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Two Poems by Mark Sullivan

Reading The Illiad


The sons of the sons of the sons
go on fighting the sons of the sons of other sons
or even the same sons
and it is forever and it is now
in these lines with their long vowels we will only hear
in echoes in the names we learned as children
for cartoonish gods and tender parts of our own
anatomy—a rubbery tug in back of the ankle—
but still the language surviving
improbably down these thousands of years
to this early spring morning with some of its trees
slipping new leaves through light wind
and the bare locust still black and unmoving
as the Styx, as the river
of absence.  And the killing surviving
within that unmoving river of language
we enter at any point
to find the filthy darkness cowling across
an almost anonymous pair of eyes, the bronze armor
leadening to earth as though death
entered us first as speech, as though it were given
to us at birth with these signs
we cluster out of the air or trace so carefully
over ruled lines.  So that it lives in us
as a precision or practice, with the clouded
exactness of memory,
and we grow toward it
as if the river should flow to its source,
or as when a tree, some giant fir, falls
on a mountainside after a blizzard has fastened
over its branches—the wind grinds it
until the great roots start to shiver—and the snow
once weighting the branches resurrects in a cloud
that seconds the storm, that bodies the air.

Sleep Disorder


The edges filling in
like a city that’s sinking,

a city that’s been lost
to its own element
and has found another,

less hospitable but not
out of the question.  And when
the doctor shone the spectrum

directly into my eye
I could see

the capillaries forking lightning
about the retina,
shredding up the blood sky.

For days the images
reversing themselves back there

had been puckering away
from the center
like spacetime sinkholing

near a massive planet.  Afterwards,
walking through Koreatown,

dodging in the shadows
because all light pained,

up-to-down signs
in a language of keyholes,

places for dumplings and
little bowls of sea-tasting cabbage—

you put it in your mouth
because any wave runs till it breaks.

Theater Review: The Tempest by Unseam’d Shakespeare

The Tempest, or the Enchanted Isle. By William Shakespeare, John Dryden, and William Davenant, adapted by Scott Palmer. Directed by Michael Hood. With Ron Siebert, Colleen Pulawski, Claire Chapelli, Nicholas Browne, Nick Benninger, Thomas Constantine Moore, Jennifer Tober, Kevin Donohue, Brett Sullivan Santry, Charles Beikert, Michael Perrotta, Marc Epstein, Connor McCanlus, Andrew Miller. Unseam’d Shakespeare Co. June 13 through 29. Studio Theater, University of Pittsburgh (basement of Cathedral of Learning).

Reviewed by Arlene Weiner

Even before the lights dimmed for Unseam’d Shakespeare’s The Tempest, or the Enchanted Isle, the scenery prepared us for a charming and tongue-in-cheek performance: A gaily painted faux proscenium and footlights, rows of curling waves, flats representing tropical palms and horrid caves.“This is not Shakespeare’s play,” director Michael Hood warned us in the program.

Shakespeare Improved was the title of a 1920s collection of Shakespearean plays presented in Restoration times. How improved? Change the ending, add rhyme, sentimentalize, do whatever you care to. The Restoration era in England was the return of the repressed, with a vengeance. The Puritan Parliament had closed the theaters in 1642, had executed King Charles, and had ruled for more than a decade. When, after civil war, the Stuart king Charles II came to the throne, the atmosphere was libertine and frothy, and the restored stage was too. Why, women’s roles were taken by women!

Unseam’d Shakespeare previously presented John Dryden’s All for Love, a classicized tragedy imitating Antony and Cleopatra. (Disclosure: For a time I was on Unseam’d Shakespeare’s board.) Dryden “reformed” Shakespeare’s play by concentrating the action in time and place—Dryden knew Aristotle’s rules. But that came later. This Tempest is another kettle of fish. It may remind you of Gilbert and Sullivan. The adaptors and the director are out to maximize the fun and farce, and they wink and nod and camp it up from the moment that Ron Siebert as Prospero steps over the cardboard waves and pretends not to know his lines. Which is not to say that they throw Shakespeare into the trash. No, you will hear Shakespeare’s glorious language, particularly the songs (with contemporary music composed by David Martynuik), sung by a graceful, campy Ariel (Kevin Donohue). You will see the comedy of the low characters, wonderfully funny in the performance. It’s just that Davenant et al. admired Shakespeare’s conceptions so much that they couldn’t get enough of them. Did Shakespeare’s Tempest have an innocent young woman who has never seen a young man? Well, then, let’s have TWO such young women. And let’s have a young man who has never seen a woman. (Why not? He’s been imprisoned in a rock for his whole life.) Do you like Caliban, the morally and physically repugnant half-human in Shakespeare’s Tempest? Let’s give him an equally lecherous (and nearly nude) sister! And let’s make the most of the opportunities these new characters give us for smutty pursuits!

