Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Anthology
Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Anthology
Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Anthology written and edited by the Read Write Poem community
:: Copyright 2010 by the collection’s contributors Permission granted to copy, distribute, transmit or adapt the work in this collection must be obtained by those who contributed to the collection. Please contact any contributor before using his or her work in any way. Front and back cover images are sections from Ouch, by Read Write Poem member Rallentanda. Collage on watercolor paper, approx. 26 cm × 30 cm. Mixed media: gouache, pen, texta, paper cutouts from magazines and calendars.
:: About Read Write Poem Read Write Poem was a 100-percent volunteer and participant-driven online literary journal and social network that gave poets the opportunity to connect by sharing their work, discussing poetry and being part of a unique community whose focus was on supporting poets at all levels in their exploration of verse. The words “read” and “write” in the title point to the importance of both reading and writing poetry in the discovery of one’s own voice and practice. The terms also point to the “read-write” culture made possible by the internet, which — along with free and inexpensive content-creation tools — has given rise to consumer-producers by enabling anyone with an internet connection to share their work and engage in important discussions about what matters to them. Elements of the site are still live at readwritepoem.org.
:: This anthology is dedicated to Read Write Poem, to its contributors, and to reading, writing and sharing poetry
letter from the editor This anthology grew out of the Read Write Poem community and Maureen Thorson’s challenge — first issued five years ago — to write a poem each day during the month of April as part of (inter)national poetry writing month, also known as NaPoWriMo. Thank you to the contributors for allowing their work to appear in these pages and for their spirit of collaboration in helping to finalize each other’s work, as well as for their patience as I pulled the document together well after my stated deadline. Thanks also to Nathan Moore for helping to select the poems that appear here. Deepest thanks to Andre Tan, Deb Scott and Nathan Moore for their vision and passion as they helped lead, manage and transform the site. Thanks to Carolee Sherwood and Jill Crammond-Wickham for their creativity, insights and time. Thanks to all the site’s regular contributors over the years, including Tom Adam, Sage Cohen, Jessica Fox-Wilson, Dave Jarecki, Kristen McHenry, David Moolten, January O’Neil, Robert Peake, Beth Polkinghorn, Ren (Katherine) Powell, Sarah J. Sloat, Christine Swint and Juliet Wilson. Finally, thanks to Liz Lamoreux for having the simple, exquisite idea back in 2006 to give poets a way to share poetry once a week in an online project called “Poetry Thursday.” She and I built on that idea and co-created the Poetry Thursday site several weeks later. In many ways, Read Write Poem has its roots in Poetry Thursday and Liz’ initial vision. And of course thanks to everyone for taking part in Read Write Poem. I hope you enjoy the anthology. Poem on. — Dana Guthrie Martin
contents sepia comber season of mists the turvy-topsy emporium the family waits the sound of saffron stasis the right answer miguel walkabout nan the wife, the cherry pie, the baby my name is discovery. light bulb moments at a piano we built a poem shard repairable repartee a squall of crows baggage what the dog drags in the cat and the tiger land of dreamers anxiety dreams goodbye luddites, after a line by norman dubie alice springs low tide
3 4 6 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 17 20 21 22 23 24 26 27 29 33 34 36 37 38 40 41
s love tea time paragraphing regular white paper by now speaking with you happily every after fear of the unknown mixed blessings the nature of fire making pirozhki breathless the spirit of place mats three nights, two days to bring life into balance walcott spoke to me once lord leighton’s solitude pablo picasso’s weeping perfectly organized inside outside captive new dishes on the menu at the ‘take a good long look at yourself’ café delicious the caterpillar and the worm heroes beautiful nun magic
42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 51 52 55 56 57 59 63 65 67 68 70 71 72 73 75 76 77 78
each morning love you, too love in the time of java sac(red) bloody thumbs untitled a visit elemental scent of love i hate poets consumed by fire daily primal mary beth do you smell lemons? grounded after the tornado fight club a city kid’s choice despereaux the first flower realizing the truth of the matter during mutual of omaha’s ‘wild kingdom’ prince vladimir distance
80 81 82 83 86 87 88 90 91 94 95 97 98 100 101 102 103 104 105 107 108
The way of poetry is a way of being alive. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Sam Hamill
Evelyn N. Alfred
sepia Sadness enters uninvited pushes, pulls passively inching its way up my feet antibodies surface and suffer.
Tiel Aisha Ansari
comber A mermaid is combing her hair and watching the curl of the foam while waves throw salt spray in the air. She hides in her water-edged lair tucked deep among surf-shattered stones, this mermaid who’s combing her hair to summon a storm. Though it’s fair outside, lightning runs through her comb while waves throw salt spray in the air. A hurricane wind that can tear the canvas and break a man’s bones comes up while she’s combing her hair and wails like a soul in despair around the cold rocks of her home while waves throw salt spray in the air.
But never think she doesn’t care that sailors are drowning alone — the mermaid keeps combing her hair, her tears are salt spray in the air.
season of mists Northern, grey, industrial landscape bleeding into Open moorland under lowering skies. Voices filled with grim determination, Evangelists forged in steelworkersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; guise, praising Mining communities now long forgotten while Brass band melodies still haunt the air Evoking timeworn traditions of service and sacrifice, lives firmly Rooted in the Book of Common Prayer.
the turvy-topsy emporium The sign in the window says â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Turvy-Topsy Emporiumâ&#x20AC;? I entered in, then stood amazed The Walking Stairs just had me dazed Curios hung ceiling to floor Mid air, there hung another door! I jumped for it, but fell right through Clinks and clanks as curios flew Such things as I had never seen, Such things that I just never knew! White pepper, black snow, Sweating hot an Eskimo A freakish fish, nor tail nor fins A dismal cherub with countless sins A crooning crow, a cawing conebill Serenading the nightingale Herself, a most precocious thing, She stood as tall as Mount Basin!
