Volume 17: Summer 2016

IN THE ARMS OF HIS LATE LOVE

by Adam Day

She buried him to the neck,
a mouth full of dirt, tarred and steam-
rolled asphalt around him. Sat down
sweating from her work to a dish
of pickled sweet breads and chili
basil. He sang a muffled
song: If you were as lonely as the moon
I would gather like the stars around you.
She laughed. He was a funny man.
The wind in the leaves was
like rain; the trees were streaked
with soot. Her mind wondered.
His hammertoe itched.

 

PICKING THE LOCK

by Megan Merchant

I try a bleached bird-bone,

a rutted nail,

my grandmother’s spoon ring uncurled in fire,

a sharp pine-needle waxed in resin,

the slim spine of his favorite book,

until he cries.

 

I ask the wimpled ghosts

if the key is a word

to place it on my tongue,

please, place it here.

 

CAMP, 1978

by Erica Bodwell

She sits on the splintered wooden steps, alone. The smell of wet canvas
Mixes with a breeze off the lake. Behind her, six cots,

Striped mattresses cottony and thick. She lays out her plaid sleeping bag,
Dislodges a scab and brings it to her mouth, watches them retreat:

Mother, stepfather, stray younger siblings.  Her little sister’s hair
Flies up and a tiny butterfly barrette drops to the dirt.  Flat on her back

On the slatted platform she stares at the cobwebs lacing the peaked frame,
The seeping beads of dew, dark speckles of mold. A daddy longlegs

Walks across her thighs. She considers pinching him up by one leg
And chucking him out the back as she will hundreds of times that month

At the request of squealing tent-mates. Soon the lunch gong will ring and
She will stand, grind the barrette into the ground with her heel, take her seat

In the dining hall, wake at midnight for a starry swim.
She lets him move along.

 

MY COUSIN SETS ME UP WITH THE WOMAN SHE’S SURE IS THE ONE

by Brad Modlin

When, unfortunately, I tell my date
I know some Spanish, she says,
“I’m a native speaker.”
I hide my big mouth
with a glass of water. She says,
“Say something.”
“¿Es una examen?” I ask. “Yes,
it is a test, basically,” she answers.
I say, “It’s only our first date—
are we ready to speak a romance
language?” She stares, and her black
eyes are so gorgeous I think
I could swim in them for a year.
“It’s just that I want to construir
una buena impresion,” I say.
It’s possible that this woman
is my last chance. My next birthday
is a scary one, and no one
has whispered my name
for a very long time.
Today’s horoscope suggested
I learn to live happily alone.
“I don’t know where you heard
‘build a good impression,’
but it should be quiero impresarte.
Because I often use self-deprecation
as permission to fail, I say,
“Estoy horrible con la gramática.”
“It should be Soy,
she says, “Estoy would mean
‘I’m only currently horrible.’
Soy is correct.
It means
‘horrible for always.’”

 

I CARRY YOU

by Luisa A. Igloria

an envelope enclosing a letter,
bread spore poised to proliferate upon

clean surfaces of lukewarm milk and water—
Dried sprig of sage or lavender,

evergreen whose scented spikes
forever line my cabinets and drawers—

Garter stitch, you snake through my ragged
hemlines; your name felts my wet lashes. Dark-orbed

iris, your aperture closes and widens. Your smooth
jawline clenches and unclenches.

Keepsake, medal I pin to my underclothes
like an amulet: you are varied as moss,

modular as water; molecular, and more maternal.
No other raft of baggage compares.

Odometer recording my distances, unidentified
perfume on the periphery of a waking dream: often, I

query your mutable nature, your
repetitions, your irrefutable refrains.

Some days are marble, some are parchment:
they lie in a mantle of heat then tear

under the pressure of what’s tender.
Vise-like, your grip pries open, then

welds itself to my nature,
exacting the perfect price.

You know me best by now: my vessel and pearl,
zeitgeist, world I inhabit that inhabits me.

 

ALL SAINTS

by Margaret Young

The earth, your mother, says—

you ask her. No, you.
                                        Say we
go to Mexico, Oaxaca for example
where they make chocolate sacred,
bake sweet bread
for the dead, your mother
wants some.

The remembered
ones are fed.

