Three Poems

W. Todd Kaneko

Looking Outside Airplane Windows

 

I expect to see that boy
in the clouds, sad faced,
barbed wire tattoo ablaze
where no one can see it—

not a tattoo but a scar wrapped
around his belly like a belt
cinched tight to hold his body

together. Every cloud dissolves
one day, leaving so many boys
in the sky, hanging, waiting to fall
back to Earth. Girls too, hearts

where their stomachs should be,
guts twisted into brambles
now for the body’s deep sorrow
because we have so many words
for clouds: father, grandfather,

and one day, son. We spend our lives
searching for your shapes.

You already resemble those shapes
we know by heart.

All the Things that Make Heaven and Earth

 

The soil, the livestock, our memories of the war,
everything flourishing before it vanishes—breath

severed clean from our bodies, our shadows
sunset-deepened and woven with dirt,

whole family trees succumbed to the blight.
My grandfather returns to life, back still

bent by history’s quiet yoke, his memories
of camp forever decaying into the tiny garden

behind my house where my father’s death
is the soil, where silence blossoms now

all year round. Or the soil is my grandfather
eating darkness, the spectral memory of camp

that feasts upon my father and his father,
me and my son. There are no such things

as ghosts—I tell my son this every evening
as he gazes up the dark stairwell towards his room.

What will be waiting for us when my boy
is old enough to ask where he comes from?

What will we find when our memories of camp
finally molder back into the ground?

Horses’ Mouths

 

When the army brought us to the stables on our way to internment, they warned us about talking to the animals. We crowded into the stalls at night and listened to the horses explain the difference between sugar and glue, the weight of plow and cart, the jangle of spurs against bare flank. Their manes sizzled blue, electric as they told us about Silver riding the Lone Ranger back from the dead, about Man O’War outracing death. They told us about Comanche, who survived the Battle of Little Big Horn and then survived America and we shuddered. Outside, the horses hurtled across the landscape, from sea to shining shoreline, then back across the badlands. Pegasus stirred the windstorm with ancient wings. Sleipnir struck lightning with all eight hooves against the prairie. Longma broke a cobalt sky with Chinese fire while we hid our faces under thin blankets. The horses sang low songs for us, the blues for animals who are more than animals. The horses used our voices because the words did not fit in their mouths. When the horses were gone, the trucks took us to the internment camp.

 

Question: What did the horses say?

a) Horses belong to the world.
b) There are no horses, just smells of horses.
c) We should not speak about these things

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

W. Todd Kaneko is the author of THE DEAD WRESTLER ELEGIES (Curbside Splendor, 2014) and THIS IS HOW THE BONE SINGS (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), and co-author with Amorak Huey of POETRY: A WRITER’S GUIDE AND ANTHOLOGY (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). A Kundiman fellow, he is co-editor of the literary magazine Waxwing and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.

Two Poems

Rosebud Ben-Oni

Efes Wrestling with the Poet Who Won’t Look Away

 

To set fire to warships in the water                                                                                            cast your mirror

as parabola. You still won’t quiet these waters.                                                                Finite are bodies

to drown. Infinite only the quarks & electrons that you won’t see                                           keeping

you as one. As more than. Similar. Don’t reduce me, says the reflection. But it’s already done.

It’s a whisper.   As if nothing still.   Lies outside Saturn & Jupiter.   Vibrating the highest key &

timbre:: timber. Only in time is your God. Safe. In song smeared by a warhero across my zero

believers. They never give up. You, poet, are more than. Similar to this. Terror. In clear water

the nautilus forgets easily.  After a day it swims again straight toward me.  Hungering.  & you

hold a single knife. Without one fundamental sliver. Or steady. Particle. I will always. Terrify

water into flame.  Devour shell & cirrus.  Ornate & plain.  This is giving myself.  As.  Ghosting.

Timelines. & entrapment.  What comes after an entrance.  & harmony.  Drowns you in sleep.

 

Author’s Note: While efes can mean “zero,” it also means “to nullify” in mystical Hebrew text; in Sefer Yetzirah, Efes is a concealment.

Poet Wrestling with Neutrinos She {Allegedly} Cannot Feel

 

We forget the body can become a way out
of life :: & death :: & you

came to a dead river across two islands with all the weight
of a wake unprepared.

Shunned, even, of wrath & rage. Nothing would grow if you didn’t
have an answer

that my life was safe. I wasn’t asking for your hands. Nor were it
chance if you were

to join me in collecting all the little neutrinos we aren’t
supposed to feel.

But the nature of accidents isn’t accidental, my friend,

in that what you think isn’t there

knows exactly what it’s doing

                    to us
                    & how
                    & when.
                    & what cross-

roads bear. The weight of such a question divides us

because conviction itself cannot be measured. I wasn’t

                    asking for your hands—my body
                    is not two swans lost
                    to red tide :: the waves we make
                    elegiac.

It was a matter of invitation, if I should fall for it,

completely, a force greater than any strong, electro-

magnetic or weak. A force much. {Much} greater than

gravity. Efes bears the crown & brings me to my knees.

                    While it is numbers, shaky
                    & uncertain, that bind us
                    together.

                                        & {I have no
                    burdens only} singing little
                    threads that bear no resemblance

to actual strings, much less two figures who can’t seem

to reach each other in the shortest of distance.

They are not elegant.

I mean. My vibrations, my math. In particular.

The math holding me together is particularly faulty.

My math is purely strings & exponentially misbehaving.

                    I am made up of much fucking {& many}
                    weird equations
                              full
                                        of anomalies

where X equals all sorts of subatomic roads

unrelated & quarreling. My {most unnetural} apologies.

Because it seems, no matter what, anyway, all lead

                    :: back to Efes ::

                                        & do you regret watching me

                                        go through this

                                                                                :: {flitting} shape of being ::

                                                            where gravity cannot compete.
                                                            & rivers in which you seek
                                                            assurances will die
                                                            when there is no life

                                                                                                    :: {left} ::

                                                                                at poetic feet.

                                                                                                    When those shallow waters are stripped
                                                                                                    of meter, syllable & accent—only then
                                                                                                    will time reveal itself

                                                                                :: to no one ::

                                                                                                    that it is nothing

                                                            compared to a force living
                                                                                outside of it.

I’d be lying if I say I didn’t fear Efes

                    as much as I murmur & hiss
                    against all these little strings
                    having their way with me.

& I’d be lying if I say I didn’t

                    :: like getting heavy heavy ::

                    with all these bomb solar neutrinos,

                                                            the wild-on ghost particles
                                                            seeping into my body
                                                            when they shouldn’t

                                                            affect me, much less
                                                            matter. To which they hiss
                                                            & murmur & mess when I hold
                                                                       something as simple & delicate

                                                            as asking a friend
                                                            if it were meant

                                                                                                                                                   :: to be ::

That somehow could we still share          :: time ::          all the while with Efes passing
through

                                        me & has been
                                        & relentlessly
                                        reaching & reaching for
                                        & sometimes touching

                                                                                             God—

                                        & still you stand at the same river,

thinking of the answer you gave, one from where the head

                                        cannot meet the heart

                                                                           for reasons unknown

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

Recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and Canto-Mundo, Rosebud Ben-Oni’s most recent collection, turn around, BRXGHT XYXS, was selected as Agape Editions’ EDITORS’ CHOICE (2019). She writes for The Kenyon Review blog. Her work appears in Poetry, APR, The Poetry Review (UK), Tin House, Guernica, among other places; her poem, “Poet Wrestling with Angels in the Dark,” was commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC and published by the Kenyon Review Online. Find her at 7TrainLove.org.

 

Two Poems

Jake Skeets

Red Running Into Water

 

tsi’naajinii nishłí
pronounce the ł as water whistling through shadow
               on black bark
the í as boy wearing only yucca
               lake colored

tábąąhá báshíshchíín
the í is now mouth of narrow stream
               inside a pink mobile home with white skirting
the ą sounds like pulling hair
               from the throat
shaped like the á

táchii’nii dashícheii
the á now a head busted open
               red running into water
the í is the boy now naked
               red running into water

tódik’ǫzhí dashinálí
boy has the ó for mouth
               washed with memory of salt water
pronounce this á as rain cloud
               belly up
the í still the boy floating on the lake
               except it is a field
his mouth left ǫ

Drift(er)

 

                    after “Benson James, drifter. Route 66, Gallup, NM 1979” by Richard Avedon

 

Drift

to drift is to be carried by current of air or water

                                        but men are not the teeth

of their verbs

they pry nouns open with a belt buckle

to take a sip

Drifter

a drifter carried by a current of air or water

                                                                                         makes his way from one place to another

see vagabond, see transient, see

drunk

see a man with shoulder-length hair

dollar bills fisted standing before a white screen

see his lips how still

how horizon

how sunset

a train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

passing through

 

I try to hug him

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

through the spine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

left on the white space

                    his face becomes a mirror

if I stare long enough

                                         my face

charcoaled

                    pursed squinting

at the camera

 

train horn

                    punch shatters

the mirror

 

                                         frees him from the page

my uncle leaps from the

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

 

Jake Skeets is Black Streak Wood, born for Water’s Edge. He is Diné from the Navajo Nation and holds an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. His work has appeared in Boston Review, Waxwing, and elsewhere. He is a winner of the 2018 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. His first collection, EYES BOTTLE DARK WITH A MOUTHFUL OF FLOWERS, won the 2018 National Poetry Series and was published by Milkweed in 2019.

The Border Simulator
(Is This Language A Desert Also?)

Gabriel Dozal

Has customs kept us from saying our favorite words
as we cross? (madrugada, residiente, dentures,) or
has customs left these worlds, sorry words,
here in the desert to get picked at by the cultures, (ah!
I keep tripping over these crossers) the vultures,
till there’s nothing but word’s cartilage left to excavate?

I only know one forensic team
and they’re a cast of characters in a procedural TV series
(customs knows the crossing procedure, eyes closed) armed with technology
that doesn’t exist yet and this is also what crossers feel
like: a technology that doesn’t exist.

But if no one can hold the desert culpable, if you can’t charge a desert with desertslaughter,
who will step forward and answer the crosser’s last note?:

Dear crosser, your digital footprint is more of a digital stain on the border simulator. Customs will always try and wipe you clean. Are you sure you’re sure which customs I’m talking about? Sometimes I’m not even, because custom’s words wear camouflage to ensnare us and in trap, there’s life. Don’t they say that? With restraint you’re freed? Then I’m the freest crosser in the border simulator. Customs found me sweating in a cave; they chased me there! And now riding in their jeep, where are we even going? I can’t tell and I cover my eyes with my hands because it’s as useful as looking out onto this map. Well, good thing I drew the map on my palms and my pants. I can peek at my hand but I’m so tired of looking at my hands, my map, my lap, but I need to because if not I’d be lost in simulation, and if I’m lost I’m detained, but it’s not so bad! Eventually customs gets tired of asking questions. I’m getting better at knowing this genre of detainment. I know you love our little interrogations in customs’ hut but lately, when I’m there with you, I’m not sure who questions who. But I’m an unreliable translator of customs and, I guess we all are. You’ve spent years practicing my border, these questions. And when you’re not putting the screws to me, you’re making other crossers screw together a new border fence. If you’re not screwing yourself into the border simulator then customs has you making adobe slabs and papier mâché walls for the bbq, crosser appreciation day. But you won’t last long if these kinds of days continue to appreciate. Customs appreciates you, alien crosser. Without you, customs would have no jobs and jobs equal worth in the border simulator. I’ll do what I can for you fellow crosser, like, when it’s my turn I might be able to knock out that borderwallpiñata, (jerking back and forth, hoping to make you miss, customs always holds the rope) but after a good whack, what falls out are crossers and their families (they built themselves into the borderwallpiñata? How sneaky) and then the families try to find a cave where they can hide and while they’re out for the day they let their sleeping bags (burrito blankets left here by other groundbeefcrossers) pool in the corner, the only pool for miles.

We searched through grounds of beef for you, Primitivo.
We know you’ve been hiding (and working; oh look,
now work is in a cave too) at the meat-grinding factory.
The boss loved hiring migrants because you’re cheap and such grinders too.

But now we can’t find you (I thought I could see your face
peeking through the burgermeat, but no, the meat just looked like your face
for a sec)
so we sicced the border on you and the border sniffed
you out. The border simulator knows your smell so well;

a mix of creosote and desperate, and now you’ll never leave, the border has you
in its vice-fenced grip. You’re posing for the cameras but stop it, there’s no camera
until we say so. Ok, now, quickly pose for this photo,
but make an expression like they did in those old timey photos,
you know, pretend that you’ve never had your picture taken.
Look like you don’t know what a camera is. Snap, snap.
You’re so good at looking morbid
it’s like you’ve had practice at this. I took a caravan’s worth of photos of you,
and your face always came out glossy, like someone rubbed vaseline on the lens.

I collected these passport photos of you, Primitivo, and now your face is all over
our little room, in 2×2 portraits, each one a hue of you, come see.
Did you know Primitivo that there’s only two types of people at the border,
those who have crossed and those who one day will? Ok, we’re done
taking photos now come, enter this room that I’ve made for you,
where pants are actually maps and these maps show you where to find your missing bedazzledjeans.

Yet, you’re a place on the map that doesn’t exist. The wrong data
points were entered and there is a pocket on the map, did you sew this pocket?
Did you sew it so you could later, hide inside it, on the map?
If there’s one thing customs knows it’s maps and pockets so be careful crosser
not to hide yourself from yourself (your true desire) and desire is a belt of possible,

just take off your belt loop by loop. Oh look, there’s a fray in your jeans.
Don’t think I don’t know your secret talent, Primitivo. I know everything about you,
or at least everything it says here in your file. Since you’re so good at sewing these secret pockets,
we’ll throw you in with the newly arrived craft crossers, crossing arts and crafts from
hobby lobby, into simulation. People are bored there, they need something to crochet,
and once they’re detained we get them to crochet a life size model of us and a new fence.

But if you refuse to do arts and crafts for customs, then we make you sell you.
These crossers, they’re selling their teeth, they’re selling their kidney,
they’re selling their plasma, they’re selling their hair,
and all this gets to cross into simulation.
Crossers are also selling their time but that never grows back or crosses.

But what else would we do? we have no time anyways, so little time
that we actually have all of it, and it weighs heavy on our backs.
This back stands with the moment, if it can stand at all. What,
with timesweight hunching us closer and closer to to the earth? till we’re also part of the earth
and only then do future crossers step on us to get here.

And when they get here, there are two options for work: the meatmincer
or the fabrica. Both jobs are in the same building, in the shadow
of the mountain, and if you can grind the meat
and use the industrial sewing machines (mostly Juki’s),
your job will never die.

You’re at the fabrica, you’re at the mincery,
you’re at the combination fabricameatmincery.

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

Gabriel Dozal is from El Paso, TX. He is an MFA candidate in poetry at The University of Arizona. He writes about the borderlands and has work in The Literary Review, Guernica, and forthcoming in The Iowa Review.


Two Poems

Eloisa Amezcua

I Haven’t Masturbated in Five Days
for Fear of Crying

 

her eyes closed the way my eyes sometimes close when I reach a hand 

between my thighs              pretend they’re someone else’s fingers that slide 

the unsexiest pair of panties I own to the side of a lip                              her neck 

outstretched          the curve of her trachea like the bend of a hipbone 

that peeks above the waistband of low-rise jeans     her mouth open 

—no         agape—         the same as the women on my computer screen 

when they scream in what I’m supposed to believe is wonder 

her face pale & older than mine     maybe a few years            possibly decades 

—she’s ageless—   her body still the way                     unmoving in my bed 

unable to sleep again      I picture her still     when I close my eyes     remember 

how I sat stiff as frozen meat in the driver’s seat of a borrowed truck 

the passenger side unrecognizable after she sped through the red light 

& caused what the police called a t-bone collision   & again I call my father 

Yes           he says                she died                she was dead

 

I Haven’t Masturbated in Five Days
for Fear of Crying

 

twenty-seven shots sent straight

to the deleted photos album

because my ass looks too wide from above

my belly too pale with the lights on

my left boob droops like thick paint

on a canvas when I try to pose sideways

when I lie on my back they fall so far apart

he could eat off the level surface of my sternum

still I’m the one who’s hungry & I want

to send him something sexy

but my cellulite won’t cooperate

so I contort my body into angles

any yoga teacher would be proud of

phone in one hand the other near my mouth

or covering my pussy because mother told me

that men prefer subtlety & I’ve played

poker before—I know better than to show

my hand so I snapfilter&crop

until I’m an unrecognizable sack of

bones & tits nipples taut

a shade the most unnatural of pinks

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Sam Flora, curated by Dana Lyons.

 

Eloisa Amezcua is from Arizona. Her debut collection, FROM THE INSIDE QUIETLY, is the inaugural winner of the Shelterbelt Poetry Prize selected by Ada Limón. A MacDowell fellow, she is the author of three chapbooks and founder/editor-in-chief of The Shallow Ends: A Journal of Poetry. Her poems and translations are published in New York Times Magazine, POETRY, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, and others. Eloisa lives in Columbus, OH, and is the founder of Costura Creative.

Transformations

Theophilus Kwek

on Meng Haoran’s “Spring Dawn”

for Hong Kong

 

春曉

春眠不覺曉,

處處聞啼鳥。

夜來風雨聲,

花落知多少。

     —孟浩然

 

0.

The seasons have changed with a sudden force

and the birds, who know, cannot keep the peace.

 

1.

The peace, we know, is a bitter thing.

It has been washed in the eye of the harbor.

 

Those who live here have tasted of it.

Their tongues betray the loss of a harbor.

 

A use of force can be read as betrayal.

It is full of the heat of the harbor.

 

We must hold our own, others say.

They are held in the stone of the harbor.

 

The windows are carved high in the walls.

What comes through is the smell of the harbor.

 

Our children look up, and see a light.

They have not tired of dawn in the harbor.

 

All they know is what’s fallen in the streets.

These were the flowers of fragrant harbor.

 

2.

But no, nothing here like a whiff of flowers.

Only the port’s salt odor, a pungent faith

scorching wet canvas as the wind turns south

and something else arrives across the water—

 

a troubling heat, bearing the sweetest haze,

with all we know of worship and of pain

lifted up to heaven in that manmade scent.

A boy, soundless, shoulders the excess

 

of agar and sandalwood, nearly a month’s

shipment, hauls the sacks to the jetty’s edge,

while out at sea our husbands become gods

whose lives are also in the storm’s own hands.

 

3.

No one hears the birds

beating the air into song.

This is the first sleep.

 

No one keeps a count

as Spring is cut from the trees.

This is the second.

 

4.

Night carries on, though here also are those

for whom each morning is a stolen thing.

Without the city’s stale heat they wake,

lift themselves with wan arms and come to us,

who are still sleeping, in our crescent light.

All is in their hands. It is they who make

new in our absence what is seen, unseen.

Their shining faces put the birds to flight.

 

(Only they know what happens in the dark:

a harbor buried whole, leaving nothing

but the tallest lights—red—above the storm

while the island hunkers deep within its ark.

Seeing this, they carry us from dawn to dawn.

Rising, we banish them from room to room.)

 

5.

a storm     is a song     a ship sings

     when wide     above     the high waters

sleep falls     like a cloud     no sound

 
     the wives     do not weep     at the shore

the watchmen     do not cry     for land

     even birds     are felled     in flight
 

their wings     filling up     with gale

     their feet   crossed     for a dive

but nothing comes     the air     is still

 
     the face     of the deep     does not move

all we see     are the feet     lost in iron

   all we hear   are the hollows   of the sea
 
 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Jason Fowler, curated by Dana Lyons.


Theophilus Kwek has published five volumes of poetry, including The First Five Storms, which won the New Poets Prize. He has also won the Interpreters’ House Poetry Prize and Berfrois Poetry Prize, and has been shortlisted twice for the Singapore Literature Prize. His poems, translations and essays have appeared in The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Irish Examiner, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, The Mekong Review, and elsewhere. He serves as co-editor of Oxford Poetry, and writes widely about issues of history, policy and migration.


Rio Grande Valley Triptych

Lauren Espinoza


I
Believers stream out the strip mall church:
women with flowers in their hands,
praising, as they walk toward the paletero.
Timing his arrival to maximize sales
to girls wearing white fold over socks,
boys in ostrich boots and ties.
His shirt, one too many pearl snaps undone,
white hair tufted beneath a gold águila necklace,
skin more leathered than the men
who give him money for their daughter’s paletas.

II
In the oncology waiting room,
a woman walks around selling
Ziploc bags of sliced fruit
covered in Trechas—
slices of sandia, mango, & jícama
packed like cigarettes
in a newly opened box.
For only $3 you can eat while
Buelita waits for her appointment.

III
At nine a.m. on the first Saturday of the month,
a line of Ford trucks drives into the cemetery.
It takes two men to cut the grass,
three to drink the beer.
They indifferently run the lawnmower
over each plot. One man offers to lift
the cement burial liner
on top of my aunt’s grave:
naturalmente no le hago gratis
te tengo que cobrar.
 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Ian Lynam, curated by Dana Lyons.

Lauren Espinoza’s poetry has appeared in New Border Voices: An Anthology, The Acentos Review, As/Us, Pilgrimage, Sinister Wisdom, and elsewhere. Her manuscript, Before the Body, earned Honorable Mention in the 2018 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and the 2017 Pellicer-Frost Binational Poetry Prize. A CantoMundo Fellow raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, she is currently a Writers’ Studio Instructor and PhD student in Justice Studies at Arizona State University.


Three Poems

Lizzy Fox

How to Make Art

 

Even when I’m sick, when I feel
the thorn of a sore throat
prick my right tonsil, and I purr
through a stuffed nose
while I dream of spilling my coffee
because I’m stumbling
through the house without opening
my eyes because I can’t open
my eyes because I’m still dreaming
and I’m late for work, I hear
the robin’s circular whistle
at the window. Winter is always long.
But the robin is back. Even
when the weather won’t stand still,
when it throws my body
into viral confusion with snowstorms,
hailstorms, and sixty-degree winds
all in one week, the robin is building her nest.
The robin has work to do. She is singing.

On Power

 

“As a man’s knowledge grows, and his power increases, the road he takes grows ever
narrower, until at last he does only and wholly what he must.” —Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Bicep, bone, bloodstream, esophagus,
coughing fits, apologies, laughter
in the vocal cords and a current of air—
a lamp sits on the table.

Plug it into the wall. Flip it on. Unplug it.
Reconnect. Be careful. You don’t see
the current moving, but you know
it’s there—a circuit.

You see a wire. A glimmer of light.
A backlit lampshade. A shadow.

A friend once gave a shadow-puppet show
in his living room, the paper cutouts
scissor-snip-precise and delicate, intricacies
intended to channel the light exactly
where he wanted it to shine:

eye socket, patterned shirt, in-between
strands of hair. Highlights in the dark.
Sometimes we are backlit.

Take a heart as example, or shock-pads
and monitors, or just the sound of a voice.

You don’t see the current moving,
but you know it’s there—a connection
to tend, to harness, to extend outward.

You see the body you were given, its intricacies
intended to channel the light exactly. You must.
Though you’ll cast a shadow.

 

Fashion, 1860

 

Ballerinas were particularly vulnerable, the tarlatan
and gauze. But all girls could light like chimney fires—

the bells of their hollow hoop skirts funneling air
up the legs. In the days of fireplaces and gas

stage lamps, don’t dance so close. Three thousand
women burned that year catching a hem, tipping a candle.

The fabrics were spiderwebs and angels’ gowns.
The women—dried-out Christmas trees, needles

dropping. Before household electricity,
but mass-produced fabric meant every girl

could leap like Emma Livry. See them
at their mirrors, pretending, making

pouty expressions with eyelashes spread—
the slightest mis-gesture led to death.

Ballerina skirts were longer then, and light—
made to look like seraphs. Everything was white

or lavender or buttercup and paid for by old male patrons
championing his girl to the top of a playbill. Once,

a whole row lit in formation. The one on the end—too close
to the lamp. The others—too close to the girl beside her.

A new dance began.

The same dance when one sister rushed to the fireplace
to put the other out. The trouble with hoop skirts
was that women could move their legs.
They burned down brownstones,

apartment buildings, theaters, lost
icons, lead dancers, soft faces, those long-carved limbs.

She was waiting for a casting call, stressed, sneaking
a cigarette—had just gotten the tobacco lit when he approached.

                    She’d insisted on warming the house with her husband
                    gone to work and the children away.

                                        She needed the candle to find her bedchambers,
                                        brought it right into the room. It cast light
                                        on her smile, her bodice, her undone button.

She was facing the wall, about to breathe in—turned
and tucked the flame quickly behind her back
so he wouldn’t see. You could almost hear the suck of air
pulling inside and up.

                                        She brought the candle to her own bedside,

                                        after all

                    insisted on doing things alone

had the audacity to dance

                                                            was trying to help her sister.

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

 

Lizzy Fox is a poet and educator with an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she now works as Associate Director for the MFA in Writing & Publishing program. Her poetry appears in The Greensboro Review and has received the Laura J. Spooner Prize and the Corrine Eastman Davis Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of Vermont. In addition to her own writing, she teaches poetry and recitation in partnership with schools and arts nonprofits across the northeast, as well as online.

The Arkema Plant—Crosby, TX

Lupe Méndez

“The company had pulled its employees

from the facility earlier this week

out of concern for their safety, and warns

that it expects more of the chemical storage

containers to rupture as the materials degrade

and burn. Residents within a 1.5-mile radius

of Arkema were also ordered to flee.”

—NPR report, August 31st, 2017

 

Harvey lights the clouds on fire. Then what?

I place my valuables in a shoebox, which is to say,

your toe tag is buried there.

A chemical plant firecrackers in the middle

of a neighborhood, pours itself black

into your throat, sneaks in the smell of bar-b-que.

You cough, say your throat feels scratchy.

We send you to the ER. Neither of you,

that metal body broken, your broken body

makes the evening news. No one smiles

at a murder of crows. Their caws are hollow

sirens always watching the winds, the fumes

on which they glide on, on which they melt away.
 
 
From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Ian Lynam, curated by Dana Lyons.

Lupe Méndez is a Poet/Educator/Activist, CantoMundo, Macondo, & Emerging Poet Incubator Fellow and co-founder of the Librotraficante Caravan. He is the founder of Tintero Projects and works with emerging Latinx writers and other writers of color within the Texas Gulf Coast Region, with Houston as its hub. His publishing credits include prose work, flash fiction and poetry. His first collection of poetry, WHY I AM LIKE TEQUILA was published by Willow Books in  March of 2019.

 

Long Dash

John A. Nieves

The first five days read yellow against the window shade. The water

                    pressure barely knew its way

                                        through the pipes. We accordioned

 
                    the hours on a damp queen with pale green sheets. It was

always morning. The dew always just leaving again

                                        for the sky. No one
 

                                        named us. No one spent a measure of breath trying

                    to reach inside. Thirty minutes from here, our lives

went on without us. Most of our clothes holding
 

                    only hangers, only drawer space. The lock firmly

                                        keeping the door. The air switching itself

on and off.

