Category: Issue 08

from Courtly Love (for Courtney Love)

I. ALL YOU WHO HEAR

I’m a good lady
I’m a good lay
I sing a good lay
Voi che sapete
che cosa è amor.
Some day
you will ache
like I ache.

Listen to the strum,
to the feedback’s guitar-hum,
and though you call me strumpet,
bitch, bleached-blonde itch-
satisfier, I rise. I climb
the charts like a live wire.

II. PRECEPTS

You must have sun-eyes, they said,
and hair to match, a head
full of sunflowers, and a hand-
ful of arrows, self-command,
and voluminous skirts.
You’re allowed to flirt
with one and all, provided
you’re muse to only one, undivided

attention on the page. Love-child,
be anything but wild,
be mysterious and dull, they chided.
Be coy and refuse—both dessert
and advances. Let go of your firebrand
ways, hold onto your maidenhead.

III. SHE REPLIES

I am my own sun, and peroxide
makes me blond enough, I guess.
Ferocious as Diana, I tried
archery in high school gym class.

I’ve got a closet full of mini-
skirts, and I love to flirt, but I write
my own story: better to be skinny
than fat, better to bite

than be bitten. I’m the honey
in your tea, the smitten girl
with more on her mind than money
(nice pecs), the mother-of-pearl

knife in your ribs. My maidenhead?
How about your restraint instead.

IV. MADONNA

I am like Mary: I hold a Bean
in my arms for pictures. I made her,
mother her, lick her dirty face clean,
wear her in a slingpack. Officer,
you can’t take her. My house is pristine,
heroin use only a rumor,
and everything else best kept between
husband and wife. Oh, inquisitor,
the cameras are fickle: they’ll tail
you home in your brief flurry of fame:
the one who cuffed Courtney. She’s to blame
for endangerment, he’s the all-hailed
cop—until Buttafuoco’s in jail
and they turn away: bloodhounds, new trail.

*

Lisa Ampleman is the author of Full Cry (NFSPS Press, 2013), winner of the Stevens Manuscript Competition, and I’ve Been Collecting This to Tell You (Kent State University Press, 2012), winner of the Wick chapbook competition. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, New South, Poetry Daily and Verse Daily.

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Cessation

In the bride’s garden plot
under the fan-leafed Ginko tree
beneath a ground cover of creeping juniper
and of a dry scattering of raveled leaves—
some sound, a rustling,
sound evidence of a living thing.

It ceases as she makes advance.
It ceases as she stands and waits.
It ceases as with curious hand she lifts a sprig.
And doubtless now though she has gone
but a small distance
still listening from within
the whited wedding tent staked to the lawn
it ceases still.

How good—she says
to no one else around—
how good for just one hour
to cease
to be as this unspotted thing.

 

*

 

Michael Eddie Anderson has been published in Pen Woman, Rhino: the Poetry Journal, and in the Poet and Artist Chapbook of the Northwest Cultural Council. He has worked as an editor at Rhino and now serves on their Advisory Board.  Anderson lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife Kay.

Epilation or Gradual Decline

Almost any area of the body can be waxed, including but not limited to: the legs, back, abdomen and feet. When she did wax, Mirka preferred strip waxing. The esthetician dunked the flat wooden stick in the hot bowl of wax and twirled it around. Mirka’s eyes followed the glob dangling off the edge of the stick before it fell onto her face, where it was spread thinly under and over her eyebrows. The sticky sheet on her face turned her forehead into a cave that trickled stalactite shaped wax drips onto her eyelids. The esthetician applied a strip of cloth to Mirka’s face and pressed firmly, so that the strip would adhere to the wax which was in turn adhering to the skin. Mirka gripped the chair just before the esthetician quickly ripped the cloth against the direction of Mirka’s hair growth, yanking the stubble from its roots. Almost immediately the fingers were back on her face again, except this time slathered with cold cream that soothed her hairless skin. Mirka liked strip waxing, even though it did not prevent skin lifting, which sometimes happened during a wax treatment. The top layer of the skin tore away as the cloth ripped off the face, or legs, or abdomen, or back.

It’s been over ten years since Mirka has waxed any part of her body. Semi-permanent hair removal practices are of no use to her now that her skin wrinkles without her frowning and her back hurts almost always, unless she is seated still at the table in her basement where she binds books. Mirka began binding books shortly after she stopped waxing and her husband disappeared. The process of physically assembling discarded books from folded, neglected sheets of paper quieted her anxieties and insecurities. When she still waxed her face, Mirka had a number of men she could fold and unfold her way through. She was practiced at folding her lips over her teeth: to tighten her skin for hair removal or to keep from scraping. Tuck lip under teeth and tense, cloth pulls at wax. Tuck lip under teeth and take a breath before plunging. She didn’t expect her hair to stop growing, didn’t anticipate men would make no effort to see her as attractive once it happened. She didn’t know she was disposable until she began spending her nights in the basement, stacking sheets for outdated books, sewing the edges to a thicker sheet with a chain stitch.

The books Mirka binds are made of paper. Before paper was introduced, books were written on vellum. Mirka knew how vellum was made. The Latin word “vitulinum” was slaughtered and chopped until the word “vellum” emerged, smooth and cream colored like the fine-grained skin of its definition. The calfskin was reactive to humidity, so after it was cleaned, bleached, stretched and scraped into parchment, it lay between heavy wood boards. Because paper is less reactive to humidity, heavy boards lost their function. When Mirka thought about the calfskin hugging the herse, waiting for the crescent-shaped knife to clean off any remaining hairs, she was reminded of those afternoons she spent stretched out in the salon chair, skin pulled tight, scraped and bleached smooth and then plucked clean of stray hairs with a shining pair of angled tweezers. As she pulled her fingers over old book covers to wipe them clean of dust, she thought about the bookstore on her corner, advertising its closing sale. Mirka liked to Coptic stich the books together, and while she pushed her way through the pages, she stacked nameless and faceless spines in her mind. She completed the stitch, reassembled the useless book and then placed it on a shelf where she was accumulating a new collection of spines without faces.

After each book she repaired, Mirka held her fingertips to her thinning eyebrows for a moment, and stroked the soft hairs laid slick across the lifted bone. There was a time when books were produced by protruding surfaces slicked with ink. The paper made contact with the ink and was pressed flat by hand, with a double-handle brayer.  “Bray” was the sound a donkey made:  A harsh cry. It was also the word that described crushing, grinding, spreading thin. Mirka made no sound when the hot wax was spread thin across her face. She as silent as the papers pushed down to the ink, filling themselves with words. Mirka removed her fingertips from her eyebrow, crossed her hairless legs and began stacking a new pile of sheets. She reminded herself that she was always alone. She reminded herself that it is always too easy to lose one’s function.

*

Tova Benjamin is a poet and student located in Chicago, IL. She is the co-founder and director of Napkin Poetry, a bi-monthly open mic and reading series. Her poetry has been featured on WBEZ and has or will be included in Rookie, Poetry Magazine and Puerto del Sol.

Parenthetical Killers

1.
There are hands attached to bodies attached to minds
spread throughout this room, gathered and pressed
together with other tangles of hands, bodies & minds.

********(Kitty Genovese was stabbed until she sputtered to death
********while thirty-eight people watched. I have never felt so alone.)

There is music, somewhat loud, somewhat catchy.
A pleasant looking boy with a wide, generous smile
is urging his way over to me.

********(The Boston Strangler was described as “nice and polite” by his teacher.
********He was the only student who would stay after class to help re-arrange the chairs.)

The boy slowly wandered over and lingered near me.
His hesitance was sort of endearing.
He was awkward in a way that seemed sweet.

********(Ted Bundy typically approached women in public places.
********They considered him to be handsome, charming, and charismatic.)

We danced together.
Talked about school.
He told me a joke, and I laughed.

********(Gary Ridgeway would show the women he picked up a picture of his son
********to gain their trust before he killed them.)

I had to leave.
“You can’t leave without giving me your number,”
he told me.

 *******(Patrick Kearney would pick up his victims at gay bars.)

I smiled during the ride home,
even after my friend vomited
all over the side of my car.

********(I cannot let the facts I’ve collected during late night google searches string along behind me. I
********cannot let fear of rape & murder dictate my life, there is no real method of prevention.)

2.
I feel safe:

********(I cannot let the facts I’ve collected during late night google searches string along behind me. I
********cannot let fear of rape & murder dictate my life, there is no real method of prevention.)

I asked him out to dinner. I chose the place.
It was filled with stacks of greasy limbs tied together to make people.
It was filled with light, and covered with windows.

********(Kitty Genovese was stabbed until she sputtered to death
********while thirty-eight people watched. I have never felt so alone.)

He told me I looked pretty.

********(Ted Bundy typically approached women in public places.
********They considered him to be handsome, charming, and quite charismatic.)

After dinner, I didn’t let him ask me over to his place.
Instead I invited myself over.

********(Patrick Kearney would pick up his victims at gay bars.)

At his apartment, he offered me water.
I accepted, thanked him, drank it, put the cup in the empty sink.
My cup was planted in the middle of it, the lonely marking on a silver surface.

********(The Boston Strangler was described as “nice and polite” by his teacher.
********He was the only student who would stay after class to help re-arrange the chairs.)

We went online
He showed me his band’s music
He turned on a movie. It was High Fidelity.

********(Gary Ridgeway would show the women he picked up a picture of his son
********to gain their trust before he killed them.)

3.
I have direct influence over my decisions.
Events, people,
nothing sways my choices.

********(Gary Ridgeway would show the women he picked up a picture of his son
********to gain their trust before he killed them.)

I made the first move.
I always make the first move, just like I always pay for dinner.
I don’t like to be romanced or charmed by hands embedded with possible violence, laced with control.

********(Ted Bundy typically approached women in public places.
********They considered him to be handsome, charming, and quite charismatic.)

His roommates were in the living room,
about seven or eight feet away from the bedroom where we were.
This was reassuring.

********(Kitty Genovese was stabbed until she sputtered to death
********while thirty-eight people watched. I have never felt so alone.)

I asked him to keep the light on,
so that I could see him.
He was flattered.

 ********(Patrick Kearney would pick up his victims at gay bars.)

I told him I like to be on top. This is a trick of mine:
I make a request or ask the boy to stop something he is doing – use less tongue or don’t use two fingers.
I know I can trust the boy when he stops & complies.

********(I cannot let the facts I’ve collected during late night google searches string along behind me. I
********cannot let fear of rape & murder dictate my life, there is no real method of prevention.)

“Sure,”
he told me,
“I don’t mind.”

********(The Boston Strangler was described as “nice and polite” by his teacher.
********He was the only student who would stay after class to help re-arrange the chairs.)

4.
********(Kitty Genovese was stabbed until she sputtered to death
********while thirty-eight people watched. I have never felt so alone.)

*

Tova Benjamin is a poet and student located in Chicago, IL. She is the co-founder and director of Napkin Poetry, a bi-monthly open mic and reading series. Her poetry has been featured on WBEZ and has or will be included in Rookie, Poetry Magazine and Puerto del Sol.

I Am Practicing Now,

turning sleeves and glands of your language
through the back of my throat and kissing black edges.

So many syllables saturated with flavors of mourning.

The sky is clear again today. Nihna Awadim: we are human.
********Long shadows fall against windows.
****************No spots, no secret intentions. Hel aan I say,

and “now” means the name of this country.
Now is where you try again, find days on either side,
straight and without betrayal.

~

When you were in the old country, in the inventory of cousins,
each cluster of hours simmered from minutes.

Now, your real language tongued by chance
********writhes and rises from you. A reliance on the throat,
****************the region wet and thick. Such wreckage.
To my ear, the rough places are beautiful, nourishing.

Say anything. Never stop saying anything.
These fugitive words are all surface and passage,
all fraction, animal-fragment and brutal.

I half expect what doesn’t come:
********assa, hozn, ghadan. Which of these is right?
You never tell me –

but when you speak it, your face lifts.

~

Nihna Awadim. Suddenly I want the bulges and bulk.
I want to eat one by one the rectangular sounds.

You taught me tamarh hinde, tamarind, my short lesson in Arabic,
********swirling the pen right to left on a napkin in a plastic booth
at McDonald’s. Anyone looking at our particular posture

that day would know the sticky brown pulp of the word
didn’t interest me. But now I believe I was waiting.

Uthraan. Uthraan. Ani ma af-hem. Ana
ma atkalam Arabee.

I’m sorry. I don’t understand. I don’t speak Arabic.

~
|
There are plenty of days I cannot undress.
And days of helicopters. And clatter, acid and tenderness.

