History tells the story again and again. Horses buck. A chariot runs wild, reins ripped from the son’s grasp. Missiles fall. Below, seeds blow through armored bellies. A rainbow floats south in the tarry ooze. The mangled armies clash in the dust. Villages collapse into sinkholes. Families lie under debris. The son says a prayer,

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Working in Flour

When I walked into the bakery at my usual time asking politely for two marble cookies, a fudgy chocolate drop rising from the chocolate swirls, Ida Kaminsky, who came from strong Russian stock— a hearty vegetable stew, spicy meats rolled in cooked cabbage—winked and asked if I wanted a job. She offered me two bucks

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(by Mieczyslaw Jastrun. Translated Dzvinia Orlowsky & Jeff Friedman) Chrysanthemums, purple with anger, almost disappeared in shadow— dark red with green leaves in the scarred attic. Fledgling, when you shut your eyes what do you feel with your novice skin? When you open them, fire fringes the sky, red icons flaring. But what are the

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(by Mieczyslaw Jastrun. Translated Dzvinia Orlowsky & Jeff Friedman) I wanted to sleep peacefully but my conscience flung me awake. I shot the belly from a man on the Cross I wanted to flee to the window turn away from light This is what God did to keep the wall alive This wall, this air—

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I Found Them in a Dream

(by Mieczyslaw Jastrun. Translated Dzvinia Orlowsky & Jeff Friedman) I found them in dream, but didn’t know it, because they had changed. The dream gave me a sixth sense, new eyes to see the massacre, the operative logic— how they squeezed through narrow streets, arms bloody. The bullfinch descended in its black and white feathers

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Knife with Red Shaft

(by Mieczyslaw Jastrun. Translated Dzvinia Orlowsky & Jeff Friedman) Don’t lose focus— Put it back in the bottom drawer! It drives with a sudden twist through the hand held in air, then turns toward the breast. And from the hand, falls and falls pulled by gravity. Hand—compelled to strike— do you need an angel?

Bear Fight

When Liza fell in with the bear, I was more than disappointed as I had been in love with her since childhood. “What’s he got that I don’t?” I asked as we walked past the diner together. “He’s a bear.” She let go of my hand. “He gets a little jealous when I’m out with

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Give It Up

Give up the dragons tattooed on your arms in blue and red, your proud captions in green, “Fight for yourself…. Make it Right…. Stand for something or nothing.” Give up waiting your turn, because no one gets a turn unless he takes it. Give up the constellations, which are always here and always missing, the

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Out of the river, mud climbed broken embankments, crooked staircases, gleaming hulls, the corpses of cows, the skulls of cars. Out of the river, mud entered our homes, roasted its dinners in our ovens, filled our glasses with gritty wine. At night, it made our beds, tucking sheets and spreading covers. Mud said its prayers

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