THE TREES, AS IF OVERNIGHT
I’ve been carrying around your book
like a life. Night a dress I slip on. We cross
many bridges together. Streetlamps on the far bank
flicker like a birthday. Somewhere nearby
a party starts to take off. A merry-go-round
spins on its axis, the river bottom a forest
of zebra mussels. Under what snag of trunk
does the hook lodge to reel us in? Last time
I wore the red Chinese dress you said You look like
and stopped. Here, there’s no shortage of cafés.
We lean in moonpatches beneath an awning.
Streets cast off their names. I find it impossible
to synchronize our longings, yet it seems
that a stopping-off point has been reached.
We navigate by how the lights look on water.
It’s your holiday I’m taking with me, after all.
J.L Conrad is the author of A Cartography of Birds (Louisiana State University Press). Her poems have appeared in Pleiades, Third Coast, Jellyfish, Salamander, Mid-American Review, The Laurel Review and Forklift, Ohio, among others. She currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is working toward her PhD in literary studies.
AFTER BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
I am watching them fucking
and of course it is fictional
but only in the way that all
fucks are fictional in that all touch
fails the skin all skin fails
the heart and in failing
ideas form and mumble
forever God I can prolong
this suffering I can grab
your ass a bit more
than the verb will let me
pull my love through yours
push you afterwards when
walking toward coffee
on concrete we kiss
in the November grey
and grow fascinated
by the caterpillar root
for it to make it to grass
you can do it you can
until the kiss stakes
out another boredom
caves into another
hollow the way water
dries the skin there is
more on the other
side of your horizon
turning until we settle
on simulacrum it’s fine
let’s stop inventing
the leaves these trees
forgot so I can forget
my body in a movie theater
saying they are only
pretending as the pretend
grass embraces the pretend
caterpillar its story
for us is over lights up
and into the cold
we can say with
certainty is not no
it is not pretending.
Dan Chelotti is the author of x (McSweeney’s, 2013) and two chapbooks, The Eights (Poetry Society of America, 2006) and Compost (Greying Ghost Press, 2015).
It is always October when I allow
a furrow of lightning in. What a fool--
to want everything the skin can know.
A window is the cruelest part
of any house. It tames the whole blue
orchestration of sky. My heart, inert,
wants a little continuity, just enough
to survive the bolt, mind intact,
bones branching with electricity.
I never said it would be easy.
Will I know the noise and gold
of these backbones?
It’s not love that calls me out the sill
to where the animals are unafraid.
It is thirst. I would swallow every thought.
I want my place in a snarl of laurels--
neglected, wholesome, and unmade.
Give me my hour with the immortals.
Meghan Maguire Dahn grew up in the middle of the woods, alongside fisher cats and deer, beavers and coyotes, and a whole unintended aviary. Her first poem was published in Highlights Magazine and read primarily in waiting rooms by children nervous about getting shots or stitches. Her work has also appeared in Boston Review, the Long River Review, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Cartographer, and ellipsis…a journal of art and culture. She was a winner of the 2014 Discovery/92nd Street Y Poetry Prize (judges: Eduardo Corral, Rosanna Warren, Susan Mitchell, and John Ashbery). She is currently completing her MFA at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and lives steps away from Manhattan’s only forest.
My brother insists that cracking melon seeds bears relation to speech. The only content has been eaten. Shell empty, no content remains. Live action then silence or, at the most, echo. We fill bottle after bottle with husks. When we are on our own, carving our names into trunks in the lychee grove, he cuts his hand. The knife slips, slicing his thumb and forefinger. As blood covers his arm, my brother is firework and flag, bright pain and strange happiness. How does one work with chaos as a material for life? I can’t predict how the sap of the tree and the blood of the fist will behave! I perch on the branch, touch my heel, grasp my right foot in my left hand, hold cold foot in warm palm and think Now I know myself by heart. Now I know my heart, too. The palm shows the measure of the trunk; the trunk the measure of the torso. I distinguish the layers of my fingers; I feel areas of pain, plumes of pain. Do you see these living figures? I ask. They are flashes of lightening that resemble ideas. They make me understand from there to here. On our way to the hospital, we meet a woman sweeping the street. She picks up a wrapper, spits on it, and presses it to his cut. When she was a child, she says, buying flowers was very bourgeois, but she bought tissue paper and brought it home to make roses. Ropes of bright red firecrackers hang the length of the skyscrapers. Lit, they rip across eye and ear with delicate violence as the smell of gunpowder floats back. The real beauty of the Roman candle, the bottle rocket, or the fire-flower is that, when you ignite it, it fans into new forms. If you hold it in your hands when it lights, fingers become petals of paper and flame. All these symbols—paper, gunpowder, pine trees—I hold these elements in my hands and I ignite them to see what may be. In the hospital, he shakes with pain on the dingy sheets. I curl up at the foot of the bed. If I shift, the mattress exhales a scent like earth, an inner malady of the sea, a city that has invaded a sleep incautious and entire. I love this flow of sleep that comes down on me like snow as I play dead. Death curdles around me. I hold his foot to comfort him. His attention stops at the thin part of the world. Linen becomes sand and milk, becomes a caress on the skin of my brother who, by playing dead, becomes all child and enters a new experience of home, the tributary of his sources. The resting child is encircled by the impersonal. To it, he owes his sudden firmness, perpetually destroying, perpetually rebuilding. Blood, too, is a tissue. “姐” he mutters. Sister. He sucks red ropes back into sleep.
Mary Hickman is the author of Wildlife (Ahsahta Press, 2015). Her poems have also appeared in Boston Review, Colorado Review, jubilat, and elsewhere. She works for the International Writing Program in Iowa City, Iowa and is at work on an artist’s book.
The moon in me is
Salty waves reach up to feed
Pedestrians scented with beach
More and more the outer world is enough
A world long with exit, chug
A peeling, lizard-teeming terrace
Palm berries divorced from palm trees chatting up
A part of me belongs to wedlock
But what does
Originally from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Alen Hamza immigrated to the United States when he was fifteen. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Better: Culture & Lit, Fence, Forklift, Ohio, Narrative, and elsewhere. He received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas-Austin, where he served as the editor-in-chief of Bat City Review. He is the recipient of a Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship in Provincetown for the 2014-1015 year.
SELF-PORTRAIT AFTER MY EX-LOVERS SELF-PORTRAIT
i’m eating myself. my happy stick figure
stands in the funnel of a meat grinder, waiting
to be cranked into little tubes like play dough
or beef. the part of me that is happy is the part of me
that is dull. but the version that eats is manic:
mouth open under the hole-plate, jaw dislocated
to fit in all the me i want to ruin. my ex-lover
has written in blue at the bottom of the page,
all caps: YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME.
now i’m perplexed. who doesn’t know
whom? let’s try something different: say
we are both in the image, he & i.
say he’s cranking that machine & i’m a bony body
with a parenthetical grin. say his irises are black & wide
& looking up at what he will devour. say i can feel
my feet, the twiggy metatarsals splintering
before he swallows them whole. say my little frame
thinks, this is how it’s supposed to be. say
when the neck of me reaches the gears,
their cut teeth churning, i begin to have doubts
Raena Shirali is from Charleston, SC, and currently lives in Columbus, OH, where she is earning her MFA in poetry at The Ohio State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Banango Street, Better: Culture & Lit, The Boiler, Boston Review, Fogged Clarity, Four Way Review, Gulf Coast, Muzzle Magazine, Ostrich Review, Pleiades, Quarterly West, and The Nervous Breakdown. She recently won the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, as well as a 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize. She currently serves as the Reviews Editor for The Journal.
P R O B L E M S O F B E A U T Y (Sparse Rhyme)
scene: Enter foreman, fluid as time, to offer Theas his help. To praise the particular plumpness of her lips, and no other. Her voice, light as beer foam. To say the body, sublime, streaked by child:
P O S T S C R I P T (with news of the author’s miraculous rebirth)
scene: exeuent omnes, piously. The stage returns, slowly, to its original bareness: populated now by the angel of indistinct peony and his dog. Who ordered these stand-up comedians? Who supplied them with a cheese tray and drink-tickets? Every angel is boring. In the distance, I see a figure of celestial singleness come to purge our English stage:
Toby Altman is the author of two chapbooks, Tender Industrial Fabric (Greying Ghost, 2015) and Asides (Furniture Press, 2012).
POEM ABOUT THE WAY YOU CAN BE LOOKED AT AND DISAPPEAR
A man compares you to the night sky
the wonder of a darkness
that cannot be grasped.
Next to a flyer for Ed’s Pizza and Wings
two women saying
I never see her
and the dog
she very mad. White people
am I right?
In the Laundromat I should mention
it’s dumb to be this
moody in public.
Sometimes she don’t wear underwear
they have holes
they like boys
they turn Muslim but they not.
Being too tired to complete
an empathy questionnaire.
I tell my husband people marry
have two three wives
One from New Jersey
My husband I ask how a husband do it
he say I don’t know
I have only one wife.
Wanting to go
to an all-night dance party.
The guys married them for
you know what I mean?
There is a laugh track.
The Amish they live in peace
they love each other
they not like greedy
But they have you know
a black arc over the window.
Here tubes of light kick on
Twenty years I don’t say anything.
Seven thousand U.S. dollars for this
washer/dryer in basement.
I wanted a husband less than
I wanted to be a wife.
His job in the house vacuuming
cleaning the bathrooms
I was reading The Metamorphoses
making a spreadsheet of what women
can turn into
to avoid what:
cow, water, swan, reeds.
Alright that’s three things.
Wow he do good.
I was supposed to be contemplating a still mood
a lovely way of speaking.
when you become a piece of property,
a purse made out of teeth.
Stephanie Cawley is from southern New Jersey, and is currently an MFA student at the University of Pittsburgh. Her poems have appeared in Word Riot, Linebreak, The Collagist, Boxcar Poetry Review, and elsewhere.
is his. None of my
write back. So many
carrier pigeons fall stiffly
from the sky. Locusts.
Omens. I’m not the first
woman to wear
what I am asked to.
I’m not the first woman
to give him the view
I knew he wanted.
When he bites, my
blood is whiter than
his teeth. He’s dripping
a river now, spitting
in my half-closed
like a child. Our sins
stack up inside
us. Many years
from now I’ll hear
some news of him
Originally from Georgia, Jess Smith received her MFA in poetry from The New School. Her work can be found in Sixth Finch, Ghost Town, The Best American Poetry Blog, Lumina, and other journals. She currently lives and works in New York, NY.
WEPT ALL DAY, DIDN’T KNOW WHY
Saints are those who do not live amongst the people.
When I first met a saint I placed it tenderly between
two halves of a sandwich & left it to the wolves. Suchly
did I observe that no animals came to eat it. At last
one deer pawed the sandwich & nibbled the bread.
Some birds came over to hold a slice up to the sky
like a banner announcing God’s glory. By this time
the saint was unclothed with its face in the dirt.
I felt sorry &
shut it back into its walnut shell. I whispered sweet
gospels. I made a proper burial for it on my tongue.
For a saint must die in its own language. Then
I was like, Okay, & drove home
in my imaginary vehicle splattered with bird droppings.
I became small from crying. A pulley system geared
until it snowed inside of me. Good grief I said. It was time
to bring my hands together over a woman’s body & worship.
Time to turn off all the faucets God had forgotten about.
Long is my journey to all the empty restaurants crammed into a walnut shell.
Irreversible is my decision to eat the browned defeated apple
on my way to the bathroom. Now nobody knows me. Not even God
knows me, He who pares his fingernails my whole life long.
Like the saints I will now be stingy with my love &
pave a road out of myself so it may be traveled by those
hungry for bread. Night, reckon us back into the original loom.
Braid our hair into the branches so we cannot move,
so we may be happy.
If you see a saint in the road please put it back.
Taisia Kitaiskaia was born in Russia and raised in America. Her poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Smoking Glue Gun, A Riot of Perfume, Poetry International, and Narrative. She is an MFA candidate at the James A. Michener Center for Writers and also serves as oracle for the Ask Baba Yaga advice column.
From L’Heure Bleue
After a seizure,
my epileptic friend says
he recognizes strangers.
Every face looks familiar,
the only sign
that something’s wrong.
I feel this way all the time now.
Petit mal – little bad.
My eigengrau isn’t gray, but red.
The mind zags diagonal,
on its own thoughts,
where the grass
is worn down.
I don’t care about sex
and that, my friend says,
makes me sexy.
Oh, I say,
I would have liked
to have had a sister.
Elisa Gabbert is the author of The Self Unstable (Black Ocean, 2013) and The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
23 WALL STREET
The missing chunks of granite
do not exist, except
a Whiteread undertakes
to cast them now
in the deadly pallor
of Plaster of Paris,
or unless a few
were saved, to view
in horror, or to honor
the memory lost
a little everyday as
we go by without notice
where the anarchist
drew his cart next to
the walls of Morgan Bank
and blew it up, horse
and all, in service of
an ideal which may already
have come to pass
and now has passed away:
success being the rung
Keith Althaus is the author of two books: Rival Heavens (1993) and Ladder of Hours (2005). He has poems forthcoming in Ploughshares and Hotel Amerika. He lives in North Truro on Cape Cod.
The peonies in the porcelain
As the white lamp
Of the moon
Into your world.
Your luminous body
Beneath the clean white sheets.
Let the bright germ
Entirely. Like a thought,
I cannot stop.
Cynthia Cruz is the author of Ruin, The Glimmering Room, and Wunderkammer which is forthcoming from Four Way Books in October of this year. She also writes essays and art reviews. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn.
from RADIANT ACTION
O vicious American accompaniment
O flight of the maple against the feathers
of my face, the legal pad beside me
with my notes on I Remember
I don’t remember so much as I attend
as closely as possible to whatever’s right
in front of me, then I dream Blast-off IPA
and the utility lines breezing, fireplace blazing
as it’s once again turned cold
Soon enough though
spring will come, and the train will be
torrential, the rain will be covered
with graffiti to soak us, soak us good
and soak us all, so we can grow
into summer Between now and then,
I plan to listen intermittently, intently
to the rooms of the house and also
to Rooms of the House, the new record
by La Dispute, limited edition blue vinyl,
“There are bridges over rivers There are
moments of collapse There are drivers
with their feet on the glass” it begins,
and I end
But, when I’m not
doing that, I will stumble down the street
against the voices of zombies or the saints
go marching in I will think about
the marked contrast between the beautiful
pounding too loud parts and the purring
completely too soft parts of this life, all of it
so much more pronounced than feels comfortable
(it occurs to me, right here right now) in this
buttery light, the highest high heights and
the lowest low lowly-nesses I almost wrote
lonelinesses a decidedly mixed bag, I guess
Now scatter some wildflower seeds in the yard
The birds are already building new nests,
building new nests in a hurry to get lucky
The sky cranks up its best cloudless blue
condition And I keep looking
for a new way to sing it, someone
or something I can sing to
Matt Hart is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless (Typecast Publishing, 2012) and Debacle Debacle (H_NGM_N Books, 2013). A co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking & Light Industrial Safety, he lives in Cincinnati where he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and plays in the band TRAVEL.
I WANT TO BE ALIVE
More than anything I want to be alive
I want to jiggle
I want to jiggle on you
And urinate on your backspan
I want you to eat my menstrual blood
And soft juices
I want to eat your shit until I dream
I want you to come shit all over me
I want to bury my vomit in your shit
I want you to kiss me hard hard
In the nighttime
And not give up
I don’t want to be a thing
I want to be becoming
I want to be the nighttime with you
You know, I loved you
I loved you
I was wrong
POEM FOR MY FRIEND
Is it possible that it is grief that brought us together
Yes it is
It is possible
Dear friend, we sat on the sun-soaked fields
But I would have a strawberry with you anywhere
Or when they said of Julius Caesar: that his life was gentle
Dear friend, I would paint your eyes anywhere
The elements so mixed up in me
That Nature might stand up and say: Now this is a man!
And when they burn me up into the trees
I hope you are the trees
The set of neat green things
Come waiting for me
I hope you are the bushes
I hope you are the neat green bushes
There waiting for me
I AM A CORPSE
I am a corpse
And you are a corpse
And in the nighttime
I see your arm on me and it is dead already
And my arm is dead already
And I look at my belly, already blue
And it is barren and empty
And my lack of pain is also a kind of death
And I drift off to sleep and then I wake
And it is all dying
Why? Because a demon is after me
And he she it has been
Since the day I was born
What an unrepentant ass I must have been
In my past lives
Or what a soulless fish I must have fished
In this one
I can feel the endless stream of words
That are not flesh
They might as well be
Dreams and too
It is the work of corpses
Come on all you corpses
Just dance and fuck
I just don’t want to animate
This rancid flesh
Like you do
So I will say goodbye
And I love you
And I never did
I never knew what feeling was
I only felt the pain
The sun the moon the trees the stars
The animals the birds the words
I only felt the pain
The things the you inflicted on me
Dorothea Lasky is the author of four full-length collections of poetry: ROME (Liveright/ W.W Norton), as well as Thunderbird, Black Life, and AWE, all out from Wave Books. She is the co-editor of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry (McSweeney’s, 2013) and the recipient of a Bagley Wright Fellowship for Poetry. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and lives in New York City.
