from “This Dark Apartment” by James Schuyler
Matthew Schnirman received his MFA from the University of Arizona. He lives in Seattle where he was a fellow at the Richard Hugo House. His poetry is forthcoming in CutBank and Whiskey Island.
That old image of myself as
hero-victim, just a threadbare
pipe dream—guilt motivates me.
Guilt, shame: my father’s eyebrows
raised in surprise from behind his glasses,
his hand rising up to touch my shoulder
but then dropping down away.
My mother’s anguished, knowing look.
The highway I turned
onto the wrong way.
Emaciated, baring track marks
on her wrists, the girl who obsessively
talked to me about medications and
then, years later, died of an overdose.
The accident was the accident.
In the long backseat of an empty car,
I lie with no one else, no driver, rolling.
Daniel Kraines is a PhD candidate at the University of Rochester. He has previously published in Salmagundi, Redivider, Box of Jars, and H.O.W. Journal. He received his MFA from Boston University. In the summertime, he teaches at Skidmore College.
Remember, my mother said, they found Adam Walsh in pieces,
buttoning my jacket, Have a good day, sending me off to school
with my brothers, other boys whose bodies were bundled
so we could walk to the elementary school
directly across the dead-end four-house street in DeLand,
Florida, two hundred and fifty miles and ten years away
from where Adam was taken outside a Sears store.
The dead end street, road severed by woods--
I couldn’t make it lose its prophecy. Adam Walsh
in pieces whenever we went to school, the supermarket,
to my grandparents’ house in the same sleepy town.
In pieces, I imagined his little kid-body by the river,
re-assembled, the cuts displaying the land beneath,
America in pieces and me holding the ghost-boy’s hand,
crossing the street, too afraid to look up, at what was coming.
In school we play King vs. Queen, boys chasing girls
until all but one is erased. Then it was Hangman.
On the chalkboard, a neck in a noose, a word underneath--
letters looming from the opaque fog, death filling each white dash:
one grinning boy hanged another.
His smile: gums riddled with black blanks where his teeth
would have grown if he had become himself instead of me.
I pictured him ahead of me in the lunch line, waiting for his turn
at four-square and tether-ball, and in the Winn Dixie, in the dairy aisle,
holding a milk carton next to his face, another missing child’s portrait
printed in red with last-seen stats. Which one of us deserves
to be more found? he demands, grinning.
Adam, recognizing himself at a display of pumpkins,
faces carved into gourds: You aren’t human until you’re cut.
Adam is afraid of the dark, we sleep with the TV on mute.
He climbs down from his bunk, lays on top of me
in our cartoon underwear. Let’s wrestle, he says, I get to be Rick Rude,
teaching me first the sleeper, then the chokehold,
twisting my arm to show where the ligaments will
make small clean crosses with your veins. I rub my wrists back right
and tell him I want to stop playing Tie Me Up.
He never wants to be saved anymore.
Once, at a carnival, he made me stand in front of him,
reflected in a funhouse mirror, and look at my body
stretched painfully, finally thin. That’s you, Adam said,
if you didn’t deserve to be gutpunched.
My mother always said, But you have such a beautiful face.
I pieced together the rest.
When I’m twenty-five and a man chokes me,
kissing me, my first time making love,
afternoon sunshine spilling across the bed,
Adam is laying beside me, mocking me, whispering:
squirm but don’t shut your eyes, their light going out
pleases him best. If the Adam-part of me remembers
the funhouse mirror, tears of stretched joy,
then the other part will still love a man, enthusiastic
about my neck. A good boy would slap his hand away.
In photographs with the man, my first lover,
I’m all head and shoulders. The less evidence
the better. He nods that six-year old head
and smiles his toothy smile, crossing his arms.
Those were the years I was a dismemberment
in search of a body. Adam’s body was never recovered,
only his severed head, floating in the river
where it was tossed. In all those years,
not once did he ask me to find him.
What he wants, he has, my mind, raising
my hands as he does to touch a face
once in a while, raising his hand
to tender goodbye.
FROM THE RAILING OF THE STEAMSHIP ORIZABA HART CRANE TURNS TO ADDRESS US
I profess I loved watching the waves
shatter. Do I gorgeous enough? Take me
with you then. I have never been
to: Nova Scotia, New Harmony, Truth or
Consequences I’d like to avoid: the body’s vacating
the body gets in the way, it stops me, the Montrealer
slows its pistons out of respect to the defunct station
Make me colder faster. Do I frozen enough
A man who leaps in front of the train
One man remembering you is not enough: Modigliani died
at 35, tuberculosis roiled in his blood and his lover
the day later threw herself off a balcony,
and their unborn child I keep trying to continue
but I do not gorgeous enough
The note I would have left would have said I couldn’t bear
I know you will look for something to blame
put it here next to the
For the record I’m gesturing to Love
Look, failure is all around you
There are many waves to break
The body wanted something I couldn’t deny it
If my father needs to, he can say
I carried the night with me as long
the last audible part of the echo
Do I gouge enough Does the dark
make the cold colder
I’m sorry, I say to the poem inside me
is a terrible place to carry
What comes after this shipwreck
I was not the last moments
(please know) terrified I was
some other field of force beyond skin
Orizaba means Valley of Happy Waters
FLORIDA IS NOT THE SOUTH
And I am not Louis Newbury, my best friend, caught between
staring at his glistening torso and eyeing the bone-dry lawn
as he clambers up the orange tree. I stay earth’s refugee,
and when he asks what I’m gawking at, I say juniper berry,
fix my watering mouth, stop my bulge-eyed fawning. Mama’s
boy, I long for evening, when the big houses’ refugees
come to Grandma’s and unfold their card tables, felt-topped, green--
the Shalimar’d and powdered ladies of Daytona
swarm my grandma’s porch, and between
hands of euchre, teach me and Louis a secret speech,
their voices julipped and crackling: sissy, jackdaw,
dirty yankee—words they mourned, refugees
of language only given air, they warned, in pure company.
Now repeat. I refused, Louis guffawed. Mimicry ‘came law.
After that I hid under the porch, their satin heels. In the dark between,
I became Southern, history’s mute, a queer refugee.
James Allen Hall is the author of Now You’re the Enemy, which won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Recent poems and lyric essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly, CutBank, The Journal, Agni, and Best American Poetry 2012. He teaches creative writing and literature at Washington College. He tweets @jamesallenhall and can be reached via email at email@example.com.
D A G U E R R E O T Y P E
In America’s farm towns, no one shuts up
About the lamb who limped its way
Back to the stockyard.
The field underneath
What it could want.
If only you knew how much sleep
Has sold us out.
How alive I’ve been
In the background
Of other people’s family portraits.
Right there in the sun,
Dress pulled down. My head, on fire.
R I T A
Of impossibility. Rita, the mortified.
Of what we want: to grow up godless
Against the walls of our parents’ basements.
To watch danger-boys film themselves
Coming for some pocket-change made online.
To be among the horrible girls
Who know how to move through hell
Easy, their tongues wrapped around black candy.
Patroness of freak, deranged defendant,
What does it mean to be earthly anymore,
Anymore than we already are.
Rake-thin in bad habit, we come hungry
For roses and incorruptible
So our wounds will not heal, but light up
Like a hologram of white bees
Shot soundlessly from your mouth.
Richard Quigley is currently an MFA candidate at Columbia University. His poems have appeared in B O D Y, Black-listed Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives and works in New York.
All this looking is reciprocal,
I can say, alarmed by this darker
weekend of movement,
of celluloid metaphors and how
striped and dancing we greet each other.
In this flint I could wear your hour,
be spent loving something
more hesitant, more like a crocus,
even more prismatic in its
maze hope. Instead I am confused
and dream of orange trees,
reach for half an orange. I split
sidewise, where my re-growing
keeps peeling to a skinned want.
I take it up in my undone mouth,
why can’t we get what we
are good for, how you can be all this:
lonely, enumerating. There is not
enough time when you live this far away.
I can love you but this dancing
is just a hanged wish for connecting
face to mouth, mouth to hand, hand
to Cat Stevens record.
I’m gathering speeding tickets here
like pine cones. Goodbye to that animal
stomping, that gash of solidness
from you, this cinema another anchor
of small stars. The nighttime on my body
breathes. The blue ridges of my eyelids
fill up the mirror. We are mostly lonely
when we change. I can be better
and write this again.
Gale Marie Thompson is the author of Soldier On (Tupelo Press 2015) and Expeditions to the Polar Seas (Coconut Books 2016), in addition to two chapbooks. Her work appears in Guernica, Best New Poets 2012, Colorado Review, Volt, Better, The Volta, and elsewhere. She is creator and editor of Jellyfish Magazine and lives, teaches, and writes in Athens, GA.
I AM AN ONLY CHILD (AM I ONLY A CHILD)
Occasionally, there is a herd of mares outside my window.
They shout my name over & over. I say back, I say, I don’t have
any stories to tell you. They become angry. They throw their
bodies at the walls of my home. Finally I dig a moat. I dig it
deep. All night, there are horses drowning outside my window.
They cry, How could you do this to us? They cry. I lower the blinds
& sleep for a long, long time. When I awake, my bedroom is full
of limp horse bodies. Who put these in here? Who?
but not a single mare stirs. I lift the blinds. The moat is empty.
The face of the water gleams in the sun. I leap out. I lower
my body into the moat. Finally I am alone, I say to myself. I dip
my muzzle into the water, & drink.
Anaïs Duplan is the author of a forthcoming chapbook, Take This Stallion (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2015). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Birdfeast, Blackberry, and Transom Journal.
WHAT IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN LIKE TO COME OF AGE IN THE SOUTH
The truth, I want to say, is as follows.
But I can’t.
The agon often as not
gentleness and/or humor
to go on
eluding all but the nimblest
whose head now
hangs to one side
like a stem-cut
longing for the earth again.
Where the moons are fuller, the pull of them felt different before.
When what tides there were affected us alone.
A wood—more like a stand of tree-like colorations—the light entirely other than.
West again to the river, a wall there following the river as if according to plan:
each new coordinate east of the one they say is gentlest.
Apt even for offspring.
Nearness be that mark where every bell but one may be broken for awhile.
I swear I can see the square from here--
the pigeons and the wish-filled fountains.
While at work on her first full-length collection, The Certain Body, Julia Guez has received a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia, a Fulbright Fellowship and the 2013 “Discovery”/ Boston Review Poetry Prize. Her poems, essays and translations have appeared or will soon be forthcoming in BOMBLog, Poetry, The Literary Review and No, Dear. Guez works at Teach For America-New York and lives with her family in Greenpoint.
Alex Crowley is a reviews editor at Publishers Weekly and co-curator of the Mental Marginalia reading series. Winner of the first annual Paul Violi Poetry Prize, his poems have appeared in Diagram, Shampoo, Handsome, Big Bell, and BORT Quarterly, among others. He lives in Brooklyn and can be found on Twitter @a_p_crowley.
POEM FOR INFINITE RETURNS
for R.D. 1935-2011
This is when the sun is more
than just the sun, but I cannot
give it a better name, and you,
whoever you will become, will relearn
the sun as brighter than a penny.
A penny, that if tasted, tastes like blood
and the beginning of blood. R,
this is me speaking to you:
a poem where your chair will bare
its bones to an empty house.
Mellowed light will stain
the curtains gold. Weightless,
and un-hurting now, your hands
won’t disturb the window’s lace
to show the neighborhood your new
and vanished self, standing, not standing,
as you hover moth-like
on your ghost’s difficult net.
And wherever you are now,
I’d like to know the color of the sky,
because I will not imagine it here.
I will not make a metaphor of you either.
Instead, in this poem, you are yourself,
waving goodbye on your way
to the Cumberland river,
pulling your boat behind your car
like a boy and his roan horse
off to split the warm wind
with their teeth and chests, wet and white
below the sun’s burst fist.
Melissa Cundieff-Pexa is the author of a chapbook, Futures with Your Ghost. Her poems are forthcoming or most recently appear in journals such as Bat City, Mid-American, Tupelo Quarterly, The Collagist, and Gargoyle. She received her MFA from Vanderbilt in 2012, where she was the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. She lives in Ithaca, NY with her family.
FOUR BLACKBIRDS IS NOT AN OMEN
Four spotted owls isn’t either, though they are endangered, outcompeted
by a species with a better song. Owls die, but aesthetics
persist like George R. Lawrence and his 200-foot fall from a hot
air balloon trying to capture an aerial photograph of Chicago. Broken
by telephone cable, the plunge leaves him uninjured but shaken. So he changes
his methods, producing what we now know to call
the first drone: 17 kites and a camera suspended by piano wire. Few pictures
of the mechanism survive, all of them incomplete. Indeed, there are no
pictures at all of Voyager 1, only illustrations. In 1977, there was no camera able
to capture Voyager against the dark blanket of sky, and
even if there was, the contrast required would black out the stars. Now 12 billion
miles from Earth, Voyager 1 is sighted by telescopes recording what’s called
its radio light. Reconfigured in the visible spectrum, its color translates
blue like the eye of of a peacock feather. Research suggests the number
of these eyespots predicts a male’s mating success in the wild, though past a certain
threshold their bright trains weigh them down, making them
less likely to escape their many predators. These days, the federal government
permits biologists to shoot barred owls, hoping the spotted
will return in number. Barred owls are easy to find, they say, and easier
to kill. All it takes is a decoy to play a recording of that pleasing
call and the real owls start hooting back until a female emerges
from the canopy, a clear shot.
Katie Willingham is currently pursuing an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan where she was the recipient of a 2014 Hopwood Award in poetry. Her work has appeared in Paper Darts, Revolver, Ilk and others.
I love you so much I could just bite you
so maybe the heart likes to confuse violence
for love all my lovers have similar hair
and the buttons on their blouses are from the guts of stars
so maybe this is about one person in particular maybe
this is when the all turns to a you and I know you
are no longer impressed by quantum mechanics
but remember a black hole gives a little back
as it takes away so maybe you could tell me that story
again where the starlings get stuck in the sky
since I love all your invasive species stories
I suspect the heart must be broken several times a day
the bored looking woman on the bus
breaks my heart with her big hat
when we order the same kind of beer
that breaks my heart your kind of eye contact
is usually heartbreaking as is the gardener
burying bulbs in the world but
the world is full of enough bulbs and big hats already
so I remember the night
many nights ago when your body filled
a doorway and all I could see were your bones
glowing with cyanide and I thought your heart
was like a hammer falling
through a forest and now I understand
you must climb this tree
I understand you must climb it alone
Many couples die
in their beds
when the comet flies over
like a flame
in the grass
in the weeds
by the river
I found a rusted trumpet
that will kill us
have beautiful names
in a field all by itself
proves the chest is a birdcage
the comet is beautiful
because it appears
I know a crown of ivy
is still a crown
most goddesses keep
their maiden names
the only way
to true love is through
that little bit of red
in my eye
is blood wet on the corn
is blood smoking in starlight
Jonny Veach is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Mississippi. A recipient of a Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award from the Illinois Center for the Book, his poems have appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal, The Tulane Review, The Minnesota Review, and others.
So listen last week a stethoscope
taught me the volume of my lightless cave
and between each pump and suck a silence
hung like a baseball bright against a frozen sky
but it’s August and in August peaches hang
heavy in the sunlight so like most lessons I forgot
the awful metronome and took a nap
to the buzzing of yellow jackets in the grass
Later we lay down like lovers would
or considered it separately in rooms
where we touched ourselves or each other
and sometimes a third party who carried little
emotional value but calmed the sensation
of being utterly alone in our nakedness
under the mushrooming light
of compact fluorescent bulbs
You forgot your slippers at my house
where at first the light seemed to ride
a shell of air from passing trucks
that lifted and curled the plastic blinds
to define the romance of a room
we called our own but later
remained despite the dissolution
of everything we could call our own
We have a literary term for your body,
which has taken the place of all bodies
we meaning the English language
which is full of terms for all sorts of things
but what I wanted here was the sensation
of hearing a silence in my chest
that spread like the drawl
between seeing the ball hit and hearing it
In the attic light of early fall
my brain emptied itself, a tree
discarding its seeds and nothing
existed outside my body
but the flutter of blinds and light
slicing across the floor
on an afternoon that was any afternoon
shadows slowly gathering towards night
Chris Garrecht-Williams has had his work published in Five Dials, The Chattahoochee Review, Forklift: Ohio, Spinning Jenny, Beecher’s Review and elsewhere. He is a senior poetry editor at Narrative Magazine and has taught at Columbia, Rutgers, and Temple Universities.
WHEN I FOUND A WIFE
Sarah Dravec is a poet in the NEOMFA. She is a poetry editor for Barn Owl Review and an associate editor for Whiskey Island. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in And/Or, Bone Bouquet, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Squalorly, and others.
Mushroom cloud dawn
in my head,
cotton boles and stuffing
like a cloud in a birdcage.
Describe the arc.
This is all mathematical,
scribbles under a four-year-old hand,
now say you’re sorry.
I’ve been waiting for my apology
but sitting against the cliff
there is a morning glory
a vortex of specific gravity
drawing me to the center
of the molting forest
and it’s said nothing relieves anxiety
like touching earth,
the fact your hand upon the grains
will behave as that line
in high school math
that gets infinitely
closer to the graph bar but never
and what exists
in that space I often wonder.
The welling in the head,
spray of straw under my hat--
Sitting against the wall before dawn,
moonlight lighting the blinds
on glass doors,
how they cast shadows of scaffolding.
the hundreds of robins singing.
How interesting, one thinks.
Francine says to do this, a meditation in itself.
Self-talk is all,
self-talk is spinning plates upon the table,
self-talk keeps them
Self-talk says, oh look
self is depressed, self feels head swelling, self is cloud
and today cloudy,
self loves moonlight in scaffolding and singing birds,
self knows birds don’t sing,
self itself is shadow and moonlight and scaffolding
Animals in the attic.
Was Daniel Boone ever depressed?
I’m wandering over the gap
into deeper forests,
no bottom to the mountain lakes,
Self is self-obliterated, self-annihilating, rest assured
devouring the white light energy of the body
animals in the attic.
Self is High Rock
on the Pine Mountain Trail I never made
Self is nightfall and also day in night.
Self is arched
over the precipices and indices of the world’s end,
the world’s Eden,
the world’s endemic.
Self is French doors, insulated glass, covered
self my shield, my bulwark, self my irony,
my nested hurt, my winter nest a cup of snow.
Self is that which I have not forgiven,
does not forgive,
must be taught to forgive and forgo,
so far gone.
So far, self, we are here, you and I,
I and I,
on the mountain looking west, long ridge
of history omnipresent at once,
I and I traversing
looking for shelters and bear poles,
elk cross the self’s gaps,
thirteen thousand trees
that hide grouse in self’s underbrush and understory,
the story under self
is the wish for India, is the guru where incarnate
means made flesh, is self descended into flesh,
is Son of Man, is the sun as much
as Son of God
or if God doesn’t work, mere Divinity
bow your head to that which is
sacred within you.
Self will hurt from here on out.
Set traps for the animals in the crawlspace,
a cage on the carapace,
bait it with what the brain likes most to devour,
bait it with sex,
with bourbon and books, with Polaroids of sunrises
snapped on the eyelids,
tell the brain it’s all real and it’s self the master of the chariot,
driver of car.
Lure brain out.
Snag brain in its own spindly web and make brain
If every candle burns down
why so sad.
Everything gutters, I say.
I, which of you is speaking?
I will return again to lick up my engines,
to build a bed by the fire,
to find a monument of alabaster trees
and I will pray
to the little eyes that grow on the ends of stems there.
Where Mary manifests herself in dancing saplings
and dances her sorrow.
Where we might eat mushrooms and quiet Mind.
There is a meal before you escaping.
The room teems with eating Minds.
Mind fresh from war, fresh from rape and revelation,
Mind sliced to ribbons, sinning happily,
Mind, sit down.
The moment is at hand, Mind.
The heater has kicked on
and the house is breathing.
The cardinals are exercising the capacities of air.
The sun is burnishing some contrails
scribbled over the morning,
and Mind you do not know what color that sky is.
There is no telling.
Mind, look at that house smoking over there.
Mind, everything is breathing.
Mind, you are breathing.
Mind, thou art that and that is hard to grapple but
Mind, stop climbing.
Hang my face on the wall.
It is concrete, use a heavy nail.
Glue my money to glass and watch the rooms decay.
I will decay
in the ground, in a coffin fashioned of cushioned wood,
I will swell when the lid closes,
the body will suffocate the bit of air
the body will rot, will liquefy, will putrefy Mind,
all my life will be a puddle
will be bones bled out, will dry, will be a handful of ashes
for the eyes, will be dust,
will be done.
Sixteen mules in the top of the tree,
Sixteen mules in the top of the tree.
Fold your thumbs over your sternum and rest there.
Be still, self-talk.
Believe in nothing out there in the waving holly.
Believe no bird singing.
Know there is chatter fixed in the little brains of birds.
Know they are as much machinery as you,
as much alive as you,
as responsive to dawn as you, as particular to temperature
as your own skin, Mind:
cease your suffering, please:
no skin, no air, no cold, no no.
Patrick Hill is the author of Hibernaculum (Slash Pine Press, 2013) and two full-length books of poetry, Interstitial and The Imagined Field. Poems appear or are forthcoming in TYPO, Spork, The Equalizer, The Blueshift Journal, Country Music, and Forklift, Ohio. He is the curator and editor of Green Fuse Press in Louisville, Kentucky.
LOOK AT ME / DON’T LOOK AT ME
Mason, my nephew, will not be outdone by divorce.
(In high school, my friend Amanda would, face-first,)
When a tackle of limbs tumbles a wall and fails, he will
wad his body up and take on stairs, a boy as a ball as a bruise
[At 20, I began to lose my hair, a girl’s head as a petal-less stem--
Look at Me / Don’t Look at Me—and became increasingly scared]
(fling her body into lockers, listen intently for our laughter.)
collection: constellation of welts appearing here on a shoulder,
there on a shin as he rolls corner over edge and looks to see
if we’re looking. We haven’t been watching him,
[of my own reflection, growing less a strand at a clump at a time,
what’s missing in me manifesting horrific and accurately.]
(No teacher ever called home to report the behavior. Her father
had given her too much attention, wrong kind. Of course,
we laughed, never thinking how daily she must have)
my sister says, closely enough, then runs to where he’s waiting
to snatch his ear and scream This isn’t the way… which isn’t
[I didn’t have to lift my trigger finger or tug, but wasn’t I still
turning myself inside-out to show someone? My crowning
jewel split itself away from me from the widow’s peak
and back until my scalp was bare by the patch, by the tuft.]
what he was waiting for, and I watch as his face falls
down another set of stairs my sister also doesn’t see.
(gone home with bruises the size of combination locks.)
M. Ann Hull has had work published in Barrow Street, Mid-American Review, 32 Poems and Quarterly West, amongst others. She has won the Ed Ochester Award for Poetry and the Academy of American Poets Prize. She is a former poetry editor of Black Warrior Review and holds an MFA from the University of Alabama. She currently lives in Muncie, IN.
The young yellow noon
brings a need before
& weather-blasted ship.
Low battery body--
sweet fresh blackberries
from dripping leaves.
Ladies legs like glowing towers
make new loneliness feel
more at home.
I squash the shadow of my tomato.
My visitor sings without abrasion.
Growing wolves want and get
orchards filling a black wagon.
I sense a tragic scene happening--
your crown overriding grass.
Terrell Jamal Terry’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review, West Branch, Green Mountains Review, Washington Square, cream city review, and elsewhere. He resides in Raleigh, NC.