Beckett’s Sky by KArl SneachtaPix
Ruth Awad | Lauren K. Alleyne | Jameson O’Hara Laurens | Jane Clarke |
Zeina Hashem Beck | Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga | Megan Merchant |
Laura Sobbott Ross | Andy Young | David Graham | Barbara Crooker |
Denise Duhamel | Gary Fincke | Linda Parsons | Michael Lauchlan |
Kwabena Agyare Yeboah | Dede Wilson | Valerie Nieman | Cal Freeman |
Darren C. Demaree | Adam Scheffler
Nocturne with Teeth
I am the rhetoric of black lace
petal-plucked from my back.
I am the invitation my body gives.
I am the stranger
who turns her palms up
as though you were water.
I am the anchor and the boat.
I am the drenched gown
blooming through reeds.
I am the shadow
that pulls your flame closer.
I am the dog tied to its moon
and here to tell you love is unkind.
I am the velvet growl of night
and I will take what’s mine.
Ruth Awad’s collection Set to Music a Wildfire (SIR Press, 2017) won the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize from Southern Indiana Review Press. She is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Missouri Review, Diode, Rattle, and elsewhere.
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
I wanted the mountain
but found the absence of river.
I wanted stone
but it was the trees that called
and reached their branches
out to my seeking hand.
I wanted red
and the red earth parted
and bade me pass.
I walked until my feet became red
roots, slow as the trees
snarled into the riverbank.
I wanted the mountain
and saw I was at its beginning:
when I touched it,
it crumbled red into my hand.
In my palm, a compass—
red I could hold on to.
I wanted the pinnacle
but found the riverbed, dry
and brimming with so much
open, the ghosts of things showed
half-buried sticks, bits of burning
white quartz, stands of snake
grass long and green, poets
in search of things that have no name
but red. I wanted wisdom,
but was given a journey:
footstep after footstep
through grief’s stubborn endlessness
back into body and time
where my life awaited me,
glittering. I moved toward it—
my red heart pulsing its red river,
red air feeding my lungs,
my red breath returning,
Lauren K. Alleyne is the author of Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press, 2014). Her work has earned several honors and awards, most recently the Picador Guest Professorship in Literature at the University of Leipzig, Germany and the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize. Alleyne is Assistant Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an Associate Professor of English at James Madison University.
On Studying Wyeth
A startle, a rustle. The flight
of a scared-up wing.
The spine takes the shape
of a question.
Downstairs in the cool shade of the house,
you can find occasional remains:
soap by the sink clinging to a string,
grain in the larder I filled in,
the wrinkle in the bed warm from my body.
They say not to count,
to give and to give,
even if after giving, you go.
This field is a golden blur now,
a pelt too vast to cross
the ladder’s angle unfathomable
as the morning dust in the attic window.
Once in the slanting light, filaments shifted,
but they are impossible to trace half-blinded.
Their movement was always untranslatable.
Did I run? Or was I carried
to this patch of grain
where the insects suckle
at the bones in my feet?
I remember now
how I was
the girl with
no door in her mouth.
Jameson O’Hara Laurens completed her MFA in poetry and translation in 2013. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in Enclave, Alexandria Quarterly, Hawkmoth, and Poet Republik. Her first collection, Medeum, won the Ping Pong Free Press annual chapbook award and is forthcoming this fall. She lives in Brooklyn.
Until I asked
After C. K. Williams
Until I asked her to stop and was astonished to find that I could,
it had never occurred to me that she would understand,
that she might even find it a relief, the way a child is relieved
when her behaviour is interrupted because she’s caught in a spiral
she can’t leave, and when I finally found the courage to risk hurting her
so that she would stop hurting me, she didn’t object, she didn’t cry,
nor try to deny it but became very quiet and said I’m sorry, I know
I shouldn’t even though I do, it’s what my mother did to me, I never
thought I would do the same to you, and when I put down the phone,
not feeling elated, rather a sadness mingled with disbelief
that I’d said out loud what I’d so often rehearsed inside my head,
I wondered how soon either she or I would lift the phone again.
Jane Clarke’s debut collection, The River, is published by Bloodaxe Books. She won the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award for Poetry and The River was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature 2016 Ondaatje Prize. Her work was recently published in The Guardian, The Irish Times and Poetry Ireland Review.
The whiskey tears puddle behind your eyes.
This morning you think of suicide again,
but not really. Every day, everything seems less—
your husband’s loyalty, the childhood of your child. But the gardenias—
their leather, their scent, the way they take in the light.
You water and cut. Now you remember, now you forget your pain.
Middle-aged and still learning how to measure pain.
On the darker days, you don’t bother with your eyes,
or lipstick. There are things you hate: the television light
in the evening, the news, the hours. And in the marriage again,
when you have time (the more of it you longed for), you want less.
You’re afraid of staring into the beauty of the gardenias.
You rearrange furniture, you’re good at less
clutter. That L-shaped closet you had made, what a pain—
didn’t fit through the door. The men stood next to the gardenias
on the balcony, lifted the thing with rope in front of your eyes.
You watched it being pulled upwards like a drunken angel, and again,
the tears, and your throat, and you turned away from the light.
You place the T-shirts in the new closet: here, the light,
here, the dark. Always best to separate. Always less
space than you thought. Some days you dance again,
jump on the bed, make love, make lies, make pain
look beautiful like in the movies, or the thirsty eyes
of teenagers. But always, those goddamn gardenias.
For two nights you hear noises from the gardenias.
You get out of bed, turn on the light,
rub the nightmares from your eyes
and listen—an almost-chirping sound, less
sharp now that a car passes below, headlights like the pain
behind your forehead. You water the plant with whiskey again
and go to bed. But at dawn, the sounds rise—again,
calling you, it seems, from the heart of the gardenias.
So you dig with hands, with nails, with pain,
and see, there near the roots, baby mice, their skin a light
pink, their ears—where are their ears? Less
like mice, more womb-things with under-skin eyes,
blind. Whiskey again. When there’s more light
outside, you push the pot out on the street. The gardenias—less
delicate, more painful, more little animals, more almost-eyes.
Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. She’s the author of To Live in Autumn, winner of the 2013 Backwaters Prize, 3arabi Song, winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize, and There Was and How Much There Was, a smith|doorstop Laureate’s Choice pamphlet. Her second full-length collection, Louder than Hearts, is forthcoming in April 2017.
they call us chokosh
we are the shunned aftermath
of skirmishes. we are what they call a boulevard
of persons, with black-eyed dreams and absent
tears. we’ve carried a bastion of troubles
in our doughy hands, crushed and creased them
into fine grains. our terrors are mauled and buried
deep, no lingering voices, no midnight gasps.
our clouds of hair house
a welter of wildlife, small enough to hide, sharp
enough to bite. the green of our walls is the green
of our longing, chilly and somewhat related to nausea.
we speak in tercets when we speak at all, not minding
if no one pays heed and edges closer to the brick
and stone of buildings, rough but silent.
our stories are knit by madmen, knotted
by a drunken sailor, pounded down like cheap meat
ought to be. the head of one and the tail of another.
bridges, burnt stew, apple rot, arguments. quelled clamor,
when sleep comes out of stolen grace. we are mortals thick
with the slums of faraway countries, yet marvelous.
they know us only in pieces and plenty missing. they know nothing
of the glue that keeps the pieces together, only that it
is failing, losing its suck, and the pieces
are falling erratically, one by one. how they say we
are chokosh, how they think of us as delinquent
Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in African American Review, Clarion at Boston, Transition at Harvard, SAND, Mandala, The Shade, EXPOUND, Lawino, Jalada, Kwani?, Enkare, various anthologies, and elsewhere. He won Writivism’s Okot p’Bitek Prize for Poetry in Translation and the inaugural NALIF Prize for Poetry.
How to Share Bad News
I am told not to blunt the instrument,
not to muzzle it in the soft field of my mouth,
let it wind-sway and ripple,
not to wrap it in old towels so it thuds,
take it home, run a bath with lavender and rose,
then swirl the water with my trigger finger.
I am told to read the script of it verbatim,
not to trench too closely, slip
and say instead ceased, flatline, perished,
because pain nuzzles into language—
hungry, suckling sleep.
I am told not to lean into it, or let it brush my skin
because skin to skin
makes the other want to look you in the eyes.
But when my son climbs onto my lap
and needs to know the what and how,
I buck. The news has already sterilized the terror
by printing the number of bodies.
And in our house, we do not simply say bones.
We name them, along with each artery
and are learning how to absorb the bullets
without bleeding out.
Megan Merchant is mostly forthcoming. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Gravel Ghosts (available now through Glass Lyre Press) and The Dark’s Humming (Winner of the 2015 Lyrebird Prize, Glass Lyre Press, forthcoming 2017), four chapbooks and a forthcoming children’s book with Philomel Books.
Man Fatally Shot When He Sees Snow for the First Time
In memory of Ahmed Al-Jumaili – Dallas, Texas
Asterisks, he knew certainly, of fire and blood,
the friction point of bombs and nightfall in Bagdad,
and the way a bullet croons in a thousand nuances
through desert air. But he had never seen snow.
A lush and quiet fantasia, it glittered like a sandstorm,
without the sting, unless you considered its icy
cloud-spun chafe. Like smoke, it purred and feathered,
but without the grief of burning. Simple muse,
the whole horizon hypnotic! Thalj, in Arabic; it is said
that the Inuits have more than fifty words for the surfaces
of snow: the rippled, the wind-beaten & glazed, the first
& softest, the crystallizing water skin, the arrow-shaped drift.
At some point, he found himself standing close enough
to delight in the billows of what he recognized as tiny stars,
exquisite in singularity: the prismed vapors, the hushed
trajectory, the sky-gleaned multitudes, the whitest white light.
Laura Sobbott Ross’s chapbooks include A Tiny Hunger from YellowJacket Press, and My Mississippi, forthcoming from Anchor & Plume Press. She was a finalist for the Arts & Letters Poetry Prize 2016, and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize.
I’ve been spending time with the dead,
who are quiet and comfort me.
Deer side-eye me, gaze fixed,
and something screeches
that I can’t identify,
but I am not afraid
of the wilderness.
I am afraid of men’s hearts.
There are spirits here.
I feel them in these woods
filled with animal breath
and shadows filled with rain
and bird bones and songs of birds
borne from those bird bones.
I feel them rising from the mist
of the lake in the deep shade.
Train cars roll around a ridge
going nowhere I am.
From the darkened windows
of the boathouse,
something looks out.
Andy Young is a poet and essayist. Her poetry collection All Night It Is Morning was published in 2014 by Diálogos Press. She teaches at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and is a writer for Heinemann Publishing.
Where I’m From
Like every dipshit faded mill town
we’re Historical, news we’ve posted
on both main roads at the town limits,
but even if paint weren’t faded
you’d know it from potshot rust holes
pocking those signs. You’d know it by
vegetable stands with no produce
at this time, yard dogs lying flat as rugs
as you cruise down Main, vague smell
of hog shit drifting in from the west,
single radio tower blinking its endless
S.O.S. near a driveway curving into
a bald spot in the weeds. You’d know it
from free kittens in a box, Gravel Fill
4 Sale, and this tattoo parlor married
uneasily to the Tae Kwan Do studio.
One cop home for lunch has parked
his patrol car in the yard. His toolshed
out back’s older than the house,
leaning hard toward a black-and-white
world, in which Local Couple Celebrates
Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary, with
a photo of two startled youngsters
in front of a grainy, washed-out lilac,
both frowning as if they might
at any moment maybe grin—
but if that moment ever came, it went,
down into the church basement
with casserole dishes and fluorescents
humming, margarine tubs on every
table holding down paper tablecloths,
the hiss of ancient radiators, and thick
smell of damp wool. Meanwhile,
up in his bedroom, everyone’s little
brother practices guitar as loudly as he
dares, feedback pouring from cheap amp—
probably still not loud enough for him,
because if Mom hears him over her TV,
she’ll shout Pipe down! and he will.
David Graham has published six collections of poetry, including Stutter Monk and Second Wind. He also co-edited (with Kate Sontag) the essay anthology After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography. Essays, reviews, and individual poems have appeared widely, both in print and online. He recently retired as Professor of English at Ripon College in Wisconsin.
You Can’t Have it All
after a poem by Barbara Ras
You can have the chocolate mousse
floating in a pool of crème anglaise, but not
the flaming crêpes Suzette. Or you can have
your figure, but not dessert, not one crumb.
You can have the toddler squealing
Nana Nana Nana, quivering as you open
the door, but not her brother, lost
to adolescence, too cool for ardor.
You can have the ardent adoration
of a dog’s slavish tongue, but not
the cat’s; she will mete out her affection
like a miser hoarding gold. You can have
the love of one good man, but you can’t
dance the tango with the hard bodied
shirtless guy who came to dismember
your locust tree. You can speak French,
haggle at the market, but no one
will ever mistake you for bilingual.
You can wish your mother
back in her body, before the strokes
and the damaged lungs; she’d say,
Save your breath to cool your porridge.
Barbara Crooker is the author of six books of poetry, including Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014) and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry,” and on The Writer’s Almanac.
my love of gossip is a character defect
and I have tried for months at a time to abstain
it’s just your love of story you could say being kind
that it’s no big deal that everyone loves gossip
just like everyone loves chocolate and wine
but there is a superiority in the way I’ve gossiped
in the way I’ve perpetuated each ugly detail
which for all I know might have been fictional
and yes I am always sure to say
who knows if this is even true
yet who cares once the flibbertigibbet has said it
and rumor floats in the air like lice jumping from head
to greasy head and even if the beneficiary
of my hearsay is decent and doesn’t repeat the scandal
now it is on her and the only way to remove it
is with a tiny metallic comb though everyone knows
each nit is resistant to toxic shampoo
and stopping gossip is painstaking
much harder of course than spreading it
and it is only when I learn of the dirt
spread about me
each crescendo of innuendo
that I arrive with my RID and tea tree oil
my mayonnaise and lime juice and other home remedies
that I arrive with my shame and guilt and apologies
ready to bleach the towels afterwards
ready if necessary to shave all of our heads
Denise Duhamel’s most recent book of poetry is Scald (Pittsburgh, 2017). Blowout (Pittsburgh, 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenhiem Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she is a professor at Florida International University in Miami.
How Silly Grew
From selig, meaning holy, then innocent, then gullible, then foolish
Consider World War II’s Operation Fu-Go,
The Japanese floating pidgin obscenity
Over the ocean, bomb-filled balloons on missions
As ludicrous as carrier pigeons to the moon,
Yet one of them blown to Oregon and gone off,
Killing six picnickers who thought the war over
Or so far away in May, 1945,
They must have guessed “a pet lost by the idle rich”
Or “Macy’s Parade blown west,” some children’s cartoon
Color-promoted on the side they could not see.
Listen closely to my grandmother recalling
The great foolishness of Radithor, men who drank
The radium potion and internally glowed
From the aphrodisiac of atomic weight
Until collapsed inside, microwaved by desire.
Or watch that grandmother, whose husband swore by beer,
Rush into our “blind men walking” when one of us
Extended his stiffened arms through glass, tearing through
An artery and pumping blood like a lesson
In the awful foolishness of caricature.
Observe how seriously we played our war games,
How I crouched among the cherry trees and squinted,
Knowing my throat would be slit by the rubber knives
Of the clear-sighted, those who believed maneuvers
Mattered, who slaughtered for Operation Orchard,
The same site where I slapped myself down for sled-rides
After dark, so nearsighted I turned miracle
Throughout three blind slides before I hammered one stump
Head-on, earning a two-foot shear of skin instead
Of paralysis. What’s more, I rose like those men
In war films who murmur, “It’s only a flesh wound,”
Amazed by the precise location of escape,
And I summoned my own misuse of what’s holy:
Vows in the snow to be sinless, to not covet
One item on the long list we carry like genes,
Speaking the soft benediction of renewal,
Putting aside the brief numbness of the crash site,
The booted journey home, not yet knowing how frail
Our claims to anything, that we’re measured by pain
Endured like some St. Appolonia, whose teeth
Were pulled for not renouncing an indifferent God,
Another operation in the gallery
Of the holy where every tested face turns flat
As the dogma of brotherhood, as belief in
Eternity extended by diet and drugs,
By exercise and machinery and transplant.
And given that, we fear all of ourselves gone numb
In an enormous anesthesia while we read
Our way back to the source of one word, say selig
As if it were the first reply from paradise.
Gary Fincke‘s latest book is Bringing Back the Bones: New and Selected Poems (Stephen F. Austin, 2016). His collection After the Three-Moon Era won the 2015 Jacar Press Poetry Prize and was published in January. He is the Charles Degenstein Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University.