– Both things, I think. But less the hesitation of many hands
touching the stunned dethronement of the master’s body, than
their way of touching it again; again. Each time, more surely.
Having weathered the field – sneer of wind
making its own field, then the field
as it is more generally, or lately
has been – they’ve arrived at intimacy as a form
of letting what needn’t seem difficult become
in fact quite difficult, because now
less far. Now lying feels all over again, hand
over hand, instinctive and like a not-yet-gone
but old tradition by accident stumbled
up against and recognized immediately, same
slosh and return the water’s always made,
the bucket does, getting pulled
from a well. This has drawn
Carl Phillips is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Silverchest (2013) and Double Shadow (2011), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Other books include Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006, a translation of Sophocles’s Philoctetes (2004), and Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry (2004). A finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, his honors include the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Award, the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry, and award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Academy of American Poets, to which he was elected a Chancellor in 2006.
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN WE WANT TO ELECT A FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
First, build a terrace that is built from the other terraces in your neighborhood,
because you should start out looking very high.
Like you were looking for the beginnings of the Midwest or Baltimore.
Or the beginnings of multiplication or discipline.
What do you begin with at a beginning?
Probably not questions.
The men I hired are making fun of me because they are much higher than I am right
And I’m leading by example.
Frank Lloyd Wright built Fallingwater so that there was as much square footage of
terrace as there was indoor space.
And he didn’t even care about Presidents.
Not like I do. I’m a ewe in sheep’s clothing. I’m a persuasive argument.
I’m a parachute that’s been packed away for portability.
Which is to say I’m the most sinewy mother fucker you’re going to meet who’s
building a terrace
that piles on top of other terraces so that there’s no question where the top of the
whole United States is.
And it takes a steady eye to see high enough where it’s all supposed to come
I could put the Midwest in Baltimore.
Though I’d leave my hometown in the middle of this country.
And I’d leave Atlanta in Georgia. Because Atlanta doesn’t like to be messed with.
But in the end I’m only building a terrace. It will look like a bridge.
But more like bridges crossing over other bridges.
I see it like a treehouse that keeps getting multiplied by the sky.
That doesn’t allow children to live inside, though, because of the shoddy
That looks like raised highways piled one on top of the other so that whatever
decorative elements had been molded in the concrete probably got pushed down
by the weight.
And everything could collapse at any moment.
AN ELLIPSIS COULD BE WHAT LANGUAGE IS LIKE WHEN IT’S STYROFOAM
A leg made of styrofoam is barely a leg.
Which is what it feels like when you have your knee taken away from you.
Your leg is only kind of attached.
And your stomach starts to fill with styrofoam.
And your breath actually gets populated by styrofoams.
Fortunately, they gave me another leg. But it was still only styrofoam.
Fortunately, because up to this point my leg had required so much scaffolding that I
was unable to speak clearly.
The scaffolding was an elaborate operation.
Like Berlin in the 1990s, when it was being rebuilt.
And all of the streets were scaffolding.
Along with the fastest automobiles.
Along with the news stations, and all the news crews.
Scaffolded together so that you could understand how complicated the full story was
even after just 30 minutes of air time.
How do you remind yourself that life is constructing without any thought about the
materials you’re being given?
I live in mountains, among mountains, between mountains. And my only relationship
is to a tree.
I don’t care that there are many trees here.
I need help. I need help walking. Before my hands are styrofoam. Or my arms. And
I’m falling down. With the tree that I know laughing. Because a tree doesn’t fall.
At least that’s what the tree thinks.
Kent Shaw’s first book, Calenture, was published in 2008. He has published poems in Boston Review, Ploughshares, Handsome Magazine and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor at West Virginia State University and poetry editor at Better Magazine.