 

STARING INTO KLEIN BOTTLES

by Samantha Killmeyer

When Rich was late
he would come through the kitchen door, still
wearing his tie, matched to the color of his socks,
and lie down in the last empty space. One night
he pulled a package from his worn briefcase,
exhumed a bulbous piece of glass from
bubble wrap. It was a small creature
in his hands, curving in on itself,
glass swan tucking neck beneath wing.
I didn’t understand his excitement
but he showed me how the inside
becomes the outside, how everything
in an equation can be balanced, how perhaps
there are no boundaries in a symmetry
between seedlings, our eyelashes
and the stars—

here, thousands of miles away
from that carpet another such bottle
unfolds like a glass tulip bent over itself,
petals tucked into root bulb, blooming out
of green felt beneath clear museum light. Somehow
the bottle was more wondrous in
Rich’s cheap apartment, spilled
red wine and mathematics. If I tilt
my head, squint into glass, tangent
to the bottle I see you, Rich,
some late afternoon, hair the color
of farmhouse clay escaping from
mesh ball cap, faint salt sheen across
cheekbones and sturdy forearms. I watch
you bale atop a blue tractor, metal whirr
behind gold brushstrokes of wheat
and walking out of the museum,
I feel like a stranger to the person I was
on that old carpet turning over glass,

and it scares me. So when there are
no other books left to be read, I finally go
into the garden and start weeding, plucking
Queen Anne’s Lace fractals, tossing ragweed
into piles of polygonal knots. Rich,
you are inside this Klein bottle, pitching
hay on your father’s Pennsylvania farm,
working geometric proofs as you lift and toss.
I look and it is musky fall, wild mushrooms,
earth-wet smell of loam.

 

THE CLEAN LINES OF THE BARN…

by Erin Elkins Radcliffe

The clean lines of the barn and the house betray no hesitation: in the shed, the awl, the hammer, and the wrenches cling neatly to their place

Here is the steady movement of food from root and seed to vein and flower—from dirt to mouth to dirt again

Here are the potatoes planted on Good Friday, their eyes glistening as corn bloats in lye.  Here’s a rind, a remainder, the sacks of summer squash and red-pink Brandywines to gift to a neighbor and not to waste

Here are shards of arrowheads, the gills of fish run cold with polychlor.  The turpentine for the chilblains these children never had, the unseen thing that might clabber the milk, the river and creek overrun with rain—

The ropes our own viscera might make if they were long enough to hang.

 

THE LOOTERS

by Mary Moore

The leaves at the window have been looted
pocked with absences air holes eye holes,
we’ve eaten more spaces for the light
we’re never quite sated by
trees fields oceans orchards in bloom dandies
in suits.  We cannot stop eating eye candy
my best royal blue jeans tightening
the noose on my waist your new shirt opening
little mouths at the placket while Fall’s
dry clear air crisps clarifies and spills
ripening apples, leaf piles,
bark:  my chins wobble, we rock as we walk
nibbling oaks maples, we’d give our eye teeth
for dessert there’s peacocks.

 

LA CALAVERA

by Alexandra Regalado

As our car exits the country club gates
on the round-about street that leads
to the children’s tutor, we are forced
to a stop. Two whip cracks of gunfire
and the street vendors duck under
their tables tiled with pirated CDs,
baskets upturned, the day’s bread
spilled across the sidewalk
into the gutter and I scream
and scream at the driver, doors,
are the doors locked? while
trying to blindfold my son
with my palms, but he pries
my fingers apart as the jolt
of the bullet knocks an old man
against the curb.
Our car at a standstill, front row
I see the man with the gun
crossing the street—and by man
I mean a 15-year-old boy, tattooed
skull and face—his mouth curving,
the two hooks that rip the seam
of his lips into a full toothed smile.

 

OPEN AND GROSS

by Jeremy Voigt

Awakening from a binge of night,
she holds her head, raw from sleeping
against the rough brick of a school wall,

and finds herself, skirt scrunched high,
legs hanging over the edge
feeling like a stunned fish in the gunwale

and stands and straightens before
she is put in the back of a white car.
Shocked, they said, and alarmed, they said

and kids, but as ice forms in the shape
of the glass, plastic cups, or stone birdbath
as ice has no form of its own she slept

where she sat, the body of its own will
and weight when given over to, when
distance from the reality of the illusory

world is needed and is found for a few hours
one night. When the laws say the body
is offensive, and the men define the women

as metaphor for themselves, her parts
are not her parts, but sheath, scabbard,
the blue windows have failed.

The Romans believed controlling female
sexuality was necessary for the stability
of the state, but still compared the vagina

to a young boy’s anus. My friend charged
with defending the provincially absurd
says, it’s time to dismiss, that vaginas

aren’t gross. I read a passage of Thoreau
to my high school students: “We grow rusty
and antique in our employments and habits

of thought.” My friend, my first real friend,
is working to keep a woman who fell asleep
outside a school without underwear (I know

he says) off a legal lists of pedophiles.
Of conspicuous magnitude a gross
is of national scale. If my students simply

graduate their chance of committing murder
by any degree reduces by thirty percent.
I read that Dickinson’s dress was a litmus

for dust which may have induced seizures
that kept her housebound and free
to write what and when she liked. Open

letters, she called them. Open: unobstructed,
unprotected, unsealed, spread out—full
view. But also, free of prejudice, undecided,

to release. Open shame. A gross now named.
A woman’s accidental flashing turned into sex
offender status. My friend is working, writes

asking for definitions, proof in the language
of the law’s foolish eclipse. But I find
the military commonly calls their garrison caps

cuntcaps, and one looking into the wind
through narrow slits, cunt-eyed, and a joined
line, two pieces making one new, a cuntline.

Cezanne said, a time is coming when a carrot,
freshly observed, will trigger a revolution
.
What this woman needed was a matriarchal

cover that up dear, not to be cuffed
and carried away by etymological priggishness.
The Romans also believed if a man’s body

temperature changed enough he became
a woman. I’m looking at Cezanne’s The Abduction,
the magnitude of adolescent sorrow in her impossibly

long hair and the bathers in the background
ignoring the naked man carrying off the naked
woman, like his bathers blending in with the trees

and river they emerge from, this is what I want
to think of—the water in a Cezanne, the strokes
of her naked shoulder becoming the strokes of bark

on the white trees, bodies elemental and bright
just bodies; a gross of light and skin, open bodies,
a wave of color and implication until they are gone.

I know the phallic problems with the carrot are many.
My neighbors at last winter’s snowfall made a snowman
with a two foot erection and a bent female, ass-crack

and all, poised to suck him dry. What is palpable,
striking; plain, evident, obvious is plea-bargained
into a minimal sentence, a line snapped as the unnetted

fish swims free. The girls in my high school classes
see rape everywhere, every male lust a violation,
They Flee From Me for them is not about a man

sleeping with women of the high court, but of a hunter
conquering his prey and then lamenting the capture.
Their reasoning is young, passionate, immense

and I cannot tell them the world does not want to hurt
them. The woman fell asleep, an onlooker was shocked
and wants to charge her exposed vagina with assault.

I hope that made you laugh. It made me laugh.
I saw what sort of speck we are in Discover
magazine: the universe shaped like a vagina,

the “you are here” label pinning our insignificance
to the glossy page. A woman’s cunt is the center
of the world
a film I saw once stated, as a story

is the womb of memory, as words the cells
of any story lawful and petulant and a woman
fell asleep, let us not court her embarrassment,

let this plea be a deep breath, an open letter,
we all come from a dark hole, a fluid universe
all slush, loud-hush, and sweet rushing lullaby

made, held and stroked: a skull resting above ripe fruit.

 

AS OF A BIRD YET UNIDENTIFIED

by Z.G. Tomaszewski

The sea carves at sand
a sculpture engrained with salt
and peppered by the pitch
of wind.

Clouds balloon over water
under the mirror
sweeps a tango of fish.

I swim
at the place the plane the point
where water touches air
at the interstice of oxygen
the distance between body and body.

When it comes to the spirit
what is
ordinary?

I suppose sparrow bones
and finch feathers

not the eyes
of an oriole
the one I saw threading
a thatched teardrop-shaped house
an inverted haystack
where lay two more worlds.

The bird-mother’s pupils streak and stain the shells.

That thin membrane
then the storm
the sky’s slate shadow
like a tightly-stitched suit.

How I was no longer
convinced that I wanted
wings

so donning my human hide
I stepped out into the nest of the storm
to see
how elastic of an egg
I am.

 

MY SISTER’S EARTH DAY

by Patricia Clark

That it was Earth Day and still the leading
edges of an iceberg fell into the sea with a hiss,
the center showing pocked ice.

And the plane that had flown us home
parked, taxied, and flew again.

From a distance, the remote camera had an eye
in her death room. It was our way
of holding her, can you see it?

That a tree flowered outside her room—
planted for her daughter, blooming pink each year.

That it comes in waves—the crashing rain,
the pains in her head, the grief.
That after speech goes, still breathing, seeing
and listening might stay.

That to mention selling the house caused tears.

And each of us, that we are not the body,
exactly, and yet through the skin, eyes,
hair, we love.

That the clothes are not the person, nor objects,
books. Memory is the fixative.

There she moves. There she stops breathing.

 

UNREMARKABLE PEOPLE IN THE NORTH

by Beth Spencer

are like unremarkable people everywhere,
only more resigned. You will see them below
the icicles on tall buildings, smoking
or nipping from a jar of pickled herring
as they wait for buses in the rain.
They can be distinguished
from remarkable people by their patience,
their kindness to spiders. They do not list
toward cameras, nor do they fret
about the acclaim they feel they are owed.
In summer they wander the bee-loud glade
without epinephrin, plunging their noses
fearlessly into the blooms.