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Robin Chapman
 
Hubble Maps Dark Matter
 
Dark clumps that we can neither see nor hear,
23% of the mass of our universe,
all that we can’t bring to consciousness—
that visible universe where our starry
galaxies of heat and light, our dim planets
and dust and gas shine back, build up
our world of sight from photon flight
and ricochet—has finally been found
by Hubble’s eye, looking for the places
where the gravity of exploded scatter-stuff
is great enough to bend the light passing by—
and there it hides, dark matter filigreeing
space and pulling all the starry sky
along its dense scaffolding—teaching us
how to see what we cannot see
by the way it warps and bends our lives.
 
 
 
LaTanya McQueen
 
from On the Terra Roxa Earth We Saw Stars
  
     My brother Felix is charging tourists to see the streets of the favela. For 30 reis he says he’ll show them the authentic favela experience, one only someone like him can provide. Marcos and I are walking home when he meets up with us to talk about his plan.
     “30 reis? What do you do that someone would pay that much?” Marcos asks. 
     “I show them around. I make up stories. They drink it up like the sugary fresco drinks they buy at the stands. You should see their faces.”
     “For 30 reis? What made you come up with that number?” 
     “I asked around. Look, I’m not the only one doing this. I’ve counted at least five guides at the square so far. I’m the youngest I’ve seen, though, so tourists feel safer walking around with someone like me.” He hits his chest, an act of bravado, and smiles. To a stranger he wouldn’t look menacing. Felix is tall but wiry, with kinky blonde hair and dark brown skin. His close-set eyes give him a look of cautiousness, hesitancy. 
     “You should show them the school,” Marcos interrupts. “Show them the murals that we help to paint.” The murals were part of an art project to get the students together. Groups of us were given designated walls around the outside of the school to paint over the graffiti. For weeks we met in the afternoons to paint. We were allowed to paint whatever we wanted, and Marcos chose to draw the three of us standing in front of one of the homes where we lived. Each of us looked down towards the other city that surrounded us. He drew the beaches, their white sand and crystalline waters. He drew the skyscraper buildings and countless bodies of people who in turn each looked up towards us, all smiling. It was beautiful. 
     “No one wants to see that, Marcos. They don’t come here to see murals. They want to see filthy mothers on street corners feeding babies. They want to see shadows in alleyways of men holding guns. They’re not going to pay to see a mural.”
     “We’re all in it,” Marcos continues. “It’s nice now that it’s finished. If I was a tourist I would like to see it.”
     “You’re stupid,” Felix counters. Marcos stops talking, his feelings clearly hurt. He looks to me to say something, to stand up for him, but I don’t. When he realizes I won’t he walks on ahead.
     “Why’d you do that, Felix?”
     “No one’s going to pay to see that. You want me to lie? Then I’d have to take them and I’m trying to help us here. I know what they want and they want to see men with big guns. They want to hear stories like what happened at St. Cecelia’s—”
     “You told them about that? How could you do such a thing?”
     “Why wouldn’t I? It doesn’t matter now that it’s happened.”
     “It’s wrong.”
     “Wrong? Someone else hurt those kids, not me.”
     “It’s still not right, Felix, and you know it.”
     “Just let me worry about what’s right, okay, brother?” He puts his arm around my shoulder but I shrug it off. He laughs and kicks my shin, hard enough for me to buckle down. 
     “Damn it, Felix,” I cry out, bending over to rub my leg. 
     He keeps laughing and starts to run ahead of me, catching up to Marcos. “Hurry up!” he yells.
 
 
 
Lisa D. Schmidt
 
Squirrel in the Attic
 
She chewed through wire mesh
to escape accusations
of wind and snow,
 
her empty belly bulging
like cheeks with uncracked nuts
plucked too early from my limbs.
 
She’s ravaged her own fur
to build a nest in the darkness.
 
I imagine her retreat
between dusted trusses,
the rapid beat of her heart
cradled in a ship blown
off foreign shores.
 
And sometimes, when I’m asleep,
I hear stories she tells her pups
about a time when trees
were for growing green leaves
and the gardener answered prayers
with corn as yellow
as a young girl’s hair.
 
 
 
 
T. Alan Broughton
 
Doorways
 
They are not what I see since always I’m looking
past them to the next room. Sunlight drapes chairs,
a table, but the window in that room also offers
passage to maples, a bank of green. Where I sit
the room surrounds me, but I am already elsewhere
despite the floor, a hard wood bench under thighs.
 
All my life doorways have let me by, hinges
giving way to the twist of a hand. I pass through
the frame into next moments not even gathered
wholly in that space because in the wall there is
another opening, perhaps the illusion of walking
through to a porch, a landscape of lawn and field
falling away to dusky pond that mirrors evening.
 
See how the sun is sliding downwards, the sky
is a doorway to the room of stars, the stars
are too dim to reveal the widening portal
expanding like a lens, an ever-opening eye,
and that too is only a glimpse of room after room
that might be nothing more than where I am now,
believing I am myself when I too am not
what contains me but only the next threshold.
 
