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T H E

G O D S

A R E

poems by Joanna C. Valente with illustrations by Ted Chevalier

D E A D


Copyright Š 2015 by Joanna C. Valente All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 978-1-937739-77-5 Published by Deadly Chaps Press (emergence) New York, NY 2015 DCs5JV|4| Book Design by Joseph A. W. Quintela Cover Art & Illustrations by Ted Chevalier

www.deadlychaps.com Portland

New York

London


for all seekers of truth


CONTENTS The Fool Forgets Who He Is

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The Magician’s Day Job as Paparazzi

7

The Empress Is the Main Attraction at Your Favorite Night Club

11

She & Him Learn How to Be Human outside Eden

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The Chariot Drives the Lovers into Hell’s Kitchen

19

Justice Is Balanced When She Weighs Our Souls

23

The Hermit Used to Be the Guitarist in Your Favorite Band 27 The Wheel as the Sound of Your Own Echo

31

The Hanged Man Will Ghostwrite Your Life At Midnight, the Devil Governs the Sun

35 39

The Tower Is Where the Gods Make Love The Moon Is Always Horny

43

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The World as 50 Shades of Blue

51

The High Priestess Isn’t The Girl Next Door

55

The Emperor Never Learned How to Say Sorry

59

The Hierophant Builds the Bridge Between Deity and Humanity

63

At Night, Temperance Works as a Dominatrix Strength Feels Her Body Burst in Flame Death Rides a Pale Horse

67 71

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Judgment Promises Life after the Internet

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The Sun Rises Over Manhattan & Sets in Brooklyn The Star Breaks Him & Her Free Acknowledgments About the Author/Illustrator

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The Fool Forgets Who He Is

i. He is spirit. Behind him, a sun is setting over nature divining magnolias absurd.

ii. Frequently he plays fetch with a dog one-eyed flicks Rome apples into its salivating mouth.

His world is unordered:

stacks of stars

nipping at clouds

distracting fish below

all glimmering blank limp in fluidity, battered form.

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iii. He stands on a precipice oblivious to the jaws of a crocodile never felt This quiet, he begins to name the animals already named parts of a body he lives shook loose from Father

he is

beginning & end betwixt & between: liminal. iv. He is sorry, not sorry. Sleeping alone at night a frosted bliss pushes away ruin everything forgotten: now zero dog days dwarf to an end.

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The Magician’s Day Job as Paparazzi

A form takes shape at the end [ of a blowpipe ] A magician appears to stand still [ a phantasmic circle ] He takes the fool by his hand, brings him out [ of glooming morning ] inflicting southward desires [ the difference between desire & need ] is realizing what gets you off faster [ a plague for both parties ] The magician lives by the ocean so he can see land's end [ a horizon broken apart asymmetrically ] The rest of life should be world's

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away [ the art of losing won't be hard to master this way ] Crowned by snakes, he sheds his skin every week [ symmetrically he has realized perfection ] When the fool leaves [ by water's seams ] he says we are designed to die [every man &woman is a star ]

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The Empress Is the Main Attraction at Your Favorite Night Club

Pomegranate seeds scatter to feed part of the year dead —she wears a crown of stars as grievance, her son hung & hanged. Dogs run up & down her thighs biting at loose skin —a dying heaven, queening serpents until healed from secrets named after mothers all womb all tomb, not beloved nor despised. She hangs the hung —the man is eaten for dinner: seasoned garlic, red wine poisoning earth, barren from waking. For thousands she sustains, for her —nothing remains.

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She & Him Learn How to Be Human Outside Eden

There is no returning to the garden where she & him grew fled home to practice absence unlearn a happy childhood plucked from paradise's soil him & she take driving lessons for a new country's road life will have to be sacrificed.

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The Chariot Drives the Lovers into Hell’s Kitchen

He is the son. Over his head, a gown of stars— his shoulders—full of moon. He contains multitudes of bats living inside his chest—the bats feed on his organs, vomit blood back into veins. He steers the sun's subway across skies back to dawn's gates. Here, rain bathes nothing except oyster shells boiling a future. He is never home.

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Justice Is Balanced When She Weighs Our Souls

1. We wait for the stars to quell None of us have seen God She will keep[ us ] waiting for three days This is why we were born: to end in the shape of an O No one realizes how cold it will be

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2. Earth hails spiders / blotched memories —swells & animals wait for carnage She gives [ us ] her bones to wear On the third day we forget ourselves No longer sure which you is in us

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The Hermit Used to Be the Guitarist in Your Favorite Band

For forty days, he lives in exile. Sleeps in a sealed cave, staves off the forest's beasts—descendants of Dionysus. He smells peach blossoms from inside rock. Carves devotions into his thighs. Nobody knows how he came to be: chanting Otis Redding, all prayers turn Google inside body, clutches old dog bones instead of eating:

anything to be empty. After forty days, lives in a house with no furniture. His neighbor a woman, red pen circling mistakes—shedding skin June-fast in white linen, lizardly

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blues humming in grass. Peggy in twilight dances a lighthouse inside, a ghostly snake /// eggs hatch /// a medusa with a million mouths regurgitates slugs & raspberries in jam, jamming TVs to sleep— Lucifer's limbo half-cut by a hot knife. He prances in jags, screams pens screams I love you screams paddle—buys a weekend pass to visit good-time Jesus. Medusa's mouths suspended in amber: triangular negative space, aka the human brain. String-lights bubble up stairs as he walks—pillbugs scatter & the lighthouse flutters orange.

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The Wheel as the Sound of Your Own Echo

'97 black Nissan drives to Port Chester on Hutch —a woman mouths cocksucker when it switches to the left / License plate spills blood clots on pavement —later raccoons will lap up the red / Pump gas for $30 —enter sprawl A child alone, holds gun in a gas station lot —mother looks at child before digging in & all father sees is red / A magician pulls out scorpions from a bowler / says the weak have inherited the earth

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The Hanged Man Will Ghostwrite Your Life

From a maple tree, he hangs by one foot for nine days until his body forms a cross

to bridge—life's awakening / A hole whittles his torso—threads together each muscle—a Greek chorus

Coyotes gorge, sag in a white landscape interrupted by a lamb's sprawled intestines

Still & breathing, the lamb whispers in falsetto—shivers like snow dropped in milk:

I am dead as a forgotten man, no mind / I am a broken vessel Fangs dip arteries

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Boiling up through blades of grass—the lamb spreads, purrs into a shit

angel / Bleeding into the hanged man, the host rapes veins— rasps merlot

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At Midnight, the Devil Governs the Sun

A woman & man stand naked. Above them, the devil sits, holds earth's torch. Around the necks of him & her, chains lay loose. The chains can be slipped. They are freely worn. There is no water. Only empty cups scattered at their feet. The devil's belly is ripped open. When the sun escapes—daybreak. On his knees, eyes tangle a set of metal teeth. Between lavender tongue. Tongue lashes tree's fruit—gurgles lye: he calls them darling, sweetheart, my love, mine. They feel even more alone. They are always quiet during sex. For touch, they gave up words. On weekends, he lets them walk the High Line. Says heaven isn't a place. Under the lid of a piano, in 1963, a woman gave away. Her babies to no one. Her & him—motherless—eat sin's ovaries for dinner: transformed by the taste of absence. Rattlesnake scutters over him & her.

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Lays eggs in her womb. She harvests generations—her kingdom for his sperm. Him & her dream of a stable to birth the world: a heaven worth dying for. Her & him make a deal with the devil: sacrifice their bodies for heaven's bed, fucked angels. The devil's torch lights their way back to earth.

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The Gods Make Love in The Tower

Upon entrance, the shells of crabs scream steam splinters open their mouths ajar— Everyone smells him when he comes —old apricots, milky tea, &tobacco rank as fingers boiling in a pot of chicken broth, teeth in a watered cup No heaven, just terror

Every place is somewhere else, his GPS tells him

How do women move? Asks Siri: blue on blue, heartache on heartache unravels his many hearts

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Each pulse ghosts him

pulses a trail

of melted honey, bees' bloody bottoms —her thighs terracotta dry lake now just a hole in the earth beneath rose-water clits These are the town's scraps He sings Song of Songs nodding blood-splattered —him ghost-maker in pain

deranged blowing

wind at slant Him black tarp him pulses until a piece of cake him dressed in harlequin rubies

while her a woman mostly bleeds

seasonally

He couldn't look her in the face — thinks her a token, a ride she is scrap

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In the tower's bed of machinery undevoted & distancing a song sung badly

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The Moon Is Always Horny

An astrologer sits / under the moon Plots a horoscope for a man / nameless as a pack of wolves Out of a clay oven / two tombstones are born / The astrologer asks whom

do you love? The man answers tomorrow

when I wake / I will buy tulips & place them over each grave Between each body / moonlight will reflect / the heat will break their bones / half-a-dozen dove swill fly from their ash / a woman will gasp breath / a lake will bleed out fisheyes & the woman will bathe in water / her eyes are hazel—opposite of the black

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sea / I will buy a sailboat & learn the smell of burnt flesh / of water turning to desert the woman who rises is the woman I love

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The World in 50 Shades of Blue

A naked woman dances Above earth watched by eagles & lions— time is told by her body. constant, voluptuous. She doesn't know whether to face east, west, or south: the northern beast has a face like men. The sky above the world is black-purple, navy-blue taffeta. She is also a man: lives somewhere beyond grey matter, white marrow

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& red ventricle. She dreams ribs, nausea, umbilical cord, clay. She remembers earth. It is difficult to talk about the absence of sorrow for the first, last time in a life. For weeks even she forgets she is going to die. Closes her eyes Doves fly from her lids: she falls to earth— blue-on-blue.

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The High Priestess Isn’t the Girl Next Door

Her head is a horned diadem, breast in cross —she turns her head toward the temple's veil, soaks tea leaves until ink bubbles up—grinds pelvic bones for hours through sage, marrow drifts in hollows. This is holy

water. His bloodstone. He eats out her menstrual blood— her womb a body of water—they lunar eclipse—curve on curve. There are two sisters: one to bring life, one to bring the living closer to the other— hands in her lap, the scroll she holds reads: who have you spent

your entire life loving?

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The Emperor Never Learned How to Say Sorry

He let his children be born then swallowed them whole ;;; The last time his son saw him with his own eyes ;;; The emperor allowed hands weave a thorn of crowns ;;; Dismembering human turned divine no one knows where he lives ;;; Eyes of the dead are stuck inside his bedroom walls ;;; Muddy emeralds devouring live hearts, squeezing soul into wine

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The Hierophant Builds the Bridge Between Deity and Humanity

A mask of sapphire lights his face—in mountains he sits straddling lake water ripples angels waking in water the air streams stillness as if someone died while making love. He has never made love. Instead, he cuts up books to orgasm. There is never a morning where his heart is not a coal bucket.

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When the fool asks

how, he answers: on a stove, someone is boiling hair doused in honey— tears rise, sticky & green. Someone drinks it, its rotting foam glued inside someone's stomach. Someone could stop; instead chose to be somebody.

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At Night, Temperance Works as a Dominatrix

Lifting black gauze, she pours a thick liquid from one receptacle into another. On her bed a man lays palms open, asking how do you collect

yr blood? She places her hands between each thigh, lights a candle &presses. His pubic hair is matted like white gauze, smells of crushed ginger. She sucks rain from his cock —his soul against a feather, determines it's not heavy enough to be fed to the eater. He wakes alone the next morning, his back

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rough from ropes. Lilies spread across the bed—petals of who he will become.

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Strength Feels Her Body Burst in Flame

He tells her to shut her mouth while they fuck Outside thunder is resting / Rain sticks to glass like velcro He pushes her head down—her neck a question mark Throat hesitates / She wants to marry in a ragged hem like clouds / She knows she must gulp / wipes her mouth in glass Someone invented a word for this kind of sour

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Death Rides a Pale Horse

He measures his life by expiration Dates / Milk in the fridge has two Weeks til death / bananas grow black as the inside of a coffin Outside Death & Co / he digs His foot into a guy's rib / rotting peaches glaze out onto sidewalk / Says / some people do what they

want / His feet break blood wounds merge wounds make love wounds permeate wounds / bleed into wounds shitting pus Jabs a knife down skin through the guy's belly like subways passing each other in the night / The Holy Ghost was never in that hole

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Judgment Promises Life after the Internet

There are mountains ;;; Sometimes they are tidal waves which also resemble glaciers ;;; Whitefish float at the top ;;; the blankest white squirms out of their scales ;;; into the distance between two sleeping bodies The mountain sea has given up on its dead ;;; Beneath steep cliffs humans twist their unwarmed bodies toward sky asking what to do ;;; Their bodies unwormed mouths erupt all over their limbs ;;; Mouths vomiting every wrong until they sink lower & lower into earth again The sky can't fit them ;;;

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The Sun Rises Over Manhattan & Sets in Brooklyn

She died in this city

it was on

the L or in front of the L behind the L

or

or beside the L

or not even near the L

but because

of words that start with L. There are sunflowers on her casket

pictures of the white

horse she rode as a child

named

it Red until she renamed it Sun a baby cries in a woman's arms. No one says anything even though everyone is thinking please shut up

please stop stopcryingstoprightnow someone pulls out a beer

starts

talking about Philly cheesesteaks. For good luck she wore her grand mother's ruby ring

sometimes

drank too much at poetry readings because saying words actually meant something & all she wanted

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were friends who thought her words meant something

her apartment

is full of stuff

her parents find boxes

full of words

don't know what any

of it means but know it's something.

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The Star Breaks Him & Her Free

Humans are taught to read a certain way plastic wallpaper is taped to the insides of their eyelids upon birth someone draws in lines adding color maybe some grey so only certain colors can be seen at night a woman kneels by water pouring water into separate jugs sometimes emptying them on land sometimes in the water then that line—

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

“The Hermit Used to Be the Guitarist in Your Favorite Band” was featured in decomP Magazine. “The Chariot Drives the Lover’s into Hell’s Kitchen,” “The Wheel,” “The Hanged Man Will Ghostwrite Your Life,” “The Moon Is Always Horny,” “The High Priestess,” “At Night, Temperance Works as a Dominatrix,” and “Death Rides a Pale Horse” were featured in various forms in Thirteen Myna Birds. Immense gratitude to Cathy Park Hong & Dennis Nurkse for reading these poems in their early stages. Eternal thanks & love to Ted Chevalier for illustrating the tarot & being there for me every step of the way. Thanks to Lisa Marie Basile, Dallas Athent, Sean H.

Doyle, Anthony Cappo, Gregory Crosby, Abigail

Welhouse, & Lucas Hunt.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joanna C. Valente is sometimes a mermaid and sometimes a human. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014) and received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Her full-length collection Marys of the Sea is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in 2016. She also has a chapbook, Xenos, forthcoming from Imaginary Friend Press. Some of her work appears in The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, among others. She founded Yes, Poetry in 2010,and is the Managing Editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Her ghost resides at her website: joannavalente.com.

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About the Illustrator

Ted Chevalier lives in Brooklyn, New York. He currently works as a Senior Multimedia Designer at Sales Graphics, where he manages projects for companies such as A&E Networks, Western Union and Disney. He received his BFA in graphic design at School of Visual Arts, with a minor in motion graphics. Ted is also the Web Editor and Digital Designer for Yes, Poetry. He often freelances design and illustration projects, having worked for musicians such as The Slackers and 100dBs.

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The Gods Are Dead  

by Joanna Valente // Advance praise for The Gods Are Dead: "As interest in the tarot resurges, we're reminded that its significance has stoo...

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