Two Poems

Poetry / Alicia Byrne Keane

 

:: Lace, ear drums, hexagons ::

 
I am trying not to eat all the little chocolates in my room. 
I think if I take a breath it will work, remind me I can 
Be content swallowing light, another lie. We woke up 
In the blue dark, watched your garden tumble away 
Like my mother’s dream about a hole in the tarmac 
Beside the porch. The grass falls in steps, swollen by 
Shadow, the lake is a stitched laceration, and I am 
Envious of your purple lip liner, and that you would 
Have the foresight to apply such a thing. I fell asleep 
Watching the Gilmore Girls, resurfaced headachey 
Three or four times, like a fall into snow, in which you 
Feel slivers of dampness at your wrists and the world 
Goes flat. There is a click of billiard balls in the room 
Upstairs, muffled and narrow. There is a lamp painted 
Yellow and poised as if listening. My ears ring in two 
Parallel frequencies, roads that stretch, and I remember 
A motorway cutting through wheat fields, and running 
Towards, or away from, a patch of forest on the horizon. 
A ghost fizzled in my shoulder like a twist of fabric, 
Another source of hassle I’d need to potentially address.

 

:: Bar stools, Jesus Christ ::

 
Sometimes at night beyond the glassless apertures of the smoking 
Areas we see a new building rise like a tooth, looking torn, 
Plastic flaps in the wind from uncovered parts and I watch myself 
Walk the length of Mount Street in dim, continuous glass, I used 
To rest in the spaces between words in basements, applause felt 
Like silver balloons or the abrasive bubbles in Fanta Lemon. 
 
There is a big wooden spider in the bar with the vague name 
There is a big wooden tree somewhere else, you are meant to 
Take pictures of it, I read an article about this, a city of anterooms 
Polished and resounding, there are so many cavernous lobbies 
You can go to the bathroom in, if you so choose, if you walk with 
Enough of a purpose, and there are tents angled on the canal. 


 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

I began writ­ing this series of poems in response to a piece writ­ten by the author Claire-Louise Ben­nett for The Irish Times. In it she describes ado­les­cence as a time in which you are expect­ed to “estab­lish your­self strong­ly and neat­ly in the minds of oth­ers.” [i] She dis­cuss­es her own first for­ays into writ­ing as born of a reac­tion against this social pressure. 

From the list of objects Claire-Louise Ben­nett describes writ­ing about when she was younger, most of which don’t include humans: 

Moths, pylons, flat grass, porce­lain, wind, lace, ear drums, hexa­gons, night, glass, wolves, vio­lins, char­coal, reflec­tions, cre­osote, dan­de­lion clocks, thun­der, stars, bar stools, Jesus Christ, blood, emer­alds, bears, death, ice, leather, ban­is­ters, fir trees, limpets, pea­cocks, corn­fields, clay, high win­dows, smoke, vel­vet, foun­tains, scare­crows, ros­es, milk, frogs. [ii] 

In the first shaky days of 2020 I decid­ed to take this quote from Ben­nett as a form of writ­ing prompt. All of the titles of the col­lec­tion I wrote—four of which can be found in this submission—derive from images in the above quotation. 

These poems are the prod­uct, I guess, of a sort of “Claire-Louise Ben­nett chal­lenge.” Maybe this is a con­se­quence of grow­ing up in a city in which peo­ple buy the exact lemon soap from the exact phar­ma­cy men­tioned in a book by a man who will not be dis­cussed. I don’t know if peo­ple act with the same fanati­cism toward female authors as they do male ones, mix­ing the drinks drank by the char­ac­ters in the books, repli­cat­ing their flâner­ies. Maybe I am just look­ing for injus­tices. But I think I am right, at least partially. 

I thought that if I wrote about each of the things Ben­nett wrote about I would become less con­cerned with social demands, reori­en­tate myself in a child­hood world of look­ing at things for their strange­ness. And maybe this would also some­how make me kinder, less has­sled the way you become when you have decid­ed you are seri­ous, direct­ed. My inten­tion was that through some­one else’s words I would become more myself. 

The poems did their work, in my own head any­way. Writ­ing them helped me, as Ben­nett dis­cuss­es, “to keep ratio­nal­i­ty and pur­pose at bay, to pro­long and bask in the rhyth­mic chaos of exis­tence, to remain adrift from the social con­tract and lux­u­ri­ate in the mag­nif­i­cent mys­tery of every­thing.” [iii] And hope­ful­ly through this form of with­draw­ing I have also becomein anoth­er waysome­how clos­er to the world, more of use to the world, recon­firmed in my awe of things and in a bet­ter posi­tion to help. 

 

 


[i] Ben­nett, Claire-Louise. “Claire-Louise Ben­nett on Writ­ing Pond.” The Irish Times, 26 May 2015, https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/claire-louise-bennett-on-writing-pond‑1.2226535.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

 

Ali­cia Byrne Keane is a PhD stu­dent from Dublin, Ire­land. She has a first class hon­ours degree in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture and French from Trin­i­ty Col­lege Dublin and a MSt. in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture 1900-Present from Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty. She is work­ing on an Irish Research Coun­cil-fund­ed PhD study that prob­lema­tizes “vague­ness” and trans­la­tion in the work of Samuel Beck­ett and Haru­ki Muraka­mi, at TCD. Her poems have been pub­lished in The Moth, Entropy Mag­a­zine, Impos­si­ble Arche­type, and Poet­head, among oth­ers. She has per­formed at Elec­tric Pic­nic, Body & Soul, and Lin­go Fes­ti­val, and has had two spo­ken word per­for­mances record­ed for Bal­cony TV. 

Two Poems

Poetry / Jennifer Givhan

 

:: The Monster ::

orders some­thing with pumpkin.

the woman in the Star­bucks at the table beside me sell­ing her house in three days & mak­ing a 30k prof­it is bummed bc she has to split that with her par­ents & hus­band & dairy flares her aller­gies & she’s doing good deeds in the com­mu­ni­ty or the pri­vate school where her kids go I couldn’t tell if she under­stood the dif­fer­ence & every word from her mouth feels like bs today like some priv­i­leged shit though I too am dairy free & I bs with the best of them I’ve lied to my ther­a­pist on intake bc con­text takes time & my insur­ance only pays for an hour which means I don’t have time to explain why I moved a thou­sand miles to live with a mar­ried man so I smoke­screen like I didn’t know he was mar­ried till I got there & the ther­a­pist agrees he’s a lowlife.

beyond the cof­fee date the sta­tus update the hour­long I have to myself between fer­ry­ing my daugh­ter to appointments—the bright­ness of the yel­low in the bosque leaves this fall. gold, truth be told. vibrant sul­phur. though they’re dying. sea­weed washed up on the shore before we moved back to the desert. the red­dest, the most beau­ti­ful, meant death, & the stench, o that fuck­ing stench. & the addicts on their bicy­cles fer­ry­ing their dis­ap­point­ments into the for­est beyond.

how part of me wants to fol­low them the way I fol­lowed my old addic­tions to Texas.

there’s cheap­er tile at Lowe’s or some bs hard­ware store & the Christ­mas Eve par­ty at the ren­o­vat­ed house of the bs lady beside me in her most­ly bs jog­ging suit.

& I can’t dis­like her, you know. I would lay down my life for her, I’m fair­ly cer­tain. if I know any­thing about myself. if I cut past the insur­ance hour & the bs desire to make you desire me, that old desire swelling up, always, from a girl­hood I’d give any­thing but poet­ry to pot­tery barn into a bs house, that old desire to expose my breasts for they were the first thing men want­ed of me—12 & breasts swelling their cher­ried cakes, two per­fect things I could offer. as those boys-to-men on their bikes mak­ing deals like the man who dealt my life & my children’s lives & I let him, of course I let him, man I’d first loved when he was a boy who want­ed once more than the cher­ry-red things sprout­ing from me. as the but­ter bright trees. dis­like is a mir­ror I’ve eaten.

if a mon­strous crea­ture came through the ding­ing door, & it was her or me, a dog­like crea­ture, a jawed, nasty beast. fanged or some­thing. gourd-chewing.

I would want to pet it.

or swal­low it.

if the woman were my daugh­ter I would die so she could run.

And isn’t my daugh­ter the parts of us I love.

if I could cut through the bs, I would go up to the woman & say You are my daugh­ter & I will save you from the monster.

& this, my loves, is why I write you these poems.

 

 

:: we feel good when we do what we’ve evolved to do ::

& I’ve evolved to love you. Yes, you. I’ve just spo­ken with a grasshop­per on a lilac brush his mut­ed eyes like a mask his face one I con­ceive must be hat­ted when he dreams & I want­ed to share this with you, I had to write a poem for you because my heart believed you’ve been scammed too have been sold heal­ing crys­tals that turned out to be grav­el from the snake oiler’s own slick dri­ve­way. This world. Can you imag­ine we live in a world with the word hon­ey­suck­le? The dog in the back­yard uproots the root­ed veg­eta­bles & gnaws on the dead varmint. The sci­en­tist explains our gullible natures as evo­lu­tion­ary trip­wires. Don’t feel ashamed, dear­hearts, you believed in some­thing more beau­ti­ful com­ing your way.

 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

These poems both come out of the same desire to mend the gap, to find the spaces of inter­con­nect­ed­ness and hope, in spite of the ways our brains attempt to trick us with their evo­lu­tion­ary hard­wiring or their social con­di­tion­ing. I’ve bat­tled depres­sion and men­tal ill­ness most of my life now, and yet I long to remain in this world. At my best moments, the real­iza­tion that any spir­it here could be my daugh­ter, and that I stay here for my daugh­ter, these are the moments I’d lay my life down for, by which I mean, stick around. Wait and see what hap­pens. Rel­ish in the word hon­ey­suck­le. Now in a time of social dis­tanc­ing, it’s per­haps more impor­tant than ever to con­tin­ue dis­cov­er­ing, with child­like hope that renews every­thing, that when we face the mon­strous, we’ve also evolved to love each oth­er. The kids and I have been learn­ing triv­ia about neu­ro­science, and I’m learn­ing how not to be angry at myself for the risks I’ve tak­en, the impuls­es I’ve fol­lowed, the signs I’ve believed in, when it all came to noth­ing, when it all crum­bled around me. These days I’ve been singing quite a few Bea­t­les songs, and when­ev­er the beast comes bar­ing its razor sharps, I try some­thing so cliché as love—and it still works. 

