Possibly smell

The woman feared she was losing her sense of smell and, perhaps more importantly, feared she would thus lose her ability to determine what her home smelled like and whether her home smelled bad — did the trash stink? Did the litter box need changed? Was there food moldering in the disposal? She purchased many scented candles to mask the odors she worried she used to be able to smell but that she could only imagine now. When guests visited, some wondered why she burned so many candles, and wondered what she must have smelled to make her burn so many candles, and consequently wondered what they were supposed to smell, or not supposed to smell; but fewer among them wondered what the woman didn’t smell, or what she imagined she smelled but didn’t actually smell, or what she imagined she might not smell but that her guests might actually smell, or what she imagined she might not smell but that her guests might not actually smell either but could possibly smell.

Candace Nimms

The Cross

To her chastising
claim that he loves
the body, that he elevates
what is earthly
about himself when
he should be chastising
it, he replied: “What
elevation
can be greater, however,
than letting your body
be hoisted
upon the cross?”

M.A. Istvan Jr.
05 25 21

Apology

Apology is fundamentally a donation of a virtual self, but could more crudely be understood as a form of ritual self-murder. The phrase I am sorry carries in it a host of implications and assumptions about the relationship of action and identity. Are you what you do, or are you as a being separate from what you do? The act of apology suggests answers to the relationship between action and character that can prove emotionally satisfying if not philosophically satisfactory.

In exchange for a wrong that has been mutually agreed upon as being, in fact, a wrong, the wronging party in essence submits an idealized version of himself or herself to the wronged party. The wronging party then becomes the apologist, and transmits to the wronged party an affidavit that both affirms the fact of the crime but, simultaneously, also the illusory nature of the apologist’s character vis a vis the wrongful act. In apologizing there is an embryonic denial. The apologist says to the wronged party: I am sorry for what I did, but must also in apologizing implicitly affirm that I 1) should not have done that; 2) am no longer implicitly the kind of person who would do something like that, even though I, in fact, did it, however, and, most vitally 3) am retroactively expelling your conception of me as the type of person who would do such a thing, which is, essentially, 4) a form of moral time-travel in which the apologist reverses course on the ribbon of time and rejects, essentially murders, the previous self who committed the act in question.

Carl Hansen Manks
05 06 21

Pink

Almost
imperceptible
a wavelength
in between
two others.

Just a tiny bit
different
in length
and period.

But the mountains
calculate
none of it
just absorb.

The waves
bounce
and flow
and move right
through.

What I see
is a sliver of
pink
at the top of a
three-ridged
hill.

Morgan Bazilian
04 17 21

Please

Don’t go. Please don’t. No don’t. Please no. No go. Please no go oh. Don’t please. No no, no go. Don’t go please oh. Please go don’t no. No go please don’t no go no. No no go nono. Go don’t no please no go nogonono please gonono. No going nononoing no oh. Please no gono don’t no going nogo don’t oh no don’t gogono don’t no oh no go no. Please don’t go, no, don’t, non’t. Gon’t.

Candace Nimms
01 26 21

Kafka’s pages

Kafka
jumps rope while we are sleeping. Kafka has lit the black candles. Kafka sets
his typewriter towards the world. Kafka has stolen Cupid’s arrows! He practices
shooting them against the dawn. His apartment swarms with empty pages. The
pages make their horrible clicking sounds. They are ready.

Michael Battisto
01 05 21

Those nights

We would always laugh at how giddily clumsy, feeble, and confused we got when we smoked weed, but then we began to perceive a horror in it, a prefigurement of our old age and decline. The horror was in understanding this and nonetheless embracing with even more fervor a form of recreation that compresses and amplifies our ultimate allergy to time.

Carl Hansen Manks
11 30 20

2 a.m.

I have on many an occasion let myself down thinking I
could not should not will not do what I’ve spent many hours pre-thinking,
namely that thoughts are so fierce and tensile they shall not break no matter
how many times I try or try not to think them.

Dipti Anand
10 10 20

Attempts

There was, for a time, on my behalf, an attempt, a sustained attempt, a mighty attempt, perhaps even a courageous attempt, to tolerate the ambiguities of what was then and what remains my position.

Alison Schweikert
08 18 20

Possibly smell

The woman feared she was losing her sense of smell and, perhaps more importantly, feared she would thus lose her ability to determine what her home smelled like and whether her home smelled bad — did the trash stink? Did the litter box need changed? Was there food moldering in the disposal? She purchased many scented candles to mask the odors she worried she used to be able to smell but that she could only imagine now. When guests visited, some wondered why she burned so many candles, and wondered what she must have smelled to make her burn so many candles, and consequently wondered what they were supposed to smell, or not supposed to smell; but fewer among them wondered what the woman didn’t smell, or what she imagined she smelled but didn’t actually smell, or what she imagined she might not smell but that her guests might actually smell, or what she imagined she might not smell but that her guests might not actually smell either but could possibly smell.

Candace Nimms
08 05 20

Waterproof

1. Waterproof and rent out woods cabin.

2. Grill funny smelling hamburger.
Pretty soon.

3. Don’t let dogs out just because
they bark; they got Watchtower people all muddy

Guinotte Wise
03 04 20

Social media

Joke about grocery store red velvet cookies in the break room
Joke about “light” kombucha
Joke about hookah lounge
Joke about Phil Collins, possibly related to “light” kombucha, inter alia

Carl Hansen Manks
09 30 19

Not here

there
are windows where there should be walls and she was right in the
middle of the floor paint splashed about like nobody cared what kind
of a mess of footprints leading directly to each of the doors and
when it’s time to take the photographs you won’t believe how many
little scratches the bookcase wide and full of bricks the staircase
blocked with a dozen upright pianos and flickering lights in the
empty grate the floorboards rotten through the carpets rolled like
carpets rolled like cigarettes I didn’t smoke back then and I knew
she didn’t mind but I don’t believe we’ve met the neighbours
talking into telephones and microphones and empty boxes so this is
where my wallet and passport float away under a low bridge is where
pensioners throw sponges at passing tourists is where the days are
rolled backwards into the river to sparkle and glisten like hooked
fish thrown back before the banks break and the horses bolt and the
horses sweat like other horses sweating there expecting nothing and I
took a cigarette I knew she didn’t mind look I don’t mind she
said but just not here

Jon Kemsley
09 07 19

When in car

For speed, for confident slowness, for lurking and darting, for the meld between self and object, other;

For allure and intrigue that perhaps startlingly fulfills its promise;

For decisive neon horizons;

For a thorough and unembarrassed enthusiasm that results in such phrases as the preceding;

Among the many things you should apologize for this is not one of them

Candace Nimms
08 19 19

Coalition

To the extent that we opposed his efforts, his power only grew, but choosing instead to cease or relax our often and sometimes admittedly troublingly thorough principled opposition did not result in a commensurate reduction in his power or his desire for power, or his ability to discern how to best manipulate people and systems to increase his power or to enable or serve his desire for power, thus we found ourselves at a difficult impasse, which, as the reader is certainly aware, we subsequently identified as the brief interval between the coalition’s collective state of confusion and what eventually become a unanimous and unilateral decision to at least engage in a dialogue about considerably more unconventional, and arguably extreme, methods to resolve the coalition’s relationship to his power, the nature of his power, and his fundamental desirousness as it related to power. It was over this deliberation that certain factions began their nascent development and whose development in that selfsame context would much later, by partisan historians whose basic fealty to historical fact could nonetheless still be trusted at the time, be identified as the germination of events whose inexorable fruition has led to the current state of fractious, aberrant circumstances in which the reader finds herself.  

Carl Hansen Manks
06 03 19

Black mask

I bring them to climax. His jaw is weak. I’ve slipped off his red mask. The pots rattle. They bang the cupboards. They come through his bedroom walls and tear up our night’s bedsheets. They throw the feathers and pull on me and I hold him. They take him.

He had blonde eyebrows and a beauty mark under his left eye.

I wore the red mask and slept with his wife. She wore a red mask. I built a block tower with his children in red masks. The last best moments with their red mask. I haunt their house in a sheet as the red mask. They are under the certain impression that he’d died.

I wore the white mask and hung laundry with her sisters. I fed her father. I sat with her father then on her father. Her father loves port and fudge. Her father loves her breath close and her father’s couch is enormous.

I pulled the yellow mask’s eyelashes in my lips before they came.

Robert Eversmann
02 15 19

Stay with me

Every morning I
continue my evening prayer

and then I scatter
myself like a trunk cut off by the hands

of a blind and crazy
slave in several pieces,

which carry in their
yellow sap the smell of the earth.

Become thousands of
shards, unitas multiplex, the anonymous abbot

of a great
resurrection, and my shadow falls asleep,

as a tergal of
reconciliation, stretched over the domes of the cathedrals.

Below, on the
streets, some sell empty bottles and call me,

with the hands
pointing at me, at my shadow,

at my only entire
remaining part:

“Yet you are bone,
the helplessness and the glory, the nothingness

and the sublime
light are all, all there, in the whiteness of your bone.

Your lovely mother
can explain to you why your bone is white.

We know, it’s nicer
to rest or to die stuck in a cross,

but if you can not
die to the end

and your shadow will unheroic get cold, and it will fall upon us,

what are we going to
do? Don’t you think of us?”

From the wooden
shards like some scattered mirrors

on the ground, from
that shadow like a gray, giant, sick bird,

I answer them: “My
fear has never been sister

with death, has
never been my silence sister

with life. Stay with
me, stay with me, don’t

betray! After us
the butterflies will be getting poorer

and the flowers more
and more mothers of blame.”

Dragos Niculescu
10 14 18

The placenta is not a superfood

The placenta is not a bill of rights nor is it a right nor is it a right misinterpreted.

The placenta is not a machine but is the machine’s thought.

The placenta is not ad-blocking software nor ad-blocking hardware nor the ad nor the blocking.

The placenta is not an arranged marriage nor a teenager.

is not clap nor hiss.

not the hoof of a deer nor the bedroom of a fawn.

The placenta is not the intimacy of boredom nor the sacrifice of influence.

isn’t drinks at the club or a pejorative embrace.

The placenta is not a football nor the skin of a pig nor the word football as understood to refer to different sports in different countries nor the object of the game nor the single constant the game demands.

is not a pair of boots in the mud nor a river owning the middle of the night.

The placenta is not a poem fka “The Placenta Is Not a Superfood.”

The placenta is not standard arithmetic.

The placenta is not ten miles northwest of Richmond.

The placenta isn’t season two of that BBC series you love and and are finally getting a free evening to indulge in but whose introduction disappoints, dissuades, sorely tries your patience.  

isn’t the air breathed nor the bullshit that follows.

The placenta is not the designer nor the approver of the design nor the gusher of endless praise.

The placenta is not the face, the body, the consigned organism.

The placenta is not the fear of facing the face it’s not.

is not the waiting for itself to arrive.

isn’t the waiting nor the landscape erased in the light of arrival.

David Brennan
07 04 18

Pork bellies

Runway that surrounds, on all four
sides,
Its best moments

The chairman shouted allah allah and
Released the astute merchants

They leave you with your mouth agape:
Can one be hacked @ALL?

Daniel Uncapher
06 21 18

Neither sun nor death

They are beating the cars with metal bats. I think, “Am I supposed to be here?” That thing is on fire in a big way. I don’t get outside as much anymore. A receipt from an electronics store in Phoenix has disappeared into the archive, to be handled only by people who wear white cotton gloves. I’m left to just cry. You need to be careful in interpreting that. Every day I confront the same choice: stay inside or perish. Someone grabs Suzanne’s hair and twists her neck. We make eye contact. I know tulips aren’t spelled two lips.

Howie Good
01 22 18

Ambient 2

“That.” “That.” In or out. Going. Actually. The first moment, the second. Improbably those. “That’s why.” Actually, for so long, no talking.

Sal Randolph
12 20 17

Though it must be said

If I choose to stay in the garage all day and knock wood against wood, or metal against metal, or wood against metal, or metal against wood, you would nonetheless still be under great pains to make a cogent argument that while technically pointless the act of wood/wood metal/metal wood/metal and/or metal/wood knocking is not an insuperably convincing act of agency.

Carl Hansen Manks
11 05 17

Footnote

His manner bore a sense of grievance ennobled not by any claims to a superior insight, or superior instinct for politics, or an evolved, more comprehensive view or spirit, but rather grievance dignified by the mere habitual posture of having nursed the grievance for so long. Thus our president was doomed to be fundamentally disliked, worldwide, for the splendor of his hurt. The snubbings to which he was subjected took the form of chronic and elaborately petty refusals to agree to most of the conditions attached to less ambitious international accords initiated by the executive branch. These accords were mostly the work of small but assiduous subcommittees dedicated to the particular task.

Candace Nimms
06 01 17

Keyhole light

Keyhole light is bladelike when it makes contact but imprecise up to that point, sweeping vertically with a width of no more than a few inches. Its strobing whiteness can detect hunched figures that frequently appear in dreams. Keyhole light can also untie knots and, if properly positioned, sever small pieces of paper. This latter ability is often demonstrated with great enthusiasm by its most recent discoverer. It is the nature of keyhole light that it remains unshared, unviral in that sense, so it resides in itself and passively awaits discovery and use. It is not infectious.

Carl Hansen Manks
04 20 17

Fake news

When I first take a seat I hate you:

You speak too fast
I don’t understand the problem
Everyone else seems to get it
You look at me and
Ask me for the answer.

And I surprise myself when I
Out loud
Mold words describing
the process

And I hate you more for making me speak
The answer.

Madeleine Manguezais
04 10 17

A clock on a wall 3

A close up of a clock on a wall, a copy of the dark of the house.
And then the stars are out.
And in the sun on the pavement we lie in the face of the sky.
It never becomes the summer of our lives.

Ross Goodwin, word.camera poetic language models
03 23 17

The distant snow

Long fields of gifts in the graveyard
like kisses for animals running through the streets
The mudgods surround the trees
and recall the taste of the pretty boys’ lips
The night is broken into little pieces
but it still looks good in the morning
and lives abandoned in the dumb mouth
of the centuries dreamt by the muses

The branches are greedy for contraband
and the hymnal’s pages soak in the damp
ripped nude in the middle of the woods
a patchwork of the holy and the industrial
Two big drums sound over the pond
A pile of newspapers readies the alphabet
to move into the chapel of the prison
The black sun is caught in the gift of flame

Burn down the twisted willows
Burn down the benches set up for prayer
at the view of the only mountain
Crows fly off to remember the buried
at the sight of the distant snow

Tim Kahl
03 16 17

Inquiry

Is this about the internal prism of interpretation. Or is it about the plastic the prism has become. That once was glass. That once produced the rainbows on the walls, the sheets, across the face of a lover. Or is this about the lover. And everything that has been loved. And those things not loved, but happening. Or is this about what’s happening. Things happening that must be stopped. Or is it about activism. And the long road ahead. The one no longer less traveled because we are so many of us. One of many roads. Leading to the future. Is this all about the future. Or must the past appear. Is this the past. It is. Without us doing what must be done, there may not be a future. That we recognize. Or want. Or want to pass on. To our children. This is about the children. All of them. Every single one. This is no lie.

Karen Neuberg
03 13 17

Tomorrow morning

Miles Davis, Miles Davis! …
Why has been made this trumpet of yours to penetrate up to
the stalest waters of the soul and to move them,
to disturb or to clear them up?
A radio, from somewhere, of the neighborhood,
speaks to the deportees without sleep of city …
A broken egg, on the floor, in the kitchen …
Syd Hebert hasn’t got to wipe it, because he was
collapsed after two bottles of whiskey and six beers
drunk at the foot of the Michigan Bridge, with two comrades.
Now he is lying on the couch, with his head in his hands,
waiting to boil a pot of coffee.
The cat is on the table, in the chamber that might be called
dining room, although it is difficult here to find or to reach
a specific object.

Syd, old boy, you who feel that your youth passes,
that your loves and dreams pass, wake up, old boy,
and find yourself  a job, because the city is almost ready
to throw you in the slimy dumpsters of any passage with no mercy!
This big city knows no mercy for the fallen, like you!
It will let you rot or it will get rid of you if you don’t wake up
and you don’t wash once and for all with the cold water
from the street pump!

Syd, old boy, you who feel that your youth passes
and your life goes, it’s still a hope, you still can
save yourself if you make a cross and drink a pail of cold water,
to wash inside you all the evil and all the despair!
Listen! … Up, on the bridge, the train is passing …
There is the life, there is the purpose of the people who feel
that are living, who feel that they have what to live for! …
From beyond these smoky walls, from beyond these fires
and whispers of the night, tomorrow, at dawn,
the siren will call the people to work.
You also go, maybe you’ll be accepted, are needed in this city
still young arms, like yours, who have not yet reached
the midlife!

Wake up and wait the siren from dawn, Syd Hebert!
Listen up, on the bridge, the train lost in the distance
with people who know the purpose of life! …
But till then, till tomorrow at dawn,
still listen to this blue trumpet, because it sings now
for the last dark night.

Dragos Niculescu
03 09 17

Askews

49. Never leave parties until after they’re over.

122. Kiss your antagonist on the lips as soon as he puts his face near yours.

132. Enjoy failure as less problematic than success.

147. Crash through thin walls.

236. Write your prayers in tiny letters along strings.

Richard Kostelanetz
03 06 17

Preliminary material for a theory of sleep

Pubescent girls dump menstrual blood into the street in protest. You can’t imagine it if you haven’t been there. We’re living in a preposterous age. No one will ever figure it out, including me. A mob passing by the window chants, “Fuck the clown! Fuck the clown!” They don’t understand the difference between art and crime. A 90-year-old widower phones from Florida in the middle of all this. “What’s another word for ‘nonexistent’?” he asks, as if trying to trip me up. That’s the point. I just sleep whenever I feel sleepy.

Howie Good
03 02 17

A clock on a wall 2

A close up of a clock on a wall of empty ground.
I have catched the sound of its fingers, seeing the long stone,
Of a house on a plain. I see the sun in the flesh,
I see the point of the circle of sleep.
The fire is a star of fire, the sea that skins behind me,
Here in a white flash where the sun swings and the dark shadows,
Sparkle and hollow and move again.
The night is part of the black hole in the trail,

it’s time
Some shame and action will live in bed at evening.
I look into the darkened glass and shake the ground.

Ross Goodwin, word.camera poetic language models
02 23 17

Hawk

A smallish hawk, sharp-shinned, I think it is,
lifts off and screams angrily at me, perhaps
I surprised this raptor bitch, I say she as the
males are robin-sized and she’s twice that as
Kansas females often are, not a redtail nor
a goshawk, but just as fierce and kick my
ass for screwing up her perfect perch for
spying wrens and mice and unsuspecting
meals-to-go, not one or two shrieks either
but a tirade as she flies away. I half expect
her to come back and buzz my head for
retribution, but do hawks feel that? Maybe
if nesting they get all in your face and
western but no nest near that I can see,
just the contrail of her anger or surprise.

Guinotte Wise
02 16 17

Possessive

What life
shoves a shadow
against the wall:
what wall
throws a shadow
against flowers
not growing well
in the shade:
what child is this
who holds clouds’
rain on flowers
roses marigolds alyssum:
she sleeps in my bed
never waking
until what dream
shows how life’s shadow
lights the cold room
ready for plot: and love
throws lesser shade on what
grows bright and tired in the sun.  

Carol Ellis
02 09 17

A clock on a wall 1

A close up of a clock on a wall of four o’clock in the morning.
I am not so strange and will not delay.
The room is blown away from the door,
And the stones are beginning to shine.
The silence is hardly final.
Somewhere in the street I can see the trees begin,
To rise and fall and for the light of the dark thing above me,
The blue of the house is like a stone.
The dream is a shiny black hair, and the sun is like a dream.
I stand up and watch the sun shine on a single day,
And the sun is a chance to accomplish from the springs
Of my own delight.

Ross Goodwin, word.camera poetic language models
02 06 17

Coffee

1. Coffee that has gone cold actually tastes fine; I only reject it for having gone astray from my intentions.

2. One can almost describe the feeling of having had too much coffee as a paralyzing, shamanic clarity that feels as though one’s head is gone and the neck has become a spout for pure cognition, physicalized through one’s gaze.

Carl Hansen Manks
02 02 17

Where it went right

I took the string of my wrong and rolled it around my finger. The wrong circled my wedding band from the carefree time when we first met. It zig-zagged my palm like boxer’s gauze. I was able to shake it off in the morning, but at night it grew exponentially. I was scared. Pretty soon my hand was going to look like that cartoon mouse with only a couple of fingers. I grabbed the string and pulled it taut, gathering up the ends. It pulled me along streets I’d passed a million times. It led me to that old 7-Eleven where we used to sit on the curb, dreaming about getting out of this place. An Indian family owns it now. The kids hung shyly back but the wife in a sari saw my covered hand. She pointed to a utility closet. Inside sat three old women, expertly weaving from an old-fashioned mop, the kind that looks like a head without a face. Like a waterfall of string. I shouted in case they spoke no English, pounding my chest, ape-style. My life, I shouted, you get it? My life! I slammed the door and then bought some Nicorette and a fake red bull from the Indian kid. My hands were free but very cold. I left the trail of the wrong to mark my passage, like a sloughed snake skin. Only the trace of it will be left when we meet again in spring.

Merridawn Duckler
01 30 17

Loser’s guide to street fighting

It’s 4 a.m. Your body’s trembling. After you die, it’s not yours anymore, anyway. Die knowing something, a monster, a devil in his giant motor vehicle. That’s not quite what I want. You need to leave. You don’t belong here. Ooh you are going to fuck yourself. You can hear them — you can hear the gas grenades all up and down the streets. The crowd is being pushed back, and the gas is coming.

Howie Good
01 23 17

War

So I have my war with the wind: that which one notices, force carrying the absent into presence; war not against distraction or manifestation, but to make it stop moving.

Faith Fulbright
01 19 17

Intent

There should be one intent in which it is widely accepted that you cannot be stopped, even if, and perhaps especially if, it requires you to be an anonymous donor, benefactor or agent whose motives are feverishly speculated upon in the press.

Candace Nimms
01 16 17

Askews

16. All sins can be deposited in cans that are put out onto the street.

27. My worst mistakes are made in my dreams.

29. Turn your skin inside out and then back again before anyone notices.

31. To keep a large wager over promising to lose weight, consider amputating certain heavier parts of yourself.

34. Seduce only married people compelled to keep a secret.

37. Certain ropes have three ends.

42. Offered fish or meat, coffee or tea, dessert or cheese, routinely reply “yes.”

59. By stealing only what nobody wants you’ll never be arrested.

Richard Kostelanetz
01 09 17

Ancient food

Two kinds of food were manna to me — the overcooked and the under-ripe. My top meal would consist of burnt bits of steak still clinging to the broiler pan and peaches you could bounce off a handball court. I like things one is not supposed to like. For example, when the army sergeant in the movie says to his men, “Now, ladies,” I don’t care who finds it offensive, it always made me smile. Of course, I had to learn to keep such opinions to myself. I loved old food, and brand new food without feeling the need to share that with anyone. Old food had a history, it had been through stuff. New food was completely bewildered. It had no chance to acquire any bad habits. It was stubborn — a quality I always liked in my food. Food should resist us, in my opinion. My husband loves mushy things but to me anything that gives way too fast is not really something I want in me.

Merridawn Duckler
12 29 16

Clarification

It is important to be adamant on this point because what is being proposed is so proposed with a view toward a more rehabilitative stance that is in marked contrast to that of the stewards nominally responsible for the previous iteration of this conflict.

Candace Nimms
12 26 16

Majestic contraction

Pull over right now—
the steers need a drink,
they’re hollering emergency
from that trailer
in the next lane.

They can see the
ocean from there
and yes, it is frosting,
but you can’t live on it.

Celeste Goyer
12 22 16

Factotum

This may strike you as strange or perhaps even unseemly, I mean my speaking so frankly like this, but the story, the one in my imagination, was much more interesting before, when I was watching you through the blinds, before I came out to the sidewalk in my robe to ask you the nature and purpose of your behavior.

I had imagined your dog wasn’t in fact your dog, and that the dog had found you, and that the dog had convinced you through some form of non- or preverbal communication to pick through my curbside trash for scraps, for, say, a crust of pizza or perhaps a bone.

Before I came out here, actually, I was on my way to imagining the dog’s physical form was in fact a host for a floating sentience and this mysterious agent’s concern with my curbside trash was much more arcane and complex than casual observation might suggest. And you: You were a figure of much less consequence.

Carl Hansen Manks
12 19 16

Undoing

The plait’s a temporary emblem,
one of arrangement, and so
of identity. Braiding is all:
strands, one over the other,
neither knotted nor loose.

Edward A. Dougherty
12 15 16

Vision kaleidoscope

Feathers in the bath again
my skin
started peeling

an orange
Ate well
taught my body back
abandonment

took control

Pour into good things
give angel
give vision kaleidoscope

Content to be
is choice is
choosing the
better distraction.

Alex Jose
12 08 16

Wind notes

People scurry from the wind as though it threatens to compromise them. They are afraid the wind is going to find purchase in a vulnerable edge and upend their lives, send them tumbling down the street, leading to loss and complications that will require much time and paperwork to set back into place. The restaurants grow crowded on windy days as people gather inside to consider the wind as relieved and slightly awed spectators without a discrete object on which to perform their surveillance.

Carl Hansen Manks
12 05 16

Letter from the Lombard Goodwill

This new minimalism’s getting me
down again. I’m of the old guard
that gets lusty at corner shelves
rich with china dogs and silverplate
spoons enameled with the sigils of states.
It’s not incorrect to think Goodwill
illustrates the leanest meaning of self.
Bulb-lit cubbies of dressing rooms
narrow the total focus to the body —
white dimpled arms skinned
in fey polyester, outturned feet
shod in clogs with soles thinning
to become nearer the earth,
half off. Blue-ticket Wednesdays
the chance to reap twice the lost
history — dustbinned legacy —
for the cost of a solitary path. I want
to reinstate the nobility of reuse,
every offcast object a lifeline
keening for continuation. To plumb
the crumbling pressboard bins
is the truest path to empathy: recognition
that selves can’t be cleaved
from environment, objects people
the selves, artifacts outlast us all,
recasting under each new hand
that claims them.  

Kate Garklavs
12 01 16

Obit

The world’s oldest eel is dead
according to Tomas Kjellman,
a Swedish man who claims
the 155-year-old creature lived

at his home in Brantevik until
its recent passing. The European
eel known as “Ale” was thrown
into a well in 1859 by 8-year-old

Samuel Nilsson, the local paper
has reported. In 1962 Kjellman’s
parents bought the property and
at the time “he knew the house

pet was included” and continued
to feed it. Kjellman is mourning
the loss of the large-eyed, fresh-
water fish, telling a reporter he

has “memories of the eel from
when I was a child.” He learned
of the death at a party he hosted
when he went to show off the eel

to his guests. Opening the well’s
cover he found Ale had expired.
The species typically lives between
10 and 15 years although a female

in captivity reached an age of 88.
Ale’s body has been sent to a lab
in Stockholm where zoologists will
attempt to determine the eel’s exact

life span and if in fact Ale survived
more than a century and a half of
human history in a deep well’s dark
water in Tomas Kjellman’s backyard.

Nels Hanson
11 24 16

Love dolls

My
professors loved me. Enclosed. Encompassed. With noses. The toes,
fluffing them through the pile, the camel hair, the wool, the
collectible Middle Eastern carpet. Snob. Hand-woven ethnics, the
others, packaged, washing dishes. Language barriers. They come in,
asking for something tight around the waist, high in the back, made
of imported cotton. You really ought to avoid chewing gum while
reading Ayn Rand. It looks shitty.

Mira Martin-Parker
11 21 16

System

The system previously described has been engineered to be based on closed loops, seamless so that it does not admit of any friction or, otherwise, entry from or passage to external elements. The system has been coated in a material that admits no crux, no access, no admission of agency outside its own engineered protocols.

In fact, the only way to ascertain there is a system at work beneath the impenetrable surface of the artifact is its constant hum with a timbre suggestive of a listless peace.

Carl Hansen Manks
11 17 16

Outside

I go out.
I follow roads.
A black telephone line
A child riding a bicycle.
A creek running through
a complex world.

A good walk
a gift to any man
a half hour with my hand raised
and a lifting haze
uncovers a valley.

John Grey
11 14 16

Ecumenical

Yesterday, as a diversion from her everyday work washing the windows of Gothic cathedrals, she visited a festival in a small rural Iowa community where she found some new & pretty cool gadgets on display, made out of corn husks, wood, dung, & other biomass.

Mark Young
11 10 16

Plastic flowers

If, after all the dying, this is all there is, words, words, words, and dollar-store plastic flowers, I don’t think much of our chances. Sing again, dance again, draw new cartoons. You can be killed any time by someone you don’t know. A man camping overnight in the woods wakes up from a dream of a bear biting his head to find a bear biting his head. Billions of us occupy the same small planet, but it only seems like we’re sharing.

*

This isn’t any ordinary day. Slippery is a word that’s everywhere. Coated bullets are slippery. Tears are slippery. People slip away over the border. There’s nothing left to see here. Nothing. Flowers that were supposed to come back every year haven’t. It’s a vagabond life. The laundry on the line turned black long ago. Our goal, obviously, is to keep ahead of the fire. But you know what? Flames behave in ways no one thought possible.

*

No one will believe me, but the Angel of Death had yellow and black wings that looked gold and gray in the setting sun. I feared what might happen next. The locals could still remember when the synagogue was used as a stable. All they said to me was, “Sorry, we made a big mistake.” Yes, Kafka’s sister lived there, too. She picked up a spider she found in the house and put it back outside. Give thanks to thoughtful hands.

Howie Good
11 07 16

Epistle to Alzheimer’s

1.
What
escapes memory grows older. I find myself coming to the same places.
Losing my way at the wrong doors. Strangers who understand let me in.
They teach me words, train me in remembrance. I forget nonetheless.
What
is forgetting but to remember the same things over and over?

2.
Birds when quiet are an evening.
They fly from one end to the other, speaking in syllables I don’t
understand. When I ask the strangers to teach me this language, they
enquire about my last memory.

All I have is an old, rusted
photograph for memory and I do not know what to say anymore. What
could I, possibly?

Trivarna Hariharan
11 03 16

Conditions

The topic about which I agree to speak can only be discussed at a certain hour and under certain conditions, to wit: while bleary-eyed, and at an airport gate, and at a volume that begins to attract the tentative interest of drowsy security guards on graveyard shift. You are not here; you are on a plane, and the urgency lies in your increasing physical distance pulling you irrevocably out of the figurative orbit that describes our mutual regard.

Candace Nimms
10 31 16

Coming to

I came to
what had been
and there
it was before
me I came
to what had
not been and I
ceased to be

I came before
it was there
and there it
was before me
I came to
what had been
before me
and it ceased

to be I
came to
and there it was
before I ceased
to be what had
and not been
before I
came before it

Luke Hankins
10 27 16

Poem of praise

My Death can’t read Chinese
My Death is confused by stop signs
My Death is hibernating with bears
My Death’s tears are hidden in a cloud
My Death hates E Power Biggs
My Death keeps looking at my baby photos
My Death believes in a tax on toenails
My Death chewed my birth certificate
My Death doesn’t know where West Virginia is
My Death is licking the ice cubes on Mars
My Death is hiding inside a fossilized cricket   Chirping
My Death is confused by the STOP sign on the corner
My Death is lying under a seam of coal in Kentucky
My Death doesn’t know what a shadow is
My Death wants to inject a galaxy of silence into my skull
My Death would like the blossoms from a plum tree
My Death ambushed my ninth birthday
My Death tried to toss Noah overboard screaming    Are you sure?
My Death is patient
My Death knows how to jimmy locks
My Death likes to sunbathe nude at the North Pole
My Death thinks a sundial is a compass
My Death is afraid of prayer
My Death eats onions & garlic coated with dirt
My Death stinks   I smelled him this morning over the hill
My Death fights dirty but likes to swallow goldfish
My Death has sharp teeth and eleven broken fingers
My Death deserves his 15 nanoseconds of fame
My Death has no shadow nor does he whistle
My Death will not vanish like an extinct flower
My Death has no GPS system
My Death believes me when I tell him I live in China

John McKernan
10 24 16

Purple notebook and persimmons

Filled with the year so far, addresses, names, the hard, the impossible, a list of groceries still waiting, notes for a book about leaving, this purple notebook almost left behind but found in time to be thrown into the car, on top of clothes from the last closet, the closet door opened quickly as quickly as a mouth gasps open, or wraps itself around the hill and valley of a spoon, or grasps a prayer please please before the spoon lifts, the hand shakes, the curious brain whose nearsighted and afraid eyes read words in the notebook on the table at the new house, while the mug of tea leaves a wet circle of O that will stain the purple notebook now away from the table, now on a shelf near the front door then orange persimmons on my porch in the morning and the young dog stares at me unable to turn away.

Carol Ellis

Purple notebook and persimmons

Filled with the year so far, addresses, names, the hard, the impossible, a list of groceries still waiting, notes for a book about leaving, this purple notebook almost left behind but found in time to be thrown into the car, on top of clothes from the last closet, the closet door opened quickly as quickly as a mouth gasps open, or wraps itself around the hill and valley of a spoon, or grasps a prayer please please before the spoon lifts, the hand shakes, the curious brain whose nearsighted and afraid eyes read words in the notebook on the table at the new house, while the mug of tea leaves a wet circle of O that will stain the purple notebook now away from the table, now on a shelf near the front door then orange persimmons on my porch in the morning and the young dog stares at me unable to turn away.

Carol Ellis
10 21 16

Roaches

Cursory internet research leads to instructions for killing and baffled acknowledgment of their durability as a species (specious claims that they’d survive an atomic blast). I learned that they slumber like readers in our old books and are known to annotate the pages with urine and excrement, that they like the damp undersides of old leaves and cardboard. That the fipronil in roach traps leaves them drunk, burrowing into each other while emitting a stale, necrotic musk. That the larger ones eat the smaller ones, transmitting the chemical as they hiss through spiracles and die.

Cal Freeman
10 18 16

Citizens of the region

The houses in this region have flat roofs such that surveillance is abetted by a much higher probability of surveillors remaining successfully unseen when, inevitably, such surveillance becomes necessary. This feature is not in any brochure and citizens of the region exercise the common sense not to discuss it at the bars or cafes, considering it, privately, a component of regional pride.

Carl Hansen Manks
10 15 16

Remain

No one ever bodies to tell me any
Thing in my pocket does a better job than me of it I write to tell that I am
Not for me thanks. Two sugars actually but I brought my own
In my hands here all the way here from where I was to here.
Your kettle’s screaming about how terrible you are and also I probably, am.
Screaming and terrible with my black coffee I think makes me look like I’ve been to a museum.
My mother’s mother’s mother’s mother lives in a museum.
Someone she wanted to kiss wanted to see her naked and now she’s older.
My father was a painter for the insides of things and the outsides of models
The small ones that fight for all of us (fought)
Thought I really would leave those brackets closed. Damnable really
Really? No
She wouldn’t have and I am
Holding up the queue. Stay, go, it means different things.
I’ve changed
Everything about my mind is kettling
Perhaps cream would be a very good thing to be in my cup.
I’ve missed our talks we haven’t had. Luxurious

Shaun Leonard
10 10 16

Accumulation

I have seen some things and along the way accumulated some wisdom. There’s the typical old villager who goes around baldheaded, a man who sticks his nose in other people’s business, offering advice but not practicing it himself. Or there’s the telemarketer who ingratiates himself with the potential customer and makes big promises but ultimately appears to be off-balance. A typical citizen with any experience has seen all this and more. “That’s not all,” I whisper, about the way we look at this and that. There’s got to be more. I contemplate the downtown trends. Friends of mine, those who see clearly, say that I’m extremely good at ferreting out flighty hypocrisies at school, at work, in the family, and in church. And how I synthesize all this with an air that’s still respectful of my father is a mystery: daily shiftings, secret, natural, to avoid stoppage.

Jeff P. Jones
10 06 17

Bills

Regarding the bills, regarding the mail piling up on the table near our doorway, spilling onto the floor and turning yellow: Outside this particular necessary moment of acknowledgment, my refusal to accept its reality should be seen as the philosophical genesis for larger, more ambitious refusals to come.

Candace Nimms
10 02 16

Fainting

As I faint I remember my grandmother fainting onto the kitchen floor in Palo Alto. I brought a chair. I pulled her up and she sat as the queen of her own head’s country.

As I faint I remember nothing of this. Only when I awake did I know what nothing called out to her, her first name, my middle. Once in the Detroit basement together nobody fainting and she told me a story.

Although I couldn’t imagine her young suddenly deaf from a bomb falling near her summerhouse. The Black Sea caught slapping her beach of silence that held her when she fell in the kitchen.

The fall I hear when I fall outside for the first time falling nowhere near the catch of her arms.

Carol Ellis
09 28 16

Happenings

Yesterday
I was stranded inside
my body, asked
a few questions.
Is this who you want to be –
A voice on the road,
the fleeting moment in time?
What if there are better shadows
to drape?

Trivarna Hariharan
09 24 16

About centipedes and spiders

When he was a boy, my stepson would beg me to kill the insects in our house. He’d see a centipede perched on the crown molding above his door, or a spider crouched in a corner of the bathroom ceiling and want me to smack it with a magazine or shoe. I’d patiently explain that spiders and centipedes had no interest in us, that they mostly hunted other, more obnoxious insects, like cockroaches and flies. With some of the more harmless-looking spiders (“house spiders,” though this was nowhere near taxonomically correct), I’d opt for relocation over killing, coaxing them into beer bottles that I’d then leave on their sides on the front porch. Ethan and I were going through a phase where neither of us slept. I’d sit up drinking coffee or beer trying to read my eyes tired. He’d create excuses to turn on lights or get up for water. I’d do my best to be patient, but I’d always end up shouting at him to go to bed. My wife, Sarah, seemed magically able to sleep through the night and not hear the noises of shuffling and shouting that would carry through our thin-walled bungalow. As I took the spiders out, I’d imagine what the world must look like through the thick, clear glass of a Corona bottle. I’d marvel at that rare ability to self-generate a home after some alcoholic failure of a parent had left you in the autumn cold because his wife’s child was afraid.

Cal Freeman
09 20 16

Lucky country

On a playground, one of the biggest fears is misplacing or getting misplaced. Stop and take stock: how many friends did we have in this universal year, and how many friends had we the right to expect? Figures are tumbling into the margins again, down a greased slide, way too fast. You might think it’s cinnabar, but no, it’s green: that color of digits, that color of feasts.

Thomas Snarsky
09 16 16

For all Carls

Carls, the trash is overflowing.
Carls, you have achieved the status of power user.
Carls, the prelates are in a state of agitation and request your presence in order to have a word with you.
Take care of the lamp, the dog. I left the toothbrush on the carpet, of all places.
Carls, authorize these future suicides.

Carl Hansen Manks
09 12 16

Swimming

Natant. A word I learned
Today. Means floating, swimming.
At a stoplight. Humid air
“Natant” through my cracked
Windows. Flipping through radio
Stations. Freedom now to blare
Whatever degrading/vulgar
Rap music I please,
In a natant state of this
Car, traversing wherever I
Want on my break.

Darcy Allred
09 09 16

Paying admission

I paid admission to the water but it was not Hydrogen nor was it Oxygen
I was admitted to the ER but not to the Psychiatric Ward
I paid admission with a scream whenever light became a solid object
I paid admission to touch the broken sundial
I was admitted to many bars all of which were illegal dives
I was admitted to a jail cell whose gray walls told me not to spit and not to urinate  There were no blankets in that ice cube
I think I was admitted to this world by a girl named Susan but that was before I had seen an MRI of my skeleton
I lied about my age but they admitted me into the Kingdom of the Knife anyway   Chrome is very sharp
“Where were you last night?” Greene screamed “We had to beat some dude senseless to keep him from killing us with a machete   If we admit this we’re dead”
I think my name is John    But I admit to Adam Bradley Chuck
Why are we so confused? Is it because we love evil or love ourselves?
If you admit Death into your house will a candle still cover the lost shadows?
Father Miller’s wine-drip lips muttered “Admit what you have done and it will go easier on you”
Eve admitted after questioning “I always wanted to   It wasn’t something came over me or tempted me but I knew I was alone    No   I was not hungry or thirsty”
I admit I wanted to slap her    Hard   Very hard
It was like listening to my own voice    Whiny   Tidal   There was sunlight in the rising pitch
I divorced Death and asked for all the wine all the books and all the CDs and records
I am cold
Admit me to your snowflake daylight
They returned my brother’s shotgun to the Target store on Saddle Creek in Omaha
What is a sales slip?
With the refund money they bought a beautiful brass plaque to mark his grave
Someday I will bow down to Mother Earth close enough to whisper “Admit me into your presence”
My lips will be talking but the words will not move

John McKernan
09 06 16

Skype International (free version)

from the pixilated face before her
comes a voice equally distorted /

add to this the distortion of age speaking with youth and the time
difference between Blois (a sneeze? the dislodging of peanut butter
stuck to the hard palate?) and the city where she sits / that and
the distortion caused by the day’s second (be honest) third glass of
wine / the speech act uncertain / she and the other she float
on the assumption that both are fine / everything is fine / and why
not assume fineness for as long as possible / take pleasure in
guessing the features of the featureless / the words eaten by garble /
bye love you / bye love you too / the tiny burble and the blank screen

Devon Balwit
09 03 16

Pisces

With an air of disgust we gazed down at the small soft-bodied sea creatures laid out before us, limpid and half-cold, their viscera, gills, ears — although an excellent meal might be fixed thereby, and though it was a very fine day, looking at all those fins — pelvic fins, dorsal fins, anal fins, pectoral fins, caudal fins — dealt us a coup of nausea, struck us like a blow of existential refusal, entirely unwanted, yes, it was a heady dose of nausea —

It was the time of Pisces, and we longed to die.

Jacob Siefring
08 31 16

Magic

The blessings of insomnia are such that this bathrobe, this tea kettle, this magazine are imbued with equal parts hope and a kind of magical regard so that I ascribe to them, ironically, certain powers attendant upon which phenomena such as tenuous dawn pushing through the windows, bringing with it the officiousness of the morning’s birds, achieve a dismal, thoroughgoing, saturated comprehensibility.

Candace Nimms
08 28 16

Harriet Quimby falls to her death

Some will say that vertigo overtook the aviatrix; just a woman’s weakness at the controls of an aeroplane. Some will say the Bleriot is to blame, a tough one to handle (something about the tail’s weight), though her mechanician insists she’s the only one to tame the machine. Some will attest to her passenger’s excitement (William Willard won the seat, as the manager of the air meet), how he was warned to sit tight and do as she says, not to lean to the side, even if he’s sick, or reach for a personal article about to fall out (she wears a lucky Scarab beetle around her wrist), and for God’s sake don’t wave to the crowd as she’s circling around, heading into the wind (before him, only sandbags fill the passenger seat, and she makes no secret of her preferred seatmate).

Whatever the reason, the Bleriot pitches forward in an angle too steep for recovery; Willard goes first, a darkly clad form, a speck in the sky no bigger than an insect, and with the balance upset the Bleriot bucks the aviatrix; she tumbles behind him before the entire grandstand erupts—this is no stunt—in hysteria. Several spectators collapse. But a few spring to action, rushing the surf with stretchers. They find boots blown off and clothing afloat in the shallow flats, where it takes some time and terrible action to free the two from the mud’s clutch. Further away, the Bleriot is found remarkably intact. With no weight on its back, the aeroplane steadied itself and landed upright as a cat.

Rachael Peckham
08 25 16

When my mother wept in Texas

When I was a child, every summer my father would take the family Buick, my mother and me across the country, from California to the Southeast, to visit family, hers in Alabama, his in Carolina. He did all the driving, he loved it, and in fact he had wanted to drive a long-haul truck for a living, but Mama wouldn’t allow this, wanting him at home with us. So he loved his annual summer road-trip, half of it in Texas. Once, in late summer, we reached the center of the state just as the tarantulas were migrating, crossing Highway 80 in the thousands. We did not know then that these were all males, marching in search of a mate. It was, for them, a race toward death, on the way as roadkill or prey, or in finding a breeding female, who would either reject and eat them, or mate with them, and then eat them as an afterthought, to nourish her newly fertilized eggs. Mama would sternly instruct my father to slow down, and try to avoid the large and lovely brown creatures; but, of course, we crushed dozens, and we could hear the sound, through the open windows, in those days before air conditioning. We would hear a crunch, and my mother would cry, weeping across Texas.

Randel McCraw Helms
08 19 16

Letter

Hello! I hope you are well today. I am.
Your daughter still talks to me like this: Blink blink.
She has an expensive ring that I did not buy her.
I believe she bought it for herself. Such is life.
I try not to worry about these things.
But you know sometimes these things are all I have.
I shall miss them when they’re gone.
I will write this on paper for you, deliver it myself.
Sometimes she tries to read what I have written.
It does not end well for me, then.

John Findura
08 14 16

Not all old things are good or dirt

Pillows are natural selection for ducks, and babies, and the wives of jealous men
Moors are a place where very little happens. Staying still
And all the people writing stories then had diaries those people have diaries
On a playground it could be something to yell at someone who journals
Who do you think you are, a pillow?
You sod
A wet dirt that isn’t mud yet
A person isn’t mud yet
I could fight a duck if you’d write in your journal about me about it there could be
A very good reason for doing this to a duck.
Ducks are the main culprit of overfishing
My imagery. My mind
A tango is
What I sing when I am not alone
A white and feathered mud
A yellowing

Shaun Leonard
08 11 16

March 1998

I was always looking for places to hide, noticing holes in the ground, sides of mountains. Space unaccounted for above and below our living compartments. Behind the pantry: chutes and laundry, wells and attics.

Malado Francine
08 08 16

On appearing on television

It is unlike real life. Unlike wind sawing branches in the night.

Unlike a fistfight blood snot cries of pain rage horses pounding down the street to alert the unsuspecting populace. If I may be so bold, it is more urgent than that.

It’s a mirror above a pool of water. It’s an infinity wall.

Nothing is as fascinating as a face in close-up. You catch a glimpse and it’s like your tongue in a socket. Laughter passes through the crowd. Behind you a ripple of curtains, then slack again.

Feet thundering in the aisle. A raised hand, a cough, a bouncing knee. The attractive woman in the front row beaming. Your face in the monitor a stranger’s face. Bewildered. Ten pounds too puffy. Then it is you again.

Never forget the influence of this moment — the impact, the bandwidth. It is of greater magnitude than anything you have broadcast so far and ever will. You must thank the audience for the honor of their attention.

Jerry Dennis
08 05 16

Garbage all the time

Once I had a scaly patch of skin on my thigh that was either contact dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, or the physical manifestation of my inability to properly assess situations that involve confronting non-venomous snakes in the wild. It itched really bad. And it grew, slowly but clearly, spiraling out across my leg, reminding me of that swirling mass of plastic debris in the middle of the ocean. I think about that flat tornado of ocean garbage all the time.

Megan Thompson
08 02 16

Status update

Maybe I could like
I don’t know prob
not does it matter
This beer is cold but not
good it’s just fizzy
And the wind is someone
else’s dad’s hands
on my face.

