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.

Another Childhood
November 23, 2011

He sloughs in his slippers to the dark bathroom and lowers himself to the seat as he has done all his adult life when, bare skin about to meet cold extruded vinyl, his most vulnerable self suspended above the water, dread creeps in.  Even so, with not so much as one light lit to constrict his sleeping pupils he sits, and his mind swims back fifty years to the campground in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where he bumbled with a flashlight to that wood maw grinning in the yellow light. He forced himself down, then popped back to his feet probing with the light down there for tarantula, alligator, snak

The Love Canal Presaged
November 23, 2011

              Dear Mamma, the great-coat has come, whose use, and my gratitude for it, will surely cumulate                      all winter long, if        the cold has not caused me to need it until now.                However, all the last fortnight floods of rain have fallen—the farms all look like lagoons,                      and even College        has turned picturesque, a sort of moated fortress,               or bastion, you might say, given our fashion of flinging a recusant gauntlet to Progress—some                      (though not you, mother)        would declare it quite the Old

But Waves, They Scatter
November 09, 2011

From beneath the icefield, longing looks up at the lovers who—variously meandering, stalling or not, fucking or not—guess nothing of him. Torturer sometimes. Known also to have been a savior eventually, hard passage to a life worth the hardness. You would think longing lived in a space warmer than an icefield, you would think so. Tragedies are happening everywhere in the world, beside things that aren’t technically tragedies, though they include suffering, pain, death in its more humiliating versions, to remind that some of us will be less spared, and some will not.