afraid to write
in visible ink
so I invented
whose lithe strokes
hid even from me
lists of people
who touched me
who I touched
of ordinary grass
like the first L’s
which whipped the
backs of camels,
the Q which came
in my forgotten
tongue of quaver
a script to hide
its Q’s but not
tell even if
just the angels
read this music
before to hide
the names of
God they must
any of this
I couldn’t see
was my own
a shifting sea
a shifting he
I couldn’t be
myself but he
could be he
could be me
just like me
just like he
My multi-talented --
From the roof
Tell me what it’s like to hear your own insecurities in the timbre and the backstep of your voice. Charming or a tone too high. There’s biology connecting one trait to another through the leaves. A network of them below my ribs, in the small chambers we don’t think the voice comes from. Instead a reservoir of air. Unless I’m all in my head, this voice finds every space to ring. You need breath support and tone, but I’ve trained my lungs for years. My head lets some of that down. Maybe there won’t be a performance, but there will be singing of a kind. I grew up in that house, humming. Even when I opened the windows, I never tried to remove the screens.
My investigator --
You like to ask rhetorical questions. I like timelines. I see in them only gaps, how I’m on the other side of the river from the grandfather clock in your head. Sometimes I make my own holes, chipping away at the mortar to achieve a handmade effect. My time is the slow construction of an obelisk with an agitated heartbeat. Yours whiskey and changing orbits. We make both from bricks laid out in the sun all day. This isn’t labor, just dabbling. In one timeline you were alone; in another someone else. I stay quiet among these throats tuning themselves. When I sing I lose my voice. Yelling with a streak of blue. Sometimes we risk it, and perform an exuberant rendition of what’s really a very sad song.
Sam Corfman lives in Pittsburgh, by way of Chicago and Southern California. He counts Pomona College, the University of Pittsburgh, and Antigonick among those who have taught him about poetry, among other subjects. His manuscript, An Opaque Flower Digging, was recently chosen as a finalist for Omnidawn’s Chapbook Contest by Brian Teare.
Excerpt from “Risk of Miscarriage Among Black Women and White Women in a US Prospective Study”
We were unable to contextualize our primary finding:
black women have a nearly 2-fold higher risk of miscarriage
compared with white women during gestational weeks 10-20.
We characterize miscarriage as the revolt of the uterine lining.
The annonymization of a should be body. The collapse
of a calcifying structure. The body molting one tissue paper
layer at a time. Our findings warrant further investigation,
we cannot explain the disparity in risk and pattern of loss
between black and white women. To maintain impartiality
we elected not to recognize the following traumas:
across/in/next to ocean
chattel slavery was unlike any sort of slavery
Colored Only Negro Only
Every 107 seconds a sexual assault
every 28, 12, 8 hours on the hour there is a murder
We have established that the body cannot unlearn itself,
therefore previous history of miscarriage is an established
predictor of miscarriage, but we are unable to contextualize
our secondary finding: to miscarry as a black woman
is to refute a rumor once held so close to the skin
it became part of the skin.
Tafisha A. Edwards is currently staring at 5 oranges on her desk in an attempt to determine which is the sweetest. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in several print and online publications including: The Offing, Gigantic Sequins, Fjords Review, Bodega Magazine, Fledgling Rag, and The Little Patuxent Review. She is a Cave Canem Fellow, the recipient of a Zoland Poetry Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, and a graduate of the University of Maryland College Park’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House.
What You Know About That [Intersected] Life
It’s snake tongue flick back,
it’s unfinished apple. About
the murder of crows in the wake
of a good first moan. Which
alley to steer clear, what come
back to avoid clap. Which
notch to keep your head level
after the stirrups and saltines
the solemn man who took them
out. You don’t know unending
grief. Spreading the blinds
when a lover’s engine hums low.
Lights off, the key in the door.
About the anchor in the swell
of a belly when the sirens flash.
Flashlight tap against a window.
Strip search on a traffic violation.
What you know about the metal
around a wrist if it ain’t missionary,
ain’t spicing things up on a Tuesday
night. What you know about poplar,
what Detroit smelled like in summer:
Doritos dead flesh burned brush.
Say a grandfather on a four legged
cane sneaks into your room at night.
Makes you want to holler. Throw up both
your fists. Say he blocks the exit
til a praying grandmother comes.
Say her hymns be memory, aluminum
cracking against his skull. Say it’s
a story the cousins laugh about over
Thanksgiving dinner. Out his mind
just in time. What you know about
deliverance, about badshit
in the brain, the boom it brings.
What you know about water
turning back into itself. Obsessively
trying to write a gospel in spite all this.
Aricka Foreman’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Drunken Boat, Minnesota Review, RHINO, shufPoetry, Amazon’s Day One, James Franco Review, PLUCK!, as well as the anthologies Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation (Viking Penguin), HYSTERIA (Lucky Bastard Press), Cave Canem Anthology XIV: Poems 2012-2013, and The Dead Animal Handbook (University of Hell Press) among others. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and the Callaloo Writers Workshop, and is the Enumerate Editor for The Offing.
At this altitude smokefall is long and literal. The clouds a county fair, ferrous and dirty pink. The sun slips over the horizon like a cockroach down a drain, and finally the sky can be ancient again. All night the ghost sounds of trains fill the valley with copper to mine and make into semiconductors. Obese trucks leave oil slicks that evaporate before they have a chance to be mirage.
The people who live in the park pray to this obsolescence. They carry crystals into which they hoard their wish to be forgotten, their memories mercifully burnt on the inside of a soda can. They are unable to recognize their fathers’ faces on the sides of bus stops and their one guitar can only play sunkissed ballads from dead decades, the same songs that chirp earnestly from their former homes up in the foothills.
The worried mother fills her solarium with turquoise, mesquite, and other gift-shop fetishes. She once read that these slow the apocalypse, but of course it precesses from these very foxholes. It does not arrive in storms of sand and locusts, but in the moment we thought to draw ourselves into heaven.
Here it is, our land to waste as we see fit. College kids leave empty thunderbirds in the planetarium. Poets lament how easy it is to sublimate in so much heat. If there are retired spooks limping among us, only they know what they know. And here I am, weeping for the roadkill coyote, wishing he would laugh at the sacredness I grant him.
Nick Greer is from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an editor for Territory, a literary project about maps and other strange objects. Recent work can be found in PLINTH, Tin House Open Bar, and Cleaver Magazine.
Your parents go on vacation
& ask you to housesit.
They have two cats,
which were your cats
when you were younger,
so you stay to feed them
& make turkey sandwiches,
put out the recycling, get the mail.
The cats wander around
all day & only go outside
on sunny afternoons
& you wonder if they are cold
or hungry but realize
they are just lonely,
looking for a warm body
to lie next to. Since you have
often felt this way,
you let them stay with you
during Breaking Bad
& at night you can’t sleep because
they keep trying to curl
themselves on top of your feet.
In your parents’ house are paintings
your grandfather made
& photographs & sculptures
from countries they’ve visited.
In your apartment are similar
paintings & photographs
& hardcover books you share.
You are at an age where it is
a reality that your parents will
in your near-enough future
die & that thought swells
in your chest like a large boat
in a much larger ocean.
When you sit on your porch,
you imagine the family
who will one day live there,
how in school their children
will learn the routes of explorers,
which queens they served
& goods they traded for.
You water your mother’s plants,
wash the cans of cat food
& sleep in your bed beneath
class pictures from middle school,
when the world was just
as rigged, but maybe you felt
hopeful, like a baseball field’s
bright foul lines before a game.
Sometimes you don’t know
how you made it this far
since you can barely do things
like pack boxes to ship
across the country
or use a stove in any real capacity.
You worry you won’t be someone
good enough to marry.
At night, you watch the News Hour special
on blue glaciers in the Arctic,
then find an extra blanket
to sleep with, a cream-colored wool.
In the morning you wake
to scratches at your door
& it’s the cats who insist it’s time,
it’s time now to get up
& go outside.
Jen Levitt’s first collection of poems, The Off-Season, is forthcoming.
Snowfall Throws its Pretty Noise upon a Weary Sameness
The debt collection mail is piling. You keep trying
not to smoke, or smoke again, or smoke so much,
but fuck it. The grandfather is dying. It’s obvious how
the planet has been inching for a century toward this.
On the phone your mother’s voice assumes a new
alien edge. As if through the blades of a fan, it asks
the usual, “How’s my baby doing”. This distracts.
You’re a digression in the day’s essay pushing her to
its imminent stop. She’s taking a week off from work,
she says. You don’t believe the brackets framing her
assurance in this moment. Someone should acknowledge
how impossible this notion of doing is becoming,
but it won’t be you, who’d do nearly anything not
to hear her speak inside a wind at [okay]’s precipice.
Her words and yours just blow a commotion of iotas
massing embankments you can neither incinerate nor eat.
I can hear things coming to an end. The feathers of birds flying south. The half eaten leaves of plants. The pods, pregnant with seed.
I press my thumb and forefinger into a milkweed sack and they enter, swim inside the dry belly of silk. I pinch and catch the hairs between my fingertips.
I pull the silk out and put the small clump to my lips. Brush right to left. I let go and watch the wisps lift and carry, scatter.
The wind is everywhere and so everything moves. It’s hard to see past my thick, swirling hair. Everything impossible to track.
Elizabeth Schmuhl is a writer and multidisciplinary artist whose work is published in PANK, Michigan Quarterly Review, Big Lucks, Paper Darts, and whose full-length book, Presto Agitato: A Dictionary of Modern Movement (Zoo Cake Press) will also be published by Dancing Girl Press in early 2016. She illustrates essays for The Rumpus and is currently teaching at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
The Deep Tourist
pays through his nose
for the comforts he enjoys.
He takes his tea white
at Sherwood’s, then
a wee excursion
to the Dwarfie Stane
Not much to say.
So easy to forget,
genial, diminutive, rich.
What is he collecting?
At Saqqara, he
Bribes the guard and guide
(who wears a robe)
to buy the privilege
of descending the angled
to the queen’s chamber.
Fifty feet beneath flint dunes
in the thalamus,
he finds it cool, close.
With piano fingers
One carved cartouche repeats
her name. With his tongue,
the tourist tests
the dew gathered
on his fingertip.
Catch him before sunset,
he’s least reserved: he loves
in the old way:
so is looking down
into the light meter
he’s looped casually
around his neck.
‘The golden hour.’
Two strays doze in the heat,
a local drinks from the bottle.
On the wharf, the Punta Flaca,
the tourist is just past them all.
Tripodded, looking out, he awaits
the shot he’s prepared for:
Flying fish lifting
silver from the glass
bahía. At dusk these calm waters
can glow, you see,
like an eye.
Noah Warren is the author of The Destroyer in the Glass, winner of the 2015 Yale Series of Younger Poets. His work has appeared in The Southern Review, The Yale Review, Poetry, AGNI, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Palo Alto and is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford.