It Is Important To Be Something by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

This is like a life. This is lifelike.
I climb inside a mistake
and remake myself in the shape
of a better mistake—
a nice pair of glasses
without any lenses,
shoes that don’t quite fit,
a chest that always hurts.
There is a checklist of things
you need to do to be a person.
I don’t want to be a person
but there isn’t a choice,
so I work my way down and
kiss the feet.
I work my way up and lick
the knee.
I give you my skull
to do with whatever you please.
You grow flowers from my head
and trim them too short.
I paint my nails nice and pretty
and who cares. Who gives a shit.
I’m trying not to give a shit
but it doesn’t fit well on me.
I wear my clothes. I wear my body.
I walk out in the grass and turn red
at the sight of everything.

Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Things Haunt by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

California is a desert and I am a woman inside it.
The road ahead bends sideways and I lurch within myself.
I’m full of ugly feelings, awful thoughts, bad dreams
of doom, and so much love left unspoken.

Is mercury in retrograde? someone asks.
Someone answers, No, it’s something else
like that though.
Something else like that.
That should be my name.

When you ask me am I really a woman, a human being,
a coherent identity, I’ll say No, I’m something else
like that though.


A true citizen of planet earth closes their eyes
and says what they are before the mirror.
A good person gives and asks for nothing in return.
I give and I ask for only one thing—

Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me.
Hear me. Bear the weight of my voice and don’t forget —
things haunt. Things exist long after they are killed.

The World by Jennifer Chang

One winter I lived north, alone
and effortless, dreaming myself
into the past. Perhaps, I thought,
words could replenish privacy.
Outside, a red bicycle froze
into form, made the world falser
in its white austerity. So much
happens after harvest: the moon
performing novelty: slaughter,
snow. One hour the same
as the next, I held my hands
or held the snow. I was like sculpture,
forgetting or, perhaps, remembering
everything. Red wings in the snow,
red thoughts ablaze in the war
I was having with myself again.
Everything I hate about the world
I hate about myself, even now
writing as if this were a law
of nature. Say there were deer
fleet in the snow, walking out
the cold, and more gingkoes
bare in the beggar’s grove. Say
I was not the only one who saw
or heard the trees, their diffidence
greater than my noise. Perhaps
the future is a tiny flame
I’ll nick from a candle. First, I’m burning.
Then, numb. Why must every winter
grow colder, and more sure?

Searching for My Own Body by Yesenia Montilla

Which is to say that like a good theoretical objectified body, my identity was created not by me but by the various desires and beliefs of those around me.
– Daniel Borzutzky

My body is a small cave door
it’s a slick whale a jubilant
sea of tall grass that sways
& makes its way across countries
& lovers I love love-making
I don’t remember a time when
I wasn’t interested in touch
I have these breasts
& some would want to come
on hands & knees to worship them
call me flower or desert
Maybe I was only supposed to be
stone or a baby eel
long & layered a nun?
I don’t remember ever saying
yes just no
I am searching for my own body
not the one I was told is so
I want to be always open
like a canyon
Maybe I was only supposed to be
tree or temple
In some circles I am
just an open gate
a sinful bauble
Once someone said you are this
& I never questioned it

I am searching my own body
for God

or someone like her—

New Year’s Day by Kim Addonizio

The rain this morning falls   
on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell   
the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.   
The few loves I’ve been allowed

to keep are still sleeping
on the West Coast. Here in Virginia

I walk across the fields with only   
a few young cows for company.

Big-boned and shy,
they are like girls I remember

from junior high, who never   
spoke, who kept their heads

lowered and their arms crossed against   
their new breasts. Those girls

are nearly forty now. Like me,   
they must sometimes stand

at a window late at night, looking out   
on a silent backyard, at one

rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls   
of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons   
and cry hard for whoever used

to make them happiest,   
and wonder how their lives

have carried them
this far without ever once

explaining anything. I don’t know   
why I’m walking out here

with my coat darkening
and my boots sinking in, coming up

with a mild sucking sound   
I like to hear. I don’t care

where those girls are now.   
Whatever they’ve made of it

they can have. Today I want   
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,   
and lift my face to it.

To the New Year by W. S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible