Category: Issue 09

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.

Dear Anne,

September 3, 2013

Sarah and I sat on the back porch last night talking about Padre Pio and his bloody palms. She says even my prayers are made of action. Is this letter enough? I repeat your words again and again after reading them: All I could think was someone was coming to get us, you know who I mean. What makes you feel protected? We used to dress up, too: me as Harpo Marx, and my brother as an undercover cop in drag. If only our Jewishness were another costume to take off. Victorine has never evoked six-pointed stars and prayer shawls. My brother’s junior high basketball coach thought he was Italian. What does passing mean to you? On the L that night with Sarah and friends: Can you believe he called me a migrant worker? Sometimes it seems there are a hundred faces on top of my own. I’m thinking again of the bookshelf and all the years you and your parents make a life behind it.

*

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.

Nahida

(from Tear Opera)

It is 1948, always 1948. I was five. I’ll tell
only what I know I know. For example:

a pain somewhere beneath my ribs when I cast back
into the river of I remember. Shiver of tank blast

elsewhere near the town center, & my father there
now in the entryway, now in the bathroom. I never

saw / his hair white & full of pebbles / he combed
his hair until he combed out the white & the stones.

His blue suit chalked white, his silk tie soaked red.
I wanted to know, crying why, he was tremor & read

the latest leaflet warning men to gather downtown
& yesterday / promising to respect the rights of everyone /

to keep official records intact & therefore available
for proper perusal—we know now / for final disposal.

*

Philip Metres is the author and translator of a number of books and chapbooks, including Sand Opera (forthcoming Alice James 2015), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (forthcoming 2014), Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Poetic Texts of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse forthcoming 2014), A Concordance of Leaves (Diode 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine 2011), To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (University of Iowa 2007). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, numerous journals and anthologies, and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, five Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award (for the forthcoming Sand Opera), two Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Anne Halley Prize, and a Russian Institute of Translation grant. He is a 2014 Creative Workforce Fellow. The Creative Workforce Fellowship is a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, supported by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. He is professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland. http://www.philipmetres.com

Current Resident

I am practicing to die
******each time I lie down—
like tonight, reading—
******an old man living

minutes from his ancestral
******village that exists now
only in his mind, in
******the heaviness of a key

that opens a lock
******to a door that exists
only in his mind. I fight
******my eyes as they keep

closing doors on this day.
******He holds fast to past,
vivid as olives plucked
******from a gone orchard

and held beneath the lip
******of his untucked
shirt, until he must descend
******the limbs. The rocky ground

is the present giving
******way. Each time I rise
I am practicing to live,
******which means to forget

yesterday, and to forget
******to forget. Each time
we lie about what happened
******we dream what happened

happened again. When
******we wake, we lie, halfway
between two states—
******dreaming and dreaming.

*

Philip Metres is the author and translator of a number of books and chapbooks, including Sand Opera (forthcoming Alice James 2015), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (forthcoming 2014), Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Poetic Texts of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse forthcoming 2014), A Concordance of Leaves (Diode 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine 2011), To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (University of Iowa 2007). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, numerous journals and anthologies, and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, five Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award (for the forthcoming Sand Opera), two Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Anne Halley Prize, and a Russian Institute of Translation grant. He is a 2014 Creative Workforce Fellow. The Creative Workforce Fellowship is a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, supported by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. He is professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland. http://www.philipmetres.com

And They Say

I heard there was a legend
nearby. I only see a Spanish oak.
Neither death nor the sun…
Nature’s Golgotha. Or a green Ragnarok.
A church letting out. A family
vanishing into the block.
I kind of detest the blaze of legend
less pure than simple lies.
It may be gossip’s swiftest
avenue to retooling its alibi
for cruelty…

****************legend has it a man
was lynched, noosed, his flesh charred
unrecognizably as afterbirth,
his clothes tossed to the rags
of history, an oil-soaked, human torch.
His body was a clock
broken by drunken sailors,
slammed against a brick wall, loosening
the memory of pain’s instruments.
Or charts.

He was twisted beneath a limb
preserved in a square on blank street,
the oak still living, serpentine, Gothic,
longer than any accusatory finger.
The family approaches. To read a plaque,
I guess. Naw. The garden fence is only
to protect the tree, maybe,
from pests, locusts, and blank threats.

The victim… blinded…
He was a soldier… his heirs, his relatives…
say this, say that…. Or who says much
beside the steady erosion of tic, tock.
Trace his body in civic sands.
Trace a memorial in the public dust.
This is a Maypole Sunday. Adults
matter less than esplanade children,
kids, at least, matter more than strangers.

Not oak nor ivy could make the tale
charming. Or make a case history isn’t
playground rumor. I shouldn’t say that
anyhow. No matter the last, surviving witness
stands like a testimony which faintly
incriminates: like silences after a death.
It still was a ceremonial killing, I guess.
Pretend the oak tree called for a funeral hush.
Pretend happenstance may someday honor it
like a storm which turns away from a ghost house,

a lull flickering. And they say…
An outline: rumor, legend, gossip is a contour
A profile in sidewalk chalk, a body bag.
None of the skeletal anatomy filled in
or veins. Children with crayons call it colorful.
I heard about a fable woman, conjurer,
slave, though she was real, neither, both,
but I know she was black, no rites
of the fastidious macabre could change that.
Probably talked too much. They say.

A human scarification. Her lips sewn shut.
Guess she was alive, her nasty fibs
punished. Now the story is a retired flag
folded up, but it flaps in the breeze
occasionally it snaps like a pocketbook
the tongue clucks like a pocketbook.
My life beneath the limb of a story
playing a stranger’s
part in a dumbstruck village
is over. The present begs a way to live
************************together here.

 

*

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and essayist living in Santa Fe, NM. He is also a journalist who frequently covers race, class, and poverty issues. His poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Chiron Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Pedestal, and other places. His essay “Reality Publishing” was included in the anthology MFA vs. NYC, edited by Chad Harbach.

The Negotiations

We rename ourselves
in Farsi class. Soldiers sit enrolled among us—a few weeks in,
uniforms started to appear in our doorway.

Ostaad lets me use my given first name and looks
at the desk behind me. The guy’s wearing his army print today,
and he tells Ostaad what Persian name he wants—explaining

he thinks the name means, God of War. The first day of class,
I saw these army men in the room and tried to not wonder,
Why do the men want Persian—in which situation

do these soldiers imagine speaking the language? Listen,
NPR filled my kitchen this morning with negotiations
and nuclear conjecture:

******************What do the Iranians want?
******************Can we trust the Iranians—you know
******************we can’t read those people’s minds or know why
******************the Iranians want to talk to us.

I was just pouring creamer in my coffee. I was thinking,
Because of life under embargoes—grief spreads itself over
most families’ tables. To be hit by the escalating
price of chicken: damn it,
******************this is a reason.

When the radio voice started quoting Netanyahu,
I mouthed the words Fuck you—but felt so suddenly
scared—like an unfamiliar body herded into a flock—because one man speaks

about Iran and “wolves and sheep.” Today, I locked my front door.
Now, the God of War is sitting in the desk behind me,
and who in the hell am I

to say something? By the blackboard, Ostaad stands holding
a broken piece of chalk—his face like my father’s
face: this rectangle of sand and thinning sun. Our

professor asks the name of his next student while I imagine
the Iran-Iraq war again. I always tell myself, I’d slide a plate full
of bread, cheese, and mint into a deepest coat closet—if I had sons,

hidden, they’d live. I convince myself, but close my eyes
and see an entire generation escaping the house: waves of boys
running through the field. Ostaad turns back

to the board. Half-hiding behind our desks, we all study
his shoulders, the chalk buried in the red knit of his sweater.
Here, honestly, my own—only political beliefs:

******************some bodies are long hallways
******************of empty closets, only racks full
******************of a foreign shame. For so many reasons,
******************a body gives no one

a son. Here, in this classroom, the God of War is
honoring Farsi. Well, I hope the kid flunks
to be safe—to live. Only after escaping the field, can my father speak

his language. On this blackboard, all the syntax is walking back,
to my eyes, inverted. See, this soldier’s mom—does she understand
what trip her son studies for? At night, I lay down

with my conjecture. I stand at the front of the room, drawing
lines and boxes around the sentence—with the chalk
in my hand, I write, but feel how I’m unable to gasp

the meaning. Will the woman feel pride,
honor, if the soldier survives the next test, and maybe—maybe standing
in her kitchen, will she miss the son and cry into a striped dishcloth

softened by a million wash cycles? Will her loving
hand absentmindedly caress the fridge door’s
handle as she—in her mind—tries to plan a dinner

she will prepare when he comes back? Or if—
no. No real mother wants to see the field or how
war will diagram those bodies until

we can all read it:
******************how common
******************our human being is
******************when separated

into unpronounceable parts. The universal and foreign
senselessness of a sentence
broken into never reuniting clauses. That return—

her imagination just cannot volunteer.

*

Aliah Lavonne Tigh has authored a poetry thesis, A Body Fully, and last year, a paper examining the economic backdrop of revolution. She holds poetry and philosophy degrees from the University of Houston and began her MFA at the University of Indiana. Presently, she splits desk time between her second full-length poetry manuscript and research for a smaller historically-themed poetry project.

Deer In Her Empty Garden

By the throat and belly—that’s how
this drought has got us, all

dried up and ready to kick—see my little one and I hide behind the fine lady’s
stripped lettuce. After breakfast, with her husband in her—

she looks out the bedroom window, points
with her tan hand, to the baby and I. He soon finishes.

After seeing her calendar, she had begged him for this quick thing. A routine like March
planting—the seeds sown, none sprout. Afterwards,

he snaps his watch back on, and over her legs, she pulls
her yoga pants up to her waist. She remakes the bed,

while the man’s eyes move, from the shady place where we wait,
to the fence we had jumped, but now, holds us—immigrants—hers—

cornered in the garden. Still, our mouths did not tear her row
to green lace. She’s staring—and my little one stands, like a toddler

swaying on new legs, 4 feet from ruined
lettuce. The woman doesn’t see the butterflies lunching

on her harvest. They leave with their stomachs full. She doesn’t
see the heavy flock of lemon-wings flutter away. Her eyes won’t

leave the little one’s bony face. In the corner, we stand
between her fence and the empty row her husband always tries

to plant, but the beet seeds never grow after he buries them.
My little one folds her thin legs, drops her spotted body

onto a soft batch of wild garlic greens, closer to me. The lady sees
this, slides her hand up under her soft

pink flannel, and she caresses her belly like it’s not empty.
Her husband, watching her from the kitchen, turns

back into the hallway, back to the garage, and he reaches
until he finally grasps a good long barrel

inside an American gun cabinet. This drought will have us all.

*

“Deer in Her Empty Garden” owes much of its inception to Indiana University’s Morgane Flahault. Flahault’s research on a local community’s troubled relationship with its large deer population—a displaced population—prompted the author’s poem. The author expresses deep gratitude for Morgane Flahault’s brilliant compassion and scholarship.

Aliah Lavonne Tigh has authored a poetry thesis, A Body Fully, and last year, a paper examining the economic backdrop of revolution. She holds poetry and philosophy degrees from the University of Houston and began her MFA at the University of Indiana. Presently, she splits desk time between her second full-length poetry manuscript and research for a smaller historically-themed poetry project.