Categories
2014 Poetry

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

FRAGMENTS OF POEMS RETURNED TO SENDER 

You were waving when I looked back.
When I scraped winter from my flesh
& mimicked the silence of geese,
bruised arrows skimming grief.

Somewhere I moved beneath trees.
I’d love to name their limbs for you
but can’t you see past all that? Anatomy
says we’re all the same.
Symmetry, flawed by soul, errata,
elegy & so forth.

I was crawling across lawns,
feral & flattened
into lies & scored lines,
dive bars & overtures.
In the dark I swung my legs
across the wooden prows
of men & women lost at sea,

the misery
of a jukebox, paid & repetitive.
Appreciated for nostalgia
alone. Closer now is the absence
of snow. Because it is summer
& the heat unfastens like a black dress
around my legs. My dark cries
claw the dance floor.

Give me a call,
let me know how you’re doing,
I write to my friends
from the hospital
in a common gown of birds.

Somewhere resembles you
but it is not a location. There is no point
where the map picks up
the sum of oceans. The grid’s ablutions
raised over blue madness,

the symmetry of absence
in a mirror with no one
looking.


WOMAN TO LIGHTNING

after Ai

We rolled in flashes of God, fighting
pleasure as it tore
our shadows across smoke.

When we burned of life nothing was better
than our purgatory of embers.

I wanted a matchbox. A grandmother clock. I wanted the dark
house shingled in blue & bruised

wildfire. Touch me or, err.

How could I ever forget the shame on my floor,
a birthmark of you. I covered every mirror. I grieved
the squalls of our silhouettes, rising & dying. Once slave,
I pulled my passage over the earthly gush of swells.

Revision that I was. Passing through the aviary of dead poets,
their naked bird ribs glittering with time. The universe
pressed like a coin upon their opened eyes.

Saltwater poured over joyless shoulders
as I was carried out of my life. Through blood

I sang & erased my name
until I could only name your arrows.

I’ve got the scars to prove it.

The nights were static & strained. I left the radio low
& returned to its amnesia each morning. America,
shining like a gun. I practiced. The barrel of my voice

aimed at thunderheads & headless saints. The volume of my life
so uneasy beneath evenings of starlight & dread.

Loneliness dragged me by my hair through back rooms
where emptied velvet chairs watched me struggle
with this blow of light.

You were happy, weren’t you?

I tried to grasp the fingers slipping through
(the smear of)
my dreams. My footing struck clouds. I swear

I meant no harm.

But you were happy, weren’t you?

Like the backhand of a palm flying
to my face.

The desire in the flying,
the wing, blurred.

MY DRESS HANGS THERE
(click to read)

____________________________________________

Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. Her fourth collection of poetry, Lighting the Shadow, will be published by Four Way Books in 2015. Currently, Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn. http://rachelelizagriffiths.com/

Categories
2014 Poetry

Kallie Falandays

Come closer, come wider, come open my windows.

Come closer, come wider, come open my windows.
I came into your room and I unlocked your cage.
I tried to feed you winged things:

one angel story about trying to fly but forgetting how to open;
one ghost story, the one in which I remembered you writhing;
one tiny wing clipped from the underside of a fairy-thing;
one looming fan,
one wailing hand.
I tried to remind you from where you came.
Tell me the opposite of ceiling light.
The opposite of tapestry.
The opposite of opera.
I tried to give you memory holds:
Broken night, dirt, a finger’s whisper.

I tried to remind you of the before-morning-time:
the opposite of infinity, the opposite of no, the opposite of no,
the backwards hand-pull of moonlight. I tried
to pull you out of your blankets:
Your face was dripping in my head all morning.

She thinks of places to hide.

She thinks of places to hide. Rips up the carpet and slits herself inside. The ground pulses under her back. She moves quietly around the kitchen thinking of watching someone watch her. Goes to sleep in the dark, wishing for it like a blanket. Pretends she didn’t think of him. She wants to go back. To go back back. She unscrews all of the cabinets and hides the bolts in her bedroom. Paints every mirror black and more than that, all the windows. Tries to hide everything inside of itself, so it won’t see her leaving.

