Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

by Mary Oliver Every year we have been witness to it: how the world descends into a rich mash, in order that it may resume. And therefore who would cry out to the petals on the ground to stay, knowing, as we must, how the vivacity of what was is married to the vitality of what will be? I don’t say it’s easy, but what else will do if the love one claims to have for the world be true? So let us go on though the sun be swinging east, and the ponds be cold and black, and the sweets of the year be doomed. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.


by William Shakespeare That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see'st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire, Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by. This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

The Chinese Peaks

by Robert Bly     For Donald Hall I love the mountain peak but I know also its rolling foothills half-invisible in mist and fog. The Seafarer gets up long before dawn to read. His soul is a whale feeding on the Holy Word. The soul who loves the peak also inhales the deep breath rising from the mountain buried in mist.

The Past

by Max Reif The past is an interest-bearing investment, an estate enclosing more territory each day, a delta always creating land. Now, in my 60s, I'm a great landowner, a don unable to survey all my holdings at once, even from the highest hill. To do so, I have to take to the winding back roads. Whole years I'd forgotten come into view. Everything is growing, rooted in soil. I didn't know the past blossomed with such passionate, poignant flowers or yielded such succulent fruit. Blossoms have faces and speak. Resurrected old homes straddle valleys. Memories graze on hillsides. I return from such excursions knowing there are still more such loops. How did the tiny sharecropper's yard I knew as a young man ever accrue to this? What Hand has watered the once-arid precincts and made them fertile? I wonder, hearing people say, “the past is dead”, when I find it so alive, nearly as unknown, at times, as what has not yet been dreamed, and

On the Day the Last Drag Queen Leaves Town

by Eric Leigh for Issan The boys downstairs huff gasoline off strips of Mother’s emerald gown, making what joy they can out of fume and a knockoff Halston. No note, no explanation, only thing she left is a hole where reason should be. You grow a heart and feed it leftovers: stray earrings, scuffed-out pumps, the soft pink flame of her first feather boa. How it curled around her shoulders when she did the lucky snake dance, the one with the shimmy, where her hands dangled at her side and slapped her hips. And then she’d wave her hand across the air just as she did every morning when you’d wake her with an orange for breakfast, a bowl of milk for her facial, and she’d give you a word: banana , somehow transformed by the dissonance of painted lips and baritone. Truth is you’ll be just fine. Remember a girl in high heels can still win a race. You’re just missing the way she knew you— the way the

Miracle Fair

by Wislawa Szymborska Commonplace miracle: that so many commonplace miracles happen. An ordinary miracle: in the dead of night the barking of invisible dogs. One miracle out of many: a small, airy cloud yet it can block a large and heavy moon. Several miracles in one: an alder tree reflected in the water, and that it’s backwards left to right and that it grows there, crown down and never reaches the bottom, even though the water is shallow. An everyday miracle: winds weak to moderate turning gusty in storms. First among equal miracles: cows are cows. Second to none: just this orchard from just that seed. A miracle without a cape and top hat: scattering white doves. A miracle, for what else could you call it: today the sun rose at three-fourteen and will set at eight-o-one. A miracle, less surprising than it should be: even though the hand has fewer than six fingers, it still has more than four. A miracle, just take a look around: the wor


by Wislawa Szymborska I prefer movies. I prefer cats. I prefer the oaks along the river. I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky. I prefer myself liking people to myself loving mankind. I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case. I prefer the color green. I prefer not to maintain that reason is to blame for everything. I prefer exceptions. I prefer to leave early. I prefer talking to doctors about something else. I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations. I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems. I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries that can be celebrated every day. I prefer moralists who promise me nothing. I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind. I prefer the earth in civvies. I prefer conquered to conquering countries. I prefer having some reservations. I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order. I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages. I prefer leave