 
 
 
Ihab Hassan                                                              

 

from Tahrir

 

          Kateb, my name, means writer in Arabic.  But I am not a writer; I am a widower, dabbling in memories, and I have forgotten my native speech.  Once I served as foreign correspondent for papers in the Bay Area.  Now I savor my resignation, tell stories about my granddaughter, Leila, and miss my dearest Anne. 
          Egypt, which I departed long ago, has recently swamped the news: protests, heady change, the riptide of uncertainties.  Yet all I can hear is a distant dirge: dreams sputtering like a burned wick, harsh melodies of grief, and the cries of Leila in her last agony.  Of small hopes and vast miseries the world is made—but that’s not what the history books say.  Nor can history speak of my timeless moment in the lees of Sinai.
 
*  *  *

 

          Leila doted on her Egyptian heritage—at her age, she could have hardly claimed a personal past.  Her American mother had died of pancreatic cancer when the child was only ten; her father—that’s my son, Walid—never remarried, keeping his beaked nose buried in some hush-hush work at a GE lab in Schenectady.  It was her maternal Aunt Helen who brought up Leila, smiling on her niece’s breakneck ways.  I did the best I could from the distance of Boston Common and could not decide whether my granddaughter took after her mother, russet curls fringing her face, or after her grand-uncle, Moktar.  The family called him mad but he was inspired. 
          Leila—olive skin and unflinching olive eyes—wanted to know about genealogies and guiding stars.  I tried to persuade her that tribal blood is thinner than the waters of life.  She said: “Tell me about Egypt, Grandpa.  Tell me why you left.”  Her look was tender and wild.  I gave her rumors of my past, truancies of time.  She scribbled notes with a red-lacquered pen—tight, looping hand—her auburn hair raveling down. “Tell me about your departure,” she pleaded, tossing her hair aside.  I said to myself: this girl would leave a full fridge, a soft bed, and white lace curtains to join the peshmerga in the fastness of the Caucasus.  Sure enough, Leila decided she must visit tombs and temples of her forebears. 
          But that’s not all: unbeknown to me, Leila disturbed the sense of my Egyptian past.  Whenever I spoke to her—and for days afterwards—I confused tenses and pronouns.  
 
 
 
 
Eleanor Paynter
 
Into Illinois
 
Every July we crossed the Great River of America
into my father’s childhood: porch swing, chocolate shake,
an ashtray on every table. We caught
 
lightning bugs in jars, took turns holding the Lab’s leash
on walks to the pharmacy and back. My uncle
trimmed his rosebushes. I hid
 
from my grandmother’s wigs, which hung,
headless, from bathroom hooks.
She had a drawer full of Kit-Kats. She played Uno.
 
Once, she fell asleep with a lit cigarette
and the mattress caught fire.
 
Back home, we didn’t have a second floor or a footed tub,
no phosphorescent flies or caterpillars fuzzing the path.
 
In the store a block away where he sold glasses,
my uncle’s goldfish grew to fit its ten-gallon tank.
 
A place becomes magical for the wrong reasons, or at least,
the magic complicates with time. I thought we started camping nearby
because we liked the outdoors; didn’t understand
 
it was a choice not to stay on the couch. In that house
with its liver and mice, secrets simmered behind olive drapes—
but I built Lincoln Log mansions and chased the yard
 
with mason jars, oblivious to the late nights, to fights
over prescriptions and bills, to why my father didn’t rebecome
the Quincy boy from photos but spent a good part of every visit
 
trying to fix the house he’d left. The truth thickens.
The memories are no longer as I made them.
We visited less and less. The last time, after widespread floods, we flew.
 
When the pilot said, Put your hand to the window, I did:
the river had swollen beyond my palm. My index
was the average width of the Mississippi.
 
 
 
 
Mekeel McBride
 
Gazebo
 
If I had to choose one—and let the rest go—
gazebo’s the word I’d take for my own,
the art deco elegance of z, the easy work it does
 
connecting vowels; steady, fixed attention,
from videbo, I shall see; free-standing,
roofed structure,
 
usually open at the sides,
the secret side of Victoriana, insisting
on a structure merely for summer pleasure.
 
I say gazebo to myself especially
in the middle of winter; it helps to hear
those insouciant syllables,
 
a little like the white-throated sparrow’s
early arrival in February, months too early
but ready anyway. A word that smells of cut
 
grass, latticework, cake and rain. You were
married. I wasn’t. And we were crazy
drunk. Well past three a.m., the park empty
 
and in the dark gazebo we kissed as if
those kisses were going to keep
the world alive. Years later, alone,
 
you died of heart attack, weren’t found
for days. One way to remember is to keep
saying it, effortless guest, snow ghost, gazebo . . .
 
 
 
 
Linda Pastan
 
Choosing Sides   
 
In the war between the flowers
and the deer, my husband
has chosen sides, putting up a fence
at which two doe briefly stand,
looking in, locked out
in the wide world.
 
And though our woods
are newly filled with flowers,
safe now on their stems,
I think continually
of the deer who sleep
like penitents on their knees.
  
 
 
 
 
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