 

Jen­nifer Givhan, a Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can writer and activist from the South­west­ern desert, is the author of four full-length poet­ry col­lec­tions, most recent­ly Rosa’s Ein­stein (Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona Press, 2019), two chap­books, and the nov­els Trin­i­ty Sight and Jubilee (Black­stone Pub­lish­ing, 2019 and 2020). Her work has appeared in The Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Poet­ry Dai­ly, Verse Dai­ly, POETRY Mag­a­zine, The Rum­pus, The New Repub­lic, AGNI, Tri­Quar­ter­ly, The Nation, Crazy­horse, Wit­ness, South­ern Human­i­ties Review, and the Keny­on Review. She has received, among oth­er hon­ors, a Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts fel­low­ship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerg­ing Voic­es fel­low­ship, and New Ohio Review’s Poet­ry Prize, cho­sen by Tye­him­ba Jess. Givhan holds a master’s degree in Eng­lish from Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, Fuller­ton, and an MFA from War­ren Wil­son Col­lege, and she can be found dis­cussing fem­i­nist moth­er­hood at jennifergivhan.com as well as Face­book and Twit­ter @JennGivhan. 

Two Poems

Poetry / Grace Gardiner

 

:: Sentence Diagramming: One-Night Stand ::

 
You tell me about eyes 
                                          my monstrous blue
          I want 
hurting 
                    to look away & toward 
                                                     carpeted floor
                                                toward twinbed blooming under
the lights’
spindle-shaped bulbs
under
the circling
purr & fizz of the fan
under
your hands
O
your hands darling
hands
stripping off this bed
before us
throw comforter topsheet
stripping off those clothes
mauve suit pants
buttons peppered down rayon
undertank striped white-hyacinth
& vein-blue
                                                 briefs shimmering
green-then-black
off you
Your hands
help me
strip me too
out of shift cami spandex
out of even my ankle socks
petal-thin
my body hurting still inside
the ropes
of its skin
my mind
threaded
with you
Will
you stop
ever Will
you start
Here
Touch your tongue to me
at the throat’s caving
notch
Crush
Fuse

Fill me

in the pit
where
you learn
then lift

 



 

:: Sentence Diagramming: Watching You Smoke ::

 

 
                                                                      The porch door’s windowed glass bites back against the light
the afternoon
the yard chartreuse
with sun:
so I can see you through
the green-
then yellow-bending blue
though I know
you won’t see me
don’t see how
I lock open my eyes
my lungs
as you draw between pointer finger
& thumb
the cocked cigarette
& blow out a thin cylinder of smoke
down-colored cone of breath
ash
like a reverse gasp
through the small spooned curve
at your bottom lip.
Your mouth Os a damp ring
I’d like to slip
on each puckered part
(finger
nipple
tongue)
of this bodys concentrated hum
its oxygen-rich
in-&-out
 
filter of blood
my own hot
taut
font.

 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

In her poem “Poet­ic Sub­jects,” Rebec­ca Lin­den­berg writes: “Some­where between the sayable and the unsayable, poet­ry runs. Anti­dote to the riv­er of for­get­ting.” Ever since encoun­ter­ing these lines, they have become both a mantra and an affir­ma­tion of my own poet­ic prac­tice.  

In a recent con­ver­sa­tion with a dear friend and poet, I said that, while I may be “some­where between” an extro­vert and intro­vert, I tend always towards exter­nal­iza­tion: I am an exter­nal­iz­er, and poet­ry is the mech­a­nism by which I exter­nal­ize and plumb what is “sayable” and “unsayable.” Stressed, play­ful, and shift­ing syn­tax that is hinged to and unhinges the line is my num­ber one craft tool of choice to (un)lock what I can and can­not com­mu­ni­cate about: sex and grief, trau­ma and desire, pain and ecsta­sy.  

In these poems inves­ti­gat­ing the pris­mat­ic threshold(s) of sex and desire, syn­tax, cou­pled with both sound- and word­play, is the divin­ing rod I thrust over the body to seek out what is buried and bur­bling beneath: what can and cannot—what will or will not—rise to the poem’s surface. 

 

Grace Gar­diner is a British-Amer­i­can non-bina­ry poet and bur­geon­ing inter­me­dia instal­la­tion artist. They’re cur­rent­ly pur­su­ing a PhD in Cre­ative Writ­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri, Colum­bia, where they live with their part­ner, the poet Eric Mor­ris-Pusey; their eel hound, Gem­ma Ray; and one too many brown reclus­es. Find them online at pearlsthatwere.tumblr.com.

Two Poems

Poetry / Saddiq Dzukogi

:: Inner Songs ::

 
When I pray, I place my palms one onto the other, 
on my chest, as if to say, it is yours, 
God in a voice deep as a fissure— 
where the things that go in echo 
and create circles like a stone 
stirring the face of a river, my prayer is a planetary body, 
siphons my energy and gives nothing in return.    
What light can stir me through 
this hailstorm of darkness. What orchestrates my body 
to trust its scraped knees instead of the feet. 
 
Grief means me, means to keep my body swallowed— 
paring down my bones to an idea that cannot flower. 
It is a virus strafing my immune system like rock salt 
rubbed at my skin, where I have bruises, 
until the bruises are stripped into wounds 
even my shadows can feel. Barefoot, 
at the place where earth ate my daughter’s 
placenta, seeking to empty my sadness, 
the sadness of a body, a body like a house 
built on buried bones. I am singing to the ravens 
and my sorrow spills on the neighbor’s wife. 
 
She is pregnant. Each morning when we meet, 
I’d see my sadness in her eyes. 
I bridle at a beaming light so much 
what I see is just a dark so dark it holds my eyes 
for a few seconds after I turn away. 
 
I am fond of your memory, 
it’s the only room I walk into 
and find you on a mulberry carpet 
waiting with sealed lips, a face, 
a body, and silence. 

 


:: Still-Life ::

 
Sometimes memory is more than a knife 
cutting moments from my past 
into sizes that fit the present. At the edge 
of what doesn’t seem like paradise, 
a myrtle had risen past a skyline. 
I still call you Myrtle, abandoning my grief 
as I complete your heaven with a fantasy. 
I call the shrub your name until it starts 
to look like you. Sometimes I am angry: 
I know what you’ve done with my hair 
inside a wine glass. We hold onto anything 
that reminds us of what we’ve lost. 
As I wake from a dream, lost are 
the pearlescent eyes that could see into 
tomorrow, could see the myrtle still 
stretching its body to reach the horizon. 
Memories are a still-life caught in snippets, 
framed in a glass, like my hair. 
They drag shared moments to my eyes, 
where your light touches me and the images 
re-form. There we are all together: mother, 
my brothers, Farid and Rayhan, 
playing hide and seek behind your back.  
 






From the writer

:: Account ::

These are poems born out of grief and the cel­e­bra­tion of our beloved daugh­ter Baha, whom we lost 21 days after her first birth­day. In writ­ing these poems I feel like I am hold­ing her in my hands. She is alive as grief, alive as mem­o­ry, alive as song. 

 

Sad­diq Dzuko­gi is the author of Inside the Flower Room, select­ed by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Gen­er­a­tion African Poets Chap­book Series. His recent poems have appeared or are forth­com­ing in the Keny­on Review, Poet­ry Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca, Gulf Coast, African Amer­i­can Review, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner, and Verse Dai­ly. He has won fel­low­ships from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka-Lin­coln and Ebe­di Inter­na­tion­al Writ­ers Residency.

Two Poems

Poetry / Brian Clifton

 

:: The Palpitating Wing ::

       

           —after Black Swan 

I saw my dark reflection in the subway car’s 
plexiglass. I was a dancer. I wore a grey coat. 
I lifted lipstick to the dark space and felt 
my puckering lips. Behind me, a man kissed 
the air. He wetted his mouth. He yanked 
at the heart in his khakis. His body told 
me to do the same. Then, I was outside, 
at the conservatory. At home, wrapped in 
a shawl, I peeled back my shoe’s sidewalls, 
removed the leather spine. My empty shoe 
wagged like a silk muscle when I dropped it. 
I felt a flower bloom and wilt within me. 
I stitched a circle around the wooden tip. 
It held me up. We spun under the house 
lights. I palpitated in a mirror. Many mirrors 
in the dressing room. My face in them. 
The other dancers, wrapped in black elastic, 
bounced between their surfaces like a gala’s 
soft light skipping across sequins, diamonds, 
glass. Glasses everywhere. A screaming face 
etched in every surface. All I did was look. 
The lockstep motion of clapping hands. 
Spoon against flute. I saw the improbable 
mathematics of a line of dancers practicing 
their positions at random. We stretched 
our tendons on the bare floor. We arced 
our limbs. We posed in cocktail dresses 
to applause—its hive-like twitching. Let us 
touch a crystal flute, let us bleed Tchaikovsky 
until Tchaikovsky drips his iron rosé into us. 
On the stairs, under my thin breastbone, 
my heart did a little number. Rapid pump 
to be adored, to be pecked, some bread torn 
and tossed into the water. On the surface
the ghost hand that threw it to swans. 
The reflection rippled—an arm like a wing, 
an eye darting surface to surface while the body 
posed as if on stage, which it will be, which I 
will be. I will turn in the spotlight and then 
in the back changing outfits. In the mirror 
the thick lines dashed on my cheekbones 
cradle an empty face—jaw unhinged, pulled 
up like a veil crowned with teeth. My chest 
heaved. My foot in fog. In the orchestral 
pit, the strings increased their quivering. 
I counted the measures, the beat like heels 
clipping across the gala’s floor to a bronze 
statue with a face smeared white, its eyes 
recessed coals plugged into the brow’s thick 
gesture. I adjusted my shift. A woman called 
me a fucking little whore. My mouth opened. 
I spun. In each revolution, I focused on 
the light above the crowd. In the bulb, 
its filament vibrated. It sung. It licked 
every inch. I cascaded across the stage, 
eyes bloodshot, legs like a swan’s coiling 
neck. Then, the body like a sinking feather. 
The mind delayed a half-beat so the steps 
waver like spit from a sleeping mouth. 
In the light, I was asleep and wide awake; 
I slunk to the wings. The dark in which 
the director waited. I rubbed my face on 
his. Everyone believed I transfigured 
into a swan and her sister swan. The stage 
a bed I belonged in. A complete wound 
is not open but scarred. We look and say 
believe the skin. I bowed. On the subway’s 
stairs, its floodlight. At the top, in the dark, 
a figure stirred. I was its twin. I uncupped 
my fist; I saw my pulse pump. What was 
inside me was still at work, alone in the dark. 

