Entries in 1. Poems (23)

Becca Klaver

Wonder’s Widow

 

I scold myself into offering up my big sadness,

the piece I’m not telling, but the only thing to say

is that my life-grip was always like iron, that I’ve

 

crushed joy like grenache, never knew the dance

or my own goddamn strength, have woken up all

these mornings with stains in the cracks of my lips

 

but no memory of the toast. I’m not some

run-of-the-mill masochist, never wanted to hurt

myself or anybody else. All I’m saying is that it

 

can turn on you, so that all your staring out

the window counting blessings in oak and peony,

all your unbolting the door for every droopy-eyed

 

soul who drops a knapsack on your stoop, so that

every warm room where you gave up holding your

breath, all those tiny wunderengines can quit turning

 

over, all those little joyfruits can shrivel up and say

Sorry, you’ve squeezed us out. Sorry! We are citrus

rinds at your pitcher’s base. Sorry you loved us empty.

 

And you are twenty-three, four, five, and you hide

in the pantry afraid to ask for anything at all, not even

pass the salt, not even salt in the wound, please—

 

You ask for nothing more, until all you have becomes

an abstraction of itself, prim boxes of everyone else’s

Love! Family! Success! Your little robot nod admits

 

nothing, you keep not-asking but still accept each delivery,

signature required or the buzzer keeps up its buzz.

Gift boxes pile up, look at all you’ve been given,

 

it is the wedding day of your self and your wonder

is not invited, sits up in the attic with highball, cigar,

photo album of the days when you were all together

 

and there is just one face, and it is yours.

 

It is mine.

 

This is not about you, general, not about you, reader,

though I wish it were, wish I could shrug it all off—

would rather someone else’s sob story, rather point

a finger at everybody else, Generation Who? Here, let me

tell you about you—In that case I’ll be over-simple and

brutal-true. In that case you’ll hate me but sort of love me,

too, and I’ll wipe my hands clean, harmonic, frou-frou.

Alas, alack, it is mine—the face is a sad-sack

sandwich called Slice of Self with Wonder, called

my life. That was my bread and that was my knife.

Self-imposed—the real tragedy, I suppose.

 

But, oh—I wanted to take us places: down Highway 40

in a metallic pink Cadillac, hair flaming, spirits snaking

like smoke, like the way mine used to. I did, I did, I do.

Brad Liening

What Engine

 

I’m afraid the congestion in my chest can’t stand

another bright bouquet, all of us pecked and ringing,

assembling around the splashdown by the arsenal.

 

The multihued parachute collapses like a clownishly

big jellyfish, no longer given its shape by velocity and air,

which are but two things we routinely struggle against.

 

And it is a struggle, scale being the only variable:

the city rises from the sea in great gurgle and spume,

the retiree rises in the pre-dawn dark to prepare tea.

 

And it is a victory to reach that coda, I mean, I’m a mess

by the fifth measure and by the tenth I’ve completely

fallen apart, fallen to pieces, fallen to however you’d like

 

to describe childlike helplessness, I’ve maybe fallen

to orange cat in the branches of a weeping willow

bending low into the river. Most everyone I know

 

is made of sterner stuff, breaching moats and storming

castles before breakfast, but it’s a chemical reaction

I’m convinced somewhere in the dusty bottom drawers

 

of the brain, some electron dislodges and then bang!

I’m breaking eggs in the aisles, not paying for a thing!

Such moments of transcendent excess are in fact

 

paid for with the next morning’s pangs of shame,

oh why was transcendence tied so tightly to excess?

Is it because a human is a harp hopelessly out of tune?

 

When a moment of immutability approaches, of what

and to what end becomes quickly beside the point

as the sky inside one’s head ripens to a shiny shiny anvil.

 

A defenestration for the ages, for the aegis of actinism

sidelining us with radiance, our radiance by proxy only.

Given the whole hock and whorl, the goo in the runnels

 

and the goodness of this moment and the depravity

of the next, which is first a girder before becoming

milk, it’s foolish if not terrible to crave understanding.

 

The technocrat takes a long walk along the beach, my

second grade teacher lifts the voice box to her throat

and explains subtraction, the moths turn black with

 

prolonged exposure to flame. There I go again,

taking up space and letting my makeup run while

the cross-section of the new insect is blown up

 

to the size of a bell tower. To think it could be

living inside of you right now, curled up at the

base of your brain and rankling like the memories

 

of another you can’t expunge and in the end

probably wouldn’t even if you could, since it is

precisely this sort of shadowy essence keeping

 

us tied to this world, tied to each other, driving

us to skip stones across the water when we think

no one is watching. Those stones eventually sink,

 

of course, grow irretrievable down at the bottom,

but just once, after rearing back for the sharp side

armed snap, I’d like to see the stone rise and curve

 

out of sight, perhaps dinging off the orange crane

that hunkers over the construction site. Even that

crane has a kind of grace as it turns through blue air.

 

If left untended birds would build nests there, in the

slats and corrugations, like it was just another big

steel tree trapped in uninterrupted autumn. But it is

 

the world’s business not to leave anything alone for long,

not you or me or my second grade teacher or the little girl

in the scuffed pink jumper picking at her scabby knees.

 

It is a terrible thing to crave mystery, as this means

one suffers from a surfeit of the predictable, which

in most cases is worse than a buildup of poison clouds,

 

wilting the lettuce and lacing the juice, reminding us

that all we’ve lost constitutes a world of its own by half.

Here, jam this pin into my palm. Do something worse.

 

What we are is between what we love and what we

endure. Between what we apprehend and what we

can never know is an anvil, a ripening defenestration,

 

a cross-section of the new river, a bell tower big as

a jellyfish rising from childlike helplessness as the

conductors heat until they turn invisible, producing

 

a humming like the singing of our happy wounds.

 

 

Unthinking Zero

 

The soul flickers a bit when the candle’s

thumped, a fluttering in the left ventricle,

 

but this golden grilled cheese and crisp pickle

are proof enough for me there’s more than

 

the debris deposited on the high hills by the flood,

the wheelchairs cock-eyed in the dunes.

 

An iridescent rose fastened to a bell

becomes the sky. A kick ass drum solo!

 

Thus do I for a while forget the sinkhole

I can’t help but stand in, fungi taking root,

 

but still I move faster than the red thread

whizzing from my chest as each moment

 

is overtaken by the next like a wave

heaving through the spray and into the rocks.

 

Seagulls circle as they do because their bones

are hollow, and though much of the rocket

 

is too, due to atmospheric disturbances

the launch is delayed. The astronauts

 

go to sleep, curled around their helmets.

I pause for a moment, towel wrapped

 

around my waist and toothbrush sticking forth

from my mouth, thinking maybe I’ll be

 

good-looking today. The cosmos just sorta

hangs out, waiting to stop existing. Hey,

 

no hurry. The impenetrable moustaches

of the politicians will remain even after

 

each and every last one of them is dead,

but not even the tar pits of their hearts

 

can stop my stroll through the chlorophyll,

the pleasant declension. So large is the

 

machinery in which we operate the functions

will never be known, a star sizzling between

 

my teeth. The small plastic cars race around

the electric track till the air grows sharp and hot.

 

Morning light barrels through the window

and the crowd goes wild.

Brenda Sieczkowski

Picture This

 

This is the year I start liking beer again. This is the year I fly

to Taiwan and light paper lanterns

with my student loans. I set perfectly

good furniture by the side of the road.

I buy tickets to operas and forget to go.

This is the year I fall in love again.

 

I draw eyes on the back of my hands. I eat French fries

with chopsticks and baked beans

right from the can. I leave dollar bills

pasted inside washing machines.

This is the year I forget what you look like.

Here it is. And here. And here.

Charley Foster

Sea

We stood watching the sea and

Poking fingers into pizza after

We noticed the sea

Let’s get pizza,

Somebody said

But the sea

Had a smell all its own

And contained turtles

As far as we could tell

 

It was awkward

Sitting there poking fingers into the sea

But sometimes the skeleton of a scorpion fish

Would dart between our fingers

And it was like we were back home

In our pajamas climbing

Out the window

To escape a fire that was

Shattering glass somewhere.

 

After that we were stared at

But the people were nice, really

And gave us hat racks

With cow hooves for feet

And horns on which to hang the hats,

And jars of Vaseline for the kids.

In the end it saved us a lot of time

And expense.

 

 

Roosters

Popcorn pieces drift to the theater floor -

Little pacts with the devil.

Roosters scream out in the night like murdered women.

They call to one another across the night

Like murdered women calling to one another.

Popcorn cascading into a glass case

Is shoveled into paper bags and cardboard buckets.

 

 

WHO CAN REMEMBER

We used to enjoy hobbies.

Sketching life-sized caricatures of motorists at the stoplight

Who stared straight ahead, uncomfortable, angry, unable to drive away.

Some exploded, leaping from their cars to chase us.

We retreated on all fours, bobbing up and down like meerkats.

You had that gun and we’d play Russian roulette into the night

Laughing so hard our sides burst open

Spilling out great piles of dusty newspapers and horsehair.

We no longer have the time or the inclination.

We’ve become like your father sending angry monologues

From his ham radio set. Scanning the road for discarded gloves and bungee-cords,

Removing our glass eyes for no other purpose than to cause upset.

Our appetite for mussing the hair of homeless men on the bus

Is no longer a part of who we are.

Who can remember when we carried cattle egrets on our backs,

Their droppings leaving long white streaks?

Chris Martin

Surviving Desire

 

Coming out of

The tunnel from Carroll Street

The graffiti reads CHOKES

 

HIS CHICKEN EVERY NIGHT

And we the passengers

Convene momentarily, our anonymous lot

 

Suspended slant as if

Preparing to nosedive on some

Futuristic and ad-laden

 

Rollercoaster safely blasting

Through the patently everyday

Landscape of traffic

 

And ruin, rivet-studded

Girders grumpily trellising

The smog-blue-gray

 

Sky, May and too

Many mornings have I spent

This week observing

 

The recumbent figures

Of capital tragedy

Their scaly ankles dangling

 

From soot-soured Wranglers and likeness

Is likewise suspended in favor

Of a proximity, our teetering off

 

And on pattern of tapering

Parabola shapes arbitrarily weaving

Depths and it depends

 

On the curious phases a face

Makes wincing at nature, the maturing

Content of cells, can you see this

 

Sound collecting there in spastic

Syllable growths? It’s cyclical

The way one devours his own carefully

 

Tended ignorance, a slow

Canceling of accumulated skew

As the mutilations fall

 

Off and are just as quickly

Replaced by others, the spells

One conveniently

 

Forgets, the mask one

Tries on and unobservantly

Absorbs, the train’s

 

Sibilant burble hurrying

Forth as the signal greens and I

See nothing

 

Barely beneath this

Concrete, no lurid node

Pulsing beyond

 

The sky’s stately

Dome, I say fuck this forever

Grope after the mysteries

 

Of a sphere eaten by worms

Regurgitated by birds

Paralyzed by windowpanes, we are all

 

Forced to mourn at the outrageous

Tombstones these towers make, rifling 100%

Cotton clouds as a little girl

 

In a purple sweater chases a brown

Pigeon along the platform’s orange edge, believing

Is a form of expectation, tonight

 

I shall dream of newspapers

Wrapped in fish , of smog wrapped

In skin as sometimes

 

I tremor at the way

The world seems so vigorous

One second and the next

 

It’s swimming, each dumb leaf

Resorting to metaphor

As every winking turn traps

 

You into thinking that life

Is a meticulous plot dimly allotted

To you alone, people

 

Topple, transubstantiation

Fails, we fall into knowing before

We know that

 

Knowing is not enough.

 


 

Recommence Everything

 

If I am to be committed

To transcendence, to merely say that

There is a body is not

 

Yet to deal with it , if my looks go

Everywhere they are

Selfsame slaughtered by the manner

 

In which they snag, a car

Illuminates in panic every thirteen

Minutes or so and it’s driving

 

The neighbors nuts, while the socioeconomic

History of golf pollutes

The branch in the hand of the kid

 

Swinging at an imaginary

Ball, the handshakes

Here are reversible, we touch

 

Touching the way these fall dragonflies

Flee the invisible weft

They sew into the air that unites

 

Above our heads, today’s weather

Report calls for abundant

Sunshine as a man with a limp

 

Plods past the girl

Asleep in her tiny camouflage

Bikini and if she dreams

 

Of the secret blackness

Of milk , it’s only these pinks

Lazily invading

 

Her back as a sigh

Descends over the scene, all the girls

Putting on their shirts, we must

 

Recommence everything just

Moments after it’s begun, the sun

Shines abundantly down

 

Upon the clouds, or briefly

Breaks on the totality

Of a dog, or the simple impression

 

Of the totality of

A dog and there’s something

About lived life that leaves

 

Itself in intractable

Tufts upon the heart, it’s tough

Being a thing

 

Which understands enough

Of what it means to be

Seen to see others in the nightmare

 

Of consciousness, which is nonetheless

A dream, which is nonetheless

A choice without choice, spiraling

 

Like the intertwined black

And white on the disc

Of the hypnotist, whose colors

 

Remain fixed, we remain

Unconvinced by the spectacular

Passing of modes, want

 

Our ears near the frequencies

Of I hear myself

With my throat and what the throat

 

Thinks we drink , let

Each cell in your body bulge

With song, there is room

 

For more, a mouth, a moon, again.

 


The Science Fiction of Color

 

At Delancey a man

Babbles with his neck

On his chest

 

Like a bib, a teenage girl allows

Her leg to dangle over

A startled teenage boy, both laughing

 

Their window in the twenty-second

Commercial of childhood, our attention

Wavering as the world

 

Does, petals

Of neglect shedding

At the periphery

 

Of the eye, knowledge subsumed

By our desire for desire, only

Today I discovered John McEnroe

 

Owns Gerhard Richter’s Girl

On a Donkey , the nature of perversion

Perpetually shifting as one’s dream

 

Dwindles in the lens

Or is lost adrift

The swifts’ delirious plunge

 

As gentle earthquakes pervade

As the little tear gland

Says tic-tac and petty octogenarians

 

Crowd the Lexington

Storefronts where white girls

Spill their blank

 

Guts between pages in the cloud

Book, waiting for Max

Ernst’s Science Fiction of Color

 

Summer correspondence

Course to begin, each

Benign conscience quietly plagued

 

By the interregnum, it is not trivial

This death we die not

Dying, the blur of sexuality

 

Metastasizing in blinks, I never

Imagined I’d marry

An aristocrat, nor quote

 

The adages of some thickly accented

Bavarian, some stupidity

Is heroic , some heroes assume

 

The village children

Are blind, I can’t

Count the number of times

 

I’ve thought the world

Different only to find my fingers

Twittering in their familiar

 

Way, the reflective scallops

My nails make shaking

Like gusts furrowing a sail

 

And so I am too

Fraught with this calligraphic

Landscape we speed

 

Too sure these unsteady words

Are like a frowning woman who wants

Desperately not to sleep

 

Here tonight, if reality

Is temporal why not write

Poems the size

 

Of cathedrals, at 4th Avenue

The conductor howls, the dreaded

Man sings Ain’t no

 

Sunshine as the sunshine

Streams through keyed plastic, a mother

Gabs on her phone as her baby

 

Bellows and that’s life

In the ten-second

Opening of train doors don’t

 

Be afraid to give everything away.

Chris Tonelli

An Actual Hawk

after reading Sampson Starkweather’s “The Hawk”

 

I’ve filled my cubicle w/ postcards of paintings.

Before I read Sam’s poem, I just assumed

it was because I was an art lover, that I was

artsy (see: poems, etc.). I was wrong. It turns out

that I have some innate desire or need or whatever

to look out the window even when there is

no window. Maybe especially when there

is no window. Out this window, I see two pink fish

dead on a white cloth, carefully placed on the sand

(my cube overlooks the sea). Out another, I see

a wedding taking place. Over here, a nude woman

toweling off in a parlor chair. A Boston terrier

posing for a portrait, an angel visiting a penitent maid,

a train pulling into a covered station

guffing clouds of smoke. This doesn’t make me

like my job any better. Maybe it would if they were

actual windows and I could see an actual hawk.

 


 

The Room In The Elephant

 

Right now, I’m supposed to be editing a section

of a science chapter about parasitism.

Which is funny, because just last night, I went to a lecture

on how ideas can cause this same kind of harm

in us. Watch an ant, the speaker said. Notice if it climbs

to the highest point in the field. Flick it off.

Does it race right back up? Then it most likely

has a parasite that can only complete its life cycle

in the belly of a cow. So it drives the ant

(like an SUV, he said) straight to the top of a blade

of grass, increasing its chances of being eaten

by a cow. Point being that organisms who

harm themselves are typically infested.

He explained that toxic, or parasitic, religions

act similarly. People are flying planes

through the tallest blades of grass, because they too

are infested. What small thing is piloting them

away from their genetic fitness? Or maybe

they have a whole country inside. Our country.

I wonder what’s inside of me, not doing

a damn thing. Here I am, at work, not wanting to be.

The speaker mentioned that susceptibility

to hypnosis used to be selected for, since it

guaranteed you health insurance. I wonder if this

still holds true. Today is one of those days

when ideas seem to unravel themselves

right out of existence. Justin just emailed me an article

that says the newly found Gospel of Judas

may reveal that Jesus told Judas to betray him.

What to believe. I wanted to believe that philosopher

last night—I was so ready to deconvert.

Maybe I believe that poems are mutualists

and should drive us to the highest point of ourselves.

But instead of perishing in the belly of infinity,

we would thrive. Here. Now you’ve got one.

I hope you start a scourge.

Claire Becker

I Decide to Be Alone With the Versions of Myself Who Accompany Me, Not the Versions Who Accompany You

 

We agree it’s important we can

be ungrounded.

Then at the establishment,

begin to feel unpleasant.

 

Staring at the menu screen,

I say, Life’s a minute,

series of minutes, spent any way.

He says, But they have context.

 

But my context is in transition,

the minutes before & after parting.

What do I reply? A murmur

to the journalist. We get obliterated.

 

Was I forgetting the possible?

In the former, we were hiding

our embarrassment & looking.

Now as I said, the after unthinking.

 

I had written on an envelope, Ahab

feels but God thinks. The physical fact of being

one person + the psychical fact

of being more + the physical impossibility.

 

Next to napkin & packet of soy sauce on the table.

We know it, I remember on long days

when I’m several. Feel it, Ahab.

Think to shake them. I’m a God.

Daniel Becker

ER DOA

At first he’s nowhere in the computer.

His wife is on her way from work.

Their sons are waiting in a waiting room

 

next to patient registration.

I had wandered down there

to complain about another patient

 

assigned to me who wasn’t mine,

but down there they had worse things

to worry about,

 

like the man who worked upstairs

whom they’d just finished

working on.

 

After hearing his name and looking him up

by adding Sr. to his last name

and reading what I had and could have done,

 

I offered to tell the boys

who are young men not boys

and call their grandfather

 

and try to reach their mother

and greet his colleagues,

now filing in to wait.

 

Pretty soon I was in the middle of this tragedy

directing traffic the way I had been taught

and can’t stop.

 

The older son acted older.

He must be named for his father.

The wife and mother told me

 

how much her husband liked me,

and trusted me,

then she thanked me.

 

When I came home from work and my son,

visiting for Christmas,

asked how was my day

 

I talked about what happened

as if explaining a photograph

tucked inside a wallet,

 

someone who reminds you

who you used to be

and who you thought you’d be,

 

something you carry around for years and can’t

throw away and sometimes

don’t think about.

David Sewell

Squirrels for Peace

I haven’t been wearing lavender shoes

long enough to know how to make

love fall from the air like an injured sparrow

I can reach only so far into the cereal box

and anyway hair has no discernible taste

today I’m merely differently sane today

I’m not sure how tall I am but do know

I require exactly two and one-third pillows

to go unnoticed in the snowstorm last

night syntax was fun but not as a party game

leaving through the window after the pause

just seemed like the right thing to do

all around the morning the air smelled

like ice cream which is why I was screaming.

 


 

Do You Hear a Harp?

In truth I was making up about the sweater vest

it wasn’t sewn of fireflies it wasn’t on fire even

I on the other hand have never been one

to return from the cloakroom with enough

contraband to pay for the window that broke

when I threw the grapefruit through it in truth

I didn’t actually move my lips in my mouth

the comparison to a salmon was inaccurate

I have a new avocado I am tired of all the dying

the wearing scarves the unnamed goats loitering

about in place of the furniture therefore I’ve

lain on you throughout a night made wholesome

by the window being open and talking

about soup it’s not easy to make so little sense

so near the mirror the eyes in it seem to follow

me wherever I move whether or not

I’m wearing a top hat it’s weird I admit but

I’m merely a belly-itcher who looks good

in velvet I am not qualified to answer

to only one syllable or to found a religion

with my hair I am here because you are dear.

 

Who Will Carry My Strawberry?


I’m only trying to situate the weather

nearer the weather vane. In order

of similarity to the monsoon:

a steady girl, a steady hand, a steady life.

I’m believing in you so you don’t have to.

I’m learning to play the double-crested cormorant

because the ocean’s been looking desperate

and moony these passing afternoons.

Armed with a finely appointed mustache,

I’ll enter the gentlemen’s club,

unshelf a book from the reading room,

calmly ingest its table of contents.

Then I’ll be worthy of the crown

of pamplemouse, the cereal bowl

of being upside down. But there I was,

alone in the bathroom stall, with only

my problems and an indelible photo.

I’m like this, I’ve said, attempting to kick

the sparrow that is never successfully kicked.

I’m like that, I’ve said, pointing to

the woman on the subway carrying

a strawberry on a small plate.

I’ve connected the dots on giraffes

maculate and not, yet parts of me insist

on posing the rain impossible questions.

So much I’ve wanted to be the one

in the top hat, instead of the one eating

the refrigerator box. But, oh! And, oh!

My head’s become stuck in a platypus’ burrow.

The platypus is waking up.

Eric Elliot

Breakdown

Sunday, five hours north of Mississippi, my friend says Cop in a hushed voice.

Glance at the speedometer. Lose the needle somewhere past ninety. Shit I say. Shit, shit.

I turn the radio off and tap the break, nervous with a pill bottle in my pocket.

The cop merges onto the highway behind me, gets left, pulls up beside me

long enough for every god to battle in the thick sky following us home.

I imagine the lights animating the peaceful sky in the rearview as the cop flies past.

We are fine until the pinging. Let off the accelerator, the noise is gone

accelerate, it’s back. Then we’re on shoulder, hood up, oil tank empty.

Above, a jet slices the eastern sky, leaves a single white scar

thin as a year cut from the whole of time.

I wonder if the sky has ever confessed as much for so little ceremony—

two stranded travelers and a hungry dog begging to be walked.

There’s a Chevron at the next exit, I say—my voice someone else’s in the twilight.

Was it my voice all those years ago that split the pastor’s sermon on demon possession?

I stared at the cross until even the wooden Christ had life—

jut of the nail from wooden palms and ankles, painted blood, thorns big as my fingers.

I was too young to know about symbolism, stared in fear, like I stare at this dead car.

We start walking for the gas station. My friend asks if we’ll make it home on time.

I say we’ll try, expecting the flock of satanic angels from that old sermon

                                                  to carry us back up to the wounded sky.

We’ve gone four thousand miles in two weeks to break down half a day from home.

How many millions of years of light have we passed through on these highways?

What do we catch up with when get home at last—

a kingdom, a pit, a long and satisfying dream?

We’ll stop every hundred miles to oil an engine we know won’t make it.

Eryn Green

Bones

 

I want to re-call this house with pebbles

from the ground—honestly, beautiful enough—little round dream of

thirty years—a winter’s hat—                 no sound when you call—expecting

love to be love—/ disappointed until not—/ grapes peeling, body whispering

yr impossible—me too—a diver’s chute

failing—again, falling—into a church

parking lotradio blaring // under water—soft

white freight trains—deep

                                          light—choked on snow,

scenery—cheer up dear, it wasn’t always so bad

for me—rain knocked out power lines—

you wrote mountains                  across my tired back

in sheets as still and as whole as              white sails of straw air—

couples carrying umbrellas            inside-out—wind blowing boats

over scattered arrows of frozen wheat

Gavin Adair

After the crash

 

After the crash a studio still went for ninefifty, but what could we do? I rode daybreak

past the park and through the poor section, to the island where the crewcuts lived.

The others took photos or ate Jack-in-the-Box or made tenfoot computer drawings or music.

I was the only one up early enough to see the old man feed the feral cats and leave

a trail of yellow plastic plates strewn behind our building. Other days I took the train across

the water, then got a bus crosstown. When I could I bought Chinese cigarettes

that were inexpensive but tasted like glue if smoked with wine. It was after the crash, but still

I sold more headphones than anybody, to Poles mostly and to a woman I once knew,

and all I could do was accept the pain in my feet as I walked up the hill past the golf course

to look down at the bridge and bay during lunch. It was before the war, and downtown

armored police snaked in formation through streets lined with buses they came in or brought

empty. People took pictures or yelled or played music, I saw a kid breakdance and flash

a squadron of pigs in a line. I saw Scott, who said he’d been down there three days.

I was getting hungry, so I smoked the Chinese cigarettes—they were called Generals,

and had a lifesized bee on each box.


Julia Cohen

The Porch

 

Sparklers burning the barn down and it’s all smoky on my arm

We piggyback ten kids across the lawn to water the plants and rearrange attachments

We’ve never found a four-leaf clover so keep looking for slave toys near the graveyard

Bury your beard on the porch where first I found it

I admit I wanted you dead so I could mourn properly

There’s a mannequin on the neighbor’s roof and helicopters are mosquitoes

that will never save its life

Please bury me in the beehive it’s hot in here and I’m useless and used to it

The miscellaneous mash of moonshine with the reluctant

Bullfrogs burp the alphabet close by and these are the sacks of insects hatching

Plants and the kids that watch them place larva on the grindstone

Keep saving allowance for the carnival that comes in spring

The fire trees ring the crops and pitchforks stake out like-minded mountains

Bury your beard on the porch where first I found it

What slips through the screen door does not even touch the entrapment

 

 

 

 

Soundproof

 

Sorry for the time-tested topics

The sincere explorer is unreachable in the midst of subtle alterations

to the letter’s landscape

 

When the whistle runs out the soundscape fills with direction no lament could witness

So where are the beautiful trackers when the explorer crushes the compass with his route

 

The name of my sonance is what instrument I play sleepily

I play with gleaming strings diamond dangled and cross-eyed

 

I click when my camera functions

In a landslide the superficial glances bury the sincere release

 

The explorer pricks the soundproof and we come tumbling out of the din

The digging begins the digging will persist and guess what breaks the surface

Lauren McCollum

22

My wallet was stolen, my identity with it.

Multi-ocular buildings and sidewalks turned away

from the filching. How hard-nosed

this freeze of street muck,

how gray the granite air. I am 22 today,

 

although verifiability has skipped the scene

much like those ducky twos

that sail at a clip backwards

in time foreseeing and fleeing the day science

overcomes mortality. The numbers are meanest

 

where divination is concerned; in their cards we learn

to live and live, and down their graphpaper timelines

we stomp like giants, our hearts

intricate fuseboxes,

our brains fortified circuitries, outfitted with spines

 

and the juice to keep burning even once that soul thing

gasps and gurgles something solemn before diffusing

from disease or just malaise…

Look at me. Look at me.

I’ve lost the context critical. I’ve had to cancel

 

everything to play the schizotypal dissident

to Corporate Colossus. As if the birthday happened

to my driver’s license

and not me. Slick of plastic

in my likeness made, count your numbers and hold them close.

Leigh Stein

You’re Mispronouncing My Name Again


This time last year I was an astronaut
in a window display at a department store
that has since been bought out by another
department store. I wore a gray crepe dress
and a helmet they pumped full of oxygen.
I had one line to say. I mouthed the words, but
no one ever heard me. They tapped the glass,
saying, We can’t hear you on this side. Take
off the helmet. Take off my helmet?, I mouthed
back. What?, they said. This time last year I
thought I was speaking English, but lip reading
has become a forgotten art. This time last year
I learned to speak in the dark with my hands.
I know the sign for tree and forest; dead bird;
the spelling of my maiden name; long walks
on the beach of Normandy. You think everything’s
about you and you’ve been right since the end
of the war. I took that astronaut job so I could
tell you I took it. I took that astronaut job so I
could miss you from the cosmos beyond the glass.
This time last year it was snowing when you kneeled
to lace my skates and it was so nice to run into each other
under our pseudonyms like that. I said, Times of duress
call for a record. You said, Did you say something? No,
I said. You said, Why don’t you take off that helmet.
I can’t hear you when you do that thing with your mouth.
What thing with my mouth, I said, and you closed your
eyes. And you held both my hands so if I tried to spell
our names you wouldn’t see. I cut the number of my age
in ice. Will I ever be any older. No. I will not. Where
you’re from they’re cosmonauts, but you’re the one
that left, I said. I could feel the oxygen running low.
The snow blanketed the totality of all existing things.

Lori Shine

The Grass

 

which of these may now be property

delimited, surveyed, parcelled

 

the decision will not come down

out of the trees fireflies strobing

 

the meadow aglow, riches

with no tower on them

we have passed the tower on our right

 

the town gets new lights

these too in their newness

blinking

a bar across our lenses

which frame most suitable

for your features

 

what is called a drainage basin

where we lived

can it be said

we lived somewhere

we lived around

we spread our tablecloths

we worried our karma

then our worry beads

dazzled the trees

 

the ground

was soft enough for a new fence

but where to run it

instead the treeline

the skyline the margin

 

… . .

 

it can be said where you were born

though i feel it as a heretofore unknown

latent star

 

our hourglass was looking

post-prandial, sagging, making a fold

 

mint grew in there, steadied

with a smear of pitch

life got a little longer

 

and i stole your childhood memory

i wanted its door

but i had to take the whole thing

 

you were trying to decide

if you could persist, beleaguered,

unassisted as it were

without this particular memory

 

the grass assists me

it is a memory

 

… . .

 

that cloth polishes everything

just a few degrees east of clear

 

you have a hangnail that says

for better, for worse

the sheets were gray and twisted

 

on the radio he said Howl is so comforting

remember when we found it so discomfiting

remember when it lit the hotplate

and burned the sagging sleeve of your pajamas

 

today by my own account i have received two blows

both dealt by inanimates

both my fault

i was animate in the wrong direction at the wrong time

 

… . .

 

you are losing your suitcase

 

following the fireworks there were maps

with unseemly legends

 

let’s collect them

we can collect all four

 

how many in a set of grass

is it two or more make a garden

be more specific

offer your hand to count on

if we must go higher

we must

 

which way was higher

coy hourglass

are you about to be thought of

 

… . .

 

vapor and cradle change

hairs on head counted by cloudkeepers change

what you want is divided into blades change

articulation of     bone      mesmer

two birds leaving like two stones from my mind

the empty feeder, the crying animal

can you not approach

the core of such an utterance

and feeding him I have fulfilled

his perfect steady moving knowledge of the world

and I have not let him down

 

in the throes of it

to know that the pines in the park are waking to their vigil

to know that the meadow by the dam is being crossed by the concrete bridge

juices in the underbrush seeping and carrying

stillness in motion

 

a swoosh like a sheet shaking out on the line,

the birds taking off in a rush at some

threat real or imagined

 

pull hard on your bootlaces sometimes they snap sometimes they tighten

 

… . .

 

i have some plans

they take me through the weekend

 

then i plan to be green and full of cool soil

why don’t we plan on it

why don’t we count on it

how many

not religiously

the way the birds do

irresponsibly

right on target

 

next time try to concentrate really hard

this time be grass

 

what makes you think the grass doesn’t concentrate really hard

 

tiny angle of dislocution

the mountain was off dreaming

what about

what you allow

what is it i always say then hate

you get what you settle for

what kind of world is that where that is true

not yours

i wanted better for you


Matt Hart

Poem Where Something Incredible Crashes

 

You in your flowerbed beautifully seeming

Or oft bent over a thank you half lost

There’s a bark in my Bauhaus      Every minute

you’re a skylark      Every minute I’m winging

 

my euphonium song      A concrete existence

made yesterday special      Somebody saying

finches ever after      bones in my t-shirt

and Ohio’s white blossoms      Don’t try to make a big thing

 

of hatchlings, or crush us you will with your ass

in the air-conditioner, a feather falling loose from your hair

in the tree      This morning I feel like a nectarine

in all its ripeness, because out the window, it’s 4AM, not green

 

And I can hear in the sky a plane full of Everymen

bespeaking you a meadow      echo, pterodactyl, tango or waltz

Why am I awake      Because I couldn’t sleep

to hip-hop’s rising soundtrack and all the many

 

neighborhood’s citizens on patrol

MC Hyland

Epistolary

for Erin Martin

 

I am a handsome and lonely man.

I like to write these letters to the housewives:

Dear Betty, I am a handsome

and lonely man. I appreciate

your zinnias and Buick. RSVP.

I seal them in envelopes made from top-secret

blueprints. Then they get intercepted

by my ex-girlfriends in the postal service.

 

Dear Erin, I have sabotaged the factories of sleep.

I drive around and around the abandoned worksite,

taking photographs. Smug workers, sealed

in their plexiglass pods. I cry out to them: Vive

la television! Abajo las manzanitas!

 

Will you write to me? I confess to the housewives

everything, everything. I could curl your hair

around my wrist like a shackle. I could draw

our path on every map in the atlas. Look: we are crossing

the Atlas mountains. It is like The Sound of Music

without the element of escape. I am singing you a song

that I wrote for the people of my country

about their beautiful, beautiful smiles.

 

When we get to the other side, there will be

a house with steaming coffee and pancakes.

I will stitch this letter into my arm.

Noah Eli Gordon

I am here with my suitcase to collect only the good brains.

—Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry

 

The Dubtone

Chamber of ash left open.

Mythic entitlement wash-out made us witness

footprints I crush to register a slow descent.

A place to appear overly eager, unjustly relieved.

I hadn’t been hanging garlands, ineffectual geometry,

crossed streets & arrival circuits, an overdose on the outline

traced by falling in. The mice were still. Switch channels.

I’d say ease its own name, written on the lowest point

between broken instruments. Sew the house. Although it’s closed.

Admittedly, I could. But paper legislating geography, flowerbeds?

I rubbed backseat perfection. The glue holds the ground

so frozen nothing happens because we do it.

Like this I-think-I-can engine rides

an otherwise mimetic account.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Lighthouse out, equal sign to anything save contempt, spreading code pink in the not-quite-famous. I’m willing to flowerbed, stuck striking these illustrated pictures, perfectly reflective glass. Pulling teeth or trying to cull an ideal peach rotting a window ledge, a coat draped over footprints to refract the loved rain, an expectation of divinity. Immediately preceding the earpiece, standard philosophy, two threads to disregard differing modalities. Differing modalities considered disassembling the TV.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Snow-covered bird’s nest outside the next big motif. Later, a silent art. Beside fine print, why not a jar of its own syntax.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Things are mirrored next to belief.

Light in almond oil paint congeals, bubbles & the string is how we believe in the other.

Joy enough behind me somewhere.

A little sparrow choking.

A half-completed mock salute to harness willful redemption.

A fragment of conscience immediately preceding the ante.

A lie to the library.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

The scattering mice. The fibers.

The framework of the barn’s red curtains.

Perfectly balanced plain jack-in- the-box psychosis.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Gut rot in the left-brain, right-brain paradigm, apart

from swerving into think-tank spillage.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Alters the left-brain, right-brain

paradigm apart gracefully.

Time passes or a city without

its diminutive song.

Aft, the oracular self

striking gross overstatements.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Think, vistas of architectural terms. Later, there’s not a landscape before settling down. You leave a knife in the context her paintings take back onto what? Locomotive sound, hooves rotting in two, hoping for these overindulgent pleasantries? One side has his implicit contract—gift-box deliverance, another telephone solicitation list? A litmus test in a joke of manipulative dogma. It’s the crowd. We agree on the leash, de-lead the weather in such abortive silence. I’m pure bull’s-eye for precisely such an exposed metronome.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

I’d considered moves, differing modalities, considered

disassembling the trees or a commencement speech

lounging on the rocks, another fuzzy-diced measure of reason.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

How ‘bout a heart saying: that way.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Someone’s fascinated by another Peter Pan statistic.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

It’s like a kite will go out, wondering on a symbol? Maybe you can count on a correlative. If every photograph of a vertex like this afternoon dents itself into flange. To speed-read through terror cake seems overused. If you’re waiting, try extending. It’s taken their own ink to overdo it, a handmade atlas of empty unknowing strings in another week’s clemency.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Maybe cartography’s the dailyness of stargazer lilies.

I feel awful about nature, art & sediment rotation.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Splay the sludge, the foreground, to say

an argument? Starboard, a flame begins

by cupping the sun from first abundant

flower parts. Lacking in noise, in my

finite sense of oil paint. Starboard,

a visible form’s tangible notion of music?

Aft, the archer’s darkroom gear. Outside

the spot where mythic immediacy lacks.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Imagine being prone to bits.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

It’s all boundaries, but consistent.

I left the last Saxon in the trenches.

The pipeline disappears. The pipeline disappears. The appearance differs.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Starboard, a dim sarcophagus. A cord crackles, holds workhouse skirmishes, some paregoric to entertain a visible river of happenstance melodrama. What’s precious in the red city caught the clouds past an offhand allusion. The pipeline disappears.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubtone

Winter ends. Laughter happens downstage. It’s serious motion. Two thin triangles of left-brain, right-brain paradigm, apart from the pavement. The last Saxon’s noise, a beacon leaning its soliloquy to gravity, a fig & the referents to call elision an otherwise drab parlor-room distinction. Flack battered in the haystacks. It’s all barreling back.

Peter Jay Shippy

Signs and Wonders

 

To the uninitiated, it looks

Like a tar stain on a telephone pole.

Y ou shoulder your way

Through the crowd of believers

And try not to feel their keen

Faces. You try not to judge.

If they see the Virgin Mary

Or Jesus Christ or Hart Crane, well

Good for them, right? I mean

Who are they hurting? Then again

Couldn’t this oomph, this

Gusto for signs and wonders

Be applied to the hardscrabble?

Couldn’t they volunteer

At a soup kitchen or adopt

A blind dog? On the other hand

Maybe they do do-good. You don’t.

Right? So who are you to lecture?

It looks like snow. Your back aches

Just thinking about shoveling, again.

March, lion, lamb, bah.

The sun looks like a blood orange.

When you break free of the host

You look back, one last time—

Yeah—that’s Hart Crane. No doubt.

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