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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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 @anna_croc01, 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.

Necks

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 

When my six-year-old son                    was painting birds
during art class                    his principal ordered a full
lockdown because                    an armed man was
spotted
skulking nearby. When I got the news
I could feel my heart throb                    in my neck.
If you pushed                    even a single finger to my
arm,
I’d surely burst.                              I think of baby toucans
who fall out of their nests.
Sometimes
a person scoops                    them in the bucket
of her shirt                      and brings                    these fallen birds—
their necks not even fully feathered—to a vet.
When toucans are babies,                  thier beaks glow
only the palest yellow—                    the famous rainbow
has yet to bite                    and show.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is professor of English in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

Her newest collection of poems is OCEANIC (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). She is also the author of the forthcoming book of illustrated nature essays, WORLD OF WONDER (2019, Milkweed), and three previous poetry collections: LUCKY FISH (2011), AT THE DRIVE-IN VOLCANO (2007), and MIRACLE FRUIT (2003)–all from Tupelo Press.  Her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of nature poems with the poet Ross Gay.

She is the poetry editor of Orion magazine and her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry 2015 & 2018 series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Tin House. Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pushcart Prize.

Morphine

Carl Phillips

The long fever of summer looks like broken at last, there’s
a coolness that the hours, more and more, leave behind them
as they tumbleweed their way to wherever it is
finished hours go to.
Here, finished isn’t the same as lost, at all,
is this true
where you are?
When I lie down in the field, now—field that,
for months, by day the red-winged blackbirds
superintended, the one fox by dusk, missing half
its tail—I’m the dropped sword in a glittering detachment
of raised ones, which is (never mind how it feels)
maybe as it should be, though sure I’ve thought
to worry, having long been both things: the cigarette
casually let go of at the field’s center; the field on fire.

To remember at this point the carefulness
with which the survivors had arranged the fallen along
the public square’s four edges where there used to be
walls, parts medieval, the same
square across which I once ran after you, like someone
desperate, has made it seem like nothing,
but it was not nothing, the seeming
desperate, the running after you,
that I called your name.

Faintly. Calmly. Less faintly.
Sound of oars finding water, coming up for air again,
though not a skiff in sight.
They say frenzy will get you nowhere.
But they used to say that about fear, too.
Rustle of wood-doves in the catalpa. The catalpa’s
reflection in the river it shadows. In the shadowed
river. They say here’s where he first landed—god of healing,
on horseback, on his raft of ivory, bringing sleep for cure.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Carl Phillips is the author of fourteen books of poetry, most recently WILD IS THE WIND (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018).

The True Story of La Negra, A Bio-Myth

Elizabeth Acevedo

La  Negra  is  a  beastgirl.   From  forehead  to  heel
callused. Risen on an island made of shit bricks: an
empire.  The  doctor   pulled   La   Negra   from  her
mother’s throat:  a swallowed sword:  rosary beads.
La Negra’s  father  is a  dulled  sugarcane  machete.
Crowned in her sun-dried  umbilical cord,  La Negra
claws and wails, craves only mamajuana.

This is where she will end:
enveloped   in   candlewax.   Scratched   &   caught
beneath your nails.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Elizabeth Acevedo is a New York Times best selling author. She is the winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, the Boston Globe-Hornbook Award Prize for Best Children’s Fiction, and the Pura Belpré Award for a work that best affirms the Latinx cultural experience.

Her books include, BEASTGIRL & OTHER ORIGIN MYTHS (YesYes 2016), THE POET X (HarperCollins, 2018), & WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH (HarperCollins, 2019).

She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo has been a fellow of Cave Canem, Cantomundo, and a participant in the Callaloo Writer’s Workshops. She is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and resides in Washington, DC with her love.

Of Unapologetic Black Women and Melania Trump

Destiny O. Birdsong

“And the difference was all the difference there was.” ~ Toni Morrison

 

I’m hard pressed to say
America without sounding
like a terrorist.

I’m a guest here.

I arrived
with a few syllables
lashed to my back.

One of them is bitch.

I wear it
like a white dress
made for your funeral.

Here lies. Here lies.

Build a wall.
My man will lay
the first brick.

I’m already over it.

You say I don’t
know how to be
a wife.

I never show up
for anything
for free.

I’ve always been in fashion.

I spent many
a night chained up
in the cabin.

I earned my right to stay.

Did I tell you
about my son?
He speaks languages—

a citizen of
so many plots
of ground.

We’re bleeding this country.

I feed him with
the hard-earned money
of tax-payers.

It’s champagne
every morning;
caviar at night.

Each black bead a fetus
more precious
than his skull.

Can I live?

My grievances
have always been small
and breathtaking,

like my country.

It’s just that,
all of a sudden,
now, they’re useful.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Destiny O. Birdsong is a Louisiana-born poet, essayist, and editor who lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poems have either appeared or are forthcoming in African American ReviewThe Adroit Journal, Muzzle, Indiana ReviewBettering American Poetry Volume IIThe BreakBeat Poets Presents: Black Girl MagicSplit This Rock’s Poem of the Week, and elsewhere. Her critical work recently appeared in African American Reviewand The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature. Destiny has won the Academy of American Poets Prize, Naugatuck River Review’s 2016 Poetry Contest, Meridian’s 2017 “Borders” Contest in Poetry, and the Richard G. Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review (2019). She has received support from Cave Canem, Callaloo, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Pink Door, The MacDowell Colony, The Ragdale Foundation, and Tin House, where she was a 2018 Summer Workshop Scholar. She earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University, where she currently works as a research coordinator.

Weird Trans Kid

Tyler Friend

Weird Trans Kid’s bladder is the size of a squirrel—
not a squirrel’s bladder, but an actual squirrel, a chubby gray one.
Weird Trans Kid doesn’t know which restroom to use. Is tired
of all mainstream trans politics revolving around restrooms. Thinks
restrooms are improperly named. Wants to rename them anxietyrooms. Wants
to rename them imnotsurehowtheseplacesareapatriarchalconstructionbutimsuretheyare.
Doesn’t know whether to wrap the towel around his waist or his tits too. Gets turned on
by cold showers and full moons and long car rides. Probably
has a small dick. Or a really large clitoris. Or no genitals at all. Who knows?
Probably looks like a Barbie doll down there.
In any case, they probably don’t get laid very often. Fetishized plenty,
though. Weird Trans Kid has plenty of kinks herself, likes to call
her girlfriend Ma’am and Mama. Probably because Weird Trans Kid never got to be
a little girl for real. For real, though, Weird Trans Kid really is pretty weird, even
without the Trans part. I guess we should talk
about the Kid part too—Kid’s not really a kid anymore.
Kid’s twenty-five. Kid just doesn’t know
how to colloquially describe an adult in gender-neutral terms. Kid grew up
calling all their friends’ parents Mr. [First Name], Ms. [First Name]. Would it surprise you
to learn that Kid played baseball for fifteen seasons, made it
to the all-stars, danced the cha cha slide? Had two parents, two siblings, two dogs? The dogs
are the selling point here. That’s what you’re supposed to relate to.
People LOVE dogs. Unless they’re cat people. Nobody seems to love both cats and dogs,
at least not equally. I’m stuck in traffic in Kentucky, or maybe Ohio.
There’s a car in front of me with a bumper sticker
that reads PROMOTE DIVERSITY and it has little illustrations of different
dog breeds. If I were a dog, everyone would love me. Or perhaps a goat.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Tyler Friend is a non-binary poet & designer from Tennessee. Their chapbook AMPERSONATE is available from Choose the Sword Press, and they received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Tyler is the editor of Francis House and the designer for Eulalia Books.

How to Have a Two-Night Stand

Andrea Rogers

You will remember how he moved
toward you, hazard-handed, uttering
your language—that pidgin
of the partially recovered self.
And you still won’t have learned,
although you know the story well,
won’t ever catch the flown bird
of your breath, remembering how,

still keen, still cold as a machine,
Lust polished off your beer,
relit your cigarette, said,
I can tell you’re dead inside. Said,
What’s a heart if not something
to cut out a fruit and eat whole?

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Andrea Rogers is a musician and postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, where she teaches writing. She is the recipient of the 2015 Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Poetry Prize, judged by Tracy K.Smith, and two Academy of American Poets awards. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, District Lit, and anthologies by Black Lawrence Press, Negative Capability, and Red Paint Hill. She and her band, Night Driving in Small Towns, have been featured by Rolling Stone and NPR.

From “Negus in Paris”

L. Lamar Wilson

I smile at a cop for the first time in years—her skin
Of caramel & whey, kissed the way French kiss to say
Bonjour, not Je te veux, by a pale woman who, like her,
Dons wolves’ flesh, the darkest blue, which should quicken
My gait, exacerbate the arrhythmia that’s my birthright.
I want you, my eyes intone. Embrasse moi. I’m so furtive
In this city that keeps me alert when I’d otherwise sleep,
Whose dawn & dusk hover like an osprey perched,
Just above the surface, before talons & neck break
The Seine’s cyan mirror, perch in its beak. How prey
Surrender here. Such quiet everywhere I step. Such
Hunger in every mouth. In the baths, I kiss a Gabonese
Beau who says his grandma’s a mermaid queen. Here,
Anatole’s birthright manifests unfettered. Here, where

Men feast on flesh inside a maze so intricate & full of
Delights, it’s safe to get lost in the heat. Anatole dives
Into a pool’s deep end. Finds my oaken roots, his
Surest way out. Writhes from trunk to limb to stem
To crown, as if without his tongue wrapt in mine,
He’ll drown. Nestlé ici dans ma canopée, I lull. Tu vas
Me manquer. Je vais t’appeler demain, he waves, leaping
Into the warren’s pulse. So much meat left to devour.
I know he won’t call, & he does not surprise. When
The sun alights the darkest corridor’s corners, I climb
The winding stairs of another underground railroad
To another ancient wonder. Peer into the Seine’s green
Eyes. See my distorted lips part & turn suddenly
Upward, wisp of wind at their back. Mouth Wake up!

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

L. Lamar Wilson is the author of SACRILEGION (Carolina Wren Press, 2013) and PRIME (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), with Phillip B.Williams, Rickey Laurentiis, Saeed Jones, and Darrel Alejandro Holnes, edited by Jericho Brown. Wilson, an Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem and Callaloo graduate fellow, earned an MFA from Virginia Tech and is completing a doctorate in African American and multi-ethnic American poetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He teaches on the creative writing faculty at The University of Alabama.

Golden Shovel for Trayvon Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012)

Angie Vorhies

 

after Carol Ann Duffy’s “Prayer”

 

Dear Audubon Society:

I would like to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count,
your annual citizen-science project that tracks the migra-
tion and population of native species. I have a few questions:
Why only in February? Do dead birds count? What about
caged birds? Should I look beyond my own backyard?

Sincerely,

A Watcher

 

*

 

How do we identify the birds we see? Some

confuse fledglings, juveniles, adults. Some days.

Most nights. Rain swallows the notes, although

the call always ends with a cry. Flap, flap, glide. How do we

number our sorrows? If we count sparrows, crows, we cannot

forget black-hooded martins. Pray

for the Baltimore oriole, say a

finch will carry the weight of our prayer

on its wings. Say a mockingbird matters, utters

its echo to the leaves, gifts its throat to heaven itself.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Angie Vorhies is a poet, documentarian, and co-founder of San Diego Roots, a non-profit dedicated to educating, empowering, and cultivating sustainable local food communities. Her work has appeared in Poetry International, Orion Magazine, About Place Journal, and The Conversations Across Borders Project. She is currently a student at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Of Names to Disguise the Dead

Miriam Bird Greenberg

For almost forty years I have been alive,
and the magnitude of my unknown grows
before me, its shape the shadow

of an occult creature occluded, eclipsed,
unmade by its elder. Certainty shows

itself little by little. It is something
I cannot recognize until it has dressed
in a faraway forest and passed close by

in its now-familiar costume. Even then,
twice as often it is another thing, horse

in a human’s fine charmeuse gown or golem
sewn of glassine envelopes still printed
with the names of herbs

they once contained. Of the strangers
who made poultices of powdered root

and masticated leaves, what can they know
of certainty, shambling shape stitched
with its own bone-thorn needle? Of available

materials it makes itself
into new animals, intruders to dreams

which speak as a symphony, wolfishly,
or like a dog

does after its years are nearly gone, rib-
cage showing its cradle’s shape. Still it claims
the dreamer’s voice for its own.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Miriam Bird Greenberg is the author of IN THE VOLCANO’S MOUTH, which won the 2015 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and ALL NIGHT IN THE NEW COUNTRY. Recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, she’s written about the nomads, hitchhikers, and hobos living on America’s margins, and is currently at work on a fieldwork-derived manuscript about economic migrants and asylum seekers of Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she’s the 2017 writer-in-residence at the National University of Singapore’s University Scholars Programme.

Of Inheritance

Miriam Bird Greenberg

 

Its beneficiaries ordinary
in their disgrace, made to break
at lathe or lumber
mill, they like to say. Fruit
bruised before the fall, broken open
beneath the tree, they are liquor
for wasps and ruined
gods, rust-riven and rat-
gnawed. They croon
funereal rights, conceal
what they carry. Of them,
the garment rent by a master’s
machine, the treatise
only a woman, they say,
can name — of softness
no one has invented better confessors
for. Theirs the brass
knuckle, the why won’t you learn,
bitch? Call them salt
not of the earth; they are of cul-
de-sacs named for nothing
still living, of flood-
plain and desert molded
to will, they came of age
where petals shone in moonlight
on the lawn. They will come
wrapped in the flag
of their dead
things, its rot exhumed
from rich loam. They are thorns
in the hoof and thieves
enchanted by childish things, they salt
their children’s field.
The house they have helped build,
they resent. It is larger than them.
They will set it aflame.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Miriam Bird Greenberg is the author of IN THE VOLCANO’S MOUTH, which won the 2015 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and ALL NIGHT IN THE NEW COUNTRY. Recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, she’s written about the nomads, hitchhikers, and hobos living on America’s margins, and is currently at work on a fieldwork-derived manuscript about economic migrants and asylum seekers of Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she’s the 2017 writer-in-residence at the National University of Singapore’s University Scholars Programme.

Fire-Eating Woman

Ama Codjoe

I know tongues of fire as tall as men,
autumn sap, red panties,
a stack of sparklers lit, riotous laughter,
a field of poppies, circus acts.
I know mistakes: how fire tastes.

I keep a scarlet dress for when day skirts
the hill with its hem and ladybugs
cover the bedroom ceiling.

Tomatoes split like my bottom lip
and a crab apple tree flowers.

It’s only what hasn’t burned: a struck
match too short to consume more
than itself, a strong wind quieted
like a tantrum, the ends
of my untamed hair.

I arrive doused in night. A paper
crown atop my head. I gesture
to a fuchsia star, to a volcano
whose lava swarms like locusts,
to a castle with candles in every window.

I am pretending to be tended to—
I know breath and am not snuffed out.

Someone bring me a glass of water,
somebody please hold my cloak. In the end
there’s a flame so near I’m afraid to open

my eyes. I’m afraid to close them.
There are ashes licking my tongue
and a scar on my right thigh where I burned
myself as a girl. Feet forward, I tilt back
my head, bowing to what’s behind.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio with roots in Memphis and Accra. She has been awarded support from Saltonstall Foundation, Cave Canem Foundation, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and MacDowell Colony. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Narrative, Four Way Review, Georgia Review, Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee and 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award recipient.

I Thought There Would Be More Wolves

Sara Ryan

here. at the dumb stroke of midnight. in the glass dome of roses.

the woods at the end of the lake. I was taught where to wait

patiently. to fold my hands on my lap like two sorry doves. to tie

my shoes in knots too tight to unravel. it’s incredible how the oceans

meet and trade salinity. how carbonation stings our throats, but we keep

drinking. I was never a wolf, but a girl with a red-brick house. a girl with

a bicycle made of puzzle pieces. I wasn’t a deer. I wasn’t a lamb. all my wars

with the concrete were over. I’m driving alone to everywhere I am going.

I can’t strip my skin away. my fur. my wolf teeth. yellow and dull.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Sara Ryan is a third-year poetry MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University and an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Tinderbox, Slice Magazine, New South, Third Coast, Fairy Tale Review, The Blueshift Journal, Yemassee, Third Point Press, Prairie Schooner, and others. She lives in the icy Upper Peninsula with her two cats.

Aubade with Ball Gag

R. Cassandra Bruner

“Masturbation” is the ideal form of sex activity of this trans-gendered subject.” —Slavoj Žižek

 

Love          in this omnivorous air
this weave of straps & copper          we must look like
a long woman who          can’t stop
touching herself

A tangled braid
of bone          A prairie of orchids
speckled in amber          in pudendum
in hooks          Lean

closer           & hear the cries crackling
along my jaw like hooves          The spit
circling my throat          like a supplicant

Before re-entering the world that makes
a husband of me          you clench
the absence of my breasts

At the unclasping          our twinned watermark
our afterimage          fading

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras, which you can purchase here.

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

R. Cassandra Bruner was born and raised in Indiana. Currently, she is an MFA poetry candidate at Eastern Washington University, where she works as the managing editor of Willow Springs Books and the web editor for the literary magazine, Willow Springs. Winner of the 2017 Montana Book Festival Emerging Writers’ Contest, her work has previously appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Pleiades and Vinyl.

capture

Beth Bachmann

I laid down at your door a white bowl of milkweed houndstongue lupins
cape tulips & juniper a garland big enough to kill a thirsty horse I like
my peace like flower or fire wild you can bring a horse to water you can
force it to swim but you can’t trust what comes after a broken animal
breathes too fast your eyes are wide there’s not enough blood in the
brain all my love’s in vain

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and the author of two books from the Pitt Poetry Series: TEMPER (Winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award) and DO NOT RISE (Winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award). Each fall, she serves as Writer-in-Residence in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University.

god

Beth Bachmann

don’t call me goddess peace is armed like any man if
the ocean is burning oil close your eyes when you
come up to breathe lungs float the heart does not
the ship is under quarantine often in life there are
two choices die or come clean the people do not
want an ocean they want a wall your arms are
strong from all that swimming a wall could keep
the heat in stone by stone if you knew how to cut &
shape & face each stone

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and the author of two books from the Pitt Poetry Series: TEMPER (Winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award) and DO NOT RISE (Winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award). Each fall, she serves as Writer-in-Residence in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University.

Clover

Stephanie Rogers

Heather—his youngest daughter, my sister, his baby, the one
who always gave in
when he needed money for rent
or drugs—left me with her three girls outside McDonald’s,
while she drove Dad
for a carton of cigs and a Playboy. The girls forced me
to play freeze tag. I picked
at my fingernails, ripping off a half-moon
on each hand. I remember the sky
sprayed the grass with sunlight
while Sophia and Chloe squashed the picnic
ants with their tiny fists. I helped
Penny look for clover, and when we found a four-leafed one,
somehow, no one cared. If I could go back, I’d press it
into my palm and say, Get ready. Soon
they’re going to find him dead in his apartment
across the street. The water will be running in the sink.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Stephanie Rogers grew up in Middletown, Ohio and now lives in New York City. She was educated at The Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Ploughshares, Cincinnati Review, Southern Review, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, Copper Nickel, and New Ohio Review, as well as the Best New Poets anthology. Saturnalia Books published her first collection of poems, PLUCKING THE STINGER, in 2016.

Swan Soup

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

My spine is strung together by a string
of shattered stars. Neck wrung, I’m a dead swan
floating in a moat—an amusement park ride,

the fairgrounds abandoned. A stork stands in her nest
atop the Ferris wheel, the emerald cascade of kudzu like
a shawl for the steel skeleton, I stood at the stove

in my kitchen wearing thick wool slippers
because it was winter again—gray and white yarn,
chevrons—I stirred the soup before I spit into the pot

just to watch the feathers rise up to the surface.

When I was a girl my mother read me the same fairytale again
and again about another girl, only she had six brothers while I had none;
when a witch turned all the brothers into birds I didn’t need to worry.

But when the witch turned the brothers back from swan—
or maybe it was goose—something went wrong, and the youngest—
or maybe it was the oldest, came to have both an arm and a wing.

“We’re all a little bit broken,” my mother said.

Lonely is one letter away from lovely,
and I was always an only child who liked to read
books in her closet because I knew how to be alone.

The shelves were a ladder the way vertebrae climb our bodies,
and I could crawl through the ceiling into the attic where I built a shrine: rose quartz,
bird’s nest, porcelain unicorn. To make a crescendo, you need both the climax and the crash.

Later I’d splash around in my own blood—
I’d fallen for the leather jacket, the blue mohawk, and the lyrics:
I’ll be back in the summertime with a handful of flowers and a bottle of cheap wine.

But something went wrong with the magic

and his wings turned into fists. One night, I crawled
into the backyard on all fours like a dog.
Under the spotlight moon, I dug the hole with my hands,

I cut the cord with my teeth,
and I buried the blue baby in the black dirt
beneath the white snow.

When she came back she never cried, which helped.
Instead, she pulled her wagon around the yard—circles inside circles,
the red Radio Flyer carried all my thrift store swans:

the porcelain ones designed to hold a storm of cotton ball clouds, and

the brass planters where old ladies once tended to African violets,
the patina green the way I’m now more rust than bone. Every day, I curve
more and more forward, my body becoming a question mark.

Mama, we are more than just a little bit broken. In another kitchen, I mixed
you with mica from the mountains and baked you in the oven until you sparkled,
but the soup was ready so I had to call my daughter in again. When I said,

“Close the door,” I didn’t think enough about how each time
she was closing out another day—sand through glass,
glass through sand, she’d sit at the table, holding her spoon

while I cracked an egg into the broth, the yolk a sun from the other side.

—For Nicolas Wesely
Italicized words come from Crimpshine’s “Summertime”

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz lives on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado in an old farmhouse where she is surrounded by open sky and century-old cottonwoods. Her first novel, FIG, debuted from Simon & Schuster in 2015. While she is currently working on her second novel, ROADSIDE ALTARS, at the encouragement of a beloved student, she is trying to write more poetry these days, including “SWAN SOUP.” Schantz teaches the craft at Front Range Community College and via her own private workshop series, (W)rites of Passage. She is also editor-in-chief at the new literary app, Zathom.com.

Conditioning (Run Study)

José Angel Araguz

I must run: walking won’t get me there.
Miles must take the place of arms; distance,
embrace. I must run, until I become air.

*

Conditioning is a whisper on the eyelash
of an eye that doesn’t blink,
afraid of missing seconds pass.

*

Conditioning is the day spent hinting:
a bee working his wings to slivers,
a life never done with communicating.

*

I had to run with my Mexico and Ginsberg
tucked under my whiskers, run, and sow asterisks
and metaphors where buttons had fallen off of shirts.

*

I must run, because all I thirst for
are syllables, and when someone says to me
no vales mierda or Latino? What’s that? I gulp, keep score.

*

I must run because footprints don’t last long in the sand,
and the desert is larger than people can hurt.
There are days when the sun is a moon I can’t understand.

*

Conditioning is words spoken, unaware
they, like cars, live broken, in need
of constant repair.

*

Conditioning is being told to drink only white milk
so that your skin might change; this from someone
whose skin matches yours, down to the guilt.

*

I must run, or else I’ll always be taking off
my hat in nice neighborhoods, smoothing down my hair,
always trying to look acceptable, but feeling off.

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras, which you can purchase here.

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and the author of seven chapbooks as well as the collections EVERYTHING WE THINK WE HEAR (Floricanto Press) and SMALL FIRES (Future Cycle Press). His poems, prose, and reviews have appeared in Crab Creek Review, Prairie Schooner, The Windward Review, and The Bind. He runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence and teaches English and creative writing at Linfield College.

The Antlered Doe

R. Cassandra Bruner

A man doused in roebuck piss says
I saw it as I skinned its thighs
& laughs.

Your death always a joke, the shock
of womb, a punchline.

Darting through the underbrush,
even your hooves resounded like cackling children.
This velvet crown was not always a betrayal—

In rutting season, the tongues
of stags & doe alike climbed
your hind leg, crying
I opened for my beloved but she was gone.

But now is the hour of moths.
Now the body remade as
a sack of buckshot.

A child wraps you in a bundle of sweat-stale
flannel, lifts you onto the truckbed
like a distant sister.

Nestled against your snout, he mouths
a wish for recognition, for his budding breasts
to hide themselves away like fawns.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

R. Cassandra Bruner was born and raised in Indiana. Currently, she is an MFA poetry candidate at Eastern Washington University, where she works as the managing editor of Willow Springs Books and the web editor for the literary magazine, Willow Springs. Winner of the 2017 Montana Book Festival Emerging Writers’ Contest, her work has previously appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Pleiades and Vinyl.

The Eight Graveyards

Anna Dunn

In this garden a draft of summer plays across the prayer flags.

A handful of slugs marched into the Worcestershire sauce and drowned themselves last night.

The red dog is tired and smells like dirt and air.

In this graveyard you ask her again to tell you how the moon moves.

In another you are taking the door knob apart.

In this graveyard there is no fruit that ruins all other fruit.

And in one garden you will come to find your name etched across a tomb.

In one graveyard your blood fixes all other blood.In another graveyard it’s not about you.

In this one you never hesitate because time is the garden of loss.

In another you listen to two sisters talking. The younger one says, If I come back to this earth, I’m coming back as an animal. The older one says, I’m not coming back here, I’m not even from here. When the stop light changes from red to green the younger one says, I have the soul of a cat.

In a garden south of here women and men dance at the top of a mountain to release suffering, fireworks echo off of cliff and cave. In another garden the stampede of their feet crumbles the buildings they will build and no one will be able to stop the water from taking what it will.

In this garden you’ve never been confused by beauty, it has only ever reached deep inside of you, scoping out a watershed of dreams.

In one graveyard you wake up at 5 a.m. to the same ache every day. In another you’ve learned the only chaos you can limit is your own.

In one graveyard your life is coming back together. You find the boy you lost. He’s dewy as a lily in the rain. The other ghosts are with him. The police detective. The man with musical hands and a head full of sorrow. The dog with the pink heart across her nose. The woman with the dentures and the one who wore a wig—they still speak to you some nights. And the forever girl on the couch with the red hair and the crumpled pack of Pall Malls.

In another the dog that changed your life zooms around you until she is tired and stuffs her nose into your armpit, then you both go out and lie down in a baseball field and stare up at the dragonflies and the stars. And even though you know she is dead, you both remember that time the old lady tried to steal her, and you remember how she healed you.

In one graveyard no language is ever lost and no love is ever lost, only the two-way ladder of its limitations.

In one graveyard you are outside the helix of worry, a force field made of broken wings.

In another you know you shouldn’t, but you wish you never were.

In this garden there is as much cruelty in the earth as there is in the heart.

In this graveyard you worry about her lonely bones.

In this garden the owls are technicolor. Their song is picked up by the soft wind.

In this garden you never become attached to the poison.

In this graveyard you could watch the red dog breathe for days.

In this one the club is never carved, the fire never lit, the sharp stone never fastened to the edge of anything, and nothing ever hurtles through the air. In this graveyard no one ever died at the hands of a stranger holding a machine.

In this garden no one was ever forced onto any boat.

In this garden your brother listens when you tell him to be easy on himself. He sits under the tree, petals sprouting from his hands.

In this graveyard you take the glass of gin from the driver’s side cup holder and pour it into the ice capped snow before reaching for the phone.

In this graveyard your mother never spends her life trying to save a stranger and your father never walks the earth like a wounded bird.

In this graveyard you wonder at the symmetry of damage.

In this garden you trap and release the spiders, their spindle legs the saddest sticks you have ever seen.

In this garden the rose bush becomes a web and the red dog noses at the purple flowers.

In this garden the smell of garlic wakes you and the air is the same temperature as the ground.

In this garden the peacock is not the only magical animal, but there is the nimbus, and caldera, stalagmite, and the boy who cannot hide his dust.

In this garden the half moon is washed up on a cloud, a lover broken on a crescent shore.

In this garden parts of you go missing—your pinky that grows crooked after being broken, but more specifically the part of you afraid to show affection, and more generally the part that of you that laughs when you feel pain.

In this graveyard you remember the only way through is to locate joy inside the cave.

In this graveyard the sun loses contact with the earth.

And in this garden you discover darkness is just nothing, without the certainty of light.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Anna Dunn is a food and crime fiction writer. She harbors a deep love for Bruce Springsteen, rescue dogs, and Murder She Wrote. Early on, her mother threw the television out when Anna let it slip that she aspired to be Magnum P.I. when she grew up. She served for a decade as editor of Diner Journal, an independent food and literature magazine, and co-authored DINNER AT THE LONG TABLE and SALTIE: A COOKBOOK. For at least twenty minutes every day, she is hard at work on her first crime fiction novel and/or concentrating on her breathing.

Codetta (or Collision)

Eve Alexandra

You were not as I had imagined the ones that came before—the poems in which I conjured you, dreaming darling girl, stunned sister. You flew at me like a kiss, a hard slap upon the hood of my car. Behind the wheel, I could see the soft curl of white on your belly, the slit of your sex, the coal of hooves, so close, for a second, as if you were nursing at my breast. Then you were off, leaping defiantly. I’m now the one on the highway shaking, the cars speeding by. My skirt flying up in the wind and you, wild thing, are not my metaphor. But this doesn’t stop me from following you into the switchgrass and sweet clover, the thousand little tongues of lupine tasting. Who needs taxonomy? We are all invasive and beautiful. We are too may. Look for the tender birches, for blackberries. The cornstalks crushed, soft as linen. They are gathering. The does and their fawns. I see now you are younger than my own daughter. And you are bleeding. If I take off my shoes and shed my dress, may I lay down beside you? What do I have to offer, but my skin and hair to poultice you? I mean to do penance. It’s your world now, but I have loved you it’s true and apprenticed from afar. I understand the wound, how it calls to you. It asks to breathe, and it is a kind of song that can’t help singing. You’ve read the poems. You’ve known all along. I too have bolted when I shouldn’t have, thrown myself in front of a car.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.


Eve Alexandra’s book, THE DROWNED GIRL, was selected for the Wick Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The HarvardReview, Green Mountains Review, Narrative, and Barrow Street. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Vermont, where she directs the Integrated Fine Arts Program.

Remembrance: Dream, Palace of Drought

Angie Macri

What you see on the corn is what you’ll get,
and the cattle come to the fence

in hopes of hay. During seven years of corn,
like the sand of the sea, like amber

floating, we wore the king’s ring on our fingers.
We swore the sun and moon and stars

bowed down to us. When a king dreams
(and we all thought we were king),

the cows rise from the river, and ears
have their own hunger, but in such amber,

even prophets were silent. Coal
and oil couldn’t last forever. When I could

breathe, I slept and dreamed, then woke to imitate
the sheaves in all their bending.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Angie Macri is the author of UNDERWATER PANTHER (Southeast Missouri State University), winner of the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, and FEAR NOTHING OF THE FUTURE OR THE PAST (Finishing Line). Her recent work appears in Poetry, Superstition Review, and Tar River Poetry. An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, she lives in Hot Springs.

The Wizard

Elizabeth Barnett

Dad, you are not
all right.

This business
of being

a cake,
the cake

left in the rain.
These claims

and drawings—
family trees

with great men
and without mom.

These phantom limbs.
You’re sewing

the velvet curtain
shut.

Come out.
Say you are just a man.

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Elizabeth Barnett lives in Kansas City. Her recent work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, and Poetry Northwest.

I Am a White Horse

Zachary Schomburg

I am a white horse wandering
an empty planet. Everything on
this planet is beautiful, untouched
and clean. And I am so beautiful
too, and strong. Sometimes,
I spend a whole week being
a white horse. But in real life,
everything is going to hell.
I haven’t taken the trash out
for weeks. The stench is getting
harder to ignore. My neighbor,
Betty, was so concerned that
she came over the other day.
She found me in the kitchen
with my shirt off. I whinnied
at her. “Bonnie,” she said,
“you’re not a horse.” “Right,”
I said, “I’m not just any horse.
I am the only horse.” “No,
you’re no horse at all,” she said.
“Just look at you.” I looked down
at my body, but all I could see
was the white white horse of
my body. “Your life is falling apart,”
she said, holding her nose.
“And your house is disgusting.”
I finally conceded. It had quickly
become too much to bear. Then
Betty took a big breath and said,
“Bonnie, you’re disgusting too.”
I asked her to leave. I only
wanted to be a white horse,
alone, wandering in the beautiful
world. “It’s true,” she said
from outside the house
through the open kitchen window,
the open field behind her, her head
tilted to the side to show off
her empathy. “Even your nipples,”
she cried. “They’re like little socks
of hamburger.”

 

Art by Maggie Nowinski.

Zachary Schomburg is the author of a novel, MAMMOTHER (Featherproof Books, 2017), and four books of poems published by Black Ocean. He is also an illustrator, a teacher, and a co-editor of a small press called Octopus Books. He lives in Portland, OR.

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Tom Sleigh

1
Everything that’s happening isn’t me
doing it, it’s what the cold’s doing, the music’s
doing, it’s what gravity’s doing to the guy
and if I can’t imagine what it’s like
how much less can someone
outside the whole situation see it straight on
when what somebody else is doing
might be worse than what I’m doing,
and say there’s only concertina wire
between you and the town and you’re
getting mortared all the time, and if infantry brings
you a guy you think is shooting mortars, scaring
him with a muzzled dog doesn’t seem like the worst trick.
I was willing to try it. I didn’t know it wasn’t going to work.

2

So let’s say the source is in a field in a tent
at dawn when the desert breeze
has dried the dew and all the ropes relent
so that he gently sways at ease
from its supporting steel pole
that as far as orders go is in accord
with how far we’ve been told we can go
but if you find yourself speaking on the record,
strictly speaking we’re bound
by the memo which says that using a knot
like this so the guy can’t make a sound
when the rope goes even slightly taut,
might be pushing it, so we need to be aware
of how all this might look to the press corp.

3
I was dreaming about S-2, just like my uncle in the War
—S-2 means Intelligence. I was taking two prisoners
back to the rear but my dream kept putting this Major
in my way—we got stopped by the Major who asked where
we were headed and when I said, “The rear,”
the Major said, pointing toward the front, “The rear
is back there. Don’t you know any better?”
And so I said, “Yes, Sir!” and turned the prisoners
around until the Major walked out of sight.
And then we turned around again and one prisoner shook
his head and said in some dream tongue that
I completely got, “Your officers are
just as dumb as ours.” And we all stood there
laughing, and all of us were thinking, Just our luck!

4
As if all this is being scanned by the green light
in the barcode scanner, I’m walking around in aisle 8
looking for Ding Dongs when the fluorescence makes me
think of forcing guys to do the frog squat or how we’d
strip a guy and make him sit in the snow naked or maybe we’d
put a sandbag over a guy’s head so that this one guy
keeps begging me to take off his hood just so he
can see the sun and walk around a little while the green light
keeps flashing, and the total keeps increasing as I get
closer to the head of the line so that I’m thinking what a mess
this guy is, how isolation is just flattening him, and so I
go and do the only thing I can do—interrogate him about
his abuse—and the machine in its machine voice says,
Please place the items in your bag and take your receipt.

5
Part of what I did was turn myself into a dog.
I mean think like a dog. We had dog handlers
and they’d cue the dog to lunge and bark at the prisoner
who’d be wearing blacked-out goggles so he couldn’t see the muzzle
on the dog, he just knew there was this dog
going nuts in the room with him, a big angry dog
that might scare him so much he’d piss his pants,
literally. But then he’d figure out the dog
wasn’t going to attack. By this time I’d be sick
of the whole thing but then I’d have to turn into gravel
or concrete or plywood because we’d make
him crawl across gravel, concrete, plywood, we’d have three strobes
going at once, we’d lock this guy in a little box
and like me he’s afraid of insects and I’d have to turn into ants.

6
In one side of my brain I’m seeing him healthy and in the other
I’m standing guard at three in the morning
outside the shipping container where he’s
inside with super loud music and flashing lights, and these
four sergeants are standing around me, all wanting
to get in on the interrogation and I’m a specialist, and they’re
like, Let’s go and fuck the guy up, and I have to control these guys
who outrank and outnumber me, and they’ve got weapons
and I don’t because I’m guarding the prisoner—and then his face
is on these two screens again and in one he’s just totally broken
down while in the other he’s got this perfect moustache
that somehow doesn’t seem to belong to his face and guys
are banging on the shipping container or throwing stones
at it and I’m yelling at the guy, How do I control this situation?

7
You might think this is not a good defense either,
but the things I did weren’t really that horrible.
I mean, I saw some really horrible torture.
And I’m sure like every torturer would say this,
‘Other people are doing worse things, other people
are carrying things much further than this—’
like the guys we were leaving out in the cold,
I was always the guy who went out and kept checking
on them, but most of our people just sat in the office watching
DVDs while these guys were out there, out in the cold.
I was bringing them in and warming them up.
I never hit a prisoner, or shocked them, did mock executions.
But sure, hypothermia or stress positions
might do more damage than beating someone up…

8
But there are other answers, too. You’re in a war zone
and things get blurred. We wanted intelligence but it really
became absolutely morally impossible for me
to continue when I realized that most of the people we
were dealing with were innocent. But it was a very blurry line—
I can say I was following orders and that’s partly true.
I was wondering, At what time do I put my foot down?
And there were times when I said, I’m not crossing this line.
I saw barbaric traits begin to seep out of me—you’re
faced with two choices—disobey direct orders or
become a monster. It made it easier if I thought
I was actually dealing with a real-life bad guy—but
as I said, these are flawed arguments, but if you
think of it that way, it makes it easier to do.

 

Image: O’Keeffe, Georgia. “Black Abstraction.” 1927. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

Tom Sleigh’s many books include STATION ZED, ARMY CATS (John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters), and SPACE WALK ($100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award). He’s received the PSA’s Shelley Prize, a Guggenheim, two NEAs, and many other awards. In 2018, he has a book of essays and a book of poems forthcoming from Graywolf, THE LAND BETWEEN TWO RIVERS: POETRY IN AN AGE OF REFUGEES; and ONE WAR EVERYWHERE. He teaches at Hunter College and works as a journalist in the Middle East and Africa.

Hebron

Myronn Hardy

Green awnings have rusted.
Time unstill     you are unstill
walking on a street stilled.

 

Your mind holds the no longer market.
You want to show me the market.
You have crawled prison floors.

 

Your son has done the same.
You are the same     the ceaselessness.
Your mother served green olives after you

 

were released but what is release?
You see barbed wire.
Are cut by it in sleep.

 

Ghosts slide from slits.
Soldiers in green uniforms walk
about the city     patrol it before

 

eating green olives at home.
They ask for your papers.
There is danger in their asking     in their

 

surrounding     their makeshift grove     in being yourself.
At home     you offer me the center leaves
of lettuce     a different green     tender green.

 

In the past     we rested
among saddled horses.     Buildings
were faint     sand saturated air.

 

We will not leave     will not enter sea     sink.
Seaweed as sea groves     the sea
will not hold this green.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

 

Myronn Hardy is the author of four previous books of poems. His book, RADIOACTIVE STARLINGS, was published in the Fall of 2017 by Princeton University Press. He divides his time between Morocco and New York City.

Two Poems

Matthew Dickman

Wonderland

Anton is marching with his new friends,
their shaved heads
like tongues of fire floating along 82nd
Avenue, the cars

at night honking at them
like they were vets
just home from the war. He is marching
with an old lie in his mouth,

a lie like a rotten acorn,
the acid taste of it making his mouth
salivate, the weight of it
saying no matter what, no matter

if your father has no job
and your mother fucks other men, you
are important, you are
a lost son of a great tribe, you are white

and that means that the bad grades and
bad teeth and no money
and dogs shitting in the kitchen,
none of it matters, you are a prince.
Now it’s like his whole body is full

of acorns, when he opens his mouth
they pour out of him,
who he once was is gone, branches
crawling out of his head like antlers.

 

Magic Eightball

Cheaper than therapy and you can smoke pot,
flip the eight-ball around,
ask your question.
Will I win the lottery?
Will I become famous?
You know, the really big Geo-Political questions
like will I ever see Berlin in the winter?
Will I walk below the Eiffel Tower in a bow tie?
And the magic eight-ball
will answer you right away, without
looking inquisitive or saying “hmm, that’s interesting.
let’s talk about your childhood”
the glowing pyramid will float to the top
and say yes, it’s likely, maybe, no, not likely.
I like sitting in my room with some candles lit,
the eight-ball in my lap like a crystal ball.
Do I make people suffer? Perhaps, it says.
Have I failed? Is my life dishonest?
When I pushed her down onto the bed
were we making love or was it, like she said
later, something awful? Of course.
You ask and it answers
like the gas pedal on a Mustang.
You push down and the car speeds forward
into your future, the one
you’re traveling so quickly to meet,
the one just beyond the next rest stop,
the next exit where the golden arches of Macdonald’s
glow like the Arch de Triumph,
two french fries from heaven
bending like a wave
over the happy meals and big macs.
You are heading toward your destiny, toward the city
of your birth and death
where a mother and father are waiting,
where love is coming up
from the fields like wild flowers
which you will pull from the earth
and carry with you
the rest of your life. Picking each petal
and asking over and over: does she, does she not.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Matthew Dickman is the author of ALL-AMERICAN POEM (American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press, 2008), 50 AMERICAN PLAYS (co-written with his twin brother Michael Dickman, Copper Canyon Press, 2012), MAYAKOVSKY’S REVOLVER (W.W. Norton & Co, 2012), WISH YOU WERE HERE (Spork Press, 2013), 24 HOURS (One Star Press, Paris, France, 2014), BROTHER (Faber&Faber UK, 2016), and the forthcoming poetry collection WONDERLAND (W.W. Norton & Co). He is the poetry editor of Tin House Books and lives in Berlin, Germany.

Mammy Two-Shoes, Rightful Owner of Tom, Addresses the Lady of the House

Patricia Smith

Mammy Two Shoes, a fictional character in MGM’s Tom and Jerry cartoons, was a corpulent, achingly stereotypical black woman, seen only from the knees down.

I am double negative charm, carrying the syrupy burden
of your love in my yawning breaches of body. When I laugh,
the sound is a knotted oil on each breath I draw, my lips
spread wide so you can see that my canines are obediently
filed flat—without an evident engine, my bite is no threat
to you or the lily-spiced skin of your throat. I stammer, spurt
submission and rewind, suppressing venom beneath what I’m
sure you have forgotten is an African tongue. I am master

of the google eye, manage vex and fluster when confronted
with your chirping wisdoms, I throw up chubby buttered
hands in surprise and joy whenever you choose to say my
given name. For the godsend of shelter and food you barely
remember not to throw away, you expect a me to be a sexless
stovetop stinking of cinnamon and fat. You don’t tell anyone
how inconveniently black I can be, how you have to bolt my
ghost to the kitchen floor so you can find me in the morning.

I’m only simpleminded

on cue. I have hidden in the dry dark of the pantry, weeping,
twisting the light from my fist to keep from striking you. I have
plunged chunks of bread chunks into leaping grease and crammed
my mouth away from exploding. You believe that yes is the all
of my language, that I am conjured entirely of  bulbous glare
and the head sag, forever on the verge of a grand gospel weep.
You want to believe that I believe that a merciful God laid me
at your feet. But there are days I feel my heart from my knees

to the tile, thudding through calves as thick as the trunks of trees,
calves kissed by the scalloped hem of a daisied apron. My chapped
heels overflow my shoes so I walk as if I was being dragged—
so, so much easier on the sole. And how many times should I
bless you for blessing me, missus, with that tomcat, scheming,
skanked and feral, flea-munched, out of his mind with motivation
and mange, how many ways can I thank you for pushing
a cat into the space where any other woman’s child would be?

You gave me that look-down, a feisty relationship with the floor,
permission to wag my flabby finger at something, a little push-pull
oh no you didn’t kingdom to rule, an official reason to flap my
gums and call and call on Jesus. I say Tom, you’se in dat icebox… 
you best start to prayin’! I screech Lawd, lawd, Thomas, is dat 
a mouse? And just like that, I’m up on a quivery dinette chair,
a chair bound to collapse with my overload, everything about
me a’jiggle, my eyes stunned like they been slapped from behind.

In twenty years, you’ve given me pussy and vermin, the same way
you gave me your squirming, babbling cornsilk-crowned boys, who
started their lives by scarring my breast with their blunt new teeth,
who climbed my body and rode every weary surface that
would hold them. Their stubby fingers gloppy with jelly and snot,
they have pried beneath my headrag for the mystery of my hair,
they have scraped my forearm and cheek raw and looked for black
to be that something alive beneath their nails, and yes, they’ve slowly

gone stupid with the sugar, lard and mouse droppings I shovel into
their bowls, then into their mouths. And I smile. I slip a tiny razor
into the space between my teeth and the wall of my cheek, and I
smile. At night, after I loudly thank God for the each of you, I never
sleep. I shamble along the floorboards, the nosy cat licking my heels,
that mouse skittering blue beneath the stove. Sleep threatens, but I’m
careful not to swallow. Just outside your door, I listen to the capture
and unlatch of your breath. I move the blade to my resting tongue.

Again, I moan Yes and

God says

Don’t

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Patricia Smith’s seven books of poetry include SHOULDA BEEN JIMI SAVANNAH, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets and BLOOD DAZZLER, finalist for the National Book Award. Incendiary Art is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in February 2017. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, Tin House and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in Sierra Nevada College’s MFA program.

Fathering

Major Jackson

We enter without tears
and huddle in the sidehills.

The children’s cries are like spears in our chests,
so we trade our silence for hammers.

In our sleep, behemoths descend
upon us which we cannot shake even when
first light flames over the eastern crests. We eat

flesh of the great furred
beasts and wolf down their grief
and wait for the hours our bodies
inhabit their songs.

We want the odors of women.
We want our bones nightstruck
and war waged on our names,
stoking death’s black light.

The good life is tomorrow
for we always have plans
which fall like blazing meteors.

The crows take flight when we lift
from cold stone pillows.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Major Jackson is the author of four books of poetry, most recently ROLL DEEP. He teaches at the University of Vermont.

The Songs We Know Not to Talk Over

Rosebud Ben-Oni

After a funeral, something wrestles from the wind,
Flutters haphazardly close to your aching chest.
Most likely it will fall to the cracked sidewalk.
Stop walking. Consider it. You won’t understand
What you are looking at, this sort of green would-be
Katydid with dragonfly wings and limbs like a praying
Mantis. It’s incapable of anything
But beginning. It won’t sense your grief
For someone it has been. Walk away first.
You won’t see it again. Because now it’s a bird.
Not very scientific, but I have seen this. Not the transformation,
But how often have I asked the sky
What comes after death and then two birds
Pass over my head. I couldn’t tell you why
I awaken at times to a pecking
At my eyes. I don’t know why some birds return
To haunt us. I have felt thin, small talons
Dig into my wrist. We tangle in the darkness,
Porous as loess. No trail of marigolds and copal incense.
No falconers in the boot hills. Where we go, I feel still
But never remember. In the morning a sparrow steals
A half-eaten donut from a pack of feral cats,
And I promise to spare the life of all that is winged.
I watch where I step and still a wasp stings.
I’m sorry. The only promises I’ve kept are those
Scientifically proven. I have no ion-infrared
Evidence, no delicate microphones to catch
When I check the closets and drains
During a thunderstorm, when I’ve said,
Sitting at a deathbed, it’s gonna be okay.
I’ve told my own husband not to pull the plug
Even if my body says when
Bury me standing, bury me
Three times. No one really drops dead
From eating just one steak
Or seeing your gaunt, flitting shape in the mirror.
Not mirror but grace. Forgive me for covering
My eyes, for cowering under the blanket, for swatting
At you when I passed a flower garden,
When I shut my windows and chased you
From park benches and fruit trees. I didn’t know
There are people I’m not willing to ever let go,
And I won’t. I haven’t.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish mother, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013), a contributor to The Conversant, and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Arts & Letters, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog.

Rainbow Cattle Co. 27 by Evie Lovett

Two Poems

Kwame Dawes

Prelude

I caught a dove darkening the dawn
with her brooding,
grieving the loss of the cold ark.
I let her fly near the light
of the bright green lime tree,
the steaming red hibiscus.
Esther Phillips, “Bird Catcher”

The sun falls out of heaven like a stone,
a network of bridges sprouts over the rivers—
so many tunnels deep into the hills
like bridges connecting these islands of houses
teetering on the side of the undulating hills.
A dark stain in the sky smells of iron,
you can see the gleam of steel packed
on the barges nosing towards the Ohio.

In the boarding house a man, a round,
plump, little black man, dances
with quiet dignity while holding
the soft tremor of a pigeon in his hands.
He blows a spray of whiskey
in its curious eye. Soon it is drunk
with revelations, the bones slipping.

The conjure man has learned
the vocabulary of leaves and roots,
the dialog of blood. He breaks
the neck with common mercy,
spills the blood in an enamel cup
with its brown cracks and chipped
lip; he makes a circle in the earth,
scoops up dirt, lays the pigeon
out, wing to wing as if in flight.

From here you can’t hear the drum
pounding in the air, can’t see
the flame of light on his skin,
can’t understand the crowd of words
spilling rapidly from his mouth,
but you imagine that his black knife,
with its silver edge, has split
open so many breasts to find the green,
pink, and red entanglement of visions.

If you look closely into the slippery
viscera, you will see a thin mist
rising like mysteries he must read.
Then he covers the inert corpse
with dirt and as if to fulfill
the promise of resurrection, he pours
the blood over the upturned earth,
and raises his eyes from the earth
over the stand of pine trees,
across the mountains, then east over
the Monogahela, going home,
going home. The fat, squat man
stands, spreads his arms and
in this instance you know
he too can fly, that he can lift
himself, dusty coat and hat
and rise upwards, soaring, soaring.

 

Scent

I just want everybody to know all about it…
Big Mama Thornton

A man studies the trail of smoke in the sky—
in this swelling city a cluster of mountain
settlements—he has learned how to sniff the air
in search of the things he has lost. Deep
in the underbelly of the nation, the swamp
air is thick, carries scents sluggishly, and after
a while, after pushing your nose into the wind,
you learn how to separate a chicken stew
dinner from the gummy sweetness of bubbling
grits, or the green mugginess of steamed greens.
You know your own stink, can tell when
rain is coming and how soon. You grow
alert like a hound dog slinking against a peeling
fence. This is what is lost when you travel,
every place smells different, and the grass
and trees speak a different language. Further
north, the air is clean of all remembering,
and the man carries in his sack the worn,
brown frock of his woman, the one
he imagines still smells of her, the one
he has bundled as his pillow night
after night until their sweat has mingled,
and now they are one thick scent. At night
he gathers it to his face and smells her
to remember her, as weeks turn to months,
and months to a year, and if he were honest
he would say, she is fading, and all he smells
is the funk of his desire and bitterness
on those miles of miles of sky they have walked
looking for her. He waits until morning,
lifts his face, prays for a right wind
to blow her onion and thyme scent to him.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. In 2016 his book, SPEAK FROM HERE TO THERE, a co-written collection of verse with Australian poet John Kinsella appeared. His most recent collection is CITY OF BONES: A TESTAMENT from Northwestern University Press. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and teaches at the University of Nebraska and the Pacific MFA Program. He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival.

One of God’s Ovids

Josiah Bancroft

One of Ovid’s gods is drunk,
and stalking the city in peg-leg pants,
velour shirt open to the loins,
plastic Costellos askew on his nose.
He’s abracadabraing folks
into fabulous junk; turns two clubbers
into a lotus on a puddle,
smites a working girl into goat, teats
flourishing milk on the walk,
rearranges a beat cop’s handlebar
into the tusks of a boar.

The god gets dog-piled,
eventually, by everyone become everything.
Oaks and bird flocks,
pillars and livestock leap on his shoulders,
billowed with laughter.
They gnash their edges into his hide,
gouge, gore, maul, bite
the god’s vulcanized skin, demanding
redemption, restoration,
until he is crushed to death and we are
what we are forever.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Josiah Bancroft’s fantasy-adventure series is published by Orbit Books (US/UK). Before settling down to write fantasy novels, Josiah was a poet, college instructor, and aspiring comic book artist. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing post-pop music with his band, Dirt Dirt, drawing chalk pictures on his office wall, and cooking pub curry for his wife, Sharon. He shares a home with her and their two rabbits, Mabel and Chaplin, in Philadelphia.

Two Poems

Mike Wright

The rain is missing

I stumble under       sunny-thunder sky. The weather

simply does as it chooses, and we all might
learn some lesson there. I’ve been drinking.

On the corner the church’s old stone looks thirsty.
Nothing’s coming. There’s a little gauze hanging
in the wind, but the sun is beaming.

Thunder that is harbinger of nothing,
that doesn’t tell fortunes. Thunder
with no rain

and I regret drinking so much so early

because I can’t tell if I heard it at all.
A couple snuggles on the bench, their dog panting,
and I overhear a man describe a horse as “regal.”

There it is again       that rumble
like a truckload of apples spilling.
Like a god’s big belly.
A dog in the sky.
Landslide from space.
Ocean of bones.

 

Lost in Flight

The office tower is glass,
so cars float on its wall as ghosts,
and I’m a phantom too, my shadow split
as three figments onto the marble floor.

I imagine now that each shadow
is of a different mind.
The first stares into the sky
and mistakes it for the sea.
The second stares into the street
and mistakes it for the sky.
The third believes the passing cars
are ships full of the dead.

What do shadows know?
This glass wall is black water,
this street is a valley of lanterns,
this world is the dream of a bird
lost over the sea.
I am that bird’s shadow
being folded by the waves.

 

Again

Tara Bray

The warbler’s folded in my tongue
like a lemon drop. What joy
it is to trap a festival inside,

until the bird exerts her yellowness,
scratches blood and lifts through
my bright opening.

Light shines through her white undersides,
across her simple face.
The yellow speck sings like a guillotine

above a crush of dark-eyed swallowing.
A bloody sorrow to kiss a bird
goodbye, these lips tripped up, glossed

in worship, loss, the taste of wasted star.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Tara Bray is the author of MISTAKEN FOR SONG (Persea, 2009), her first collection of poetry and winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize. She earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas, where she held the Walton Fellowship in Creative Writing. Bray has published work in various publications, including Verse Daily, Shenandoah, Crab Orchard Review, and the Southern Review. 

Two Poems

Chard deNiord

How It Went, My Heart

In steps at your command
down the plank of a tall
fast ship with the salt
of sex across its lips.
In whispers, too, to the Captain—
Poor Captain—so swayed
by looks he went along
to the end with blindfold on
and toes curled round
the board. “Recreant,”
you said, and so it was—
all muscle and nerve like a bird
in the wind. As for its ghost,
it bled like a body slashed
at the throat by a single word.

 

where and how the blood was made

Her son’s dreadful bodies, buried by that mass, drenched the Earth
with streams of blood, and they say she warmed it to new life,
so that a trace of her children might remain, transforming it into
the shape of human beings. But these progeny also despising the
gods were savage, violent, and eager for slaughter, so that you might
know they were born of blood.
–Ovid

In a sea beneath a sea without a name
where waters gathered to a clarity
that was also sorrow. There, in the darkness
that thickened in a dream at the center
of nothing, a scarlet serum formed
with hypostatic stuff in the centrifuge
of gelid currents that flowed in time
with the moon, the moon, back and forth,
until the mere idea of things themselves
suggested bodies and they were formed
as germs at first before becoming flies
and worms and flesh, never mind the eons
that turned to seconds in retrospect
inside the heads of those whose brains
were seeds for minds, whose thoughts
progressed in a garden where innocence
died and beauty was born; salt sorrow
red lust   stars betrayal   difference depth
grief violence   awe trust   charge order
rage dust   chaos sky   fear gush
life stain   sea death   flooded their hearts
that hardened to stone at the taste of it.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Vermont Poet Laureate, Chard deNiord earned a BA in religious studies from Lynchburg College, a Masters of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His latest collection, AT THE SLEEP CLINIC, will be published in 2020.

 

CROPPED-Bend by Toby Gonzalez

Three Poems

Katherine Hollander

Horses (Franz Marc)

These creatures with breathing blue
necks. Arch and bristle. Forelock and star.
They come rushing over the horizon
like clouds, and our hearts wilt
to see them. For there is no saddle
so splendid it could coax them to hold
us. They open their mouths for no
bit. Oh god, the grace of blue
horses. They are always passing
away into the endless. They are gone,
taking the blue river stones of their shoulders,
the rain-points of their legs, their windy
tails and their manes stiff as the ruff
of a war helmet. Yet these are creatures
who have never suffered on the battlefield.
No, they know nothing of that. So
they have gone. But here come their red
cousins, blazing and gorgeous, bucking
over the sky. They too are innocent
and their ears are never the soft ears
of the defeated one who drops his lips
to the ruined earth, to the ruined shoulder
of the painter who will not get up again.

 

Die Seele/the soul

Round-headed, round-eyed,
curious, astonished,
like an owl or a sea lion,
but white as moonlight:
a lynx with feathered feet,
a little snow-colored kit,
bounding. Hullo, you silence.
Hullo you secret joy.
Take flight into the blackest
forest, where the wild boar
still roots with a coral-pink
snout. Let him find you
his one prize, bloom of earth,
a truffle: that ruffled treat,
like an ugly rose in the hand,
the friendly earth’s delicious
gift. I don’t care what they say,
how many drawings they do
of you in a dead baby’s
nightgown: I know you love
the things of this world,
and will miss them,
when you go.

 

The Apartment

(The Bronx, 195-)

Three rooms: a dark section of hive.
A father with a shepherd’s crook of flame.
A mother like a flame. A grandmother,

a throne for you to sit in. Her missing fingers,
gulped by a factory. Blood and screaming?
A humming. A keyhole, spices in the darkness.

How old were you when you saw your first star?
A real one, a little white stab of light,
not jig-cut balsa painted gold and straddling

the roof of the crèche, donkeys and cows nudging
closer to the manger with their graphite
snouts. How old when you saw a cow?

You had fire bells in the night, a neighbor
breathing in an iron lung, your little black vest
with its hundred ribbons for marching

in the parade, a doll stumbling the room
on long nude legs. You had a mouth full of ash.
Dark infanta, cramped and scowling, escaping

in your newspaper boat night after night
down a ticking creek of clear seconds.
The nuns sailed overhead in their dark tents,

their shoes hanging out like tongues
or the clappers of bells. You always knew
they were witches. You always knew

there was more, more than the Indians
in their soundless museum canoe,
more than roller skate keys and tin can stoves,

more than your cousin with a scalpful of gold,
curls sprung like pig’s tails. You were always
leaving it, the apartment, half-lit comb of honey:

it grew smaller and smaller in your chest,
a saint’s medal, a set model, compass
of onyx, the face of an ikon dark under soot.

(for my mother)

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Katherine Hollander is a poet and historian. Born in Boston, she was educated at Marlboro College and Boston University, where she earned an MA in poetry and a PhD in history. Her poems, criticism, and scholarly work have appeared in Literary ImaginationSlate, Tupelo QuarterlyThe Brecht YearbookNew German Critique, and elsewhere. She has taught European history at Simmons College, the University of Hartford, and Colby College, creative writing at Boston University, and serves as a Reader for Sugar House Review. Alongside writing poems, she is at work on a historical monograph about a community of German-speaking intellectuals in exile, and translating the childhood memoirs of Margarete Steffin.

Two Poems

Jessica Goodfellow

The Fold

In origami the mountain fold
folds down–constructing
an obstacle. The valley fold
folds up: receptacle.
The difference between
structure and stricture,
between paperweight
and wastepaper basket.

My family is silent
about our dead. Hardly
a word about an uncle,
a brother. We children were
to understand that meant:
he was beloved.
Silence as receptacle.

A paper creased
in mountain fold
can be turned upside down—
voilà! valley fold.
And all our dead tucked
safely inside. Save the one
whose body’s lost
on the mountain,
the obstacle,
with which I have
confused the silence,
the absence.

Mountain, valley:
it is a matter
of which side you are on,
and if you have no body—
no matter—
you are on neither side.
You are the fold,
the stylus of silence
on which hinges both
our Cartesian cathedral
and the vertex of our vortex.

Chasm and scaffold,
cornice and crevasse,
the steep pitch of life
and its inverse, its obverse.
Observe, mortals:
the edge. Welcome
to our fold.

 

Theories of Flow

The brain, Aristotle ruled,
was a system meant to cool
the heart. Hot heart.

Neuroscientists now name
the yawn a way to cool
the brain. Hot brain.

The words for birth
and life and death
end each in the rushing

sound of air pushed through
the mouth’s constriction
breath. Hot breath.

The word breath too
ends in that voiceless noise,
the unforgiving friction

fired between a body
and the air that it requires.
Body hot. Then not.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Jessica Goodfellow’s  first book of poetry, THE INSOMNIAC’S WEATHER REPORT, won the Three Candles Press First Book Prize, and was reissued by Isobar Press in 2014. Her second book, MENDELEEV’S MANDALA (2015) is available from Mayapple Press. Her latest, WHITEOUT (2017) is out from the University of Alaska Press, and was completed while she was a writer-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve.

Three Poems

Nancy Eimers

I Am Reborn as a Shadow

Frog eyes glimmer in water
then douse themselves
and shiny turtles topple
off a log

down to the water’s under-black

when I step out

skin    form    and sun
hauled out of layers of trees
spring wood      summer wood
the bark and pith

to walk and stand
at shore
and trying not to move
move as myself and move again
arms     shoulders     head

a dark
cast on the water-shine.

 

Xiphoid Process

Under the skin, that’s where I am afraid—
I found it in the mirror tonight
between my breasts and just below
where halves of the ribcage meet,
down an alley, under a lightless
window, that’s where I am afraid,
past the dumpster inside of which someone
in a sleeping bag full of holes
is not asleep, that’s near where I am
afraid—little ship under the skin
has been there all along. Fear of not
being able to breathe. Of alone.
Fear in me is round and swollen,
hurts at a finger-touch.
Hard light inside of me I can see
when I suck in a breath, above the only
curve of ribs on either side. Spiders.
Break-ins. Losing my life. Losing my job.
Little process of proceeding towards
an end. As if, whereas, what if. Walking
places there are more than
twos and threes, of trees, of faces, rooms
full of faces, more than three. What every
number was, how high the upper story
of a parking garage where it is always
night. Oh fear in my chest,
light at the tip of a word now dull
from common use, state of submitting to,
state of being submitted, you little process,
fear that is not my heart,
fear that is not my bone,
ship on its way to becoming some
fictional tumor or star, light of a little golf ball
filled with rubber bands, light of the falling
leaves, of this lapse in time.

 

A Numbered Sequence: To the Figures of Horses in the Cave of Chaudet-Pont-d’Arc, After Seeing Werner Herzog’s Documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams

1)  Would you have dreamed your way so sweetly into this life beneath a flashlight’s shine?  Or spotlit by a movie crew, the grandiloquent voice of Werner Herzog musing over the brush held in a human hand 30 or 33 thousand years ago?  So, do you think the findings in this cave show the birth of the human soul?

2)  Your mouths are open.  One of you seems to be nickering.  Not hungry, or surprised. Your eyes are softly closed, though your heads are all turned in the same direction like real horses looking at something or someone coming towards you.

3)  In the news today an Iraqi man in a hospital bed lifts his bandaged hands like a pair of gloves.  He doesn’t seem to care if he wears them or takes them off.  Probably that will change, when the pain comes flooding back.

4)  Instead of numbers, maybe you would have liked asterisks (little stars).

5)  It occurs to me that stanza one of Creeley’s poem “The Star” could just as easily have been his brush on the wall of the cave—

Such space it comes again to be,
a room of such vast possibility,
a depth so great, a way so free.

6)  All our telescope sightings, crucial to navigation, had to be made in the dark . . . .

7)  I want to say something weighty and metaphorical, such as this: “So much darkness in the human hand.”  Your eyes are closed.

8)  A lot of poetry seems to me very good in the tradition but just doesn’t move me very much because it doesn’t have personal vibrance to it.  When torchlight flickered on the wall, you horses must have seemed to be waking up.

9)  If a bomb went off and you came alive, you would turn your heads, you couldn’t help it, you would shy away.  Maybe sleep would be ever skittish after that.  Or maybe you’d let sleep guide you gently back 30 or 33 thousand years, back inside that hand.  Are there numbers that don’t divide us then?

10)  Acknowledgments: hand of unidentified cave painter; Werner Herzog; Robert Creeley; Buzz Aldrin; Robert Lowell; Jon Anderson; numbers; stars.

 

Dr. Nancy Eimers is a professor in the Department of English at Western Michigan University. She is the author of four poetry collections: OZ (Carnegie Mellon, 2011), A GRAMMAR TO WAKING (Carnegie Mellon, 2006), NO MOON (Purdue University Press, 1997), and DESTROYING ANGEL (Wesleyan University Press, 1991). She has been the recipient of a Nation “Discovery” Award, a Whiting Writers Award,  a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize.

Vasectomy

Carol Tyx

The teacher did not like the poem,
but seemed unable to say why, his face
seeping dismay or disgust.

Perhaps it was the procedure itself, the idea
of making an incision, no matter how small,
in those tender spheres, or the thought of sperm swimming
endlessly up and down a dead-end street.

Or maybe it was the gory description,
the red clots oozing from the wound
that refused to seal, the blood-soaked diapers.

Or maybe it was my failure to convincingly present
the action of the scene, how my husband
staggered from the bedroom to grab

another diaper while I huddled near the heater
with our newborn son; how I didn’t even know
the gravity of the situation until I opened
the diaper pail.

Or maybe it was the coldness of the narrator
who refused to speak to a man who might be
bleeding to death.

Or maybe it was the anger
I didn’t know what to do with on or off
the page because I had not been part of this
decision, still wanting the possibility

of a daughter. My husband told me later
that the bleeding had stopped by the time
he got to the emergency room,
but so much in me remained raw.

The teacher pointed his finger
accusingly at the poem: This is a mess.
I looked down, his words clotting
in my mind, the page itself oozing

red streaks and splots as I stuffed the poem
into my bag and tried to pretend
none of this had ever happened.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Carol Tyx teaches writing and American literature at Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her work has most recently been published in Big Muddy, Earth’s Daughters, Iowa City’s Poetry in Public, and Rising to the Rim, published by Brick Road Poetry Press. On any given day you might find her cooking with kale, contra dancing, or standing on her head.

Rainbow Cattle Co. 7 CROPPED by Evie Lovett

Three Poems

William Olsen

New Old Growth

Wherefore the marram grass settled the land there also sprang the children who are as the sand in the sea, and houses on stilts as good as gone.  Yet here to this day wash in all the revelations of all the nations which are from the corners of the earth and the number of which is as the sand of the sea and as many as the stars in heaven.  Multitudes.  And the sand, which is by inland glacier, and the shores, innumerable, and endangered, and taken away by scenic road and path, and whatever remnant shall be saved is caught in the web and warp and weave of balding stretches of marram where the heron hides at twilight that sprang from the seed head.  Which is open.  Which has no skull.  Which has no remembered present.  Memory as in flesh, then, pre-coded and categorized memory the chaff of which is functional as seed and the rest of which is multifarious and continuous and revised and revisited as rain is revised by sand and sand is revisited by rain.  Which arrives from clouds glaciers could have been. The fore-dune is eaten to an open shelf exposing marram root. Largely rhizome itself, fiber more than anything else, a cousin to wool, you can pull it out but it’s hard to do that to it, it is so inextricable.  And why would you wish to anyway?  And at that the look goes up above the sand shelf.  Not so much a path as a brook of sand that is beach spill from legions of feet leads up and back into the canopy, where our observations can again live the good life of myriad endless moods. Of the very first serenity.  The very first author. Moods which critique and savage one another into a sense of territory precisely the way observant chickadees bicker of occupation in the choked undergrowth sparse enough almost to be a clearing.  These observant chickadees are also forms water assumed. Water, fine and sensitive element, widespread element.  Thoreau said it that way. He died not long after he passed by here on his way back from Minnesota, where of all places in this nation of nations his lungs were to heal.  He was also a form water assumed.  Every successive liveliness gets taller towards light.  All day on the beach are people at a distance, the words of whom cannot be made out.  But the trees behind them and you all normally watching the lake can be heard.  You don’t even have to turn around.  The body understands these old green voices.  The rustle can sound like the lake itself.  It can rattle like the ghost of a whale.  Up in the leaves with out words wind is the throat that swallows us all.

 

Our Skunk

It’s about to make us stink right there frozen as we are on a path as wide as a car, then turning away because we are less a threat than it imagined. We’re just an interruption. Then running away. I never saw one run away before like a wave that never breaks. I doubt I would have seen it had you not been there. A skunk running away almost casually like it might never have to look back. Like you a little. Even like me a little. Hey us. Like it might never be caught up with or stopped. It’s only us, off to our side. It was running through the hemlocks I almost forgot. It was the hemlocks that made the path possible. Some had to come down. For you and me. While the skunk ran through the understory that wasn’t much of a story at all because this is a story about hemlocks as well as a skunk. Hemlocks, dark themselves, make the darkest shadows of all trees. What sunlight there is makes even the hemlock see-through, true. I am forgetting about you. You will, too. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean that we one day won’t be in the way. A little pine duff, a little litter. Though that is so even now. We like talking about the skunk. It is as if we are still there, ourselves, making it huff away like we would if we were skunks.

 

Out of the Vortex

1

Gust smattered gobs of snow glommed to spruce
limbs
shingled white, then, through snow fume, a hint
of living green,
the ecstatic without the static, without confines.
Outline is idea, any process is arriving at a humble
clump of words,
so if I say I’m down on my knees what ceiling,
what hands take mine and pull me to my feet?

2

What fashioned the soft blue tree shadows—no,
not shadows,
wisps of night across day heedlessly laid down,
whatever these are, a gladness I am otherwise.
Humankind hidden, hypothetical as slurred trees
down street,
no shape is but that necessity strictly conforms,
no one
walks into the eyes, nothing out there to kneel.

3

Cut and dried aesthetics, art at its most frugal
the universalizing principality of Smother-love
some universalizing thief
has taken all the fine detail away, as proof
that we’ve always been losing our memories,
white drop-cloth over sidewalks, driveways,
abstract formsbalustrades on fence posts.

4

Thrown pots on lampposts, pedimented flat-roofs,
eaves
beveled to bedding for the wind’s insomnia,
bushesoverstuffed sofasplush cushions

on cartops,
the un-dug-out cars awaiting derelict orders,
marmorial empire—what absentee would want
to rule
this inhospitably over the furniture of the air—

5

    Hedges are blizzard-coral, a great reef crystallizes,
cold sunlight
    screened is arctic-aquatic now, under an ice cap
we live,
    even breath asphyxiates, even its own passing, nether
shadows.
    Silted earth’s ghost—a heavily, indrawn vaguary—
    drew frost-graffiti-d windows, specifics randomly
stippled—
    that there is subject to this the human wish.

6

What of those leery leather oak leaf gloves no one
wears,
    who would go out in this would become statue,
    sculptured marble, I can’t make out the sign or name
of my own street,
    who would pull me over them like a sweater,
    who would like to be undergone gone under.

7

    Footprints shallow, a pathetic picket deer fence
    snow picketed with less precision than the fence,
    similitude, what a sham, it sculpts no clear edge,
    rounded is edge, what a beautiful sham is this,
do you see,
    the blind eyes of the neighborly windows,
    it must be dark inside the average houses,
    indefinite all day rends and shrills this squall,
you want that?
   Do you really think you know who we are?

8

    What of the fictive emptiness, what is purpose
down here,
    snow, that which surrounds me, you You,
    you are not a curtain I or we need to open.
    The neighbors occupy the world they seem,
    Eyesight falls so far in me, my happiness
no need to touch my flesh or hers, that, her shining face,
    not today, this another sort of surrender,
    mid afternoon I lie down in my warmth.

9

    Bushes tabletopped and then tented over,
    three juncos dart in and out of one of the gapes,
    two come back out, but I have seen more go in
than go out,
    go into a permeable enclosure there.
    It must be better altogether like tha

10

    These branches more than half draped white
    and shouldering more snow than branch,
    the snow fall so hoisted above more-of-the same
is lifted up,
    held up into you and from these eyes.
    Whatever you see, I would like to say
    whatever you make of this I would make yours,
    whatever we hurt from and we abide
    be lifted up, for the beautiful is ours.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

William Olsen is the author of four poetry collections: AVENUE OF VANISHING (Northwestern University Press, 2007), TROUBLE LIGHTS (Northwestern University Press, 2002), VISION OF A STORM CLOUD (Northwestern University Press, 1996), and THE HAND OF GOD AND A FEW BRIGHT FLOWERS (University of Illinois Press, 1988). Olsen is the recipient of The Nation/Discovery Award, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Toast at my Parents’ Second Wedding

David Moolten

For they everted the irreversible,
Proved all that time my life went door slam
Door slam done an epic waste for the sake
Of argument. But I was firstly contrived
By such improbable whim, so why not
Follow through with the wandering plot,
Penelope sewing and unstitching
The past like a wound, Odysseus
The moment he left headed home like a man
At the end of any workaday day?
The U-Haul in the drive was a miracle
Of low expectations, of feeling better
Than the hurt ever hurt over petty cash
Or the wrong tub of slaw, smashed faces
In frames and a lipstick bloodied shirt,
A thousand pages of annealed annulment,
Each doing undone by the last, here the words
Which remain, the wine-dark sea in a glass.

 

David Moolten is a poet and a filmmaker. His book, PRIMITIVE MOOD, won the T.S. Eliot Prize from Truman State University Press and was published in 2009. He is also the author of two previous books, PLUMS & ASHES (Northeastern University, 1994), which won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize, and ESPECIALLY THEN (David Robert Books, 2005). 

Two Poems

Majda Talal Gama

Elixir of the East

There is a certain Love that is formed out of the elixir of the east.”
–Rumi

I’ve seen you in souks that spill with people,
on streets that reek of three continents,

found you filling cut-glass crystal with the scent
of nine woods and the rose petals of three cities.

You shone through petrol-smoked markets in pearls
of resin gum, bangles of bridal gold, and thin fingers of saffron;

left muddy footprints of cardamom coffee in demitasse
cups, on the rainy tables of London’s Edgeware Rd.

Behind the glass of TV sets, western tongues have
long worried the meat of you: Palestine; Iraq; black oil.

If I could bargain you back from insurgents and armies,
from the pockets of Royals, Presidents and IS

I’d place you in the hollows of my body: the naked wrists,
the downturned neck; these deserts starve for your rain.

 

The Eyelashes of a Century

No sweeter air than the breeze that brushes the ankles
of the Lebanese women in their shift dresses and kitten

heels as they walk the corniche in the well-heeled
Raouche district. Even the sun is reluctant to leave

lingering on the bare arms of couples, a prelude to the
coming caress of a Beirut night: the smell of hot za’atar

always in the air, and the soughing of the Mediterranean,
always the water, flatter than an eye of unwinking turquoise

constant as the voice of Fairuz whose voice is wed
to the city and the people. Her music drifts out of cafes

spreads a lithe body of oud strings and croon across the
discotheques and lidos, in the debkiyaat of the wedding halls

where brides gift their loved ones with the sugared almonds
made fashionable in France. Come the weekend, the city

vacates to Tyre where the small body of the murex
gave the Patricians the color purple, and the Phoenicians

an empire so small and bright it was mistaken for
a mote of light tangled in the eyelashes of a century.  

 

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Majda Gama is a Saudi-American poet based in Washington DC. Her poetry has appeared in Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, and The Fairy Tale Review.

Two Poems

Michael J. Pagán

Of Form and Person

Unghost, the leftover residue across the surfaces of
the sea, after a receding
wave or a skimming of the hands. The present has no
such rhythm, like the sea
and its glassy walls, heart against cheek—a scale to
weigh the whales. 


With a sweaty waistband, Are you afraid of me? I ask.
May I turn you into a wheelbarrow with my hands?
Kiss through your clothes? 

Sometimes I think it was just my imagination, why
should I be afraid to die? I belong

to you; happy to sit with you, here, because it fits to
be outside where one can see
the heels of the clouds while lying on their backs,
dying, as the clouds say back, Bye, Kid,
beautifying balances—where you go to find your
voices. 


My favorite game is Raindrops! she says. Like ours,
she hadn’t tired of their constellations,

of their runaway geometry; I lacked all the manly
graces. Would I have the grace
to help please? Please? As miracles, as prophecy
tongues, please, as
a gift of modern acoustics, please,
as object of “Wonder how it still remains
inside
the skin?”

She has a more generous mouth than I ever could,
until she tells me, Go home.

 

Children of Paradise

A magician in
a ghetto-full of
magicians, just groping.

What are you watching?
The buildings.

No more gossip, no more
news that was from another
time with less electricity.

Diapered kids between
windshield wiper streaks
like musical notes, the dark-
brown bodies padding on
soft feet splashing into
or gurgling hundreds of fire
hydrant baths, screeching
and whistling like helicopter screws.

These were the extremes:
the goods they made
when they met behind
the afternoon, listening, they
felt warmer, larger.

The summer felt drowsy
with its sunburnt knees,
Isn’t it beautiful? Say it.
But, what on Earth for?
Show a little more pride.

And you feel so small
on the ground at the bottom
of a wall, all of the words
she wrote on the wall, talking
wonderfully and wind chiming only
half understandably, beautiful,
beautiful so that it made
you cry, Go! Go! Go!

But shouldn’t we wait
until we actually see
the new world?

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Born and raised in Miami, FL, Michael J Pagán spent four years (1999-2003) in the United States Navy before (hastily) running back to college during the spring of 2004. He currently resides in Lake Worth, FL, with his wife and daughter where he continues to work on his poetry, short fiction, nonfiction and a collaborative novel. He is a contributor to his alma mater’s blog, The MFA at FAU, as well as his own, The Elevator Room Company, and is a co-founder of 100 Miles & Running – A Collective.

Two Poems

Frannie Lindsay

Specter

1

Kindergarten

 

What else is she ever going to be

but one of the wind’s outgrown costumes

stuck in the swingset’s tangled chains

 

searching the halls of her huge purgatorial night

like she did in the Good Samaritan Hospital

when they took out her tonsils

 

shoulders capped now with sleet

knees creased like a supplicant’s

like pants on a hanger

 

accrual of all of the hover and swoop

no one quite believes in

 

2

Fifteen

only very ill children can see her

standing alone in the glare

of her heartbreaking nondescriptness

chocolate smears on the sides of her mouth

 

one more skinny girl astray from herself

 

3

Haiku

 

two pocked oranges

one half cup of hot skim milk

gluttonous dinner

 

4

Body Mass

 

imagine running in place

with the door-open

oven on broil

Nikes no good anymore for outside

longjohns the dryer chewed up

bleached out sweats over that

then old boyfriend’s sweater then

catastrophically dirty down coat over that

ski cap and gloves ratty scarf knotted tight

kitchen door shut black and white TV

sound turned low so the neighbors

won’t figure it out

not yet knowing that once in a while

during hell week a frat pledge

dies from this

 

don’t stop imagining don’t give up

the imagining

 

5

aging olympic figure skater

spinning on one single knifepoint in time with

the Casio watch commercial’s trite jingle

perfect stiff smile velvet skirt

stitched back together a little too much

 

but lifting still in its old immodest wind

 

she used to be so so good

 

Apparition

 

Sometimes you visit bringing the lilacs’ stifle and chill
sometimes the earthworms’ benevolent gleam

sometimes you visit and all of my nights alone
harbor their dark as a fugitive

sometimes you visit and the never-swept dust
blossoms into brown chittering birds

and sometimes the gust of May lifts the gauzy hair
on the heads of old women

and sometimes you bring the bequests of November’s
rattling twigs

sometimes you come as a mother trying and trying
to nurse her gaunt infant

or you come as a hand placing baptismal snow
on a mountain to name its stillness

sometimes you place yourself under the pillow of
those who cannot fall asleep

sometimes you bring me a flask of tears
sometimes you show me the tombs of darlings

and you visit not because we fade into our nakedness
but because our clothes will not miss us

and you visit because soon enough you will
visit no more and nevertheless I will keep watch

 

Frannie Lindsay’s sixth volume of poetry, THE SNOW’S WIFE, is forthcoming from Cavankerry Press in the fall of 2020. Her previous titles are IF MERCY (The Word Works, 2016), OUR VANISHING (Red Hen Press, Benjamin Saltman Award 2012), MAYWEED (The Word Works, Washington Prize 2009 Washington Prize), and LAMB (Perugia Prize, Perugia 2006).

TWIST cropped by Toby Gonzalex

Old Bull in the Road

Matt Yurdana

Some admire the old bull’s cracked horns and peeling hooves, the second
skin of ancient mud as wrecked and crumbling as this narrow road

just wide enough for the bulk of him.

And a few marvel at his great rolling breath rolling beneath the rhythm of
gnats, beneath the heat waves over fields of alfalfa.

And a handful are in awe of his stillness, haunted by his tranquility.

And still more appreciate the composition in which he’s poised: his enormity
balanced on the slender lip of his shadow as it stretches eastward in
this last light.

The cars are backed up, north and south of him, and each driver makes the
long walk to this inconvenient place he’s chosen.

They pause, circle slowly, until finally, one after another, they stand in front
of him,

beneath the great shadow and the lazy fabric of gnats, close enough to bathe
in the warm exhale of alfalfa,

while the one tattered ear twitches and pivots toward this moment

that is oddly polite and expectant, almost tender, ready to hear whatever it
is that might be said.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Matt Yurdana has worked at a variety of jobs, including raising salmon in Alaska, teaching literature to U.S. soldiers in South Korea, and directing a graduate program in creative writing. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Massachusetts Review, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and the Academy of American Poets Award from the University of Montana. He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon.

Two Poems

Gary Moore

Wanting

I wanted the prize but the prize looked the other way
It was the other prize
I wanted the beach but I got the mountains
Not everyone gets the mountains
I wanted the beautiful woman and I got her
But I didn’t live happily ever after
So I tried to be careful about wanting
Lord knows there was plenty of it to do
I kept art alive, no simple feat
When I had to live out my parents’ hope
That I’d be clean as well, and pay my bills
I wanted to taste humanity
So I fed my baby daughter at 3 a.m.
While Van Morrison sang “Into the Mystic”
I held my dying mother’s hand
I was cruel and apologized
I lost love, my eyes welled with tears
I screamed and slammed the steering wheel
Like you, like everyone
And there was more
I wanted to be one with the stars
Maybe you did this in some way too
I wanted those stars
They drove me crazy when they put on those little silver dresses
Then disappeared when they took them off
That’s the nature of want I heard them sing
And because I so longed for light in darkness
The stars could tell me just about anything
With those rays slipping off their shimmery shoulders
No matter how much I wanted a different song

 

Epitaph

The stars pulled me closer
And unzipped their little silver jackets
And pressed their breasts side-to-side on my chest
In that message the lecher in every lover knows
Until I pled that I was ready for the parting of the heavens
And with grins that assured me that wine and laughter
And all the best kinds of sin are divine
They said this is going to last a while
And took me in forever after

 

Gary Moore is a playwright and poet who has been studying and making creative use of Abraham Lincoln in drama, poetry, and performance art for more than thirty years. Gary’s bilingual musical in Shanghai, THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR MEETS THE MONKEY KING, introduced rap-music to the People’s Republic of China six months before Tiananmen. His play based on that experience, BURNING IN CHINA, sold out at the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival after being featured in the New York Times and recommended by the New Yorker. His first novel, ABE & ANN was published by Komatik Press in 2019.

 

Three Poems

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski

Neanderthal

Four percent of my imperatives
are Neanderthal. Oh traitor genes
that infiltrate my Homo Sapien,
crying, ‘Whack it with a club, just whack it.’

You can dress my naked genome up.
You can teach it art and poetry,
but it will pace the corners of the night
grunting, ‘Something else. There’s something else.’

Take my code to psychotherapy.
Just try. The dreams of fur and blood will not
recede with time. Nor will I learn to use
my words to kill. Evolve, my ragged tongue.

My eye teeth speak. The dead ones’ echoes call.
A shimmering light plays on the cavern wall.

 

Splitting Wood, Veterans Day

Only half the deadwood’s down.
A man’s maul releases
the sour smell of poplar,
severs the gnarled scars of oak,
bites through yellow beech.

The sun lies low.
There is a dangerous dusk
in which old shadows walk the perimeter.
Twenty-eight nights fall
between one full moon and the next.

The delicate skulls of birds
hide in dead leaves.
The wood is as willing as a child.
It’s not the lost leg, not the dreams
that strip the man out. It’s the children.
Their open eyes. The waste.

 

Love Song

What did you think
when you gave me your tongue
a tongue so wide and long
it rolled itself out like a bumpy red carpet?
It occupied me completely,
kissing you,
your mouth an unfamiliar neighborhood
of one way streets.

And when you opened your pants
and emerged,
like a bear in spring
sniffing the air for that faint sweet scent
of maple sap?

What did you think
raising, lowering, raising
that dark, beautiful lever of your body
fulcrumed at our conjunction?

Did you think :
one day the skin will fold like a velvet curtain
the limbs will knot and bend
the old fears will work their way to the surface
leaving tracks in the earth of the body?

Did you think :
our nights will infuse
the everyday air
with the past
and holding hands will be
magnificent and true?

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in  Pilgrimage, American Journal of Poetry, Calyx, Blueline, Confrontation and many other journals. She won the 2014 Passager Poetry prize. She was a finalist for the 2017 New Millenium Literary Award, 2017 Fear No Lit Fellowship, and 2017 Paper Nautilus Chapbook competition. She is the author of the chapbook, HOW TO PREPARE BEAR (Red Bird Chapbooks).

Observations at the security checkpoint

Joel Brouwer

We should be glad our safety and security
are someone’s top priority, yet we
can’t help but hope for fresh announcements
in the terminal. Your personal integrity
is our first concern. We strive to increase
your capacity for grief. Here at Flying Air,
beauty matters more. An officer takes
the ancient Indian woman’s hand
and gently swabs for the promise of a bomb.
I hold my arms up in the scanner as if
already guilty and the machine churns
a circular blessing or judgment around me.
We all have bodies here for you to see.
I like all the little wounds, the scrape
on the back of this man’s neck,
blue penny of bruise on a child’s leg,
this woman’s black toenail suddenly
among us like a cricket when she takes
off her shoe to be searched. What caused
these harmless injuries? I’m outraged
by their tenderness, their benignity,
I want to kiss them better immediately,
my dear comrades in the GWAT must not
be suffered to suffer. Not even these
despondent retirees behind me in line.
Every two minutes she asks What’s wrong?
and he replies Nothing. Now our gestures
grow both more hurried and more delicate,
we stand on one foot to remove a boot,
take off our hats and jackets, as if for
sex or prayer, exposing ourselves to
each other and the officers, the officers
our lovers and our prophets both. Mastery
or surrender, the speakers assert
through static, are the only viable conduits
to the terminus of questions and the bliss
which awaits us there or at our final
destinations. All these moderns are
so smitten with the image of Montaigne
riding the vineyards of Bordeaux wholly
open to any question. They slide by
the fact that he believed in God.
At every step the hooves beneath him
clopped solid ground, never thrust through
into vacancy, bad turbulence, sudden
changes in cabin pressure. I lay my banana
on the belt and watch the officer
scan it on his screen, it seems so silly,
I watch him, smiling, hoping he’ll look up
and smile back, but he stares sternly
at the monitor, my banana must be taken
seriously. A young woman massages
her young boyfriend’s forehead and face
with such strong rhythmic pressure,
almost fury, as if demanding something,
they are adorable, hands all over
each other, reminding me of religious kids
when the lid finally blows off, they get
so humid with each other. People forget,
or fail or fear to savor, how thrilling it is
to cork desire, the blast that never
comes, the banana just a banana, no trace
explosive on the ancient woman’s hands,
no news flash. Such sweet disappointments.
Our electronic devices powered down,
our own power put down, we have nothing
to look at but the empty space ahead
or each other. A quick pitch and yaw
lifts our stomachs and casts them aside,
a girl turns to me from her makeup kit,
her eyes are wide, I take her hand, how could
she ever be my enemy? She’s going
to Houston. I’m going to Houston too

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, poet Joel Brouwer is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Syracuse University. Brouwer is the author of several collections of poetry, including AND SO; CENTURIES, a National Book Critics Circle Notable Book; and EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, winner of the Larry Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Companion

Annie Lighthart

The body keeps us ordinary. It says Sleep, and we must,
it says Eat, and we do. It says I grow old,

we understand it to mean We grow old:
the voice in the mind and the head that shelters it

in the echoing chamber. But the body will not admit
the two as separate, though it converses,

though it clearly speaks, to another.
It believes in the brain,

both mass and thought contained together,
electric currents and substance housed

as one and set on its shelf
of white bone. The body does not listen

to the mind’s long protestations
and grief. It takes us home at night

to undress and lie down.
It says Be at peace. It says Hold still.

It says I know to what end I am going.
The body understands that when you lean your head

in your hands, you feel the weight of the one self
heavily moving forward in time. That is when it says

Look, it is morning
although a bit more softly, before making you rise.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Annie Lighthart earned an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has taught at Boston College, with Portland’s Mountain Writers, Soapstone, as a poet in the schools, through Road Scholar/Elderhostel programs, and with community groups of all ages.  So far her youngest student has been six and her oldest eighty-nine. IRON STRING, her first book of poetry, was published by Airlie Press in 2013.  Her second book of poetry, Lantern, won the 2017 Wells College Press Chapbook Award.

Where you could sit up straight

francine j harris

i have walked with half a skull and i have walked
with a blanch shell. i have walked, legs
split hungry, and i have walked too old.
and my body bones around the middle.
and i sling open one eye to the white
whale of you, blowing up spittle and gorge
and chunks of barnacle hunkered
between two ankles where i have
inched close to a dribble, a crawl,
a hunkering over like a fat, black man, white chested,
carrying the fragile egg of us over weighted ice. i have walked
on thick toes and you never said a word. i have walked,
hands out of gloves, I have walked.
dragged sled with you slumped over in it.
and we have fallen on the ice. we have fallen
with our glass bottles of milk and boiled water
and our hands cut up. i have walked carrying roof siding,
and wool bedding and fat. and i have walked carrying nails
between fingers, and i have walked with wood
and enough ocean floor to build you
small rooms where you could sit up straight.
i have walked and you have watched me go.
you have watched me go and said nothing,
and you have said nothing and sat still, great egg.

 

francine j. harris was born in Detroit, Michigan. She earned a BA in English from Arizona State University in 1997 and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 2011. She is the author of play dead (Alice James Books, 2016) which was the winner of a 2017 Lambda Literary Award and the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and was a finalist for the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and allegiance (Wayne State University Press, 2012), which was a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and the National Endowment for the Arts, and she currently serves as the writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Small Version of a Long Story

John James

Impalpable, transparent, a big man
In a rabbit-coat turns twice, turns three times
Toward the sun. And then away.

Reveals the storied longing he totes.
The yellow pain that he’s been gifted.

From winter to rank spring
He descends the snowy mountains.
Lewd, and plucking bluemonk from the vine.

 

John James is the author of THE MILK HOURS, selected by Henri Cole for the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize (Milkweed, 2019). He is also the author of CHTHONIC winner of the 2014 CutBank Chapbook Award. His poems appear in Boston ReviewKenyon ReviewGulf CoastPoetry NorthwestBest American Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. A digital collagist, his image-text experiments appear in Quarterly WestThe Adroit Journal, and LIT.

CROPPED Lovett. Rainbow Cattle Co. 53

Two Poems

Neil Shepard

I-89: COLCHESTER/CHAMPLAIN ISLANDS: EXIT 17

May 20, 6:00-7:00 p.m. Sun going down

These cloverleafs soaked with spring run-off,
marsh and meadow overrun, land leaking westward,
water drawn down to Lake Champlain: The big river

bulges mud-brown into wetlands so flooded Sand Bar State Park –
its campsites, cook-grills, AV hitches, stone restroom – is underwater,
three feet under, driftwood, dead fish, dolls, and a few floating

buoys, all bumping up against the dikes and sandbags keeping
Route 2 open, from mainland to island, open to a corridor
of anglers riding westward toward their appointment with

fishing rigs casting long lines out to whatever will be tricked
by a spinner on a hook or will struggle with desire to tear open
its mouth, fly off the hook, or die trying. And charity is a bell

ringing in the supper hour, the weekly church fish-fry. Charity is a melody
in a bird’s throat at sunset, laughter of woodpeckers, last chatter of
mallards before nightfall – Now, the wheel wobbles untrue, untrue,

flattening in twilight. And charity is a spare that will spare us the night broken down.

~

John D, former side-judge of South Hero, former commissioner of Fish & Wildlife, loved to stock
the lake, loved to ante up for poker, loved to stack the deck in his favor –
the world is your cow, but you have to do the milking

and that led, for years, to a fixed business of eel-fishing (with a
Scotch reel) on Lake Champlain, night-trawling with flood-lights for the snaky suckers
worrying the deep. Like any penitent, they’d swim toward the light, let themselves be netted by a

fisherman who claimed the lake for himself (secret Loch), the sole boat floating over those waters
in the darkness, shining a light, hauling up eels like dead souls, dredging for snakes
that had evaded the first punishments of God and crawled waterward.

John gathered what he could, preserved what he could (in ice), drove
what he could to the border where America is most porous, going northward, where
someone must have let him pass, passport at the airport for a transport plane to France, where eels

fetched the highest price from those Catholic Parisians and John sat down to meals that seemed
paradisiacal. For a while, his was the hagiography, the story of a man who cleaned
Champlain of eels, a tale involving light and its deceptions.

 

I-89: FAIRFAX/GEORGIA: EXIT 18

May 21, 10:00-11:00 a.m. Full sun

Exit upward toward commuter blue, clouds billowing
in enormous sky. Here, fields open wide, slanting upward
toward antediluvian barns, barn-board and stone leaning, leaning…
like a town-planner dozing at his desk, dreaming
of zoning, a fix far into the future– tracts of pasture
carved up for mansions, floods of new cash, flush
tax-base, the old barns leaning, leaning

almost off their foundations – dirty hands
make clean money – threatening
to take the whole homestead of barn-
swallows, rabbits, foxes, wasps, and mice
tumbling down with them. When they fall,
grander homes will follow. For now,
they lean down as we drive up,

as if to pluck us from our cars and plant us
on a ridge line where a few McMansions
command the view of old Colonials below. See,
see? Across the valley, a great white oval – wafer?
water-tower? god? gas-tank? – shadows their lives.
Shad-bloom past. Macs in blossom. Traffic zips along.
Follow it to Georgia Center’s eye-blink. A center

with rows of chicken coops can’t be downtown, can it?
But there’s a general store, computer store – fax
a fir! — historical site saying someone, damn it,
lived and died here, and bullied his way
into the town’s memory. Edge of town,
the Georgia Freedom Range (golf balls
sailing into a far pasture) tells us what’s become

of the town charter – it makes a difference
whose cow is in the well – tells more history
of farms to foreclosures than we care to know.
Better to turn up Route 104, upcountry, to Arrowhead Lake,
where the fast-tumbling Lamoille suddenly swirls and pools
over pastures to form one smooth, shimmering evasion for farmers-
turned-fishermen. Here’s one place where, when they look down

into their common failure, they see the sky.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Neil Shepard is an American poet, essayist, professor of creative writing, and literary magazine editor. He is a recipient of the 1992 Mid-List Press First Series Award for Poetry, as well as a recipient of a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony.

Three Poems

Daneen Bergland

Love Scene with Maggots

Long ago our love was feral,

it grew over us like ferns and moss

until we felt languid as rotting leaves.

Sometimes we’d give each other flowers,

perfect symbol for failing

to plan ahead. But more than spit

or skin against skin, I love you

for all the things you made

that fell apart. For instance, the arbor

where the robin filled her cup of mud

with blue. Standing over it where it fell

I imagined looking down at my fingers to find

they were feathers. I have been that useless.

I have felt the moon beating on our roof,

blessing the house. I have been that awake.

I have learned about love from sleep,

its pleasure as it slips and you miss it.

More than suck or sweat

of want, I love you as a matter of fact

as you lift the carcass from the bottom of the barrel,

what I made because I am careless,

a dead thing shivering back.

 

Sometimes Eve Gets Drunk Enough She Forgives Herself

How safely we live in this house with the dirt hem so close
to the end of the world. The flowers here are serious.
How I’ll miss them. Sometimes we like to watch the weather happen
on a computer screen or spy for weeks at a time
on a bowl of eagles sleeping. I’ll miss the quiet sunlight
at the mall, the bromeliads floating over the ice rink.
I’ll miss perfume and complaining about spring.
No, I can’t speak of the bees, the garden’s little housewives.
It’s easier to say I’ll miss the butterflies. I watched them
on YouTube and discovered the chrysalis
is not a dressing room from which you make your revelation.
It’s a horror movie with a happy ending.
I wish I knew less. But unlearning is not the same
as being unseduced. I’d like to still be piecing together the story
of how trees were invented, the wanderlust of weeds.
But it’s good to think we’ll never again
have to eat a pleasureless salad from Safeway.
Remember giving birth? That permanent twilight,
riding the long hot wave of your gut to the holy jolt.
I wish this waiting felt more like work. I’m so tired
of cataloging all the things we’ll miss. Plastic, pollen,
impeccable penmanship, and other tools of faith
in permanence. Mostly, it will be the useless things, I think.
Jewelry, toenails, soap operas, cats.

 

An Evolution of Understanding

Mice. Specifically a mouse
eating a donut. Then more childhood

accidents. The realization of bones,
the penetrable skin of frogs and milk.
God made sense for a few minutes.

But the bees made more.
Their fragile, complicated dancing
reminded us of love,

which we thought of as constant,
the sure warm place under a tongue,
but it wasn’t. We were over

and over kicked out of that wilderness.
Grass was a sleeping giant,
and the birds always leaving,

sometimes stopped to cheer
down on their way to getting lost
in the mirrors of buildings.

How the world distracted us, too,
with constant offers.
Occasionally came back

to the mouse, not wild, not tame,
domestic as a potholder.
There was nothing to worry about;

everything terrible had already happened
to other people. God tried to make
explanations, but it was like trying

to read the bees. All the while
the unfinished business of discovery,
fingertips perched on their tiny platforms

each print pressed flat as a moth on glass.
The sense of loss when we missed the soft pleasure
of erasers. So we made artifacts more permanent

than rocks and threw them
away and away. Children were born,
each with a twiggy nest of questions

chirping inside her. They palmed the perfect heft
of apples and pictured their own bright hearts
bruising. We couldn’t imagine

being able to love them enough,
so we placed lenses over our eyes
to look.

 

Daneen Bergland studied Creative Writing and Women’s Studies as an undergraduate and worked with victims of abuse and neglect as a legal advocate and protective services worker for ten years. She earned her MA in Writing from Portland State in 2006. She has been teaching full time in the UNST program since 2010. Her areas of expertise are online learning and writing instruction.

The Next Day Opened Curious Windows

Marcus Myers

The morning after she dismantles
us, we walk the chilled shadows
that sweep last night from her cobblestone
streets. I’m uprooted, raw,
a potted plant she elbowed

off her balcony. At the diner counter,
we eat our breakfasts like a couple
of mutes. She repeats what she said last
night, after whiskey let her pity
undress us a final time. Why

not make the best of a terrible
situation? Her kind tone aligns
with her eyes again, making me long
for our emails, back to the soft science
of our silences, our weird fetish

for distance the last real
thing we share. Before the weight
of our thing overtook us, we undressed.
Before the 1,208 miles between our cities
exerted their pull. She smiles, cleans

her plate with her roll. With knife
and fork, I pierce my yolks, letting
one yellow compartment weep
unto the other.
After breakfast she tours
me, stranded, through the Grand City,

two days before my departure. She points
to monuments and markers. She says,
There’s the park where sweet Whitman held
the soldier’s hands while doctors sawed
away their broken limbs. She speaks

as if she didn’t break us to pieces last night.
I wonder if she enjoys it. Maybe some pleasure
in the spectacle of a man and woman
saying goodbye. She takes us
to The Museum of the Monstrous.

Distensions, protuberances, poxes
encased in early 19th century mahogany
by the doctors who triumphed
over a body’s excesses. A giant
man and his tiny sidekick,

a skeletal asymmetry
unveiled to headshakes, slack
mouths. Categories of objects
swallowed and removed: a hammer,
wooden dentures, shoehorns,

a golden spoon. An assassin’s thorax.
A president’s tumor. A case
of trephined skulls
almost blinking as we turn
away from them. A boy bowing two

heads in his watery sanctum,
his eyelids
so thin and delicate
he might look up any year now
from his long prayer.
Our fleet faces transposed,

our looking out and in
from these curious windows. Flashes
of her smile taking flight below the ridge
of my brow. I need to leave
some of us here in these rooms.

–from The Fiction We Make Between Us

 

Marcus Myers lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where he gardens badly, raises a four-year-old and teaches social studies to gifted & talented students. He and Brian Clifton co-edit Bear Review, the new online journal of poetry, flash fiction and micro essays. The recipient of the 2010 Jo Anna Dale Award and a 2011 Durwood Fellowship from UMKC’s MFA program, his writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Burntdistrict, H_NGM_N, Mid-American Review, The National Poetry Review, Pleiades, Tar River Poetry, The Rumpus and elsewhere.

Two Poems

Matthew Hotham

Union

Let’s not start with love
conjoining’s unlovely—
the androgyne is monstrous: improbable body
with ponderous excess limbs—
Left foot on three. No, YOUR left.
The miss(ed) anticipation of needs:
a hesitance to object—or,
readiness to complain.

Yet, I fantasize in the dual—
today I caught a spider, then set it free,
fixed the running toilet,
and cooked with pomegranate.
I complement myself through compliment,
imagine the figure of an other
who marvels at my deeds.

Union is: a perfection of dreams.
No, it is to leave off sleeping
for the calloused work of days.
And how you have built yourselves for such work—
the grit under nails,
the inflammation and hobbled stride.
How delicate with each other, because you have been
indelicate with yourselves.

I believe in union because I have seen its breaking,
(or I believe only in what can be broken
Or I can’t believe in something until it’s broken.)

 

Silence

my language is an overstock         an exact machine         a whole program of affect
all the brilliance my ego can command

first I bring the anecdote, a talisman of self:

In Bab Touma I am lost, trying to find the internet café
to tell a woman in New Jersey of my heartbreak.
no one will listen
there are two types of silence:
complete sonority     &     sordid calculation

she has been waiting for this message
for years. for the end of my sense of obligation
to another. my brow is thick with salt and dust.
this is wrong         let it fester
guard your tongue, mute devil
be content with your house
hold a stone in your mouth

I spend too much time on backstory. the connection
falters in the past–I cannot bridge an ocean.

the tongue is a wild beast—the tongue is a key to death
there is nothing more worthy of bondage than the tongue
no. one will listen.
Affective space contains dead spots
where jinn live, who should not hear

I am discipled of silence

If speaking pleases you, be silent. If silence pleases you, then speak.
no. one will. listen.
That night, I drink al-Sharq on rooftops, listening to the evening
shoppers hum below, counting, like tasbih, the words to be unsaid.

the hops of licit love curl the tongue to bitter

the loved becomes a dream creature who does not speak

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Matthew Hotham is author of EARLY ART (Turtle Ink Press, 2006) and Editor-in-Chief of The Carolina Quarterly. He is a PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Toby Gonzalez-Twist

When Alpine

Lisa Furmanski

There is life among the rocks.
Ochre lichen flakes like scales on a collapsed fish.
Raptors circle the nearest flinch.
Fireweed and lodgepole feather out of recent ash.

Seared trunk-bones, the slope in a deep exhaustion.
Frost, wedged between rocks, drips into bright crevasses.
Tarns, ink-pots, run-off, what grinds through granite.
Bluest sky, bluest ice:

the eras are deep vaults, peeking and seeping beyond.
And the ridge line is the skyline is pure water.
Glaciers are bitter, unsurvivable.
Forces that are understood but not believable.

The seas push up into air, tiny fish-bones against the clouds.
At the rim, the immensity of my son, breaking sticks, salt in his hair.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Lisa Furmanski is a physician living in Norwich, Vermont, with her husband and two sons. Her work has recently appeared in the Antioch ReviewBeloit Poetry Review, and Poetry International.

Rainbow Cattle Co. 37 cropped by Evie Lovett

13 Black Birds Looking at Away

Jessica Melilli-Hand

1.
The first three rosaries that ever were were black black
for grief for beauty for burnt mustard seeds and what the smoke released.
Some say the threads snapped when God and Lucifer played tug-of-war,
best two out of three. Some say God never was. However
it happened, when the beads scattered with the sound of every Eve
clicking heels across marble-floored sanctuaries—a rush of wings.
Growth of eyesockets, of sharpened feet. Beads pupiled into eyes, moved
among the mountains. God said let there be beaks; Lucifer said
let something bleed. Black blackbirds, colored blackbirds, and black birds unrelated to
blackbirds sucked voices out of God’s three minds. If we knew how to listen we’d hear
God’s thoughts in their calls:

conk-a-reee o-ka-leee chakchakchak caw tjeettit-tit-tittsk-tsk-tsk chiff-chaff
squeeweeee seeepseeeepseeeeep

2.
Not all blackbirds are black birds: the Purple Martin, the Brown-Headed Cowbird, the Yellow-
Headed Blackbird, the Red-Winged Blackbird, the Yellow-Winged Blackbird, the Red-Breasted
Blackbird, the Rusty Blackbird, the Tricolored Blackbird, the Bronzed Grackle. The Fish Crow
does not look like a fish. The American Crow does not look like a flag or a baseball. Poe lied
too— ravens say Kaugh.

3.
A raven named Nevermore did not fly
out of the Plutonian night.

A raven named Never wanted more.
The raven and The Raven’s speaker
both wanted more Lenore.

4-12.
When Crow lived alone in the oak, Crow
was happy. For a crow.
Then 8 cars came with windows full of crows.
Former Town Crier Pluto Denn cried Crow
went crazy! Crow didn’t know each crow
came from loose electrons vibrating Crow
back out on equal-angled light waves. No, Crow
thought those other crows had to go so Crow
cracked windscreens, but every eye of every crow
kept moving. Poor Crow cried all 27 crowcries.
No magic. Every driver heard Crow
land on every roof of every car, and Crow
bent down to peck those upside-down crows
while drivers looked for their dead. Crow
didn’t care what Athena said. Crow
ripped rubber from wiperblades. Crow
left his third leg in the sun so Crow
made evening last all afternoon. Crow
found his nest removed. When Crow
whirled the three tenses together, when Crow
edged the circle of cars, cawing, when Crow
made man and woman one in Egypt, when Crow
stole sun, burnt feathers, made moon, and when Crow
flew from the southwest at sunset, the other crows
did all of these with Crow. But when Crow
flapped wings without flight, the other crows
and their cars crashed together. The other crows
broke apart like stars. Now Crow
could live alone in the oak, happy. For a crow.

13.
Blackbird wore sheep’s white cotton clothing
so they thought he was a wolf.
The boy who cried, cried.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Jessica Melilli-Hand has published in Painted Bride QuarterlyBarrow Street, and The Minnesota Review, among others. She won first place in the Agnes Scott Poetry Competition in 2014, judged by Terrance Hayes.

Three Poems

Peter Cooley

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais

There’s no way you can see all six at once.
Even walking around them, they’re too much again.
Today, as always, I fasten on just one.
I imitate his gesture as I write,
suggest you do the same now, reading this.

My palms are open to the wind passing,
the same wind passing as passed over him
when he was spared: open you hands.

This moment we share, opening our hands
is the instant they tell him he will die
and then, the next instant, he will be spared.

No one can pass this fast from death to life.
It’s too much for the mind to comprehend.
Only the body can get a hold of this.:
look at your hands. You and I speak with him.

The day has come to settle in your palms.
It makes you cup your lifelines, doesn’t it?
as if the wind didn’t come to drink there—

 

Rodin, The Hands

Dead singularity of all things seen
in isolation, —

I take one sculpture with me this morning.
I turn it to the trees if they won’t bend
in my direction when I lose my gaze
in their deep rootedness.

Out on the sky,
“ The Hands” can resurrect. Then, hands no more,
take their shape from my own.

Yes, like me
certain past lives, past hours, still in this one,

they’ll find theirs in shape-shifting, going around—

********************************
The corporality of living things?
No, souls of seabirds, two wings stopped in flight.
Paolo and Francesca, separate.

I don’t want to write personal poems,
but I will tell you when I see white flames
like these I am drawn back to childhood:

mornings like these I can start life over
and then second time over, a third—

 

Rodin, The Kiss

Crossing the God-line, I am in a space,
I tell myself,—lying—I made myself.
It’s always new, there’s always this re-birth
so long as I remember why I’m here
making the ordinary miraculous—
that means sometimes ridiculous.

To keep myself on earth, I have Rodin.
I’m looking at “The Kiss,” so often seen
in kitsch displays, the basements of cheap stores.
I need to look away—Platonic form
captured in my mind’s eye—it’s never trite.
You see, then, don’t you? As I speak, their flesh—
grown together that one instant he caught them—
who’s kissing whom? Idiocy to ask,
left over from looking at the real thing.
I close my eyes: one flesh: there’s no question.

 

Peter Cooley was born and raised in Detroit. He earned a BA at Shimer College, an MA at the University of Chicago, and a PhD at the University of Iowa. He is the author of numerous poetry collections, including DIVINE MARGINS (2009), A PLACE MADE OF STARLIGHT (2003), and THE ASTONISHED HOURS (1992). His poems have been widely anthologized in collections such as Best American Poetry (2002) and Poets on Place (2005).

CROPPED-Rainbow Cattle Co. 1 by Evie Lovett

Reunion At Lily Point–Maple Beach

Mary Fitzpatrick

for Jonathan, Robert, Donald, & Jim

 

On this walk
the bones of the beach

glow. They choose their light
from moon’s candle, that great

wax face – diffuse glow, small kindle,
she shaves her light on shells below.

Rocks like waves, waves like handker-
chiefs’ white goodbye and hello.

This is the assembly of memory. Narratives

linked to years, cities swept
to our collective core. It is clear

what to show you all
on this beach, in this year:

shower of barnacles, transport
of doors, the limned tide

line etched, accretion
of shell and bone.

We rummage the scrim
of tide to place memories –

What year
that dim sum San Francisco?
when slept
on your DuPont Circle floor?
and witnessed
your Palisades wedding
over-looking
Pacific ardor?
That coast
a straight continuum –

south to north,
our haunts along the way: L.A.,
Monterey, Seattle, English Bay.

Time returns and it is Pacific
with artifacts of passage
piled up on the shore –
lozenged wood, bivalves sprung
to reveal
some winged heart.

Who said the mark of the planets was cheap?

North-facing thirty-year thrust and we
are all on the gangplank of youth and forced
to jump off. Who? said the scars of orbit
were cheap? Time a tide in extreme
transference, the litter at tideline
the depth: sea star, rock tooth, ridge
chip and barnacle, shed
in a shower of bone.

The canister, a corner-
stone unearthed, with thirty years’ lore:
Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Marin, each
a place we met once more.

Some crucial
transference – our teachers scraped us
open to learn. Primed to intercept
what they wanted, taught,
but could no longer
endure. Eco-Calvinism? Tyranny
of the new? It had not
the depth to hold. What
did, they gave us, to stave
against loss of sea and time: doubt
and deep questions – attack
and reconciliation –

with the sand spit, the rock
stack, bone pile, sea. In short,
with the thin unflinching thing —
the spiral song of air and tree, eagle’s
swoop on flat, unmoving wing, coyote
locked in its move / don’t move / catch it / move /
frozen motion of being.

I play out
different ventures with the tides. I sound out
the subtle wallow of the sea. I weave
from the slope of air and stone
a melody, your spirit,
that inhabits part of me.

 

Fitting your oars, fitting your ears
and the white coast draws away –

naked as the bleak
mountain. Suddenly acid,

the green hive of sea grass
comes to steal everything –

memory, place, departure point –
the hood the moon pulls over

her vague and youthful face. I wanted
each of you in turn. Desire

was an engine driving
a fantastic sojourn. And now

with the threat of death upon us,
and so many ghostly fathers gone before,

I always knew I loved you –
I just wasn’t sure what for.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Mary Fitzpatrick’s poems have been finalists for the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and the Slapering Hol Chapbook Award; short-listed for the Fish Publishing Prize; have been featured in Mississippi ReviewAtlanta Review and North American Review as contest finalists; and have also been published or are forthcoming in such journals as Agenda (UK), Hunger Mountain, Miramar, The Paterson Review, Pratik, and half a dozen anthologies.

 

Rainbow Cattle Co. 51 by Evie Lovett

Two Poems

Lauren Hilger

Wanted As Handled

I as Leda loved you,

we had read the myth,

with indecorum. With art,

nonaccord

censorial authentic fat

lawbreaker masterhood

untested pawn toughish unity

seemly heroicity merry smack

attacked, attached. Leda—

the stealth and unwashed date.

The feeling of picking up

Leda by your beak, that kind of weight,

imagined, deliriously changed,

is not unlike copying a large amount

of your words and having to remember

to paste them somewhere.

 

Hard Hat

Tolstoy is in the cold of Madison Avenue, Christmas lit.
Still a scent of horses, men in ties, a marble intensity.

Pigeons come too close,
scatter wind off the wing
and lovelessness.

I need to go a day without eating
something with Santa’s face on the wrapper.

Five pallbearers dump water
from lily bouquets on to the curb’s snow.
My suitcase rolls past the hearse and their laughter.

That otherworldly fear, in the way Nietzsche
means otherworldly, simply not being here.

This block’s under construction,
under hoarfrost and a ledge
that protects with a shadow.

Underground, a woman taps me and says, “Let’s go.”
I don’t know her or her fur turban.
She moves my suitcase to the turnstile
and pays for my way in.

She thinks I’m a visitor.
She can see the motherless aura I possess.
Neither is true. Yes they are.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Lauren Hilger received a BA from New York University and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of LADY BE GOOD (CCM.) Named a Nadya Aisenberg Fellow in poetry from the MacDowell Colony, she has also received fellowships from the Hambidge Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in BOMBHarvard Review, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, The Threepenny Review, and West Branch.

When Hendrix First Heard Dylan

Cody Todd

In America, it is always
the car and the road, the gun
and the girl, the grasp beating the reach,
the inevitable death in a bank vault.

Between New York and Los Angeles,
I am never at home. Loathsome and impossible
is this country, is its hymns and weird
celebrations. Just detonated

TNT in a safety-deposit chamber;
just had my face shot into
a broken pie in a standoff
with the cops. Void returns like a baseball

season, with its crab-like creep. The gesture
is offensive, but the mood of the nation
might thunder, or might not. The poet will
stargaze and wonder, but the writer thieves

and climbs his way up. On an acoustic
guitar, the strings quiver with
uncoordinated music. It is
the ballad of the Thin Man, Dylan, his bad voice

rubbing two sticks above a flint, his stories
of gypsies reclaiming Americana.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Cody Todd is the author of the chapbook TO FRANKENSTEIN, MY FATHER. His poems have appeared in Conduit, The Denver Quarterly, Salt Hill, and The Gettysburg Review. He is also the managing editor and co-creater of the online literary journal, The Offending Adam.

 

A Toast to the Ancient Poet Li Po

Susan Cohen

Overcome, verging on sorrow and lament,
I pour another drink. Soon, awaiting

this bright moon, I’m chanting a song.
And now it’s over, I’ve forgotten why. – Li Po

 

In gorges, gibbons howled and Li Po
drank the wine of wandering.

Forever drunk, I face rock-born moon, he sang
and swilled in bamboo huts by moonlit banks.

Slippery with wine one night, Li Po saw the moon
silver and wiggling in the current of a river.

He jumped in to embrace it. You can guess
how this thousand-year old story ends.

Maybe you, too, adore wine’s slow lap
around your tongue, that blossoming

into sloppy joy or companionable sorrow,
and there you are again –

a watery moon closing over you. Vowels slur
from Mile’s trumpet on your radio, then you

and wine are alone once more with friends,
some of them dead too young.

If you don’t drink wine
where are those ancient people now,

Li Po asked. And maybe you’re like him –
doomed to be a moon-gazer, perpetually

in exile – but trying to stay alert
to the line between intoxications

that set your sandals dancing on a mountain
and the ones that drown you.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Susan Cohen is the author of the poetry collections, THROAT SINGING (WordTech Communications/Cherry Grove Collections, 2012) and the 2016 David Martinson-Meadowhawk Prize winner, A DIFFERENT WAKEFUL ANIMAL (Red Dragonfly Press, 2016). She has been nominated for five Pushcart Prizes and has appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Atlanta Review, Connecticut Review, Gargoyle, Greensboro Review, Harpur Palate, Jabberwock, Nimrod, Poetry East, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Puerto del Sol, Southern Review, and many others.

CROPPED Lovett. Rainbow Cattle Co. 21

Two Poems

Harold Whit Williams

To Dean Young’s New Heart, Which I Can Hear Beating On The Eastside

Some evenings, it’s the Tejano thump from a Chevy
Tricked-out, all lowdown & shit, slow slinking up

Our dead tree street, reverberating the 120 bpm
Into our thin-walled fifties bungalow. Other times

It fades in & out on autumn breezes from marching
Band practice at the neighborhood high school, bass

Drums pounding one & three, high snares rattling
As if primitive wind chimes made of baby bones.

But mostly, it pulses softly in the background –
The dull headache throb, the paper cut blood drip,

The great horned owl at midnight, his who-who-ing
Pumping inside my chest like a stranger’s organ.

 

It’s Getting Awfully Crowded Up In Here

Everybody’s talking at me / I don’t hear a word they’re saying /
Only the echoes of my mind – Harry Nilsson

 

I’ve been paying more & more attention to all the voices
Inside my head – the Swedish chef Muppet; Faulkner reading

Short stories in 1958, pie-pen-dih-culah & plant-ay-shun;
A third grade girlfriend giggling upon breaking my playground

Heart; Hendrix mumbling to Dick Cavett; subway announcements;
The high-talking neck-wattled Wisconsin weatherman, mocking

Our rare snow days, his accent like a piece of dried cheddar
Stuck to the roof of the mouth; the greybearded deafmute

Scratching his balls & barking at the librarian for pen & paper –
Yuh yuh yuh! Yuh yuh! My Winston County snake-handling

Lingerie-wearing charismatic preacher cousin, denouncing
The moral decline of our god-spurning country; a football coach

Laughing & popping his dirty wet towel on the bare ass
Of my developing & fragile ego; Stephen Wright, Bill Hicks;

The back alley lisping hobo, scoring grass from college kids;
My creative writing teacher, a slash pine stump of a man,

Reading Ferlinghetti to a classroom cramped with crackers;
Jesus Christ, Jerry Seinfeld, blessed are the yada yada;

Grandmother reciting family names like Old Testament verse,
Otho, Barnabas, Zebulon, Clefus, her voice thin & reedy &

Hearkening Wednesday night prayer meetings, catfish suppers,
Hot summer afternoons shelling peas, hailstones on a tin roof.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Harold Whit Williams is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather. A session musician for numerous Austin artists over the years, his lo-fi studio projects DAILY WORKER, and the ambient home-recorded The French Riot, now have hours of music available online for download or streaming. A longtime UT Austin Libraries employee, Williams catalogs archived KUT music and writes a quarterly music review (Whit’s Picks) for TexLibris. Williams is also a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee, recipient of the 2014 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize, as well as being author of four books of poetry. His collection, BACKMASKING, was winner of the 2013 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press, and his latest, RED CLAY JOURNAL, is now available from FutureCycle Press. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Kitchen Song

Emily Casey

24C

]

] we live

                                           ]

] the opposite

]

daring

]

–Sappho

 

In the kitchen, the wolves

curl down between us

among the wooden legs of chairs

where the baby crawls

picking table scraps,

starved for something more than my milk—

 

a crust of moon at the windowsill

a sparrow on the porcelain edge, the faucet’s drip—

the white tails of deer bounding,

the rabbit’s twitch and tender, a spray of grouse

& the baby, scooped up into your arms—

 

& through the bramble of wild thorns, the garden untended

the old growth and new

through the mess of it all,

this life—

I want to say, I’m sorry I can’t give enough, I’m sorry it will come to an end,

sudden and ugly even if we last, especially if we last, until the body curls inward with age—

O

all one wants to say

all that hope

a million nights like this one will never be enough

but we don’t know it yet—

 

Tonight I hear you singing the White Album as you rock the sick baby down and I know you know

I love you, as I know you love me, and we love him—but still, still

 

In the kitchen the wolves curl down, restless, teeming,

the baby is fisting wet toast, cold egg, dust balls of hair, the doe grazes at your feet—

we live

the opposite

daring—

what do you see?

there, through the copse of birch

through the thicket and bramble,

wild thorn, red berry

here,

in the forest

of our love

what do you see that keeps you so close

to joy—like breath

on a winter’s window—

I want to see it too.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Emily Arnason Casey is a writer, teacher, and activist, originally from Northern Minnesota. She currently lives in rural Vermont with her family. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with a Bachelors in English Literature and Minor in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature and earned her M. F. A. at Vermont College of Fine Arts where she studied fiction and creative nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, The Briar Cliff Review, Hotel Amerika, The Normal School, American Literary Review, and her essay “Laughing Water” received a notables listing in the Best American Essay series.

Evie Lovett-Rainbow Cattle Co. 53

The Foremost Terrestrial Biome of Unknowing

Anna Llewellyn Coe

I ask her what changes when I turn off the light
and she says, Go ahead.
I ask what else and
she says, According to whom?
She won’t tell me anything
because she thinks I know nothing.
In life, she told me to have faith
but never told me Goodbye. Nor,
perhaps more importantly, Daughter,
I’m going to die young and rip
apart the linen spool of time,
even though I was the one
who bothered to convince you
it was real in the first place.

Now, in death, she only says things like,
You’ll ruin the wall doing that.
She has become a limitless
magic eight ball of disappointment.

If I ask about dying
she says, In the cosmic sense?
None of this matters to her.
To her it feels like the lights
are always on, like
no one is lying in wait.
But here I am, lain, waiting.
I want to hunt her, to render her
unconscious with an actual rock.
Small and dear—my prisoner
in the Taiga of Unreality forever.

There are logistical issues, of course.
Where to hide the rock, find her head.
And then there is the matter of infinite regression.
The rampantness of logical sequences
with essential but unidentifiable beginnings.
Endless chains of justification
that beg you to trust.
How does one go forward knowing
such a trespass of knowledge is possible?

On my fortieth birthday,
my mother will have been alive
for less than half my life.
Sixtieth, less than a third.
The graph of her deadness
over my aliveness
descends infinitely toward the axis.

What comes first, I ask her.
How much of this is quantum and
How much the way you taught me
to halve an English muffin with a fork?
But all she ever says is
In the dark I can’t confirm or deny you.
Now she may as well be muffins, forks, knitwear.
She is an infinite regression
nestled in the Siberian Gulf of Uselessness.
She’s always one more year not alive.

They call this the anniversary of her death
but anniversary implies an addition, a gathering,
a line rising at a forty-five degree angle
from the horizontal at which it began.
That is no longer the graph we have
here before us.  Look at this, I say to her,
the downward slope of your no-longerness
over my still-hereness.
You are one more year forward
from nothingness, one more year less.
She shallows, roils.
Airplanes can no longer reach her.
We sit in a deciduous kind of silence.
I consult the magic eight ball for answers
sent straight from the boreal forest.
A glowing purple triangle reads:
Today is not an anniversary.
But there is no word that means the opposite.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

The Hole I Dug

Thomas March

She chose an inconvenient time to die
but chose the warmest place there was, away
from the mossy tree where we kept her chained
for safety, so she wouldn’t run away.
Her sharp sight wasted on our narrow yard,
she broke her rusty chain and stumbled near
the leafy hedge that framed the yard, to lie
alone in sunny silence, on her back.
From that last angle, she could not have seen
the hedge defended nothing interesting.

The first warm rain had softened up the ground.
I used the dulling shovel that we left
outside all winter, up against a shed.
The cold had warped the handle, and it shook
inside the rusty socket of the blade.
But it was all I had; I had to learn
to press my weight down carefully, to take
my shovelsful in shallow increments.
It took all afternoon to dig chest-deep
as every gentle pressure from my feet
disturbed the dirt that I had failed to lift—
but that was less time than she took to die,
the months of heavy hacking, every breath-
less howl announcing her impending death.

From digging in that shady spot, I knew
the smell of loneliness—the muddy food,
the acrid earth between the roots still damp
where she had overturned her water bowl.
I wished I could have killed her, slipped a pill
and held her still. She never would have had
to claim her freedom forcefully, or die
alone, where she had finally escaped
the shade, only to watch the sun so long
her tongue had swollen, and her eyes had dried.

 

Originally from Springfield, IL, Thomas March is a poet, performer, and critic based in New York City. His recent poetry collection, AFTERMATH (2018), was selected by Joan Larkin for The Word Works Hilary Tham Capital Collection. OUT Magazine praised its “diamond-sharp lyricism” and hailed it as “a stimulating, if sober, tonic for our times.” His poetry has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Good Men Project, OUT, Pleiades, and RHINO, among others. His reviews and essays have appeared in The Believer, The Huffington Post, and New Letters.

Evie Lovett-Rainbow Cattle Co. 37

Carnivore

Katrin Tschirgi

I was a gerund,
filling the holes like water for lakes. I ate
until I was gone, the world—

made round in my middle. Wallow-eyed,
I was the beast.

 

I polished off each animal like a silver urn.

Emptiness was an egret. I left.
The stomach was hollowed ground,

and I filled myself with bone, each rib a crackling key of a pianola.
Each mammal sang a wooden tune, the fish

and birds clarinet. I inhaled them
like first thoughts.

 

 

To learn the language of hunger, one must vowelize all sounds.
The rubber boa, the snowshoe hare, pika—

each one a friend,
each friend a sound.

The coyote was flint-clawed, each of his rocks
narrowed down to saber.

He waited for me, fed me himself. I swallowed
and the canine traversed my pipes. His tail balled in my
neck, his daggers in my pink.

He unbled me—

 

For when I was full, the world was silent.
The world began as it always does:
dark as womb, empty of stars,

the universe

tings as knife on glass. Lipless, without body,

I rested. Put my heart here, I wanted to say.

When my blood scattered, our populous—this was the war song. I was not sorry
for such calls, the way each person sprouted from a drop, and later

sang holes
into each other’s skin.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Katrin Tschirgi received her BA in English from Boston College where she was a Denver fellow and the recipient of the McCarthy and Kelleher Awards. She subsequently earned her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she served as the managing editor for Mid-American Review. Her prose and poetry have appeared in Washington Square Review, The Literary ReviewThe Normal SchoolPassenges North, and elsewhere. She is originally from Boise, Idaho.

Edges

David Cooke

I don’t know where to start.  Far before the moon pulled the tide
to your chin.  Before your groin became a grotto.  Before the brine
washed away the haloes your feet squeeze into the sand.  I don’t
believe in the alchemy of eels and their mud.

It started before you felt their slither.

I know where this ends.  With lungs shortening and sinuses burning
like searadish.  You tread and estimate how much longer you can stand.
I know the sound of the ocean’s throat. I carry its homunculus in my ear.
The sea’s words won’t heal you.

Neither will the earth.  Though you press your heel on the folded
edge of a spade and kick the ashes to reveal an ember.  It glows–
a window you stand outside of.  The ground does not move.  You
visit the same stone.  Eat a meal of lavender seeds, but it will pass.

You think the horizon’s distant line is not crossed.  It slides, like
a floater on your eye.  It flees your direct gaze.  Like the moon,
it moves with you as you drive the switchbacks to Grizzly Peak.
You don’t think you’re in it.

You need distance for each wet piece of dust to appear as fog.

Stop.  Pushing the sky to the edges.  You know where the sea starts.
Where your land ends.  The sky starts there, too.  I’ve got my fingers
on your head.  In the air is where you live.  The sea loves only its own.
The earth knows only the print of your stride.

The sky is closer than the chill on your wet finger.
It suddenly touches you, enters you.  The sky starts
somewhere near the rough spot on the bottom of your heel.

 

David Cooke is a member of The Guttery, a writing group in Portland, Oregon. His poems have earned awards from Flatmancrooked, Americymru’s Night of the Living Bards, and a Pushcart nomination. “Meat Puppet” owes a debt of inspiration to Bob Hicok’s poem “Stop-loss” and the Huffington Post “Beyond the Battlefield” series profiling the new generation of disabled vets.

Falsifiability

Ravi Shankar

There was a smash. There was an explosion. There was foam and confusion. The imagination had dashed itself against something hard.    –Virginia Woolf

 

In post-Artemis posture, with red thigh-highs,
spangled bustier, lasso of truth and unbreakable

tiara, Wonder Woman was invented by Moulton
Marston after the systolic blood-pressure test,

progenitor to the polygraph. Catch a liar
by the tale, hooked by chest to convolute

rubber tubes, metal plates on fingers to record
the production of sweat glands. It’s a mainstay

now of Forensic Assessment Interview Techniques,
or FAINT, admissible as evidence in federal court.

Forged from links snipped from the Golden
Girdle of Gaea, Wonder Woman’s infinitely elastic

lasso can compel anyone in its orbit to speak
the truth, else to obey the will of the wielder.

“Under no possible condition,” Marston wrote,
“can true submission be unpleasant.” Giving in

is not verisimilitude, yet that which is scientific
by its very nature can be proven false. Take

the particles of light that beamed Lynda Carter
into my childhood family room, where I laid,

hips jammed into a throw pillow to watch her
twirl, glasses off, arms outstretched, to emerge

from a thunderclap of light, ready to fight Nazis.
Perhaps corpuscles emitted by luminous bodies,

perhaps waveform resounding in the ether,
else born of some admixture, each new theory

of light offers greater descriptive power
with even greater occasion for its own eventual

falsification, thus making it even truer.
According to released FBI files, Marston lied

about the effectiveness of lie detector tests
in order to shill for Gillette razors, measuring

subjects’ involuntary reactions in ads finding
the brand’s blades minimized the emotional

disturbances caused by competitors’ products.
Because true smoothness never chafes or burns.

Marston lived polyamorously with two women,
attended clandestine sorority initiation rituals

where coeds would tie each other up. Research
that proved he found Jung’s anima in himself,

a primordial, Amazonian, inborn nature
that needed to be lovingly bound and spanked

therapeutically. He was a woman who bore
the fib of masculinity, all the more male

for surrendering helplessly to her dictation.
Years after his death, Gloria Steinem would

splash Wonder Woman of the adamantine
bracelets, patriotic panties, and roundhouse

boot-kicks, founding member of the Justice
League, on the very first cover of Ms. Magazine.

A fantasy turned feminist-icon. “The truth
will set you free,” Steinem said in speeches,

“but first, it will piss you off.” Taken literally,
polygraph means many writings, not the law

of the father, but l’écriture feminine gravid
inside each mother tongue, a dark pool where

the largest fish slumber, a clitoral, uterine
text that resists both status quo and over-

determination. Like a lasso that reveals truth
to be no more than a closed system of Lies.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Ravi Shankar grew up in Virginia, earning a BA from the University of Virginia and an MFA from Columbia University. His collections of poetry include INSTRUMENTALITY (2004), a finalist for the 2005 Connecticut Book Awards; the collaborative chapbook WANTON TEXTILES (2006), with Reb Livingston; and DEEPENING GROOVE (2011), winner of the National Poetry Review Prize.

TWIST cropped by Toby Gonzalex

Hearing Voices

Georganna Millman

When the thumb of summer presses down
and the creek dries up,
a subterranean babble rises from under bed-rocks,
lapping at the roof of a mouth.
It could pass for someone sighing, a girl laughing,
lovers whispering secrets grabbed by air.
It could be what is left of ancient voices
escaping through their secret door—
much like trapped fingerling trout
thrashing against the prison chill
of their shrinking pools, weight of the end
upon them.

 

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Georganna Millman lives in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York with her husband Marty. They have two grown sons. She is self-employed, owning an independent retail pharmacy. She graduated from Skidmore College, has been a contributor to the Ernest Becker Foundation newsletter, and has lectured at the Chapman Museum in Glen Falls.

Hermit Crab Changes Her Shell

Joanne Clarkson

Among barnacles and agates
as tides leak up the beach
she picks through litter
to choose a new labyrinth
moon spun
from the chafe and savor
of salt.

She eases, claw-leg first,
out of her cramped hull
blinded even by shadow
into new nacre

her ugly cheek
against a firm pearl pillow
borrowing beauty again
the way we all do.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Joanne Clarkson holds Master Degrees in English and Library and Information Science, as well as being an RN specializing in Hospice and Geriatrics.

Three Poems

Doug Ramspeck

Original Hour

Hard to tell the birds from their voices
in the darkening field where hemoglobin

clouds drift low to the earth, bleeding
along their underbellies, lungless in summer.

What makes a geography if not memory
and mud? We try to decipher the black

wings rumoring in the distance. We imagine
this is the first thought or dream, the grass with

its manifold hands reaching out, the surgeon
of twilight cutting into the torso of day,

spreading the ribs to expose the original body.
Here is the first gesture: our deadhead

of moon drifting windswept as a dandelion.

 

Field Guide at Dusk

It will not do. This weak-willed light slipping
from the grass, pale as hands folded on a chest.
No breeze to animate the hickory leaves,
to ripple the surface of the creek.
Just the fixed body of summer—the dimming
ghosts of the milkweeds and brambles,
tall as a boy’s shoulder, tall as a man’s waist.
Call it another covenant of evening: to feel the grass
unspool around us as we walk. To whisper
close against our bodies. This coven of bats
lifting in the evening air, as though pieces of the earth
have given way. The sound of the hinged wings
like a kind of short-sightedness: let the noise of it
carry across our field and no farther. This myopia
of evening: darkness gathering by our feet,
pooling around our legs, the world vanishing
from the bottom up. So much is lost like this.
To imagine our creek as a snake wending
through a field, creating this rut or runnel
as it muscles on its belly. This creek
and its fur of grass: some creature forming
itself from the night sky. To walk here
blindfolded by the darkness, until there is
only the grass against our bodies, the ghostly
hands of something springing from the earth.

 

Deposition

Say two crows at dusk in an auburn sky.
But which is the augury of which? Or then
a cottonmouth slipping like ripe fruit into the reeds.
Our ribs feeling as hollow as a stream bed.
As though there is nothing else: just this excavated
dullness. The tongue and mouth like small,
decaying animals. And the crows, no longer
in their bodies in the darkness, filling the air
with cries that ripple like small waves along
a water’s surface, a last breath. We formed
ourselves from mud and blood and spittle. From an old
ceiling of sky.
The broken spine of ridge coupling
with swollen clouds. The bitternut hickory shedding
its sorcery of leaves into the stream. And so the stars
bobbing like body parts amid a dim ocean of clouds.
Until there is nothing left, not even the crows
darting through the air like dreams. You sleepwalk
into it. The moon sealing itself to the lip of the earth.

 

Doug Sutton-Ramspeck (writing under the name Doug Ramspeck) is the author of six collections of poetry and one collection of short stories. His most recent book of poems, BLACK FLOWERS (2018), is published by LSU Press. Other recent books include THE OWL THAT CARRIES US AWAY (2018), winner of the 2016 G. S. Sharat Chanda Prize for Short Fiction. His poems and short stories have been published by literary journals that include The Kenyon Review, Slate, The Georgia Review and The Southern Review. He is a two-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.

My Matryoshkas

Shelley Girdner

Greedy doll, so greedy you swallowed
four more like you, each with a rosebud mouth
matching floral blouse and hair kerchief too.
I take you apart in demitasses,
half-cup after half-cup girl.

I can’t ever decide if you’re meant to be
sisters, daughters or a woman
with her past stacked inside her.
I pause over your smallest one,
curved as a spindle.

Is she the baby about to be imprinted,
taught to be a woman with earrings
and black hair held back from her face
in swoops like the swallow’s tail?
Or is she the end of the line,

the last chance to be otherwise?
The least ornate, she’s the only thing solid.
Sometimes, she’s the soul to me,
the tongue of conscience clicking against
the hollow wants of the world.

Others, she’s sadder: when we’re born,
we’re this way, all encased, and despite
the growth, the paint, the layers put on,
there’s still a nub, the bit we push at
but can never make open.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Shelley Girdner is a writer and teacher living in the Seascoast of New Hampshire.  She is author of YOU WERE THAT BIRD (Bauhan Publishing, 2016). Her poems have appeared in The Mid-American Review, Indiana Review and others. She has been a finalist for the Slapering Hol Chapbook contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Evie Lovett-Rainbow Cattle Co. 53

Past Lives

Lisa Rosinsky

Well I was definitely a cat, in one of them,
and I think I might have also been the captive
of a pirate or a robber, someone swashbuckling,
once or twice, because that’s the only recurring
dream I’ve ever had, and I would like to think
I was a Buddhist monk at some point because
that would make me feel better about not devoting
this lifetime to a monastery or an ashram,
and I hope I was an astronaut last time around
or else maybe the Nazca who figured out how
to fly—that’s the only explanation I can think of
for those geoglyphs in Peru, the sand-drawings
that can’t be seen unless you’re floating high above—
or maybe they really were created by extraterrestrials,
in which case, why couldn’t I have been
one of those? I don’t remember any rule
about reincarnations being limited to Earthlings,
but maybe that’s just because the ancients
thought it kind of went without saying.
Which is exactly what I don’t want to do,
what I fear the most: to go, to be totally
and completely gone, without saying.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Lisa Rosinsky was selected as the 2016-2017 Associates of the Boston Public Library Writer-in-Residence. Kirkus called her debut young adult novel, INEVITABLE AND ONLY“an excellent read.” It was a School Library Journal “New and Forthcoming Title to Know About” and one of Barnes & Noble Teen’s top 12 “Most Anticipated Indie Titles of 2017.”

First Song

Joseph Bruchac

Who sang

the first song?

 

What human throat

first set free a note

of joy or sorrow

for another

to hear?

 

My ancestors say

Song was always here.

 

Wind sang

in the stones and trees.

Rivers and streams

sang as they flowed.

 

Birds sang

from the branches,

frogs sang

from the marshes,

insects filled

the summer nights

with songs.

 

But who was the first

of our kind to sing?

 

Perhaps it is best

to say all life is breath

and breath, ah,

breath is song.

 

Vagabond Nurse

Laura Rodley

A nurse is a good person to be
with a vagabond heart,
you can love a stranger instantly,
place your hands lovingly, true love,
upon their body to wash them, bathe them,
soothe them, feel their pulse, ask that
your good energy pass into them, that God
will hold them in peace and their suffering
will diminish, thank you God, for however
long that is possible while you hold your hands
on them, assisting them to stand,
your arms the strength they no longer have,
your shoulders their shoulders,
your hands their hands,
their mouths the one you feed,
and for that short space of time
you are one body and then you leave.
They may not remember even your name,
nurse is all; hey nurse, thank you,
you’re so pretty dear, they say, thank you,
and then out the door to the next person
with your vagabond love, your vagabond heart
that speaks to them with no words,
for you’re both wearing your vagabond heart
outside your chest, your knapsack on your shoulder,
you’re both traveling the same road,
breathing the same breath,
you’re both doing the same exact thing,
riding each minute to the next,
on the long train tracks of breathing,
the smoke stack of time puffing on the clock
on the wall to the next minute, and the next
and for this moment while they look at you
and you look at them holding their hand
to say good-bye you know you’ve both
known each other forever and you’ll meet again
even if the next second their eyes cloud over
and this moment is past, they’ve gone on the train
to their next minute, someone in their memory
is calling them back, here Pearl, will you look at this,
and you shut the door, hold it closely
with both hands so it won’t slam shut,
get in your car and drive away.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Two Poems

Paul Carroll

Salvia

It has stared at us for thirty years,
the scar they drew when your heart
objected to the material world.
That morning the salvia needed trimming
and the sun was brilliant but you
were dying in the windowless room
as if you needed to concentrate
on what was being shed:
only your body
within the body of the world
within a body of stars and so
I hammered your chest without doubt,
as much to keep your shape
as convince your blood to circle on its own.
And I saw in the living an effort to remain
things in a collection of things:
people chatting in lines or gathering in fields
like trinkets or coins.
And I made you keep your membership,
my mouth to yours, blowing, blowing
until they arrived like workers for their queen,
fire engines and a bright ambulance.
I counted in the emergency room
eleven people who touched you or your gurney
or the paraphernalia of hope,
the tubes of air and liquid that tied you
puppet-like to this world before
they cracked your ribs, removed your heart
and rubbed it like a favorite vase.
You stayed,
fragile, yes, but so dimensional
and this morning left a list of things to do:
presents for the twins,
trim the salvia, dinner with friends.

 

Vigil

You could see that she was caught
but wanted no escape, the way she tapped
her chest and refused the hammock chair

that fought her body’s need to be alert,
and looked at the foothills where night herons
woke and flew, and checked her watch to time

the morphine shots for her brother
in the hospice bed just beyond the porch.
She thought of a cartoon character shot

by a cannon and the light shining through.
She wanted that for everything, for the
question on his silent face and the tumor

where his neck and shoulder used to meet.
No comfort in the punctual appearance
of stars, none in her provision of comfort,

she wanted the opposite of time, the sum
of moments when nothing mattered.
And she wanted, but knew, there wasn’t oneness,

no miraculous circle, no rhythm or return,
just the illusion of trees gone blue
in the dark and the skelter of bats

from nothing but hunger and this need
to collect: his cold hands,
his last night, his breath leaking into the grass.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Rainbow Cattle Co. 7 CROPPED by Evie Lovett

Reading the Flamingo’s Smile

Sandra Stone

Nimble and knobby, high-stepping it
is how flamingos do it,
courting adagio under the kliegs,
pretending dark.

Their smile Flora confirmed for herself
after climbing into the pen
before she was pulled from
it (giddy,
gleeful) at the zoo,
conservatory
for the taxidermist.

Everything is inclined that way—to mating.
Flora had read this in a pretty hard book,
averting her eyes from the transparent overlays,
the salacious glassine interleaves,
the anatomically correct dissections.

Birchaven took her in, that entranced
gaze still on her face. Now Flora’s pasting decals,
writing maxims for flamingos and lilies,
the motif of chic shower
doors,
and fake lawns where bevvies
of plastic flamingoes on spikes
give a semblance of wit
to cheap bungalows.

Now, Flora’s framing adages
to be less alone, the crux of being alive. I will so live
as to deserve them.
You
who read this may have other fans to flame,
ghosts to exorcise, rationales, amulets, scalpels, placebos,
plans to change the inexorable décor of the planet, to increase
tea leaves clumping indecipherable
as so much does—
except bird song, and the pumice-like
crests of waves infolded,
insistent in their breakage,
the shrill of the peacock (a scream),
the amiable flight of the cockatiel
on its way to the mailbox
at the heel of Flora’s friend,
and something shivering, orphaned,
with feathers, high-stepping.

So much to be said for the tenants
with binoculars. Flora writes from Birchaven
where birch don’t flourish, she has no one
to dance with now but the hares
ears flagged,
their small inquisitive ovoid heads,
whiskers a form of antennae.

Salud to all who stand on one foot grinning kind of goofy
two-somes listing (sic) to Bésame Mucho
world going on cha cha hoopdie-ha, high-stepping it
ankle after ankle, cadenced, klieg-lit,
absorbed into the arabesque of pitch
a vortex of effervescence
pricked by parasols tipsy
wafting by in that climate
Flora despises, full of
condescension, know-nothings. But,
O, those flamingos, one knee uplifted
seeking their kind,
the populace dervish,
dancing kite-blinded or barbaric.


At Birchaven– RehabilitationCenter? Retirement Village? Nursing Home? Loony Bin?, no matter– Florais obsessed with flamingos in any form: taxidermied, plastic and skewered onspikes, or the pink alive ones for whom she “will so live/ as to deservethem.” This is her quirky “Salud to all who stand on onefoot…”
–Dorianne Laux, 2012 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize Judge


 

Art by Evie Lovett

Two Poems

George Kalamaras

I Make Easy Emptiness

I make easy emptiness of all the washing.
There is a washer woman in my ear. A very large sky. Remove the bees.

It is your name, solid around me, like a scar.
I would forever be grateful if you would call me Japanese scroll.

We pour down the length of one another’s insecurities. Massive peaks.
Tiny people in tiny hats walking past tiny pines over miniature
foot-bridges that somehow stay the rivers’ claim.
One of us seems to eat bread; another polishes a stone.

For so long now I have been dead.
Not in-the-ground dead but certainly not alive with brush stroke and iris.

When you promised me the clean sheets, I assumed you meant
sparrow blood.
Touch me tenderly. Dissolve centuries. Lean on a tree. Our memories
collide and cancel one another into the how of the spilling seed.

The Antelope Tree

It killed you to see it—not the tree
but the antelope leg dangling
from it, part star, part scar,
cached, perhaps, by a big cat
from the hills. A deer not fifty yards
from it, grazing off Sheep Mountain
Road. Wood ticks must be grumbling
her flesh. The live animal,
or the dead one? You are neither
alive nor dead, you think,
the almost-full moon firing
the pines, one day from whole, one chunk
either side of complete. Something eating
its light, or feeding it.

 

Divination, Sky

Wendy Miles

A spool of smoke unwinds across the sky.
Crow clack, cicada, bodies open to the sky.

In 79 AD ash and roasting heat seal an envelope
around Herculaneum; they look but find no sky.

But the heart remains. See it telescope the chest,
long for the moon’s pull, that flight to the sky.

Cyrano knew it—the little magnet in the boat
rocking, hands around the ball, heave of the sky.

Archaeologists excavate a woman: gold bracelets,
divination of pelvis, childless, arms closed to the sky.

I know her. Bracelets tinkle, soles scald on ash.
Her Vesuvius—black caldron dumping the sky.

In a room I dream—a painting of a little blue boat.
Outside the yard is bristled weed, busted rock, sky.


“Divination, Sky” is a mysterious ghazal that unearths a childless woman from the ashes of Herculaneum, dons her gold bangles, and excavates her broken heart.
–Dorianne Laux, 2012 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize Judge


 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Rainbow Cattle Co. 27 by Evie Lovett

Two Poems

Trina Burke

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Faded   earth-toned photograph
at 45 RPMs preserves           the speed of      the roll-away
Davenport        and infant me    balanced on your knees
the speed of     Electric Light     no different      than any other
light     an infant           or rather            an Anna
an Anna Karenina        or both, balanced           on curled-up knees.
“You are someone,”         said     or thought
at the last moment.      “You exist.”       If only
to return           the favor.            My life               at the speed of
avoiding entropy.          To live a little more for
Spend not        one moment       in vain
bored     scratching corduroy                  to the rhythm of
like a washboard.
Who     left the bear       at the laundromat.
The bear           whose overalls were mended.
Who was          resurrected.       on curled-up knees
The bear           whose book       was balanced. The girl
who learned cursive       from the “This book belongs to.”
An inheritance                of shelves.
To say,                “You were someone,”                 iterative,
incantatory.    It is an action.                  It makes.
Even imagined.               It makes us     safe.       A child
at the knee      and “Suffer them.”         To bear
the speed of                     time as one who stays
as if you left                     to force a life                  to live.

 

Contagion

This fever is coming to its crisis. Body prostrate
for much of the day. Why not bite
a bullet or a dowel to weather the throes
of chill and bone torture tactics?
Once there was the upsweep and peignoir,
a-bed for days and weakly lovely. Little
coughs hidden behind pale fingers. Sweetly
to kill with damp silk and atomizers.
But this sick
is ugly—all bone-lock and heave. I will spill it all.
Harper plucks
a familiar tune of grand illusion,
Spreading the sheen of a separate era
over now. Over now. There were nights
when I would venture outside, be
washed cool with dark. But this fever
still has things to tell me. Witness
the spinning opera. Carolina blue tulle
and pancake pallor. Mouths, funnels for
sound. Dancing in the round
and real horses. Real horses! Exertion of the flank,
a real war effort. And of course, doomed
romance. A happy ending never
so pretty as two dead lovers
in the proscenium. Ever the infirm
performance—I am infected, you
have me where you want me. Now.
These days, if I want to imagine a rabbit out of a hat,
a lady cut in half, there must needs be
a suspension of numerous things. Remember
the salt invasion of the sea
and how I thought the chimneys were birds,
scare gull and smoke lung?
This is a similar disorientation. I have never once
successfully avoided the dream of a house
with counterfeit rooms.
The elixir is harsh as a throat ache,
though I do love to finger the cork stopper,
brown glass that contains it.
There might be a place yet for us
to breathe the breeze of a wished-at plan.
Otherwise, might we just call it a day, drowse lead-lidded
and long? Stop with the natter. I’ve forgotten how
to hear music. Did you know that? It doesn’t matter.
I need quiet now. I need wait and a clean, dry handkerchief.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Three Poems

Holly Virginia Clark

Urge

I imagine it’s what breasts feel like
welling up, except this was in my ears
and the tiny roots of my hair, and I wanted to touch
the silver down under her perfectly shingled feathers,
slate-gray, violet, mauve, the iridescent splendor
of a puddle of oil. There were others at the train stop,
no room for conspicuous tenderness. To touch her,
they’d say, just reminds us, every filth smuggled
onto this train, the shiny bars and plastic seats
and godforsaken rutted floor. But every rule
for joy reads Do it, in wild fistfuls, in a devastating
aching embrace, Do it. She won’t hurt me,
not her, not her brethren. I lower my finger, nudge,
the way I’ve done with pet-store cockatiels, hoping
the gracious creature, city-dusted
but clear-eyed, will recognize me and climb on.

West 3rd Street

He pissed on the spinning rear rim
of the truck stopped at the light,
little otter of mischief surfacing
in a brief clear river of his mind,
while the driverside door opened, then slammed,
and he folded his cock away—
the mists closing in—and smiled.
So what happened next—hands on his collar, the crack
in the jaw—I want to redeem,
though I’ve never known a pain so primitive,
a thousand white birds on fire,
and I’ll never know if he were suddenly lucid,
if he were that unlucky, but I hope, at least,
some small salvation, that he was woken
into the body he carries but hardly knows,
a fierce and brimless reckoning of the self
with the self. If pain is the holy rending
that transforms us—the ocean having her way
with our heads against the rock—
maybe he didn’t hear the driver:
Pick up your teeth, maybe only the waves,
saying, Forgive me, forgive me.

Museum of Natural History

If I’m afraid of the hall of earthless burials,
the taxidermied bodies of beasts
we’ve brought down or dug up,
it’s the glass eyes, their soundless, roaring mouths,
the way I’ve wrought every savannah of myself
into some bounded pasture, how the lioness
can’t finish the slay, always the prey
stumbling down, always the tooth
not yet sunk to the vein. Go to the zoo,
all the prowling behind bars, and the cages
we persist in locking, so flimsy, really.
Let’s make love. Let’s make our small family
on the fields of their small families.
Plates in the middle of the ocean
adjust their shoulders and take down islands.
I’m saying what the island said
to the waves: Make me naked.
I didn’t ask to be spared.

 

Toby Gonzalez-Bend

Ballpoints/Homecoming

W.M. Lobko

First week of school all my pens clench up.
Faulty by the boxful, snapped pencil points.
What few words there are are warped.
Chalk shrieks but works. The milk-black
board is a wall between me & someone
named OKBOL RM, who has scrawled
his mirrorish plea: KCUTS MA I. PLEH.
Someone should be the pen tester,
I’ll do it for minimum wage. Someone
should memorize everything everyone says.
As a prank my students sign their essays
in code so I have to sleuth out their identities.
The saddest I have ever been is being wrong.
In the meantime I summon invisible
hurricanes in the margins of their papers,
angry Braille I plan to send to Bic’s
cabal of admen. Writes the first time
every time!
I want to impress that joke
on their boardroom table using an awl.
What I have to say I have to say now:
first word best word, like Ginsberg said,
I hope he’s the incubus of their dreams
with his struck tambourine. Once he read Blake
to a tribal beat at a high school 20 years ago,
a woman I knew was there reported
that was her first encounter with madness.
Maybe. It might have been care, a desire
to chronicle some largeness inside, a thought
I didn’t have for years until that Saturday
that December when I called my father back,
learned a fact, & felt a tiny brass bearing
give in my chest. Black noise poured out.
What if our various desperations never escape?
Not everyone enjoys those rolls of typewriter paper
taped end-to-end together so there’s no stopping,
flying around like a storm of silk drapes
at the eye of which the prophet seizes.
At best we have jetstream swirls of white & blue
tissue shot from air cannons. We have
the big game tonight. Our school colors
become confetti mania, it’s like these firehoses
draw raw hue from a reservoir
I never knew was there. I thought we lived
in the desert & then this warm storm
whites the crowd out. Everyone is shouting
what a killer Homecoming, the clouds
in cut-up riot, & I know it’s only halftime
& nothing official is happening but
the team has to know that here
on the other side of this fluttering wall
we’re all making the same sign: It’s Good.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Two Poems

Sally Rosen Kindred

Britannica Man

This was back when meaning was trapped
in pebbled covers the color of his suit.
This was back when meaning
was the engine up the drive
and you had to shut the heavy book,
hoist it to the shelf before his feet
squeaked ink-black on the foyer tile.
Those long spines lined the wall—yes,
the press of their yellow smells,
pained creak when opened clean
and print small and closed as secrets
of the body, all the bones
whose terms he knew. Inside
they guarded the city he drove to,
charted the engine he steered
down morning streets, and flattened his clinic’s
beds and needs, disease gone gray
and red with root-word news
bound to diagrams,
sheeted still in Latin names. Nights
he came home to them. He’d stop
to drop his coins and keys, head level
with the brown stripe that crossed
their lettered backs and made them brothers.
You couldn’t reach when he was there,
but in the sprawling hours before
you could climb to pull one down and find
Q through S, hiss at pages
thin as breath, move your hands over
Sinew or Signs. Then he’d return,
forehead bent to their handsome gleam.
He’d hold envelopes to the lamp
and prop files against the phone.
He’d make calls and go back out again.
Later, you’d know more,
but back then he was a man
tall as a high shelf, which meant far,
then vanishing, the collar in the door.

All Afternoon

For M, 1938-2010

Grief wants her lean and pink
taking the sidewalk in warm sandals
and a summer dress. Her tenth June
is a hard plum’s shine. The sun is cotton.
Here’s honey in the light
and a car-horn two blocks behind
that has no grip on her body, loping
under the poplars.
Grief says Just now let her be lonely:
it will make the next part sweeter

and puts her sisters ahead on the curb,
the skin on their knees
shining like a wedding. Let her laugh
with them, spin down to the grass.
She can kick her feet high
and swing a shoulder
through the smallest girl’s hair
then rise up still laughing. Grief needs
a red-brick house on the corner
for her to enter. Grief will build it.
And a mother in the kitchen, bent over
some steam lifting. It’s time
for her to touch her mother’s arm,
walk past her to the rose-red chair
with the book in it. It’s time to sit
and let her face find the words like a pulse.
She has all afternoon. Grief wants her back
to the window as the light moves, which it will.
What happens next? I didn’t know her then,
I wasn’t even born. Grief won’t know
her now on the couch at seventy,
curled and mottled
in a pale nightgown. Grief won’t
moan her name. Take her like this instead:
twill pinafore, book in the lap, sprawling back
into dark roses, summer’s arms.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Missing the Illusion of One

Sara Michas-Martin

Hello internal assembly team.
I am un-singular today in this rash of faces.
I sense the careful in me trolling.
An itch welling at the crown.
My shadow: no. yes. fast. approximate.
Operations make up your mind. I’m a looped syllable.
A white point diving and rising all over the map.
Inside, the self complains about duplicate selves.
One self looks out over another
and perceives a you.
Private-encoded self,
ravenous, on-a-roll, exception-
to-the-rule self—they all
dance wildly on the edge of a blanket
the self wants to lie down on
in a meadow with someone else.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Two Poems

Michael David Madonick

River Otters

for Ms. Kelly

My wife does not believe me, in fact
she has started to mock me, to register

in her discourse and demeanor a kind of
flippant disregard for my sincerity. I suppose

if I were Darwin just back from the Galapagos,
or Audubon with dripping carcasses of spoon

bills and egrets, she’d offer me some credence.
But as it is, here in the sad flatlands, where the last

evidence of wilderness was a misguided ground
squirrel that inadvertently nested high in our sugar maple,

she cannot concede to my numerous sightings
of otters. I’ve told her, that I’ve spotted them

by the drainage ditch, crossing the culvert, that
they’re as big as German Shepherds, sleek as seals,

hunch-backed and quick. She wants to know
if they talk, if they speak some Midwestern tongue,

if I’ve given them golf lessons, taken them to La Fiesta
the Mexican restaurant I’m so clearly fond of, and

when I’m late to get home, if a whole caravan of river
otters set the rail crossing to flash and barricade the road.

I’m thinking, even Isabella only denied Columbus for a year.
But at this point, there’s no convincing her– and even though

I know the world is round, there’s no harm in letting it be
flat. It’s not unlike my love for her, she can’t see it the way

I do, how it plays in the waters and out, in every natural and
unnatural vision I embrace.

Jungle

Clouds mitigate the sun. In this
there is no defense. One can stipulate

that clear summer days are often unreasonably
intruded upon by vaporous encumbrances.

And that finally, is just another way
of saying the same thing. All of it

provokes challenge, update, a valid
interruption of what one sees. The leopard,

for instance, lounging on the limb
can only account for the weapon of himself, his dangling legs,

the inventory of claw and tooth. He has no knives.
He is the lance of himself–that which he throws

at the zebra and the wildebeest. No lawyers
concocting mediation. Nature does not

encourage the tête-à-tête. Form is a matter
for a judge, critics to make their case for.

In the mean-
time, no matter what, no one wants to go

hungry.

 

CROPPED Lovett. Rainbow Cattle Co. 21

Back Porch, Twilight

Murray Silverstein

Back porch, twilight, garden on its late-summer binge.
Striders all over the pond. My mother called them Jesus bugs.

They don’t, though, walk so much as land, dimple-&-drift
on water, give it—you can almost hear—a sideways thwack

to launch a sideways hop. Or hump, they hump the water
& drift! Sparks of manic desiring alternate with perfect ease.

You, too, are a body; sink down in the butterfly canvas chair
and watch. Twenty minutes most. Each ripple

cradles a wiggle of vanishing summer light. But first
more mania: into the dying a gnat storm is rising,

a-jitter, like a worried thought: oh dear, oh dear, the day
is ending, but ending inside—wait, wait—the endless day.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

The Herd

David Starkey

What is it about my seaside town
ninety miles north of LA

a chattering of starlings, a labor of moles

that makes the washed-up celebrities
who have washed up here

a pandemonium of parrots, a clat of worms

act like animals in the aggregate
each individual bent to the collective sway

a fleet of mudhens, a flock of lice

They migrate from bar to restaurant
and back to bar dying to be recognized

a kettle of vultures, a mischief of mice

the sidekick in some distant sitcom
the beef- or cheesecake who once turned heads

a quiver of cobras, a troop of apes

but they pass among us diffuse
and unnoticed like sunlight in shade

a lounge of lizards, a scold of jays

Two Poems

Chris Featherman

These Gifts (Letter to Brooklyn During War)

Dear Brian, You’re right: there’s nothing left
in war but to believe in a woman with three names
who gives me mandarins and to mourn our friends
as kings but not kings and to lift each stone
that fell to build the city we find underneath
and I ask her about the second name, did it come
from the mother, does it tell of a place,
as if we drew ourselves distinctly in the stars
and gave our fruit for the flowers, as if our cities
grew in pairs, waiting to meet in the earth,
are those above the stones the ones that wait,
did the third name come from the father,
do we mark ourselves as thrones, but not for men,
did we build our cities together, do we trap
the ruins within, and how did we hold the dark
to broaden its hunter, to fit his belt with our eyes
and not mandarins, as if to the mark of names
we ask the stars and the cites twine and bang
as twins, do the names rhyme, did they come
looking for wilderness in the first, the given,
and what did we say long ago to die but once,
and not as kings dragging our dark robes
to see the dust, promising to arrive as mice bones,
not to the last wood, but to the first place
as friends to horses, restless in their bells.
March 25, 2003
Barcelona

 

Interview with a Blacksmith

Jaen

You already know God my head
is anvil these breaths your work
in the bellows my shoulders huge
and hunched from holding still
your precious gift in the roaring forge
and I hammer your daily hymn of ash
in the sun-stroked dust I work
from low-rising hallelujah sparks
to almond moons whirring
dusk in the groves deep in the vines
I forge steel from unconfessed
dew drips on the matinal thorns
a sirocco your gazette from Ceuta
the night a fig in an olive pit
my penitent kiss in the falling
peen the clenched tongs beatify
iron into steam my prayers for
Ave Maria a son the cooling pail
so shallow in my brutal hands
no chalice for these parched lips
for these dry cracked gloves
apprenticed into grip long ago
no mercy for my wine-stained apron
hung neatly in a twisted carob tree

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

The Bull

Ron Carlson

When they led me
into the China Shop
I didn’t mind,
though it was a bright place
and the wooden floor creaked.
But the way they watched,
smirking at the windows
filled my bull’s heart
with a sadness
so large and fragile
you could have cracked it
with a whisper.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Rainbow Cattle Co. 51 by Evie Lovett

Two Poems

Bradley Harrison

As His Mouth Begins Pouring From Disturbing Heights

This is the sound of the terror
of isms Of my rickshaw heart beating
yours

The night bleeding you or bleeding from you

The child awoke with desire to swallow
a supernatural animal

She will not be touched She won’t come
to the phone

This is the sound of a mirror
in pieces Of Madonna and Child
falling down stairs

So long in the kitchen
So long on the porch swing

The polaroids weren’t vivid enough No high
way town no shutdown
sawmill No earthquake of hands
dismantling hands

Down the mountain clutching shocks
of weeds His mouth and answer came
in burlap

Disorder the earth Sweetheart
go back to sleep

 

Flow

in the cracks in the mud / in the dried up / creek
bed we buried / you six months silent / again in metastatic
burning / this is the part where you / fall in a moment
into all / the same sounds into

cracks / in the dried up mud unspoken / perhaps / with
a purpose / white as teeth / delicious lips split / your torn
to shreds sleeve / this is the part where you / take off
your shoes / lay your lovely head

down / buried in me like broken sleep / we heard a train
creep out your pocket / plume smeared perhaps / with purpose / good
morning bright one / could you water the lilies / you who love
the rain but not the raining

unbuttoned by another hand / in the cracks in the mud / we burned you
in birdsong / in shameless orchard air / lush and stagger / in the woods
yet hovering inside / the feeling of dream / in plastic sack tension / we
came back in September / you were standing there

wearing its flow like a dress / the sound of the creek / no more its own
language / sky flowering from cracks / in the ends / of the earth
blooming hard in soft places / you who stain the wind / with scattered
leaves / as the trees lean to you / pull your petals apart

 

Art by Evie Lovett

Evie Lovett-Rainbow Cattle Co. 1

Three Poems

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Tía Genoveva

Mi Tía Genoveva
la más bonita de todas 
never married.
I never cared to know
why this was so.
I was just grateful
she was always there
to hold us, muy fuerte.
Her long, thin arms
warmed us when the North wind
wheezed, like an old man,
through the thin walls
of our house in Mexico.
Her gentle hands
turned into feathers
and tickled our bellies
when the drums of fear
beat frantically in our chests
because our parents’ love
had given birth to a tornado
that sent the furniture flying
across the room and broke the portraits
of my mother in her wedding dress.
Her words turned into powdered sugar
as fine as the crystals she put
under our tongues to sweeten
the bitter taste of our salty tears.
When the fight was over,
and the angry silence
in that house was deafening,
her songs had wings.
They were pajaritos, flying
overhead, soaring with harmony,
divinely calm.

 

La Bruja

All our lives, our wretched
next-door neighbor, La Bruja,
has spit and snarled
every time we tossed the ball
or chased the cat into her yard.
Monday through Friday,
she’d strike a match
and light a candle
for the Virgen de Cobre
or the Sacred Heart of Jesus
to help her as she set up shop
inside the crooked frame
of her living room window—
prophetically reading
the tarot cards.
Monday through Friday
we clung, like bats,
to the chain-linked fence
and chanted bogus
incantations at her clientele.
She’d swear and shout
and run outside
hurling holy water
across the fence,
like John the Baptist,
snagging her long, thin
dress on the spiny thorns
of my mother’s rosebushes.
We’d scream, laugh,
and scurry away
in mock hysteria
when she damned
my father’s bloodline.
“You are raising savages
demonios—” she’d screech
when she’d catch
a glimpse of my mother
hanging two dozen socks
along the crowded edges
of our recumbent clothesline.
But Mami was always too tired
to notice her burning crosses
and tearing rosaries in our direction.
All she wanted was some peace and quiet.
“I curse your womb…”
she used to yell at my mother,
who was too busy
sweeping soapy water
over the edge of the porch
to listen to her wild conjurations.
But the venom in that old Bruja’s blood
runs thick and dark,
because Mami’s cancer
started in that very spot.
Today,
La Bruja got all dolled up.
She combed down
her wiry, black-tinted hair,
put on white gloves,
and even came to my mother’s
funeral. After all, it’s Sunday
and business is always slow
on God’s day of rest.
My sisters tell me she’s
crying now.
I do not know,
I won’t look at her.

 

My First Posada

It was the day of my first posada.
I was both nervous and excited.
For months, we’d been practicing
at the Salon de Colores with our catechism
teachers and nuns. That night, we
were driven across town to re-enact
the Holy night en Español.
“Os pido posada,” I harmonized
the familiar lyrics even as I struggled
with and straightened the new ribbons
Mami had put in my curled hair.
My younger sisters, Alicia and Virginia,
like pretty roses on the vine, swayed
delicately from side to side and leafed
through the programs in their hands.
At the Victorian house in an affluent
neighborhood, los ricos had finally let us in.
The Christmas lights twinkled in our
eyes and the reindeer in the driveway
were taller than most of us. We marveled
at their beauty as we walked cautiously
beside them. My sisters graciously
took hot cocoa and cookies from the
lady of the house.
The same blonde woman in a festive
dress called me “Gordita” as she patted
my chubby cheeks and handed me hot
cider in a china cup and two sticks
of celery on a Christmas napkin.
My face burned with shame, and the tears
rolled down my face before I realized
I was crying.
Gracias,” I said, as I curtsied and walked
away. Outside, I hid among the prim
hedges and pretended not to care about
the music and the laughter coming from
the tall, bright windows of that house.
A thin, blonde boy in a dark gray suit
came cautiously across the lawn.
“Hello,” he whispered and smiled.
His breath was laced with the sweet
scent of piloncillo and the pumpkin
empanadas in his pockets were still
warm when he unwrapped them
and placed one gently in my hand.
The cold of winter warmed my cheeks
and I blushed a bright, deep, red.
We stood together, without talking,
nursing our warm pastries, feasting
on the silence of the blessed night.

 

Art by Evie Lovett

When Elijah Pritchett Goes to the Gym

Julie Marie Wade

for my swolemates

I sometimes go with him, & so does our friend James.
I joke it is like a “mind gym,” but not in the cultish, self-help sense of the
phrase.
Our gym is called Humana, which we like because we’re secular
humanists.
The workout is part pumping iron & part peripatetic method.
I learn that I can always lift more than I think I can.
I wish it worked the other way—that I could lift things just by thinking
about them.
In other words, I wish I were a secular levitationist.
I learn that the ancient Greeks had pornographic images etched onto the
bottoms of their soup bowls.
I learn that James can always lift more than I think he can.
I learn that Elijah used to play in a band, which is not surprising.
What is surprising is that he’s old enough to have a daughter graduate
from high school & move out on her own.
She works at Nancy’s Bagels where I go on Sundays—being a secular
humanist—& looks just like him.
I learn the deliberate blond hairs Elijah leaves under his lip are called a soul
patch
.
I ask why, & he doesn’t know, which is really surprising, because I
count on Elijah to know everything.
James has an iPhone, so we can look it up.
I learn that dumbbells & barbells are not synonyms.
We learn that the soul patch came into prominence during the 1950s &
60s among “musician types.”
We think Elijah qualifies as a “musician type,” so he can keep his soul
patch.
I want James to grow a handlebar mustache, which I think would look
fetching with his red hair.
We make a pact to grow our hair Crystal Gayle length, then break it
almost immediately.
I learn if there is a way to make an exercise harder, Elijah will do it.
I learn that locus arcis means something important to Elijah in Latin.
I learn that Elijah & James disagree about the relative musical genius of
Peter Cetera.
I like that his last name reminds me of Etcetera, one of my all-time
favorite words.
I have still never heard his music.
I learn that Elijah was named for the prophet Elijah because his father was
high at the time & listening to The Doors & thinking how nobody
gets out of this life without dying—nobody except Elijah.
James & I don’t have great, psychedelic stories about our names.
James & I like to get high, but Elijah doesn’t.
We like to drink soda, & Elijah likes to drink bourbon, & once we all
drank this strange green tea that looked like mushed-up lima beans in
a vegetarian restaurant, even though none of us is vegetarian.
That was a fun night.
I learn that I like being one of the boys sometimes, better than being one
of the girls.
I learn that I miss them when I skip the gym for TV or go out to girly
yoga instead.

 

Self-Portrait #21

Denise Bergman

All evening my tongue

a manic magician in a submerged metal trunk
unknotting constraint.

My novice contortionist tongue
fixated on the gum’s

suture threads
thin as bakery string, thick as old rope mooring.

They dissolve, the dentist said, without
procrastination

but my jittery tongue has no buds for patience,
can’t savor suspense.

Waking this morning
only sleep is stuck to my teeth

scraggly fibers, whole carefully drawn stitches
dislodged and gone.

Flesh released.
The magician’s second secret—

where did it go.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez