WHY THE CITY IS A DOG
If it’s a dog, I can matter to it.
If it’s a dog, I can’t know it.
My ideas of it are not its ideas. A dog sleeps
by itself outside, or in a separate room,
or her up-close nostrils fog my eyelids.
If— so she can come along, a cell within her vein,
and I can be vast, can be her handler.
That the city is a dog (I hope she isn’t someone else’s).
She has her eye on various mistresses,
when her eye opens,
I was on you, I was a flea on you, was this the way it was?
Does it end in wisdom, your silent brown head?
When your life slipped, a towel on the linoleum--
the pink liquid loaded into your paws’ veins through a tube.
It had a transit, I saw it go, it approached you--
I don’t want to be that poison, please—I want to be the blood of you.
Sometimes, city, your veins seemed windy.
The sun hurt the window (a cough).
As though we’d been washed to the edge of your marsh
where that flat bridge shoots and sucks, a spur
far off—from wherever we were.
There are entrances we can’t see to us.
From myself, I was a little remote,
fat, up-pointed needle,
heart’s gears un-knotting high up from concrete.
My body (bubbles) not hopeful but helpless--
was I offering myself (carbonated) to chaos?
If the brink came I wanted a rooftop seat.
Twice a day I thought about cutting my hair with a moving train.
I avoided the ground zero,
but was I a kind of zero?
Was I the vacuum that needles and blocks abhorred?
Maybe in my gut there was a zero.
Maybe I loaded it, pink,
into there willfully,
A story was something, and mine seemed pretty meager.
Like a sea monkey disappearing in the palm.
When owned, dogs walk and are walked, walk and are walked in circuits,
circuiting and feeding their own circuitry.
I wished you would look at me
and I always felt you looking.
Please give me your blessing, thing I live by ignoring,
reflex waiting in a cell
windowless, red but dark in there, let it be red and yours in my imagining--
Let you be alive, let you tremble, let you be unstable,
let you into the fabric warehouse, let you up on the roof of that skyscraper--
borne up by wind, a door slam possible.
Remembering her, I think: I didn’t do as well as I might have.
But she’s always asleep, this dog.
She sleeps in some manmade kennel.
I tap on a piano key, her eyes are seams in her shiny fur,
I lean on her long structures shivering in my coat on 34th street like a flea.
If it’s a dog, she has her own attention,
a privacy within a private residence
a hide inhabited by shut houses.
Liz Countryman is Writer in Residence at the University of South Carolina. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Handsome, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Forklift, Ohio, and Court Green.
from SAINT X
[Despite years of practice, I never step lightly enough. A body has heft. Since girlhood I’ve pictured my organs excised and arranged in pretty jars on the windowsill. What lightness I would become, a mere space between air.
On television the women’s limbs are always splayed. It is always women kept on ice in a bathtub or left to turn rigid in a mattress. Women, we love you, with your bloodless wrists. Sit pretty.
For six months men pointed at my face and discussed what a shame it would be to cut into it. In the end I kept my tumor, my tiny, soft-tissue twin. Shark twin, Cameron. I am never alone. They cut out my mother’s uterus and sewed the rest of her organs into place. I am sorry to have wrecked her womb. Sorrier to tell her secrets here. Mother, I have laid you open by existing.
My mother was shoe shopping with my sister when her water broke with me. She bought a sweatshirt to tie around her waist, finished shopping, went home and made dinner for the three other children. The doctor called and asked my father if he was prepared to deliver me on the kitchen table. My mother did not birth me for hours. My father and the doctor watched UM lose in the Sugar Bowl. I was born and my mother named me without forethought.
A baby in the womb is sterile and inherits its microbiome during childbirth.
I imagine being excised from my mother like a tumor.
I imagine the bloom of my gut. How it mirrored my mother’s.]
Caroline Cabrera is author of Saint X (forthcoming, Black Lawrence Press), The Bicycle Year (H_NGM_N BKS 2015), Flood Bloom (H_NGM_N BKS 2013), and the chapbook Dear Sensitive Beard (dancing girl press 2012). She is editor of Bloom Books, an imprint of Jellyfish Magazine. She lives in South Florida.
You know, I
could have been a model
plane, had I been born
just a little smaller,
with just a little
wingspan. I spanned
each colony until
the sun felt
just like you—warmer
in the middle
of its very busy day—and
I wonder what sleeps
in the green grass,
a whole world must
the winged. Is that
through your pocket?