 

:: The Suspended Body ::

          
—after The Neon Demon
We were introduced through a friend at her house party. It was high school, and I can’t remember what happened to her. We stepped outside and she said, This is K. She gestured to a slight man, a boy, who turned to us from the lawn. His body wounded the dusk, and I felt compelled to rub the dark spot he cast until it healed into a scar, the kind that brightens in a hot bath, a forget-me- not of blood beneath skin. We shook, exchanged numbers. I left. In high school, I could twist in and out of experiences. I drove to one house where I laughed. I drove to another and sat silently until finally we thrust our mouths against each other like carp at a dock. I did this often, and often in the short term I forgot one night or conflated a few. Then, months later, like the sharpened teeth of road kill suddenly visible (gums and jowls shriveled), a focused glimpse— my body splayed on the dark wheel of a trampoline, a blooming smoke bomb in the sweet spot of my mouth. Yes, every part of my body is appalled by the relish with which it took to this. At home and late, my phone shook. It was K. He asked me to join him in the city. It was raining. It hit the asphalt and turned into mist. I shimmied out the bedroom window and into my car. I drove to the city, where streetlights hung above men who lounged at their bases—sequined jackets, mini-skirts. The collected light moved like an anxious finger across a neckline, over a temple, coming to rest in eye-shadow. I stared until they returned my stare, and my face turned in theirs to a morning glory’s quickened mouth-blossom (sucking daylight until, groggy, it snaps shut). K said he could get us in without ID. The bar hummed with bass, distorted until dull like the sound of a thumb flicked slow against the thigh. I inhaled the friction’s sweet smell. Under it the rancid bud of collected sweat. K pulled me up the stairs. In the dark the breakbeats let loose their strobe. K’s face twisted into a mess of pleasure. I turned to see a shape ahead. It phased in and out with the lights as if a figure in a dream or the illusions that float in the dark when the body is ready for a dream but the mind stays pinned awake—unwinding the ceiling until it’s no longer a ceiling but the dragging belly scales of a godlike snake, no, a thousand tangling bodies searching for a mate. Ahead, a bound body, naked, the rapid strobe pumping the image into our pupils. He hung suspended by an unseeable wire. Belly pulled toward the ceiling, shoulders arched, head dangling, arms secured to the back’s semi-circle. In the red light, the body turned; it was a fine orchid, a ghost washed in blood. I watched K. His eyes on the body that turned on the wire, vibrating while the house lights quivered. Another figure joined. He stroked the body with a feather. He tugged a glistening chain. I felt K move closer to me. His slight frame and mine jostled past each other. His face brought close. My mouth slackened. But he did not cover it with his, did not tongue my tongue. So I pushed my wet mouth toward his. He recoiled. I could see his full face. It never occurred to me until then how similar a tongue and a flower are. It was as if his face were an overgrown field my hands turned until a fleshy red burst through and I craned lower. Not a flower but a tongue, slick on a creeper, not just one but a dozen. I wanted to hold of them and lift them for the wind to wag like the flesh inside the mouth of someone possessed (the ecstatic word, the trembling syntax), but no wind blew, and I did not move.



 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

Film is such a beau­ti­ful thing. It can scram­ble time. It can make mon­sters. It can tell a sto­ry. It can lie about the sto­ry it says it’s telling. I love watch­ing film and tele­vi­sion. One per­son mak­ing an image just for you to con­tem­plate. And then anoth­er and anoth­er. Add dia­logue. Add a sound­track. The world pro­ject­ed onto a wall from a plas­tic box. 

I take a lot of inspi­ra­tion from film. I always have. In my most recent poems, I want­ed to do that more inten­tion­al­ly. “The Sus­pend­ed Body” takes an image from the film The Neon Demon as a start­ing point and manip­u­lates it. “The Pal­pi­tat­ing Wing” begins and ends in the film Black Swan. What inter­ests me is how we watch movies and tele­vi­sion and believe it is about us, how we eas­i­ly con­flate the screen and the I. 

And isn’t this how hor­ror works? A shad­ow moves behind a char­ac­ter. A creep­er lurks just out of their view. The vio­lins shoot their needling, the bass swells. These things are for us. The movie is try­ing to scare us, not its char­ac­ters. I want to cap­ture that moment when the art form reach­es beyond its 35mm into the the­ater, the liv­ing room, the brain. 

 

Bri­an Clifton is the author of the chap­books MOT and Agape (both from Osman­thus Press). They have work in: Pleiades, Guer­ni­ca, Cincin­nati Review, Salt Hill, Col­orado Review, The Jour­nal, Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal, and oth­er mag­a­zines. They are an avid record col­lec­tor and cura­tor of curiosities.

Two Poems

Poetry / Alyse Bensel

 

:: Genetic ::

 

Trac­ing mito­chon­dr­i­al lin­eage we ask
who fathered this child, the moth­er silent
as an exhib­it behind glass. Sea­horse fins
undu­late like the cil­ia of cells that per­form
rou­tine func­tions, that mutate. The rote
gath­er­ing of drones is dri­ven by their need
for hon­ey. The male sea­horse har­bors
his chil­dren inside his tor­so until he rears
like a stal­lion, emp­ty­ing them into the sea.
Every atom roams with­in its own sup­posed
atmos­phere, so we can only guess
where an elec­tron exists. The gene char­ters
an imper­fect code left to chance.
But we nev­er wor­ry about flesh sud­den­ly
pulling from our bones. Our rein­car­na­tion
is a slick Mobius strip, a seashell’s whorl
lead­ing us toward our false eternity.

 

:: Love in the Anthropocene ::

Gas bub­bles from the tundra.
This week a tor­na­do so wide
you think it an ordi­nary storm
will kiss your rooftop
while the night crawlers
worm the soil, the termites
you paid good mon­ey to poison
hol­low your house.
The ani­mal and hunter exhaust
one anoth­er: cat and vole,
killer whale and gray whale.
Can­ni­bal hunger. How much
can you con­sume and expect
to be whole? You wield
a thick black line,
frag­ment the territory,
whit­tle the stream banks,
the marsh, the tadpoles
that sur­vive in the ditch
before the sum­mer drought.
Thou­sands of miles away,
the glac­i­ers weep back. 

 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

I am always think­ing about the end of the world—the end of me, the end of every­one, whether human, plant, or min­er­al. These poems are an inter­ro­ga­tion of the con­se­quences of glob­al warm­ing. The apoc­a­lypse feels a breath away, from the rise of nat­ur­al cat­a­stro­phes to mass extinc­tion to the effects of a pol­lut­ed envi­ron­ment on the long-term health of every liv­ing crea­ture on this plan­et. While these poems may cel­e­brate that life, they are always cau­tious of the inher­ent dan­ger try­ing to main­tain sta­sis, or even move for­ward for the sake of progress while dimin­ish­ing the future. How long does all of this beau­ty, all of this destruc­tion, have left? While I am cau­tious of opti­mism, I am invest­ed in skep­ti­cism, in action, in tak­ing stock of the world. This work takes the same per­spec­tive: root­ed on the earth, fierce­ly look­ing to the horizon. 

 

Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Won­drous Things, a poet­ic biog­ra­phy of Maria Sibyl­la Mer­ian (Green Writ­ers Press, forth­com­ing 2020), and three chap­books, includ­ing Lies to Tell the Body (Sev­en Kitchens Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Alas­ka Quar­ter­ly Review, Gulf Coast, Poet­ry Inter­na­tion­al, and West Branch. She is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Bre­vard Col­lege, where she directs the Look­ing Glass Rock Writ­ers’ Conference.

Three Works

Art / Doron Langberg

 

:: Three Works ::

 

 

 

From the artist

 

:: Account ::

My work is about closeness—to my sub­jects, paint­ed sur­faces, and the view­er. I make large-scale oil paint­ings of my friends, lovers, and fam­i­ly. My process starts with mak­ing por­traits from life as source mate­r­i­al. In these small paint­ings, I work impro­vi­sa­tion­al­ly and gen­er­ate ideas about col­or and mate­ri­al­i­ty that will be the struc­ture for my larg­er works. My rela­tion­ship with my sub­jects is the dri­ving force behind my work and what guides my for­mal and image deci­sions. This famil­iar­i­ty allows me to gauge whether the paint­ing I’m work­ing on embod­ies the sub­ject I’m depict­ing: it’s a mea­sure of my empa­thy and of the painting’s poten­tial to feel like a liv­ing per­son. The height­ened col­ors and vari­ety of tex­tures and marks are my way of exter­nal­iz­ing the sub­jects’ inte­ri­or­i­ty, giv­ing the view­er a sense of their human­i­ty, and through that, my own. This is a response to the dehu­man­iza­tion of queer­ness I see embed­ded in our legal sys­tem, in the media, and in every­day life. The his­to­ry of paint­ing also reflects such atti­tudes in the work of artists like Delacroix, Courbet, Ingres, Picas­so etc.; their desire is metaphor­i­cal of the most major themes in cul­ture like war, god, life, death and more, where­as rep­re­sen­ta­tions of queer desire are not afford­ed that same grav­i­ty, seen as only able to stand for what they depict. As a way out of this bind, I look at artists and writ­ers such as Alice Neel, James Bald­win, and David Hock­ney that come from mar­gin­al­ized points of view, but who were able to tran­scend this chal­lenge and speak to larg­er truths. Inspired by Hockney’s diary-like imagery, I sit­u­ate depic­tions of queer sex­u­al­i­ty and inti­ma­cy with­in a larg­er nar­ra­tive of every­day scenes, fram­ing queer­ness as a way of view­ing and being in the world rather than just a sub­ject mat­ter. In these chro­mat­ic envi­ron­ments, fueled by per­son­al con­nec­tion and a near abstract for­mal qual­i­ty, I want to make queer plea­sure, friend­ship, and inti­ma­cy feel expan­sive, and for my figures—and me by proxy—to have the free­dom to be ful­ly themselves. 

 

 

Doron Lang­berg (b.1985, Yokneam, Israel) lives and works in New York. He received his MFA from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty and holds a BFA from UPenn and a Cer­tifi­cate from PAFA (Penn­syl­va­nia Acad­e­my of the Fine Arts). Lang­berg has attend­ed the Sharpe Walen­tas Stu­dio Pro­gram, Yad­do artist res­i­den­cy, and the Queer Art Men­tor­ship Pro­gram and is cur­rent­ly at the EFA Stu­dio Pro­gram. His work was shown at the LSU muse­um, Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Arts and Let­ters, Leslei Lohman Muse­um, The PAFA Muse­um, Per­rotin Gallery, Yos­si Milo Gallery, DC Moore Gallery, 1969 Gallery, and sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty art gal­leries. Langberg’s work was reviewed in Art in Amer­i­ca, Frieze Mag­a­zine, The Brook­lyn Rail, Hyper­al­ler­gic, Art­Crit­i­cal, and GAYLETTER, and it is in the col­lec­tion of the PAFA Museum.

Three Poems

Poetry / Nance Van Winckel

:: Ding Her Children ::


 

:: He Bit ::

 

:: The Lad Who Went to the North Wind ::

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I’ve been “lift­ing out” and recom­bin­ing in these era­sures to make whole new visu­al poems from source material—e.g., two of my own ear­ly poems in “Ding Her Chil­dren,” a page from The Vel­veteen Rab­bit in “He Bit” and old Norse tales in “The Lad Who Went to the North Wind.” I alter the graph­ics and exper­i­ment to see if I can get the “poet­ic” text to com­bine, even alchem­ize, with the visu­al ele­ments. I try for junc­tures of dis­parate lin­guis­tic and graph­ic ele­ments, hop­ing these may allow for what Gertrude Stein called “open feel­ing,” a state of “slowed, empath­ic receptivity.”

