BY TIMOTHY LIU
How long will the bed that we made together
hold us there? Your stubbled cheeks grazed my skin
from evening to dawn, a cloud of scattered
particles now, islands of shaving foam
slowly spiraling down the drain, blood drops
stippling the water pink as I kiss
the back of your neck, our faces framed inside
a medicine cabinet mirror. The blade
of your hand carves a portal out of steam,
the two of us like boys behind frosted glass
who wave goodbye while a car shoves off
into winter. All that went unnoticed
till now — empty cups of coffee stacked up
in the sink, the neighborhood kids
up to their necks in mounds of autumn leaves.
How months on a kitchen calendar drop
like frozen flies, the flu season at its peak
followed by a train of magic-markered
xxx’ s — nights we’ d spend apart. Death must work
that way, a string of long distance calls
that only gets through to the sound of your voice
on our machine, my heart’ s mute confession
screened out. How long before we turn away
from flowers altogether, your blind hand
reaching past our bedridden shoulders
to hit that digital alarm at delayed
intervals — till you shut it off completely.
BY JOHN HODGEN
My brother is dying and I am not.
I drag him behind me like a spiritless balloon, like the first robot,
like the last clown-car clown, his ridiculous Fiat, his lot
to be crushed, left for dead, covered in snot,
his puffy hands, his outsized shoes, his flower pot,
like Virgil Earp, Clanton-ganged, at the Not
OK Corral, un-brothered, gutshot,
like the night without sleep in Turandot.
From the get-go I have always sought
to know (what, what?) if this is all I’ve got,
to show up in a vestibule, all bothered and hot,
like silver-fingered Iscariot,
like the smiling highwayman, tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot,
while all about me are consigned to slather and rot.
I drink to my faith, to what I am not,
to all who’ve come before me, every rutty Lancelot,
every Huguenot, every hotsy-totsy hot to trot, every Dylan, besot,
who doesn’t have the strength to get up and take another shot.
I know my Morse, code blue, dot-dot-dot, dit-dit-dit, dot-dot-dot.
I know what God hath wrought.
BY ROBERT NICHOLS
Amazement fills my heart to-night,
Amaze and awful fears;
I am a ship that sees no light,
But blindly onward steers.
Flung toward heaven’s toppling rage,
Sunk between steep and steep,
A lost and wondrous fight I wage
With the embattled deep.
I neither know nor care at length
Where drives the storm about;
Only I summon all my strength
And swear to ride it out.
Yet give I thanks; despite these wars.
My ship—though blindly blown,
Long lost to sun or moon or stars—
Still stands up alone.
I need no trust in borrowed spars;
My strength is yet my own.
"Fear of Happiness"
BY A. E. STALLINGS
Looking back, it’s something I’ve always had:
As a kid, it was a glass-floored elevator
I crouched at the bottom of, my eyes squinched tight,
Or staircase whose gaps I was afraid I’d slip through,
Though someone always said I’d be all right—
Just don’t look down or See, it’s not so bad
(The nothing rising underfoot). Then later
The high-dive at the pool, the tree-house perch,
Ferris wheels, balconies, cliffs, a penthouse view,
The merest thought of airplanes. You can call
It a fear of heights, a horror of the deep;
But it isn’t the unfathomable fall
That makes me giddy, makes my stomach lurch,
It’s that the ledge itself invents the leap.
BY EDITH WHARTON
Life, like a marble block, is given to all,
A blank, inchoate mass of years and days,
Whence one with ardent chisel swift essays
Some shape of strength or symmetry to call;
One shatters it in bits to mend a wall;
One in a craftier hand the chisel lays,
And one, to wake the mirth in Lesbia’s gaze,
Carves it apace in toys fantastical.
But least is he who, with enchanted eyes
Filled with high visions of fair shapes to be,
Muses which god he shall immortalize
In the proud Parian’s perpetuity,
Till twilight warns him from the punctual skies
That the night cometh wherein none shall see.