About Muscle by Marylen Grigas*

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If there’s no need for movement, then no need for a brain, I’ve learned, 

a fact demonstrated by the sea squirt, a small creature that swims

freely in its youth until it settles on a rock. Then it devours its own brain. 

And spinal cord. It simply doesn’t require them any longer. 

(God, don’t let me settle.) Need for movement leads to need for muscle. 

The brain evolves in order to plan and execute reaching, grasping, 

turning, according to the expert on Charlie Rose, which I watch

on my iPad while walking on the treadmill to rebuild my strength. 

Plenty of species thrive without brains, he says. It could be different. 

on another planet, I suppose, but here evolution of the brain is about muscle. 

Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger or an evolutionary biologist. 

Yet the brainless sea squirt still gets upset, still squirts. 

Maybe it’s innate, like a horse’s hide shuddering to dislodge a fly. 

Maybe that’s why I started moving and arranging boulders last fall. 

I thought I was making a terrace. But afterward it looked more like a grave. 

 

*Published in the September 1, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

Bruise by Michael Ondaatje*

Image

In the medieval darkness of the Holland Tunnel

with luminous green paint, on whitewashed walls

of the Madrid zoo, in his thick fingered handwriting

onto dust at the dry Casablanca aquarium

 

When last I held you in my arms

my love, the West African Black

Rhinoceros was still magnificent 

and still alive…”

 

What have you been doing to Paul Vermeersch?

He has searched for you encyclopedically

in Albacete, in Zagora, in those cities

whose names have changed,

till the maps he relies on wear out.

In what disguise did you leave him?

So he will not recognize

your gait anymore,

or your stare out from a diorama.

 

Hunt and Torment. Call by no Response.

In the end words of love reveal

just yourself. Not why

or the wished-for thing. Only the Spanish

consider his plea, only the drivers

deep in a tunnel into New York

nod wisely, agree with him.

But it is the black rhino whose loss they mourn,

not the person he once held in his arms

 

When it is over, it is over,

they say in the passing dark.

There are no longer great nostrils

to scent out the source of torment.

It is a generation since our love,

to justify anger, had a horn, a tusk.

 

*Originally published in the January, 13 2014 issue of The New Yorker. 

Apricots by Jennifer Grotz*

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I judged them very carefully, as though

I’d been given the charge to determine

which are good or bad, and they were all good,

even the slightly overripe ones with bruises,

had a better ferment that only brightened

the scent. And the too young ones, firm

and slightly sour, not yet softened by the sun.

And the ripe ones, which felt like hiring into

my own flesh, slightly carnivorous.

 

They had been elegant in the tree, tiny coquettes

blushing more and more until I picked them,

then they were minimalist and matte-colored

in wooden bowls, so barely furred one couldn’t

help but clothe them, enclose them with your hand,

caress each one thoroughly before taking a bite,

exploring the handsome freckles left

from some minor blight.

 

Now I stand under the tree and

pluck them one after the other.

Each one tastes different, like a mind having

erratic thoughts. Going into the trance

halfway between eating and thinking,

the thought of an apricot, the apricot of a thought,

whose goodness occurs over time, so that

some had been better earlier, others soon

would become correct, I mean ripe.

 

*Published in the January 13th, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

The Philosopher Savant Takes a Walk by Rustin Larson*

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On my way to the post office this morning, I was feeling

Pretty balanced, pretty good. I looked at the movie posters;

I passed the tattoo-and-piercing establishment. Some

Restaurant was frying up a batch of onions.

I got over that and kept walking. I retrieved my mail.

If I can be someone’s entertainment by being myself,

I have no regrets. I believed in my footsteps. I crossed

To walk through the gazebo. There were a few marigolds.

The sun was tilted and cooly golden. A crippled woman

Watched me from her car. It was a Tuesday; I remember

that much

 

*Published in the January 13, 2014 issue of The New Yorker