Ireland

By Sunny Rey

Poem

Cobblestone
Bell tower
Me in plaid, two fingered peace sign in a photograph dangling over the cliffs of Moer

Child’s voice singing in unknown tongue

Proposal to the girl in lace

Old man eating stroganoff alone under a raining window sill

I was right where you found me
Broken and all wrong

Leaving small poems inside tree stumps in grassy driveways up to abandoned castles

Too tough hearted to admit the loneliness

my tastes have changed; i’m not as into
sweetness, anymore. i still go wild — still lose my
mind for
certain scents, the ones reminiscent
of old haunted wood ships and blue raspberry hookah smoke.
remember when there was nothing
but daytime cocaine and the one
song (about the breeze) and
where do chapters end? when do things pass?
how do you separate an over from a start
how do you delineate, anything, ever?
so yes, if you have something nice to say, please say it;
clearly, i am a slut for
any and some and no and all things.
and i will wake up again
from a dream where i am
hosting a dinner party in a paint shop under a ferris wheel on the pier,
and everyone who’s made a life out of living for vivid color
is cheering for me and raising my chair and saying i should run for president,
and i am flattered and vain and humble and laughing, yes,
“yes,” i laugh.

We won’t necessarily be better off

and I’ve made my peace with that.

But the oceans will be semi-gorgeous

and compromising, a laissez-faire approach

and we have to be hands-off now, don’t we?

Take the stem through your teeth from one end and

keep the distances long, but briefly hold

eyes in contact. Our irises something like

swimming pools, innumerable pools,

pools of liquid memory — how effortless

I dip myself in.

I suppose it began when
I opened doors to morning
and my head burst into leaves

there are stranger waters

out there and I can see them.

Sitting five stories tall above this stacked city

I now know that I am a strange bird.

My mother used to split grapefruit in the morning

with fingers delicate and precise, I am not

my mother but I am

breaking the pulp for the better, I believe

in jazz and the accent of an off-beat

feather that splits the wind above distant street.

I am counting the price tags in my medicine cabinet

taking inventory of trauma and truth requires

a steady hand.

The sleek downtown building shakes
upon my arrival. The woman who
interviews me has flat silver hair, like a fish,
a head of flashing scales. She fingers
her Montblanc pen, I think of marbles.
As in, I lost mine a long time ago.

As she talks, I fall into a reverie in which
we become BFFs. We go to the doctor,
and there I see her heart looks like a chicken
claw. I come to and learn that you can scratch
a surface and only find more self-critique. I mean,
I didn’t get the job.

Although Sharron Hass has warned that rationality is the enemy of generosity

sex four times in one week ÷ our public argument at dinner =
sex twice X  the I want to see you text one workday at noon.

My four birthday presents for your four kids  ÷ (your telling me when your mother’s birthday was by telling me you’d bought flowers for her +
you did so only because I asked you what you did that day) > (your mother phoning me on my birthday to tell me that her gift to me would be a new pair of sunglasses – your dislike of my current pair of sunglasses).

Devices

By Elizabeth Hazen

Poem

Rhyme relies on repetition: pink drink,
big wig, tramp stamp, rank skank. Alliteration

too: Peter Piper’s pickled peppers, silly
Sally’s sheep – silly trumping smart because

the lls create consonance. Assonance
repeats vowel sounds: hot bod, dumb slut, frigid bitch.

A girl: a train.

A girl, walking along the train tracks: a train, hammering along the train tracks.

A girl, lost in her thoughts, walking along the train tracks: a train, mindlessly fast, hammering along the train tracks.

A girl, lost in her thoughts, train tracks on a mountain pass: a train, fast, train tracks on a mountain pass.

A girl, lost in her thoughts, train tracks, a mountain pass, sun: a train, fast, tracks, pass, sun.

A girl, thoughts, tracks, pass, sun, trees: a train, fast, tracks, pass, sun, trees.

She doesn’t hear the whistles and bells.

The train crumples like a paper accordion.

If you look under G in the card catalog,
a hunched-over landlady will rent you
a space made of dust, albeit, a little domain
of quiet— Where the rent is cheap and so
is the debt, and silence is not morbid.
On these premises, text and rhetoric
mix a sexy playground for words.
Exquisite human machine of pathos
and debris, allowed the pages to be set
on letter-press, then ink bled and seeped
into a refinery of senses. The kids practice
spelling in the back stacks. We are all polar-opposites
on a stage of belief, fact and faith. Yes, Borges
digressed for an atheist and an Aleph. Delinquent,
these prophets and scholars broke the dress-code
in favor of out-of-fashion souls. Under the desk,
two students knock knees to make contact. Egg to sperm,
pen to pulp—Ideas fly to where our better
angels reside—Where chairs are stacked
on tables at the end of the day.

People ask me where I live,
I say, “where the wind sings
a quarter-moon howl.”
They pretend to know –
nod in silent agreement

People ask me where I work,
I say, “where the sun sleeps
behind a silver-skinned blur.”
They are reassured –
carry on with their day

People ask me where I love,
I say, “where the earth breathes
sweet within steady lungs.”
They act surprised –
bury the other questions

Know the Ledge

By TNB Poetry

Poem

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Adam Tedesco is the third of three daily installments.


Know the Ledge

The clay here is afraid
of our shovels
our hard heels
of bread and ends of meat

The wind didn’t get here
by trying, says the neighbor
of laughter, the sting
of too much data

I am afraid
of my nostalgia
for all of their faces
spread across the sun

I work against my pettiness
so I can call it not myself
these strings
of too much knowledge
that blind materiality
of what fits in my pocket

They had to show me
the wounds for me
to remember
your human breathing
the elastic ring
of heartedness

There was too much want
to carry, where I was
what they flew away from
a clear plastic echo, blued
ether through which they moved

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Aimee Clow is the second of three daily installments.


Chapel Hill Meets at Nightlight

Trudge the swampy divot of your city yard
to conjure the possibility of fruit.
Or vegetables. Roots.

No one is to talk these weeks but touch
only ground and locked air.

Cats will be contented
by constant companionship.

A network of signal threads
pretends political deviation,
what amounts to baskets of food
gifted on door steps.
We really wanted
better communication.
We get what we get,
signal around it.

Who does not hoard becomes a list
of empty shelves and bargains.

Dumpsters dry up as demand stays home.
We become wishes for the rotting.

Pretend four walls are open sky.
Press your tongue in the acid-washed mud.

I’ll believe what I believe.
We will take what we take.

Economics of a virus, the radio whispers,
deviate because of fear, the locked in here,
this indefinite.

You need to pretend you are really, really, really alone.
Now you need to tell me we are not alone.

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Shira Dentz is the first of three daily installments.


The Singing, Ringing Tree

somersaulting through tunnels,
hollow spools—

threading anonymously,
pins, plows, spikes:
                                     tag
hide & seek, you’re it

mustard seed in my stomach
is a yellow corona

tongue, fire, smoke
like paper, scissors, rock:
                                              shoot

a green specter cauterized
in my mind’s film, blessed

tethered to supernaturals
are we ruined?
we are mined for our lives

I saw a long line of cars.
I saw a big white house.
The ground was mottled
and abraded like
the back of a buffalo.
I saw a chicken coop,
a muddy ditch,
the padded cell
of the sky.