The large cast (three of whom are Equity actors) and the technical crew are excellent. Unseam’d Shakespeare’s Tempest was an entertaining evening.
_____

The Why Jar

by Publius

Debbie came to work with her sweater tied around her waist. For that, she got a letter of reprimand from the principal. Debbie is beautiful, Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern, and extraordinarily competent after only two years on this job. So, of course, the principal hates her. But she doesn’t ask why.

I miss The Why Jar. Lenny Gates used to keep The Why Jar. But, sadly, it is a custom that has, like so many great customs, fallen into disuse.

When I first began at this school, everyone had to put a quarter into The Why Jar every time someone asked a why-question, a how-question, or tried to use logic when confronted with absurdity. For example, one might ask, “Why am I making two copies of lesson plans nobody reads?” There’s a quarter for The Why Jar. Or, “How am I supposed to answer the vice-principal when she says, Don’t forget – What was it? – you’ll remember then remind me”? Cha-ching goes The Why Jar. Sometimes you can compound a Why Jar Violation, like “Why do they make announcements before school? How are the kids supposed to act on that announcement when some of them are not even off the bus yet? Here’s what they need to do …”. Such a compound cost Sullivan about sixteen bucks one lunch. Art The Art Teacher just drops-in a saw-buck every once in a while, this for violations he makes while ranting to himself. At the end of the year, we treat ourselves to lunch. I think the year we started state testing, we treated ourselves to The Ritz.

Speaking of the state test, rumor has it that The Great State is opting out of No Child Left Behind! Instead, there will be a leaving exam created by the state. This does give rise to consideration of Publius’ Third Law Of Educational Dynamics — A bad idea in motion tends to stay in motion until it is acted upon by another bad idea. Nonetheless, there is some cause for celebration.

I’m also a little worried about the loss of material for my blogs. Some folks are inspired by beauty. I’m inspired by absurdity. That said, beauty comes and goes, but absurdity is forever. I’m actually somewhat comforted by my wife’s notion that “We live in a stupid state,” because there will always be fresh material. And we do live in a stupid state. I thank Jesus for Arkansas and Alabama, because that’s the only reason my state comes in 48th on most shit lists.

On a brighter note, the School Board and the City Council today are honoring our basketball team for being State Champions. I’m also touched by the comment of one sports reporter, who notes how polite our kids are. And it’s true — they clean-up real good. It’s nice to have something unequivocally good to celebrate.

Speaking of good news, I just heard that Valerie this year graduates from Howard, and is going to Georgetown law school next year. I almost cried when her mother emailed me the news. I taught Valerie in 7th grade. That middle school had all the sadness, indeed tragedy, of a Black ghetto school in America. Three of her classmates were killed in drive-bys. One got killed when her older sister was driving 90 down Lakeside Boulevard. But Valerie made it to law school. And her old teacher almost cried. Why? Because today I didn’t need to ask why I do this job.

_____

Theater Review: Zanna, Don’t!

reviewed by Dylan Jesse

Zanna, Don’t!. By Tim Acito and Alexander Dinelaris. Directed by Robert C.T. Steele. Musical Direction by Harry Jamison. A production of the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre. Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial Hall, Univeristy of Pittsburgh Oakland campus. February 14 through March 3, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM. Sunday Matinees at 2PM.

Pittsburgh in the last bitter throes of winter is not known for the kind of vivid color and unbridled exuberance that Zanna, Don’t!, the Off Broadway hit by Tim Acito and Alexander Dinelaris, brings to the stage in the current production by the Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre. And I, for one, am grateful that it does. Zanna, Don’t! walks a fine (and fantastic) line between a whimsical drama of troubled high-school romances and the deeply heavy issue of intolerance in a culturally-inverted world where chess-team captains are school sex symbols and the most shocking thing imaginable is a heterosexual kiss scene in the school play. No, Zanna, Don’t! is not a subtle exploration of these themes but the points that it makes are not only timely but timeless. With a run time of an hour and forty minutes (done without intermission, no less), Zanna, Don’t! is a lively and blistering musical production that charges straight into the questions of what it means to fall in love in a time and place that rigidly proscribes what is and is not an acceptable expression of what the heart desires.

