Categories
2018 Poetry

Erin Slaughter

It’s strange, the things / that make you want to live

The night you didn’t kiss me I felt inexplicable
urgency to finally / make that eye doctor appointment
              There’s something here / about blindness
as metaphor / Sometimes what people love
more than being in love is feeling
              like part of a story / I want to write something
so beautiful it will make me believe / in pizza again
I want to write something with false
& monstrous wings / that has never known you / I wrote
              you a letter & quit my job
              to rewrite it / I wrote you a letter
              & then forty years later forgot
who you were / Your eyes are so blue in a way
              that doesn’t even matter / You looked
right through me like you were harvesting / ice or uncovering
a well / Well, it’s easy to be selfish
              when you’re not standing / here like so many flutterings
of atmosphere / By selfish, I mean wanting / when there are so many
              other ways to be / What great weariness
              all of this is / I could not be empty if I tried


Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, and the author of two poetry chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body (Slash Pine Press, 2017). You can find her writing in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, F(r)iction, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019.
Categories
2018 Poetry

Lindsay Remee Ahl

IN FULL LIGHT

            Rain the color of saffron,
                        a curtain of amber.

                                    Rain flooding music inside full of flood,
            we’re all returning

                        the way water returns, (on our way
                                    to the river)—

            Pigeons slap their feet in puddles,
                                    evanescent as a word spoken

                                               in the sunrise, a flood that flattens into trespass
the rest, the way your mouth—

            We’re all dancing an empty white wine dance floor—thrown
                                                over a bridge

                        tumbling under cold stream water
                                                the shingles and more off the roof.

                                    If
                        we drag our fingers down

            the abyss is right there:
                        a cold moving river from the boat.

 


MALACHITE

It was like the night I was six, stunned, I braced myself
against the bed frame of my grandmother’s guest bed—
at the base of the bed a presence, something watching me.
I was immobilized for hours, knowing it would take me
to Hades if I moved. So I didn’t move, didn’t breathe.
Like that night we were in the bar, Coleman Hawkings’
“Don’t Take Your Love From Me” playing, the amber
and green and yellow and clear liquor bottles before us,
your voice sounding as though you were just resurrected
from ancient Egypt’s Field of Malachite, pure paradise and
you must have been, handing me the green stone, still cool
instead of warm from your hand. “To understand the language
of animals,” you said. But I wasn’t humble. “I already understand
the language of animals,” I replied. My mistake, my glance
up to the corner of the ceiling to take a moment, and by
the time I glanced back, you were gone, and in your place—
a vacuum, a hole, a waiting, a breathy anticipation, as evil
and strange as the presence from the base of the bed so many
years before. But I held your gift, heavy, still cool in my palm,
an invitation to leave this place, a thread to another world.
And why does anyone take their love away? And how could
you be waiting for me when you no longer exist?


Lindsay Remee Ahl has work published in The Georgia Review, Hotel Amerika, Barrow Street, BOMB Magazine, The Offing, and many others. She was a Fletcher Fellow at Bread Loaf for her novel, Desire, (Coffee House Press). She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson in Poetry.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Katie Berta

A BODY IS A THING YOU HAVE,

an object you own
rather than a thing you are,
                            supposedly.
Confounding, then:
the aches, pains, the persistence
of experiencing them
                            and then
the opposite of that—
the body of the cat
hit by a car and left in the road
speaks for itself.
The mouth yawns and the eyelids cover, flaccidly,
the emptying that’s happened beneath.

It’s hard to put that next to
a body on the beach, a body
in a bathing suit
that bends toward a shell,
abdominal muscles
coming clear
through their sheet of skin.
The woman who owns this body
only feels what it is to be it
until it becomes an image.
In a mirror, she separates
                            herself
                            from herself,
each matching the other’s gaze,
gesture, shrug. That which
is separable
is separated out.
That which isn’t remains—
in the woman’s brain, “soul”?
She places a hand on a hip,
                            just so,
to see how that
rings around the room.
Her image places,
                            just so,
a hand.


