Image by Luka Klikovac
Zeina Hashem Beck | Lauren K. Alleyne | Marilyn Kallet | Jessica Jacobs |
Richard Foerster | Lola Haskins | Cal Freeman | Michael Lauchlan | Jane Clarke | Debra Nystrom | Joshua Lee Martin | Lesley Wheeler | Barbara Crooker |
Bayleigh Fraser | S Stephanie | Steven Schroeder | David Graham | Amy Glynn | Andrea Bates | Maryann Corbett | Thylias Moss | Zebulon Huset
is never a straightforward thing. Start
with a handful of earth, scattered over the wrapped
body lowered into the ground. Move
back to when you were tying your shoe laces
before the phone rang—the Allo?, the silence.
“Are we all martyrs?” writes Darwish.
Months after the burial, he will come back
to ask about the bullets, the holes in his chest. Tell him,
“You were eating falafel on the street.” Try
to stay still until almost nothing is left
but the sound of water inside the building walls.
The beauty of sunsets will hurt. Fade
the red. Like a matchstick,
you will break, burn. Go back
to that afternoon when you were both ten,
learning how to make a circle. Remember
how he taught you to steady your hand. Go out
on the balcony. Sip your morning coffee in the cold, look—
the paper on the parked car says “For Sale”
and Julia is singing, “I pray for you.” This is a good day
to run. Your shoes are in the closet. Get them.
Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet whose first collection, To Live in Autumn (The Backwaters Press, 2014) has won the Backwaters Prize and was a runner up for the Julie Suk Award. Twice Pushcart-prize nominee, her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, 32 Poems, The Common, and Magma, among others.
Poetry Workshop after the Verdict
For Trayvon Martin
Morning lights your four windows,
and you wake. It is, already, another day.
You stumble, befuddled, into the bathroom,
so white it’s like you’re inside the moon.
You look in the mirror, then turn away;
better to just leave. Get your body out the door
and into the blue day. You follow the brown—
sparrow, maybe?—perched outside on the rail
like a guide. Bring everything already packed
inside your skin—a dead brown boy and his free killer,
his judge and jury of women, the six not guilty bells
clanging again and again in your weary ear.
No, that’s your alarm; it’s time to be a poet.
You bring your pen and notebook, your poet’s eye.
You try to follow instructions: Write what you see.
It’s simple. You walk down the road,
safe in your pack of poets—women, white.
(You do not write this in your notebook.)
Instead, your eyes find and follow the lines
that run everywhere—across the street,
up the railings, across windows and shutters,
siding, shingled rooftops— parsing the landscape
into cells. Your white journal pages, ruled.
You write down all the signs: Closed;
Peter’s Property Management; Not for public use;
These dunes aren’t made for walking; stop.
But you cannot stop. You follow the wind,
ripe with salt and already-sweaty bodies.
You see a pile of beached boats lumped
like bodies in a mass grave; a stone wall drowning
while sleepy dories drift by; sun-bleached
stumps, slowly going to rot; You see
the sun marking time as it slips higher
and higher, the day stretching overhead,
last night’s dark already memory. You see
an American flag, and below it, the reddening back
of a white boy lying face down on the sand,
his body the opposite of a chalk outline. You write:
the light skitters brilliantly atop the bay’s piercing
blue. You write: A boy, his light hair lightening to gold,
his body, so still, still breathing. You write: Not guilty,
Not guilty, Not guilty, Not guilty, Not guilty, Not guilty.
Lauren K. Alleyne is the author of Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press, 2014). Her work has earned several honors and awards, most recently the Picador Guest Professorship in Literature at the University of Leipzig, Germany and a 2014 Iowa Arts Council Fellowship. Alleyne is the Poet-in-Residence, and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Dubuque.
More Like Me
No, he said, you should write
an important poem, a serious take
on race, sexism and powerful
men. Craft lines that are subtle,
concise, elliptical. Splash less color. Think steel
girders. Less laughter,
no small animals. Forge
gender-bending poems about good-looking
read Sister Carrie on the A Train.
Take on the plight of fast food workers,
growth hormones in chicken,
the struggle of Afghan women,
but do not whine like the women
I have pissed on, he said.
Ditch personal politics, go big,
Stop quoting Rich and Piercy.
“Watch who they beat and who they eat,
the rest is decoration.”
Decorate my ass!
Write poems more like mine,
he said. Never publish them.
Self-promotion is unfeminine.
You must be contained,
Also younger and prettier.
Have some work done.
Keep your work in the dark.
Write for immortality.
You should write less often, perhaps,
poems with less estrogen,
more balls and gravitas.
But I will never read them.
Marilyn Kallet is the author of 17 books including The Love That Moves Me (Black Widow Press). She has translated Eluard’s Last Love Poems, Péret’s The Big Game, and has co-translated Chantal Bizzini’s Disenchanted City. Kallet is Nancy Moore Goslee Professor at UT; she teaches poetry for VCCA in Auvillar, France.
They flew with such fervor into their reflections’ embrace
they were most often dead on impact, a small drift
of broken-necked birds on the path to the morning
paper. But one in ten was not quite gone and these he
lay on the piano’s lacquered lid, which to their stunned,
unblinking eyes must have looked smooth and vast as a lake
just after a storm. She lay beneath the baby grand while
he played to raise the dead, or so she thought at eight. Her
grandfather, who had come to the house every morning
of her first year to bathe her and carry her among his half-built
subdivisions, touching her tiny fingers to things, naming
joist, naming truss, naming fenestration, and ferrying her
through; who now played the first movement of the Moonlight
Sonata, again and again, his eyes shut as tightly as hers, music
coating her like a warm rain, only to whisper out when she
least expected it: that night, years later, when she wondered with
her first steps onto a frozen pond if it was strong enough to
hold her; the year after, when she wondered at
the first touch of another woman’s body exactly
the same thing—the Sonata played, only mezzo-forte but still
so loud she thought others must hear it; visible to her as breath
in winter, this music Beethoven wrote to make love to a student he could
never touch; so powerful, one in ten of the one in ten would stir and he
would fold it in a dishtowel, would give it to her, its heart beating with
the rapidity of the third movement; he would entrust it to her, its body
impossibly light yet heavier than every name he’d ever
taught her; and each time she was astonished life could be
at once so large yet so small she could hold it in her hands.
Jessica Jacobs is the author of Pelvis with Distance, a biography-in-poems of Georgia O’Keeffe (White Pine Press, 2015). The 2016 Hendrix-Murphy Writer-in-Residence at Hendrix College, she is on faculty at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, and lives in Asheville with her wife, Nickole Brown.
Bucolic (with Thistles)
It seemed unnaturally late in October
for such wind-whipped flames: goldfinches
at the roadside, still molten in their breeding
plumage, the males buttery and black
against cloud-swept gray and prickling air.
Where I’d parked to wait out a squall,
I was close enough to see their tongues
at work, assiduously prying at thistles
that spiked the abandoned field. A waste
of effort, I thought, nothing but tares
where wheat had never been, just stabs
of icy rain and those summery hot coals
of yearning for whatever might be teased
from deep within the thorns. But I sat there
even after the idling engine stuttered
me back to awareness the storm had eased.
I’d no schedule to keep, no one waiting.
The road stretched to every place I’d been
hell-bent driving from. And yet, how relentless
desire can be, the need to find in want
some pathway to unwanting, to prize
a stubborn seed of transcendence out
from the fibrous core of one’s own being.
In that quiet I could hear the finches, each
chittering an alien gospel of a Kingdom Come—
a dissonance rising on tiny pyroclastic waves
into one atonal choir. A hundred or more
feathered candles flamed atop those spiny heads.
Such raucous burning. What did I sense then
if not the barb of what I thought was happiness?
Richard Foerster’s seventh book of poetry is River Road, forthcoming from Texas Review Press in September 2015. His honors include the “Discovery”/The Nation Award, Poetry magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize, a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and two National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowships.
an indigo snake quickens its curve and vanishes
three wood ducks rise off a tiny red-brown creek
ruffling the water behind them
turkeys hurry across the trail their necks
stretched ahead as if that could move
their heavy bodies faster
a doe hesitates then bounds away
the wind does not care for any of this
but goes on playing the tops of the trees
the way a man plays a woman when forest
opens to field it will bend the long grasses
to its pleasure i would be the grass
i would lie down like that
Lola Haskins’ work appears in The Atlantic, London Review of Books, The New York Quarterly, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. How Small, Confronting Morning, her fourteenth poetry collection, is forthcoming in 2016 from Jacar Press. Previous efforts include Hunger, Desire Lines, New and Selected Poems, Extranjera, Forty-Four Ambitions for the Piano, among others.