__________________________

Kallie Falandays has poems in PANK, Black Warrior Review, Salt Hill, december, and elsewhere. She runs Tell Tell Editing and is the managing editor of Kenning journal.

Categories
Poetry

Alex Lemon

WANTED: INEXPENSIVE BIRDCAGE

I need a cheap birdcage to use as temporary home for the parrot-thing I see in the Live Oak trees of Rangle Creek Park each day on my afternoon walk. Eyes going terrible but I am sure as salt that it’s not a squirrel. Door latch does not need to work. Dents fine, but must hold shape. Dirty? Rusted? Totally fine! Plenty of time. I will take care of it. Must be large enough for an owl or a tiny person. Have one? An extra? One to lend? God bless you and Godspeed! Lawrence

BREATHTAKING SPOON COLLECTION FOR SALE

Selling spoon collection 97 total spoons includes 50 state spoon rack shaped like United States with broken off Florida spoons from all the states even 50 or more very straight also Russia Belgium Italy commemorative too Nixon in China Princess Di Fall of Berlin Wall 9/11 Firemen many wars too among others these spoons were my mothers collection she polished each day prior to her passing away not a speck of tarnish in each shine I see her face spoons are pewter or chrome I cannot stop this sadness no silver spoons here thank you

______________________________

Alex Lemon’s most recent book is The Wish Book. He is the author of Happy: A Memoir and three other poetry collections: Mosquito, Hallelujah Blackout, and Fancy Beasts. An essay collection and a five book of poetry are forthcoming from Milkweed Editions. His writing has appeared in Esquire, American Poetry Review, The Huffington Post, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry, Tin House, Kenyon Review, AGNI, New England Review, The Southern Review and jubilat, among others. Among his awards are a 2005 Fellowship in Poetry from the NEA and a 2006 Minnesota Arts Board Grant. He has been a recent National Poetry Series judge, is an editor-at-large for Saturnalia Books, sits on the advisory board for The Southern Review, as well as the editorial board of TCU Press and is the poetry editor of descant. He frequently writes book reviews for the Dallas Morning News. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, teaches at TCU.

Categories
Poetry

K.T. Billey

COLLATERAL:

a backless dress. Aka the closest
I come to the shackle, the shoulder blade

in the field, my hilt studding his soil

for a change. Not knowing how
to barter, we strip the pillory

for parts and build a tower
for red-tailed hawks.

Flight patterns are concentric, in terms
of temperature and fuel economy, so

biomimicry is a study
in circles, the rim of wine, our fusing

coccyx. Always trying to achieve that
great migration inward, I declare a truce,

a trinity of give and take for us
to talk too much about.

We are pretty tired. I woke up
like this, hungry and halter-topped, hoping

he’d thumb the blade. 
Check my leather bomber, his

jean jacket. Nothing in the pocket
but a bent id.


SMOKE SIGNAL

Call me when your hair decides to curl and chase
my eyes around the fire. I’ll be squatting by the river, peeling

poplar saplings. Didn’t you say that bruise
went yellow, then purple—a berry full of spiders, destined

for pie? When you disappeared behind the bend
we don’t name, I fed a stack of switches

to first-person flames, listening to the sap crack
into lighter fluid. Licks of bark burn too, in my smoldering.

All I can spare is a stir stick, something to rough up the coals
before I tie on a tarp and snap at the clouds. The thing is,

no matter how hard the updraft, how hyperextended
my neck, the muleta taunts only myself. I’m no matador

but I can call bullshit, stuffing my face with saskatoons.
I need to make the most of what I can’t help

hacking down, so I aim the bellows of this white flag your way.
When the wind comes, I want you to hear me, loud and clear.

______________________

K.T. Billey completed her MFA in Poetry at Columbia University, where she was also an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow. Originally from rural Alberta, Canada, her poems have appeared in CutBank, The New Orleans Review, Phantom Limb, Ghost Proposal, Prick of the Spindle, and others. Translations have appeared in Palabras Errantes and are forthcoming in a yet-to-be-named anthology by Columbia University Press. She is an Assistant Editor for Asymptote, poetry curator for Lamprophonic Reading Series, and a Girls Write Now mentor. Say hello at www.ktbilley.com.

