Julia Guez: The Certain Body

Read it but didn’t get it. The collection was hard for me to understand with the exception of “Still Life with SARS-CoV-2”:

and then what
and then
what, what


If your name will ever not be
gravel in my mouth, I wonder.

A is how public alphabets begin.
A is what I write at the top of your letters.

[Happy Anniversary] A-
[Happy New Year] A-

As a child I was forced
to make a show of saying

I love you, day after day
to a woman with cruel blue eyes.

Now, I say it to you,
and you say it to me.

What a marriage ending looks like
I saw up close before puberty-

financial stress, infidelity-
I do, I do. I do, I do, I do, I do-

I hear myself say I’m married to a room,
and in the room, am the most startled.

I attend a monthly dinner alone
(by which I mean without you)

where people share hot tips
for how to be less in debt

then get drunk on wine and convince me
to buy things I don’t need.

Growing up, I associated guilt
with wanting anything

except books; good books were safe
if used, if read more than once.

Language was a rewarded vice,
and the Good Book best of all

to be caught eyeing,
though dangerous in its own ways

with its impossible orders like
Walk as a child of light.

To want light. I tried. I did.
My trying has cursed me more than anything.

You say I should be more selfish with my time
because you don’t know the hours

I photograph myself
naked to share with no one.

I’m sorry. I love you. I’m a creature
most at home

replenishing my venom under rock.
The entire days of silence:

this is how I knew we could work.
Of all I could seduce, only you could I imagine

crawling over, crawling beneath
for close to a century, curious.

Gabrielle Bates

The Dog

He didn’t want to tell me. He almost didn’t.
It was luck much more than gut that made me ask.
A beer opened an hour earlier than usual,
the desire for conversation. There was no sense in me
that he was in some sort of aftermath.
He said, when I asked, I had a bad day,
or, I had a weird day, I can’t remember.
I saw a dog, he said. I was on the train.
A man with a dog on a leash. The man ran and made it
but the dog hesitated outside, and the doors closed—
no, not on his neck-on the leash, trapping it.
The man was inside, and the dog was outside on the platform.
The button beside the door, ringed in light, blinked.
The man was shouting now, hitting the button,
all else silent, the befuddlement
of dog pulled along, the pace slow until it wasn’t.
The tunnel the train must pass through leaving the station
is a perfectly calibrated, unforgiving fit.
The dog had a color and a size I don’t know,
so it comes to me as legion.
Large. Small. Fur long, or short. White, or gray.
But the man always looks the same.
As I held him against me in our kitchen,
the moment sharpened my eyes. How easily
I could imagine a version of our lives
in which he kept all his suffering secret from me.
I saw the beer on the counter. I saw myself drink it.
When we went to bed, I stared at the back of his head
split between compassion and fury. My nails
gently scratching up his arm, up and down, up and down,
the blade without which the guillotine is nothing.

Gabrielle Bates

The Blessings

i gave mine away—
not all, but the greater portion,
some would say. i gave
away the ready claim
to goodness, to purpose. i gave
away mary, sarai,
and isis. i gave away
necessity and invention.
i gave away a whole
holiday, but i kept billie.
i gave away the chance to try
and fail to have it all. i gave
away the one thing
that makes some men
pay. i gave away the pedestal,
the bouquet. i gave away
nel wright, but i kept sula
peace. i gave away
the fine-tooth comb, but
kept the oyster knife. i gave
away the first word
the new mouth forms, the easiest
to parlay across so many
languages. escaping
the maw, i gave away
the power to hold—and be held
in—sway, but i kept
cho, parton, finney, chapman,
and tomei. i gave away the eve
who left the garden
that day, but kept the cool,
green, shady, fruitless,
fruitful stay, the evening
that did not fall

Evie Shockley

Olena Kalytiak Davis: Late Summer Ode

I love her opening poem titled “I Was Minor” and I thought I was in for a treat. Unfortunately, I didn’t get many of her poems from this collection. It’s my own fault—not the author. I am still learning to read poetry.

