excerpts from Spring 2020 | 69.3

Page 1

JOSEPH DONAHUE DESTINY HEMPHILL NATHANIEL MACKEY MESHA MAREN JESSICA Q. STARK

The Carolina Quarterly

CALEB JOHNSON

Vo l u m e 6 9 . 3 Spring 2020 VOLUME 69.3

PUBLISHED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL

SPRING 2020



Founded in 1948 P U B L I S H E D AT T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F N O R T H C A R O L I N A – C H A P E L H I L L



Spring 2020

V O LU M E 69.3 ED ITO R - IN- C HIE F

Kylan Rice A S S IS TA NT EDITO R

Eli Hardwig F IC T IO N EDITO R S

Paul Blom Matthew Duncan P O E T RY ED ITO R

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INDEXING The Carolina Quarterly is indexed in the Book Review Index, Poem Finder, Index to Periodical Fiction, American Humanities Index, and the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature. Member Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. ISSN 0008-6797.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

BOOK REVIEWERS

The following works in this issue first appeared elsewhere: "Tip" by Mesha Maren first appeared in Oxford American. "Kleptomania III" by Jessica Q. Stark first appeared in Wildness Journal. "Ballad of the Red Wisteria" by Jessica Q. Stark and "Withdraw" by Mesha Maren first appeared in Hobart. "Phylogenetics" and "The Old Man in the Tree" by Jessica Q. Stark first appeared in Up The Staircase Quarterly. "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Tale of the Tiger-Women," the second "Little Red Riding Hood," and "The True History of Little GoldenHood" by Jessica Q. Stark are erasures from versions of Little Red Riding Hood written by Thomas Nelson & Sons, Huan Chih-chun, B. Wilmsen, and Charles Marelles, respectively.

Deborah Bacharach Kevin Gallin


Contents

Spring 2020 | VOLUME 69.3

POETRY DESTINY HEMPHILL

dispatches from the now/here 8

amy, thank you for many times 12

blood memory: a riddle 16

are you sure you wanna be well, sweetheart? 18

a prophet-mother channels a message on the

afterlife 19

ghazal for the MOTHERWORLD 21

fragments salvaged from the oracles of

mama-n-em 22 JOSEPH DONAHUE

from Terra Lucida 28

NATHANIEL MACKEY

Stainless Lotus of Light 58

Song of the Andoumboulou: 243 66

Itamar, Rejuvenant Spook 74

Song of the Andoumboulou: 245 80

JESSICA Q. STARK

Phylogenetics 88

Little Red Riding Hood 89

Ballad of the Red Wisteria 90

The Tale of the Tiger-Women 93

Madame Nhu’s Áo Dài, 1946 96

Kleptomania I 99 Kleptomania II 100 Kleptomania III 102

Poem in Which I Narrowly Escape My Birth 103

Little Red Riding Hood 105

Con Cào Cào 106 Buffalo Girl 108

The Old Man in the Tree 110

The True History of Little Golden-Hood 115


FICTION MESHA MAREN

Flamingo 116

Among 123 Tip 125 Withdraw 126

CALEB JOHNSON

Mountains Reveal Themselves Slowly 128

REVIEWS DEBORAH BACHARACH The Tradition by Jericho Brown 142 KEVIN GALLIN Triangulum by Masande Ntshanga 146



DESTINY HEMPHILL

dispatches from the now/here 1. in the now times, this is what we know: to build a motherworld is never easy. not when a silence stews, sulfur stench of hunger brews on our breath & yes, we can remember what the prophet-mothers said in the oracles of mama-n-em:

y’all be sweet now

to each other, you hear

& yes we are striving to be sweet but what a striving sweetness is when we are surviving off the bile & salt & sweat from our flesh. & it’s never an easy thing. no, no, never easy when our calves are tired

so tired & our feet,

weeping-blistered & tender. not when we have to hide in the same trees that we know fugitives before us had to hide in. not when we are hiding in the same trees that others had to hang from. 2. this is what we know: that when it is not easy, this makes it even more necessary to be sweet

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with each other, even more necessary to dream with each other. so we find a patch of earth that still has soil. lie down. fingers interlaced like mycelium. & it’s never an easy thing when we feel pebbles under our elbows & at the cervices of our spines. dust in in our nostrils & in our dry throats. & it is never easy when we are hungry. not metaphorically hungry but hungry. & thirsty not poetically thirsty. but thirsty. & it’s never easy once we have fallen in dream with each other & get to a crossroads—

& there’s always a crossroads—

tonight: some of us wanna go a way where some get fed, but not all of us. & what determines what gets us fed is arbitrary—like our hair or our age or our tongues or our gender or how we love or express our rage or our hue or what we can or cannot do with our bodies & some of us cry in this dream: but something is better than nothing & some of us cry in this dream: but we said we weren’t gonna settle no more.

