A Nice Reflection (Life Sized) (ceramic, metal patina) by Emil Alzamora
Susan Rich | Deborah Allbritain | Nandini Dhar | Marjorie Stelmach | Joseph Mills | Margo Berdeshevsky | Bethany Reid | Stan Sanvel Rubin | Monique-Adelle Callahan D. | Bart Rawlinson | Gary Fincke | Maryann Corbett | Carol Alexander | Roy Bentley | Bola Opaleke | Ralph Earle | Robert Thomas | Annie Woodford | David Brendan Hopes | Martha Zweig | Barbara Edelman
No One Goes to Heaven Anymore
After the apocalypse of tubes and needles untangle
from my tent-thin skin I know I will miss
the open window and chilled milk sipped from a porcelain cup;
the sound of stellar jays and crows in the easement of their own complaints.
I’ll miss newspapers and morning stillness
— this slow unraveling—
afternoon hours, blackberries, heat.
Or perhaps not, perhaps there is no missing
in the afterlife—just fabulous back-up singers in extra-soft fabrics.
After the revelation of no pain in the hip
or spine, no body at all— there is just wide open space
and the immaculate sound of a cat rearranging herself.
Like island exiles we walk around, or do we?
Maybe it’s all reclining on gilded couches, our eyes
(if we have eyes) gazing upward to a heaven beyond heaven, to the beyond
the beyond – beyond color or country, beyond name calling or corporations.
What would we do with so much nothing?
No dictionaries to offer words like rickrack or tripwire,
only a few grapevines and the deliciousness of salted cod.
Perhaps no one goes to heaven anymore.
No one moves past such mythic gates—
instead we are waiting
and waiting and waiting for something else.
Susan Rich is the author of four poetry collections: Cloud Pharmacy – Finalist for the Julie Suk Prize, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, Cures Include Travel, and The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World, Winner of the PEN USA Award. She is a co-editor of the anthology The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Crossing Borders and has received awards from The Times Literary Supplement (London), Peace Corps Writers, and the Fulbright Foundation. Rich’s poems appear in the Antioch Review, New England Review, Plume, and Witness.
My angels warm themselves in the garden, gorging on muffins
and manna, tossing crumbs to the wrens, but they know
when the lighter and pipe come out I’ll send them north,
linen wings scything the air, to the tiny apartment
with the drapes shut, where the hammerlock of demons
crouch beside her on the couch, where light is like
the aftermath of war, a thing not wanting to be seen.
My vista of angels so intent on saving that they tire quickly,
hug her legs like helpless toddlers, come back to me haggard,
wings battered, little soldiers with their hearts blown open.
What I need are replacements, angels on motorcycles
that can set a duvet on fire under the black lapping
of tongues, suffocate desire until it’s sucked out
a chimney of nothingness, knuckle the desire that shepherds
all her synapses until craving turns mundane as eggs
and bacon. Why can’t craving be a slow kiss
that deepens and deepens while the stars are still out
over the colored lights of a French city, the windows
of the train flashing with such speed it is enough.
Why can’t the sweet night believe
that what lies ahead isn’t another emergency room’s
beeping vitals, dumb angels averting my stare,
their small shoulders bent, dimly lit in a glass of chipped ice.
When a nurse hands me a warm blanket and a pair of
blue socks, it is almost all I want to know of heaven,
maybe hope is a decision, maybe this is all God can give.
Deborah Allbritain lives in San Diego, CA. Publications and awards include: The Antioch Review, The Cortland Review, B O D Y Literature, Front Porch, The Taos Review, Michigan Review, Connecticut River Review, the Cimarron Review. Her poetry has been anthologized in Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology, The Unmade Bed, Harper Collins, The Book of Birth Poetry and In the Palm of Your Hand, Tilbury House.
An overflowing gutter nearby, a boy
dragging a cart of skulls,
no one paid the slightest attention –
this is a city without mirrors.
Save and except
those that schoolgirls fashion
out of revolving shop-doors.
A rattle is all you need to turn
the city into a denouement
of rhythmic cacophony,
a miniature inside the cackling
cellophane: a possibility,
Yes, it is possible
to birth a city without letting
its carfumes trace a fossil on your skin.
Yes, it is possible
to aggregate a city’s crowd without ever
letting them breathe into your footprints.
I am touching your fingers –
through a shield.
An exercise in burying the city’s pebbles
inside an old journal and shutting it close.
A blast of cold air
along the edges of a kitchen-knife,
your outstretched palms: my assurance
that our confessions are safe
in the rock-salt
the eight-year old fruitseller
sprays into the cucumber.
Nandini Dhar is the author of the book Historians of Redundant Moments (Agape Editions, 2017). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review, Memorious, New South, Best New Poets 2016 and elsewhere. Nandini hails from Kolkata, India, and after spending 15 years in US, has recently returned to India, where she teaches literature and writing at OP Jindal Global University.
The Station Clock
before boarding a train alone,
children were asked
to state, unassisted, their name,
address, and destination,
to name the adult
who would meet them, to read
the hands of the station clock.
It was not the practice, back then,
to ask for a reason.
Not a word of the cancer,
the surgery scheduled.
Back home again, it was spring
and school still in session—
spilt sugar that morning,
left un-swept on the breakfast table.
The previous night, while they slept,
their mother had died.
and sugar sparkled
on the breakfast table.
(I stood there. I watched it
No one, back then,
thought children should know.
It would be unkind:
they would have been frightened.
Better, back then, to be sent off alone
on a train.
(It was spring: I had only just learned
to tell time.)
Marjorie Stelmach’s fifth volume of poems is Falter (Cascade Books, 2017). In addition to earlier numbers of ONE, recent work has appeared in Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Image, Iowa Review, and New Letters. She is the 2016 recipient of the Chad Walsh Award from the Beloit Poetry Journal.
On the Way Home from the Civil Rights Museum My Fourteen-Year-Old Daughter Explains Why She Wants to Get a Tattoo
…they only knew it was Emmett Till
because of the ring he was wearing…
Joseph Mills teaches at the UNC School of the Arts. He has published six collections of poetry, most recently Exit, pursued by a bear.
Dawn in the valley cradle, color of broken pearls. Roiling milk lake, blinding curve sky, its sudden
owls’ flat hammer-heads like nails. Mists of rust. Mists of metal.
—I’m a good child. This, from its upper window, waking. I’m a good child.
This below: the orchid showing her clitoris.
Some of the blooms are used-up messengers, burned and withered in among the healthy
ones. While banks of royal vesture purples fold over themselves like old-woman church-lace
lavenders. One spotted-orchid, there, a hungry winged thing one could feed souls to. Feed it.
—Don’t pick it. I won’t pick it. Leave the shed snakeskin self with the dry blooms, let it
disappear in sun, when it comes.
There’s no sun, not now, next season, when I’m older. Then, let the ants come drag it to their
unlit homes. When I’m older. I’m older. Let me be older. Let me move in black forest mud,
along its lanes and murmur with what grows, with all that grows.
Court solitude like a long night’s body, its blue bones. Stroke its head, darling. Right next to mine.
—Dear, listen to the three different voices of wings, can you name them? Step out to the chill cut
grass, its bite. Whose song is it, whose child?
Climb the mist barefoot, losing my skin. Pray for the singers, and the worms, and the ants. Pray for the screech owls. For my dry heart, and victims of a distant war-quake — their lost tongues, their
iced cry, their bellies churned to knotted stones.
But it was there. It wasn’t here, it didn’t kill in this valley. It was there. It wasn’t here. It’s in the lungs of God. I pray for God’s bad heart, let him stop being so raged, so solitary, breaking his own toys.
Without any warning he attacks. I no longer live in a garden. No valley. No blue door. Couldn’t he have grown a new one, like a lizard’s tail?
Margo Berdeshevsky is author of four collections: Before the Drought (Glass Lyre Press, 2017,) finalist for National Poetry Series; Between Soul & Stone, and But a Passage in Wilderness (Sheep Meadow Press;) Beautiful Soon Enough (University of Alabama Press/FC2’s Innovative Fiction Award.) Honors include Robert H. Winner Award from Poetry Society of America. Berdeshevsky’s poems appear in Plume, New Letters, Poetry International, and Southern Humanities Review.