 
Here, though, the starlings,

                                        the wordless way

                    our bodies say.
 
 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Sondra Graff, curated by Dana Lyons.

John A. Nieves has poems recently published in journals such as: Beloit Poetry Journal, 32 Poems, Southern Review, Cincinnati Review, and Copper Nickel. He won the Indiana Review Poetry Contest and his first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize. He is assistant professor of English at Salisbury University. He received his M.A. from University of South Florida and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.

 

Crystal Vision, with Chrysalis

Jade Hurter

I wake in the middle of the night to whimpers. An angel shivers beside me, translucent as shadow. It vomits a chrysalis into my hand, sticky and green. Its red eyes ripple like pools. Where are the others? But the room contains only this small shadow, infinite in its softness. The mirror gluts with moon. If an angel dies, the silence becomes absolute. I tuck the angel inside my body. Its sickness is fi rst a claw in my gut, then a dull purr. Inside the chrysalis, a tiny bell grows wings.

 

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Sondra Graff, curated by Dana Lyons.

Jade Hurter is the author of the chapbook SLUT SONGS (Hyacinth Girl Press 2017), and her work has appeared in THRUSH, The Columbia Poetry Review, Glass, Passages North, New South, and elsewhere. She teaches English at the University of New Orleans.

Morning Walk: September 11, 2018

Amelia Martens

Because you are five, I say airplanes crashed
and you say where is our flag and I say look

at those roses, breaking open—little mouths
on our walk to school. You scuff and work

out the equation: if airplanes crashed
on a surface like this—you drag the concrete,

then there would be fire. Yes, and now
I walk through a curtain of printer paper

a flock of fallen paper people, arms spread.
Yes, I say—there was fire and I mean is.

 

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Jason Fowler, curated by Dana Lyons.

Amelia Martens is the author of THE SPOONS IN THE GRASS ARE THERE TO DIG A MOAT (Sarabande Books, 2016), and four poetry chapbooks, including URSA MINOR (elsewhere magazine, 2018). She is the recipient of a 2019 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council; her work has also been supported by the Kentucky Foundation for Women and a SAF fellowship to Rivendell Writer’s Colony. She is mom to two awesome daughters.

No Tomorrow

Brad Rose

It’s a circular night and my blood is itchy. As soon as the now is over, I’m going to
disentangle the amnesic kilowatts nestled inside these invisible particles. The house is
still as a sleeping animal, and I’ve had it up to here with working the swing shift. Before
we moved in, I used to frequent this neighborhood every now and then, but nobody
told me about the trans-galactic data replication. It’s worse than the ground water. I
told Janine, You’d need a handwriting expert to detect that secret scenario, but she said,
Eugene, you’re no fool. Nobody pulls the wool over your eyes. I said, I’m still going to
monitor my immune system, whether they’re watching or not. I might even download the
ambient collateral vacuity organizer. You can’t trust anything you hear, and only about
a third of what you know. Just then Janine passed me the gravy boat. It was like nothing
had happened. I told her, Next week, when I get a few minutes to myself, I’m going to put
the dog to sleep. She flashed me a smile like there’s no tomorrow.

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles and lives in Boston. He is the author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, PINK X-RAY (Big Table Publishing, 2015). His two new books of poems, MOMENTARY TURBULENCE and WORDINEDGEWISE, are forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. Brad has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, and once nominated for Best of the Net Anthology.  Selected readings can be heard here.

 

In the Embassy of Silence

Tina Carlson

My mother fills paper

boats with pastel mints,

juice glasses with bourbon.

The room shimmers with lit

cigarettes. We watch

the perfumed players sneak

peeks at other hands, bet

and bluff . Out back my father

beats hedges with rusted shears,

says god damn shit ass.

Glasses empty. My brother

puts frozen peas on his bruises.

My mother hums in her new

blue party dress. Ladies praise

her close-to-perfect white cake.

 

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

Tina Carlson is a poet and a psychiatric healthcare provider. Her poems have appeared in many journals and blogs. She was featured in the 2017 Nov/Dec Poets & Writers ‘5 over 50.’ Her book GROUND, WIND, THIS BODY (UNM Press) was published in March 2017. She recently completed a collaborative manuscript called WE ARE MEANT TO CARRY WATER with Katherine DiBella Seluja and Stella Reed which will be published by 3: A Taos Press.

The Real Housewife of Orange County

Paul Tran

He forked a cube of tofu and stuck it in
his pretty mouth. The sound of him
chewing. Clink of metal against the ceramic
I later cleaned, have always cleaned, can
already see me cleaning, like the good wife
I am. I listened to the ceiling fan—loud, then
soft, then loud again—above us, its blades
cleaving hot June air. Air so dry and mad
that it ignited everything it touched.
He’ll remember this. His hand slamming down
like a gavel when I said his friend can’t stay
with us. When he said divorce. When I said no.
When he shoved himself away from the table,
lifted his body, full of kindling and want
for smoke, into the heat threatening the hills,
casting its glare on little houses like ours,
and went to bed because he needed to lie down.
And I, still sitting where I was, where I’ve been
all my life as a woman, thought
how only part of everything he says is true.
Lie down? No. My husband needed a lie.

So I emptied his plate. I ran the hot water.
I poured dish soap onto the sponge and began
my immaculate work. Holy Mother.
Blessed Virgin. I waited for the Ambien to kick in,
for his ragged, roaring snores
to disrupt my silent devotion, and then, only then,
did I wash my hands. The judge said I was callous,
calculated, cold. Like my husband, he only got some of
it correct. I’m not callous. It was too hot to be cold.
Calculated? Indeed. I counted. Each yard of rope,
each knot I tied, and then I tied the knot once more.
I’m careful. Men don’t appreciate that shit.
Men like words like bitch. Cunt. They say
Honey, I’m home. Immediately a dog runs stupid—
breathless to their feet, licking the muck
off their shoes. Did the prosecutor think about that
when he demanded for me a life sentence?
Revenge. Aggravated mayhem.

My husband woke. I removed his pants. I took
a ten-inch knife and hacked off his dick.
I carried it into the kitchen. I almost kissed it
goodbye. I remembered each time he forced it
in me. Men who learn to be men from men
never learn. You want be man? You want hole?
Here hole for you.
I shoved every inch
of him—which wasn’t much—into the garbage
disposal. I turned it on. There was blood and skin
and what sounded like a throat opening, choking,
but, of course, no cum. There’s hardly ever any.
Pity. I should’ve known, all those years ago,
when I mistook union for love and love for
someone willing to push my hair
away from my face in the dark when we turn
back into animals, that marriage would be just
that: two animals in a cage, starved
for the other’s meat. I’m not afraid of death.
I have been born twice. First as Que Anh.
Second as Catherine. Saint of Alexandria.
Saint of the Wheel. Saint imprisoned and scoured
until the streets ran red as my hands. I wiped
my hands and reentered our bedroom. There
he was. Crying. He cried the whole night.
Whole? He’ll never be whole again.

                                                            For Catherine Kieu

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by @anna_croc01, curated by Dana Lyons.

Paul Tran received a Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. A Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow in The Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis and Poetry Editor at The Offing Magazine, their work appears in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere.

Benediction as Disdained Cuisine

Jihyun Yun

Give me now

what scalds and reeks.

Give me chilis and garlic raw.

Give me dropwort

and chrysanthemum greens.

Buckwheat and tea. The bite

of a well ripened kimchi.

Let me wrap my meat

in what others mistake

for spoil. Let me unearth months

-old jars of ponytail radish,

turned just so, and bless

rice with its sunny juices.

Give me that funk and meju pungency.

Give me fried corvina that stares

vacuous as I eat, its mouth lolling

and toothen. The egg-sac nestled inside,

give me that too. Pouch of possibility,

multitude and sweet. So crisp the

oil-puff ed dorsal fi ns, the tail fi ns.

How good the fl esh off the cheeks.

The grease off blistered scales.

Give me now what disgusts.

Grilled tongue and entrails fat

with what you call digestive gunk

and I call gold. Fiery chicken

feet with the nails neatly trimmed.

Minutia of bone. Spit and keep eating.

Give me stink. Give me pig skin

dipped in powdered grain. Give me krill

and pickled octopus: blood-hued,

suckers up and gaping. Food

that makes you honor what was killed

in your name. Vein of the cod roe.

Blistered hair of the intact hock.

Evidence of bodies carved from.

What makes you clasp your palms

to your nose is the bell that calls in

my hunger. I don’t care anymore

what you think. Give me sesame oil

and fat. Give me bloodied and raw.

The white broth of famine food.

Food made to last. To transform

with the seasons. To survive

other nations. Give me all

I avoided so long for your sake.

Give me my heritage back.

Give me refuse and I’ll make it

worthy. Let me suck meat off the shell

of every animal you won’t eat.

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 23: Silence & Power, which you can purchase here.

Art by Sondra Groff, curated by Dana Lyons.

Jihyun Yun is a Korean-American poet from California. A Fulbright Research Fellow, she received her MFA from New York University in 2016. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bat City Review, Adroit Journal, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. A winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, her full-length collection SOME ARE ALWAYS HUNGRY will be published by The University of Nebraska Press in September 2020.