Seeing the Ocean from a Night Flight

Eleanor Goodman translated from the Chinese written by Wang Xiaoni

copyright ©2014

Everything becomes small
only the ocean makes the night’s leather clothes
open up the further out it spreads.

Flying north
to the right is Tianjin
to the left is Beijing
two clusters of moths flinging themselves at fire.

Then the East China Sea suddenly moves
the wind brings silver bits that can’t be more shattered
and many thick wrinkles whip up

I see the face of the ocean
I see the aged seashore
trembling and hugging the world too tightly.

I have seen death
but never seen death come back to life like that.

Talking with the Sun

Joy Harjo

copyright ©2015

I believe in the sun.
In the tangle of human failures of fear, greed, and
forgetfulness, the sun gives me clarity.
When explorers first encountered my people, they called us
heathens, sun worshippers.
They didn’t understand that the sun is a relative, and
illuminates our path on this earth.

After dancing all night in a circle we realize that we are
a part of a larger sense of stars and planets dancing with us
When the sun rises at the apex of the ceremony, we are
There is no mistaking this connection, though Walmart
might be just down the road.
Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the
earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of

Our earth is shifting. We can all see it.
I hear from my Inuit and Yupik relatives up north that
everything has changed. It’s so hot; there is not enough
Animals are confused. Ice is melting.

The quantum physicists have it right; they are beginning to
think like Indians: everything is connected dynamically
at an intimate level.
When you remember this, then the current wobble of the
earth makes sense. How much more oil can be drained,
Without replacement; without reciprocity?

I walked out of a hotel room just off Times Square at dawn
to find the sun.
It was the fourth morning since the birth of my fourth
This was the morning I was to present her to the sun, as a
relative, as one of us. It was still dark, overcast as I walked
through Times Square.
I stood beneath a twenty-first century totem pole of symbols
of multinational corporations, made of flash and neon.

The sun rose up over the city but I couldn’t see it amidst the
Though I was not at home, bundling up the baby to carry
her outside,
I carried this newborn girl within the cradleboard of my
I held her up and presented her to the sun, so she would be
recognized as a relative,
So that she won’t forget this connection, this promise,
So that we all remember, the sacredness of life.


Louise Glück

copyright ©2009

The earth has vanished.
There’s nothing to see, only the rain
gleaming against the dark windows.
This is the resting place, where nothing moves —

Now we return to what we were,
animals living in darkness
without language or vision —

Nothing proves I’m alive.
There is only the rain, the rain is endless.

Scorched Maps

Mira Rosenthal, translated from the Polish written by Tomasz Rózycki

copyright ©2013

I took a trip to Ukraine. It was June.
I waded in the fields, all full of dust
and pollen in the air. I searched, but those
I loved had disappeared below the ground,

deeper than decades of ants. I asked
about them everywhere, but grass and leaves
have been growing, bees swarming. So I lay down,
face to the ground, and said this incantation —

you can come out, it’s over. And the ground,
and moles and earthworms in it, shifted, shook,
kingdoms of ants came crawling, bees began
to fly from everywhere. I said come out,

I spoke directly to the ground and felt
the field grow vast and wild around my head.

Mine, Yours

Ani Gjika, translated from the Albanian written by Luljeta Lleshanaku

copyright ©2018

One of the few things my mother saved was a doll.
It was the same height as my six-year-old self,
with the same grey-coloured eyes, brown hair,
the same fear of the dark
and drawn to it.
‘Don’t touch her!’ I was told.
‘I have nothing else to sell if we go broke!’
Until the day I secretly stole her
and broke her heel by accident.
It was worth nothing now. No capital.
And then it became mine.

I met you one day in May—
pure blue sky with sparse white clouds on the horizon
and nothing more, as if tiny drawings in a biscuit box
made to look tasty to angels and not humans.
What could I do to own such a day
except give it a hard kick in the heel?

For Achilles, the heel would be meaningless
if he hadn’t had to choose between glory and a happy life.
Happiness is anonymous, a face without features.
it belongs to no one. But glory, yes. Even to this day
he drags it behind him – his one and only divine defect.

And the motherland? If there weren’t a cracked pane
of glass between us, and ethereal wound, an undeniable
physical reality no matter the side that bleeds,
I would doubt such a place even exists.

We do everything we can to own life –
‘my life,’ ‘your life’ –
when in fact, the opposite happens.
Life needs more than a heel to fasten you to itself;
it hits you hard on the neck
and spits you into two, with no time for wonder.
So one day, you find yourself
exhibited in two separate museums at once.

At this very moment, I cannot be sure
which part of me is speaking to you
and which part the guide’s
commenting on and pointing to.