we said we came to un-settle DESTINY HEMPHILL

9


& some of us scream because it is the only way to get some of us to know we care about this & some of us scream because it is the only way we know to prove to our ownselves that we care & some of us furl our fists because we are so used to fighting this way, have had to fight kindred before & will fight them again if it means we can survive. & some of us furl into ourselves because we have fought enough, lost enough are still fighting in so many little ways, & just want to— if only for a bit—rest 3. this is what we know: we dream not because we know the place of our dreams will come true, but because we know that what we dream is possible by virtue of our dreaming it 4. this is what we know: the place we are seeking, the place that we call a good place is a place that others have called no place, a place that others have believed to be no/where. have designed other worlds, like our last one, in such a way so that this place that sustains life like ours, sustains black life, is no/where. & we are bold enough

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to believe that we can create it to be now here. this is what we know: we did not come this far to recover who we once were, but to recover the desire to be who we need to become

DESTINY HEMPHILL

11


JOSEPH DONAHUE

from Terra Lucida first embassy of the sun

In the end, all myths tip solar, the pale, yellow petals tinged with violet, red at the edge, the blossoming rose is the sun rising out of the ground, amid collapsed stars, appearing here as blackened gnarls, dead buds, the low leaves under thick, thorny stems thrusting up from the ashes of the girl who killed herself in the house behind the roses, long ago, upstairs, whose dust limned the hole dug for the rosebush by a family that moved away

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What much must else end before much else starts

What much to be said about what much is before or what much is after

Much about what was not yet is about to be

Is believed to be about to be

JOSEPH DONAHUE

29


at sixty

Hardly yet the start of an end Not even, yet, the start’s end as seemed, then, at that celebratory yet wistful convocation Hidden then from all there the end’s start, such measure as death will not conclude counting out for twelve years

*

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(“I’m just getting started,” he said, to all there, at the party)

JOSEPH DONAHUE

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N AT H A N I E L M A C K E Y

Stainless Lotus of Light In this sense, the Tantric practitioner is a crypto-potentate, transacting like a king with the boundless energy of the godhead that flows from the elevated center of his worship mandala. Here, then, we see that the utopia of the Tantric mandala may serve both to ground legitimate royal authority and power when the king is a Tantric practitioner, as well as to subvert illegitimate power or create a covert nexus of power when the wrong king or no king is on the throne. —David Gordon White, Kiss of the Yogini: “Tantric Sex” in its South Asian Contexts _________________________

—“mu” two hundred twenty-first part—

Mr. P stood quarreling with the Mrs. He let a tear drop to the floor, gnostic fluidity, gnostic flow. He stood thinking about tantric romance. He stood having just come down from the mountain, he stood busted up as though he’d never gone up the mountain. Thoughts and prayers lay busted, broken, bits of glass under his feet wherever he stepped… Nub’s faux republic warred without remedy, God was gun. Were they Nub’s live ammo, he wondered, watching it as well as in it. Thoughts and prayers lay spoken of out of every mouth, behind every podium. Everyone had been up and still everyone scattered, he and she no less, he lamented, the drop of love a drop of blood fall-

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en from his eye… Thoughts and prayers lay kicked about, no goddess’s kiss, no worshipful address, we the would-be chorus asking what but stealth polis was, Nub’s new realty show prez getting to us, what but grab, kleptocratic whim. Next to nothing what there was to fight about no matter, he and the Mrs., inured in their Nubness, fought. He heard a flamenco singer singing about Plato he thought, thoughts easy to come by, prayers easy to come by… We the would-be chorus fell back mum, having none of it, tantric romance come down to grabbedat lotuses, bad rhyme inside out. So said the book of memory we were in or would be in, no not looking back. They were quarreling over who was the king though there was no king, people with eyes too big for their faces, an imp of aggrievement egging them on. We the witnessing raff, wanting to sing but silent, leaned in, love’s royal conjugant would-be royal, root of all putativeness, let-go, longed-after mesh… This the war Mr. and Mrs. found themselves in. Tantric polity. Tantra’s wet eucharist. A prince composed of pieces what principality. “To write a Republic in gloom,” we’d read. This was that • A royal couple could they have reconciled, reached agreement, the testing and the teasing of the Who’dHave-Thought Church, the one she’d be queen in, the one N AT H A N I E L M A C K E Y

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he’d be whose king, the twisting and the shouting and the working of it out. “Blue Star” was on the box as we leaned in, the chorus, it turned out, we’d have been. Hawkins’s horn plied a kind of hoarse weeping. Carter was reasoning, wanting to reason, trying to reason with the way of things, blue suppliant, blue detente… No mountain figment was it, Mr. P kept saying, their dreamt, gone-after royalty real, Mrs. P asking what he’d been smoking. Benny Carter’s appeal to reason played on us all, his cosmic petition. We too had been to the mountain, we remembered, were of the mountain as we were there, but the box took one’s voice away, put membranes, hammers, horns and strings in its place. We the would-be chorus remained would-be, Mr. and and Mrs. P went on as ever. “Tell me to place your feet on my shoulders,” he told her, “and look you up and down.” “Blue Star” gave way to “Blue Nile,” soup-cooler flutes at our backs had our backs, a long having-to-do-with-it no summing-up could serve

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____________________

So went the ins and outs of the Who’d-Have-Thought Church. He was asking which of his earlier lives had she been his wife in, this as they sat crosslegged facing each other, waft from their love parts widening their nostrils, excited against their wills… She told him it wasn’t Nepal they were in, not the Middle Ages they were in. We the would-be chorus leaned in, drawn by a tableau so bleak our reckoning eyes bled, a testament equally bleak drawn out of us, loudly no longer would-be… “The wrong king,” we intoned again and again. We read from a book, more hymnal than book the way we read it, operatic, more like a libretto, nothing not affected by Nub’s lost facelift… Grabbed hair, grabbed lips, grabbed opening, desecrated yoni… Nub’s new apprentice prez stumbling in the doorway, court clown were he not king N AT H A N I E L M A C K E Y

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• Quixotic talk of Water-Pot Mountain and Black Bee Cave we leaned in on, of yellow footprints left on a rock. There was talk of emission and retraction, airborne mothers and lords of the fields, our lapsarian demidivinity there to be gotten back, might ritual make it more than bodily regard. We the would-be chorus, he the would-be king, she the would-be goddess, consort, queen… They would be royalty in a compensatory court she wanted nothing to do with, calling themselves tantra though they were not. So it was we put our two cents in, we the parachronicle choir, thought thinking outside itself providing what spoke inside. There grew talk of an eighth continent quadrisected by the four Mountains of Black Antinomy, one of which we wanted Abdullah’s Mountain of the Night to be. The far shore of the Rock Water River, whose touch turns one to stone, got mention as well, so deep were we into the whatsaid realm, the moon an upside-down umbrella Mr. P put on our foreheads… Quizzical itch, conniption, quiver, spillage. Our thoughts migrated to the birdlegged boy, muni-bird amenities off in the distance, kleptocratic polis, token vote. Mr. P wanted to overcome, as we all did, wanted to be that bird, the compensative, would-be king, hero king. We the parachoric brigade were with him now, Miles Davis in Europe on the box, “Autumn Leaves,” we

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swung so hard we swang. We fingerpopped so hard we dislocated our thumbs, thugs loose, Kali Yuga no matter, many an austerity sublimed. By way of the four bodily arrays, we explained to Mrs. P, Mr. P had impregnated himself, big now with kingship, that he and she rise to their higher evolutes, wings made of calcinated mercury

N AT H I A N I E L M A C K E Y

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____________________

Mr. P had gone off, Mrs. P complained. He was wanting to be up to alchemy, wanting to be king. He was wanting it to be as he’d read, quixotic, wanting it to be as it never was. He had called her his wagtail woman, up from which he promoted her to queen… He was trying to fictionalize himself, we semisang explaining, he was trying to be of the book, adding what only a tantric jazz chorale could add or intimate, each the pervading agent who never blinks we’d be if we could

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____________________

No wonder he went off, we semisang, the wonder was not everyone did. Nub gone over to the hands of the guilty, we were sulfurous, fuming, wondering what to do, the other side cheated, won. We were licking our wounds, biting at scabs, the alchemico-acidic nextet, spite choir, vitriol’s mantric dress N AT H A N I E L M A C K E Y

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J E S S I C A Q . S TA R K

Phylogenetics There was a lonely cabin, Within a dark, old wood, And in it, with her mother, There dwell Red Riding Hood. When it began isn’t clear, but isn’t it obvious that for stories about little girls in danger?

we always had a knack

Nice girls, stupid girls, naughty girls, girls bleeding and holding baskets of wine: each knot another route to pity-blame the foal Why not hard-edge (for once)

let the girl wander where she pleases

For the moral of the story isn’t always the same, and how’s the one go where Where no Huntsman comes around to cut

she doesn’t die her out?

Who will answer for the anonymous limb, taking? rice paddy. Where once a hole, a tooth. Songs of the Buffalo Girl: wet strands in a figures that know their way around in the dark

basket

alone and pretty?

Where once a wood, a

Look now to Little Red Cap, taking all of her known objects to bed, off her overcoat to reveal fine downy fur

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housing

taking


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JOSEPH DONAHUE DESTINY HEMPHILL NATHANIEL MACKEY MESHA MAREN JESSICA Q. STARK

The Carolina Quarterly

CALEB JOHNSON

Vo l u m e 6 9 . 3 Spring 2020 VOLUME 69.3

PUBLISHED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL

SPRING 2020


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