Archive for July, 2010

There were thirteen in me

Military men in green suits

Odi ght hula in my esophagus

I was a machine, stretched between two planets

Twenty billion light years from the sun

Twenty billion was the number they wrote on my hull, my hall, my throat

I’ve waited a long time, perhaps my whole life, to see myself like this – a sort of enterprise

a long flat platform in space – Silent but for the men doing their mechanical things

And blank but for the poetry of stars.

-Nina Alvarez


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If you could be soft in what you are. In what you’ve felt in the world.

If you could release, just for a moment, how he held you, or how the kids should have come home.

If you just put down the can of paint. Listen.

All along you’ve been waiting. A couple long sighs, a piece of the way things wave and you’re off.

Have you considered much what it is to sit on the lawn. What is under your fingers, what is under your hands. And how to live an agreeable life, and how much it takes in a night to get through what you must first get through in order to just sit here and be happy.

-Nina Alvarez

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Song of Childhood

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.

When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.

When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?

When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.

It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.

When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.

When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.

When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

-Peter Handke

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If she opens up the garbage bag, if she sees inside, in her almond hands, if they move and tear the bag, if she leans over and her hair falls in her face, if she pulls it behind one ear, if she stops and glassy eyed, breaths slowly, because there is the dead body of a dog in there. If she closes the bag and drags it to the side of the shed. If she unlocks the shed and finds the shovel. If she digs her shovel into the dry earth, if she does it all herself through an autumn afternoon.  If she digs where she once sledded. If she digs where she will one day sit with friends under the stars and pass little papers filled with marijuana. If she puts a black bag in the ground and tries not to hear the thud of the body. If she pats the ground when she is done. If she doesn’t cry. If she comes inside and hangs up her coat. If she washes her hands and returns a key to an inside cupboard. If she puts her clothes in the dirty hamper, if she stands naked under hot water, if she has the body of a twelve-year old. If she does this all on an autumn day. If she does this when she is fifteen and seventeen and thirty-one. If she wears a new sweater and makes eggs for dinner. If she looks out the kitchen window, knowing no one will come home. If she watches the sky before it becomes dark. If she never knew until this moment what she was headed for.

-Nina Alvarez

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Though to meet someone in California

None-the-less, a wedding

Is like meeting them on a movie set.

You are minor actors with a vague background.

Cousin #2 and the best man.

You are the scenery to someone else’s love story.

At best, you are reaching out for each other

Because that is what people do at weddings.

The veil has dropped and you can’t help but

fall into bed with the bride and groom.

-Nina Alvarez

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When I am sleepy, when I watch Monet’s willow from behind the soldier’s arm

When I think how he decided to stay, decided not to fight, to sublimely ignore

the revolution…

I think about how childhood must be, how dreams are, how there must be a place we can go that is not of this world, though it may be in it. How our minds can set their boundaries at the last quivering leaf, the 80th layer of blue, and then after that, be it war, or want, or misery that lay beyond, all simply fades to black.

-Nina Alvarez

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