Living under Wraps

What housewarming gift is best for someone moving into a townhouse that will be under scaffolding and tarps for a year? I hope to get Evelyn Lau’s Living under Plastic. She writes poetry inside quiet places and reading her is an absorption of solitary wonderment. Her poems will serve as substitutes for covered over views of mountains and the city.

On the subway, in the crush of the hurried and harried, I have a minor vision: a small shelf for her book in our entranceway! Time to read a little everyday. More people squeeze in at the next station, pressure-cooking my thoughts into a fantasy of time and space. Time to move every item from the old house on Kitchener to our new home on Fraser. Every morning my job would be to select some book, painting, cooking implement, some etcetera and then walk the half hour distance under the giant blue or grey dome of the outdoors. Can this fantasy be condensed into a poem? Or for that matter how about lines composed on the couch yesterday afternoon? I’d been reading Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections and then I wrote:

innermost mountains
climbed in crampons

inverse cathedrals stalactite
secrets buried since childhood

clouds crumple back to reveal
birthday presents of the sky

Only my anima knows what that means but maybe this will emerge from abstraction to become a poem. Maybe it will take on a patterning of abstraction to become a poem.

Most moments in life are a cityscape of question marks, bent over buildings checking for lost keys at their feet. Sometimes even getting away from it all – into the darkest of jungle metaphors – still leaves me machete-ing through doubt. I sweat away at forging a path through the page, hoping to hack away a home. Sometimes this leads to a choppy labyrinth of False Starts. Around and Around We Stumble. Mistakes Making Majuscules. Titles Lost in the Cushions of the Couch.

Where does the poem start? In love, in hate, in grandiosity, in odd flourishes, in dust mote moments, in the middle, in javelined joy, in rolled over grief, in a rubik’s cube hour, in a tickle of the throat. In eye-contact between you and a character who’s crossing the street with a lamp in his hands and a book in his back pocket. His dry lips are moving; he seems to be repeating the same phrase. He looks sane. You’d like to slow down to see the title of the book but someone is madly honking behind you. And he (or maybe she) is gone.

Kevin Spenst’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, Rhubarb Magazine, Capilano Review, Dandelion, Filling Station, Poetry is Dead, Moonshot Magazine, The Maynard, The Enpipe Line, V6A and Ditch Poetry. In 2011, he won the Lush Triumphant Literary Award for Poetry.

Driving Back We Pass My Parents’ Home

This never means the same thing twice.
Tonight our children sleep in the backseat.

Their heads yield left and right through the country,
the moon a cantaloupe slice crowding

Cygnus from the sky. Under that pinoak I crept,
kissed a boy in porchlight pallor,

picked grass from between my toes.
By the juniper I snuck my first cigarette

lit from a burner on the stove. The day has been
put away, a groundhog tamps the mud

walls of his burrow, rabbits tucked safely in warrens –
it is too late, too late for a visit, for the slow

driveway sound, the pop of rocks under the tires.
I scan the drawn curtains for whatever it is

I am missing or might have missed. I imagine my mother
beyond the grey brick, busy with her worry.

My father asleep in the cold bedroom, the raspy hook
and pull of his snore. An empty dog dish in the garage.

My hand reaches across the front seat for my husband’s.
Fingers memorize knuckles as wind drawls

lonesome through the cracked window. I focus on the familiar
darkness ahead. I give a name to the newest ache.

Leigh Anne Hornfeldt lives in Kentucky with her husband and three young sons. This poem is included in her just-published chapbook East Main Aviary. Her poems have appeared in Foundling Review, Literary Mama, The Meadowland Review, among others. She is the recipient of the 2012 Kudzu Prize in Poetry.

I-5 N

A biker sped by,
pushing 70,
with bugs in his beard
and grease in the crooks of his elbows.
Miles of grime on the plates left him stateless.
In the bitch seat,
more than a weekend’s packing
and two tiny flags
where familiar thighs should have been.
He looked like an old man,
but he was just the jacket of a round
fired in ’71.

