All Posts in Poetry

May 2016 - Comments Off

Perry Levitch

Hypochondriac

I have a cold and it is not cold outside today
so I am half certain that I am dying.
I mutter snot prayers into Kleenex.
Horoscopes. Yahtzee. Augury.
Something is rotten in the
steak from last night that cost too much and bled too little.
There are only a few terminal illnesses
that I can name.
Tuberculosis. Cookie dough. Living.
I know them from the sympathetic
cardboard display by the Broadbranch Market cash register
that eats quarters and promises cures, backlit by the Slushee machine.
I attend a college that has no science course requirement
so serves me right if I can't name what kills me.
H1N1. Fingerprints in the dining hall Raisin Bran. Lice.
If I went back in time I would be inconspicuously useless,
incapable of anachronism.
I couldn't build a socket or a circuit or recreate
a Science Fair potato clock. But people would love
the way I wash spoons with hot water. I go to the gym
where I think about how good I would be
at churning butter though I spend most of my time
on the elliptical which teaches me how to run
as effectively as a carousel teaches me how to ride a horse.
If I visited the rosy-cheeked stinking ancestors
I could collapse onto a horde,
half of them with undiagnosable cancers and the other half imagining.
Life back then is life now is as charming
as a tetanus shot and as useful as a pedestrian bridge.
I avoid STEM classes to prepare myself for the incurable.
Go ahead and crown my mourning bedside crowd with mob-caps.
The Slushee machine is clogged with butter.
I am walking backwards into the valley.

Savior

I lie atop my unyielding mattress and pull
the duvet up under my chin and look down at myself and pretend
I have no body.
Without my net of sinews and slush of muscles
there is no surface of me to rest condemnation upon.
I hope for a Richter 7 that would knock
me off my lofted bed without returning me to myself —
for forgetting the brain by animating the body
offers sweeter relief than shrouds do.
My automatic arms would move of their own accord amidst calamity
as food topples off pantry shelves
and IKEA chairs pitch themselves onto their sides.
I was the kind of kid
who in the bath would tie up my two Bikini Barbies
then when the water cooled I would undo the knots and say I saved you.
This was damp ceramic escape for all three of us.
I've learned to go upright since then
and by that I mean that I am mourning
the end of that easy adrenaline self-severance.
I overheat now under the merciful duvet,
muffling my unsavory parts with blinding cotton.

May 2016 - Comments Off

Nathan Copperwheat

Nathan

In fur     in leather
I am Eunuch
to the Emperor:    I

from whose mustache
the millet seeds
from whose glossen
teeth the far-heard
clack
from whose purple lips the brightest
sequin on your underwear

I am he

who shuffles your papers
(Mister Nathan to you)

 

May 2016 - Comments Off

Molly Kirschner

Love Poem #11

Tide of cloud rolls in and I lose my head.
I’m nine to ten pounds of dark thoughts lighter.

Thorns on a rose? No surprise there.
But flowers on a cactus

take my shins to the sand.
My hands fly for the stalks.

May 2016 - Comments Off

Janie Radler

In Praise of Being “That Blonde Bitch”

Hello! I am the newest member of the club
Of the Blonde Bitch Clan (BBC for short)
Because of this, I am nervous
I am nervous that they will find me out
Because I am the fakest of them all
I am that fake blonde bitch
Some people might think this would help me fit in better
But this is not the case
Because I am one big lye
(You could make ten bars of soap with me)
It’s the way the brown grows in on my lemon-shaped head
It is Muddy, Thick, and just Plain Gross
What if they think I am part of MTPG?
¡Ay, mi madre! ¡Dios no lo quiera! ¡No!
No one has yet to ask me what inspired
This drastic change of lifestyle
Not that I would tell them the truth
I don’t want to say Justin Bieber’s decision to go blonde reassured me
But it reassured me
I cannot tell you the exact day I made the decision
But I can tell you what I was wearing
A black, semi-shear dress and boots
Velvet and over the knee, my mud hair
Sitting on top of it all

It is now day seven of being apart of the BBC
And I can’t say things have gotten much better
I look in the mirror and my inner-photographer gets the best of me
“NOT ENOUGH CONTRAST” she says
“YOU LOOK LIKE A WAFFLE” she says
“But in a cute way?” I ask
“No, in a soggy without syrup way”
She really hit me where it counted
If I can’t convince myself
It’s only a matter of time before the others find out
And spit on me or throw dirt on me and say things like
“You dirty hippy!
Go crawl back into the ethnically ambiguous hole
From which you came”
I will do my best not to cry syrupy tears
But I cannot make any promises

I will continue to wear hats
Well into the summer time
When they ask if I want to go swimming
I will say I am allergic to water
With a very serious face
When they ask if I want to go to yoga
I will say I have already reached enlightenment
So it really wouldn’t do me any good
When they finally ask me why
“DON’T YOU TAKE OFF THAT STUPID HAT”
“I HAVE PERPETUALLY BAD HAIR DAYS, OK”

And that’s the story of how
I am no longer a member of the Blonde Bitch Clan
But at least I can finally
Scratch my head
And wash my hair
Without anything getting in the way

May 2016 - Comments Off

Madeline Cole

The Sheep

Once upon a time I was employable now I am God
of a beach town. I stagger to the stern and bid the sea
good-night. Wave trembling and mute, the dock refracts
my song across the bay and sings light off to the lighthouse.

The moment of first landing in a foreign city is a perfect
realization of forlornness. My tears are rain, my exhale fog.
My mortal enemies, the gulls, think they have won.
Their bodies burn and turn to salt in my revenge.

It is written I shall be capricious. A sheep has jumped
overboard and the vegetables are getting very dry.
My eye is never weary of the dark green waves. O drowsy,
grey and salt, under the ill-fitting coat of the sky,

the sheep struggles on the altar of sacrifice
and I’m holding court on the beach     again.

Text in italics from Retrospective of Western Travels by Harriet Martinaeu (1838)

Fahrenheit 451

The day the bookstore caught on fire
I was busy arranging marriages
between dead poets.
The plump white cat escaped,
Barely. Here are some words
I almost heard once through a wall:
Fastidious, flammable, dust.
If Shelley wrote six volumes and Keats
has disappeared without a trace
I’m making the investigation a priority.
I’m still looking for a fire extinguisher
or a bucket of milk.
I’ll write this in archival ink
so as to make it outlast us
like a prehistoric insect in an amber
asylum. The black bug crawls up the damp
Windowpane. The rain has become quite insistent.
Puffs of white fur are burning
and dust is once again becoming dust.

May 2016 - Comments Off

Julia Herrera

A Brief History of How My Tongue Was Shaped

It was 1956 when my grandmother, Momo, was sent to the U.S. She was a light-skinned princess from San Salvador sent to Poplarville to learn English. Momo met Donothan O. Byrd at the community college. They played cards and traded cigarettes in the cafeteria. He was a Mississippi boy born and bred. He fought for our country. She talked funny, but she had light skin. She wasn't black. They married in '57.

It was 1980 when my first cousin twice removed made it out alive. It was the Salvadoran Civil War. He, Manuel (we call him Meme) was meeting with his comrades. He was a socialist. He was with the FMLN. They all worked inside. They had eyes and ears. They met in secret. It was 1980. He left the meeting early to check on his baby boy, Manuel (we call him Memine). His comrades, even Quique (especially Quique), were taken. They were shot and mutilated. Twelve bullets per body and an arm too. An old-fashioned roadside assassination. Meme, he made it out alive. It was 1980.

It was 1992 when Rodney King was taken out of his car and beaten to the ground. It was 1992 when Los Angeles caught fire. Mom, Anita with her light skin and chestnut hair, and Dad, Hector with his brown skin and Mexican tongue, held Diego, their baby boy with dark hair and olive skin, close to their chests. They wouldn't leave the apartment's walls. Mom had forbidden Dad from going out after that bigot yelled, "Go back to your country!" at his brown skin. It was 1992 when the rooftops fired their rounds.

It's 2015 on Día de los Muertos. I, Julia -- daughter of Hector and Anita, sister of Diego -- have a white face and auburn hair. Nobody here knows how my tongue was shaped. Nobody knows about '57 or '80. Some know of '92. It's 2015, and I have no chocolate for my pan de muerto.

Kiss and Tell

We say we won’t
kiss and tell tall
tales we’re wont to miss
the sick we picked
parted mouths and pricked
our tongues totally tattered
trace sores with our tri-
linguals lapping to taste
the buds we bore
each other bare to bone
on the floor we chose
a terrific tongue lashing
a tidal wave, heavy-
weight title to tell all

May 2016 - Comments Off

Livia Calari

Translation from Canzionere by Umberto Saba

Un Ricordo

Non dormo. Vedo una strada, un boschetto,
che sulo mio cuore come un’ansia preme;
dove si andava, per star soli e insieme,
io e un altro ragazzetto.

Era la Pasqua; i riti lungi e strani
dei vecchi. E se non mi volesse bene
-pensavo-e son venisse più domani?
E domani non venne. Fu un dolore,
un spasimo verso la sera;
che un’amicizia (seppi poi) non era,
era quello un amore;

il primo; e quale e che felicità
n’ebbi, tra i colli e il mare di Trieste.
Ma perché non dormire, oggi, con queste
storie di, credo, quidici anni fa?

A Memory

I can’t sleep. I see a street, a stand of trees,
that press upon my heart
where we went to be alone together,
the other boy and I.

It was Easter: the slow strange rituals
of the old. What if he didn’t love me
-I thought-
what if he didn’t come tomorrow?
And tomorrow he didn’t come. An ache;
by dusk a throb.
it was not ( I later knew) friendship,
it was love,

the first; and what happiness
it brought, between the hills
and the sea of Trieste.
But why can’t I sleep tonight, with these
stories of, what, fifteen years ago?

May 2016 - Comments Off

Joseph C. Grantham

airport

old people reading
spy/mystery novels
have old bodies

but in their minds
they are jumping
over things
and solving crimes
and shooting stuff

May 2016 - Comments Off

Isabelle Parker

You

Dedicated to Juan Gelman

You / who suture human souls
with your hands / when mute sky /
could not sew back the pieces /
only you / pull back darkness / to reveal darkness

where nothing / when we reach out / can be touched
what noises do you hear / from the other side?
what downturned mouths utter
over your shoulder?

bones have mixed / with sediment
and who / have your shoes touched? / and how many? /
you’ve let them climb into you /
reach into your heart’s cage / and beat screaming / against it

May 2016 - Comments Off

Kevin Costello

Dear [       ]       I miss you
You are funny and warm
full of light like a rich falsetto
rolling your ohs your ahs           You make
my pen move               Just kidding
This is an email but I still love you
Your name is Fanny B in my cellphone
Our conversations are neon pink and lively
We laugh          we make the time
great     Do you remember
that day on the boat      It was like summer
I didn’t know life could be so bouncy
Resting on the rails       My hair whip-slapping snake
-like     Our feet leather-bound
but touching
I told you look at that bleeding fish
over there         I’m that bleeding fish
over there         but that Me is a pretty Me
in a God-way               The color of the trail
red like cars and christblood
how it didn’t blame anybody
In the black eyeball of that dead fish is my body
looking at you              holding our gaze
in my hands     I’m that dead fish         over there
Looking at your hands and your veins bubbled
and thick          Dear [       ] you don’t understand
me when I get that silly But still
I wanted you to understand me [        ]
I told you (you looking at my fish-self)
that when our eyes touch its like
A five-headed fire groping for tree grass and body
saying help I am hurting I am burning
           Pulling knife threads out of wet green cactus meat
and putting each of them back
A mirror in mid-shatter glass on glass touching
itself in a shiny rain saying I’m glad to be
                       rid of my body but touching it knowing it felt
                       sweet
That was a good day. Dear [       ]
every morning (when
my pillows are cold) I look for you
in my inbox      You aren’t there
only pizza real estate low price high quality pharmaceutical pills
We should talk soon
Dear [       ] I miss you hard
I miss when you were soft for me          Your voice
like wind on strings      an A note looping around
Yes that’s how I feel                 Dear [       ] there is art
at our museum              The one we made ours
when we were breathing in sync I was
at our museum walking breathing and it was only us
on the walls only us only in pictures of    oil swirls of     together
This is an email              I will not send you
pictures of my body      Please understand
that I understand            that I sit on top
of your email lists         (your material commitments)
Dear [       ] I will write to you tomorrow
when I have tomorrow experiences
and I hope to hear from you soon
You are heavenly          like sweet bread
Anticipate my email thank you please

Sincerely, Sincerely Yours, For Today, For the [       ] Time,
Until Tomorrow, The Day After, Saturday, Sunday,
Until We Lose All This Foamy Language, Until
Your Picture Blurs and the Wind Goes Dull,
Until These Typing Bones Dry Stale, Sincerely,
Sincerely,

May 2016 - Comments Off

Hannah Hayden

A Chime in Budapest

The bread comes to bed with us,
and rises with us too.
In the morning we shrink
and bathe in the sink
First I wear white, and then
nothing (but you).
There's still blood in my shoe.
Mein honig,
St. Stephen’s been skinning
my poor
achilles up to step
three-sixty-four.
But in Kun Utca’s heat, zealous and dumb
His dome tastes like
the dark weight of a plum.
We said that we’d go find some figs,
but instead,
We loved three times before lunch
and twice before bed.

May 2016 - Comments Off

Emily Gordis

for he has much been prayed for

I ate an entire centipede, swallowed it whole. It is my weakness of
character
that I always think the ocean is just over the mountains and the
sunset is
inside my throat when I thread my phone charger down until it
reaches
my small intestine and I get on my knees to squeeze the lemon and
pray no
seeds come out, and spit up a hex and cook it into your dinner and
you, Odysseus,
you were out on the highway in Salinas Valley feeding pea soup to
sirens and
migrant farmers while I lay in my creekbed reconstructing my
diaphragm.

the train station was hot like an indoor pool

The train station was hot like an indoor pool. I stepped over a
puddle of milk,
and went down into the guts which smelled like chlorine. Sometimes
I miss this
with a timbre that is socially unacceptable— the view of the port and
the palms
and the electric billboard. I would have napped with my head on
your belly
at one of the highway turnouts, but I was a tender fuel pump and
full of artifice.

If I could I’d take my devotional candle with me on the train, light a
match
under the bay burn my skin to a crisp and blow it out with my dying
dam breath.
I’d arrive on your doorstep with smoke coming out like a
tracheotomy seeking
someone who wants to lick the pavement in sf as badly as I do
someone
who wants to die like kelp in sand at ocean Beach w/ me.

I do not know what unit to measure mud with, but if I did I’d sit you
down
and tell you all about the mud. As it is this will have to suffice—
telling you about the geraniums and the dome lights telling you that
I am trying to confirm my existence, and this is how it feels:
very placid
in the dining hall at 1pm the Saturday after Thanksgiving I made
eggs making
eggs is my favorite way of worshipping god; telling you that
the basement kept flooding but I kept tacitly letting people in I kept
walking around the lake at night and thinking that
Oakland is fast and sincere like Sinai telling you that

I collectivized my mourning and turned it into a grocery store
that sold canned soup and green melons.

May 2016 - Comments Off

Cole Sherlock Hersey

Mountain, Sage, Obsidian

Rolling steppe of sage.
The road a mile West
motions. The dead here
don’t seem dead. The living
alive, look to mounds of obsidian
on the sand, and the Sierras,
West look like tired old ones.
And here, it’s all mutual.
Soft and slow, never stopping
but still and quiet, only
with the house finches on the rocks,
asking how we got so loud.

Two Gulls

Two gulls above
the street and café
below sun
and cloud
and blue sky.
Look down
to write down
the moment.
Look up again.
One gull has left.
The other there
alone on the wire.

May 2016 - Comments Off

Kevin Hughes

Piss Witch

A devil stands on my shoulder & I never want to shake her off no matter how hard she digs her claws into her perch, twists her hoof, kneads her paw.  She makes me wince into smiles & cackle at the spite seeped below the surface. When my mouth sandpapers blood, she spits belladonna blackened by bats spattered on my breath.  She flaps her wings & flicks her tail, envenoms every love song so what was sweet bitters—stale mugwort boiled in pewter.  When I hunger for affection, she sinks our teeth into fresh flesh ripped to shreds in our wake.  Where some leave hickeys, we leave scars—bloodstained moons swollen at dawn.  Her sonar pricks at jinxes & rebounds with hexes of her own design—jet-green flashes—I imbibe her elixir, puff out embers from my lungs.  At the demon’s hour we emerge with blades laced with melted mercury—tattoo ink for all who dare.  When I awake from slumbering she hovers, sharpens her nails with her fangs, licks her lips—crimson bluish wine; my piss witch readies for her next embrace.