03 November 2012 by Lynn Boggess
Rasaq Malik | Rachel Richardson | Stuart Dischell | Lois P. Jones | Anna Weaver | Kathryn Kirkpatrick | Gary Fincke | Elena Karina Byrne | Dannye Romine Powell | Richard Garcia | Jennifer O’Grady | Susan Laughter Meyers | Glen Armstrong | Stacy R. Nigliazzo | Peg Robarchek | Catherine Carter | Kathy Fagan | Mary Morris | Terry Savoie | Marjorie Stelmach | Chana Bloch
Second Look – Collective Death
Through my window
I see them stretch cadavers
on the streets. The children among
them clench teeth as they watch
how their mothers burrow the earth –
searching for husbands that will never
return to knock those silent doors.
Through my window
I see the remains of lives smoked
like fishes in the city of bombs.
People sniff burnt bones to identify
their relatives. The poets among them
write elegies as monuments for departed
Through my window tonight
I see lovers leaning on a frail
bridge. I see the ghosts of those
who follow their dreams to the tombs.
I see gravediggers waiting for the bell
I see them all as I scribble with
a pen full of unwritten elegies.
Rasaq Malik is a graduate of University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. He writes poetry. His works have been published on Nigerian Newspapers and online literary journals. He believes we can change the world through words. He is presently awaiting the publication of his first poetry collection.
There was a girl who heard it happen:
Amelia Earhart calling
on the radio, she and her navigator
alternately cursing and defining their position
by latitude, as best they could read it
in the bellowing wind, and by what
they could surmise of their rate per hour,
last land they’d seen. Stay with me, someone,
and the girl wrote each word
in her composition book, kept the channel
tuned, hunched to the receiver
when static overtook the line.
Why do I think of her?
The coast guard laughed at her father
holding out the schoolgirl scrawl
and sent him home ashamed. A lost woman
is a lost woman, he told her, and the sea
is dark and wide.
Rachel Richardson has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Stegner Program at Stanford University. She is the author of Copperhead (2011) and Hundred-Year Wave (forthcoming 2016), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Recent poems appear in New England Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Memorious.
A VISIT TO A STRANGE LAND
Because I could not get my lips around those
Words others spoke like buoyant packages
Along the river of tongues, I could not
Enter the nightly conversations at the inn.
I became all smiles in my responses, trying to
Repeat a successful sound that brought me food,
A greeting that elicited a woman’s delight.
The citizens were helpful. They poured my wine
And named the objects laid out before me—
Glass and spoon, napkin and fork, table
And knife—but I could not get beyond
The walls of their words, and my would-be teachers
Each day grew angrier with my progress
And some felt insulted I had not learned their instructions
And corrected me repeatedly each time
I asked for something to eat. They mocked me
Behind and in front of me and to the side—
One night shouting in my ear saying what
I knew were vulgar phrases, their gestures
Not dissimilar to ones I had been given
In other corners of the world, then the village
Idiot thumped me hard on the back
And a waitress spilled wine on my lap
And everyone pointed and laughed, till the owner
Stepped out of the kitchen and brought a glass for each,
And we joined in a toast I pretended to know.
Stuart Dischell is the author of Good Hope Road, a National Poetry Series Selection, Evenings & Avenues, Dig Safe, and Backwards Days—all from Penguin Poets—and the chapbooks Animate Earth and Touch Monkey. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
After Wagner’s Parsifal
and the red silk sheets
surge on stage like Moses’
after the servants kneel and pray
as King Amfortas is brought down
on his bed to the forest lake
to bathe his wound
after a mother in her scarlet dress
lures the boy Parsifal to her side
we leave the theater’s blackout
of the senses
silhouettes exit in spiked heels
and felt hats down the brass bannister
toward flood lights and the scent
of stale coffee and fine cigars
a man quotes Hitler in the hall
One can serve God only
in the garb of the hero
I think of the well-dressed Nazis
who committed suicide
at the end of the war
we exit the black doors of the opera house
the city’s sirens loose in us
like a virulent disease
Lois P. Jones’ publications include Tupelo Quarterly, Eyewear, The Warwick Review, Narrative Magazine, American Poetry Journal and others. Her work won honors under Kwame Dawes and Ruth Ellen Kocher (Web del Sol). In 2012 she received the Tiferet Poetry Prize and the Liakoura Prize. She is poetry editor of Kyoto Journal and a host of KPFK’s Poet’s Café.
