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Sonia Sanchez, Mary Oliver, Sasha Pimentel: The Intimacy of 3 Poems


As we spend more time indoors at the behest of shelter-in-place advisories, we find ourselves renegotiating and rediscovering our personal space in the company of others—often loved ones—or finding a new sense of solitude. Thus, in the best of circumstances, intimacy invites itself in moments of silence, of stillness, of understanding, of passion, of tenderness, of inner reflection. When we are at a loss for words to express how it makes us feel, we turn to the poets. In our fourth installment of this year’s National Poetry Month series, cocoon yourself in the poetry of Sonia Sanchez, Mary Oliver, and Sasha Pimentel.


Sonia Sanchez’s “5 love haiku” from Morning Haiku

a sexual sky you
coughed swords

your smell
slides under my

walking backwards
towards assassinations

locust man
eating the grain
of women

your tongue
jelly on my


Mary Oliver’s “In the Evening, in the Pinewoods” from Red Bird

Who knows the sorrows of the heart?
God, of course, and the private self.
But who else? Anyone or anything else?
Not the trees, in their windy independence.
Nor the roving clouds, nor, even, the dearest of friends.

Yet maybe the thrush, who sings
by himself, at the edge of the green woods,
to each of us
out of his mortal body, his own feathered limits,
of every estrangement, exile, rejection—their
    death-dealing weight.

And then, so sweetly, of every goodness also to be remembered.


Sasha Pimentel’s “While My Lover Rests” from For Want of Water

Night divides from my pillow
as a man and a woman, one taking

breath, and the other, moving
to the pattern of his sleep. The soft

palate clicks as measure, and the dead
drip through the window. Here,

the plates of our women’s hips surface
from memory with my nakedness, like a body

and its reflection meeting at the point
of water, and I watch the man alone

in my bed curl, returning. In sleep
we are always aware of the presence

and absence of bodies, and he swims
in delicate ballet to the sheeted

center, knowing the lack of my weight
there. The wind buries herself

against the pane in this lovely, terrible
hour, and all the immigrants I know

of evening are coming to
gather themselves around. Tonight

I am swimming in this
inhalation—exhalation—and the wind,

larger than ever, is wailing, and his
throat relaxes, his uvula aquiver,

and I am listening now and learning
how little my need, in night, to speak.