Categories
NonFiction

Lori White

ZANIES

Drug Description:

Alprazolam (Xanax) acts on the brain and nerves (central nervous system) to produce a calming effect. Xanax is used to treat the following:

  • Repeated episodes of anxiety
  • Anxiety as associated with depression
  • Chronic insomnia

Precautions:

Talk to your healthcare provider about your complete medical history, especially any instances of alcohol or substance abuse. Admit to the years you smoked, then quit cold turkey when you turned forty, for reasons you can no longer remember. Smoking decreases blood levels of this medication, so skip the part about the cigarettes you sneak now from time to time, savor on nights you have the house to yourself, when you stretch out on the chaise lounge and watch the starless sky. Provide a list of all prescribed, over-the-counter, and/or herbal medications you are taking, minus the bottle of pain pills you’ve rationed over the past year after a routine outpatient procedure you prefer not to dwell on here. Classify yourself as a moderate drinker—a glass of wine or two with dinner, a beer at lunch, a truth you may dispense with if necessary. These details have no bearing on your current condition, though, admittedly, they may play some part in the future.

Report any recent physical changes you may be experiencing: if your shoulder slowly seizes up, freezes so hard you can no longer hook your bra or dress yourself without help; if your upper arms, the one body part you once held in high regard, now swing like your grandmother’s Hadassah arms; if you wear a scarf—even in summer—to cover your neck after your brother teased you with his incessant gobbling; and if you’ve stopped thinking about sex, stopped fantasizing about the masseuse at your salon who moves like she is part cat, stopped trembling when she puts her hands on your shoulders and asks if you’d like to schedule a massage, stopped stammering when you answer her, say you found a guy from Thailand at a place down the street who has twice her strength for half the price.

Side Effects:

Tell your doctor right away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur:

  • behavior problems, including difficulty in concentrating and outbursts of anger
  • unusual excitement, nervousness, or irritability
  • mental and/or mood changes, thoughts of suicide, or memory problems

It should be noted this is the exact same list of symptoms you gave the gynecologist (the one young enough to be your daughter) who insisted the best approach was to eat right and exercise; the list you gave the next gynecologist (the one nearly old enough to be your mother) who wrote you a prescription for hormones—hormones!that’s the answer!; and the list you did not give the last doctor (the one you’ve known for twenty-five years) who greeted you in the waiting room, led you to his disheveled office, and cleared a stack of files so you could sit, hands folded in your lap, and ask for updates on his five grandkids and his lovely wife and their trip to Italy, until he finally wrote you the prescription for a controlled substance (plus six refills) without any questions, any suggestions, any advice, then gave you a big hug goodbye.

Adults over fifty may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially drowsiness. Of course, as you know, this is the very side effect you hope for. In fact, you expect the drug to address the following: the nights when you rise to change your sweat-soaked pajamas, then lie awake worrying about your dog’s age, your parents’ ages, and then your own age and whether you should be living in this house, sleeping beside the same woman for the last nine years (and whose snoring you secretly blame for your insomnia), and then you try to picture living alone in the mountains where the snow blankets all sound, a silence impossible not to sleep through, an imaginary world so cold you start to shiver, pull up the bedcovers and wait for their warmth to overwhelm you again.

Indications:

Xanax may reduce the number of panic attacks you experience. Everyone responds differently to the medication, so try to be patient and follow your healthcare provider’s directions. Take the medication before any family occasion: birthdays, Thanksgiving, Passover, and especially for those Hallmark holidays (as your mother likes to call them) that contain little significance (every day is Mother’s Day!) yet hold so much expectation. The drug’s effects may take longer to appear than you can tolerate, longer than it takes the waiter to bring the drinks or for your mother to ask you why you keep cutting your hair so short. Such a crime, she says, you always had beautiful hair.

It is important to take Xanax exactly as your healthcare provider has prescribed. In the situations as stated above, excuse yourself from the table, and on the way to the bathroom, stop at the bar for a little jumpstart. Though alcohol should generally not be used while taking this medication, you did not drive yourself to the restaurant, nor will you be using heavy machinery or performing any activity that requires alertness, so use at your discretion.