 

Nance Van Winck­el’s fifth book of fic­tion is Ever Yrs. (Twist­ed Road Pub­li­ca­tions, 2014), a nov­el in the form of a scrap­book; her eighth book of poems is Our For­eign­er (Beyond Baroque Press, 2017), win­ner of the Pacif­ic Coast Poet­ry Series. A book of visu­al poet­ry enti­tled Book of No Ledge appeared in 2016 with Pleiades Press. The recip­i­ent of two NEA Poet­ry Fel­low­ships and awards from the Poet­ry Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca, POETRY, and Prairie Schooner, she has new poems in The Push­cart Prize Anthol­o­gy, Field, Poet­ry North­west, and Get­tys­burg Review. She is on the MFA fac­ul­ties of Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts and East­ern Wash­ing­ton University’s Inland North­west Cen­ter for Writers.

from Her Scant State

Poetry / Barbara Tomash

:: from Her Scant State ::

          
          an erasure of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady

being an American           crimes of violence      rustled, shimmered	
     a beautiful subject           the alienated woman

in prophecy           sat under the trees      irreducible flower
          indifference to      masculine pinion

stretching away beyond the rivers

 

 

 

 

 


For what. Do. You. Take me. All cli­mates die. Con­tin­ue, resume, insist, I mean I should have set­tled at the fire, put the ques­tion three times, lik­ing the explo­sion. Win­ter was to imi­tate a woman. In trou­ble. Prove it a crime, her mar­riage, her scant state. Fin­ger this smoothest bead.

 

 

 

 

 

tinged with rumor reverence they read nothing at all
a thousand zigzags, she escaped from a trap to flame 
without parents, without property      a lapful of roses 
gratified a need in the center of property      the earth 
itself expected to have emotions full of kindness      stars 
and stripes      “nothing in this world is got for nothing”   
the taste of an October pear, the shadow of a deeper cloud

 

 

 

 

 


Dusk appears as a ser­vant. A neat plain face in a draw­ing. Waits to appear. Per­haps not in the Amer­i­can sequence. Exposed to the air of a cer­tain noto­ri­ous. A strain, a tune. Devot­ed med­i­ta­tion of the last two cen­turies, small and dense­ly filled with fur­ni­ture. “I love my things.” Flushed with a per­fect lit­tle marrying—to make use of teacups get bro­ken. Absence is a source of income. Par­don me, I say that cold­ly. Find out how a per­son wish­es. To con­ceal the world? Push it into your arms.

 

 

 

 

 

the flatness of exile           the fragrance of fruit		
          in a poor translation

bursts of wildflowers           niched in ruin
          property of the observed thing	

the imagination loving the riot
          she’s my _____    she is not his

a sense of property
          allowing her two countries          with a laugh

as good as summer rain      a land of emigration      of rescue 
          a refuge      their superfluous population

 

 

 

 

 


I’ll say noth­ing. No allusion—an Amer­i­can man arrived last night, an Amer­i­can tru­ly, an Amer­i­can great fact—no open ques­tions. Ask. Shocked by. In spite of. Real­ly worse. No near­er beau­ty. Does lit­tle to mit­i­gate. Blight­ed, bat­tered. The exor­bi­tant, loose joint­ed cause of the want, his view of the world. Small? Immense? Describe sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, impersonally—“You go too far.” Pover­ties dressed as a face of elation.

 

 

 

 

 

the people in America rang for a servant
to measure and weigh the wind           in a dozen different lights 
to rise to immediate joy           to transform a poor girl to a rich one       
first, take care of your things

 

 

 

 

 


That pre­cious object. It already has a tiny crack. A false posi­tion. A fault. She said, “If I had a child—!” Now the wild­flow­ers (when they are allowed) bloom in the deep crevices, the pale red tone plunging.

 

 

 

 

 

a theory about me           I won’t be thought

I protest           my own nation
for a lifetime

 

 

 

 

 


Wait a lit­tle qua­ver. In the autumn titled “Moors and Moonlight”—nothing—I couldn’t imag­ine. Odd win­ter moth­er always wears a mask—true lines taunt­ed—this is not an expres­sion. Lat­er she might paint on it. Rep­re­sen­ta­tion lost her child, brushed it away as a feath­er. Poor human heart. To rep­re­sent things. To exhaust all remedies.

 

 

 

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

My ear­ly artis­tic work was with mixed media, cre­at­ing assem­blages and instal­la­tions from the assort­ment of bulky found objects I’d drag home in my small car. I have car­ried my love of work­ing with a mass of col­lect­ed “stuff” over into my process as a poet. For Her Scant State my found mate­r­i­al is the vast (and exquis­ite­ly elab­o­rate) lex­i­con of Hen­ry James’s 1881 nov­el The Por­trait of a Lady, and my method is era­sure. The process involves keep­ing strict­ly to the novel’s word order, but I allow myself free rein with punc­tu­a­tion and form on the page. In Her Scant State the first half of The Por­trait of a Lady runs across the top of each page and the sec­ond half of the nov­el runs across the bot­tom of each page, beneath the line. Enter­ing James’s text as source mate­r­i­al, I have been grap­pling with Amer­i­ca, my native place, as a land­scape carved by floods of com­pet­ing ide­olo­gies. As I worked, I found myself strip­ping away the lay­ers of James’s nar­ra­tive with the urgency of my cur­rent polit­i­cal dis­tress and my ongo­ing pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the lives of women. I dis­cov­ered mon­ey, mon­ey, mon­ey on every page. While my inquiry focus­es on women, my point of view must shift in this nov­el­ized Amer­i­ca made of many era­sures. Per­haps home can nev­er be described if a per­son­al and aes­thet­ic dis­lo­ca­tion is not risked. Isabel Archer, loved by James and by me for her gen­eros­i­ty, suf­fers the cru­el joke of a blis­ter­ing­ly trans­ac­tion­al mar­riage. The nov­el is set in Europe, but it is hard­ly free from Amer­i­can capitalism—then, as now, aspir­ing, hope­ful, and often violent.

 

 

Bar­bara Tomash is the author of four books of poet­ry: PRE- (Black Radish Books, 2018), Arbo­re­al (Apogee, 2014), The Secret of White (Spuyten Duyvil, 2009), and Fly­ing in Water, win­ner of the 2005 Win­now First Poet­ry Award. An ear­li­er ver­sion of PRE- was a final­ist for the Col­orado Prize and the Res­cue Press Black Box Poet­ry Prize. Before her cre­ative inter­ests turned her toward writ­ing, she worked exten­sive­ly as a mul­ti­me­dia artist. Her poems have appeared in Col­orado Review, Den­ver Quar­ter­ly, Web Con­junc­tions, New Amer­i­can Writ­ing, Verse, VOLT, Omni­Verse, and numer­ous oth­er jour­nals. She lives in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, and teach­es in the Cre­ative Writ­ing Depart­ment at San Fran­cis­co State University.

Volcanic Heat

Poetry / Adela Najarro

:: Volcanic Heat ::

When my father became a letter, my mother ate 
a wedding cake that no one could see, 

then turned up the music and began to dance.
The volcano inside her was quiet, and she was calm.

The volcano wasn’t something she could lose. 
It had always been with her. Once while standing 

at the rim, a lava lake roiling below, my mother knew
that it wasn’t too late. So she started
with what she needed to do: sold a golden
crucifix, said good-bye to her brothers, 

boarded a Pan Am flight to San Francisco.
Then she continued to create possibility

by curling hair and setting rollers. She curtailed gossip, 
and cut the umbilical cords of my brother and I. 

With the volcano’s heat inside her, my mother changed 
the landscape. Magma exploded and lava flowed. 

First, a seismic boom, then fire rocks avalanched down, 
molten bombs shot into sky, and ash dusted 

sidewalks with premonitions of coming ghosts.
My mother did the impossible: in her old age, 

with the heat and rage of the volcano 
capped tight by cooled solid rock,

she laughed as a cat chased a squirrel up a tree.



 

From the writer

:: Account ::

As a child of immi­grants, the home­land haunts, and so it remains nec­es­sary for me to redis­cov­er my fam­i­ly through poet­ry as an attempt to under­stand and artic­u­late migra­tion and its affects on every­thing that makes a life. My influ­ences are Walt Whit­man, Pablo Neru­da, and San­dra Cis­neros. I claim Anglo/US/British poet­ry as my lega­cy, as well as that of Latin Amer­i­ca, includ­ing the Nicaragüence poet, Rubén Darío, and his mod­ernismo move­ment with mer­maids, cas­tles, and droop­ing roses.

My moth­er turned nine­ty this sum­mer and I love to watch her. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that to real­ly love some­one is to under­stand them. When in my mother’s com­pa­ny, I “see” who she is and so poems arise. She is mem­o­ry. She is the past. She is a Nicaraguan caldera sim­mer­ing through time.

Nicaragua is lined with vol­ca­noes and so I have writ­ten a series of poems where each con­tains a ref­er­ence to Nicaraguan vol­ca­noes. I love the idea of a volcano—the heat, mag­ma, and over­flow. This trope allowed me to tap into the home­land while writ­ing poems that speak to each other.

 

Adela Najar­ro is the author of two poet­ry col­lec­tions, Split Geog­ra­phy (Mouth­feel Press, 2015), and Twice Told Over (Unso­licit­ed Press, 2015), and a chap­book, My Chil­drens (Unso­licit­ed Press, 2017), which includes teach­ing resources for high school and col­lege class­rooms. Her poet­ry appears in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona Press anthol­o­gy The Wind Shifts: New Lati­no Poet­ry, and she has pub­lished poems in numer­ous jour­nals, includ­ing Porter Gulch Review, Acen­tos Review, Bor­der­Sens­es, Fem­i­nist Stud­ies, Puer­to del Sol, Nim­rod Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Poet­ry & Prose, Notre Dame Review, Blue Mesa Review, Crab Orchard Review, and else­where. More infor­ma­tion about my poet­ry and pub­li­ca­tions can be found on her web­site: www.adelanajarro.com.

Lawn

Poetry / Alyse Knorr

:: Lawn ::

1. 
Thriving roses at Chautauqua, wilting 
desert here. I am trying to live, 
trying to keep alive 

2. 
two dozen plants, one cat, one human. 
Grass pokes through the beds 
but nothing in the bald patch. 

3. 
All I remember of Márquez
is the woman flying away. O porch
string lights, O motion sensor light, 

4. 
O mosquito candle light, O sun. 
O to purchase every detail 
of the Pinterest lawn, 

5. 
paint the accent doors ourselves. 
I remember, too, the ants eating
the baby, last of the family line. 

6.
Brush away the mulch, find the source, 
the root: let the water drip 
and accumulate. Not a downpour

7.
but a soft slow drench. My daughter
ripping up the yard layer by layer. 
Fistfuls of earth and grass blades,

8. 
like a swordsman or a chef. 
We’ll water again in an hour, 
unless it rains and we don’t.



