The Last Will and Testament / Erin Kelley
When I die he said I want to be burned to ashes
and parceled out into seventeen velvet bags.
I want them to be given to seventeen young woman
who paint their nails purple for an entire year.
There will be a note with instruction on each bag
for each young woman, to throw the ashes of me
into the face of a young man who reminds me of myself.
One handful for the man who declines a martini
orders a tumbler full of cheap blended scotch instead
(why did I ever drink less than top shelf?)
and one for the man too embarrassed to carry
a fistful of daises to the door for a first date.
One right in the dark eyes he said, his voice warm
with avuncular affection for the youthful mistakes
he was correcting of that man there, thin and stupid
no interest in exercising anything god gave him. God
youth really is wasted on them, isn’t it.
Dump me over the head of a man who stands too long
in front of a full-length mirror, let me grey his hair
and eyebrows, let his mouth round out in surprise,
let him taste the gritty taste of age and death and beyond.
Three Poems / Bean Haskell
I’ve been black-taped up like a warrior.
Before that, I was forced to study my upheaves
That morning amidst the red pepper phlegm and the rice so full
Bodied it would have exploded my stomach for sure had I been a pigeon
That morning as I wretched in the writhe of waking up in the morning
The brown liquid covering my eyes cleared to see
A regular shape amidst the sick amoeboid remnants of a healthy dinner
Tiny white balls, stick together, like sterile ant eggs, escaping the fibers
Of a depleting gray shell, the label R158 deteriorating
Just as I slowly deciphered that it wasn’t The Future
It wasn’t some kind of spy device, a mosquito microchip.
It was the slow-release
Swallowed minutes before
Just opening, just late to the party: wedding or funeral.
I’ve been black-taped up like a warrior.
i don't use words like bitches
the amount of times your name's been damned
we're surprised you're not in hell already
let me tell you, boy, you sure have a weird
way of showing you care
put that stern look on your face, adjust the invisible
glasses and declare, "I am worried about your health."
'cept you speak nothing like worry, you speak chide
you speak morning-after-fucking breath
and every day i am thankful i've always left your bed before i made it to
your dungeon of bitches
you make me so perverse
i forget sometimes if i'm coming out of a cocoon
or fighting your yello' ordinance
this is not the me you fell in like with
and you can bet you had a hand in it
still got five fingers, boy?
looming luminating oscillating scathing
willows in the weeping dill
it tastes well, it tastes like soil after the rain
but will i refuse it soon
for it reminds me of too many dark kitchens
full sun, lights on, you would bathe me in the kitchen
i think i can even know what my own eyes looked like
not a caress but a gentle kill
scrape dirt into my esophagus
What we do to children.
Three Poems / Kate Belew
I hesitate bipolar. Just outside its whiplash pendulum,
hunting knife on wrist to head out the window howling at the moon, whole.
Was I hunted or the hunter? The fox inside
myself? Or just trying to kill a ribcage Vixen? She claws
those bones. I have this bear trap on my foot.
It doesn't discriminate by body shape. But then I reached
in my jaws and found bear teeth, gnashing. Looked in the mirror
to see only fear. If I really wanted to leave enough, I would, which puzzles me.
Thought lying facedown in a rainstorm would be enough. I bring my head up
from the mud to find only a lack of self-control. There are so many things I wish
I could take back as my own. Thin folds of skin, more fingers than ten.
Canine incisors from my past stole my smoothness like spoons with teeth. Saw my wild
carved out and shuddered. There are so many selves that I can't seem to stay one.
I would swallow the ocean if I could, if it wasn't already in my body somewhere.
If I wasn't already either hitting my head against the wall,
M16a4 Service Rifle
-Order of Operations
Firing, Unlocking, Extracting, Ejecting, Cocking, Feeding, Chambering, Locking
We fire our way up. To the bottom
of mattress love, of bullet lips,
and my hips, and his eyes,
and his eyelashes.
Charge me up, buttercup.
Grab hands and pull, calloused
from one too many shots
of automatic fire. Let me take
a shot at him. And we laugh, and we
laugh, and we laugh, but his eyes are different.
Hair on my scalp stands on end
by the force of his hands, makes
me look him in the eye, and then unlocks
his grip. Who can hold on tighter
to the other’s skin? Doesn’t mean
he won’t leave.
[Fire Selection Lever]
Semi-automatic. Sweet and sticky
like syrup. French toast, French kiss me.
I mess up his sheets.
What’s the difference right now? It’s all sweet
like powdered sugar, and dangerous.
Pause and then dive in, drown
in jungles of Vietnam, sands of Iraq.
Assault rifle he assaults me well.
Steel, alloy, his steely hands know me,
and I steel myself for the fall.
High velocity impact like nails around
my soft waist. Soft feathers on air
flew out of the pillow like rapid fire
that sears the air with its honesty.
He deflects my questions
about him losing sleep.
Inhumane damage would make
me unable to love somebody
else the same way I love him. Broken
the way a bone is. He breaks me beautifully,
and I ask for seconds.
Barrel of the gun to my temple,
I’ll do anything for him. So hot
like no sex after seven months.
So hot like the smoking gun of nighttime.
Recoil from the kickback.
Love is two sided, looked
at from behind or in front of the muzzle.
We both have things to lose in the aftermath
Devastating love, doesn’t
like it when I touch him when he sleeps.
I bite at his skin, and sing AC/DC.
He dreams of losing his rifle.
Because, I don’t take no for an answer.
Bold, I was raised well. Strong one
with his shoulders like thick branches
from a tree, hold me up and hide
me from our tangled questions.
Impeccable aim. No where to hide
from the snipers of unrequited love.
I was quiet when I shouldn’t have been,
and I screamed when his parents were downstairs.
I couldn’t help it. It felt good.
Spring and recoil.
Hot enough to melt flesh. So, do it.
I dare him. Bruise my ribs with gun
hands. M-16 loving is for the brave.
[Front Site Assembly]
Enhanced grip, better than other
weapons. Sex always wins,
and sex always sells. The hot commodity
for the holidays this year.
I just want him to come home
Piercing tongues, piercing bullets.
Piercing firecrackers on the Fourth.
that makes him flinch, and then fuck
fuck, fuck this night time, cold for July.
Swan necks fragile.
Weaponry of the tongue.
He whispers dust into my ear.
Moan in return. Everything to dust
is what I want.
Firepower is what they don’t understand,
like music to our ears. The way to come
home. Fall asleep too early. Six am, kiss
my shoulders while sunlight shows
the dust in the air, a soon empty room.
Biting lips is sexy. Good-bye sex is sexy.
Airports, they aren’t sexy. Tears
in fucked up hair isn’t sexy. Glances linger
in the air like gas fumes.
Don’t forget your gun, son.
Hands right here and we forget it.
Chamber our thoughts.
Stand under summer trees, somewhere
else. Lay me down in a field and it’s hips on hips.
We dip together out of sight. Kiss my memory.
Sigh. I’ll stay here even when he leaves.
I’ll mess with my memories tomorrow.
forget about last night today, doesn’t matter
what the countdown is. I can almost count
the days left on my empty hands.
Hands on the trigger.
When he kisses me. He doesn’t miss.
I used to be like Greta Garbo and now I’m not.
Lost my flair for acting and I got hooked off
stage. When Greta talks and she says "Gimme a whiskey,
ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby."
Then what do I say? I never had the knack for memorizing
my lines. Getting cues. I say god damn, give me back the stuff
under my fingernails and my tequila bottle
full of flowers. They make me happy. My voice is gone,
swallowed by black and white film. It’s harder to write
than to smile, audibly. I turned the noise off on the cable
box of my brain. If I have to make a deal
with the devil of fame, it wouldn’t be for this, no.
It would be for silence and make up remover.
Though I hate to ruin Flapper girl style, pseudo independence.
I can’t apologize for my curves. At what point are we the same
again for entertainment purposes? At what point do we take
it too far in combining ourselves?
Hey Greta, I’ll have one of those too. One of those
whiskey and ginger ales, I’ll have some alone time, I’ll have one
of those wasted lives on the side. I’ll fake a legend’s smile
for one of those wasted lives, hold the Hollywood dream.
Hold whoever keeps that hook threatening at the end of the stage
like a weapon, curved end like a shepherd, like death coming
to collect. Hold them, hold them, hold them,
and then let them go.
Ohhhhhhhhhh / Thomas Fucaloro
When the moon pirouettes out from the mountains
picked up by the ocean as an offering to the sun, relax
the stars have got this
When you notice two beings intertwined by the soul
holding only time has brought with them
the shrouds of secrecy an eyelid simply shared
by a blink
When in autumn’s autumned August you find the beginnings
of a September wiping the dried leaves from its eyes
a brown, red, orange hue colors the day
If you feel something, go find a cop or an MTA employee or a person of authority
If you feel something, say something.
If this little acorn of a pulse falls from your lungs
and your heart squirrels around it only to crack
the hard smoothed shells we all seem to protect
these days with more hard smoothed shells
but once cracked, flowering tulips of long stride
lilies language the tongue into a roar
Ohhh if you feel something, say something.
When everyone’s telling you to focus on fear and what could happen
so you can’t pay attention to what is actually going on as the toll
hardened world becomes nut shelled in and all you want
to be is a nut who enjoys the freedom of lovers and flowers
Ohhh if you feel something, say something.
I’ve never known the ocean to not roar back.
I’ve never known the roar to not come from within.
I’ve never known within to not come from love.
If you love something, say something.
If you kneel, pray something.
If you’re angry, write something.
If you love someone, create something.
If the pressure gets too high and there is an overwhelming thickness of oxygen suffocating your lungs, hold someone.
If you write something, hold something.
If you need someone, say something.
If your capacity of love is holding hands with another and there is a velvet fog hovering the moon, make someone.
Ohhh if you are someone, roar something.
if you feel something, say something.
Three Gif Poems / Dustin Luke Nelson
Five Poems / Luke Degnan and Rosiere Moseley
From Monster Manual
From the dark, suddenly pleasant hues, the trees, a gleaming ocean, the miles of beautiful, the rad of my Michelobean number while I walk around, forgotten, with a feather of sea-colored, bubbling thought, a found leaflet, a warning: stay awake,
Empty of virtue, stay earth, learn earth, je ne comprends pas earth, he can read earth, Ron, his limbs, and I feel like him, carried in exalt down the arch, a slanted gallows of bs, there's no end to bs, its like Jormungand the World Serpent.
