April 20, 2012

Yes, I remember that wall in our demolished town. It jutted almost up to the fifth floor. A mirror hung on the fourth, an impossible mirror, unshattered, firmly attached. It didn't reflect anybody's face, no hands arranging hair, no door across the room, nothing you could call a place. As if it were on vacation— the living sky gazed in it, busy clouds in the wild air, the dust of rubble washed by shining rains, birds in flight, stars, sunrises.  And like any well-made object, it functioned flawlessly, with an expert lack of astonishment. ­ —Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Baranczak

Mare Incognitum
April 20, 2012

That I can’t recall my first glimpse of my mother: Alien-eyed, wrapped in alien cloth, how could I? Once she held me she just was my mother. That’s just how it goes. This is just one of many Beautiful moments I’ve been a part of but can’t (And won’t ever) remember. That’s just life, I guess.  The void. That’s just a part of life: some hidden cave Sunk deep in the mind and built for Beautiful But Can’t Remember. I saw it once: here dissolving,  There reassembling like gleaned second-long seasons. And for what reason? I just don't know. Years asking Myself, Why? Why can we not remember this?

Poems and Persons
April 10, 2012

Being Numerous takes up the long and quixotic history of poets with ambitions as outsized as Yeats’s, such as George Oppen, Frank O’Hara, and a big gr

The Man of the Sword: Two Poems by Nizar Qabbani
February 10, 2012

Translator's note: Nizar Qabbani was the most popular and beloved Arab poet of the second half of the twentieth century. He was born in Damascus in 1923. He started out as a romantic poet, with daring poems of love and the heart’s adventures, but eventually he gravitated toward political subjects, and wrote unforgettable poems about the cultural and political maladies of the Arab world—he was a fierce opponent of dictatorship.

Rushing to Ruin
January 31, 2012

It was under Nero that Lucan produced the first three books of an epic poem laced with political satire, a poem devoid of divine machinery and high-mi

For the AIDS Dead
January 26, 2012

The plague you have thus far survived. They didn’t. Nothing that they did in bed that you didn’t. Writing a poem, I cleave to “you.” You means I, one, you, as well as the you inside you constantly talk to. Without justice or logic, without sense, you survived. They didn’t. Nothing that they did in bed that you didn’t. Frank Bidart is an American poet. This poem appeared in the February 16, 2012 issue of the magazine.

Red Foods
January 25, 2012

Lift me up, Severn, for I am dying. Do not be afraid. are good for us: beets, raspberries, tomatoes. Watermelon. Is this supposed to remind us of the blood and water of our beginning? Or of our end? Face down in a mess of noise, and light, and hair, I don’t like it. I bawl. The furball of memory and regret not yet stuck in my throat, unable to go up or down, I am an unplanted seed, all hope and striving. Later for angioplasty, ramipril, and tasteless cereal. Kashi Go Lean. My ataxia is normal.

From ‘Chinese Quatrains’
January 11, 2012

My grandpa was eighty    my grandma was twenty She cried for years    for the good life she was missing She faced the wall    until he finished his dying Then she polished his bones    for all of eternity  * Throw my girl into the river    she won’t drown Like her mother    and her mother’s mother Stubborn reed    hollow at both ends She’ll whistle and hum    and float into dawn  * The man from Worcester    wants to eat my sister He bends her backward    coats her in rice-flour Pinches her corners    calls her “sweet dumpling” Fries her in deep oil    then serves her on porcelain  * His lovero

New Jersey Journey
January 11, 2012

Spent two hours at the end of December on the Garden State Highway In the ancient Ford’s trunk nothing but my heart grown heavier year by year A protracted catastrophe: the constant river of traffic the endless business of overtaking vicious eye-contact with total strangers in the adjacent lane  Driven by yearning for its prehistoric brothers a Jumbo climbs out of Newark airport over marshes and lagoons a giant smoking mountain of rubbish and the countless lights of the refineries Mile after mile of stunted trees telegraph poles fields of blueberries a Siberian countryside colonized then run t

Richard Blanco, the Official Poet of Obama's Second Inauguration, in TNR in 2011
December 14, 2011

Here's a taste of the poet reading at the president's inauguration.