R. Joseph Capet is a poet, playwright, and essayist whose work has appeared in such magazines as decomP, Montreal Review, ITCH, and Sennaciulo. He currently serves as poetry editor for P.Q. Leer. This fall, he began the pursuit of an MFA at the University of New Orleans.

Dialogue with the Body

I thought about leaving you.
But you didn’t.

Why did you treat me so badly?
I was testing your love,
but those days are over.

I was a cigarette under your heel.
You inhaled—admit it.

If I said “stop,” you heard “more.”
I thought you enjoyed a little rough play.
Besides, who had who in bondage?

We used to have fun.
I still love you. I’m just not
in love with you.

Look me in the eye when you say that.
I don’t trust mirrors anymore.

We’re more like roommates now.
I’d like to scale down, move into
something with clean lines.

I’m sick of you micro-managing me,
tired of 2 of these, 1 of those,
working my core.
It’s my way of saying sorry
I took you for granted.

Chocolates make a better apology.
You’ll thank me one day.

I wasn’t as beautiful
as you made me out to be.
Beauty is wasted
on the beautiful.

You don’t take me anywhere.
You don’t take me anywhere.

A body needs a body.
After all I’ve given you?
Sinewy, stubbled, bountiful,
smooth, man, woman.

You seem so distant
and happy without me.
You’re no help
with Sudoku.

I can almost remember
the time before you:
the swaddling sea,
my neck a small boat.
Those hands are dead now.

Who will take care of me
when you’re gone?
Proper arrangements
will be made, your care
entrusted to a stranger.

Where will you go?
I will be a passenger
on a highway that bends.
I’ll ride through cropped hills,
cows still as mushrooms.

Can you hear me now?
You’re all rhythm
and no melody.

Then sing with me.
Help me carry the tune.
Yes, I will be the words
in our little threnody.

Brandel France de Bravo won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House poetry prize for Provenance. She is editor of Mexican Poetry Today and co-author of Trees Make the Best Mobiles.  She has received Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities artist fellowships and the Larry Neal Writers’ Prize in poetry.

Human Involvement in Non-Saline Aquatic Environments

In Cedar Lake conservationists have planted
fish attractors along the gravel bottom, in the hopes
of building a sustainable underwater environment.

We are not thinking about science, Jonny and I.
Instead, we troll the shallows of Shellcracker
cove. Beyond stoned. Aiming for anything
clueless enough to snag onto our clumsy hooks.

While I bait my line with sawdusted wax worms,
Jonny tells me the short history of the lake,
how the city blasted the dam to flood the valley,
that beneath the water rests the ruins of old homes.

He is always full of this kind of information.
He can move from history to existentialism.
From cosmology to politics to mathematics.
From the hydrogen bomb to craft beer.

I am imagining schools of squatting fish.
Striped bass occupying an empty chimney.
A cluster of catfish nestled in a wood stove.
Bluegill residing in a waterlogged toy box.

We are both drawn to the lake, we decide.
I tell Jonny of the two girls drowned here
last winter, how the car sped off the boat launch,
how the icy water made the sedan an aquarium.

We both conclude that there is an irony to this—
although we cannot agree on what exactly it is.

When I finally catch a sunfish, we marvel at its flesh.
The skinny red stripes extending across its fins.
Its small body. The fight it gave to stay submerged.
We are curious. I am sincere with guilt—

the hook having torn though its mouth.
How we have marked this creature indefinitely.
That when we give the fish back to the lake,
it swims sideways, it flounders, it floats belly up.

Jeff Haynes is an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech, where he also serves as Poetry Editor of The Minnesota Review. His work has previously been seen or is forthcoming in Grassroots, Glassworks, Jenny, and Midwest Literary Magazine.

Dream

I was walking back from a parade in my hometown
when I saw a house on fire, or it had been, was
smoking itself like a cheap cigar.   I went inside,
no one stopped me. I was very attached to this house.
I found small scraps, discs and ovals, of sheet metal
and began hoarding them in my cheeks, and they
didn’t cut me. I loaded my mouth with them, tried
to talk around them, such a shame and that
used to be red
. Then, this is ridiculous, I thought,
and took them out, one at a time, even the slivers
buried in my gums. Then I ignored the ruined rooms
and became obsessed with the room of my mouth.
I dug around my teeth, into my teeth, the molar
in the back left—I pulled off its top, began scraping out
sculptor’s clay, decayed, stuck to my hands, suddenly
poured from my mouth, the endless toxic excavation.

Stacia M. Fleegal is the author of Versus, Anatomy of a Shape-Shifter, and two chapbooks. Her poetry was nominated for two Pushcart prizes and has been included in Best of the Net 2011, North American Review, Fourth River, Mud Luscious, and UCity Review. She is the co-founder/co-editor of Blood Lotus.

A Blizzard That Brings More Than Snow

The world got wavy like that cheap trick
in movies when a character dreams.

It wasn’t a dream though, because I was fat,
and my best dreams are when my girth disappears.

I sat on the couch, heavy
in the head, my wife learning Thai,

the language program spitting
sentences at her. Is the man wearing a red shirt?

No, the man is wearing a yellow shirt.
If this were my mother’s dream,

my wife would not have to deal with the man
in the red or yellow shirt, not have to sit

at the computer, clicking the cursor
over correct answers. She would not even be white,

and we would not live upstate New York,
in the middle of a blizzard burying everything.

What I wanted last night was for the room to stop
spinning and for the dinner I ate

to stay in my stomach. What I wanted—truly wanted—
was too numerous to recount.

A childhood friend, one I’ve lost,
said about women at a pool hall, I want them,

every single one of them. You know what I mean?
Last night, I had never wanted more badly,

all the wants I had forgotten and misplaced
piling up and whirling in my head, piling

up and sticking to my brain, like snow clinging
to the evergreen outside sagging

under all that weight. Is the snow white?
Yes, the snow is white.

And heavy.
And spinning.

Ira Sukrungruang’s poetry collection, In Thailand It Is Night, was awarded the Anita Claire Schraf Award, and is forthcoming from University of Tampa Press. His work has appeared in Post Road, The Sun, and Creative Nonfiction, among others. He teaches in the MFA program at University of South Florida. For more information, please visit: www.sukrungruang.com.

Metatron

The gods’ hammers strike your eardrums. The vibrations shiver you from sky to earth. Your roots spread, gather voices into your trunk, where blue and green meet to create the symphony of the planets and the song of the worms, the whole Whitman universe rotating to the pulse of your sap as it rises and falls.

Is it enough for me to crawl along the verticals of your dodecahedron like an ant in Wonderland? Is each point an epiphany or a decision? Is it enough to take the hands of other ants and sing the world into and out of existence with Coca-Cola and nepenthe?

Look. A boy with blond curls sits at a desk and watches a clock. His leg kicks the ticking rhythm against his chair. His fingers curl around that which creates the Word in thick letters on lined school paper. Every pencil is carved from your wood.

My cat plays with string theory. Time wrinkles. Sometimes it works itself into knots. The boy is a man now. He tunes his cello to your hum. You vibrate his notes up to the gods and out into the world. You write the lyrics in the sunrise.

Now the boy is a baby, pink against his mother’s nipple. Teleology is an illusion. The song neither starts nor stops, rises nor falls, but moves through the mother’s breast, through the tree that is you, through the power lines that draw us together, through the soil that spreads across the earth and greets every footstep.

Metatron, you write sorrow as well as joy. You write the cacophony of airplanes slamming into twin towers. You gather hunger and fear like a bouquet and hand it to the gods. But you are no hanging tree. You balance, unencumbered, between earth and sky. You hold stillness in your heart. The boy holds acorns in his hands.