The world of Zanna, Don’t! is something of a photo-negative reflection of small-town American adolescence re-done in sequins and Technicolor. Set in the halls and hangouts of Heartsville High, the play follows the lives of students in a world where same-sex pairings are not only the norm, but the only thinkable option. The school DJ, Tank (played with incredible energy by Jay Garcia) reminds everyone, “Girls grab your girl, and guys grab your guy,” as the play begins with an upbeat number that introduces one of the most memorably over-the-top characters on the whole production: Zanna (played magnetically by Rocky Paterra). Zanna is part fairy godmother in lightning-patterned fuchsia pants, part magic wand wielding cupid in a gold-fringed jacket (complete with wings, of course). In this Gilbert and Sullivan-esque world where the marginalized have become the mainstream, Zanna is the incessantly optimistic magical match-maker. The score, it should be noted, is flawlessly delivered by a live group of musicians up center stage under the sharp leadership of conductor and pianist Harry Jamison. The music itself is a suitably vivacious mix of ’50s and ’70s pop-influenced numbers that keep the whole production clipping along through the uninterrupted run time.

Music aside, Zanna finds himself entangled in a slew of romantic shake-ups, not the least of which is his quest to light a fire in the hearts of the bashful school heart-throb (due to his standing as chess team captain, of course) Mike (played by Ethan Miller) and the new boy in school (and lowly football quarterback) Steve (played by Aric Berning). Among the moments to watch out for with these two are a scene at a Heartsville High football game wherein (through a novel use of strobe lighting) Steve in all of his pink-sequined uniformed glory wins the game with a touchdown by catching his own pass, and the locker room scene afterward where Zanna and Tank conspire (with several comically frustrated attempts) to make the two swoon with the power of a well-timed radio request. The comedic abilities of the cast as a whole are not to be under-rated: between the cheeky writing and the just-too-much nature of a musical about high-school romance, the cast delivers an energetic performance that keeps the audience laughing while challenging the authority of socially-informed notions of right and wrong regarding sexual orientation. And when else are you going to see a world in which a high school has a competitive mechanical bull-riding team (and I might be showing my ignorance here, but is that a thing?), and it is firmly seated at the apex of female social structure?

The social critique comes to a real head when Mike, our dreamy chess team captain, proposes a new play for the school musical—one that dares to ask the question of whether straights should be allowed in the military. In his words, “If musical theatre doesn’t address important issues, what will?” Just one in a slew of subverted expectations, the question itself provides the vehicle whereby this play gains its strongest and most culturally relevant grounds. It should be noted here that new boy Steve’s two dads are both generals in the army, and they are certain to be in attendance. Steve is faced with the most daunting and controversial aspect of the performance: an actual, real-life, on-stage heterosexual kiss. In the world of Zanna, Don’t!, the military is still a staunchly conservative (read: homo-normative) culture, and this is where we really start to see the fruits of the play’s often reductionist social inversions.

In our own world, it has only been since September 20th, 2011, that the federal law banning openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals (known as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, or DADT) was done away with. And still we read stories in the news about organizations like the Boy Scouts of America prohibiting openly homosexual men and boys from joining their ranks. As progressive as we may think our society to be, the threat of discrimination based on sexual orientation is not a thing of the past—it is terrifyingly real and often much more than just a threat. The power of this production is its ability (both through the writing and the abilities of the actors under the keen directorial eye of Robert C.T. Steele) to present its audience with a context that affords even the most comfortably heterosexual audience member with a much-needed “what-if” lesson in empathic understanding. In the world on stage, the opposite-sex kiss inevitably leads to an off-stage romance between Steve and his female counter-part (played by Liz Dooley), one which they try their best to in turn ignore, deny, hide, then embrace as they plan to escape to that great shining bastion of heterosexuality: San Francisco.

I would love to tell you how all of it ends, but that not only ruins the fun, it is beside the point. The point is the message: that love is love no matter who feels it; that the heart wants what it wants apropos of no one’s approval; that football uniforms could seriously use some more sparkle. The Pitt Repertory Theatre’s production of Zanna, Don’t! more than meets the challenge of a musical performance that is as demanding on its actors as it is rewarding to its audience. What’s more, the Pitt Repertory Theatre is partnering with area GLBT organizations like PFLAG, GLSEN, and Persad to host after-show community discussions to address issues concerning not just the GLBT community, but everyone who knows that love is something we all share, even if we do not always share it with each other.

_____

The Meeting

by Publius

I couldn’t come up with any actual reason why I shouldn’t go to the faculty meeting. I’m healthy, of sound mind, and have no pressing engagements.

The only serious agenda, at least at my table, was why Mr. Gates has a bra hanging in a tree just outside his classroom’s window. It’s just out of reach, and, for that reason, will remain there for the life of the tree. We ask, and he just responds, “Don’t ask.” Thus are we forced to turn to the meeting’s actual agenda.

The meeting’s topic is “The High Quality Learning Environment.” We’re told that we must address the question, “What does learning look like?”

Each table is to discuss, and put on a chart, various aspects of “The High Quality Learning Environment”. Scintillating topics such as Teacher Interaction With Students, Expectations Of Learning, and Regulation Of Instruction. My gang drew Topic #4, The Planning, Managing And Measuring Of Transitions. We have twenty minutes until we are to share.

Mr. North suggests we begin by joining hands and singing “Kumbaya.” My immediate response is, ‘Well, I’m senior teacher at this table, so my teaching environment from here on is pretty much summarized by simply saying, Fuck All. You folks are going to have to …’. My buddies give me that “Oh, hell no!” thing, and elect me group spokesman.

Our next response is some minutes of numbed silence. Then Sullivan asks, “What, in the name of Sweet Jesus, is a managed transition?”

‘I think it’s something like foreplay. I think we should discuss the planning, managing and measuring of foreplay.’ At which point everyone ignores me, their leader. We’re to outline our response to # 4 on a large sheet of paper, and present this, in ten minutes now, to our colleagues. So respond we do.

The paper is three feet long. Our actual responses look a little measly —

have an agenda
sequential symmetry
remind kids of the time
remember to remind kids to work

Since I’m to do the presenting in like seconds now, my first question is, ‘What is sequential symmetry?’

Gates says, “It means do the first thing first, the second thing second, the third thing, and make sure the second thing is harder than the first, the third harder than the second, and like that. Sequential symmetry is the latest in teacher jargon.”

‘We actually have a term for this? We don’t have a term for when some wanker leaves one square of toilet paper on the old roll, and thinks this relieves him of his duty to go get a whole new roll. But we get sequential symmetry?’ But mostly I’m worried that I’m expected to present a chart full of mostly nothing.

So I say to Sullivan, ‘We need like, you know, words or something. I don’t mean words that mean anything, just teacher words. Like sequential symmetry. People are expecting me to say, you know, words. I’m the spokesman for # 4. Wait. I got it — put this on the chart. Anticipatory preparation in advance of intermediate assessment and articulation. That sounds transitional, right? Anticipatory preparation in advance of intermediate assessment and articulation? Yea. Put it up on the chart.’

Sullivan refuses to have her name associated with any of this.

When finally I hear, “Number Four. The Planning, Managing And Measuring Of Transitions.”

‘That’s, ah, that’s us. Me. OK, planning, managing and measuring transitions. First, the teacher needs an agenda.’ Which garners me blank stares from the entire faculty. Then I say, ‘Second, an instructor needs sequential symmetry.’ More blank stares. At which point I forget how Gates just explained sequential symmetry. So I add, ‘Sequential symmetry is defined as an anticipatory preparation in advance of intermediate assessment and articulation.’ I quickly finish, without elaboration, the last two points.

I’d like to say everybody laughed. My buddies laughed. Sullivan almost peed. But folks just stared. Some of the young teachers took notes.

The meeting went on to # 5, The Performance And Assessment Of Non-Verbal Duties.

_____

Volume 05: Summer 2009

Be Drunken

by Charles Baudelaire
Translated from the French by Charles Bernstein

Be always drunk. That’s all: that’s the only question.
So not to feel the horrific heaviness of Time weighing on
your shoulders, crushing you to ground, you must be drunken
ceaselessly.

But on what? On wine, on poetry or on virtue, in your
fashion. But drunken be.

And if sometime, on palace steps, on the green grass by an
abyss, in mournful solitude in your room, if sometime you
awake, drunkenness dimmed or done, ask of the wind, of the
wave, of the star, of the bird, of the clock, of all that
flees, of all that wails, of all that roils, of all that
sings, of all that speaks, ask what hour it is and the
wind, the wave, the bird, and the clock will answer: “It is
the hour to get drunk! So not to be the slavish martyr of
Time, be drunken; be drunken without stopping! On wine, on
poetry or on virtue, in your fashion.”

 

1945

by Helen Conkling

The war in Europe is over.
Russians met Americans
on the bridge across the Elbe
and it is over.

I have seen pictures in LIFE
of bodies burned at Gardelegen.

I have read about captured girls my age
that Nazis kept in brothels.

The Mona Lisa will return to the Louvre.

My father in his chair
beside the lamp reads the news.

Now children who asked, “Will bombs fall on us?”
can look at the sky without fear.

Stretched on the floor, I am reading PERSUASION.
Mother has put a cake in the oven, chocolate.
She’ll call us to come taste it.

The globe of the world my father found
in a second-hand store has been installed, a glass globe
with a light inside and only one flaw,
a crack running from the North Pole to Madagascar.

Crickets are singing under the open windows.
A warm evening with dusk slowly falling.
The globe shines in the dark beside the bookcase.

 

Remembering The Brownstone

by Jo McDougall

I want the ring of its iron steps,
ten or eight of them, under my feet—
the paint banished,
the banister not quite secure,
the city stuttering around me
like a homeless wind.
I want to hurry up those steps again,
through the double oak dark doors
tall and heavy as God,
want to enter the rooms greeting me like strangers—
aloof, always on the verge of leaving,
shrugging into their polite coats.

 

Exile

by Aleš Debeljak
translated from Slovenian by Andrew Zawacki and the author

Like lover’s juice spat
by a woman for hire, they’re driven by
desperate, radiant light, far away
down the deserted plains,
to columns of people traveling, tired,
past the ruins of town hall
and the cathedral, past walls
that barely differ from the stones themselves
covered by moss, past the meadows
where trespass is not allowed.
Crossing the former trenches,
the weakest among them
had seen the towers of smoke rising
from camp fires under the forest line.
Their translucent eyes reflect
only shadows of clouds gliding over
the narrow trails they’re walking
down, they conjure pastures
and fertile valleys, moments of sheer delight,
they dream of large estates, expertly manicured.
Water sources camouflaged by the coarse
facade of rocks, they stand at the edge
of a steep ravine that flats their echo out,
like a blasé god with slack fists,
and dazed. Keep their eyes closed,
on a fragile crag they slough their jackets,
patched together of rough flax, and lie down
on their backs, in comfort, vests slither
over their heads, their trousers over their ankles
drop to a quivering pile. Naked
under familiar gray, in the narrow
funnel of mountains they see it,
for the last time: these drugged women
and children, with faces of stillborn
animals, the big moon above, a small
village below, and me—we all need to know why.

 

The Sun Stands Still

by Miranda Field

Who what where when why
in the dark dark dark dark dark broken-boiler
night would I suddenly start up
thinking of you, happiness?
Equestrian frost-shapes send your empty-handed mute messengers
riding straight at the glass.
Snow replaces
obvious fake snow, spray-on snow, Styrofoam.
Lacy soft unlatched fish scales and cabbage-white wings nostalgically
settle on gargoyles outside.
Three dimensions, including happiness, glitter under
ice.

 

Loneliest Parakeet

by Miranda Field

One less tenant,
white onion-dome cage, one caught soul flown. Rained on
funeral rituals (humming, nettles brushing shoulders) give gravediggers
crud to shovel.
Residual breast-feathers
drift through room with faint shit-like odor of cigar smoke.
So the widower experiences parthenogenesis:
Blue-green faces/faces/faces in facing mirrors-with-bells: motionless, mute colony.
I replace what the Thief steals every several seasons,
flickers, bubbles, dew.
Children christen newest body-double “Cherry Blossom.”
Cherry Blossom stiffens near
bride/groom. Uncostumed,
everyone adheres to his/her twig, biding time, wondering—
edible, loveable, lethal?
Autumn leaves, these fly-by-night loves.

 

Haunted House

by Miranda Field

Knock-knock—
who’s there?—
You Know Who—
You Know Who wh—!

No more fire-opal October light.
Coq-a-l’anes
twist-tied to neglected dollar store
cobwebs—slow-decomposing leaf hammocks,
cradles of plastic skulls long ago
glow-in-the-dark,
graves of fairy lights, paper hearts, sparklers, solstice-markers
now unglittery, lately unelectric—
one misfit roof tile acting alone might tear all decorations down
and toneless skeleton-tree operettas hound again.
Even in struck dumb snout and dusty ears cocked
spider handiwork.
Tell me again, how came we to live with candelabra antlers,
glass eyed mortuary beauty spellbinding
our hallway?
We never understood clocks,
so hung a head where the clock belonged.
Mama, did you deaden that deer? Distraction did, dear—
he crashed through the wall and just sleeps there. Till real suns rise

and shine him up come spring.

 

Blue Afternoon: The Middle Distance

by Anne Haines

I need more light now
than when I was young,

holding books at that middle distance
to let bifocals do their work.

As a result I find myself,
when I look up from the page,

gazing unfocused into something
I can’t quite see the name for.

It takes a moment, now, to make the shift
from close detail, from the word,

to whatever’s out the window.
Summer at the beach, I am rapt

with distance, book on the sand
beside me while I stare and stare

not at the lace of waves or shells
that wash in and drift back out

a few times before depositing themselves
quietly below the tideline,

but at the blue on blue horizon
line, the faint haze

that obscures the farthest ships,
the Boston skyline I saw once

on the clearest afternoon,
or thought I did. I stare

at nothing with a form,
at a whisper, at a fade

from blue to gray to duller
blue then blue again.

I don’t know what it is I think
I see but there is plenty of it,

this light, every light, the long
blue afternoon, my eyes at rest

past the struggle of the middle
distance, past the insect words

that quiver on the page, past
everything but light and light

itself, beyond the blurred horizon
and all the visible names of things.

 

Jebby Eldon

by Clyde Kessler

I found Jebby Eldon drowning
and fished him out crazy like sand
scuffed into wood. A year later
he plays music at Midkiff’s Bar,
plays jazz that scrambles pale smoke
into some wild, clanky riffs.

Sometimes he helps me load the barge
or takes his old mutt hound hunting
grouse on his daddy’s farm, where birds
fly out like pine needles in a devil breeze,
and blue lizards rustle across a rock bluff
like fossils chiseled from midair.

Jebby shoots nothing, just laughs
along the lake fence where he should be dead.
He tells me a young albino owl has pulled
its wings from a pine knot, has fringed
all its howling into another man’s life.
Jebby says I shoulda left him water-logged.

 

The Capehill Barge

by Clyde Kessler

I float some cars to the island.
Jebby says they’ll be the last
ridden across Capehill’s
flat crater pig path, moonlight
frizzing into snow and pumice.

The barge stays cold tonight
and its shaky steel has flowered
against Old Moody’s Landing
like a rusty package swapped
for some stars and music.

But Jebby sings his money
and I sing some crablegs and brew,
a sour breezy comfort with our haul,
with all these trembled beach cabins
paled for another night’s Christmas.

 

The Prize Bull

by Clyde Kessler

Hobey and Jebby raced one night,
caught the slant of a roof, and flew
their dirt bikes past Ruben Coyle’s
prize bull. They yelped like fools
haunted by the deepest, coldest mud
sunk in a thaw. And the bull roughed
at them like a tank, knocked Hobey
against a fence post, bounced Jebby
two flips against a cattle guard.

I laughed three days after I patched them.
Made their eyes look like one slow twitching
burl-knot hating sunlight. They slumped
to Betty’s house, and she laughed, too—said
the air won’t breathe itself without some jokes,
and here’s two fine ones, joined in their bruises.
I hear the boys done raced again on Coyle’s land.
I hear the bull has started goring shadows.

 

Telemachus

Das Gemach meines Vaters öffnete sich zweimal,
hob dann auf Flügeln ab.
Ich bin die Sirene, Vater&mash;
Du der Schall.
Gegen die Stille—Wundsporen.
Ein Schrei
kann die Grabenwand nicht durchdringen.
Er wird,
er wird benannt,
er wird Stein genannt.

(in translation) by Scott Minar and Thomas Piontek

My father’s room opened twice,
then wing-lifted.
I am the Siren, father—
you, the sound.
Against stillness—wound spores.
A cry
cannot penetrate the rift-wall.
It is,
it is named,
it is named stone.

 

Herr Antschel

Mit Deinem
Übersetzerhandbuch—
eine gekerbte Rippe,
eine gekrümmte Schaufel.

Dein Talmud beinah
ein Augenlid.

Auf der Veranda, das fast Gesagte
gefüllt
mit Schweigen.

Der Wortköder
abdriftend.

Du hast mich hierher geführt
als die Hoffnung dahinschwand.
Wohin wurde ich sonst gahin?
Wohin wurde ich sonst gahin?

(in translation) by Scott Minar and Thomas Piontek

With your
translator’s book—
a notched rib,
a kneed shovel.

Your Talmud half
like an eyelid.