At noon continuous, unsober'd, a jetsam fleet at noon, a brief foam at one, I come for love and ankles, then on the float, then finger'd in the bleachers, then with a basketball fully, a prize, a collection of tickets to cash in, a weakness of cheap prizes like sharpener, like heart attack, hey I'm being tortured, shit, I'm doing fine, feeling myrtle breezes at Target, and all blushes from hit-ons,
Thaw and the whole moon, new weird shadows, bright colas, the Saturday morning stuck with cold, a trireme of bs, arbitrary skies, an exhaled arch of
True dawn, suspending light, flavor of limes, stutter of dusk.
Everything's now an upside-down problem, the cure for cold, but with more cold, or excruciating fire, a sculpture made with violence, a warm margarita. I am all Yeah, don't drink that, but I drink to my idea of what war is, what mountains are. I drink to these powerful games, as an infamous indifference against other sorry mountains, a mountain burial under dirty dishes.
So I walk out, lips in, framed by unstoppered evil, huge smoke hair, soul-fried fear, brood along strange sea-colored edges of smashed Oldsmobile windows, and travel on through packed church-pew rows of cigarette smoking dudes, dudes from another epoch, dudes like my dad — dudes I'll turn into, I feel a jet power in it, the beating of a fat dude's heart,
Hot wings burnt, haired, cola Neptune, the world's brine, an intaglio of beer, the shallow sound of bees. I'm bursting. I imagine dying. It might be like leaving an awesome party or entering a beautiful sewer.
I'd be waving from a digital billboard, brittle, crystalline, a long, slender body with weird-ass flat, open-faced baked pixel bits, morally reprehensible, dirty, a canary's veins, a ceramic leg, a prostate made of cloth, a distressing monstrosity — its hair-in-your-bread doubt, mischievous and should I keep eating?
I live on a golden-yellow notched leaf, numb and boiled, soiled, unstoppered, all these various physical sensations, wicked, hugely visible, a cylindrical roll of fat ham. I can't say I want, morally, it's like I'm winded in a tall building's stairwell, heaving in the greasy air,
the unctuous birds, a thousand breeders in darkness, obscurity, a thousand couples in the parking lot, witches of sound, drilling into your school.
I think I noticed the subsidy levied upon my thoughts of god, the unexpectedly docile lions of the still parking lots, "whose protection subtracts thirty." They seem human, or imitations of human, they're only firm, fleshy tissues, a round of swampy genitalia sacrificed to organizations, for perfuming, or transported away from inexperience, forcefully and in a giant pair of pants.
Let's not do away with or be devilled by wayward memories made with muscles of cigarette smoke, pleasure and what not are a hastening sunset.
I have excruciating pulmonary feeling,
But I want to have the perfect seizures,
A briefcase of wasp stingers,
A Jansport of howling embryos,
A detachable, hinged anatomy,
The size of the earth's surface.
I'm not a tree, I'm idly shaven,
Stung by hymenopterous insects,
Frightening, or falling,
I'm tired of bs,
Bad news on that front,
There's no end to bs,
It's like these sculptures,
Created in illo tempore by lesser demons,
Hinged in brine, thieving my light
Or showing more leg,
Beer elementals in public bathrooms,
Muffling their cellphones from loud noises, or
Magnifying the screams of children and cats, a plan for warfare,
A levelled town, an unfinished sandwich, what is profane.
I'd like to fly directly into the sun and evaporate in a silent puff of smoke like a cartoon rocketship
Entangled in my pants,
wound up and then down, shit
do I itch,
mites of underproduction,
mites of unrealized dream
or might have been,
what are dreams,
thin sheets, a flip of the mattress,
a bit of golden sand thrown in the night,
I'd turn to the right to join in, and say
Many thanks to the band, but I feel
like my head is floating above my body
connected only via spine, sans flesh,
and the spinal column is rotating like
a stainless steel Lazy Susan,
in fact, I look like a shallow cellist,
a hunched-over overpriced motorcycle,
a fried elephant, I hate everything
when I look like a dozen other things,
I feel like a clear udder of pity, which
when milked straight, with hyper-extruded pointy fingers,
shoots and stains,
and it's not going to wash away by hand,
there's no advantage to this anatomy.
Who took life's joviality? Who wants to
cleverly destroy me with my own guns?
Everything seems ground
fine, driven into the ground,
rained down, or stuffed through a sieve,
I feel like I'd say something if
I didn't have it so good.
I don't work that much, and at times
the snipers hit my coffee cup cause yeah,
everyone sins and something, you know, like
I was my own butler or some shit,
I'd say "Uh, sir, please step off the bad,"
but it’s just delicious
food or long nap or extra day off.
I’m weighed down
by a dandelion.
Three Poems / Leah Umansky
Was a worse-now torture. I will break this network and it is too, too hot. There are two splendid littles, but it is hardly worthwhile. The three hunters were too many. A thousand plans now, but stay there. All words and motions are disagreeable.
I shall always be a balm. I shall continue on without being. Without being able to explain to myself, but to know the whole life will happen.