On the way to the clinic,
I rolled your name in my mouth,
deceiving the dryness in my throat.
The night before I let the father
buy me martinis and wondered
with each round, would I tell.
He didn’t deserve a secret
like you—too rare and small
for the awkward shame
of words like accident.
Worse, he might mistake
the name for weakness,
question my resolve
to throw the small pebble
of you back into whatever body holds
things of value until someone
with proper pockets can carry
them safely home. No,
I decided, the smooth rhythm
of your name was mine to palm
and worry, mine to remember—
proof I knew exactly who
I was bidding goodbye.
Raised in Oklahoma, Anna Weaver lives in North Carolina with her two daughters. Her poems have appeared in Literary Bohemian, Connotation Press, O-Dark-Thirty, and other print and online journals, as well as anthologies, public art projects, and once on a postcard.
and that split peach
split and canned was once blossom
it must have been
blossom on a managed tree
a tree pruned and sprayed
bowed by its particular poisons
was forced to bear a fruit perfect enough
so full of blush
it must have been touched
by a hired hand
known briefly that touch
which could not have been
filled with attention
it was that peach
unreasonably sweet found itself in my face
after such a
long suffering it would not even be eaten
the tainted soil
the limb bearing the pruning to find itself
in a young girl’s face a father
his grief an unopened blossom fallen
his hand at her neck
the other palming that peach
as he mashed it
in her young, opening face
a bud trying to open its speckled bloom
Kathryn Kirkpatrick is Professor of English at Appalachian State University where she teaches creative writing, environmental literature, and Irish studies. She is the author of six books of poetry, including collections addressing climate change, human illness, and nonhuman animals (Unaccountable Weather (Press 53, 2011) and Our Held Animal Breath (Wordtech Editions, 2012)).
Paper napkins taboo, my mother
Said “Don’t spill,” and if we did,
A towel, each week, hung
On the oven door for wiping
Our soiled hands, turning dark
And stiff until we chose care.
Cloth napkins meant company.
They meant our laps were covered
And our mouths could be wiped
By something besides the backs
Of hands. They meant my mother
Would wash more laundry, feed
More linens through the wringer
That squeezed everything as flat
As cartoon victims before
She hauled them upstairs
For pinning to a backyard line.
At school, Miss Hartung pointed
At napkins in the waste basket.
“Waste management,” she said;
Walking us into bathrooms to show
The clusters of paper towels.
She repeated, Kleenex a horror,
And kept us from the playground
Until we squeezed and folded
Our lunch room bags to carry home
Like report cards for thrift.
We studied division and learned
To save remainders, proving
That nothing need be wasted.
The world is waiting for children
To save it, Miss Hartung said, her voice
A hum from which words were emptied
During the year of asbestos removal
When we rode to another school
Where one teacher told us how,
In ancient Rome, asbestos was
Sewn into tablecloths and towels,
How they were washed with fire.
Heat-treated, he said, those napkins
Turned a brilliant white, perfect
For laying out again by the plates
Of the wealthy. Though in the sewing room,
Slaves would have gasped as they wove,
Dislodging nothing with their coughs,
A dry chorus where weavers worked
To meet the needs of banquets,
The long guest list filled with feasters
Who would adore fireproof miracles,
Wiping their slick fingers and mouths
With beautiful, resilient cloth.
Gary Fincke’s latest poetry collection The History of Permanence won the Stephen F. Austin Poetry prize and was published in 2011. His latest book is a novel How Blasphemy Sounds to God (Braddock Avenue Books, 2014). He is the Charles Degenstein Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University.
Dear Kelli Anne:
an oarsmen, I mean, “with painted eye,” he moved
toward that undertow in dream, —
had a paramour of polar ice, the first fresh ghost currency,
a clock rack and
an anguish-clinch of language as he walked in his sleep.
The almanac finds out its moonshine distance & alliteration
toward this fable place but
it comes to doom (like swimming with your eyes closed)
every time, so you can’t ever finish your
damn sentence. We know:
Who walks away enslaves darkness,
the flat-bodied bed bugs kneading beneath the earth.
Here’s a little spider curtain catch on
the Queen’s bench.
His walkabout began here, a history ago. Grabbing
at the air, your older brother ran down the stairs
to open the front door (he would see himself on the other side)
in the oxide night, his eyes crushing the darkness,
crushing blackberries as far back as childhood,
looking & looking past you into his own etymology…
… Ice, oxygen.
How heroin overtones this story later
where we lose him. I mean, a final guttural outcry
all the sleepers in the house, even you,
( just a hair’s breath between )
would wake to.
Best American Poetry recipient and Pushcart Prize Winner Elena Karina Byrne is author of The Flammable Bird (Tupelo Press), Masque (Tupelo Press), the forthcoming Squander (Omnidawn 2016), and Voyeur Hour: Meditations on Poetry, Art & Desire (essays). Publications include APR, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, The Yale Review, Poetry and Volt. She is a freelance teacher, Contributing Editor for The Los Angeles Review of Books and Literary Programs Director for the Ruskin Art Club.
We had gone back
to our old summer place
with the low green trees
and the rhododendron’s spent blooms,
where I had wept before
but now, wandering
room to room, holding
this new sorrow like a hapless child,
I could not weep and could not
settle, though somewhere deep
and all day long
I felt the familiar welling,
the windows swollen
shut, the lake sluggish
with rain and end-of-summer heat.
By September, we rounded
the slow curves of the mountains
for home, and we said,
or thought we said, Maybe
he’ll pick himself right back up
this time, adept as we’ve become
at the shenanigans of hope.
But the papers
had piled up, and the mail
and the house
smelled of dying ferns.
and we take our places
at the oval table, passed down
to us through generations, grateful
for everyone here. Our sons sit
opposite each other, the one
who struggles against the wind,
the one who glides.
The old story, alive again
in the wick of the waning year.
Bowls steam from hand
to hand, yellow leaves fly
at the windows. The afternoon
yawns and disappears. Someone
lights the fire, another starts
the coffee. The pattern so familiar
we could follow it blind, follow it back
through a hundred peeling years
or more, people we knew
and didn’t know, the lucky
and the troubled, pulling up
to this table, pushing
back, some empty, some filled.
Dannye Romine Powell is the author of three collections of poetry from the University of Arkansas Press, the most recent, A Necklace of Bees. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares and The New Republic and she has poems forthcoming from 32 Poems, Harvard Review Online and Southern Poetry Review.
Stumbling in my eighth grade social studies classroom, I collided with Karen Jungnickle; my hands, accidentally, at the height of her breasts. I did not have time to caress them because we passed right through each other and found ourselves in another galaxy. Karen and I stood there, in the vapor trail of a comet, stunned, suddenly awake, like after we had seen Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. Then we were in a forest, walking hand-in-hand along a path, making our way back to the social studies classroom. Karen wondered about the breadcrumbs. How had they lasted so long on the path? I wondered about the crows that sat in the branches. Why were they so silent?
Richard Garcia is the author of six books of poetry. The Other Odyssey, from Dream Horse Press, and The Chair, from BOA Ltd., were both published in 2014. His poems appear in many journals and in anthologies such as The Pushcart Prize Best of the Small Presses and Best American Poetry.
In twin chairs by the lakeside tonight,
we’ve watched day’s last light
spread like a bright blush over treetops
past the point where cabins stand
abandoned, sealed against winter.
In the middle distance the island floats,
fading. There alone, the wild blueberries
hang like unmarked globes over water
separating shore from shore.
Why they grow there but not here
puzzles, like love or the coming bereavements
of autumn, or rumors of empty, drifting skiffs.
For now at least the island remains
part and not part of the unknowing night
as we are to each other island
and mainland, ship and shore,
a familiar place; a mystery.
Jennifer O’Grady’s book White won the Mid-List Press First Series Award for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Harper’s, The New Republic, The Writer’s Almanac, Poetry, The Yale Review and numerous other places. A monologue from her play Quasars appears in The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2014.
Anytime Soon, Fall
On bad days
crows chant their calls
to you & only you:
I simply want to be dead.
It’s not dying you desire
but to be done with it.
To quiet the tongue, fold
your furious hands.
into your husband’s office,
a brother & sister by your side,
you wailed like no bird I know
winging north or south.
My father, that brother,
shaking his head, what will it take
to settle you.
Not the Chickahominy
nor Chuckatuck Creek.
But to the James River
one morning you fly off.
Wanting in. So little,
& so much, to ask. How
to get to the bottom of it,
to still the quiver.
anyone would say—
look up. See? Clouds, reshaped,
Shoes, tied together
by their laces & hanging
from a telephone wire,
will not, anytime soon, fall.
A mockingbird, same wire—
singing, that bird,
someone else’s song.
