Two Poems

Poetry / Dear Anselm

:: Dear Anselm ::

Dear Anselm PDF

 

 

 

:: As in Leaving the Pyroclastic Volcano ::

As in Leav­ing PDF

 

 

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

 

Dear Anselm”

I took some emails I had writ­ten to my friend and decid­ed to turn some of them into a poem. I still feel guilty for not return­ing his MoMA mem­ber­ship card.

As in Leav­ing the Pyro­clas­tic Volcano”

The first pan­el was inspired by the stark land­scape of North­ern Ice­land. I imag­ined a broth­er and sis­ter hold­ing hands and wit­ness­ing a vio­lent tra­di­tion (a whale heli­coptered above the caldera of a vol­cano and dropped in). I guess it’s a metaphor for how adults treat the envi­ron­ment and what we pass to our chil­dren. The sec­ond pan­el is a kind of light Frue­di­an dra­ma between two gey­sers in Ice­land. This was inspired by a geyser that went dor­mant (the father) and the younger geyser (the son) who keeps blow­ing steam into the world. The third pan­el was writ­ten on the flight leav­ing Ice­land. I turned on the TV and clicked on the flight path and we were fly­ing above a place called “Hap­py Val­ley Goose Bay” and I loved the name so much, I had to put it into a poem. 

 

San­dra Simonds is a poet and crit­ic. Her eighth book of poems, a col­lec­tion of trip­tychs, will be pub­lished by Wave Books in 2022. Her forth­com­ing nov­el, Assia (Noe­mi Press, 2023) is based on the life of Assia Wevill.

Three Poems

Poetry / Claire Wahmanholm

:: Meltwater ::

 

 

 

 

 

:: Meltwater ::

 

 

:: Meltwater ::

 

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems are based on Lacy M. Johnson’s 2019 New York­er arti­cle “How to Mourn a Glac­i­er.” They would usu­al­ly be called “era­sures,” though I’d like to find a dif­fer­ent word for them since the poems—and I—don’t have the rela­tion­ship with the source text that often char­ac­ter­izes era­sure projects. I’m not inter­est­ed in using era­sure as a method of cri­tique or con­fronta­tion; I pre­fer to think of my inter­ac­tions as a kind of close read­ing. I see the era­sures func­tion­ing like any oth­er crit­i­cal essay on a text, except that I’m using only the lan­guage of the orig­i­nal source. 

My inten­tion was that the vis­i­ble words would point up a series of par­al­lel storylines—ones that are some­times more micro, and more macro, than the orig­i­nal. There are only so many things that can be made explicit/conscious at one time, so iso­lat­ing cer­tain words might be a way of untan­gling those threads and mak­ing each more vis­i­ble. In the case of Johnson’s orig­i­nal essay, she’s writ­ing about Okjökull while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly writ­ing about much more than it, and I see the lone­ly words as mak­ing that “more­ness” explicit. 

I am hop­ing that the project also makes a point about the way we read news, and our ten­den­cy to notice nar­ra­tives we’re already invest­ed in. The poems obvi­ous­ly say some­thing about me and my own pen­chant for see­ing grief in every­thing (as well as my impulse to put every­thing with­in the con­text of children). 

I saw the essay’s instruc­tion­al title as mak­ing an invi­ta­to­ry ges­ture to mourn, or to at least con­sid­er how mourn­ing looks for each read­er. I was com­pelled by the fact that my own mourn­ing, maybe, is already embed­ded in the orig­i­nal text, so that the essay is (poet­i­cal­ly) enact­ing the mourn­ing that it (jour­nal­is­ti­cal­ly) describes. I was try­ing to repli­cate on the page what I felt like my body was doing when I read the arti­cle, which was like a slow­ing down of my heart, or an uneven­ness in its beat­ing. Like large chunks of myself were being eat­en away. 

I was inter­est­ed in doing more than one era­sure (and iso­lat­ing dif­fer­ent words every time) to empha­size the cycli­cal nature of mourning—how we make minor adjust­ments with­out any sweep­ing over­haul, how it’s (appar­ent­ly) pos­si­ble to mourn the same things again and again but using dif­fer­ent words. I am hop­ing that the poems high­light the ten­sion between the appar­ent inabil­i­ty to communicate—the way we write arti­cles and arti­cles (and poems and poems), and noth­ing changes—and the impulse to keep try­ing any­way. And by mak­ing the high­light­ed words off-lim­its for the next poem, I was try­ing to show how the pool of words to draw from drains and drains. The way our vocab­u­lary dimin­ish­es and dimin­ish­es, we have few­er and few­er resources avail­able to us as we descend into grief.

 

Claire Wah­man­holm is the author of Night Vision (New Michi­gan Press 2017), Wilder (Milk­weed Edi­tions 2018), Red­mouth (Tin­der­box Edi­tions 2019), and the forth­com­ing Melt­wa­ter (Milk­weed Edi­tions 2023). Her work has most recent­ly appeared in, or is forth­com­ing from, Cou­plet, Ninth Let­ter, Black­bird, Wash­ing­ton Square Review, Good Riv­er Review, Des­cant, Cop­per Nick­el, and Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal. She is a 2020–2021 McK­night Fel­low, and lives in the Twin Cities. Find her online at clairewahmanholm.com

Two Visual Poems

Poetry / Nance Van Winckel

:: Clearly ::

 

:: Auto Pilot ::

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I’ve been work­ing on a kind of graph­ic nar­ra­tive about a char­ac­ter I call Admi­ral Dot. He’s full of hubris. He keeps try­ing, and fail­ing, to con­quer the skies. For the pages of his sto­ry, I begin with old pages from children’s books and oth­er pub­lic domain illus­tra­tions. Con­sid­er­ing these pieces my “can­vas­es,” I col­lage onto them and make many alter­ations as I crop and col­orize, etc. The text is my own, and gen­er­al­ly it evolves AS I rework the pages and think about poor old Admi­ral Dot and his world.

 

Nance Van Winck­el’s ninth poet­ry col­lec­tion, The Many Beds of Martha Wash­ing­ton, will appear in 2021 from the Pacif­ic North­west Poet­ry Series/Lynx House Press. She’s also pub­lished five books of fic­tion, includ­ing Ever Yrs, a nov­el in the form of a scrap­book (Twist­ed Road Pub­li­ca­tions, 2014) and Boneland: Linked Sto­ries (U. of Okla­homa Press, 2013). The recip­i­ent of two NEA poet­ry fel­low­ships, the Wash­ing­ton State Book Award, a Pater­son Fic­tion Prize, Poet­ry Soci­ety of America’s Gor­don Bar­ber Poet­ry Award, a Christo­pher Ish­er­wood Fel­low­ship, and three Push­cart Prizes, Nance teach­es in Ver­mont College’s MFA in Writ­ing Pro­gram, is visu­al poet­ry edi­tor for Poet­ry North­west, and lives in Spokane, Washington.

The Thing About Nature

Poetry / Wendy M. Thompson

:: The Thing About Nature ::

You lie smooth on your back, 
a long pier. 
Each bone is a cliff 
overlooking skin, fatty tissue, 
the best parts around the hooked jaw. 
 
The hairs at the back of your neck, 
small tufts of alumroot,  
were singed by the fire,  
along with feathers, claw,  
and cartilage. 
Smoky with ash, your teeth, and 
an upturned skull in the debris 
were the only evidence they found  
of global warming. 
 
Because there is never a soft way  
to indicate that  
          Man is responsible for the death of earth, 
they extracted the science first: 
a hair pulled from the lab, 
an entire species folded into extinction  
in the back of a  
leather-bound encyclopedia. 
What is science anyway but a wholly  
irrational, irrelevant, omnivorous,  
long-tailed thing? 
 
Instead, it was convenient to lie  
while looking for the 
match that ended the world:  
          an arsonist, white male, about 30,  
          wearing camouflage, holding a beer. 
It’s never the tire marks that  
mar your bed of sage, 
or the eventual highway that  
cuts across the height of your thigh, 
slicing through tendon, 
the fur still warm. 
 
                    New single family homes are being built in this development 
                    New single family homes are being built in this development 
                    New single family homes are being built in this development 
 
The deer that you carried,  
fractured by headlights, 
have migrated further east, onto  
new land  
slated for development. 
 
Every hour,  
the ocean drags you further away  
from  
your mother, 
your children, 
until there is no name  
left in the sand but, always,  
bits of shell and the people  
who come  
to collect them. 
Perhaps one of them will listen  
deeply enough to hear you  
calling for your family. 
 
It isn’t an echo, 
it’s an owl. 
It isn’t an owl, 
it’s a hybrid car backing out of the driveway. 
 
Night constellations map the fibers 
of your many homes: 
a womb,  
a nest,  
a meadow,  
a new three bed / two bath house 
inside of a cul-de-sac 
that was just built in this development. 
The sky is a quilt,  
is a mirror  
through which you look,  
and ask your ancestors,  
          Who’s the fairest of them all: 
          the gophers that dig up my lawn 
          or my right as a tax-paying homeowner to kill them? 
 
Because after all is said and done,  
the wet membrane  
from which you crack, 
the yolk that runs down  
the scruff of your throat when  
you (try to) pick up women  
ten years your junior, 
the savage expression you hide  
behind giant luminescent wings  
when your coworker Eric  
claims full credit and is  
promoted over you, 
the sea cave that rages 
in your throat  
when your father tells you  
he’s getting remarried  
to a brunette your brother’s age, 
the territorial way you mark  
your job title,  
your woman,  
your assets, 
even the blood that fills your mouth  
when you make her 
lie smooth on her back, 
a long pier, 
each bone, a cliff 
overlooking skin, fatty tissue, 
your erect jaw and open teeth 
tearing through her best parts around  
the hooked jaw, 
is anything but fully human. 

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I wrote this poem after think­ing about the inter­re­lat­ed rela­tion­ship between Amer­i­can mas­culin­i­ty, pow­er, prop­er­ty own­er­ship, and nature. There’s this way in which the struc­ture of Euro­pean set­tler colo­nial­ism orga­nized all four into a matrix of dom­i­na­tion, pos­ses­sion, and (over)use that con­tin­ues to shape our lives and world today. Through force and vio­lence, the con­quest of native inhab­i­tants, flo­ra, and fau­na led to the aggres­sive amass­ing of land and resources with the ulti­mate intent being max­i­mum extrac­tion and pro­duc­tion for prof­it. Today, dom­i­na­tion, pos­ses­sion, and (over)use reside as core tenets that define a man’s val­ue and worth in soci­ety: his abil­i­ty to dom­i­nate all liv­ing and non­liv­ing things using direct or indi­rect vio­lence, his abil­i­ty to amass great wealth or prop­er­ty at the expense of the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment, and his abil­i­ty to extract max­i­mum val­ue from what he owns or pos­sess­es. It is an unnat­ur­al way of life that has been made to feel and seem nat­ur­al. It is also the cause of tremen­dous detri­men­tal stress on our nat­ur­al world. 

I begin the poem describ­ing the human body as though exam­in­ing a non­hu­man ani­mal, sit­u­at­ing it in the midst of a land­scape that is per­pet­u­al­ly on fire and marked by human overde­vel­op­ment. Here, I want­ed to link us back to the world we work so hard to dis­tance our­selves from: one con­nect­ed to trees and plants and birds and preda­to­ry mam­mals. I then move to empha­size the way humans have ren­dered our nat­ur­al world unfa­mil­iar, exter­nal, and patho­log­i­cal, an emp­ty excess onto which we can build ever-expand­ing sub­di­vi­sions and cook­ie cut­ter hous­ing devel­op­ments. While we look at nat­ur­al dis­as­ters as vio­lent dis­rup­tions to our idyl­lic lifestyles, we rarely rec­og­nize the vio­lence that is present in our addic­tion to sub­ur­ban sprawl, to widen­ing and con­gest­ed free­ways and express lanes, and to the attack on nature when it shows up in the form of “inva­sive pests” in our back­yards.     

The rest of the poem inter­ro­gates how our man-made sur­round­ings have left us unable to imag­ine or reclaim our link­ages to our ani­mal kin and nat­ur­al world. Wildlife is dis­pos­able when it comes to build­ing new­er town­homes and sub­ur­ban devel­op­ments. And we find our­selves seek­ing out the calm­ing and heal­ing prop­er­ties of nature, dri­ving miles or fly­ing to pre­serves and oth­er wilder­ness sites far away to escape the mun­dane­ness and monot­o­ny of our every­day lives. In writ­ing this poem, I want­ed to stress the fact that we as human ani­mals have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to our nat­ur­al world, that our strained rela­tion­ship to/with nature must be appraised and reme­died, and that our prox­im­i­ty to non­hu­man ani­mals is a lot clos­er than we’d like to believe. 

I end the poem by play­ing with the notion of the “ani­mal,” a pejo­ra­tive term that we apply to humans who we per­ceive as behav­ing in ways that do not adhere to social norms or exhib­it accept­able deco­rum. Here, I cat­a­logue the ways that cer­tain expres­sions of raw human emo­tion, respons­es, and behav­iors are per­ceived as ani­mal­is­tic and can sig­nal our inher­ent wild­ness, chal­leng­ing us to con­sid­er how our instincts sit­u­ate us always close to nature no mat­ter how advanced and civ­il we strive to be. 

 

Wendy M. Thomp­son is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of African Amer­i­can Stud­ies at San José State Uni­ver­si­ty. Her cre­ative work has most recent­ly appeared in Palaver, the San­ta Fe Writ­ers Project, Rap­pa­han­nock Review, Jet Fuel Review, and Wac­ca­maw Jour­nal. She is the co-edi­tor of Sparked: George Floyd, Racism, and the Pro­gres­sive Illu­sion (Min­neso­ta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Press, 2021). 

Excerpts From Your Baby Book

Poetry / Catherine Theis

:: Excerpts From Your Baby Book ::

You sleep for an hour. 
 
The bird flutters by the window’s screen just as you stir awake. 
 
I feed you again, hoping you will fall back asleep. 
 
You are quiet now. 
 
You are crying now, matter-of-factly. 
 
There is always a touch of the menace in the imagination. 
 
It’s hard to understand. 










The loneliness of the long-distance swimmer is like the loneliness of the mother. 
 
I hear you cry in the film’s soundtrack. 
 
The short film is usually in black and white but your cry is always color. 










Poems, babies, I have milk. 
 
I have loaves of bread, wheels of aged goat cheese 
 
and a bruise you would hardly believe. 
 
I have a small barrel of red wine ready 
 
to be tapped after seven o’clock 
 
and an entire dishwasher of stemware piping hot. 
 
I have an advent calendar with twenty-five tiny doors opening 
 
into a hallway of pure celestial light—










The facts of today: 

I buy a singular persimmon nicked by your teeth. 

I bring permission to myself to begin again. 

I whip heavy cream for a dessert custard of persimmon. 

The custard so sweet I don’t add any sugar. 

Your bumblebee hat still fits, so. 

The slide at the playground an entirely new experience. Have we officially exhausted the swings? 

I hold onto your tiny torso while simultaneously letting you slide down. You look the part of a young bumblebee. 

We buzz on home under the pink toxic skies of Los Angeles. 

I buy a second persimmon from Bob’s Market. 

You get to work immediately, scoring its smooth orange skin with your luminous front tooth, a surprising ferocity. 

Your fist smaller than the globe of fruit.










Closer and closer you inch toward 

the spinning center of creation. 

Your preferred method of transport 

the whirling, lurching see-saw of swing. 

Your clothes grow tighter. Two colds, 

one with one cough. We wash blackberry 

stains from your booties every night. 

Birthday celebration? Champagne, 

oysters, blackberries?

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I decide to write again out of the nothing. 

The appro­pri­ate amount of time has passed. I have griev­ed enough for my body. The world glows in spring­time green. I almost for­get how quick­ly the hem­or­rhage began, how many pints of blood I lost that day or how the doc­tors and nurs­es didn’t even have enough time to warm the trans­fu­sion blood. I’m O pos­i­tive. One of the ancient blood types. Var­i­ous mys­tics and heal­ers have sug­gest­ed to me that it’s ben­e­fi­cial to eat red meat and greens. This doesn’t sur­prise me. I’ve picked my fair share of bit­ter dan­de­lions from the rocky moun­tain­side with the wind blow­ing up my black skirt. I do try to eat a nice steak at least one a week. Just like I try to write at least once a week. Also raw oys­ters. What­ev­er min­er­als I’m miss­ing, I crave the creamy flesh of oys­ters like you wouldn’t believe. 

I read some­where that the preg­nant woman’s brain shrinks, and that it takes a full six months after the baby is born to regain its orig­i­nal size. 

I have rough­ly two more months to go. 

My sis­ter tells me this is not true. A woman’s brain after hav­ing giv­en birth actu­al­ly grows in size. But we both get some ver­sion of the sto­ry wrong. I final­ly read an arti­cle that describes the loss of gray matter—specifically in the part of the brain that con­trols social interaction—as a process called synap­tic prun­ing. This prun­ing is not a loss of abil­i­ty but rather an indi­ca­tion that the brain is becom­ing more spe­cial­ized. In oth­er words, the gray mat­ter in the mother’s brain changes so that she becomes more attuned to the social cues of her baby and less atten­tive to the cues of those bit­ing flies around her. 

I always keep a fly­swat­ter with­in reach now. One hangs on a hook near the kitchen sink. One hangs in the laun­dry room. I saw anoth­er one on the din­ing room table just the oth­er day. 

That’s a cal­en­dar with the moon cycles,” I tell the baby, who eats his stuffed fire­fly we have named Blu for no oth­er rea­son than we like the sound of the word—blu. The baby sits upon a tuffet on the counter while I nar­rate the mak­ing of the cof­fee. Eat­ing his curds and whey, eat­ing his curds and whey. 

He moves his lit­tle neck. His eyes fol­low. Then his arms stir. He moves in pieces, in parts. A tiny red porce­lain spoon taps out cof­fee grounds into a red cof­fee pot. I nev­er noticed our fetish with red kitchen appli­ances and uten­sils. I’m let­ting his father sleep in this morn­ing. I can han­dle the first round, I think.

 

Cather­ine The­is is the author of The Fraud of Good Sleep (Salt Mod­ern Poets, 2011) and  the chap­book The June Cuck­old, a tragedy in verse (Con­vul­sive Edi­tions, 2012). Her recent pub­li­ca­tion is a full-length orig­i­nal play called MEDEA (Plays Inverse Press, 2017). Recent poems have appeared in Pre­lude and Quar­ter­ly West. Forth­com­ing poems in Fir­ma­ment.

Two Poems

Poetry / Jennifer Richter

:: Trending: Seismologist Explains How to Make an Earthquake Early Warning System With Cats ::

Lately I have more cats in my Cloud than kids 
in real life two kids no cats but now no kids at 
home so cats are how we stay in touch if their 
phones ring they huff mom why’re you calling 
but when I text my son a tabby in a taco bowtie 
he texts right back maybe a chonky ginger and 
I know he’s okay that’s a thumbs up for today 
since the kids left I’ve been using cats to predict 
disaster as the seismologist says it’s tricky you’d 
think cats parkouring through kitchens crashing 
trashing everything would mean it’s all falling 
apart you’d think a cat reeling with cheese stuck 
to its face might be a cry for help but when he 
sends those I know my son’s actually laughing 
that day my daughter had a fever and a French 
final I texted you’re the best with a moustached 
munchkin she sent back a show-posed golden 
Persian someone had captioned yo for real this 
cat looks like the grandfather of a croissant how 
is it only 16th best ha I thought okay she’s okay 
when they don’t respond I’m suddenly back 
in a too quiet house with toddlers I worry if 
one sends the same meme two days in a row 
what’s so distracting I worry getting bursts of 
Norwegian forest cats in the snow from my son 
it’s tricky you’d think all those dreamy scenes 
might mean he’d found a little peace this week 
but the last winter he lived at home it vanished 
the neighbor’s cat with ears like that slept only 
on our deck only ever let my son get close then 
one day left no warning just didn’t come back 
that winter my friend left too you never know 
seismologists agree meanwhile we chase hints 
of what and when like red laser dots we won’t 
ever pin down a guy online actually analyzed 
a thousand cookie fortunes found very few use 
predictive language mostly they offer random 
observations about you like my daughter when 
I visit her wow mom at my outfit means either 
the heart-eyed cat emoji or the crying one now 
my son texts kittens spilled from a takeout box 
rice like snow on their noses my friend’s hands 
on my body used to shake with jolts that rose 
he said from deep beneath his feet okay you’ll 
be okay he said anyone can heal anyone then 
pointed to a shadowed corner sighing oh look 
at all their wings so I squinted like I do at my 
phone now at one of the sticky snarling kittens 
chewing a fortune you are surrounded by angels 
it says wow mom they’d say if my kids saw me 
always staring at my dark screen like that corner 
look I’d say I’m okay every day you light it up

 

 

 

:: Message in a Bottle: Dear Future ::

Stunned to still be here 
after emergency brain 
surgery my friend kept 
weeping kept palming 
her chest to feel the rise 
of her actual breath oh 
future maybe by now 
your earth is fissured 
as a cortex maybe your 
west coast has become 
a sedated brain wiped 
clean by waves oh dear 
future if like my friend 
you wake in a shaken 
state may you recover 
like her surrounded by 
beloveds repeating the 
word fine and experts 
nodding at the word 
stable may it be still 
too soon to say what’s 
been irretrievably lost 
may your memories 
resurface like hers 
just the sunny ones 
floating back so far 
dear future how are 
you I seriously think 
about you all the time

 

 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

In the win­dow­less depths of the Cal­tech Archives, I read this ques­tion in hand­writ­ten fan mail to Charles F. Richter, inven­tor of the earth­quake mag­ni­tude scale, and knew I’d found the spark of my next col­lec­tion: “I was won­der­ing how you feel about your name being asso­ci­at­ed with a disaster.”

I grew up in the flood-prone, tor­na­do-swept, wind-chilled Mid­west; it wasn’t until I moved to the Pacif­ic North­west twen­ty years ago that I began hear­ing the term “Richter scale” thread­ed through pub­lic broad­casts and pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with increas­ing fre­quen­cy and urgency. These two poems come from that new man­u­script, The Real­ly Big One, which has become a con­sid­er­a­tion of the ways we—as indi­vid­u­als, as fam­i­lies, as communities—cycle through peri­ods of shat­ter­ing and heal­ing. In both of these poems, the lan­guage and imagery of seis­mol­o­gy helped me approach the entwined sub­jects of fam­i­ly, fear, and the future; at the heart of each poem is the beau­ti­ful and brave leap of faith we take each day, trust­ing that every­thing will be okay.

 

Jen­nifer Richter’s first col­lec­tion, Thresh­old (2010), was cho­sen by Natasha Trethewey as a win­ner in the Crab Orchard Series in Poet­ry; her sec­ond col­lec­tion, No Acute Dis­tress (2016), was a Crab Orchard Series Editor’s Selec­tion, and both books were named Ore­gon Book Award Final­ists. Her new work has been fea­tured in ZYZZYVA, The Los Ange­les Review, The Mis­souri Review, and The Mass­a­chu­setts Review. Richter teach­es in Ore­gon State University’s MFA pro­gram. https://jenniferrichterpoet.com

Two Poems

Poetry / Susan Rich

:: Salt Crystals in Cape Town ::

Always it was the men involved in such minutia— 
  
which prayer to recite first: table salt or kosher, 
 
while the women chopped carrots for the cholent, 
 
added tomato paste and kidney beans that would begin 
 
to simmer and flake before sundown— 
 
indestructible slop dating back to the second temple. 
 
 
In Cape Town I met my only orthodox boyfriend  
 
whose lovemaking leaned towards devout. Please your woman  
 
in bed on the Sabbath, the Torah reads—my favorite  
 
part of the teaching—a religious obligation to pleasure  
 
the woman solely for pleasure’s sake, Exodus 21:10. 
 
Regularly, if he is a husband of means, or once a month 
 
 
for camel drivers and long-haul truckers. We made love 
 
under orange scented trees and above mountain tops. 
 
We salted our lips with each other’s sweat, and still 
 
he hid his grapes fermenting in their improvised machine.  
 
The dozen wine bottles uncorked and sequestered 
 
in the hall closet among suit jackets and ties  
 
 
 
because I wrote on Saturdays, flicked light switches, 
 
loved shrimp. My body would remake his wine  
 
into something impure. So many rituals, so little time— 
 
prayers for a healthy shit, another one for the car keys before 
 
they magically reappear. When my mother died, we covered  
 
the mirrors, thought to tear our clothes. No easy listening,  
 
 
no rock & roll, no show tunes for a year he ordered. 
 
But listening to the Red Sox on the radio? Allowed.  
 
I wonder if God cares for team sports or salt crystals—if  
 
a woman’s pleasure in the Scriptures is a directive slipped  
 
in from some lost holy book? Is there a verse there for fair  
 
wages? Equitable lives? When the orthodox scholar left 
 
 
me he said he said he wanted to make love to everyone 
 
else. His own kabbalistic interpretation of tikkun olam. 
 
He assured me it was kosher because Jewish women  
 
aren’t allowed to create law. Is there a prayer to tell  
 
ex-lovers to fuck off? A prayer to regain belief  
 
in orange groves—for transforming what we are told? 

 

 

 

:: Kerchiefs of Yellow Linen ::

 
     During World War II, 91–95% of Lithuania’s Jewish population were killed—  
     the highest casualty rate of Jews in any nation in the Holocaust.
 
Somewhere in Lithuania, my grandmother’s  
sisters, parents, cousins, aunties, in-laws, and everyone else  
 
die during the Holocaust and before that, in pogroms. 
I wonder if the women tracked the soldiers’ path 
 
from the hills, watched them with binoculars as they 
frog-marched through fields of pomegranate and rye. 
 
Did the women foretell danger, the cold wave  
 
cresting on the edge of their skin, their skin 
intuiting door to door searches, ditches, death? 
 
Scientists say our bodies remember  
trauma like footsteps from one generation 
 
into another. The pathogen of the physical  
fear planted in infancy 
 
that festers and expands—not like wild mint 
 
but more like a grove of stinging nettles  
that surrounds my sleep. The house 
 
where I grew up—I’m there alone and then 
—you’d think they were delivering flowers  
 
the hard knock, followed by the doorbell,  
such politeness—until the door breaks open— 
 
and I exile myself from myself— 
 
watch as the militia takes over, helmets  
to boots readied for an ever-present war.  
 
Recently, the scenario reconfigured 
with tech execs and hedge fund  
 
entrepreneurs with slick hair.  
The men drone on: foreclosures and stock ops.                               
 
Do they occupy my body, my land?  
 
I wake on high alert 
bathed in the breath of terror, 
 
a haunting that thrives across  
continents, and further. 
 
What happened to my women— 
the Jews of Lithuania— 
 
raped, taken, tossed  
 
into the deep unknowing  
until perhaps now— 
 
when maybe if I learn to listen, they’ll speak. 

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

For many years I avoid­ed writ­ing about fam­i­ly— not because it seemed too dif­fi­cult, but because it seemed too ordi­nary to me. I grew up at the far edge of the post-Holo­caust gen­er­a­tion with rel­a­tives who had hid­den in garbage cans to sur­vive and escaped rape by being ban­daged to pass as lep­ers. The old-coun­try sto­ries always end­ed with the same piece of implied advice: Don’t trust any­one that isn’t Jew­ish. I reject­ed this whole­heart­ed­ly and spent sev­er­al years in Niger, West Africa, per­haps the only Jew­ish per­son in the coun­try. (At least I nev­er met anoth­er.) There­fore, it was a strange sur­prise to me when, a cou­ple of years ago, I wrote a poem where my Jew­ish­ness took front and cen­ter. Since then, more poems of oth­er­ness, pogroms, Holo­caust sur­vivors, and racism have appeared. My per­spec­tive, I believe, is more irrev­er­ent and sur­re­al than what one thinks of when they think of Jew­ish poet­ry, if they think of it at all. These poems are irrev­er­ent, sur­re­al, and most def­i­nite­ly in the lin­eage of Jew­ish writ­ing. There is no one way to be Jew­ish just as there is no one way to be a poet. 

 

Susan Rich is an award win­ning poet, edi­tor and essay­ist. She is the author of four poet­ry col­lec­tions, includ­ing, most recent­ly, Cloud Phar­ma­cy (White Pine Press, 2014) and The Alchemist’s Kitchen (White Pine Press, 2010), and co-edi­tor of the anthol­o­gy The Strangest of The­atres, pub­lished by the Poet­ry Foun­da­tion. Rich has received awards from PEN USA and the Ful­bright Foun­da­tion. Recent poems have appeared in the Har­vard Review, New Eng­land Review, Poet­ry Ire­land, and World Lit­er­a­ture Today. Her 5th col­lec­tion, Gallery of Post­cards and Maps: New and Col­lect­ed Poems is forth­com­ing from Salmon Poet­ry, Ire­land, in 2022; Blue Atlas is forth­com­ing from Red Hen Press, 2024. Susan is on fac­ul­ty at High­line Col­lege out­side of Seat­tle, WA

Two Poems

Poetry / Suphil Lee Park

:: Present Tense Complex ::

Not I love you 
but the cuckoo 
clock moves me 
to tears. Poor 
thing. 
Have seconds, fast 
I will 
seconds to fast. 
Spare us a second. 
Light at gunpoint. 
Whose lung 
brims with bullets 
already 
ruts snowed- 
in, mind tucked in 
skin. What will 
heal, what not. 
There’s no sobbing in this world 
there’s no sobbing 
          in this world 
          there’s No 
sobbing in this world. 

 

 

Poetry / Suphil Lee Park

:: Route, Root ::

Volcanic winter, the cold 
is in color, sheltered. 
The canon balls in place 
of your eye balls 
I’m sure are the dead 
ends of your brain—god, 
should I drop my torch.

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I’ve always found it hard to agree with many who like to say the most impor­tant qual­i­ties of a poem are essen­tial­ly son­ic. I believe I feel this way because I’m Kore­an AND a bilin­gual writer. I have that hard-head­ed bias as a native read­er and writer of the Kore­an lan­guage that has evolved from cen­turies of such com­pli­cat­ed his­to­ry; unlike the Japan­ese who have ful­ly inte­grat­ed Chi­nese char­ac­ters into their own lan­guage, we invent­ed our own unique alpha­bet while still car­ry­ing over most of the words that con­sist of Chi­nese char­ac­ters from the last cen­tu­ry. For exam­ple, the sun in Kore­an is 해. Oth­er words in Kore­an, such as “year” and “harm,” even some phras­es like “will do,” “do this,” “should I do this?” spell and sound exact­ly the same (except some sub­tle dif­fer­ences in into­na­tion when it’s used as a phrase); the mean­ing of the word, there­fore, depends entire­ly on the con­text. But we also have anoth­er word for the sun in Kore­an, 태양, which con­sists of Chi­nese char­ac­ters “​太” (big) and “陽​” (yang); and each of these Chi­nese char­ac­ters also has mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions. While 해 is an exact equiv­a­lent for 태양 when it means the sun, a skill­ful Kore­an read­er will be first sprint­ing through a web of lin­guis­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties and con­no­ta­tions at their  recog­ni­tion of this sim­ple word. In oth­er words, I was born into a lan­guage that neces­si­tates lis­ten­ing not to the words them­selves but for the his­to­ry and poten­tial of each word and how words come togeth­er to form a wild­ly com­plex rela­tion­ship. So my obses­sion with words lies not in how they sound (the son­ic ele­ments are notes and beats that pro­vide pre­req­ui­site back­ground music) but in the chem­istry they spark up on the page. 

This lin­guis­tic incli­na­tion of mine matured into an impor­tant aes­thet­ic lat­er when I start­ed writ­ing in Eng­lish. At first, my very Kore­an brain approached the Eng­lish lan­guage pri­mar­i­ly as text, not as sound that I often had a hard time mak­ing out. While spo­ken Eng­lish was slip­pery and hard to grasp at the time, the lan­guage on the page felt to me some­thing like clay, espe­cial­ly in poetry—malleable, volatile, and tac­tile, as the words put and close the dis­tance that we call lines between them. Depend­ing on that dis­tance, they could become entire­ly dis­parate things, con­tained in the exact same word. In that sense, writ­ing in this lan­guage has been like paint­ing to me. A sim­ple jux­ta­po­si­tion can bring out an unex­pect­ed hue in a sim­ple red; some shapes, you can only dis­cern in hind­sight, at a dis­tance. A poached “egg” dif­fers dras­ti­cal­ly from a woman’s “egg.” I’ve always loved the idea of every word as an attempt and fail­ure to con­tain the uncon­tain­able, and how that only expands the hori­zon of each poem, with every word, even a rudi­men­ta­ry one like “egg,” adding lay­ers and nuances when put in a dif­fer­ent con­text, and depend­ing on which line it’s placed in. In that sense, I almost feel every poem is to be a brief jour­ney for its words to align them­selves. This is why many of my poems make use of antana­cla­sis and explore the con­tex­tu­al and tex­tu­al rela­tion­ship of words.

 

Suphil Lee Park (수필 리 박 / 秀筆 李 朴) is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tion, Present Tense Com­plex, win­ner of the Marysti­na Santi­este­van Prize (Con­duit Books & Ephemera 2021) and has recent­ly won the 2021 Indi­ana Review Fic­tion Prize. Born and raised in South Korea before find­ing home in the States, she holds a BA in Eng­lish from NYU and an MFA in Poet­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin. You can find more about her at: https://suphil-lee-park.com/

Eye to Eye

Poetry / Carol Moldaw

:: Eye to Eye ::

When I see my mom and H__ stare into each other’s eyes, inch­es away from each oth­er, my moth­er on her sag­gy flo­ral coach, H__ bend­ing to her lev­el, lean­ing in, with her obsid­i­an eyes and limpid smile, the deep­ness and unbro­ken length of their gaze stuns me. Had my moth­er ever held her wild­flower blue eyes that steady for any­one, for that long? In old pho­tos, she looks straight into the cam­era, shin­ing, intent—until the flash pops. With us, her regard was tran­si­to­ry, less than a gaze but more than a glance. H, one hand on the couch’s arm, close to my mother’s rest­ing arm but not touch­ing it, is firm and insis­tent as she cajoles and appeals to my mother’s bet­ter nature. And no mat­ter how unin­ter­est­ed or stub­born­ly oppo­si­tion­al my moth­er is, H, in this way, man­ages to per­suade her time after time to do what she wants her to. To rise from the lily-print­ed couch, to eat, go to the bath­room, change from one fleece or print­ed poly­blend zip-up caf­tan to anoth­er, fresh­er one. I arrange not to be there to wit­ness the get­ting out of bed, the teeth clean­ing, the bathing, the trans­ac­tions from one room, one chair, to anoth­er. For the moment, H__, the firm but lov­ing moth­er my moth­er nev­er had, has her entranced.

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

In describ­ing aspects of the rela­tion­ship between my moth­er and H__, her caregiver–H__’s patience and lov­ing kind­ness, my mother’s unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly pli­ant response to it–I want­ed to con­vey how deeply the rela­tion­ship reach­es into my mother’s psy­che, how heal­ing it appears to be for her. Of course, I can’t–and the poem doesn’t–presume to know what place, if any, in H__’s psy­che the rela­tion­ship has; the poem can only char­ac­ter­ize the way she treats my moth­er. Prose, straight­for­ward and obser­va­tion­al, seemed to bet­ter con­vey the cadence of their inter­ac­tion and my own role, as a bystander. Only in describ­ing each set of eyes did I feel the neces­si­ty to use imagery. 

 

Car­ol Moldaw is the author of Beau­ty Refract­ed (Four Way Books, 2018) as well as well as five oth­er books of poet­ry, includ­ing The Light­ning Field, which won the FIELD Poet­ry Prize (Ober­lin Col­lege Press, 2002) and a nov­el, The Widen­ing (Etr­uscan Press, 2008). Her work has been pub­lished wide­ly in jour­nals, includ­ing The New York Review of Books, Poem-A-Day, AGNI, Den­ver Quar­ter­ly, FIELD, Har­vard Review, The New York­er, The Yale Review, Plume and On the Sea­wall, which also pub­lished Tyler Mills’s inter­view with her in 2020. She lives in San­ta Fe, NM.

Manufacturing Resilience In Tifton, GA

Poetry / Drew Krewer

:: Manufacturing Resilience In Tifton, GA ::

When we talk about dog 
years, we are discussing trajectories 
of death. Instead, let’s discuss 
a lawnmower that doesn’t shear 
but recreates wildlife in its wake. 
Mow down the world in an elaborate frenzy 
against the extinction 
of grass. Buried treasure crazed 
the neighborhood, taught children 
the art of extraction, of taking profit 
from the earth. Sometimes, I find myself 
inside empty supermarkets, with no aisles. 
I am small, sissy, pre-industrial; convenience 
has abandoned me––the tabloids, the candy— 
all of it, not here, not necessary. 
Everything echoing the emptiness 
of the year––the stroke of an impressionist 
leaving me with a suggestion 
of a face and conversations with decorative 
whispers. The portrait––don't remember me this way. 
Remember me as pixels, as wildflowers, 
as chihuahua. What is your earliest 
memory of a natural disaster? 
Was it close or far away? 
While the water is still here and clear, 
I want to wade through and dissolve 
like a vivid watercolor. Tell the dwarfed, 
frightened fish that the diatom has arrived, 
that it is durable and can handle 
this region of pain. We can only 
dive so many times to the beginning, 
where we correct the heart from hateful thresholds 
and not every tree takes in the same amount of light.

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

This poem comes from a fin­ished man­u­script I start­ed writ­ing in ear­ly 2015 just before elec­tion sea­son kicked into full force. As our coun­try unfold­ed in both star­tling and per­haps expect­ed ways, I found myself unable to iden­ti­fy and char­ac­ter­ize what I was feel­ing in my mind and body; how­ev­er, I knew I want­ed to find a way to access and explore these laten­cies. On Insta­gram, I found myself fol­low­ing sev­er­al dig­i­tal artists, and I real­ized the art was so com­pelling to me because it was pro­vid­ing an avenue to access what my body was try­ing to tell me. Soon there­after, I cre­at­ed a sec­ondary Insta­gram account, curat­ing a list of 100 dig­i­tal artists that some­how felt aligned with my vision. Explor­ing and cycling through mas­sive amounts of imagery from these accounts (over the course of four years) is what ulti­mate­ly cre­at­ed the fab­ric of these poems.

 

Drew Krew­er is author of the chap­book Ars Warholi­ca (Spork Press, 2010). His work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Trou­bling the Line: Trans and Gen­derqueer Poet­ry and Poet­ics, Dia­gram, LIT, and Dream Pop, among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. He holds an MFA in Poet­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona and lives in the desert. 

Three Poems

Poetry / David Kirby

 

:: Stanza ::

It means room in Italian, but room itself  
means both enclosed area and open space,  
means confinement and as well as freedom.  
Let the poem say what it will, and let it go  
silent and speak again when it decides to.  
Let its words live under pressure: “in the very  
essence of poetry there is something indecent,” 
says Milosz, for “a thing is brought forth  
which we didn’t know we had in us,”  
and we jump back “as if a tiger had sprung  
out / and stood in the light, lashing his tail.”  
Poets, listen to your poem! It will tell you  
what sort of stanzas it wants to be whittled into:  
long, short, regular, random, or one alone,  
a stanza like a waterfall toward which  
the reader floats unknowing. First there is  
the river, tree-lined and tranquil, then  
the boulders that churn the water and whiten  
it with rage, then the precipice itself,  
and after that, the long flight through a mist  
that hides a future of which you know nothing,  
not a thing, only that it’s waiting for you,  
and you land in the still waters of the pool  
and sink to the bottom, and your feet touch  
everything that came before: ancient cities,  
shipwrecks, the armies of the dead. You rise,  
and the world is more silent than it will  
ever be again, and suddenly there’s sunlight 
and birdsong, and now you know everything.

:: I Should Have It to You by Noon ::

I’d like to write a love poem for you but I’m not sure you’d believe me seeing as how man is 
              ice to truth and fire to falsehood, according to Jean de La Fontaine, though where I come 
              from, we say that a lie can go around the world twice before the truth gets its socks on.  
 
Why? Because the more gaps and fissures in your poem or song or story or press release or 
              conspiracy theory or good or bad dream or academic or personal essay, the more room 
              for your audience to let their imaginations slither in.  
 
And who’d know that better than Jean de La Fontaine, as the most celebrated of his fables, “The 
              Grasshopper and the Ant,” can be read in two completely different ways?  
 
The first has the improvident grasshopper playing his fiddle and dancing while the industrious 
              ant piles up food for the coming winter. When winter arrives, the starving grasshopper 
              begs the ant for something to eat. But the ant says no, and in this way are we told that we 
              should plan for hard times. 
 
However there’s another reading in which the grasshopper is a merry fellow filling the air with 
              music and joy and the ant is a cruel old meanie unable to feel the least bit of compassion 
              for his fellow insect. 
 
“We laymen have always been intensely curious to know… from what sources that strange 
              creature, the creative writer, draws his material,” says Freud, “and how he manages to 
              make such an impression on us with it and to arouse in us emotions of which, perhaps, 
              we had not even thought ourselves capable.” 
 
Jean de La Fontaine answered Freud’s question two hundred years before Freud asked it. If 
              you’re that strange creature the creative writer, you do it this way: you set up a situation 
              and let it play out and refrain from commenting on it, because that’s the beholder’s job. 
              In the eye of the beholder, every entendre is double. 

This is why pornography will never be art. Erica Jong said that when you watch a porno, for the first 
              twenty minutes, you want to go home and have sex, and after that, you never want to 
              have sex again.  
 
John Waters says watching porn is like watching open-heart surgery. 
 

Sam Phillips, who recorded Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash at Sun Records studio in 
              Memphis, had a knack for steering his artists back to the growls and mumbles that not 
              only made them seem more neighborly to their blue collar audience but also allowed 
              listeners to enter into the music’s sense of playfulness.  
 
All those guys wanted to do was get away from farming and truck driving and become regional 
              stars who could play in small-town movie houses and high school gyms in the south, but 
              Phillips insisted they stay in touch with the parts of themselves that didn’t take so well to 
              upward mobility. 
 
When Carl Perkins of “Blue Suede Shoes” fame complained that a particular recording session 
              had been “one big original mistake,” Sam Phillips replied, “That’s what Sun Records is.” 
 
An interviewer asked Jerry Garcia why the Grateful Dead was so popular since the individual 
              band members never started or ended a song at the same time or played in the same key 
              and often forgot the lyrics, and Garcia said, “Well, you can’t please everybody all the 
              time.” 
 
I should have that poem to you by three p.m. 
 

I do know two things about writing a love poem or any poem, for that matter. The first is that 
              you can’t try too hard, and the second is don’t fake it. 
 
Tom Waits says, “Writing songs is like capturing birds without killing them.” 
 
Alastair Reid once said that he read a master’s thesis someone had written on his poems, and the 
              thesis said that most of Reid’s poems were about rain. What a terrible epiphany! If you 
              know most of your poems are about one thing,  you might be tempted to make them 
              about something else, and think of all the awful poems that would ensue. 
 
A poet friend of mine who lives in another country wrote that “I am still baffled by America. . . . 
              I cannot understand why there is such a love affair in the country with a joyless 
              obfuscatory poetry that wears out its welcome, for most of us, ultra-rapidly.” 
 
If you like to write about rain and you’re good at it, write about rain. 
 
Something else about trying too hard is that you might be successful, and then where would you 
              be? When Erik Satie was asked about the fact that Ravel had turned down the Legion of 
              Honor, he said: “It’s not enough to have refused the Legion d’Honneur. The important 
              thing is not to have deserved it in the first place.” 
 
As far as faking it goes, you’ll just look silly. In Thomas E. Ricks’ novel Fiasco, a colonel 
              compiling a report is described as “pasting feathers together, hoping for a duck.” 
 

Let me tell you about this poem I’m writing for you.  
 
It’s going to be terrific. It’ll be like a Cole Porter musical. It’ll be like the sack of Rome. It’ll be a 
              regular deluge of a poem: there’ll be music, costumes, angels, scenery, food, vivacity, 
              and weekend charades. 
 
It’ll be chockful of the finest images available to any poet anywhere. Every image in it will be as 
              fabulous as the one in Le Chien Andalou where the lover is advancing on the pretty girl 
              who’s ready to swat him with a tennis racket but drops it and just stares at him in 
              amazement when, out of nowhere, he shoulders two ropes and starts dragging two priests 
              across the floor, and the two priests are tied to two pianos, and on the two pianos are two 
              dead horses.  
 
Religion, art, lust, beastliness: the whole movie’s in that one image, including the lover’s 
              inability to do what he came there to do in the first place, which is to woo the pretty girl. 
 
You know, I’m going to feel pretty stupid if I put a lot of time and energy into this poem I’m 
              writing for you only to have you say, “David who?” 
  

As if! Of course you love me. You adore me, in fact. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that 
              you’re writing a poem for me yourself at this very moment, even though you don’t know 
              how to do it any more than I do. 
 
Let’s try this. Let’s forget that we don’t know what we’re doing. Who does?  
 
Dante didn’t. Dante has spent a sleepless night making his way through the dark forest and is 
              exhausted before his poem even begins.  
 
So he turns back when he encounters three snarling beasts, but Virgil tells him he has to go 
              through the fiery center of the earth and contend with minotaurs and flesh-eating harpies 
              and ice giants and Satan himself before he comes out on the other side and finds Beatrice, 
              if he’s lucky.  
 
Dante is still exhausted and now he’s terrified as well, but off he goes. 
 
Forget the poem. Give me your hand. Take just one step with me, then one more. Let’s be like 
              Dante. Let’s do it. Let’s do it scared. 

:: Low-Effort Thinking ::

Did you know that when mob bosses want somebody killed, they get the one of the victim’s
              friends to do it?  
 
That way, if you go to your friend’s house to kill him and are seen entering by a nosy neighbor  
              or if, after the deed’s done, investigators find your fingerprint or a strand of hair, it can be 
              explained away.  
 
“I was just dropping off some cannoli,” you could say. “He looked okay to me. Said he had to  
              get his taxes in and find a math tutor for his kid, but otherwise, fine. Is there a problem, 
              officer?” 
 
This is what’s called high-effort thinking.  
 
The opposite of high-effort thinking is low-effort thinking, which leads to political conservatism 
              according to the scientists who tested that hypothesis by conducting two experiments, one 
              boring and one not. 
 
The boring experiment consisted of assigning one group of volunteers to react to items on a list 
              of liberal and conservative statements such as “Large fortunes should be taxed heavily” 
              and “A first consideration of any society is property rights.” 
 
Meanwhile, a second group was given the same task but instructed to listen simultaneously to a 
              tape of tones varying in pitch and to count and record the number of tones that preceded 
              each change.  
 
Ha, ha! I’d go batshit, too, wouldn’t you, reader?  
 
Or at least I’d make conservative choices, as everyone in the second group did. 
 

Popcorn movies as well as most bumper stickers and t-shirts tell us that decisive action by one 
              person saves the day, but in reality, usually that gets you jack diddley. 
 
No, no. False starts, trial and error, teamwork: human progress is built on these.  
 
And patience. Wittgenstein said, “Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination 
              lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, and only when 
              everything is in place does the door open.” 
 

Case in point: it’s 1967, and Albert King is in the Stax studio, and the recording session for his 
              next album is almost done. Thing is, they need one more song.  
 
Now William Bell is in the studio as well, and Mr. Bell has a verse, a chorus, and the bass line to 
              a new song worked out, and when he tries them out on Albert King, the bluesman likes 
              what he hears and asks for the rest.  
 
Well, there is no rest. So Mr. Bell goes off with Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and  
              they stay up all night and finish the song, which they call “Born Under a Bad Sign.” 
 
The next day, everybody comes back to the studio, and here’s where the story gets good.  
 
“Albert King couldn’t read,” Mr. Bell says in the course of an interview about the incident. 
 
“You mean he couldn’t read music?” says the interviewer. “A lot of musicians can’t read music 
              —Paul McCartney can’t read music.”  
 
“No, I mean he couldn’t read!” says Mr. Bell. “Couldn’t read English. Couldn’t read words. So I 
              stood next to him in the studio and whispered each line to him, and he sang it.”  
 
Amazing, huh? Or maybe not.  
 
If you’re a musician, especially a successful one, almost certainly not. 
 
Good musicians always take their time, and the best musicians listen to others.  
 
As they learned their craft, the Beatles played a stint at a Hamburg club called the Indra which 
              was managed by Bruno Koschmider, described by Beatles’ biographer Bob Spitz as “a 
              florid-faced man with a preposterous wig-like mop of hair.”  
 
Koschmider would yell “Mach schau!” (“Put on a show!”) during the boys’ lackluster 
              performances. 
 
At first the four musicians laughed and staggered around, knocking over mikes as they made fun 
              of the silly German man. But when the audiences went crazy, the boys saw the value of
              “putting on a show” and became the band that changed the world. 
 

And now for the fun experiment.  
 
Mixed-sex groups of experimenters waited outside a bar and asked potential participants if they 
              would complete a short survey on social attitudes and then consent to being tested for 
              blood alcohol levels. 
  
Ha, ha again! Can you imagine how much fun it was for the psychology students to accost a 
              bunch of drunkos and ask them to agree or not with statements like “Production and trade 
              should be free of government interference” and “Ultimately, privately property should be 
              abolished”?  
 
The drunkos didn’t care; they were drunk. 
  
The drunkest among them registered more conservative attitudes because alcohol limits 
              cognitive capacity and disrupts controlled responding while leaving automatic thinking 
              largely intact.  
 

By the way, if you’re wondering if conservatives are all dumb-asses, the answer is “Not quite.”  
 
That’s from principal investigator Scott Eidelman, who devised both the boring experiment and  
              the fun one.  
 
“Our research shows that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism,” says Dr. 
              Eidelman, “not that political conservatives use low-effort thinking.” 
 
Those undergraduates must have had so much fun interviewing those drunkos. 
 
“Excuse me, drunko, would you agree that rich people have the right to shove as much money up 
              their backsides as they like?”  
 
“Huh? Oh, yeah, and guns and cocaine and—BLOOOOORCH! Excuse me. Say, who are you anyways?”  
 
Oh, Jesus. I better not laugh again or I might not be able to stop. 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

A few years ago, I noticed that I was get­ting tired of some of my favorite poets and couldn’t fig­ure out why. After all, they were still writ­ing great poems. Then I got it: they were writ­ing the same great poem over and over. To avoid the same­ness that can mire the work of any artist who has been going at it as long as I have, I began to think seri­ous­ly about rein­ven­tion. In 2016, I fell hard for the short, punchy poems of Jack Gilbert. Then two years lat­er, I was swept off my feet for the umpteenth time by Ginsberg’s “Howl” and began knock­ing out poems that one might call cousins to that canon­i­cal work. And last sum­mer, I redis­cov­ered Frank O’Hara while look­ing up some­one else. You’ll find exam­ples of all these poem types here.

 

David Kir­by teach­es at Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty. His col­lec­tion The House on Boule­vard St.: New and Select­ed Poems (LSU Press, 2007) was a final­ist for both the Nation­al Book Award and Canada’s Grif­fin Poet­ry Prize. Kir­by is the author of Lit­tle Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Con­tin­u­um, 2009), which the Times Lit­er­ary Sup­ple­ment of Lon­don called “a hymn of praise to the eman­ci­pa­to­ry pow­er of non­sense” and was named one of Book­list’s Top 10 Black His­to­ry Non-Fic­tion Books of 2010. His lat­est books are a poet­ry col­lec­tion, More Than This (LSU Press, 2019), and a text­book mod­est­ly enti­tled The Knowl­edge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them (Flip Learn­ing, 2021).

Two Poems

Poetry / Perry Janes

:: I have lived my entire life inside the movies, ::

          —after Diane Seuss 

their orchestras hiding around every corner. Where boom 
mics lurk between building girders, sidewalks uncouple 
from gravity, Cosmo and coffee cups clutter the skyline. 

Yes. I have lived leaping from one moving vehicle to another. 
Often in peril. Often unable to free scarf from steering wheel 
even at cliff edge, ripping clear to jump the gap from Jeep to jet, 

jet to yacht, from yacht to any stable shore. I have lived here 
learning, each day, to strike my most heroic pose. To love 
linearity! There was a road I followed. From gray sidewalks, tinted 

SUVs chasing me down highway clovers, to a countryside of quiet 
settlers. Finally: a silo I could hide inside when the storm came 
looking for me. Storm of rain, sand, men, yes, I have lived 

where every turn is a wrong turn and only bad choices take me 
where I need to go. Where I am strong but never too strong, 
barely enough to best a one-armed shooter, to grip the slick 

sides of the subway as it hurtles past. Where, some nights, 
the thing I love is a ghost, pixelated fingers brushing 
through my hair. Where, some days, the sun rises twice. 

Some days, if you squint, you can see, in the distance, 
that cut-out where one lost extra ran straight through 
the horizon— 

                           theirs is a shape I yearn toward. 
No acetate sunsets catching flame. No cellos 
playing from the cemetery, cymbals clashing 

me awake. You should know: there are others, 
like me, who have slipped the edges of our frame. 
Slipped to where, I’ve seen, another world waits. 

Though the people there sit, watchful, in the dark. 
Though it is dark there and this world is the light 
they see by.

:: Creation Myth ::

          —beginning with line by Joy Harjo

there’s no more imagination 		we’re in it now 
                    reader 		the storm’s light rising as a boy 

in his father’s too-large leather apron bends 
                    above the sheeted workbench 	steel rod 

raised up through the roof for lightning 
                    to enliven his invention 	how clouds cauldron 

and spark    the edges fade 	the flash resolves 
                    and now we see it clearly 	little bones 	little chin 

not yet scarred by acne       a child I guess 
                    except for the flesh-mitten fingers stitched together 

except for the collage of random raccoon and possum 
                    hide patchworking its back 	  there is of course 

the moment of inspection 	the boy pinches the child 
                    that isn’t a child        flesh that isn’t flesh 	can’t be 

flesh 	those wire-like hairs already sprouting between 
                    legs that raise against his touch 	and if I stand here 

with them      if I watch from the corners of the room        corners 
                    the light doesn’t reach        I’m in this for keeps 

after 

                    the boy tucks his shirt 

he steps into the rain 
                    left alone the child-thing rises 

to test its newfound feet       rubs cocoa butter between its joints 
                    to hide the smell of musk 	wet with what it knows 

marks the body as belonging 	      watch       the light 
                    shifts 	   factory lamps dimming as a sun dazzles up 

and reader      you should know there are no bystanders 
                    here 	outside the boy snaps his half-split thumbnail 

against a matchbook’s flint 	I pull my ragged tee 
                    on top my lotioned chest      when I join him 

the storm washes smoke from my hair


From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems explore an uneasy rela­tion­ship between auto­bi­og­ra­phy and per­for­mance. I cur­rent­ly work as a screen­writer in Hol­ly­wood, where the life of a writer requires I pack­age, pitch, and sell my projects to pro­duc­ers, exec­u­tives, and con­sumers. With time, I’ve become keen­ly aware (and deeply sus­pi­cious) of the mytholo­gies I’ve learned to build. I notice how skilled I’ve become at posi­tion­ing myself in a cer­tain light, in manip­u­lat­ing the details of the sto­ry toward hero­ism, sac­ri­fice, bold dec­la­ra­tions of fact.

Notic­ing these ten­den­cies has led to an obses­sion with assem­blage. In the midst of craft­ing the poem, I’m con­front­ed by the impulse to step back; to inter­ro­gate the speak­er; to look close­ly at those moments where rup­ture or arti­fice appears. Who do I become when I shed my per­for­mance of good­ness, right­ness, cer­tain­ty? When I exam­ine the flaws in my own con­struc­tions? How did I learn to posi­tion the prover­bial cam­era? What are the moral impli­ca­tions of such craftsmanship?

Despite these ques­tions, I find I’m unable to aban­don allu­sion, mythol­o­gy, and arche­type. These struc­tures aren’t only familiar—they’re often play­ful. They allow me to dis­charge dif­fi­cult sub­jects with won­der­ment. When writ­ing about child­hood in par­tic­u­lar, they restore a fun­da­men­tal ele­ment of child­like imag­i­na­tion into expe­ri­ences I might oth­er­wise recoil from. Ele­ments of fan­ta­sy, fable, or (more broad­ly speak­ing) enter­tain­ment enable the poem to hold para­dox and con­tra­dic­tion. What does it mean to con­front trau­ma and nos­tal­gia in the same breath? Shame and wist­ful­ness? Vio­lence and tenderness?

Some­where in this ten­sion, these poems emerge.

Per­ry Janes is a writer and film­mak­er from Metro Detroit, Michi­gan. A Push­cart Prize and Hop­wood Award recip­i­ent, his work has appeared in POETRY, Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal, The Michi­gan Quar­ter­ly Review, Zyzzy­va, Sub­trop­ics, The North Amer­i­can Review, West Branch, The Adroit Jour­nal, and oth­ers. He holds a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA in Poet­ry from War­ren Wil­son Col­lege. A recip­i­ent of the AMPAS Stu­dent Acad­e­my Award, he cur­rent­ly lives in Los Ange­les, where he works as a screenwriter.

My Fear of Water Came Later

Poetry / Natalie E. Illum

:: My Fear of Water Came Later ::

My family doesn’t like the desert air.   
We prefer low-tide to high altitudes; 
coastal highways to mountain. We don’t ski. 
We charter. We choose our bait with precision.  
We don’t let the lines go slack. We hunt the Mako 
because we can.We don’t relish 
a shoreline. We forget  
we live so close to 
what most would pay dearly for. We aren’t  
moved by the stunning sunsets. My father 
named his boat Bite Me. 
That isn’t a joke. We made fun of  
my mother. Whenever she said I pacifically  
told you not to do that.  
She wasn’t born here, but she is a water sign. Said if 
I’m drowning  
I should 
try to play dead and  
hope the Coast Guard finds me in time and  
face up. We don’t fear the riptide 
we live in. We just  
call our flying dishes fish.  
We imagine all our broken  
glass finds its way 
into the Atlantic  
for some sweet kid to discover; our arguments  
finally smoothed enough  
to call treasure.   
Look how pretty we are  
now. The light hits us  
just right. 

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

How much of one’s life becomes flu­id over timemem­o­ry as salt water, paint, fear? These poems are held togeth­er by the car­ti­lage of the pastit weak­ens, bends and some­times heals over time. But there is still a film, scar­ring from any tear. Here is a slide show of stains through­out the body of my house.

 

Natal­ie E. Illum is a poet, dis­abil­i­ty activist and singer liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. She is the recip­i­ent of three Poet­ry Fel­low­ship Grants from the D.C. Arts Com­mis­sion and a for­mer Jen­ny McK­ean Moore Fel­low. She was a found­ing board mem­ber of moth­er­tongue, an LGBTQIA open mic that last­ed 15 years. She com­pet­ed on the Nation­al Poet­ry Slam cir­cuit and was the 2013 Belt­way Grand Slam Cham­pi­on. Her work has appeared in var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions, and on NPR’s Snap Judge­ment. Natal­ie has an MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty and was a Teach­ing Artist for Poet­ry Out Loud. You can find her on Insta­gram and Twit­ter as @poetryrox, and as one half of the band All Her Mus­es, whose debut album is being released this Fall. Natal­ie also enjoys whiskey and giraffes.

In Which I Search Zillow® for My Childhood Home and Discover It’s for Sale

Poetry / Bill Hollands

:: In Which I Search Zillow® for My Childhood Home and Discover It’s for Sale ::

Our modest 1950s rambler  
now mid-century modern, façade  
crisp white. 40 years, 3000  
miles, one click and I’m  
 
in. Everything is white— 
the walls, the fireplace, even  
the living room’s old wood  
paneling. No more murky  
 
fish tank. Faux fir floors glisten,  
wall-to-wall all gone. I grew up  
here? 3D Walkthrough arrows  
show me the way. I stumble 
 
forward, pull up short, lurch  
again, a drunk, a toddler,  
a robot on the fritz. I zip  
down the hallway (wasn’t it  
 
longer?) to my brother’s  
lair, then my room—no more  
shelves for my beer can  
collection. Walls slant  
 
crazily as I careen around  
corners. Why can’t I  
find my parents’ room? How  
do I back up? I stagger 
 
to the kitchen, a movie  
set of stainless steel  
and granite. Through it all  
the staged furniture  
 
poses, Scandinavian blond 
wood, no clutter of records,  
trophies, dog bowls, Sports  
Illustrated. I need 
 
air, so I click Street View  
and pan around the old  
neighborhood, now  
gated McMansions.  
 
Charming family home.  
Move-in ready. Enjoy as is  
or tear down and build  
the home of your dreams! 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

Some­thing about the real estate web­site Zil­low cap­tures the zeit­geist of this moment. Or maybe a zeit­geist since I don’t real­ly believe in just one. In any case, wit­ness the recent Sat­ur­day Night Live spoof in which the char­ac­ters browse Zil­low list­ings as a replace­ment for sex. The ulti­mate aspi­ra­tional fan­ta­sy, who doesn’t like to watch? Or, as in the case of this poem, search for one’s child­hood home? I bet I’m not the only one who has done this on a bor­ing Tues­day night. The expe­ri­ence gets even weird­er when you can (vir­tu­al­ly) go inside and match your inevitably dis­tort­ed mem­o­ries to the cold real­i­ties of mar­ket­ing. Mem­o­ry and fan­ta­sy merge with cap­i­tal­ism and the Amer­i­can Dream of home­own­er­ship, all (of course) in iso­la­tion and on a screen. What’s more 2021 than that? 

 

Bill Hol­lands lives in Seat­tle with his hus­band and their son. His poems have appeared or are forth­com­ing in Rat­tle, North Amer­i­can Review,DIAGRAM, The Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Poet­ry, Hawai’i Pacif­ic Review, The Sum­mer­set Review, and else­where. He was recent­ly named a final­ist for North Amer­i­can Review’s James Hearst Poet­ry Prize and a semi-final­ist for Iron Horse Lit­er­ary Review’s Nation­al Poet­ry Month competition. 

Love Me With the Fierce Horse of Your Heart

Poetry / Gabrielle Grace Hogan

:: Love Me With the Fierce Horse of Your Heart ::

Then again, don’t. I can’t ride it off into any sunset 
so why bother. Mitski says I could stare at your back all day, 
& I do not understand. I go for a walk. 
 
This fast-fading sunfall feels like a threat, a throat flowering. 
I pass that house with the cactus wall. The plumbago bushes 
pushes whispers of wasps into frame. Lusty neighborhood cat 
 
a skipped stone storing heat in its belly 
before the eventual blossom. The tower blossoms orange 
as night pinkly fades in. 
 
Bats make up a quarter of all mammals— 
this is felt most in a Texan dusk, the acoustic coil 
of their clicks, their frantic chittering & blind low swoops, 
 
as the animal of the skyline bursts with bright yellowed teeth. 
I want to love someone enough to buy an island with them— 
now that, that’s the kind of love mountains move for. 
 
The heart is a mountain. Immovable. My geology professor 
was so beautiful in how he loved minerals—that giddy phosphate 
grin. Rock after rock coaxed, coddled wonder. 
 
I’m afraid 
I’ll never be in love again. Out of the corner of my ear, 
I hear the cowboy say we’re more ghosts than people. 
 
The heart is a cowboy. Riding off. I want 
to love someone enough to make them a stone, 
worn smooth by the brush of my thumb. 

 

 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

I’ve become invest­ed in nego­ti­at­ing lone­li­ness and nos­tal­gia in my poet­ry as of late. Real­ly, I think I’ve been writ­ing about them for awhile; it’s only recent­ly I’ve real­ized this, and there­fore have leaned into it. I write these poems as an avenue to under­stand­ing my own rela­tion­ship with these top­ics. Over the past few years, I have expe­ri­enced two breakups, nei­ther pleas­ant and one with con­sid­er­able dam­age to myself. I have approached roman­tic rela­tion­ships with a much more bit­ter, cyn­i­cal edge, and have been unable to pin­point where lone­li­ness can feel so large when you are shar­ing a bed with some­one. I want to exam­ine the lone­li­ness that comes from feel­ing inca­pable of lov­ing some­one back, rather than inca­pable of being loved. How do you approach your own lone­li­ness when the alternative—to be with someone—is a much more seri­ous and drain­ing endeav­or than the movies make it seem? What does it mean, too, to be “with some­one”? What are our decid­ed-upon def­i­n­i­tions of love, and how are they flawed? Par­tic­u­lar­ly, how does lone­li­ness affect queer peo­ple in a dif­fer­ent way—we are already fight­ing for the “right to love” from those who would oppose us, but we are fight­ing our­selves some­times as well. And when we “fail” to love, to find a rela­tion­ship (par­tic­u­lar­ly one that close­ly resem­bles a het­ero­sex­u­al one), is that a greater fail­ure because we are meant to act as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of our com­mu­ni­ty? In a sim­i­lar vein, I have been strug­gling with the idea of “home”—what, or even who, makes a home? In the past few years I have begun and grad­u­at­ed from under­grad, and start­ed grad school, so I have lived in three places includ­ing my home­town. It’s been a neb­u­lous weav­ing through, where no place feels exact­ly right because pieces of your­self are stretched over dif­fer­ent states, and you’re in such a quick­ly chang­ing time of life—early 20s, where noth­ing is sta­ble, where your sense of self is as hard to define as a word in a lan­guage you don’t speak. How can you make a rela­tion­ship, make a home, when you don’t have a grasp of your­self? This poem doesn’t seek to answer those ques­tions, but does seek to illu­mi­nate them—I’ve tried to posi­tion the speak­er in a phys­i­cal sense of place through descrip­tion, that then flows into more abstract, emo­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry. The pres­ence of the phys­i­cal and the emo­tion­al togeth­er feels nec­es­sary for grasp­ing that feel­ing of being lost in space and lost in self. Some poets I’ve been read­ing who have had influ­ence on my cur­rent man­u­script include Sharon Olds, Joan­na Klink, Dorothea Lasky, and Eileen Myles. 

 

Gabrielle Grace Hogan is a poet from St. Louis, MO, cur­rent­ly liv­ing in Austin, TX, while pur­su­ing an MFA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin. Her work has been pub­lished by the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets, Nashville Review, Kiss­ing Dyna­mite, Pas­sages North, and more. She has worked as the poet­ry edi­tor of Bat City Review and co-edi­tor of You Flower / You Feast, an online anthol­o­gy inspired by the music of Har­ry Styles. Her debut chap­book, Soft Oblit­er­a­tion, is avail­able now from Ghost City Press. Her social media and projects can be found on her web­site, gabriellegracehogan.com

Tough and Soft

Poetry / Zakiyyah Dzukogi

:: Tough and Soft ::

I’ll write poetry
afresh
tough and soft
on the toilet sit.
Like every spot on my neck
from the ones mother made,
I found poems,
stretchy like today's wind—
forgive them, read them.
Turn off your lamp,
this is one of my dreams.

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

This poem is one among my sim­ple, short poems. I gave “Tough and Soft” life on the night of 14 Jan­u­ary, 2021. It came about that night when I had a feel­ing about not writ­ing enough in the lan­guage of God. Writ­ing this poem makes me feel free from any rules attached to writ­ing poet­ry: it is ther­a­peu­tic. Poet­ry has always been. Poet­ry, whether “Tough or Soft,” should at least car­ry flowers.

 

Zakiyyah Dzuko­gi is a 17-year-old Niger­ian poet. She is the author of Carved (a poet­ry col­lec­tion), win­ner of the 2021 Nige­ria Prize for Teen Authors, a prize she had ear­li­er won the sec­ond-place posi­tion in 2020. She is a win­ner of the 2021 Brigitte Poir­son Poet­ry Prize, as well as the 2019 Splen­dors of Dawn Poet­ry Prize. Her works are pub­lished or forth­com­ing in Mel­bourne Cul­ture Cor­ner, Olney Mag­a­zine, Rig­or­ous, The Account, Mixed­Mag, The Beat­nik Cow­boy, Kala­hari Review, Spill­words, Sledge­ham­mer Lit, and others.

Willow

Poetry / Hannah Donovan

:: Willow ::

Does she bleed anymore? 
I’ll have to look it up. 
 
I keep thinking about the plastic diagram 
of a woman’s anatomy in the science classroom, 
the great hollowed bean where 
the bloomed iris of reproduction sits. 
In a dream, a careless knock sends it 
to scatter on the floor, ovaries rolling 
under desks to collect dust. 
 
Life continues. 
I’m aware of how full a body feels. 
I run thoughts of touch, of climax, and my pelvis swells. 
I run the pavements and my pelvis thuds. 
I can’t imagine such emptiness. 
 
          They scraped her out. 
          A radical hysterectomy. 
          A restructured vagina. 
          Rounds of radiation. 
 
I thought of her the other day 
as I did the dishes, scouring 
the frying pan with steel wool. 
I cried so hard I filled the sink. 
The drain was slow to empty. 
It held everything. 
I hated its ability. 
 
Malpractice shouldn’t 
roll off the tongue like it does. 
It should require spit, a throaty cough, 
a sharp taste. 
 
          We are not martyrs, we are matrons. 
          Please look to our bodies with blades 
          of scrutiny, waves of patience. 
          Please believe us when we say “it hurts here.”

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I spend a lot of time think­ing about the fem­i­nine expe­ri­ence. Whether that’s my own expe­ri­ence or the expe­ri­ence of oth­ers, I am at many moments pre­oc­cu­pied with the soci­etal, inter­per­son­al, and phys­i­cal issues that befall those who iden­ti­fy as women. The specifics of the poems I write are always a bit dif­fer­ent, but the themes I con­sis­tent­ly exam­ine are ones that are close­ly tied to wom­an­hood*. My gen­er­al hope and inten­tion in writ­ing is to unearth the unex­ca­vat­ed truths in myself and to also offer com­fort, per­spec­tive, or a mix­ture of the two to those who read my work and can find com­mon threads.

In “Wil­low,” I write to bring light to a fam­i­ly member’s pain, I write to soft­en the blow of the news, I write to under­stand my anger toward sit­u­a­tions in which women are writ­ten off as hys­ter­i­cal or over-dra­mat­ic and suf­fer because of it. The poem is some­what frag­ment­ed, equal parts lost in thought and root­ed in tac­tile dai­ly life. The struc­ture serves to mim­ic how one process­es a heavy expe­ri­ence: piece­meal. Sud­den and sharp. Pen­sive and nos­tal­gic, then, in an instant, sad or enraged.

(*These state­ments are inclu­sive to every­one who iden­ti­fies as a woman, regard­less of sex assigned at birth.)

 

Han­nah Dono­van is a poet, pho­tog­ra­ph­er, and visu­al artist from North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Her work has been fea­tured in Hobart, Else Jour­nal, Hill Lily Mag­a­zine, The Artist Essen­tials, and at the Black Box Gallery in Port­land, OR. Her lat­est chap­book, Ice Chips, will be pub­lished by Ethel Zine in 2022. She lives in Maine and has yet to see a moose. Find more from Han­nah at www.hannahdonovanart.com.

Two Poems

Poetry / Satya Dash

:: Flare ::

Ash and petal plastered on the forehead 
                          of the saint who refused to wake up from 
his nap, the profundity of his slanted semi- 
                          conscious gaze such that it looked powerful 
enough to tame the departure of soul, every 
                          word his mouth muttered in this tranced chant 
alliterated holy, every word an angular rainy lilt 
                      	of an ancient cloudy tongue, the tune of which 
could have passed for the searing hum 
                          of an archetypal 90’s Bollywood lovesick 
song or the fervent intensity of a former 
                      	cricketer’s catchphrase on air ( —the ball went 
to the boundary like a tracer bullet ), the tune 
                      	captivating the large crowd of onlookers 
who had thronged from nearby villages to witness 
                      	either a miracle or a divine death or both, among 
them a boy standing with his father and growing 
                          increasingly restless to go home and watch TV, 
the boy who had only recently learnt about the finality 
                      	of death from history textbooks, his face turning 
glowering red while wishing for the saint 
                          to immediately die when his father slapped him 
hard for pissing at the base of the holy basil plant 
                          in the corner of the saint’s derelict garden. 

 

 

 

:: Ignition ::

A stickler for detail—the monkey  
fooling around the window today or 
even my intoxicated eyes on a sticky 
May evening at a local bar washroom 
 
peering hard into a dirt stained mirror 
at the indentation on my upper lip,  
the sort resembling a birthmark 
but delivered acute by a mishap, the sort 
 
a hot metal brush could impinge  
from its mere acknowledgement; it gives  
my smile some character, says my father,  
his words impressing on me the permanence 
 
assumed by this mark, the evanescence 
of days accentuated for a moment 
by the compounding effect of such 
a tiny feature if regular and relentless 
 
like friction, how a 1% day-on-day growth  
makes a thing 38 times of itself at year-end,  
the responsibility for this scar assigned 
to the young doctor who did my stitches, 
 
who despite my dilapidated condition  
I remember for having a striking face, his  
kind eyes and symmetric swordfish 
jaws inducing envy that transformed  
 
without notice into comfort, the rapid  
change of heart that comes upon starving 
crops during glistening rainbow rains or that 
in the middle of a heated fight causes 
 
the incision on your mouth to be nibbled 
by your new lover, leaving the tongue glazed 
with a ring of volcanic amber usually found  
seething beneath the tip of a burning incense stick.

 

 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

I have often been fas­ci­nat­ed by the ener­gy of the long sen­tence, sim­i­lar to a pow­er line run­ning through a city, con­duct­ing volt­age at a pace that at once beholds and elec­tri­fies. In this regard, recent­ly read­ing Anuk Arud­pra­gasam’s “The Sto­ry of a Brief Mar­riage” shook me in ways both vis­cer­al and artis­tic. The nov­el, set in the midst of the Sri Lankan Civ­il War, has many a glo­ri­ous long sen­tence that med­i­tates upon the fun­da­men­tal human con­di­tion. Most of these sen­tences that took my breath away had com­mon­al­i­ties: they were long and had the intrin­sic force of a poem. I felt an urge to iso­late these sen­tences, study them on a blank page, use line breaks and white space as a means to reg­u­late their immense ener­gy, to both calm and sur­prise the read­er. This took me back to one of my favorite poems, “Gold Leaf” by Carl Phillips, one that embod­ies a majes­tic long sen­tence and con­tin­ues to add or mod­i­fy mean­ing through mul­ti­ple read­ings. I often find that a good long sen­tence keeps its secrets intact. And through its accu­mu­lat­ed kinet­ic flow, its pay­off is built. 

 These poems are part of a series that attempts to use one long sen­tence as an instru­ment to nav­i­gate a net­work, to shine light upon its con­nec­tions, tie togeth­er under­ly­ing frac­tures to fur­nish the body of a poem toward the body of a liv­ing organ­ism. As I wrote these poems, the com­pound sen­tence tran­scend­ed form to become a vehi­cle for the rest­less thought itself, almost like a train stop­ping at junc­tions along the way to allow inter­mit­tent rests for log­ic, find­ing new ways to twist and turn, both son­i­cal­ly and imag­is­ti­cal­ly. I sus­pect it helps weave on the page what the mind some­times yearns for—an adventure. 

 

Satya Dash is the recip­i­ent of the 2020 Srini­vas Rayaprol Poet­ry Prize and a final­ist for the 2020 Bro­ken Riv­er Prize. His poems appear in The Boil­er, Anom­aly, Chest­nut Review, Rhi­no Poet­ry, Cincin­nati Review, and Dia­gram, among oth­ers. Apart from hav­ing a degree in elec­tron­ics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a crick­et com­men­ta­tor. He has been nom­i­nat­ed pre­vi­ous­ly for Push­cart, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets. He grew up in Cut­tack and now lives in Ban­ga­lore, India. He tweets at: @satya043

Ode to Orange Chicken

Poetry / Alex Dang

:: Ode to Orange Chicken ::

I, too, have been described by 
my ancestors as too sweet, 
dumbed down, inauthentic, made 
to satiate American bellies and 
melt on the same tongues who 
spat in our food, called it uncivilized, 
barbaric, dirty, cooked from rats, 
off strapped backs of dynamite. 
 
I, too, have skin golden and glazed, 
to be ripped open by white teeth 
and be left even whiter meat. 
We are found in greasy take out boxes 
deemed unworthy of recognition. 
Eaten both by fork and chopstick alike, 
this American-Chinese dish, 
cheap, affordable, wanted by none, 
but a happy compromise. 

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I imag­ine art as a vehi­cle that allows us to trav­el to a des­ti­na­tion. For me, the trip begins with truth and ends with the art arriv­ing at an emo­tion. The truth is that when I look at myself, I some­times only see what Amer­i­ca sees me as. Some­times I only see myself as my diag­no­sis. And there are so many times where I see myself in oth­ers: my favorite musi­cian, a come­di­an, my moth­er and father. I have been led to joy or anger or laugh­ter in more ways than I can count. This time, I’m dri­ving, so that means we start with my truth and we end with my heart. I’m most inter­est­ed in form and con­tent as my vehi­cle to dri­ve the audi­ence to the emo­tion­al points that I was expe­ri­enc­ing. I trust that the read­er will sit in the front seat while I dri­ve and while maybe they don’t like the songs I’m play­ing or the streets I’m tak­ing, but hope­ful­ly when we reach our des­ti­na­tion, we’ll get out of the car and enjoy the view. 

 

Alex Dang is a poet from Port­land, Ore­gon. A for­mer TEDx speak­er, Dang com­pet­ed at the Nation­al Poet­ry Slam, was a Port­land and Eugene Poet­ry Slam Grand Slam Cham­pi­on, and has per­formed in 7 coun­tries. He has strong opin­ions about burg­ers. He wants to know what your favorite song is.