Category: Issue 19

Collector of Luck

I am afraid there is

something terrible

 

wrong with me. I go

about my night things.

 

My walk makes a sound

like this, thisthis, this

 

footsoles shushing

the floorboards, whispering

 

trust—that the stair will be

there, when I’m able to cross

 

it. When I can. I look in

on my books like infants—

 

Oh you sleep so well, Jericho,

and Deuteronomy, and all

 

the other names I keep

in books with leaves

 

and four-leaf clovers—or

almost four-leaf clovers.

 

Whatever luck is possible

in pressed lettuce, or tulips—

 

what is too full of rain

to really keep, but not

 

to love. This penny

I glue to the bottom

 

of my shoe, keep treading

on—the face of the dead

 

good man kissing

whatever I cross.

 

*

 

Annah Browning is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program for Writers at The University of Illinois-Chicago, and the author of a chapbook, The Marriage (Horse Less Press, 2013). Her poems have recently appeared in Verse Daily, Indiana Review, Willow Springs, Boulevard, Radar Poetry, and other journals. She is an editor of Grimoire, an online literary magazine of witchy and the weird.

Spell for a Daughter

Have a daughter, call her Asylum.

Have a daughter, call her Better

Late. Have a daughter.

 

Call her Christian. Call her

Beget-by-Fate. She is the called-

back, she is a dead horse,

 

she is the one arisen and she

is lovely. She holds your hand

until it purples. She twists

 

her hair until it’s snakes.

She is born, she is born,

she is born. She whispers

 

to you—always late and

never better. Always in

the lake and shining. She is

 

your daughter, you beget

her. Her teeth are even,

and small, and they wait.

 

*

 

Annah Browning is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program for Writers at The University of Illinois-Chicago, and the author of a chapbook, The Marriage (Horse Less Press, 2013). Her poems have recently appeared in Verse Daily, Indiana Review, Willow Springs, Boulevard, Radar Poetry, and other journals. She is an editor of Grimoire, an online literary magazine of witchy and the weird.

America, what have you wrought?

Last night, I dreamed

that hordes of men were roaming

the streets of my neighborhood carrying rifles,

donning red like badges of honor.

Outside the store today,

I saw them again

those same men,

smugness dripping

from their faces

like oil.

The flags.

The red.

We showed you!

Fully out of the shadows

now, they stand

no longer relegated to the ashes

of history.

We are out

of the shadows, too.

For good.

We stand

in the light, blazing with our blue

fire.

 

*

 

Leila Emery earned her B.A. in comparative literature from Smith College and her M.A. in poetry from Johns Hopkins. Her work has appeared in Lines + Stars, 95Notes, Abbey, and poetryfish.

The Reagan Era

It was superb, the song. It was superb.

Half-awake, coming to half-terms

with the tiny room cut in half

by the presence of the possessions

of my roommate gone for the weekend,

the rain done, the year, 1982,

beginning to fall, I brimmed over

with how I didn’t know to what extent

the air shaft behind my head and outside

our one window was physical.

I was with the small but tiny

building on 112th and Broadway,

inside it, just as without question,

or with certainty, I was inside

my freshman year of college in

New York City, by my side, alone

on a Sunday morning after a late night

with friends, an overripe Saturday

involving fermented laughter and

varying liquids involving more

than the need to end thirst. And

I didn’t know if the building’s missing

wide spine consisted of air or

of a woman’s throat, the two ends

of an Adam’s apple suspended

in an arc over a smooth surface.

Privileged and hungry for unseen,

universal riches swinging low

over wages and charity

and a chariot (wrong song), was I

half-dreaming? To what extent?

Was I reverting back to dreaming

of waking to a world with its inside

scooped out so that half of its windows,

the lucky ones nestled away

from the streets, could breathe, though closed?

The one behind my head, I realized

or fantasized, was open all the way,

given the late September heat,

and a dead woman (I called her

“Judy,” which was her exact name)

with a “Garland” of flowery, leafy,

precise softness at the top of her lungs,

was singing, going on and “Over”

about “the Rainbow” like a drunken child

wreathed with brain stems and freed cells.

It was superb. I was awake now,

to the music and the prank, no doubt

someone a few floors down half-dangling

a speaker, like an air-conditioner,

out his window, laughing and blasting

sleepers from their slumbers

at such an ungodly hour, the music

and not the prank reverberating

and exploding like an immense,

contained throat. It was superb,

with just Judy hovering above

the source in a disembodied building,

an immense, upside-down glass of rain

with no ceiling or floor, her lit throat

whispering like a roar around my ears

and inner lids, having broken through the airy

glass behind my head, her lit throat arriving

too early to be wrong, given

the sun’s multibright wish to never awaken

without chord changes and milked and nursed

syllables, the perfect world an upside-

down smile nuzzling the brutal streets,

tenderly belting out flesh and money,

deprivation, sleep, and the dream

that years later, there would be

conscious and conscionable peace

at last, if not where I would be,

then somewhere.

 

2008

 

*

Since 1987, Douglas Nordfors has been publishing poems in journals such as The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, and Poet Lore, and recent work has appeared in Burnside Review, Agave, OccuPoetry, Tipton Poetry Journal, and others. He has published two books of poetry, Auras (2008), and The Fate Motif (2013).

Stumped

Believe me, I believe you, candidate of order

law-breaking, shackles-off, hair-raising border-

line Mexican criminal deals made in China,

You do strike a chord with the random vagina

 

grabbing at truth as it plays on the news

high-wired penthouses trapping your muse

inspiring violence, hatred and dirt

slinging it back for a hot mini-skirt

 

But riddle me this: How do regular folk

watch you shoot from the hip just to swallow your joke?

Befuddled, bewildered, bewitched I am not

singing your praises or stirring your pot

of golden-white towers from armies of men

Ready, Aim      Fired

to tax us     again

 

that second amendment my first-born should know

arms boys to be boys for stones that they throw

shatter glass ceilings, break family heart,

wrongs are not rights, they’re rites torn apart

 

Let’s dig through the mud and bury the lead

God help us, brave homeland,

this sweet land of need

 

*

 

Heather Newman studies at The New School (NYC.) Her work has appeared in Two Hawks Quarterly, New Verse News, The Potomac Journal, Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, E-Chook and will appear this spring in Aji Magazine and Voices From Here, Vol. II (Paulinskill poetry anthology.)

 

entry for compassionate waste

your voicemail starts with the adage, you see, the thing is – you were probably calling on your lunch break, your jeans likely torn, once at the knee, maybe below your ass, as you stood at the payphone in the back hallway of the grocery store – your skin chapped from the cold, especially above your lip – those months, you kept a turtle in our room, who lived in a hallway of lavender light – it was mostly hard to watch, her slow plodding only to arrive at another wall of glass, the refracted light blooming vapidly – I was taking photographs of the ground, sewing things up in small bundles & capsules, placing onion skin on my tongue for as long as I could hold – direct mark-making was usually too emotive for you – so we made nothing into home – our thoughts often changed locations, shuffled between our hands & our quality of looking out – in other words: we never knew what we wanted to do until we found ourselves doing it – because life was lived with a sense of compassionate waste – from one gift horse to another

 

*

 

“entry for compassionate waste” is titled after a line from Mary Ruefle’s Trances of the Blast.

 

*

 

Gabriel Jesiolowski works in a research-based practice using drawings, photographs, installations, poems, essays, and printed matter. They were a Fall 2016 writing fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Their first book, As Burning Leaves, selected by Carl Phillips, won the Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press and is due out in April 2017. They live in the San Juan Islands.

The Sheep

No wonder. We advance up that mountain

without pause,

question or alarm.

 

Our father hid his knife

next to his nakedness. Pulled Isaac up

the slaughter slope.

 

He sang praise. Pledged allegiance.

He walked by sound,

that one voice: I will make you

 

great again. Yes, great. Again.

No wonder we forget. We are the young

Mesomorph of sound mind and Olympic legs.

No wonder we forget

we can get away

or, all the better, overcome.

 

Our father is the sheep

on the mountain. Not us. Nor the ram

in the thistle. Our father grinded the knives.

 

Our father bleated, loud. With bladed fists

raised: whatever you say whatever

you say whatever.

 

*

 

Ciona D. Rouse is a poet, living in Nashville, Tenn. She curates many poetry experiences and reading series in the city. Her poetry is featured or forthcoming on WPLN Nashville Public Radio, Nashville Public Television, and Gabby Journal.