Archive for the ‘Nina Alvarez’ Category


Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example–
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people–
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery–
which is to say we might not get up
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast. . .
Let’s say we’re at the front–
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space . . .
You must grieve for this right now
–you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived”. . .
-Nazim Hikmet, translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing

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There was a time I could have wanted it

Wanted what I thought it was

Wanted what I was with it

Wanted it because


There was a time I could have sunk in it

Sunk in it as a single does

Sunk in it, saying that

What it was, it was


There was a time I could have drowned in it

Drowned in it and facial fuzz

I could have, would have drowned in it

Just because, because


There was a time for fricatives

I felt them standing on my tongue

Felt for fun and felt for food

And what I sensed, I sung.


There will come again some sibilance

Come again that shirring sigh

He will hold me shoulder width

I will hold him shoulder high

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Believer in Coffee and Sensible Dates

 A courtly love made into rape

A happy girl.

A name, a thought shoved into clean hands with desperation

A new

A sudden and sullen heartbeat

A ticket to the fourth of July in a paper cup

A utopian progeny, a step forward, looking of the outfit, the first out, the wonderful one

Across the entire city, this city that holds me, that keeps me asleep

all the world is my forgotten stage. I thought I was here alone

Almost knows me

And almost knows me

And awake, and awake and asleep

and its all okay

And so we tend to try to do those things that won’t kill us

and they are laughing

As the element of unbeing


But just doesn’t quite

But won’t make us live either

Echoes in the birds beaks

get into the boat  Betsy

get into the truck Victor

Given life

Go and go away

God’s swinging on his words, and the wound of

greenest grass singed frayed like jeans

Hanging the crowd

I get into the heart of it, I get into the me that reveals

I love to think of these things- the way the sunrises and falls over the absence of a face

I stand behind you beside you

I stand underneath you and in you, transferring all my love into these eyes

in plans

In your workyard suits and your elegant disdain

It is given no more

Jehova and the five cent love. Touring out through the special spread cosmos

Just go on, and the going on will return you will be

Know me.

Like a happy girl

Longing to be a love, to be loved

Love to revel


me here in the ether

No matter what you do today

no one told you that you would become a computer

oh they’ve been watching

or a believer in coffee and sensible dates

scoop it up

scoop me into you

Scraping seaward

Scraping through Philadelphia

Scraping westward

so this is my first my first moment to sweep it into the brightly lit corner

Sometimes for weeks


Spine of indifference

saint of the stars over culebra

Such dice-throwing avant-guardism

Tearing and torn across

That doesn’t reveal what it doesn’t reveal

that plan themselves

That slammed me down

The credit of a long line

The neutral day.

The revels

The spindle and stretch and cling in their perfect webs, across the entire city

the war was never over

them in the audience

This is what you are

This is what you are in your tortured generic friendlessness

Through vast spaces Blanchot dwarfed, defined

To be a poet with wide waterways of theory

To this I say—

Today, in the first and last reports,

Too much of this

Too much of this chugging

Under a universal arena


we are all laughing together

When feeling was truck full of roots traded from the west

When he bled pink in the sun

When he sang from Paris rooftops

Who wants all and knows none

With all of you there is slice of metal

You might still wake up tomorrow


-Nina Alvarez

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I am the earthbound version of you

the whole comedy come down

That is all


The central figure in a Tomb Wan’an painting

Pressed mouth against the window screen


When you were loved

You were held


When I was loved

I was held apart


That is all

-Nina Alvarez

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Today is a day of great passages.

My grandfather died this morning. Also I will be leaving for my writing residency at Vermont Studio Center.

I’d like to dedicate this poem by Dick Allen to my grandfather, Arch Bruns, and to the state of Vermont.

With love,

If You Get There Before I Do

Air out the linens, unlatch the shutters on the eastern side,
and maybe find that deck of Bicycle cards
lost near the sofa. Or maybe walk around
and look out the back windows first.
I hear the view’s magnificent: old silent pines
leading down to the lakeside, layer upon layer
of magnificent light. Should you be hungry,
I’m sorry but there’s no Chinese takeout,
only a General Store. You passed it coming in,
but you probably didn’t notice its one weary gas pump
along with all those Esso cans from decades ago.
If you’re somewhat confused, think Vermont,
that state where people are folded into the mountains
like berries in batter. . . . What I’d like when I get there
is a few hundred years to sit around and concentrate
on one thing at a time. I’d start with radiators
and work my way up to Meister Eckhart,
or why do so few people turn their lives around, so many
take small steps into what they never do,
the first weeks, the first lessons,
until they choose something other,
beginning and beginning their lives,
so never knowing what it’s like to risk
last minute failure. . . .I’d save blue for last. Klein blue,
or the blue of Crater Lake on an early June morning.
That would take decades. . . .Don’t forget
to sway the fence gate back and forth a few times
just for its creaky sound. When you swing in the tire swing
make sure your socks are off. You’ve forgotten, I expect,
the feeling of feet brushing the tops of sunflowers:
In Vermont, I once met a ski bum on a summer break
who had followed the snows for seven years and planned
on at least seven more. We’re here for the enjoyment of it, he said,
to salaam into joy. . . .I expect you’ll find
Bibles scattered everywhere, or Talmuds, or Qur’ans,
as well as little snippets of gospel music, chants,
old Advent calendars with their paper doors still open.
You might pay them some heed. Don’t be alarmed
when what’s familiar starts fading, as gradually
you lose your bearings,
your body seems to turn opaque and then transparent,
until finally it’s invisible–what old age rehearses us for
and vacations in the limbo of the Middle West.
Take it easy, take it slow. When you think I’m on my way,
the long middle passage done,
fill the pantry with cereal, curry, and blue and white boxes of macaroni, place the
checkerboard set, or chess if you insist,
out on the flat-topped stump beneath the porch’s shadow,
pour some lemonade into the tallest glass you can find in the cupboard,
then drum your fingers, practice lifting your eyebrows,
until you tell them all–the skeptics, the bigots, blind neighbors,
those damn-with-faint-praise critics on their hobbyhorses–
that I’m allowed,
and if there’s a place for me that love has kept protected,
I’ll be coming, I’ll be coming too.

-Dick Allen

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A Subscription to Dwell

My tongue was frozen, the alphabet deserted
A shadow disguised my public sloping;
The mouth near me sat in the mouth of the sill.
The room where language died
Left me outside inside.

Far from my stillness
The cars ramble on
My mourning tongue

Through Philadelphia

But for him it was his first answer to himself
An answer of persons and rooms;
The cities of his psyche removed,
The square footage of his phenomenology,
One room insisting his sanity,
The current of his failing stopped; he aligned himself.

Now I am sacrilegious among a hundred Buddhists.
And who lies to me over the familiar infections,
To find in returning another kind of nothing?
And be punished under a feeble kind of conscience.
The words of a new me
Are diagrammed in the guts of function.

But in the importance and boredom of survival
When the movers are moving like insects under the floor
the instinct to suffer, to which I am fairly accustomed,
is partitioned into reasons not to suffer, and convinces me
A few thousand deaths and dreams in the day
That I cannot eulogize; there is no time.


In Philadelphia
He is sudden like me; his gift of survival:
The gift of a subscription to Dwell.
Maybe when I’m
Made and whole, then I’ll have poetry again.
For when I had it before, I had no designs.
As Auden wrote:
Poetry makes nothing happen

-Nina Alvarez

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LAST DAY OF  National Poetry Month! Day 30

Poem submitted by Carrie Lefler

Float or Sink

Cold and frozen over
The look that was once there
The sparkle in the eyes
The lust for life…gone.
Only momentarily regained
When the right combination of chemistry is found
Ups and downs
Uppers and downers
The limbo in between
Ahhh. That lovely limbo appearing every so often
To give me a bliss that I will shortly miss
That place in between
The grey area
No black, no white
Just grey like the color of my heart

I want it all, but there’s a wall that holds me back
Just like the prison I’m in
The prisons my skin
Sometimes I feel like I’m crawling right out of it
I never quite escape
I numb the discomfort before I even get a chance
To set myself free
Set myself free from the me that’s not me
Cycle…cycle….over and over
I feel like I’m getting closer and closer
To all of the things that scare me the most
I’m a walking, talking, living ghost
Transparent to all who look at me
I’m here, but no one can see what’s wrong with me
I’m standing on the brink
Now I decide…
Do I float or do I sink?

-Carrie Lefler

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National Poetry Month, Day 14

Submitted by Mark Cox

I saw her through the prism of winter
In the dawn slivers of ice coated branches
In a dust of clear crystals swept skyward by God’s breath
In spectral glacial mists dancing through a ray

In the luminescent glint of glistening frosts
In twinkling drifts between cattails and river sedge
In dangling droplets from icicles beneath sheer cliffs
In a majestic frozen weave of nested emerald moss

Perhaps she flew but once, around a silver moon
glomming iridescent halo dust into a palm
Perhaps she puffed and rainbow detritus was strewn
Upon the mountains while the earth was calm

She is wind across red bee-balm, and Indian paintbrush
She is the orange firelight of Turks- cap and the flame azalea
She is sun bounced from lady slippers and yellow Jessamine
She is rain taps upon the greenbriar and striped maple
She is the dew- mist on wild chicory and Virginia bluebells
She is the healer in wild indigo and Curtiss milkwort
She is the scent of wild rhododendron and the blazing star

A vernal maiden has kissed my mountain
But I saw her first through the prism of winter.


Mark Cox

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Her coppers whiskey-full tumblers and better
To suffer peripheral vision is not enough an
Old position perpetual emotional she hammer
Stole the thunder from my imagination a mind-
Full goliath until every body comes home no more
…Fist fighting or counting shattered roses music
Is blood on white feathers every second hesitant
This snowman sunders in well-lit residences it
Showered at sunset though sans lightning teeth
A murder of gentlemen crowds one out of view
The tips of fingers slip apart in the shuffle the
Problem of ego she loves me abased on a fence
Makeshift and with none of the common decadence
Deadlocked past tense never alone attended am i
By falling star climbing a killer’s smile to heaven
While a tiny jungle is made of careful maps scarred
In primary palate along her honeyed inner thigh 

* * *

Indeed this love was a brass and glass construct

* * *

Lures hang in the trees from where i come and you
Will know me by the great mounds of fishwife tears
Lining the rivers and following bank to shore of sea

“fishwife tears”

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For there are men
It is said
That dally dark
And roam in red

And court the heart
With apple eye
And wait to wear
Her Cossack thigh

And when the greed
Of love fulfilled
Has run the course
And named its guild

Flying forth
The might of men
Is to bear it
back again

And trade its crown
For somber leaves
And carry forth
The life it grieves

And tear a hole
Where there was none
And wring a soul
For fun, for fun

And in the shadow
Of his head
The devil stares
And shares his bread

And asks the man
To part the sea
And asks the man
To bend his knee

And while hell
Anoints his head
He whips his dogs
Till they are dead

-Nina Alvarez

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