Category: Issue 15

Road Trip

When the radio says the brand’s
been linked to a sweatshop fire

in China, the same brand
sewn onto my shirt, I try

to picture the rows
upon rows. Each skull back

turned toward a stitch.
What must be

women. Though it’s hard to say
through smoke. At a distance

billboards on this highway in Texas
I can’t quite read, though I squint,

pinch my thighs to keep
away sleep. Closer, closer

until I just
discern words. Dark on sharp

white background. Still
abstract design, more like

wallpaper. Now it’s back
to the Stones –

Pleased to meet you –
when I see it:

Jesus Saves.
And I want

to believe it, sure
Hell will be hot,

one circle filled
with weights to push

and push
for the wasters

and keepers of all
the gold beneath the moon.

Jen DeGregorio’s poetry has appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Collagist, The Cossack Review, PANK, and elsewhere. She teaches writing to undergraduates in New York and New Jersey, where she co-curates the Cross Poetry reading series in Jersey City and edits the companion online journal, Cross Review.

Advertisements

The Anachron

It’s time, Tiger, to pedal your little boy car

out of home movies, squeaking past the white

wands of papers rolled on driveways in the dark

and your Pop Warner pick-6 for the Merchants Bank Bucks,

past your bus before dawn in the spooky school lot,

past the smell of girls’ shampoo, blue

ribbons and zippers and index cards, vacation

boulders in Albuquerque against your rickety back

and that day you stripped in the field behind the trailer

at the edge of woods.  If it mattered,

it doesn’t.  If it could have changed you in the world,

it didn’t. Memory creases useless salt in mixed-up doodles

like that story you read in which Ancient Greece is back

on Earth, the Great War rages and North America is a plain of glass.

Even classic rock has abandoned the convention center.

Captain Kirk still avoids his fans.  Fluorescence,

a desiccant, lit your notes in unfamiliar classrooms, polished

white tile skittered with green, flecks the color of Soyuz,

hallways, like tomorrows, made beautiful by being empty.

More than the logic of your winning speeches, your seating charts

for the high-school U.N., your tournament trophies and plans

for the College of Electors, more than the slip-covered presidents

and all those tired teachers drinking coffee and Mylanta, remain

the strange sufficiencies of these objects resigned in time :

the first gray hair in seventh grade and the blue-and-gold anthology :

now all of them and Auden’s correction to Shelley, the torrent

of today’s dry creek bottom.  You miss your plastic Tri-corder, the

sorghum and soybeans, frontage-road pink house, a strip-mall Karma.

Your red pedal-car broke down years ago.  Hot sand fills your Converse

–the white-red cliff ahead a trunkless thigh in stone,

your pick-up how many miles back?

Pinyon, juniper, sage–not the only shadows desert knows

–all travelers in each annihilated place, each

dry creek that leads us past the moving, stupid monuments

in a capital beset with marble.  Tell the half-

light, noon, half-light, moon.  Tell slope and dessication

in orders of magnitude.  Flycatcher, willow and vermillion, axles

broken in a grove and degrees, hasten the histories

of vista rest-stop plaques to the first American names,

one of which was her finger sliding a button through a slit.

Failed shade, failed boosts, failed kiss-and-tell, failed narcissism,

friend prescience, unknown colleagues of the distant chamber

–You could call the roll but instead you build this anachron from scrap again,

obscure schematics scratched in bloody angles on your skin.

No one cares.  What is there to legislate now

that you check the Real Age, which is

47, ballots rusting in the garages of code geeks

and student-council treasurers?  There is

a cottonwood.  Before that,

a prior tree, and after that,

an after tree.

 

*

 

Christopher Cokinos is the author, most recently, of Bodies, of the Holocene and is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide.  He has poems recent or forthcoming in Borderlands, Front Porch, GeoHumanities, Orion, TYPO and Ecotone, among other places. In Tucson, he directs the creative-writing program at the University of Arizona. In Logan Canyon, Utah, he reads books instead of e-mails. He is at work on a new nonfiction project tentatively titled Re-Civilization: Six Heresies to Keep a Planet Running. His poetry collections The Underneath and The Archive of Obsolete Futures are circulating.

Vertigo

Sometimes I feel as if I’m losing my balance,

 

leaning too far or falling over,

 

not like James Stewart in Vertigo who experiences a sense of rotational movement as if the scene is unscrewing itself,

 

I think it has something to do with the absence of completeness,

 

the feeling of incompleteness.

 

I try to lean over without falling over.

 

In the film the camera pulls away while at the same time zooming in,

 

letting the air uncoil like a sprung spring,

 

which causes the background to dissolve, as when you hold onto something that doesn’t exist.

 

It is true, longing is often associated with loss like a kind of negative pressure pushing you away from yourself.

 

A man falls in love with a woman who doesn’t exist, who is impersonated by a woman who falls in love with the man,

 

who is only interested in the other.

 

It turns out she is willing to be somebody else in order to be loved.

 

She doesn’t need to be herself.

 

You trust your feelings, or whatever it is that enables you to feel loved,

 

even if you’re not real.

 

An individual is never more alone than with a person who doesn’t exist.

 

Dr. K in W. G. Sebald’s Vertigo similarly confuses intimacy with disengagement, as if he’s punishing himself.

 

It is often the case that we end up losing what’s real in order to preserve something we imagine.

 

You lose your balance when you don’t exist,

 

in the film it feels like falling.

 

Sebald’s narrator moves from place to place but finds he cannot escape the contracting sickle-shaped circle of his feelings,

 

as if the trip is a loop that adjusts to his longings.

 

There is nowhere to escape to.

 

There are only lines in the mind, keeping out and letting in,

 

depending on which side you’re on.

 

For the most part I don’t think our feelings have a clear sense of their own incompetence.

 

There is probably more longing than is actually necessary, for instance,

 

although without it the feeling of loss would increase suddenly,

 

like one of those balloon payments that gets people into trouble.

 

 

*

 

Peter Leight has previously published poems in Matter, Paris Review, Partisan Review, AGNI, Western Humanities Review, Cincinnati Review, Seneca Review, The Southampton Review, Cimarron, Hubbub, and other magazines.

 

Maghreb

“Change does not mean reform.”  F. Fanon (1961)

“Where there is power there is resistance.” M. Foucault (1976)

 

Michel and Frantz in Algeria, skies a species of red

like oranges perfuming porcine duck sharing a plate

with pulpy squash, speaking of particularities and

generalities, of Binswanger’s dasein agenda removed

from structuralism’s elemental lens.  One an acolyte of

Césaire, the other believing in himself, each yoked to

France, not to the same oppressions wrought by their

pais where skies might also be orange, but not in Kabyle

where moist air embraces silver altocumulus reflecting

sunlight. Their paradigms different but not opposed,  a

parallel aesthetics united by two doctrines of power at

multiple scales of manumission policed from Panopticons

specific and abstract, familial and civic, intimate and

unaffected, suspect and dominant like male hamadryas

herding their harems, all driven to madness by structures

stressed by iterations of lagging time (T) and wasting

energy (E).

 

Neocolonialism, a sign of progress America can be

proud of, no longer defined by slavery or civic war

white men convene in rooms redolent of wood and

wax, modeling futures for those afforded membership

plus interest, for those with surplus to invest in a Forever

Ring of new frontiers and endless possibilities, and

everything that happens is material for another reinvention.

Even suicide begets a new fiction for reading or for living

or for wearing, and progress is equivalent to curating

any landscape or border, including alien bodies or

nation-states across oceans or deserts or planets,

requiring only that America keep her facts straight or that

she preserve order by other means. For what is power but

class and type (surveillance of private spaces, interruption

of solitude, perturbation of boundaries) unless power turns

inward, evoking resistance to hegemony, like female fuscata

reversing their rank, aided by allies diagnosing marginal

contingencies where leverage is equivalent to force (F)

manifest when benefits prevail?

 

Phenomenology of madness feels gray as sky before

storming, not solid gray but penetrated by silver, black

and fading light like the time after harming a lover or

a child, breaking their hearts forever as Foucault broke

our hearts by dying in a way opposed to our translations

of his canon, coercion and surveillance, Gordian rules

governing contracts, hermeneutics imprecise as reality

routed through neurons, frontal cortex switching from

synapse to behavior, action patterns mapped like Drosophila‘s

grooming, algorithms expressed in numbers or other metrics

harboring their own syntax, quantities and characters,

topographies of circumstance like Hegel’s aesthetics, a

“reflective gaze of lived experience” as he gazed upon us

as his own amuse, detached and hiding from his acolytes—

students, psychologists, philosophers who, like historians or

like Binswanger, failed to detect his worship of the “unlivable,”

like Nietzsche’s claim that reality (Physics) and representation

(Perception) are indivisible, that black and white are the same

and ahistorical, a singular claim on phenomena removed from

Hegel’s logos, that interactions constitute a process rather than

a truth-claim. His color was gray, then. We gave Foucault

mercurial power to drive us, without certainty, into the coming

storm.