Katie Berta lives in Phoenix, Arizona where she works as the Senior Editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review. She has her PhD in poetry from Ohio University and her MFA from Arizona State. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review Online, Washington Square Review, Blackbird, The Laurel Review, BOAAT, and Forklift, Ohio, among other journals.

Categories
2018 NonFiction

Melissa Wiley

LAND OF MILK AND HONEY

7:45 am

The last day of my life, I tried walking into someone else’s. I tried but couldn’t gain access a couple hours after having sex with my husband, when my thighs gripped his hips as he slowed his rhythm. After clearing his throat, he told me to spread my knees wider across the mattress. Only earlier in the week I pulled a hamstring that resisted healing and preferred staying shredded, likely because it realized my life had nearly ended.

Since dying and surviving the experience, I have stopped waiting for life to become a man whose cock is always hardened. Since discovering the afterlife harbors no more hell than heaven, I have stopped envisioning an eternity spent beside someone on a bed with no box spring beneath it, a bed cloaked by gauzy curtains. Yet I can still see traces of its edges as a fly buzzes through a hole in a nearby window’s screen. The time there is always late morning, and I haven’t had my coffee. Even in paradise, I was always waiting for someone to fill my cup with something missing.

8:30 am

Yesterday morning, I drank my first cup with milk inside my kitchen as I waved goodbye to my husband. I bought my second at a shop I used to frequent until its manager left my life entirely, when he decided to take another position. I walked inside the shop one last time regardless, hoping for if hardly expecting salvation.

The last time I saw him, several months before this, he mentioned he was born with a broken collarbone. In response, I suggested his bones were like sea star arms to comfort him. All good things grow back in the end, I said without believing it. Before his first birthday, his clavicle had fused itself into oneness. As an adult, he looked a ripe, whole specimen.

I can no longer clearly see his face in what has become a receding memory of my life before this. I only know that months ago, as I stood in front of him with my coffee cooling, I pretended to trip over a fallen napkin by way of demonstrating the further bones that could be broken were he to trip across some swath of cotton. Life lived too far away from a bed without a box spring risked more injury, I was trying to warn him.

Seeing him a couple times a week for a couple years on end almost made the gauzy curtains seem an option. Looking at him alone, I often felt as if I was staining the bed sheets with honey already. I often caught myself swatting the fly that wasn’t buzzing around me. Life is nothing, however, if not leaving those you love yet hardly know on a fairly constant basis. That was true before I died and remains true after. There is no heaven where anyone wraps his legs around yours forever. Leaving the coffee shop after confronting his continued absence, skies began to darken into as black a blue as the bottom of the ocean.

10 am

I walked across the street and inside a florist’s, where daffodils nodded from their stems, nodding as if in agreement with something I hadn’t said but they heard regardless. For a couple minutes, I lazed among a world perennially verdant rather than return to my apartment, where I had left a manuscript that I was being paid to edit. Work, though, makes less difference as life’s end approaches, while plants feel necessary.

I bent over at my waist to smell hardly any scent from several purple succulents. The florist had arranged them inside a suitcase whose leather skin reticulated into a web of veins and arteries. She had made a vase of a suitcase dating from the 1960s, because the beauty of things so old they might be dying always enhances the lesser beauty of the living. As I stayed there bending and staring, I remembered how in this life I was so soon leaving there was once a suitcase that contained an organ, the smell of whose leather casing once suffused our kitchen.

For years, its aroma lingered near our oven after my dad carried it up a hill every Easter morning. When opened, the suitcase revealed an inflorescence of organ keys that always reminded me of teeth blotched with coffee stains. With my dad’s fingers pressing them, the teeth sounded church hymns referencing a reality beyond the senses.

10:20 am

Perhaps the ghost of his old suitcase inside the florist’s was my dead dad coming to express his sympathy for my own death approaching. Only I never went with him to Easter sunrise service when he asked me. I always thought there would be more time until there wasn’t. With each passing spring, I saw the suitcase folded near the oven, yet I never saw him play what lay inside it.

The organ was too heavy for me to ever lift, much less carry, even inside our kitchen. When I asked him how he managed it, he only smiled, saying he did some huffin’ and puffin’. I hated, though, to think of him as a steam engine. Even now, I want to say this explains why I never climbed the hill with him—to avoid witnessing what must have been some pain in his exertion—but I know it doesn’t.

Given his heft, given all the extra weight he carried in his abdomen, I’m still half convinced my dad sprouted wings at these moments when I was never with him. I’ve pictured the same of everyone I have loved, however, when some source of hurt approaches from which I can hardly shield them. I have done this in place of offering any real assistance. From the florist, I bought a small bouquet of pale and pink carnations.

10:30 am

As I walked back to my apartment, rain began falling in fat, hard droplets. Brown birds perched on browner branches, not seeming to care or notice my crumbling carnations. Back inside my unit as I untied my shoelaces, I confronted a portrait I painted years ago of my husband. It’s one of a series depicting him winged and naked, which once seemed to me the obvious course of human evolution. I have since revised this theory after dying and remaining the same person.

I was less in love with my husband while painting it than in search of a good subject. I was attempting to depict a timeless beloved, while he remains timely and complicated. In each of the portraits, he flies over a sepia ocean with a full erection. Perhaps a kinder person then, I may have painted him with wings as compensation for some part of me knowing he would someday also realize there is no hell or heaven. In this way, I may have been trying to help him survive his own life’s end. His chiseled, handsome face I made yet more chiseled and more handsome.

For weeks, birds have gathered half a block from my apartment. They flutter wings smaller than those I rendered in the portrait of my husband. They crowd inside a bathtub then shake their feathers free of any dampness before flying higher to rest amid plastic branches. For months, I’ve assumed this is a pet shop about to open, but no sign ever announces its opening to the public. No other animals ever make an appearance. The birds are apparently not for purchase.

2 pm

The woman whose manuscript I’m being paid to edit writes about color theory with remarkable acumen, something she herself has often told me. I edit her findings for grammar and spelling, though I quickly lose interest. Each time I reread what she has written, she states again at the beginning that all color is the mind’s invention. In her eyes as well as those of science, color has no objective existence.

The human retina house three cones, she mentions early in her thesis. Once light strikes them, neurotransmitters convince the brain to interpret the sensation as hues along the visible spectrum. Without any cones in the eye generating this illusion, the world would likely have no florists. A colorless world would have little reason for flower arrangements. No suitcases disemboweled of their organs would hold any purple succulents whose odor they diminish.

Of color blindness much has already been written, for which reason this manuscript explores its opposite, reporting on women born with four rather than three cones inside their retinas, women who as a result see millions more colors than the average. Science to date reveals less about their wider color spectrum and more about language’s inability to accommodate a vaster array of perception. These 12 percent of the world’s women have no way of knowing how much more colorful their world is than that belonging to the rest. They are also invariably mothers or daughters of colorblind men, many of whom live out their lives believing they see the world the same as everyone around them.

As I trimmed some of my client’s sentences while formatting her references, I realized love and color were no different. You could love someone who had vanished, yet no one would know how vividly the love still shown behind your eyelids. Someone could tell you all color is a phantasm, but that doesn’t make scarlet flowers turn pallid. You can look all you like at a suitcase holding an organ, but this doesn’t mean you hear its music.

3:45 pm

My pregnant sister called to say she’d gone to the gynecologist to hear her baby’s heartbeat. Only the gynecologist told her she heard nothing, which meant my sister was having her second miscarriage while caring for two young children. The boy whom she and I had both sensed the baby becoming would soon filter from her uterus the same as any ordinary menstruation. She said she felt too sad for a long discussion, but she wanted to let me know so I didn’t buy any clothes or toys for the baby.

Her version of heaven had been growing inside her then suddenly stopped breathing. For the past month, her heaven had made her vomit each morning and gain some weight in her belly. In six months’ time, hers may have existed outside her body, wearing little hats and jackets, which neurotransmitters would have overlaid with color defying reality. I told her how sorry I was while wondering if tomorrow she too might feel dead while living, knowing nothing better was coming.

5 pm

My husband called to ask what we were eating this evening. He called knowing I cook only pasta or scrambled eggs if I bother cooking anything other than layering meat and cheese for sandwiches. I suggested we meet at an Italian restaurant down the street from our building, and we agreed to 6:45, which would allow us both to work a little longer. I decided I would wait a day or so before telling him about my sister. Sensing my own life ending by then, I didn’t bother trying to picture a fetus dissolving out my sister’s body winged and naked.

6:30 pm

Walking to the restaurant while the sun dropped behind the skyscrapers as its color deepened from tangerine to red and bloody, I stooped to pull some strands of grass growing between the sidewalk cracks. I bent over, probably looking as four-legged as a family living in rural Turkey who were featured in a documentary I watched the previous evening. The family crouched the same as I was doing in place of walking upright. Neither the parents nor their children were capable of standing for more than a few moments without losing their balance. To the camera, the father expressed his fears of them being compared to monkeys.

As I watched the documentary, a bee had flown in through a hole in our window’s screen. My husband started swatting, but I insisted that staying frozen as corpses was our best option. He ran into the next room as I sat there motionless and shallowly breathing. While the Turkish family stood clinging onto chain-linked fences, the bee rested on my nose a moment. It traveled down to my lips as if tempting me to eat it. Its fuzzy body and fluttering wings made me ticklish. I closed my eyes, trying to convince myself I was only dreaming. When I couldn’t do this, I remembered that even when I opened my eyelids, the bee had no real color to its sting or body. Of everything that happened that last day of life still lived with a belief in a better one to come after, this felt most important, letting a bee trace the outline of my lips. Coming close to real pain rather than feeling the ache of something missing.

While we ate our platefuls of spaghetti and our waiter refilled our water glasses, I asked my husband if he remembered the bee last evening. He looked toward the restaurant’s windows and nodded. When I told him it had kissed my lips, he only shook his head, saying he didn’t believe me.

8 pm

Half a block from our apartment, my husband pointed at the birds inside what I was still unsure was a pet shop or wasn’t. Some lights were on, and a woman wearing a sweater with a cowl neck was sweeping the floor of fallen feathers. My husband tapped on the glass, when she waved us in. After we opened the door, the birds’ silence on the other side of the glass changed to screaming.

Most looked to be blue and yellow finches. Many were masturbating, using hard notches of plastic branches as phalluses that never went flaccid. Several had plucked some of their feathers from between their legs. They were all females, the woman practically shouted to be heard above their shrieking. She said they had grown aggressive because they wanted to be mating, something that her limited space prohibited because she had no room for their offspring.

She had rescued them all from an adoption agency and was planning to open this space as a form of community therapy, she explained while putting her broom away. She was also adopting several bunnies and wanted to provide pastries and coffee. People living in apartments without any pets, she added, could come and play with birds and bunnies gentler than humans.

Yet the finches’ needs seemed to me more basic than bridging the divide across species. As I looked at the birds pleasuring themselves with plastic, I wondered how she made her money to fund this project. After we left, my husband said he found her attractive. I too had noticed her beauty as well as a certain calm she radiated amid the finches’ screaming. Were my husband inclined to play with birds or bunnies, he might find his own land here of milk and honey.

8:30 pm

Inside our apartment, our bathroom ceiling was leaking. We would have to wait and call our handyman in the morning, I said, when my husband grew silent before mentioning that in the past few days I’d been smelling badly. I knew he said this now because the water falling from the ceiling angered him. For some time, though, I had been decaying. I had been dying for so long by then that I’d become inured to my own odor more than likely.

As the leak in the ceiling strengthened over the next hour, my husband began turning more against me. I had been the one to want to rent this cheap apartment, he shouted. I should be earning more money instead of staying home editing on a freelance basis. Our whole life would be drier now if only I lived a more normal existence. In response, I screamed instead of saying anything. I screamed while wondering if when he came close to me he smelled a suitcase organ, which was always a little musty. Perhaps inside me there also lay some latent music.