Storage:

Store medication at room temperature away from light and moisture. Do not store in the bathroom. It is suggested instead to bury the bottle inside the box of tissues on your nightstand for convenient and inconspicuous nighttime consumption. Wait until your girlfriend falls asleep and begins the first in a series of deafening snore patterns. If you do not have a glass of water handy, dissolve the bars under your tongue. The promise of a restful night far outweighs the pill’s bitterness.

Missed Dose:

While highly unlikely, if you do miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. If it is near the time of the next dose, double the dose to catch up. If you like the results, then consider this an alternative to your normal dosing schedule.

Dose Maintenance:

Your healthcare provider may want to see you from time to time, to help assess how well your symptoms are controlled with treatment. Lie when he asks if you are sleeping through the night. Interdose symptoms such as early-morning anxiety can occur. Describe the nights you awaken at three a.m., heart pounding, trembling, disoriented until your girlfriend’s snoring brings you back, reminds you of your greatest fear: absolutely nothing has changed.

The use of Xanax at high doses is often necessary to treat panic disorders. This is one instance in which you do not have to lie to your healthcare provider. Tell him about your inability to leave the house. Recount the times you’ve tried to drive to a yoga class (exercise!) without turning around halfway there; to stand in line at the grocery store (eating right!) before abandoning your cart full of leafy greens and canned salmon; or to make plans to meet a friend for lunch (social stimulation!), then cancel when a paralyzing knot forms in your stomach. Nod, though not too enthusiastically, when your healthcare provider decides to increase your dosage. Look serious when he reminds you there is a substantial risk of dependence in Xanax users and that its pharmacological properties—high potency, a short elimination half-life—increase the potential for misuse. The consumer’s ability to completely discontinue therapy with Xanax after long-term use has not been reliably determined. Reassure him you understand the risks. Promise to inform him immediately of any changes that may accompany this increase, then break this promise the first chance you get.

Withdrawal Reactions:

This medication may cause withdrawal reactions, especially if it has been used for a long time or in high doses. Do not stop taking it. In such cases, withdrawal symptoms may occur if you suddenly stop using this medication. Again, do not stop taking it. To prevent withdrawal reactions, your doctor may reduce your dose gradually. To prevent this from happening, do not report any withdrawal reactions. Most importantly, do not, under any circumstances, tell your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.

Drug Abuse and Dependence:

If you do not take this medication exactly as prescribed, the risk of addiction increases. Along with its benefits, this medication may cause drug-seeking behavior (addiction). If you detect apprehension in your doctor’s voice when you call in for a new prescription and doubt your ability to sit politely through another appointment without demanding he hurry up and write the damn script already so you can be on your way, then it may be time for you to consider new options. Begin with the medicine cabinets in your neighborhood. Try wangling an invitation to tea from the old Swedish woman across the street. Listen to her story about her recent hospital stay, and all the pills they sent home with her, amber bottles of who-knows-what-they’re-for. Then, after a few cups of tea, pick up your purse and ask if you may use the bathroom to powder your nose.

The neighborhood busybody’s Yorkshire terrier (off leash, by the way) was attacked and killed by a mangy German Shepherd, and she tells you she’s having a hard time sleeping because of this. Say you understand, and suggest she see her doctor. (Do not share your medication with others. It is both against the law and defeats the very purpose of this conversation.) Later, when you drop by to check on her, say yes, you’d love to see the dog’s photo album. This is your window of opportunity. Once she starts blubbering, wander the house “in search of tissues.”

When the neighborhood is tapped out, move on to the streets, which is a more promising territory anyway. Memorize the slang names before you go on the hunt. Zanies. Zanbars. Handlebars. Totem Poles. Planks. Leave your good jewelry at home. Wear all-black, a baseball cap, and sunglasses, chic yet intimidating.

Additional Advice:

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he believes the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. You have no reason to doubt those expectations. Though some women manage menopause with diet and exercise, or take hormones to balance the mood swings, hot flashes, and loss of sleep, do not stop taking this medication. Many people using this medication do not experience serious side effects. This could be you.

________________________

Lori White earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. Recent work has appeared in The Journal, Superstition Review, Pithead Chapel, and Sequestrum. Her story, “Gambling One Ridge Away” won first place in the 2013 Press 53 Open Award for Flash Fiction. She teaches English composition at Los Angeles Pierce College and Oxnard College.