 

*

 

 

Clara B. Jones is a retired scientist, currently practicing poetry in Asheville, NC. As a woman of color, Clara writes about the “performance” of identity and power, and her poems, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous venues. Clara studied with Adrienne Rich in the 1970s and has studied recently with the poets Meghan Sterling and Eric Steineger.

 

 

Terra Firma

no nocturnal grammar

no greens no grays

 

no black flag

no white light

 

no accelerated vista

no sudden inscape

 

no aphoristic flower

no plagiarized grief

 

no paper planet

in poet’s notebook

 

no symphonic sunrise

no tremor in the afterglow

 

 

 

 

/

 

no strophic slaughter to the lamb

no grass-fed rhyme-scheme

 

no political shelter

no people of tomorrow

 

no trespass

if no property

 

no gatekeeper

if no boundaries

 

no lovemaking

no leave-taking

 

no center

no circumference

 

 

 

 

/

 

no democratic plantation

in distant counterpoint

 

no counterfeit style

no dialectic grace

 

no pot

no piss

 

no chicken

no omelette

 

no song

no one to listen as it plays

 

*

 

Adam Fagin’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Fence, VOLT, and a number of other places. He has a chapbook out from Little Red Leaves called T’s Alphabet. Another chapbook, THE SKY IS A HOWLING WILDERNESS BUT IT CAN’T HOWL WITH HEAVEN, will be out soon from Called Back Books.

A New Language

Whose name will sound among the fields?
Whose battle-cries will grind the grain?
Once, learned men and layfolk both
swore Basque and shouted English oaths:
“Help, Holyhead!” “Saint George, to me!”
were then in fashion, for we feared
the noble deeds their troops had done.
A new language always comes.

After those two, Breton displaced
the Basque and English from our lips.
Their fame exploded! No one clung
to words outworn, outmoded songs,
and all you heard was, “By God’s grace!”
from every father and his son.
The mad spoke Breton, and the dumb.
A new language always comes.

Forgotten now, no longer good,
Breton’s found peace with last year’s coins.
We only speak Burgundian!
“No god for me” — all in one voice.
You might well ask, which, of those four,
is worth the ransom, at this price.
I’ll shut up now: my song is sung.
A new language always comes.

Prince, which people will have won
the “title,” “name,” or “lawful right”
to grind the grain today? Tonight?
A new language always comes.

— Adapted by Samantha Pious

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

Toudis vient un nouvel langaige

 

Je ne sçay qui aura le nom
d’aler par les champs desormais;
un temps vi qu’englés et gascon
parloient tuit et clers et lais:
«San capdet» et «Saint George m’aist!»
adonc estoient en usaige
et redoubtez par leurs meffais:
Toudis vient un nouvel langaige.

Apres ces deux vindrent Breton,
des autres ne tint l’en plus plais;
trop acrurent ceux leur renom,
et n’oissiez dire jamais
fors qu’ «a Dieu le veu» en touz fais;
n’y avoit si foul ne si saige
qui ne fust Bretons contrefais;
toudis vient un nouvel langaige.

Oubliez sont, plus n’y fait bon,
il est de leur langaige paix;
l’en ne parle que bourgoignon:
«Je regny dé.» Voi ce. Or fais
demande qui sont plus parfais
a bien raençonner un mesnaige
de ces .iiii., dont je me tays:
Toudis vient un nouvel langaige.

Prince, quelz gens aront le don,
cy apres, d’avoir l’eritaige
de possider cil tiltre ou nom?
Toudis vient un nouvel langaige.

— Eustache Deschamps

 

*

 

Samantha Pious is pursuing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book, A Crown of Violets (Headmistress Press, 2015), offers a selection of the French poetry of Renée Vivien in English translation. Some of her individual translations and poems have appeared in AdriennePMSLavender ReviewMezzo CamminLunch Ticket, and other publications.

 

Eustache Deschamps (1340-1406) was a poet whose work in forme-fixe revolutionized the style and content of French poetry. Rather than confining himself to courtly love and chivalry, Deschamps adopted more accessible concerns as his subject matter, while maintaining that poetry did not need to be set to instrumental music, since it possessed a “natural music” all its own.