Light by Ilya Ibryaev
Leanne O’Sullivan | Richard Jackson | Julie Suk | Nicole Rollender | Jonathan May | Chimera Lay | John Gallaher | Sidney Wade | Paul Nelson | Katherine Soniat | Thomas Aslin | Catherine MacDonald | Grant Clauser | Anthony DiMatteo | Susan Grimm | Juliana Gray | Karen Skolfield | Lauren Camp | Marjorie Stelmach | Michael Ray | Heidi Czerwiec
No wind, no rain, but every bolt that staggered
from the cumulus that night seemed to raise
a frenzy in the hemispheres of his brain.
I held my husband’s head in the damp nest
of my palms, watched the tremors in his eyes
turn and turn like tiny whirlwinds, until
all that I loved was lost in lightning, darkness,
fire. And when the anaesthetic began
to ferry him down a calmer circle,
to wait out the night, I praised his strength,
the goodness of his body – every working cell
and keeper of his passage I prayed defend him,
I let him go. Near midnight the nurse shone
her torch over the still lakes of his eyes,
and I thought of sleeping Odysseus safe beneath
his quilt of leaves, his face smooth like wax-paper,
no piercing rain, no drenched gales or beating heat
upon him. No movement, she said. No light.
Leanne O’Sullivan was born in 1983 and comes from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, Ireland. She has won several awards including the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. She has published three collections of poetry, Waiting for My Clothes (2004), Cailleach: The Hag of Beara (2009), and The Mining Road (2013). She is currently Writer-in-Residence at University College, Cork.
There are some terrors that have no words, no meaning.
I thought I had become a mottled fresco on one of your
shuttered churches. A net of shadows covered me.
I didn’t know who the gulls were grieving for. I thought
the rain had turned dark. I was alive but not breathing.
I was dead but breathing. It didn’t matter. It was just
a question of words. It was not breath but spirit, not spirit
but something I couldn’t name. I stood beneath Him
when he finished. But it wasn’t the end we thought, rather
a beginning. Besides, there will always be other terrors,
those things that scuff the heart, and leave welts
that never heal. Yet I am astonished by what we let pass.
A child’s head jerks back from the stray bullet that passed
through her bedroom wall, a young man’s flesh turns
to liquid in a jungle village, a passerby is mistaken
for a dealer. You’d think our words for them would leave us
abandoned before we abandon them for words that let us
pretend a safer world. No one has my story right.
I was nowhere and everywhere. And now?
The gulls drape the trawler like a huge white net.
A few clouds fret at the far end of the pier. Memory
balances on a phrase we soon forget. I can watch
the harbor masts change places as the tidal currents shift,
hear your church bells change the color of the air
from terrified to holy. The sun rises as if it were
invited. We never question where it’s been. There are
terrors that have no time, no place, that we know
the way we see the ragged map a receding flood leaves
behind in the sand. From here it appears the wharf
intersects the horizon, the vanishing point. I’d like
to know what’s there, for each morning a new light rises
there and starts to name what the darkness has left.
The gull I have been watching pauses, then moves on.
Author of twenty books of translation, criticism and anthologies, Richard Jackson’s most recent poetry books are Retrievals, Out of Place and Resonance. He’s won Fulbright, Guggenheim, NEA, NEH fellowships, 5 Pushcart appearances, and the Medal of Freedom from the President of Slovenia for Literary and Humanitarian work in the Balkans.
The Indians had it right, a burial platform,
the shroud and remains subject to wind, snow, sun, rain,
birds of prey.
Afterwards, memory and its crystals winding miles
through a cavernous underground.
There are days I look for an opening to the meandering past.
What was said, what was meant . . .
There are resonating mimes
like the outline of a hand I once found on the walls of a cave,
so intimate I pressed my palm against the stone.
remember me remember me
I like to think we evaporate, condense, and eventually return.
Our grasp, the next
and next rock as if there was a point to the climb—
my grandfather inserting a sprig of sweet-olive in his lapel
before striding out into the day.
Julie Suk is the author of five volumes of poetry including Lie Down With Me, New and Selected Poems, published by Autumn House Press. Her work has most recently appeared in Cimarron Review, The Midwest Quarterly, and Southern Poetry Review.
Untranslatable Swedish word referring to the glimmering,
road-like reflection the moon creates on water.
At dusk, my father deboned
dead stars echoing its eye.
