THE BODY IN AUGUST (2010)
Because when I was a child, God would pull me up into her lap. Because when she sat me in her lap, She would read to me. Because the story she read most was the one I liked least. Because every day She’d open that thin green book and say This is the story of your life. Because from beginning to end there were only three pages.
I believe in that road that is infinite and black and goes on blindly forever. I believe crocodiles swallow rocks to help them digest crab. Because up until the 20th century people could still die from sensation. And because my hunger is so deep I’m ashamed to lift my head.
Because memory – not gravity–pins us to this trembling. And when God first laid eyes on us, She went mad from shame. Because if the planet had a back door we’d still be there, waiting for the air to approve our entry. Because your eyes were the only time the athirium said yes to me. Because no matter how many times I died, I always woke up again – happy.
Then last night, after I’d yelled at him for the first time, my new son dreamt we went walking inside the trees. When we came across a squirrel, he said, I’d kicked it. Then the squirrel changed into a thin green book, which we read.
Because when God became a small child I pulled Her up into my lap. Because when I pulled her into my lap, to please Her, I opened my blouse. Because Her mouth is an impossibly pink place, a gaping raw cathedral, which She opened, teeth-to-nipple, then clamped down.
MOTHER CHURCH NO. 3
(Kin Kletso/”Yellow House”
Chaco Canyon, San Juan County, New Mexico
Anasazi Ruins, 1125-1130 AD)
for Henri-Raphael, at 2
You step down into the Flat World
Then ask me to say it, to explain
How our name can mean both ancestor
And enemy. Your body begins in four directions.
Here one calendar takes eighteen years.
I am three. One day is an eyelash.
Your body is a segment of prehistoric road,
A buried stairwell with only the top stair obvious.
We are alluvial, obsidian.
Sometimes the ground swells
With disappointment. Sometimes we know our mountains
Will be re-named after foreign saints.
We sing nine-hundred year old hymns
That instruct us in how to sit still
For forty-nine years
Through a fifty-year drought.
We climb down through the hole anyway,
And agree to the arrangement.
And then one morning we wake up
embracing on the bare floor of a large cage.
To keep you happy, I decorate the bars.
Because you had never been hungry, I knew
I could tell you the black side
of my family owned slaves.
I realize this is perhaps the one reason
why I love you: because I told you this
and you still wanted to kiss
me. We laughed when I said plantation,
fell into our chairs when I said cane.
There were fingers on the floor
and the split bodies of women
who’d been torn apart by horses
during the Inquisition. You’d said
Well I’ll be damned!
Every now and then, you’d change
from a prancing black buck
into a small high yellow girl: pigtailed,
patent leather, eyes spinning gossamer, begging
for egg salad and banana pudding.
Or just as quickly you’d become the girl’s mother, pulling
yourself away from yourself.
Because my whole head was covered
with a heaving beehive, you thought I didn’t
notice. I noticed. I cried honey.
And then you were fourteen, and you had grown
a glorious steel cock under your skirt. To brag
you rubbed yourself against me. Then your tongue
was inside my mouth, and I wanted to say
Please ask me first, but it was your tongue,
so who cared suddenly
about your poor manners?
We had books and a waterfall
was falling in the corner.
I didn’t tell you I couldn’t
remember what that thing was you said
to me once, that tender thing you’d said
I should never forget.
The moment you said it, I forgot it.
I wondered if you thought we were lost.
We weren’t lost. We were loss.
And meanwhile, all I could think
about was the innumerable ways
I would’ve loved to have eaten you. How
being devoured can make one cry. And I hoped
you liked the pleasant taste
of juiced cane. You pulled
my pubic bone toward you. I didn’t
say It’s still broken; I didn’t tell
you, There’s still this crack. It was sore,
but I stayed silent because you were smiling.
You said, The bars look pretty, Baby,
then rubbed your hind legs up against me.
Robin Coste Lewis is a Cave Canem Fellow and Goldwater Fellow at NYU’s Creative Writing Program. She studied Sanskrit and comparative religious literature at Harvard Divinity School. She was the Cole Professor of Creative Writing at Wheaton College and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Hampshire College. She was a finalist for both the Rita Dove Prize and the International War Poetry Prize. Born in Compton, California, her family is from New Orleans.
