By Brian Bilston
BY AGHA SHAHID ALI
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?
Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?
Those “Fabrics of Cashmere—” “to make Me beautiful—”
“Trinket”—to gem—“Me to adorn—How tell”—tonight?
I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.
God’s vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar—
All the archangels—their wings frozen—fell tonight.
Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be broken;
Only we can convert the infidel tonight.
Mughal ceilings, let your mirrored convexities
multiply me at once under your spell tonight.
He’s freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.
He’s left open—for God—the doors of Hell tonight.
In the heart’s veined temple, all statues have been smashed.
No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight.
God, limit these punishments, there’s still Judgment Day—
I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight.
Executioners near the woman at the window.
Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.
The hunt is over, and I hear the Call to Prayer
fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.
My rivals for your love—you’ve invited them all?
This is mere insult, this is no farewell tonight.
And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee—
God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.
By Christian Wiman
A shadow in the shape of a house
slides out of a house
and loses its shape on the lawn.
Trees seek each other
as the wind within them dies.
Darkness starts inside of things
but keeps on going when the things are gone.
Barefoot careless in the farthest parts of the yard
children become their cries.
You Gave Me Autumn
You gave me autumn in an envelope.
The rich light burned within my bones like gold.
It sent the sun down with a vivid shout.
The air pulsated with its after glow.
I felt the mood of old November roofs,
Redolent with their Appalachian fires.
The dusk lasts long in West Virginia, Friend.
Its fall cannot be heard by human ears.
Dear One Absent This Long While
BY LISA OLSTEIN
It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;
everything blooms coldly.
I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,
you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,
the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.
We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.
In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires
over which young men and women leapt.
June efforts quietly.
I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall
so even if spring continues to disappoint
we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.
I have new gloves and a new hoe.
I practice eulogies. He was a hawk
with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs
of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.
Yours is the name the leaves chatter
at the edge of the unrabbited woods.
BY ROBERT BLY
The drum says that the night we die will be a long night.
It says the children have time to play. Tell the grownups
They can pull the curtains around the bed tonight.
The old man wants to know how the war ended.
The young girl wants her breasts to cause the sun to rise.
The thinker wants to keep misunderstanding alive.
It’s all right if the earthly monk is buried near the altar.
It’s all right if the singer fails to turn up for her concert.
It’s good if the fat old couple keeps whirling around.
Let the parents sing over the cradle every night.
Let the pelicans go on living in their stickly nests.
Let the duck go on loving the mud around her feet.
It’s all right if the ant always remembers his way home.
It’s all right if Bach keeps reaching for the same note.
It’s all right if we knock the ladder away from the house.
Even if you are a puritan it would be all right
If you join the lovers in their ruined house tonight.
It’s good if you become a soul and then disappear.