10:50 pm

After he came to bed with his hair wet and matted from the shower he takes each evening, he asked what I’m really doing while he goes to his office and I stay home and edit. I’m wrestling with color theory, I didn’t bother explaining. Only because I am not the daughter of a man with color blindness, I can see no more colors than the average.

In the darkness of our bedroom, all the world’s colors then dissolved into grayness. Shapes alone arrest the retinas after dusk descends. I closed my eyes and imagined a broken collarbone fusing itself into wholeness. The vision resembled the act of mating though was quickly finished, never to be repeated.

11:45 pm

Unable to fall asleep, I left our bed and walked inside our kitchen. I poured milk into a saucepan, turned on a burner and watched its blue flames surging. Never before have I drunk warm milk to put myself to bed, but this once I opened a jar of honey and began stirring an amber string into liquid begun bubbling. I yawned, my feet cold from the floorboards. After draining the cup to its bottom, I lay myself against a warm, familiar body. I lay awake for most of the evening while watching spring snowflakes begin to twitch before landing on the sidewalk and melting.


Melissa Wiley is the author of Antlers in Space and Other Common Phenomena (Split Lip Press, 2017). Her creative nonfiction has also appeared in places like The Rumpus, DIAGRAM, Phoebe, Entropy, Waxwing, The Offing, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Juked, Noble / Gas Qtrly, and PANK. She lives in Chicago.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Ashley Roach-Freiman

REFLECTION ON WHEN I HEARD YOU WERE SOBER

That tiny shower
in the carriage house
behind your parents’ You shed
concert shirt and jeans
gave me a sweaty beer
I didn’t want Get in
you said God’s gift I waited
by the vanity steamed-up
in my clothes Thought I should
You were the kind of poet
to equate a flower to a bruise
Purple writing Glad you’re sober
He got a girl who fucks weird
My friend said You didn’t call back
What did that mean
the first time you crawled into my bed
Pulled your clothes off Put your no-taste
mouth all over me Said love love love I thought
This A kind of power Texted me
on your wedding day Sounded pretty drunk
say things about your life hello? u up?
Fifteen years I haven’t thought much
about you What kind of person bruises so easy
Flowers in panic Fucks uninvited
Texts drunk on his wedding day
how are things I remember
I boot-crushed a can on your front door
You were fucking some not-me girl weird
You know I never liked
your fat mouth your hairlessness your absent smell
You know what you did You wrote a poem
about me that got me alone
You tore the condom off when
I let you fuck me violently They call that assault now
I had a lot of bruises not flowers
I smelled weird that night I left confused
and sore I went to where I worked
to feel safe I was alone
You didn’t call You got married
Stopped drinking I hear
how is your life u r awesome
Why did I continue to let you tug at me
Soft spots on my body
I even seemed
to want it If not you
In October the ginkgo drops berries
repulsive to crush Viscous stink
With the heavy heel of my boot I press
until one lances Inhale until I can’t
Is that power I have


JUDITH BEHEADING HOLOFERNES

Imagine, for a moment, that I rose
from myself, sleep-heavy, liquid

with bourbon, bottom-shelf. Held-down, pinned.
That I had elevated from my bed, and fisted the hair

of the man who, in darkness, had made claim
to what I had teased (my relative ease),

but not offered. How good that feels, to think
of it now. His arrogance, the stink

of his loneliness. His patchy beard. Imagine,
my most private self, staking claim, instead, of his head.


Ashley Roach-Freiman is a librarian and poet with work appearing or forthcoming in Bone BouquetTHRUSH Poetry Journal, The Literary ReviewGhost Proposal, and Nightjar Review. The chapbook Bright Along the Body is available from dancing girl press. Find out more at ashleyroachfreiman.com.  

