’re gay plus you get to
write about war and stuff. I’m just white. [Pause.] I got nothing. [Laughter,
glasses clinking.]

Unlike feelings, blood gets realer when you feel it.

Because everyone knows yellow pain, pressed into American letters, turns
to gold.

Our sorrow Midas-touched. Napalm with a rainbow afterglow.

I’m trying to be real but it costs too much.

They say the Earth spins and that’s why we fall but everyone knows it’s the
music.

It’s been proven difficult to dance to machine gun fire.

Still, my people made a rhythm this way. A way.

My people, so still, in the photographs, as corpses.

My failure was that I got used to it. I looked at us, mangled under the TIME
photographer’s shadow, and stopped thinking, Get up, get up.

I saw the graveyard steam in the pinkish dawn and knew the dead were still
breathing. Ha.

If they come for me, take me home take me out.

What if it wasn’t the crash that made me, but the debris?

What if it was meant this way: the mother, the lexicon, the line of cocaine on
the mohawked boy’s collarbone in an East Village sublet in 2007?

What’s wrong with me, Doc? There must be a pill for this.

Too late—these words already shrapnel in your brain.

Impossible in high school, I am now the ultimate linebacker. I plow through
the page, making a path for you, dear reader, going nowhere.

Because the fairy tales were right. You’ll need magic to make it out of  here.

Long ago, in another life, on an Amtrak through Iowa, I saw, for a few blurred
seconds, a man standing in the middle of a field of winter grass, hands at his
side, back to me, all of him stopped there save for his hair scraped by low
wind.

When the countryside resumed its wash of gray wheat, tractors, gutted
barns, black sycamores in herdless pastures, I started to cry. I put my copy
of Didion’s The White Album down and folded a new dark around my head.

The woman beside me stroked my back saying, in a Midwestern accent that
wobbled with tenderness, Go on son. You get that out now. No shame in
breakin’ open. You get that out and I’ll fetch us some tea. Which made me
lose it even more.

She came back with Lipton in paper cups, her eyes nowhere blue and there.
She was silent all the way to Missoula, where she got off and said, patting my
knee, God is good. God is good.

I can say it was beautiful now, my harm, because it belonged to no one else.

To be a dam for damage. My shittiness will not enter the world, I thought,
and quickly became my own hero.

Do you know how many hours I’ve wasted watching straight boys play video
games?

Enough.

Time is a mother.

Lest we forget, a morgue is also a community center.

In my language, the one I recall now only by closing my eyes, the word for
love is Yêu.

And the word for weakness is Yếu.

How you say what you mean changes what you say.

Some call this prayer. I call it watch your mouth.

When they zipped my mother in a body bag I whispered: Rose, get out of there.
Your plants are dying.

Enough is enough.

Body, doorway that you are, be more than what I’ll pass through.

Stillness. That’s what it was.

The man in the field in the red sweater, he was so still he became, somehow,
more true, like a knife wound in a landscape painting.

Like him, I caved.

I caved and decided it will be joy from now on. Then everything opened. The
lights blazed around me into a white weather

and I was lifted, wet and bloody, out of my mother, screaming

and enough.

© 2020 Ocean Vuong. Today’s poem was first published in the April 2020 issue of Poetry.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.