DRINKING COFFEE AND MALIBU
what I remember of sugarcanefields
and fields my father drove
through smokestung on the way
to somewhere else backseat
of the wagon I blinked past legacy
a sibling on each side I’m not
sure we asked questions childhood
not the far-flung happiness others
pretend it can be
There were rice paddies monkeys
jumping the car a hurdle I never
saw maybe my memory is
silence Ash Wednesday come
midnight not a second later
Oil lamps for outages the cutlass
for snakes the cutlass for cane
sweet molasses to make the
medicine easy Rum come
Friday evening not for me too
young but something is burning
this backdrop to tatters sometimes
I wonder if it really happened
that my life began in fever
bronzed skin the taste of hibiscus
in doll tea cups
pulling tails off lizards wriggling
mongoose in the bamboo lightning
bugs rainwashed concrete
recall sweating those first fourteen
years in the heat barefoot blister
pavement glass my father made
in the furnace someone
asked me what it was like once
I said nothing but warm
ABBA BELGRAVE was born in Trinidad and Tobago but currently lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn with her second Betta and no small desire for a bicycle. After graduating Hunter College with a BA in Political Science, she ditched the law idea for writing. Currently completing her MFA at New York University where she served as Poetry Editor from 2011-2012, she has previously been published in Argos Books’ Anthology Why I Am Not A Painter and enjoys stammering her way through poetry readings. She is an Aries.
RUFFLE & COO
It is all right to ignore it because that’s what you do with what’s under the bed. You do nothing to it, there’s nothing to it.
To sit by the window. To pretend the coo and ruffle come from outside.
Spring comes, and against all odds is a time tantrum. You could stay shadowed or suspended.
Under the bed you’ve made the wrong nest.
Like all newborns they come out gooey and crushable. They round their mouths up to the world.
You use your eyes to satisfy another hunger. Staring at rooftops.
You sprinkle seeds and trickle milk, you feel like the sky. I am the mommiest.
You wind down the flights to the courtyard, find a shady corner.
If there had been a hatchling hospital; if there had been time to prepare; a swanning or a pigeonhole.
Back in your room you read parables and cookbooks. You insist responsibility is the same as response.
You fall asleep with all the drawers open, the feathering far off.
BECCA KLAVER is a PhD candidate in English at Rutgers, a founding editor of Switchback Books, and the author of the poetry collection LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010) and the chapbook Inside a Red Corvette: A 90s Mix Tape (greying ghost, 2009). The poem “ruffle & coo” will next appear in Merrily, Merrily, a chapbook forthcoming from Lame House Press.
when you are not / sometimes, so careful / will smash this right up / this
bedroom, another word for becoming sick / you won’t feel like / your feet
any more & more / immovable
the meadow / with no legs // not a good place to start thinking about you
a person who invented the wake up bird / told nobody
same person, but the way you slide your hands up underneath your pillows
you used to love me / from right here /
i couldn’t see four separate hands / even if i thought about them
now it is distance / that wakes me up in the morning / moves the hair out
of my eyelashes and / feeds me / little questions / leading out to the door
SARAH COOK’s poems can be found in WTF PWM, My Name is Mud, and Stolen Island, under one name or another. She loves photobooths so much that she got engaged in one.
It wasn’t a dream. I gave birth to a one-eyed lion.
His placenta was a fig slick with honey, so I ate it.
I nursed him with grapes crushed between my breasts.
What can kill you is sacred, so my child was sacred,
blond and vengeful. His ribs said, Enter me and my shadow
said, Yes. He took the silver coins hidden in my mouth
and laid me in the tall grass. The stars said, Where am I?
My dress said, Rip. I saw no clouds, but I saw the wind,
who only wanted a daughter, and I had none to give.
There was the black tongue sliding deeper into the earth.
There was his one good eye—open, silvered, my initials
carved in the center. So little in me wanted to live.
The darkness said, You die whether you risk anything or not.
I emptied ashes from my pockets. I crawled to feel
the stones cut my knees, God’s foot on my throat.
The dream said, Follow me. The lion said, You’re here.
TRACI BRIMHALL is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton, 2012), winner the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010), winner of the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award. She’s currently a doctoral candidate at Western Michigan University.
IN THE WAITING ROOM
magazines from a lost month litter the end
tables. A pretty nurse
pops her head in and says,
The doctor will see you now, though not
to you, and no one stands up—you are
the only one waiting.