Categories
Fiction

Jon Chopan

ON THE EUPHRATES

Halfway through our tour Elliott Hildebrandt, our field medic, was killed on IED Alley. I remember a sharp popping sound. A man who smiled at me as our Humvee passed him by. Ten children, lined up and perfectly spaced out, their hands raised and waving at us.

That morning we woke to James Darbee’s screams, his legs kicking at the air in a panicked rage. His cot rocked from side to side so furiously that his pillow fell to the floor. We all circled him. We’d only been asleep for an hour when the screaming started. Someone grabbed a pillow and made like they were going to hold it over Darbee’s face.

“Do it,” someone whispered.

None of us slept after that, and then, beneath anemic clouds that wore the sad smiles of circus clowns, we sped towards our mission with great disdain. We babysat Army engineers while they filled pot holes left by IED explosions, and that day we greeted them with the kind of hatred one usually reserves for their worst enemies. When we stepped from our vehicles any hope we had of standing on our own feet had melted away. Darbee and I stood back to back, propping one another up, our weapons trained on the stretch of road before us. Darbee went on and on about his dream.

“It was real, I mean, I saw it like that. We were on this road and there was an explosion, and then I was dead. You guys were all standing around laughing because there was shit oozing out of me, puddles of it oozing out my asshole.”

My dream was nearly identical, but I didn’t tell him that.

“I could smell it, the shit,” he said. “It smelled like the Euphrates.”

He walked off to find a cigarette after that and I went off to find someone else to lean against.

We left an hour before sunset. Then, a few kliks from base, we gave up on the war, sat back in our seats, stuffing our mouths with haji energy drinks and cigarettes just to stay awake. I stared directly at the setting sun so that I couldn’t close my eyes to sleep without seeing volcanic flashes of light.

We lurched down a road that followed the Euphrates. It looked like a fresh wound cut into virgin flesh. We’d been taking that same route for a week by then, driving out at sunrise and returning at sunset so the road could be completed on time for a news story about progress in Iraq’s struggle for freedom and decreased violence in the region. We were so sun burned, sleep deprived, starved that we didn’t even raise our weapons to watch our perimeters. The engine hummed a frantic song. I’d been eating No-Doz by the fistful so that my eyes were lacquered open. Darbee kept going on about how his number was up, about that dream, about how it was so real he could taste it. As I mentioned, I’d had the same dream, knew, as we approached the tiny village along the banks of the river, that one of us was going to die.

I was too exhausted to care which one of us it was.

When we reached the village we moved slowly down the road, maneuvering around craters left by recent blasts.

“Wouldn’t it have made more sense,” Bodi said, as he guided us towards home, “for them to start at our camp and work towards the FOB?”

“That’s it,” Darbee said. “It’s our own stupidity that’s going to kill us.”

I sat in the backseat while our convoy wound its way along the Euphrates and into the village. I saw the smiling man, just then, and felt a great dumb grin forming on my face. The moon hovered off in the distance, a bruised piece of fruit waiting to be thrown away. Darbee sat next to me mumbling, “Any second now, any second.”

In those days children were used as timers, spaced out so that bombers could count the seconds between each vehicle, could detonate their devices with greater accuracy. When we passed the last child there was a roaring explosion, something you might expect to hear as you watched a giant building brought to its knees. Our vehicle shuttered to a halt and Darbee let out a girlish wail, as if we’d been the ones, as if we’d been flipped over and tossed in a ditch.

We’d both known, or thought we knew, what was going to happen. But Darbee wasn’t ready to admit that it hadn’t happened to us.

“Jesus,” he said, “fuck.”

I ran my fingers over my face. “We’re fine,” I said, even though I didn’t believe it myself.

The children took off running. I leaned out the window and saw that the lead vehicle had been hit. A smell, which I knew was human flesh, spat into the air and snaked its way into my mouth. After a few seconds I opened my door and stepped out into the street, raising my weapon against imagined enemies. I looked towards the bombed Humvee. Smoke was rising from it. I couldn’t see anything else. It was possible that everyone in it was dead. But then there was sound coming from it, men calling out to one another, checking to see if everyone was alright. They sounded peaceful, dazed and sleepy.

