Between Going and Staying By Octavio Paz

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.
Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.
The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.
I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.
The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause

I Said To The Wanting-Creature Inside Me by Kabir

I said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or nesting?

There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!

And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the
soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.

Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!

Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of
imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.

Love Song by Carol Muske-Dukes

Love comes hungry to anyone’s hand.
I found the newborn sparrow next to
the tumbled nest on the grass. Bravely

opening its beak. Cats circled, squirrels.
I tried to set the nest right but the wild
birds had fled. The knot of pin feathers

sat in my hand and spoke. Just because
I’ve raised it by touch, doesn’t mean it
follows. All day it pecks at the tin image of

a faceless bird. It refuses to fly,
though I’ve opened the door. What
sends us to each other? He and I

had a blue landscape, a village street,
some poems, bread on a plate. Love
was a camera in a doorway, love was

a script, a tin bird. Love was faceless,
even when we’d memorized each other’s
lines. Love was hungry, love was faceless,

the sparrow sings, famished, in my hand.

If you would grow by Daniel F. Mead

If you would grow to your best self
Be patient, not demanding
Accepting, not condemning
Nurturing, not withholding

Self-marveling, not belittling
Gently guiding, not pushing and punishing
For you are more sensitive than you know
Mankind is as tough as war yet delicate as flowers
We can endure agonies but we open fully only to warmth and light

And our need to grow is as fragile as a fragrance dispersed by storms of will
To return only when those storm are still
So, accept, respect, and attend your sensitivity
A flower cannot be opened with a hammer.

The Significance of Location by Pattiann Rogers

The cat has the chance to make the sunlight
Beautiful, to stop it and turn it immediately
Into black fur and motion, to take it
As shifting branch and brown feather
Into the back of the brain forever.

The cardinal has flown the sun in red
Through the oak forest to the lawn.
The finch has caught it in yellow
And taken it among the thorns. By the spider
It has been bound tightly and tied
In an eight-stringed knot.

The sun has been intercepted in its one
Basic state and changed to a million varieties
Of green stick and tassel. It has been broken
Into pieces by glass rings, by mist
Over the river. Its heat
Has been given the board fence for body,
The desert rock for fact. On winter hills
It has been laid down in white like a martyr.

This afternoon we could spread gold scarves
Clear across the field and say in truth,
“Sun you are silk.”

Imagine the sun totally isolated,
Its brightness shot in continuous streaks straight out
Into the black, never arrested,
Never once being made light.

Someone should take note
Of how the earth has saved the sun from oblivion.

Botanical Fanaticism by Thylias Moss

My ancestors weren’t hippies, cotton
precluded fascination with flowers.
I don’t remember communes, I remember
ghettos. The riots were real, not
products of hallucinogens. Free love had
been at Redbones since black unemployment
and credit saturation.

The white women my mother cleaned
for didn’t notice she had changed. I guess
it was a small event, a resurrected African
jumping out the gap in her front teeth. I
guess it looked like a cockroach; that’s
what she was supposed to have, not dignity.

My mother just couldn’t get excited
about the Beatles, those mops she swilled
in ammonia everyday on their heads. Besides,
she didn’t work like a dog but like a woman;
they aren’t the same. The hair was growing long
for the same reasons Pinocchio’s nose did.

I can think only of a lesbian draping
crepe paper chains over my head to make a
black Rapunzel possible; that’s how a white
woman tried to lift my burdens. At the time
I didn’t reject her for being lesbian or
white but for both burdens. That was when
I didn’t want Ivory soap to be what
cleaned me, made me presentable to society.
All the suds I’d seen were white, they still
are but who cares? I’m more interested in
how soap dwindles in my hand, under the faucet.

I’m old enough to remember blocks
of ice, old enough or poor enough.
I remember chipping away at it, broken
glass all over the floor. Later in the
riots, the broken glass of looting tattled
how desperate people were to keep cool.

There are roses now in my mother’s yard.
Sometimes she cuts them, sets them in Pepsi
bottles throughout her rooms. She is,
I admit, being sentimental. Looting her
heart. My father who planted them is gone.
That mop in the corner
is his cane growing roots.

My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears by Mohja Kahf

My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
wudu,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
the mandatory prayer time for Muslims
She does it with great poise, balancing
herself with one plump matronly arm
against the automated hot-air hand dryer,
after having removed her support knee-highs
and laid them aside, folded in thirds,
and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares

Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom

My grandmother, though she speaks no English,
catches their meaning and her look in the mirror says,
I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul
with water from the world’s ancient irrigation systems
I have washed my feet in the bathhouses of Damascus
over painted bowls imported from China
among the best families of Aleppo
And if you Americans knew anything
about civilization and cleanliness,
you’d make wider washbins, anyway
My grandmother knows one culture—the right one,

as do these matrons of the Middle West. For them,
my grandmother might as well have been squatting
in the mud over a rusty tin in vaguely tropical squalor,
Mexican or Middle Eastern, it doesn’t matter which,
when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge.
“You can’t do that,” one of the women protests,
turning to me, “Tell her she can’t do that.”
“We wash our feet five times a day,”
my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic.
“My feet are cleaner than their sink.
Worried about their sink, are they? I
should worry about my feet!”
My grandmother nudges me, “Go on, tell them.”

Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum
Even now my grandmother, not to be rushed,
is delicately drying her pumps with tissues from her purse
For my grandmother always wears well-turned pumps
that match her purse, I think in case someone
from one of the best families of Aleppo
should run into her—here, in front of the Kenmore display

I smile at the midwestern women
as if my grandmother has just said something lovely about them
and shrug at my grandmother as if they
had just apologized through me
No one is fooled, but I

hold the door open for everyone
and we all emerge on the sales floor
and lose ourselves in the great common ground
of housewares on markdown.