Without reason, he collected
books and didn't read them.
But his daughter did. She read
about falling angels, the lashings
on a girl's back, crime driven
by passion, a yellow shirt
stained with black tea, the men
who lived like brothers
on Cannery Row. Alice tumbling
down a rabbit hole,
King Solomon choosing between
feuding mothers and deciding
to split the child in half,
the incantation of Genesis,
Joseph and his journey of dreams.
Her father washed his hands
exactly five times before dinner,
plucking pinchfuls of rice from
the family plate with his fingers.
After dinner, he scrubbed his mouth
with a lemon, did exactly three
loads of dirty laundry, ignoring
the daughter's stained underwear
from a first year on her cycle,
the grass-stained jeans which meant
she was still a girl. The father
scrubbed Palmolive on his fingertips
and in the darkening dusk, hung
the wet clothes on a cherry tree,
the ants crawling on the shiny
bark, latching on.
Rachelle Cruz is from Hayward, California. She is the author of the chapbook, Self-Portrait as Rumor and Blood (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in Muzzle Magazine, Splinter Generation, KCET's Departures Series, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, among others. She hosts “The Blood-Jet Writing Hour” Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. An Emerging Voices Fellow, a Kundiman Fellow and a VONA writer, she lives and writes in Riverside, California.
I say come over you say I can’t I’m busy maybe another time
I say how ‘bout tomorrow you say how about it
I say quinoayou say mirepoix no soup for you
I say someone’s in the kitchenyou say fix me a sandwich
I say saltyou say no thanks I’m watching my cholesterol
I say are you feeling okayyou say yes when I’m asleep
I say happy birthdayyou say yeah right leaving the room
I say please you say you say thank you too much please stop
Ryan Collins is the author of a chapbook, Complicated Weather (Rock Town Press) & an e-chapbook, Handshake Trouble (Gold Wake Press). Some of his recent work has appeared in Leveler, H_NGM_N, Jellyfish, LOCUSPOINT, Handsome, The Hover Project & the Hell Yes Press cassette anthology 21 Love Poems. He lives in the Illinois Quad Cities & teaches in the Iowa Quad Cities.
In a retrospective review: criteria
required the presence of the both of us,
always. Fraught with ambiguity there
was uncertainty in understanding what
to do when isolated. Then festered
our malaise; a tender point made counted
as a cut; one which never would be sewn
up with catgut. And it was asked
that we toughen ourselves for such
intensive companionship; like cartilage,
we could snap but never really break—
may we minimize this joint destruction.
Aaron DeLee is an MFA candidate at Northwestern University. He received his BA in Creative Writing from Loyola University of Chicago. He helps edit poetry and write reviews for TriQuarterly Online, and his work has appeared in various journals. In his free-time, you might find him running along Chicago's lakeshore path.
You are the angry valentine
And the envelope I cut
My tongue across while sealing
Its flap shut. You are
The bumpy rash spreading
Across my shoulder at four a.m.
And the tab of Claritin
Dissolving in my blood—
A forgotten dream
That nags at me off and on
Throughout the day,
A pyramid of crystal
Goblets stacked on top
Of one another downstairs
At the Crate and Barrel
A stone's throw from where
You work because you
Needed to get away.
If only I had a magnum
Of Dom Perignon, I'd
Pour ebullient waterfalls
To rival the fountains
At Versailles. You won't
Be going home to your wife
Tonight, not while an elephant
Charges across the floor
With gleaming tusks
Where herds of panicked
Post-holiday shoppers duck
Behind those see-through
Plastic curtains with mermaids
Undulating through them
While you crouch low in some
Out-of-the-way corner with
A Blackberry at your ear
Listening to my voice—you
Who never much liked talking
Without being able to see
My face, o my Chevalier,
My hillside of flat stones
Piled high on the outskirts
My hot plate of used corks
Glued together from all the meals
We've shared, the teapot
Whistling whenever you found
Your way to my table,
I of such little faith
In your love for me, in love
With me while spinsters
Plump the nuptial bed
With the plucked feathers
Of outsized swans—pillows
I'll never get the chance
To lay my head upon
Or dream upon, won't you
Forgive me of my greed,
My wayward imaginings
Of a life other than the one
We are given only once,
Your voice pounding
In my ear, in consort
With my heart as if we
Were post-coital lovers
Conversing in the dark
While shadows flit about
The honeymoon suite,
Its air perfumed with roses
In a cut-glass vase identical
To the one my mother
Kept in her childhood home—
Dragons swirling on a silk
Drawstring bag drawn shut
With tassels made of gold—
Fifteen beads of lapis lazuli
Dangling on her wrist her man
Never asked about, not once,
In all their years of marriage—
Such passions fully spent.
I don’t remember my name
Everybody calls me Hootie.
Before, we took their Rucker and it rang
across the steepled skyline of Holy City.
Today, I go nicknamed into the locker
room at Calaway Golf Club
and hear my voice pour warped
through the wall-mounted speaker box.
Ain’t it yours? Didn’t I
swallow it whole once
and now it renews from the mount
like a head dipped under water.
What other tool could usher me from this land
I buy my very first camel
suede jacket and in the beginning
I borrowed size 8 cowboy boots
and we would cover R.E.M. songs
in our integrated dorm room.
I know what I am
in this turquoise bolo tie
I don’t even have to name it.
Rio Cortez is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she received the Lucy Grealy Prize in Poetry. She is a Cave Canem fellow and MFA candidate at NYU. Her work has appeared in Clementine, Cratelit, Tidal Basin Review & upcoming in Sugar House Review. Born & raised in Salt Lake City, she loves & lives in Queens, NY.
The Scrabble dictionary reveals a heaven made up
of smaller words. Inside my father’s heaven even: everything keeled
level, curtain flattened free
of rise. Shouldn’t even angels cast their eyes
to the ceiling? The suit at speed dating
tells me he buys and sells
futures. (Inside his heaven have.) "I once predicted
a car crash," I say. When my first period came
I was ten and in the Planetarium, clutching
a bag of glow stars underneath a Styrofoam Moon,
balanced in the dark precarious, a bird on antlers
shattering a windshield.
A man's recorded voice taught me
topography. Later, in the bathroom,
I plugged myself with tissue, passed from the known world
to the next.
Rebecca Myers's chapbook of poems, Greener, was released from Finishing Line Press in 2009. She has four poems in the Winter 2011 issue of Cream City Review, and a poem forthcoming in the Southern Poetry Anthology: Georgia. She lives in Athens, GA with poet/fiancee Dan Rosenberg, and works full time as a travel consultant.
Dan Rosenberg’s first book, The Crushing Organ, won the 2011 American Poetry Journal Book Prize, and is forthcoming from Dream Horse Press. His poems have appeared recently in several magazines, including Pleiades, American Letters & Commentary, Subtropics, and Third Coast. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is currently a co-editor at Transom and a Ph.D. student at UGA in Athens, GA.
Consider the fact that I would walk backwards
through time to torture Freud for penis envy
and save more women from hysterics. Joan
perhaps if I were feeling Catholic. I’m not sure
we need the unconscious or the Surrealists or
any subsector of that decentered universe learned
from Saussure who screwed the whole world
over with absence and presence and difference
not to mention the French are known for
smoking and slapping in cafés all that fucking
and no fight: La vie en rose ce n’est pas difficile.
Baby I’m a brown girl dragged across the sea. I
would kill. You would let me.
Abba Belgrave was born in Trinidad and Tobago but lives in Brooklyn with neither cat nor dog nor bicycle and is currently cursing allergy season. An MFA candidate at New York University, she holds a BA in Political Science from Hunter College and her work previously appeared in the Argos Book anthology Why I Am Not A Painter.
Alex Dimitrov’s first book of poems, Begging for It, will be out in early 2013. He is the recipient of the Stanley Kunitz Prize for younger poets from The American Poetry Review and the founder of Wilde Boys, a queer poetry salon in New York City. His poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Slate, Tin House, and Boston Review. He works at the Academy of American Poets, teaches creative writing at Rutgers University, and frequently writes for Poets & Writers.
I found a white hair on your head
now I can feel the rain coming
I feel it in my left knee
behind the charcoal briquettes, monsieur
the ageless current of a storm
we are not alive in the imaginary
structures of living
no longer one-man missioning
around the cerulean earth
in a dark pod you imagine yourself
dressed entirely in tinfoil
the apartment shudders down romantically
cats know how to handle heat
which sends us into a small
panic and the hours mean hardly
anything when our love is stored
in a cool dry place
Her horoscope said there was something
important she needed to attend to—a change
her life kind of thing—and if she didn’t
deal with it between now and April 2012,
she would have a much harder time dealing
with it 30 years from now when the issues
resurfaced again. "What could it be?" she
wondered so hard her big face turned red
and began to sweat. She started making a list
of things it could be, but the sulfur fumes
from the plant blowing in through the broken
window crossed her eyes and scrambled her
letters. She filled one Big Gulp plastic cup with
gin for herself, and one for her life-sized stuffed
dolphin that took up the entire couch. She slid
down the crumbling wall to the floor with a thud
that finally jarred loose her bad back tooth
and flooded her mouth with the salty taste of blood.
She spit a long red glob into a brimming ashtray,
wiped her mouth, swished some gin around and felt
a tingling where her molar was, like tiny redhot
bells, hot angel bells, but what was the song
they were playing? “Whatever could it be,
"I Hate to Break This to You But" originally appeared in Lumberyard.
Jennifer L. Knox’s latest book of poems, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, is available from Bloof Books. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and four times in The Best American Poetry series. She is working on her first novel.
And I didn’t question the logic of a womb with shelves.
Infants placed and returned like vases to watermarks.
You should know making babies is a form of ceramics.
It takes the work of hands around a wheel.
It takes a man on his knees, softening his lover’s clay
until she can pickle a body inside her own.
We skimmed magazines for caramel colored
babies that could be half mine and yours;
broke out scissors and littered
your bed with a sheen of make believe.
I named them Darius and Yvette. The twins:
Pleasure and Terror—born five minutes apart.
It was your birthday, your breath on my neck
as you entered me from behind. Or the number
of women you mined and broke that made me shudder.
A lace scroll of underwear arched its back against
the rug. You taught our paper spawn to grow
flowers. I taught them which flowers to cook.
Ekoko Pauline Omadeke is a Cave Canem fellow and graduate of New York University's MFA in Creative Writing program. Her work has been published in Ars Poetica and No, Dear Magazine. She is the founder and former curator of the Southern Writers Reading Series at Happy Ending Lounge. She spent a year teaching creative writing to 2nd graders through The Community Word Project's Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program. She misses the rural two lane roads of Virginia. But not enough to leave Brooklyn where she lives and writes.
All my life
It was a lie
To try to go towards bliss
But death is the ultimate blissfulness
To be a candy or a corpse
The world holds you on it's tongue
And no one can save you
Not even your own children or your friends
So have a seat with the home of the dead
They will eat your colors
Until you are blank
The best thing to happen to you
The greatest happiness
To be an animal who is smoke
And beyond the mouth
That tears your bones from one another
To be a mound of meat
At the table of the living
Dorothea Lasky is the author of AWE, Black Life, and the forthcoming Thunderbird, all from Wave Books. She currently lives in New York City and can be found online at www.birdinsnow.com.
I thought I could taste without eye contact,
could speak you inside, remember my name
from muscle memory, could cease gagging
on your stem to speak a word, spell it out
on my gums. I thought I could spit out
a story, deflower the reed and sing:
I practiced humming while mouthing water.
I mouthed storms, hail pelting holes inside me.
I practiced not barking when you called me
Without hands laid upon it, there was rise.
My face caught in your lap, sweat coruscant
against an evening’s shadowy lilt—wraiths
haunted my gum wail; my throat, lucent girl.
She will make you speak in Tongues, reel her skull.
Jaw unhinged, you between her teeth, she culls.
Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, Illinois native. Recently, he won Bloom's inaugural chapbook competition in poetry for his manuscript Bruised Gospels. He is a Cave Canem graduate and received a Bread Loaf work study scholarship in 2011. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Callaloo, The Southern Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Blackbird and others. Phillip is currently poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry.
How sea-foam melts
snow as waves wash
ashore. Why water
like glass, and rose-lit sky?
Absence of disaster—
the wind, the missed.
How I can hardly tell
where sky ends, sea begins:
the horizon a strange mirror.
The clouds. The surge. The ship.
What of the wreck, the sun,
the wind, the weight?
A chorus of voices
whips over the water—
almost a reconstruction.
How meekly the sand makes
sucking sounds. The surge.
The ship. The breakers. The missed.
A Way To Mark Time
We watch workers, dogs, accidents, taxis,
by the chemical-frothed East River
and this lump of moon, fumes rising
from the city. We could count cedar waxwings
above the Newtown Creek come morning
all the workers, dogs, accidents, taxis
revved up, ready for day. But you say
you want the old wounds gone.
Forget this lump of moon, fumes
from the rainbow canal, the city’s
bottom, dredge of the river.
Workers, dogs, accidents, taxis
busy on the bridge above us.
And I pour the wine into tin cups,
a lump of moon reflected, no fumes
just fruit, for a second. A place
of mixed lineage, of histories, fictions,
workers, dogs, accidents, taxis,
a lump of moon, fumes rising from the city.
Jessica Ratigan received her MFA from New York University’s creative writing program in 2007. Her work has appeared in The Greensboro Review, Blackbird, and Hunger Mountain. Ratigan currently lives in Hampton, Virginia, where she teaches English and creative writing at Hampton High School.
The woman I live with eats
in our bed. She leaves crumbs
beside her plate, an apple core
on the couch in the living room.
Everyday I find myself
picking up bread crusts,
carrot shavings, wiping clean
the rings on the countertop.
When I am finished eating
I wipe the table onto my plate.
I wash each dish in the sink.
I save the leftovers, even the bookends
of the loaf of rye. I put magazines
back in the wicker basket
by the door. I hang the winter coats
draped on the bedframe. I turn off
the light when I leave the room.
My days are a series of impersonal tasks.
Everything I open I close.
I built a room of her silence.
Inside I was alone.
The multi-colored macaws
that flapped above the rafters
were a florescent lightbulb
that burnt out when I looked up.
I imagined a birthday cake
and built a table to hold it.
I filled her bookshelves with
the records I loved.
I taped photos of myself
inside the picture frames.
Plastic shutters blocked the sunlight.
The past vibrated in the floor.
Who was I to know anyone,
a stranger to myself?
Mice chewed the cuffs of my pants
as I dug through a dream
with the femur of a cow.
Inside I was alone. The creases
were wet from their thin black lips.
I pinned my silhouette against the wall.
A graduate of NYU’s creative writing program, Paul Hlava has been published in Gulf Coast, Agriculture Reader, Rattle, Juked, Paperbag Magazine, among others. He is a grammar teacher and poet living in Brooklyn.
make wandering dogs
of us. Mangy, ribs exposed,
on the outside We were
we had to
write and could not send.
My belly is swollen
a corner of myself
to keep you
must carve it
where is your weapon?
Brian Francis is a Cave Canem fellow
from New York City. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a
degree in Creative Nonfiction and is currently an MFA candidate at NYU.
Of course, I really mean some night
or many nights or even no night at all.
Like those days when it’s about to storm
and the Midwestern plains are full
of lightning, corn stalks bending
in yellow light and we make love,
land-locked, dreaming of brown
desolate oceans we’ll never reach.
Last night anything could’ve happened—
our whole lives pushed to the breaking
point, our center unable to hold
the weight of another man. Yes, last
we fought. Dug a tunnel through
a snow bank. Survived. Watched
a Brad Pitt movie. I made dinner.
You laughed. I threw spoons against
the wall. Last night we blew up the world.
Ignited a revolution. Trapped ourselves
in a manmade hell where fire licks
flesh but never singes hair. Last night
is tonight, and the next night, and some
night twenty years from now in a field,
backs against grass, your hand in mine,
our fingernails full of earth.
Stephen S. Mills holds an MFA from Florida State University. His poems have appeared in The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, PANK Literary Magazine, The New York Quarterly, The Antioch Review, The Los Angeles Review, Knockout, Ganymede, Poetic Voices Without Borders 2, Assaracus, New Mexico Poetry Review, Mary, and others. He is also the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award. His first book, He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, is out from Sibling Rivalry Press. Website: http://www.stephensmills.com/
Thomas Dooley the artistic director of emotive fruition, a theatre collective where actors collaborate with poets to bring poetry to life on stage. He holds an MFA from New York University, works in creative arts therapy, and is at work on his first book of poems.
Clouds roll in once again, reckless, hiding the August sun. The dune grass, like weathered
individuals, blow in the mind. A chill that was not there before, yet always —
I smoke a cigarette, though I think myself a non-smoker. Raindrops begin to pellet the
book of a famous poet. A black crow lands on the fence behind me, and caws, —as if
cawing at me. Tell it. Tell it. Doesn’t it always symbolize something: a black crow
throatily grunting. A child runs up and down the corridor of the hotel balcony above me,
innocently screaming. His father yells something I cannot hear.
Shane Michael Manieri was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He received a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from The New School University, and is the recipient of fellowships from the New York Summer Writers Institute and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. His poems are forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly and Lambda Literary Review. Shane currently lives and writes in New York City.
The definition of light
for example. Or that
I have no time for my
family, let alone prepare
a decent meal. Democracy
is a dangerous American Idol
when eliminating life partners.
TV's favorite cousins are
microwaves, drive-thru windows, Rx
fine print disclaimers. Everyone knows
it's impossible to quit smoking
or depression. A friend who designs
packaging for heat-n-eat dinners
technically answers to Wal-Mart. God
is a channel where we worship the choices
we're expected to make. Right now I'm watching
Life on Discovery narrated by Oprah Winfrey.
I'm hungry for something I don't keep inside
my house. Every commercial break reminds me
it's easier to be happy than I once believed.
Museum of Second Chances
My chair-side book pile
tipped into a spill –
the new stray chews
on Buddha’s raised
Between lives I hope to gain
a fresh perspective on revision.
The heart attack last year
was my first helicopter flight.
Inside my chest
I carried a dark red star
over the trees.
"Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Television" originally appeared in The Nepotist.
"Museum of Second Chances" originally appeared in The Coachella Review.
Brent Goodman lives and works in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where he's a copywriter, assistant editor for the journal Anti-, and an instructor with the Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions. His second poetry collection, Far From Sudden, is forthcoming this Fall from Black Lawrence Press.
I hope you realize everyone
around you has genitalia.
On the subway it’s your
hand avoiding my hand
it’s your hand, flinching
in the fluorescent puke
where my hand waits on
your hand to touch it
on the Q train, where
men line the isles like
teeth, loose and dumb
I’m like one of them
working up the nerve
Ryan Doyle May’s work has appeared in Bombay Gin, Pax Americana, Esque, Supermachine and others. He is the author of the chapbook the Anatomy of Gray (Corresponding Society Press) and acted as the lead in the short film August, which was selected for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School and lives in Brooklyn.
You want me to say who I am and all of that?
Pepper LaBeija, Harlem 1987
LaBeija, my house, is kept gold, swept clean.
Fronts fantasy from top to black bottom.
What I want to be, I be—crew-cut queen,
superman, mother and son—or become.
Catwalk as fierce as the fiercest real bitch,
I am high like fashion. And fame. I am
a man who likes men and a good cross-stitch,
whom homesick kids crowned legendary. Ma’am
of the ball, been walking now two decades
and got more grand prizes than all the rest.
The long and short: I’m a one-man parade,
elaborate drag, from manner to dress.
Within ballrooms I am most opulent.
Inside this house I am most relevant.
"Legendary" originally appeared in Callaloo. Winter 2009: 1075.
Nicole Sealey, an Afro-Latina poet who was born in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., and raised in Central Florida, is a Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, and Squaw Valley alumna. Selected by D.A. Powell for inclusion in Best New Poets 2011 and a finalist for the 2011 Third Coast Poetry Prize, Nicole Sealey’s poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, Third Coast, and Callaloo, among others.
Happy National Poetry Month! Throughout April I will be posting a poem-a-day. Today's poem is by Gregory Donovan.
When she put her finger inside
his mouth, there was Hispania
and the dusty roads pocked
with droplets of rain before
the wooden wheels came grinding,
the impassable suck of black mud.
When she put her finger inside
herself again, he was there, too,
taking the famous Spanish steps
into the foothills among the azaleas,
they were building the sunlit villa
to which they would always return.
When she put her finger inside
his mouth, there was the temple
and the hands clapping sharply
against the steep stair, bringing back
the call of the quetzal, the star
shining in her dark eye,
the blood running down the stone.
When she put her finger inside
herself again, he was almost
there, but she did not come
that night, nor the next,
and another rung on the ladder
that led to—where?—had broken
as the stars faded, the bright birds
disappeared, the walls fell in,
and she never came to him that way again.
When she put her finger inside
his wounds, he knew them all
once more—she said she found it
hard to believe all they had told her—
yet he knew if she would believe,
in that moment he would be healed
for as long as the mockingbird sang,
as long as the taste nailed him down or
gently wrapped him up and took him away
to a story that wouldn’t die in a war without end.
Gregory Donovan is the author of the poetry collection Calling His Children Home, winner of the Devins Award, as well as poetry, essays, and fiction published in The Kenyon Review, New England Review, TheSouthern Review, storySouth, 42opus, diode, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. He teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University and is Senior Editor of the online journal Blackbird. The poem published here comes from his recently completed poetry collection, Labyrinths in Black and Blue, which soon will be in circulation to publishers.