Categories
2018 Poetry

Kyle Lopez

TUXEDOS AND CADILLACS


                                                                             Abuela’s father would tell her

                                                                             he only liked two things
                                                                             black: tuxedos
                                                                             and Cadillacs

My father said boys once whipped him
and his sisters as they walked
home from school,
spat ‘niggers’ at them
between belt lashes so hard
his sister left soaked in piss and tear

                                                                             Schoolkids deemed me black,
                                                                             or brown but not black,
                                                                             or Spanish, light bright, black enough
                                                                             or nowhere near

My brother told me ‘we black,’
sagged his pants and balled at the park
16 months olderdecades ahead
in decoding his face

                                                                             The mirror once whispered to me brown,
                                                                             not black. Stared me down looking nothing
                                                                             like a tuxedo
                                                                             or a Cadillac

 


Kyle Lopez is a poet from Montclair, New Jersey. He is a TuCuba fellow with the CubaOne Foundation and an MFA candidate in poetry at New York University, where he is also a Goldwater Fellow. Kyle serves as Poetry Editor of EFNIKS, a media space for queer and trans people of color. His poems are published or forthcoming in The Florida Review, Argot Magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Cosmonauts Avenue, Capital Pride DC, and elsewhere.
Categories
2018 Poetry

Jess Smith

VOW

The sermon of the ocean: nothing lasts
that I wish dead. A light that looks like dawn
all day, that feels like the first hour
of winter, your hands demanding

their way into my sweater, the gust
of your blown mouth, how the breaking
waves strip the shore of its first skin, drag
their cage of larceny across whatever

has worked hard to crawl, on all
fours, away. Like the first time
I ever saw the Pacific, and you said
I told you it was bigger, the choking

foamy groan of high tide, God’s jaw
unhinged and hungry. Your laughter slapped
against my skin, a signal that I, too,
should be happy. Of course the sea

has teeth. Of course we lie beside it
like a dare, starfish in our blood, limbs
that won’t regrow, your hands at my
throat, isn’t this romantic, isn’t this

what I wanted? Isn’t this how you always
end up – cold enough to know your blood
is hot, unsure enough to turn back
before you’ve even begun to run?


Jess Smith’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Waxwing, The Rumpus, 32 Poems, and other journals. She is currently pursuing at PhD in English at Texas Tech University, where she co-founded and curates the LHUCA Literary Series.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Jessica Abughattas

ANTHEM WITH EMERALD AND GOLD

Sing me an Arabi song you know—the one
         where wind and love

mean the same—song of the sugary night
         and tray upon golden tray

of minty tea—the song of my baba
         poised over a boiling breek

song of the ’87 benz with his scent
         of coffee black and marlboro

old spice—cardamom song
         of mamas and babas
    still together—

the stolen kitchen kiss—that song where we lay

still together
         amid the olive groves
and the air is thick with possibility

         while off somewhere the babas smoke
and the mamas read fortunes        

in blue ceramic cups—in the shapes
         their kahweh leaves—

where the hometown girl lights up
         like an emerald
when the lovers are hoisted up

in two white chairs

         and the lovers are us—
the one where the diva sings

I don’t want to fall in love
and she really means I do—


DARK ROOMS

I was five years old
suspended between fire and water
when you showed to me in the magazine the bodies
and sat in the secret dark while the party went on
loud outside without us

I remember when I would touch
my own body
I didn’t know
I had a body

I could only see it from above
suspended in the speckled ceiling
a blackbird watching
the sinister tangling of shadow
that you consumed

a magazine, a memory

is this why
I inspect the women
the how shapes of their collarbone
and the way they breathe in the night

and is this why
I suspect the parties
why I can never seem to relax when there’s
dancing and darkness

is this why

I can’t believe sometimes I have a body
like the propelling ribs of a magazine
like the black and white twist of navel
how it stands slender and woman
in these elastic rooms of prayer
where the strangers cast wishes upon me
a reeling explosion
in the infinite dark you made


Jessica Abughattas is an American poet of Palestinian heritage. Her latest work has been published or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Muzzle Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, The Journal, Tinderbox, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Antioch University and lives in Los Angeles.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Amanda Galvan Huynh

THE SMALL-TOWN MAN

             Floydada, Texas

The first memory of my abuelo
rests on the lip of a Budweiser.
With a Mexican gameshow

on the T.V. he gave me a sip
and my throat kicked it back up.
His mustache laughed. The sting

like metal left out in a Texas
sun. These summers I spent
with my father’s parents. Days

I’d flint through flea markets,
lose money at the local festivals,
road trip to the nearest town

for groceries, play in unfenced
dirt yards, and find myself
turning their tornado shelter

into a dungeon. Rocks became
goblins. Wood beams set
to cement a new driveway

transformed into an Olympic
Arena for a balance beam
performance—I fell

into terror. Two hands
tore me away. These hands
belonged to my Abuelo

left me on the cracked curb
aware that this little house
on E. Tennessee Street

was his—built by the same
two hands. The were
the same ones that reached

for the tortilla stack at breakfast,
unlocked the gate to his junkyard,
dragged chains across the yard,

changed the channel or turned
the music up on la radio. His hands
drove eighteen-wheelers full

of a season’s harvest, waited
by the curb of the house
for Abuela to bring his lunch

out, the night of his shift. One night
he took us along with those hands
steady under a cotton plump

moon. Him, A small-town man,
he’d say; who didn’t want more
than the work he could bear.


DFW to LAX

As I feel the wheels let go,
             the lady behind me speaks
to her daughter—her voice

like the grind of a molcajete—
             like my abuela’s. Both
fluent in Spanglish with a dash

of long ‘Ah’ sounds in understanding.
             Texas stretches beneath us
the way I rolled dough into Texas-

shaped tortillas with my child-
             sized hands. Papas y huevos
in the air and a pile of toasted

tortillas. One spoonful of breakfast
             could fit in my state-shaped
tortillas but she always let me make them,

pack them for Abuelo’s lunch. Abuelo
             always working at the junkyard.
Migrant to his bones he’d travel across

Texas while she stayed in one place.
             She never climbed into the belly
of a plane. No desire to—the woman

quiets and the ground has become
             stitches of color, farmland
and roads harder to outline. It blurs

together, and I wonder if I can see
             Floydada from up here or if we
even fly near the town—where I know

Abuelo sits at the table alone—where
             Abuela will never see how close
I lean to the window—trying to find her.


Amanda Galvan Huynh has received scholarships/fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Sundress Academy for the Arts. She was a winner of a 2016 AWP Intro Journal Project Award and a finalist for the 2015 Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in the following journals: RHINO Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, Silk Road Review, The Boiler Journal, and others.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Erika Goodrich

CONTEMPLATING EVENT HORIZON ON THE WINTER SOLSTICE IN FLORIDA TWENTY YEARS AFTER MY MOTHER WAS DIAGNOSED WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA


[1]

In a room north of here my mother rocks on the edge of a bed. Every hour collapsing
into the next.

[2]

Around my mother: ash falls like stardust.

Beside her: an ashtray of cigarette butts
become dashes
                             that mark passing hours.

[3]

Against my window, a winter sun presses its palm.

Against a window, my mother presses her palm.


[4]

Her diagnosis, like snow that falls
in summer. A crocus

frozen beneath the bloom.

[5]

            As darkness rises & the moon muscles its way into existence,

Stars flower
& flame:

            little
                        elegies.

But brief moments of being.

IF NOT THE BODY, THEN


what does a woman own? If not her name.

If not the prayer nailed to her tongue. If not

the hours of submission. If not
the bones grown inside her like a city

of glass. If not the sky. Or the shadow
-s cast by the sun. If not, then—

Under night’s cathedral, I kneel.
Next to the roses & rhododendrons

wisteria wilts in the garden. Water
moves through me, empty as wind.

Lord, I never asked for this.
I never asked for my body to be a petal

bent at the mercy of unforgiving
winds. For rain to rise

in my throat. Lord, why
did you make me to ache, a naked

stem? A woman. Why did you make me
your pilgrim with iron-wings?


Erika Goodrich is a graduate student at the University of South Florida. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Nashville Review, CALYX Journal, Juxtaprose Literary Journal, The Pinch Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others.