Category: Issue 02

Free Mumia Cheesesteaks

We’re always extolling the virtues of Philadelphia
To our kids, who grew up hundreds of miles away
In the Midwest, so once, with a bit of time free,
Driving home from the shore, we stopped for cheese steaks.
It was between Pat’s and Geno’s, both world
Famous, but it was mid-afternoon, July 4th, fireworks

Slated, and if we wanted one with the works,
And didn’t want to be stuck in Philadelphia
Traffic, we’d have to merge quickly into the world
Of hunger and sloth, wending its way
Around telly poles, lampposts, construction stakes
To Geno’s, terrible choice, once we saw the FREE

MUMIA poster next to a Home of the Free—
English Only
sign.  Here, among working
Stiff Italians who love their cops, who’d burn at the stake
A cop killer like Mumia Abu-Jamal, though Philadelphia
Police messed with the crime scene, refused to weigh
Exculpatory evidence, and lied.  The whole world

Knows he was framed.  Except in this world
Of  skived beef, cheese whiz, nothing carcinogen-free,
Where all’s devoured and nothing’s tossed away.
We know exactly how it works—
Even as a young teen Mumia was targeted by Philly
Cops, for trumpeting Malcolm X, each year the stakes

Raised, his file expanded, every day a new stake-
Out.  “Mumia, the only authentic revolutionary in the western world,”
Political prisoner 3 decades on Death Row, reviled in Philly ,
Lionized everywhere else, the empire will never set him free.
If he were to be executed, there would be fireworks.
“You can track ‘em, absorb ‘em, dilute ‘em” put ‘em away”

But you can’t let ‘em speak.”  We went away
Hating the greasy, sodden, gamy, steak
Sandwiches, disconcerted, taken aback by the work
Undone, crestfallen in this fallen world.
There’s no chance Mumia will be set free,
These days we rarely make it to Philadelphia.

*

Leonard Kress has recent work (fiction and poetry) in American Poetry Review, Barn Owl Review, Passages North, Harvard Review, New Orleans Review, River Styx, and Atticus Review.  Most recent poetry collections are Thirteens,  The Orpheus Complex, and Living in the Candy Store.  He currently teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.

“were tempestuously agitated, and nodded thrice, as if bowed by some invisible wearer”

You almost love the things you own.
With a fitful, envious love

like you love the implied lives of fashion editorials.  Brief and single-minded,
they have gentle cheeks and throats.

So candy and persistent (your inner lunge for thing).

It sounds made-up,
a human desperate in love with thing.

*

Note:  the title of this poem comes from Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto.

 Emily Bludworth de Barrios is an MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Her poems have recently appeared in (or will soon appear in) B O D YThe Found Poetry ReviewPhiladelphia StoriesEmrys Journal, and Belletrist Coterie.  Her chapbook, Extraordinary Power, is forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press in Fall 2013.

The Broken Testimony

There is a beat behind this writing

A nervous tap against a plastic-coated table

A body is trying to move forward

It is blocked by its insistence on movement

The performance of stasis played backwards

It disappears or its absence appears

You are writing on my back and I am heaving

You write:

I had a body once but then you made it illegal

Your hard hands inscribe justice into my blank flesh

You write justice into my flesh and I feel something

A clock ticking in the small of my back

I ask you to open the box in my skin, to remove the clock

And when you open the box you pull out a ticking clock and say this is your country

It is my nation, I say

And you tell me not to say things that I have already said before

And I say that I don’t say anything but that I can never stop writing

And you say it was your nation when all of our bodies were ravaged and you sit me in front of a window

You reproduce me and I watch myself watching a television show with a young couple kissing

This was how I learned to kiss, from studying this scene, and I remember quoting the hands, the eyes, the lips

I want to be like a dumb human, I said, too stupid to be scared

You are always annoyed {to the beat} at my insistence on beginning sentences with but

And I fall asleep at the window and start dreaming

Which is to say, I start writing

I am writing about a girl I went to school with

She lived up the street from me

She was killed at age 16 by her boyfriend with a sword

After she was stabbed to death, visions of swords

Swords in her neck, coming out of her back and belly

The boyfriend stabbing himself with the sword

The performance keeps playing itself backwards, and in the present tense

Helicopters circle above the crime scene, searching the woods for the boyfriend

He is stuck between some shrubs

He cannot move his body

He is writing his body into history

He inscribes his body into the trees

With a pistol he shoots himself in the head

There is a constant beat behind this writing

The helicopter lights shine into the thicket

The body of the mutilated girl in the woods

The body of the boy who has blown his own head off

It is often impossible to remember what I like about myself, just as it is often impossible to remember how to portray what I like about myself to others

Ravishment and silence and ravishment and word and the writing continues amid the boom of the beat behind us and it is always and inevitably about me

You see:

Today I wrote a novel about a village of cadavers

There was no one left in the village excerpt for one man who witnessed every resident get murdered by the police

Meet Eduardo

He is extremely paranoid

He thinks that at any moment the dead bodies of his neighbors will awaken and stab him in the neck with a machete or an ice pick

He steals their passports and wallets

He lies on top of a dead neighbor and hears a voice inside her

He prefers the word carcass to cadaver

He thinks:

I will be thrown into a river to be mauled by the engines of motorboats

A headless paraplegic floating to the bottom of the water

Sinking into the mud

Sinking beneath the floor

Down, down, into a world of shrieking cadavers who look just like me

Surplus meaning in my nose in my hair in my broken Jewish eyes

I am writing about a mouthful of diseased tongues that won’t stop licking each other in horrible deadly ways