—The quoted line is from If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, translated by Anne Carson.
Susan Laughter Meyers received the Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize for her latest collection, My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass (2013). Other honors last year include North Carolina Literary Review’s James Applewhite Poetry Prize, Prairie Schooner’s Edward Stanley Award, and the SC Academy of Authors’ Carrie McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship.
The Bedside Book of Fading Away
My hands have lost that precision
that so many confuse
with manly beauty.
I drop keys, screwdrivers,
gin and tonics, names of poets
and bluesmen whom I only knew
in passing, three-tined shrimp forks
and dollar bills.
I spend more time on the floor
if the March winds
can be said to carve vernal
changes into the trees,
or if it’s easier
to think of nature
cascading from tender green
to tender green branch.
I can’t complain of being
singled out for special treatment:
my brother’s lungs a current
event, each season slow
to take hold.
Still, I must protest the rarest
light and best loved songs
burning on in spite of me.
Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He also edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit and Cloudbank.
The pain flutters endlessly,
mostly at night.
I’ve waited six weeks for this appointment,
and three hours in the lobby
where I paid upfront.
He crooks his brow,
scribbles on the pad from his white coat for a remedy
I can’t afford,
wrenches the sink to wash his hands
and a stream of nettle moths spills from the faucet.
In the parking lot, the meter rolls.
Blackbirds preen in oil and water.
Stacy R. Nigliazzo’s debut poetry collection Scissored Moon was released by Press 53 last fall. It was a finalist for the 2013 Julie Suk Prize for Best Poetry Book (Jacar Press) and the 2014 Texas Institute of Letters First Book Award. She is a licensed ER nurse.
How it happened
I only know that one morning
I woke up,
the world threadbare,
pockets bled dry,
every plate scraped
And just as inexplicably
the day came when promise
at the window, asparagus
arranged itself, buttered
on orange plates.
Peg Robarchek is a novelist and poet whose first collection of poetry, Inventing Sex, will be published by Main Street Rag in early 2015. Recent publications include Naugatuck River Review, Prime Number, Iodine Poetry Journal, Kakalak 2014, Red Earth Review and Kentucky Review.
Not hairs. Boar
thorns, catfish barbels,
wolf whiskers, sprung
from a nose and chin
that’ve called to each
other forty-five years
across the short chasm
of philtrum and lips, and only
now drawing nearer
and nearer, connected
by folds turned to grooves
turned to dry ditches
only deepened by the rare
Old women have always been
witches, and these are
the marks of the witch:
these wires with roots
deeper than teeth.
They smack of a witch-curse,
a desperate bargain,
the kind of deal
you strike with the dark
when there’s little
left in your hand—
two low hearts,
a single waiting spade—
a deal with the powers of air
Born on the eastern shore of Maryland, Catherine Carter now teaches in the English Education program at WCU. Her collections of poetry include The Swamp Monster at Home (LSU, 2012) and The Memory of Gills (LSU, 2006). Her work has also appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, Orion, Poetry, North Carolina Literary Review, and Ploughshares, among others.
I couldn’t say the year for certain.
Two millennia and a Judas tree at least.
Time passing, like most of it,
without me or the wife, poor wide apples
scraped off a board with the back of a knife.
I heard Title Divine is Mine
even when the house don’t stand.
I heard Wait to Go, Borrowed Tine,
Flexible Flame, and your name, your name.
I could feel the money running halfway down my back,
like that popper we pulled confetti out of.
My thoughts litter
like this: Honey, keep racing. Honey, hold on,
you are out on a limb—
And then, because our bodies were the tree,
it said, Ouch, ouch, ouch.
It said, OK, tornado,
do what you can do,
rain down your version of things.
Thanks to its amnestic effect,
the versed administered won’t let us remember
how hard we are trying to forget—
e.g., the key I
taped to the plague with your name on it,
to your locker, the plaque, the wreath, the lager,
a luster of yellow lanterns reflected on the lacquer
of the blacker Lethe canal.
Kathy Fagan’s fifth collection of poems, Sycamore, will be published by Milkweed in 2016. New work is appearing in FIELD, Narrative, Ninth Letter, The Kenyon Review, and Poetry. Fagan teaches at Ohio State and serves as Series Editor of the OSU Press/The Journal Wheeler Poetry Prize.