A paradox as straight as A A meterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just a mile away A smell I see is greenish blue A sight I smell is cheese fondu Half-heartedly I fall to the floor For as I come around I know The Topsy Turvy is no more!
Sophie F Baker
the family waits They sat still in winter coats like limp marionettes alone with thoughts of their own dampening armpits. Outside even the puddles were frozen thicker than your finger, stowing winter underneath. Cold enough to make the memories stick like blackcurrant jam. In here they gathered as if a campfire blared from the chimneystack, all staring at the blackened grate. All still. Somewhere in their collective memories a fiddle played against the strum of a guitar and the room, filled with the bruise of winters past, shifted slightly. The snow fell in sheets on the city winds, shaking the windows and doors.
the sound of saffron The fierce squall of crows shakes the rust from our ears. We flinch at this new intensity: We can now hear tastes, as if our palate has sent new tendrils up into our brains. We’re made dizzy as first-heard flavors reverberate in our ear drums. Tomorrow — a slender, delicate thread — sounds like saffron, and as rare. The noise of our yesterdays, more common, like black pepper, available at any emporium. Breathe deeply: it is only through practice and habit that we stay sane amid such sensations.
stasis The river groans, as its solid surface is forced against the bank. The earth protests the shackle of rime and willows weep without knowing why. Small birds shiver, huddle in holes in trees, hungry, yet afraid to fly while kestrels search aloft in vain. Manacled in misery beside the hearth, illusion of warmth against chill exterior reality. Everything slows to sleepy rhythm waiting, waiting, waiting for Spring that never comes.
the right answer a little boy giggles, high-pitched and asks a question with a complex answer in order to answer, you must train an octopus to use a marionette or toast rye over a winter campfire spread it with a jam of eagles’ talons stow away on a wattle canoe sailing ‘tween the pacific isles write a magic tome ‘til your fingers bruise with startled ink carve from pumice the image of a pond-walker perhaps some other things (use your imagination) the right answer will give him wings to fly
Maria L. Castejon
miguel I am the hunger who sits by the fireside. Please, give me shelter.
walkabout The soul’s in a pickle, pale slip between heart and mind. Crowded in, wants to quit your little trinity. Flagged, furtive, waits for a shady dealing, unconscionable on your part, to call it quits. Only takes a shiver, and the soul’s out, mingling with the energy of strangers. On vacay. At the wheel of your car. Traveling with the Grateful Dead. Living, moving further away. Getting on wonderfully well without all your interior vision, your intellectual ping pong, your penumbral angst. The soul’s dressed up in nothing, everywhere to go. Needn’t bother to rattle chain, dwell on any place too long, only how the grass blows like a fringe, how the skies drift along in ozone at the speed
of abstraction, not like a river, not like anything else, not laden down with words, gravity. Glorious. The soulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a swell, a surge into the other. Your god, once gone, that never wants back in.
Robin Rosen Chang
nan Nineteen years after your departure, I bury my face into your long silk nightgown, infused with your sweet intoxicating scent of hyacinth, and I find you.
the wife, the cherry pie, the baby In the time before he breathes that last one breath, finally hollow, gasping on the nursing home bed he will tell the attendants about the women, the affairs before and after his vows and about the wife, about that one day She wore an apron, over a little blue dress tied in lacy white, the crisp bow in back when he got home from work she had baked him a pie cooling now on the kitchen windowsill warm cherry red glazing over the strips of crust, brown against the ceramic white pie pan, the one with the yellow and orange birds, a wedding gift from her maid of honor lifting it in her flowered quilted oven mitts she turned and presented it to him Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to be a father! â&#x20AC;&#x201D; her voice bright, not hesitant
but cracking a little, her smile eternal proud of his hands proud of his body and the future they shared and are going to create he doesn’t remember the taste of the pie later, or the dinner they had but he’ll tell the weekly sponger and that woman, the one with the cold fingertips who grunts every time she pushes his hip to grab at the bedpan About how he sat down in the kitchen chair with the red corduroy cushion tied on its seat and stared at his wife’s belly and leaned to it and kissed it Adoring her always that summer day And they nod and say that’s nice clenching their jaws but not hesitating because they’ve glanced at the guest register and they’ve seen his records
the family fields left empty And again they assure him that his wife, his son, his daughter or his secret lost love or that girl at school he never talked to will come by tomorrow Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure, tomorrow okay?
my name is discovery. Shuttling from pen to page to pc, my endeavour is the sonnet, the pun, the couplet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; heroic or otherwise â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the clever epigram: an odyssey that begins in an empty head. Each rhetorical enterprise leaves me spent; until the next time: blank space becomes word becomes poem becomes a thing that it did not set out to be. I am challenger, agitator, explorer. Erupting from mind and heart and hand, discarding, destroying, discovering. I was not, once; and now I am.
Sarah Sidney Coty
light bulb moments at a piano Days of practice turn into weeks, the melody slowly finding its way to my fingers. The tempo seeks a victory over fingers that stray, stumbling over scattered ornaments. The keys stubbornly play staccato; phrases battle with their accents; slurs creep up, demanding legato. The notes taunt me from their page and I repeat, just for good measure. Fortissimo conspires with my rage; yet every day I practice I treasure and await the moment when music grants my soul admittance. Now, fingers flying, I become my pianoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s humbled audience.
we built a poem I We built a second poem inside the first poem. We built a third poem inside the second poem. We built a fourth poem inside the third poem. We built a fifth poem inside the fourth poem. We built a sixth poem inside the fifth poem. Before we built the seventh poem we rested inside it.
