On the Edge

by Ed Meek

            Lizzie must have known it was high enough before she jumped from the 7th floor of her apartment in Paris. Experts claim a psychotic break from reality occurs suddenly sometimes, even in middle age. Lizzie was about to turn 55, happily married, we thought, with a cushy government job and two successful daughters, both beautiful and smart like her, and her husband Pierre, a winner of the Legion
d’honneur.
            If you’re psychotic, you can’t tell what’s real and what is not, like reality TV, or plastic surgery, or who our enemy really is. You may enter the realm of doubt, darkness and depression—dash out to the balcony and leap, though leaping takes a kind of courage, a sort of faith or lack thereof. You see yourself at a dead end—no way out but down.
            Yet Lizzie loved life! Sure, she loved to drive fast, yet chose not to turn off the road over a cliff near her gite in Corsica. Instead she threw herself off the balcony as Pierre lay in bed, leaving us to puzzle it out, put it into words, make sense of it, to pull us back from the edge.

Who to Blame

by Ed Meek

When I fractured my knee I became one
of the lame. You see us on the streets,
moving slow as peat, faces grimacing
in pain. I can’t explain exactly how
it feels to be a useless fuck, dependent
on the State or someone you love—it sucks
all right. Although it’s good to know it will
eventually end, unlike the plight of those
disabled for life—feet blown off by
terrorists or rocked by IEDs in
Iraq or friendly fire in Afghanistan,
or maybe a misguided drone. Sometimes
you have to wonder who the enemy really is.
I wonder who to blame as I limp my way home.

Mere Honor

by Salgado Maranhão.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

losing my shine, I turned sober.
dry, alone with myself, left-over.
 
a bull, whose flesh is turned to bone.
a fruit whose rind is now its stone.
 
from light to lucidity—already stripped bare
I’ve got my steps but not the way.
 
I no longer need, I no longer care
I’m filled with the nothing of days.

The Poet and Things

by Salgado Maranhão.
Translated by
Alexis Levitin.

things want to flash through
the poem
with its crust of entanglements,

things want to dwell in
the poem
becoming toys.

it rains on the fibers
of some secret essence
and the poem tears apart
                                                         the poet
and his structure.

Instruments of the Home

by Salgado Maranhão.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

the window of the apartment spies
on the home
expressing a language of within
printed on a horizon of beyond
allying itself with the grumbling of the furniture
dismantled, motionless.
in the room
                            objects
                                          pair up
in a wordless pact
singing their silence
mocking us mortals.

high and low

by Donald Kuspit

for every high
                  there's a low,
and below
             more suffering,
the highs lower,
                        the lows higher,
in between the mirth
                            of the mystery,
high and low blending
                             in the blur,
unfathomable memories
                             in its mist,
i stranded
              at its dead center,
the unmoved mover
                         of my misery.

A May Poem

by Sarah Kennedy

Under a roof of rhododendron, in
nearly-summer, and the soft rain sounded
on the leaves, slight fever of storm above
the oaks, but down against the ground it was
all shiver and cool earth, damp legs and yes
again, it was close your eyes and sleep some
in the filigreed green, branches arching
dirtward and the dirt clinging, the body

wanting that bed and its long memory
(of the petals rotting into its lap
of the sweet little deaths of animals)
even as it wants to awaken now,
fingers seeking earrings, a button, loosed,
rising again just as the sun comes clean.

The Home Front

by Sarah Kennedy

            Bess of Hardwick was the richest woman, after the queen, in Tudor England

But why next door to the last house?  Unless
            she liked to stand upstairs in the new one,

the larger mansion, and see her progress
            from middle-class comfort to wealth marked out

by the path from door to door, from “Hardwick
            Hall,” old style, to “more glass than wall.”  The pair

of stately chairs with their huffy arms, raised
            at the far end of a receiving room

whisper throne under their canopy, designed
            to honor the queen, who never showed.  Bess:

not much diminished from Elizabeth,
            who was always down at her own court, not

a woman who liked to travel as far
            north as Derbyshire.  A transparency,

a permeable skin of window, one
            widow’s looking glass during those winter

evenings when the sparse and faint stars lingered
            as points of light along her brow, where she

supervised the laying of the gardens,
            how the sunlight flayed the workers’ backs all

summer, a perfection just possible
            in peacetime, the heart of a new empire.

Her initials in stone are only topped
            by the filigreed crowns colonizing

the sky, lest anyone approaching make
            the error of misjudging her power.

The portrait hall holds royal relatives,
            instruments of leisure, a piano,

an old lute or two, a roll-out of rug.
            And where are the husbands and sons these days?—

Spreading the word of God, of investment,
            around the known world, and she imagines

she can hear ships in the distance, their squeak
            and roll, she can almost see those people

in those far-off lands brought closer—heathen,
            grotesque as the carvings in the poorer

home that stand now open to all weathers,
            their heads low, under her improving eye.

American Revolutions

by Sarah Kennedy

1.  Monticello

Well, no one would mistake it for a farm
            house—Ash Lawn down the road or, God forbid,
                        an ordinary mansion.  And wonders
            abound from the antlers and bones to maps
and Old Masters.  Picture him on the floor

with a book, says the guide, papers paying
            court in their piles around him while his man
                        servant tries to straighten up.  Here he caged
            his mockingbirds, talking between themselves
while he rested from writing by working

“keys and locks and small chains, iron and brass.”
            The alcove bed divides the private rooms
                        from themselves, the polygraph always poised
            for his doubled words, revolving bookstand
always at attention, awash with light

from the mirrored walls.  Windows serve the cause
            from one side or the other all day; fields
                        fall away in every direction from
            this seat of “more freedom, more ease, and less
misery.”  Of course it is dark below,

a passage from the kitchen plowed beneath
            the heart of the famed circular floor plan
                        to a dumbwaiter that invisibly
            lifted wine to the dining room.  And look
at the clocks and weathervanes and the way

the roundabout roads and fences kept
            his time and his boundaries, his daily
                        cycle of work and respite unsullied
            by danger of chaos.  You wouldn’t make
the error of thinking it’s not unique,

not with the dome hovering above you,
            not with all of the novel ideas it
                        enthrones, but from a distance it’s only
            a big house, with tourists steered around and
around, going through those same old motions.  

 
 
 

2.  The House, the Church, the Mall

And what’s the word on Paul Revere these days?
Still in Charlestown watching for the light, still
ringing in the belltower of King’s Chapel.

He’s still lying, down in the Granary,
with Sam Adams, James Otis, John Hancock,
our many founding fathers all revered

under the cover of their stately stones.
In the portrait by John Copley, the Son
of Liberty sits as though he’s musing

on independence, patriotic chin
in portly hand: he’s the American
dream.  The historical home, with his spoons,

his Windsor chairs, the sad tale of his dead
wife, his live wife, his sixteen children, tells
the whole domestic story in four dark

rooms.  It’s a small house for the busy smith:
pounding and etching and polishing, now
engraving a scene on copper: redcoats

gunning down innocent, unarmed local
citizens!  The Freedom Trail’s crimson line
runs through the streets, the mall, toward the Old North

church, passing a make-shift memorial:
hundreds of blank dogtags dangling from walls
of strung wire.  But where is Paul Revere?  He

is above it all, grimacing earthward
from his pedestal, astride his bronze steed,
shouting at air—oh, his one-if-by-land,

two-if-by-sea, his British-are-coming,
who doesn’t want to believe it?  Look how
fabled he is, how lyric, hair whipping

back, horse beneath him always already
in flight, the one hand flung out as he calls
on all insurgents to wake up and fight.

 
 
 

3.  Mount Vernon

Begin again:  at the dining room door
and through into the dark: the plaster sheaves
and rakes decorating the walls, marble
fireplace, the river outside the essence

of freedom within limits.  And from here
the great general husbanded his fields
and his widow with her many slaves, her
daughters.  Hard to forget, since you must start

there, the servants’ quarters, though “larger than
many planters’ homes,” the maids, the butlers,
though the porch provides a bucolic view
from which the members of the Mount Vernon

Ladies Association might have sighed—
a slight descent in the various grounds,
the silky, winding river—and dreamed of
his clacking teeth (which were certainly not

made of wood), oh his many gentle ways.
And then there were, of course, the people he
liberated, but only in his will. 
Begin again:  the visitor center

models the home as a dignitaries’
hotel and notes that the plantation grew
from two to eight thousand acres under
our founding father’s governing hand.  How

he insisted on the good country life,
spreading the word of independence! And
here is the very bedroom where he died
of a throat infection, light and airy

and facing the water.  The refusal
to tell a lie comes back, where our reading
began: the Delaware.  His commanding
rejection of a crown, right at the start.

No wonder you go around it again:
you’ve been herded through.  The idea remains
though:  the house as a center, a notion
of order.  But out, beyond the fence, lie

how many unmarked graves—nobody knows.
And Martha mourned in a clean white room marked
out by her on the upper floor and died
under waving, patient fans.  She freed no

one, and the whole place then went to ruin,
opposing walls watching themselves fall.  So
begin again.  It’s a restoration.
It’s all laid out.  It’s almost perfected.