From the writer

:: Account ::

I wrote “Lawn” in col­lab­o­ra­tion with painter Robin Hex­trum, my col­league and next-door neigh­bor. Robin’s paint­ings are burst­ing with col­or and life—in a sin­gle piece, for instance, Robin ren­ders two species of but­ter­fly, a frog, dog, drag­on­fly, snail, fly, bee, and five dif­fer­ent types of flower. Robin’s work also mar­ries rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al and abstract styles, so that one paint­ing might con­tain an extreme­ly life-like rose along­side a ges­tur­al sketch of a drag­on­fly. Final­ly, Robin’s paint­ings play with scale in fas­ci­nat­ing ways—in one of her paint­ings you might find a grey­hound stand­ing beside a tulip of the same size.

I want­ed to emu­late these aspects of Robin’s work by mim­ic­k­ing her process. I’ve always been inter­est­ed in ekphras­tic poems that bor­row ele­ments from an artist’s process rather than attempt­ing to describe or re-cre­ate a painting’s visu­als. I went for a long walk with Robin and asked her ques­tions about her process, and she showed me some pho­tos of works in progress. I noticed that she starts by rough­ly block­ing in a piece’s main elements—a rose approx­i­mate­ly in the cen­ter, a dog toward the bot­tom, a tulip on the left, etc.—and then paints around those blocked-in ele­ments, adding detail as she pro­ceeds. I want­ed to re-cre­ate this process ver­bal­ly, so I aimed to write a poem around a set of blocked-in nouns.

I began the writ­ing process by scat­ter­ing across a page a list of nouns Robin gave me, all inspired from her paint­ings. Microsoft Word wouldn’t allow me to “pin” a word onto one part of the page and write around it, so instead, I blocked the words onto a Word page, saved the file as a JPG, and then typed over the JPG in Can­va, a free online design tool.

Once I had com­plet­ed a rough draft, I allowed myself to break lines and make for­mal revi­sions just as I would with any oth­er poem; how­ev­er, I chal­lenged myself to retain all of the orig­i­nal words from the start of the process. I believe that by mim­ic­k­ing Robin’s process, I was able to achieve in my work a blend of abstrac­tion and real­ism, a sig­nif­i­cant amount of tonal col­or, and a play­ful approach to set­ting and scale.

The poem’s the­mat­ic ele­ments are inspired in part by the fact that Robin and I have adjoin­ing yards. Since I wrote this poem out­side in my back­yard dur­ing the peak of sum­mer, ele­ments of gar­den­ing and land­scap­ing appear, as well as my infant daugh­ter and the top­ic of death. For me, these three subjects—gardening, moth­er­hood, and death—all res­onate togeth­er the­mat­i­cal­ly. When you cre­ate a new life, you’re also cre­at­ing a future death, and that’s been on my mind a lot since becom­ing a parent.

 

Alyse Knorr is a queer poet and assis­tant pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Reg­is Uni­ver­si­ty. She is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tions Mega-City Redux (Green Moun­tains Review Books, 2016), win­ner of the Green Moun­tains Review Poet­ry Prize), Cop­per Moth­er (Switch­back Books, 2016), and Anno­tat­ed Glass (Fur­ni­ture Press Books, 2013), as well as the non-fic­tion book Super Mario Bros. 3 (Boss Fight Books, 2016) and four poet­ry chap­books. Her work has appeared in Alas­ka Quar­ter­ly Review, Den­ver Quar­ter­ly, The Cincin­nati Review, The Greens­boro Review, and ZYZZYVA, among oth­ers. With her wife, she serves as co-edi­tor of Switch­back Books.

The Physics of Atmospheric Misogyny

Poetry / Kyla Jamieson

:: The Physics of Atmospheric Misogyny ::

We’ve been together
For six months and
I still haven’t written
You a poem. I wrote many 
Poems to my exes 
So in theory this should
Be easy, but all those
Poems were arguments.
Notice how I never wrote
Poems to the women
I dated? They deserved
More than to be put
In a poem in the role
Of lover-antagonist.
Women are always being 
Put places, like things.
We are having sex and all
That I can think of 
Is how easy it would be
To kill you Elaine Kahn 
Writes. As a woman can
Because the world
Has made her feel
Easy to kill. Last night
I read the Wikipedia
Page on Ted Bundy
Because he’s trending
And I knew only his name 
And that he killed a lot 
Of women. I think men
Our age know more 
About Bundy than women
Do and it shows. Just 
Yesterday another white
Man killed five women
In a bank. There’s an ad
Playing right now
That really annoys me:
A woman waits
At a bus stop and a man
Starts playing a recorder.
He leans into and over
Her and the ad says use
A car share. As though
Women don’t already
Drive to avoid street
Harassment if we can
Afford it. I watch TV
In a nightmare future
Where an ad for a banking
App plays: the target 
Audience is women who don’t
Want to get shot. What
Does the world hate
More than women
In public is something
Else Kahn wrote and
Didn’t punctuate: it’s 
Not a question unless
A bullet is a question.
Can someone engineer
Lead that turns into
Inquiry mid-flight?
In my dream future
The NRA promotes guns
That ask how you feel
More than my meditation
App. And when you shoot
Them Donté Colley
Comes out dancing.
In this future I am the kind
Of free I almost imagined
But did not think possible
And so are you.



 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I wrote this poem two years after a brain injury, when I was just begin­ning to read again. Because I’d been read­ing so lit­tle, the poems I read, from Elaine Kahn’s Women in Pub­lic, hov­ered, dis­tinct, in my mind; there was no sea of lan­guage for them to sink into, no lit­er­ary back­ground against which they might dis­ap­pear. I desire a future that tran­scends the gen­der bina­ry, but the present, and present-day vio­lence, and even my own trau­ma his­to­ry, often feel defined by gen­der. Most­ly, this poem describes a per­spec­tive on real­i­ty and pop­u­lar cul­ture that’s ground­ed in a body that feels like a tar­get, like prey. But it also ges­tures towards pos­si­bil­i­ties that lie beyond this descrip­tion, that my mind and my lan­guage have not yet cor­ralled into text. Here, dancer and cul­tur­al fig­ure Don­té Col­ley acts as a sym­bol of hope, the embod­i­ment of a joy­ful opti­mism that the intel­lect might con­sid­er too sim­ple for seri­ous consideration.

 

Kyla Jamieson lives and relies on the unced­ed tra­di­tion­al ter­ri­to­ries of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Wau­tuth Nations. Her poet­ry has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Poet­ry Is Dead, Room Mag­a­zine, The Vault, GUTS, Peach Mag, The May­nard, Plen­i­tude, and oth­ers. In 2019, she was select­ed by CA Con­rad and Anne Boy­er as the third-place win­ner in the Meta­tron Prize for Ris­ing Authors. She is the author of Kind of Ani­mal (Rahila’s Ghost Press, 2019), a poet­ry chap­book about the after­math of a brain injury. Body Count, her début col­lec­tion of poems, is forth­com­ing with Night­wood Edi­tions in Spring 2020. Find her on insta­gram as @airymeantime or on a rock next to a river.

Three Poems

Poetry / Maria Guzman

:: Kitchen Sink ::

My mother’s kitchen smelled of cilantro ripped clean and fresh linens.
Cleanliness was virtue. 
The way we spoke to God.
Here I am, God, my mother would say. 
Wetting her palms open, Llevame.
I ran my fingers across mami’s pantry, 
a pristine altar of Rosa Maria cinnamon 
dust smeared on tinted jars of jarabe,
a glass of holy water perched
next to tiny plastic bags of dried oregano 
from someone’s finca back on the island.
In the corner of the room, an entire sack of La Fe cornmeal, 
eight aluminum cans of tomato paste,
three yellow cases of Embajador chocolate that never seemed to expire.
Every nook and cranny with clusters of rosemary leaves 
dried hibiscus marooned into a clay jar.
My mother, standing intently 
before the rusted cauldron
in her pressed, Japanese robe 
wild violets stitched at the waist
mixing fat pieces of yucca and plátanos 
and hunks of corn into a green broth.
She was never the same after my father left us.
Slicing aloe at the kitchen sink
two porcelain angels flanked at her feet 
like a life-size Bellini painting.
I watched her become
a feast of herself, again.


 

:: Blood orange ::

In my house, if you didn’t learn to cook 
no one would marry you.
They call you, queda.
It meant you were stuck, in a bullpen 
unmoving, without a man,
dealt a long hand of Netflix and Chinese takeout.

They call you, amargada. Bitter citrus.
Not like Julissa perusing racks of Colombian fajas on Bergenline 
or pruned like Martha plucking her mouthy kids from daycare
or ornamental like the belly dancer at Cedars with the speckled rind.

Woman of orange pith,
You are not the obvious thing.
After years without sun, you are seedless, 
green veined and nearly thornless 
unharvested and unlike the rest.

No one calls you mami
when you open the door except 
men who arrive, spineless
and varying in their sweetness.

Nini calls them mucha espuma y poco chocolate. 
You say it is just something to do,
something to pass the time.

You will stay until you can’t 
or he will leave you
keep your books on the shelf, 
your favorite t-shirts,
the vintage record player he gifted you.

For years           he will call your name.

You are the brilliant and bloody paradise 
left clotting on his lap.


 

:: Cornucopia ::

No matter how many times 
I never see it coming
the minute I stand upright 
a cornucopia wilts 
between my thighs
and out from under me 
streams of ripe plum 
bead down my left leg.

I am tired
of being vulnerable.
To spattered clots on toilet seats 
the color of a wet November 
browning at the tip of the leaves.

And I, the reluctant servant 
summoned to report myself 
on my knees, for seven days.

My body clamors.
I know he can hear me 
sound like somebody’s fool 
like somebody’s nobody.

Off the wall, I rest against
I am ready to give it all back. 
Horned, river god of plenty. 
Take this bag of stone fruit 
and be done with it.



From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems doc­u­ment the costs of being a woman in the home, in the body, and in rela­tion­ship to the world. “Kitchen Sink” draws on Ital­ian Renais­sance painter Gio­van­ni Belli­ni and his stu­dent Titian’s illus­tra­tion titled The Feast of the Gods. I was once an art his­to­ry stu­dent in the thrall of Venet­ian nymphs when I real­ized how much art his­to­ry focus­es on the Euro­pean canon. I began to imag­ine a world where Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean peo­ple exist­ed as the very same indul­gent gods and myth­i­cal crea­tures being taught in the class­room. Fer­til­i­ty and food are a cen­tral part of what it means to be a “woman” in Lat­inx cul­ture. In “Blood Orange,” I was address­ing the bless­ing of wom­an­hood by embody­ing the fruit itself, while “Cor­nu­copia” touch­es on the curse. Years lat­er, I encoun­tered Flem­ish painter Peter Paul Rubens, who depict­ed Roman god­dess Abun­dan­tia hold­ing a cor­nu­copia. Grow­ing up, I spent a lot of time sim­ply observ­ing the women in my fam­i­ly and how they moved in the world. It taught me a lot about self-preser­va­tion and becom­ing the true source of abun­dant paradise.