The year I start to sin without opening my mouth,
killing moths becomes an occupation.
My wife ceases sleeping, or sleeps gingerly and wakes
at short, irregular intervals.
One night on a walk, a raccoon lopes across the road,
its dark outline a block ahead.
Isn’t anybody tired?
The trees have been talking in the southwest gusts
about a three-day-off event.
Their talk is circumspect. I can hear their shimmering
and see it in the glow of porch lights.
Fireworks still at two AM. There is a sallow aureole around the moon.
I do not love the house
(the maple is reaching over the roof
and into the wires),
but I try to love the people,
and I am starting to think the fact
that I have to try gives something away
about the kind of man I am.
This mirthful ganglia of leaves and arms hovers over us.
I tell myself that being anywhere exacts a range of tiny deaths.
Everyone in this Anthropocene
seems to be feeling blessed.
They list their blessings without counting them.
It isn’t an inventory
but a saccharine fugue that feels like sin.
A niece enters the world with eerie silence.
Our terrier dies.
He would point ahead into the dark.
I still haven’t gotten over that.
Cal Freeman was born and raised in Detroit. His poems have appeared in many journals including Commonweal, The Journal, Nimrod, Birmingham Poetry Review, and The Paris-American. His first book of poems is called Brother of Leaving.
Sculler in the World
for Helen Fremont
Great dragonflies skim the Charles,
flick light into blue-gray air.
The sun begins to shape a city.
Dressed again, striding toward work,
you see these, the later rowers,
flexing their magic, coursing into day.
To wrest a swatch of hope for a kid
cursed by gods and the Board of Ed,
you almost sprint to your train,
though you know his miseries will wait,
like those you carry under ribs,
between shoulders. Rowing frees
your muscles for an hour, but pain
waits, ready, malign. The day’s gunfire
will surprise you less than anyone,
but you’ll wince all the same, spit
one curse, then cradle the phone
against your ear’s delicate whorls,
and dial away, calling out
(for each siren echoing up)
a new stroke, a small release.
Michael Lauchlan’s poems have landed in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, English Journal, The Dark Horse, Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, Harpur Palate, and The Cortland Review. He has been awarded the Consequence Prize in Poetry and recently been featured in The Writer’s Almanac. His collection, Trumbull Ave., is just out from Wayne State University Press.
That I could
That I could take away from him
these long days in the hospital,
the digging for a vein in his arm,
the drip that stops him sleeping,
the pain that makes him whisper,
Jesus Christ, oh, Jesus Christ.
That I could take him back
to his cobblestones and barn,
his rooks in the birch trees, his nettles
and ditches, limestone and bog.
That I could find the words to tell him
what he will always be,
horse chestnut petals falling pink in the yard,
the well that’s hidden in a blackthorn thicket,
cattle standing orange in the shallows,
a summer evening’s hush.
Originally from a farm in the west of Ireland, Jane Clarke now lives in Wicklow. Her work is widely published and her awards include the Listowel Writer’s Week Poetry Collection Prize (2014) and the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition (2014). Her first collection, The River, is published by Bloodaxe Books.
Streetlights fade to smoldering dawn; Mary still hanging on.
Even in this hospital two hours from home, wet smell of burning
finally finished won’t leave us alone. And the parched wind,
constant, unstoppable, done with our house, snapping and
cracking the flag above the parking lot now, searches for something more
to empty out. I’ll tear it down, said Clem, our landlord— my landlord—
what’s left of it, when you’re ready— build it again. How can he know that
in my mind I’ve taken the place apart
already, piece by charred piece, twice rejecting— what
half stands, a nothing, each day sifting its bite of smoke— and the nothing held in it.
Debra Nystrom’s latest book of poems is Bad River Road, from Sarabande Books. A new collection will be out in 2016. Her recent work has appeared in AGNI, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker and The Virginia Quarterly Review. She teaches in the MFA Program at The University of Virginia.
The Way Things Are
No matter the length of prayer to Mary or Vishnu
the hungry beagle, if left alone, will take
the chicken in its mouth every time to renounce
the fable of harmless predator and savvy prey.
It will wait until you are inside, asleep or stupefied,
before marching around the coop like Joshua at Jericho,
its trumpet the bark of instinct, looking for gaps
in the woodwork weakened by muzzle’s prodding.
How quickly the predator’s brain commands
its body’s singular purpose, its yellow
eyes pulsating with desire, its fangs unsheathed
like slivers of moon knifing through cloud cover,
zeroing the carotid. Then the chicken’s abrupt shrill
and your daughter’s jolting out of bed.
In the morning, you’ll chain the dog to the kennel,
saying, honey, that’s just how life is
before sniffing out the last of the unbroken eggs
buried deep in the flaxen straw.
Then you’ll grease up the griddle.
Then you’ll beg her to eat.
Joshua Lee Martin (Greenville, SC) has published poems most recently in The Kentucky Review, The San Pedro River Review, Kakalak, and The Josephine Quarterly. His manuscript, Passing Through Meat Camp, was runner-up in the 2015 Jacar Press Chapbook Competition. He will be a doctoral student in creative writing at Georgia State in the fall.
Postlapsarian Salsa Verde
Sparrows and finches line their nests with cigarette butts
shredded into fibers—nicotine wards off pests. It said so
in the paper. Now tacky fingers peel news from tomatillos,
sweet onions, cured garlic. What facts about the soiled world
can a person extract from the faintly lined rind of a broken
clove, oozing oil? Not that territorial politics starves
the government, Aimee unpaid, Jason on furlough—
that’s just cellulose acetate accreting in the upside-down cup
of my skull. Not how a baby suffers and her grandmother
shrinks beneath grief’s heat, or how another friend
can’t pay for help despite some health care revolution. Every
hope rusts or smokes. So I slide a tray of golden fruit
from the oven, onto the board, and watch steam condense
on a knife-blade. Scent of tart apples. Charred, they burst
into a hot mess of seeds and pulp, difficult to chop. Scoop
the heap of sticky husks, each a calyx really, crackling
into the trash. These papers silent on Syrian rebellion,
on Marcia fasting before the surgery, on empathetic elephants
pointing with their trunks—delivering only the old report
that making is hard. Fingers burn. Boiling juice will
trickle off the counter and splash on bare feet. Read
from an onion’s brittle cover page: there will be weeping. And
change. And sweetness, only a mouthful, after long labor.
Tomatillos are cousin to nightshade berries. Poison
in judicious doses deflects sorrow, or at least distracts
the eggheads at the table from pain’s worm boring in.
Lesley Wheeler’s collections include Heterotopia, Heathen, and, forthcoming from Barrow Street Press, Radioland. Her poems and essays appear in Tahoma Literary Review, Crazyhorse, Poetry, and other journals. She teaches at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and blogs about poetry at lesleywheeler.org.
Sceilig Mhichil: A Glosa
It is hard to believe that for quite a long time—almost a hundred years—western Christianity survived by clinging to places like Skellig Michael, a pinnacle of rock eighteen miles from the Irish coast, rising seven hundred feet out of the sea.
Every day, hands are creating the world,
fire is married to steel,
and canvas, linen and cotton come back
from the skirmishings of the laundries.
“In Praise of Ironing,” by Pablo Neruda
translated by Alistair Reid
They sat on hard benches in stone beehives
perched above the immaculate sea
on the steepest, most wind-battered peak,
climbing six hundred steps to the scriptoria
on rocks piled by the hand of God.
Skellig Michael, above the waters’ skirl.
The Vikings somehow found them,
looted and plundered, but the monks
built again, and the word unfurled.
Every day hands are creating the world.
On this impossible crag,
this tower of slate, stark fissures,
castellated outcrops terrifying
above the brooding sea, the steps rise
between fangs of rock, a space
to chasten or elevate souls. Feel
how it was to live in a clochán,
nothing but obdurate rock above and below.
In Europe, books burned, but here were concealed.
Fire is married to steel.
No one could labor like this who didn’t love books,
the gospel page shining, white as cotton
fresh from the laundry, a pledge that darkness
could turn into light. Even the shapes
of the letters were magical, the humps
and curves of half-uncial, insular majescule, black
ink made from soot inscribed on sheepskin,
the fabric of God’s words, newly woven,
hands fast as shuttles, each simple act,
canvas, linen, and cotton come back.
Imagine a world without reading or learning;
imagine a life without books. A land ruled
by ax and sword, stones stained with blood.
No bleach or bluing to set things right; no iron
mangle to wring things clean. Cities tumbled
to rubble, books burned for warmth. Armies
looting the countryside. Only the Irish, on an island
in the icy sea, water-swirled and rock-haunted,
the ragged edge of the West, saved whole libraries
from the skirmishing of the foundries.
Barbara Crooker’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including The Bedford Introduction to Literature and Good Poems American Places. She has six full-length books of poetry, including Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014) and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2015).
Your eyes on the world lost at sea
As if through a spyglass, it looks bigger
than it is, more universe
than world, more problem than person.
In the hull of the boat
it’s all breath and darkness before the end
trundles in, not from the men
next to you, their sweatslick bodies of skin,
but from above. The deck
says nothing, then you feel the cold rush
of emptiness, what it’s like
to be filled, when the sea starts pouring down
from the only light: the cracks
of a hatch door leading to the surface. Water
rising faster than the prayers
sputtering through frantic sounds of drowning,
the last drink they’ll ever have,
the last words they’ll swallow and feel burning
from their lungs like the fumes
after the IED. At least you’ve got the instinct to be
their captain through death,
built into you while working the fields in the gentle
whip of wind. Built by your father
singing to the swell of homemade bread in the kitchen
by opening your mouth, letting out
the language you were taught, by remembering
everything you’ve ever been given
without begging for it—and the men around you
fell out of an explosion strapped
to a 10-year-old boy, out of the hazy gradient of smoke,
from the dark into the dark pit of this boat.
With you, watching. Thank God for that.
Bayleigh Fraser is a young American poet currently residing and writing in Canada. She studied at Stetson University in Florida and plans to continue her education in Canada. Her work has appeared in various publications including A Bad Penny Review, Artemis, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Hart House Review, The Quilliad, Rattle and others.
These thirty or so silent starlings perched across a phone line
are the dark bridge I must pass under this morning
while keeping my icy questions to myself.
And these soiled banks lining the city streets,
like epiphanies that have become common
I fear they will go on forever.
No, this month cannot go on forever
can it? Tell me our floating earth is merely turning
like a whale, or a shark exposing its belly.
S Stephanie’s work has appeared in literary magazines such as Birmingham Poetry Review, St. Petersburg Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Southern Review, and The Sun. She has three collections out, holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art and teaches at the NH Institute of Art in Manchester NH.
a theory of cats (a mind to stay)
There is pansies, that’s for thought.
—Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act IV, scene V
…it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!
—Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
Insects never visit the college of cardinals
that occupy Darwin’s garden. Nothing
among them moves the masses, so
this peculiar structure never sets a seed.
But blessed are the humble bees
by whose ministrations heartsease
and clover grow fruitful and multiply.
No humble bees,
no heart’s delight, no
tickle my fancy, no
Jack jump up and kiss me, no
come and cuddle me, no
love in idleness, no
three faces in the hood Johnny
jump up pensée sauvage.
An old soldier who
has long attended to
the habits of humble bees
knows almost every field mouse
has a sweet tooth, and that is
bad news for bees. But
the old soldier says
he has found the nests of humble bees more numerous
near small towns and villages, which he attributes
to the number of cats that destroy the mice.
Mice go to the polis for the same reason we do.
Cats come with us but go for the mice,
and that leaves something
for the bees to dwell on.
And then there’s wild pansies,
cats, mice in moderation, bees in clover, honey,
food for thought, reason to stay.
Steven Schroeder is a poet and visual artist who grew up on the High Plains in the Texas Panhandle, where he first learned to take nothing seriously. He currently lives and works in Chicago. His most recent collection (paintings and poems) is dispersed cities.
What the Deranged Old Woman at the Laundromat Said When I Wasn’t Listening
You don’t know me, not one little bit,
with your big eyes like river stones
pulled up to dull in the sunlight.
I’ve seen lots of men like you,
flycasting into the dirt of your driveways.
Then hang limp like a flag with no wind.
I’ll bet there are dollar bills in your wallet
haven’t seen daylight for years.
I can smell it from here. If I were to cut
into your pasty skin with this purse knife
I know only dust would come out,
maybe some old gray pillowfeathers.
Offer to drive me home. It’s obvious
you’re thinking about it. How I would look
climbing up the wooden steps ahead.
How I just stare at a dog once
and he turns tail and runs. How
it didn’t take a jukebox or a paycheck,
either one, to get me here. You think you
know me? I’ve been simmering since before
you were born. Won’t take much till I boil.
David Graham has published six collections of poetry, including Stutter Monk and Second Wind. He also co-edited (with Kate Sontag) the essay anthology After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography. Essays, reviews, and individual poems have appeared widely, both in print and online. He is Professor of English at Ripon College.
Gravity Is Always Attractive
Just lie down. This is serious, by which I mean
non-trivial. By which I mean it won’t
resolve to nothing. Nothing does,
you know. A lessening;
which I mean in the sense of terminal velocity:
like, lesson learned; even acceleration
has limits, finish lines. This, though?
Law. Fundamental, meaning
it’s physical, it wants
and it will have you, firmament to terra firma
in a blink. And this is called a “feeble” force.
Get on those knees of yours and ask
Them about weakness, sweetness.
Feel me? Does this
engraved in stone, enforced? Or maybe given, meaning
it’s foreordained, determined: it’s a gift,
no looking in the mouth, no short
shrift. (Hold still.) It’s an angle,
grave situation, make the best of it. It’s specific,
meaning dimensionless, variable — you can’t
be dense about this, love; it’s in-
escapable, far too
much not to fall
like that). I don’t mean tricked, but grounded, meaning wised
up, heedful. Grounded meaning don’t you move
a muscle young man I’m not through
with you. Lover, don’t worry,
we’re all tied down,
Amy Glynn’s poems appear widely in journals and anthologies including The Best American Poetry. Her collection A Modern Herbal was published by Measure Press.
You Need A New City To Forget About An Old Love
The girl behind the hotel lobby bar whose name means purgatory
in Turkish asks me why I am not married. You are so pretty,
she says. It’s like this everywhere I go: questions about him
I cannot answer. Last week a Brit, this week an American, it’s not
that no one’s interested. Five thousand five hundred and twenty
miles from his backyard. On the drive down to the docks
where tourists take the boat tour on the Bosphorus, I see
his initials spray painted all over the side of buildings. He
stands for something in a foreign language, here he means something
untranslatable. There are two sides to every love affair: the past
and the future. Right now I am floating between remembering
and forgiving, the new city and the old. The guide on the ferryboat
explains the island and the lighthouse in the middle, the maiden’s tower
where the king wanted to keep his daughter safe from the prophecy
that she would die young. It was the snake in the basket and the fruit
that tempted her. Pomegranates, figs. (My love, how did you choose?
But you did, you do.) What they tried at the Hagia Sophia: plastering
over the icons of the Virgin. It’s easy to cover up something,
the guide says, but it took 22 years to restore. Time is a warped
perspective, time is a call to prayer. Even the stray dogs bow
their heads at the sound of all four minarets and a wailing
they’ve known for centuries deep in their bones. It’s the last stop.
The courtyard of my heart empty now. The palace, the gated city.
A promontory for taking pictures of the Golden Horn. Or jumping off.
Andrea Bates is the author of two chapbooks: Origami Heart (Toadlily Press) and The Graveyard Sonnets (Finishing Line Press). She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first visit to Istanbul in early 2015 inspired this poem.
Walking to Grand at Christmastime
Try not to blame me for remembering
Decembers when we sang and tramped the snow,
when we were fearless, when we still could sing
out loud, outdoors. When all there was to know
was shoveled walk, stoplight, and brilliant air.
Decembers when we sang and tramped the snow
scuffng to church or shop or Christmas fair
were pure gift then. How does it happen now
that icy walks, stoplights, and biting air
are labor and dead weight, and every blow
of ordinary time pummels your mind
to this bruised darkness? How does it happen? Now
dark drops too early through the cramping wind.
Now that you know magic was bought with pain
all time falls ordinary on the mind
and makes you wonder, were we happy then?
I think so. And though magic comes with pain,
we might be fearless yet. We might still sing.
Try not to blame me for remembering.
Maryann Corbett‘s third book, Mid Evil, won the Richard Wilbur Award for 2014 and was published by the University of Evansville Press. Her work has been featured on Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, the Writer’s Almanac, and American Life in Poetry and has won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and the Lyric Memorial Award. She lives in St. Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature.
the great mystery story is still unsolved.
we cannot even be sure that it has a final solution. (the) afterlife of corpses in
[A Einstein & Leopold Infeld: The Evolution of Physics] a Morse code update primer
+ Forgive me, I had no choice, I begged him, Ladies, I even promised to guide the knife, his first time, professional initiation, never a question of manhood, just some real good stimulation, a little help with ignition, I didn’t take it for granted just because I was at Ludlow’s Smoker’s Palace after hours, an obvious invitation, the way I traipse, I’m rightfully accused of asking for it, how else to make sure I get it, noisy wheel syndrome, but my it is a killing, martyr-dumb thing or not, if he’s killing me, he’s not killing you, so my being on corners is a protection service, and as soon as I’m dead, I won’t be there anymore to deflect violations and assassinations onto myself, enjoy it now, pay later, me and my beefed up preference, beefed up refusal to let go of Aileen Wuornos, flip side, inside out side, of one of many kinds of prostitution, rhymes with constitution for a reason, some necessity, some choice, power of, power over a consenting body, power of, power over an antibody, some daring workers work out in advance what the signal will be for arrival at an unspeakable limit, nonverbal signs for no and stop, hard to misread universals, in addition to face turning blue, eyes rolling, heart stopping, nose bleeding, the most obvious can’t-be-mistaken patriotism near death, frequently near death, a fight for freedom, best location in the nation, Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, just getting started, coming to a location near you, where it all converges, denouement, I can’t really understand anymore the cowardly aspect of anyone going close to death and hesitating, coming back to where you were, as if you never left, coward, just the feet wet, there are these bruises, maybe these suggestions of psychosis, they can emerge when anything anyone can do is extended far enough, there’s a path there, but I haven’t been able to get close to it yet, guide me, I am not teasing you, Killer, you can take me all the way, till death do we part, hero, otherwise, most of the time the sex is routine, it adds up unremarkable, the mechanics, the remarkable is exception, which could be to feel nothing if nothing is felt only once, I don’t know what changes when you’re doing it for the money, for a living, even when you’re not, you don’t always feel the target highest of high feelings, if that’s necessarily the point, there’s always the exercise benefit, more or less, the risk of disease, risk of abrasion, risk of success, empire of self-made women, maybe the money puts you over the top, one percent of you in penthouses (all the time), the math of emotion, the feelings that accompany accumulation, everybody, my killer included, potentially in the emotionally overtaxed bracket, I won’t get any money that I can use for my murder, I’m not exploring the psychology of calling it a trick, a dupe, a pulling of wool, I too plan to sell my body, (effects of MS, of course—that disease alone can kill you), but I prefer Hector’s intimacy, the touching he’ll have to do to kill me well, profits to go to charity just like the benefits of my murder go to the charity of sparing another woman from being on the slab, the life I save, there’s not a lot of admitted interest in the afterlife of corpses, most are put in the ground, indirect nutrients, or are burned, smoke and ashes, dispersal in the air, floating, drifting, the superficial Zen at the end of it all, residue, aftermath of the rapture, the loved one off the ground, not the table in a séance, a casket is a derailed subway car, but once the power’s back on, once I’m dead, I’ll be out of your way, my killer will be off the street, you know to watch me, you know you can catch him, finger him, fulfillment of dream of fingering the fossil flute of spine, yes, yes, you tend to be law enforcement’s best extended set of eyes, your clientele is so comprehensive, from so many spheres and arenas, trick universe, you don’t have to thank me for this service, by extension I’m one of your clients, just short of psychosis, no matter what else I sleep with, I sleep with this knowledge too, once I’m dead, you won’t ever have to thank me, and if you don’t, so what, sometimes you’re paid to beg, one of the easiest dog tricks, the puppy can learn it, the older bitch and dog, almost as old as wolf, the pimp is one evolution of shepherd, my killer is from another line, none of us are daughters of Abel, but I am starting to feel desperate, it should have happened by now, my big break, my cracked skull, broken neck, every day, every hour, every minute or so, every few seconds, a woman is assaulted, what’s wrong with the Ludlow environment, secondary nature, how did it get this exemption, here I am, cautious killer, toss the caution, take a swing at me, use the knife tip as stainless tongue proxy, cock proxy, come on, come on already, what’s the matter big boy, I’m waiting for you, would it help if I called you daddy, that would not help me, where’s a good old fashioned knife-thrower-without-limits mentality when you need one? –I’m sorry I need it only once, but surely you’re a normal champion of one night time standing still, yes, yes, a bullet taking forever, my rapid fall slowed down to ballet, swan lake, Siegfried comes of age, hunts birds in the evening, Odette pleads for the swans’ survival, a deal in the dark, yes, good only in the dark, yes, the double dark of Odile, the double dark in which a man and his swan drown, just as scripted, Tchaikovsky knew what he wanted from the music, what’s a wingless girl to do to get what she wants from a man who’s able to give it and then some, try the buzz-saw slipper on my foot, yes, please, put me to sleep with a bear-trap kiss, if you’re not up to full-blown iron maiden, how about it, I’ll pay you, give you my PIN: 7715 upside down is easily twisted to kill, something less than a man can twist that, ordinary bender of spoons, reach me at 5455437 on the phone: call me every hour on the hour, spell out kill her all day long, redial, reload, I spell it out every day with my footsteps, my tap dance, stiletto dictation, highly specialized Morse code update, war hero revival, post traumatic stress syndrome, collateral damage, déjà vu, do what some did at Mai Lai, do what some did at Nanking, Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, do what some did in Birmingham, at Manassas, Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, on campus, I will not press charges, I’ll be as quiet as a mouse at your feet, cat drop, as more surfaces, you are inside me, seeking the prehistoric bling-bling of my spine, interlocked heavy necklace, the vertebrae like ossified roses, my death glistens, you catch a hard bouquet, open a treasure chest, treasure breasts =
© Thylias Moss.
Thylias Moss, Macarthur Fellow, 1996; Professor Emerita, 2015, working now for Thylias Moss Writing LLC, author of ten published books including Tokyo Butter and Slave Moth, with an 11th: Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities RED DRESS Code, new and selected, available in 2016, maker of poams and creator of “Limited Fork Theory” which she offers in the following websites to anyone who is able to access them: The Institute of 4orkological Studies; The Mid-Hudson Taffy Company; Lexicon 97. She is active on Facebook as Forker Gryle, and be sure to check out her video poams on her YouTube channel. She is at work on a collection of Prose Poams, which will likely be available in 2016 also: LFMK: Looking for my killer, in which Afterlife of Corpses will also appear, and Majorana Harem Culture. Her video poam: The Glory Prelude to a Widow Shrine System will be part of the “You Here Now” exhibit at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, MO.
It’s the blue one. The one that reminds me
of the ice house at Aurelia Park, the uninsulated
wood shack that withstood hacked foul balls
in summer, deflected wind but extended no warmth
in December. Still, the wind in Minnesota winter
spins crystals of ice right through the most
lovingly knitted puff-ball caps. The blue taste.
It tips the tongue toward pine limbs trimmed
in three inches of undeniably fluffy snow
like a kitschy Kincaid print. And it feels like home.
It feels like the blue gum biting slightly softer
than cinnamon, and even though Big Red
conjures those warm smelling pine cones
netted then nestled in a wicker basket to emanate
Christmas, Winterfresh feels like the deep
white of winter, the cold-toned snow at two,
after the entire block’s window glows have been
doused by TV sleep timers taking charge
as Carson or Leno wrapped up. The image
whizzes past maples and oaks, past the pines in the park,
just over the edge of the rink re-flooded by hose
every the night. One man holding the hose
to pave the morning’s recreation for us
neighborhood kids. The lung-shaped mist
of menthol in the crisp black air. The haloed sliver
of moon-blue flooding the land with its glow.
Zebulon Huset is a writer, teacher and blogger who lives in San Diego’s East County. His poems have recently appeared in The Southern Review, Thin Air, The North American Review, Harpur Palate, The Roanoke Review and The Cortland Review among others.