The Secrets of Pain
The Secrets of Pain I read and smile, knowing
it’s pan in the patisserie of brioche and baguettes
sold on the boulevard in Valence d’Agen, each layer
papered as Maundy ash, airy as the cottonwood
seeds whispering past, a world from my floured
counter in Tennessee. I read and smile, knowing
the secret ingredients: butter from the Charolais
near Auvillar, oven salvaged from a country grandmere,
a flick of the wrist bringing bloom after bloom
to rise over earthenware rim. What more
does it take to fill belly or table, even hearts
unsated year after year, scorched at the edges,
hardened by salt and long stirring? What more
can be sliced from the tough middle, grown cold
in refusal to travel the unleavened divide?
Linda Parsons is an editor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She served as poetry editor of Now & Then magazine for many years, and her work has appeared in such journals as The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Asheville Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Shenandoah and in many anthologies. Her fourth poetry collection, This Shaky Earth, was recently published by Texas Review Press.
Student Sleeping on a Bus
The driver describes tracking a buck
he shot in nearby woods
and I’m pretending to listen
but really watching you sleep.
On turns, your head lolls on your seatback
in a way that would wake you
if you weren’t a teen dreaming of a girl.
This bus may drop you into a bleak
future where our prescience resolves
into floods and wars, into strange
daily misery. You still cradle
your magical wafer-phone in your lap.
Dad never dialed our rotary black
bench-vise even to order pizza.
What he wanted came by the case
from a beer store. What I want
is no better though it leads down
an easier path. As the bus nears
your stop, you stumble to your feet.
I won’t say how, against my will,
I still hope. I won’t tell you
the end of wanting is a long day
of wet feet, following a deer
through snow, the last traces
of red fading into the white.
Michael Lauchlan’s poems have landed in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Harpur Palate, Sugar House Review, and Poetry Ireland. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from WSU Press.
in this country
in this country
we love in a way that words choke us
we open guts and find that seedlings are sprouting inside there
when the winds gently find home these little trees nod a little
with such a finesse and recite desires like incantations
we hold every moment
as portrait, knowing time is voyage
darkness is ghost
eyes spread like rainbow sighs are as wide as the skies
breaths resemble how childhood friends write letters on perfumed writing
in this country
we love like how water drips on leaves
when fog hangs on the skies
when dust gathers its ear to listen to the taps of the drizzle
and when petrichor breaks the virginity of harmattan
freckles open up like stream, swift and flowery in sinful hours
it is as if we get lost whilst negotiating beauty on faces
Kwabena Agyare Yeboah lives in Accra, Ghana.
If There Were the Sound of Water Only
When I walk into a room
someone has just walked out of
eaten an orange in
the need to ask
how much is all
makes anything whole
of her woven hair
one open eye
it becomes her
I can do is ask
whose god is all
makes anything whole
the one in Japan
where villagers claim
the bones of Christ are buried
under a simple mound
in the town of Shingo
where godbells toll
and palms fold
fists of smoke
where those denying
confide a fear of ghosts
whose god is all
fashioned the daughter
to be flung to the sea
so we took her
lonely comb to the shore
the (tea breeze) (sea breeze)
scent of her hair
Dede Wilson‘s publications include Spoon River, Carolina Quarterly, Poet Lore, Tar River, and Tampa Review. She’s a Pushcart nominee, winner of the Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest and a finalist for Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Award. Her sixth book, Under the Music of Blue, will appear in 2017 from FutureCycle Press.
for Warner Nieman
My father, who liked all things that
nested precisely and locked with a click –
calipers, knives, tackle boxes,
gap gauges – made butterfly shelters,
tall boxes cut with slots into which insects
could insert their narrow aspect.
He never saw this happen, neither did I,
but we expected that it did,
in the dusk as bright things shuttered.
The tiger swallowtail
rose into an oak tree,
folded itself into the shape
of a leaf
lemon light through spring foliage,
suspended from bent
legs, from a twig
like an untimely faded leaf, ready to let go.
The swallowtail was there
as long as I held
that place in focus,
but if I had not watched it
close its wings, collapse
into a greater green
reality, then would the absence
of my gaze allow this
to not-be, change the moment itself?
A box closing on darkness,
occupied or not.
A potent emptiness.
An unseen space into which sun might blade,
or a slender passing thought.
Valerie Nieman’s second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, was published in 2015. The author of three novels, the most recent being Blood Clay, she has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships. A graduate of Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at NC A&T State University.
At the Peripatetic School of River Rouge, MI
Take the dawn, take the drunkard’s
afternoon and its cloying sunlight,
the ’73 Camaro’s gleaming pipes and fat
tires tearing up Great Lakes Boulevard
as evidence. For what is rising but anachrony,
and what earthly carapace can gleam
like this in a world of smoke? Your pockmarked face
repelled the others, so you scared up grouse
and listened to the questions
posed among the purple loosestrife beyond
the razor wire of the abandoned mill.
The killdeer atonally sings you away from
the delicate life it has hatched
in seams of rabble stone. Unlike you,
it only pretends to be wounded. There is a difference
between harbinger and talisman, between
departure and forgetting, intransigence
and the absence of a message.
Think of all the life that scurries
out of sight as you walk here at dusk,
the innumerable creatures that you have
almost glimpsed, our own species’
ability to hide in plain sight. The factory glows
ochre as the sun sets in its chipped-out windows;
it is a relic of a happier, more destructive time.
The wind sends coke from anthracite hills over
the river and cleaves the spores from
dandelion heads until Memorial Park teems
with grey and yellow. If we could identify
a common grief, it would bind us with its rhizomes
like sandy loam where Marram Grass
succeeds its own papery deaths and from us
perennial tubers and second-growth trees
would flower. See the translucent figure
with the cane emerging from the bulrushes?
How he also slouches toward a future
that will pick out and disseminate the doomed?
Cal Freeman was born and raised in Detroit. His writing has appeared in many journals including The Paris-American, Ninth Letter, Southword, The Journal, and Drunken Boat. He is the author of Brother of Leaving and the chapbook, Heard Among the Windbreak (Eyewear Publishing). He teaches at Oakland University.
Nude Male With Echo #70
I wanted to tighten the lines
so I could be supple when I chose
to be supple. I wanted to sleep
in the path of the touching
& leave the wandering to those
that could create new words for wandering
& while they contemplated the road,
I would be the road. I was almost
trampled there. That is why
I smile almost all of the time;
there was such incredible beauty
in the almost passing, the holding on,
that it dragged me to the swelling
tulip that is here, that is now.
Darren C. Demaree is the author of five poetry collections, most recently The Nineteen Steps Between Us (2016, After the Pause Press). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.
Obama’s Oval Office
I stood at the Oval Office’s open entrance
and stared in at that cozy room, half-window
lit by blazing roses, tulips outside
against the paper-gray sky, thinking of the
man who is not here today, the great ghost
in DC’s machine, how he calls himself
“the bear” at times wandering out from
his vast one-animal zoo, past snipers
on the White House roof and the guards nervous
& glad to see him, and out to the streets
for a simple lunch – everywhere the people
surprised, alert, with the wild celebrity of his
sighting, the one living statue amidst all the
giant marbled dead ones. I stood there
at his place of work while he was not there
admiring his décor, the bust of MLK
opposite his desk, the bowl of fresh apples
on the coffee table, the two Hopper paintings
of farmhouses, as if to say
the country is large and not an oval,
as the beaming black secret service agent
joked saying I had to leave, then smiled,
telling me of arrows and olives and how
he ‘gets to see the man each day.’
I stood at the roped-off entrance feeling love
for the President, and a dim ache that he
would be leaving soon, who used such a
pleasant office, and did all his work there,
not in a closet hidden nearby as was rumored,
and looking in at his desk I thought
I would like to work there too it looked
so light and wholesome in the April
cloudy-sun, but I only smiled at the guard,
and leaned my neck into that room
as far as it would go, wishing for it to
grow even longer on the stem of my neck,
and breathed in deeply through my nose and
mouth, like a teenager who places to his lips
a girl’s discarded sweater, and since you’re
not allowed to take pictures wrote this poem.
Adam Scheffler grew up in California, received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is currently finishing his PhD in English at Harvard. His work appears in American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, Cortland Review, Crab Creek Review, Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Salamander, Sewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, Willow Springs, Zyzzyva, etc.