A Way if Putting It


Unfortunately, I’m given to the pronouncements of age
As I get older, but it isn’t complacency or the cocktail hour.
It’s simply the frustration of revising what I used to feel
And hope in order to accommodate the demands of the page

Of seventy-four, or to see myself anew through “ancient,
Glittering eyes” while being faithful to what I’ve been all along,
As it alters slightly in the changing light, while remaining
A version of what it always was, like an echo of the same song.

In the end what matters is the feeling of life as a whole
As reflected in the details of each day, which are difficult to see.
As truth becomes altered in the telling, so the individual life
Becomes an artifact of its history, no matter what its original goal

Might have been, or what it might be happy to settle for now.
And it’s not just the individual life, but the collective life of art
That’s subject to revision, however unimportant it’s become,
Involving at the same time both “a wholly new start,
And a different kind of failure,” which feel the same.
Sosostris, Eugenides, Sunday Morning from the Palisades
And Innisfree-what hides behind every “order of monuments”
Is an ordinary person with the usual anxieties and a name

That might be anyone’s. That’s what I still find so extraordinary
After all these years: that however transcendent the outcome,
What it articulates is there for everyone to see, and whatever else
You might aspire to, anything you ultimately become

Is what everyone becomes. But even though what you feel
Is of no importance sub specie aeternitatis, and isn’t even
Conceivable by anyone else, it’s the only thing that matters
For the short while it lasts, the only thing that’s real.


I suppose that most of this is true
In a sense that’s important to me alone,
But basically I’m an ordinary person
With a life that’s much like your own
Except for the details, whose significance
Resides in its insignificance—somebody
Factual and prone to please, good company,
A “smiling public man.” I have my own history
Too, involving California and Catholicism,
Whose demands were so severe that when my
Dear Baptist grandmother Nana died in Texas,
I knew she’d burn in hell forever for her sin.

It felt more human once religion fell away,
To be replaced by microscopes and chemistry,
Then by science fairs and track, mathematics
And physics and a final collapse into decadence,
As smoking, philosophy and poetry had their way.
I dwell so much on the years when I was young
Because they last forever, and they set the tone
For whatever happens later with increasing speed,

Like variations on the themes I’m skipping over:
Marriages, homes, careers, interests I lost interest in
And friends who still matter to me as they disappear,
Leaving nothing but the facts I’ve summarized.

I feel this ambivalence about the personal,
So let me try to make it clear. It’s real enough
As far as it goes, but in the end it’s just a disguise
Of a different kind, one that leaves out everything
Of importance that you can’t articulate, like the sense
Of what it feels like to be impermanent and alive.
Even though I say one thing and mean another,
Even though “everything I’m telling you may be a lie,”
The underlying poem is a part of the imagination,
Mine or someone else’s, and as it reveals itself
Without autobiography, it embodies the sense of a life
That’s no one’s, and of what it’s like for it to be your own.


Who cares whose voice it is, as long as it’s alive?
I’ve heard it now for sixty years, and yet I don’t know
What it says, or why it sometimes makes me cry.
It isn’t my story in particular, or anyone’s,
Though it captures the tone of what it’s like to think so
For a while, and the way life feels as it goes by.
It all adds up to something in the end, even if it was there
All along and I didn’t see it. It doesn’t change
Or outlast anything, or reveal anything that isn’t clear-
It just touches me this way, and makes me glad.

The deepest happiness is to see the ordinary world
For what it is, but to see itt without sadness
You look at it over and over through your own eyes
And the words of others, but always for the first time.
I sit here on my balcony looking at the same sky
I remember from high school and the poems I loved in college,
And it’s as though I’d never seen it before, and the feeling
“Of being absolutely safe” Wittgenstein described were my own.
It’s a poem captured from the air in a voice that’s undefined,
Which as it starts to deepen and increase feels like mine.

The simple soul that issues from the hand of God;
The necklace that’s a carving not a kiss; the bee-loud glade
That gathers from the air a live tradition… I don’t think
They were ever the little world I wanted them to be,
But it meant everything to me to think they were, and still does.
I’m writing this without embarrassment, because no matter
How inconsequential it’s become, and how beside the point it seems,
It still defines my life, and occupies it like a waking dream.
It isn’t the sudden shaft of sunlight or the gradual transformation
Of experience or the unkept promise of a different life-

It’s simply that I’m happy. I like the sense of being
Part of something larger than myself, of telling you about it
As I try to remember how it started, and wondering how much
Longer its presence in my heart is going to last. I’d like to say
Forever, but that’s an exercise in futility, and isn’t even what I want.
It’s sufficient that the past remain the past, this summer afternoon
Be simply what it is, and the future…? I’ve gone on enough:
Instead of reaching a conclusion, getting older is a study in tone
That leaves you where you are-still listening to yourself
A lifetime away from where you started, and not far from home.

John Koethe

My Xuânshine & Me

The weather has been so beautiful. I have made visiting the skatepark part of my lunch routine at work. I skate around the ramps and drop into the bowls, but I haven’t done anything new. I don’t have the motivation to learn new skills any more.

My six-year-old Xuân, on the other hand, has been improving his scootering chops. He jumps down the ramps instead of just dropping in. He rides around the bowls with effortlessness. He pumps and lifts himself onto the coping and drops into another ramp.

Watching him trying and pulling off new techniques makes me happy. Because of his improvements, he still enjoys going to the skatepark and hanging out with this old man. I don’t have to force him to go out with me . Here are a few clips of him scootering: part 1 & part 2.

John Freeman: Wind, Tree

Leave your phone and your digital devices inside. Pick up John Freeman’s Wind, Tree and head outside. Through the force and beauty of nature, Freeman writes about life, loss, and love through narrative lyric and meditative pulse. My favorite pieces include “Nothing to Declare,” “Windward,” “Icicle,” and “Still.”

A Romantic Poem

It’s supposed to be solemn and settled
And in celebration of the individual human life,
Whatever it is. It’s each of us of course,
And yet the view we have of it is so oblique
It might as well be one of nobody at all,
Or of a vague interior with a figure in a room
Who could be anyone. This sense that it’s so close
It must be you: what do we really know of it,
And how could anything that simple be that real?
We would be kings of our domains, alone in majesty
“Above this Frame of things,” but those are idle thoughts,
As idle as the vacant pleasures of a summer afternoon.
The truth is much more down to earth: we make things up
And celebrate dejection when we see they can’t be real.
Instead of clarity, self-knowledge is a study in confusion,
Driven by the need to see what isn’t there. Begun
In gladness, something carries you away until you’re
Everyone and no one, for no matter where you are
Or what your name is, it’s the same styles
Of thought, the same habits of contemplation
That carry you along to the inevitable conclusion
That life is either ludicrous or not worth living
Or both. But why does it have to be worth anything?
It’s just there, the way we’re all just there, moving
And needing to be moved, without knowing why.

John Koethe


Monday afternoon I picked up Đán and Xuân after school. On our way to their piano lessons, Xuân kept asking me if I could buy him two Robux gift cards to give to his friends. I thought he wanted to do something nice for his friends; therefore, I didn’t see any issue. I told him to talk to his mom because she would know more about those things.

At dinner, he brought up the gift cards again to me and my wife. She told him “no,” except for special occasions such as birthdays. Xuân didn’t give us any reasons for the gift cards. He dropped the subject and we didn’t think much about it.

Before bedtime, he confessed to me that he dared a girl in his class to kiss him on his cheek. Even though the girl didn’t do it, the two boys told him that they would tell on him unless he gives them Robux gift cards. Xuân was afraid that they would snitch on him; therefore, he kept asking us for the gift cards.

My wife and I talked to him about it. We thanked him for telling us about the incident. We advised him to talk to his teacher, but he wanted me to communicate with her first. I couldn’t believe he was being blackmailed. He’s only in first grade.

Update from his teacher:

Good afternoon Truong Family,

Thank you again for letting me know about this incident. After talking to Xuan and the other classmates involved, both students have apologized to Xuan. As a result of our conversation, we agreed that our families will buy us the toys that we want, not our classmates.

Thank you for your support.