You recall this scenario, from either
a memory or a movie
in which a chopper suddenly crashes
through the window glass
before the doctor can cast the long shadow
of his diagnosis. You’ve got
a thorn in your paw, a toothache, chronic
wide eyes, fear of fear
of fear itself, time on your hands
slipping between your fingers, certain
hair loss, purgatory, online pain, short
straws, late lust, overexageration,
the tendency to list: short, fat, and forlorn,
ever inoperable… O to have
a nurse of your very own, a time-angel, someone
on the one and only payroll
to remind you to be take birthdays
sarcastically while she hands you
the pill it’s always time to swallow, whose
rear your eyes could follow
to Happytown. But now, here, however,
you are skimming an article
about the viral video that sank New York,
then a profile of the man
who played the real-life Michael Jackson.
An article on who really profits
from most karaoke. On the truth about
close friendship. On ten safe things
to open your mind to. You are an
Elizabeth! You are one of them!
Soon someone will call you in,
then true love in the
recovery room, a broken bed mate, a soft spot,
CRAIG MORGAN TEICHER is the author of three books, Brenda Is in the Room, Cradle Book, and To Keep Love Blurry (BOA, 9/2012). He is director of digital operations and poetry reviews editor of Publishers Weekly and a poetry editor for The Literary Review. Visit his Web site at www.craigmorganteicher.com.
I wish I could damn the smog and smoke melting the sky away,
but it’s March and I was sweating at work. On the way there
a woman smiled at me walking slow enough to let the wind taunt
her thighs for the first time since September and I lost myself
in the eyes of a brown boy who looked at me like I was tea
his aunt poured over ice and lemon for him. Today should
be covered in frost, the snow should be up to our knees, but instead
I am in bed with a man I barely know and it’s too hot to move anymore
and I spoke to the woman I know I will love one day and the phone
scorched my ear. Isn’t this beautiful, how summer backed winter
into a corner of the calendar? How the whole city has given its skin
to the God of sun and damp cotton? How somewhere a white bear
might be floating away from its home on a plateau of ice and that too
is gorgeous in its own frightening way.
DANEZ SMITH is a Cave Canem Fellow from St. Paul, MN now living in Madison, WI. He’s a poet, playwright, performer of different things, and a damn good cook. His work has been published in PANK, Orange Quarterly, Illumination, and elsewhere. When not doing that, Danez enjoys the occasional dance battle with his roommate.
in memory of Sergio Adrián Hernández
David died today throwing stones
across the border
a capitol offense for dirt to touch the fence,
a kind of Great Wall
but more Jericho, tumble-able by trumpets.
Tell me, how loud a sound did David’s blood make?
sung in a single blast splattered on the
still too quiet to change
rhythms of invisible lines
around this country.
Listen for all won by fire.
Hear only haunting groans:
bullets bending against stone
falling on hard ears,
stubs growing into the shrinking silence
quiet men build their houses upon.
A small pool maroon grace
gathers in the mud at the fence’s feet,
irrigating its founding toes--
a testament of bootstrap believing
if spilling blood begets freedom and peace,
if such paradox is paradise.
DARREL ALEJANDRO HOLNES is a poet and playwright. He is the recipient of scholarships to Cave Canem, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, various awards, writing fellowships, and writer’s residencies. He and his work have appeared in the Kennedy Center College Theater Festival, TIME Magazine, Callaloo, the Caribbean Writer, on the Best American Poetry blog as one of the Phantastique 5, and elsewhere.
A BRIEF MOMENT OF ELEVATION
I search for my glass of whiskey,
but everything is lost in the day’s smog.
I suppose I will have to lance the pool boy, regardless,
and give the porno’s epilogue true feeling.
After some bad takes (I actually lanced the poor kid
in the stomach, and then he fell into the pool,
bleeding and drowning), I bowl a perfect score,
reading for hours afterward a single issue of Maxim,
the one where actresses cover themselves
with giant replicas of their favorite punctuation.
I do not know how else to break this to you:
I am going to make the Cretan Bull
have sperm coding only for Batman.
But more like the Batman of the later decades,
after he has already “accidentally” killed the familiar criminals,
after Alfred has reintroduced fine arts into the inner-city schools
and Gotham adds a Starbucks and public wifi.
The night will be warm, as it is wont to be,
and, finally, we will auction our favorite action figures
online, without much shame.
RYAN BENDER-MURPHY’s work also appears (or is forthcoming) in Anti-, Dark Sky Magazine, elimae, NAP, and elsewhere. He recently completed his MFA at the University of Texas at Austin and will be watching The Dark Knight Rises when it comes out July 2012.
WHAT WE CAN REPLACE
—What’s the last thing you remember of fear?
Someone threw my head into a wall.
And the sparks of my teeth
burst forth, falling
like fake snow on a stage.
Then I was sweeping me up,
and dumping me into a cup
of milk for keeping. You can’t
make sense of what you know
was no mistake. If the sound
of falling glass became
a cold light in my head: the pain
when I opened up to speak. Blind,
we are, to the smallest winds
only a naked nerve can feel,
around us all the time,
like the baby hair of weather.
—It was the winds, then?
Not them. It was knowing
there was one less piece of me
to get in their way.
When the little night
light in your throat
grows a tongue and asks
to be transformed
into a blue ribbon
that will coil from the hole
you’ve just bored
through your forehead,
out into the morning air,
drifting like a row
of moths, heavy
with the disappointment
born in that moment
when you realize
that the field of you
waking up in copper sun,
is not as useless
as you’d thought
or hoped, tell yourself
the blue ribbon will tie
to a fence post
like a memorial
even the deer will see
as the strip of sky
you’ve just replaced.
William Brewer’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review Online, The Nation, A Public Space, and other journals. He was previously a Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at Columbia University, and is currently associate editor of Parnassus: Poetry in Review. Born and raised in West Virginia, he now lives in Brooklyn. He can be contacted at williambrewerjr[at]gmail[dot]com.
A FORM FOR DURATION:
A FORM FOR DURATION:
KARLA KELSEY is author of Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary and Iteration Nets, both published by Ahsahta Press. She edits and contributes to The Constant Critic.
THEODORE WOROZBYT’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Antioch Review, Best American Poetry, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review 30 Year Anthology, New England Review, Po&sie, Poetry, Sentence, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly Online and Quarterly West. He has published two books of poetry, The Dauber Wings (Dream Horse Press, 2006) and Letters of Transit, which won the 2007 Juniper Prize (The University of Massachusetts Press, 2008).
She sat on the deck, face in the shade, legs in the sun, reading books about griefs and
tragedies by people she’d met in the far away city at chic literary events. She’d cry a little
or watch a small mammal run across the road.
Once when she was on the phone with a poet who lived on the other coast and she
described the creature she thought was a beaver, woodchuck, or hedgehog, the poet on
the other coast assured her, with great confidence, that it was a woodchuck. He explained
that woodchucks’ legs are designed for hills and that’s why when running on flat ground the
animal looked like he was hopping on his back legs.
“I’m totally Annie Dillard,” she told the poet even though she totally wasn’t and didn’t even
know the names of the animals or birds or trees or flowers and had trouble sitting still and
spent most of her time wondering why she wasn’t writing and was instead reading sad
memoirs by people she had recently met.
Every day she watched the UPS truck or USPS truck come toward her up the road and then
turn into the driveway before hers, make a three-point turn and head away before reaching
Once there was a jackdaw black as soot with a bright eye, a voice like a broken bell and
some nasty habits she couldn’t help. More and more she looked like her mother. Same
expressions, similar fears and aspirations. This summer everyone seemed able to hurt her
feelings even with small offenses and minor insensitivities. The husband hated it when she
cried. Her scrunched wet face made him feel helpless and feeling helpless made him
angry and his anger made him mean. She would then accuse him of being unhappy
and decide that she was in this—meaning life—all alone and couldn’t rely on him for anything
and for days would go about dry-eyed with a hard aloofness, her chin slightly raised, arms
crossed over her chest. But these were the feathers of other birds and neither she nor the
husband had any patience for finery which they both considered pretentious and
inauthentic even if they did in their own way appreciate art for art’s sake. Then they’d
kerfuffle and say hurtful things and all her carefully assembled armature would fall away.
Then she would appear again as the ordinary jackdaw he loved.
RACHEL ZUCKER is the author of several books of poetry, most recent, Museum of Accidents. She teaches poetry at NYU and is a certified labor doula. “The Eagle and the Crow” and “The Jackdaw” are from a new (unpublished) collection: Fables. Visit www.rachelzucker.net for more information.
from THE ALTAR STATE
Everybody at the crosswalk smiles at me
with what I want to be their love
and the wet leaves huddled in the gutters
I want to give me hope
It’s nearly March with new names to bill us
new building with a neighbor smoking a cigarette
behind a window across the courtyard
in her underwear
After forgetting to put the holed cap back on the salt
I got sloppy in the kitchen
in the small space between the counter and the stove
with the one functioning radiator invisibly leaking
On the train today I thought my way
to my mother’s room
What was it she used to do
Iron sweaters, scroll sacred nonsense in a notebook
a good hand pulling at her mind
And despite my own beliefs
I fear that I have always preferred those
who live lives of full faith
We pass a building covered with glass
a building covered with leaves
a building covered with the look of water
The train banging out its bright blind act
around the corporate pond a willow
a willow a willow
AFTER A BIRTHDAY IS SUNDAY
I try to throw off the city but it’s everywhere
To be less alone I walk to the lake
to walk with the lake
Having known god once I know how to be
the smallest thing next to the largest
but even in the ice the ducks bow on
and I’m just so big for a girl
ALISA HEINZMAN lives in Chicago with Jake Gillespie. She’s an editor for Octopus Books and works for a translation company.
the awkward is
infinitely less so.
we turned around in perfect ovals,
the lake moves
here & forever more
through a telescope.
rings of light, —pulsing
it was the rush of red deep through
the mountain left an ashy crime scene
from the volcano basin
during the time when all the houses were being
an oblong vase appeared through the ash,
the middle was cut
gaping at us
we traced our hands thinly with chalk
to find the origin of
SARAH JEDD is technically a Chicago native (according to her birth certificate) despite having grown up in New Hampshire. She just received her BA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and plans to take the next year off to explore the possibilities of bartending & beer-making before applying to grad schools. You can find her poems in issues 22 and 24 of Columbia Poetry Review and The Desperate Anthology.
POEM FOR THE PEGASUS FALLEN FROM GRACE
I think of nothing but escape until I burst into the larger cave of sleep
and dream of one-eyed desperados. All the dead poets stowed away stars
like bags of letters, and they live on in them now. Sometimes I can see their gas giants
through the globular mists that hover over March, and it’s good to have your mouth
to slide inside. I’ve put away a star for you every year since I was twelve and knew
the wind could not shake the heavenly bodies from the juniper. They would sit
in the tree, while we forgot every detail. Then came suitors and other fires
and barely holding it together. Each eyelash a dark radii inviting
you to its source, the stars climbing the lattice work. What I said about luck
was a lie, like what Perseus said to the Pegasus at the fountain.
He said, Come look in my hand. The night air is crisp as cedar, he said.
Imagine if the city could see the crown of but one wing.
FOR ME AT TWENTY-SIX, IMPOVERISHED IN SYDNEY
In the morning, we move like vessels in a slothy fog
and want only what accommodates: the gum tree lowing
to my window, the elevator button blushing to life.
In your travelogue, you categorize my genus, species.
When in love, you say you know it by the torrents of spiders threshing up your arm.
When October comes, you know it by the faces animated into vegetables.
Now it’s August, and Aeneas clutches his lance
at the bow of his bronze ship. I walk into a miracle—the only planet
for parsecs where I can ford into the clairvoyant blue of waves.
Tonight, your Brazilian dances night into its coffin. Italy unfastens its bra
and looks back. Tide pools glow and I think of the beginnings of life
on Titan. Tiny methane-fed beings boogying in an underground river,
the river carrying the unintentional chimera of organic life--
something it can’t even articulate, but scrawls its likeness on the rock face.
In August, Galvin’s lovers write each other’s names on the salt flats.
They slam doors. They throw their names into the wind like lances.
I come bearing daffodils, the many faces of Narcissus latched in a jar.
KYLE MCCORD is the author of three books of poetry: Galley of the Beloved in Torment (Dream Horse Press 2009), a co-written book of epistolary poems entitled Informal Invitations to a Traveler (Gold Wake Press 2011) and Sympathy from the Devil forthcoming from Gold Wake Press in 2013. He has work featured in Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, Volt and elsewhere. He co-edits iO: A Journal of New American Poetry. He is a teaching fellow at University of North Texas in Denton, TX.
They brought the cufflinks, one after the other, and still I counted to twenty-nine.
I remembered the Manchurian ponies slaughtered in bites of South Pole wind.
When I paid no special warning, I remained in strict voice time.
Confused colleagues threw power horses into my real or imagined candidacy.
Before daybreak I heard whispers of hurricanes fried in mud slosh and butter.
I could not imagine the usual pan, only the recitation of prayers.
One after the other, my thoughts kept pinning me to myself, myself to I.
So much human strain remained at the rim of an untongued button hole.
At least once the auguries prefigured our weather of false praise.
Earnestly, our bedclothes were consistently creased, as if we’d never lived outside the body’s reach.
Let me say it this way. Wasps worked the length of testicular longing.
They knew the secret fluids, the sacral hive, from whence this stinging came.
FIJI FRIGHT WIG
Yesterday I had to eat my curiosity beneath a blank drudgery.
Who has died in the magnificent magnolia? Who is it who stinks?
No trace of volcanic lapse cruels my chest.
Sure, I wept for the killed horse, for the froth of bees’ blood in the left ear.
Everything was singing me—singing me singing it.
Every word was a time-strict saltshaker of Brahms.
And so my life is the silence of a horse chestnut spring.
It is a very long walk from Hikmet to Ritsos, and even further from Breton to Vallejo.
Guide me as I step into your brain.
Help me negotiate the erotic fires of my sadness.
One bone propped in my hand makes me an accomplice.
I must accommodate the stare of your hair. It resembles the widow’s peak of a Fiji fright wig.
Make my mouth bleed. Kiss me, my darling, where it hurts.
That shouldn’t be hard since most days it hurts all over.
SEVEN MINUTES TWENTY-THREE SECONDS
I stood there, that life, weeping for lack of a good pocket hanky and any compassionate glance.
They’d disemboweled me in the courtyard, made me watch them burn my own entrails, there, before I died.
I do not exaggerate. I am not the mouth of a louse.
I wore a wig, I recall, like a newly shouldered barrister.
You say that’s one reason I cannot easily make decisions this time?
You imagine me a judge, not a barrister, complicating their court?
Throw that in with having been a photographer at the burn of an Algerian century, with serving toast, cleaning latrines
in Bombay and Tashkent.
Somehow, the smell belonged to me.
No, I don’t recall every birth.
My coffee voice is too numerous to equalize the waitress’s sad glance.
That’s one reason I imagine making love to just about every emotionally bruised woman I meet.
I remember what it was like to watch my insides burn for the longest seven minutes twenty-three seconds of my life.
LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO
Please, do not look sad. Do not sumac-stem my brow.
Truly, such incarnate salt implicates the tired of my name.
Because I don’t fully rain, some pungent bean curd is fierce.
Of the six lingering warmths, the seventh and eighth are most qualm.
On a precise pear leaf, fresh forms of water bucket my mouth.
Look at the brown tiles of the moon as an enormous hereditary belief.
When my grandfather broke water, he gave birth to a revolver.
Because I have wondered about the gas lamp, he has stayed dead a long time.
Once, I planted sunflower seeds in the chest of a percent stranger.
She was mathematically part woman, part other. I was torn between three halves and did this through self-hypnosis.
I heard I spoke possum while everyone else slept.
A marsupial nervous system is, perhaps, more advanced than the aqueducts of a plant.
Behind the owl-toped ridge, a sapphire of bloated noon burns.
Do not look, please. Do not my sad. The word strange is somehow less than or equal to an enabler of huge sufferings.
For far too long I tamed tapeworms, taught them a steady path of lambs.
I stood in the doorframe of an owl and welcomed my loss of a loving throat.
Someone gave birth to an egg. From its center sprang an epistolary braid.
I wrote my shame over and over in the lust I had for a certain young woman.
All kinds of sea creatures direct my age.
She wore a dirndl, the tight blue bodice cruel as a crupper.
A charmable puff of smoke formed directly in the connective tissue of gnats.
We passed the membrane bone and inhaled deeply thereof.
Honor thy honey badger and thy hookah, it is inscribed, slantwise, in the thorax.
Forsake all manner of snug settlings and seek to inherit a yurt.
Tent-like, I covered my mouth with a moist path of hands.
Some ached, some strained my secret name, and some contained shreds of rich green staph.
When her bodice was vault-feces blue, the color was cured.
We discussed the relative merits of salt pork and hands.
For far too long, I have raised tapeworms, distributed them as redemptive—if not disturbing—seeds.
They helped each person eat him- or herself clear through, from inside out.
GEORGE KALAMARAS has published six books of poetry and six chapbooks. Recent titles are Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (Elixir Press, 2012), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize, Your Own Ox-Head Mask as Proof (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010), and The Recumbent Galaxy (C & R Press, 2010), co-authored with Alvaro Cardona-Hine and winner of the C & R Press Open Competition. He is a Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.