Stranger, I cross your room
Daughter, you cross my room
looking you over as I go
overlooking me as you go--
to the window overlooking mulberries.
the window, at least, sees
Your will specifies ashes.
how my will has beat this thing to ashes.
I am never who you think I am.
I am not, you think. I am.
I wonder when I will have to arrange
So make other arrangements
chairs in the shape of a sonnet,
for this chair that shapes me like a sonnet.
hire a rabbi. It won’t be long.
Hire a band. It won’t be long.
The rhymes you sang to me as a child
The rhymes I sang to you as a child
I can only hum now, wordless.
I can still sing. Listen.
Previously published in River Styx and American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016).
Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, including American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016)--which was a long-list finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press--and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016). She received an MFA in poetry from University of California, Irvine and an MFA in fiction from University of Miami. Her poetry, prose, playwriting and interviews have appeared recently or are forthcoming in TheAtlantic.com, The Evansville Review, Foreword Reviews, Guernica, The McNeese Review, Negative Capability, One, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Prime Number Review, Spillway, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Waxwing and Verse Daily. She is co-director for the reading series, SWWIM (Supporting Women Writers in Miami).
The winner of the 2017 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Prize, the 2016 Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize and the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, Jen has previously won the Portlandia Poetry Chapbook Prize, two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Awards and the “Piccolo in Your Pocket” Contest from the Alaska Flute Studies Center. In 2016, her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and two "Best of the Net" awards, and featured at The Fourth River, JMWW, Yellow Chair Review, Red Bird Chapbooks and "Literary Death Match." She is currently writing a full-length spoken word play, set in Everglades National Park, with the help of an AIRIE residency. She is also working on her 16th book, The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami (Luster, September 2017).
Jen works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School, teaching grades 6-12, and as a freelance writer, dining critic and cookbook author. She lives in Miami Shores on the remaining acre of a historic mango plantation with her husband, two teenagers, three dogs, three cats and fourteen mango trees.
Since you’ve left, the rains haven’t stopped, running downhill
after you, chasing you for your lunch. I’m smoking by that
silver bench, drops punching the fug I blow from my pursed
mouth. My fingers are stained with you. A tree-root strangles
my ankle. I never want to see my father again, the
disappointment mask he likes wearing. Your tongue catches
that last drop of soju and my lungs constrict of their own
accord, and breath is a far country with no visas, no passports.
Previously published in Phantom Billstickers Café Reader.
Ivy Alvarez's second poetry collection is Disturbance (Seren, 2013). She is also the author of several shorter collections, including Hollywood Starlet (Chicago: dancing girl press, 2015) and The Everyday English Dictionary (London: Paekakariki Press, 2016).
A recipient of writing fellowships from MacDowell Colony, Hawthornden Castle and Fundacion Valparaiso, her work appears in journals and anthologies in many countries and online, with selected poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. She lives in New Zealand. www.ivyalvarez.com
Eating the Earth
And to the flour
add water, only
a thin stream whispering gathered
rains of a reticent winter.
And to the flour add oil, only
a glistening thread snaking through
ridges and ravines of what
sifts through your fingers,
what sinks, moist and burdened
between your palms.
And in the kneading
hinge forward, let the weight
of what you carry on your shoulders,
the luster of your language, shade
of your story press into the dough.
And to the dough bring
the signature of your fingertips, stretch
the canvas before you, summer linen
of wheat and autumn velvet of olive oil,
smooth like a map
of silence and fragrance,
of invisible terrains of memory.
And on the dough let the green leaves
sumac stars flickering among them
shards of onion in their midst.
Scatter them as the wind would
or gather them in the center of this earth
and fold them into the tender embrace
of the dough, cool and soft beneath their bodies.
And make a parcel of the dough,
filled with foraged souvenirs,
fold them in, and then again,
let their silhouettes gaze back at you.
Recall found treasures of hillside
wandering; flint, thorn
blossom and a hoopoe
feather carried home in your skirt.
And to the flames surrender
the bread, gift of your hands.
Grasp its tender edges and turn it
as the heat strafes and chars
this landscape you have caressed.
Some grandmothers sing as they bake,
others speak prayers.
And let the edges bristle to the color
of earth, let the skin of the bread scar.
The song of zaatar simmering
in its native oil rises up
and time evaporates. You are young
again, it is spring
in the greening valley.
*zaatar – wild thyme native to the Levant
Previously published in Sukoon and subsequently published in Water & Salt (Red Hen Press, 2017).
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American writer of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. Her book of poems, Water & Salt, is published by Red Hen Press. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net and her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, is the winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize. Most recently, has work has been published or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Crab Creek Review, Diode, and the Rumpus. Lena is a Hedgebrook alum and an MFA candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. To learn more, please visit her web site www.lenakhalaftuffaha.com
How To Detangle A Bird Caught In Your Hair
First you have to have hair
This trend toward baldness negates the problem
Once you have grown a luscious mane
Gather images on your lion tongue
Ripe peaches, sizzle of bacon
Crisp campfire scent of an almost winter night
Handful of rain, feathers or marbles
Details of sunset, sand and fast cars
Weave your materials carefully
Remember that birds like shiny things
The colors and flavors you choose
May affect the type of bird you lure
Into your hair-nest
It helps to know what you’re looking for
The hummingbird is popular due to its size
And general friendliness
The swan is elegant but angry
Loons, pelicans and ostriches
Are obviously to be avoided
With patience, you will eventually find a bird snarled in your hair
It might not be the bird you initially had in mind
Give it some time. This one may surprise you
Protect your eyes and face
As you attempt to pet the iridescent feathers
Of your albatross or owl. Avoid wearing a hat
In the event that you tire of this entanglement
The following options are available:
1. Tenderly cut the bird away, like a piece of gum from a child’s hair
2. Start a small fire on the back of your head, and begin to run
Previously published in The Common Online and subsequently published in How To Take A Bullet And Other Survival Poems (where the title of each poem has been appropriated from The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenich.)
Hollie Hardy is the author of How to Take a Bullet, And Other Survival Poems (Punk Hostage Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Annual Poetry Center Book Award. She teaches writing classes at the SF Creative Writing Institute, SFSU, and Berkeley City College. An active participant in the Bay Area lit scene, she hosts Saturday Night Special, An East Bay Open Mic, and is a founder and core producer of Oakland’s Beast Crawl Literary Festival. Her website is www.holliehardy.com
Mary and the Commandments
Sometimes there are ten. Sometimes more. They play for an audience of one. Mary and her cursive list of what not to do: Do not wear black lace with extra holes. Do not be the one to lift your silk slip over your head. Raise your hands at the elbow, never the wrist. Keep your interior pink and pleasing: the kitchen counter, the kitchen scissors, the rose-handled wedding gift knives. Never give a gift that is not wrapped--legs around neck, ribbon around box, Champagne in silver foil. When removing your heart for a lover, remember it is not a hat. Your organ should not be worn at the dinner table, is not a common bridal accessory, will not prevent sunburn. Keep the faith, keep a clean house, keep clean underwear in your hip pocket. Commandments as back-up singers, as anti-inflammatories. When following rules, think map. Rules are not maps, but you may still clasp your hands, fall to your knees.
Previously published in Emerge Literary Journal.
Jill Crammond is a poet/single mom/artist, funding her passion for poetry and feeding her children by teaching art and preschool at an independent school in upstate NY. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and featured in such local community events as Bookmarks: The Memoir Project (Arts Center of the Capital Region), and Write Here: A Mini Conference for Writers (HVWG & Arts Center of the Capital Region). Her poetry has been published in a variety of anthologies and journals, including Fire on Her Tongue (Two Sylvia’s Press), B (Kind of a Hurricane Press), Thirty Days: The Best of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project’s First Year (Tupelo), Classifieds: An Anthology of Prose Poems, Crab Creek Review, and others.
