The International Literary Quarterly

February 2009


Donald Adamson
Robert Appelbaum
Rosemary Ashton
Sujata Bhatt
Stephen Burt
Rita Dove
Elaine Feinstein
Sophie Judah
John Kinsella
Ron Padgett
Pascale Petit
David Plante
David Shields
Susan Stewart
John Thieme

Founding Editor: Peter Robertson
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Consulting Editor: Marjorie Agosín
Consulting Editor: Richard Berengarten
Consulting Editor: Jill Dawson
Consulting Editor: Denise Duhamel
Consulting Editor: Marilyn Gaull
Consulting Editor: Beatriz Hausner
Consulting Editor: Mimi Khalvati
Consulting Editor: Suzanne Jill Levine
Consulting Editor: Margot Livesey
Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor:
Jeff Barry
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Issue 6 Guest Artist: Anthony Whishaw

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Three Poems  by Susan Stewart  

Porter’s Pass

                                    for Robert Gray

When matter meets with matter,

something falls

A dappled curve, fringed with

wattles to the left,

though the right-hand path, solid

rock, was the one.

Pink ribbons, lurid,

on the brush were human signs,

but that didn’t mean

we were not lost. All things

being equal, ascent’s

the better choice

than slipping and sliding

into tree ferns,

unless you know you will

be thirsty soon,

for water never makes

its way uphill. Lichens,

dwarf galaxies,

drawn by vanished light.

The spiked heather’s

flowers as soft as snow.

When an answer meets an answer,

something moves

Calling, calling to each other

like bats sounding

and circling, circling

and sounding, thrown

around by the gusting

wind, concentrating

on contiguous

patches of unmarked

ground, stubbornly

insignificant, when swift and dark,

dark depth of fur

out of my peripheral

vision came hurtling—what?

what? wild eye

galloping in animal speed launched

from the frantic

            dry continuous

rustling of


leaves scattering

in successive

explosions, the great

haunches leaping

faster than

my turning

head could turn.

When matter meets an answer,


Inside the sandstone’s honey-combed

spaces, the white spiders live like


    cliff-dwellers, miniature

cliff and dweller. Below

the human lands are cut from

paper squares—the map

may be a territory, confused and


What made the rusty heather

the color of the rock-face?

At dusk the silent birds turn raucous,

emphatic. They say

we may not pass

this way again,

this way again,

repeating makes it

sound, and sound

like invitation.


Digging slips to falling slips and sifts

in the X of the hourglass, the pit’s

inevitable twist is that you

find yourself always

adjacent, the center

you think you are

reaching drifts

away like

the racing sky.

You’re reading

left to right, though

the truth of it’s receding,

the truth is you’re receding,

all the blue you’ve known escapes

you. You can’t escape

the truth of a pit, you can’t

reach the horizon.

The problem

is always vertical, and

the ground of it

escapes you.

All the blue

now wild

and yonder, while

the ground of truth

collapses--your shoes

in the muck are lost

to each other,

your rings slowly

powdered to

dust and stone. Wasted

lives and days and hours

of ditch-diggers, gutter-

snipes, drunks.

A jack-hammer gone hay-wire

in a graveyard where no one goes.

A rain made of soil made of

leaves, a wave made

of sand over sand.

The things that have

resistance all seem

to be above you.

You can’t use dirt

to wipe the dirt from

your eyes, and you can’t

remember the sun

that must have lit

the steel and spade

when, long ago, you

first resolved 

to pry

an O

from the grass.

That song is gone

with your scraping

intent, though pit is

the start of



If I could tell you, from here, about the feeling

of anticipation

somehow mixed together with a sense of peace,

a sense of residual, ever-

present peace, to know the place exists,

how enclosure’s waiting

there, not at all magnificent, not

in the least

expressing condescension,

but something closer

to crouching,

declining, the gesture of a kindly

giant, a parent folding down

to listen to a child,

or an animal--a great

animal--withdrawn into its lair,


withholding its power.

(And so showing its power

will, considered, be


Still no matter which

of the three paths I might take, each

with its succession

of black stones fanned together, worn

smooth by thousands and

thousands of other

shoes-- not mine

at all, though mine

step there, step

here, too

(As if possession were

nine-tenths, not

of the law,

but of the yearning

thought we’re not alone.)

This is as close as I can come

to something glimpsed

like rain as it 

streams through

the oculis, not aiming

for that opening, but raining down

as sure as sunlight,


the very kind

they say might fill

with wings, and yet

they don’t-- it’s just

the rain itself, the rain

enough and more,

here and there drawn in from

its universal fall by the rumor—

all it takes--to sense

the gods assembling.

I knew someone who,

as a boy,

had seen a shaking

snow descend, flake

by flake, each

melting as

it reached the floor,

though for a moment

there, suspended,

a snowy shaft

was slanting,

slanting so

up and down

down and up

were one.

In one eye,

every one

and everyone.