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THE STAFF G.C. Waldrep Deirdre O’Connor Carolina Ebeid Jamaal May

Director Associate Director Seminar Associate Seminar Associate

THE VISITING POETS Dan Beachy-Quick Jean Valentine

THE SEMINAR FELLOWS C. Dylan Bassett Anaïs Duplan Lauren Feldman Diamond Forde Esme Franklin Kiara Huertas Hanae Jonas Becca Liu Luis Martinez Elizabeth Meley Janan Scott Ariana Turiansky


Brigham Young University Bennington University Bucknell University University of West Georgia Bennington University Bucknell University Smith College Columbia University University of San Francisco Franklin & Marshall College Smith College Shippensburg University



from Futuristic Afternoons


06 07

The Ravens For My Undead Father


08 09

Waimanalo, Hawai’i, 2008 At Clover Park


10 12

Maple and Wenge The Poet as Career


13 14

AJ on Date Night AJ in the Nursery with the Parcae


16 17

Gun-Tongues Rusted Love


18 19

Venus in Retrograde Congruent Figures


21 23

Notes from the Sound Self Girl at the Border of Herself, Boy at the Limit of His Allegory


25 26

Fly Poem Forbidden Loot


28 29

soliloquy Meditations (after the wash)


30 31

book of nan self-portrait as parts


32 33

An Extraordinary Turn The Body is Also Capable



There is no longer distinction between real life and the costume party. No one can tell who is animal, who is police officer. Dave stands outside my window in the bear costume. Someone's rat child runs away laughing. I walk the same streets, etc. I wear the vulture suit. I carry the machete. The children eat everything. This will only take a second...


In my un-dream, you and I want sex but lack essential sex parts. We try to have sex anyway but nothing’s there. No penis, nothing. Every single night.


I talk to you on the phone for an hour then remember you’re dead. One cloud, one moon. A butterfly behind a curtain. Does loneliness make one more beautiful or less? In my undream you’re walking away. If you keep walking, you’ll reach the sea. Soon you reach the sea. Things will get darker before they get totally black. Your jacket is black, your hair.


In my un-dream, we touch each other’s boats. You carry the moon in a bowl of milk, watching it turn and turn into itself. I’m the wolf dressed in a red velvet hood. My poems don’t make sense, they make elephants. Please come home safely. 3


As if someone erased my eyelids. A perfect world. The stranger watches me from another window. That’s me in the mirror. That’s me in a trance. The dread of seeing or being seen. Whatever trees do, I do the opposite.


First, I draw a circle of salt. The dead speak back. Dave and I press our bloody palms together. Our dwarf dances around the fire. The government watches approvingly. Someone claps. We stare upward as if at God. God stares downward as if at us.


Another day, another schoolyard bone saw. The birds require little or no explanation, leaving behind empty telephone poles. I sleep beneath the passing airplanes, jet streams of infinite zeros. I enjoy trembling on the rug. Poetry is boring.


We’re all waiting for the sex doll to arrive. I have my regrets, forgetting to wave goodbye. I knew the hospital room was empty but I knocked anyway. I felt cold beneath the heating lamp. Everywhere the smell of wet and heavy feathers. I understand things. It’s a bad habit. A tunafish sandwich laced with hooks. 4


Chandelier breezes. I vomit on Sundays. I feel part of something bigger. The stranger wears black in another room. Meanwhile, what else can I say about shadows? Whatever the case, goodbye for now. The children have muddy feet. The church has no roof. Snow makes everything taller.



The ravens recite their usual plainsongs over the quiet-step of afternoon toward the catafalque of the doe. She is there beneath the willow's arch -its fingers tapping over the doe and the fawns just beyond the perimeter tumble over each other. There is nothing more here. The ravens recite their usual plaint.


After I had dug a trough on the surface of the ocean, my friends, the sea-birds, remarked that it resembled nothing less than God's gullet. I had not gone far enough when I corralled the centaurs and charged back toward Thessaly. That time, you did not see or did not care, father. This time, I am more brilliant, even more brilliant than you had hoped I'd be. What was your dream. I filled the trough with imaginary gold trinkets that I had stolen from imaginary gold temples on my wanderings in-between imaginary homes. I filled the trough with your body, which I had not known before but had dreamed it to have twenty limbs, all blue and swelling, and calves the size of women. What was my dream. I lay my own self in it too and my friends the sea-birds remarked that I had eyes like Jonah, before the whale. Little did they know, 6

so little. Did they know for whom I had been digging? It is difficult to say your name, father, because I do not know it. No one had ever told me how many limbs you truly had. It was only when I saw you for the first time at the bottom of the ocean that I understood that you were nothing less than God's child. Then I understood why Thessaly had not moved you, and dug. And performed the impossible and filled it with you.


Driving down the coast I think this could be a postcard: these moss-covered mountains surrounding the bay, stalks of sugarcane lining the road, plumeria—as always— in blossom. There are no seasons here. But there are nights when the geckos are more lonely than on others, when they scurry towards and under each cracked-open door, their slender green tails flicking behind them. And the roosters. Nobody thinks of the roosters here, their dull, matte brown distinctly untropical, their dumb routine so much like a human’s. Late at night we would steal downstairs for some milk, would flood the kitchen with light— and the roosters came crowing, perched outside our window, so sure it was the sun. And how many things had we confused for the sun? Our father, perhaps, the god of our childhood; the banyan tree in our backyard, its roots and vines wild and many, first flaring out like so many rays then plunging—deep—into the ground 7

with an almost elegant violence.


I’m nineteen years old, but somehow my sister is the only person I think of as older than me. At the next picnic table, she laughs with a cousin we’ve never met before and who doesn’t look like either of us. I’m reminded of a nightmare I used to have where Heaven is a potluck and I’ve forgotten the pasta salad. I’d rather my grandfather throw me from the gate than look so disappointed. My sister says: what doesn’t kill you reminds you to live better, which of course is a lesson that can’t apply here. Even in Heaven, the pigeons degrade themselves, pecking at food that becomes wrappers that become shadows— as if to say, flight itself can’t distract us from this rubbish. The woman shaking on the bench is the only person in this scene who I can relate to.


She pockets his earlobe with her tongue, asks his favorite position. Lit like a match with ample touch, he responds Queen’s Gambit, trails the landing of her map brown skin with his hands that flutter, wings: quick doves or 8

slick planes that split the sky with light. In chess too, there’s black and white. The Gambit, an opening for White to steal the quaking middle--the seizing, flexing center that quivers underhand. And here the tension starts: the history lesson in her mom’s room watching nine hours of Roots, the way her grandmother hummed spirituals in the kitchen, knotted hands working a waterfall of seasoned flour, or those lone hours trapped in blonde thought, bird bones and grace, the kind of lofty scent found in fruit and floral shampoos. All these quiet in his feathered touch. He whispers power play into her side, nuzzles her ribs, seems to melt as well. In chess, even the Queen’s Gambit can be declined, black gains ground, counterattacks, thirty-two pieces suspend. All this happening on the median: the equator of heat, how it wraps the waist of the world like fingers, creates the line where black blends white, disappears inside each other until all the angles round to the lips and hips and the smooth arc of heels. Every square, a merger of two woods: the steep dark of Wenge uprooted from the Congo, shipped and shackled, pressed to an unrecognizable sheet of wood, forgets the lush dig of its roots. Then Maple sugared and American, how it licks seamless, squeezing tighter into the stain of her color. Shed the hand of history pushing back. They fight, cast their clothes, their past, themselves: teeth meet, clack like the rebound sound of pawns advancing down the middle.

DIAMOND FORDE THE POET AS CAREER The Nile floods in seasons—first, the Emergence: ideas crack, spill like the pregnant tide. Then Drought, reliable retreat, the dark husk 9

of mud and cultivation. Here, heads duck to meet their spines, pluck their weight in riverbed silt, while I, legless beggar, tuck beside a tree and wait for the topaz bead of the Nile’s return. Here, beside the river, I meet a girl—vocal girl. Tells me I am hopeless, jobless. Consider it, but I can’t. I know life twists in the fluid touch of inspiration— the bubble of its wet across a river bank. Here, her teeth meet and call me stubborn—tells me I am nothing but a metaphor. I can’t hear over the memory of legs, water across toes, those small pebbles swallowed in movement. In this dream, friction smoothes my thighs and I live off the river’s recursive whisper. Here, she leans in, the hem of her tongue seeks some sore spot of the mind. She eases, breathless, that I am only the conceived—the single stubborn stone in a water bed and that all this Nile will tumble across my eyes, along my head, and leave me drowned. I look back to the mud—the deep trail of my presence: the prints my palms pressed to carry me. I know the river will come again. I have dragged myself too far.


On Saturday night AJ is aroused: Donna Summer is on the radio. AJ asks Sadie over, asks her to call herself Sadie Summer. She comes doused in puce lace. AJ has already poured a drink. Sadie spins it around just so: 10

combs a cream through butterscotch syrup, slow, her fingers pinching the tip of the striped straw to stir. He drowns in the languid look she throws, her wet unfolding. But when she finishes AJ cannot, despite the all-burgeoning bulge, the demonic hook of her, bring himself to drink—from sullied, from nimbly stained straw—the ambrosial deed.


The Baker I ask for a pound of sugar and the assembly dissolve into a pith of calamity. Comes the choral taunt: first tell us what you’ve done, fool, what with Sadie— I ask for a pound of flour; they beat breasts, each other, even the refrain: what fool, what done, what—I do not ask for milk lest they begin to bleed. Instead the ply: am I not your baker? Am I not adrift for you? Decima steps from the crowd, unspooling thread to weave a lattice crust across my pie: the choir quiets dumb, for the lattice is thick, long, much longer than the puce lace cooling under its cross. The Candlestick Maker The nails of my toes warp under her wrap first—Nona wends her waxen thread as though bundling a plastic baby found long after its losing—heels, backs of calves, knees and so forth vanish between her thankless palms, their sticky bees weave. A child’s whoop from the alley trumpets what must be the end. And they do come: one torch, then four—more 11

than this slim pyre requires. The girls, following in fine skirts their men, ring hot around my pallid throne. All come to see the candle man unspun. The lick of wick is lit as the dove’s pale shit pricks the earth. All have come, and a molt is made of me. The Butcher I ask for a sharper knife and they shake their heads: Morta—Morta of the sagged breasts and breath a thousand years old—has come before me. Close my eyes and I see her winsome cataracts cut the dawn. Open my eyes: dusk, and somewhere a sheep mews for what was shorn yesterday. Close my eyes, ask for a sharper knife, do not open them for fear of what hands will hold themselves out, of what within. Open: Morta, knives laid at her feet, and in each knife the same ache for the only slice, in each knife a wink gleaned from the egg-wash browned top, the lattice cross. Close: the lace, the molt, Morta, her cut.


I once was voted more beautiful than Aphrodite. that was in the fourth grade. I've since grown into my ears. I invented zippers––underestimated gifts much like the tiny plastic coverings on the ends of shoe laces, whichI also invented. I was the first person to reach the moon. Modesty kept me from reporting it. I know the meaning of life... no I'm not telling. I am the zipper, unnoticed until it breaks. I never actually move or even fall and maybe my standing still is as intentional 12

as leaves giving way to wind. I am my father's daughter. He is his own cracked hands bloody from heavy lifting. In this poem, he might tell of the time he made the whole world laugh with one joke or how he brings Hector Lavoe back to life once a year to sing at his own memorial concert. My neighbor is his Benz and the breaking of women who have been his passengers. What might he tell? We are all present, quaking tongues all metallic with potential like loaded guns carrying dreams in our thighs so heavy, we sweat and chafe as we walk all the while hoping we'll collide or just rub shoulders, scrape like stones and spark, that just one of us, gun-tongues, will fire and set us all ablaze.


Since I broke a man once and am reluctant to claim his scattering, I think it’s okay to admit that I can’t seem to rinse the orange from his throat off my clothes. People, too, can rust a flaky orange like carabiners, which must be retired when they achieve bloody pomegranate color and here’s the kicker: we do this to each other because the first kisses I placed on his lips were already apologizing for the way I would love him like shrugged shoulders and Freudian slips. I might have warned him that my affection would dissolve him, leave his sturdy chest sinking into itself like toothless gums but I couldn’t have known. Besides I meant to love him and I think he meant to give me instructions on how to do so, but the flowers on my desk were dying, the ticking of the oversized watch on his wrist was audible and I was too busy daydreaming about writing a poem about broken things like orange love. I want to pluck forgiveness from his bones, and braid it into a sash that I’m too ashamed to wear. I broke a man once and here’s the kicker: I haven’t found a way to be sorry. I’m too busy trying to get the color of his suffering out of the fabric of my clothes.


I carried a book of dangerous poems and pictured each one. Each one turned to trouble. I became stoned on this trouble, and then on my proper troubles. I wanted to feel my own weight, so each trouble enacted this weight. I was full on ambiguity and fooling— It was not tender, but it was correct. The draft was unmoving, but it was spiritual. What a relief, despite all maxims— Sometimes you heave a cloud inside you can’t control. Sometimes the ripping dead of summer, it’s just—


In Okayama, nobody had a house like that anymore because paper and thatch let too much in. The air would clamp to my skin straight from the bath— I never knew if it was forty degrees or zero. Didn’t understand Celsius anyway. This was the procedure to be sure I was all there: in the afternoons the sun would mention warmth on a slope behind the house. Gradually I learned 14

time. After a point, David was there too— he’d come in, a bundle of oddness— Electrified by the doctor. Couldn’t join the military. What could you do but go away. In spells he would drop little clutches of himself that arranged half a picture. This was the state of him; it was the shape of me. We were both full of books and ghosts, but other people didn’t care, he told me as he snipped the bursting soy. Swollen into splits, rows of congruent pods. By them I felt permitted to loiter, the air so bitter but the sun sometimes warm. I said I couldn’t dream up being more clarified than this. I remember time every time the sun creeps across a frosted weed.


I am sound this 15

dismantling voice prosody

this purpose of

ocean’s mouth


against my earlobe

I am salt & babble, response &

all response

Stammer of speaking

ocean, what noise make?


Mostly I am garbled as mossmangled sea, but, some days, resonance, I am remembrance,


vibrations through a circle & beach,


of sound

I resound— then die— [In a shipyard billowing sails

of fire,

I loosened the

of breath— If you have found the echo’s center— I am

all water & no flesh,

in this


proscenium of sound Echo of rock, what is echo

echo & …

& the origin, of— 16

formless ward


I am the sound the sound,

as I am decaying


If you have found— recurrence I am


the glassywhitefish


all [


& garble,



, moniker

— all

sound, dismantling this lull


I am

constricting me



we: blister in the fist of joy: we both are burnishing the marrow’s wick as some girls make mahogany some boys brim as the midday moon: we, the thrumming: all mottled in the mirror’s wick: do we throttle: here: 17

at the threshold? all metallic in the quivering mouth: are we throat of ash? the ravenous? we who overshot nirvana: arrow bursting from the slackened bow: death slants earthward in the afternoon & that, too: transfigures to a kind of joy


You were older. I didn’t see the distance. That night made incautious by the liquor, I needed a dance partner, a waist to grasp, curves to trace--I liked that song--. Through the sound you came knowing. I could not hear. Asked you to speak up. Through the sound came your noise. Apprehended my boy hand as to help me, now I’m a boy apprehended, closing my hand like bloom in reverse. I was the one who was to like variety, according to astrology. When I began to know your noise, I did what help I could; intent on fixing your freckles as if desire were protruding from your pores. How I wanted your tongue pulled out like a drawer: dispense names, dispense evidence of your language. 18

Once, in my cup, a fly floated. I still drank. I knew I could not see it spread in the cup that was my mouth. Your wings, the ones you’re moored to, sent you to one body after another. This is how you took me. I mean I took you. I mean taint. Now it seems I’m sick all the time. Covering my cup while I move through the thick dark.


1. If I wrapped a strip of my skin on her like a bandage would it disintegrate in her whiteness? Or like smoke --with its hunger to remain--spread as if in a substance like water. Both, bodies of darkness, both asked to stay. Whiteness thawing off her limbs like snow. Us less difficult for people in houses, rooms, restaurants. Imagine, in a room, asking smoke to stay. 2. Once, in a restaurant I looked at the table between us, on the table our shadows --no imagination for color--leaped at one another. The waitress poured water. I wasn’t that shadow. Leaned in to smell them black flowers. --That’s our bouquet--. I ate as I was served, they, the shadows, didn’t wait, devoured one another. Said no to napkins. 3. Impious, I return to my severed skin, a wound waiting. Imagine a wound waiting. She asks what I’m writing about. 19

This want that unstrings the music out of me done by my own hand. When the music is over, flesh shutters, calls for myth, calls the wound back. King Kong gone. As my hand soothed my forearm, flesh sprang onto shadow: shattered on the night’s ground. Staring at the ground, I wait. Imagine waiting for darkness to grow back.


It was years into feeding birds when I recalled my other loneliness Her name rising from her coppery skin like steam The bag of breadcrumbs fell to the ground and spilled I looked at my named one O God I thought I will fear for her now as for myself


A few freckles for the sun-starved I think for my arms as I walk back with fresh-laundered clothes in my bag and the hot light beating something slovenly from my female form which I only notice when a car passes, makes me see myself a thing to be seen, not just lived 20

and walked through, a body like a field of tall grass so I get home and write: and seeing those green-yellow leaves glow in the noon-day sun and reading about a plane that crashed into a thick island forest and being alone in the Laundromat across the street from the cemetery spread out like a miniature cityscape and hearing those leaves and seeing them out the open door (who was it left the open door?) and seeing them flutter slow as a movie memory: rows and rows of pale machines one rumbling with my few pairs of pink, blue, red underwear asking how many like these have passed unseen and how many people.


These were her seasaw years, fast & thrown. What she had wanted was slow iron, smooth, some kind of strong that would always stand. She wanted elephant eyes and bird heart, hands flecked with flour and water, aproned hips turning & turning with tidying ways. This was the life of the merry-go-round, whipping down hills with no hands at all and here was the same old wanting she, she who had always wanted small, 21

a pair of lemonade hands to press into, some place to lean, some leaning thing.


One part oil—stain & trace—mapmaking work— a thing that happens on our mothers' white walls & door jams especially & paw-printed windows. Half home half-formed thing of care & here arranged in a glass jar, rigged & hooked to the drywall sky a homemade fish body, reeling up the pulley to fly. Self and I walk through cities of faces seeing people with so many faces with so many people in their faces— how many cities do you keep in your mouth? The question— always wanting to count my eyes, asking where is the one true eye and what does it see, how shall it name the redbird, one-true-i ? Some parts oil, some parts fire, brain hot & cooking story after such fresh sound, wrists crooked from carrying fired pebbles, worry beads in mapping hands— how hold the hot things in our fists ? Mostly tail & quick-fire legs, one part wingless so the going is downward, the tailbone an anchor that draws the oil & eye into its own freight & pull, its one true dark keeping darkness. But in the whale-chest is another glass jar and in the jar turns an engine, water mill & wooden wheel and in the wheel flaps a pair of yellow wings bent in the last breath of flight, the iris still seeing even as the wings went— quiet shatter, tell me where we go after.


One translation of the minstrel show is, the meaner the man be the more you smile. All of Mississippi was in him. It spilled across the counter and his body followed. A self-portrait. They came to hear him recite the menu. Smiles offered as an apology for oneself. Then disposed back into the land, into the rivers and dams. This candid bowtie facade set before the nation. An extraordinary turn of attention. To think, people change when they see misery.


I aimed the flashlight beam into the field, into the air, see the pale blur out and be swallowed by what I once assumed was * that language becomes experience. That turn of phrase turns over when you say I can’t speak for... then do speak for and I’m content to let you— * get easier, does it, ever knowing someone? I mean, consequently believing that the space surrounding the body is also capable * on one hand, a field, pale once, now white has the making of a whole skin, but that’s not quite it * light gestures, loses 23

its own shape ways away toward the other


`bsyp anthology 2013  
`bsyp anthology 2013