Those seemed the longest
evenings I had known, waiting
for the curved gills
to explode with a last shot
of air. I learned what it
was to wait for something
to die. But this was how
my father prayed—he fed us by
opening a body. Faraway
I heard a train’s moan, needle
bones stuck, stuck, stuck between
hungry men’s teeth. Once my father
placed the fish’s wet heart—
finally, and once, exposed to a sky
rowing toward night—
on my palm. The moon spoke
the way your eye entered
my spine’s bend. We will never be
this way again. Not you,
with your rare kindnesses
that tempted me to break
my own bones. Not my father,
who threw the entrails
back into the water, and wiped
the blood on his pants.
The red waxed on my palm.
The words that came
to me, I wrote by candlelight:
One day, the hand
that caught this fish will be
no more. And my father cast
his lure over and over into moon
on water, when he thought
I was sleeping. But I watched
his arms’ smooth flick
from my dark room. I was uncaged
light. I was the fish’s ghost.
One day he’d show me how
to thrust a net into the ocean
to pull up a sea bass that struggled
to escape, the way I would
from you, and eventually, other men.
Except that’s a net that never
stops pulling. It never stops.
Nicole Rollender’s work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. Her full-length poetry collection, Little Deaths, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. Her chapbooks are Absence of Stars (dancing girl), Bone of My Bone (Blood Pudding Press) and Arrangement of Desire.
Poised above their heads, the hue of sky itself,
liters of water sashay in the buckets the girls carry.
They walk for hours, the little girls, on sandals
made from old tires, black on pink underbellied feet.
They must not stumble, for they’ve walked five
kilometers already, five more to reach the huts.
Love does not carry them, their mothers do not carry
them. The girls, their noses stinging with dust, sneeze
and for a moment, terror reflects like clouds
in the water of their eyes. They stop, steadying backs
straight so as not to fail, not to turn back, mud
drying around their toes. At last—they reach home,
mothers stay rooted at their weaving, babies crawl
inside the huts along the polished cow-dung floor.
Boiling the water, the girls take turns sipping,
it is so hot, but they are thirsty. Ten kilometers thirsty
for this. They must boil the water. They see their sister,
clutched stomach, black flies crawling all around her.
Buzz and buzz, weaving patterns around her, waiting
for their children to hatch beneath her skin.
Jonathan May grew up in Zimbabwe as the child of missionaries. He lives and teaches in Memphis, TN. His work has appeared in [PANK], Superstition Review, Plots With Guns, Shark Reef, Duende, and Rock & Sling. He’s recently finished translating the play Dreams by Günter Eich into English.
In her dream they walk
across a creaking glass ocean,
oblivious of the ice-lightning
falling from the sky.
In their bed, he lies awake
still as a great blue heron
listening to the suck
and sigh of her breathing.
He watches silk fish
ripple her nightdress.
Beyond their window
the sea is lost in grey.
But there’s a bird out there,
talking the sky into crimson.
The sun is on its way
having just left Kiribati.
Chimera Lay lives in County Cork Ireland. Her work has appeared in Bare hands, Burning bush 2, And other poems, The Stoney Thursday Anthology and Southword. She was nominated for the Forward prize in 2014.
How Things Really Happen
I can’t remember any of the deadly sins but gluttony right now. I
could look them up, some sort of new research project, where I’m
sure one is hubris, and there’s got to be something on there about
sex. Maybe two of them, call it a package deal, my deadly sin or
yours, two for one. It could be a game for you and your friends, until
the game itself could be a sort of deadly sin, though perhaps a relatively
minor one, maybe a severe injury sin, then, where we can take a few
stabs at which is the deadly sin for coach whoever who just got the
boot from Rutgers for throwing basketballs and calling players fags.
He was contrite in his news conference, said there’s no explanation
for his behavior. Same time I’m hearing this, I’m reading that “when
you refuse to apologize, it actually makes you feel more empowered.
That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-
worth.” Is delusion a deadly sin? How about power? Power should be
a deadly sin, in general. And powerful people love telling us things like
that, about deadly sins and power. It’s supposed to make us feel like
somehow we’re the winners while they make X million dollars a year
and name buildings after each other. There’s a new clause going into
our employee handbook, I found out yesterday, an insubordination
clause, as grounds for firing. Insubordination, then, is a deadly sin here,
even if they’re playing it pretty close with how they’re defining it, leaving
me to wonder if asking them what their definition of insubordination is
would be an act of insubordination. I’m thinking this while eating a
banana, which is why I’m thinking of gluttony. I wanted a donut. I
wanted a donut real bad. And then I picked up a banana instead. I’m
so good, I’ll probably celebrate later with a quart of ice cream. But, as
with insubordination, when it comes to our sins, context is key. For
instance, when I was in high school, my nickname pretty much was
“Hey Faggot,” so I can sympathize with today’s situation, except that
most of the guys calling me that were on the basketball team. So now
I’m conflicted. I want to kind of laugh at the whole thing. At the way
we dance ourselves around, taking offense. I remember one time, in
high school, when I was the first one to science class and the door was
locked, I went to the second door down the hall (as the classrooms each
had two doors), and it was unlocked, so I went in and sat down. Easy-
breezy. Then, like a minute later or something, comes jangle jangle at
the locked door and the teacher and the students pour in. The teacher,
Mrs. Muscalino, who was young and pretty, asked, “How did you get
in here?” And one of the bright apples, maybe from the basketball
team? Or maybe just a sympathizer, said, “Well, we all know fairies can
fly,” and they all started laughing, even Mrs. Muscalino laughed, because
it was the laughing decade, as if flying could have anything to do with
getting into a locked room. Maybe it was the understanding that fairies
can also make themselves small, and that making oneself small and
having the ability to fly would be a great help in many situations, this
one among them. So I showed them, right? I showed them my wings,
rising over the classroom, loop-the-loops and pirouettes, and then I
made myself small, so small no one could see me. I could go anywhere.
John Gallaher’s fifth book of poems is In a Landscape (BOA, 2014). He lives in rural Missiouri and co-edits The Laurel Review.
The Great White Pelican
he slowly dies
in the shallows,
his great elbows
lifted as if
he cannot feed
or fly and so
It’s very slow.
Day by day,
the water lowers.
by a breath
of the lily pads
lie on ground
with young weeds.
out of the drying
up a mile
Sidney Wade’s sixth collection of poems, Straits & Narrows, was published by Persea Books in April 2013. Her translations from the Turkish, Selected Poems of Melih Cevdet Anday won the Meral Divitci Prize and will be published in October 2015. She has served as President of AWP and Secretary/Treasurer of ALTA and teaches workshops in Poetry and Translation at the University of Florida’s MFA@FLA program. She is the poetry editor of Subtropics.
THROUGH THE ICE
Singing and winging the green John Deere
down the bank and onto the ice
he lowers the dawn-shined blade
like some stoked Viking
pushes the first pass open
as if it were Spring in the Rockies,
Cameron Pass, 10,296 ft elev.,
then another push and another
shelving back the snow
to let the sun, the moon
lay cold hard silk
his voice suddenly a capella
above amazing groans and fractures
the surface beginning to tilt beneath him
cave in with grace and reasonably
taking awhile as he looks around
the house the field the past
the tractor rolling over
him aboard the man-high
inflated tires up but not enough
to keep the machine afloat
a big toy trembling down in gloom
while he waves it aside and overhead
observes shatters and plaques
of blue green glass
skid in sun sick yellow light
his boots stones
wool shirt a lead wrap
his faded red cap rising loose
like a tune
silly as he sinks to think
all he wanted was a clean sheet
for the children to skate on
and banks of neat plowed snow
to fall in laughing when they tired
It was a damn nice idea
he thinks and keeps on humming
because drowning is somewhy old
an embryonic whimsy settling
lungs all spent on bubbles
a melody’s humor
no pain in his chest no panic
his brain and simple will subsiding
sort of interested
down next to his tractor
a huge lobster on the bottom
of muddy Eden when
an orange polyethylene line
weighted by a shovel
stiffens down beside him
and again he goes along
twists his senseless arms and hands
half live legs in the line
and blacks out hanging on
Ben his neighbor who was watching
while having coffee
ran down with a ladder to lay out
to reach the cave-in with the bright line
felt no slack and big slow weight
so hauled him up and out on the ice to shore
like a basking seal
They tell him when he comes to
she made him breathe with her mouth
her beating fists on his chest
made him cough up all that stupid water
yelling STUPID STUPID
What can he say to her anyway
now his brain’s thawed
All I wanted was a clearing
So he opens the gate and drains the pond
watching little trout and sunnies
flop and quiver still
or flood downstream like offerings
to racoon and fox and hawks
the John Deere dragged and salvaged
the crater filled again to freeze over
for the rest of dwindling winter
kids shoveling and skating skating
into Spring’s catastrophe
because it wasn’t fatal
Paul Nelson writes from the North Shore of O’ahu. No more ice, though he is a Downeaster at heart. His eighth book, BURNING THE FURNITURE, Guernica Editions, came in 2014. For years, Director of the Creative Writing Program for Ohio University, he’s an NEA Fellow, and AWP Winner for poetry.
