Category: Issue 09

Imbolc

Even polar, we graft together.
I wrench my neck to sky.

What grey. These are my
articles of faith: the land

conceiving food to feed
our child. I’m a simple

nun to that. We’ve no memory
of thaw, but still we haul our scraps

outside, sure with all our might
of resurrection. I fear the empty

belly; the fashioned
seed; the kiwi flown in

from half a world away.
Sometimes my mind

needs a bed under snow. O
Love, tell me nothing but stories

of nothing. I’m so pretty
& there are eagles

at the river. There’s not
a thing like them, nothing.

*

Aubrey Ryan’s work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Ant-, Best New Poets, El Aleph, Phantom Limb, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. Her poems have received awards from The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Consequence Magazine, Booth Journal, and Tupelo Press, and have been nominated for three Pushcart prizes. Aubrey is the Writer in Residence at the Midwest Writing Center in Iowa where she lives with her husband and small son.

Coins

I recognize myself least this week.
I don’t think about writing, don’t care for it,
I think about God is Love
and mint it on my copper-nickel
eyes where no great faces are minted,
no great women I loved, no mothers or fathers,
no one of any great history,
just you, Lawrence, sitting beside me,
on the precipice of drunk, not yet folding your face into itself
to cry about a wife who is either dead or long gone,
and we talk about faith. We talk about machines
that create machines smarter than themselves
and you say it’s either that life or the primitive one,
it’s either machine gods or sun ones,
and I can’t disagree. More and more I stare at the pyramids
on mars and think Donald Rumsfeld is the leader of the reptilian race.
More and more I am my father’s daughter, reading about the Illuminati,
Mayan prophecies, signs of the end of the world,
more and more his wife says I am the “well-balanced” him,
as if we can create beings smarter than ourselves. E pluribus unum.
Lawrence, you are an old drunk,
but so was I once, or something like that, stumbling everywhere,
into everything and into everyone. I can sit with you Lawrence, at night
in the park we are Occupying, around a fire that sits
on a grate, with Alan off his meds screaming that he wants
candy for his nephew. Alan’s eyes are wet pennies in which nothing is reflected,
not his nephew, skinny little child who stares up at him
and slides his cold little hand into mine. Alan is crying now,
and I pretend to know how to help someone,
touch the puff of his jacket, give him a slice of pizza.
I have cried like that because I am afraid of my own fear.
I bet you, reader, have cried that like too. I saw Lawrence do it,
I’ll see it again. The world is burning, they say, and I have
a distinct feeling that the final battle will be fought
by two people looking into each other’s eyes.

*

Chelsey Weber-Smith is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia’s MFA program in poetry. She also writes country music and travels the United States. She has written and self-published two chapbooks, a travel memoir, and two full-length folk/country albums. She currently lives in Seattle.

dead lion

I had to take a good friend
home to his parents
he was manic
collecting garbage in a rented room
and arranging it
believing a secret door
to god would appear
if he got the room just right
if everything added up
he cried in my arms a lot
that summer and I realized
something was wrong
because he had never before mentioned god|
and now the word opened
out of his mouth
and grew to the size of the car
we were sitting in
like a bubble from a wand
that grows shivering
rainbows circling in it
until your whole hand is inside
he had never mentioned god
the word that is always clamped
between my teeth
and he said he knew things
he didn’t know before
that he was leaving clues
for everyone but they weren’t noticing
he said they would understand
when they saw it
he was leaving arrows
that pointed to other arrows
a popcorn kernel
on a kitchen table
but where I wasn’t sure

there are secret things
the women in my family know
like a cat that won’t stop following you
on some dark neighborhood street
it won’t let you touch it
even though you call it to you
put your fingers together with false promises
of food and say sweet things to it
in a voice that isn’t yours
it’s always there a little behind you
getting farther and farther from its home
and closer and closer to yours

I heard a sick man died in the house
my grandparents live in
I don’t know much about it
except that he slowly lost his mind
at midnight my grannie once
heard someone yelling
the numbers of each stroke of her
grandmother clock
ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE
all the way to twelve
of course there was no one there
when she made it down the hall
is there ever
no one in the long shadow of the clock

my grannie and my mom
have stood in the kitchen
and smelled something flowery and strong
like pushing your nose deep
into a belly of a rose
they could feel my great-grandmother
there in the kitchen
the perfume she wore
the unique way it felt to stand beside her
it happens so why say it doesn’t
my mom stood in a
circle of buttercups
and knew that someone dead was there
who died of an overdose
and was rolled into a ditch
someone who called her buttercup
when he loved her

people like to say that
nothing happens after you die
that it’s just nothing and you don’t even
know it’s nothing
they say it with so much authority
like it is a fact that has melted
so deeply into curriculum
that it’s been reduced to a name and a date
and no one really cares
when Steve died it was a while
before he came into a dream of mine
walking down a long sand hill
wearing surf shorts
looking young and strong
with long hippy hair
it’s okay to not be sure of anything
maybe when we die
like my grandpa says
we get to see everyone else who’s died
and we can go to different places in the world
fly around and see them
you don’t know
and neither do I
so why make fun of people
who dream of seeing their dead again
on hills made of sand
or walking on railroad tracks

sometimes I get embarrassed
because I say thank you to a barista
for giving me more hot water in my tea
I say it like he has just revealed to me
a grace I wasn’t aware of before
that will certainly golden my dull heart into shining
and he says no problem
like the world is so easy for all of us
like each motion is relaxed into
and then performed through us
by something grand and perfectly confident
and there is no problem for me
not really

my father used to dream demons
pulling him into the fireplace
and men in red robes and hoods
circling around him
it’s scary I know
because I dreamed those dreams
and once I was sleeping
in my grannie’s house
my girlfriend
another woman who knows secret things
could feel a man standing above her
staring at her
she said I was breathing heavily
whimpering in my sleep
and she said she could feel him there
then the sound of a car crashing
and the loud unnerving scrapes
of people coughing
and me whimpering and almost crying out
and I woke up with nothing in my head
but a dark sick warmth over everything

maybe there is darkness just like the stories tell us
maybe there is light just like the stories tell us
maybe there is no use in disbelief
you see it everyday
you see god everyday
and you see the devil
and you are the devil today
or you are god
thanking people that give you things
gratitude purring in your chest for hours|
or yelling at pretty things about your love
your love that fills the room with smoke
your love that pulls its own feathers out
or your love
that moves its hands through
the long hair of lions

some relative of a mean politician
hunted and killed a lion
and put a picture of it on facebook
the dead thing broke my heart
maybe because I am a leo
with a leo rising
and at my best I am a lion
and at my worst
my scorpion moon
clamps the lion’s tail
and they run around like that
like a cartoon
hurt and hurting
but now the lion is dead
and someone is proud of that death
the lion was lying there
in the picture
like a truly sad teenager
a teenager that has grown into knowing
for the first time the solid nervous
weight of the world
and just lets the weight push down
closes their eyes in a field at night
maybe high on their parents’ painkillers
that tumbled into their palms
like the smooth stones at a novelty shop
all that warm gravity pulling them down into despair
it’s okay to go down there
but please lion rise back up
like the stories say
let me see the muscles of your back
and all that golden fur
and those immaculate teeth
that I could kiss
and will

 

 

*

Chelsey Weber-Smith is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia’s MFA program in poetry. She also writes country music and travels the United States. She has written and self-published two chapbooks, a travel memoir, and two full-length folk/country albums. She currently lives in Seattle.

What She Could Carry

It all fit in her arms
and the basket that hung from the handlebars,
a rusted castoff
whose creaking spokes clamored
for the voices of a scarce tomorrow
after years beneath the Plantain tree,
equatorial torrents,
and open-sky sun.

Her infant child, strapped to her back;
some yucca, avocado, and coffee grinds wrapped
in the rapidity of alarm;
her mother’s portrait;
and a book of poems
she hoped she could someday learn to read,
that her husband regardless
brought her, wrapped in ribbon
from the city,
on the day he first kissed her
on the same riverbank to which he’d gone to fish
only to be eight months late for supper.

Rumors slapped her cheek for weeks
that he’d been taken to an unmarked grave
and handed a shovel
but there was no word otherwise,
despite her dawn-break pleas
perforating the hours up through
starless night wondering
that drained her breasts of their certainty
and left a bitter taste on her child’s tongue.

She rides the velocity of violence
peddling the dirt road to
some semblance of safe
after gunshots deafened the sugarcane,
untaming death and its havoc,
and the neighbor’s cattle came running,
unsettled, aflame:
the fabric of fecund days, deracinated.

Erosions of history tattoo themselves into her skin,
numbing erasure,
a cruel wind knotting her hair, and
the splintered tires traverse
under the weight of
infant, poetry,
and dread
toward a cosmopolitan horizon
where the extermination
of home and birdsong
rises from the blistering pavement.

__________________

*This poem references the violence of enforced disappearance and forced displacement that is rampant in Colombia. Colombia has over 50,000 reported disappearances, and about 5 million internally displaced. The Colombian military and its contingent, state-sanctioned, illegal armed groups are responsible for roughly 85% of human rights violations, including these.

*

Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes is a Queer, Colombian Mestiza, feminist, poet, writer, scholar, photographer, and political activist currently living in Brooklyn. Her performance, creative writing, and photography have been seen or are forthcoming in places such as Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women, The Progressive, Mobius: A Journal for Social Change, Yellow Medicine Review, and others.

Luna

“…the Chinantecs and Mixes of Oaxaca believe that a black dog will help the newly dead to cross a body of water, either a river or a sea, to the land of the dead.”

slow moon whimpering dog
black dog for being borne across
in the first story I ever wrote
my grandfather held you
and wept into your black coat

I come home for Thanksgiving
and you’ve died black thread
dangling from a downturned palm
I drive my grandfather to
the old house on the brick

porch still a long metal chain
noosed around a column
rusted tools and the nailgun
broken dishwasher in the yard
twenty years I spent living

next door through a warped
wooden portal in the fence
green unreflecting pool
at the bottom of the canal
still sits the slide I enjoyed

one summer before the hurricane
tore it away and sunk it
brought the parrot which learned
to speak my grandmother’s trembling
English now even the moon gone

just the enormous steel pot
of black beans boiling all Sunday
which my grandfather divides into seven
plastic containers and freezes
soup in the afternoon

over rice in the evening
tonight we fall asleep
on the couch watching the
Pacquiao fight on rerun
when I wake him he sits

at the kitchen counter
to inject insulin into that
small permanent wound
oval and dried blood black
like one of Luna’s eyes.

*

Greg Solano is a Cuban-American who writes of family in Miami, FL while living in Berkeley, CA. A graduate of the University of Virginia’s MFA program in Creative Writing, his poems have previously appeared in PANK Magazine, Different Interest and Expat Lit Journal.

Dear Anne,

August 30, 2013

How many hours have touched? The white sweater you knit for winter, the book’s frame faded to its spine. Melita writes you without knowing and—it’s worn, isn’t that what counts? I read you on the bus today, your voice a distant opening. We buy more bookshelves—a choice you can only dream of. This morning, I fashion a table from an old cabinet split into thirds, while thinking of what it takes to cut a door only a few eyes can see. The basement is filled with cardboard and old wrapping, but I’m afraid to ask Sarah to pick it up. What does it mean to make space where there is none? I want to ask you questions and have the answers come back in my own voice.

*

Jacob Victorine is a performance poet and MFA graduate of Columbia College Chicago. Nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize, his poems appear in places such as DIALOGIST, Columbia Poetry Review, Phantom Limb, PANK and Muzzle Magazine, for which he also writes book reviews. He is an editorial assistant for Court Green.

Dear Anne,

September 1, 2013

Tonight I went with Sarah to Mass. How was it, that twelve rows in front of us two men sat clasping hands? One like me, wearing a black yarmulke stark against bone white hair, his shirt the color of tropical water. While the preacher lamented the lack of faces in the front row, I watched ions bounce between the two men’s shoulders. I wanted to tell Sarah, This is something holy. What do you pray for? Sometimes I think there are stairwells inside her I will never know. We sat there dressed in all blue, her veins a shade I can’t unfold. Can poetry? The other Jew and I the only bodies between the pews as the ones who brought us left for the altar, readying their mouths to catch light.

*

Jacob Victorine is a performance poet and MFA graduate of Columbia College Chicago. Nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize, his poems appear in places such as DIALOGIST, Columbia Poetry Review, Phantom Limb, PANK and Muzzle Magazine, for which he also writes book reviews. He is an editorial assistant for Court Green.