Issue 12

Serenity Overflowing by Chris Ogden

Contents

Lois P. Jones | Kathleen Kirk | Müesser Yeniay | Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau | Robert Cording | James Owens | Michael Chitwood | Hussain Ahmed | Jeremy Voigt | Michael Salcman | Anna Weaver | Luisa A. Igloria | Josephine Cariño | Terry Blackhawk | Sergio A. Ortiz | Ricky Ray | Andrea Potos | Debra Kang Dean | Daniel Lassell | Kathryn Kirkpatrick | Kathleen McGookey | David Kirby | Amit Majmudar

Second Look – Woman Falling

 

Rilke’s Maid, Leni at the Little Castle of Schloss Berg

She is hardly there, she never asks me anything and never seems surprised at anything. She has a presence that is so to speak, climatic… ~ Rilke

I often see you like a monk looking out the manor windows
long after the last coals ember to ash. Ice seals the panes –

your quiet is soft as this fine snow falling outside
time. And when your eyes meet mine, I won’t be drawn

into their storm, entering only to stoke the fire
or leave cheese and bread near your desk. You eat poorly

or not at all and sometimes I find you asleep, a book
face down in your lap – a hinged bird turned cold

in your hands. I do not wash her perfumed gloves
or tidy loose love letters near a torn slip

of words: I am here, you will find me where you want me…
Their blue reminds me of the rook thrush I freed

from your bedroom curtains. We live with little
sound, the only music in rain’s benediction

or the odd chur of the nightjar. This evening’s
new moon rises over the pine, your face riven

by its light as you enter your world
of shadows. I will be the spirit of your

departed, aloft as a white moth in winter,
more cumulus than bone.

 

Lois P. Jones has work published or forthcoming in Poemeleon, as well as The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear) and Wide Awake: Poetry of Los Angeles and Beyond anthologies. Publications include Narrative, Tupelo Quarterly and Cider Press Review. She is the Bristol Poetry Prize winner (2016), the Tiferet Poetry Prize (2012) and shortlisted in the 2016 Bridport Prize.


 

Field of White Doves

Almost home—a field of white doves,
glimpsed between trees.

Wild sumac rusts in the gullies.
I lean my head on glass…

The conductor’s voice slants like rain,
the train slides over on a siding.

Now a childhood friend opens her wings
of white spirea. Now

it’s early, before light, my family waiting
at the end of a long hall

in a grade school,
my daughter in a flowered skirt.

Now it’s late, we’re rolling backwards
down the tracks

—a lurch, reversal,
someone’s phone is singing,

daylight gone,
windows lit with orisons,

someone’s phone,
someone’s phone is singing.

 

Kathleen Kirk is the author of six poetry chapbooks, most recently ABCs of Women’s Work (Red Bird, 2015), with another forthcoming from Unicorn Press in 2018. Her work has appeared previously in One, as well as Eclectica, Nimrod, Waccamaw, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.


 

Dear Simona,

My heart is very heavy as if it is loaded with stones and left into the sea. Sometimes one or two stones fall away when I am happy. Sometimes I say to myself that I am going to be crushed under my heart as if under a truck. My blood flows into the ink. Writing is my witness, though it doesn’t relieve me. The staticky radio inside me has been on since birth.

It seems as if no breath was blown into me
It seems as if I shrunk like a balloon
pierced

[people are talking with huge shadowy words]

I want to hang my body in a garderobe
like a second hand dress

-maybe I am an enormous cloud of failure-

maybe I can find a remedy
if I wring my heart and cry like laundry

 

Müesser Yeniay has won several prizes in Turkey. Her books are Darkness Also Falls Ground, I Founded My Home in the Mountains (translation), I Drew the Sky Again, The Other Consciousness: Surrealism and The Second New, Before Me There Were Deserts. She has translated the poetry of Ronny Someck, Attila F. Balazs, Mai Van Phan and Nguyễn Quang Thiều. Her books have been widely translated. She is the editor of the literature magazine Siirden.