Before He Died, Your Brother
Before he died, your brother wrote down a story
about a boy who plucked a lime from a tree outside a cave
and went into the cave holding the lime
like a torch. In his faith, the lime became a torch
and by its light he made his way deeply
into the earth. That was his story, just that,
he was no Orpheus, though his wife had left him
and he did want her back. He wasn’t allowed to see
his children, though he wasn’t drugging,
not anymore, not even drinking. This was
a long time ago, you remember, before we had computers
in every house, before cable TV. Before I-Pods.
Though maybe he listened to music, listened
and wrote his stories down. So, a type of Orpheus.
Your brother couldn’t spell worth a damn. He wasn’t
a great storyteller. But he wrote down a few stories.
When his wife left him, she took even the light fixtures.
Writing his story, he had the hero pluck that lime
in a flood of consciousness, knowing
that he would need a bitter light to guide him.
Bethany Reid‘s most recent book is Sparrow, which won the 2012 Gell Poetry Prize, selected by Dorianne Laux. She blogs and lives in Edmonds, Washington, with her husband and daughters.
The pit bull’s threatening growl
reminds me of a B-24 revving up
in a WWII movie, about to leave
with a painted Lana Turner on its nose
for a suicide mission
like the one I seem to be on now
because of a sudden turn I took
down the wrong road
to the wrong place
on the wrong afternoon.
The sign nailed to the wooden post
My Dog Can Reach the Fence
in 5 Seconds Flat, Can YOU?
might have been useful
if I had spotted it
ten yards and an eternity before
coming to the open gate on this
accidental road fringed with high weeds.
What I wanted to find was berries
or fruit, something sweet to hunt
with the knowledge I carry
into the randomness of these woods
I’ve never entered so deeply,
though close to home.
What is the best way
to understand our ignorance?
Possibly the moon,
when it rises above the dark,
will divide the world into sections,
the self-maimed only one.
The trees will shrink and bleed
into one vast tree, as happens
at dusk with the moon still
taking off. Right now, no one
is standing here but me, and
I am humming to the dog like it’s a baby.
Stan Sanvel Rubin has had poems in many national magazines, most recently, American Journal of Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and The Laurel Review. His fourth full collection, There. Here., was published by Lost Horse Press in 2013. He lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
Making Music of Her
My grandmother sang to a valley of cows.
When she speaks of it, her neck like a bow
bent over the bridge of a violin’s throat,
lifts awake, and the horizon between her lips
cracks open with the light of her speech.
Girlll, did I tell you about the time I sang
to a valley-full of cows? Ha! They looked up
stunned! Mouth open, wondering where
all that noise was coming from! She speaks
of song echoing caverns, black rock singing
breath breathing over spines new to the beauty
and the wind of hymns. I know then I want
to keep her here with me in the gentle cage
of this life. She coughs: a stampede of
hooves along her spine roils her limbs
to a chorus of mmmnnnnnnns slipping out
like a prayer, and she is, again, a tiny heap.
Monique-Adelle Callahan D. is an assistant professor at Emmanuel College. Her poems and translations appear in Spoon River Poetry Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Obsidian, etc. She has received writing fellowships from Cave Canem, Mellon, and The Rockefeller Brother’s Fund. She is the author of Between the Lines: Literary Transnationalism and African American Poetics (Oxford UP, 2011). Anonymous won the 2017 Jacar Press New Voices award.
After weeks of warmth in March, the temperatures
began to drop. No one was prepared for it. At the pasture
the coldness stretched out its arms and sprinted through
the sycamores and oaks, knocking off buds. It was below zero;
everywhere the air was loaded with wet slanted lines.
When you’re not being hit by it, sleet is beautiful.
In the middle of the storm the cattle held their heads down.
They reminded me of me. Some of them shuffled
with the slow deliberation of patients on Haldol.
Ice formed on their backs, thin glistening blankets.
The frozen ground cracked underfoot like the sounds
in your head when eating breakfast cereal. Through my boots,
in my legs, I felt the individual grass blades breaking.
I wished for someone beside me to feel it, too.
The newborn calves got the worst of it. They huddled under
their mothers and bawled. I knew what they were going through,
how desperate it feels to be cold. The storm lasted longer
than expected. We hauled the calves and their mothers
to the barn but it was too late — three of the weak calves died.
