I held him together
as long as I could, she says.

He stopped working,
stopped coming upstairs.

He was like tissue paper
coming apart in water.

Like smoke in my hands.
It had nothing to do

with you, baby. You left
when you had to.

I met a woman once
who worked on pianos.

Said it was a hard job.
The tools, the leverage.

The required ear. I love it,
she said, but it’s brutal.

The second I step away
it’s already falling out of tune.

Edgar Kunz

Lines Written During My Second Pandemic

after Franca Mancinelli

All water flows toward loneliness.
Loneliness is a black eye, a gleaming pit.
We have yet to split loneliness like an atom.
Loneliness arrives on a leash of scorpions.
In my skull, loneliness opens like a parachute.
It’s illegal to chain loneliness to a fence.
Flickers tunnel through loneliness to build nests.
I sprinkle a spoon of sugar over loneliness.
In some languages, loneliness is imperfect.
Antlers crown the bald head of loneliness.
Like rough trade, loneliness won’t kiss you.
Loneliness is crouched in a tree, afraid of dirt.
In the dark, loneliness ripens too quickly.
Beneath the roof of loneliness, my blood drifts.

Eduardo C. Corral

Nhớ Cha

Biết cha đã mãi đi rồi
Vẫn nguyên cảm xúc bồi hồi tiếc thương
Giờ cha đã ở Thiên đường
Con cháu ở lại nhớ thương cạn lời
Biết là quy luật muôn đời
Sinh lão bệnh tử phải rời nhân gian
Mà sao vẫn cứ lệ tràn
Mà sao vẫn cứ muôn vàn tiếc thương.

Nguyễn Khắc Thiện

Mouthful of Forevers

I am not the first person you loved.
You are not the first person I looked at
with a mouthful of forevers. We
have both known loss like the sharp edges
of a knife. We have both lived with lips
more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
unannounced in the middle of the night.
Our love came when we’d given up
on asking love to come. I think
that has to be part
of its miracle.

This is how we heal.
I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
will bandage and we will press promises
between us like flowers in a book.
I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
of your nose. I will write a dictionary
of all the words I have used trying
to describe the way it feels to have finally,
finally found you.

And I will not be afraid
of your scars.

I know sometimes
it’s still hard to let me see you
in all your cracked perfection,
but please know:
whether it’s the days you burn
more brilliant than the sun
or the nights you collapse into my lap
your body broken into a thousand questions,
you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I will love you when you are a still day.
I will love you when you are a hurricane.

Clementine von Radics

Life, Alarm Clock, Mirror

I married the earth.
Now life is simple.
I sit in a chair
and speak to the things around me.
Hey clock, hey life, hey mirror!
When they don’t speak back
I laugh or I weep,
whatever they feel like doing,
and the moon comes closer, closer.

Mary Ruefle (from the Strays series)

Get Down

That’s my man, anytime I holler, holler with me
We shared chicken sandwiches—they were a dollar-fifty
Budget: seven dollars, nickel bag, and White Owl
I hope the chicken sandwich last us through the night, child
We ain’t care; we ain’t sleep; we were night owls
Insomniatics, our lifestyles compatible
Magical, Pops gone, shit tragical
Moms gon’ miss you; my house is where the addicts chill
I’m like a teacher; I need me a sabbatical
It’s not irrational; I grew up radical.

Cam’ron (An excerpt from “Get Down”)

The Moral Arc of the Universe Bends Toward Justice

Think the American Civil War,—
…followed by a century of Jim Crow.

If you do not become a master
you are a slave.

The voice of What had to be built leaves certain
words bodiless. The Lost Cause, strange

fruit, was lost, for us, in a song about lacerated flesh.

When a master stares at himself in the future

what he fears is that the world will do to him what
he did to the world when he was the world.

Frank Bidart (an excerpt)

Hue: From a Notebook

We went down the Perfume River by dragon boat
as far as the pagoda of the three golden Buddhas.

Pray here. You can ask for happiness.
We light joss sticks, send votives downriver in paper sacks,

then have trouble disembarking from the boat.
Our bodies disembark, but our souls remain.

A thousand lanterns drift, a notebook opens in the dark
to a page where moonlight makes a sound.

These soldiers are decades from war now:
pewter-haired, steel-haired, a moon caught in plumeria.

We are like the clouds that pass and pass.
What does it matter then if we are not the same as clouds?

There was then the whir of stork wings, and bicycle chains ringing.
It is still now the way the air is still just before the mine explodes.

Once we fired at each other. Now we pass silence back and forth.
On the ten thousand graves, we lay chrysanthemum.

Carolyn Forché

Amanda Gorman

An excerpt from “At First”:

We became paid professionals of pain.
Specialists in suffering,
Aces of the ache,
Masters of the moan.

An excerpt from “Fugue”:

We added a thousand false steps
To our walk tracker today
Because every step we’ve taken
Has required more than we had to give.

An excerpt from “Another Nautical”:

We, like the water, forget nothing,
Forgo everything.
Words, also like the water,
Are a type of washing.
Through them we cleanse ourselves
Of what we are not.
That is to say, words
Are how we are moored & unmarred.
Let us rouse & roar
Like the ancient beasts we are.

An excerpt from “In the Deep”:

Yes, nostalgia has its purposes—
Transport from the spectered,
The jobs never coming back,
The mothers’ primal screams,
Our children’s minds shuttered from school,
The funerals without families,
Weddings in waiting,
The births in isolation.
Let no one again
Have to begin, love, or end, alone.

An excerpt from “Compass”:

The pain pulls us apart,
Like lips about to speak.
Without language nothing can live
At all, let alone
Beyond itself.

Lost as we feel, there is no better
Compass than compassion.
We find ourselves not by being
The most seen, but the most seeing.
We watch a toddler
Freewheel through warm grass,
Not fleeing, just running, the way rivers do,
For it is in their unfettered nature.
We smile, our whole face cleared
By that single dazzling thing.
How could we not be altered?

An excerpt from “Hephaestus”:

We labor equally
When we fall as when we rise.
Always remember that
What happened to us
Happened through us.

We wonder how close
Can we come to light
Before we shut our eyes.

How long can we stand the dark
Before we become more than our shadows.

“Every Day We Are Learning” (full poem)

Every day we are learning
How to live with essence, not ease.
How to move with haste, never hate.
How to leave this pain that is beyond us
Behind us.
Just like a skill or any art,
We cannot possess hope without practicing it.
It is the most fundamental craft we demand of ourselves.

An excerpt from “Cordage, or Atonement”:

We are the whale,
With a heart so huge
It can’t help but wail.
We can’t help but help.
If given the choice, we would not be
Among the Chosen,
But amidst the Changed.

Unity is its own devout work,
The word we work in,
That leaves us devastated to be delivered.

The future isn’t attained.
It is atoned, until
It is at one with history,
Until home is more than memory,

Until we can hold near
Who we hold dear.

What a marvelous wreck are we.
We press out of our cold
& separate crouching.
Like a vine sprung overnight,
We were reaching & wretched
Upon this mortal soil
& even so we are undiminished.
If just for this newborn day,
Let us take back our lives.

“Life” (full poem)

Life is not what is promised,
But what is sought.
These bones, not what is found,
But what we’ve fought.
Our truth, not what we said,
But what we thought.
Our lesson, all we have taken
& all we have brought.

An excerpt from “_____[Gated]”:

Never forget that to be alone
Has always been a price for some & a privilege for others.

We have yielded
Centuries of sidewalk,

To be kept to the edges of existence is the inheritance of the marginalized.

“Rose” (full poem)

Riots are red
Violence is blue
We’re sick of dying
How ’bout you

An excerpt from “We Write”:

We write
Because you might listen.
We write because
We are lost
& lonely,
& you, like us,
Are looking
& learning.

The Fury

Pullin’ the covers back, I expose what you disguise
My presence is felt, the pressure is on
A 4-11 Cuban helped us weather the storm
Pyrex and powder, it was back to the norm
Through all the adversity, the fury was born

Pusha T (An excerpt from “We Got It for Cheap”)