 

the taste of family

it tastes like dirge, the mourning
breaking from the mouth of a newborn,
it tastes like the bitterness in the mouth of
mothers who search for dried skulls of their husbands
in a city where angels bear the weight of country men
—it tastes like absence, my father’s shadow left
after him and we still search this room with torches
we run our fingers through the walls for directions,
something must lead us back home/ for the paths
that lead home are broken like the hearts of my lovers
—it tastes like crimson, a testimony of death
spilling like oil in the body of a country, my brother fell
and we all heard him groan, like dying for a country is
as sensual as finding home after a long stroll through his woman’s body
—it tastes like my mother’s body, she broke it for us like bread
and we ate like unfathered children, we ate like unfathered demons
—my mother’s body is a confinement of dirges
we all sing with her eyes.

 

Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau likes to be addressed as the Ibadan Poet. A dreamer finding himself earth in a crust too hard to break. He studies Nutrition and Dietetics, does street and documentary photography and writes about living, about family, about boys and pain and laughs. Adedayo authors a small collection of poetry titled, For Boys Who Went. Adedayo is Nigerian.


 

Aubade

Here I am, waking in my old body again,
light on the wide pine boards, light mixed
with rain, the smell of April’s softening dirt
rising up to our windows. You are sleeping,
the imprint of where my hand just held you
already disappearing. Last night still burns
with a low flame, our bodies younger
in my morning’s memory, still freed,
if only temporarily, of their end-of-day rigidity,
more flexible and lithe, less paunchy even.
These days, our hunger appeasable,
the commotion of desire is less operatic,
both a way of asserting we’re here and a way
of forgetting what we know too well—
our days are numbered. Now, no need
for Donne’s tough talk that sent the sun packing;
it brings only this morning’s light rain
and our grateful unimportant happiness,
the soon-to-come breakfast talk about the children—
who will come this weekend, who won’t—
or the day’s down-to-earth light, and whether
or not, later today, the sky will open up.

 

Robert Cording is professor emeritus at College of the Holy Cross. He has published eight collections of poems, the most recent of which is Only So Far (CavanKerry Press, 2015). New work is out or forthcoming in The Georgia Review, New Ohio Review, The Hudson Review, Image, and The Common.


 

Empire

Night, late winter in ragged country,
a slow-slung sports car punched through the dark
past starved soybean fields
and brown, wind-whipped woodlots.

You have to watch for deer.
There are always deer along that road,
their eyes flashing back
to your headlights above stretched, nervous bodies.

Sometimes you can’t miss them. That is nobody’s fault.
A deer stepped out of the trees in front of this driver,
and after the blow it lay broken on the asphalt,
a shattered leg, a dislocated shoulder.

The man got out and stood cursing down.
A clouding eye rolled up to him.
Breath worked loudly. Instead of killing the deer
cleanly — shooting it,

if he had a gun in the car, finding
a heavy stone in the fallen leaves
of the nearby oaks, putting his foot
on its throat and leaning merciful weight —

he turned and got a can of gasoline,
doused the deer, flicked a match into the gasp of heat.
He drove away as the live deer burned.
That’s all of the story. The rest is a kind of music.

The deer can’t rise but squeals
high and thin like torn metal.
Its flesh shivers madly as the flame drills in.
Chaotic light plays shadow-and-bright

across the stoic faces of the standing trees.
Wind blunders across the whickering puddle of fire,
which grows small as a star
in the driver’s rear view, if he glances back.

 

James Owens‘s most recent collection of poems is Mortalia (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poems, stories, and translations appear widely in literary journals, including publications in The Fourth River, Kestrel, Connecticut River Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and The Stinging Fly. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in Indiana and northern Ontario.


 

Petey

I found it beside the garbage bin, still breathing.
Some cat must have got into the nest.
Mother rabbits line the nest with their own fur,
pulling it out to make a soft home.
That’s God’s planning.
So I picked it up and put it in my shirt pocket.
Perfect fit. Warm. Eyes squeezed shut.
I thought I would think on what to do with it.
What was God wanting me to do?
It must be meant to be that I found it,
that the cat hadn’t killed it,
that I must decide what to do.
I had found a kitten once
and fed it for a while
but it ran off. Maybe it was that cat
and it had brought this rabbit to me as a gift.
That’s the way God works, in circles like that.
Then I noticed it was crawling with lice
and they had gotten underneath my shirt.
I tossed it into the woods.
I had even thought of naming it.

 

Michael Chitwood has published eight books of poems, with poems appearing in The Atlantic, Poetry, The New Republic and numerous other journals. Next year, LSU Press will publish his new book, Search & Rescue.


 

What Did You See?

[Eye]
The prayer-rug melts and becomes
a runnel.
In a distance that is not far away
an army of termites marches out of
the ground. Children with bowls of
water pick the insects and watch them
drown.
[deep]
It will take more than a minute silence
to erase the trepidation
of a mayfly, whose slender wing
was mistaken for a whale’s fin.
[peace]
The children lost their milk teeth
to a cup of cold tea
in a shop that smells of burnt acrylics.
Any room can serve for this urgent meeting
How edible they look in mush [rooms]
You lost your voice trying to teach
the crow
to sing hymns to the evening sky
you were blown like speckles of burnt plumage
because you are light
because you have fasted for more than
forty days and forty nights
you travelled where my voice cannot.

 

Hussain Ahmed is a writer and environmentalist. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Shot Glass Journal, Public Pool, HEArt Online, Tipton Poetry Journal and elsewhere. He dreams of rainbows.


 

Iratus

There is an old animal of anger within me.
I search every field guide but no id yields,

no genus, drawing, geography, or finely typed
history. What migration patterns must one follow?

Arrows whirl across maps. The monarch flaps
two thousand miles to huddle en masse against

trees in the heat of Mexico. It is born on the milkweed
it will consume before flying north once again.

The man pushing the rock uphill is now metaphor
for shopping. Recall Sisyphus was a liar and a killer—

and he was happy in life and punishment. Once in a fit
on her front porch I tore my pants with my young hands.

Everything clear after: Mersualt only saw the sky
from his cell after his rage spasmed over the priest.

The root word of anger is Old Norse for strait;
a passive connection between two larger bodies of water.

I have crossed the straits of Juan de Fuca in my father’s
boat. The sea is always twice as rough as it seems from shore,

he said. This morning I left for work, worked, and now sit
in the car waiting before returning to family. My father

threw a wine glass across the kitchen into cabinets; he shook
the arm to quiet the small child. He also taught me to read

the yellow and white charts—all those fathoms—to see
the foam-covered rocks; to keep the red light on my right

when returning to harbor. The sea is always twice as rough
as it seems from shore. A gray wash of rain this morning,

a slight wind building this afternoon, the water pocked
with white ruffs of foam. It is sloppy. Things here are rising

and, characteristically, falling. And the animal-me, sulking
on shore, projects its mind onto the water which is a failing.

Ninety percent of everything is fucked up,
the advice delivered my last day living at home.

The sea seems so stable and sympathetic.
This February a man photographs frozen waves

in the Atlantic—the slush green and bright.
Can I recognize the axe is already in my hands?

Let the planted wildflowers. Let the littered parking lot.
Let the late spring wren. Let this self-invective,

this apologia for my breath under the sky frozen
with light. A block from my house a child runs with a puppy.

Then I see it is my son; it is my dog. Their bodies in air bent.
They do not see me. Each moves and was meant to move.

I turn the corner. Their feet rise and their feet fall.
Home. Home. I must repeat it to believe it in my body.

 

Jeremy Voigt is lives in the Pacific Northwest. His poems have appeared in Willow Springs, Gulf Coast, Post Road, Fifth Wednesday, and many other magazines. His chapbook, Neither Rising nor Falling was featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He teaches at Burlington-Edison High school as well as at Whatcom Community College.