MARIE LAVEAU, VOODOO QUEEN OF NEW ORLEANS
Because the air is a stew
of angel tongue & devil tail,
root-buckled magnolia scent,
she purify the sick, feed the poor,
decipher her people’s epistles
to the Madonna of the diaspora,
fashion little bag of gris-gris
necklace from magnet, fingernail,
For she the oracle, seamstress
of effigies—tappin’ in bones,
sewin’ in lyrics.
Her mouth, a horn, deliver delirium heat.
See the cats with their golden eyes
She promise a king with a dream.
Knows in the underworld of grief
people write with a wishbone
given by the Madam of St. Ann Street
’cause she listen to yearnin’—queen
of aspiration, a princess noir, a woman
with answers. Folk say. Leave
pound cake at her tomb,
Saint Expedite will carry the sentiment.
So give me the hex baby, vex
the political gargoyles
in the kingdom and the glory
of shade and gamblers.
Roll the dice, utter her name.
fuse the heads of saints
to the vertebrae of scientists.
Ease the water, train the snake.
Hush, she say. Focus.
Charm the sun from the darkness
like a newborn rooting for milk—
the blessing we were meant for
to survive on this island, this crescent
of aqua santé, calor,
Mary Morris has received the Rita Dove Award and New Mexico Discovery Award in poetry. Her work appears in many journals, including The Columbia Review, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, and Indiana Review. Morris has read her poems at the Library of Congress and on NPR.
John 11: 43-44
Lazarus, dressed in what appears to be
an ill-fitted, chalky skin
vaguely reminiscent of what once fit well
in another life,
seems ill at ease, blinking, blinded
by the mid-day sun,
stupidly groggy after a night’s restless sleep.
but misfortunate Lazarus will ever be able to tell
what it is to rehear, without warning, the echo of one’s own heart
believed to have been irrevocably lost
or to fancy
his blood, so long caked in ropey veins, now needling
down toward the very tips of his fingers,
fingers anxious to dance alive
as they warm with him into a flushing blush.
Lazarus might well expect tomorrow morning
his mirror will hold a sort of befuddled self
fumbling with self-recognition while he stands beside himself,
aghast with wonder.
Is this ecstasy or the Other’s cruel joke
for him again to grovel, to feed, to be a slave one more time
for this body’s base but never
sufficiently satisfied appetites?
Nearly three hundred of Terry Savoie’s poems have appeared in literary journals and small press publications. These include Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Black Warrior Review, and The North American Review as well as recent issues of Great River Review, Tar River, Cutthroat, Cider Press Review, Spillway, Commonweal, and America.
Such moments, in a way, have nothing
to teach us.
And if the Eternal
stooped to you, swooped
down upon you, linking
you, lifting you out of
if the Light
came upon you, came
into your skin—
whole, insiding you
each cell perceiving
its singular purpose.
And then, before
you found words
to speak of it,
you felt it—
the shutter-click grip
of your consciousness,
back into flesh,
in that slimmest
of interims, something
had stolen into
on your affirming
of its coming,
on your pronouncing
of that coming
a sanctified ground—
although it was Time
where it happened—
too, on your
on your leaving the scene
clothed in silence—
having left it behind
in your youth,
you waken one morning,
to find yourself still
to the holy, enwrapped
in its lattice,
held true to its tuning,
tell yourself this:
such moments have
nothing to teach us.
Marjorie Stelmach’s most recent book of poems is Without Angels (Mayapple, 2014). Earlier volumes include Bent upon Light and A History of Disappearance (University of Tampa Press). Individual poems have recently appeared in Arts & Letters, The Cincinnati Review, Image, The Iowa Review, New Letters, & Prairie Schooner.
The Old Torments
We leave them on the other side of the river.
We are taught to leave them.
Let them be left
till the weather eats them.
When we come this way again
we will find them, bones and shards.
Some bearing teeth marks. Some
broken or charred.
Because time is anesthetic,
we study the bones without emotion.
If we wait long enough, we come as tourists
to the disaster museum.
But let a new torment put forth
a hand and touch you—skin
for skin—touch your very flesh,
Chana Bloch’s Swimming in the Rain: New & Selected Poems, 1980-2015 (out in January) includes work from The Secrets of the Tribe, The Past Keeps Changing, Mrs. Dumpty, and Blood Honey. Former Director of Creative Writing at Mills College and first poetry editor of www.persimmontree.org, Bloch co-translated the Song of Songs and Israeli poets Yehuda Amichai and Dahlia Ravikovitch.