Jamie Iredell
07 31 16

2015.01

I had to work to make 2015 occur (slathered [as it
was] in all that booze and lubricant) even while we decided,
collectively, to go back to work. After the decadence 
of early-contemporaneity, I had just wanted to sit quietly

in the corner and reflect on my own oeuvre, my own applause.
So I had to work all year to get inspired by United States
popular culture; the alternative is nihil unbound. (Otherwise
we will all just stop close reading in the new year; or worse,

ignorantly claw at one another’s ineptitude.) And
here we are, always again, regardless of the time.
It’s why we reset our archives along with our watches.
We are sleepy for the motor miles we should have traversed.

We will be better tomorrow. We have no choice.
We have to be different than previous heroes.

Bradley J. Fest
07 28 16

The beautiful room is empty

Where is the body that continues to live
after reading through the prayers
of childhood?

Where is the body that empties itself
every morning, hoping to remain
empty?

Where is the body that passes by
the doorway to the beautiful room,
wringing

its terrible hands, consumed with
entering? Where is the body that
never forgets?

Jonathan May
07 22 16

Remembering

I was born there,

Near a lingering dream,

When my mother, alone with her passion,

(I’m alone still, an orphan)

Arranged her dreams in boxes called “us"

And then returned the next morning to

Press her eyes to shed kohl

While she slept, we lay as naked as a freshly washed tunic

Inhaling alienation as we dried

Faleeha Hassan
Translated by William M. Hutchins
07 17 16

The despair

Susan. I wanted to love her, I tried to love her, I couldn’t.

Any kind of growth really irritates me.

I want to be normal. Normal! Like I don’t know that I’m pathetic.

“It’s George, will you marry me?” I said this to her. People this stupid shouldn’t be allowed to live.

I know less about women than anyone in the world. When women smile at me I don’t know what it means.

It’s a funny observation.

It’s an amazing thing.

I broke up with her. She asked me to. I was terrified. But I pressed on. I was just like those guys in the movies.

I was alone.

Jerry. She’s too crazy for me. You ask her out. Do that. You’re a fine person, you’re a humanitarian, she’s very sexy.

It’s a tough decision. Because … you know. It’ll be dangerous, sexually, something could happen.

So what!

I’m your best friend!

I don’t know what else I can tell you.

Why did it all turn out like this for me … I had so much promise.

What’s so funny?

You know me. Someday before I die, mark my words, I’m going to tell that woman exactly what I think of her.

No.

I can’t tell you, don’t ask.

Jerry, what’s happening? I’m dead, I’m a dead man. I don’t want to go back to my place. I’m going to have to wait in that little room all by myself. Oxygen, I need some oxygen!

I’m riddled with personal problems. I have a fear of commitment. I don’t know how to love.

My whole life has been a complete waste of time.

What a blow to the culture!

Michael Mungiello
07 14 16

Green

I was green and passed my best years green, but it was the others who were jealous. I gave myself instructions for newness: scrub daily, eat little, dream of barnstorming. I’m someone who changes minimally and who always shops at the same store and eats the same sliced cheese. It’s true that if I ever had children they would have to adjust, as kids can do. “What are we having for dinner?” they ask. I stand there, unshaken. I shake my head no. For as long as I can stand their stares, I hold my ground. Give me hell instead.

Jeff P. Jones
07 11 16

Discussion

The lateness of the hour. At which you have detained me here. Suggests a motive I have not previously considered. And while I have, I feel, been more than forthcoming in my statements. It is my desire to suggest that, now, feeling that I can attest with some confidence to your true motive. That we move to the true topic. The one of such import that you brought me here. To discuss.

Candace Nimms
07 08 16

Near your wedding

It was I ’tossed oyster shells into your trousseau,
Derailed a southbound Amtrak in your honor
North of Philly, thought twice about iodine-poisoning
My fat wife, then broke a kneecap trying to mash
A park attendant into Liberty’s green gown.

William C. Blome
07 05 16

After all

She perished young, and left a ravishing corpse. Already I am suspecting her complexions, the body that crawls, crumbles, collapses, as if to seep further into itself, how soon to seem the skin retreating. I admit I must stop myself from the urge to defile, to contort the form, give new shape to her structure, now a shell, hollowing the days, the days turned without her knowing. Though death took her, some might say, solemnly, it did not take the appearance of her working, working so hard on the words, to rescue pleasure from panic, for life to resemble more a feverishness, a rupture. It did not stop the cemeteries from whence she was raised from begging her return, delivering their brochures for arbors to become excavated, dust to become granite, the landscape to befit a grave. She died young, and her death caused no interruption. After all it was she, she who bereaved me.

Jared Daniel Fagen
07 02 16

Hotel

I was dead, and my hair was in the style of a man. I was naked from the waist down, and I was pissing on the floor of a hotel. I was a ghost and alive. That was the form the disease took. I was dragging my legs like a beetle under a boot, and I would do anything to stay alive. I climbed stone stairs to a grand hotel overlooking Lake Windermere. I sat in a breezeway, at once majestic and dowdy, on a small sofa upholstered in floral fabric. It was quiet. Birdsong broke the stillness and gray clouds bounced over smoke-colored water. Suddenly I realized I was sitting beside a pile of money that had silently slid from someone’s pocket.

Laurie Stone
06 29 16

Watch

It makes you look stupid

It’s raining   It’s going to snow next week

It’s everything I ever wanted

You can scream at it all you want    It won’t go away

It’s a disguise

It’s modern    You’re not supposed to understand it

How will I know when it’s over?

It’s not quite right

It’s only your body   Where did it come from?  Cereal &
Bananas & vending machines & McDonald’s &

It’s easy for you to say

It was a day of tension    Sizzle    Fog drift    Dust demons
rising from asphalt    Redialed numbers    Closed eyes

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Admit it

As if it mattered what I think

It’s a map of the city    Not the city

John McKernan
06 26 16

Still life with firearms

I should have kept it, brought it inside, put it where I would see it every day, on the desk or on top of the dresser, a chunk of jawbone with sharp yellow teeth that I found in the woods and, for a long moment, weighed in my hand before tossing away. Weeks later, I stand at the window and count the wild turkeys – 1-2-3-4-5 – pecking for acorns in the yard. The questions concerning the gun disguised as a cell phone don’t concern them. I myself am trying to guess what I’m more likely to be, unintended victim or stray bullet.

Howie Good
06 23 16

Wires

The cluster of wires can be articulated by color or, alternately, by thickness, as warmer colors such as red or orange correspond to a thicker cable, while, conversely, cooler colors, such as blues and grays, correlate to the thinner wires that, largely, serve as a provisional conversion array that draws off potential overload levels that may result in a flux event. The wires that do not correspond so readily with an imagined temperature, such as the black or white wires, are auxiliary in their purpose, supplying a parallel, baseline level of power that can be accessed in cases of system need or trauma on a smaller, localized, human scale.

Carl Hansen Manks
06 20 16

Out of breath, with blue eyes

I am always for saying the right thing, and when someone hinders you, you can’t give in. It’s the equivalent of having done a good job, or having gone without meat, or having helped the impoverished. I am often in the position of judge. I am a person who will lean over, out of breath, my blue eyes and flat, tidy face, my business suit and necktie caught in the gossamer light outside the station with the traffic passing. Sometimes I have the inexplicable urge to shed my work and throw over everything I’ve held dear all these years. I often spend my time seeking elsewhere, seeking what I cannot see.

Jeff P. Jones
06 17 16

Wedding

Both pairs of sunglasses have gone missing. Trash piles up, the gas tank empties. The umbrella remains in the car parked in the middle of a downpour. The rent goes up, the raise passes by. The dress you bought full price after lusting over it for months goes on sale not one week later.

When the wedding invitation arrives in the mail, it proudly proclaims: You’re presence is requested at the wedding of your younger sister to the man you thought you loved.

You send a note with the rsvp:
*your

They seat you with the children, but the chicken fingers taste damn good. You gotta find the thing that works for you, you hear a bartender say. The guest demands vodka then vomits on the ballroom carpet just as the money dance starts.

A little boy holds out his hand; for a dance?

For dollar bills.

You pick one from the floor then rip it in front of his face and press the shreds in his palm.

He cries, you cry. The guest at the bar cries. The bride and the groom cry. This is the happiest day of your lives.  

Niree Noel
06 14 16

When the dead have had enough of us

They gather around wood tables with big mugs of tea or beer or good black coffee, steaming and deep and hot, and slabs of pie — apple, mince, and pecan — with hunks of hoop cheese, red-skinned and waxy and sweating with the heat they brought with them, those remembered childhood summers, of dusted sun and vining days, the in-betweening of skin and light, the gentle pull of tides against oceans of dreaming and longing, all recalled moments spent in the bodies they’ve left behind now as dust and ash. They hash out old stories and notions, tell tales of flesh and spirit, how woodsmoke sings the song of fire, how the higher you climb in an oak the better you’ll hear it. They play games of cards, spades and hearts and spit and whist. They jitterbug and jump and laugh and scratch their bellies. They travel in packs about the dimensions, conjuring up clues and come-hithers, telling the hawk when to arrive, and the butterflies just the right moment to flit past so that they land near our feet. They play guitar and zither and the nomad flute. They scoot around on rollerblades and Vespas and in muscle cars with sweet Ray Charles blasting out the windows — Hallelujah, I Love Her So. They shoot eight ball on blue velvet tables and build midnight villas off the coast of Greece, swimming mostly when it rains and all their world is wet at once, reminding them how easily love comes. They feed the babies chocolate stars and ride on trains through frontier towns, and they run, oh how they run, to the river, to the sky, to the sea, to the light that delivers them — from us. How we weigh them down. They love us more than even that pie, but how it pulls at their joy when we anguish and cry, how they look on and over us every chance, laughing and shouting and slapping hands and calling each other by their eternal names, wanting nothing more than that we remember; that we remember, the whole point is to dance.

Mary Carroll-Hackett
06 11 16

Bite

One summer I lived in a potato field where I was poisoned by pesticides. The poisoning was like a wasting disease, and it became difficult to think. At parties I would sit like at the movies. I was in love, and writing a book. I was surprised I could become ill while happy. Red ants swarmed over a blue agave, flowing in rivers with their tiny, angry hearts. I was trimming dead stalks, wearing flip-flops and crouched low. Two ants leapt onto my hand, and I shook them off. The bite of a fire ant itches for weeks before forming a blister filled with sticky sap. I felt the first bite on the top of my foot. Four more bit my hand where the scissors looped the thumb. I thought they would not bite me because I was helping the plant.

Laurie Stone
06 07 16

Subtraction

Subtractive jobs, or those that entail reduction or withdrawal, such as the felling of trees, or the pumping of water, or even the dispensing of money, should be grouped and taxed as a special class that recognizes their larger, circulatory role beyond the mere services provided by their felling, or pumping, or dispensing.

Candace Nimms
06 04 16

Crimes

My wife slept on the couch last night in protest of dreams she had in which I committed various crimes. (I had stolen bread from a convenience store, and slept with her sister, though the order of these actions is unclear.) This is the seventh time in our brief marriage she has done this. In the evenings, I can no longer watch our favorite television programs on the couch because I am distracted by the fact that the couch has become a tribunal for imagined wrongs. She watches the programs while I only pretend to, distracted. Secretly, I am processing the anxiety of awaiting a verdict. 

Watching television programs together is complicated by the fact that my wife is hard of hearing and frequently asks me to repeat lines of dialogue she has missed. Instead of repeating them, however, I supply my own improvised lines, using the opportunity to introduce new characters and imaginary conflicts, so she is unknowingly watching a program two orders removed from the one I am only half-watching. I plan to eventually feed her dreams back to her by introducing a storyline that involves petty theft and infidelity.

Carl Hansen Manks
06 01 16

February 18

I lost
my watch by forgetting it in the pocket of a hotel spa’s snow white
bathrobe, and it is certain to have been already laundered by some
costly laundering service that comes with a truck and bears it away,
so I know it’s truly gone, which is why I’m not where I’m
supposed to be right now, supposed to have been twenty minutes ago,
because without the watch on my wrist I have no reminder, nowhere to
check the time, which I do anyway out of force of habit and because
my watch is a sidekick, a constant companion, but without it and
because I am trying to save money I haven’t bought another even
though it’s a Timex, not expensive, and totally reliable even if
you take a shower, which I rarely do these days on account of being
afraid to fall and because my hands have been hurting. Anyway had I
had it on as I lay napping with the dogs I know I’d’ve gotten up.
I would have seen how I had only seven minutes more of sleep. But
maybe it’s a nod to being irresponsible because generally I am
conscientious and only forgetful and I know this is a day with a cake
in it but the cake is where I am supposed to be, not where I am,
sitting home trying not to waste this time which is ordinarily
precious because I love the place I am supposed to be but am now too
late. I blame this also on the fact that I wrote a poem that turned
out to be good, about the death of a man I loved and I want to stay
home and keep it company.

Abigail Thomas
05 29 16

Bad meeting

It was like being an innocent teenage
girl and being led into your crush’s bedroom and seeing the walls
covered with posters of naked blonde women. I’m going home.
There’s too much paper in front of me.

Lee Upton
05 23 16

Telegrams to my girlfriend in Ulan Bator

Why do you wear a
necklace of bent IV needles

Why do you use
irony as a terminal punctuation mark

Why do you slide
splinters of wood under your fingernails

Why did you go
visit your gravesite yesterday

Why do you bend
thorns off roses and set them under your doll’s eyelids

Why does it
frighten you to be alone for two hours

Why do you put a
carpet tack in your mouth and stab it into your tongue

Why do you ask
why I believe in breathing tomorrow

Why do you wrap
the raspberry cane tight about your left wrist

Why did you set
fire to the road maps to your home town and inhale the smoke

Why do you take
your gloves off when you reach for the poison ivy

Why did you want
to learn how to take apart a disposable BIC razor

Why did you slide
a rusty nail into the nipple of your right breast

Why did you ask
me to write this hateful poem to you and mail it

John McKernan
05 20 16

Anniversary

Shapers, they accidentally stir feedback green,
House plants grow out of the wallpaper, from
The black keys of keyboards, from pores of the
microphone, Dracaena, Chinese Evergreen, Dumb
Cane, Ficus, quiet in the living room, the best of
the players in space enter, dressed like cartoon
characters. I sit down at a booth, rather slow,
feel a good time coming out of the bodies around,
Like house plants growing out of them, I reference
the beach, I, a hovering marigoround, am subdued
in electricity, and become a shaper.

Zachary Scott Hamilton
05 17 16

Lights

Emerald.
That was the hue. It was on the twenty-first story where I stared out
into the sky. Everyone else was
asleep. I thought for a second
about how they call each level a story, and then, thinking that each
floor is a sort of tale, decided that I liked the designation
“story.” I would have liked for the night to be feral with a rain
that came sideways across the glass. Or silent and humid-looking as
in the middle of a sacrosanct July night. But it was overcast and a
bit noisy, which was regular, which was prosaic. Which was the world
more often than not.

There
was the emerald, though. The bric-a-brac and kitsch builders had made
these lights. But, like the glow lights in the circus when I was a
kid, or like the plastic bottles of sun tan lotion in the
sub-tropical corner shops by piers, I loved them. It was as though
the lights, which sometimes blinked, held some secret. I sat, and
watched, and waited. Sometimes I glanced the other way, to the left,
and looked at the big electrical wheel in the sky. That was more
literary, more cinematic, and more mythical, as the wheel could and
surely did symbolize everything from fortune to kismet and karma and
the dharma and back again. But I preferred the emerald.

There
would be a long silence, and then the cold air return system of the
building would click on, and a breeze would suddenly begin to pump
from a vent in the wall. This was loud in the daylight hours, but
during the witching hour, since it erupted out of quietude, the
return was a startling phenomenon. People would rouse and then go
back to their dreams. I had the thought that the building was alive,
and I loved this notion. This breath, which was the true meaning of
spirit, that the building let out, was akin to an invitation to the
unknown, to some Gnostic or esoteric mystery and good madness.

Lost
in hours, the sun finally began to announce itself on the skyline.
There was a man each morning who rolled up his pants and hopped
unceremoniously into a pond by the bottom of the emerald lights. It
was a wishing pond. He walked slowly and deliberately while picking
up the change that others had thrown in the water. When he had gotten
enough he went out, put his socks and shoes back on. He had stolen
other people’s wishes. Like
a drop of color joining the rest of the painting, he disappeared into
the morning crowd.

It
was always about then that the emerald lights, the color of the heart
chakra, went off. Green is the color of love, they say.

It
was about then, also, that I began my day. I would mosey through the
town to do this or that, and end up holding doors, or letting others
in line. I would help people who needed it, even in small ways. My
friend was more ambitious, secular, and worldly. She could hardly
stand it at times.

Lose
the brotherhood of man habit
,
she would caution, it only holds
us up
.

But
I found it hard. It was taxing to join the world. I lacked the thirst
for success and would probably never get ahead.

But
I liked the lights. I thought sometimes in the day how they would
come in the night again. They were a beacon or a shield against the
lurid gray of thought itself.

They
were something. And if not love at least they were the color of such.

Brian Michael Barbeito
05 14 16

Flywheel

I use everything I learned in school, all of it, and you still take words and make them beautiful and I still take shit from people’s yards.
And you don’t have to write about anything.
They got hole.
I put things back the way they ought to be.
You got people saying and I got sayings on me.
I got the clutch though.
Nothing you do’s like that. Nothing releases.

Vincent Craig Wright
05 011 16

Better proof

I have not spoken to
anyone about it. There is little we can do. Not that it is a
concern to anyone but me, though I’m not exactly sure. Nobody talks
about it, for instance. What could be better proof?

Joachim Frank
05 08 16

Receptacle

She confesses to succumbing to an occasional depressive fit of a sort that seizes upon a view of people such that they are, in their totality, stalks of biological material containing, at the top, a bony receptacle for teeth, which are small, white and deemed valuable because of this structural arrangement. The teeth are in constant peril of loss and lethal impacts from the unpredictable and violent environs in which they are forced to live. It is a simplistic view but not one without an element of suspense.

Carl Hansen Manks
05 05 16

Television: The real ladies

Reality television asks nothing of you. You can avoid thought, avoid conflicts in your own life if you focus on the ladies’ contrived conflicts. You know it is fiction. You know these women would not have daily lunches in groups of seven or eight, they wouldn’t be throwing their dogs lavish birthday parties, if they weren’t surrounded by cameras. Or would they?

You have plans to socialize on both Thursday and Sunday this week. And you think of cancelling one of those plans. You’d be too exhausted doing both.

On Mondays your co-workers ask how you spent your weekend. If you don’t particularly feel like talking, you’ll say, “I relaxed,” and leave it at that. If you’re in a more gregarious mood, you’ll recount the event you saw on Friday’s episode. This week it was a charity hoedown.

Shannon McLeod
05 02 16

No

way to afford college no
jobs no
place to sleep but park benches no
nothing to eat but Skittles no
place in the world for artists Tyler
enlists to fight in a war he does not
believe still exists

Laura LeHew
04 29 16

Old piper

1.
I roughhoused with the mules as if
some treasurer’s life hung in the balance
and the large yellow leaves we’ve seen all summer
had no clear origin. If you crave a woman
somewhat more than she does you, why, never
be dumbfounded, old piper, when there’s no one
else out there riding the cabernet express, no one
else hitting the high and low notes you are,
and no accountant kicking around in storms
after decks of worn-out playing cards
gave up all their nines and tens.

2.
I heard you unknowingly strayed into immobility,
I heard you let yourself get stuck singing on the side
of a mountain and wouldn’t permit Mary and me
to scale up with a cruet of olive oil
and a length of rope to pull you free.
I’d have zero trouble understanding that, old piper,
if I didn’t share your love for the smell of tires-
never-ridden in a windowless showroom,
those “best pillows in the whole wide world,”
and I was hoping you’d be guessing
that was why I wanted Mary along.

3.
Being sure of something that didn’t happen
can be fairly tricky business, gray songster,
though had I been around at the time in question,
I imagine I would have warned you
not to go motoring with your stereotypical auditor—
just do not go driving with her—and while anyone
can guess you could have snapped your arm
just as easily singing ditties or playing solitaire
in the back seat, you were more than in her sights
riding shotgun up front. I mean, look: hot day,
no air conditioning, electric windows all down,
your arm resting nonchalantly across the top
of the door, and our auditor pedal-to-the-metal
zooming over some lesser highway
when she decides, completely spur-of-the-moment,
to hold a button down and your window comes
zipping up fast. Stifled-chuckles-kind-of-funny
what you can think of after-the-fact, old piper,
but I’m wondering (and, please, you can trust me):
did your voice let loose in honest pain,
did you go off-key in your wine-soaked warbling,
and did you ball the fist of your good arm in fury?

William C. Blome
04 26 16

Theory of mind 4

What did we eat when every month was February?

I’ve heard of people living inside whale bellies
consuming whale-notes, whale-thrum

JONAH: It’s a dark & viscid room but it’s hearth & home to me

PLANKTON: Our preparation for the next life
begins with a drift through pearly baleen

The next life is mollusk
Shiny soft tissue, no pain

Sarah Jean Grimm
04 20 16

Evening, autumn

Evening, autumn. The gray clouds shove and jostle their way up the horizon, hiding bolts of lightning, silent. Only a drop falls. These are days of judgment. That clatter, clatter of heavenly machinery. 

The air full with life. Bitches go happily into season. Green leaves stretch to the sun, are battered by rain, and grow. Thunder rolls, but in the distance. It is both coming and going. We may not work tomorow. With luck, we may never work again.

The fog lifts, and I am awake, as far as this ladder goes. And there’s more coming. That clatter of heavenly machinery. Wheels and gears spinning. The wind rising and falling.

The nuclear furnaces of the stars.

Thunder rolling, and waiting for the rain to give us another run. But perhaps this storm, too, will pass. So let the green leaves grow. Let bitches and men live out their seasons. Bring in the mattresses from the outdoor balcony. Let the winter come.

Idan Cohen
04 17 16

Premise

A debt collector who, as a last resort, after exhausting his arsenal of penalties, persuasions and incentives to collect the due, eats his debtors in a final, primal act of tribute-taking.

Candace Nimms
04 14 16

North, south

The mouse left droppings at the top of an open sack of flour while we lay transfixed by the foghorn’s [deep inhalation/sustained exhalation] over the sailboats bobbing in the bay.

Jet engines soar overhead, winking a cosmic descent into the angel’s dry mouth. In the unabated heat, crickets and cockroaches [mate/suffocate] between the bricks while the old bones of the place moan and sway.  

We’ll eat you someday
Someday, we say.

Niree Noel
04 11 16

Mary is thinking about ghosts

and about mothers about being named for a long line of mothers about
being named for the mother of god for the mother who intercedes for
everyone mary is mary mary is busy mary is committed mary is an angel
not a devil mary doesn’t believe in devils mary is the last thing she
will ever know mary is an EEO lover mary is this
and that and the other mary
doesn’t thinks she’s divine mary is the pattern of what the church
calls holiness mary is a figurine mary is a believer mary makes
acquaintance with fairies sometimes mary is charged and mary is
beheaded mary is a bonny lassie when she’s smiling mary is a hippie
chick mary is an advocate mary is the girl i love mary is not tin
lizzie mary is more a volkswagen mary is association mary is research
mary is inquiry mary is an institution mary is the ark of the
covenant mary is the first creature to enjoy eternal life mary is
weeping mary is comfort mary is busy so very busy mary has been to
three weddings and a christening mary is committed to concerns in
those troubled mary is close to those suffering or in danger mary
feels sometimes too deeply mary is invoked as a blessing mary is the
queen of heaven mary is to bear god’s child mary is fully accredited
to do so mary is 100 years young mary is answering the challenges
mary is coming mary is cumming mary is still a virgin mary is an
instrument for the presence of a male god mary is her hips and her
breasts and her cunt mary is a sex machine mary is a baby machine
mary is unaware of her power so mary is forever grateful mary is
still waiting mary is cunning mary is charged with treason mary’s
trial began mary is her own best witness mary is executed anyway mary
ascends mary is never mentioned as ever having an assumption mary is
barely mentioned in the bible but maybe that’s because mary is so
very busy mary is from magdala mary is from galilee mary is from
texas and tennessee and carolina mary wrote a gospel no one reads
mary kissed jesus and said buck up love mary kissed jesus on his
mouth and was scandalously pleased mary is in song lyrics especially
when mary is contrary mary is savvy mary is savvy enough to know that
contrary sells mary is a gem mary is a rock mary is a tree and a pond
and a heron mary is an island mary is a descendant of aaron and from
the tribe mary is the tribe mary is a bear mary is a wolf mary howls
at the moon dancing barefoot mary is a good example mary is a model
public servant mary is happy when she is permitted to speak mary is
ecstatic especially when she is permitted to write mary is so busy
and always so very happy mary is a candle burning mary is the virgin
mother of god mary is god’s plan for our salvation mary is from the
heart mary is the bleeding heart mary saw her son die mary saw her
husband die mary saw death rise like smoke from the ground mary saw
the land bleed and still does mary is one of the top realtors in the
country mary sells pieces of heaven mary is a diva mary is a repeat
mary is into ta and ra and tantra mary is both priestess and altar
mary is running for mayor of killybegs mary is nominated for awards
mary is the holder of the gavel mary is the hammer and the heel mary
is mentioned in section 12 paragraph 43 lines 14-16 mary is
propaganda mary is prophecy mary is private but not nearly as private
as she wants mary writes letters to jesus saying son or lover i’ll
see you soon mary is fond of postage stamps with flowers mary is flat
rate and express mary is the sentence and the paragraph mary is the
grammar and the syntax mary is the mary is a mary among marys mary is
the if mary and the but mary and the why ask for permission when you
can ask for forgiveness mary mary is of course of course of course
mary mary is all for one and one for all  mary is closer than you
think mary is driving mary is driving to work mary is always driving
to work mary is driving and singing mary is always singing mary sings
along with the dead mary sings harmony for the centuries mary is
singing with ghosts and so she is thinking about ghosts mary is
thinking maybe she already is a ghost mary sings along with the
ghosts in the car singing mary mary mary are you still here after all
these years?

Mary Carroll-Hackett
04 08 16

Departure

The police throw their enemies out of windows. At least that’s one explanation offered for the lost pets, the missing children. When I look back over my shoulder, I only see old, lost, broken things, mysteries where there are none, faces I can’t identify.

People who grew up here exchange glances. There has been a lot of drinking. Some of the men claim they can taste tears in the wine. I was just about to ask them, “What advice do you have for young people?”

Everyone is sick of dealing with the obstinacy of objects. Imagine rival empires of medicine bottles, office chairs, bicycles, rolled-up carpets, wheelie suitcases, safes, washing machines, fire extinguishers, and umbrellas.

The woman seated behind me on the train chatters on her phone the whole time, but never once mentions the crushed velvet of bees, or the remembered light reflected in their black eyes.

Howie Good
04 06 16

Perfection

I thought about perfection for far too
long. To be perfect would require imperfection, and I didn’t know
if I had the time for imperfection to that degree. Perfection is
achievable only if ruined.

You are perfect to me because together
we ruin perfection. I’ll say it and I’ll say it and I’ll say
it again because perfection can’t repeat itself. Perfection exists
only if ruined. You’re so much better than perfection, believe me.

Lee Upton
04 04 16

Jackets

A bee patrols the threshold of our apartment. Neil squeezes my hand; when you only know half of your genes, you don’t know what can kill you.

Jesse Bradley
04 02 16

Event horizon

The garage is kept warm by kerosene and ire.
There is a box of bolts, a box of screws and nuts
& clamps
& saws
& planes
& everything
that cuts, holds, smooths 
& fixes what it makes. In outer space:

(((((0)))))

begins to drift across some portion of the universe. The first star gripped by that nothing folds into itself like a father

and vanishes.

David Hornibrook
03 31 16

Shotgun

She wanted to test the gun, but she dared not open any of the windows or doors. She shot a hole in the wall with the shotgun. She could see clear to the outside. The blast radius was tighter than she’d expected. This was good. And the hole might be useful, as a spy hole, since all the doors and windows where shuttered. One might be able to stick a gun barrel through it from the outside, but that was the side the ground sloped off. He’d have to stand on a ladder to do it. And she could cover it with something heavy when she wasn’t using it.

Using a pair of handguns, she put holes in all the other walls and looked out, using various landmarks to calibrate her range of vision, and kept shooting until she could see 360 degrees around the cabin.

Joseph Langdon
03 29 16

Theory of mind 3

We need behavioral evidence
We need to weigh the brain and take tissue samples

The tissue samples are changing colors
to mimic their environment

ARISTOTLE: The octopus is a stupid creature
OCTOPUS: The team in yellow will win the final

The yellow flowers are heliotropic
I think I have a yellow heart

Sarah Jean Grimm
03 27 16

Raptor

If you are a raptor, then the dead rabbits make sense. Make soft fur-piles on the stoop. If you have rinsed your talons you will see the red ring around the neck of the sink for days before it disappears. If there were rabbits then there are others: weasels, foxes, minks. If there are others then you are a bad neighbor. Need to leave off your bullying, your burying of talons into whatever is close and warm. You have been warned. If you are not a raptor then you need to revisit the dead rabbits and how came they to your stoop. How came they. And when. And from whom.

Claire Wahmanholm
03 25 16

Platonic

Things seen vs. things unseen: a car and its driver in momentary shadow; an airplane and the passengers inside; a horse and its animating principle, its spirit; a door on a house, seen from the inside, and the people behind the door, among them family and professional colleagues, strangers and interlopers, who unknowingly host a viral state of being, every last one of them, potential carriers of the act of intrusion.

Candace Nimms
03 23 16

Preservation

It is with regret that I must inform you about thermodynamics. Black coffee cools faster than coffee laden, luxurious, with cream. And untouched coffee remains hot longer than coffee that’s sipped. The best thing to do, if heat is the only concern, is to prepare the coffee and then cover it. Don’t touch it until it’s cold.

Joelle A. Chassé
03 19 16

At the airfield

You
have always liked the openness of airfields. As a child you were claustrophobic. But you looked at airfields and thought, Whoosh.
Zoom.
You thought, Much better. Now most space is open space. Most things have been knocked down and you can see almost forever in every direction. From the control tower you watch for enemies or birds or any thicket of fast-moving things. No one is sure whether enemies even exist but you try to imagine how your throat would drop, how your lungs would flutter if you saw one. You would know if you saw one, if you were in danger. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair. The openness of your fear condenses around you like thick rain. You are blind in your tower. Enemies are marching toward you across the aftermath of the hayfield. The tower is rumbling like thunder, is crumbling into the open space that once filled your body with air. Your breath is a thicket. Your hair is melting wire. You can’t hear yourself over the enemies’ laughter, the clang of their greaves. Maybe they have lances. Maybe they have rifles. For now their weapon is speed and they move freely across the airfield and cannot be seen.

Claire Wahmanholm
03 17 16

Television: evening news

The news is always urging you to do things: vote, unplug your appliances, watch out for phony doctors, get a concealed carry permit. It makes you sit up straighter, like the anchor’s hands are cupped under your armpits. But you just change the channel. Maybe if they knew your name, they asked you personally, you’d actually do it. 

The public radio donation drives are the soundtrack to your commute once every three months. Every time you hear them say, “Only YOU, our listeners, keep our stations running,” you think today is the day you will donate.

In an emergency situation, you must point at the nearest person and say, “YOU, in the red jacket,” make eye contact, and yell, “Call the police!” This way, the responsibility will not be diffused. You heard this on a six o’clock special report.

Shannon McLeod

My method

It used to be nothing compared to my strategy or my approach or the way my system turned into a formula and then became a technique. It was nothing until I became adept at the new tactics through close observation of scarification on leaves. Only then could my method advance.

Lee Upton

My method

It used to be nothing compared to my strategy or my approach or the way my system turned into a formula and then became a technique. It was nothing until I became adept at the new tactics through close observation of scarification on leaves. Only then could my method advance.

Lee Upton
03 15 16

Relaxation tape

Some of us didn’t have lungs left. So when we lay beneath the loudspeaker sky—when we were told to pay attention to our breath, we had to improvise. Last week at the burn pit I’d found a concertina and hooked it to my chest. Now, when I inhaled to the count of three, I pulled apart its honeycomb bellows and felt myself fill. I pushed them together and the air moved through my mouth like wind through a dead canyon. The bellows inhaled again. I remembered the rhythm of breathing, the ease of it, the mindless fall and rise, the non-travail.

And now exhale, the static sang. And now imagine a billowing sail. I saw the waves behind my eyes, the bobbing boat. And now count back from five. The ocean swelled. And now from four. The ocean burned with oil. From three. I opened my eyes. Everyone pumped their squeezeboxes. The breeze of it flushed vultures from the trees.

Claire Wahmanholm
03 15 16

When she says, “I need space”

the space between his fingers as he held bricks, ceramic cups, as he threw a plate at the door, as he pushed himself off the carpet;

or instead, the space between his toes as he sprinted, as he caught up, as he stretched in bed;

or instead, the space between his arm and hers as they sat side by side but not together, the warmth and the static cling on their clothes making one arm acutely aware of the other, but without touching, without a glance, without acknowledgment;

or instead, the space between the house where he grew up and the high school he attended, which he had walked despite the space being 7.1 miles, and he’d walked it multiple times, and he’d still dropped out in his senior year;

or instead, space in a general way, an abstract way, the way that it can stretch on and on until the gentle curved edge of the universe, which he imagines feels like pulled silk stretched taut, catching rogue molecules like a palm.

Joelle A. Chassé
03 10 16

Glass

The tambourines sound out each snowflake–tiny chandeliers, nearly perfect in their symmetry–each a missed opportunity for–

Heather Lang
03 09 16

Theory of mind 2

The other day a concept occurred
I watched my fragments coalesce in blown plate glass

Now I document my image consistently
Subtle changes to my face contradict object permanence

MIRROR: Seven years bad luck
if you break a camera phone in selfie mode

UNICORN: An unretouched photo of me
is just a photo of me

Sarah Jean Grimm
03 08 16

The factory

Grubby violet dusk. Everywhere, the tongue-tang of rust. Everywhere endless grass. We push the truck until it stops beside a huge rhizome of concrete and broken glass. We pull our faces out of its violet shards and stare into the dark mass of the factory’s throat. In buildings like this, some of us had bottled glue, stitched animal skin coats. We remember sweet blood in the hinges of our hands, fur in our lungs. We clamber over the toothless windowsills and land on the factory’s cool concrete tongue. Rooms of animal suits, rooms of hooves, of hoses. Dark drains. One by one the others put on their palomino coats. Then they are gone, their long legs leaving a wound in my throat. Outside, the prairie is empty and hot. Beneath my palm the prairie’s heaving slows to a trot, to a walk. Beneath my palm the prairie rolls over and stops.

Claire Wahmanholm
03 11 16

The essentials

How much was demanded of me? I
couldn’t guess. I was fine with the demands as long as they didn’t
interfere with the essentials. What is the difference between
incoming and coming in? Space and a reversal and
violence to the essentials.

Lee Upton
03 13 16

Temptation

This new form of predictive surveillance not only generates a heuristic map of your highly probable transactions based on previous behavior but pre-emptively blackmails you based on illicit or even merely undesirable probable behaviors. 

In the next presentation slide is a man thinking about a donut but the thought bubble with the donut has been commandeered by an algorithmic override code. Over the donut is superimposed a duck.

Candace Nimms
03 07 16

Recreational

Gravel road to algae-caked pond. The YMCA pool is now a Walgreens parking lot. Tree static is wind plus leaves. The effect it produces when scanning rough footage—it’s the closest I’ve come: back, forward, spacebar, play, back, forward, again. When I plug in the lamp, I keep my finger between the silver prongs. When you come to, taste iron and charcoal. I’m fine. It’s fine. 

A young man taught me how to swim. Watch beads of water collect in his collarbones, their canyons. Pavement, gravel, dirt. Swimming is recreational drowning—on this point I will not budge. You’ve never met a clavicle you didn’t like; you’ve never gummed a collarbone that didn’t taste like a little like home. Pondscum. A raft in the water, crushed beer cans litter planks. My father sighs at the sight. Woods flattened after a storm. New vistas, flat maps. Growing older, you glue them together with spit. My father, in all truth, taught me how to swim—the young man only taught me how to flail. You are only bone; you sink like bone. The warped plank of the yard. When did fear become your dominant mode? Poor visual quality, audible hiss, rewind before returning or don’t. The walls of the old house are green. Does it make you more or less human? I walk to the edge of the light-blue diving board. When the walls are painted white, it’s a different house; don’t try to tell me different. What joker made the board resemble clear blue sky? At the far end of the pond, the water swamps. Skunk cabbage. Crush beneath your boot and inhale. Water to mud; water to firm shore. An arm or an arm of algae blooms. Smell Walgreens; smell chlorine. Varnished boards underfoot. Scoop the water, push as much as you can with your thin hands. Years later, a large lake. Muddy beach, long bridge spanning open water. Agenda: Stop treading the warm, dull liquid. Push the air from your lungs. When you sink, feel the surface of the lake like a sky. When you come back up? Breathe water, swallow air.

William VanDenBerg
03 14 16

First aid

Dress the wound in oil. Wrap it in leafy greens. Clean it with vinegar and water and coarse Kosher salt. Press cold bandages of meat against the swelling until it settles. Rest your aching head against the cool refrigerator’s body; the pain will drift away like steam. Coat your skin in oats and whipped free-range eggs until your skin sloughs off and grows anew. Expect pain, growth. Expect nothing at all.

Joelle A. Chassé
03 09 16

Theory of mind 1

I did something green
I did it again but grayer

It helps to see how others
deal with failure

Thanks to the widespread use of pesticides
many birds crush their own eggs while nesting

BALD EAGLE: I lost my America hat
I lose every hat I love

Sarah Jean Grimm
03 08 16

Television: cooking show

“You really should use fresh, but if all you have is frozen peas, that’s okay too.” The short woman on the cooking channel is splitting fresh pea pods. The peas tumble onto white linen. She looks like your second-grade teacher, which is probably why you enjoy watching her, listening to the gentle timbre of her voice.

You have frozen peas. Even though this is the bag that you reserve to put between the back of your neck and the couch cushion to relieve headaches, you are willing to sacrifice it. 

You don’t have prosciutto, but you do have soy bacon.

You don’t have butter, but you have margarine.

You don’t have cream, but you have milk.

You don’t have lemons, but you have lemonade.

You’ve found pasta under the sink.

The news says there’s a serial rapist on the loose. He’s suspected to still be within the county lines. But now you’re learning to make pasta with prosciutto and peas. Something you can act on. 

The host, like all cooking show hosts, has perfectly manicured hands. As you pour the cooked pasta into the colander, you notice your own unpolished nails. You’ve often wondered how women with manicured nails find the time and money for this upkeep. Are they constantly noticing the nails of the unmanicured? Do your cuticles disgust them?

You eat the pasta directly out of the pan. The heat from the metal thickens the sauce as you eat it. By the time you reach the last few bites, the texture resembles what it looked like on TV.

Shannon McLeod
03 13 16

Television: infomercials

Lately, you’ve been sleeping on the couch. Your dog can no longer get up the stairs, her arthritis is so bad. She likes sleeping on your feet. You like waking in the morning, sitting up on the edge of the bed and having to pause for a minute while you regain sensation in your toes. Those moments might be the greatest sense of peace you accomplish each day.

On the unfolded futon, you fall in and out of consciousness. The TV is on low. The voice of the failed film actor is just as loud as your dog’s snoring. The actor is selling knives. Now he is selling car wax. Now he is selling bathroom cleanser. You dream about combating the black mold and pink slime that have been slowly conquering your tub. You wish for the infomercials to send subliminal messages of desire. You plan to wake wanting these products, instead of those unattainable things you cannot even name.

Shannon McLeod
03 11 16

Television: evening news

The news is always urging you to do things: vote, unplug your appliances, watch out for phony doctors, get a concealed carry permit. It makes you sit up straighter, like the anchor’s hands are cupped under your armpits. But you just change the channel. Maybe if they knew your name, they asked you personally, you’d actually do it. 

The public radio donation drives are the soundtrack to your commute once every three months. Every time you hear them say, “Only YOU, our listeners, keep our stations running,” you think today is the day you will donate.

In an emergency situation, you must point at the nearest person and say, “YOU, in the red jacket,” make eye contact, and yell, “Call the police!” This way, the responsibility will not be diffused. You heard this on a six o’clock special report.

Shannon McLeod
03 13 16

The sort of morning

A layer of fog this morning. It seems not to float upon the earth so much as suffocate it, like the lead aprons patients wear during an X-ray. It’s frosted the grass gray, reforming it in its own image; if the horizon were farther away, the line separating earth and sky would be indistinguishable. My breath, too, the fog transmutes into itself, vapor to vapor. Every few seconds, I hear the plick of leaf-frost as it melts and drops on the leaves in our yard, which hasn’t been raked yet this season. The marching band tooting a half-mile away in the monochrome stillness feels either comic or grotesque. 

It’s the sort of morning I imagine for Agincourt, or Waterloo, the solid-seeming fog about to be shredded by cavalry, cannon fire, a flock of arrows unseen until they land in your chest. The fondant of frost crackled by limbs, upended horses. We don’t fight like that anymore.

Michael Busk
03 07 16

She said it

She said it. To her. It was not about a him. Are you relieved; I am. What it was that she meant, I’ll tell you. Will I. Later, will I. You were thinking you knew me, I know. But there’s an awful lot of us waiting. It’s a small room, this.

Olivia Clare
03 13 16

Monster

In 1894, when he was only twenty-two years old, John Lewis Phipps took possession of Oakley Court, a Victorian Gothic country house in the parish of Bray that, years later, due to its proximity to Bray Studios and Hammer Horror productions, would serve as the set or backdrop to a slew of horror films, among them The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile. In the latter of these, which takes place in a fictional Cornish town called Clagmoor Heath, scene after scene is obscured, either by fog or by smoke or by mist, clouds, or steam: whether it is the arrival of Harry Spalding and his wife to the village, or bartender Tom Bailey’s unearthing of Mad Peter’s corpse, hardly anything in the film happens without some reminder that a veil is being drawn across the viewer’s eyes, the one exception being the appearance of Anna Franklyn, played with an almost alien grace by Jacqueline Pearce, who has let herself into the Spalding home to leave a large bouquet of lilies—a sunlit scene in which Pearce displays such preternatural clarity and calm that one cannot help but begin to suspect that her simple radiance is in fact the greatest distortion of all, that it is Anna herself who is responsible for the grotesque deaths of so many villagers, which is later revealed to be exactly the case: Anna, it turns out, is the reptile of the title who, having been cursed to change form by the members of an obscure snake cult, in retaliation for her father’s disclosure of their most closely guarded secrets, is now drawn, when in her reptile form, to feed upon human victims (despite the fact that the manor in which she lives contains dozens of caged animals for her to eat), and her predation does not end until a fire destroys her home, killing Anna along with her father and their sinister servant and presumably all of the trapped, innocent animals, finally freeing Clagmoor Heath of its monster, at which point it is Oakley Court, erstwhile home of John Lewis Phipps, that is shown, in the last frames of the film, engulfed in flames.

Dan Josefson
03 13 16

Americans

1. When I returned to the U.S. after many years abroad, I did not understand how the elevator worked. I jumped back when the doors began to close. It’s okay, said a man inside the elevator who put his hand between the doors to make it open again. I rode the elevator to the 20th floor, where I was introduced to colleagues, one of whom said, “You don’t look American.” I said I was born in the Middle West and grew up on U.S. soil. “Funny,” he said, “You don’t seem American at all.” Why? I asked. “The way you dress, the way you talk.” I thought he had judged me too quickly. “But I feel American,” I insisted.

2. Once I was teaching a seminar to executives in the Austrian Alps. The man who organized the seminar and I were both American. My job was to teach the executives to write like Americans. They came from 12 countries in Eastern and Western Europe. On the third day at the final lunch, a discussion arose about American CEO salaries. Bored, I said I didn’t know why anyone would ever want that much money. My American counterpart said I said that because I had never had the opportunity to earn that much money. I was humiliated. I said I had had the opportunity, but decided against it. He apologized. We had behaved like Americans.

3. My belated interest in politics was fostered by the following situation: I am at a gathering in some country where I am the only American. Conversation turns to politics, and I am put in the position of being an impromptu spokesperson for the U.S. I have learned to say, “Not everyone back home would agree with me,” before making a pronouncement. Many years ago, I told a professor that I had no interest in politics whatsoever, that my interests were in archeology, religion, myth, philosophy, and so on. Now when I see this professor, we always talk politics.

Dawn-Michelle Baude
03 10 16

She said it

She said it. To her. It was not about a him. Are you relieved; I am. What it was that she meant, I’ll tell you. Will I. Later, will I. You were thinking you knew me, I know. But there’s an awful lot of us waiting. It’s a small room, this.

Olivia Clare

The sort of morning

A layer of fog this morning. It seems not to float upon the earth so much as suffocate it, like the lead aprons patients wear during an X-ray. It’s frosted the grass gray, reforming it in its own image; if the horizon were farther away, the line separating earth and sky would be indistinguishable. My breath, too, the fog transmutes into itself, vapor to vapor. Every few seconds, I hear the plick of leaf-frost as it melts and drops on the leaves in our yard, which hasn’t been raked yet this season. The marching band tooting a half-mile away in the monochrome stillness feels either comic or grotesque. 

It’s the sort of morning I imagine for Agincourt, or Waterloo, the solid-seeming fog about to be shredded by cavalry, cannon fire, a flock of arrows unseen until they land in your chest. The fondant of frost crackled by limbs, upended horses. We don’t fight like that anymore.

Michael Busk

Monster

In 1894, when he was only twenty-two years old, John Lewis Phipps took possession of Oakley Court, a Victorian Gothic country house in the parish of Bray that, years later, due to its proximity to Bray Studios and Hammer Horror productions, would serve as the set or backdrop to a slew of horror films, among them The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile. In the latter of these, which takes place in a fictional Cornish town called Clagmoor Heath, scene after scene is obscured, either by fog or by smoke or by mist, clouds, or steam: whether it is the arrival of Harry Spalding and his wife to the village, or bartender Tom Bailey’s unearthing of Mad Peter’s corpse, hardly anything in the film happens without some reminder that a veil is being drawn across the viewer’s eyes, the one exception being the appearance of Anna Franklyn, played with an almost alien grace by Jacqueline Pearce, who has let herself into the Spalding home to leave a large bouquet of lilies—a sunlit scene in which Pearce displays such preternatural clarity and calm that one cannot help but begin to suspect that her simple radiance is in fact the greatest distortion of all, that it is Anna herself who is responsible for the grotesque deaths of so many villagers, which is later revealed to be exactly the case: Anna, it turns out, is the reptile of the title who, having been cursed to change form by the members of an obscure snake cult, in retaliation for her father’s disclosure of their most closely guarded secrets, is now drawn, when in her reptile form, to feed upon human victims (despite the fact that the manor in which she lives contains dozens of caged animals for her to eat), and her predation does not end until a fire destroys her home, killing Anna along with her father and their sinister servant and presumably all of the trapped, innocent animals, finally freeing Clagmoor Heath of its monster, at which point it is Oakley Court, erstwhile home of John Lewis Phipps, that is shown, in the last frames of the film, engulfed in flames.

Dan Josefson