The War Works Hard

Elizabeth Winslow, translated from the Arabic written by Dunya Mikhail

copyright ©2006

How magnificent the war is!
How eager
and efficient!
Early in the morning,
it wakes up the sirens
and dispatches ambulances
to various places,
swings corpses through the air,
rolls stretchers to the wounded,
summons rain
from the eyes of mothers,
digs into the earth
dislodging many things
from under the ruins …
Some are lifeless and glistening,
others are pale and still throbbing …
It produces the most questions
in the minds of children,
entertains the gods
by shooting fireworks and missiles
into the sky,
sows mines in the fields
and reaps punctures and blisters,
urges families to emigrate,
stands beside the clergymen
as they curse the devil
(poor devil, he remains
with one hand in the searing fire) …
The war continues working, day and night.
It inspires tyrants
to deliver long speeches,
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets.
It contributes to the industry
of artificial limbs,
provides foods for flies,
adds pages to the history books,
achieves equality
between killer and killed,
teaches lovers to write letters,
accustoms young women to waiting,
fills the newspapers
with articles and pictures,
builds new houses
for the orphans,
invigorates the coffin makers,
gives grave diggers
a pat on the back
and paints a smile on the leader’s face.
The war works with unparalleled diligence!
Yet no one gives it
a word of praise.

from mantra of no return

Kaie Kellough

copyright ©2019

people arrived from portugal. people arrived from africa. people arrived from
india. people arrived from england. people arrived from china. people
predated arrival. people fled predation. people were arrayed. people populated.
whips patterned rays into people. people arose. people rayed outward to
toronto, london, boo york. people raided people. people penned the past.
people roved over on planes. people talked over people. people rented places.
people planted people in people. people raided plantations. people prayed.
people re-fried. people died and didn’t get second glances. people won
scholarships and vanished. people lived atop people. people represented
people. people drain-brained. people studied for the common entrance.
people paraded. people stumbled and tranced. people took two steps
backward. people simmered and boiled over. people plantain. people orphan.
people sugarcane. people undocumented. people underground. people never
lauded, landed. people arrived but. people             . people departed and
arrived again. people retreaded. people stole knowing. people plantation.
people horizon. people done run from people. people arrived not knowing
their patterns. people arrived riven, alone in the world. people made their
war from time. people hailed from climes. people fanned their spreading.
people cleaved unto people. people writhed over / under people. people
arrived over / under people

from Hawk

Kamau Brathwaite

copyright ©2005

And so this foreday morning w/out light or choice
i cannot swim
the stone, i can’t hold on to water, so i drown

i swallow left, i turn & fall-
ow into fear & blight, a night so deep it make you turn
& weep the line of spiders of yr future you see spinn-

ing here, their silver
voice of tears, their lid. less jewel eyes .
all thru this buffeting eternity i toss i burn

and when i rise leviathan from the deep . black shining from my skin
of seals, blask tooth, less pebbles mine the shore
haunted by dust & bromes . wrist, watches w/out tone or tides, communion

w/out broken
hands, x-
plosions of frustration, the trans-

substantiation of the sweat
of hate, the absent ruby lips
upon the wrinkle rim

of wine . i wake to tick
to tell you that in these loud waters of my land
there is no root no hope no cloud no dream no sail canoe or dang, le miracle .

good day cannot repay bad night. our teeth snarl snapp-
ing even at halp-
less angels’ evenings’ meetings’ melting steel

in this new farmer garden of the earth’s delights
this staggering stranger of injustices
come rumbelling down the wheel and grave-

yard of the wind, down the scythe narrow streets, clear
air for a moment. clear
innocence whe we are running. so so so so so many. the crowd flow-

to tell you that in these loud waters of my land there is no root no hope no cloud no dream no sail canoe or dang, le miracle . good day cannot repay bad night. our teeth snarl snapp- ing even at halp- less angels’ evenings’ meetings’ melting steel in this new farmer garden of the earth’s delights this staggering stranger of injustices come rumbelling down the wheel and grave- yard of the wind, down the scythe narrow streets, clear air for a moment. clear innocence whe we are running. so so so so so many. the crowd flow-

ing over Brooklyn Bridge. so so so many . i had not thought death
had undone so many melting away into what is now sighing . light
calp from the clear avenue forever

our souls sometimes far out ahead already of our surfaces
and our life looking back
salt. as in Bhuj. in Grenada. Guernica. Amritsar. Tajikistan

the sulphur-stricken cities of the plains of Aetna. Pelée, ab Napoli & Krakatoa
the young window-widow baby-mothers of the prostitutes .
looking back looking back as in Bosnia, the Sudan. Chernobyl

Oaxaca terremoto incomprehende. al’fata el Jenin. the Bhopal
babies sucking toxic milk, our growing heavy furry tongues
accustom to the what-is-the-word-that-is-not-here-in-English beyond ashadenfreude
not at all like fado or duende