 

Genesis

In the beginning starts with a bet—
a Hebrew letter like a backward C or clamp,
open to everything that follows from the left.

We buried my father the week before
the triennial reading of the scroll started again,
unrolling the Torah to its beginning

as every congregation in the world does,
a service I hadn’t witnessed since childhood
breathing in the perfume at my father’s side

and hearing in the beginning for the first time.
This year its grim irony hangs in my mouth,
forward and backward, from an end to a start.

Skilled in his timing, my father’s heart gave way
to his love of teaching, pointing up the meaning of
in the beginning to me—what’s done is done.

 

Michael Salcman, poet, neurosurgeon and art critic is the author of The Clock Made of Confetti, The Enemy of Good Is Better, Poetry in Medicine, his anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness and healing, and A Prague Spring, Before & After, winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press.


 

Plan B

I’m going to miss him—
the part that’s still here with me,
I mean. The tiny half cells
I carried home last night.

If I let them have their way,
they might live on and make a story
of us—a showing, a thing of hair
and heartbeat. We could name her
the Reason we found each other,
the Proof we belonged.

It’s not a question of keeping—
just remembering to ask, joining
in the worry, staying for the decision.
To let go like that—unblinking—
would be somehow no less binding.

Instead, the quiet and lonely
chemistry of making my body
inhospitable, warding off the burdens
of blood magic and cell division.

And my only regret is that
there will be nothing to feel,
no way to know when it’s over.

 

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 elsewhere. A self-described open mic tourist, she has performed in 23 states and the District of Columbia.


 

Bioluminescence

Article headings flash
on the computer screen.
This one is seasonal: 10 Easy
Flowering Herbs and Vegetables
for your Garden. I want to plant
something windblown and laden

with the smell of yearning,
something that emerges shyly
when the sun goes down.
I live in a house of sheets:
underwear tumbling in the dryer,
blouses of cold water, hand wash

only crepe. The word voile
floats to the surface: glimpsed
rarely, swan-like as the neck
of the night-blooming cereus.
Studying the shower curtain
and its hems of mold, little pores

on bathroom tile: I think of green
tea sponge cake, perishable melt
of ladyfingers. Where to lay out
bee balm, geranium, verbena
so as to repel mosquitoes? The ivy
and the fern want to take over,

just like history. Should I go away
for a few weeks, they’ll colonize
everything else. I’d rather lift
the edges to find not sadness or mist
but a velvety limousine, and all
these tiny winged lights, winking.

 

Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry. Her publications include Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press), and Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014).


 

Stasis, Shift

And so what if they had kidnapped this girl—
brown bangs green eyes seven years old—
taken her to this place, peppered with trees
blooming white with magnolias,
their scent wafting past the old ice cream shop
that stood in the center of town?

Mornings, I’d run past houses where flags
loud and red unfurled in the wind,
white stars marching on a tilted blue cross.
I saw her staring on the news,
asked her Where are you from? She never said.

Almost inevitable—
getting stuck here, climbing down deep, dark wells
on rungs that barely hold our weight. Stolid:
the echoes that ring like bells in our skulls.

And so what if she’d been taken,
but she played along
like a good girl does?

Evenings, we’d hop over brambles
by ruins, debris, the flush of our cheeks
slowly, wistfully dissolving.

And so what if she were free from all this?
So what if she were someone else?

 

Pursuing a degree in English with a minor in music, Josephine Cariño is a senior at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Her poem “Postlude” was a finalist for december magazine’s 2015 Jeff Marks Poetry Prize. Josephine will be attending North Carolina State University for her MFA in Creative Writing.


 

She Awakens in a Town by the Sea

The street, milling all night. Old lace —
faces peeking out into drifts of blossoms,

drifts of bloom. Tell me about yourself, Sweetie.
Everything you say may be held against you.

Drifts of blossoms, studies of bloom.
Or boas. Boas and other entanglements.

The auditions go on regardless.
Mammatus, Mami Wata — clouds

begin to break. When she steps outside,
a soprano’s song saturates the air.

Shards of shells on the walk beneath her
feet. Gardens tuning up in a minor

key. Before their petals fall away, she will lift
a shattered glass.

A gull coasts over the jetty. Drifts
of blossoms, curtains of bloom.

 

Terry Blackhawk is a Kresge Arts in Detroit Literary Fellow, a Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize winner, and blogger for Detroit Huffington Post. Her seven volumes of poetry include the John Ciardi Prize-winning Escape Artist. She has poems in many journals, anthologies and online at Verse Daily, Rattle and elsewhere.


 

My Sea is Strong

I confess, in the heart of night,
I imagine myself cascading
on my lover’s body. My jewel
is a dead sea, salty and safe.
Blessed lover soaked with my body.
He who drags me to his shore.

Who gathers the moans I sow in seashells.
Who tosses my kisses back to the sea.
Who knows stones are also carved by water.
Who steals whatever I have with precision.
Who recognizes when to replace what was stolen.

This is how I love you,
every second committed
to your pleasure, but I never
say it. I hide the salt
crashing on your reef
inside my veins.

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, and Bitterzeot Magazine. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.


 

When You Lost It

Tell me the day drowned in you,
his big red desire
ripening fuchsia and violet
into the river
where you watched your life
sunset over the Jersey shore.
Or one of your lives.
One of the people
in your person put to bed.
You were young
when you first saw this,
old enough to have attempted
suicide, to touch the failure
as one in a long line of scars—
the little slugs on the wrist,
the kisses on the knees,
the thinning in the left eyebrow
where the curb
almost took you into the pavement—
each scar whiter
than the skin it occupied,
the brushes of death
leaving ghosts to remind us:
defeated warriors are always
walking home. Two-puff cigarette butts
appearing here and there
like winter flowers on their journey.

*

Tell me the day drowned in you.
Tell me you threw yourself
like a fish into the sea
and covered yourself in all
the oil darkening home waters.
Tell me you swam
into the mouth of a whale
who took you to see
his wise old soul
before he spit you out clean
within sight of the sharks,
transformed. Tell me you listened
to the homing device in your chest
as you sprouted arms and legs.
Tell me you swam for your life,
scrambled up naked on the beach
and fell back on the sands,
so happy, so fucking happy
to call breath your greatest currency.
Tell me you swore you’d spend your days
teaching children how to swim.

 

Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. His poetry appears in The American Scholar (blog), Matador Review, Fugue and elsewhere. In 2013, he won the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a dog; the bed is frequently overcrowded.


 

Just Before Napping

From somewhere behind dream
a door clicked ajar, a fragrance beyond air–
a whole melding of the lost rooms
of my mother’s house, vanilla scent of her coffee,
her Greek oregano, cinnamon just past its
freshness but potent enough to be here, the citrus
dishwashing soap that soothed her hands
three or more times a day, even the barely there
hint of her cigarette stub, even that,
its terrible consolation.

 

Andrea Potos is the author of six collections, most recently An Ink Like Early Twilight and We Lit the Lamps Ourselves, both from Salmon Poetry. She received the 2016 William Stafford Prize in Poetry. Iris Press will publish her chapbook Arrows of Light this fall, and Salmon Poetry will publish her full-length collection A Stone to Carry Home in 2018.


 

THE BANANA TREE

for my taiji teacher LaoMa
on his 72nd birthday

Aimless as I am
I could never find it
on my own, nor find

what is found there:
under a canopy of tall trees
a black-leaved sapling turned

willow, beside which my root
sinks so deep, I might believe
I’d emerged somewhere in China,

my guide a man made honorary mare
by a cow’s gift of a heart valve.
Say that Old Horse is the very Earth.

Say that very green upturned
five-gallon plastic bucket
is a tortoise on which I sat

beside a wiry man holding
his staff—it’s a snake, you know,
old as the one Moses owned.