I Would Open
I have nothing
to do with explosions.
But there are
in the no-life of
I am as frail
a landscape of
gas and shadows.
Previously published in She May Be A Saint by Hermeneutic Chaos Press.
Sources: Title: C.D. Wright, a phrase from “Dear Prisoner.” Wright: Deepstep Come Shining, “My Dear Affluent Reader,” and “Dear Prisoner.” Sylvia Plath: “Tulips,” “Insomniac,” “Stars Over the Dordogne,” “Widow,” and “The Rival.”
Sarah Nichols lives and writes in Connecticut. She is the author of four chapbooks, including Dreamland for Keeps (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming, 2018) and She May Be a Saint (Heremneutic Chaos Press, 2016). She is also the co-editor of Thank You for Swallowing, an online journal of feminist protest poetry. Her poems and essays have also appeared in Queen of Cups, The RS 500, Rogue Agent, and Ekphrastic Review.
to miss america
is to turn twenty-four with an ass that refuses
to fit squarely into a string bikini. to miss
america is to miss the point
of each perky, each taut muscle
rippling its way across a wheat field. or to miss
the wheat entirely. it is almost an art: paring
a strawberry into symmetrical slices
for a midnight snack in front of the late night
show. amazing how static can fill
the mind, the gut. o america, i, too, have a stash
of sashes, folded up & boxed, their ribbons too thin
now for my frame. you don’t have
to tell me: this body is nothing
like yours—spindly tower
that knows its saunter, knows its shake. you strut
down a lit aisle & miss the brush of grass
against your knees. god, you’re as smooth
as they make ‘em—teeth vaselined
like a slip’n slide, you are oil & bronze
& glow. miss america, i, too, know
about thigh gaps. i know what goes missing,
the space between girl and grown.
you miss dining room tables, fruit
of your labor, warmth in your belly, warmth
in your home. i am with you: dried flowers
in my hand, the metallic sky
dulling your tiara. look at this mud
where a meadow used to be.
Previously published in Banango Street.
Raena Shirali is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017). Her honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 2016 Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize, the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, & a “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013. Her poems & reviews have appeared inBlackbird, Ninth Letter, Crazyhorse, & elsewhere. She currently lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she is the Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, & serves as a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine.
a hunger that has two names
All of us wading through stage curtains to find something true. There is nothing in the box, my darling, just candles. Though, we were the side-show, the lamentable trough of us bodies boy and bodies girl and bodies spirit. Our bodies were bred to lie. They said we were not of this world. We were on the Austrian news in the morning. We sweat baroque. We coughed up blood. There is nothing in the box, my love, just fabric. We were in beds besides one another, arms and arms and legs and legs wrapped and unwrapped and faking and faking. And the pink eye and the shared eyeliner and the champagne and the start again.
Previously published in Vanilla Sex Magazine.
Lisa Marie Basile is an editor, writer and poet living in NYC. She founded and edits Luna Luna Magazine and is the author of APOCRYPHAL (Noctuary Press, 2014), as well as a few chapbooks: Andalucia (Poetry Society of New York), War/Lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Buy her books on Amazon & Small Press Distribution. Her poetry and other work can be or will be seen in PANK, Spork, Atlas Review, Tarpaulin Sky, the Tin House blog, The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Rogue Agent, Moonsick Magazine, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center and others. She has spoken on the topics of writing and publishing at Westfield High School, New York University, Columbia University and Emerson College. Her work was recently selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Olen Butler for inclusion in the Best Small Fiction 2015. She got an MFA at The New School in NYC.
From THE BOB PERELMAN QUARTETS
II. OR WAS IT AQUIFER?
Lagoon. Aquaphor. I made the fatal mistake
of bringing two "civilians" to the reading,
an anesthesiologist and a product designer,
and now I am trying not to laugh, at Avik,
the designer, sleeping with his head jerked back
his mouth hanging open, and at Nick,
the doctor getting more and more annoyed at
the 20-year-old bespectacled poetry student
rhythmically nodding (and not asleep) in front
of him, and above all at the profound seriousness
of this event, how we are all swept up with
as an object of explosive meditation except instead
of explosive its sort of a depressing deflating that
makes my heart swell with pity, no never mind,
that's just the beer I've been drinking since the
morning, I am pretty sure I am going to get diabetes
after the last 24 hours in which we've been drinking
fancy coffees and eating rosemary doughnuts and
doing all that stuff you're supposed to be doing in
New York, taking only occasional breaks to see
some pictures at the MOMA, which for me was
far more poetic than sitting here with these vintage
store blazers and facial hair and girls who can't
decide if they’re hippy pixies or French cinema
femme fatales, and I know that I look like a dentist
on holiday in comparison but I can't help it, I grew
up in Silicon Valley, played an instrument, did a
sport, volunteered at the local retirement home,
and I never did anything on the weekends because
my mother was sure that if I hung out at the mall
or wore shorts in public I would be raped or, worse,
kidnapped by North Korean spies. No, I exaggerate,
she only worried about North Korean spies when
I was in college and did study-abroad in Europe.
You know, the one time my father wrote to me years
later when I was pregnant and again in Europe was when
he saw the movie Taken and then, he said, he knew,
he knew exactly how Liam Neeson felt. But now I’m
ahead of myself. So my mother wasn't wrong that Kim
Jong-Un was in Switzerland, but I was at Oxford,
that’s where I had that cat lady as a poetry tutor,
I can’t remember her name but she was championed
by another poet whom I don't recall either, one
of those guys the British get all excited about and
the Americans feature in Ploughshares. Anyway,
homegirl told me I should write about being Korean
if I wanted to “market” myself as a poet, so I wrote
a poem about T. S. Eliot riding the London
Underground as my version of saying FUCK YOU.
You can see I’m not really good at showing people
what's what. Is this totally narcissistic to be thinking
about my own poetic formation while being at this
reading or is that what this nodding kid is doing too,
composing his On-the-Road-in-“Post-Free”-Verse
(“Aren’t we all post-free?”) with a section like
on yo' ASS!
but I don't think he would be cool enough to end
with ASS, alas, pigeons on the grass, I think that
is my beer talking again, and then the next
section would be about DNA sequencing because
there's, like, all these converging registers in
the bureaucratically determined code of language
you know what I mean? And I'm not really sure
his nods are aligning with the rhythm of anything
being read aloud here, and Nick is now staring
into his manly cocktail drink, one of those cocktails
that's just some hard liquor on top of another hard
liquor, and I don’t get that because cocktails are
supposed to hide what you’re drinking, right? So
I had to order it for him by repeating each of the
syllables I thought he said but apparently came back
with the wrong thing, which he still likes. Vivisection
of my rotundular enigma. I am not even sure these
are words that were in the poem, I am forgetting
all of them as soon as they are spoken, they are all
so soft and round and abstract and don't cohere
and I now think vivisection is probably too
vivacious to have been there and the real problem is
that I would probably like the poet if I knew her,
she looks smart and earnest and not at all like
these affected pixie bitches. I am even sure
I just read something by her in an anthology
and must have liked it because I don't remember
hating it and felt a flicker of interest when I
saw homegirl’s name on the program, so now I
am imagining how all these words she keeps
lobbing at us might be laid out in an interesting
way that would make it make sense. Or maybe
there's some procedural framework like she cut up
Alberti's De Pictura into a bunch of triangles and
threw them on the floor like an Arp collage. Yes,
maybe that's the problem with me, I want it all
to make sense somehow, but someone is trying
to pull out their rolling suitcase from next to my leg,
I think it's Jennifer Scappettone but I don't really
know her, and since I am looking around I see
Bob Perelman's bald head near the front of the room.
Any normal person who knows Bob Perelman
would just go up and say hello after the reading, but
I am filled with dread, any unexpected social
encounter fills me with dread, but I also know if I
sneak out without saying anything I will regret it
because what kind of freak who knows Bob Perelman
and studies poetry and knows he is a nice man
would not just go say hi to Bob Perelman?
So I look over at Avik for reassurance, and he is
practically snoring, and it's funny how he keeps
saying "homegirl" for any woman whose name
he doesn't remember and how he can pull it off
even though he normally doesn't talk that way
at all. I am pretty sure I can't pull it off now that
I've tried a couple times. Phosphorescent illusion.
Proliferate. Is summoning. Once there was a time
when we were all in college that my friends
thought I was as smart as them and even asked
my advice on their papers, but now I am in
my 30s and I am still writing those papers
and watch The Office and feel jealous of these
people with paying jobs and cubicles and
benefits and know my friends are spending this
Saturday afternoon in a small dark basement bar
listening to experimental poetry because they want
to show they are interested in my interests and
happy to spend any kind of time with me because
I just had two kids and haven't been doing any
writing but managed to get out of the house for
24 hours alone in New York and now I want to cry.
I want to stand up and say to the poet, It's not you.
It's not your poetry. It's me. Me. Me. But everyone
is clapping, and she is already gone, replaced
by a girl in a flouncy embroidered blouse and
blood red lipstick, the kind of girl you imagine riding
through the East Village on a bike with a wicker
basket, in which she stores her thin cigarettes and
artfully arranged wildflowers, and Nick listens to her
introduce the next poet and says, "What a bitch."
Previously published in I, Too, Dislike It (1913 Press).
Mia You was born in South Korea, raised in the United States, and currently lives in the Netherlands. She is the author of I, Too, Dislike It (1913 Press, 2016) and Objective Practice (Achiote Press, 2007). Currently she is completing her PhD in English from UC Berkeley, writing a dissertation on Gertrude Stein, and teaching creative writing at the Universiteit Utrecht. Her writing has appeared in Artforum, The Hairpin, Jacket2, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Offing. With Chloe Garcia-Roberts, she is the co-founder/editor of A. BRADSTREET. She is also on the editorial board of Perdu, an experimental literary podium in Amsterdam, and a contributing editor at The Critical Flame.
Broken Ghazal of Night Here
This small city draws its hot wings near its body
to perch inside itself. Night here soaks bodies
in their own waters. Out on the porch goes everybody
with cool amber bottles for forgetting,
one by one out to meet the dark
like a string of lamps turning on.
All my life I thought hurt should split my body
so I would know the body.
When it did, bone gone from skin,
gaze gone from body, street
under body, metal into a body, I did not know
it still. My friend was in jail at the crux of this city, his body
mute as an unlit bulb. Not the body who sins, but punished,
the body. My friend is free now (but the body
is not free) and we go out on the porch
at night. We wear thin clothes and our bodies
shine. Somewhere beneath the current
of talk in the heat is each person’s grief.
As if beneath the babbling river a body.
My old life is here like another body in a thin slip
and beneath it the hairs on her body
are grasses from the bristled plain of the past.
She follows me down the street.
Nameless, the body follows the body.
The trees are withholding their green
somewhere beneath the night.
Previously published in MELUS.
Shamala Gallagher is a Kundiman fellow and the author of a chapbook, I Learned the Language of Barbs and Sparks No One Spoke (dancing girl press, 2015). Her poems and essays have appeared in Black Warrior Review, The Missouri Review, West Branch, Verse Daily, The Offing, The Rumpus, and many other journals. She holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers and is a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. This spring she lives in Cortona, Italy.
Natasha Kochicheril Moni is a writer and a licensed naturopath in WA State. Enjoying this blog? Feel free to put a little coffee in Natasha's cup, right here.