INSPIRATION

https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.1138.html

http://collection.nmwa.go.jp/en/P.1978–0004.html

Maria Guz­man was born and raised in Union City, New Jer­sey. She earned a Bach­e­lor of Arts degree in Urban Stud­ies and Anthro­pol­o­gy from Saint Peter’s Uni­ver­si­ty. A 2019 poet­ry con­trib­u­tor at Bread­loaf Writ­ers’ Con­fer­ence, her writ­ing is focused on fam­i­ly, iden­ti­ty, and the nat­ur­al world. Com­mit­ted to the advance­ment of com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, Maria works at the Nation­al Domes­tic Work­ers Alliance.

Three Poems

Poetry / Nathaniel Dolton-Thornton

 

:: Alopochen kervazoi ::

it’s hard to say anything specific
when you ask me
why an eruption translates into snow
how a bark becomes a howl, a howl a yawn
strung out on a clothesline between houses
where the pulp is a wound
the crust sutures with water 
and rocks soften like bread in our throats


 

:: Mascarenotus grucheti ::

he marches on stilts through the woods at night
to the house he remembers
where he knocks on the door
shaped like an axe carved out of a ledger
in the chimney voices swallow
behind them dawn 
nibbles away at his soles 
until their shadows surrender


 

:: Dryophthorus distinguendus ::

you unified the kingdom
without a sovereign
everyone became their own 
representative and judge
the pigs and rats 
followed their own laws
the egrets 
sacrificed to the pool



 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

These poems are part of a long series on every recent­ly extinct species.

Alopochen ker­va­zoi

The Réu­nion shel­duck (Alopochen ker­va­zoi, a.k.a. Mas­care­nachen ker­va­zoi) was a species of goose endem­ic to the island of Réu­nion, one of the Mas­carene Islands in the Indi­an Ocean, where it lived in bod­ies of fresh­wa­ter. The species went extinct some­time in the late 17th or ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry, like­ly as a result of hunt­ing and habi­tat loss. [i] In 1994, Gra­ham S. Cowles iden­ti­fied the bird as a new species, rely­ing on spec­i­mens col­lect­ed in April 1974 by Bertrand Ker­va­zo from a “cave named Grotte des Pre­miers Français (Grande Cav­erne), sit­u­at­ed about 1.5 km south-west from the cen­tre of Saint-Paul.”

In terms of his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences to the species, Cowles writes, “Bon­tekoe vis­it­ed Réu­nion in 1619, and described the island abound­ing with geese (Strick­land & Melville 1848). Dubois vis­it­ed the island dur­ing the years 1671–72 and notes in his jour­nal, ‘Wild Geese, a lit­tle small­er than the Geese of Europe, they have the plumage the same and the beak and feet red’ (Oliv­er 1897). In 1667 Mar­tin record­ed mas­sive destruc­tion and decline of ‘geese’ on the Etang de Saint-Paul (Cheke 1987). Wild ‘geese’ do not exist on Réu­nion today.” [ii]

This and the fol­low­ing two poems are part of a series on every recent­ly extinct species.

Mas­careno­tus grucheti

The Réu­nion owl (Mas­careno­tus grucheti) was anoth­er species endem­ic to the island of Réu­nion. As N. Khwa­ja, S. Mahood, T. Brooks, and R. Mar­tin write for BirdLife Inter­na­tion­al, “This species for­mer­ly occurred on the island of Réu­nion. It was prob­a­bly dri­ven Extinct after the island was colonised in the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry, as a result of habi­tat loss, hunt­ing or pre­da­tion by inva­sive species.”

Of its dis­tri­b­u­tion, they write, “Mas­careno­tus grucheti is only known from fos­sils (Cowles 1987) found on Réu­nion (to France)(Mourer-Chauviré et al. 1994), and pre­sum­ably became extinct soon after the island’s coloni­sa­tion in the ear­ly 17th century.”

Of its ecol­o­gy, they write, “Noth­ing is known, though it is like­ly to have been a for­est species.” Of its threats, they write, “Hunt­ing, defor­esta­tion and the depre­da­tions of intro­duced preda­tors may all be impli­cat­ed in its decline.” [iii]

In 1994, Cécile Mour­er-Chau­viré, Roger Bour, François Moutou, and Sonia Ribes iden­ti­fied Mas­careno­tus grucheti as a new species and placed it, along with Strix sauzieri and Strix (Athene) murivo­ra, in a new genus, Mas­careno­tus. They described the genus as very sim­i­lar to the extinct genus Gral­listrix, which inhab­it­ed the islands of Hawaii. [iv]

Dryoph­tho­rus distinguendus

Dryoph­tho­rus dis­tinguen­dus was a species of bee­tle endem­ic to the islands of Hawaii. As C. Lyal writes for the IUCN Red List, “It was com­mon on sev­er­al Hawai­ian islands in 1926 but has not been locat­ed since 1961. The cause of extinc­tion is not known but may include inva­sive species and habi­tat degradation.”

Of its range, Lyal writes, “This species was orig­i­nal­ly described from Hawaii where it was ‘found on near­ly all the islands of the group’. It has not been record­ed since 1961 and is thought to be extinct.”

Of its habi­tat and ecol­o­gy, Lyal writes, “It was prob­a­bly asso­ci­at­ed with trop­i­cal for­est but is now extinct.”

Of its threats, Lyal writes, “The species is thought to be extinct. It was report­ed to be com­mon in 1926 but has not been record­ed since 1961. The threats it faced have not been iden­ti­fied but prob­a­bly includ­ed habi­tat degra­da­tion and inva­sive species.” [v]


[i] BirdLife Inter­na­tion­al 2016. Alopochen ker­va­zoi. The IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species 2016: e.T22729490A95017764. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016–3.RLTS.T22729490A95017764.en. Down­loaded on 13 Octo­ber 2019.
[ii] Cowles, G. S. 1994. A new genus, three new species and two new records of extinct Holocene birds from Réu­nion Island, Indi­an Ocean. Geo­Bios 27: 87–93.
[iii] BirdLife Inter­na­tion­al (2019) Species fact­sheet: Mas­careno­tus grucheti. Down­loaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/10/2019.
[iv] Mour­er-Chau­viré, C., Bour, R., Moutou, F., Ribes, S., 1994. Mas­careno­tus nov. gen. (Aves, Strigi­formes), genre endémique éteint des Mas­careignes et M. grucheti n. sp., espéce éteinte de la Réu­nion. Comptes Ren­dus de l’Académie des Sci­ences de Paris série II 318, 1699–1706.
[v] Lyal, C. 2014. Dryoph­tho­rus dis­tinguen­dus. The IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species 2014: e.T6862A21424260. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014–1.RLTS.T6862A21424260.en. Down­loaded on 13 Octo­ber 2019.

Nathaniel Dolton-Thorn­ton’s poet­ry has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Tin House and Rar­i­tan, among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. He is cur­rent­ly col­lab­o­rat­ing with Yu Yuanyuan, Robert Hass, and Paula Varsano on a book of Eng­lish trans­la­tions of the ninth-cen­tu­ry Chi­nese poet Liu Zongyuan. He stud­ies polit­i­cal ecol­o­gy as a Mar­shall Schol­ar at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cambridge.

Five Poems

Poetry / Kendra DeColo

:: Isn’t “Food Court” a Lovely Term ::

not just the sound but the place  

I mean aren’t Panda Express and Sbarros lovely

with their food garnished on metal trays

how when I’m inside of one 

I feel home no matter how far  

up route 65 between Kentucky and Indiana

where churches and Subway franchises

neck and I know exactly where I must go

to reach the good Starbucks and avoid the McDonalds

where high school students hand out gift cards

“From Jesus because he loves you”

and I almost took one once 

I had been driving alone for hours

on my way to a conference 

where I would have gotten drunk 

in the good old days

would have gotten tanked

and made some bad decision

not out of stupidity or self-destruction

but a deliberate attempt 

to feel more than I thought 

the world has to offer

like ransacking a hotel’s free buffet

stuffing my pockets full 

of food I’ll never eat
 
I didn’t yet understand

the beauty of a road

connecting towns I’ll never see in daylight

decked out in neon effigies

each vestibule offering its own flavor

of sanctuary

or I did 

and couldn’t tolerate it

how I took the gift card

from the girl’s hand

and imagined what it would feel like

to be forgiven

and for a moment I did

and I gave it back


 

:: I Hope Hillary Is Having Good Sex ::

I hope Hillary is having good sex

I say to myself at the farmer’s market

While fingering the over-ripened bustier

Of an heirloom tomato

So close to rot it nearly sucks 

My pinky into its dappled maw

I hope she’s at least getting decent head I say again

Now that she’s proven a woman

Can win the popular vote

And still lose to an imbecile

Because sexism

Because Russian interference

Because my grandmother

Who worked for LBJ and then

Nixon and was harassed by male coworkers

Until she had to quit

Even she said of Hillary, “There is something

About that woman I just don’t trust”

I hope Hillary is getting it in 

By Bill or someone better at listening 

Who asks her what she needs

Then gets directly down to business

Without preamble or pussyfooting 

Someone who emerges 

Only for a sandwich or breath of fresh air

I hope she has multiple sidepieces 

Each a different build and scent

And when they ask 

To see her closet full of immaculate suits 

Organized and shimmering on their racks

Like a god’s molted skin

She lets them touch just the hem


 

:: I Don’t Like to Have Sex While I’m on My Period ::

even though my husband is the kind of guy 

who isn’t afraid 

of a woman’s fluids

who might even go down

if the flow is light

a real man 

you might say 

if the logic wasn’t steeped 

in toxic masculinity the way 

the sheets are steeped in blood

after making love on day three

the rasp of stain beneath us

like a bat fluttering its wings

in a puddle of Robitussin

I can’t help but think 

it’s crude 

to put down a towel 

before we begin

the way a man sticks a gloved

finger up his wife’s vagina

to assess if she’s done bleeding

clean you might say

if that language wasn’t steeped

in violent misogyny

because isn’t my blood the cleanest 

part about me 

fuck a towel

if you want to go deep

you better be willing to draw blood

my husband is a real man

isn’t afraid to smell 

the shed lining

muffle his face in the spasm of cells

wasn’t afraid to watch our daughter

emerge and split me open 

crowning

which means my body

concussed around her like a crown

which means

there was so much blood

I had to touch it

to remember where I came from

the hot and pulsing corona

ruckus of DNA

metallic and stinging

Love, forgive me

I do not want to be touched

while my body

orchestrates this unraveling

as much as I love

the bouquet of clots

rioting around the base of your cock

bright as a truck stop souvenir 

to own a part of you

where the blood remains

dried

and hissing

a dwelling

of dank perfume

as the body

travels back to its source

and I am answerable to no one

not even my own name


 

:: There Is a Moment I Feel Free ::

driving to the taco place
where a few weeks back

a shooting happened
right where our car was parked

and in retrospect
it seems negligent

to have been that happy 
sitting at the counter

squeezing limes 
over everything

and Aretha
is now in my speakers

the song where she sings
in quick succession

“you’re all I need to get by…
baby you know that you got me”

and maybe motherhood
has made me soft 

which is close to a kind 
of ghoulishness

I don’t know
I know it has taken me

35 years to learn how to dress 
appropriately for the weather

to apply moisturizer before bed
and sunscreen in the morning

to be this in love
with the life I’ve made

and care for it 
no matter how reckless that is


 

:: Crow Flying Overhead with a Hole in Its Wing ::

I looked up and saw you this morning

flying over a tex-mex restaurant

the hole in your wing

the size of a bottle cap

I googled what it means

and read about parasites

but nothing about whether it is 

a benediction

to see an animal flying

with this perfect portal in its wing

through which I saw the sky

through which its jeweled language 

leaked muted and streaky

through which I heard 

the first song I ever played my daughter

holding her near the window

that overlooks our street

through which I saw everything

I had been afraid of

which was a kind of death

which was a kind of 

abandon

buckling toward joy

as I have fallen to my knees

in grief 

but have never known

what it sounds like

to sing without expecting

mercy

through which the wind

might touch us

which is the only

benediction I need



 

From the writer

:: Account ::

After the elec­tion, which coin­cid­ed with the ear­ly months of new moth­er­hood, a few inci­dents trig­gered a feel­ing of being unsafe in my own home, sim­i­lar to symp­toms of anx­i­ety: the feel­ing of not being safe in my body. (How many times has the world made me feel this way, and how many times did I inter­nal­ize the mes­sage that I can­not keep myself safe?)

These poems, writ­ten dur­ing a time of heal­ing, were a way to feel safe again, to cel­e­brate my new iden­ti­ty as a moth­er, and name in the pub­lic space of a poem, what is unac­cept­able to me, polit­i­cal­ly and personally.

We are liv­ing under an admin­is­tra­tion that has been accu­rate­ly described as liv­ing in the house of an abuser. I have been think­ing all these years how our con­nec­tion to lan­guage will keep us safe and ground­ed in our own truth. I have been think­ing about the way poems have always been a way of say­ing enough, a way of mark­ing a sacred bound­ary around who we are (indi­vid­u­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly) and what we need in order to thrive.

 

Kendra DeCo­lo is the author of I am Not Try­ing to Hide My Hungers from the World (BOA Edi­tions, 2021), My Din­ner with Ron Jere­my (Third Man Books, 2016) and Thieves in the After­life (Sat­ur­na­lia Books, 2014), select­ed by Yusef Komun­yakaa for the 2013 Sat­ur­na­lia Books Poet­ry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in Amer­i­can Poet­ry Review, Tin House Mag­a­zine, Waxwing, Los Ange­les Review, Bitch Mag­a­zine, VIDA, and else­where. She is a recip­i­ent of a 2019 Poet­ry Fel­low­ship from the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts and has received awards and fel­low­ships from the Mac­Dow­ell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writ­ers’ Con­fer­ence, the Mil­lay Colony, Split this Rock, and the Ten­nessee Arts Com­mis­sion. She is co-host of the pod­cast RE/VERB: A Third Man Books Pro­duc­tion and she lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Two Poems

Poetry / Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

 

:: How to Survive a Heat Wave in Auschwitz ::

     1.    Hire uniformed Germans—
            Volkswagen interns—to replace 
            barbed wire so it doesn’t show
            the wear of winter or tourism. 

     2.    Ask visitors to guess how many
            thousands it took to collect 
            the rooms full of hair & tooth-
            brushes & suitcases & names. Wait 
            until they fail to see object
            as body. Then, tell them that hair
            doesn’t go through preservation 
            & will decay someday 
            like bone. 

     3.    Let crowds gather at the gates & listen
            to them push their way inside, “Come on, 
            it’s Auschwitz! Everybody wants 
            to get in,” one yells in English.

     4.    Mark each group 
            with different colored stickers 
            signifying tour-guide language 
            & disregard the irony of walls  
            displaying triangles & stars—different 
            colors signifying type & race & likelihood 
            of being counted or remembered. 

     5.    Put up ice cream & snack vendors 
            just outside the entrance to encourage
            family picnics on the manicured lawn
            & invite a father to carry his two-year-old 
            down into the cells of block 11—where I 
            could barely breathe—& allow a mother 
            to line her children up 
            against the reconstructed death wall 
            for a photo & again under the words
            “Arbeit macht frei” & later still a family-
            selfie with a crematorium & gas chamber 
            backdrop. Leave the ashes 
            cropped out. 	

     6.    But don’t turn on the mist showers 
            placed near the facilities’ entrance
            to make the visit more pleasant 
            on one of the hottest days of the year.


 

:: Ghazal Refusing to Name the Holocaust ::

          After the October 27, 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life—Or L'’Simcha Congregation, Pittsburgh,
          Pennsylvania, and the April 27, 2018, shooting at Poway Synagogue, San Diego, California

Your poetry is so much more relevant now that the Holocaust 
is back in fashion, someone said, because without the Holocaust,

do we not know how to die? To grieve? To lose? To hold each other
against shaking trees? To feel connected by more than the whole cost 

of our senseless, constant dying? My babushka would never
tell the story of her husband shot at Babi Yar as Holocaust, 

would scream about a Nazi’s hands around her neck, his hands 
under her skirt, his hands his hands, she would relive the whole accost 

of him and never name herself survivor. When Rose was named 
eldest among the dead, did the trees not burn? Tear out their roots? Holy cost 

of dying. When she was named survivor, did you not shake and weep 
the same as when they told you she had not survived the Holocaust?
 
Did you not cling to someone’s trunk so hard that it became 
a body you could lose, your own arms branching holy, costing 

you to fall uprooted. So say their names: Melvin, Irving, Jerry, Cecil, David,
Daniel, Bernice, Sylvan, Joyce, Richard, Rose, and now Lori. Don’t simply name them 
                                                                                                                                                             Holocaust. 



 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

How to Sur­vive a Heat Wave in Auschwitz

While par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Auschwitz Jew­ish Cen­ter Fel­low­ship, I spent three days at the Auschwitz-Birke­nau Muse­um and Memo­r­i­al (ABMM). I could not engage with the space on any emo­tion­al lev­el while I was there because I was far too dis­tract­ed by the num­ber of chil­dren and strollers and peo­ple tak­ing self­ies in spaces where oth­ers were exter­mi­nat­ed. It felt like oth­er “attrac­tions” like the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty or the Eif­fel Tow­er rather than a memo­r­i­al to mur­dered mil­lions. The site stands as reminder, an affir­ma­tion of past atroc­i­ty, and thou­sands flock there year­ly. How­ev­er, this state-run insti­tu­tion also serves as a glob­al rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Holo­caust his­to­ry and there­by over­shad­ows oth­er equal­ly nec­es­sary Holo­caust nar­ra­tives. Most trou­bling to me though is that through its very form, ele­ments of the site para­dox­i­cal­ly re-enact—re-perpetrate—the hor­rif­ic past they seek to memo­ri­al­ize. After return­ing home, I read news of sprin­klers being put up at the gates of ABMM to keep tourists com­fort­able, and this poem emerged in response.

Ghaz­al Refus­ing to Name the Holocaust

An arti­cle ini­tial­ly titled “97-Year-Old Holo­caust Sur­vivor among the 11 Killed in Syn­a­gogue Mass Shoot­ing” misiden­ti­fied one of the vic­tims, Rose, as a Holo­caust sur­vivor and has since been reti­tled, “Remem­ber­ing the 11 Slain in Syn­a­gogue Mas­sacre: ‘We’ve All Just Been Cry­ing End­less­ly.’

But does this mis­nam­ing change any­thing? Is the tragedy in Pitts­burg not as dev­as­tat­ing? Not as rel­e­vant to all peo­ple, Jews and non-Jews alike? Invok­ing the Holo­caust has incred­i­ble pow­er, for bet­ter and for worse. The atroc­i­ty gets used and mis­used, and its mis­use is talked about far less. That being said, we shouldn’t have to be brought back to such unfath­omable ter­ror of the past to real­ize this atroc­i­ty, and so many oth­ers under the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion, are ter­ror in and of them­selves. Why rely on invok­ing past hatred when all we have to do is look around our present to see the hate grow­ing? I didn’t feel ready to write this poem days after the shoot­ing. Or even return to it just months lat­er after yet anoth­er one. I remem­ber shak­ing and try­ing to hold it togeth­er. I still don’t feel I have the right to write this poem. And yet all I can do is write this poem, shak­ing and hold­ing on to my fam­i­ly, my friends, hold­ing on to love and poetry.

 

Julia Kolchin­sky Das­bach (www.juliakolchinskydasbach.com) emi­grat­ed from Ukraine as a Jew­ish refugee when she was six years old. She is the author of The Many Names for Moth­er (Kent State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2019), win­ner the Wick Poet­ry Prize, and The Bear Who Ate the Stars (Split Lip Press, 2014). She has two forth­com­ing col­lec­tions: Don’t Touch the Bones, win­ner of the 2019 Ida­ho Poet­ry Prize, will be pub­lished by Lost Horse Press in Spring 2020, and 40 WEEKS, writ­ten while preg­nant with her now 3‑month-old daugh­ter, is forth­com­ing from YesYes Books in 2021. Her poems appear in POETRY, Amer­i­can Poet­ry Review, and The Nation, among oth­ers. Julia is the edi­tor of Con­struc­tion Mag­a­zine. She holds an MFA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon and is com­plet­ing her Ph.D. at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia. She lives in Philly with her two kids, two cats, one dog, and one hus­band, occa­sion­al­ly blog­ging about motherhood.

Two Poems

Poetry / Garrett J. Brown

 

:: Manual Recall ::

On your 39th birthday you discover the 2600
in a museum, wood-grain trim on the black plastic

console locked behind a glass display, plugged into
a cathode ray television for authenticity. But the joy-

stick was loose, inviting young digital natives to toy
with 8-bit blips after spraying handprints on sheets

of block paper to learn how the artists of Lascaux
coded created by. You spy Adventure & send

your cursor avatar spelunking into the invisible 
maze. As a kid you loathed the gray screen

that surrendered just glimpses of the path ahead,
spent hours bumping walls, chasing bats, ending

in the hollow of Yorgle’s belly until the level finally
was mastered, so that now, here, in our 21st century,

though deleted from your conscious mind, your hands
recall the routine: down, left, down, right, up until

you stand again before the castle gates, pleased
a part of you never released the grip.


