“Water” by Sharanya Manivannan.

Love means you breathe in two countries”
– Naomi Shihab Nye

My favourite memory of us
is of that day we washed each other’s hair,
standing in the waterfall
of the shower, that moment sweet
succulent as fruit, complete as a circle,
the prowl of knowledge beneath
it bitter and delicate as the powder
on a butterfly wing, powerful
as a secret.

We kissed and drew in water.

Do you remember what I had
said to you, a year before? How could
I not love you? How could I not?
We had just met. You had
a birthmark the shape of Africa
on your chest; my heart had a
void in its vocabulary just the size
of your name. Love is so small. It
could fit into the hole in a bead, the eye
of a needle, and still not seal it.
It’s this world that is so huge.

Now our lives feel reduced
to abacuses.
I count the days it will be before
I can see you, you count
the days it’s been since I left.

This is a city of rain.
And chaos – I smile to myself,
navigating its corridor-like
streets filled with schoolchildren
hitching yellow autorickshaws, drizzle
flecking their eyelashes, the morning
still not arrived in their eyes.

I lick moisture from my lips
and am sure
I taste salt, a kiss of tears.

Pain only appears in
the presence of love. This much
I can say I have learnt by heart.
Here in this place of
chaos so profound it silencesmine,

I wrap my secrets in skin and
hug them close,

imagine drawing out parabolas
of steel and silk from the centre
of my palm to the
centre of yours, like bridges,

delicate, taut
as the webbing
on a bat’s wing,

and wait for you to reach
across the distance and pick
the pieces up, so precise
I could almost taste those

slippery as our love. Almost
forget how imprecise to desire bringing
shape to a love like water –
profound, perfect, universal.

Nothing else will save us now.


“When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world


“Some Advice for Clearing Brush” by Jeff Coomer.

Walk noisily to declare your presence.
The rabbits and deer will leave
as soon as they hear you coming,
but the snakes need time
to process your intentions.

Take a moment to be certain
of what you’re cutting.
Many stems look alike
down close to the ground,
especially when they’re young.
Look up occasionally.

Don’t begrudge the wild roses
for whipping thorns across
your face and arms,
or the honeysuckle
for tangling your feet
and pulling the pruners
from your hands. You’d do
the same in their place.
Honor them with a clean cut.

Never begin when you’re angry
or you might not stop
until there’s nothing left
to hold the soil.

Always wear gloves
and keep your eye
on the blade.


“Sincerely, the Sky” by David Hernandez.

Yes, I see you down there
looking up into my vastness.

What are you hoping
to find on my vacant face,

there within the margins
of telephone wires?

You should know I am only
bright blue now because of physics:

molecules break and scatter
my light from the sun

more than any other color.
You know my variations—

azure at noon, navy by midnight.
How often I find you

then on your patio, pajamaed
and distressed, head thrown

back so your eyes can pick apart
not the darker version of myself

but the carousel of stars.
To you I am merely background.

You barely hear my voice.
Remember I am most vibrant

when air breaks my light.
Do something with your brokenness.


“Consider a Move” by Michael Ryan.

The steady time of being unknown,
in solitude, without friends,
is not a steadiness that sustains.
I hear your voice waver on the phone:

Haven’t talked to anyone for days.
I drive around. I sit in parking lots.

The voice zeroes through my ear, and waits.
What should I say? There are ways

to meet people you will want to love?
I know of none. You come out stronger
having gone through this? I no longer
believe that, if I once did. Consider a move,

a change, a job, a new place to live,
someplace you’d like to be. That’s not it,
you say. Now time turns back. We almost touch.
Then what is? I ask. What is?


“Ordinary Sex” by Ellen Bass.

If no swan descends
in a blinding glare of plumage,
drumming the air with deafening wings,
if the earth doesn’t tremble
and rivers don’t tumble uphill,
if my mother’s crystal
vase doesn’t shatter
and no extinct species are sighted anew
and leaves of the city trees don’t applaud
as you zing me to the moon, starry tesserae
cascading down my shoulders,
if we stay right here
on our aging Simmons Beautyrest,
dumped into the sag in the middle,
that’s okay.
You don’t need to strew rose petals
in my bath or set a band of votive candles
flickering around the rim.
You don’t need to invent a thrilling
new position, two dragonflies
mating on the wing. Honey,
you don’t even have to wash up after work.
A little sweat and sunscreen
won’t bother me.
Take off your boots, babe,
swing your thigh over mine. I like it
when you do the same old thing
in the same old way.
And then a few kisses, easy, loose,
like the ones we’ve been
kissing for a hundred years.


“Evening” by Anna Akhmatova.

In the garden there were snatches of music
Wordless, melancholy.
The sharp fresh odors of the sea
Rose from oysters on cracked ice.

He said to me,
“I am faithful friend,”
And touched my dress:
Unlike an embrace
The touch of that hand.

So one pets a cat or a bird
So one looks
at well-built circus riders.
And in his tranquil eyes there was laughter
Under lashes of light gold.

And behind the drifting smoke
The voices of nostalgic violins sang
“Give thanks, thanks to the Gods—
For the first time
You are alone
with your love.”


“Vanish” by Rudy Francisco.

They will push you away, tell you
to leave, but have no idea how good
you are at following instructions.

When you vanish, but your ghost
becomes a guest they cannot get rid of
and the memory of you plays
resurrection with their smile,
they will ask where you went,
if you will come back and why
you gave up so easily,
as if they didn’t own the voice
that requested your disappearance.

They now know solitude does not
scare people like us
and our absence is something
that we are not afraid to give
to those who call for it.


“Aubade” by Wes Matthews.

​As nature’s heads awaken, I hold
My desire by the sacrifice, morning.
Florets in the light of solitude, sunshade

Emeralds crowned this cynic eye,
The overlawn of song birds drawn
Endless to new sites for lovemaking,

Wings flitting with their want in the open.
By noon, I stand in the shadow passing,
My own contrast, the absolute smallness

Of my living. There is something left for me
To become: honeybees never stop for divine
Order, not once need to be told pollinate or life is short.

One day, I want to be so certain that I am made
To love that I never wait for command or even wade
In the afterthought, I just carry along with it—my wonder,
My wandering, whatever the world needs of me.


“Eating Alone” by Li-Young Lee.

I’ve pulled the last of the year’s young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my
eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes.
By the cellar door, I wash the onions,
then drink from the icy metal spigot.

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can’t recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way—left hand braced
on knee, creaky—to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas
fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame
oil and garlic. And my own loneliness.
What more could I, a young man, want.