6pm Vinyasa flow

by Nathalie Goykhman

Before the yoga class begins,
I greet the students at the door.
The trappings of their daily lives

get tucked away in cubby shelves:
bicycle helmets and high heels,
construction boots and briefcases.

Some shuffle in still on their phones,
still whispering instructions while
they juggle coffee cups and keys.

The earlybirds have placed their mats,
strategic spots across the room.
Some try to hide behind a post 

while others claim the front row space.
The yogis shed their daytime skin,  
their furrowed brows and heavy bags.

They set aside this time to flow
in oceanic breath; the tide
that laps away at jagged shells.

Half Lord of the Fishes

by Nathalie Goykhman

She preferred to unroll her mat
rather than unrolling her tongue while on a couch
in a bland office: dull art

and sentimental trinkets with
precautionary tissues perfectly placed by
the armrest. She knew that well.

Prying questions rarely helped her,
she’d rather pry her shoulders open in a
Half Lord of the Fishes pose.

This twist wrings out her swirling thoughts.
Like wild salmon, she battles stormy currents and
sharp, unexpected boulders. 

Blossoming in Padmasana

by Nathalie Goykhman

Discouraged by    her nine-to-five    in class she hopes    to bud.
Padmasana:   that which is born   out of the muck   and mud.

Expansive chest   sitz bones planted   like tuber roots   that grow
into lakebeds.   Sepal fingers    cradle dewdrops   thoughts slow.

Another breath    a departure   whirling incense   a pause–
smoke dissipates   to-do lists slip  beneath the mat.   Her flaws

are less daunting   in Lotus Pose   floating limbs fold    serene
exhalation    disturbances   beneath ripples   unseen.

Sometimes the winds   the pelting rain    tousle her fine   petals.
But debris rolls   off petal tips.   The calm blossom–settles. 

Bakasana: Crow or Crane

by Nathalie Goykhman

The instructor tells me to
“lean into the discomfort.”
I’m not sure what that means but
in Bakasana, my nose

is two inches from the ground.
Sweaty fingers grip the mat,
my forearms quiver. I am
more of the crow, not the crane.

My elbows bent, crouching and
trembling, while graceful cranes float
their arms stretched, legs hovering
and faces dipping forward

as if they are submerging
thin beaks into tranquil pools.
Although I’m not skilled enough
to dive and soar in crane pose,

my toes begin to peel off
the ground. Just for a moment,
I am balancing, flying
two inches high, in crow pose.

Celestial Mechanics

by Nathalie Goykhman

Ardha chandrasana has been a mystery,
a penumbra. I enter the
pose with radiant strength, my standing leg lean and

firmly planted, supporting hand lightly grazing
the ground. fingertips, like rays, reach
for the ceiling, my floating limb like a straight edge. 

Sweat glistening in the craters of my body.     
The instructor tells us to shift
our gaze to the sky, causing wobbles. Now I am

waxing and waning, like the lunar librations
I oscillate in my facing.
My lifted leg looks more like a crescent, bent and

dangling, I stumble and so lose my path like all     
Orbital Eccentricities.
When will I eclipse unforeseen difficulties?

Clouded by frustration, my luster dims. I think
“maybe in the next lunar phase.”
Part gleaming and part nebulous in Half Moon Pose. 

The Jackpine

by Jonathan Hazelton

I climbed it once, jumped up to a broken limb,
Hauled myself up and climbed high enough
I could see out over hills and streams
That wound like ribbons between them.
This was only a few years before it fell to ruin,
Wind gusts getting hold of it, knocking it down,
And it just lay and rotted where it fell.
For years I wanted to climb it,
But never worked up nerve it being close
To a hundred feet tall and as many years old.
One day, there for a funeral, I put fear aside
And climbed as high as I could where limbs were solid
(you could already see death taking it over:
Rotting bark, blackened branches empty of needles,
Or needles so dead and dry they turned brown),
And perched between two limbs like a huge bird.
That was the first and only time I climbed it
Knowing it didn’t have much time left,
It being for the most part dead, ready to fall.

Up there on green branches,
I seemed to float above the world, above fear,
And above all shortcomings I ever had
Wind rustling hair the way it stirred needles
And swayed the springy limbs I perched on.
That was thirty-five years ago, and much
Of what I knew and was used to then is gone now,
And with it the twin trunked pine that stood
For centuries overshadowing the farm
Like an angel that blessed us, that blesses us still.

Li Po, Mid-October, Gray Light Streaked with Rust-Colored Glints Over Silver Water

by Colette Inez

He lost his chance in Chang-an,
his great height above six feet
fearsome on a horse, two wives or was it three
in varied outposts of the empire.
Hadn’t he arrived at the palace wine soaked and disheveled?
Hadn’t lackeys bowed low to scrape dung from his boots?

On another path, Li Yang-ping, calligrapher,
one who collected poems for posterity
held his friend’s head to more cups
of wine when night began to swallow the road, and Li Po 
wandered like a stream into the shine of  water-
yellow leaves trembling at the quake of boots,
fish staring up from his kettle.

Friends–for he valued friendship–take me home
wherever my name is known. He called out to sloshed boats
of reflected stars, to untamed horses on the moon,
and woke to the next morning, its peach-colors
the face of his youth in the lordly mountains. 

new children’s art

by Donald Kuspit

the child is not
                     the greatest imaginer,
as kandinsky thought,        
                            ever searching
for a new beginning
                         as his imagination aged,
finally fading into clichés
                           of consciousness.
nor is genius childhood
                              recollected in tranquility,
as baudelaire thought,
                             for there is no tranquility
in life,
           genius being restlessness made ruthless
by woe,
         constant as the blackness
beyond the stars,
                    unfathomable futility
in its endlessness.

                     lacking velazquez’s mature vision
and mastery,
                  picasso toyed with las meninas,
cheapening it into child’s play,
                                            crudely tore it apart,
a malicious boy cutting
                              the wings off a butterfly,
envious of their splendor
                                 and the mystery of its flight.
retreating to childhood
                               in expectation of rejuvenation,
he found only false innocence,
                                       unfresh feeling
and reckless indifference,
                                     the malice of incomprehension.

there are no new beginnings,
                                    only old stories
retold in memory,
                           mastery of memory the truth of art.
art is excavation
                   of the forgotten,
seized in spurts of recognition
                                     buried in myth.

the sensation of the new
                           is an illusion obscuring
the old eternity.
                  unable to lighten
the weight of time,
                      undo the limit of fate,
the new
        is a phantom promise
of infinite possibility.
                          wandering the crowded cemeteries
of consciousness,
                    the task of art
is to scoop the marrow
                              out of the bones of memory,
rob the graves
                    of the past.

the child has no memory,
                            which is why his newness
is futile.
         he is mindless which is why he lives
moment to moment.
                              he has no past,
which is why his being
                              is incomplete.
nothing yet has died in him,
                                        which is why he seems timeless.
unable to imagine the past,
                                  he is charismatically empty.

to be modern
                    is to be without memory,
to be as callously new
                               as a child,
deliberately obliterate memory
                                                to liberate innocent creativity.
but creativity is always guilty,
                                          accumulating feelings
in excruciating suffering,
                                 the wisdom of wonder
seasoning its sadness,
                             ripening it into reflection,
the raw gods remembered
                                     in its refinements,
carrying out the will of fate
                                in its designs. 
ripeness is the secret of suffering,
                                                  suffering ripens
into creativity,
                    creativity takes the measure
of memory,
                  which is why the art of the Old Masters
is memorable,
                         why the artfully new
is ephemeral,
                    suddenly spoils,
spawn
            of spoiled children.

miserere ii

by Donald Kuspit

words never reach
                         far enough,
wonder forgotten
                        along the way,
compounding
           their meaninglessness.
left with silence,
                          i mold memory
into regret,
                the last folly
of feeling,
               spoiling the senses,
their indecency
                   my only innocence.
i long for crutches
                           to limp
to the gods,
                ask forgivenness
from the unforgiving,
                             mercy
from merciless fate,
                            a blessing
from those more accustomed
                                      to curse.

wondrous beloved v

by Donald Kuspit

o beloved,
             where beyond words
will we find ourselves,
                             you aloof
on the mountaintop,
                            armored in reason
like Athena,
                riding in the chariot
of the sun
              with Apollo,
your smile
               more refulgent than its rays,
i below the earth
                      in the undertow
of memory,
                drained of substance
by silence,
               perpetual as the darkness
between the stars.
                      let us meet
between the extremes,
                              on the island
of the senses,
                    far from the heights
of mind
           from which we can only fall,
far from the depths
                          of feeling
from which there is
                          no return,
our consciousness quickening
                                           as our senses
embrace,
            our bodies unburdened by time
as we ecstatically converge,
                                        enigmatically united
in the unconscious
                          for an enduring moment.