 

:: Glitch ::

Narrative comes unstitched
I return to find the quest giver dead
Plot in knots instead of a twist

Back to the load screen to sift
Past saves & recover the thread
Before narrative comes (un)stitched

Cyber-moshers nose the rift
Between image & code, bend
Data to bits the original twist

Was an ordinary moth adrift
Coiled in wires wings spread
Among circuits looped & stitched

Inside gears & tape it slipped
Cursorial legs treading
Punched manila stock & twists

Language & mutations (in)(per)sist
Metamorphic viruses shred
Artifice stitched (un) [404] [Syn-
tax Error]
                    [Fail Whale]
          [NO CARRIER]
Again?          Sonavabitch	


 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

It’s absurd how much of our lived expe­ri­ence is sunk below our con­scious­ness, dor­mant neur­al cir­cuits ready to siz­zle back to life giv­en the right cir­cum­stances. The moment that inspired “Man­u­al Recall” was like Proust’s cook­ie, but more embod­ied than encod­ed. I could not have explained in lan­guage, nor point­ed the way through Adven­ture’s mazes. Any attempt to bring the solu­tion to the con­scious mind sim­ply got in the way of the mus­cle mem­o­ry. Adven­ture’s mazes also hide what many con­sid­er to be the first video game “East­er Egg”: a secret room where pro­gram­mer War­ren Robi­nett signed his name on the screen in defi­ance of the own­ers of Atari.

Glitch” began with a prob­lem com­mon in video games that could be con­sid­ered the great-grand­chil­dren of Adven­ture: you may recov­er the quest object, maybe a fam­i­ly heir­loom a vil­lager lost to ban­dits, but when you try to return it, you dis­cov­er the vil­lager has been killed in a ran­dom­ly gen­er­at­ed encounter and you can’t com­plete the quest. Games such as these insist on being a nar­ra­tive genre, but there’s always ten­sion between plot and the free­dom of the play­er, always room for slip­page and glitch. The “cyber-mosh­ers” are a ref­er­ence to data­bend­ing, a process where errors are delib­er­ate­ly intro­duced into the code of a dig­i­tal image, video, or sound file to cre­ate dis­tor­tion. This tech­nique is com­mon in what is some­times referred to as “glitch art,” which has its roots in Chicago’s video arts move­ment of the 1970s.

 

Gar­rett J. Brown’s first book of poems, Man­na Sift­ing, won the Liam Rec­tor First Book Prize from Briery Creek Press in 2009, and his chap­book, Cubi­cles, was pub­lished by Fin­ish­ing Line Press in 2014. His oth­er awards include first place in the Poet­ry Cen­ter of Chicago’s Juried Read­ing, judged by Jorie Gra­ham; run­ner-up in the Mary­land Emerg­ing Voic­es com­pe­ti­tion; and a Cre­ative Writ­ing Fel­low­ship from the School of the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go. His poet­ry and cre­ative non­fic­tion have appeared in Black War­rior Review, Poet­ry East, Tri­Quar­ter­ly, Nat­ur­al Bridge, and Pas­sages North. He makes his home in Bal­ti­more and is an Aas­so­ci­ate Ppro­fes­sor at Anne Arun­del Com­mu­ni­ty College.

Narcissus Poeticus: a Redundancy in Parts

Poetry / Shevaun Brannigan

:: Narcissus Poeticus: a Redundancy in Parts ::

11. I’ve ruined everything.
12. It’s Spring & my flaws are emerging as daffodils.
13. Daffodils bloom from elbow crooks, from my vagina, my head packed with petals, sawdust in a cadaver.
14. A soft & common flower.
15. One mindfulness activity involves clenching my fist, then releasing it to feel the ease. The daffodil grows, blooms, dies & retreats to its bulb stasis, grows, blooms, dies & retreats to its bulb stasis.
16. My clenched fist is made out of daffodils & is crushing daffodils. 
17. Fell one daffodil & dozens bud in its place. I scoop dirt and & each bulb’s roots beget another, digging & digging away, a woman’s form reveals itself composed entirely of such fertilized seeds. 
18. I have daffodils in my past, daffodils the yellow of caution tape. 
19. There is an objective truth about me as a person to which I have no access. There are times I close my eyes & see nothing; others, nothing but daffodils.
20. I’ve been told I take things to extremes & that’s utter bullshit. A female daffodil’s reproductive organ contains what botanists call a stigma.
21. What about the soil, I ask myself, to myself, the daffodils come from something. I hand people dirt, I say understand me by this, & pluck out a worm.
22. What about, I ask, choosing something beautiful to represent that which is ugly within me. What does that say about me.
23. That you’re conceited, my daffodils answer.
24. A word said often enough loses meaning, try saying sorry, & then, this is key, repeating the action for which you are apologizing.
25. The action is being yourself as a person: the daffodil and its constant trumpet.



 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I’ve not been in the habit of writ­ing, not in a jour­nal, and cer­tain­ly not poet­ry. But I do make a lot of lists. This poem start­ed as a casu­al list I was mak­ing of every­thing going wrong in my life that was my fault, as one does, and there was a 1 through 10 orig­i­nal­ly. When I got to 11, and wrote “I’ve ruined every­thing,” I thought it would be fun­ny (not hah-hah) to use that as a start­ing point. It’s been point­ed out to me there are 14 sec­tions and per­haps this is a pseu­do-son­net. What isn’t a pseu­do-son­net these days though? It is a fun­ny (ha ha) thing to sub­mit poet­ry (an act which takes incred­i­ble self-esteem and self-belief) on the sub­ject of self-loathing.

I’m grate­ful to The Account for pub­lish­ing this poem, though it’s strange to re-read. I feel exceed­ing­ly dis­tant from the per­son who wrote it, and her inter­nal­ized rage. I enjoy the para­dox of some­thing so del­i­cate and beau­ti­ful as a flower as the sym­bol for this anger, but then again, I’m not sure I’m sup­posed to praise my own poem—it’s un-demure of me.

 

She­vaun Bran­ni­gan’s work has appeared in such jour­nals as Best New Poets, AGNI, and Slice. She is a recip­i­ent of a Bar­bara Dem­ing Memo­r­i­al Fund grant, and holds an MFA from Ben­ning­ton College.

Two Poems

Poetry / Anne Barngrover

:: Ceres in the Red Tide ::

The ocean retches and collects. We have mistaken you, our water 
          god, for a savior of fallow pastures, your ruling

          planet for a fixed star. A message blinks through the ether:
Let’s work on improving this together. But it’s too late 

for prayers when salt animals distend heavy
          as sodden paperbacks, toxic script penned on every folio.

          They cannot hide in their septic shells,
and you cannot return the light 

energy you harnessed from the sun. Don’t you remember? I tried to run
          from you with hooves and quick reacting

          tendons—I transformed myself into a mare.
Neptune, brother, you would not rest until you overpowered

everything that needed blue to breathe. 
          You plunged your own house into the Great Dark.

          You sealed our throats with rocks. Haven’t you always 
proved the impossible equation, never seen 

with the naked eye, discovered only through ancient math?
          I could not escape from you by horse 

          or will or sheath of grain. The ocean remembers. 
The planets remember. My body remembers everything you’ve done.


 

:: Ceres in the Global Heat Wave ::

Have you ever tried to sleep 
          as winds thrash a lofted room

          the way a god of evil flogs 
a wooden ship at sea? You feel 

very small. If it weren’t 
          for cliff gusts and morning 

          fog, we’d perish like snails 
do on this dark and dry land.

They’ve been trying to live 
          since the era when islands

          weren’t yet islands but a part
of seedlings’ collective dream, 

white and spiral. I am not 
          from any country or generation. 

          This doesn’t take place anywhere 
in particular, except for now 

maps look like they’re screaming. Too hot 
          for ruins. Too hot for roads. 

          Fake popcorn flowers 
on real cobs. Butter’s gloss undermines 

the ruse, as if we required hyperbole 
          to prove what went wrong. 

          I’m rubbing the apocalypse 
in your face, I guess, since I don’t get 

to be moody otherwise. If men are mad 
          at me, they hurt me or they leave

          with the blue stoneware
of my heart, and I never uncover it again.

Tonight, I’m the hottest I’ve ever been. 
          I figure if that star 

          doesn’t move by the next time
I look up at the sky, it must be real. 

Art needs an artist, words need a writer,
          and stars need to be believed,

          but what can I say about faith 
when I’ve given the last of my warnings?

          I loved you in the marginal
seas and those not defined 

by currents. I loved you with salt 
          on my lips and in small sounds 

          too numerous to list aloud. 
I’ve been trying to live

since the era of your silence, which fills
          with trapped air like a gasp

          that goes on and on, and I’ll never
be emotionally detached for you

to take me seriously. I can’t save
          every slug on ash and asphalt,

          but I’ll touch their dank bodies 
with hands not clean enough to hold. 

Too hot tonight for rain. Too hot for eyes 
          to close. I lie awake all night 

          listening as you take the world 
from me—little by little, then all at once.



 

From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems speak in the voice of the Roman god­dess Ceres—whose Greek coun­ter­part is Deme­ter, moth­er of the fate­ful Persephone—the ruler of agri­cul­ture, women and girls, fer­til­i­ty, and, ran­dom­ly, cere­al grains. I became com­pelled by the myths of Ceres because I have been think­ing a lot about the rela­tion­ship between the way that our plan­et is being treat­ed and the way that vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, espe­cial­ly women, are being treat­ed in tan­dem. This “Ceres series” imag­ines: What if this time­less god­dess were plopped down in 2019, what would she be think­ing? After all, in their sto­ries, god­dess­es nev­er escape the vio­lence and pain of the world them­selves. Ceres’s feel­ings of betray­al, rage, des­per­a­tion, and grief, often caused by those she loves, as well as her insis­tence on truth-telling and resilience, are famil­iar nav­i­ga­tions for me. Par­tial­ly, this is because I live in Flori­da, a beau­ti­ful, oth­er­world­ly place rife with the hor­rors of poi­so­nous algae, dis­ap­pear­ing species and coast­lines, increas­ing­ly unbear­able heat, and some of the high­est reports of cyber attacks and fraud in the coun­try. I ask the unan­swer­able ques­tion in these poems: Can we save our­selves from the hell we have cre­at­ed, or have we already gone too far?

 

Anne Barn­grover’s most recent book of poems, Brazen Crea­ture, was pub­lished with Uni­ver­si­ty of Akron Press in 2018 and is a final­ist for the 2019 Ohioana Book Award in Poet­ry. Cur­rent­ly she is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish and Cre­ative Writ­ing at Saint Leo Uni­ver­si­ty, where she is on fac­ul­ty in the Low-Res­i­den­cy MA pro­gram in Cre­ative Writ­ing. She lives in Tam­pa, Flori­da, and you can find her online at annebarngrover.com.