February 6, 2009

When you know how I feel I feel better

Harry Smith, Film Number 10: Mirror Animations, ca. 1957, still from a color film in 16 mm

The Last Toast
-- by Nicanor Parra

Whether we like it or not,
We have only three choices:
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And not even three
Because as the philosopher says
Yesterday is yesterday
It belongs to us only in memory:
From the rose already plucked
No more petals can be drawn.

The cards to play
Are only two:
The present and the future.

And there aren't even two
Because it's a known fact
The present doesn't exist
Except as it edges past
And is consumed...,
like youth.

In the end
We are only left with tomorrow.
I raise my glass
To the day that never arrives.

But that is all
we have at our disposal.

Letter Home
-- by Ellen Steinbaum

I love you forever
my father's letter tells her
for forty-nine pages,
from the troopship crossing the Atlantic
before they'd ever heard of Anzio.

He misses her, the letter says,
counting out days of boredom, seasickness,
and changing weather,
poker games played for matches
when cash and cigarettes ran out,
a Red Cross package—soap,
cards, a mystery book he traded away
for The Rubaiyyat a bunkmate didn't want.
He stood night watch and thought
of her. Don't forget the payment
for insurance, he says.

My mother waits at home with me,
waits for the letter he writes day by day
moving farther across the ravenous ocean.
She will get it in three months and
her fingers will smooth the Army stationery
to suede.

He will come home, stand
beside her in the photograph, leaning
on crutches, holding
me against the rough wool
of his jacket. He will sit
alone and listen to Aïda

and they will pick up their
interrupted lives. Years later,
she will show her grandchildren
a yellow envelope with
forty-nine wilted pages telling her

of shimmering sequins on the water,
the moonlight catching sudden phosphorescence,
the churned wake that stretched a silver trail.

-- by Bo Knudson

Throat of the robin, fried on an iron skillet, dusted in fennel-
But where was King?
Milling the marble, footsteps echo, in a place between death and yesterday.
Knit-browed and faltering to resolve his tumescent valor with the
shrill population, smitten with rebates and cheating the bottom line

He knows they can knuckle and claw their way up the once-geologic incline
What can he do? cut and appear
cots and illustrious blankets with minimal frequency
Now clear the victims away

As the day recedes, he hedges his bets, offers sentiment.
Gorging on an addiction to the self
(of which there are further ramifications)
events and thoughts appear to him as pixels of a horizon:

I want to be on the dollar bill


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