That night their mothers bellowed in pain; their udders
were bloated with milk. It was a plaintive sound I recognized —
the feeling of holding so much inside, and having no one to take it.
Bart Rawlinson was a 2016 Artist-in-Residence at Green Olive Arts in Tetouan, Morocco, and a 2015 Artist-in-Residence at Arteles in Hämeenkyrö, Finland. He received the 2013 William Matthews Poetry Prize. His work appears in Asheville Poetry Review, The Rumpus, Santa Clara Review, Cutbank and elsewhere. He lives in rural California.
At the Opening of the Wellness Center
This morning I learned how San Francisco
Eliminated its cemeteries,
Scattering the dead, using the unclaimed
Tombstones as breakwater in the bay, how
They sometimes resurface when the weather
Alters the ocean’s reach. I’m listening,
Right now, to someone explain mindfulness
At the wellness center dedication,
The rooms named for a colleague who has died
By suicide, a woman who, each term,
Asked her class to write their thoughts in columns:
To be done. Maybe later. To delete.
Now send the delete items into space,
She would say, the rapture for distractions.
I think of two biopsies, video
Filmed by a camera passed through my throat.
“What’s that actually mean, a spot?” I’d asked
When a receptionist called to report
What my recent ultrasound had revealed.
My concentration narrowed to my throat
And the memory of my mother in
Treatment, her hair vanishing, her thyroid
In every family conversation.
My colleague’s father narrates her last weeks,
The phone calls farther and farther apart
Like hospice breaths until there were no more.
Look, maybe the righteous have already
Been saved, vanishing one by one without
Anything but routine diagnosis,
Someone reading the signs as if they were
Scattered bones or animal organs or,
Like this week, creases on an open hand,
A passenger, from an airport, texting
Her mother about how short her lifeline
Appears before she boarded an airplane
That would suffer a mid-air explosion.
San Francisco revised its dead to serve
The living; these rooms have been refurbished
Like old graves; my fear is ridiculous
With secrecy. Though I can’t help thinking
That renovation is a lie, I am
In the school’s fitness room at six a.m.
To pedal a bike at high resistance
Until exhaustion comes to comfort me.
Everything demands to be done. We bow
Our heads to this particular moment.
Gary Fincke‘s latest collection 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. His next book is The Out-of-Sorts: New and Selected Stories (November, 2017, West Virginia University).
Common name: Nutmeg
Always a bit off balance,
one stands on a chair, on tiptoe.
Fumbles amid the fragrant small containers.
Shoves the history aside.
One would prefer to forget the great Dutch galleons
pressing in at the tiny islands of Banda
and the thin face of Jan Pieterszoon Coen
framed in a starched ruff.
How he spoke his simple orders.
How the Dutch in their gleaming armor
drove the young men of Banda over the cliffs.
How their blood scented the water.
How soldiers gathered the native planters together,
beheading them one by one,
the heads rotting on pikes, the attar of them
drifting for days.
How by this means the Dutch East India Company
savored its luscious success.
One would prefer to forget.
For the Christmas guests are all in the living room, laughing.
And so one taps the jar, and so the eggnog
is fragrant with this forgetting
and with rum, too, though that is another story.
Maryann Corbett‘s fourth book, Street View, is just out from Able Muse Press. Her work has won the Richard Wilbur Award, the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize, and the Lyric Memorial Award. Her poems appear widely and have been featured on Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, the Writer’s Almanac, and American Life in Poetry. Maryann lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
She wakes that morning to a limp body
when light streaks in from thin bamboo.
Rain quail pour out their plaintive notes;
the spliced boy dampens the quilt
with his steaming breath.
I know this from the translator
the way I also know it from those deeper sleeps
that only a dreaming child can bestow.
The room begins to give of mohinga and tea.
It’s the hour before the endless rapes,
the boy’s shattered spine, the men’s stinking sweat.
His sweet exhalations choked by gore.
My hands on the quilt: checking for a pulse.
Beautiful lady, let’s stop time.
It’s the wedding day, it’s the play of rosy mouths,
of promises leafy and saturate, mist over Nat Ma Tuang,
whickering of a donkey on the temple trek,
a dazed tourist gnawing another country’s bones.
But what is the source of this sharp hunger?
(the blue airwaves and dirt highways,
the Kama Sutra of restless feet).
It’s never ever the splintered door.
Never gunmetal, the crack of twelve shots
or quails drooping numb in camouflage.
The labia torn. A dull, incessant prayer.
So tell her all about hope, its pinfeathers smirched.
When the rains come, even scarlet trails vanish
along with men in filthy pants staggering back to camp,
fucked out, ready for fish sauce and rice.
Carol Alexander‘s poetry appears in anthologies including Broken Circles (Cave Moon Press), Through a Distant Lens (Write Wing Publishing) and Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 1. Her work can be found in Bluestem, Caesura, Chiron Review, San Pedro River Review, Split Rock Review, Soundings East etc. She is the author of the chapbook Bridal Veil Falls (Flutter Press), and the collection Habitat Lost (Cave Moon Press).
Alice and the Mad Hatter Reconnoiter the Borders of Wonderland
Unraveling the yarn of what happens next, what remains
in their rucksack of choices, they mosey along together.
His hat is the gray of the back feathers of zebra finches,
her dress the blue greeting the dead as sky in the afterlife.
The Hatter convinces Alice the map he unfolds is current,
reminding her of the lack of infrastructure in this country.
He’s ignoring a Mylar star-on-a-stick she causes to spin
with endless flick-flickings, the neighboring air carrying
the sound of a teapot screaming its shrill note of warning.
If Alice is supposed to echo the living fires of innocence,
to fetch and carry water from the well of hope and dream,
the Hatter is here to resurrect the soft clink of milk bottles
set down on backstairs in a countryside of early morning
and a lingering scone scent of ordinary good conscience.
He’s the lunacy of commerce. Friend to a lucky few.
Befriending the friendless might be taken for madness.
Accompanying young strangers, truants, on their walks.
The joy of stepping outside the usual lines of demarcation
between acceptable behavior and what alliance demands—
if the Hatter pauses, it is because Alice is as unexpected
as the light of universal kindness falling ahead on the path.
Success or failure turns on anticipating some feral force
wreathed in hunger and purring expectancy in the trees.
How terrible it must have seemed when even so small
a portion of purity of heart was judged indefensible.
Just now, brave Alice kneels to tie a shoe. Straighten
the worked-loose barrettes of her best British manners
in close proximity to the shadow of a petitioning grin.
Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat, Any One Man, The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana, and Starlight Taxi. A new book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is a finalist for the Miller Williams Prize and due out from the University of Arkansas.
Because the Earth Would No Longer Weep
When we brought the ocean to you
in chains, you asked:
of what use is water on a leash?
When fiery deities jumped
into our eyes, and the ferocious beasts
in hibernation roared to life on our skin
fondling resistance to a forced sleep,
you confessed. We were the girls born with keys
to your flooded waist – you,
boys with slippery thighs.
The weight of your deception later turned to a cross
making us fall three times before Golgotha;
before we were even ready
for pollination. In your eyes
we saw claws but thought nothing of it,
thought nothing of a wolf every mother warns
her daughter about. While walking the brown field
of our bodies, we warned you, we warned you
to not think every pain is painful,
to not say “dredge the river”
when the flood could no longer hold the door
of our hips. Funny as it sounds,
we were ready to tame destiny
ready to break the rule that refused to bend
and polish that delusion to a brilliant shine,
for you – boys with slippery thighs –
making us, girls, into water – running free
unchained, seeking newer boundaries.
Bola is a Nigerian-Canadian poet residing in Winnipeg, MB. His poems have appeared or forthcoming in poetry magazines like Cleaver, The Nottingham Review, The Puritan, The Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, Poetry Quarterly, Miracle E-Zine, Poetry Pacific, Drunk Monkeys, League of Canadian Poets (2013), Pastiche Magazine, and others.
Any Snake Bears Watching
9 November 2016
The autumn is hot, the leaves dry and drop
into the stream. Against each rising rock,
a constituency backs up. The stream is dark.
Sun flashes on the ripples like thoughts that vanish.
A heron watches from a dead branch.
On the rock where I sit, remnants of a note
somebody must have burned for some reason,
charred border and a few blue lines on white.
I cannot speak about the vote last night.
Once, in this spot, I saw a brown and tan
copperhead swimming toward my dangling foot.
Or was it, as my friend insists, a water snake?
Any snake bears watching. From upstream
above the trees come explosions—
fireworks celebrating the election?
More likely the quarry, where rocks are blasted
for trucks to haul away. The raindrops
spatter the water like bullets into bull’s eyes.
The heron has not moved. The stream caresses
the tumbled stone, the way my fingers flowed
over your face before daylight, as we lay close.
Ralph Earle’s collection, The Way the Rain Works, won the 2015 Sable Books Chapbook Award. His poems have appeared in Carolina Quartery, Tar River Poetry, The Sun, Sufi Magazine, and elsewhere. He teaches poetry at Central Carolina Community College and works as a computer services consultant.
Sonnet with Blue Sphere and Ruby, My Dear
If only you were in love with quasars
and their staggering luminosity,
or a hummingbird, attuning yourself
to its three thousand wingbeats per minute—
how could I compare as you thrashed yourself
into lather? Or music, but even
the spherical chords of Thelonious
Sphere Monk—even they are, finally, born
of human hands that caress inhuman
instruments. What kills me is that the one
you love has blood like mine, that in the heat
of August can discern the coming fall,
although ’round midnight he’s as far from me
as a prism is from a straight black line.
Robert Thomas’s most recent book, Bridge (BOA Editions) is a lyrical novella. It received the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction. His first book, Door to Door (Fordham University Press), was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the Poets Out Loud Prize. His second collection, Dragging the Lake, was published by Carnegie Mellon. He has received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Pushcart Prize.
If Bird You Be, Then Hawk for Certain
You died before the decade was done.
I should have known that would be the way.
A day after turning ten, my child—the one you named,
her birthday the same as yours—shouted to see
a red tailed hawk keeping watch on a rail
by the walled-off creek, the interstate
a constant shush above us and this season,
your season, naming the air yellow.
Naming it golden and cold.
All I saw of the hawk was its underside
opening like a hand as it took flight
and turned, its white breast scalloped
with brown, its wings wide with wind.
I’d like to think the hawk was you
come back to watch over us,
to remind us of the fist in our chests,
the Pentecostal vision of a world unfurling.
A pretty story. Yes. But sometimes I’m certain.
The only faith we ever had was faith
of stone and water. Of leaves backlit by loss,
the way a doe’s fur lays over her flanks,
muscles moving underneath, her cloven print pressed
into dirt, a trace of something
only the trees have witnessed, the sky.
Annie Woodford teaches at Virginia Western Community College. Her poetry appears in The Louisville Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Southern Review, The Texas Review, Prairie Schooner, etc.. She was awarded the Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets and a Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholarship for the 2017 Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her first book of poetry is forthcoming from Groundhog Poetry Press.
The Soul’s Capacity to Bear Sadness
I have summoned the image of my mother
in her white nightgown, bent over,
crying in the midnight hallway, I forget why.
I have thought of my little black and white dog
who died when I was away at school,
but who came to me in a dream, and it was perfect,
and all the long-loved voices drifted out the windows,
and it was a night of blessing, of forgiveness—
then behind came the strange, dark waters
with their other voices, alluring and unfamiliar.
I tried to enter.
They tell me not to dwell on that.
Oh, be transparent, the midnight voices said,
leave nothing obscure. Leave nothing behind.
I thought of my knuckles reddening your door,
you on the other side listening, curious,
as though more than one thing might have happened.
I think of my poems with their goods on their backs
like refugees shambling through an unanticipated wasteland.
I think of laughter behind a closing gate.
Go ahead, one says to the heart. Get it all out.
This is our experiment. This is what we need to know.
It’s a study which does not repay too much concentration.
Looking from somewhere to the side is best.
Left field. Through an album of somebody else’s lovers.
A touch here, a rill of fragrance,
a syllable uttered so that you must break stride.
Does the world know how much can be borne
and leave the soul the soul?
Are there records to be broken?
Does it expect growth in this arena?
Does it anticipate
some bad expansion deeper down and darker in?
The goldfish you took the trouble to name
glides amid the rocks you bothered to stack just right.
He must be blessed, you think, dwelling among
the stems of waterlilies. He eats from your hand.
He could be extinguished by the tilting of a rim.
You could do it. Once thought of, it’s hard
to push it from your mind.
Said some certain way, you have to laugh at annihilation.
You have to think of it as one of those
uncomplicated ironies even children understand.
The four-rayed starbursts of the foam flowers
throng between the porch slats. You remind yourself
they are for a day. One only. Do not touch. Move on.
His email says “I love you.”
It means something, even if no more
the meaning that you Lionhearted for
when Jerusalem might yet be won. Those days are gone.
You love him back, of course. You say so and hit “Send.”
You hear your own cry somewhere this side of the horizon.
You look out trying to fathom how it came to be.
The softness that makes cruelty easy?
The cruelty that makes kindliness absurd?
Maybe the marsh hibiscus with its Sauron eye of wheeling fire.
The lads in the street, their bad vocabulary. Maybe that.
The radio in the next room plays something beautiful.
You are content to listen from a distance,
knowing that there is, essentially, no approach,
knowing you will not be able to refrain
from turning forever to the point
where the last of you went down.
David Brendan Hopes is a poet, playwright, and painter living in Asheville, NC.
As surely as eleven Eastern
gray squirrels twirl twigs
roundabout the parade grounds, I
love you & lash my leaves too.
Yay! until very God Herself
appears slinky in sequins & in full
diatribe roaring No way! will
I assuredly love you.
As yours-truly as new
flotsam floats & fresh
jetsam hurls upon high
seas-swollen rollicking residue, I, too,
crest in whitecaps of love among
such two-by-twos as grapple one
or another sloshed off of No’s
foundering ark, & as verily
I buzz as does the hive
of hexagonized love that survives
every flower to flatter & fatten
its Queen of stings’ sweet dream.
If I crouch latterly
scratching a frosty window’s opaque fleurs-
de-lys to elaborate love’s ill-gotten pains,
if I’ve caught on to your quickstep just then
double-crossing our spin—why, I’ll be
that liar luckily nobody listens to; I’ll be
the nevermind-who, whose only love
you’ll be nonetheless, poor irregardless you.
Martha Zweig’s collections include Monkey Lightning, Tupelo Press, 2010; What Kind, Wesleyan University Press, 2003; Vinegar Bone, Wesleyan University Press, 1999 and Powers, a Vermont Arts Council chapbook, 1976. Get Lost, her latest, won the 2014 Rousseau Prize and is forthcoming from The National Poetry Review Press.
Poem Including Definitions of Untranslatable Words & Lines Adapted from a Student’s Essay
My student is thin
like a shirt without a body,
a ribbon of skin.
From the scaffold of her language, her ideas
winnow into English until her words
are the amount of liquid you can cup
in one hand. She sighs and her voice
is the road-like reflection of a moon
on water. Silver moon, cobalt water.
Voice divided as moonlight through the leaves
of old books, abandoned in an abbey
with no roof. She builds sentences like houses
from a city razed by fire.
Commuovere, I want to say, for I am
moved in a heartwarming way
when she translates the ancient
poet whom she does not name:
In the past, the horses moved slow,
The carriages moved slow,
And so the letters between people moved slow,
You could have but one lover in a lifetime.
In Mexico, I moved slowly
through still and not yet and not anymore.
We walked late into night on uneven streets,
in shorts too long for LA and too short
for Cuernavaca. My hands spoke,
and sometimes closed, as if to cup
the necessary word like water.
On the moon road between languages
my mind opened like a roofless abbey.
New moon, purple sigh. Voice like
light on water. Though she is nineteen,
the student who has translated the ancient
The world moves too fast now for love.
*Translations of untranslatable words are from Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders, Ten Speed Press, Berkley
Barbara Edelman is the author of the poetry collection Dream of the Gone-From City (Carnegie Mellon University Press 2017) and of two poetry chapbooks. Some journals in which her work has appeared include Raleigh Review, Prairie Schooner, and Poet Lore. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh where she coordinates the Writers’ Café.