With the one I borrowed,
it’s leaning against a tree.
From his vest pocket,

two bananas. I eat one.
The peels lie on my thigh
like beached octopi in the quiet

of that uncertain place.
One at a time, he picks up
the peels by the stem end,

hangs each on a bare spot
of the banana tree—ah!—
laughing now, I am

beside myself, eyes tearing
for everything taken
and given, alive again

in the memory of it,
in the pale fresh peels
like blossoms,

like the bird’s beak
of my hand not yet closed
in Single Whip,

in those soon-to-be
new leaves, draped as if
brought forth from within

and sprung from the branch,
each taking its place
among the others gone black.

 

Totem: America, Debra Kang Dean’s third full-length collection of poetry, is forthcoming from Tiger Bark Press in 2018. She teaches in the low-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University.


 

In Every Room There is Room

So let’s do away with fire codes.
Know that even the popping
of bubble wrap is its own tiny tragedy,
as is everything witnessed
from perspectives looking up.
If there is a conquering here,
I recommend it be the small gods first,
and we’ll take pride in how
we hold ourselves
to the equilibrium of rainwater.
We have never agreed on time zones,
but perhaps I would find comfort
if today we offend. Let us keep offending.
Is not dialogue how we exit from caves?
There is room enough for the native,
the unhung picture frame, the wildebeests’ echo,
the undulating scoop of ice cream
as it melts on the tongue of a sunray.
A farmer once told me, sometimes
you’ve got to lean like the plow horse,
giving gut to new boundaries.
Now, as I hold a book in one hand,
coffee cup in the other, this morning
I think of how difficult it must be,
as so many must have tried already,
to solve the world’s blister in a living room
alone with a snoring dog, whose paws
scrape in the air like furry angels.

 

Daniel Lassell can be found in recent or upcoming issues of Lunch Ticket, Hotel Amerika, Barely South Review, Rust+Moth, Connotation Press, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and son in Fort Collins, Colorado.


 

Icarus Again

The melted wax, the singed feathers—
we know all that by heart.

But what we forget about Icarus
is that his father also warned him

not to fly too low. Sodden
can also fall heavy

into the sea. One death, impact.
Another, smother.

The drowning, I suspect,
is very much the same.

 

Kathryn Kirkpatrick is Professor of English at Appalachian State University where she also serves as editor of Cold Mountain Review. She is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently two recipients of the NC Poetry Society’s Brockman-Campbell award, Our Held Animal Breath and Her Small Hands Were Not Beautiful.


 

Luck

Do you remember when a flock of grackles landed in the yard at Miner Lake and caught us inside its black chatter, everywhere shining feathers, shining beaks, everywhere grackles pecking the grass with little jerky motions, swarming the sidewalk and the picnic table, flashing their flat wet eyes as if we were shrubs or flagpoles, the sky gray and white and ribbed like muscles, and even though we froze, breath held, wide-eyed, they startled up again, flew as one body to the neighbor’s catalpa, left us ordinary, laughing, dazed, and I said I’ll get groceries if you’ll make dinner.

 

Kathleen McGookey has published three books of poems, most recently Heart in a Jar (White Pine Press). Her work has appeared in journals including Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Quarterly West. She has received grants from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.


 

The Chronicle of Higher Education

As I am waiting to go on stage at commencement,
I shake hands with a gentleman I don’t know
and tell him my name, and when he tells me his,
and I ask him what his role is at the university,
he pauses, and his eyes widen in disbelief and he says,
“I’m the athletic director,” and then of course I want
to mess with him, so I point down and say, “Here?”
The athletic director is certainly an imposing presence,
unlike, say, German philosopher Martin Heidegger,
who was shy and tiny and had a little pinched mouth
as well as a lifelong aversion to meeting people’s eyes,
yet he turned the world on its ear with his innovative
thinking about such matters as being and time.
Even as a child, Heidegger “was the smallest, he was
the weakest, he was the most unruly, he was the most
useless,” recalls a friend, “but he was in command
of us all.” At my university, the athletic director
is in command of us all, even the president. All
the president does is raise money, all I do is write
poems, and as to the philosophers, who knows
what they are up to these days. Which is the most
important? In a hundred years, it could be me,
if the poems are good enough, though there are no
famous poems about athletic directors. Then again,
the greatest poems are about the littlest things: a bird
for Keats, a flea for John Donne. Walter Whitman,
the failed poet who couldn’t hold down a job,
wrote about Walt Whitman, the healthy comrade
and invincible optimist. Did you know that Whitman
wrote a 47,000-word fitness guide under the name
“Mose Velsor”? A graduate student at another university
discovered that on a microfilm that hadn’t been
digitized yet. Whitman suggests that we eat meat,
mainly, and wear comfortable shoes, and he warns
against inactivity: “To you, clerk, literary man, sedentary
person, man of fortune, idler, the same advice,”
he declared. “Up!” I wish more poets were as clever
as the professors in the psychology department who
were studying gratitude, so they had young men
and women exchange gift certificates, though
they switched the certificates unbeknownst
to the participants, thus leading a young fellow
to think he’s giving a young lady a certificate from
a bookstore, but really it’s for acne cream. Ha, ha!
T. S. Eliot said there is good poetry, bad poetry,
and chaos, but there would be less chaos if more poets
followed the advice of Herr Heidegger, who told
Hannah Arendt that he wrote with “the calm rhythm
of a man chopping wood in a forest.” Making
your own wood fires is not only exercise of the sort
that Whitman would approve of but also good
domestic economy, since it is an activity that warms you
you twice, once when you chop the wood and once
again when you burn it. Same with poetry. Same
with football! You do it, it’s over, you do it again.

 

David Kirby’s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Kirby’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please.


 

Two Excerpts from a Redux of Goethe’s Faust

[ Faust’s Despair in his Study ]

FAUST:
What haven’t I studied? I cram and I cram
For some indefinitely, infinitely far-off Big Exam
On all there is to know. For all I know
The world is not the syllabus, and no
Amount of knowledge is enough to pass!
I’ve studied Gauss on primes, and Marx on class,
Charcoal rubbings of Ashoka’s edicts,
Yeats’s spiral staircase like a double-helix
Jacob’s-Ladder thick with traffic;
Syphilis, syllabics, sciatica, Sapphics,
Energy, potential and kinetic,
Stoic stillness, peregrinations Peripatetic,
God in the trenches, Darwin on Galapagos,
The Zend Avesta travestied in Nietzsche’s prose,
Fanatical mass movements, ones, zeroes,
Hegel, De Tocqueville, editorial columns
Explaining, again, how the West is falling,
The electron microscopy of pollen,
Colorized postcards sent home from the Hubble,
Assyrian potsherds, Syrian rubble,
Not the samba, but the history of the samba,
Dendroaspis polylepis, alias black mamba,
Other serpents, too, from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
Back to Eve in Eden, back to Shiva,
Ancient commerce on the Yangtze River,
Game theory, number theory, double or quits,
Marengo, Jena, Austerlitz—
Bullshit, bullshit, all of it!

[ “Ich Bin der Geist, der Stets Verneint” ]

MEPHISTOPHELES:
All freethinkers think alike.
They have to, or they wouldn’t be free.
Get ninety-nine believers in a synod,
You’ll count a hundred heresies,
But even No Mind is monominded.
Being must evidence itself to be,
And anything that doesn’t, isn’t,
To hell with all your mystery.
On this, freethinkers of their own
Free will agree agree agree,
Dissenters in consensus, angels
At peace in cosmic certainty.
These days, the fashionably rational
Are unreasonably reasonable. See,
I know what’s true, but I deny it. Lies
Alone can keep a thinker free.
If I were President, believe you me,
I’d issue a single Executive Order—
All facts must be checked at the border—
And demonize the whole Goddamned democracy.

 

Amit Majmudar is the Poet Laureate of Ohio. His next book, GODSONG, a verse translation of the Bhagavad Gita with commentaries, is forthcoming from Knopf in February 2018.


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