Words don’t stick right. They emerge mournful and curled,
as if stirred in the wrong pot.

*

Lauren Camp is the author of two volumes of poetry, most recently The Dailiness, winner of the National Federation of Presswomen 2014 Poetry Book Prize and a World Literature Today “Editor’s Pick.” Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, was selected by David Wojahn for the Dorset Prize, and will be published by Tupelo Press. Her poems have appeared in Brilliant Corners, Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, Nimrod, J Journal, and elsewhere. She hosts “Audio Saucepan,” a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio, and writes the blog Which Silk Shirt. www.laurencamp.com

Please Do Not Send Peace, Please Send Peace

(responding to Ai Weiwei)

It’s great that in China they beat people up
or he wouldn’t have photographs
of uniformed men turning
their backs on his concussion and bruises.
The widest silence. In China, the characters
for sand crabs also mean something with metaphor
that troubles authorities, and it’s great that 10 thousand
can be found in an extravagant instant and served overnight
without the host in attendance,
or that 100 million
pieces of porcelain can be fired
by the same workers the U.S. employs
for pennies per hour. Made in China! So great.

This ambiguous repetition of slipping
black veins down a center,
each fake seed laughing at the gesture. It’s great
to crusade, to be restless
with shouldn’ts, to be mocking
the ruin of whatever’s been rendered,
breaking old urns, and even better
that curators find large rooms to display them;
great that he calls action a type of fragility, great
that he smiles, great with his beard. But is he a hero
if he doesn’t save lives,
if the specks on his Twitter photos
are disheveled? What is the weight of his message –

not averting our eyes?
Okay, yes, I guess, that’s enough.
The earth forms dismantling quakes that recur
with redundancy; rough anger unstitches
the globe, and this artist
peers in all the windows. In 2008, after the Sichuan 7.9,
he organized to have names called in on cell phones.
Loss billowed into an alarming index of voices and victims,
a path through a society quickly mislaid,
gone astray. The list kept continuing.

That one shook. So sorry
is never enough; is that his point?
Supreme power still reigns,
and representatives follow the law’s punctuation,
keeping to their sunglasses and boredom.
You and I couldn’t handle a camera pointed
on our front door, suspicious
and casting about
with its belligerent eye, but the trickster’s insistent,
defiant, still fresh and still smiling
under the weight of dominion. He’s unexcited,
unbridled. How great to be willing to discuss and strangle
each nerve. In China, they say the important words twice.
The copied words fuse into a fabric, compounding,
a riot — and no one can quiet
or break it to anything smaller.

*

Lauren Camp is the author of two volumes of poetry, most recently The Dailiness, winner of the National Federation of Presswomen 2014 Poetry Book Prize and a World Literature Today “Editor’s Pick.” Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, was selected by David Wojahn for the Dorset Prize, and will be published by Tupelo Press. Her poems have appeared in Brilliant Corners, Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, Nimrod, J Journal, and elsewhere. She hosts “Audio Saucepan,” a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio, and writes the blog Which Silk Shirt. www.laurencamp.com

The First Person

You became the first person.
It happened one night on a swing set.
You were a lonely first-person child.
Then you got so big. You took airplanes.

I became the first person.
It was frightening, I hid under the stairs.
Then I got so big, I turned
the stars on and off with a switch.

Under a Virgo moon, I had a baby.
He became the first person. He got so big.
He grew a pony tail, got a girlfriend.
They were both the first person.

They escaped to the forest.
They wanted better. The forest
was in danger. Its secrets
were retreating. The couple hid

some forest secrets inside
themselves, then they came back
to visit. We all became the first person.
The whole city became the first person,

then all the cities, even the barely
imaginable cities from the National
Geographics. Our retreating secrets
got so big inside us. We closed down

the bars. We stopped the doom calendar,
and we loved ourselves. All around the globe
we loved our first-person selves. And we didn’t
die.  And we didn’t die. Then we died.

*

Paula Cisewski is the author of Ghost Fargo, selected by Franz Wright for the Nightboat Poetry Prize, Upon Arrival (Black Ocean), and three chapbooks. She lives in Minneapolis where she serves as cohost of the Maeve’s reading series, co-concoctor of JoyFace Poetry and Arts, and writer-in-residence at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts.