All posts by BLR Staff

Ruth Z. Deming

Ruth DemingRuth Z. Deming, a psychotherapist and winner of a Leeway Grant for Creative Nonfiction, writes fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry from her home in Willow Grove, PA, suburban Philadelphia. Her prose has appeared in publications such as Creative Nonfiction, Haggard and Halloo, and Mused Bella Donna. A mental health advocate, she runs New Directions Support Group for people and families affected by depression and bipolar disorder.

 

We Look Out Windows

We all look out windows. It is something we do. And then we wait for something to happen. Out my second-story window this morning in late August are my large maple trees pressing close to the house. It is folly to call them “my maple trees” for who, of course, can own a tree. But because we live on many different levels, one of those levels is ownership, and we shudder to think that if we own nothing, we will end up like Bartleby the Scrivener, a man put out on the street because he didn’t own a place to sleep.

If I were an Indian long ago I would certainly have stood on the plains in my beaded moccasins. They would have called me The Woman who Loved Trees, for so I do, or perhaps The Woman Who Loved Squirrels, for so I do. And I would have, first thing in the morning, slipped on my moccasins, while my family was still asleep, I would have been 10 years old, and peeked out the teepee to smell the fresh air and see if The Boy Who Knew Where to Find Deer was awake. I would have had two long braids. And he may have had two long braids falling on his naked chest.

What has happened outside my upstairs window is that the trees pressing against my window are losing their chlorophyll. An entire patch over on the right have turned red. There is such depth in the foliage from my window. You can sit with your warm coffee in your hand and gaze from your office chair where you sit Indian style at the layers and layers of leaves, waiting, waiting, for something to appear.

Have they deserted me, the birds and the squirrels? I only saw a robin yesterday and thought, Hurry on, with you, proud fellow, fly south with your brethren before the cupboard goes dry. We have a marvelous relationship, the birds and I. When you prepare gardens for them, and a fine flowing- to-the- brim birdbath, they will always be there. Bringing their friends with them. It is not unthinkable that they communicate to one another where the best watering places are, and they follow one another, clusters of them, tagging along in tandem, just like people do, bringing the ones we love with us, and others we don’t love but let them tag along anyway.

One day I was making myself breakfast and the phone rang. That is an example of something happening.

“Roooth!” said the voice on the other end.

“Larry, you’re back! How was your vacation?”

“Good, good,” said my psychiatrist, Larry Schwartz.

“Larry, I’m still sane!” I said.

“Knock on wood,” he said.

“Larry, I leave nothing to chance. I take my meds and knock on wood at the same time.”

By now, I had moved with my portable phone and was sitting on my front porch steps, knocking on concrete.

“Larry, what do you suppose the neighbors think of me?” I’m outside on the phone all day long whispering into the phone about manic depression and then cackling with hysterical laughter that rings all down the street. Do you think that’s normal?”

“For you, Ruth, it’s normal,” he said.

He likes me. And you better believe I like him. It’s a match made in heaven.

*****

Last night was Poetry Night at Barnes and Noble. Remember: You can either wait for something to happen, or you can make it happen yourself.

I spent the entire day in my nightgown on the telephone or writing on the computer. Can you imagine, reader, if this were the days when I was a therapist for 8 years and went to my office in Bensalem in my flowing white nightgown and black socks to keep my feet warm?

“Oh,” Linda would mumble, when she’d see me come through the door. “Ruth, you’re wearing your nightgown under your jacket.”

“Oh, dear,” Linda. “You’ve got to help me. What shall we do?”

Linda was immensely practical. She was the kind of woman – and this is who you hire as a receptionist – that if you need an aspirin during the day you go to Linda. Or if you don’t know what to make for dinner, you go to Linda. Or if you need to complain about your boyfriend you’re living with, you complain to Linda.

And Linda would probably say something, like, “Look, Ruth, you know how to answer the phones. Sit here in your jacket and take the calls. I only live a few minutes away. I’ll bring you some of Holly’s clothes.”

“No skirts, please,” I said. “Or loud colors.”

“I know, I know.” she’d say. “Be back in five. You’ll be a whole new woman. Your clients will love you.”

Five years later I was in the neighborhood and drove over to see her at her new job.

“How’s Holly?” I asked.

“She’s graduating college and they’ve offered her a job at a television studio!”

“Oh my God, Linda. You raised one child – and you did it right!”

*****

When I had manic-depression or as they now call it, bipolar disorder, I had it bad. Very bad. Up and down, up and down. Suicidal ideation where I wrote a suicide note to Sarah and Dan, but saved myself by accompanying my former boyfriend to horrible flea markets, which I detested, but it was certainly better than killing myself.

That was – what? – ten years ago.

And then a funny thing happened.

People do not believe me, but it’s the God’s honest truth.

My manic-depression arrived like a box car on the way to Dachau, and then it left.

I was saved.

Every day of my life I thank God or no-God. It’s one less thing to worry about.

Hallelujah!

Tim Kahl

Tim KahlTim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. Website: http://www.timkahl.com

 

Tasking the Guardian

TKahl_TaskingGuardian_Poem

Erin Redfern

Erin Redfern’s poetry has most recently appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Clementine Poetry Journal, and Compose. In 2015, she will serve as poetry judge for the San Francisco School District’s Arts Festival and as associate editor of Poetry Center San Jose’s print publication, Caesura. Website: erinredfern.net

 

Photograph of a Drugged Giraffe

The strong stalk of its neck has gone slack on the packed sand,
revealing a long face, dun-colored cheek,
and dark, puckered underside of lip.
The lifted chin is so slender
that the bearded man in work boots and a white t-shirt
can cup it in one hand. The ear, velvet lily, pivots
to hear what is happening to the body,
back there, outside of the frame, where the metal doors screech
and the ramp of the transport truck crashes open.
Leather gloves flare from the man’s pockets
as if they, too, are listening for what happens next.
He’s bent at the waist, the small of his back taking the weight
of the great head–tongue, bone, brain, skin.
Sighting down the sloped neck
he doesn’t see between his arms
the giraffe looking up at his heart,
doesn’t meet the thick-fringed eye gazing at him
the way the untried Gorgythion, Priam’s blameless son,
might in the midst of battle have gazed back at the ramparts
before the arrow sent for Hector found him instead
and his perfect head drooped like a dew-heavy poppy on its slim stem
–a look like a coverless book, spine cracked so it opens here,
to this sweet face, this tilted throat, these buckled knees
pressing the ground beneath, this ground
become sky in the black eyes
that know neither resignation nor hope.

Dimitra Kotoula

Translator’s Note:

In the Autumn 2013 Issue of The Poetry Review, A.E. Stallings remarked that Kotoula belongs to the younger generation of Greek poets born after the Greek military Junta. She then says ”Kotoula subtly and masterfully transforms …private demons into a public resonance.” 

Kotoula employs an array of vehicles and forms—ranging from the lyrical, the elegiac, to the ars poetica—to lament the current socio-economic crisis in Greece, to hearken back to the ancient times when Greek society was thriving, and to envision a spiritually-brighter future. 

I chose to translate Kotoula not only because she is among this unique generation of poets, but also because of her work’s delicate tonal balance. My biggest challenge throughout the translation process was remaining true to both meaning and music without compromising the poems’ political sensibility. 

The “Case Study” series inhabits the ars poetica form to demonstrate the healing power of poetry for Modern Greek society during these difficult times. “Case Study V” is one example of Kotoula’s tonal modulation. The poem not only contrasts Modern Greek culture with the Ancient civilization; the narrator also calls for a higher state of moral consciousness.

 

Dimitra KotulaDimitra Kotoula (author) is the author of Three Notes for a Melody published by Nefeli Editions, Athens. Her poetry, essays and translations have appeared on line as well as in poetry anthologies and journals in Greece, Europe and the Balkans. Her poems have been translated in English by A.E. Stallings, Fiona Sampson, and David Connolly. Currently, she works as an archaeologist and lives in Athens, Greece with her daughter. 

 

Maria NazosMaria Nazos (translator) is the author of A Hymn That Meanders, (2011, Wising Up Press)She earned her MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has received fellowships from the University of Nebraska, Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Florida Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The New Ohio Review, Poet Lore, The New York Quarterly, The Sycamore Review, Main Street Rag, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere. She is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her site is www.marianazos.com.

 

Case Study V
(on Ethics)

KotoulaPoemTransByNazo

 

[1] Refers to an indigenous Greek plant, which appears in Plato’s “Politeia.” Also mentioned in Yiorgios Sepheris’ poem “Over Aspalathus Bushes,” the plant represents afterlife punishment of tyrants, who, according to Plato were drawn through the road while the flower’s thorns tore them apart. 

 

 

KotoulaPoem_Original

Laura Plaster

Laura Plaster holds a Masters in Applied Theatre from the City University of New York. When she is not enjoying the parks of Brooklyn with her toddler son, she works with junior high students creating original theatre based on the issues and themes that are important to them. And then, in whatever spare time is left, she writes poems about the issues and themes that are important to her; mainly, identity, faith, and transformation.

 

Candids

The picture my friend took of me in that red
maillot suit comes to mind, and pretending
to be embarrassed when it circulated the bus
full of classmates. The first time I saw
myself and thought “sexy” before thinking
“that’s me.”

Or the one of me bowling, squatting
over the ball as if I birthed it before
heaving it down the lane. It revealed
the true nature of my behind, startling
to see it relaxing there below my back,
above my pale thighs like it belonged.
The treachery of images: this is not my ass.

Or, the high school graduation photos showing
I’ve become taller than my tall mother,
which must mean I’m tall and didn’t know it;
or, seeing that my body, particularly the lean
of my shoulder, still wanted to be with Scott
in the picture with the fancy chickens
at the gas station in Delaware.

Then there’s me and Theo posed
on the front steps for a first birthday
shot and I tell my husband. “what
a great photo,” and he points
to my face and says, “You’re blinking.”
I realize I only looked at the happy baby
before voicing my approval.

Later I take my time in the bathroom and try
to woo my arms, legs and interloping ass
back into some sort of marriage with my mind,
try to feel some of the old heat that came
when we first noticed that we do
and do not belong together.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts2Chris Roberts is a first generation American, kind of. He grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where he learned to pronounce his Korean birth name, so that it comes out as “Die Young, Sung.” Candlesticks won’t kill him, although he’ll pause while mulling over whether or not to take the secret passageway to the Conservatory. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. Blue Lyra Review is his debutante ball.

 

What ever happened to the compass?

Then he agreed it wouldn’t just be them
and that he didn’t want to hear about
her fucking someone else, unless he asked.
Two weeks went by before they met again,
and, in that time, the silence got to him.
He loved and hated her, and didn’t care.
From bed, he listened for the gate to creak.
The more he tried to hear, the more he heard
the flowers missing where they all still were.
The more he saw a blossom on the stem,
the more her words began to blow cold air.
The more he saw a stem, the less she cared.
He dusted off a watering can. It sat
till he forgot he had one anywhere.
The garden’s chances were the sky’s affair.
The curtains wouldn’t close. The sweet voiced birds
were morning joy. Right there, he never looked
to see them pick the sunflowers bone dry.

Ashley Cowger

Ashley CowgerAshley Cowger is the author of the short story collection Peter Never Came, which was awarded the Autumn House Press Fiction Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in several literary journals, and she is an Associate Editor for Bound Off. She holds an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Learn more at www.ashleycowger.com. 

 

Public Access

“I just thought you should know,” is what the woman says, her voice smug. “If I were you, I would want—” and then Lenny disconnects her.

May watches as the little red light on the camera goes dim. Carl must have signaled Mike to stop shooting.

“Sorry, May,” he says into May’s earpiece.

May offers a put-on smile and shrugs. “No biggie.” But she can see by the reaction of the crew that this is not the appropriate response. “I mean, it isn’t your fault, Carl.” May can feel little beads of sweat forming along her hairline. The lights seem abnormally strong today.

“Let’s, uh, why don’t we take a minute, huh? To regroup,” Carl says, not to May, but to the crew.

Mike leaves his post, walks swiftly toward the bathroom, and Melissa approaches May with that little bowl of face powder she always seems to have on the ready. “Touch up?”

May forces a smile. “Oh. Sure.”

Melissa swirls the giant brush around in the powder, then dabs it all over May’s face and neck. “What a bitch, huh?” Melissa says.

“Who?” May asks.

Melissa snorts. “Right.”

“Oh,” May says.

“Mahhhgaret,” Melissa says, taking on the caller’s faux British intonation. “You can just tell by the way she says her name she’s a bitch.”

“I wouldn’t be so quick to judge,” May says.

Melissa doesn’t seem to have heard. “I can’t believe she would call you on the show like that.”

“Melissa,” Carl says. He sounds like a stern father, like he means business.

Melissa, who is still of an age where a stern father means trouble, jumps.

“May looks fine. No more makeup.”

Melissa walks away without argument.

Carl leans in with his stale coffee breath, puts his lumpy hand on May’s shoulder and squeezes. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“’Cause if you need to take some time, we can just call it a day and pick up fresh next week. Show a rerun.”

May thinks about it for a moment, but shakes her head. And do what? she wants to ask Carl. Go home and face Sam? He probably knows she called. She probably told him. “I’m fine,” she tells Carl.

Carl squeezes her shoulder again, then lets go. “Show must go on, right?” He lifts his hand up, and for a second she thinks he’s going to hold it out for a high five. Thankfully, he just runs it through his thinning hair. “Soon as Mike gets back then, eh?”

“Sounds good,” May says. She crosses her legs and folds her hands neatly in her lap. She is wearing a yellow dress today, yellow with brown dots. She feels attractive, summery. Sam bought the dress for her last summer. It’s probably the only time he’s bought her a dress that she actually likes and fits well, both. He loves her in the dress, tells her every time she wears it. Wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off her, May knows, if it weren’t for Margaret, whose name May didn’t know before now.

It worked well that way, not knowing her name. She was just a shady figure in the background of their lives, one it was easy to pretend away. Sam had been so much happier these past few months, and May didn’t have to deal with his constant groping. She could make dinner now, brush her teeth, without him coming up behind her and nestling his dry lips into her sensitive skin. She didn’t have to come up with excuses anymore—headache, backache, exhaustion, arthritis pains. On top of that, Sam had been extra giving in other ways, out of guilt, May assumes. A few times, she’d suspected he suspected that she knew, but she played dumb and he bought it, and he would buy her a ridiculously expensive bouquet of flowers afterwards, or take her to dinner at Chez Pierre.

But now, all of that is over. Now she’s heard the woman’s voice. Now she knows her name: Mahhhgaret. Everybody on crew knows it, too. Everybody knows that May knows. Sam probably already knows, and if he doesn’t, he’ll find out soon enough. Her blissful life of feigned ignorance is over. And she doesn’t know what to do.

Mike comes back from the bathroom, a sheepish grin on his face, probably for having taken so long, which he always does.

“Everyone ready?” Carl asks.

Mike readjusts the focus on the camera and gives a thumbs-up.

“May?”

May nods.

“Let’s see some teeth, hon.”

Lowell Levant

A Poet Drives a Truck: Poems by and about Lowell A. Levant.
by Lowell Levant
University of Akron Press, 2013

ISBN: 0615864457
Reviewed by: Thomas Dukes

 
So much good poetry gets written but remains undiscovered. We should all be grateful that this is not the case with the work of Lowell Levant. A poet of what might be called the Berkeley School of the 1960s, Levant’s work reflects both the influence of the Beats and the great social changes of the 1960s. If his work and he were at once on the fringes of their times and immersed in them, both are also worth discovering. This volume makes that discovery possible.

Lowell A. Levant, a native of St. Paul, MN, grew up in South Gate, CA. After burning out at UC Berkeley in the Free Speech Movement (1964), Levant asked for and received conscientious objector status during Vietnam. He spent the rest of his life as a poet-member of the proletariat, a poet driving a truck.

As cited in the book’s introduction, Levant’s poetry is praised by Gary Snyder for its “‘complex depth . . . about work, machinery, trucks, equipment, repair, maintenance . . . . These poems have a unique presence in the real world, and they have great confidence and firmness . . .’” (11). Levant is also concerned with nature, voice, and freedom in language and thought.

This is not to say that Levant can’t be fun. In the poem “To a Mouse I Dreamed I Killed,” Levant begins with a cheerful, sadistic madness: “I flung you up the stairs/’cause you were in my bed/I was in a strange house/and took advice from others/while carrying you in my hand” (21). What makes that stanza work and what is typical of Levant’s voice is the line “and took advice from others.” That seeming non-sequitur anchors us in the poem with its understanding of how in the middle of the most mundane and unpleasant task, we find ourselves hearing other voice that become others who are part of the world even in this bit of daily minutiae.

In the second stanza of that same poem, Levant uses a longer non-sequitur to anchor the poem in the reality of his California of the period:

Berkeley has the same smog as LA
and freeway on-ramps, suburbs
grass dried gold
on a paved hill with a fence on top of it. (21)

This stanza is also typical in its presentation of Levant’s juxtaposition of the personal with the wider world. This almost bipolar sensibility represents Levant’s voice at its best.

Levant’s purest voice is indeed found in the volume’s title poem “A Poet Drives a Truck.”

LLevantPoem

Here the ordinary—“Inspect the equipment routinely and thoroughly”—is followed by the doubly-meaning “Explore alternative routes when feasible.” When the narrator says “Transcend rage and panic with humor and consideration,” that voice speaks and defines Levant and this collection. Levant undercuts any danger of sentimentality when he advises, “Look flowers in the eyes.” The courage to face beauty and nature head-on informs the book and, based on the biographical sketch at the beginning of the collection, Levant’s life.

Levant tackles the natural world in other ways. In such poems as ‘Juniper Scrub Mountain Shade,” “Painted Canyon Smoke Trees,” and the like, Levant engages nature with a welcome matter-of-factness that does not deny emotion: “The smoke trees in painted canyon wash/were mostly shriveled half-brown” (69). The first line creates beauty; the second line undercuts it but not harshly or meanly. (Levant’s poetry is incapable of gratuitous cruelty.) Poems like “Silver Moccasin” and “Mary’s Flat” take nature and anyone in it on their own terms. If Levant is a romantic, his is the romanticism of those who survived.

This volume has been lovingly edited, the poems selected with care and devotion, but neither the biographical sketch nor the introduction are mawkish in the least. I enjoyed this book for its evocation of the 1960s attitudes toward nature, quiet rebellion, and life. Perhaps its most defining quality is the beauty of its singular voice. I wish Lowell Levant had gotten more attention in his lifetime, and while it’s impossible for us to give all good poets the attention they are due, A Poet Drives a Truck is very much worth picking up and cherishing. I recommend this gem without reservation and great pleasure.

Michele Battiste

Battiste-Cover-UprisingUprising
by Michele Battiste
Black Lawrence Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-937854-94-2
Reviewed by: Kayla Haas

 

 

Uprising, by Michele Battiste is a poetry collection depicting the lead up and aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Her main voices, Jóska, Jutka, and Erika provide the reader with insight about the abuse Hungarians were subjected to by the Soviet Union. The collection begins in 1944 and ends over a decade later in 1956, at the end of the revolution. Though Uprising is considered a poetry collection, it also continues the contemporary trend of blurring the lines between genres. Battiste has crafted a narrative similar to fiction, and has chosen her own family as the voice of the Hungarians.

“…I think I understood

once. Sounds drifting through
the house like kitchen smells, the way you know
the taste before you eat. But my English was their song
—a long, slow stroke across the violin’s strings
and the magyar slept…”

– Learning the Dead Language

Battiste begins the collection with a prologue in her own poetic voice. “Learning the Dead Language” works like a “summoning” poem. As an adult, in the wake of her nagypapa’s death, the speaker recalls the Hungarian language of her grandparents: “searching/for the language that will take my tongue/back.” The speaker’s desire to go “back” provides cause for the collection; it is the catalyst for the poetic telling of her family history and the history of the Hungarians.

Jóska, Jutka, and Erika are the main voices of the collection. Battiste begins by titling each poem with the chosen narrator in order to help the reader make the association between the name, voice, and poetic style. Having each speaker have their own poetic form creates a narrative uniformity that is important to a collection with such historical accuracy. Keeping narrative voices consistent allows readers to focus on the precise word choice, historical events, and foreshadowing that Battiste’s poems have. Jóska’s voice is in the form of prose poetry and function like letters to his wife, Jutka. He’s often addressing only her, though at times a larger audience. Jutka’s poems are multiple stanzas with her poems reading much like diary entries. Erika, the daughter of Jóska and Jutka, has the most lyrical poetic voice. With staccato lines, childlike details, and indented lines to juxtapose against Jutka’s narrow stanzas, Erika’s voice captures the uncertainty of her childhood in the face of bombs, war, and kidnappings.

Michele Battiste_Poem

Uprising is broken into four sections: The Way to the Party, Budapest Voices, Steam in the Pot, and Uprising. The first, third, and fourth sections follow the narrators mentioned before, while Budapest Voices is a collection of seperate individuals. Battiste uses research to her advantage in order to craft poetry around actual experiences of Hungarian individuals. Battiste notes, “The stories in this section come from interviews conducted by Radio Free Europe with Hungarian refugees who fled the country. Transcriptions of the interviews were accessed at the Open Society Archives in Budapest (see bibliography). In most cases, names have been changed.” The choice to break from the narrative to provide outside perspective was a great decision. Budapest Voices is a reminder that the collection is not just about one family, but rather Hungary as a whole. Having the perspectives of different voices helps expand the world readers are introduced to in the first section. Readers are introduced to the disappearances of husbands, the recruitment of children, lists of deaths and suicides, and many more horrors that Jutka, Jóska, and Erika have only hinted at. Budapest Voices brings a needed sense of urgency to the collection and foreshadows the civilian unrest and fear in later sections.

A unique aspect of Uprising is the way poems “lean” on each other for support. Though Battiste’s poems can be vivid in imagery, many are narration-heavy in order to move time and plot along. As a result, some poems could not exist outside the collection itself. These poems are essential to the overall narrative and their impact is summoned from the poems before and after. Creating a collection that depends on plot, as much as a connecting theme, is a risk. When considering this, among the other elements of the collection, it becomes obvious that Battiste should be commended for being able to create such an organized balance to a collection that could have easily been tipped into disarray.

Last, what is perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of this collection is the fact it requires active readership. Battiste’s poems provide enough detail to flesh out the Hungarian Revolution and the horrors witnessed; however, she also provides key words, key dates, and a language that encourages readers to go beyond the surface and reach out to outside sources for true understanding. It is easy to read poetry with direct impact and understanding, but perhaps much more rewarding to be challenged, intellectually and historically, in order to fully understand the poetry provided. Readers are free to enjoy the collection through what is given, but can also dig deeper into the politics of the imagery in order to have an emotionally moving experience.

Uprising is a fascinating collection not only for its historical accuracy on a subject not many are familiar with, but also because Battiste meticulously has crafted a narrative—one that is complex and superbly organized—that illustrates her own family history and the history of Hungarians.

–––––––– 

Kayla Haas is an MFA candidate at Wichita State University, Fiction editor at Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and editor at Mojo. You may find her work in Gigantic Sequins and NANO Fiction, among other journals.

Guest Nonfiction Editor: Suzanne Cope

Suzanne CopeSuzanne Cope is a writer and professor in New York City. Her book Small Batch: Pickles, Cheese, Chocolate, Spirits, and the Return of Artisanal Food (Rowman & Littlefield) was published in 2014 and recent and upcoming articles and essays include contributions to The New York Times, Time.com, XOJane, Italian American Review, Edible Boston, Blue Lyra Review, Render, among others. She teaches at Manhattan College and University of Arkansas, Monticello MFA Program. Additional information can be found at www.suzannecope.comwww.locavoreinthecity.com, and @locavoreincity on twitter.

Javier Etchevarren

Translator’s Note:

With only 3.4 million people, Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America, but it has always been well-populated with poets. On most nights in Montevideo, there are poetry readings at multiple venues ranging from the national library to neighborhood bars. This poem is one of many works selected for América invertida: An Anthology of Younger Uruguayan Poets which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. 

 

Javier EtchevarrenJavier Etchevarren (author) was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1979. He is the author of the poetry books Desidia and Fábula de un hombre desconsolado. His poems will appear in América invertida: An Anthology of Younger Uruguayan Poets,forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. His poems have appeared in Palabras errantes and the Notre Dame Review. 

 

Don Bogen (translator) is the author of four books of poetry, including his most recent book An Algebra. His versions of the work of contemporary Spanish poet Julio Martínez Mesanza have appeared in Boston Review, Pleiades and other journals. He is the Nathaniel Ropes Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati and the poetry editor of the Cincinnati Review.

 

Lungs

the worn-out arteries of the city
spew copper
there are families who live off that death
they live in the toxic cloud
with no more protection than their skin
the metallic smoke strips away their profiles
a toxic shout deafens their sense of smell
and they live off that death
near a blaze of tires and rags
it’s their job to gather up wire
at sunset other twilights take their toll
living off that death
they cough in their dinner plates when night comes
they’d like to remove
the copper that accumulates in their lungs
because it’s worth eleven pesos a kilo
and these folks live off that death

 

Pulmones

las arterias caducas de la ciudad
derraman cobre
hay familias que viven de esa muerte
habitan la humareda tóxica
sin más resguardo que la piel
el vapor metálico les desagarra los perfiles
un grito tóxico ensordece los olfatos
y viven de esa muerte
con un fuego de neumáticos y harapos
obligan al cable a reunirse
tributan al ocaso otros crepúsculos
viviendo de esa muerte
llega la noche y tosen frente al plato de comida
quisieran arrancarse
el cobre que se acumula en los pulmones
porque lo pagan once pesos el kilo
y ellos viven de esa muerte

Falconhead

When not slaying Dragons, Falconhead uses Dragon’s blood to write poetry, short stories and plays. His work has appeared in The Red Line, The Rock River Review, Antiphon, FictionWeek Literary Review, Naugatuck River Review, Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, Wilde Magazine, Poetry Potion, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Thick Jam, Meat for Tea, Poetica Magazine, Camas: The Nature of The West, Thin Air Magazine, Huesoloco Journal, Glitterwolf, Whistling Fire, Two Hawks Quarterly, Rock & Sling, Adanna Literary Journal, Deltona Howl, and Green Wind Press’s “Words Fly Away” Anthology, among others, and is forthcoming in several more publications. For his poem “Man-Made God or Poem In Which The Hypochondriac Gets His Way” Emerge Literary Journal awarded him “runner-up” in their 2014 poetry contest. You can follow Falconhead on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Falconheadpens 

 

I Have Set My Face Like Flint or The Misanthrope Goes Into Town

For one doesn’t know how much the creature
one is until they are hunting you down. Un-

til you see the clansmen gather around. Sharp-
ening tongues in the palms of their mouths.

Tethering hounds in the mouths of their hands.
Their grinning weapons at the tip of their nails.

The weaker ones carry cameras like guns, and
the others the poisoned arrows that are their

eyes. Laughter. Guise. But I, I am grown from
the blood of myth. I cannot tell you why I lived.

Cannot say why I stumbled out from the womb
of Earth, the cloud of Sky. Why I’ve survived

this long amongst the hunters grim. Only that
when they all have died, I shall go on living.

Their ghosts shall see me in the streets that pave
out this dead forest. The buildings that are my

trees. The gutters that are my streams. For
I have touched the sacrum of Gods, and these

hooves, this fur, these antlers of mine, they are
all made of bark & fire. Stone and mire. And I

shall leave the arrows in me. I shall carry on in
my robe three trees long, gold and red from the

blood of wrongs.

Emily Kiernan

Emily Kiernan is the author of a novel, Great Divide (Unsolicited Press, 2014). She writes about islands, vaudeville, implacable but unjustified feelings of abandonment, the West, and places that aren’t the way she remembered them. Emily is a graduate of the MFA writing program at the California Institute of the Arts. Her short fiction has appeared in Pank, The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, decomP, The Good Men Project, Dark Sky, Redivider, JMWW, and other journals. Her work has received mentions and awards from Unstuck Magazine, A Room of Her Own Foundation, Wigleaf Magazine, and others. She resides in Berkeley, California with her man and her dog.

 

Enola Gay

In the belly of the dark the bomb is dreaming. The bomb is dreaming about a woman in a brown dress. The bomb imagines her in fits and starts. It imagines her falling into rhythm with the fits and starts of the darkness that surrounds it, which is sometimes pierced with light. The darkness is jostled and pierced in a light rhythm. The jostling rolls the bomb lightly—but only lightly—against the mechanisms that hold it. As it rolls and jostles, the bomb imagines the woman in the brown dress singing out a little rhythm. She is singing out a little song, as if to soothe it, and it is soothed, rocking so very lightly in the mechanisms that hold it. The bomb does not know the woman who is singing, as it does not know anyone, least of all the men who built its mechanisms. The bomb does not know sorrow, but the look on the woman’s face is sorrow as she is singing, and the song is a sorrowful song about the little body that will not be soothed. The woman’s voice is rising and rising, never failing. In the woman’s face is sorrow about the men who built the mechanisms that hold her from her rising, and who built the unsoothable body she holds, unfailing. The bomb does not know that it is dreaming as it imagines rising up from the mechanisms. It knows the singing face of the woman, and where there were mechanisms there is a screaming, unsoothable body rising up and up and up. The bomb is rising up, and the woman’s face is looking up, away, and they are light and rising. In the jostling, rolling dark, they have never dreamt of falling.

Debora Kuan

Debora KuanDebora Kuan is the author of XING, a collection of poetry (Saturnalia Books, 2011), which was featured as a notable first book by both the Poetry Society of America and Ploughshares magazine. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she has been awarded a U.S. Fulbright creative writing fellowship (Taiwan). Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters and Commentary, Atlas Review, The Awl, The Baffler, Boston Review, Brooklyn Rail, Fence, Gigantic, Glittermob, HTMLGiant, Hyperallergic, Indiana Review, New American Writing, Opium, Pleiades, The Iowa Review, The L Magazine, The Rumpus, and other journals. In 2011, she won The L Magazine’s Literary Upstart award for best short fiction. She received an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a BA in English from Princeton University. In the past, she has taught literature and creative writing at the University of Iowa, The College of New Jersey, and New York Institute of Technology, and through the independent organization Brooklyn Poets. She is currently a director of English Language Arts assessment at the College Board and a senior editor at Brooklyn Arts Press, a small, independent press that publishes poetry, art monographs, and fiction.

 

Teen Ghost

In real life,
I chased more
dust than dark.
I sought more
dolor than horror.
Around the clock, the false
hands flew. I
couldn’t get any younger.
I could never return
to that original thrill, or
a room of my friends
watching “The Shining”
for the very first time,
a boy unhooking my bra
in stealth. The first time
in the backseat the cattle
were lowing, a drowsy
brigade behind us
in the frosted broken
dark. His face
was sharp and cold
like a knife wrapped
whole in a scarf.
The palms of his hand
were dry. I
went home,
preserving the kiss
on the back of my neck
as if it were a firefly in a jar.
I chased its life like art.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Translator’s Note:

I first discovered “Tristesse d’une Étoile” through another translation, and was captivated by it. Later, armed with a semester-long course in French grammar, I decided to find the original and produce my own rendering. I felt that, while rhyme would have to be conceded, a version that preserved Apollinaire’s voice needed to be based on a metrical scheme. The poem is written in twelve-syllable alexandrines, a form that seldom appears in Anglophone literature; I chose iambic pentameter as the closest equivalent.

 

Guillaume Apollinaire (author) (1880-1918) was born in Rome to parents of Polish descent. In his late teens, he moved to Paris, where he became involved in avant-garde artistic circles. He fought in World War I, suffering a head injury from which he never fully recovered, and later died in the flu pandemic of 1918.

 

Rebekah Curry (translator) lives in Austin, where she is a graduate student at the University of Texas. Her chapbook of original poetry, Unreal Republics, is available from Finishing Line Press, and her work has also appeared in journals including Antiphon and Mezzo Cammin. Find her on Twitter @rebekah_curry.


Sadness of a Star

Minerva’s beauty sprang out of my head
A bloody star forever is my crown
Deep down my reason and above it sky
There goddess you were taking up your arms

So this was never worst among my pains
This all but deadly wound was graced with stars
Yet I am fevered with a secret grief
Much greater than what any heart could hide

And I bear with me this fierce agony
Just as the glowworm holds itself aflame
As soldiers’ hearts that beat on fire for France
As fragrant pollen at the lily’s core

 

Tristesse d’une Étoile

Une belle Minerve est l’enfant de ma tête
Une étoile de sang me couronne à jamais
La raison est au fond et le ciel est au faite
Du chef où dès longtemps Déesse tu t’armais

C’est pourquoi de mes maux ce n’était pas le pire
Ce trou presque mortel et qui s’est étoilé
Mais le secret malheur qui nourrit mon délire
Est bien plus grand au’aucune âme ait jamais celé

Et je porte avec moi cette ardente souffrance
Comme le ver luisant tient son corps enflammé
Comme au coeur du soldat il palpite la France
Et comme au coeur du lys le pollen parfumé

Emily Blair

Emily Blair’s poems have appeared in the The Mississippi Review, Stolen Island, WSQ and Cura Magazine, and she is the author of the illustrated chapbook Idaville (Booklyn). In 2014, she received a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. She also creates artists’ books and collaborates with social practice artist Michelle Illuminato under the name Next Question. More of her work can be seen at emilyblair.com and nextquestion.org.

 

The Deadly Years

On this planet they wear miniskirts in winter.
Women paint themselves,
men in tunics plot,
boys in the cafeteria laugh at my underwear.
We travel through the neutral zone
at warp speed eight,
then slowly past the pizza parlor,
bumper to bumper.
The whole universe looks alike:
same terrain, same sky.
We kick over the traces
of a long-dead civilization
and do donuts in the parking lot.
We disguise ourselves as Romans,
as revolutionaries,
as robots in revealing jumpsuits,
until we’re betrayed by our blood-shot eyes
and sloppy salute.
When did this research mission go so wrong?
We blew our budget on gold rickrack and Reynold’s Wrap
so now we’re stuck on the surface
in this small town
waiting for the phone to ring or space to rift.
Yesterday you met mirror me,
the rude one in the weird shirt.
You seemed to be mostly synthetic.
Today I’m screaming in a plastic cylinder
when you materialize in a fog bank
to borrow my favorite sweater.
Your mind is wiped by an alien obelisk,
I’m showered with spores,
but we still laugh at the same dumb jokes.
Now I’m a trail of crystals,
and you are the jukebox brain that runs the joint.
Then both of us are outlines filled with swirling glitter.
Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

Charlie Sterchi

Charlie Sterchi is an MA candidate in creative writing at Auburn University. He serves as an assistant editor at the Southern Humanities Review and Fiction Editor at Kudzu House Quarterly.

 

The Running Dog

Grandpa’s on suicide watch, but I’m not allowed to watch him anymore. Not by myself. Not after the incident involving his Buick, a smashed retaining wall, and the manually disengaged passenger side airbag. Grandpa’s on suicide watch, and here I am in the bosom of his creaking home, in his bedroom, by his window that looks out over the hills stacked one on another like the layers of dung and rotten cabbage in a compost heap, watching him with his breathing tubes and the shudder of his breathing machine; his pills and his bag of piss and his skin like spent wax paper; the smell of diarrhea and applesauce and the smell of vintage tweed from the open closet. I am not alone, but with my sister who’s brought her cello down from Maryland to watch us both and to join in our perspiring. Decades of daily use and nightly disuse have rendered the air conditioning busted.

“Does that thing have a quiet setting?” I say.

My sister says, “The breathing machine? Don’t be stupid.”

My sister wipes her brow with one of grandpa’s monogrammed paisley hankies.

“Sister,” I say. “Fetch me a drink, won’t you?”

“And leave you alone with grandfather?” she says. “I don’t think so.”

I look out the window and watch the dog running circles in the yard.

Grandpa says, “Cathy always told me, ‘Take what you can get, Johnny.’ So, I took what I got and I made an ice-cream of it.”

I don’t know what he’s talking about.

My sister says, “Very good, Grandfather.”

“Grandpa, you’re unintelligible,” says I, “and, oh, how those pills make you slobber.”

I receive a merry wink from the old man.

*****

I go downstairs and pour my own drink. On the other side of the kitchen window, which is open, the dog still runs, his tongue dragging across the dirt where he’s trod and he’s trod again.

Grandpa used to take the dog and me hunting. We’d shoot doves from behind the mulberry bushes. Then the dog would disappear into the scratching of the marsh reeds. We’d listen to the fading bustle of the dog. Often, all traces of the dog would disappear into the fog. We’d wait without exchanging a word, without stomping our boots to keep out the cold of morning, and I would wonder how we’d find all of those dead doves if the dog never came back. The dog always came back. Its name is something like Sally-Go-Home-Lucky VII or Cyrus of Westover. I don’t remember.

I become aware of my sister’s cello sliding down the banister. It’s playing something from Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, which opens up the air in these halls. It breaks up the curtains of dust, sends a breeze through the structure, and I inhale as if with the assistance of a brand new, third lung. I rattle the ice against the walls of my glass in a counterclockwise motion because it amuses me to do so.

I watch the dog for a while and I wonder if the dog will ever die, or if instead the dog will continue running circles in the yard, dragging its tongue and sniffing around for dead doves beyond the time at which my grandfather joins the soil and manifests in the pears from the tree by his waiting grave, beyond the time at which I, too, manifest as a sheet of tears dropping from the same pear tree to rot or to be eaten by deer, beyond the time at which the pear tree dies, and the deer die, and the dove marsh and its doves become no more than a film of dust on the earth’s fallow crust, beyond the time at which all else – the strip malls and the golf courses, the Taj Mahal and the Little Ceasar’s Pizza on Chapman Highway, all else – has fallen to the great yellowing gyre of the sky. It strikes me as probable that even in the second scenario the dog, having borne the weight of perpetuity, will cease to lick the dirt and will in turn be licked by the dirt.

Laura Rankin

Laura RankinLaura Rankin is a retired mother of four and grandma, a native of Oregon who now lives in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. She writes with a group of six friends who met in a memoir certificate course at the University of Washington. She enjoys walking, gardening, reading, writing and introducing her ten grandchildren to the beauties of nature. Several of her life-based essays have appeared in The Eugene Register Guard, and excerpts of her writing are included in the book Memoirs of the Soul by Nan Merrick Phifer. She writes true life stories.

 

Natural Neighbors

From my kitchen window I can see our neighbor’s un-mowed spring grass and the brown scar of dirt that a soil sampling team left three months ago. The wild grass shimmers with diamonds of dew—a royal carpet leading to the untamed kingdom north of our property line.

Now, in spring, the wild area presents blooming forsythia, reaching as tall as our house. Spiky blackberry vines hold the wispy branches to the sky in golden homage. I wonder if hummingbirds who visit love the blossoms as much as I do. Behind the forsythia, gnarly vines weave sturdy freeways for ants, spiders and even fat rodents. My granddaughters and I ran from a rat as we picked blackberries last summer. The girls were brave enough to continue our harvest once we all stopped screaming. Later, as we rolled out our pie crust, I made sure not to mention that a family of rats found their way into our attic the winter before. I want the girls to enjoy nature without being creeped out.

My neighbor has lived on her land all her life, over seventy years so far. Her family cultivated a cherry orchard that used to be where I now live. I see remnants of that vigorous orchard every time I work in my garden and find woody roots that must be chopped.

Next month when I open my kitchen window, the fragrance of white lilacs might greet me, but today the twenty foot tall bushes only bear tightly bound buds, promises of what’s to come.

What’s to come has been on my mind a lot lately, because the wild area has been sold. Zoning signs went up a few months ago and the time of permitting is at hand. Yesterday I heard the crack of limbs as men with boots trampled a pathway to where they put up an orange plastic fence. After they left I climbed up on my garden bench in our back yard to peer over our wood fence. In the seven years we’ve lived here, I’ve spent countless hours looking down pulling weeds, digging holes for new plants, but I’ve never looked over the fence.

I saw the caved-in roof of a ramshackle house nestled under the brambles. Luxurious ferns flourish in the dead wood of the branch that broke through the roof. The wood siding of the house was once painted white, but now is weathered down to the raw planks. Who might have lived there? Was it a shed for the cherry orchard? What people might have sweated and toiled here, long before I grew my garden?

I’ve been cultivating my dahlias and daisies during an in-between time on this piece of land. Whatever came before is as foreign as what will be.

When will the buzzing of bees change to the whir of that first chainsaw that will take down the first tree? How soon after that will they bulldoze a new foundation for the first of four houses they plan to build? Once it begins, nothing will ever be the same. Everything untamed will succumb to the mastery of machines. Where will the refugee animals go? The spiders whose webs twinkle, the rabbits whose noses twitch?

I’ve never thought of myself as a tree hugger and wouldn’t dream of stopping progress by scaling a tree with my osteoporotic bones, but I’m mourning this change. It’s still the time “in between.” The pine siskin still sings stubbornly for a mate. The stalwart robins insist on starting a family with their delightful monotonous songs. They are looking to the future, planning to weave their nests and hatch their eggs. They won’t know what hit them until something comes crashing down.

Meanwhile, across the street at the house built last year, the young dad walks his little girls to the mailbox like he does every night after work. In his arms, I’m surprised to see a bundle of blankets the size of a newborn human baby. It’s a delight to watch the young father tenderly cradle the baby while shepherding the other two girls away from the curb.

Another human family will replace my natural neighbors, and very soon. Who is drawing house plans today for their new home? Whose manufactured carpet will be rolled out on top of the earth that now grows spring grass? I wish them well as I cherish this time in-between.

Rahad Abir

Rahad AbirRahad Abir was born and bred in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a fiction writer. His short stories have appeared in The Penmen Review, Aerodrome and Toad Suck Review. His wining short story ‘‘I am in London’’ is appearing in an anthology from England. He has worked as journalist, university teacher and interpreter. Currently he is working on his first novel.   

 

Johnson Road

He knew it was simply unfair to go out on a date with his student’s mom. It involved risk too. But he said yes when she asked him. He was confused and fascinated and lost. The relationship was about three months of old, mostly talking and texting over the phone. Every evening he visited her home to tutor the second grade boy, and she hardly ever seemed to take any opportunity to talk to him then.  

On an early somnolent afternoon in July, he waited by Curzon Hall gate of Dhaka University, and his roving eyes fell upon every rickshaw and CNG auto-rickshaw (little semi-taxi) that appeared at the gate. He endeavored not to notice the beggars—either elderly or kiddies—who only walked up to the passengers at the very moment they reached their hands for wallets or purses to pay fares so that it’d be psychologically embarrassing for them to refuse their request for alms.

She turned up around half an hour late. A leg, so light-skinned, and then another, slipped out of a CNG auto rickshaw, he watched. A small woman, wearing a black sari, approached him with short steps. Four eyes met for a moment. A smug smile came out of her crimson lips. He smiled her back.

The dating spot on his mind—Curzon Hall pond—by that mid-afternoon, got almost full of people sitting by the pond’s edge. Fortunately, an unoccupied concrete bench was found.

‘‘You look gorgeous,’’ he said.

She gazed into his eyes.

‘‘Well—’’ he looked at her—her hair, her black dress, which she had put on for him. His eyes tried to read hers—her beautiful light eyes, twenty-seven-year-old olive skinned face, full crimson lips. Shortly, a naughty grin appeared on her face.

He remembered the same grin over that face, when one evening the young pretty mommy of his pupil brought a tray of snacks in the middle of their The Very Hungry Caterpillar studies; but whilst leaving the tray she, unlike the other days, looked into his eyes and grinned, ‘‘Have a nibble.’’ There was something else in that look, the way she grinned—everything thrilled him.

Later that night he received a ‘‘you’re so handsome’’ text on his phone from an unknown number. The following night the same text buzzed, at the same time. He called the sender, however, no one answered. Weeks after, one late night his call was received. But the receiver was completely silent. His voice turned impatient, ‘‘I know it’s you, it must be you; if you like me why’re you scared of talking to me?’’ And, that night, she spoke.

Later, he would imagine that it was not him, it was her who killed him, and he would remember the same grinning face with disgust, and curse himself, in the last and long five minutes of his life. He was a soft sort of guy—sentimental.

‘‘Why not we take a rickshaw ride instead?’’ she said, holding his arm.

He glanced at her, rolling his eyes from the water striders in pond. Her hand was soft and warm and real. He figured that she wanted more intimacy. Shortly, as two bums squashed into a rickshaw, the warmth of her body ran through his, but her face didn’t glow, changed no color. She asked if he was uncomfortable being with her because he’d not held her hand yet. He blushed, grasped her hand straightaway, and in a moment as her breast erratically touched the back of his arm, he trembled. He trembled again, after the dark fell, being with her in a CNG auto rickshaw, on the way home. This time he put his arm around her waist. For the first time in his twenty-two-year life, he couldn’t resist the temptation to rub a woman’s naked fat little tummy and she couldn’t stop drawing her face to his, and finally the lustful lips met, carefully escaping the driver’s eyes.

Beyond this intimacy, beyond this heading for home, beyond this purposeless rickshaw riding he bought her green coconut juice from a street vendor. While nibbling Chinese nuts he talked about his Hindu upbringing, his old family house, and his ties with relatives living in Kolkata, India. Likewise, he learned from her that she made up a story to her mother-in-law about her whereabouts this afternoon. What’s more, he learned about her unhappy relationship with her husband, whom at the time was working in Dubai. Although not being a devout Muslim, he, during the early months of their marriage pressured her wear a burka which she refused. He also learned about her first-and-only unsuccessful love affair (here she chuckled since the second attempt was turning out to be wonderful) before getting married.

Another late afternoon, they met at British Council on Fuller Road. Unlike the first day, he hired a rickshaw to Elephant Road, where he’d arranged to have use of his friend’s flat for an hour. During the rickshaw ride, he held her hand. Though, his hesitant hand tried to be convinced that the age difference between them was not evident. His roving eyes searched for any familiar eyes on street. Somehow, later, his fear would come true when a pair of eyes would fall upon them on Johnson Road, just for a moment, without his knowledge.

They met in a small shared flat, under a naked hundred-watt Philips bulb. On a yellowing, tatty bed-sheet. This happened again. While, another day, her mother-in-law was picking her son from school.

Traffic was always crazy and awfully slow on Old Dhaka narrow streets. To get out of it, some drove wherever it was possible to drive—lest it was the pavement or the opposite wrong route—resulting in more traffic. Being stuck in English road traffic for twenty minutes in a CNG auto-rickshaw, while heading back home together in one evening, he worried because she was running late. Glancing around he then remembered that Dhaka’s largest brothel once operated a block away, set up by the British. During his school days, as he passed the brothel street one day, many strange-behaving and odd-looking women of different ages, standing by the outside doors, waved at him. Laughed at him. He was both charmed and unnerved.

The CNG auto-rickshaw reached near the Judge Court on Johnson Road. Here he should have left. She grasped his hand tightly. He looked into her eyes. She blushed, and laughed, and said, ‘‘I love you.’’ He shuddered. Her lips moved, saying something. He slowly walked down the street, not knowing that this happened to be their last and final meeting.

A little later, he walked into the apartment for the tuition. The living room’s light wasn’t turned on, and instead of the little boy, the grandma emerged. She looked cranky and her voice sounded hysterical. ‘‘He’s not feeling good tonight, we’ll call you when he gets better.’’

The very next day he got a call. ‘‘You bastard Hindu, son of a bitch.’’ The unknown voice began swearing all at once. Before he could swallow the bubble of shock and say anything, the unknown voice apparently tried to grab him over the phone and shred him to pieces. They found out everything, must have seen them last evening, he feared. He went cold. Forgot to breathe. Sweating like a pig.

He never contacted her. He changed his mobile number the day after. For three weeks he mostly stayed home, telling others that his finals were coming. He worried about her, wished she wouldn’t have been in big trouble.

The air began to get dry from mid-November and there was a whiff of winter. Looking through the only window from his tiny room, he thought of her. Thought of a pair of crimson lips.

Two months after, in one night at about nine thirty, his mother told him that someone came to see him, waiting in the stairway. His heart sank when he saw the boy, who was member of a so-called street gang.

‘‘I’ve an urgent need to talk with you, can you come outside for a moment?’’ the boy said.

He scanned the boy’s face in the dimness of plaster falling old yellowish walls, glanced over his left shoulder down the stairs. The main door of this two-storey building, over a hundred-and-fifty years old, remained open till eleven at night. Two ground floor rooms were rented to a book-binding factory.   

‘‘What’s it about?’’ He asked, ‘‘Say here.’’

‘‘It’s private. Just come out for a minute, bro.’’

‘‘I got my finals, I’m busy.’’ And to his surprise he saw another boy climb the stairs. ‘‘OK—’’ he was about to close the door.

‘‘Bring him down,’’ a voice burst out, following the second boy.

The first boy grabbed his hand.

‘‘Leave him!’’ his mother screamed.

Momentarily, a small crowd gathered there. His mother, father and his younger sister managed to free him from their hands, obstructing the three guys from entering.

‘‘Do you want us to break into your house?’’ the man roared, ‘‘Bring him here now.’’

‘‘Tell me what happened,’’ the father repeatedly asked.

Crowds had already filled the stairway. ‘‘Your bloody son slept with a married Muslim woman,’’ someone blurted out, ‘‘Hand him over to us. We’ll figure this out’’

The news incited a sudden excitement in the crowd. He could feel this even shrinking into a corner of his room, locking the door well. Out there, there were overheated arguments, shouts, broken swearing at his father. The crowd threw bricks into their street-facing windows. Later, when everyone had left, he learned that they grabbed his old father. Slapped him. Ripped off his shirt. For a moment, a burning fire inside him wanted to take the big knife from kitchen and go after the scoundrels in the street.

But that night he neither opened his door nor went out nor went in front of his father. His mother cried. She swore at him sitting by his room’s door. Moaning how he put the whole family at risk. Why did God still keep her alive? To see all this disgrace? To see her husband beaten by young hooligans? If she knew this before, she’d have choked him to death when he was a little boy.

His best friend called and informed him that his student’s mom was in the hospital and fighting for life. She had become pregnant, taken drugs to abort the baby that resulted in nonstop bleeding. He also told him to stay safe. If possible to go into hiding somewhere for a few weeks.

It was not only about his safety, his father, and especially his sister should take care, too. Father in no way would agree on leaving the house vacant. The local commissioner had long been trying to evict them and grab the house. But above all, the reality was he had brought shame for his family. How could his father, an upright man, go out in the neighborhood now? Who’d want to marry his sister now? ‘‘Blood will have blood,’’ he shivered with fright. If he could, he’d have slipped away into a CNG auto-rickshaw by night and never be seen again.

With this thought, he jumped up out of his chair momentarily. He looked for something hurriedly in the closet. The second shelf from the top belonged to his sister. A long scarf came to his hand. His eyes watched the spinning ceiling fan. Spinning, round and round. Winter was not that intense in the old part of Dhaka. He made a loop at one end of the scarf. He turned off the fan and tied the other end around it. Then he wept.

He stood on the top of the bed head, facing the loop-end that waited for his neck to embrace. He took it. Now, just a little jump, and everything would be over. A bit of smile crossed his lips. How would her baby look if it had survived? He wished he’d have believed in God. ‘‘Please, let there be another world after death,’’ he said. He imagined his hanging body from the ceiling fan; still, calm like the serene morning light. The light had slipped through the window, and in the middle of the room he was hanging; hanging by a long scarf. He took a long breath, and glanced at the wall clock. Seven to two in the morning. He gasped as the big thinnest red hand neared the last minute. When it was ten seconds to two, he counted every move of the red hand. ‘‘Fifty one, fifty two, fifty three, fifty four, fifty five…’’

Robert Boucheron

Robert BoucheronRobert Boucheron is an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia. His writing appears in Aldus Journal of Translation, Atticus Review, Bangalore Review, Conclave, Construction, Digital Americana, Gravel, Grey Sparrow Journal, IthacaLit, JMWW, Lowestoft Chronicle, Milo Review, Montreal Review, New Orleans Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Origami Journal, Outside In Literary & Travel, Poydras Review, The Rusty Nail, Short Fiction, and Slippage.                                                                                               

 

Snowmelt

After the gray skies of winter, dim days of snow sifting down, long nights of freezing rain that hardens to a glassy carapace, after this dreary waste of time, a day arrives when the sun blazes, the air warms, and the world stirs to life. It is the hour of deliverance, the first day of spring, the season of snowmelt.

I pull on rubber boots, clomp out the door, and splash through the neighborhood streets. Snowbanks like mountain ranges subside to soft hills, with jagged gorges on the southern slope, eroded under a filigree of ice. The fragile lace crumbles at a touch. Asphalt pavement lies wet and black, as though freshly rolled by an invisible road crew. It steams in the sun. Bare patches appear in the blanket of snow. They reveal the grass that lay underneath, tousled and matted, hidden so long that I almost forgot it was there. A flock of robins swoops in from nowhere to feed, or simply to touch ground.

Birds sing to the gurgle of running water. Rills and rivulets gush from a hundred springs. The water is cold and perfectly clear, a pure element unlocked from crystal. It gleams in the sun. It pools here and there, blocked by masses of snow. It races in channels in the old snowpack. It vanishes abruptly under a snowbank, to reappear down the street from a hidden streambed, one carved in secret minutes ago.

The scene is geological, but on the scale of a toy and speeded-up. It repeats in miniature the story of the Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge that forms my western horizon. On the farther side, the Shenandoah Valley has a limestone floor that teems with springs, sinkholes, caves, and underground rivers. The porous limestone is like snow, both materials laid in layers and compressed over time. Limestone, mainly calcium carbonate, dissolves in water. Where the mineral-laden water drips and evaporates, it deposits the stone in weird formations, the stalactites and stalagmites of caverns: Luray, Endless, Grand and Massanutten. Whitish, glossy, catching the light of torches, the stone resembles ice. In any case, the caverns remain at a constant temperature that chills bare skin and creeps into the bones.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge may have been thinking of cold limestone caverns when he wrote his poem “Kubla Khan.”

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea. . . .
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

Xanadu, or Shangdu, was a real place, the capital city of the Mongol Empire. Kublai Khan founded the city, and the Chinese architect Liu Bingzhong designed it in 1256. It lies about 220 miles north of Beijing. Later the summer capital of the Yuan dynasty, Xanadu was abandoned in 1430. Its ruins became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

Marco Polo described Xanadu, apparently from a visit in1275, especially the two imperial palaces, their parks and menageries. In the marble palace, “the rooms are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment.” The other palace, built of cane and lashed together with cords of silk, was “so devised that it can be taken down and put up again with great celerity.” Samuel Purchas rewrote the description, published in 1625 in Purchas his Pilgrimes. By his own account, Coleridge was reading the Purchas version in the summer of 1797 when he fell asleep in a chair. He then had an opium-inspired dream, during which:

he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort.

Marco Polo makes no mention of “caves of ice,” and neither do descriptions of the site today. Where did Coleridge get them? The geological region called karst, of which the Shenandoah Valley is an example, occurs all over the world: southern France, the Burren of western Ireland, Andalusia in Spain, Gloucesterchire in England, the Nullarbor Plain of Australia, the Chocolate Hills of the Philippines, and the Ozarks of Missouri and Arkansas. The word karst derives from German, for the limestone plateau that surrounds Trieste, and from the Slovenian grast.

Karst features bear a colorful array of names: cenote for a sinkhole in Yucatan, turlough for a disappearing lake in Ireland, scowle for a shallow pit or labyrinth in the Forest of Dean, and doline for a sinkhole in the Massif Central of France. Eroded limestone assumes fantastic shapes on the surface. Water mysteriously wells up or plunges back into the earth. In “Kubla Khan,” Coleridge makes much of these strange waters:

And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced.

In Augusta County about ten years ago, for the local housing authority, I inspected a poor, rural house that lacked indoor plumbing. The residents asked if I wanted to see the spring where they fetched water. I demurred, but they insisted. I followed them along a narrow footpath behind the house, through a grove of trees. We emerged at a river that burst from the ground, a torrent from a limestone grotto. This domestic water supply precisely fit the description in Coleridge’s poem.

On Montrose Avenue, as I view the rush of water in front of my house, I think it must be more than snowmelt. The volume is too much, and it carries mud and pebbles. I follow the stream up to the corner of Rialto, where water bubbles up through cracks in the pavement. Can it be a spring like those in the Shenandoah Valley? I return home and phone the city public works department. Within the hour, an official-looking truck arrives at the scene, and an official-looking man says that a water main is broken. A crew arrives to dig up the street, and they stay into the evening.

By next morning, a rectangle of gravel marks the spot, and the street is dry. An overnight freeze has halted the meltwaters. But the sky is clear, and the sun will have its way.