On the porch, your almost-mouthed,
filled
with silence.

The wordbait
drifting.

You led me here
as hope withered.
Where else would I go?
Where else would I go?

 

Außerdem

Wenn der Schatten den Schnee beschichtet
bedecke ihn
verschleire die Entfurnungen,
schließ die Lücke.


Wenn der Vogel sich im Dezember schüttelt,
Wie stark er ist!
Wie dunkelhell
die Welt.

(in translation) by Scott Minar and Thomas Piontek

When the shadow surfaces the snow
cover it—
cover its distances,
close the gap.

December’s bird-shaking.
How strong it is!
How darkbright
the world.

 

Six Days of Snow

by Elizabeth Onusko

Push aside the screen door and see
strata upon strata of snow.
Notice the elemental shifts in light,
a palette of backlit whites
lined with blue-gray
where each snowfall stopped
and the next started,
a dutiful record of its own making.

It is the laying on of snow upon sleep,
upon bulbs put there by hands,
upon tunnels through soil
and the breathing fur within them.
Snow laying itself down upon sleeping you,

a sleep not solved by light.
You through whom light fell
onto me. That was how
it happened once.
Light fell through you,
and I came awake.

 

Jason With Me at the Zoo

by Liz Rosenberg

The summer night is radiantly cool. You’d have liked it.
You’d have loved the chili-pepper of the rose,
white daisies at the zoo, the shell’s roseate innards,
the orangey scarlet ibis picking his lit way along the wood-chip path
and penguins flittering through the pond like bats.
“Flying is a kind of swimming,” someone wrote;
but swimming is a kind of flying, too,
and you were a mighty swimmer, but
now you hold so still where you lie nailed to the ground,
your eyes up against the pine, your beautiful jaw uptilted
like a man who can’t get enough of gazing at the stars
spangled across the summer sky
so that he tightly shuts his lids and will not open them again.

 

God’s Leash

by Liz Rosenberg

God’s leash is on me.
The last time I touched you it seemed
you were already more than halfway his.
I did not believe
you would outlast the night.
You said goodbye in the hospital corridor,
as if you might still, somehow, shake off the holy collar
like a priest laying down his robe.
You stumbled at the door
as full of running sores as Job.
Perhaps you were on your way somewhere
you wanted to be
when G-d said heel and dragged you to shore.

 

The Bette Davis Mosh

by Maureen Seaton and Neil de la Flor

In the mosh pit even the unluckiest get a chance to dance akimbo. They bring their hands to each other and loofah.

In the mosh pit it’s a burning of our previous body, the one that taught us how to dance in synchronicity.

Hierarchies bicker with lowerarchies. Everything flies by. Everything feels like a boulder on the cheek.

Alignment and spacing are frivolous.

Look! someone says from the fractal edge of the mosh pit which has undergone thousands of iterations and now resembles Bette Davis. Oh, look!

She throws her body into our midst and is divided among us like a steak.

With vengeance she swings softballs into space.

 

Annunciation

by Karen Steinmetz

Aimed where the blue cloak folds away,
revealing a white brow set in carmine,
gliding along stippled lines—It arrives.
You can ordain nothing, forbid nothing.
Your hands, folded, complete an oval, red
as the draped bed in the room behind you,
door ajar to one you cannot name.
You do not see God’s ardent bird.
Each time, a blazing angel hushes you.

 

Threshold

by Karen Steinmetz
for my son

Winter light pours in
over my inward face, my hand at rest,
enormity of my belly, sprigged with flannel buds.
It is three days past your due date.
Your father snaps the photo. What else to do?
Grown so big, I am disappearing.
Dolphin-slippery, you would wake me.
I placed your father’s hand, astonished,
over moving waters; showing off at somersaults,
you had our attention; we dwelled
on you as on a waxing moon.
Now, you curl nautilus-tight, shining.
A child slips in from a red brick building
over there, takes my colored pencils.
Waking, I don’t mind. I want the sea
he’s drawing, flying fish, monsters,
sea horses rocking through salt-spume,
sun not yet fixed in the right hand corner.
Beside the window, the little painting,
your father’s. I will take it with us—greens,
blues, ochre. Body seizing, I will slip
into its disappearing mountains, carded wool clouds,
imagine taking you there.
The midwife’s kind voice will fall away.
Now, the clock’s pendulum tocks, time stopped.
The elevator’s steel cable complains in the chute.
UPS trucks rumble from the depot down the street,
brown-wrapped packages stacked and ready.
We once made a whole. We are waiting
for you now, as if listening for snowfall.

 

Reading The Illiad

by Mark Sullivan

The sons of the sons of the sons
go on fighting the sons of the sons of other sons
or even the same sons
and it is forever and it is now
in these lines with their long vowels we will only hear
in echoes in the names we learned as children
for cartoonish gods and tender parts of our own
anatomy—a rubbery tug in back of the ankle—
but still the language surviving
improbably down these thousands of years
to this early spring morning with some of its trees
slipping new leaves through light wind
and the bare locust still black and unmoving
as the Styx, as the river
of absence. And the killing surviving
within that unmoving river of language
we enter at any point
to find the filthy darkness cowling across
an almost anonymous pair of eyes, the bronze armor
leadening to earth as though death
entered us first as speech, as though it were given
to us at birth with these signs
we cluster out of the air or trace so carefully
over ruled lines. So that it lives in us
as a precision or practice, with the clouded
exactness of memory,
and we grow toward it
as if the river should flow to its source,
or as when a tree, some giant fir, falls
on a mountainside after a blizzard has fastened
over its branches—the wind grinds it
until the great roots start to shiver—and the snow
once weighting the branches resurrects in a cloud
that seconds the storm, that bodies the air.

 

Sleep Disorder

by Mark Sullivan

The edges filling in
like a city that’s sinking,

a city that’s been lost
to its own element
and has found another,

less hospitable but not
out of the question. And when
the doctor shone the spectrum

directly into my eye
I could see

the capillaries forking lightning
about the retina,
shredding up the blood sky.

For days the images
reversing themselves back there

had been puckering away
from the center
like spacetime sinkholing

near a massive planet. Afterwards,
walking through Koreatown,

dodging in the shadows
because all light pained,

up-to-down signs
in a language of keyholes,

places for dumplings and
little bowls of sea-tasting cabbage—

you put it in your mouth
because any wave runs till it breaks.

 

Otavalo Plaza

by Vincent Spina

Subtract the Panamerican heading North
and South, the cobble stone streets leading
from the highway to the Parque Principal
and the grotto of the Virgin,
and the Cross beyond. The Municipio

and Beto’s tienda who sells good wines and fine cheese;
subtract them too. Quiten la iglesia of sorrows
eternos, the Mormon center and store front
Evangelicos strumming guitar passage to Jesus,

the bust of Rumiñauhui, and the legends
of those last Incas.

Take away the loud speakers in the Plaza de Ponchos,
the almuerzos left so the dead loved ones
may eat in the Campo Santo —the Holy Ground.
Take the tourists back to their busses
and the busses back to Quito. Let old mestizos
halt the ancient handball game, played
each dusk at one end of the plaza
in homage to the setting sun. And

the Runakunata anchuchichik with their lives
of looms and corn and dreams of SUV’s.
The simple streams and stones lying in the streams
defining East and West. The rivers who
find rivers who find bays and oceans.

Urkukunata kuyuchichik,
Let the mountains move,
—erase them.

Let the silence of mountains
be erased

that the voice of a woman

—as she gathers the words and the names
of a new song into her basket—
be heard.

 

Anteroom

by Chana Bloch

“I don’t want to alarm you, but . . . . ”
Don’t
but
strikes the eardrum first. And then
that ellipsis
trailing its wake of silence.
What? what?
Tonight you have been detained
in the holding tank of gel and electrodes
where a stylus monitors your quaking.
Again you are made
to repeat your name.
In the hush and babble of the ER
the whitecoats hover and confer.
Lucky you! Not a single positive
this time.
You may go home
to that other life with its soothing clatter,
you’ve rehearsed
the required emotions.

Once again you have passed the test
for the wrong disaster.

 

White Heat

by Chana Bloch

Last Friday a man was struck by lightning.
He lives to tell it:
“My friends heard it strike,
saw smoke rising from my body.
My shoes flew off!”
In the front page photo he looks abashed.
Heat gathers drop by drop till the cloud
cannot contain it. Lightning
sizzles across in a burst of ozone
and the whole sky blanches.
I love the wild brilliance that will not last.
My grandma was afraid of lightning:
“If you feel a storm coming, cover your head
and pray.” Her house in the old country
had a roof of straw.
I don’t believe in the god of lightning
anymore. My house is stucco and wood.
I’m afraid of safety.
When the lights go out
I’m awake at the window,
watching that live wire ignite
the fire of water and air
that can turn us to ash.