THE TIME IT TAKES
Buddhism holds that within forty-nine days
the deceased begin transition.
He liked the time it took to read a book
and wanted someday to write one.
The doctor had to consider words carefully before saying,
Utmost need to communicate comes with speechlessness.
I cannot recall her name.
Weeks away from wishing, I learn to see what’s absent with sheets
for a curtain and one moonlit puppet. Solitary pear on stage, the prop.
Pollen trails the lost around all spring.
Two of us in your room that day: you mindless of me, or who I was,
or might ever be.
Tonight I thought you’d come, the cicadas that loud. It just took
time to make it from the creek and up the tangled ravine.
Katherine Soniat’s seventh collection, Bright Stranger, is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press in spring, 2016. The Swing Girl (LSU Press) was selected as Best Collection of 2011 by the Poetry Council of North Carolina. The Goodbye Animals recently received the Turtle Island Quarterly Chapbook Award.
A Portrait in White
Because I could not write
I drew grocery lists for my mother,
drew a tape dispenser that resembled
a Henry Moore elephant,
a toothbrush and a scrolled tube of paste,
a comb baring misshapen teeth.
Along the margins Mother inscribed
the name for each.
Later when I could write but could not spell,
she’d print the name of each object
next to what I drew.
For all I knew these early efforts
showed little artistic promise,
though my mother believed otherwise.
My talent, as I see it, was in knowing
what might be left out. Upon sketching
the house but unsure how to draft or shade
a flagstone path, I covered each stone,
as God might, with billows of snow.
When furnishing the bedrooms in the house,
I covered my sleeping figures with sheets
drawn up near their chins. Only their heads
or an errant hand exposed. Our Springer
Spaniel was easy in comparison.
Patsy slept in the patio next to the garage,
so from my point of view was invisible.
From where I sit now
the figures in my stark rooms
seem etherized or worse.
And since my parents are deceased
and my brothers and I seldom speak,
my primitive sketches are all too prescient.
Given pencil and paper
a small child drew unwittingly a future
he never would have imagined or wanted.
Thomas Aslin holds an MFA from the University of Montana where he studied with the late Richard Hugo. His book, A Moon over Wings (now in a 2nd edition) was a finalist for the 2009 Washington State Book Award. Recent work has appeared in The Georgia Review and Hubbub.
Before my maiden voyage up Route 17
into the piney woods of the Northern Neck,
my father showed me what happens
beneath the hood of a car. Get out,
he said, and so I did, out of the driver’s seat,
heretofore occupied only by him, out
onto that familiar street where we stood
together, alike and unalike, studying
the begrimed engine as it marked time
in four strokes, shoulder to shoulder,
though never eye to eye, me with my permit
and his permission, him in the thick boots
of the yard, a lock of hair limp over his forehead
in a way that sometimes spelled trouble.
As we talked gas and oil, tolls and troopers,
I learned the exit strategy, how the chambered
shot departs into hourless air, how all things fall away.
Catherine MacDonald is the author of Rousing the Machinery, winner of the 2012 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize (U of Arkansas P). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Sou’wester, Washington Square, Crab Orchard Review, Blackbird, Cortland Review, and other journals. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.
More Advice for My Daughters
Maybe the moon doesn’t shadow
us across the field and into
the pine pitch black of woods,
but when we come out again
it’s waiting like a reliable horse.
Tonight the moon went alone
into the clouds and eclipsed
a star we couldn’t follow.
Some business in the night is solo.
So know that you, my morning stars,
can’t go far without me.
Our tides are closed to change
even as waves wash out our
footprints in the sand.
The sky you want and the sea
you have are two parts of a whole.
Know that waves go on forever,
as they circle round the world.
Embrace the grace lunations
of the nights, the grip they have
and their steady light. Your moon
is bright as feathers floating
on the waves, the piece we save.
Grant Clauser’s book, Necessary Myths, won the 2013 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. Poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cheat River Review, The Good Men Project, Mason’s Road, Painted Bride Quarterly and others. He also writes about electronics, teaches poetry at random places and chases trout with a stick.
Citizens of the Universe
When I found out at seventeen
my mother was adopted, the purity
of my blood proved so much snow
in July. Thought old enough
to know the truth, I looked at her
with new eyes. She too was told
at seventeen by her mother.
My own shock gave way to hers,
how she must have suffered,
how she must have wondered.
Half-French, half-German, was she
an abandoned product of the great war?
I embraced her the way children do,
not needing to know each other’s names.
Anthony DiMatteo is the author of Beautiful Problems: Poems (David Robert Books, 2014). He has a forthcoming chapbook Greetings from Elysium (Finishing Line Press) and a book of poems In Defense of Puppets (Future Cycle Press). Recent work has appeared in The Cortland Review, 2 Bridges Review, and Waccamaw.
Tie the cloud above the spruce trees arrowing in the back, far
enough away that the darkness is small. The darkness first
falling on the chickens which I don’t remember. The shadow
like a puddle washing over the dry plane of light. Stepping in.
Traces of murk, sticky as old gum. Put a car in the drive
because they’ll have to leave. It’s symbolic or a De Soto.
Is it a Packard? I’d like a running board, please. The dog lives
on the stairs never happy except for the hambone. All the teeth
out, then. Layer everything over blue plaid and missal covers
with a pattern of fleur-de-lis. Only a fish stick in the cookie jar.
Rabbit ears on the t.v. and cushy chairs but we can’t live
in that living room anymore. Try this—but from the abyss
Aunt M says, “Get off the phone!” Mother stir/clutches
an ephemeral spoon. Aunt H teeters like a rainbow
of oil at the edge of experience. North of us, the lake digs in,
holds on with its terrier feet. It’s a black hole, a schooner
of darkness. A lapping puddle of cuttlefish ink.
Susan Grimm’s book of poems, Lake Erie Blue, was published in 2004. She won the Copper Nickel Poetry Prize (2010) and the Hayden Carruth Poetry Prize (2011). Her chapbook Roughed Up by the Sun’s Mothering Tongue was published in 2011. In 2014 she received her second Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.
Letter Written on a Maple Wing
At last, I’ve mastered patience.
Look how slowly, since you left,
I have befriended the birds.
Feeders ring the yard,
thistle and suet for the taking.
Sunflowers rock like epileptics
as bluejays ravage them,
jabbing their shaggy heads.
I met a scientist
who took me to his station.
From nets as fine as filament,
we plucked wrens and warblers.
While he recorded data,
I whispered secrets, some lies.
I told a tanager her feathers
were the exact orange of a peach sorbet
you once spooned into my mouth.
We banded her leg, “Remember me.”
You should see the crows,
great thunderheads at dusk,
roosting in our honey locust.
Your name is the song that’s stuck
in their throats. They’re sharpening
their beaks for your blue eye.
Juliana Gray is the author of Roleplay and the chapbook Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve. Recent poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from River Styx, Unsplendid, North Dakota Quarterly, and elsewhere. An Alabama native, she lives in western New York and teaches at Alfred University.
When I Say Suicide, I Mean Steven
I mean next-cubicle-over, I mean
left handed and March. I mean breath
the escape of small birds into brush.
I mean hush around the office when I
say suicide I mean my new co-worker’s
weight sighing into Steven’s chair.
I mean the memorial and dogwood
with its giant root ball spread
into the hole and I mean the first
real day of spring and the 25
first real days of spring to follow,
Look, robins! and then the echo Steven.
I mean no goodbye note for me –
he wrote notes and 25 years later
how ashamed I feel remembering
my anger and I mean ashamed
I mean I lay that shame at the base
of a dogwood budding its heart out
every spring for 25 years the buds,
little velvet gloves uncurling into open palms.
If I so much as breathe on them, they tremble.
Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry. She has received fellowships and awards in 2014/2015 from the Poetry Society of America, New England Public Radio, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Ucross Foundation, Split This Rock, Hedgebrook, and Vermont Studio Center.
A Normal Week
Though the whole town hides ghosts
I never look to the left.
My first sip, the last measure.
I believe I’ve earned this: what isn’t yet
bitter. I find the setting conducive,
this elegant empire
of forks. Even the knives hold
their judgments. No more than slicing.
We are accommodating the room,
and the room is not rushing.
The cup is now empty. How desperate
weakening can be. We each have
houses with windows where we lie
in every tossed night. The cup is filled
with strange evidence, and keeps saying
our names, a few sickly syllables.
Such a fragrance. We might be
recuperating from whatever
reappears in the darkness—the bend
at the stairs, each crack in each hour.
Here we receive the fruit someone brings
to the table, we accept organ meats
and small plates of cream, the vintage.
I lick the whole day and my belly fills.
The candles: back often with flame.
The cup never ends. The cup
is my army, my sculpture,
my candy. Such drifting. I remember
nothing and nothing comes after me.
Sweetheart, your proof and your stricture.
The cup outlined in murmurs.
Radio host, poet and educator, Lauren Camp is the author of two books, most recently The Dailiness, winner of the National Federation of Press Women Poetry Prize and a World Literature Today “Editor’s Pick.” Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, won the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016).
The Alchemical Wind
A water that does not wet the hands.
seventeenth century alchemist
“Whence this wind?” bark the crows in Latin—
twelve hooded crows with slate hairpieces
convened on the sheltered side of a rock, discoursing
in dead tongues, mincing priggishly sideways and back
like clerics awkward in lay company. “Whence this wind?”
they repeat. And well they might: it’s a fearsome wind,
a storm wind, though it isn’t raining. Still, wrapped
as they are in their black oilskins, perhaps
they aren’t certain. Perhaps they believe they’ve found it—
the famed alchemical water that does not wet the hands.
Now, the world will be theirs without toil or trial.
Of a sudden, they make up their one mind and rise—
a dozen, crazy old men taking off full speed,
straight into the wind, and for long moments
it hardly matters, the fact that they’re moving
slow-motion, backwards, their classical eloquence
stunned in their throats. Driven,
like twelve black nails, back onto the rocks.
After observing a string of these routs, the muscles
of her shoulders ache. In this way, she learns
she’s been wringing her hands. Such an intractable world.
If she’d been born to these shores, she’d have known
from earliest youth how draining need is when it lasts
and lasts, how intertwined are the forces,
how urgently, for a lifetime, one hand washes the other.
Marjorie Stelmach’s fourth volume of poems is Without Angels (Mayapple). Previous volumes include Night Drawings (Helicon), A History of Disappearance and Bent upon Light (Tampa). Recent work has appeared in Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Image, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, and Prairie Schooner. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
We tie up to an ancient trawler,
try to sleep, but she creaks and bumps
as tide and river meet, bring discarded
land-life clattering between the hulls.
Low, dark and insomniac, the water is a lap
of ears until a passing barge pushes through
early morning light. We cast off; follow
the fluvial bends, frayed reeds, jetties
trailing ghost-green pennons and monofilament.
Above us the rail-tracks, and a man
in his rusty tower stands to crank
the swing-bridge through ninety degrees,
he calls out the hour of tide as we slip between
a gap he’s made in the span of commuter-time.
Cows graze beneath a tree house,
its curtained windows show no sign of children.
Furious lines of yellow foam
mark the confluence of Suir and Barrow.
Our strake picks up a streak of rust
as we graze port buoy Carters patch south.
The banks hum with yellow furze,
purple rhododendron and the elevated sores
of new homes.
Michael Ray is a visual artist living in West Cork Ireland. His poems have appeared in a number of journals, including The Moth, The Irish Independent, The SHOp, Abridged, Cyphers, The Penny Dreadful, Ambit and Magma. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Hennessey Award.
Woman Has Phantom Pregnancy, With Quintuplets
Mean age of pseudocyesis the Jesus Year of thirty-three,
possessed by the Spirit behold, thou shalt conceive
in thy womb a hysterical pregnancy Ms. Bienvenue,
with a welcome so expansive it will expand
your body, its blessed event.
Let it be done unto me according to thy word.
Until at delivery a grave nurse gives word
to incredulous dad he’s father to phantoms: no heartbeats,
no echoes in that empty chamber, ungravid.
Meanwhile, in your infirmity, your infirmary, as psychotropic drugs unfirm
your labored frame, deflated, you claim abduction, the ones for months you felt
moving, removed. And where have they gone?
Alexander, Sebastian, Charles, Rosalie, — and the fifth, no time to name,
unclaimed, unworded – your five sorrows? Your five wounds?
Our pity your pietà?
Perhaps escaped, disembodied. Already
at birth, inside the unbody of your unworded girl,
her ghostly ovaries hold a quarter million eggs, all
she will ever need. Inside your imagination, she swells
with a wealth of nations,
Heidi Czerwiec is a poet, essayist, translator, and critic who teaches at the University of North Dakota and is poetry editor for North Dakota Quarterly. She is the author of three poetry collections, including the forthcoming A Is For A-ke, The Chinese Monster.