Will be, not meaningless / will be, not before/ will be, full of the deep and fuller / and I will impress it.
That is intentional – the marked . Re-think, and it feels like a truth.
The big hot end of a day is great/ is greater/ is greater even grated whole.
* lines appropriated from Anna Karenina.
THE SAVAGE BANQUET OF MACHINES (for M.E.)
When the machines all got together they shed their coats and met in the bare in the round. Cross legged, they crossed wires. They fused parts and aligned keys. It didn’t matter who was cuter than whom or QWERTY-er than whom. They dined on prosecco and bruschetta. Like ordinary people, they told vulgar jokes, and mocked the machines who were not present. They played charades, and hangman, and then one machine brought out a gold bag. It dazzled in the half-light. The machines got close-like – coming in towards each other like one would for a secret, but this was only a half-secret; a particle, really. In the golden bag, was a little knickknack M1 found behind his desk. It had marks on it, like small groves. M2 grabbed his case and turned his right arm until music started playing. He made M4 touch his middle, and then, they realized, he too was a grooved thing: a music box. M3 moved closer to the Golden One with the golden bag and felt the small groves that rested before him. No one could figure out what it was. M6 felt the soft side at the end and smelled it, pressed it, bounced it against the floor. She couldn’t quite place where she had seen this thing, but had a faint moment of déjà-vu. M8 pushed through the crowd and noticed the spike its end. He was about to jam it into his side, when the Golden One stopped him, “We can use this for our own good; Let me show you the way.” They all stepped back as the Golden One took a mustard sheet out of the bag, and placed it at the center of the floor. It seemed to be glowing in the light. M9 drew her little m’s close as they rolled their way to the front to get a good view. The Golden One pulled his levers and took the thing in its claw. He pressed the spike to the sheet and then there was a “gasp.” It was a miracle. The Golden One made lines on the mustard sheet and the machines knew this was a wild time. They were re-creating the past. They were opening doorways into rooms left cold. “Pencil,” said The Golden One. “Eraser,” said M10 as he flicked through his database with one hand. “Yes,” said the Golden One, “we are now participating.” Then came a loud belch, that came from afar, and the machines turned their faces across the room, towards the prosecco which was all over M9’s little m’s and already starting to rust their parts. They burped up bubbles and clanked their motors. The Machines laughed, and the light dimmed with their heightened electronic awareness.
THE NIGHT GENIUS
Take this, and hold it.
May the call be recognized and willing.
Remember, because I can’t remind you enough,
some will simply refuseand one
will profusely bank in on the solemn wanderings of nightfall.
[it begins here:]
One night-genius humbled over the saturated sky; over the pastured bleak. Solitary but prepared to make the leap; to lean deep into the hour and let his loins reach the wanting.
He was tender in his wait. And he waited to tenderize what would soon arrive.
He stared and he storied. He let the day erode behind him. He counted. He danced. He slept.
This is not a poem about angels.
The sky burned blue and then turned quietly to song. As if the night yearned for chaos, for light, for a stringed theory of the future. All was now-kindling. He felt the sky scrape. He felt the light bolt as if a star let go from –
One small bravado.
One leap for planetary-kind.
It yearned for glory; for the spotlight. Was it merely shucking the universe? Did it have a good laugh?
In an ongoing battle of colonial unity, it did secede. It waved its coat tails above its spark and rode off into the battered tomorrow. It tore away from the night, waving its banner behind it, all the time running, and bolting-on
His eyes learned awareness behind the bewildering. He slapped himself and then stood in the darkness. The night-genius felt revolutionary as if he were pioneering starlight. He who was not struck down. He spun around three times in that dark, vast place. He do-si-doed with reality, for he had one true vision:
Life was cold-cut, but electric in the palm.
Five Poems / Adam Fitzgerald
DIARY OF A YOUNG VOID
Like any other, today comes with a fish in its mouth,
scales of German labor, vintage metallings, thimbles
skyscraper-sized, like the sprite's cherry body. What else,
in these typhooning sanctions, can be asked for? Granite
beds, droll breezes, even nostalgia mantling the foyer.
Crowded in a crowded world, you were my one steel O.
IN WOODS WE STUDIED
On St. Andrew's Night we grew into a castle; one of us
said: "This is the folly of lost rewards." Like a girl,
dapper, chivalrous, I knew the bat-hanging night
would be one more slipper left to post. Our hands
stuffed into remote pocket, those dental waters
oft-ringing, always with a sense of tamarind air.
You only add so much, hip to elbow, roundelays
to skirt, before the skittle-alley closes, Voyager.
Feeling then gentle as I was arrogant, I slept in your clothes.
Both in and out of the fray, articulating a sandbag
and theatrical exigent, riveting fashionable drink,
you notice how others out there knock off a play
in mysterious passive voice, as if paralytic trees
had their own original progenitors to yell Hush!
There, a crow's mausoleum could be pawed over.
In this case, with your Bodleian head, its bravura
of evergreens and still crystalline coolant-dump,
you should notice more than silk-lawn clouds like
a man at the club window who feels frisson neatly.
To this we avow moral melodramas are reforming
what was left of us, ingenuous as tears, starched
by a broom closet called into real-life lifelessness.
Monikers and squirearchy mete the idiom for now.
So, like a blouse or bed-siding, you took comfort,
having to boil your shirt for more peeping freaks.
Our new lives—transfigured, destroyed—vanish.
Key participants in what's the central failure now.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
I remember your hair's perm fondue
like blonde glass curling in the sun.
It had a northerly associative quality,
something quite remote to these parts.
We open up to a stoop, as over the railing
a poinsettia meadow waits for you as if
you'd seen it before in the yard of your
youth. One, mind you, you've never had.
Nerve only gets you so far in the padlock
where bushes guard tempered watches,
spruce linen you wake to when no one
is there yet to really wake beside you—
idle and remote on cloud-mewing hills.
What dervish these late autumn days!
Partly tin, partly the huge arms of sleep.
I think of the hand of hands; the bland
studded caskets; the dew-brown regality
of one hour, its postmarked wilderness.
The mind, it's true, has irritable spots,
absorbing much light but too little heat,
stony and diffident. It knows too much
some sorrow of chairs. So we open books
with bronze Etruscan servicemen in snow
gliding in and out of daguerreotypes.
Meanwhile your throat is a vase of flowers
that no one senses; no stench but dusk
and compass, which one winds stealthily.
The coordinates changing. Changed for good.
All of our music is in a way post-apocalyptic.
Leftovers sing the blues. Ocarinas hum showtunes.
Meanwhile, a serenade captions the distance:
a single figure stepping mute through rows.
The scene's eye is carried over rolling concrete.
Such picnicked hymns and proud coral thunder.
Lettuce, arugula. And don't forget your disquiet.
Accept arcana, these stilling machinations now.
Can you read this? The slim noon, like an earring,
settles confetti; the puce balustrade calms down.
We were here. This was our place. Roll-call meek
and fleeing: a stanchioned raft, some psalm's plea.
Eleven Poems / Sean Flaherty
29 March 2007
Kentucky Truck Stop Shower
gets you a
a clean, ruddy towel,
squirt of shampoo
small bar of soap,
to wash off
all that car and driving,
to scrub away
the last song
to come into Spring City
that you sing out
to the business of mold
gathering in the grout
outside the stall
that’s just bigger than a trucker.
25 March 2009
After a Long Line
Thanks for your help with this project.
I don't really like
where you ended up taking it,
but I understand
you're quite busy
and I appreciate
the time you spent trying
to do something.
I keep remembering
that I always
you were full of shit.
17 June 2011
Autumn Leaf and John
was born on an ashram
on a piece of land her parents owned,
was a math guy
making Wall Street money,
they both lived in the city,
radiation levels were getting too high:
babies grew too big
in the womb,
often killing the mother,
leaving the children feeble
and vexing, Mendelian mutations
to a variety of the citizens:
accountants were spawning
and did away with sleep cycles,
bicycle messengers were growing
stretching out of their tailbones.
Autumn Leaf had a tail,
John had an extra thumb on each hand.
They met and fell in love at a doctor’s office in midtown.
John had a thing for her tail:
the fucking was epic.
Autumn Leaf’s parents
allowed the two
a house on a plot of land,
the mutations hadn’t started up north,
away from the city
all their time piled up on one another,
their love distorted.
after another dismal effort to be intimate,
John sat at his desk
wearing a green v-neck T-shirt
and white boxers
with watermelons printed on them
eating an apple,
looking over some old work papers,
Autumn Leaf walked up to John’s desk,
her tail twitching,
whipping back and forth,
she looked at John
and told him
she didn’t love him anymore,
the length of his tongue
flapped out of his mouth,
bits of apple
falling onto his desk,
his face turned bright red,
his eyes bulged –
he watched with his left eye
as the right eye
shot out of his head
into a corner,
the top of his skull
robin’s egg-blue walls of the room
with pieces of his hot brain.
19 September 2011
The Stabbing Game
They switched the time of day
but every day for one year,
Monday through Friday
we had seventh grade science
with Mr. Stern,
Neil Brown and I
would tear over to Friendly’s or
in his mom’s Camaro
hopped up on burgers and milkshakes
a brakeless Schwinn
down the hill in his driveway
over a jump made from an old plank and a few cinder blocks
and we’d hover over
the green downward slope of his back yard,
spinning the handlebars as many times as we could,
posing on the bike,
deliciously uncertain landings,
we had other classes together
during the day
we sat next to each other
as lab partners
and, when the room got quiet for a moment,
one of us would stab the other guy
as hard as we could
and, if you kept quiet when you got jabbed in the leg,
you got to stab the other guy,
we went for the thigh
since the muscles there
and there was never much blood,
it hurt but,
strangely, it was a matter of suppressing laughter
at this stupid secret game
more than holding back shouts of pain,
we started with pencils
but we got a little scared
after chunks of lead
broke off in our thighs
so we switched over
to metal compasses,
using the stainless steel points instead –
we figured the punctures would be cleaner –
we never ratted each other out
and, maybe because he was smaller than us
or maybe because we did the work,
Mr. Stern seemed
of the stabbing game.
29 November 2011
I met him
when I was six
going on seven,
he was the teacher
in the Sunday School my grandparents ran
at the local church,
his parents owned the house next door
to my grandparents’,
I met him a second time
five years later
in the autumn of nineteen seventy-nine,
in a slow coma,
his lungs propped,
hoses and wires hanging
from all of him
my grandfather moved downstairs
to the guest room
in the house on Leslie Lane
solemn tanks of oxygen
in the corner,
my mormor was out -
she was still
tutoring chemistry students,
doing the make-up
for the town-players -
the Sunday School teacher came over
talking about going to a seminary
so he could enter the clergy,
while we were
he started talking
girls, girls, girls
on the beach,
in the movies,
when I showed him my grandfather’s
stash of Playboy magazines
he reached down my pants,
the smell of ground corn in his mouth
when he leaned in,
“do you like that?”
from this gross betrayal
I took the encyclopedia from the shelf
in both hands
and swung it like a baseball bat,
he sat up
like a monster in a horror movie
his nose made a little crunch
when he reached up to his face and said,
“…hey. That hurt.”
I hit him harder
when I swung the encyclopedia
the second time,
all the way,
more like a golf swing
so he wouldn’t get up,
his whole face
was soft and easy,
greasing the face of the book with wet blood.
7 February 2012
28 February 2012
Waiting on the jay, the em
or the zee
standing on the platform
of the bee cue ee,
either side of the highway
two or three trees
tickle the bricks on
the nearest buildings
I’d scratch your knees,
from the anxious press
of an odd or even number less
into this passing stay,
of the rainy highway.
18 April 2012
Note to a Friend
I have seen
11 May 2012
the needles and naps
when I’m really
24 May 2012
I had a girl,
she didn’t like
she spent her days
when I got home
I’d walk into
wearing a suit and tie
if she was there,
if she wasn’t
I’d let her
what she learned.
22 June 2012
Note to an Artist
a very large and
Three Poems / Stephen Cramer
i: In Egypt
songs curved with the dry
sticks of their tongues.
Strip by torn
servants applied them
to the mummy’s solemn
ribs, & what ancient
could have saved them
from sifting to trays
of shriveled olives
Her songs restored, thus:
unraveled to vacancies,
whole sections traded for
an arid hush, slender omissions
abrupting into strains
of a nervous lover—my tongue
breaks up & a delicate fire
runs through my flesh—
her body ravished
by a need so deep
only this forged
rhythm could keep her
from breaking down,
from seeing that the fires
which rage inside us are a kind
rehearsal for death.
& how to edge closer
to that mystery than such
iii. In Lesbos
Her town market
wine flask, figs
& golden bracelets
the punctured intervals erasing
half her city
so the streets are lent a new,
parceled & perfect,
as if it were the first time
sounds were used
to signify the world:
the words curving, still wet
on my tongue.
I hate that the word
I spilled in anger is still
traveling away from us
into space, particles
striking each other
in a commute unending,
a mini comet
with my fury as that tiny
pinprick of fire out front.
When my body’s gone,
I’ll still be the record
of all the words I say—
that slow, irregular
Morse code rippling out
to the stars. But some day
millennia from now,
life form may catch,
in their alien equivalent
of an ear, my future
long since past—how,
with my next words,
I hunted down that ridiculous
quarrel, how I trailed it,
shadowed it past pulsars
& through asteroid belts,
far past our galaxy’s
milkiest rim. I hope,
whoever might overhear this,
that they’re as patient
as you, my sweets,
that they don’t turn away
before they hear how I sent
the smallest emissary
of a kiss stowed in a capsule
of whispered syllables
to hazard those hurling
that unnamable dust.
She may not got
much teeth, but
if she likes you
your skinniest hen
lay a double-yolked
egg. I knocked
on her door,
still learning to shed
all my muscles
the rigidity of curb,
my step aligned
to the obedience
of crosswalk & yield.
She mixed herself
a bowl of yolk
& ashes—the sticky
pulp of birth
her hands with it,
& darkened her body
with a second skin,
in & out
of two languages
like a high heel
& a clog. A breeze
lifted from the lake,
& as she washed,
& tempera dissolved
to the water basin’s
wood, she sang
coiling the grass
as it tunneled
out of itself,
the clouded membrane
from its eyes.
Trilogy: Presenting / Scott Hightower
At The Viewing Window
(The National Theatre of Scotland, 2012)
It has been four years since we watched Cumming
….ehr…. Dionysus hoisted upside down
from stage overhead; dangling in ankle cuffs
and his fiery gold lame kilt, no underwear.
Then we caught the nightclub act he toured
up at Feinstein's.
"When shall we three meet again… ?"
"A drum, a drum!" Tonight, "Macbeth" is circling
in a bound about Dionysus's stage.
A descending stairway, two beds, a tub for bathing,
a sink, a table, a chair: an inescapable cell.
The clinical observation window on the upstage
wall dimensionally matches the proscenium.
There is another small window that allows
others viewing from the other side of the door.
A mirror over the sink. Several air vents.
Three video screens are mounted across
the top of the proscenium arch. This psych ward
is of that cool clinical green. Antiseptic, flickering;
grungy tile from mop wear. The descant
is perhaps Scottish stones.
The conceit is narrow,
generous. With much artfully collapsed, the play's
contour remains intact. A man caught
in loops of immediacy and guilt. Damage,
self-torment, and lyrical madness make
their horrific, majestic revelation: "The patient
must minister to himself."
Yeats, Falkner, Cumming, dolls, man.
Hard to write about Cumming as Macbeth;
him wrestling with naked guilt in one
of the ward beds while another man appears
with him only in the green grainy video
screens (the blinking three sisters?), loiters
at Macbeth's bare feet extending toward him.
How later in the production, in another of the beds,
Cumming almost comically makes love to himself
as both wife and husband. Flickers in a tub
as in a murderous bed. "Desire is endless
and unappeasable and is never far from Despair."*
After The Ball
Many––familiar with folk songs
and popular music––titter with anticipation.
(I don't think anyone is expecting anything like
the 1913 scandal of "The Rite of Spring."
Though there was some dust-up
with the Metropolitan wanting
the opera in English.) The BAM seats
at twenty-five dollars apiece
were scarfed up and enthusiasts
have been waiting. I, for one,
am tired of writing elegies.
Wainwright gets criticized, routinely,
for his exhibitionisms: a foppish suit,
a dashing toreador hat, a rhinestone
pin. But when it comes to song,
he singswithout the slightest arrogance.
I've read the reviews in other countries:
"…baffling … Prima Donna is monotonous."
"Love is not a victory march. It's
a cold—and it's a broken--Hallelujah."
"The one that loves me truly…
is probably down at the stables….
gently polishing my cabriolet."
It's Paris, Bastille Day, 1970.
Régine is facing a new resolve.
The devoted, driving butler
is a foppish Baritone; the enticing
journalist, a tenor. The maid
is a resilient, perky soprano.
"Who is this woman?"
Régine to the journalist, upon him
serendipitously revealing his Japanese
girlfriend (Suzuki to Pinkerton?).
That the evening fireworks
are fleeting is part of their beauty.
To me, the opera seems more liturgical
than orgasmic. The public has already/
will or will not clamour.
From her window, Régine,
having just taken the fireworks in her gaze—
we have just watched them explode
en scene across her mansion's façade––
confronts the holy dark. She considers
leaping from her balcony; but chooses,
instead, to everyone's delight,
to deliver a "Wainwright" song.
(Paved Paradise, John Kelly, 2009)
The first television program put
into reruns was "The Lone Ranger."
-- Snapple bottle cap
A frame. Two keyboards, a bass,
a dulcimer, and five guitars
set the stage for "Dagmar Onassis."
Kiss. Kiss. What? does
it matter that the roses upstage
on the grand piano are red?
If you have have been asked
to wear the dream,
what difference does it matter
if the dress is white or blue
and if the shoes shine red? We park
the day's carousel
and heed whatever
falls out and captivates.
With ghosts––Damia? Hutch?
Jacques Brel? Judy
somewhere nearby—the evening
nears its end: John Kelly's guitars
and Joni Mitchell's plaintive
melodies about longing, sex,
our Frankenstein technologies,
Science's tunnel vision.
The wingless moon floats
beyond the encapsulating
spotlight, and each one
in the theater must find
each's own way home.
* Allen Wheelis
Three Detroit Poems / Allan M. Jalon
Detroit, Love, Mine
Rereading Kafka’s letters to Felice
in a bookstore of this city far
from home as clouds in a low sky
out the window decide to be light or dark,
I follow his pushing, pulling, for
and against her, until he’s paralyzed and it ends.
My love for Mary starts to seep
from my bones, down their grainy
hard surfaces, drips through cracks,
from outcroppings, into caves
black with no source of inner light
until it pools and, glistening, catches me
The earth was made beautiful
Now November drags red purples,
orange yellows out of branches
over flat Michigan.
They’re working hard
to be radiant beside the airport as I land,
to send their message from the earth
to the sky.
It’s written into the blacktop to expose
these colors by total contrast
between its paved darkness and the tactile
eruption of landscape,
between my destination and me,
still free from the ground.
Soon, I’ll be among the runways, then
will leave them for long avenues that ease
my way to sprawl.
By Jefferson’s broken pavement,
bald lots and towers of dark glass,
tankers crowd the river as if it were a highway.
In the River Bar, a dark-haired, dark-eyed girl
who works nights is beautiful.
Has anyone told her?
Does anyone know?
Beauty is bred by a leisure
you do not have.
Ten Sonnets / Jeff Wright
Made in Firenze
Thump-bellied lightning straddler, I think
Tethered to the recent lateness
A place to visit outside the screech jolt
Concealed in the mirror’s munching maw
What men die for and women fog harp
Apollo lugging a faded penumbra
Ready for anything, anytime, anywhere
Pallas Athena taking off her clunky armor
Leaving it all behind one second at a time
Flaking them off like pearl grist
Droop nests in your heart, sagging
Anxious to torch the language
Your scorching touch, a lifeline
Foam-bathed in the apologies for nothing
Made in Cheyenne
In a sense, innocence itself is a pure sin
The jester making a cameo on The Jetsons
And we gag voluntarily on the manifesto
Yanked from the crinkled cocoon
THE POEM a bum rap giving us the bum’s rush
Bumblebees buzzing the butterfly bush
OH LOVE OF LOVES
I woke in the green zone dying to live
Emily Brontë in black bombazine pump-crocked
Her Bambi gloves totally banjo-proof
Seaweed on the dashboard, the needle spinning
The snow belled now, drifts stagger-riven
Jiggle-tumbling and frag-ripped at dawn
Aurora autographs the wind’s willowed wand
Made in Tinsletown
You will know it by its cross bill and wing bars
Alternating bouts of flapping with gliding
Always seems like forever before hand
Days of wine and rosy fingered fireworks
No more, Aurora, to find a free signifier
No more to the tower come, trespasser
I woke lashed to the spoke and gagging
Diddling Emily Brontë’s fuckstiff titty nubs
Ruled by convention’s readout (redoubt)
Unmoored by Hinge Theory at KGB’s on East 4th
Cables of impulse tribute so inclined entwine
Season of the clutch hitter vs. the pinch hitter
It’s always the external stomp duet inside
Naked and invisible on the road to La Mama Etc
Made in Olympia
Blue trucks of temporary immortality
Your eyes shammy sky’s palimpsests
Guests etched into the meat locker
The Have-Nots have not been invited
Says the poet, “Language is a joke” *
Waitress of giant, starving vagrants
Thief of sighs on the upper bridge
Cigarette cherries punk-branding night
Born in the supertramp white nova
My black crown’s orbit, decaying slips
Pledged to undertaking wang speed
The urban fury turbine undiminished
Ink cutouts cradle the cloud scuttle
Vulcan’s nightcap volt arc webbed
Made in Burma
Sick and wasted, purling at the gates
Every day a tidal wave washing over
Swamp-dashed in the cramp factory
Where loss gnaws on the news of never
Snowbound and hounded by memory
Surrounded by repositories of absence
I dozed in the wheeze-rattled dollhouse
Bones clinkered and hurtle-blown
Emily Brontë refusing to stay down
Morpheus showing us how to be human
As Icarus claws the wind’s mask
You mewl, white chalk on asphalt
It doesn’t matter anymore who started it
Made in Naples
Meet me at Café Anacreon, calm flicker-besieged
O bounty hunters of lockstep salvation
My eyes engulfed in infinite glue, I’ll look
For you, Emily, where flags rout the wind
Where missionaries meet Venus from Eryx
Born in the squelch puddle drain, I’ll seek you out
My court date, jack-rigged
Black is the color of my true love’s crossbow
Venus asking for an ice pick in the Green Room
Cupid’s mother, asking for a shaft
I watched her take a bow at the slam tonight
One more time, she hit on her true mark
And let fly an arrow to my still-beating heart
Made in Nome
Kickin’ it off with The Dead Weather
“Hey, you from the heavens”
The artist needs to white out a blizzard
Dear Emily Brontë drizzled with jizz
Zeus set you up for a fall too, Paris
Moving down the catwalk like a simoom
In slow mo — able to enfranchise the masses
Cast in the role of a moral objective
Slaving away on my virtual tombstone
Outside the “vitrine of therapeutic mystery”
River of fevergrief, take me all the way
“Strange Times” from The Black Keys
Out of my gourd, I played myself por toi
For you, even the sky turns blue
Made in Babylon
Meaningless love floods the space between us
UNSTOPPABLE AND UNENDING
Baffled by the dream’s harness chafe, I woke
Emily Brontë, spit-sucked and ooze-spasmed
Boondoggled by the kerfuffle mongers
Overdrawn at the 9-Lives Branch
Every collar a burden of stiff-bundled moans
Failing to volunteer for settling
You kept antagonizing the flicker wrench
You were easy as jailbait
Your bones, gurgling, giddy geysers of blood
WANTON — DEAD OR ALIVE
It was the same when Phaedra dropped by
You’ll find everything to your satisfaction
Made in Jungleland
How can you dilly-dally while daffodils aspire?
Elysian night owls talon-lifting the cerulean tent
Pan asked me to be here stranded in Forever’s corner
Mugwumps bogarting the joint, fie and shame!
Emma Goldman, lead us over the ramparts
Don’t want to be in a revolution where I can’t dance
My heart infected by doped lightning
Wild skanky panky, skip-handled and groove-tongued
Hanging in there, pointing out Emily Brontë to guests
I wake in the Café Telemachus FINAL OFFER
Eileen Myles playing an A7 on my guitar
Carrying on about the next stop is Jungleland
This House of Cards is made of wind
These words hiss like missiles flying in your direction
Made in Pago Pago
Drinking horsetail tea we ask for your pledge
Dreaming grandpaw’s doodle-riddled invoices
From the Glitter and Doom Tour, 90.7 WFUV
All agog at the vast martini swell on Ganymede
You and your series of brilliant lost mazurkas
Unbatten your hatch and loosen your snood
Ghost of red shifts rails on the veranda again
Daedalus and Ariadne dancing in the labyrinth
One leg made of huckleberry wing surges
And all my efforts to fly are fodder for a farrago
As thermal increases forecast new diseases
Buntings and honeycreepers nest in my chest
Yet there’s no place to hide from inner yearning
My motor runs off the fumes of egging hecklers