Poetry: 2010s

Poem of the Day


By D. Nurkse

after Suetonius

Caligula ordered the night city illuminated.
Every stoop, porch, or balcony was a stage.

He made the senators dress as prostitutes—
tight silk skirts, paste-on eyelashes.
Up to a matron to wriggle into a boy’s shorts.

Marcus Severus, one-armed veteran
of our labyrinthine border wars,
had to hobble into the amphitheater
armed with a plume and attack a lion.

A plume! We were fascinated.
We were all players, who was the audience?

The Fifth Hour of the Night

By Frank Bidart

The sun allows you to see only what the sun
upon: the surface. What we wanted was what was elsewhere: cause.


Or some books say that’s what we once wanted. Prophets of
never, of course, agreed about cause, the uncaused cause: or they


terribly did. Asleep, I struggle to stay inside sleep, unravaged by
piercing dreams—craving, wish, desire to remain inside, if briefly,


obliteration. I cleave to the voice of Poppea’s nurse:


Not frightening, the word
as Oralia Domínguez, hauntingly clinging to the sound, in 1964 sings it.


By Vivek Narayanan

after Valmiki’s Ramayana (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 46)

                                Dressed simply but not
               without elegance, holding ritual
                     staff and parasol

Radiating gloom, like an asteroid with designs on a star
like night’s curved shadow that swims across the Earth
like the darkness of our Sun in its deepest explosions
like the planet Budhan about to take hold of Rohini
like Saturn advancing on Chitra
like the forests and cities and far ridges of infinity
      each planetary body with its moons each moon that governs