I cling to the dodecahedron and trace the pattern that vibrates around me. I no longer try to find where you end and the perfect forms begin or where perfection melts into pain. Edges are an illusion.

The song is real.

Allene Rasmussen Nichols is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her poetry has recently appeared in Ginger Piglet, New Plains Review and Conclave. “Metatron” is a response to Shannon Novak’s Acoustic Synergy art show. Images of the show can be found at http://www.shannonnovak.com/works/Pages/Acoustic_Synergy.html.

Jabreya’s Words

 “This is the oppressor’s language yet I need it to talk to you.”
-Adrienne Rich

You ask me how to spell
“ain’t” and I want to
write “a-i-n’-t,” those malleable scraps
of sound welded into a graphite
fixture for you to hang
portraits upon:
Momma’s scalded hand shooing
you to the rhythm of “ain’t gonna
touch this stove” or  the sway of
“ain’t a monster down there”
as she swings you back into bed.

You write “is not” five times over,
the paper spotted in tiny graphite smudges—
your fingerprints, their ridges carved,
into a blooming spiral
from silvery grit-sheen.

Your mouth is small
and indifferent to the grammar
of “wounded” and “victim” that slides
from the reporter’s mouth, as you press
your fingers into the television set.

You say “I want to help those people—
ain’t nobody else going to”.  And we make
a diorama of the hospital you will work in.  Your hands
resting paper-bodies into beds of felt,
the roar of your whistle-siren
echoing through the room.

Courtney Hitson recently earned her MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Her poems have appeared in The Broken Plate, The Public Haiku, Columbia Poetry Review and Arsenic Lobster, and are forthcoming in NAP. Her scholarly interests include cognitive rhetorical theory, cognitive neuroscience, theoretical and particle physics, and pedagogical studies.

Dream Hotel

The one I seem to check into twice a month,
greeting the desk clerk who never reciprocates.
I walk up the rickety stairs, suitcase and life in hand
and enter my room that makes bare bones sound
voluptuous. I prop a pillow against the wall, sprawl
out on the small bed and stare out the open window,
the air smelling sweet as chocolate covered almonds
and I watch images of people I’ve known but can
no longer place go by, until my mother and father,
young as the day I was born, appear briefly before
moving on. I take a chunk of bread and a book from
the suitcase, nibbling and reading throughout the night,
content with this feast I’ve prepared, sweeping the crumbs
off the pages, careful not to damage the extraordinary words.

Tim Suermondt is the author of Trying to Help the Elephant Man Dance (The Backwaters Press, 2007) and Just Beautiful (NYQ Books, 2010). He has published work in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine (UK), among others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.

Mother

She brings shampoo bottles home.
I don’t remember if she did
or not, but I swear she brought
the sheets home too. I probably

decided to build a fort.
Whenever Dad was home,
he lets us eat junk food,
watch Tales from the Crypt.

John & I didn’t mind the dark.
Mother was always frightened by
the idea of us alone. Hovering
saint-like over our bed.

Never awake to hear the door
open, I can only suppose she
stepped into our room, her eyes
overflowing & kissing us good-

night. Never did I imagine that she
may have had a rude guest
or changed the sheets of a couple
who just fucked or that she may

have been so close to elegance
wiping the smudges from gold.
That every so often she’d spend
an evening in the Presidential Suite.

Sebastian H. Paramo grew up in Dallas and received his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. He is the editor at The Boiler Journal. His work has appeared or is forthcoming from Used Furniture Review, Black Heart Magazine, The Oklahoma Review and others. He’s currently couch-surfing in Brooklyn.

Marzipan

Only one chocolate cake in all the land. Only this one Sunday. There was some startling
blue. White caps. Only at this window where the loch lives leaping in its song.

Minutes before, sheep turds. I have a blue plaid wool coat. Father in a suit. Mother in
navy or beige. Forty more years until they falter. Raw grown children of immigrants,
farmers knitting up their concoctions of home. (If a man can bend a spoon with his brain.)

We didn’t get older those weeks of marzipan and sugar-dipped fruit. The grapes spitting
in their dulled and yellow coats. Living in a hotel every night. With manners. The fish
with their difficult bones.

Without looking, I know that you are there. The slide tray clicks. The waiters in their red
coats hiding their fifteen-year old grins.

*                                  *                                  *

Far from the medicine cabinet of home. Such a hopeful box. There is no slide of this.
Iodine. Eye-cup. Mercurochrome. Any wound could be painted away.

Telling my rosary beads in the almond paste of clouds. That long ago. The fingerprints of
the waves. The whorls shuddering.

In the coke-fueled fogs of Europe, the chilly Glaswegian streets. Marzipan. What kind of
tasting is this—as if tongued through wax paper. In the shape of a fruit. In the shape of a
pig.

We have found March bread. Looked through its marchpane. We will break it together.
Mortal or vegetable. Hitting any of the taste-buds sideways.

*                      *                      *                      *

The air train shrieks. Suitcases roll. Long corridors of fast food and bad books. We all
think soon—the wheels should lift with our longing. (If a man can bend a spoon.)

Skating along, one hand on the rail of the accelerated walk. A dog on a leash. Two figures
on crutches. This cartoon doesn’t warn enough.

Metallic glandular flux. Can we scrape fear from our mouths. Maybe a rinse with the eye-
cup. The planes trailing their dotted lines.

Outside, it’s dark. Chocolate heavy on the tongue. Spit and his brother (ungathered) leap,
put through a sieve. This could be a slide slipped into the tray. Is this with or without the
moon, lickety-split, fisted, in the shape of the sun, stroll-jaunting away.

Susan Grimm is the author of the collection Lake Erie Blue and chapbooks Almost Home and Roughed Up by the Sun’s Mothering Tongue, with poems in Poetry East, West Branch and The Journal. She has received Copper Nickel Poetry and Hayden Carruth Poetry prizes and an Ohio Arts Council fellowship.

41st & Ninth, SW Corner, 26 Degrees F

Fingernails turning blue again,
you remind yourself in a few months
this will be just another moment
on just another corner
in just another winter you reference.

Of all there will one day be
a cure for,
this isn’t on the list, this
quick catch of breath in the chest
as you glance up the avenue,
waiting for the light
to change. And always, the clock
watches with its nonchalant eye.

Rules don’t apply in this river-chilled
here and now, when you feel it down
to the pointed tips
of your boots, when snow falls fine
like a pretty girl’s
ash, when you should be marking
something on your recollection chart.

You know your fear
is wrapped in the vine
of things you wish
your mother taught you,
but that doesn’t make it easier
to cut your way through to what
you can’t see.

But how to measure anything
when every morning is February-strange, like
another new beginning of someone else’s
new life, like you
just dug up some frozen
root vegetable of a heart?

Jess Cording’s work has appeared under several names in various print and online publications, most recently Extracts, Knocking at the Door: Poems About Approaching the Other, Whistling Fire,  Squid Quarterly, and the Otter Tail Review. She lives, works, and writes in New York City.

1988: Suicide

All-American heroes in flames, my right hand a god
controlling the world’s freedom while my left hand presses
the knob of the aerosol bomb – Aqua Net in all its hot purple
splendor – slips, and Duke and Snake Eyes nearly collateral
damage to Voltar’s char-bubbled plastic skin. No miracle
will get our mother to buy another Voltar. He’s dead, she said.
Resurrection is imagination to innocence. We built the base
out of a tin can, walls raised from crayons, broken pencils:
a child’s revival. Inside, the paratrooper closes my mother’s
door, slowly, and gives us a once-over. He tells us how monkeys
threw shit at them when they landed in the jungle. We landed
in this shithole of a trailer after the drunk lost his house. Men
imagined themselves our father for three weeks at a time.
Not once did they resurrect my father, blown away
one October. We were tracing the topography of the states
of emotion. My sister says he walked himself into a hole
dug by prairie dogs – that they were evil fuckers and he tripped
on their drugs, sold everything in the house. Mother coasted
the back alleys of Oklahoma City, toward Ohio, when she flipped
the van as I swam in her belly. My sister says I should’ve been
retarded or dead. The white knight awoke from his methadone
slip up while Mother was on a morphine drip – doctors gave nine lives
to her pulp of leg. Like all fairy tales, the knight was trolled by trolls,
witches – the most damned spirits pulled him down the six years
he wanted to be Father. Too many times, he offered himself
to them like a buoy that doesn’t know if it’s the sea’s savior
or just a fated object struggling to survive impossible waters.
The day before his thirty-third birthday, he vanished
like Jesus. Like a rain drop in the river. We translated days
into years. Years into men. In ’92, a tornado brushed
the field, painted the harvest into a wheaten-skied Oz.
We followed the road; only, home was not a place
we understood. Perhaps that’s why my sister hates Dorothy.
If this version’s truth, my father is the heartless Lion. If he baptized
himself in the river, how can I forgive? I was cradled
by these men because Mother wanted to apologize to somebody
for her guilt – they wanted in her bedroom, so she told them
the secret to heroism was her children. They slipped
each time – like action figures unaware who really held the strings.

Christopher Ankney has been published in journals such as Copper Nickel, Prairie Schooner, The Los Angeles Review, and Fourteen Hills. His work has been nominated five times for a Pushcart. He lives with his wife in Annapolis, Maryland, where he teaches English and Creative Writing at Anne Arundel Community College.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Love

1
Love is the heart’s Jiffy Lube.

2
Love is the dawn coming up like
last night’s chili con carne.

3
Love is blind,
hearing impaired, and bi-polar.

4
The language of love has
32 different words for “laundry.”

5
Apostrophe to love:   ′

6
You see blossoms when the trees
are bare? Leave some urine with the nurse.

7
Love Canal? Nuff said.

8
“Evol eurt,” true love spelled backwards,
is Norwegian for “moose tractor.”

9
This love machine comes
with tinted windows and automatic
transmission.

10
When in L.A., hang ten
at the La Brea Love Pits.

11
The Book of Love was written
by Sergei Rachmaninov and Franz Kafka.
Not the Sergei Rachmaninov.

12
Love takes time
and turns it into lots more time.

13
Nonethless, my dear, it’ll do.

William Trowbridge’s latest poetry collection, Ship of Fool, came out in February from Red Hen Press. His others are The Complete Book of Kong, Flickers, O Paradise, and Enter Dark Stranger. His poems have appeared in over 30 anthologies and textbooks, as well as in The Writer’s Almanac, The Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review, The Georgia Review, Poetry, Boulevard, Green Mountains Review and New Letters. He lives in the Kansas City area and teaches at the University of Nebraska.

The End Times Café

Remember when I snapped at the sight
of a sparrow? That plain bit of nature
reminding me I can’t grow tomatoes
or live without a microwave.

I worry about the Strait of Hormuz.
Will there be gas for the trucks
that bring us
our cool ranch Doritos?

What about those coffins
and swing-sets on TV?
Keeping children alive for the feast
of dark energies.

I can’t build a nest or find any worms.
I can’t feed my young without taking
the mark of the beast.

It just might be true there are aliens
running the show. I asked if you’d heard
of Reptilians, and you started flicking your
tongue, flapping your ears.

That’s when I felt human again, sitting
at brunch with a gila monster. The waitress
came and poured some more raspberry tea.

Laurie Barton is a Pushcart Prize nominee and Best of the Net finalist. In 2008 she won the New Southerner Literary Prize in Poetry. Her work has appeared in Juked, Glass, Prick of the Spindle, Kaua’i Backstory and The Rambler.

 

“The End Times Café” is a Best of the Net 2013 finalist, selected by A.E. Stallings. Congratulations to Laurie Barton!