Because I’m almost scared
I’m barren. What would I do
with my days but laze
unproductive? I could
take all the food
from the freezer, I could
sweep out mice
from the drawers, I could
empty the washer
of towels and roll them
beneath a blouse
Lizzie Harris was born in southern Arizona and raised on Pennsylvania’s coasts. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Three Rivers Review. She holds an MFA from NYU and is a Poetry Editor for Bodega Magazine.
LANDSCAPE WITH FANGS AND SEAWEED
To no one I said: The dogs can’t keep from staring.
I said: I have never been afraid of anything.
I forged a strut.
I lay on thick-grained sand
and fingered myself with chili on my tips
to burn any thoughts under a foreign sky.
Meanwhile, he took the line of atrocity
all the way out to sea I could see through pearled glasses.
His wet skin wore the beach like scales
like scabies like the disease he was.
He didn’t allow me farther than the fence
so the strays stood guard while I showered
with my suit somewhere sunk
watching all those little boats in the distance
even though I knew
to command salvation
would be impossible against the self-annihilation.
I said: Yes, any man would have me over the seaweed
easy. I said: Yes,
all the wild dogs bare fangs.
I said: Only one mouth claims my grit in its teeth.
POEM TO REMIND MY HEART TO BEAT
No matter the upright life I’ve been trying to lead
I keep looking for new ways to fuck myself
so hard I’m always pleading for relief, frantically
trying to locate whatever blunt object would sock me
into unconsciousness. I know what it’s like
to be powerless
on a shag rug. When I tell you—come closer,
closer, look how pretty I am, come closer, close--
I will bury you there
in this petri dish of what-went-wrong
growing in its dozens of gruesome sequences.
It’s October, slowly
the webs arch iron railings, the pumpkins appear
like cautions, vigilant but cataleptic.
I would like that, my mood stabbed into me,
triangle eyes blinking only the fire
behind them. Come closer, close; look how pretty
I died on the shag rug, but you still
remember me. Autumn never did to me
what it did to others, a beauty to admire
right before the end.
I’ve been wrinkling, slowly, closer,
I need you to cuff me to whatever
apparatus will pump the blood into
and out of my heart. Cut me open with chill-
in-the-air, carve into me a face that can over-
take this unreasonable face. Closer, take me
apart into your arms, I am not any brilliant color but
the dried brown leaf of the season folded over
and stepped on by whatever step rushes
where any step is rushing to in all these crumbled pieces
and in all these pieces I am sending myself
into the air to see where I land.
Lynn Melnick is the author of If I Should Say I Have Hope (YesYes Books, 2012). She lives in Brooklyn.
So Freud’s Hungarian assistant Ferenczi
Said we’re all on a desperate bus to get
Back to Thanatos, our mother’s sea
But don’t quote me
I could have all or most of this wrong
I take poor mental notes when I read
Like some sludge given urges, vaguely, trying
To ignore them. Is this
What he means?
A fish thrust on to land and told to walk
An exhausted ape with a tool in her hand
Wanting to give it up
Who’s all this
Evolution for anyway, she
One day I was just a face in the mirror
Smiling like a cold, sunny day
And then the next, some
Handsome guy at my
Place of employment
Winked at me
Mardi gras, the
Auto industry, forks
And Handel and a
Future son taking aim
at a tin can with a BB gun
Oh, Ferenczi, I knew right away
With that wink
And it never wavered:
Even when I have to be an animal that
Digs graves and lies in bed and weeps
For days: Say
What you like
I’m here to stay
Tomorrow they will bury me
Wearing wings, and wanting
Although no flowery urge escapes
By beauty only
Or anything else
It seems. All of it seeming
And continuing to seem
Like a bird cage full of orchids
Or a trunk full of kimonos
And their silk bird shrieks
And still the urge to go
If only in a shiny, painful dream
She grabbed my sleeve:
If you ever have a daughter
Name her Susie after me
Along with the traffic lights blinking
On this corner
Of Me & Susie
With the sound
Of some nameless girl playing
A tambourine beneath
The shining Sea of Susie/Eternity
To my memory
Even if you never have a daughter
Then name her Susie, too, along
With all your friends
The songs I’ll never hear
The movies I won’t see
The bitter sweets to be
These shall each be me
Laura Kasischke received the National Book Critics Circle Award for her most recent poetry collection, SPACE, IN CHAINS (Copper Canyon, 2011). She lives in Chelsea, Michigan, with her husband and son.
STILL LIFE OF TENDERNESS, WITH ATTACHMENT
The walls here are all showing pictures now
and stuck but not like waves are.
Not like the plover, trying to light out
from dawn’s silver pool, learns a moment
of regret at low tide, taught by pressing water.
That moment, so quickly lost in light
and silence, presents its own economy
in a shorebird life, the idle hopping
and tideless notions coming in, coming about.
Forgive me maybe but I won’t
give this up, here where the ocean
names its appetites. There is sense
in summer by the water and New Jersey
just wants to give us a room
for each other, to lie double on the one bed
and leave the other empty
while outside friends breakfast
on the lost castle of their senses.
I am only waiting for a moment to myself
and the wall will show more than its due.
Sun comes up and closes us in. What you crave
is momentarily beautiful, not mine to give.
You and your velcro wonders can have it all,
all the time to yourself. My toes
are a gone colony, cold in sand.
BUT FIRST YOU HAVE TO CLOSE YOUR EYES
Some of us are heading to the castle
some of us are too tired for the castle
some of us fade into sleep. Dawn stumbles
down the tree-lined street, gray and sublunary
like a stripped god. Outside
the dank well of barlight, a pale wrist flicks ash
and imagines the orange tip of the cigarette
a castle, prepared and waiting. Its citizens know
when the party is over, when repeated dance moves
become as pointless as cars on islands. No one stands up
from our bench in the barlight, rubbing cold knees.
How is it a train so often shudders beneath our feet?
The force it takes to know the organism completely
is starless, is dividing up the tip in even portions and settling
its necktie. Soon I’ll be left alone. I’ll wish better luck
to the bodies of my future selves, translating
the evening so it can talk to me. Okay,
the moon looks like a mistake in the sky
they’ll say into the hollow bottles of afternoon.
The throat strung out among last daffodils best
knows the daffodils. I am still the surest thing
outside of cabfare. I am still leaving this borough tonight
and entering the castle, by myself if necessary.
I have this game I like to play where I close my eyes
and pretend I’m a blind man, returning
to a city I designed in the years before I lost my sight,
where I should still know every length and walk
in darkness, a trauma unknown and known before.
Here, I play the game again for you.
Jay Deshpande has new poems appearing in Narrative, Spork, Vinyl, Sixth Finch, Handsome, Verse Wisconsin, and Boxcar Poetry Review. He is the former poetry editor of AGNI and curates the Metro Rhythm Reading Series in Brooklyn. For a living he writes about luxury timepieces.
THE SWALLOW DIPS HER WING IN MIDNIGHT POOLS
My swallowchasing on the boardwalk
distresses the swamp, each footfall
reverberating through the pilings
and into the peachbruise-hued water under.
I stop with the swallow
when she fills herself with rest on the dead tree.
I run when she drops.
She dips her wings in her reflection but I cannot.
When I lean my head-and-shoulder silhouette
over the railing, the unsettled swampwater
will not reflect it. Swamp, forgive me for wanting
to touch something that looks like me.
THE HOSPITAL AT THE END OF THE FOREST
Hospital San Carlos, Chiapas, Mexico
The roosters describe all
candlelit night the luck that hoards itself
in baskets of yellow apples and in
the murky foliage of the hospital arbor under
which the mothers gaze through the pane
love glazes between the body and the body
in sickness their breathing a prescription
for the lungs leafing inside the newborn bodies
that cry because of crying
they can be certain as certain as the green ridge
that fires a sunrise in whose light
I love no one harder than the doctor
beside me and though I believe in medicine and in
the unstructured sweetness
of the summer tanagers I most believe
that he and I went through separate
successions of illnesses and orchards to alight
in this hospital at forest-end where mothers
say nothing under the riffling ceiling
of vines wafting their leafing
through the library where a textbook
of extraordinary diseases scares me past
speculation into the inevitable suspicion
that when my body smashes itself to smithereens
and what mind remains bears witness
to the path we broke through our particular trees
there will be confusions
of wings and applelight and though
I’ll not know then what my body moves toward
I’ll know our bodies were here now
in the evenings the roosters make known.
Cecily Parks is author of the poetry collection Field Folly Snow (University of Georgia Press, 2008), a finalist for the Norma Farber First Book Award, and is at work on another, O’nights. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, The Kenyon Review, Orion, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.
IF CRAZY IS A DESTINATION, YOU ARE MY DRIVER
As you begin your mad descent,
I am the baggage you wheel
down the dark, steep corridor.
When the first pills unsettle you,
I am porcelain
you heave yourself into. If your car keys
offend you, I am the sanitizer’s dispenser,
depressed again and again.
When your siblings’ voices land, lit matches
in your tinderbox, I am the slammed door
locked against you.
Pound my hard surface, rattle my knobs
till I chatter. If you bleach all our laundry,
I wear the blanched faces
of the fabric. When you are hungry, mine
is the pantry you empty, food you spear
from across the table.
If you grow lonely, I am the back
you follow all winter. When the days’ harsh
machinery agitates you,
I am the chair you knock over, sunflower
you rip from the garden. When tears
overtake you, I am the rag
you snot into. If the house is too quiet,
I am your breath of vowels, your nonsense
repetitions. O, sing me
the Prozac, render each bright milligram.
Francesca Bell’s poems appear or are forthcoming in many journals including Poetry Northwest, Willow Springs, North American Review, RATTLE, 5 AM, Passages North, and The Sun and have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. Her full-length manuscript was a finalist in the Poetry Foundation’s 2012 Emily Dickinson First Book competition and a semi-finalist for the 2012 Philip Levine Prize.
Dear mantras: I apologize.
waiting, an interior
of tinfoil buzzing,
a digression of
light, I was waiting, night-
flat. But mist lies
about where it’s
Birds and bells
help small, and light
his hands, a hubcap
memorized. Didn’t expect
dark just leaving
a field for February –
and does not.
Stephanie Anderson is the author of several chapbooks and the full-length collection In the Key of Those Who Can No Longer Organize Their Environments (Horse Less Press, Summer 2013). She lives in Chicago and edits Projective Industries.
What the new holds in her claw
I pretend I never saw before
not the gunned children’s empty now
open armed embraces,
not the trace of last year’s ash for poets,
fallen holiness, or architects of quiet
shards in buried glass,
not insistent songs with
diminished music but,
again, we are on either shore,
you and I, both,
of the channel again, after eves of
the year the world did not end again--
waving our long feathers and howling
love again—what else can the elder
phoenix once un-grown dinosaur or oily
sand—do? May our flames be lovely.
Now. Always. And again.
Margo Berdeshevsky‘s poetry collections, Between Soul and Stone (2011) and But a Passage in Wilderness (2007), are both published by Sheep Meadow Press. Her book of short stories, Beautiful Soon Enough, illustrated with her own photo-montages, received Fiction Collective Two’s American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick/ Innovative Fiction Award (published by University of Alabama Press.) She has received numerous other honors including the Robert H Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her works have appeared in Kenyon Review, Agni, New Letters, Poetry International, among many other publications, and a multi genre novel, Vagrant, now waits at the gate. For more info, please see: http://redroom.com/member/margo-berdeshevsky.
Never have a town named after you.
You may have been a premature eman-
cipator, officer, explorer. Scoundrel,
presidential candidate. None of it means
to kids raised in that mouth-sound of your name
reduced to goose shit by the alkahest of time,
strewn around the paths of a man-made lake
or steamed to fearful showers after gym,
wild oat and rabbitfoot in shortcut fields,
the algae trickle in a drainage trough,
owl pellets dissected under schoolyard oaks.
No way to manage your denaturing
into muskrats lurking under pontoon docks,
hotboxed cars and lipglossed cocks, dead ends.
Ray Nayler is a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, currently posted to Saigon. Over the past decade, he has lived and worked in Moscow, and in every country that ends in ‘stan except Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Ray has poetry published or upcoming in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Juked, Able Muse, PiF Magazine, Eclectica, and in Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics.
HAND-PICKED IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT
A ballroom built of chalices & eagles.
You arrive as they’re changing the candles
My negotiations with their gravity wells
are intricate as a cello
I don’t know how to play
but love to touch. Oil on my fingers
I am learning unfurls a mask
across a canyon. Down in the wash,
pulse in the ash. To the east & west,
diamond fields, a mist like a snake king
some hero has vanquished imperfectly.
I love things that reform
less than those that shatter.
A white whale piñata sluggered & gushing
A rosary bead of boxwood
in which the tiny faithful
stand on their lions
& offer their microscopic
them off & they’re yours.
W.M. Lobko’s poems, interviews, & reviews have appeared in journals such as Hunger Mountain, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, & The Paris-American. Current work appears in Seneca Review & The Literary Review. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, & was a semi-finalist for the 92Y / Boston Review “Discovery” Prize. He is a Founding Editor of TUBA, a new review of poetry & art.
[IN THE COLLECTED HISTORY OF LISTENING IN]
In the collected history of listening in
I’m perpetually leaning against the door,
standing in the eavesdrop of your house
and bending my ear to the pillow talk upstairs.
The eye of the needle is narrow
and the peek-space of a keyhole is slim.
You’re wearing your suit of apples,
your book’s got the broken spine in the den.
In Hundred Fields, Oregon, all the fruit goes bad.
Each time a winter pear drops, I hear you mark
the wall. With my mittened hand, I mark the snow
for every delivered bell and knock.
Around the house I walk softly, I carry a huge ice pick.
I pull my body by the lobe of its waiting ear.
Like asking for pleasure from a pincushion
I draw every blade you’ve left in the lawn.
[THERE WAS A GEM IN THE BRAIN OF THE ACORN]
There was a gem in the brain of the acorn
but the brain of the acorn was squirreled away.
Local boys drew maps of the neighborhood
and told us what to look for. Things that Want
to Be Hunted. Things that Give a Weak Feeling.
Things that Should Be Forgotten. In cul-de-sacs
we let doorbells do the work. Neighbors laughed;
the world gave up its tools. Hey, compass:
where do we go for precious things?
Both north and south, up-skirt and down-blouse.
Along the lining of a boot; inside a cat’s ear.
When dead ends end, we ask the man with two hearts
how to find the fishermen’s moon, and where
the dish goes when it skips town with the spoon.
What he gives us are Things that Tend to Disappear:
eye of hibiscus, foxglove in winter. Entire fields of air.
Jennifer Moore has poems published or forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, The Volta, Best New Poets, Barrow Street, Columbia Poetry Review and elsewhere, and criticism in Jacket2 and The Offending Adam. She holds degrees from the University of Colorado and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and currently teaches at Ohio Northern University, where she is an assistant professor of creative writing.
LOTUS EATER SUTRA
They did me no hurt / so I stayed with them / found in a field / finding
my temper / having my moments / losing weight / punching flowers /
jamming traffic / carbonated brown eyeballs / in the gardens of music /
I was / and this is for real / I pissed into the river / to give it some of
me / all agog / along every levy / broken into / total acid understanding
/ I am very / drunk enough / to make a point / the one sticking / out
of me / a burner phone / a bone white bone / I set / we sit / green and
gone / and by the time / you find yourself / you are somewhere / in
the head / of everyone / making the mistakes / that make people / that
made me / myself
Ben Kopel lives in New Orleans. He is moving to New York. He is the author of VICTORY (H_NGM_N Books) and co-author of SHUT UP & BLOOM (iO Books). See more at partmutilationpartvictory.tumblr.com.
OVERTURE IN THE KEY OF F
Fringed and slender, obtained by a deciding match, irrevocably moved through water.
Payment, ransom, bunting, linnet, find. I came upon it accidentally by experiment. The
bullet found its mark, trying to find its tongue. Finely plays the hero forfeit.
A finger wave, utterly and finally. The scandal of pine. The phenomenon of light and
heat, met with kindle, launch. Sought by roundabout, the knot made, in spite of the
fissile, the grain, breaking by the fistful. To be both healthy and convulsing, it is fitting
how we fit.
Carrie Olivia Adams lives in Chicago, where she is a book publicist for the University of Chicago Press and the poetry editor for Black Ocean. She is the author of Forty-One Jane Doe’s (book and companion DVD, Ahsahta 2013) and Intervening Absence (Ahsahta 2009).
Tin, bone, or wax, every fashioned heart
burns, sacred. Knead the shape,
etch and stain it, hammer dents, pinholes
so when held to light, divinity might
beam through. Coronas—fluorescent,
painted, already present—frame blessed
holy folk, the busted weathervane,
an impossible rock formation
at world’s edge. So many grandfathers,
young creatures have trekked
to the floor of that canyon
before they had trained, prepared
supplies, and left only prayer cards,
small, clumsy altars, rooms still
and covered with their skin.
The tin tacked to a wall, red glass
flickering with ghosts, wooden
figurines small enough to lie
two abreast in the grave of a fist--
these are postcards to the other
worlds, care of a silent courier.
No reply, no notice of receipt, no
seeded rest (if desired). Grateful
mortals shape the bird or a leg,
the kneeling faithful, skulls
and hands, the holy hands--
immaculate and otherworldly,
havers of touch and prayer.
Wesley Rothman, Pushcart Prize nominee and finalist for the 49th Parallel Poetry Prize, has had poems and criticism in the Ashville Poetry Review, Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Salamander, Rattle, Harpur Palate, The Rumpus, On the Seawall, Thrush, Paper Darts, Inter|rupture, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. He serves Ploughshares as senior poetry reader, and teaches writing and cultural literatures at Emerson College and the University of Massachusetts Boston.