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Sixfold Poetry Summer 2017

Sixfold Poetry Summer 2017

by Sixfold

Shakespir Edition

Copyright 2017 Sixfold and The Authors

 

www.sixfold.org

 

Sixfold is a completely writer-voted journal. The writers who upload their manuscripts vote to select the prize-winning manuscripts and the short stories and poetry published in each issue. All participating writers’ equally weighted votes act as the editor, instead of the usual editorial decision-making organization of one or a few judges, editors, or select editorial board.

 

Each issue is free to read online and downloadable as PDF and e-book. Paperback book available at production cost including shipping.

 

Cover Art by Marija Zaric.

http://www.marijazaric.com

 

License Notes

Copyright 2017 Sixfold and The Authors. This issue may be reproduced, copied, and distributed for noncommercial purposes, provided both Sixfold and the Author of any excerpt of this issue are acknowledged. Thank you for your support.

 

Sixfold

Garrett Doherty, Publisher

[email protected]

www.sixfold.org

(203) 491-0242

 

 

[]Sixfold Poetry Summer 2017

 

Kathryn Merwin | For Aaron, Disenchanted & other poems

William Stevens | Celestial Bodies & other poems

Kendra Poole | Take-Off, or The Philosophy of Leaving & other poems

AJ Powell | Mama Atlas & other poems

Matt Farrell | Waves in the dark & other poems

Timothy Walsh | Eating a Horsemeat Sandwich at Astana Airport & other poems

Nancy Rakoczy | Adam & other poems

Joshua Levy | Venezuela Evening & other poems

Ryan Lawrence | Vegan Teen Daughter vs. Worthless Dad & other poems

George Longenecker | Yard Sale & other poems

Susanna Kittredge | My Heart & other poems

Morgan Gilson | Dostoevsky & other poems

Jim Pascual Agustin | The Annihilation of Bees & other poems

Taylor Bell | Browsing Tinder in an Aldi & other poems

David Anderson | Continental Rift & other poems

Charles McGregor | The Boys That Don’t Know & other poems

Cameron Scott | Ashes to Smashes, Dust to Rust & other poems

Kenneth Homer | Inferno Redux & other poems

Alice Ashe | lilith & other poems

Kimberly Sailor | Marriage’s Weekly Schedule & other poems

Kim Alfred | Soul Eclipse & other poems

Contributor Notes

 

 

Kathryn Merwin

 

Jersey

 

I.

A girl storms out of her body to sing you the highway: your

skin is calligraphy and ink. Back turned, soap and seawater

leather her palms.

 

II.

The tide batters your knees: blood-puckers of coast, blue

bruises dusted over telescope skin. Nothing was ever more

worth it.

 

III.

Your words are gloved in oyster silk, the low bass tones of

twilight. You probably wouldn’t know me now. I bite my

tongue, my teeth taste like cough-syrup.

 

IV.

I was thinking of silver needles, tire-tracks in a sliver of

moonlight. Route 13, the wooden house by the hospital,

white bridge and fuck you, carved in the rail.

 

V.

The sharp bones of oak trees keep you safe somewhere

in Jersey. The aria lifts: your eyes, blackened sea pearls,

whisper, don’t you lie to me.

 

VI.

Up north, a blue wind lifts the hair from your shoulders. You

will wade through your bogs, fill your terrariums, slowly

become fluent in the flutter of seabird wings.

 

The Yellow Marrow

 

I could have loved the wolf. Alone he was a fist of night sky,

body of starlings, hydrogen, helium. I held a flashlight

 

to his chest, traced the glowing web of his arteries to prove that something moved

within him. He buried small things in in the storm gulch: elk’s teeth, brass keys, warped

violin strings. Sharp teeth dug craters into my throat. Now I’ve made you the moon. I could have

loved the wolf, but I wanted to be hunter. Wanted teeth, blood, bone. I wanted the yellow

marrow.

 

Inglewood

 

I wish to cry. Yet, I laugh,

and my lipstick leaves a red stain like a bloody crescent

moon on the top of the beer can.

Sylvia Plath

 

My skin is a sheet of Braille: moon-hungry,

shiver by the widening current, curling

 

into pale shins, bewitching me further

into its darkening plane. The moon, hanging

 

like a ball over the western seaboard,

annihilating, with every glance. I am

the girl who does not dance: your

eyes catch the light, your teeth catch

my hair. Night

is temporary insanity: barefoot girls

 

with tambourines, purple lights

in Santa Monica.

 

For Aaron, Disenchanted

 

Something once soft hums in you

while you sleep. I watch it lift

 

through you as you thrash,

flail. The bright tangerine

 

of your heart comes apart

in slices. I find them hidden

 

in your pillowcase. Mama’s eyes

are the color of your absence

 

now. A little more grey

than gunpowder. You

 

never pressed your ear to my lung. Never

tangled my synapses into sailing knots. Never

 

folded my body like an origami swan, passed

your secrets up through my throat. You are not mine

 

but you always were. The forgetting-boy

 

lives in a hollow of atlases. The birds

knew his name before I did. Knew the geometry

 

of our loneliness, our rabbit-hole

in the evergreens. Our blue jazz at midnight.

 

Something ached between us, but there was nothing

to hold but our compasses, the unlocked gun-cabinet

 

in the cellar, the yellowed globe

in the bedroom, spinning darkly.

 

 

William Stevens

 

with a twist of lemon: six senryu

 

if your pen

and my paper met!—

such poetry.

 

you laugh:

my hummingbird throat

beats against its cage.

 

dark eyes and darker lashes;

nothing is sweeter

than brevity.

 

 

Sunday morning—

the paper mumbles, meaningless.

I read your coffee rings

 

down the street,

not across the road:

I don’t skip a single block.

 

I carve your name

on each of my branches but

it is the world that bleeds.

 

Celestial Bodies

 

Dark, bright eyes: ebony chestnut and marble, blue, you;

gold hair, sunshine gold and amber—a bit blue, too.

 

We antithesize, paradox, parallel—

I scream tangentially past you

shooting star sprinkling dust

a thousand asterisks

for you to shovel off the stoop.

 

(I always knock the footnotes off my shoes

before I enter your apartment.)

 

What do I have to show

for all that hammers in my heart?

 

A cloud of shining words in orbit,

burning away in the upper reaches of your atmosphere.

 

My love it is a quiet thing

 

My love it is a quiet thing,

A patient hand on wheel;

And steady as a silent spring

It keeps an even keel.

 

My form no timber, no birch-bark

No needle pine consumed;

I warble like no meadowlark

No kestrel crying doomed.

 

Yet as a sailor to his port

And falcon to his perch,

The lee-wind tears my sail apart

So heart and tongue do lurch.

 

A life in several paragraphs,

And death’s parentheses—

My heart’s too hot for metaphor,

My fire doomed to freeze.

 

Aztec sculpture of the god Quetzalcoatl” two thoughts on (Meso)America

 

I

Quetzalcoatl

Radiant divinity

Feathered serpent now still stele

Stony in silence

Sedimentary scales flecked with the dust of age

Layered around his holiness in concentric sprays of deific plumage

Pinions pinned in the moment’s beating wings

Hummingbird rapid—but

Condor quick, and soft, silent, unheard

The all seeing serpent himself hides

In rows and ridges

Time has taken its toll on this carved creature

Rock-locked and lost to flight’s timeless mortality

The instant now an age

Bejeweled, bedecked with charms and honors

The coup counted around his neck hangs heavy, like himself,

Stone, like himself;

Like his stone, like

The day, cloudy, vague, ill-defined:

Felt more than seen.

 

Oh guardian of the sky temple

Oh lightning illuminator

Bring me rain

Without rainbows

 

II

From afar,

the accumulation of cumulus masks the rainy basin

below the tall tree’s tops

where denizens of that airy realm

titter and play and feed on one another.

Sky, earth, water—

all mingle as one.

Memory stirs here, too;

fog-like, mist-like, river like, mirror-like:

a dew-drop glass suspended from a leaf tip

reflects the world and, in so doing,

encapsulates and contains it—

a perfect pearl of remembrance, exquisite

in every upside-down detail.

A new world of monkeys, sage-faced, lithe-limbed

prowl: ebony, ivory, russet, cacao and terra cotta,

emerald and jade ribbons peel from branches

lidless eyes open from the inside to see more deeply.

Tongues taste aromas and threads rising from below

and fall delicately from above.

Were we to creep closer, we too would see life in myriad shapes:

the piercing eyes and keening cry of the harpy eagle

the welcome threat of uninhibited mortality:

 

golden gaze

tar-black talon

plumage fresh-plucked from Andes peaks.

 

We scuttle but cannot escape his grasp;

the snow-white reaper culls the strong

to make himself stronger still.

His beating, bloody throat,

eyes bright—

 

the barrel of the gun

the diving altimeter

the gleaming airlock

the edge of the guillotine

the pearlescent sclera of the judge

 

—we gorge ourselves

and are in turn gorged upon.

 

Sky-god

do not weep for us

when it is we

who should weep for you.

 

the tyrannous stars

 

7

I pick out stars for our constellation, but it’s so hard to choose:

So much darkness between us, but so much light.

In the distance, already fading going going gone we lose

sight of each other, wrap ourselves in strangers and sounds, neglect the paths we might

use to find our way back again. But I refuse

the trail signs, street signs along the way. I will fight—

 

6

but not for us. I’ve made my choice

(or had it made for me like so many times before). You’ve already refused

my paltry attempts at peace. Light—the only bit that’s left, weak and light

indeed—freckles your face amber clad in halogen and cold and even though we might

never meet again, I can’t bring myself to touch you, trembling. I can’t lose

 

5

control—and maybe that was the problem in the first place. To lose

you seems such a large thing now, a fight

that should have been louder, larger, more—all my might

against your silence. But back then, the choice

was obscured, blurred by the brightness around me. My ego weighed me down, not light

enough to lift above petty pride. You almost refused

 

4

to meet for the last time—just like back in the beginning. You

refused to even consider me. Life was full of people we could lose

ourselves in. Maybe that’s why the crowd, the public place. We even lost ourselves in the light

of each other. Now, evening rain slicks cobbles—bloody from the coming fight (our fight)

and the sinking sun spilling his guts on the street. A good choice,

then, to end like beginnings. To start again at the ending. You might

 

3

even change your mind (or so I thought). I might

even apologize (or so I hoped—oh god I hoped, refused

to think about how bitter I was, how much I hated you, how I chose

to hate you). The sun gets in my eyes, blinds me like I blinded myself. So I lied—said we’d lost

each other, that I’d lost you—like some kind of fight

I couldn’t hope to win. Truth: I threw you away. Street lights

 

2

brighten the pavement (or the gloom deepens, I never could tell which) and now house lights

are lamp yellow eyes sweeping the sidewalks. Try as I might,

I cannot slow my steps to the square where our fight—

for love? understanding? each other? to win?—will end. The sun refuses

to go down, will not set, and what a terrible fucking metaphor—trailed by twilight I can’t lose.

Now it is too late to wind back the clock: we will meet and speak and break and why did I choose

 

1

to come here? Morning light filled me with optimism, a desire to refuse

fate an easy win. Starlight, star bright, might I skip this chance tonight? I always seem to lose.

Ask me again: in a fight between a world without me or without you, which should I choose?

 

 

Kendra Poole

 

Take-Off, 
or The Philosophy of Leaving

 

I try to imagine the time of leveling. I am glued

at an acute angle, watching the aisle arch skyward,

waiting for gravity, strapped, committed

to leaving you behind. Below, the city wrinkles,

ribbed and colorful, acrylics on earthy cardboard.

 

I like it better that way. I can never fall

in love for real. I’m too fond of falling out of it.

If I leave you here, you can miss the me I made

for you. Take care of her.

 

Already we are leveling. The sky nestled

below us, we skid over weather and sunbathe

above the atmosphere. I press my nose to the glass

to remember it is colder up here. Before we touch down,

I expect I will really miss you once and pretend

to miss you twice.

 

Turbulence jerks awake the sleeping, we descend

under the cover of night, dark cities are just inverted

skies: little stars dropped on their heads, calling themselves

streetlights, confused about the origin of their spark.

 

After reading about the Rwandan Genocide while I waited for my volunteer shift to begin at the Annual Apple Festival, 
Brookside Nature Center, Maryland.

 

When it started, I helped the kids

fold fingernail dirt into their apple turnovers,

little tongues licking sugar

off their fingertips, dipped back

 

into the bowl after. Oliver, his mom calls him,

crafts a paper crown to be the apple king.

Apple peels float in the cider. An autumn

leaf falls into the apple press. It is demolished

 

and then forgotten. A mother tucks her palms

under a pregnant belly while she laughs,

then spoons applesauce for the toddler.

It smells like funnelcakes and fire smoke.

 

I mold the apple turn-overs, crimping

the edges. I am so far away

from genocide. I slice each apple into pieces;

they are bites of family time and sunny afternoons.

 

Do they grow apples in Rwanda? Can you slice them

with a machete? When I walk the orchard

path to leave, I gather fallen

apples. How can I carry them all?

 

 

AJ Powell

 

Mama Atlas

 

Standing

at the sink doing dishes

my fingers are foamed with soap and warm water

my belly, broad and soft from past pregnancies,

presses against the counter

my shoulders, my back are

Monumental, tiredstrongtired

and my mind amasses the world’s weight

 

The Atlantic Ocean is by my right ear

and the Pacific is by my left

Arctic ice shelves crack

across the top of my forehead

while the Indian Ocean dribbles down my chin

The Continental Divide swinging down through the Americas

protrudes from the back of my skull like a crest

 

Square between my eyes I see frag—

menting continents

I smell scrubby tundra at the top

clean and cold

smokestacks and sweat below

All the aromas of

heaven and earth and humanity

encircle my head

 

I am carrying the world on my shoulders

Weight and Lift in equal measure

holding me up and pinning me down

for the responsibility of it all

 

Because I have children

whose eyes are wide and ears are open

Nothing gets past them

who require explanations and reassurances

And while the news used to throw curve balls

it now hurls thunderbolts

 

The foam is gone from my fingers

but the plates are clean

and the children are sleeping

Till morning

 

So carry the world I will

for them

until I can hand it off

whole I hope

and if not, if fracturing

then slathered in love like paste

and stubborn gratitude like glue

adhering our futures and universes and

World up here on top of our shoulders

determined     hopeful     flawed

All the unfinished glory of the turning globe

 

Bread from Scratch

 

If Grandma were still alive

 

I would learn how to bake bread from scratch

    for a dozen people a day

    because that’s what it took to feed her family

    not just how to bake the bread

    but how to do it

    Everyday, in and out

    how vice-like her grip and chiseled her patience

    from the mixing-kneading-pounding and waiting-to-rise

    the work of unending nourishment

    they required

    on a frugal budget

It’s no surprise she spent her graying years a cook in the hospital cafeteria

She’d spent a lifetime in the business of feeding legions

 

If Grandma were still alive

 

She would show me all there is to know

    about blended families

    for she started out so swiftly a widow

    with two of her own

    when she married Grandpa and the two he came with

    then they mixed in seven more of their own making

    (it’s okay to gasp)

    for a grand total of eleven children she hollered at and raised

    What a recipe that must have been

    for love

    and leavened expectations

No wonder her grandchildren never tested her endurance

Coming as we did in more prudent numbers

 

If Grandma were still alive

 

I would ask her what it was like to lose

    her first love

    the one she gazed at in an old photograph

    held in her papery hand

    her first partner in love’s nourishment

    and the father of her first children

    taken by war, lost at sea

    hidden in deep waters

    Did she crumble

    like sift

    when the telegraph was delivered?

And how did she get up again?

Dying, she said she most looked forward to seeing him

 

How Grandma endured so much

    while delivering sustenance to so many

    is a wonder to me

    an art I struggle at

    my fingerpainting to her Mona Lisa

    And all I ever knew her for

    was her drawer of Sunday School prizes

    like from the bottom of a crackerjack box

And the scent of yeast that wafted from her steady hands

 

X is Us

 

X is us—

Variable to the enth degree

and changing with surrounding terms

always on one side of equal or the other

never Equal itself

Now the metaphor is belabored

for we labor

under rules and precisions

beyond our control

like gravity and

metabolism

 

But we make music

which means

mechanics has a hold on us

but so does Mystery

biology but also Beauty

and sometimes we are content

to Encounter rather than solve

 

(I painted my fingernails silver

and my toes for no one to see but me

for the holidays)

 

Prisms take invisible light and

fracture it into rainbows

our hearts work the same

Hard in wholeness but

when crushed by life’s pestle

to a fine grain

we are Medicinal

the substance of us, the fragrance

is Released

 

This is why we seek love out

like treasure, water, air

even though it has to end in heartache

Has to—does—

Because

we are insidiously fragile

we are brief and dying

Our best hope is to go quickly

to spare caretaking loved ones

before they follow, in a decade or a day

the steep descent

to Endings

 

Thank goodness for seasons

for moons waxing and waning

tides coming in and going out

and perennials

Every scrap of Nature that reassures us

things leave to come back

Are not gone forever

    live on

         somehow

              and so might we

seeding our belief

in Resurrection

 

Bath Time

 

My daughter and I close the day

with a water ritual

She climbs in

turns clear water to gray with

the well-earned grime of childhood

She lifts her head in shimmering pride

and I smile to hear her boast:

“I’ve been playing!”

 

She spent hours digging in the side yard

All day the dust settled and stayed

on the droplets dappling her forehead

smeared along her forearm

every time she swiped it

across her sweaty brow

Now dirt under her fingernails

dampens, loosens, steeps

into the bathwater like tea leaves

 

She is a country-king

made happy by heroic comings and goings

by tree-climbing, creek-crossing, path-exploring labor

Like a farmer she gestures satisfaction

taking in the plowed fields of Play

 

So I know the best I can hope to do

is send her out into the world

to drink to dregs

each and every swollen day

 

 

Matt Farrell

 

New Year’s Eve: Sitting on a lawn chair in my front yard in Dillon Beach, California

 

Down on the beach

shadows of families

huddle around exploding fireworks.

I am far above them.

My house is black,

made bigger by the darkness,

smaller by the wind

that slurps up the last of the white paint.

Next week, the new owners move in.

 

Fireworks pop and scream

as if the beach is being bombarded.

Ships materialize in the fog.

Waves grow and open their mouths.

Ice plant sucks the soil dry

and takes the hill.

 

Is it too much to ask that 
everyone gets a turn?

 

The piñata,

beaten to death,

bleeds candy on the lawn.

It was once a giraffe—

neck so thin

it broke on the first swing,

the fatal blow delivered by a boy

no one wanted

to invite.

 

Living room

 

The old man had made clear plans for his death.

He was not buried in the family plot.

Nor was he cremated.

His ashes were not scattered

on the lupine-covered hill by the ocean

where he had first kissed his wife,

wind carrying the smell of driftwood and dead fish,

twisting her hair around both of their heads.

 

Instead, the local butcher cut the meat from his bones,

and a ninth-grade biology teacher

glued him together into a standing skeleton,

just like the plastic model the teacher displayed in his classroom.

The old man’s daughter placed his skeleton in her living room,

an elbow resting on the grand piano, as specified,

so he could still greet the neighbor’s cat when she pawed at the door

and get to know his grandchildren better.

 

Waves in the dark

 

I’m alone on the king-sized bed

of this hotel room that smells

like a hotel room.

The ceiling groans

with the weight of others,

gently cracking like the ribs

of a seasoned wooden ship

soon to be retired.

 

My uncle was a merchant marine in the Mediterranean.

In the worst storms

he had to tie himself to his bunk at night,

waves knocking at the porthole,

superstitions of old sailors warning

that the moans of the boards

were actually the creaking bones

of the dead

tightening the ropes.

 

Willamette River, past midnight

 

Light from a faraway houseboat

reflects off the water

like a gap between curtains.

I turn my body sideways

and slip through.

 

 

Timothy Walsh

 

Eating a Horsemeat Sandwich at Astana Airport

 

So yes, this blizzard in May has grounded the plane,

well, perhaps not a blizzard—a snow squall

      with gale-force winds—

the building shaking in the gusts,

wind-blasts roaring and swirling off the endless steppe

      like something alive,

writhing and coiling round the wings of the airplanes

that look so toy-like and disconsolate on the tarmac.

 

And why wouldn’t I want one last horsemeat sandwich,

      slathered in butter, a few pickle slices,

to go with my coffee as I wander through the terminal?

 

All around, people are curled up on benches,

      coats and jackets for blankets,

looking like survivors of shipwreck—

the frosted-over window glass shivering and trembling

while the Kazakh policemen in their absurdly big hats

patrol the corridors confident as wardens.

 

The sun must have risen by now. Outside, the grey skies

      and snow globe chaos

are perhaps brightening by small degrees.

 

As I munch my horsemeat sandwich, I see there are horses

      for sale in the souvenir shops—

Kazakh horses in felt finery to go with the elaborate

      felt yurts, camels, and ceremonial horse whips.

.

There are statues of horses everywhere in the city,

      winged unicorns on all the coins,

horsemeat in all the restaurants and markets,

often washed down with koumiss, fermented mare’s milk,

so minerally acerbic it can knock you down,

      though everyone swears it’s the secret of health—

the milk of horses, like the meat, made part of you

      as homage to creatures we sense are somehow

greater than ourselves.

 

Kazakh Woman in a Windblown Skirt

 

Nothing is more remote than yesterday, nothing is closer than tomorrow.” — Kazakh proverb

 

Far from her rumpled bed,

      far from the wrinkled mountains,

she walks the rush hour street fronting

      the endless steppe,

a thousand miles of windswept grasslands

      perpetually whispering to her,

whispering of what once was,

whispering of what will be.

 

Riding the glass-walled elevator twenty-eight floors

      to her cubicle,

she remembers horses, the rhythm of a horse beneath her,

      a mountain of muscled flesh,

her knees and thighs sensitized

      by the thunder of hooves on resonant earth.

 

She grew up in the foothills of the Altai,

      nomadic,

her grandfather still riding out at eighty,

      a hunting eagle on his arm,

her family having fled across the mountains

      to Mongolia generations ago,

fled from the Soviet forced collectivization,

      the slaughter of the migrating herds,

the mass starvation of the people.

 

She had never known permanent buildings—

home having been their commodious yurt,

      plush with carpets and pillows,

family including the fellowship of horses,

      the cycle of sunlight and grass.

 

But now they have returned, rejoined the twentieth century—

      their former homeland, suddenly independent,

calling back all exiles.

 

Now she dresses in Parisian skirts, modish jackets,

      suede boots with stiletto heels,

shares an apartment in a steel tower with her married brother

      and two cousins,

helps prepare the evening meals of plov, manty,

      shorpa, kuyrdak,

the gas jets of the stove not a dung-fueled fire

      under the stars,

but still a fire,

a fire that whispers like the wind,

whispering of what once was,

      of what will be.

 

At day’s end, she descends in the glass-walled elevator,

      walks the windswept streets,

the wind-groomed grasslands whispering eternally,

whispering to her heart,

to the horses of her heart,

her heartbeat attuned to the thunder of hooves,

her eyes forever scanning horizons,

knees hungry for a horse,

but perhaps soon might settle for a man.

 

The Apples of Almaty

 

Not the famous “Aport” apples in the Green Market,

but the wild apples in the foothills of the Tien Shan,

      the Celestial Mountains,

their snow-capped peaks rimming the horizon,

marking the border with Kyrgystan to the south,

perhaps also the border with the world we see

      and the realms we do not.

 

Here in these wild apple thickets burgeoning with fruit,

traders on the Old Silk Road took seeds and cuttings

      westward to Europe and eastward to China

spreading apple trees across the globe.

 

Almaty, meaning “Father of Apples,” a city surrounded

      by apples,

born of apples, suggesting that the earth itself

      is perhaps a ripening apple

hanging from a canopy of stars.

 

Here, on the far side of the world, where day

      is night and night day,

you can stand on Kabanbai Batyr Street

      looking up at the moon,

feeling the pulse of the city, the pull of the mountains,

the silent stealth of snow leopards

      gliding across glaciers.

 

Here in the forgotten heart of the world

where humanity first domesticated horses—

      learned to ride horses, milk horses—

perfected the art of mounted warfare,

      of horseback archery,

their bows, eons ago, turned to the task

      of playing musical instruments—the kobyz,

ancestor to the violin as surely as these wild apples

      are ancestors to our Jonathans and Granny Smiths . . . .

 

Here, where human language stirred among nomads

      traversing seas of grass,

where maral deer forage and steppe eagles soar,

I walk the luminous streets, the moon, our mother,

      a silver apple suspended in the sky,

and I think of the orchards of coulee country back home—

how I’ll paddle down the Kickapoo come spring,

      the slopes alight with apple blossoms,

each blossom reminding me of friends across the world—

      Ainur, whose name means moonlight,

      Zulmira, who is Kazakh and German, Liliya who is Tatar,

      Aliya who is Uzbek and Russian,

myself Irish and Polish twined into an American . . . .

 

Where, I wonder, would we all be without this wild profusion

      of cross-breeding?

No succulent apples, far less human beauty or genius,

the world and ourselves stultifying and static.

 

In today’s human thickets of migrants and refugees

      surging along hellish silk roads,

you can see it in their eyes—

beneath the hope and fear, the terror and anguish,

      the unsuspected seeds of the future,

hidden like apple seeds within an apple—

orchards of unimaginable fruit that may or may not

      come to be.

 

Buying an Umbrella at Khan Shatyr

 

It’s true—Genghis Khan’s mounted troops

      could ride for days,

drinking blood from a slit in their horse’s neck,

but here I am in this fantastical city on the steppe,

      my stomach rumbling just hours after

a sumptuous breakfast.

 

I’ve sampled shubat and koumiss, fermented camel’s milk

      and mare’s milk—

reminded that we are mammals—“of the breast”—

      drinkers of milk,

with humankind alone continuing to drink milk

      beyond infancy,

unable to let childhood (or butterfat) go,

      its creamy richness,

our attachment to our mothers.

 

Here in Khan Shatyr, the world’s largest tensile structure—

      a tent, that is—

a space encompassing ten football fields, six stories tall,

I am lost amid the posh shops,

      the labyrinthine food court,

life-size dinosaurs lending a Disneyesque touch

while legions of signs in Cyrillic bewilder my eyes.

 

Through the translucent, high-tech polymer

      covering this gigantic yurt,

I see that it is raining outside,

so I browse a rack of umbrellas,

      feeling like a modern-day Marco Polo

in some ersatz Xanadu.

 

I open one umbrella after another,

testing their mechanisms, their latticework of ribs,

remembering Genghis Khan’s great ambition

      to unite “all people who live in felt houses,”

nomads, that is,

and I toy with the thought that umbrellas make us

      nomads all once again,

wandering through a world of wind and rain.

 

Counting out Kazakh banknotes, I buy this smallest

      of tensile structures inside the largest,

and walk the crowded promenade, dazzled by

      the chic clothes, Parisian couture, American fast food,

thinking that just a hundred years ago the Kazakhs—

      or “free riders”—

were bound to their animals, always on the move,

their lives joined irrevocably to their horses,

      their sheep and goats,

the cycle of seasonal migrations.

 

Venturing outside, I recall how Proto-Indo-European,

      our collective mother tongue,

has no word for “city.”

Overhead, Tengri, the omnipotent sky god,

      is a boundless umbrella of leaden gray,

my own modest umbrella paltry as a parachute

      buffeted by the breeze,

the winds whispering how all mammals,

      whether herbivores or carnivores,

owe our consciousness to grass,

while cities of concrete and stone

      partake of the tomb.

 

 

Nancy Rakoczy

 

Adam

 

Clay is always cranky so soon                But already he chafes at the

         after creation.                                            clay covered nail that traces

Separation from the riverbank’s           his veins up his arm.

         a nightmare.

                                                                     Each step away from the river

Days remembered along the                           is one closer to him, he thinks;

         riverbed among the snails             soon there’ll be nothing left of

and fishes flashing past.                                  the riversmell on him.

         Worms

carving homes prematurely in him      The mud promises to hold his space in

         he sees now.                                               case he returns.

 

Flesh holds the memory of fingers       He’s taking the riverbank with him

         dug deep into him                                    and the sweetness of clay.

twisting         pulling         shaping         Let it cling, let it cling to me he thinks.

         rippedslappedawake                                I don’t care what he says.

more to come I promise.

 

The hothands & hotbreath:

         “Making it up as you go along?”

he wants to say;

         still damp he knows to stay quiet.

But clay must talk

or it wouldn’t be clay.

 

My Clay Man

 

We tell each other we like it this way:

things were too easy before–

fat apples dropped in your lap

never taste as sweet as the ones

you have to climb to get.

We say.

This way we have our homemade world.

We get to make everything ourselves.

 

We’d be fat we tell each other. Fat & stupid.

This way we learn. Now we’re smart.

We love the sweat that hangs off our lips and nose

to be licked off after a day’s work.

 

Burrow my nose in his chest and

smell his clay smell and breathe his clay soul.

Night time I hold his hand up to the light and

see the small silver fishes dart among the arteries,

hiding behind the knuckles shy and trembling.

In his dreams, the riverbank is never far.

Me, I’m a rib away from eternity.

From dirt.

Press my ear to his

and hear the call that

still echoes between the whorls

and curves of ear and brain.

 

His tears cry on my face and twist his smile out of shape.

Lick a finger and curve his lips around it

like a droopy jar wet from the potter’s wheel.

Fix it with a kiss. Stretch his smile with my fingers,

my clay man. Kiss it. Fix it.

I know I’ll have to do it again and again.

 

Tickle My Face

 

Tickle my face

with these green hopes,

sprung from the center

of my fine green heart.

 

Tickle and tease,

breathe on me with

your whistling breath

that warms and shakens

my limbs grown long.

 

Let me Adam walk

and Eve pirouette

with these lions and lambs

who wait with me in

the deep violet dusk.

 

Together we’ll lie

in the pink dimming hush

and wait for the one who

gave us these names

in the light gone long.

 

 

Joshua Levy

 

Venezuela Evening

 

Sweat and sea salt

glitter in the hairy vines

of the old man’s beard:

Venezuela, Christmas day, 2016.

His guitar is a lemon slice

he squeezes against his ribs,

pouring his audience blues lemonade.

Between his sun tan and the restaurant tables

a local woman dances, caught like a fish in his song.

Her good looks flap against an orange sky.

When he goes to the bathroom abandoning his chair,

freckled girls search the hollow of his guitar

for rabbits, moonlight, magic.

 

I’m lying at the other end of the beach

—the shadowy end—feeling the ocean hurtle

crab dust on to my back.

Musing about the stork I saw this morning

stab the water

like scissors through an ancient mirror

and feeling happier because I saw it.

Now I can hear the tourists

guillotining their burgers and fries.

The wind reeks of banana rum, lobster.

A toilet flushes and the man’s

fingers find the Spanish chords,

warm as blood.

I ask the clouds for messages.

 

Kibbutz Hazorea

 

The size of Canada makes me shiver

as I rest on this sliver of a country.

 

On days off we change colours

on Haifa’s Carmel beach,

gamble with ear-marked cards,

throw down 10 shekel bills for large

mixed drinks of fruit and milk

and compare Hebrew expressions

culled from restaurant napkins.

 

We watch the waves crawl to sand on shredded knees;

exhausted from splashing with Spanish fleets,

swimming under French bathers’ legs,

being kicked by Italy’s boot,

and melted by Greek sunsets.

Final stop of the Mediterranean.

 

I’m sitting to the side of the group

a guitar on my hip,

Pia’s lips curling around the edges of my song.

Grooves line her brow. A trench between

her upper lip and nose deepens when she eats.

The pale skin under her eyes always has a veiny blue hue.

In short, I’m in love.

 

Pia, why do you have a boyfriend

tucked away back home

like a bookmark?

 

The Beach

 

Life is simple on the beach.

Seagulls are kites tugged by mermaids.

Jellyfish lie marooned in blue heaps, deflating their poison.

Seashells remind me that bodies are temporary homes.

 

I surrender my sandcastle to the waves’ kisses

and smile back at a couple jogging by. Love cannot be hoarded.

An ocean breeze leafs through my book like a very old woman

licking her fingers before flipping each page.

 

There is commerce in the ocean:

a frantic swapping of fish and shells and secrets

but no luck for the fisherman

who throws up his arms, and says to his son: “Nobody’s home.”

 

Boat after boat falls

           over the horizon’s harsh plank.

 

 

Ryan Lawrence

 

A Buffer, Douchier Me

 

They could be up to no good,

these doubles of mine: coming in

and out of my life and muddling things,

 

though they’re usually benign like customers

at happy hour, literally the case

during our $1 oyster special,

 

which really packs ’em in between 4 and 5,

when this one showed up

in tattoos and crisp jeans:

 

my buffer, douchier doppelgänger

according to Carinne who spotted him

as he put his name on the wait list,

 

and put his braceleted hand

at the waist of his ladyfriend,

who perhaps was a fit and tanned variant of another,

 

but I was only interested in him,

who I have to admit,

under his gelled head (still wearing shades),

 

looked liked me, but buffer,

and showcased it with a tight tee,

veiny arms bulging out,

 

though on the scale of buffness,

from dad bod to movie ripped,

I’m near the middle, a solid 4 at least,

 

a suggestion of muscles

and faint boundaries drawn on skin,

an archipelago of abs just below,

 

which I examined later that night

as I flexed in front of a mirror,

making modest continents emerge,

 

and wondering where I live

along the latitudes of Doucheland,

and if I can still leave.

 

Most Memorable Insult

 

I’ve been dissed and trashed,

put down, poor-mouthed, and shat on,

but only one smear I remember,

only one slander stuck.

 

It’s when Gina said

You’re nothing but a baby,

and I had just sipped coffee

from a hot paper cup,

I had just taken a hard drag off a smoke

and puffed out as the tip cooled.

 

I don’t remember what wrung me up,

what made me bawl and rage

and be the swirling blades of a hurricane,

then later the placid eye.

 

But it’s her addendum that cast

the insult in bronze,

a smoking, coffee-drinking baby,

and the scene it conjured,

that I’m helpless to erase:

 

fat-cheeked me in a crib

with my bottle on its side,

a dark drip on blue cotton

and bitty nails on chubby fingers

pinching a cig, so slender and white,

 

as I tremble in anger and start to wail,

but Mom leans in, cupping the light.

 

Vegan Teen Daughter vs. Worthless Dad

 

I gave him the edge,

and figured he’d look like a late-round Rocky

before he’d go down for the count.

 

She had the strength of youth

and all its extras:

idealism and self-importance

and an iPhone, munitions of data

discharged with a finger-swipe.

 

I’m a waiter, not a referee,

though I wanted to throw a flag

when she rejected the pommes frites,

having realized the fryer

had been fouled by pork rinds.

 

That’s not gonna work, she says,

which as a spectator I wanted to applaud.

In forty years I’ve never been that direct.

 

The mushroom tarte,

no butter or cheese, please.

 

No problem, I say,

because I know the kitchen is on its toes,

eager for new challenges,

ready to go off script in an instant

because they know an audience

can see more from the seats

than can be seen from the stage.

 

Dad rushes out the corner

and leads with a half-dozen shrimp,

which arrive pink and curled

beside the dismembered tentacles of an octopus

interred in a hump of ice.

 

He follows with a combo:

a stack of bones cleaved in two,

the marrow bared and salt-flaked,

then an assload of pig-fat infected frites

circling a kilo of charred beef,

gaping and red as a quartered saint.

 

She’s gotta be on the ropes,

staggered by the bounty of massacre on the table,

all of it plated on frilly china,

but with her middle finger

shoves her glasses up her nose and says

You had people working under you,

now they’re above.

 

I want to call the fight,

the dad is done for,

but instead ask if everything is all right

and offer him another glass of wine

like a bucket to spit in.

 

What are you doing with your life, she says,

a roundhouse swing that glances off him

and gets a piece of me, too.

 

Stay down stay down

is what I want to yell

when I drop the check

 

but he lifts his hands and says

I’m not done yet.

 

Averages

 

It’s pouring now in Portland,

though usually it’s mist

or soft rain,

 

which tends to be a little boring,

a run-on sentence

and not a single period of thunder.

 

Meteorologically speaking,

it’s neither loaded spring or dead coil,

but a drizzling in-between,

 

better, perhaps, than desert extremes

or a hurricane,

or one on top the other.

 

If it’s not one thing it’s seventeen,

I’ve heard, but I must admit

it’s nice when it’s nine,

 

cruising through

the flat averages of life,

not a care or curve in sight,

 

instead of like the squirrel I’ve heard about,

starving and lost,

thinking it can’t get any worse,

 

when he’s suddenly struck blind,

and suddenly surrounded by nuts.

 

Narcosis

 

My last days will be like each day

before naptime

 

when I’m gripped by a weariness

that pulls me toward sweet daytime sleep,

 

though I’m stressed that I haven’t done

what I needed to do,

 

haven’t even come close,

and I hate that: pleasure being ruined

 

by regret, and so I seek to shift the balance

by increasing what I get

 

with a cup of wine, dark and too full

for 2:00, but perfect for letting go

 

instead of circling the drain of the day

and rowing against the truth:

 

you can’t do it, it hurts,

so take this and forget it.

 

 

George Longenecker

 

Cape Cod Elegy

 

Cold wind whips a beach by a bay,

nine gulls float slowly on gusts,

in sand lies a dead coywolf,

fur russet, grey and white,

still fluffy, ears soft,

legs spread like he’s still running.

 

Sand has drifted over his mouth,

jaws agape showing ivory teeth.

Was he looking for snails or limpets?

Maybe he was hoping for the dead cormorant nearby

when last night’s icy wind cut through his fur

as he tried to run one last time.

 

Near the solitary beach coywolves

hide in pitch pine woods within sight

of Wellfleet’s white water tower—

part wolf, part coyote,

elusive as sea tides.

 

On the edge of the marsh a skim of ice,

everything grey and white

like the dead coywolf’s fur

in tufts between his paw pads and claws.

 

In the cottage yard a single rose

still blooms despite frigid November wind,

wine, warmth and supper

only take me back to the beach

where the gale whips sand through his fur.

Then I realize it’s not merely wind,

but coywolves howling,

music from the marsh.

 

Yard Sale

 

A house can be haunted by those who were never there

Louis MacNeice

 

Under an awning await furnishings,

exposed and alone without the house,

which has been emptied of the maple table

where first sun shone each day

on coffee cups and worn silver spoons,

 

emptied of oak four-posted bed

where for fifty years,

two people loved and awoke each day,

of matching bureau whose drawers

held socks and underwear.

 

This house is empty of the cradle

where children first slept,

empty of carpets chairs, knives,

spoons and forks, mops and clocks.

Window panes reflect bare floors.

 

Signs advertise the sale. Furnishings sit,

while two curious crows swoop overhead,

while the empty house waits.

The clocks tell no time.

Car doors slam as the yard sale begins.

 

Crows caw once, twice, circle over.

Soon the oak bureau, maple table,

bed, cradle and clocks are gone.

All that was there is gone.

Inside, the house is too quiet, too bright.

 

Chimera

 

I wake up kissing a pig,

she asks me if I think there’s a God,

even before she asks me what I’d like for breakfast—

I know better than to say bacon—

scrambled eggs with biscuits and grits, please.

 

Human stem cells can be legally implanted

in pig and other animals’ embryos—

it was in the news yesterday—

human brain, liver and heart cells.

 

I can feel her heart beat,

different than before when she was just a pig,

71 beats a minute just like mine

(except during sex or exercise)

but I’m not ready to jog with a pig—

and I can’t even think about sex—

so many nipples.

 

She throws on a nightie,

I hear her hooves clatter downstairs,

smell coffee.

I wonder if I’d be more compatible

with a sheep or a dog.

 

Live Science August 5, 2016

Strange Beasts: Why Human-Animal Chimeras Might Be Coming”

Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer

 

Silence Comes

 

This morning the last geese passed south

a few honking stragglers in a small vee

brown leaves fluttered in beech trees

I realized how silent it was

snowflakes whispered on my coat

the only other sounds

a few chickadees calling from pines

and a distant train whistle

 

Mailbox

 

alone on a hilltop

gray paint flaking

flag missing

beside a narrow road so little-used

grass grows down the middle

its broken door hangs by one hinge

vibrates in the breeze

a faint harmonica off key

 

most days when I pass it’s empty

this winter morning snow blows everywhere

one crow perches on its crest

today a postcard

a drugstore circular

and a little snow inside

the house cannot be seen from anywhere

 

two sets of footprints in a dusting of snow

someone has come and gone twice

come too soon

waiting perhaps for this card

or just waiting

I can’t tell where the tracks come from

and wonder who lives in such loneliness

that mercy hinges on a postcard

 

 

Susanna Kittredge

 

Four Theories About My Ovaries

 

I. Deaf

Dear ovaries, can you hear me? For weeks

my pituitary has been screaming hormone

louder and louder, and still you don’t

respond. I imagine you

twiddling your proverbial thumbs

as you wait patiently for instructions that never

seem to come. You’re just starting to wonder

if you should look for other work.

 

II. Temperamental

I should have known that they would be

fussy artists like myself. In adolescence,

they were daring, releasing one egg after another

to an admiring reproductive system.

But as they’ve aged, the self-doubt,

the perfectionism have set in.

They are embarrassed by their haphazard

early work. Anxious that the eggs

they make will be ridiculous, they lie still

praying for precise inspiration to create

the perfect ovum.

 

III. Retired

Susanna, lookit—we’re pooped. We’ve been doing

this gig since you were, what, fourteen? Every

month: *pop* *pop*! We’re over it! We consider

our fortune made, like young tech entrepreneurs.

From now on, you’ll find us kicked back on the banks

of Fallopia, sipping luteinizing cocktails, rubbing balm

into our achy follicles.

 

IV. More

My ovaries are not craftsmen, not businessmen

or drones. They are not even poets.

But don’t call them failure or vestige.

Call them monks, eating from begging bowls

of artificial estrogen. Call them a pair of Pisces,

afloat in my abdomen, forever dreaming.

 

Medusa

 

There are conflicting stories of her origin.

She was born a scaly, serpent-headed monster,

or she started as a lovely maid.

She was virtuous or vain,

raped or wanton with the god Poseidon.

 

We know for sure that Athena took her severed head,

her frozen cry of fury and still-writhing snakes,

and mounted it on her shield to augment her own divine power,

a flat-handed thump to her war chest.

 

I look at the forked tongues of my hair’s split ends,

the dull smudge of mascara below my eyes

and speckle of toothpaste on my shirt.

What a weakling I am, never daring to be truly hideous;

smiling sweetly and dangling silver from my ears

lest I should turn a man to stone.

 

Apology

 

You’ve got that stab-eyed sweetness, apologizing

for some tiny thing. I know what it’s like to see black birds

between us and to want to turn them into smoke.

 

We’ll both be lonely this snowstorm—you with the sad

Vaudeville of your roommates; me with an empty house

and an internet I.V.

 

It’s better this way, because: look at me—

I’m writing again! And you—you’ve got your feelers

feeling in a new direction.

 

You didn’t need to apologize—I wasn’t angry;

I was only teasing you for being a tree

with so many daring branches

and so many stubborn roots.

 

My Heart

 

is a slowly dripping popsicle

visited only by half-starved hummingbirds

and nervous brown butterflies.

 

My heart is a traffic island, terrified

by the honking cars around it;

too stunned to comfort the wild-eyed pedestrians

stranded on its surface.

 

My heart is the cat that entertains a caress

until startled by its own pulse

into biting the hand and bolting

under the bed.

 

My heart is an empty notebook,

naked of ink, flipping closed

against the poet’s ravishing gaze.

 

 

Morgan Gilson

 

Dostoyevsky

 

Strands of time travel

in red threads of conspiracy

out from now to thousands

upon thousands of eventualities,

and my stomach cramps,

nauseous at the thought

of these other realities

we can’t see. Yet

it is written:

Our days are numbered

(possibly itemized,

and maybe even bulleted).

 

I woke up panicked

and perspiring.

I had been dreaming

of Dostoyevsky.

I was a piano key,

black and white,

and sounding

the same note over

each time I was struck.

 

Relapse

 

every day is the same

as the day before, the day soon after.

it is the happenings that transform.

six months ago I couldn’t get out of bed.

voices came and went; sleep went

more often than it came. And I remember

all of this not because I ever saw the sun

rise or set on any of those days but because

it is not . the most beautiful flower

blooms in the field next to your house.

it is aflame, a star with earthly roots.

change is the only dawn.

 

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question

 

-e e cummings

 

always only (is only) always

the earnest eternal

beautiful change (which) may

answer back again

that echo that

asks what is (asked of it)

an emptiness more empty

even than the void of a heart

more vast than the (last

beautiful) expanse (of stars not known so

question answers that [answer] question[s])

 

I Want to Pick Out My Own Coffin

 

I wish I was warm inside

my mother’s womb again.

And I could float through life

listening to the rhythm of ventricles and lungs.

Safe inside my placenta suit,

my eyes would be bulging, dark spots

beneath a film of skin (the softest, slimiest skin

covering my everything: little hands and toes, with

the tiniest nails, that squirm and wave wildly).

No thought would ever enter my prenatal mind.

 

But thoughts do come constantly piercing my brain

that was born. Uncontrolled,

this thing in my chest goes on without asking.

Breathe in then breathe out,

and keep sucking up life.

I’ll never be unborn again,

so I‘ll be alive until there’s something else I’m in.

 

Klonopin Dreams

 

I have epiphanies,

instants of mental lightning,

like moments of lucidity

 

(flashes of brilliance and clarity)

and then nothing.

I have epiphanies

 

(that turn my eyes to kaleidoscopes) so I can see

how tiny puzzle pieces continuously form and reform to

compose everything.

Moments of lucidity

 

twist (like light bulbs) in the sockets of reality

and (spot light the universe as it) opens its mouth to sing:

“I have epiphanies!”

 

They resonate in the consciousness like harmonies

resound in the ear of the mind of the heart.

Like moments of lucidity

 

life (washes over me),

wave upon heavy, drowning wave.

(I have epiphanies)

like moments of lucidity.

 

 

Jim Pascual Agustin

 

Snail Mail

 

No one had called it that,

not yet. For us, it meant taking time

like drawing from a well

that stood in the middle of a desert.

 

We walked in daylight knowing

even if we reached the dust covered

stones, picked up the dry bucket

that lay upside down and checked

 

the rope, it may already be dark.

Still we gently unwound the creaking

pulley, the echo of its way down

like music from stones

 

gently stroked in circles

with moist fingers. The sound

of wood touching water

where we could not see.

 

Then to haul back home

what we have alone,

but always less

and less lonely.

 

The Annihilation of Bees

 

Pesticide manufacturers, blamed

for the death of bees worldwide

continued to profit. He had

no shares in them, couldn’t care

 

less for the next luxury

car purchase of their CEOs.

But he couldn’t help feeling

something loosen inside

 

the chambers in his chest

when he read the news.

He glanced at a framed photo

on his desk. A small girl’s

 

fingertips touching the petals

of a daisy. The dark lines

in the cove of her palm.

Fine golden dust released

 

on a field of wild flowers blurred

out in the background.

In a breath, the past

relived. A day for baking

 

cookies embedded with chips

of chocolate. A dead bee

on its back by the window

sill, sting intact. Curiosity,

 

a poke, a little heart

coming to a stop.

 

The Heartless Giant and the Dwarf the Size of a Heart

 

She thought things had always been small

and breakable. That people spoke only in shrieks,

fists, stones and sticks of flame thrown

from a distance. Too many times they tried

 

to set her hair on fire while she slept.

It became a choice between giving up

sleep or looking for caves they hadn’t scorched.

Until he stumbled on her baby toe

 

when his eyes hadn’t yet adjusted

to the darkness where she lay.

A jewel instead of a toenail, he saw.

He’d heard people talk of her

 

having no heart, how with her stare

she could turn a person into a piece of coal.

He should have run back to the gaping light

outside, but something inside him ached.

 

The smell of her unsinged hair, the colour

of her eyes when she’s at rest,

her voice when she’s not angered

or afraid, he longed to find out

 

for himself. He could never believe

a living thing would be void of a soul.

So he sat in patience until she woke up

without being disturbed.

 

Imagining Aliens

 

Eyes drowning in stars, a boy

sent out thought waves,

imagining aliens were out there

 

sailing the waterless expanse,

waiting for signals that matched

their instruments.

 

Had he looked inside him

he would’ve found an alien

probe already making a nest,

 

but not like those in horror movies.

A homing device, invisible

yet palpable as the bark

 

of the tree he loved to climb,

had long been caught in the waves

he sent out to the universe.

 

Time and place, and a bit of luck,

would one day open a portal

between them, turn their worlds

 

inside out, until they became

aliens to each other, exploring

the warm unknown.

 

 

Taylor Bell

 

The Dedication Depends On Where You Are

 

You know it’s winter in the city

when everyone gets to talking

about where they’d like to go

to get away. All great escapes

require careful planning though

they never go quite as planned.

 

There is one week until Christmas.

The lines skated in folks’ faces

seem to run a bit deeper,

like their pestilence had been

frozen in ice that is beginning

to melt. At zero kilometers

plaza the Christmas cone that’s

named after a cell phone carrier,

is all brilliantly alight and shining,

strung with golden beads and

someone somewhere’s good deeds.

 

I think it is ten degrees warmer

than it’s supposed to be, and

I feel superbly guilty

for not getting anything

for anybody. As is tradition

with all lists, I do not exclude

myself from any of it.

 

When I was young

in Manhattan, I bought a map

just to make sure I knew

where I was

getting lost. Deliberately

is the only way to deliver

ourselves to unknown corners,

24 hour diner booths,

recondite subway stops,

the harbor view from

a talcum unpaved roof,

The slide in the city park

is frozen over, and snow

unshoveled stuck on

the sidewalk, so we walk

in the road. On the road

is where we wish we were;

out of the cold,

wishing for the world

to unfold like an atlas map,

instead of squeezed, perhaps

inside of a fist. No matter

what postal code can fit

in the corner of an envelope,

we’ve always played host to

a thousand forms of hope—

historically reserved for the skeptical

or the desperate, so desperate

to be preserved like a turd

on the road.

 

Muyuk Takin

 

There will always be trees,

even when the last chicken

has been sold: headless

like old lettuce, and manifold

mustached men wheeling away

what’s left of the green grapes,

turned away for not having come

of age, set like a stage

to the side to make way for

a woman with overripe eyes,

stuffing her avocados in a sack

and then heading back

to the room made from river mud

where her sons were born

and her husband died.

 

How much despair can be pared

off with a knife

and stuffed into a cup,

then sold like a mango flower,

for whatever price

you think your life

might be worth?

 

Tomorrow the woman

will go back with

her burlap sack

to the Zocalo,

lay herself out

like a deck of cards

among rows and rows

of split papayas, bananas,

cantaloupe and garlic cloves,

coffee grounds, Roma tomatoes,

one million wonder colored eyes

she watched like herself:

growing from a seed.

And to see them seeing her

dying alone, she knows

there will always be trees.

 

12/19/2015

 

It’s Sunday and the sound

of drums comes drifting in

through an open window.

 

It’s been a disappointing while

since I went to see who it was

outside. With winter coat on

 

I walk a few miles to the cafe

where they play Bill Withers,

Joan Baez and The Temptations.

 

I think about what I’d say

in a conversation I’ll never have,

with beasts who live in shadows.

 

I think about what I’d drink

if I could afford to be anything

but bored.

 

The drums come from a church

with a bishop bathing a baby

in holy water, whispering

 

in its ear: nothing is sacred,

save for the time you wasted

wishing you were someone else.

 

And then the choir breaks in-

to song and the baby has a long

time to take itself home

 

to wonder if whatever it is

everyone told him was a lie;

His whole life, in fact,

 

to sit in front of empty coffee cups

to forget how he listened to music,

to look out of a thousand windows

 

until he hears the echo of a drum

and has to ask himself where it is

the sound has been coming from.

 

To the students in 1°A

 

Tell me what you love the most,

not what someone else said,

and you thought it sounded nice.

 

Nice is not

 

what I want to hear.

What I want to hear

is what you love the most,

and I’ll bet that it

 

is not nice.

 

I’ll bet that you’re afraid

to admit it, to be different

for still going shopping

 

in the paranormal romance section,

or eating Cheetos with chopsticks,

or saying ‘okay I believe you’ when

 

someone tells you you’re not

looking too good these days,

and you really are

 

not is nice.

 

Browsing Tinder in an Aldi

 

I get restless in the recesses

of the endless supermarkets.

I check my phone too much

in checkout lines. I think

of an idea I once had and

how I’ll never have it again,

and when did I become this

collection of nervous habits?

 

Was it always everyone else

pressing their noses up against

the glass of the human zoo, or

was it me, or you in the menagerie?

Poisoned with honesty, crude

as a carrot tossed in a stew,

I’m too tired of telling the truth,

I guess, to tell you what

is going to happen next.

 

So instead I will continue

to text strangers while fishing

for change in my front pocket,

throwing away the receipt

only moments after I receive

it; a new message left

unread for hours while

I remind myself how

we ourselves flash and yearn;

 

so desperate to not appear

so desperate. So desperate

to disappear once again

into the deep recesses,

and to feel less restless

when the basket is empty,

so to speak. So there’s no

need to clip coupons, or

 

be preoccupied with temporal

discounts, or price comparisons

that are so ostensibly odious

that after so much time spent

browsing, there’s still so little

to show, save but for this

vertigo of infinite choices,

paralysis from all the potential

 

options, a thousand different

ways to make spaghetti sauce,

the mascots on the cereal boxes,

the haste with which we cross

one of our flaws after another off

the list, and the faint whispers of

a woman coming from somewhere

 

like background noise, reaching

from some other deep recesses

herself, flashing and yearning

like an island, putting me here

in this line, asking the question:

who exactly is checking who out?

 

 

David Anderson

 

The Fall of ’16

 

The season takes a turn for the darker days

autumn gots to offer. Preacher man says; “It’s

due to upcoming elections and all the whoring

and thieving of morals that are part and parcel.”

 

Me thinks politicians running their gums

don’ cause the sun to seek a hidey-hole.

It gotta be related to peoples livin’ large

an’ all a sudden going under dead broke.

 

I’m noticing peculiar weather conditions—

roiling purple clouds ride fearsome squalls

causing trees to loose their leaves—lending

an All Hallow’s Eve feel to the landscape.

 

Bog fires flare ’neath the peat marsh.

Acrid fumes mix wiff tule fog; streaking

clapboard siding like vinegar hot-ironed

onto the rump of go-to-meeting trousers.

 

Weevils, skinned darker than the innards

of a buried coffin, lay ruin to fiber crops.

Withered sumac, dried kudzu, and wasted

nightshade somersault into tumbleweed.

 

That preacher keeps rattling on; “Repent!

The end is near!” He’s been a pitching this

drivel ever since I fool ’nough to wander

wiffin range of his baptismal font.

 

The day after election results git tallied, all

hell busts loose. Nightriders mount up; me, I

hightail it, leaving forty acres gone fallow and

the guv’mint mule turned out to his own kind.

 

Cat O’ Nine Tales

 

(1)

I let go the yardarm, fell hard from my perch.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ’til I cried.

(2)

I stood a midnight vigil mourning shipmates lost at sea.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ‘til I cried.

(3)

I harbored rumrunners fleeing a guarded coast.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ‘til I cried.

(4)

I gambled ship’s money—then lied to the purser.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ‘til I cried.

(5)

I challenged the first-mate to a dual and persevered.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ‘til I cried.

(6)

I jumped ship in a foreign port.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ’til I cried.

(7)

I consorted with trollops on the Barbary Coast.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ’til I cried.

(8)

I lay down in lust, awoke diseased.

Cap’n Jack stood me before the mast and flogged me ‘til I cried.

(9)

I surrendered to death in a bilge-water lagoon.

Cap’n Jack stood Mother before the mast and joined her when she cried.

 

Continental Rift

 

We

stood agitated,

facing a great divide,

 

the grandeur of the

Rockies marred

by our rising voices.

 

Raptures

circled ominously,

love stumbled and lost.

 

We

cried out at a

clap of thunder,

 

sought cover

when lightning

arced.

 

Eyes

spilling rivulets,

we scrabbled for purchase

 

when ground gave way.

His tears flowed east,

mine tracked west.

 

Waning desire

 

Each of our whispers is a love letter,

even those beginning: Kiss me,

because we always did,

again, and again . . ,

and again,

again.

 

Until

the novelty

grew thin and

life got in the way—

feedings, diapers, and colic.

Shh we whisper, don’t wake the kids.

 

Special Needs

 

My blackened eye

and broken jaw will heal,

my stutter, probably not.

 

Mom’s soon-to-be-ex is looking

at ten to twenty, with the

possibility of parole.

 

His lawyer put me on trial. Me,

the teenage punching bag,

the one in the way of:

 

his fist,

his drinking,

his uncontrolled fury.

 

When school resumes,

counselors label me

special needs.

 

Rest assured,

my intellect is intact,

even though I’m about to be

 

deposited like an empty vessel in

a maze of compartmentalized slots,

suggestive of an old-time soda crate;

 

brimming with rheumy-eyed children,

fragile as gossamer threads of DNA,

unaware of individual plights.

 

My classmates are

a giggle of special Eds

and extra-special Wendys.

 

Officials label our lot

a case of empties,

not eligible

 

for a decent return

from the district’s

limited resources.

 

 

Charles McGregor

 

Twink Chaser

 

For a gentle bear

 

I.

He was a violin serenade man. Roses were in my future. I knew what convenience meant—a back seat privacy. Tampa Bay has palm tree boulevards and bridges to islands. I didn’t recognize anybody there. The odometer turned 100,000 on our last trip. I felt every mile. I know he did too. I was embarrassed riding that long. Monotonous car rides are moments when the weight of air reads the seconds aloud. I felt guilty, but liked the attention. When his ultimatum popped, I wasn’t ready for revelations.

 

II.

Lakeland Square Mall stores the town’s gossip. Shelves are adequate barricades—they reinforce the ideal of specter queers touching our boys. She—the one I bring around Momma—talks about him and his beauties; he buys them comfort and performs. I laugh. He could be listening on the other side of Superman abdomens. I feel the miles.

 

III.

I think back to the slow power lines that dipped and rose—that moment when the meaning of silence was as recognizable as the taste of salt. His gaze made me feel lipstick beautiful, but the citrus rays don’t hide very long in the sticky summer heat. I know the comfort of a tangerine sunset without him.

 

Before I lifted my palm out of his hand, he said everything was okay. He gave one last squeeze before he let go. We both understood the stars and stripes consciousness of secluded highways. Plastic Jesus’s abdomen cries Kool-Aid blood from the cross every Southern Sunday pitying the kneeling boys peeping up at Him.

 

The Boys that Don’t Know

 

My tongue is the musk of masculinity—a scent that keeps

me safe on the center court’s flaming cross.

 

I calm the nerves of the boys that don’t know—

my well-placed fudge packer taunt, the you would know

 

response. The conversation ends with my basketball

fluttering down a rainbow arc. I can’t extinguish

 

the extra flare of my flicked wrists, but like all good boys,

I strap on the masque of sweat—it’s the Christ-like effort

 

that counts. Sneaker squeak sirens control my desire—

I long for my place with the boys that don’t know.

 

There are other boys and they know the wooden helm

that steers my gaze. One rewards my jump shot

 

with Golden Delicious hips lulling me towards the bleachers.

I bluff with bone bruising knuckle sandwich fists,

 

but his oasis dimples have already undressed me:

I hope you’re good at this game.

 

Yanking Bootstraps: An Affliction

 

I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger: A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

 

Bye, Bye, Birdie

The Army’s got you now

I’ll try Birdie

To forget some how

Ann-Margret, Bye Bye Birdie

 

I.

Florida soil liked accosting my feet—

the black droplets seeped through the holes in my socks.

 

I could smell citrus tree ghosts between my toes—

I didn’t take off my shoes, I didn’t want to look. I wept.

Father looked down at me. The crevices around his eyes—

 

chiseled onto a Roman coin—deepened as he pounded

the earth. The colossus of my youth yanked

my crackling shoulder into his flaky metal car.

 

Be a man…

 

…rattled against my skull—the steam from the cul-de-sac

engulfed the baritone commandment. Sweat and dirt

gushed out of my stomach’s folds. I stopped weeping.

 

II.

I now see Father clearly; yellow Polaroids from his wedding

reveal a smear print of translucent tears across his red face.

 

I ask Momma why to avoid the littered silence

of our ticking cuckoo clock. She doesn’t reply.

 

We look out the window at Florida’s pastel evening

blinking with desert eyeballs. Neither of us want to answer

with Iraqi Freedom. I don’t always know why I cry—

 

sometimes I just raise my arms, yawn, and the tears fall.

During more certain times, the lachrymal salt soaks my cheeks

while I dream of Napoleon’s crown—the perpetuation

 

of the leather bootstrap pull-up. I am moved by the myth

of anyone’s empire. From Dollar Tree socks

to black booted emperor of the Gulf of Mexico. Father,

 

III.

my classmates were ambitious too—

MBA dreamers mastering their destinies,

unlocking the front doors to their business loan

 

comic bookstores housing blue anaconda biceps

bursting across the clearly dictated line

of good and evil. Too many of my MBA dreamers

 

reel off whiskey breath flashbacks of Iraqi Freedom,

flinch from Florida’s midnight lightning crackling the skyline.

 

A soldier will fight long and hard to move up ladders

while dodging loose rungs hurtling back to earth

like arrows flung from Sagittarius’s opaque bow;

 

the flames from reentry are legendary—the spectacle,

the horror generates stateside applause.

 

IV.

I am an instrument of Fortuna—Father died

funding my climb with life insurance, a warehouse 401k.

Maybe, one day, Fortuna will shatter me across her knee—

 

the day I reach the celestial titans, the day their exclusive universe

collapses my voice. Oh, the lure of success—the scales across my eyes

leave me without imagination, leave me without my plausible reality

 

of M16 shoulder rifles, white beams terrorizing

Florida’s skyline, black droplets slithering down my face.

 

I would’ve known my father’s blue eyes—

why they burst like flash grenades

 

across our humid winter,

across the faceless coins,

across leather bootstraps that snapped at the seams.

 

A Debt to Privilege

 

      The long days of forklifts poking reams of buy one, get one

            newspaper excerpts

on the silver floor of warehouse dystopia means we all owe you.

      You loved telling me about each ultraviolet ink stain

on your blue collared shirt–Publix’s green Thanksgivings, Wal Mart’s Black Fridays.

      I knew each cedar plank lodged into the pores of your shoulders;

lugging Horatio Alger crosses takes holey palms.

      Grandpa never drove you to do your paper routes on snow days.

Your bicycle cut through the chicken wire wind

      delivering Cold War men news about how close they were to

            apocalypse.

The yellowing Polaroid parables lead to a tidy thesis

      for my Dairy Queen paystubs–an act

of resistance against the moocher class.

 

      I never knew what your artic eyes wanted from life. You answered

            American Dream

with nuclear family privilege–a house, a silver truck, a wife and kid

      you weren’t obliged to see. You’d sigh

into your sweating Natty Light on my bi-weekly tours

      of your wooden paneled trailer crammed with freezer steaks

and premium cable evenings. Hollywood doesn’t film men

      that can’t find the time to cross their cedar T’s

on unfinished blueprints that would craft that thing

      people must buy from you–the invention

of bio pic academy award whispers

      reverberating into the noiseless space

of our pockmarked skyline.

 

Beautiful Savior

 

      I love when victims reassure me they’re all right. I live

for resurrection moments–moviegoers love popcorn beautiful Jesus

      ascending into the stratosphere. Until then, hushed gasps

must clatter down climactic cobblestone streets.

      My hammer’s claw will be ready to slide palmy nails

out of a lacquered cross; the audience will whisper so brave,

      and I’ll know they’re talking about me.

I’m in love with the idea of bloody pulpit Jesus–

      the woods with the earless Roman, Judas’s puckered lips,

the scripted dignity of a martyr. I can say I was there

      for the final act–a disappearing deity’s escape

from His stony sepulcher before the black sky

      rained closing credits.

 

 

Cameron Scott

 

Ashes to Smashes, Dust to Rust

 

Ashes when my lips consume sun.

Ashes when everything goes up in smoke.

 

Ashes when I walk through last night’s fire

and in their singing am singed, in their burning

 

burnt. Ashes to bless tomorrow’s tomorrow.

All this green world, ashes lifted from earth.

 

.

 

Smashes when I dream the dream of windows.

Shattered snippets of conversation.

 

Strawberries, blossoms of red, sonic booms.

Black holes. Broken bones. God is made of glass

 

and porcelain. Glasses of wine, wafer thin.

Smash the glass. I am waiting, waiting.

 

.

 

Again the dust, again ground down. Devils

twist in wind, wrap in the robes of saints.

 

A sudden thirst for lime and water. Mouth a husk

of bread and dust. Rising, falling, settling; binding,

 

blinding. Dust is the decoy of lesser gods.

Motes rise from every step like breath.

 

.

 

Rust as iron as softening as butter and flour.

Over time, fizzes, flakes. Over time tickles

 

freckles, curls tongues, locks jaws. To stretch

too far. To tumble into love’s numb after life.

 

To listen too much to Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Live. Living. As good as an object of affection, rust.

 

Irrevocable Year of the Ranger

 

The world claims itself as a flat screen. My truck dies every night in the phantom

light and refuses to start in the morning. Kicking tires does nothing. Closed fist.

 

Open fist. Tinker’s fingers. A thousand false starts might mean a thousand more.

All I want at night is to be swept away in a birth of dreams. The morning is just

 

morning. Is just the sweet dreams of birth of a swept away night, of a thousand false

starts, of a fist hot as a small sun. Unable to open. Unable to close. Again to tinker

 

and turn into a kick-a-long tire. In the morning’s first refusal of phantom light

my truck is flat as a spatula and all I want at night is to be swept away by a round

 

world, in a round of dreams, in the phantom light of morning’s birth. But the world is

closed. Open. Flatly. Claims order. Claims disorder. Refuses to start, refuses not to.

 

Bus Poem Revisited

 

Dreams are born of common faces. This

bus an accordion which collapses on

corners as riders bury themselves in

electronic screens. How many hungry

gods live in our fingers? Each light’s fairy

luminescence, beneath each bridge a troll,

the innumerable scrawl of spray paint.

Who is an adept, which a plastic shell

among the blue velvet faces of the interred?

 

The Law of Averages

 

It washes over like waves, some wicked equation.

Breaking the overhead light while fluffing the comforter.

Fly rod snapping in half inside the ferrule.

Alternator dying three hours from the nearest tow truck.

So what? Appointments pass in twos, in threes,

in night sweats and tightening chest,

as prescription pills, parking tickets, no shows.

Toxins creep through pipes, accumulate. A hornet’s nest

or stroke or misstep. Everything wants transportation.

A creeper wave. A kind of awe. When it crashes upon us

we become drenched in a kind of magnetism.

The law of averages catches up, a spin cycle, an undertow.

Brief shimmers turned inside-out, nothing but lint, burs

stuck in laces, bodies left breathless in bed.

 

Bless the Last Words Standing

 

Bless missing s’s

how the wind carries us

impossible distances, (cats)

in brackets, questions without answers

and things that are broken

and broken-open in reverberation

like fists that find fingers

or misgivings in the heart

that flake apart like alfalfa.

 

 

Kenneth Homer

 

Tlaloc

 

Tlaloc blesses us

At the Mexican restaurant,

Granting us shards of corn,

Which we baptize blood red.

 

The diners favor Quetzalcoatl,

And a plumed serpent leers at us

As we study the menu.

In the kitchen a cook

Frees tortillas from plastic bags.

 

We will not set foot in the Temple of the Sun.

The last codex has been burned,

And our hearts remain with us

As we flay the waiter for such poor service.

 

A resin Tezcatlipoca stands by the bar,

Coatlicue grins at the faded picture of Cantinflas,

And Huitzilopochtli hovers above

Frozen on the wall—

Such is the fate of conquered gods.

 

Inferno Redux

 

If Beatrice were consigned to a modern American hell,

That hell would be something very like

A downtown parking garage.

Dante would encounter no boatman—

That job having been automated.

And he would drop coins down a metal gullet.

 

Cerberus, having assumed human guise,

Would be sprawled at the foot of steps

Stinking of stale urine and lost hope,

A corona of broken glass around the stuporous form.

Dante would walk by slumbering metal giants

Oozing dark excrescences, the ichor of a culture.

 

Hell would be a low efficiency regime:

Leaking pipes,

Scabbarous paint,

Chipped plaster—the scrofula of neglect.

Here and there the walls of this man-made cave

Would be covered with impromptu messages

From the East Side Locos,

The Bloods or the Crips,

Or similar lost souls drifting through

The nether regions of society.

Spiritless guardians would occasionally drift by.

 

Dante would encounter American demigods:

Jefferson who failed to

Grip the wolf by the ears,

Punished by a ravenous wolf

That eternally gnaws at his great heart;

Jackson condemned to shed

A Trail of Tears;

Nixon bound by ribbons of shame.

 

Robber barons and princelings of industry

Would be punished by the theft of their souls:

Rockefeller would hand out dimes

To buy his salvation;

Morgan would find all hope foreclosed,

And Madoff, an American Tantalus

Would never be sated.

 

And then the nameless shades:

Politicos never to seize

The ever- receding prize,

The vainglorious in search of long departed youth,

The friends of Jim Crow.

Dante would search for Beatrice as in the original story.

 

How to Gut a Poem

 

Scale the silver scales.

Eliminate all layers of meaning

Until the dull meat remains.

     Cut off the head.

Ignore the pearl-like eyes.

     Sever the flashing tail,

And remove the poem’s heart.

 

Take a sharp knife,

And guide it along the poem’s plump belly.

Remove the viscera.

Drain the blood.

Discard the spine and the small bones.

Soak the poem in buttermilk

To remove any strong taste.

Poach the pale flesh.

 

Last of the Yahi

 

A simple soul

And relict of a slaughtered tribe,

Ishi stumbled into the twentieth century,

An object of curiosity—

Much like curios collected in a Victorian home,

Barnum’s omnium gatherum,

Or the cabinet of curiosities of German princelings.

 

Of course Ishi was a sensation,

A boffo hit—

Until the novelty wore off.

And the last of the Yahi

Succumbed to the White Plague*

That killed so many then—

A noble savage among savages,

A victim of the Twentieth Century.

And that microbe that we call progress.

 

• Tuberculosis

 

 

Alice Ashe

 

lilith

 

Her flesh is antithetical to him. It oozes the firstness of everything felt & the secondness of everything thought. She is undomesticated & like a windstorm her savage eyes upset & upend everything that is ordered within him. Did you say your mother was planning to stop by he will ask & April will say yes I mentioned that & he will quietly disappear & later I don’t see why you’re so afraid of her & he will reply (cynical) isn’t she from Georgia & she will roll her eyes yes but mom’s not like that things are different now it’s the twenty-first century & he will say exactly (comma) we’re all still so young

 

& probably she will kiss him while the unsaid rest settles prettily into the floorboards.

 

for every smoker i’ve ever fucked

 

Your hand alight on my cigarette skin

(shall we?)     breathe in

our tar-stick filthy sweet

illuminated selves

our soot-heavy cells

mingling, settle

in the chiasmatic fogging of our breaths—

 

(oh I love)     our overs and acrosses

our hopscotch-tangled legs and laces, heat-saturated

traces of

all our little linkages—

 

(shall we?)     disintegrate, commit

to our mutual ash

 

tight-laced

 

It was July when the fever burrowed deep

beneath the snow-soft blankets

of your skin, and blushed your cheeks, twin

rose-petal virgins, wet

with the dew of night’s discovering

 

and while you murmured and dreamed I took

your sweat-soft hand and your gypsy grandma’s

book on palmistry, and then, dear heart, I laid you

(oh, so wonderfully) open as our waiting caskets

 

(and still sometimes I feel your braided lifeline, twisting

over and around my ligaments, tendons, knotting

us in a mess of muscle and bone).

 

for lips and travelers

 

Soft hungry animal

devouring continents

my body or

the land to which it has returned

whispers your travels

feeds your dank breath

crumbles—

I am not

I am not

the vestige of your heat

the willow’s sun-scorched leaf

though I think you do uproot me

I lovingly decay

 

the lover’s coda: sapphic reprise

 

There’s a dab of lipstick on your tooth,

plum, smack

on the jagged edge where you

run your tongue over again

and again—

a stone on the beach,

tide rushing in—

and do you think one day

I may wear you down, out,

run my gaze over your face

until I’ve washed it out, away,

all your little rough edges, you?

 

I only know when the moon is high

and your hand is pulled just so

toward mine

by some hushed impulse of the night,

a little more, each time,

I erode.

 

 

Kimberly Sailor

 

Historic Faces

 

Grandma has a chin

so sharply contoured

you can grab the point

and shake her ’til it’s 1956

when my parents first met

 

at that gravel yard

where she had a chance

to stop them

avert their eyes

interrupt, or feign a faint, or play a trombone

packed in the Ford’s trunk

for just such an emergency

to avoid a lineage of trouble

today: in 2017, where it’s still upsetting.

 

Grandpa has a bland mustache

not really long or short

a handlebar or tightly-trimmed model

not white or gray or paint-by-number red

just colorless and present

like the many drab Easters the grandkids

suffered through

inside that Cincinnati house

 

Grandpa was always too polite

to say anything about Grandma’s funny chin

or her tense and sad way of doing things

in the crumbs of a shortbread and tea evening.

 

The Mothers of Reykjavik

 

leave their babies outside. When I saw, I reported a crime: Abandoned Children!

on . . . every street? outside . . . every shop? the cop, 
in some manner of hybrid language I understood 
only through his disappointed tone, told me that americans and icelanders

are not the same. that here,

the mothers take care of all the babies, and the carriage sleepers would be just fine

while caregivers looked at sulfur coasters or goat soaps inside, because retail transactions

are “very important” on an island country

where citizens take so little shit

they proudly eat their national bird

and serve whale in restaurants

because both are nearby and free

and deliciously prepared with oil glazes

while a fellow american tourist, noticing today’s controversial specials,

declares her independence with a shot of birch schnapps

to honor our eagles and daycare centers

back home

 

Marriage’s Weekly Schedule

 

the men who brought my stove

—heavy and expensive and the season’s bestseller—

arrived on a Wednesday, after the neighbor brought donuts

from that bakery you never tried

 

because it’s closed on Saturdays

when you are free for cake explorations.

 

She brought the donuts

because she knew I was sad. But the men, they did not care.

The men said: will this fit? is the gas on? where is the broom

because we must sweep this space first

 

while the neighbor

seeing my preheated tears

took the broom and said, “I will listen to you, men.

I will clean. I will make this work.”

 

While He, the one who baked my tears,

on Tuesday, Monday, and Sunday,

worked in Europe

and also wondered if the new stove would fit

from his lunchtime spot by a quaint canal

or how much resale

hot appliances fetch

should the house sale be divided in two.

 

Homecoming

 

I saw an eagle

bald and unabashedly soaring

like the heroes we fly our flags for

after they are old, and march in Main Street parades

where we stand and clap, feeling at once connected and removed

because we only know civil liberty wars now

 

not territorial disputes

of which this eagle had none,

snagging a field rabbit right along the interstate

just past the edge of town where we take our grass clippings,

root vegetables, filthy livestock straw, and used espresso clumps imported from Cuba,

because we are responsible, composting citizens now, who share and trade.

 

I saw an eagle

in a wild act of instinct from my roving analysis station,

but I did not tell you, even though you were beside me in the Volkswagen

looking east out your window, perhaps wondering if Germany has a national bird,

or admiring the mild unplaceable drawl of the radio newscaster who reports in birdsong

with high trills for good weather and whoop-whoops for the high school sports team

 

who always wins the home games.

 

I saw an eagle

but I did not tell you,

because I wanted a bit of splendor

and majesty, familiarity and rarity, all to myself

that lovely day last summer, when the oaks bent to hear our car wheels

push the ground, shaking with concern that we returned.

 

When I Leave

 

I have to lose twenty or thirty pounds and practice requisite “self-care” which may mean eating soil-grown earthy composted straw for holistic positive attention from my peer group of mid-30s mothers who are dullish white with satiny kitchen cupboards and semantically invented corporate titles, because if I am not at once smaller and bigger 
there will be no more of me left to give 
the one who arrives after you

 

and I think he will get here soon

 

because even though I have couple’s therapy alone since 
“the unit was beyond help”; even if my nose blackheads 
don’t diminish with charcoal and I only burn electric;

 

even

or because

and should I never see you again

 

I will yawn the great sigh

of Christmas

with a different monogrammed wreath

but the same

painted pinecones

fashioned to a new front door

bright blue and finally,

my own

 

 

Kim Alfred

 

Soul Eclipse

 

My life has revolved

around many suns

always the incandescent

glow being the trigger

for the hypnotic transformation

of each self.

 

Revolving, my body dizzies

into an oblivion.

Who am I today,

am I suddenly grim?

I am drifting, a new moon,

constantly bearing darkness, and

 

light again. My life revolves around

many suns, deepening the ability

to feel. Who am I today,

who will I be,

among the infinite selves.

 

Brewing Innocence

 

Coffee shop souls differ from

all others;

we are the ones who

get our caffeine fix from

the delicate and creative

energies of beings

with their faces in newspapers,

ceramic mugs steaming with

sweet roast aromas, and from

those who are comforted behind

large rimmed glasses,

watching from secluded corners.

 

Coffee shop souls thrive off

the untouchable madness

found by looking into the eyes

of the man at the bar

sipping his cappuccino,

surrounding us with something

so rich that five dollars for a coffee

somehow seems reasonable in

relation to the richness you cannot

pay for by sitting inside

this little coffee shop.

 

The Virtue of Realism

 

When you find yourself,

take notes.

Beautiful being,

remember how this feels.

 

All knowing, openly inviting

your soul, you understand.

Remember this feeling.

Do not let it go.

 

Otherwise, you’ll have to reach

the bottom of too many glasses

and be destroyed, in order to

find yourself again.

 

So, darling,

take notes

or join me in a cheers to

disillusioned thinking.

 

Complacence

 

I sit here, bare, in a lifeless room.

But there is movement all around me;

the monotone hum of a ceiling fan,

television commercials full of hypocrisy,

the rustle of untouched lists on the dresser.

 

Yet still I sit here, bare,

my body pale and weak,

emptying shallow breaths into a room full

of movement, my presence languished as the

lifeless materialism that surrounds me.

 

Uncorked

 

Will you stay sober enough to still

love me in the morning,

like this?

 

Or will I be left with only the lingering scents of

your skin, trapped between

these cotton sheets.

 

I hold your shirt near me as I sleep.

Loving you is unpredictable, constant change.

 

I move the shirt from the bed with a deep inhale.

I should love myself in the morning,

like this.

 

I roll to my side, see only my reflection in a mirror—

holding my shirt as I sleep, wishing to wake in love,

sharing a cheers with the empty bottle on my nightstand.

 

 

Contributor Notes

 

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates in Filipino and English. He moved to Cape Town, South Africa in 1994. His work has appeared in Rhino, World Literature Today and Modern Poetry in Translation among others. His eighth book of poetry, Wings of Smoke, published in 2017 by UK-based independent publisher The Onslaught Press, is available through most online retailers.

 

Kim Alfred A tug on your heart, a push of your lungs, and a pull of the red string that connects all life. Poetic works can be found on Instagram using hashtag #kapoetry.

 

David Anderson resides in rural Nevada. He has served as Managing Editor of EDGE Literary Journal, published by Tahoe Writers Works. His poems and short stories have appeared in anthologies and all manner of print media.

 

Alice Ashe is a twenty-something lady/grrrl/queen bitch with a fancy degree in gender studies and the soul of an aging British librarian. She’s currently shacked up with an art school dropout in Atlanta, Georgia, where she writes, acts, reads Tarot, drinks tea, hugs trees, spoils her dog, and waits tables on the side.

 

Taylor Bell is from Fort Worth, Texas, and currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He only has three cards in his wallet: a debit card, a backcountry hut pass, and a central library card. The rest all got lost at some point. His writing has appeared in The Sagebrush Review, The Shorthorn, At Home Abroad, and other journals. He is the co-author of the chapbook Picnic Table Sleeping and forthcoming chapbook Fucking off Lonesome.

 

Matt Farrell I grew up in Sacramento and currently live with my wife in Portland, Oregon. I received a BA in Film & Media Studies from Stanford and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. I now attend medical school at Oregon Health & Science University, doing my best to write between rotations. My fiction and poetry have been published in Switchback, Arcadia, & Potomac Review.

 

Morgan Gilson is a teacher in Fort Worth, Texas where she lives with her husband, son, and two dogs. Aside from writing poetry, Morgan spends her time reading, traveling, and attempting to teach herself to play the ukulele using how-to books and Youtube videos.

 

Kenneth Homer has an abiding interest in history, so many of his poems are based on historical personages or events. His poems have been published by Wiregrass, The Southern Tablet, Blue Unicorn, The Lyric, The Great American Poetry Show, The Corner Club Press, and Verge. He is an English professor at East Georgia State College.

 

Susanna Kittredge’s poems have appeared in publications such as 14 Hills, The Columbia Review and Salamander as well as the anthologies Bay Poetics (Faux Press, 2006) and Shadowed: Unheard Voices (The Press at California State University, Fresno 2014). She has an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She lives in Boston where she is a member of The Jamaica Pond Poets and the Brighton Word Factory. By day she teaches middle school.

 

Ryan Lawrence is an award-winning writer living in Portland, OR. His awards include the 1991 Presidential Physical Fitness Award and an Honorable Mention for a science fair project about dinosaurs. His girlfriend, Bailey, adores him occasionally.

 

Joshua Levy tells stories on CBC Radio, creative non-fiction in The Rumpus and the Oxford University Press, and poetry on magnetic fridges. He splits his time between Canada and Portugal, with his wife.

 

George Longenecker lives in Middlesex, Vermont. The woods around his home inspire his poetry, as do strange stories in the news. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Main Street Rag, Poetry Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Two Cities Review, Whale Road Review, Saranac Review and War, Literature & the Arts. His book Star Route is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing.

 

Charles McGregor habitually dreams of putting his memories on the page in divergent ways. A lot of the themes in his poetry deal with growing up queer in the South, negotiating the American Dream, and reconstructing the identity of his father. He is also interested in prose and is increasingly exploring ways to blend the two genres. As someone that identifies as pansexual, he longs to express himself through all the different identities of genres he loves.

 

Kathryn Merwin is a native of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Natural Bridge, Blackbird, and Sugar House Review, among others. She has been awarded the Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize for Poetry, the Blue Earth Review Annual Poetry Prize, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Western Washington University.

 

Kendra Poole is from Albuquerque, NM, and graduated from the George Washington University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. Kendra is a poet who also dabbles in politics, journalism, and international development. She enjoys reading, biking, traveling, jazz, and bagels.

 

AJ Powell is a once and future teacher who raises her children, serves on a school board, and attempts to write in the wee hours of the morning with varied success.

 

Nancy Rakoczy has been published by New Millennium Writings 2013; Dancing Poetry Contest 2009; San Francisco, CA. She’s written art reviews for the Mdaily.co, and has studied at the Unterberg Poetry Center, NY.

 

Kimberly Sailor is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Recorded A Cappella Review Board. She makes her home in Mount Horeb, WI, where she is an elected official on the school board, fosters rescue dogs, and keeps a lively backyard chicken coop. Kimberly Sailor is the author of the novel The Clarinet Whale, as well as other works of fiction and poetry, and an in-progress children’s book.

 

Cameron Scott was recently awarded The Blue Light Book Award for his second book of poetry, The Book of Cold Mountain. He received an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona and currently implements Fishtrap Story Lab, www.fishtrap.org. In the summers he is a fly fishing guide for Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt, Colorado. If you have leftovers, he will eat them.

 

William Stevens is an English teacher at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where in addition to teaching various classes he acts as the faculty advisor for the school’s annual literary magazine. Previously published in Kutztown University’s student-run literary journal Shoofly, William has finally taken a tip from his students and started writing again. When he’s not teaching, grading, reading, kayaking, planning D&D sessions, or tending cats, he tries to write poetry.

 

Timothy Walsh’s most recent poetry collections are When the World Was Rear-Wheel Drive: New Jersey Poems and The Book of Arabella. His awards include the Grand Prize in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition, the Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize from North American Review, the New Jersey Poets Prize, and the Wisconsin Academy Fiction Prize. He is the author of a book of literary criticism, The Dark Matter of Words: Absence, Unknowing, and Emptiness in Literature (Southern Illinois University Press) and two other poetry collections, Wild Apples (Parallel Press) and Blue Lace Colander (Marsh River Editions). Find more at: http://timothyawalsh.com/


Sixfold Poetry Summer 2017

Sixfold is an all-writer-voted journal. All writers who upload their manuscripts vote to select the highest-voted $1000 prize-winning manuscripts and all the short stories and poetry published in each issue. In Sixfold Poetry Summer 2017: Kathryn Merwin | For Aaron, Disenchanted & other poems William Stevens | Celestial Bodies & other poems Kendra Poole | Take-Off, or The Philosophy of Leaving & other poems AJ Powell | Mama Atlas & other poems Matt Farrell | Waves in the dark & other poems Timothy Walsh | Eating a Horsemeat Sandwich at Astana Airport & other poems Nancy Rakoczy | Adam & other poems Joshua Levy | Venezuela Evening & other poems Ryan Lawrence | Vegan Teen Daughter vs. Worthless Dad & other poems George Longenecker | Yard Sale & other poems Susanna Kittredge | My Heart & other poems Morgan Gilson | Dostoevsky & other poems Jim Pascual Agustin | The Annihilation of Bees & other poems Taylor Bell | Browsing Tinder in an Aldi & other poems David Anderson | Continental Rift & other poems Charles McGregor | The Boys That Don’t Know & other poems Cameron Scott | Ashes to Smashes, Dust to Rust & other poems Kenneth Homer | Inferno Redux & other poems Alice Ashe | lilith & other poems Kimberly Sailor | Marriage's Weekly Schedule & other poems Kim Alfred | Soul Eclipse & other poems

  • ISBN: 9781370010424
  • Author: Sixfold
  • Published: 2017-08-27 21:20:12
  • Words: 15963
Sixfold Poetry Summer 2017 Sixfold Poetry Summer 2017