Words for Departure

by Louise Bogan

Nothing was remembered, nothing forgotten.
When we awoke, wagons were passing on the warm summer   
          pavements,
The window-sills were wet from rain in the night,
Birds scattered and settled over chimneypots
As among grotesque trees.

Nothing was accepted, nothing looked beyond.
Slight-voiced bells separated hour from hour,
The afternoon sifted coolness
And people drew together in streets becoming deserted.
There was a moon, and light in a shop-front,
And dusk falling like precipitous water.

Hand clasped hand
Forehead still bowed to forehead—
Nothing was lost, nothing possessed
There was no gift nor denial.

2.
I have remembered you.
You were not the town visited once,
Nor the road falling behind running feet.

You were as awkward as flesh
And lighter than frost or ashes.

You were the rind,
And the white-juiced apple,
The song, and the words waiting for music.

3.
You have learned the beginning;
Go from mine to the other.

Be together; eat, dance, despair,
Sleep, be threatened, endure.
You will know the way of that.

But at the end, be insolent;
Be absurd—strike the thing short off;
Be mad—only do not let talk
Wear the bloom from silence.

And go away without fire or lantern
Let there be some uncertainty about your departure.

Pandemic

by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
 
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
 
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
 
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

A Moment Alone

A. Van Jordan

Sycorax

As if someone blew against the back of my neck,
I writhed up, becoming a wind myself,

and I flowed out the window of my bedroom.
Maybe I also emitted a moan over the croaking

of the frogs that night. Then I raised my arms
to the clouds, rooting my feet deep in the soil.

A stretch, I called it.

Now—pure nature in the night,
too sway-of-the-trees wise to worry about men—

I opened my nightgown but offered nothing
to anyone. This is for me, I said aloud to the night.

People would have laughed had they seen me
out their windows, naked but for my nightgown

flapping: I was small but the conviction of my stance
would’ve made me seem immense, framed

through their windows. Without my clothes
I was a world of possibility, more than a desire.

I, knowing better, I ought to mind my place,
I ought to walk like a lady,

I ought to demure myself to make him feel stronger,
I ought to mourn him when

he is gone. But every word I spoke to the wind
carried to him the scent of his regrets.

Every word blew through the night,
a breeze of my indifference.