The Days of the Unicorns

Phyllis Webb
1927 – 2021


I remember when the unicorns
roved in herds through the meadow
behind the cabin, and how they would
lately pause, tilting their jewelled
horns to the falling sun as we shared
the tensions of private property
and the need to be alone.

Or as we walked along the beach
a solitary delicate beast
might follow on his soft paws
until we turned and spoke the words
to console him.

It seemed they were always near
ready to show their eyes and stare
us down, standing in their creamy
skins, pink tongues out
for our benevolence.

As if they knew that always beyond
and beyond the ladies were weaving them
into their spider looms.

I knew where they slept
and how the grass was bent
by their own wilderness
and I pitied them.

It was only yesterday, or seems
like only yesterday when we could
touch and turn and they came
perfectly real into our fictions.
But they moved on with the courtly sun
grazing peacefully beyond the story
horns lowering and lifting and

I know this is scarcely credible now
as we cabin ourselves in the cold
and the motions of panic
and our cells destroy each other
performing music and extinction
and the great dreams pass on
to the common good.


Fatemeh Ghahremani
b. 1991


A tear drop alights
From a car that crosses my eye
And stops
Behind a light that embodies red
And then drops
into bumps and coughs
And pulls a hand break
Like a light that turns amber
When the street is quiet

If I don’t run away
In these high heels
To the last light
Someone would want to give me a ride
With hands that go green
like a bud in my eyes
And then blow cigarette smoke
Into my eyes

What a passengerless destiny
My poor tears

Are shot again
My eyes
Got their period again

Translation by Abol Froushan


L.K. Holt
b. 1982


At oldest moon the tanker is aimed at shore
and scuttled like a much smaller thing;
its prow cocked in the unnatural questioning
of a carcass head; its waterlines, doing marked done.
Empty oil-barrels thrown to sea, herded to shore,
then the loosest fittings, then steeliest ego-structure:
all parts can be turned to mutiny in the end.
In the hull’s darkness a man, as taken as Jonah,
falls off a girder and ends forty feet below,
straddling a crossbeam that splits his pelvis in two.

School’s Out

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 25th birthday.

Amanda Gorman
b. 1998


The announcement
Swung blunt as an axe-blow:
All students were to leave
Campus as soon as possible.

We think we cried,
Our brains bleached blank.
We were already trying to forget
What we would live.
What we would give.

Beware the ides of March.
We recognized that something ran
Rampant as a rumor
Among our ranks.
Cases bleeding closer,
Like spillage in a napkin.

There is nothing more worrisome
Than a titan who believes itself
Separate from the world.

Graduation day.
We don’t need a gown.
We don’t need a stage.
We are walking beside our ancestors,
Their drums roar for us,
Their feet stomp at our life.
There is power in being robbed
& still choosing to dance.


Rābi’a Balkhī
10th century


I am caught in Love’s web so deceitful
None of my endeavors turn fruitful.
I knew not when I rode the high-blooded stead
The harder I pulled its reins the less it would heed.
Love is an ocean with such a vast space
No wise man can swim it in any place.
A true lover should be faithful till the end
And face life’s reprobated trend.
When you see things hideous, fancy them neat,
Eat poison, but taste sugar sweet.

The Motion of Ropes in Tugs

Lucila Nogueira
1950 – 2015


The motion of ropes in tugs
European hour of a mists’ kaleidoscope
fingers like submarines in the midst of seaweed
it is not so far
from Babylonia to Jerusalem
City quay of Saint-Nazaire
the moor and set sail of ships
slow movement in motionless water
indefinite horizon in Loire
verandah between scaffolds and cranes
unexpected ecstasy of embarkations
Here I am only a foreigner
and I bring the mark of casualty
I am an outsider passer-by
and as I arrived I should leave
Here I am only a passenger
and no matter how devoted I am
I will remain an outsider
No matter how much I want you
I am farouche
and this city is only in my route
ditch wall bridge and sentinel
as I arrived I should return
Nobody will wave to me
from any window
when I leave
platonic quay of myself
metaphysical dimension of a dream
metaphor quay of the passport body
we are the ships in this night
invisible quay of resurrection.

Translation by Marina Nogueira Martensson

Formal Poem

Amel Moussa
b. 1971


In the old house
where my grandfather composed his formal poems
I live as a concubine in my kingdom,
my dress is wet,
and on my head I place a crown.

In the old house
where the jug is tilted
water seeps out
mixed with prayers.

In the old house
where my first cry echoed,
I spread the soil of lineage
for us to sleep on,
one soul stacked next to another.

In the old house
where my grandmother was throned a bride
I search for her shawl
and place it for my shoulders to kiss.

In the old house
I cross ancient nights
and carry food to dervishes.

In the old house
I hand away my embers as a dowry
to lovers bathing in rain.

In the old house
Love wears us like a cape
and the courtyard becomes
twice its size.

Translation by Khaled Mattawa

from The Halieutica

Oppian of Corycus
183 – c. 200


O cruel Love, crafty of counsel,
of all gods fairest to behold with the eyes,
of all most grievous when thou dost vex the heart
with unforeseen assault, entering the soul
like a storm-wind and breathing the bitter menace of fire,
with hurricane of anguish and untempered pain.
The shedding of tears is for thee a sweet delight
and to hear the deep-wrung groan;
to inflame a burning redness in the heart
and to blight and wither the bloom upon the cheek,
to make the eyes hollow and to wrest all the mind to madness.
Many thou dost even roll to doom,
even those whom thou meetest in wild and wintry sort,
fraught with frenzy; for in such festivals is thy delight.
Whether then thou art the eldest-born among blessed gods
and from unsmiling Chaos didst arise with fierce and flaming torch
and didst first establish the ordinances of wedded love
and order the rites of the marriage-bed;
or whether Aphrodite of many counsels, queen of Paphos,
bare thee a winged god on soaring pinions,
be thou gracious and to us come gentle and with fair weather
and in tempered measure; for none refuses the work of Love.
Everywhere thou bearest sway and everywhere thou art desired
at once and greatly feared;
and happy is he who cherishes and guards in his breast a temperate Love.
Nor doth the race of Heaven suffice thee nor the breed of men;
thou rejectest not the wild beasts nor all the brood of the barren air;
under the coverts of the nether deep dost thou descend
and even among the finny tribes thou dost array thy darkling shafts;
that naught may be left ignorant of thy compelling power,
not even the fish that swims beneath the waters.

Translation by A.W. Mair

To Sleep

We present this work in honor of the 410th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola
1559 – 1613


Frightful representation of death,
cruel sleep, my heart no longer agitate,
by showing me the tight knot has been cut,
sole consolation for my adverse fate.

Seek out the ramparts of some tyrant strong,
his walls of jasper, ceiling made of gold;
or seek the miser rich in his poor bed,
and make him wake up sweating, trembling, cold.

Then let the first see how the angry mob
breaks down with wrath his iron-covered gates,
or see the hidden blade of lackey bought;

and let the second see his wealth exposed
by stolen key or furious assault:
and let Love keep the glories he has wrought.

Translation by Alix Ingber

The Collar

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 390th birthday.

George Herbert
1593 – 1633



I struck the board, and cry’d, No more,
I will abroad.
What? Shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
Shall I be still in fruit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me bloud, and not restore
What I have lost with cordiall fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the yeare onely lost to me?
Have I no bayes to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And by thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away; take heed:
I will abroad.
Call in thy deaths head there: tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need,
Deserves his load.
But as I rav’d and grevv more fierce and wilde
At every word,
Me thoughts I heard one calling, Childe:
And I reply’d , My Lord.