I dream/write that each tongue in my mouth is a member of the proletariat and they are destroying themselves with their horrible licks

The best dictators don’t kill their subjects rather they make their subjects kill each other

I have never fired anyone, says the owner of the plantation, I have always managed to make the undesirables leave by their own volition

But it is fair to ask of a person just what they want from you

And it is fair to assume that she did not want me until she saw that I was wanted by someone else

And it is fair to assume that I did not want myself until I saw that someone else wanted me

And it is neither fair nor unfair that each of our bodies is sinking in the tar to the beat of a traditional song in which the speaker is ravaged as much by love as by its absence

Dead dog barking in the bushes to the beat of this beautiful song

Dead girl screaming in the shrubs to the beat of this beautiful song

Dead writing screaming from the page to the beat of this beautiful song

And you look up at me from the screaming page and I see your face falling from your sunken body

You are jammed into the street in a tar pit on a flaming August day

This is on Montrose Avenue, on the North Side of Chicago

Your mutilated body is jammed into a tar pit on the middle of the busy street that is now empty except for a few scavengers searching for bodies they know

The helicopter lights overhead

The creative consultants waiting to turn this misery into poetry

And there to the beat I decide to stretch out over your tarred-up body

The tar I put on my clothes forms an inseparable bond between us

You, tarred into the pavement, on your back in the tar, looking up at me

Me, tarred into your body, looking down to the beat permanently into your eyes

A glob of tar on your cheek and a glob of tar on my cheek and our faces stick together and the helicopter lights shine down on us

Take us to Kindred Hospital on Montrose Avenue, you say, to the beat of the hovering scavengers a few blocks east of California Avenue

A scavenger has a shovel and I write him into our faces

He takes the shovel and tries to pry apart our faces but they are stuck together and we cannot move and the end of his shovel is caught between my cheek and your cheek

My face {to the beat} relational to your face {to the beat} relational to the tar that holds us together relational to the tar that binds you to the earth

Our silent faces stuck together

Or

The broken testimony of the broken beat in the broken rhythm of the crumbling excess of my

broken mouth and my broken face in the crumbling cadaver of this night

*

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011); The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2007) and Arbitrary Tales (2005). His translations include Raúl Zurita’s Song for his Disappeared Love (2010) and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl (2008).  His work has been anthologized in, among others, A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years (Fence Books); Seriously Funny (University of Georgia Press, 2010); andMalditos Latinos Malditos Sudacas: Poesia Iberoamericana Made in USA (El billar de Lucrecia, 2010). Journal publications include BOMB, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, Chicago Review, TriQuarterly, and many others. Chapbooks include Failure in the Imagination (2007) and One Size Fits All (2009).   His poems have been translated into Spanish, Bulgarian, French, and Turkish.   He lives in Chicago.

Curtain Design for Victory over Sun

My observation are as follows: still dirty
“in the wisdom” that is constructivist
red theatre pieces, bike gloves all
like a mashed crop of dyed hair,
a bad crop this year.

We started the play at once:
An Enemy of the People.
A Buddha of lapidary contrition enters,
hospice, tears, La Clemenza di Tito interlude

rolled in tulips of decisive consequence.

Sprezzatura. Our row
throws that cosmic scratch,
apotropaic, scalene
back to the corner pocket
angle on the hustle—

Live at the Paradox.

*

David Lau is the author of the book of poems Virgil and the Mountain Cat (University of California Press).   He co-edits Lana Turner: a Journal of Poetry and Opinion and teaches writing at UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College.

Short Talk About Freud

The unconscious disclosed language,
the asubjective phenomenology:
the blackened page vegetal;
Trotsky’s Lenin in the form dream.
We came up Whittier Narrows
in the alley where art workers
practice rah-rah increasing nihil.

Dis moi la verité.  Sick joy,
unified at last, we were the same hair god,

hold hard hurt anyone coming
back this way, foci of origin
fired unexpected political innovations
in every direction.

—————————A certain cavelike
coolness scorchingly danced
with the French Republic.
Our treasures turned avalanche
express menu items. Tinariwen.

*

David Lau is the author of the book of poems Virgil and the Mountain Cat (University of California Press).   He co-edits Lana Turner: a Journal of Poetry and Opinion and teaches writing at UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College.

Star Nemesis

the central ore in the slum-ified
takeoff’s footgear full of radio—

———————bad love

in an edgy,
————-scrofulous stereo,
which musicked the tramways, the bus
route sparky distance as western town
edge, sundown,
———————–light storm off
branch
————–los coyotes

*

David Lau is the author of the book of poems Virgil and the Mountain Cat (University of California Press).   He co-edits Lana Turner: a Journal of Poetry and Opinion and teaches writing at UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College.

 

Profession

Q. To study whether the torture was working
would violate ethics and international laws.
A. No, it’s fine, the tortured suspect says.

Q. Aphrodite rescuing Ares, in the Iliad, from cruel Athena,
who hit him with a rock.
A. Isn’t this always what we ask of beauty?

Q. He had studied the medical and psychological literature.
A. On how Chinese interrogators extracted false
confessions.

Q. (false: (false: (false: (false: (false:
A. Millions of official secrets created every day,
Q. In another story, Odysseus waxed his ears

alone, and the crew went crazy.
A. Even the freedom
of information act request (censored:

Q. Is the suspicion of beauty also its pursuit?
A. In the bumbling spy comedy, the prisoner asks
if he will ever be let go and the interrogator laughs.

*

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller is the winner of the 2012 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Third Coast, Pebble Lake Review, Cell Poems, Blackbird, Linebreak, and elsewhere.