Darbee had yet to realize that he was alive and started to panic, thinking he’d died and was now doomed to spend eternity with us. I turned to see his bloodshot eyes. I thought he’d lost his mind because when he spoke, his voice was filled with a kind of sickened anger.

“I can’t be trapped here with you fuckers,” he said.

“James,” I said.

Suddenly I cared about being alive, about convincing him of it.

“We’re okay,” I said, although I couldn’t speak for the men ahead of us.

He looked out his window. “We’re dead. We’ve died and this is some kind of sick punishment, isn’t it?”

“I’m going to help the others,” I said.

He turned to look at me. “No one can help us now.”

“You’re alive,” I said, and playfully slapped him in the face a few times.

Bodi sat very still in the driver’s seat while Styza reached back and grabbed Darbee’s rifle. It seemed like the right thing to do.

“You can have it,” Darbee said, “I won’t be needing it.”

Styza pulled the weapon from him.

“It’s okay,” I said, as I turned and ran towards the wounded men.

“You can’t save them,” I heard him call after me.

I ran, so desperate to see who’d died, that I ignored all protocol. It was freezing. I remember my breath pushing out in frozen bursts, my lungs burning. I could see a man, lying next to the lead vehicle, his body charred and giving off smoke. His flesh had turned to slush.

As I approached the passenger side, nearest the dead man, I could hear a faint sucking sound. Hilde sat there, his neck sliced in half, so that his head tilted to the left and the wound looked like a gapping mouth filled with blood. The rest of the vehicle appeared to be fine, no damage to speak of, not even a dent. I stood, staring.

The others, the men in the vehicle, began to rush towards Hilde’s side. They pushed me out of the way so that they could move him, try to save his life before he died.


But he was already dead.

I sat on the ground next to the charred corpse. Styza and Bodi stood next to me as the others screamed into Hilde’s face.

“He’s gone,” I said.

“What about this guy?” Styza said.

The dead man had a welding suit strapped around him. I could see that it had contained the blast, though later we’d find out that a buckle had popped off, that that was what had killed Hilde.

“Is he dead?” Styza asked.

I began laughing uncontrollably. Everyone turned to look at me, because none of them knew what I was laughing about, none of them found this funny. But that only made me laugh harder.

Once I gained control of myself, I asked, “Where’s Darbee?”

“What’s wrong with you?” Bodi said.

Nothing. I was only relieved that it hadn’t been me, but couldn’t say that. How could I let them know that I was filled with joy now that I was certain that I was not the one?

When Darbee finally wandered over I took him off to the side and confessed.

“Remember that dream?” I asked him.

“I was sure it was real,” he said. “Have you ever had a dream like that?”

“I have,” I said. “I have.”

As we walked back to meet the others I could see that the bomber was still alive, taking pathetic little breaths that would surely be his last, because his body was a smoking hunk of stewed meat. There was a sound, like water slowly flowing down a drain. But there was no blood, or at least none that I could see. I knew I was supposed to hate him, was supposed to see him as nothing more than a crazed animal. But I felt sorry for him, thinking he might be alive enough to suffer. Not sorry because I pitied his circumstance but because I’d been convinced by my dreams that I would end up just like him.

There was a short-lived debate about searching the village to find out who else was involved, talk of roughing up civilians. Someone even suggested dropping ordinance. A few of the guys were pretty angry.


I was ready to crawl into my cot and dream, so that I might find out which one of us would be next.

After a while Bodi said, “Odds are good they’re gone anyway.”

Shortly after that, we strapped Hilde’s body to the hood of a Humvee. There was no interrogation, no retribution, not this time anyway. Instead, we sped off into the night. No one talked during the ride.

Another vehicle dragged the corpse of the bomber behind it. There was nothing left when we arrived back at camp. Our CO said that the body parts, splayed across the road, might show our enemies the cost of bombing us.

“Or make them do it more,” I whispered.

“Fitzsimmons,” the CO said, “do you have something to offer?”

“No, sir.”

I had plenty to offer but nothing I intended to say out loud.

Someone draped an American flag over Hilde’s body. A few guys carried him. The rest of us stood in silence as they moved past.

“Lucky bastard,” Styza mumbled, once they were gone. “At least he doesn’t have to go and do it again tomorrow.”

Shortly after they flew Hilde away, each of us met individually with a combat stress counselor.

“How do you feel about what happened today?” he asked me.

Pretty good, I thought, I’m alive.

“Fine,” I said.

“Fine,” he repeated. “Can you be more specific?”

It struck me that this guy sat in an air conditioned office all day waiting for moments like this. What is war really like, he wanted to know. How does it make you feel to be a warrior? He was probably going to study psychology at Harvard when he got home, write a paper about post-traumatic stress.

“It’s okay,” I said, “stuff like this happens all the time.”

He rolled his eyes, sighed.

He decided on a new course of action. “Have you been having dreams?”

I saw myself lying on the side of the road, shit spilling out of me.

“Nothing special,” I said.

“Why don’t you tell me about them anyway?”

“I’d rather not,” I said.

Everyone stood about laughing at me, holding their sides, fell to the ground. There were explosions all around them, but they kept on laughing.

“Have you ever seen the crater an IED makes?” I asked.

“I’d rather hear about your dreams,” he said, and reached across the space between us.

Each night it’s different. Each night it’s the same. At sunset we rise. The sky stands empty above us. The road goes on for miles. The smiling man. The waving child. Sometimes I’m the one who stands there laughing. Sometimes I’m the one who’s died.

__________________________

Jon Chopan teaches in the creative writing program at Eckerd College. His first book, Pulled from the River, was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2012. His stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, Hotel Amerika, Epiphany, and Post Road.

Categories
Poetry

July Westhale

ONE IN A LINE OF MANY

For Eloise Klein Healy


What is it, anyway, that fills you

if not matter in a void? I never wanted
to be one of those lesbian poets
who writes about their mothers—So don’t
she says, and the line goes dead.
What is the mole hill without the mole,
a kitchen table without placemats, Sunday
without the phone? This is a time when most
are making long-distance calls if they have to
and driving over for dinner if they don’t.
Add an ‘s’, and it smothers, is what I’m telling myself.
That reliable absence is a way to know
you come from everything. This way,
you make the map and the legend.

Today people, grown and not, are walking in stride
with bodies who bore them, who bear them still,
who bear them empty, who say they are the promise
of everything, the gift of wanting, who let the phone ring
once before answering, I’m here.

____________________

July Westhale is a Fulbright-nominated poet, activist, and journalist. She has been awarded residencies from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Sewanee, Napa Valley, Tin House and Bread Loaf. Her poetry has most recently been published in Adrienne, burntdistrict, Eleven Eleven, Sugar Mule, The East Bay Review, 580 Split, Quarterly West, and PRISM International. She is the 2014 Tomales Bay Poetry Fellow. www.julywesthale.com

Categories
Poetry

Larry Narron

SURVEILLANCE

Behind me the crows
keep recording my movements
like surveillance cameras
in empty parking lots at night.
Crows with eyes like chipped marbles
zig-zag behind me with ease,
landing & taking off
from the phone lines as I
hurry through the muddy trench
that substitutes for a sidewalk
next to the highway that snakes
over the hills in the morning sun.

They fly away when I enter
the convenience store’s buzzing light
where the clerk with the scar that makes
a bald spot through his eyebrow
must be punching out soon.
All night he’s been handing
scratchers & bags of malt liquor
to the insomniacs who wander
up & down this road where the used
car lots go on for so long I wonder
if they could be seen from space.

When he hands me my change
I ask him if he knows
anything about these crows.
He says there must be a nest nearby.
You have to keep your eye on them, he says.
If you turn your head then they’ll swoop.
You have to stare them down.

I can feel his eyes
digging through the hair
on the back of my head as I leave.

___________________

Larry Narron worked as a window cleaner in Southern California before studying English literature at UC Berkeley, where he attended Joyce Carol Oates’s short fiction workshop and was awarded the Rosenberg Prize in Lyric Poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Whiskey Island, Eleven Eleven, The Round, The Sandy River Review, and other journals. A poetry student in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA program, Larry now works as an English tutor at Portland Community College in Oregon.

Categories
Poetry

Lauren Camp

ON THE WING THE HOUR

Out of one day they count
ten hours or two days or whatever is longest
until the medicine is delivered

until the bed folds up
until they’ve canceled and punctuated
goodbye and kept saying in sleep

we’re capable of this sort of tearing
of ruin of the cost of the body its pity
of the ropes of our previous lives

no one is talkative after the frothed
orange beverage is sucked

through the bendable straw

after Mozart’s bassoon concerto
continues to adagio and the news

of Moore’s tornado after the cancer beast

has napped and meanwhile knitted
more cells and the house quieted

after the laundry and other long moments

after the scope after probe of her abdomen
after a weakening

after the sheets have been cleaned

and they smoothed them after
sleeper’s flare after night thoughts drift
to the small motion of sun on a palm

in the thickness of this
a tree might drop a petal

after one point and another
after the terrible paragraph of leaving
of losing then next year only seeds


A SHADE HAS FALLEN

Now I’m nude on a queen’s bed, embroidering stitches
         against hollows, then decorating stars

with lustered fingers. I take off my worry.
         Silence etches the neighboring dunes, washes up

to the cottage, wedges doors open.
         Because light pales to bone,

I wonder if I’ve actually awoken.
         A week’s worth of upcoming echoes

in a room with simple carpets and stairs
         that keep repeating.

Everything will be restored. No more longing
         on white keys with a red carriage return.

No more updraft to signature, no more ending
         a phone call with multiple sign-offs.

When he arrives, there will be no first and next.
         No sort of knowing but the mouth

entangling gullies of veins. Outside, the waves
         always licking and wrecking the ocean.

________________________

Lauren Camp is the author of two volumes of poetry, most recently The Dailiness (Edwin E. Smith, 2013), winner of the National Federation of Press Women 2014 Poetry Book Prize and a World Literature Today “Editor’s Pick.” Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, was selected by David Wojahn for the Dorset Prize, and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. Her poems have appeared in Brilliant Corners, Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, Nimrod, J Journal, and elsewhere. She hosts “Audio Saucepan,” a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio. www.laurencamp.com.

Categories
Poetry

Amy Carlberg

[I shall die like a turkey, fat, slow, in an Ontario field,]

I shall die like a cloud, beautiful, white, full of nothingness.”

— Charles Wright, from “Ars Poetica II,” in Appalachia (FSG, 1998)

I shall die like a turkey, fat, slow, in an Ontario field,
without a mate. My eyes shall be black and my neck
shall hang like a loose red curtain. I shall be hunted
stupidly. I shall be plucked and stuffed
with spices, chunks of bread. I shall be brined for three days.
I shall lay in the oven for six hours, I shall be basted,
I shall be done. I shall be carved into parts chosen
as favourites. I shall be shared.

I shall die like laundry, undone, dirty, a nuisance.
I shall die in a pile. I shall die overflowing
a white plastic basket. I shall sediment and crust
together, I shall meld. I shall smell.
I shall be forgotten.

I shall die like a breath. I shall exit
without much notice. I shall content,
comfort, I shall nourish the trees.


[The earth has an upset stomach.]

The earth has an upset stomach.
She batters and bashes our
windows, shakes the door
we use for smoking.
We leech her veins for
precious oils, bleach
her skin for nothing.
Run tests. Shove blunt
needles into her arms.
Mean her no harm.
Really try to recycle.
Bite the bullet as winters
get colder, more irregular.
Seep into Canada
like a friendship.
Mutate into animals
that can survive underground.
Grind our hips to music.
Brush our teeth with palm fronds.
Synch our lips to off-rhythm
tempos, learn to love the silence
computer hum provides.
When we finally learn how
to hide from the storms
that lash our windows,
turn our best blood
to stone and summon us
ever inside, to our
inner ear, we will forget
darkness was ever hurtful,
love ever deceit, a hum
ever anything but distraction.
I wrote this poem the day
the rain tore through the ceiling.

_______________________

Amy Carlberg is an MFA student at Sarah Lawrence College where she is studying writing poetry. She’s from Toronto, Canada, and has been published online in Baldhip Magazine, Cactus Heart Press, and on The Squawk Back. She also recently took part in the Dead Rabbits Reading Series and the Renegade Reading Series in NYC.