Look at the Water, Look at the Water
Isn’t it awkward
when a circle announces perfect
and a door leaps
I’ve experienced a falling window
while being a near deep reactor
receiving a brief banquet
to later be the high of that quiet
I feel old
My prayers all need crutches now
My tongues all need wheelchairs now
squint me to the dim library
Wise fractures put a hold
on hunted laters
Is this longing?
reading a burning candle
Deciding to taunt retinae
bur realizing that if you can plant
you are allowed a say in the can’t
opening novas to us
It’s still an uneasy rock garden
that has something to say
I have nothing to say
I write down instructions or transcribe
but my mouths are sewn shut
the entire time
Are you the father prisoner
or the mother witchcraft engulfed
Daggers talking around light instance
I insist the tendril loses shame
I invest in branches blackening in wetness
Are we as a whole
experiencing a panic attack?
My hunger leans toward a Xolotl gallery
but a discourse orbits around
the reversed feet depiction
A crow calls my debt home
but requires that I fall from the 100th floor
of the tower with no climb, only songful harm
Help us corner the horror film into
a skull’s monastery
Is this longing?
To feel the sender revert to stone
and welcome the hell whirl vortex
twice the temporada , twice the station
To mute the central river
and no longer know how to want
To introduce the definition to chaos
Louis Bardales is a poet, illustrator and musician living in Chicago, Illinois where he teaches guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music. His work has been featured in the Columbia Poetry Review and Otis Nebula. He writes poetry and songs in Spanish and English.
A GOOD DEED IS DONE FOR NO GOOD REASON
for Hugo Picciani
you are a slab of wood & an unused nail you are each one & you are them both you lay in a Home Depot perhaps or an architecture firm perhaps even in the back of some shed in Indiana or Bogalusa or 314 7th Street Brooklyn New York without the industry of human hands you are just yourselves & no one has made you into a house or even said the word never whispered in your ear the possibility of shelter never took a Polaroid of a family & said, “this is something you could keep warm,” so you don’t know really what could come of you but you know in the rain you rust & mold respectively & one day a hand is hovering above you a hand is hovering above you & you are staring at it considering the endless permutations of a hand all its wants & before long you know the hand is going to pick you up & you are worried you are a fleet of pigeons rascaling your talons in the dirt you are thinking “if I move I would be beautiful but I would be moved”
& suddenly the hand is holding you the hand is holding you & you are becoming something else & you are not fantasizing a floor board’s quality of life the pros & cons of assembling into a chair in fact you aren’t thinking much of anything not asking the scary questions not “what if all I am is all the houses I’ll never live in?” or “if no one walks inside, will I be a house at all?” because somehow you know you are not a dead bouquet of miscellaneous daisies from 2 valentines & a heartbreak ago you are still possible the way a set of cheap crappy books & a smile a small portion of it given can be evidence the world won’t leave you behind so you allow yourselves to become whatever these hands will make you & when you are asked how it felt the day you were suddenly a house you will not remember much you will not be able to define it in words all you will know is you did have definition you were held & you weren’t love exactly you didn’t offer that nature to last to be a monument marble crafted into the face of some president suited & gone because among other elements you were not marble you were never going to be & you weren’t a necessity really weren’t two cuts of a branch learning the arithmetic of fire unraveling to dust for a worthy cause like warmth or survival you were a moment the way laughter the way breath behind a kiss is you weren’t dire but you were the difference an empty lot then a house then an empty lot as before & you know this part that you won’t last that you will be torn back down to your simple selves you may in the process forget what you were until you are again what you were a slab of wood a nail & no intention only you are different now you are touched you have been moved made & unmade swiftly you have been lived in
Aziza Barnes is blk & alive. Born in Los Angeles, she currently lives in Bedstuy, New York. Her first chapbook, me Aunt Jemima and the nailgun, was the first winner of the Exploding Pinecone Prize and published from Button Poetry. You can find her work in PANK, pluck!, Muzzle, Callaloo, Union Station, and other journals. She is a poetry & non-fiction editor at Kinfolks Quarterly, a Callaloo fellow and graduate from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is a member of The Dance Cartel & the divine fabrics collective.
That I may again pay witness to the filament’s final surge,
That I may possess that finale in a sort of phosphene
Better than black circles rimmed with gold
Growing to recede. That I may don robes
As monk of discarded bulbs, that I may keep
Watch on cellars full of milky shells,
Vacuum bones, while recording voices of wheels.
I inhale duets to make a missal, then hope it’s found.
That I may discover who enters the room when it goes
Dark, that I may understand they were there to begin with,
Can proudly say no shadows anywhere, can believe
The rumors, smoky but true, of so many swans
Locked in ice. It’s the device of an individual perceiver
To beg someone to throw the lights away.
Keep them on, I say, that rooms stay as they are, that I may
Be there when they’re spent and make nothing of it.
WILLIAM BREWER lives in New York and is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Columbia University. He is also an Assistant Editor at Parnassus: Poetry and Review and co-curates the Metro Rhythm Reading Series in Brooklyn.
Illinois in Spring
from the passenger side of a truck with a strawberry air freshener
hanging from the rearview mirror. The driver is a man, a stranger.
The quiet ratio of land to sky—a sky so pale, so casually blank that
it seems almost sardonic—that, finally, you have come to the place
that is bigger than loss. The place that is big enough to hold every
absence. That things grow here, pale and small from enormous land,
inspires abject panic. It is something like the panic of watching a bird
land on water. The end of the line will always give you that feeling.
Walking Away From Your Favorite Tree
Starts with looking away from your wrist,
with folding the blade back into the body
of the Swiss Army knife.
Standing up from the bench
by the roses becomes
looking into the sun
until it makes a spot in your vision
becomes wondering what time it could be.
Days can pass
with only the faint sound of own footsteps.
The body falls into the familiar rhythmic acceptance
of forward motion:
the forgotten dips of baptism,
long sex with someone you honestly love,
the moment as a child
when you learned how to swing
on the swing behind the old school
Walking too is the effort of a body
in concert, muscles and bones
moving together in one direction.
Begin by concentrating on just one part:
start with looking away from everything
but your feet until your neck
talks, until your eyes want to see
more, and when you move your head
again, the tree,
the favorite tree--
an umbrella pine
bent over itself--
and the folded roses,
and the hillside paths
to it, lined with willows, will all
have disappeared from view
wholly. This is a certainty. Even in Spring,
birds are flying away from somewhere.
M A D A M E C U R I E
Sweet scourge! I am done with this dark room.
Each day I record the cold in a notebook:
forty-degrees always followed by enough
punctuation to detail my disgust.
Pitchblende ore! I said and the stone
set itself aglow. The silver miners
from Erzegebirge tipped their hats and bowed
to one another but never to me.
Marya Salomee: my name that Pierre
could not pronounce. Marie was French
and to his liking. The husband split
under the wheel of a wooden wagon.
O isolation! The stone and I
are alone like lovers, one named 84
the other 88, both young and difficult
lit and spry with friction, heat.
Primitive garret! My bones are cold.
We’ll start with a measure of radium pulsed
one-tenth of a gram, one-tenth of the worth,
test tubes gleaming their lagoon-green light.
W H Y I ' V E C O M E T H I S F A R
Because I don’t want to hide there
wrapped in old root, against light.
Because last night was a mackerel sky
and up north it was the tremors of leaf
or skin, straw slats and jars of jam and honey
that made me think: we are complicated,
we are vincible. Because this is the web
I weave around myself, shopkeeper
of a thousand books, most of which
remain illegible: a star I had to prune.
The tree we planted four months ago turns copper.
Knotted bark and red rain break a fall and there is
Nothing I can prevent.
A U T O B I O G R A P H Y O F F E V E R
Glass cane berry
bright with pyre
burning at your lips.
Under you, the bed
is silken chill
and dispossession --
heat for the most ill
of elk, my slacken lost
rove of soundlessness.
You hold silver
on your tongue,
heavy with temperature.
I want you tropical
dewed in morning
rising up like opera,
seasick in swelter
I want to be the thing
you blot away
Amber Galeo is a writer and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. She received an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, where she received the Academy of American Poets Ruth Bennett Prize in Poetry and a Philip Guston Fellowship. She also holds an MA in Human Rights from Columbia University, and her work has been featured in The Missouri Review and N.O.W. She is currently an editor at sherights.com and can be found at ambergaleo.com.
EITHER DID IT OR KNOWS WHO DID
I am one who will
be missed. Who enjoys police reports
as much as I do? What I have to imagine
is hold a grudge down unless work
clothes. There’s no evidence anyway I knew
they knew and they knew I knew they knew.
In a way, we kiss, hit each other with some
tire irons. While you’re digging to bury my body
you’ll find someone else’s. You skinned my
trees, drove my car into a lake. The day after
the Pizza Hut talk I am long gone. Everyone’s
a suspect and no one’s a suspect plus my mom.
I remember the first overhead trunk of a car. All this
went down in the parking lot since elementary school.
We need to be exactly urgent. I was abused as a series
but how many were strangled, shooken up? Until today
maybe everything happens very fast. Tomorrow
will want nothing of my nose hairs. I’m a real tear now
on the floor. The sun is a mug.
I miss my knees.
burnt my right
making brussel sprouts
today it was either
or go outside
& this week’s been
than last & i’ve been
looking at pictures
of last week
on my phone to
lighter so i put
some brussel sprouts
in the oven at 350
for half an hour
& grazed the metal pan
taking them out & now
my finger pad’s
bubbled & puckered
like that time i made
pancakes during a sleepover
at the west kendall house
after lindsay davis’s
bat mitzvah & oil jumped
while i was flipping one
also forgot to change
had to run it twice still
clothes came out smelling
yellow like that spray
you used to clean
cat pee from the carpets
of the old townhouse
not the one
where we kept the computer
on the kitchen table &
had AOL but where
streets flooded one
hurricane & ice cream trucks
came some afternoons
& where we overfed
found it floating
dead at the top of the tank
now there are little
wrinkles along the lines
of my fingerprint
extending from my
blister which throbs
every time i take it
off this bag of frozen
for more than a few
seconds which is very
inconvenient & i miss
our old cereal bowls
with the straws built in
Kati Goldstein is an MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago where she studies as a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Scholar. Originally from Miami, Florida, she received her BA in Creative Writing from Colorado College in 2013. Her work can be found in Columbia Poetry Review, Leviathan and elsewhere.
Your mouth is stretched panther-wide
in the last good photo taken of you,
the creases in your forehead symptomatic
of some form of inscrutable effort. You’re on a stage
in a bar singing a song you can’t remember,
insides burning with inflammatory denial.
You can’t believe love left you. And yet,
you do happy better than any drag you’ve seen in weeks,
gleaming like a gem on Liberace’s finger,
shameless in the wan karaoke light.
Regardless of how you feel inside, Diane Arbus said,
always try to look like a winner.
It seems to you there are infinite medals
and behind the medals no other world.
No landing like Mary Lou Retton
arms flung back in a USA leotard
after perfect executions on the floor mat. If only
you could be that headstrong
as you sprint towards the mic.
Here on a hollow stage
your fingers skim the frets of an air guitar.
Once a friend warned,
Every relationship is a dress rehearsal for the next.
What are you wearing?
A dogged smile, a jersey at the end of a dirty match,
too blinded by the strobe in the dive bar
to register the blur of
your teammate’s faces.
Your figure is a cold ornament
embossed with leaves.
(Are they fearful or joyous?)
as you point and sing:
Do you wanna touch me? There. Where? There. Yeah.
Touch your skull,
the mounted antlers of a red stag.
The first meaning of trophy:
all the enemies’ arms,
a monument to parts.
The Bus Ride
When she turns from the window and sees me,
she is as lovely as a thrush turning over and over
seeing for the first time all sides of the sky.
Let this be a ballet without intermission
the grace of this ride beside her on the green vinyl,
soft thunderclaps in the quarry.
Let me be her afternoon jay,
hot silo, red shale crumpling.
Jenny Johnson’s poems appear in The Best American Poetry 2012, New England Review, Troubling the Line: Trans & Genderqueer Poetry & Poetics, Waxwing, and elsewhere. Currently, she is a Lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh where she teaches writing.
We drink milk with minor courage
borne of need, borne of poverty
We’d learn much from the books, every day would
carry an epistemological imperative,
with moccasins to our feet.
Survival depends on fidelity to internal revenue,
and observance of parsimony.
We could present something hopeful instead,
something emblematic of improved life.
In the bath, we pilfer the tooth paste.
We are trying to make our way.
Orange rinds decay at the table;
the bread begins to grow stale.
We awaken to visions and risk surrender to exact change --
we consume and live in abundance,
but dream of metamorphoses,
dream of self-government
before the white of an egg.
Lying in bed, we wait for the circulars’ deals,
for indicators of the market’s villainy.
We parse books before work;
timidly we pace over foundations
and use interpretation for the octopus tin.
In winter, socks are thicker.
We wash underarm, wash feet with the fury
of our prudery--
right hand probing left
with uncoordinated feel for the surface.
Its touch, thorough and adulterous--
water at arm’s length.
to be simple again and cease to be surprised
by anything we produce.
A dull towel unattended in its drying at the sill
and us bent to a new posture with the effort
of our thinking, we would have more to tell of, surely, more
of love, more to understand.
And under sheets of standard count, the wall’s gradual
fade touches morning
to make the most of the result: in the streets
of the Czech Republic, the populace divests
underground, at the locker room or the Elbe’s drained basin.
The eyes seek, attracted, in the first instance,
to the place of waste
and the fullness of incident.
At this stage in the story,
skin appears under influence. And once, driven
to be pleased
with Vaseline, it is cast with resultant on the back,
on the mouth or on the ground.
My life—in which I dispose of recovery
with the pretense
of wholesomeness in the last of my clean
would have wanted me had I the need
for my name & episodes
while the young changed
with a future for impure habits—and I would
too, with inferred courage
I could find in myself today.
My life is ready for loyalty and solicitation,
as it listens, as the Republic frays
with jet-packs and adventures in ardor.
Ricardo Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is the translator of Dinapiera Di Donato’s Colaterales (Akashic Books/National Poetry Series) and the recipient of fellowships in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts and Queer Arts Mentorship. He is managing director at the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center.
INVITATION FROM MY BROTHER
Because I was so twisted, I almost killed myself, he writes to me.
Please come to my baptism.
One night he woke up crying and shook until morning. Something
about the devil. As he got older, he started to look like our dead
brother; even his voice could trick me.
When he submerged underwater in the church where he was born, I stood up.
That was my little brother in a bathtub a million years ago, that’s who
I used to wake up in the morning.
His love the glimpse of light under a door of a dark night he won’t get through, but does.
After he came up for air, I never could ask the details of his escape
plan, only if the water was warm and chlorinated, if he felt found.
Julia Anna Morrison is a poet from Alpharetta, Georgia. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and her work is forthcoming in Handsome, The Journal and LARB Quarterly Journal. In 2014 she was a finalist for the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize and a Yaddo Residency Fellow.
Baby, even in sleep
the animal you are
evades me. I see you
over there like a ship
from the world’s end.
What spices you got on board?
I can’t imagine an India
without you. Look at me:
empire of chicken legs,
belly moans, a half-empty
bed—I offer you all
these riches. What
I ask in return:
For years, I have
worshiped the sight
of your bellybutton
where, before any breath,
you fed on your mother’s
and all this we’ve become
fed there too.
What red flowers,
what storms have had to die
for this moment--
where I breathe
Now, this drag-tail dog
ain’t got no patience
while you rattle
in that dress.
Oh Lord! Little grape,
you know we gotta
make some wine.
Alex Morris is a poet, sculptor, and musician from Mobile, Alabama. He has worked for New Orleans Review and McSweeney’s Poetry Series. As the Reverend, he led the Southern Writers Reading Series at Happy Ending Lounge. He lives in Brooklyn.