II We told rumors about the second poem. Our rage made the third and fourth poems weak. We tore down the first poem. The sixth poem had to go to work. The seventh poem never woke up. The fifth poem could not remember its name.
shard Intuition comes as a shard and pierces mind or hands or sides depending on the kind It is sharp It punctures flesh with fragments of knowing and meets us where the brain intersects pleasure and pain then stops us there leaving us peripherally enlightened and aware I know this to be true because years ago I was pierced at a slant with the totality of you
repairable repartee separated by sincerity we sit across an orgasmic ocean lapping love licking our suspended wounds found by lovesick fate a decorated table elucidate scrutinizing sky blue eyes melt away marvelous madness your hands speak effortlessly expecting a candid reply deceptive dessert denies a sweetened silver spoon rescued revelation responds a quick intoxicating kiss commute the familiar fragrance saturate our isolated eligibility i once curled around purring velvet trust no longer hissing silent salutation
donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t deviate or try to explain i stumble and stutter freeze and fumble persuasive perception identify and confess again your hands open quick slow drowning splash
a squall of crows A squall of crows descends upon the walnut grove, fierce black pepper souls. The sky reverberates with caws and beat of wings, a dizzy feathered frenzy. They bomb the road with nuts to crack the shells and squabble over broken bits. And when they leave, we miss them, the sedate trees and I; in the still branches linger shadows and echoes of a glorious chaos.
baggage The past runs high in the terminal, wheels and feet tell you, Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in transit. We equal movement and full hearts: we are the faces of this layover and the next and the next, airport Starbucks and unheard-of cookie stores. We are the tax-and-duty-free gift shops and the gossip magazines; we are the perfumes and the Photoshopped magnets, every souvenir known to man wrapped up in our bodies.
We are not tempted, but we are loaded with the weight of flight and hope, air hostesses in navy blue, coiffed hair, and perma-smiles.
what the dog drags in Never normal things like leashes or biscuits, not sticks or sodden tennis balls. Nothing that’s made for dog, nothing she’s been given or allowed. She prefers the dangerous, the hidden, things that must be sniffed from downwind on a still summer day, that must be uncovered with nose and claws, carried home with great care and laid as gifts upon doorsteps, shoes, feet, in beds and in palms.
In the driveway, a vole or a mole, star-nose, silver furred like moonlight, paddle paws splayed upright as if to ward off death or unwanted lovers. On the porch, an alabaster bone, long as my shin, mouth-dented, hollowed out, the marrow torn by teeth and time.
Once, on the edge of the blanket, a glimmering beetle the size of my thumb, black-blue in the afternoon light. I didn’t know it was hers until she
lifted it between her teeth, settled it like a dirty jewel upon her tongue.
Sometimes, eggs from the chickens. Sometimes, stones from the creek. This one, brown and sleek. That one, mossed and rivered as seal fur. Do they feel the same between her jaws, I wonder, are they both as precious, as heavy? How does she choose?
One night, the black-as-oil shit of coyotes. I see their paw prints on the trails, echoing the deer hooves in mud, hear their calls when dark simmers in. She wouldn’t drop it, wouldn’t hear of it. She’d sunk her teeth in, and meant to keep it, the stink and gross of it.
Lately, a two AM dream of spiders and birds. One has eight white legs, black eyes. The other, a wife. I try not to touch either, but keep going back, repulsed, desiring, trying to discern their differences in the dark.
This morning, she brings back nothing but her tongue, lolling, and her brown eyes. The way she lifts herself up at the sight of me, as though I am the best thing she’s seen all day, and there will never be another moment as good as this, me bending down to tousle her ears.
I don’t know where she finds such things, how she carries them in her without fear. The dark woods behind the house are full of creatures I’ve never heard of, scurried shimmers beneath my feet, at my vision’s edge.
On our walks, she trots ahead through the bracken and brambles, making the way. She gives me courage. I crouch down. I turn over a leaf, a log, a rock. She waits, wagging, to see what I will find.
Jaelle n’ha Gilla
and the tiger
she prowls during the day, isn’t confined in the wild there is freedom after a long sleep she stretches ah! the life of a cat!
in her cage she sleeps, and in her dreams she finds prey in the hunt she wakes up she’s back in the cage. not what it used to be.
land of dreamers We left the village of Dangs in Saputara walked through deciduous leaved paths black basalt rock were jade hued with moss where sunlight didn’t penetrate Higher, mountain got scraggy and peaks bald soil golden dust the colour of a tiger’s coat wind howled carrying scents of forests below a Dang sat unmoving warning us “wagh hai” That’s what they said in the village looking up at the hills as though at the heavens the tiger had come as far as that mountain there eyes clouded with memory of a different time Census does not map this region for tigers still a Dang herding his cattle high there as another sitting pensive on the cliff watching the blue skies, warn “wagh hai” They dream tigers here like their cousins Ratwa Bhils dream of horses racing on their pastures
All these peoples indigenous to my country spread across central India adorn her like a richly jeweled girdle Oh, they have beautiful dreams.
Note “Wagh hai” in Marathi means “There are tigers.”
anxiety dreams The exam’s at ten. I wake, alarmed, at eleven, racing for my pen, my pencil, my penguin … wait. I wake and it’s four a.m. The exam’s at ten. I soothe myself to sleep, seeing clocks, and then — it’s twelve, I’ve missed, I’ve failed! wait. The alarm finally goes. I leap, stumble, trip and fall, rushing to be ready. Flustered, I’m in the hall, almost an hour too soon.
goodbye This isn’t a goodbye … it is a pause, a reflection, a grace period. You and me and the whole world — we’ve gone and stopped for this moment. And what will we say? That it’s been therapeutic? That it’ll help us in the long run? I think I will put it as simply as this: poetry has saved my life and since I never stop writing my poems, this isn’t a goodbye …
luddites, after a line by norman dubie Sometimes a whole civilization can be dying from heat exhaustion: where will we find tall glasses of ice water to cool collective fever running rampant through our bodies? Unwrapping problems of cultural physics takes a steady hand trained with a lifetime of Christmases: you will know what this is if you shake it. Price of progress is this gyroscoping forward, lurching purposefully as dancing bare: whole lot of noise in our lives, so much of it now electronic replacements for the regimented world. We used to be full of crows rising from wheatfields, wildebeest hurtling cometary over the hillocks, not this entropy, this friction and disorder in ceaseless activity. Not proving ourselves every moment and steepling hands like pantographs.
Say, we disconnect. Let there be an outage of the lights and a revelation of Capella and Vega. Fiat nox and forget your flashlights. Someone is leaving technology on the low wall outside the hospital: a parade for our liberator! Be variegated and industrious little ants, unplugged, unconcerned with the latest greatest fashion of exhibitionism. Give us heat death, slow us to absolute zero, stasis and the breakdown of time so we may keep repeating forever, revolver forever loaded up against a delirious temple. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t save the patterned paper around our digitized city of Dis; let the singularity stand naked, freezing to death.
alice springs Sweat, diesel, red dust and blue skies, long dirt roads into an unknown future. Two smoky smells, coffee and tobacco steam gently, the yellow dog watching. An old round caravan leans against a gum tree. Hot butter, cooking pikelets in a borrowed pan, somewhere to start.
low tide Your green pail has been blown over on its side, our sandcastle is only half-finished but you are off swinging driftwood through the air like a sword, you miss seeing an octopus crawl between tide pools, the longitudinal folds of its body resemble a bubbly piece of pumice or a turkeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s torch-colored wattle. Your blue jacket flaps in the wind behind you as you run to me, your feet squelch, leaving little bruises in the wet sand, you have stowed all kinds of treasure in your pockets and you lay your riches at my feet: chipped clam shells, a broken sand dollar, three white rocks, a sea star swallows a mussel. Your yellow shovel sticks out of the sand like a lever, you jam it down further with your foot and then change your mind, pull it out of the sand and strum it like a guitar, before I can convince you to finish our sandcastle it too has become a sword, I watch the tentacle fringe of the sea anemones and wonder where we will go come Winter.
love Emma, I say X-Men, he counters this oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a keeper, I think as we settle in to watch Emma
tea time h o
Kettle on I remember tea M t pouring water into i cups set to steep l stir in sugar and k
Lindsay Penelope Illich
paragraphing Above the sentence, the paragraph, and above those a page, and lo, a few pages, and above those a chair in a house, and above, a long ride home when you counted three hawks on telephone poles and above them, bulletproof weeks you just thought about it without resorting to the â&#x20AC;&#x153;you only live onceâ&#x20AC;? bullshit, and out further a sky where I come around sometimes, and above that some sort of light shining, the flame of some poem just being born.
regular white paper On Tuesday Katelyn came into class almost crying. She shook her head when I asked if she had her homework then said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I got beat up last night.â&#x20AC;? Since we do journal writing on Tuesdays, she took a piece of regular white paper out and started writing. I could see the black anger scrawling across the page like stitches from a cut.
by now By now, all words are hidden in a deep pit. By the time, they fly up to my mouth, the waters will submerge them back to placidity.
speaking with you To construct a crossword puzzle, you first select the grid, pick words that fit. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only afterwards that you word the clues â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the things that solvers notice first. To construct a conversation with you, first I inject meaning into utterances that are communicable in your language, building the sense of each sentence from the inside out.
happily ever after you are the worn fiction written and read by all the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lonely women using all the words the other books forgot your pages were formed from the silent spaces in imperfect couplings, your spine cast from the sparks of I deserve better than this to read you is to know what it should be like and the comfort of you resting against my palms ruins me for any other book
fear of the unknown I see you stirring, shifting shapes beneath white coverlets. I kiss the hand exposed there, and you smile in your sleep. I try not to wake you as I quietly slide off the side of the bed and tiptoe to the door, past the monitors and IV bags hanging like deflated bladders, multitudes of tubes with needled ends pricking your hands and arms, here in the Women’s Cancer Center, “11B,” they call it. Take a picture of the inside of my heart, and you will still find yourself there, but not like this, not like now. This was not what I had in mind when I thought about spending more time with you.
It was not seeing you lying there in a hospital gown, with a look of fear and uncertainty, The big “C” — cancer — the whispered word.
mixed blessings I know not Nantucket other than walking my fingers over the paper-and-ink topography of a well-worn map purchased from a second-hand bookstore. Geography eludes me, as does elevation. I imagine an oil-slicked harbor, an iridescent sheen of whale extracts, whale excretions, drifting molecular upon water pink with diffused and diluted blood. Physiology distracts me, as does emotion. I dream cannibal dreams as Marquesan headhunters heft their harpoons, sauntering through the cobblestone streets, trying to sell cantaloupe-like shrunken heads. Pigmentation confronts me, as does immigration. They seek the wind they have always sought. They seek the oil they have always sought. They seek the people they have always sought. I set sail, sharpened weapons at the ready, larders stocked with cured meats and hardtack and the freshest exotic fruits, alone, longing for company. Isolation becomes me, as does the sea.
the nature of fire here on the farthest point of the peninsula an office building is burning ignited by a single match careless or criminal not yet known inconceivable that such a structure can be so wholly engulfed but the fire was too fierce and the distance too great for rescue but what of the fury in that single first flame to have leapt so viciously to consume to ravage to devastate so absolutely
like the rage of a repressed and violated being too long held down unjustly deprived confined all potential denied where there is great potential spirit squelched where there is great spirit sometimes a whole civilization can be dying until finally a single incident the spark unleashes a righteous inferno that has no bounds all around the good people gather stare in disbelief how is this possible out here out here on the peninsula not realizing that such power to combust
to blaze so brilliantly can only be suppressed for so long itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s always there ready to explode like the fury in the head of that match and when the smolder becomes full flame all will burn out here on the peninsula and in here at the still and protected center
making pirozhki roll, flatten scoop, fold, press set to rise repeat Many hands on the small table harmoniously dance in and out of the dough, in and out of the filling. then the dough roll, flatten then the filling scoop, fold, press set to rise repeat A molehill of flour water onions eggs becomes a mountain of pirozhki. roll, flatten scoop, fold, press set to rise repeat
breathless There is neither edge nor precipice; nor slide, nor knowable fall. There is only bottom. Lack makes itself known abruptly, a gasping loss. There is only nothing, suddenly. There is neither flight nor flying nor slipping away into airlessness; there is no drag or drain, no low warning, no looming alarm. There is only bottom and nothing.
the spirit of place mats The spirit of place mats, left on the table, day after day meal upon meal â&#x20AC;Ś the curry so hot it dropped off the fork into a pool of neon yellow lava the little rivulet of magenta Syrah â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a point too vehemently made on election night the splotch of cream cheese from the New York bagels Tom went out to get on the Sunday morning the dog got loose, and ran into the highway grinning like an idiot, the screech of brakes, panting, the cursing driver, hearts all beating like rock and roll drums.
The dot of blue ink from the morning Sudoku, leached through the fragile newsprint, the faulty pen, the faulty logic â&#x20AC;&#x201D; given up after the indelible error in the middle box.
The spirit of place mats left on the table day after day meal upon meal, slowly losing their memories to washer, sunlight and rain.
Lani Jo Leigh
three nights, two days to bring life into balance This weekend President Obama is taking the Cabinet to Breitenbush Hot Springs. Now if you’re reading this ten thousand years in the future and your history books no longer recount the fame or foible of the twenty-first century, let me clue you in on a few things. Obama is the president of a country called the United States of America. Sometimes he’s called the leader of the free world; Sean Hannity calls him an un-American, crazy pinko communist, but Sean Hannity’s a liar and that’s a different story. The Cabinet is a bunch of people who help Obama run the country. Each is called secretary of something or other. Secretary of state, Secretary of defense, Secretary of commerce
We’ve got no secretary of peace or secretary of enlightenment or secretary of renewal and rejuvenation but that’s all going to change this weekend. Breitenbush is a clothing optional retreat center with hot springs and cold creeks yoga classes organic vegetarian food meditation acres of ancient forest trails; so this weekend the entire cabinet will conduct all business completely naked. I hear one of the women is worried about her cankles, but once she’s soaked for two days in these healing waters, she’s going to have more self-confidence than you can shake a stick at. Joe Biden, our Vice President, can prattle on for a month of Sundays about not much of anything, but once he takes one bite out of a fresh and juicy
organic Oregon strawberry, he’s not going to know what hit him and he’s going to keep his runaway train mouth shut and contemplate the true meaning of things. My friend, Krystee, will be at Breitenbush this weekend, too, writing women’s sacred stories, and she’s gonna sit next to Obama at dinner and remind him what’s what. He’ll be so impressed he’ll declare Krystee Secretary of Spiritual Self Evolution and if Sean Hannity’s afraid of un-American, crazy, pinko communists now, then just wait until this witchy woman’s on board. But Obama and the rest of the Cabinet will be so in tune with the universe they won’t give a flying fuck. And if you, reading this ten thousand years from now, out into my uncertain future, if you live with clean air, clean water, strong minds,
beautiful teeth, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m telling you this weekend was the start of it all.
Lori Wiens MacDonald
walcott spoke to me once Walcott spoke to me once He spoke of Venice and light And Tiepoloâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dog â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and something About museums. I missed that While I held my breath in the moment of the image Before. And then gasping, envious and aweStricken, I wondered How twenty minutes of burning Had slipped away under the spell Of his voice, Venice and a painting That may or may not be A figment of his poetic, artistic Imagination Dark walls disintegrated Noisy machines on which I plodded Aimless Fell away, morphed into canals the walks of his quest And the poet in me screamed With the burning of tired legs The rank smell of sweat and oil Soothed away. Annoying
Drone of soap opera, inane gym chatter And my own heaviness shuddering With each step Melted and shrunk As Walcott spoke to me
J. D. Mackenzie
lord leightonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s solitude Our dream big list included travel to exotic places like most of the continents and art collections we couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pronounce When it came time to leave we had the wrong luggage not only did it not match weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d packed it all wrong Hers was filled with needless clutter and inter-generational curses making it difficult to lug around temples in Thailand and white beaches in Greece Mine was lightweight with blank journals craving ink and room to bring things home When our ferries went separate ways I started a scrapbook for her
it would be a reminder of all that we missed together Seeing Lord Leightonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Solitude jolted me back there were similarities to her Sienna shades of brown relaxed Victorian breasts But this figure had what my beloved lacked an elusive peace her soul would not permit That enduring image seared in my mind forever it was so unlike her I never sent it on
pablo picasso’s weeping We women have a way of knowing when we see one who’s abused. Hide your tears, dress your best, yet we know you know you’re betrayed. The more guilty his betrayal the louder he brays and you’re emotionally bruised. We women have a way of knowing when we see one who’s abused It’s your care to look normal though disconnected, angry, and confused Your denial, your hidden tears, your refusal to admit you’re afraid. We women have a way of knowing when we see one who’s misused. Hide your tears, dress your best, yet we know you know you’re afraid
perfectly organized If my perfect filing system were ever to get buried in ash, the hot pumice fossilizing shelves of books by topic — except for those I am using, or have used, or will use, that lie or pile in monumental stacks — perhaps they’ll be mistook for stanchions. But my perfect folders, legions of upright cardboard wings labelled, often re-labelled, palimsest, (ignore their colors, denoting mood or whim, not topic) still awaiting alpha sort — but chrono works: the folders at the back archived by disuse. And yes, some recline on table top or couch or near to hand; the filing’s sedimentary, as nature does. Perfectly adequate to the day, but not, perhaps, so obviously perfect to future archeologists who ponder ash-shaped mysteries: a couch, yes, and square pillows — but this serrated stack — two books? Then papers? Then… a plate? with pens like needles in a fossil haystack.
But I am perfectly content, knowing I will not be there to explain.
inside outside In this neighborhood, folks tend to stay inside on dark winter evenings. They eat hamburger casserole, she wipes down cracked linoleum counters and he watches mind-numbing TV. At exactly ten oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock, she lets the dog in, he checks the locks on all the doors and together they climb the stairs. They fall into dreamless sleep, while the old family photos hiss and mutter from their frames in the hall. Outside, a hush fills the empty streets as the night unrolls over the city like a bolt of thick, black flannel.
captive I’m a sheep and time’s my herd dog. Damn this biological clock. I’m a marionette in my ovaries’ hands. They make me prance and limp toward anything with a prick. I walk away from the campfire, unable to take octopus-man’s grabby attempts to massage me into the sleeping bag and his lame guitar-strumming. Kumba-fucking-ya. My mouth tastes like a chimney so I lower my jug into the water and take a long drink. I’m in a jam, out here for the weekend with a guy I already want a raptor to sink her talons into and carry away. It’s only Friday. Minutes fade like a bruise. I sit by the winter’s-end overfull river, torch perched on a rock, the thundery rush over pebbles giving me all I need right now. I wish I had a river I could skate away on, my thoughts stowaways on the current. Unlike me, startled, pinned by my wants’ claws.
new dishes on the menu at the ‘take a good long look at yourself’ cafe Somebody let perfectionism Into a dictionary He tolerated the ink-stains on his fingertips He ignored the typos And he hauled up new words for the flawed Now the poor and hungry Can shuffle through his cafeteria And dine on fresh flavours of disapproval “Reprobates! Wastrels! Ne’er-do-wells!” “Should! Shouldn’t! Shouldn’t have!” Self-improvement is the celery of the soul And welcoming is the forgiving gaze of the floor Maybe if you didn’t scrub so hard The world wouldn’t stink.
delicious Poetry shifts the senses like first love or a shot of tequila after too much red wine. You eat roses for breakfast and spoon clouds into your tea. Trees sing of the bodies pressed against them, bare limbs reawakening. Knots untangle themselves Strangers smile for no reason Letters long lost find their way home You drift through days with the pulsing luminosity of jellyfish and realize you have synesthesia the same way you realize you have been hungry your entire life. Sunlight smells like your motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hair The moon on the waves sounds like sax music Your loverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voice feels like crushed velvet In a dream you put a poem in the microwave,
Awaken, fumble for the light and find it waiting for you warm, ready, and delicious.
the caterpillar and the worm Worm sees Caterpillar, Caterpillar sees Worm. Worm asks, “Caterpillar, why do you eat so?” Caterpillar responds, “Worm it is so that I may become a beautiful butterfly come the spring.” Caterpillar sees Worm, Worm sees Caterpillar. Caterpillar calls, “Worm why do you eat so?” Worm responds, “Caterpillar, I can only eat dirt and grow larger and larger. But change I will not.”
Robin A. Morris
heroes Hero — Tom 1 (1975) You and your buddy enlisted together but they split you two up and you never knew what happened to him. You came back to Jersey at 26 and got a job driving my school bus. You didn’t have “a habit”—only used H occasionally, for a treat. The rest of the time it was scotch and quality pot, which you could roll with one hand. What teenage girl wouldn’t idolize you? When we walked across a field, you told me you were having a flashback. Mud and walking did that, but you didn’t mind too much. You felt best when the weather was hot as New Jersey could make it and humid, rowing your rickety boat in the Hackensack River where no one else would dip in a toe.
Hero — Tom 2 (1995) Your mother had prayed a rosary for you every day and I thought that’s why the shrapnel, scalping you, left you with brain enough to function, so long as you took the anti-seizure meds. You didn’t believe in prayer and didn’t tell me about the toupee until I tried to mess up your hair, because there ought to have been something to do with it that would look a little more presentable. I guess you knew you weren’t presentable, so you built a log cabin in the woods and lived there with a sweet dog. A narrow bridge spanned a stream at the bottom of your property. I was always amazed it held my car, when I came and when I left.
beautiful nun shaved head falling out of her robe naked, exceptionally beautiful who doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t desire me
magic In the midst of sweaty sleep I wake you Stop snoring please You protest back into sleep A little while later Again, wake up please Tell me a story my brain wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop Eyes still closed you ask Are you ready for the Story of the Magic JPEG? And you tell me about how I can still save the world with . . . porn. And I realize that this
This is love. I know love. Comforted, I fall asleep In the middle of your story. Whoops.
each morning a glass building at the edge of town blazes, glints sun from its windows, so becomes a rippling column bathed in brilliant glare gathered up and held in relief against blue sky â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Excalibur
near the highway toll booth begins a daily ritual the line of cars slows, creeping forward as people fumble for change from cup holders then over into the till while those waiting raise one finger on a fist of rage.
love you, too After twenty years — lots of worse, some better; three kids, six dogs; one gall bladder, three c-sections; rehab, relapse, and rehab; Four Seasons, Motel 6; exactly half of our lives (thus far) together — Sometimes the reply is all that’s needed.
love in the time of java Wafts of peanut oil, ripe mangoustines and frangipani transport me back to the kitchen garden of the losman in the land of the Garuda long before the tourist invasion where days were spent sitting on a step contemplating tanned feet and a colony of ants crawling in military precision across a path when life was easy and the road stretched out for what seemed an infinity
sac(red) bloody thumbs You burn each day, just a little a lot. The fabric of you is precise, fire and water. Cast these stones to speak. sacred does the dishes, or doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t sacred counts ten toes & socks in the drawer sacred pulls the weeds, says excuse me please sacred likes that hammocks swing sacred would swing anyway sacred eats every crumb sacred scratches its head sacred leavens the bread sacred turns on the light sacred lays on a bench sacred gets up again sacred sees in the dark ď Ž
blood gets easily confused blood remembers rhymes blood plays the drums and xylophone blood loves Halloween blood turns red when you look
blood reveals stonehenge relatives blood has a favorite color (not red) blood is fond of salt blood can’t keep a secret blood likes to play indoors blood likes to chase blood leaks
thumbs write books, like The Trees of Portland, Oregon thumbs mind their own business thumbs think everything is their business thumbs are only rarely green thumbs whistle like hummingbirds thumbs play with themselves thumbs stand outside the window and tap thumbs never ever knock thumbs turn the other cheek thumbs admittedly take things personally thumbs still think hitching is a good idea thumbs are scared of splints
Rub two thumbs, two sticks. Dance with me. Fire flies. We might combust! Just romance.
E. Jason Riedy
untitled Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula roots point knees to scorching canopies or flay out over little worlds of sand and swells. Buttons run trades before tides slowly rush space between bars with blue, congregating hermits on the brackish edge. Fuzzy fingers hold pentamerismic tests, within snuggle the five doves of Aristotle’s lantern. The sky’s greedy eyes scan flits of splashes for long trawls, short gulps, sprays behind. Vines alive drape paralyzed by all filling warmth. Laced gray fingers run locks up flat breezes cupping silk spinners and night fliers ’till dusk when heat roars down and shifts into the waters. Cricket song and wing song and tiny percussives and cymbal leaves reverse flow of air and action. Shimmering lights cannot tell up from down and disappear into the heart of orchestral pitch beating up and down without sight until light is bounced upwards again on nature’s knees.
a visit you show up at my door with a 2L bottle of chlorophyll water tell me itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s good for my health while smoking organic cigarettes then on our first official date you ask want to visit Elva B. Shoecraft she lives in the cemetery by my house
Surazeus Simon Seamount
elemental scent of love Scent of jasmine after a rain shower suffuses breath of her soft red lips when her black eyes at gleam of dawn preserve stars of our sweet embrace souls veiled by elemental scent of love. Pine wood sizzles in crackling flames casting gold glow on her soft cheeks when we snuggle sipping hot cocoa and watch raindrops kiss blue glass souls veiled by elemental scent of love. Pungent salt wind from swirling sea caresses wood cabin on hill of wheat as my fingers explore curves of her soul when our bodies merge in candle light souls veiled by elemental scent of love. Wet sparkling soil crumbles in our hands when we tend grape vines with wet leaves thick blue rain scent swelling our noses so we laugh and hug in blustering wind souls veiled by elemental scent of love.
Timeless sun glows over a vast sea shimmering rainbow colors on lush hills and two hearts beat with swirling wind as scent of her soul fills me with love souls veiled by elemental scent of love. We slow dance together by apple tree as white petals cling to our wet hair so I kiss blossom on her silk-soft neck when her smile fills my eyes with light souls veiled by elemental scent of love.
i hate poets I hate poets she said, they talk to Natasha all day and when they’re not talking to Natasha they’re talking about Natasha I wish I could get a job like that. Poets are boring Natasha stiff they’re too self indulgent they spend all their time looking at Natasha their poetry’s not creative, it’s just reflective like the image of Natasha they see in the mirror. NATASHA AH SATAN!
Shari Lynne Smothers
consumed by fire daily From its start my day fills with inhaling moments events ingesting the grand small joyous sorrowful the all-but-overlooked; these are my fuels. Combustible elements roiling through my ignitable heart and mind, stirring my sensibilities. The mixture consumes me is me. Excited molecules expanding through ever increasing friction will out in whatever form it chooses. Poor life â&#x20AC;Ś events â&#x20AC;Ś people make to constrain me; not understanding Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m on a mission to continue myself.
They get too close and are licked by errant flames — poor them. Salvation, though temporary, comes when I submit, fall victim. The flame consumes me is me. Fire writes through my fingers non-stop ‘til the heat within abates, spending everything. The throbbing in the back of my head leaves me, eyeballs no longer smoldering can see my pen, my page is on fire! Soon not even my shell is left only ash from which I will rise again to begin anew experiencing inhaling, ingesting, roiling, sifting
until I become fire and am consumed again tomorrow.
primal I want to live smelling of dirt with wildflowers growing from my head. My kids will laugh and say that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m already pushing up daisies. They will pick some while I sleep to place on their grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grave and when I visit her there, I will recognize myself, primal, wild.
Amy Marie Taratus
mary beth Sitting in spring church clothes eating spaghetti your sisters boiled from a box you probably bought last fall, I see your kitchen for the first time — grand and warm, a poor girl’s dream, and learn your girls have voices like flutes. I discover you’ve just had your walls painted in the same colors as my new house, 3000 miles and a lifetime away — colors called liberty path, spring meadow, and maple syrup, pigments and names from our common childhoods. Meeting your young daughters I see they have hair that matches yours, a shade like the dahlias’ opening on my front porch, and their father talks of the ski trip they will take one day to teach them how — because you wanted them to ski, like me.
We reunite on this April day in your house after the wake, the funeral, the burial, the long sad drive I make alone in a rented car, after too many years, and I grieve it canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be you who shows me your home so like the dreamy sketches we made on tracing paper as girls.
do you smell lemons? The secret to having an appetite is to smell. It took me a while to learn, but life without a tang of lemon is no good. Grilled fish, rock oysters, Caesar salad, they need some tartness, a citrus smell to seal the juices, wafting over lettuce, parmesan and croutons. Lemons come from a tree, you know. As do kaffir lime leaves or tamarind. Do not languish in ignorance, a tiny bit of tamarind pulp in water makes good fish curry. More than a dollop, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll do very badly. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be daft to pass by a zesty tree not knowing or not sniffing. Did I tell you, the time I plucked kaffir lime leaves from a roadside tree? Tiny and crushed in palm, its heady, lemony scent had sent me flying.
grounded Worst travel disruption world has ever seen â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Associated Press headline, April 17, 2010
Eyjaljallakokull, Island-MountainsGlacier, has had enough. Her large extended family forever in the sky, rarely touching down, forgetting â&#x20AC;&#x201D; forgetting the ground, forgetting one another in the mad rush and hum we call flight. An unhappy daughter, she rages volcanic ash plume, great cloud of grit, sky-wide. We are at a standstill now.
“It’s the magma mixing with the water that creates the explosivity,” explains one rational distant relative (he’s always pissed her off). “There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.” Whatever sasses Eyjaljallakokull — I mean, is anyone even listening? — and sends up another plume. She’s called in her fierce sisters, the Winds, to push the grit south and then east across Britain, across Ireland, all over Scandinavia, and right on into — Are you listening? — Europe’s heart. You’re fucking grounded, she roars, until further notice.
after the tornado This is what is left upon these scoured plains After the whirlwind has split apart the air, A silence settles over the ruins, the sky of green remains. A broken chair where once you sat and wove the skeins Of yarn, your fluttering fingers â&#x20AC;&#x201D; firelight dancing on your hair This is what is left upon these scoured plains. The sauce you made for supper, simmering on the flame The lingering of spices, you took such care Now only silence over the ruins, the sky of green remains Reminding us of all the fears our world can contain Scattered and broken like this useless chair That is all that I have left upon this scoured plain No roof, no walls, no shelter from the rain Who could believe that once a home stood there Silent as death, that devil sky of green remains My life, my love, the empty earth retains. This shattering of hope is more than man can bear To view the ruins left upon this scoured plain Forevermore the wind sweeps past, the sky of green remains.
fight club Salty, blackened lips lead the revolution Oily crescent kisses suck the heat Boundaries lie, punch drunk with commerce Feed us fresh fish with strong drills Forgive us we sweat like you Tiny coral blisters mark the spot
a city kidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s choice On a day when the sun acted like a furnace and heat stalked us I played Ring-a-levio on a lot stacked with relics: glass bottles, fender parts, remnants of households, cardboard boxes. No refs, no umps, only two teams, and a Bronx landscape for a field.
despereaux While other mice cower at the blade I stand tall, for I can only harm myself. Take away the rules, the laws, the boundaries, and view these surroundings as limitless. My name is Despereaux, and unlike my brothers near me, I show no fear, for the idea is only as strong as you make it.
the first flower A crocus pushed its way through the ice accumulated over months of bitter cold. He appeared overnight, a spot of vibrance in the endless white. Maybe he always existed under the snow, and I failed to notice him before he bloomed. He was the first flower. Unexpected. Beautiful. Short lived. By the time the insects began to chirp he was gone. Leaving behind only a clump of crinkled brown to prove that he had existed.
realizing the truth of the matter during mutual of omaha’s ‘wild kingdom’ somewhere in the ghats of india wild dogs are hungry for antelope a mother runs to save her own life abandons her brave doomed young you sit on the couch next to me interrupting talking about prom dresses physics exams graduation announcements I watch the words fall from your mouth I’m redecorating your room in my head the tiny antelope smacks water with her hoof she lunges randomly she struggles but she has no chance hidden dogs drag her down the pack yips and yowls in celebration of sacrifice of victory
my mother is in gatlinburg she calls me because she has forgotten to tell us that she left she says I love you she says call the cell phone if you need me I need you I whisper into the sounds of disconnection a birdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s egg is broken in our driveway the insides not quite ready to fly bleed into hard cracked asphalt a robin peers cocks its head left then right then flies back to her nest disappearing into the absolving green for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction there is no push if you no force if you just
prince vladimir Cold spring evenings we stand on the porch cupping huge bowls of tea as the cats patrol the yard in the failing light. The plum tree leans backward in her pink party dress. Tea steam rises in vanilla bourbon bursts, bathing our faces. Little moments give us hope. I left my grief in the cab from the airport on my way to you.
distance if you say color, like a sound, seems muted how do you describe the pallor of a smell? i prowl the house in search of scent, memory in odor, sense reminiscence but i have opened all my windows to the spring and the world is shedding pollen, barbed and prickling. my abraded senses have shut down in self defense. a brown grocery bag in a corner of the kitchen holds tagetes lucida i salvaged from the frost. a tarragon, a texan, a marigold, a mexican, green it smells like nothing; dry, vanilla joy and hay; left unappreciated, crushed, releases dust of summer. even yellow books lack the key to memory: there was a room beside a closet in a hall a smell of linseed oil and cedar sawdust, mops. library and janitor were equals in their space. my arms were full of books up to my chin, and i could have more twenty times a day. i know the facts but the perspective is not right.
In a tight plastic box, my mother’s wallet is one thing. It has little in it, and was almost new when she died, cash register slips with telephone numbers, one mine. license, registration. when did she join a bowling league? appointment card to see her doctor. she would not have left her scent on the blue leather, a slight oily perspiration — she had a way of brushing back her hair.