To Two or Three Members of the Audience
You put the moon&stars
in the sea down there.
See, I flung the broken star parts
into the bathwater and out
of the window where they made
a “noise.” Like singing
from a stranger. Like a further
emergency. Put you down
(like the icy moon) or hold you?
When the world is a cart of noising birds,
hold you. I cannot or I forget to hold you
when I am most wet and slippery,
when I’ve come in from the woods
and away from my nature, o my naturalist,
my hunter-prodigy, in my fairy costume
and its ribbed silver wing set and
am strung up and out and all gossam--
but I do not forget the north
of your naked, nor the froth
of your ambition. I wear that
compass like tattoo.
To grow is what I like
about you: how it looks.
How you draw the icon
from its tooled&pearled holster.
Hot as a star. Hooked as a bird.
The perfumed shoulder-hump
of the moon, and the whole tingling cacophony.
I am here and so wholesome, my costume
set with the chipped bits of ice
known as “eyes.”
Arielle Greenberg is the author of My Kafka Century and Given, co-author with Rachel Zucker of Home/Birth: A Poemic, and co-editor of several anthologies, including Gurlesque. Currently she is working on a series of explicit “experimental/pastoral sex poems.” She lives in Maine, teaches out of her home and through the University of Tampa’s low-residency MFA program.
Clever radish: a moon’s
red slips behind cloud.
Sparrows fly from ripe
apples. A foot hovers.
Is it marbles in milk
or one searchlight, under
water? Incremental farmers
billow along a horizon
wide as an accordion.
A dart in each corner
pulls the four walls in
Laurie Saurborn Young is the author of Carnavoria, a book of poems from H_NGM_N BKS. She lives in Austin, Texas.
Hello? I’m calling you
on a banana.
For 20 years
a little haggard now
I remember when you
looked like a dolphin
still while the water
moved around you
and you stood there
in your dress
it must be hard
to be so ekphrastic
I’m going to mail you
a postcard of the sea
since you won’t move
EVERYTHING CAN BE SPOKEN
is crowded. A woman
who spits onto the tracks
later stands in the corner
of the car smiling beatifically.
She is at home
in her hair.
The horrible arms
of the distant nebulae
grasp at nothing.
The lasagna re-heating
in the toaster oven
sounds like people creeping
up the stairs. Everything
can be spoken.
Matthew Rohrer is the author of seven books of poems, most recently DESTROYER AND PRESERVER, published by Wave Books.
APHORISTIC CONVERSATION STARTERS FOR A DINNER DATE WITH A SLINKY
—after Russel Swensen
1. If the fork marries the spoon, a knife is still a knife.
2. If reality truly wanted to be realistic, it would become a cartoon.
3. Don’t fill up on the bread. We don’t know what’s coming, or how much.
4. I knew a woman, once, who couldn’t stand to waste food. When her sons wouldn’t clean their plates (here where the plates are always overfilled), she always ate what they left.
5. She had witnessed many atrocities.
6. Imagine pastries, the terror of raspberry filling squirting out the other end.
7. I tire of the circumstances and want a motorcycle with trim handlebars and a metaphysical helmet.
8. This is what the philosophers refer to as a thought experiment.
9. A man and a survivor of genocide walk into a bar.
10. That’s the thing about lettuce. While the dinosaurs didn’t live, salad pretty much did.
11. But enough about me.
12. My ex-girlfriend is a serious cummerbund.
13. Fact: a coat hanger makes a better everything-else than a coat hanger.
14. No one discusses the sugar glider in games of Duck, Duck, Goose, what do you think of that?
16. So the bartender says, only one of you is a man?
17. Considers the pragmatics of language.
18. Pours the survivor a drink.
19. In Cambodia there was a tree against which infants were held by their ankles and bashed against the trunk of a tree.
20. Next to the tree was a hole.
21. For obvious reasons.
22. The tree is still (and I went) there. Tiny shards of bone at its feet.
23. You don’t talk much, do you?
25. You know what I hate? Loofahs.
26. I’m an incandescent light bulb! I do three things.
27. 1) Clap on; 2) Clap off; 3)
28. “Destroy yourself if you don’t know!”
29. You play your cards right, you’ll get more out of this than linguini.
30. We’ll walk downstairs.
WITH REGARD TO THE BIRD-PRINT ON THE SLIDING GLASS DOOR
It would have been the head first, must have been, the whole
exacting white imprint extending out from that first touch of beak
to glass, the touchstone of surprise, which, quickly down-folded
from airy empire, hurries from point of beak to socket, or eye more likely,
though that could fling no oily dust, having carried
none of that there. So in the second instant, two pools
of clean glass where each eye would have struck, another
in the first for the beak streaking down, and in the third
a crown of feathers—but all at once, an over-exposed glimpse
of cranial impact. So then the body of course—now disappeared--
appearing much larger than it would have appeared
in flight, ballooning out in the sudden collapse from third
to second dimension. And then the wings, their leading edge
distended from the body, as if the shoulders never arrived, as if
the wings to the body were never attached. I latch
onto each shaft and barb and hook of the feathers
apparent, not blurred but clearly exacted, extending from each wing
to limited points, as in the strictures of a painter painting
a rectangular blank canvas. It would have fallen to the ground.
It might have passed out. It would have taken itself
considerably away to fly or die out in the unfathomable
recollection of having been airborne for so long.
Brian Nicolet also has an MFA and stuff. His chapbook Ode to a Means to an End was a semi-finalist in a contest a year or so ago, but no one ever told him. It’s okay; he didn’t win anyway. His poems and reviews have appeared in Subtropics, Gulf Coast, C4, New South, La Fovea, Colorado Review, and Fringe. He works at the University of Texas at Austin, nevertheless remaining a member of the petite bourgeoisie.
and the head sickens, and the liver sickens:
he will not wake up—my uncle with the tattooed
worm on his stomach, stretched out over years:
he lies symmetric on the operating table
holding his elbow, holding his skin under the lamp
that makes him feel small: my wrist brushes against
a numb sponge—that is his lip: my mother slides a finger
across the piano top, my legs stretched out as before:
as my mother’s on the coffee table as we wait:
Chopin speaks, Bach speaks: we cry beside the piano:
and the bookshelves heavy with books:
and a closed room: and the doctor telling the story
of a gentle incision: my uncle among children
feeding bread crumbs to geese: he notices the scar
on his chest: scars on the chests of the birds:
the mole on his granddaughter’s cheek:
his eyes are gone and he’s losing his hair:
he is naked and runs a hand over his belly and laughs:
and I am crying in the shower: my mother plays a scale:
and the story: he’s humming himself to sleep
John James holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University, where he received an Academy of American Poets Prize. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, DIAGRAM, Pleiades, Redivider, and elsewhere. He teaches at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.
In the middle of Nebraska, our parents
became the smell of sage and a bitten
nectarine, respectively. They kept getting
eaten, alive and so completely. I’d chase you
through the pear tomatoes, lanced by slivers
from the vines, yelling, Is that our mother
in your mouth? Brother. We did not come
from indefatigable incisions. They have always
been disappearing, even before we consumed
them, before you learned to climb up
to the hot burner. It has always been
raining, and when it never rains at all I wish
it would so you’d come inside. What will I
do when you are gone from me.
Let’s commandeer a ferry, a small one, with room
for us, some flashlights and pop-tarts,
the bracelet I wear to alert medical personnel
that I have certain deadly allergies. There is
something satisfying about the end, its round
finality. But we’re addressing the bed and not
the body in it. We can speculate, will manhole
covers seize on columns of steam, or will it be
a series of sounds like fireworks and then
nothing. The blocks blinking out in domino
rows, windows sucked in and shattered.
A darkness unbroken even by the thin blue light
of the law. A silence, like crepitus, you feel
more than hear. I could steal us a car, you know.
No one would be there to arrest us but
if they did I’d take the fall and they’d try me
as a juvenile, it’d be the only good this face
ever did me. There’s no reason to think
that in the movie of our lives, we’d survive.
Look at the size of us—I’m tall as a man and still
I cannot lift you. Pretend I can lift you. Every
little bit helps. I can skin a weasel with your
butter knife. I can navigate by star and compass.
I can make you love me with a papercut. We bite
our fists and check our watches because catastrophe,
like heartbreak, is useless without punctuality.
There is nothing in the clouds, and it’s falling fast.
Hilary Vaughn Dobel’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in print with Lana Turner, Ploughshares, and A Public Space, and online with Kenyon Review and Guernica. She holds an MFA in poetry and literary translation from Columbia University. A native of Seattle, Washington, she lives and works in Somerville, Massachusetts. For more information, see her website at hilaryvdobel.wordpress.com.
CONVERSATION WITH THE STONE WIFE
Nothing interests me anymore. A garden is too enthusiastic
to be alive for its own sake. The highway, now that is something.
I want to be paved into colorless stone. Because you don’t
believe me anymore and you’ve lodged with too many sisters,
am I correct in saying the engines of trucks sound arcane,
that you love the unbelievable smoke of winners? Define desire:
when have I ever made isolation difficult, it is my primary vocative
as when the cars pedal their blood-speed down the interstate.
They bend as you, swerve around struck geese as you word
your desires. Define for me a body. I guess at its opposite: crows lift
heavily from powerlines at the scattergun of a flabby man,
everywhere the smell of semen ersatz from dogwoods. Bereft.
These hours spin, are the aspirin dust of every horse gallop.
I’ve ceased my worries of being fathomed. I am stone. Sex.
No need for coddling, no need for linear paths of diction.
In the parade, I am a distant cousin’s milktooth rattling
a mason jar. Someday the man with his gun will lift his legs
into a fabulous pair of corduroy. That sound will be a caw,
not the soundtrack of desiccated desert bones. But the highway:
Crowded buses move the forsythia with definitive violence
in a way I know means I will never know touch. How cruel
to be so heavenly a body without body, the charge and wail
of skin and city and distance. Last winter the life of a battery
could poison the oceans forever—how could I bore of this?
Since then the arctic seas have warmed. Disasters loom
with smug portending. I want to be opened, for someone’s gaze
on my awful fissures. To be smelled for the ice age inside me.
Natalie Eilbert‘s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Tin House, Guernica, West Branch, Spinning Jenny, Colorado Review, Sixth Finch, Bat City Review, and many others. Her poetry criticism can be found on The Rumpus. She is a founding editor of The Atlas Review, and lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.
TINDER IN A TIME OF BURNING
I’m eight at the beginning, and it’s always the beginning:
somewhere, silos daisy-ringed
with guards. One night, my father comes home with the father
from the next farm down the road,
and they sit. Dark cups and the other man’s smoke. Shoulders
like the haunches of huge, white bulls.
My mother’s fears: government men and babies gone breech;
the pigs my father lets roam in the woods,
so in official records there are no pigs; the joy in his voice as he
calls them home is a flare gun, is a circus
cannon. The men fear someday knowing the sound of women
dying. They hunch across our lazy susan, voices
a hum of tones I’d hear behind my parent’s bedroom door: a low,
old language, and the next day, changed.
My mother with her face a blaze of morning. My father, quiet:
the world. The world, devoured.
Aubrey Ryan‘s work has appeared recently in Squat Birth Journal, Anti-, DIAGRAM, Cellpoems, Best New Poets 2011, and the forthcoming Tupelo Press erotic poetry anthology. She is a two time Pushcart Prize nominee and the winner of the 2012 Booth Poetry Prize. Aubrey lives on the prairie with her husband and their toddling son.
POST-APOCALYPSE WITH SUN INTACT
You ask me to tell the truth, so I say,
Bloodroot seeds lure passage into an ant den like
a child in a barrel
on the bed of a truck crawling up a mountain. They cover
themselves in debris until it is time. From each root unfurls
stem and flower. I broke
my feet so I could dance like a petal en pointe, worthy of love.
I tell you our foot arches are supposed to steady us.
god: after we paint the fruit, may we eat the fruit? You’ve exposed
yourself to the ever-halving mouths of strangers, malnourished,
childless. Let me not fail you like a replaceable organ.
still useful elsewhere. A louse robs my mouth of tongue,
on my behalf when I part my lips. I do not think it lies. Primed
for darkness, I walk, listening.
One-time skulls and wing bones mute beneath my shoes.
What does not ossify, dusts. The piano can be kept
A native of California, Diana Khoi Nguyen is working on completing her first manuscript in Brooklyn, NY. She has poems forthcoming in Memorious and OmniVerse. For more information, visit her website at www.dianakhoinguyen.com.
A NO GOOD LOVE SONG
In the bedroom: your pillow, a locket
& a picture of a grizzly bear. Once
there was a boy, but I forgot
his name. It’s all so distant now
and then I dream of poppies.
Already sleeping in a different
bedroom. A different human
with the same face wakes me
in the morning. I am nothing
more than this cup of coffee,
the rice milk, and the subterranean
longing after which you fall
to sleep on my belly. I am a cave
with no bear to sleep inside. If
a boy were here, I am sure
a game of catch would happen. Sure,
things are not always like this. I know
there are different names
to call this room. There is always
a better pillow. A better way to pronounce
hollow. If I could light this candle with
both matches. A magic of not knowing
if this is a dream or a real
conversation we’ve had before. You fall
a blanket over my lap. Surprising
how the sunset looks different
from this window. I place my
hand on your head and imagine
a better place to fall asleep.
Alexis Pope is the author of the chapbook Girl Erases Girl (Dancing Girl Press, 2013). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review, Sixth Finch, iO, and Death Hums, among others. She lives in Ohio where she co-curates THE BIG BIG MESS READING SERIES and is Contributing Editor for Whiskey Island Magazine. Sometimes she posts things here.
SNAKESKIN WALLET IN A ROOM WHERE YOU ARE NOT
The dinner I am
dressing for is days
calm of soil I have
touched has reached
my hands Button
over button I am
letter A bit of
gunks up in the eye
in the morning
I mean the after-
now but look
backward you are
not pastured in inches’
acres as many
as it takes to withhold
I am truthfully
The kind of guy
who would dress up
for starvation A knot
raising in jerks Lately
I am more responsible
than lonely Stepping
out into five-clouded
sunfall that won’t shut
up All bibbed in self-
Testing the weight
of my mail like half-
apples I don’t know
why I say letter
when I mean
text message or
how a pollened
hull could rock so
my noticing I can’t
say why hookah smoke
traps in my nostrils
for days I can taste
a bit of you now
how I’ve made my-
self up for you The
same as waiting in a
thirsting bank of
hooks & blooms
thinning colors I
step around I can’t
recall if you are
one or many Funny
sort of hunger that starts
several tiles in front
of me My tongue
parts as if by chance
Curtis Rogers holds an MFA in poetry from NYU. Previously, his poetry has appeared in La Petite Zine. He lives and works in Washington, D.C.
SEQUENCE ENDING IN DESIRE
I can’t make the theology of my mouth into any beginning
Do you know syllable-smooth-bellied-fine-with-platitudes (joy
sounds like this) fails in the way a sentence finds inevitable stop
It ends Not badly It falls off the way morning snow slips noon into
mud hardly seen turning this to that
Say my name only in marigolds Tell the next The next only sweet
pea My Lips My sometimes My cut grass
Maybe I call once hear the background laugh (and she laughs)
The peonies happy its all done But the finches and sunlight And
summer lilies (we saw blinding the orange rim of the roads)
You come sound You come blind note You come never before
Say I want nothing Want nothing meaning all meaning not
larks not eclipse not every pear which everyone easily forgets (and the
dead tree and the bear and the sky turned red)
The articles of nothing make everything we have (the flowers the
blue cups The smell of sea though there was none )
The articles of everything make no longer as in No longer can I not
imagine the end
You butter your bread You wash the clothes The hum reminds you
of something The not which is there The glass blind light or
blinding Nothing never ends
Blue is less mortal Not the least blue
the ocean will not bare Not blue swallowing you whole
Any joy deliberate as joy keeps itself from blue and purpose
Do not paint me more color than waves.
And blue again of course speaks the ferns far away which it longs
for Say you love me this way Less than a great epiphany
Almost more mortal than blue can I go away like the blink you
imagine by forgetting Love me like this Just remembered now
What I really want to say Your coffee is bitter The towels frayed
The petunias need watering
Joy let’s say the clear air and hands in your pockets keeps from
blue and purpose As though a cliff says fall A wind says hiss
Do not think of the painter this way He painted Not my face
I want to say Do not think of the painter and think tangerine Do not
think limp room Orange flourish Sky crack
Hate me in the way you hate a beautiful thought
Silver bellied sheen You paint what you know to be true
You are not hungry but bare me as blue the ocean cannot
You love me dank Moist night My heart no willow pond Water
coming and going and sounding The rush we prefer to say brook
The nightingale says You have made too much of my name Go
away Close the window The breeze doesn’t care
Here’s what we know You’ve figured us out singing through the
dark in trees that know no better than to allow us Trees tired of all
and Romance which does nothing for birds either Don’t get cocky
It’s not our wisdom Ringed swoop Be what I want you to want to be
I have to say even as I’m showering A knocked down woman is
pathetic to love you It’s all been talked about so much
I speak like this supposing you hear more than What’s his name?
It’s a dance-off Really Not your line Like everything You make it
Someone cares because the Word has nothing of us without
pause If you listened you would understand The shell and the ear
is a story we tell our children Silence discovers us in this way
I have many You should know The way I kiss them all goodbye.
Not your lonely Lonely as a moment can never choose Hear the bird all night
That pause Not a tender slip Not nudge Because fucking just has
to be done Yes I said it not beautiful as swans or geese, geese or
Be what I want before you go When I forget you As I forget you I
will forget you Mostly silent The trees love us for this and even the
us you imagine
Swans and herons have no say You measure the extent The cliché
and hollow Nothing forgives a singular function Swans like the
others say Go away
I forgot again to name the sky
A man with his arm pulled back That fist That guy will cough only
dust Say even orbits of Embers
Waiting for the sound of shattering fills the quiet spaces we
You believe me I have lied I have not forgotten to name the sky a desolate ruined thing
Ember knows even paper napkins and paper covered
straws which you are always given whether you need them or not
Billboards of course Landscape of glitches
Not a thing to be in the world But worlds too large to speak You
cannot speak a tree or the word itself A tree cannot be what we
You cannot change the billboards or the cows that gather between
them You can change I hate that you love me is enough
Forget something burns You imagine coffee without cream
Oatmeal Not name a word that gives you up Never this Nor
the sound of leaving a room
Do you forget we are talking about fire and the way you’ve been gone
I’ve told you what I’ve told you is not believable enough to escape
Do not believe the freeways either
The freeways cough with you so you’re not alone
Your sediment Your ditch Not particularly rare A burnt spot in the rug not undone
Sometimes you love a fist
Sometimes you need a man to come down on you like trees
roughed up by a storm Sometimes you like it but don’t say so
Not to the door Not to the window nor the splintered porch You
don’t say sometimes You pity that you’re loved
A first life stabs you The bright red of fire which darkens so quickly
The cut begs to tell us What’s true
I wanted your beautiful torso Its stretch Its beautiful face Its
doorway I wanted your Honey yes Your be good Your goodnight I
wanted you’re mine I wanted you’re mine You’re mine and I own you
The clover said He is not and it happens that the tulips didn’t
notice The water barely resisted with cobalt blue which means be
good for a woman But cobalt most often lies
Listen You may hate how the sky sounds But the bed was never
yours The gardenias kept growing indiscernibly red As all desire
In the dark My back says I am not afraid of you
The whole body never knows what the parts do A heart can tangle
in cat’s claw which is yellow flowers which is clutching a wall
Which is I will not let you go
All you had to say All you had to say is The tomatoes ripe you
would have loved to see
When you lose a thing you love it more of course Though a lost
thing may mean swindle Mean right hook Slow cook The send it
while you have it Lonesome anyway
The second life excuses you from the stupid ache in your chest
I only hate your hands
Where a thing begins has to do with unraveling
You would not let me be on my knees You dabbed my shin with
gauze You made the bed as soon as you rose You ate my oatmeal
without sugar You bought cigars you didn’t smoke even outside
You shoveled the deck when it snowed in April You were timid
about the closet and hanging your clothes You loved my friends
You drove me everywhere You loved my flowers You took pictures
of my flowers You tapped out syllables on my back You fixed my
hair You did not walk around naked You looked like a boy in your
towel You looked naked in your towel You slept in the same
position every night You watched me sleep You told me to go to
bed and that was fine You said lay on my chest You said you’re
tired You’re hungry You should eat You should sleep You should
walk You should get the mail You should shop now You should
cook now You should sleep The bed felt warm when I waited for
you I asked you when I should sleep
If you spoke as the first time speaking I would want to not want you again
The best part of heartbreak is the matter of being alive The park
seems less quiet Everything gets in your way I want most for you
to be a monster The beginning is hardest to remember The end
being greedy for what it wants
That anywhere love can be less abstract becomes a burden the
shoulders bear instead of the heart Not like a load of wood Not a
sack Burden like the weight of someone who stills you by holding
As someone who would lay himself on your back
The sky has seemed to need a name called What happens when
the blue falls As though blue could keep me without your hands As
though your hands understood why a vowel like a sounds like
yellow in a mind like mine Because you held that sweet pear for a
moment longer And I ate it out of your hand Because it was not the
first sweet in the palm of your hand and not the first sweet you fed
Good Morning I told you I’d make it right This is me Early morning
Three hours of sleep Maybe four But I’m here and I’m happy The
sun’s shining and I’m happy Speaking to you Here’s my morning
Here’s my kiss My kiss
THEIR OWN WEIGHT
Kind sunshine slid
by a bucket down
& we were an ounce
little trouts wound
We dreaded plot--
& its little dog…
By plot we intended
a river at the foot
of our bed
we intended oceans
A CLEANER DRESS
Don’t think razing
a fine motel--
Agree none salvage
the beds, its lamps--
A dozer’s fair blade
anticipates the dawn
Here they lie & here
sunken, ruinous heads
Our sunshine’s failing
feeling rather Indiana
A newspaper turns
in a tough economy
of words, brevity
& how we led down
manner in meaning
strung at the door
This face we’d never
sun too bright to see
A door inched open
I wanted to memorize
& its cross at the fence
For a mile I do, maybe
Now a motel
split on the dotted line
Pitted, smallish crater
We see ourselves like
others see us--
the view from up there
The motel split in two
The bearings get separated by continent & what seams are olded, grown inland/is land -> so form
we carry what we fawn
what firm in hand seems life-like
straps of color banded through water
& the mistrust of things that move
in ways we cannot – such fickle tuning
our song hands mesh the wind
sand dances like a stab-victim
& the stuck pig is a foreigner
wading through a sea
of foreigners who drape their hands
over his body, his blood a boring story
of dollars and whimper
The planes are filmed again, taking the sky
for granite, the granted wish of so many
who’ve come before us
to mechanics and engineering – a curve
to bear close, and closer to the sun
Daedalus washes his clothes & prays
a son bored of feathers & striving
oh, the monster’s eye, the flapping leaf
a skyward shot of light warning mariners
and sea creatures
we are weak here
folded & locked together – categories of stress
trapped newly to the skin
of the water & on top of it
all white & dream-sailed the angle of each body
crusted with salt, a pillar of stone
gone round the sun once – strings on each instrument
measured, when how old this entryway
was known by its first inhabitants
a sudden lurch upward from the water
& formed some scraping thousands of individuated
moments ago ago
Tony Mancus is the author of two chapbooks Bye Land, and Bye Sea. He co-founded Flying Guillotine Press in 2008 with Sommer Browning. Some of his poems can be found at or are forthcoming from Sink Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Verse, The Fiddleback, Salt Hill and elsewhere. He lives in Rosslyn, VA with his wife Shannon and their two cats.
EVERYWHERE PEOPLE MOVE INTO DARKNESS—ALLEYWAYS THAT RUN ARMS BETWEEN THEM
Bruno received a package including a will
keys and instructions on what should be done.
All evidence pointed to the body being his friend.
He hasn’t shown up, said Malachi’s sister
but police were still confirming dental records--
his car found nearby.
Bruno began making calls:
The jazz locals were certain
it was the man best known for documenting
Paul Rutherford, Gold Sparkle, Isotope 217:
those were other people’s bands.
Malachi was fiercely modest--
for at least the last decade he was an empty bottle
with a familiar face.
An eyewitness said turning vehicles didn’t stop
to watch a man become voltage on the highway.
The Sun-Times once tried to do a piece
but he declined
saying he wanted to write his own obituary.
In Chicago, Malachi is not a crown or a halo
but a small item of a man who set himself on fire
during rush hour Friday morning.
Jacob Victorine is a performance poet and MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches undergraduate Writing & Rhetoric. A member of the 2011 Jersey City National Slam Team, his poetry has been featured on IndieFeed: Performance Poetry. His poems appears or are forthcoming in places such as Columbia Poetry Review, The Bakery, PANK and Muzzle Magazine, for which he also writes book reviews.
You haven’t told me the ending yet
but everyday things fall out of the cabinets.
Boys explode into wits, lying half-naked
under a glass sky. In extreme circumstances
all of this might be real, a hard thinking night
fledged away from the branch where it blossomed.
Everyone is at the bar and hearts are made of soap,
laid tight in hose, blanched-nets and feathered mares
are swinging to the slap jack. This is a glorious night
but I have too many irrational fears about death
so I don’t take a shot, don’t take your shot,
and nothing happens. Your everyday life
is strung up on the back fence in the morning:
empty your bowl, empty your cup, stop talking.
Eszter Takacs is an MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in elimae, ILK Poetry, Full of Crow, DIAGRAM, Barn Owl Review, Phoebe, and Word Riot. She knows you better than you think.
I’m fitting myself
with lives fit to drink
have ‘em hand you
verses of bourbon jesus girl where do you
put it? hollow leg
I like your outfit philosophy livery
sentimental cap your boots
are euphoric make much
of time make much why
wait why not pin me and tell me
beautiful you know what
that means? joy for ever increase
never nothingness screw a quiet
bower here’s the sun striking
poinsettias setting the room on fire
here’s you on an axe framed
by a barn musk-rose and the trees
lined up outside the pharmacy
strings of lights but not those blinky
colored ones white ones that drip
rented jewels on a red-carpet night
here’s the mighty dead you’re Frank
infernal banging on that turquoise typewriter
Kenneth was always my guy we should
write letters like them on the subway
John this is my first poem to you do you
know this? I put it right
between your birds and my tongue
am I too plain-spoken? fine I’ll veil fine I’ll
put on something a little more ice skates
glaze around your local park
today when I woke up the December
sky was on all bell blue and still
drunk its pants on the floor smelling
like juniper balsam and Douglas
a herald on the brownstone you can
see it from the fire escape
too high not safe in excelsis
in my apartment is your soul
still in ferment? do we still talk
about the soul at this late a date?
How well do you wield
a gun do you want to rob a bank?
Yes yes more yes make much
of drugs and dogs and swallows up
into a ball and roll it down Flatbush
til it bangs into that triumphal
arch. you know the one
yes obligation yes shifting ground
but oh you devoted it is December
separate to blanker whitenesses
puzzle uncover cover again
meet Death on his bare
one more week in the tree
stand though snow oh honey
c’mere I love when you make that
mawkish mug you boy you
man you subtil Doctor I’m a cantor
of the Incarnate Word now go
cut down one of those trees so I can
be the steadfast on top
Amanda Smeltz is the author of the full-length poetry collection Imperial Bender (Typecast 2013) and is the assistant poetry editor of Forklift, Ohio. She lives and works and has her being in Brooklyn, NY.
his feet are wet.
a cricket. honeycombed rock,
shadow in the little hollow, time
wordtired and refried, he turned
at the oxbow.
does something have to have a name
before you can understand
what it is?
before he understands it,
a woodpecker arrests
have a name—toad, old campfire, cricket.
can language precede thought? digging,
i am weary. shadow
in the little hollow,
let me rest.
wordtired (n): you can’t have a thought
without a word
for the thought.
no one speak. woodpecker
his feet are wet.
times i am weary, digging,
i see, to dig.
without a word for the thought,
toad (n): his feet are wet, his feet
are old, his feet are digging
an old campfire,
i think there are other places to dig,
something has to have a name
before you can understand what it is
—a toad, an old campfire, a cricket--
filled in, honeycombed,
dog digs the bank that fills in
and, filled in,
Jonathan Dubow has recent poems in the Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, the Seattle Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is an editor for Revolution House Magazine.