Sokunthary Svay

Sokunthary Svay is a writer and musician from New York City. Her family fled Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime to a Thai refugee camp, where she was born. Her writing credits include a personal essay, “Leaving Battambang: the City of Answers” in Homelands: Women’s Journeys Across Race, Place and Time (Seal Press, 2007) and articles with a Cambodian American perspective for Hyphen, a San Francisco-based Asian American arts and culture magazine. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Language and Literacy at CCNY. She lives in Forest Hills, Queens with her daughter and husband.

 

At Least Prostitutes Bring Home Money

Why you come home late in the dark
You wear the dress and stupid big boot no job

Where the money you want me save?
At least prostitute bring home money

What you want for dinner—noodle again?
/Yeah you like your big noodle/

Don’t worry about freckle American men like that
Go to college get marry then work bring home money

I bring home money from hotel tip
You see my shoe only ten dollar on sale at Macy

Hey your period not come yet
Don’t worry we take care of it

Your Daddy say he so sad when you not sleep in your room
Why you go out?

Your brother visit work it his day off
He not even bring home money!

My whole life you never know who I am
I work too hard but all my children hurt me

And your daddy send his family all the money I bring home.

Agustín Lucas

Translator’s Note:

With only 3.4 million people, Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America, but it has always been well-populated with poets. On most nights in Montevideo, there are poetry readings at multiple venues ranging from the national library to neighborhood bars. This poem is one of many works I selected for América invertida: An Anthology of Younger Uruguayan Poets which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. For that anthology I matched 21 Uruguayan poets under 40 with American poets who were also translators. Agustín Lucas is the poet I translated.

 

Agustín Lucas is an Uruguayan poet and author of three books, Insectarios, No todos los dedos son prensiles and Club. He also a professional soccer player. His poems have appeared in The Collagist and Diagram are included in América invertida: an anthology of younger Uruguayan poets which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press.

 

Jesse Lee Kercheval (translator) is the author of 13 books of fiction, memoir and poetry including the novel My Life as a Silent Movie and the poetry collection Cinema Muto. She is the editor of América invertida: an anthology of younger Uruguayan poet forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. Her translations have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Agni, the Boston Review and other magazines.

 

General Flores without Flowers

Avenida General Flores is beautiful in the nights so late they are early Monday mornings, with traffic lights red, then green, with the customary desolation and mystery in its side streets.

General Flores in watchfulness, watching autumn hesitate with dead leaves on this paradise of cement and stone, of plastic and wood furniture for sale.

The corner with Blandengues is entangled with the wind in a relentless whirl of one way streets; the bus terminal, abandoned, transformed, melancholic: the melancholy that lies alone, forgotten, incapable on the platforms occupied last Sunday by drums and boys, competing with litany of seven o’clock.

The Terminal Goes, Marcelino Sosa street covering its back: quick, attentive, dark; the community center and library, the posters, the sidewalks, the wind revolving in the bars.

Transients take short strolls along the sidewalks, characters that remain nameless for all time, and from the city buses, faces shout against sleep, blinking at the stops, they miss the rain or leave a dirty image to be washed away by the drops on the windows. The transients outside also get soaked.

The dirt of some flowerbed splashes mud on the clay pots. The desolation is implacable, and is not disturbed by the lost whistle that warns of who comes or goes, feels or thinks, sings or hums the sadness of a tango with dark circles under his eyes. Then the novelty dance happens, the loneliness that sings in the instant when lovers are left at their doors. Not engines, nor the horns when a 169 and a 505 cross, not the bottles that roll, not the bells, not any of these sonorous events, not what will be seen falling down on the inhospitable street, will disturb the inclement desolation of the avenue, home of whores and transvestites, of worker and neighbor, of dealer and crack head on the corners.

The transients sleep, children of the street, with one eye obviously open, the proprietors of the stairs and of the railing, of the glass, of the bottle, of the remains of noodles and the heels of bread, of the blanket and the flip-flops, of the size extra large, or of the toes sticking out. Prisoners of winter, free of the calendar and of the clock, heroes of the tranquility, friends of the dogs.

Transients stroll, return, leave, transients buy, sell, leave, transients keep watch, transients rave, stop, begin again, leave, transients believe, transients steal, leave, transients create, cry, deceive, transients lose, win, leave.

General Flores walks in its sleep, and the furniture and the prices quiet down even more, and the beds cool down even more, the plazas and seductive shop windows lower the voltage of the lights, until it is sparkling, dry, free of shadow plays.

 

 

General sin flores

Es tan bella General Flores en las altas madrugadas de los bajos lunes, con sus luces rojas y ahora verdes, con la corriente desolación y el misterio en sus bocacalles.

General Flores en vigilia, vigila lo que vacila el otoño con las hojas muertas del paraíso de cemento y piedra, de plástico y madera de muebles en venta.

La esquina con Blandengues se enreda con el viento en un implacable remolino del calles flechadas; la terminal de ómnibus, abandonada, transformada, melancólica: la melancolía sola, olvidada, yace incapaz en los andenes ocupados por tambores y gurises del ayer domingo, lidiando la letanía de la hora 19.

La terminal Goes, Marcelino Sosa cubriendo las espaldas: rápida, atenta, oscura; el comunal y la biblioteca, los afiches, las veredas, el viento revoleando de los bares.

Transeúntes se pasean escasos por las veredas, personajes innominados por el tiempo, y desde el transporte capitalino las caras vociferan contra el sueño, guiñan las paradas, se extrañan ante la lluvia o se dejan mojar la imagen sucia que gotea las ventanas. Los transeúntes afuera, también se mojan.

La tierra de algún cantero salpica de barro los ladrillos de la maceta. La desolación se vuelve implacable, y no la perturba el silbido perdido que avisa que viene o que va, que siente o que piensa, que canta o tararea la tristeza de un tango con ojeras. La novedad bailable que acontezca, la soledad que canta al instante cuando se dejan los enamorados en las puertas. Ni los motores, ni la bocina que cruzan en un 169 y un 505, ni las botellas que ruedan, ni los timbres, ni estos sonoros aconteceres, ni los que verá caer la inhóspita calle, perturbará la inclemente desolación de la avenida, morada de putas y travestis, de obrero y vecino, de transa y latero en las esquinas.

Los transeúntes duermen, hijos de la calle, con evidente ojo abierto, dueños del escalón y de la reja, del vaso, de la botella, del resto de fideos y el codo del pan, de la frazada y la chancleta, del talle grande, o de los dedos para afuera. Presos del invierno, libres del calendario y del reloj, héroes del sosiego, amigos de los perros.

Transeúnte pasea, vuelve, se va, transeúnte transa, vende, se va, transeúnte campana, transeúnte delira, cesa, vuelve, se va, transeúnte trata, cree, transeúnte roba, se va, transeúnte crea, llora, engaña, transeúnte pierde, gana, se va.

Gral, Flores reposa deambulada, y se aquietan aún más los muebles y los precios, y se enfrían aún más las camas, las plazas, y se bajan las tensiones de las luces vidrieras seductoras, tintineantes, secas, sin juego chino de sombras.

Issue 4.2 Summer 2015

Click on a title to read an author’s work(s) and bio. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page and on Twitter using #BlueLyra. Also, consider leaving a comment for everyone to read.

Alexis Rhone Fancher. Man on the Metro Downtown L.A. 2013
“Man on the Metro, Downtown LA” by Alexis Rhone Fancher

"Old Man Walking After Midnight, Downtown L.A" by Alexis Rhone Fancher.
“Old Man Walking After Midnight, Downtown LA” by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Sandra Meek. Portrait Pisac Peru
“Portrait Pisac, Peru” by Sandra Meek

Poetry: (Guest Edited by Jason Koo)

Madeleine Barnes | In Harmonium
Emily Blair | The Deadly Years
J. Scott Brownlee | Ascension
Falconhead | I Have Set My Face Like Flint or The Misanthrope Goes Into Town
Peter Cole Friedman | The Perfect Phospholipids
Julie Hart | Resting Bitch Face
Tim Kahl | Tasking the Guardian
Christine Kitano | Lesson: Chicken Soup
Debora Kuan| Teen Ghost
Justin Maki | Watch
Derek Mong | An Ordinary Evening in San Francisco
Laura Plaster | Candids
Erin Redfern | Photograph of a Drugged Giraffe
Chris Roberts | What ever happened to the compass?
Sokunthary Svay | At Least Prostitutes Bring Home Money
Ed Toney | The Baptist Growl

Fiction:

Rahad Abir | Johnson Road
Ashley Cowger | Public Access
Emily Kiernan | Enola Gay
Charlie Sterchi | The Running Dog
 

Nonfiction: (Guest Edited by Suzanne Cope)

Robert Boucheron | Snowmelt
Ruth Z. Deming | We Look Out Windows
Sarah Pascarella | Swimming Lessons
Laura Rankin | Natural Neighbors


Translations:

Guillaume Apollinaire | Sadness of a Star | **Rebekah Curry
Javier Etchevarren | Lungs | **Don Bogen
Agustín Lucas | General Flores without Flowers | **Jesse Lee
Kercheval
Dimitra Kotoula | Case Study V (on Ethics) | **Maria Nazos 


Book Reviews:

Lowell Levant | A Poet Drives a Truck: Poems by and about Lowell A. Levant | review by Thomas Dukes
Michele Battiste | Uprising | review by Kayla Haas

**Indicates Translators

Madeleine Barnes

Madeline Barnes 2Madeleine Barnes is a writer and designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who received a B.H.A. from Carnegie Mellon University.  She will complete her MFA in creative writing at New York University this year.  You can find her poems in YEW Journal, Pleiades, The Rattling Wall, Jai-Alai, North Central Review, Plain China, and in her chapbook (2013).  She was recently named an emerging writer by the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series.

 

In Harmonium

I remember when I met you, you were timid houndstooth.
Incorruptible and incompatible with me.
Now I wonder if that sweetness is reclaimable,
latent in pulse of months past. Floor it. I need
to recite every lyrical consequence of speed.

It is a spyglass, spotless, unconquerable.
Scream into the glass. All is undecided.
I reread your letter and think that your dimensions
have altered so much that you are barely cursive,
barely the forest untangling as you were before

leaves covered my eyes to close them I’m sorry
but whatever. Overflow into me anyway,
into the all-morning, ever-so-slightly turned soil.
I know you want to be understood but a bonfire
scours the response you can endure.

Sarah Pascarella

Sarah Pascarella is a Boston-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Travelers’ Tales, The Boston Globe, and USA Today, among other publications. She has a Master’s in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Her novel, The Virgin Mary Hotline, is available via Kindle and Nook. She is currently at work on her second novel.

 

Swimming Lessons

Here’s what it feels like when you drown. At first, you flail. The body will try anything to get to the surface. It’s harder, of course, when you are inverted, when you’re not sure how to right yourself so your nostrils can be taking in air and not filling with water; it’s harder when inner tubes are locked around your hips, restricting your legs from breaking free; and it’s hardest, most of all, when strong adult arms are holding you beneath the surface, arms that have you entwined in such a full-body choke hold that you know, as you futilely try to thrash and free yourself from the grips of hands and tubes, that your seven years were too brief, and that it’s not your fault you perished so young, done in by the genes that kept you short, unable to stand in the deep end of the pool; done in by the genes that made you related to this man, your uncle, making his annual visit from California, who now keeps you submerged; done in by the genes that coursed through all of the maternal sides’ blood and bones, the genes that couldn’t resist just another drink, then another, and another, so when your seven-year-old voice says to your inebriated elder, “You can’t catch me, I’m in the pool and you’re in the yard”, you understand too late that you have thrown down a challenge, perhaps even a dare, and that these in fact have, become your last words, an unwitting invitation for the man to throw his beer bottle to the ground, scale the wall of the above-ground pool, fully clothed and shod, to prove you wrong.

You don’t die, of course.

Your uncle wasn’t that drunk, but you still find yourself surprised at how long being dunked felt, how your small body was convinced—convinced!—of its imminent demise. Growing up as the eldest of three sisters, you’ve led a bookish existence, free of roughhousing, wrestling, or really any physical altercation or athletic exertion that you assume would be part and parcel of growing up with boys. Your uncle had seven brothers in addition to his four sisters and perhaps knew nothing but physicality—and even without the addition of booze, you might have been treated this way, even if you had both been casually and calmly swimming together, side by side, with no apparent provocation.

You remember the “drowning”, for lack of a better word, and the chatter leading up to the moments under the water, clearly and distinctly, more than 25 years later. What came after: Wet sneakers left out to dry on the back porch, captured in a photograph. Industrial-sized trash bags full of cans and bottles clinking as your parents hauled them out to the curb. A refusal to speak to your uncle for the rest of his visit, even going so far as to leave the room if he entered. Your parents not asking him to leave, per se, but not forcing you to interact with him, either. Until it was time for him to leave, to go back to California.

“You’re really not going to say goodbye?” your mother says. “You need to part on good terms.”

So at seven you realize that you can have an adversary, and that the adversary can be your elder, and your flesh and blood. You understand that, despite what transpired, you must show respect to one you think no longer deserves it. You acknowledge—to yourself—that you have to play the waiting game, a long game, before you alone dictate the company you keep.

You realize this as you cross the room to kiss your uncle goodbye. The steps are surreally slow, like moving underwater. A smirk tugs at his lips and tightens his eyes, the same expression he wore when he taunted you, outside the pool. This time, though, you don’t flail. You hold your breath. You kiss his cheek, scratchy with day-old stubble. And then, as though kicking off the wall after a lap, you burst away, all your limbs working fine now and fast, and as you move out to the yard, down the street, down the block, and keep going, you fill your lungs over and again with great gulps of delicious air.

Derek Mong

derek mongDerek Mong is the author of Other Romes (Saturnalia Books, 2011); the poetry editor at Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, & Translation; and a doctoral candidate at Stanford where he’s finishing a dissertation on Whitman and Dickinson. A former Axton Poetry Fellow at the University of Louisville and Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, he now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and son. New poetry, criticism, and translations have appeared (or will soon appear) in the Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, Printer’s Devil Review, Laurel Review, Chariton Review, Lunch Ticket, American Literary Review, and Gettysburg Review. He can be reached at www.derekmong.com.

 

An Ordinary Evening in San Francisco

Goodnight children my kid met at the playground.
Your pajamas wait like starfish on your small beds back home.
Goodnight street sweeper, hugging

every odd-numbered hillside. Goodnight
tomcats, marching from the Marina to the moon.
We are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

Tonight the lit windows only lead
to better lives and other windows. They spread
out like the cell signals shooting through this night air.

Goodnight strobing cyclist, cyclops in the near-
darkness. Goodnight bald man counting out bus fare for his son.
We are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

And now the dealers disappear
into their nondescript hoodies; and their dead friend
drinks the cognac they left him on the curb.

We carry this evening to a back booth
at Tosca; we drink Irish coffee and sketch out bus routes,
long as tablecloths, to anywhere we’d call home.

The bartender sees himself in the table he’s wiping
but still hasn’t noticed that we’ve stolen his miniature spoon.
We are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

We leave and start walking. We say goodnight
to the smartphones swimming upstream like salmon.
Goodnight umbrellas, jostling for your six feet of dry air.

We crowd into a BART car that breathes underwater
and feel our eardrums dissolve. My son sees this crush
of bodies as a chance to try counting. We tell him

we are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

Julie Hart

Originally from Minnesota, Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in Five Quarterly, Denim Skin, PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Floor Plan Journal, and at juliehartwrites.com.

Resting Bitch Face

My face no longer settles into smile
I want but cannot turn it upside down
It feels too much like simple-minded guile
Genetically it is the Cooney frown.

It’s not that I am angry or judgmental
Accusing you of things you didn’t do
Authentic’s not the same as sentimental
I’ll smile when you say something that is true.

I can’t police my face to make you happy
My mind is busy thinking my own thoughts
It’s not my job to fix you when you’re crappy
Your narcissism’s showing and self-doubt.

Not sweet like sugar but like cinnamon
Won’t candy-coat your bitterness again.

J. Scott Brownlee

J. Scott Brownlee is a poet from Llano, Texas. His work appears widely and includes the chapbook Highway or Belief, which won the 2013 Button Poetry Prize, as well as Ascension, which won the 2014 Robert Phillips Poetry Prize. His first full-length collection, Requiem for Used Ignition Cap, was selected by C. Dale Young as the winner of the 2015 Orison Poetry Prize. He is a founding member of The Localists, a literary collective that emphasizes place-based writing of personal witness, cultural memory, and the aesthetically marginalized working class, both in the United States and abroad. A former Writers in the Public Schools Fellow at NYU, he currently lives in Brooklyn.

 

Ascension

JSBrownleePoetry_Ascension

Peter Cole Friedman

Peter Friedman Peter Cole Friedman is a poet and visual artist based in Brooklyn. Recent work has appeared in espresso ink vi, Queen Mobs Teahouse, and Imperial Matters. He is co-founder and -editor of the virtual literary and arts publication glitterMOB.

 

The Perfect Phospholipids

When my hair is visibly nourished
it is not a mistake
it is something beautiful
I am doing for you
like when I protect you
against heat-damage
or color-fading
with glowing results

& when you touch my
cooling cucumber
& suck the
energizing ginseng
out of me
it is something beautiful
for both of us
as if we were ingredients
in the same anti-aging
neuropeptide complex

& it is something beautiful
& organic when we hold hands
& you feel the
avocado oil & shea butter &
1000% daily value
of vitamin E formulated
to smooth out
my complexion

& when we kiss
it is something beautiful
swapping our
methyl gluceth-20 &
polysilicone
with our
reduced-fat saliva
fragrant with
natural extracts of
orange blossoms &
ripe cherries
natural extracts of
cocoa &
bouqets of peonies
natural extracts of
lavender & rose
& mango flower
& mojito & morning dew
& cantaloupe & sugar cookie

& with no added colors or preservatives
we will remain something beautiful
with less than 1% of
pectin & riboflavin
sulfates & nitrates
to improve
shine & texture
softness & manageability
radiance & shelf-life
with less than 1% of
parabens & phthalates
to lock in moisture
just in case we have an off day
& miss a step in the 3-step system
& forget our t-zones
& break out
& let ourselves go
&—

no.
we will remain something beautiful.
it is not a mistake.

 

April 17, 2014

My baby bump is the size of capitalism
and my capitalism is the size of my bikini body.
America, my selfie says I want to
look like Kate Middleton. My selfie says guess who
has become a dad for the second time?
Spoiler alert: It’s a big name.
America, you’re right, nothing can’t be fixed
with a little Kris Jenner.
I put a dollop of Kris Jenner on my credit card debt.
I put a dollop of Kris Jenner on my Ted Cruz.
It was delish, btw.
“An eggs benedict situation with truffled chanterelles.”
Source: The National Enquirer, 8 minutes ago.
You’ll never guess who picked me up at the airport.
Spoiler alert: it’s a big name.
America, I have feelings, and they have
a way of becoming other things.
Is this the you in me?
Tiffany Legacy® ring in platinum with
a green tourmaline
and diamonds, $5,200.
My feelings come in just three
easy payments with a Bellini.
My feelings get matching tattoos
with your feelings.
America, let’s return to Brentwood after our Dubai getaway.
Spoiler alert: It is too cold in First Class.
You’ll never guess what we had in our private jet:
“The Biggest Beauty Secrets Ever!”
Source: The Star, 1 minute ago.