Archive | July, 2013

Indigent Line

Frederick Pollack

Towards the end, in Rome, in the Senate
(there were still senators, though they were all
Christian by then), addressing
the crimes of the Bacaudae
in Gaul ( – ex-slaves, proto-serfs,
the last few freeborn farmers, unpaid legions),
a senator got up and said,
“You ask why they rebel?
They rebel because you’re cruel.
You have always been cruel.” But the rest
was rotund, gorgeous, full of
myths and references
to now quasi-mythical triumphs,
and Christ of course, and everyone applauded.
It’s easy to imagine a similar speech
today, about some sudden awkwardness,
or even an ongoing “problem” as long as
it isn’t under the radar or over the top,
freezing though technically housed, eating catfood.
“I am so glad when night come.”

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Shoreline

Frederick Pollack

1

For months now, not in dreams
(my dreams are all the usual pursuit)
but before the pills kick in,
I have been seeking the concrete-
like sand beneath successive arcs
of foam. Long-beaked long-legged birds
find dead fish, micro-crabs and safety
forever ahead of me, as if I were
the tide. The waves are moderate,
the sky a struggle with late afternoon;
the sea as empty as the land curving,
presumably, northwards. I’ve covered ground,
these nights. Familiar phrases
have disarticulated, dissipated
in my wake. (Romantic cliché.
Remarkable absence of others and social
concern. In real terms, real-world terms:
exhausted after an hour and complaining of bites.) –
Above the beach, the dunes give way
to rocky outcrops where
small prey and hunters hide,
evolve, pervade their ecological niche,
yet at my footsteps flee and twitch.
Up there, also, occasionally
some ruin – stone, and as close
as need be to the natural curve and slouch;
yet never, upon land or sea,
a plastic bottle or a scrap of paper.
(Quotation still grinds on
reliably; it isn’t exactly thought.
Even a gull’s wing or a dragonfly,
said Benn, would be too much.
A Beckett sky with Courbet passion.)
Sometimes I climb for a grander changeless
view. If it came before sleep came,
night would be stormy but the morning fair.
And oh, above that drift of salt
and iodine, the sweetness of the air!

2

Then I think, or believe I think, at the frontier
of sleep, of a shore I have always preferred, or would,
to walk, where everything I see
is seen for the first time
and every step is a small step, pompous
strut, or diffident meander
for man. And costs a lot of money,
or of some vast collective aspiration
replacing money. I look,
I turn, I scoop things up
as if in crystal, in a ritual
universally observed.
Or else (on autopilot now) alone.
So that I name weeds, waves, and stone,
their stand-ins or something completely different,
for others subsumed in me
if they exist at all.
That coast is almost featureless.
– A half-expected monolith inscribed
unreadably. Whoever made it
is gone now, hostile or benign,
and left it as an inadvertent sign
of the border, whose guards

are kindly ghosts and wave one through, if bribed.

It’s Alive

Frederick Pollack

1

Universal ruin doesn’t faze
the zombies. They think
(so to speak) a field has been cleared
so they may freely assemble,
demonstrate.
Except for hunger, they are free from pain.
As they mill, bump, parts
sufficiently rotted, or burnt
by things still burning or searingly
melting, drop; the rest falls,
groans more, moves more awkwardly.
Crows are too high, rats too fast,
roaches hard for their poor hands to catch;
and the zombies think it’s unfair
there are no brains left.
In herds around them, meanwhile, vampires
have adopted the umbrella phalanx
and the shared tarp, and scuttle
in shadow beneath these, squealing
and bitching. They too
recognize no
responsibility. Sing their thirst, the total
inadequacy and
betrayal of all beings
below them; that is their art.
Periodically one or another drops
its umbrella or ducks
out from beneath the tarp to take
a short walk in the sun;
that is their spirituality.

Surviving humans, unsurprisingly,
are soldiers. And have learned,
though late, how to
inoculate themselves against
the undead: they weep.
Constantly. Sincerely,
like a living fountain for all
the living and unliving.
It acidifies the blood, changes the brain.
Which doesn’t mean these puffy-eyed
sharpshooters ranged in the rubble
for this final battle
have forgotten how to put
one in the head or in the heart.

2

The brilliant scientist is no fool.
The contacts may be placed
absurdly on the whorls and
protrusions of the monster
on the gurney. The flatlined
monitors may lie.
He’s armed, the scientist, and never
wholly diverts his attention
from the body. The general,
though a mind steeped in protocol
the event offends, glares steadily
at a claw. Data flows to his ear
from the site. Whether deep
undersea, or in ice, or a cordoned
field of strange non-metal,
it represents a power that
will be matched, will be crushed.
The soldiers also know the score,
their rifles on full automatic, leveled.
If I used eyes they’d be shut.

NAFF 5

Kev Patel

Damn you grady
Long time ago/you pushed me down
On my skates.then held me while I cried on your
Letter jacket/through binoculars I saw you
Messing with the one from life science class
Cried alone into my teddy bear’s fur/ wishing Mr. New
Would take me to the dance. So me and my fresh jherri curl
Could show you/a locker next to yours/ followed you
Around for weeks/but distracted by a future crack head
With horrid teeth/on the way to bulimics anonymous offering
my cherry Garcia to any chunky monkey. Now it’s
me and You/ Mr. New/ Mississippi grady after a
hard day’s work you’re a picture of frustrated
masculine sinew with/raw, unashamed passion
for your woman (that’s me)/ you’ve had a
rough day with Mr. Bossman/unload on me. I listen
because it’s my job and I really don’t mind, you know/
I’m sweet and wife like in this new place/ I even rub your shoulders, feet
Complaints melt to moans/ “what’s for dinner, babe?”
And of course there’s a gourmet what’s-it in the oven and
Soon ready/we eat and over dinner/frisky/you take my
Hand/dishes can wait/ and my gawd, do they/and I thought
Hendrix made music/ listen to the bill grady anthem/baby,
We sing billie, ella and gorillaz/we talk, you sleep phone rings/
i wake
to my intrusive as fuck alarm clock and teddy bear/ threw something
on and see you here/remembering dinner/ “morning, ma’am”/ I crumble
those eyes/those teeth/those hands/the attitude
its us/me/you/against them
just like before

NAFF 4

Kev Patel

Pigs on troughs with golden snouts
Nose rings of sugar and glass
Puppet master syringes drip with
Ruby red consciousness
“How I love to hear the jaybirds sing!”
my bathtub of memories combusts
as the butler feeds me shards of yesterday’s misery
“How I love to watch the willows weep.”
Fixtures of peppermint time
On platters of bronze beanie weenies
Impaled on eight food roaring toothpicks
“Brother, can you spare a dime?”

The Least Eventful Day in History

Jon Steinhagen

She awoke early. He slept in. She crept into the bed in which her mother and father were sleeping and sweat the sheets. He ignored his alarm because he thought it was part of his dream. A few had only just fallen asleep before they had to get up. She awoke thinking she had not dreamt. They woke up and remained in bed thinking about this and that. She awoke disoriented. She and he awoke refreshed. He and she and a few others were awakened by the incessant barking of that damn dog next door.

He was up and showered and breakfasted and on the way to the airport in less than forty-five minutes. She was sick. His neck was stiff. They brushed and flossed. He shaved. She took a pill. She and she took a whole raft of pills. He washed his face. They used an astringent. He coughed and coughed until he thought his spine would crack. He brought her a tray. She
retrieved the paper. They got online. She took a moment to watch a cardinal perched on a branch just outside her window. She made orange juice. They were seated by the waitress. He used too much hair gel. They played with dolls. He let the dog out. She looked for those earrings that had belonged to her mother’s aunt. He took the car out of the garage. They waited for the train. She packed everything she could think of. He called his brother. He and he and a few others elevated the bad foot. She read three articles and posted a reply to the middle one. They argued about the coat. He waited in line. They had sex. She picked up her parents and took them to the funeral home so they could make the arrangements.

He clocked in. He and she and he made an important decision regarding the basement. He spent more money than he had planned. She found him very attractive. They had a very loud phone conversation in public. She told everybody to take a piece. He held the baby. She didn’t know where the next meal was coming from. He turned right without using his directional. They shouted. He caught the ball. She ran out of cumin. He had to sit down and catch his breath. He and she swam immediately after eating. She slapped him. Many of them shivered. He held court. She gave up on the crossword. They struggled. They played Rack-o and were not very good at it.

She said I could go on like this forever.

He had to shovel the snow when the kid didn’t show up. He and he and some of them shocked the people they were with. He used the toilet. She raised the hem. Many of them crossed the street at the crosswalk. He tried to get comfortable. She went through all the old letters. They spoke. A handful of them stopped for a few moments because they didn’t know what to do next.

He said It doesn’t look bad.

She called AAA. He ordered a patty melt and fries and a medium RC. She was stung by a bee but didn’t cry. He learned to walk. They couldn’t remember anything or anyone. She visited.

He remembered the CD. A few of them used a gift card they thought had expired. He served the drinks. He and she submitted their reviews. She did three loads of laundry. He walked between the cars jingling a cup of coins. She and she and a few others found parking. He pooped his pants. She sang. Most of them stretched. He removed a stone from his shoe.
She said Hi I’ll be right with you.

He cheated at cards. They checked in. He steamed the suit. They noticed the farm. She found all of the photograph albums. He sold the Corvette. They went down for a nap. She baked an apple pie. He wondered what was keeping him. She and she and he got a senior discount. A small amount of them felt tired.

He said I can’t I just can’t.

She turned on the lights. He signed the lease. She responded. Some of them bought the day-old bread. She bailed the water. He set the table. She put her in her place. He listened to “Estrellita” four times in a row. They became belligerent. She chose the wire frames. He watched him eat both halves of the squash. Some made a mistake in the checkbook. He and they tuned a guitar. She let go of the balloon.

She said I believe in making morally responsible choices.

He cleaned the pool and found two quarters. She applied the rash cream for the fifth day in a row. They coughed. Some of them hailed a taxi. She had to put some items back. She took her sister’s doll. He emptied his safe deposit box. He and he poured the concrete. They took the picture. She thought ahead. A bunch of them mopped up the spill. He finally told her. They suddenly sneezed. She initially wavered.

He sat down. She reclined. They plopped. He took out the garbage. She asked for some kind of help any kind of help. A few of them thought the airplane was not an airplane. He left. She made it oh so obvious.

They said their first word.

A Wary Distance

Richard King Perkins II

Their luncheon; ceremonial at best.
Mother and daughter chat over French onion soup
and club sandwiches, trying to find the mysterious
ground that once seemed so common. Conversation
ranges only to topics that maintain a wary distance:
Politics, economics and plans for future travel.
Ensuing laughter is a bit too sharp, a little too loud.

At a nearby table, an old woman gags and spits up
her food. Everyone is listening, watching in a way
where heads don’t move, playing let’s pretend
we’re not fascinated by this inevitable suffering.

It’s an ideal moment for empathy; a whisper or sigh,
a silent nod of the head. Instead, an ill-tamed silence.
This is what we have forgotten about each other.
Why they must quickly move apart if their legs brush
beneath the table, why they can’t sip from the same
glass. Fully shunning the unfolded scene, Mom
suggests sailing to Bermuda and the laughter is a
trifle louder, elusively comfortable in this cultured-state;
to know what is feared so much more intimately than
that which we hope to love.

Return of the Perfect Object

Richard King Perkins II

That object retrieved from the sea
which might be love—

quite out of place in the arid world,
so that if we didn’t know better,
we might call it pearl, or doubloon,
or even trilobite—
but we know it cannot be these things,
so we call it love, set it on the
cabin table and further label it ours.

Seen against the maculate horizon,
its appearance changes with each
subtle flirtation of water—
and our conviction wavers as well,
so we rename our treasure,
calling it jealousy or ego,
and we further clutch it between us,
deciding if it is mine or yours.

Ominous arrival,
a silent arm of tide curls over
the sailing craft, reclaiming the object
we once thought of as love,
now worn as bracelet of the waves—
nothing more than salvage or haul
for weekend tourists
on a chartered yacht cruise
out of Miami Beach.

Looking for another existence
and the remainder of the world,
we found something flourishing
at the bottom
of a bejeweled, thieving ocean—

the fossil-lives of recognizable others
kept in the immutable state
which we would likely call perfect.

share with me your secret

Linda Crate

i saw you running
your majesty
dark mane
eyes of hickory
body of darkest pitch
you gazed at me with such startling intelligence
such knowing i wanted to set you free
from behind the fence that secured you,
every living creature should be free
to make their own choices to roam where their
heart contents, but you were scripted
there by some design i couldn’t
undo and so i walked past discontent and aching
your pain echoed in my heart and as you
snorted i knew you knew
misery deeper than
the ocean but joy brighter than any of the suns that
have summered me into being;
i wish you could share the secret of such
happiness with me —
birds chirp and flowers bloom and always in these months have
found me such happiness i could scarce contain,
yet fragments of pain and misery are
edging them away, locked in a chest of discontent
all my fragile dreams seem to be blowing
in the wind like leaves;
cascading love seems to be crushing me beneath the
weight of country roads and their forked tongues
snakelike hiss and snap at me,
causing me to jump
breaking all my fragility into the open so they can smirk at the
foolishness of my chipping heart for have fallen in such deep love.

Cemetery Gates

Clare Holman-Hobbs

I’ve picked the spot
Behind one and two
They’ve been here a while
Too loved to survive
Too far to be loved
How did you pass these gates?

A young pilgrim
Walked a lonely path
When I stopped you
An oasis
A mirage
A siren some say
I drank you in
Felt your bones
Good enough for me
Good enough for my cemetery

Get my shovel
And dig, dig, dig
Here you are
This ones yours
How deep would you like?
The deeper the better
That way you can never come back
I’ll dig it for you
I may as well
It was I that bought you here

I’ll make you a head stone too
What would you like it to say?
How loved you were?
How missed you will be?
I know all about that
I know what missing you feels like

But I’ll keep you here
And mourn the loss of you
Mourn my life since you left
But you’ll be safe
Underground
Away from me
Away from everything that we could have been

May 24th

William Cass

The young woman was playing with his dog. It was a bright, sunny May morning. Mt. Juneau loomed across the Gastineau Channel, all new green. The snow on top of it was diminishing grudgingly in long, thin crevices along the sides. It looked like the negative of a big ice cream sundae that someone had left out on a counter. A scattering of pink, green, and red houses sat among the spruce trees at its base, and then the small shelf of land that constituted the state capital’s center spread down to the channel’s edge.

There was no breeze. It was quiet, already unseasonably mild. A huge, white tour ship was docked across the channel at the Alaska ferry pier, the first of the season. Its towering white sides had thin blue piping just above the blue-green water line. The old gold mine burrowed in the side of Mt. Roberts behind the ship was red-brick, crumbling. The sky was the blue of a moth’s wing. She was smiling. He was in the cabin making breakfast. She tossed the stick for the golden retriever. He bounded after it and caught it in mid-air. She clapped her hands and put them between her knees as he trotted back to her. She was tall and slender and pretty. Her dark hair was a mess of long, wet curls. She wore old blue jeans, sandals, and one of his big work shirts, unbuttoned, with the sleeves rolled up.

He came to the door with a tray of food and a basket. On the tray were a coffee press, two ceramic mugs, a half loaf of thin, crusty bread, a serrated knife, scrambled eggs and a tomato on a plate, a chocolate bar, a small thermos, a box of waxed paper, and two oranges. He set the tray and basket down on the hood of his truck. She came over behind him, put her arms around him, and kissed the back of his neck. She kept her arms in that embrace, her head resting against his back, rocking slowly, while he poured two mugs of coffee. He poured the rest of it into the thermos and screwed the lid down tight. The dog had the stick in his mouth and was nudging her legs.

The young man’s short hair was sandy-colored, disheveled, and also wet. He wore a thick blue sweater, hiking shorts, and tennis shoes. He cut the bread and tomatoes into slices, made sandwiches with the eggs, and wrapped them carefully in waxed paper. He stacked the sandwiches in the basket, put in the oranges and chocolate bar, laid the thermos on the side, and closed the wicker lid. While he worked, she remained behind him with her eyes closed, the small smile never leaving her face. He took her hands in his. The dog ran in front of him, dropped the stick, sat down, wagged his tail.
A bald eagle flew off down the channel above them and landed in the top of a charred tree at the water’s edge. The sun’s light was white. Here and there, dust drifted in it. The air was still crisp and tart-clean. The channel sat completely still; a sailboat tacked back and forth across the far end of it.

He separated her hands and turned around. He handed her the two mugs, opened the driver’s side door, and put the basket on the seat in the middle. He kissed her on the forehead and put his face down into the wet hair behind an ear. Her shoulders shivered, and she closed her eyes. He picked up the tray and went back into the cabin. She reached inside the open truck door, set the mugs of coffee on the basket lid, went around the other side, and climbed inside. She took one of the coffee mugs, set it between her legs, and kept her hand around the other.

The dog dropped the stick in the small bed of flowers in front of the cabin. The young man came back outside and laid the plate with the leftover eggs next to the door. He checked the hitch where his Boston Whaler was hooked to the truck, made sure the tips of the fishing rods weren’t sticking out in back, and then got in and closed the door. He started the engine, smiled gently at her, and they drove slowly down the gravel road. The dog came over to the front step and began eating the eggs on the plate.

***
The old woman who had been watching them wiped her eyes. She lived on the hill above the cabin and stood in a housedress looking out her living room window. At her ankles, her big calico cat had fallen asleep. She turned around and looked at the old photographs on the fireplace mantel. One was a picture of her husband in his uniform before he was discharged from the Korean War, not long after they were married. In it, he wore a pressed cap and all his decorations; she didn’t know where it had been taken. There was an old photograph of him cooking hamburgers over a grill out at Echo Cove in which he wore a T-shirt, cooking mitts, and a chef’s cap. And there was their wedding picture in its gold-flecked frame, an old black-and-white, faded with age.

“Hello, Tom,” she tried to say. They were the first words she’d spoken in two days. The sun had not yet crept up the hillside, so the house still held the night’s coolness. She wrapped the housedress around her. As she did, the cat stirred and sauntered off. She sat down on the edge of an armchair. It was May 24th, the anniversary of their first date together. That had been another rare sun-filled day. They’d left later in the afternoon and had borrowed his grandfather’s skiff from the other end of Douglass Island. They went up around a few bends to a cove, trolled a while there, but caught nothing. When the sun began to go down, he puttered them up onto a beach and made a fire. They roasted hot dogs on sticks as the red and orange hues of the sunset slowly widened to purple-pink over the channel. He’d brought chocolate, too: a package of malted milk balls that they passed back and forth.

Darkness gradually fell, and he kept the fire stoked, eventually, he took a blanket out of his knapsack and shook it out over his back. He looked at her and said, “You cold?” She lied, “A little.” He opened the arm closest to her, holding the blanket like a cape behind it. “You can come over here if you want.” She slid over. That had been forty-nine years ago. Thinking of it, of the warmth of his arm and the blanket as they wrapped around her, she closed her own eyes.

The cat came back a few moments later, curled itself in and out of her ankles, and then padded away silently towards the back hall. She waited a while longer before opening her eyes. Gazing out over the wide channel and the bridge and the mountains, at the vast beauty and wilderness that she’d somehow been graced to call home all of her life, she forced herself to consider the possibilities ahead of her for the day. She could work on the quilt she was making on the front porch. She could sit out back and begin one of the new books she’d gotten from the library. There were letters to write. She might take a walk up the trail behind the house, up towards Mt. Adams. She could go into town for something to eat; she could cast reason to the wind and have enchiladas for brunch on the Mexican restaurant’s covered patio. She had nothing but time ahead of her, and no one to infringe upon it.

It was a perfect day. In that part of southeastern Alaska, with its everlasting rain and cold, those were few and far between. She wouldn’t watch the young couple when they returned, and she wouldn’t look at the photographs again. She didn’t know how many days like that she had left, and she didn’t want to waste it.

Owl Nights

Linda Himot

Restless, the owl hunts at night when none can see.
His cries, like a dead brother, disturb my sleep,
shiver me awake despite still air and heat.

Prey to grief, I recite my catechism of losses.
Their sharp talons grasp, stun the breath from my body –
an entire family of sepia shaded faces – except two

long-haired nieces, chartreuse and pink, giggles and games
they come to visit – stay the week – smiles to melt –
my owl cache of frozen tears saved for times of privation.

Robins

Linda Himot

Perhaps I blinked or turned my head,
the robins that last year came – a flock,
overflowed the fountain and the lawn,
sprayed rainbows of water as they bathed,
have not appeared to chatter in my garden.

Only a few, high in the cherry laurel,
eat the fruit. They couldn’t get enough before,
stripped it clean then headed north.
I’ve looked for weeks, kept up my hope,
beyond the time they should have passed.

Like me, common, unathletic birds – chunky
and a bit ungainly, not streamlined
like the Arctic Tern. And yet,
through sheer determination, fly,
familiar breeding grounds their destination.

Harbingers of spring, first to nest and hatch, they are
my poems’ inspiration, even though I’m late to start.

Silver Coin

Steve Klepetar

“The silver coin on your tongue melts…”
–Paul Celan

Face of a tiger, eye of an owl etched on this moon
disk, wafer born of starlight and mist.

Hold it burning in your golden palm. Impossible
sleep, that maiden of tangled black hair. Softly

she whispers your name, offers sweetened tea,
a plate of scones, strawberry jam and tangerines.

In the honey of her mouth your teeth ache
with remembered grief, your swollen jaw churns

and grinds. In your pocket a silver coin, a Jangling
hole to another world. Your mouth melts,

you become a clock, a blue face elongated
above a city on a green hill crazily aslant, ablaze

with light. Every night red streaks blur across
weary sky and your fist bangs at still another invisible door.

Any Words You Need

Steve Klepetar

I don’t know if I spoke any words you need
here in the dark where I keep my chest
locked against damp and mold. Here are
my open hands. What has filtered down
to you in the beige underbrush? Parrots
or clowns? I have written your secret
name on my sleeve, I have kissed your neighbor
on her pouty, scarlet lips. We have passed
in the hall when cooking smells whipped
the secret air. I would change your aching
mind, if that would help, I would offer you
a pear. Even the mice here know your name.
If I could understand exactly how your pants
worked, if I could plan something for your
birthday, or provide a sample of your cooling
blood, you can be sure I would override
that cunning mother who always left you cold.

A Conversation with Sn۞wflake

David Rhei

A snowflake sidled in my hand
at a bus stop one zero below morning.
As my ears brought it closer to examine,

I realized it sang of the h۞le
in its center. And I related
with the lamenting emptiness it hummed

to this bright chaos. I was surprised
that it maintained its open personality—
despite the displacing distance travelled

just to blend in the frigid light of this city.
In spite of its alienated ring,
my breath still plumed at its intricacies.

But for that fling of a moment,
while in the awe of my palm,
it melted away.

When Sympathy Can Only Get You So Far

John Grey

In bed, beneath the patched rainbow of my Bolivian blanket,
the moon dark-domed, stars purring in the black,
close up to a woman’s thighs where forever is vigorously engaged.
It is midnight, six hours before some long awaited execution in a faraway Texas prison –
orange dawn-light greets an old conversation – kill the beast and his victims go free.

The newspapers say what he misses most is dropping coins into a jukebox.
Illegal, say the letter writers. Ought to shove the Statue of Liberty up his sphincter.
The savage pen, the whitewashed room, heads buzzing like flies —
with a few choice words scribbling their way to their own goodness.
Nothing like death news to ingratiate itself with the living.
Folks outside jail wave their all-night placards for the few.
The juiced guy screams for the rest of us.

Still night, hear my watch tick, as foggy as any dream,
a lone motorcycle rumbles by – helmetless I hear —
maybe in a deal with his own execution —
alone, despite the company – in the same self that always consumes me –
do I want to see the bastard fried — or am I kind enough to kiss the red rips of a killer.
Because I can lie my head on a pillow and my heart beats due west of my navel,
and my mind is cop and social worker, priest and hangman, lover and hater –
I look upon my conflicted thoughts with awe.

All doze off eventually, lock into the incense of the breath, the bones,
three or four good shots at the wishing well, happy, body a sleeping smile,
the room a mantra, curtains an orchestra, specters subsume into spirit –
then morning, sunlight not open wound, beginning because ends have nothing to offer –
if someone killed the moon then that’s okay with me -1 was merely flattering my soul –
I never know if that execution went as planned.

No more disputes -1 must learn to be kind to myself.
Killer on the block? No, my sympathies find other arcs.
I log on to a newspaper. The world lives up to its violent name.
Can’t reach out to an earthquake or a fire or a south-side drive-by shooting.
And I’m all the better for it.

Joy Sparks of the Gods II

joy-sparks-of-the-gods-ii-1958

 

Neil Ellman

(after the painting by Hans Hofmann)

At the mention of their names

spectral presences, electric,

energy like words like energy

across an arc of time

figures of men and beasts

half-men half-beast

in the shape of gods

walking the skies, hallowed

in the curvature of space

speaking to a universe their own

in a language their own

in sparkling syllables of joy—

  speak their names

and their presence speaks

as guiding stars.

Truths

Valentina Cano

Papers pile in front of me,
a loud tower
teetering on meaning.
I imagine the words spreading
like tar over the table,
covering my hands in darkness.
They’d burn everything,
peeling wood and
skin with ease.

Iron Lion

Anthony Arnott

Bitch.

Well, why don’t you just go and sleep with him, then?

said?
the funny man, the clown,
or what that other guy,
She smiles, but, is she smiling at him

His world has changed.

This cannot be.

laugh.
his lady, his squeeze,
Another man has made his girlfriend,
unamused
He looks on
unamused.
Another man has made his girlfriend,
his lady, his squeeze,
laugh.

This cannot be.

His world has changed.

She smiles, but, is she smiling at him
or what the other guy,
the funny man, the clown,
said?

Well, why don’t you just go and sleep with him, then?

Bitch.

And Everything In Between

Anthony Arnott

Fragility, but with robust grace.
      It pricks and sings, swarms
           and attacks, embrace

and dance; you cannot see it or disguise it,
but it remains on you forever, a scent
you never tire of
inhaling.

It disappears
          and with it goes sleep
          and peace
          and hope
          and love,
          feel wanted.


Sharp bites,
soft
whistle, sore and tender
and dark
and light.

           And everything in between.
           Waiting.

Return.
Carry a dull ache, hollow
heaviness.

          Never
 to be the same
          again.

Drifting

Malcolm Yadack

The memories I have of plain grey highways are exceptional. As they very well should be, because the gasoline for all that driving cost a good sum of money. Imagine for a moment how much you might have saved had you taken no car trips since your sixteenth birthday. That’s twenty bucks at the tank twice a week in ‘99 to fifty bucks once a week now – a big chunk of foregone change. It was worth it. The road is a medium of change between important points in my life. Home for Christmas, my parents are disappointed that I leave them to see friends in another nearby city. And I wave from the car as my mother cries, and process my guilt at this while staring at the dreary Martha Layne Collins Parkway for an hour. This dulls my abrasiveness toward her and I drift with my automobile into a new mood and a fantastic meeting. At the Irish pub that my father was driving home from when he died, men are meeting to remember him. They are meeting me for the first time. The atmosphere was comfortable and exclusive to the world, and a sharp contrast to every event ever in my childhood home. And through this too I drifted. Stories new to me of drugs and jail-time, and carpenters’ nail gun fights. I remind them of their old friend when I shake my head. And I leave. And the road separates this short, breathtaking pause in my life like a punctuation mark separates a writer’s thoughts while still stitching them together.

New York Hearts

Kyle Hemmings

Behind the fading pulse of day, Zin is not dying. And although wounded by a thousand loves, she can still perform a petit saut while thirsty. Or “spot” on her own demand, execute near flawless rotations of the head, fingers forming exquisite egg shapes, or almost touching hips, the not quite blonde hair pulled taut. Her Spanish “fourth position” is untenable.

When a relationship ends, she multiplies in mirrors, leaves fresh blood streaks. She’s in love with a gay dancer named Lev. Between rehearsals, in hushed conversations when he stumbles on long words, mutters fragments of his childhood, his eyes drift and turn star-ward. She can see herself as incredibly small and dancing inside his eyes.

At the tail of a crowd jaywalking to dusk, Zin shuffles or sidesteps, imagines herself as the perfect lead for Firebird. Who, in this crowd of scherzo-disbelievers, she wonders, can catch her?

She shares an East Village apartment with an older woman who collects ceramic birds from Sunday flea markets. The birds are remarkable in their stony silence, the way they can pierce the eye of a broken room. The woman has a thick accent and her country no longer exists. But at the apartment, her chipped birds stay loyal.

After three subway transfers, after performing warm-ups with girls who remind her of mechanical dolls with thin lips and glassy eyes, after fasting so she can be nothing but soft bone and air, Zin messes up a demi plie. She has flunked the audition.

In an abandoned tenement on Avenue A, five stories up. she stands before a window, shattered god knows how long ago. How easy to dive without a partner. Or she can become limp, stay apathetic forever. Instead, she picks up a glass shard and considers it running it deep into the underside of a wrist. A pink pattern of scar tissue is already there to guide her. It reminds her of a zipper. How easy it would be to bleed out or become sucked in. The body as a collapsible theater of glisten and glide, of last great works. For the self only. But then a rustle of wings, a soar from rooftops, a flutter and scrape. Who can this be? The reflection of a bird in its solo flight, its angle of free-form, distracts her. She won’t die today. Each life will get a second act. Even if it means yesterday’s tea bags and toast crumbs for breakfast. At home, her roommate’s silent birds are multiplying.

Scene From a Café

Brendan Sullivan

In his head he’s Baudelaire,
in a dark silk suit
and hand crafted boots
of butter suede,
and he’s sitting in a cafe
with leaves swirling around his feet,
waiting for the girl of his dreams
to drop from the bright blue morning
and bloom under a red umbrella.

He will whisper crimes
and confess thoughts of chaos
as she slowly pulls off her gloves
and pours too much wine
in his glass
and tries to imagine
how he tastes under his shirt.

He will write her a poem –
something about flowers,
on a napkin
and tuck it
into her sleeve
and wish he was running his hands
under her petticoats.

She will smile
and wet her lips
with the tip of her tongue,
making sure that her thigh
is too close
and that her thoughts
sound scandalous
to the jealous women at the nearby table
and make the waiters’ attention
grow hard.

She will snap open
a thin black fan
of ivory and silk
and let it do the talking
and her laughter will echo
in his glass
as her head turns and the light catches
her tiny gold earrings

and makes him
drain his glass
and feel free again
and lighter
and suddenly press a kiss
against her throat
while her hands tremble and her eyes close
as the sidewalk falls away.

and the gentleman
walking by with the small white dog
will feel young again
and whistle an opera tune
he used to know
and dream

of glorious mayhem.

Auschwitz

Brendan Sullivan

I saw you in the ghetto –
with your yellow star,
pulling teeth
and collecting shoes.
And then on the last train
to Birkenau
(or maybe it was Belsen),
hunched in a boxcar
like cows to market,
our shadows old
and unspeakable
as the wheels
broke us down to the floor.
We drank our urine
and told the children
the train was an adventure
that did not need
their tears.

Survival is a funny thing-
not always for the fittest,
and conscience can be

a silent sniper.