Swimming Down

By Holly Sinclair

Poem

An armored shark in lava, I move on all fours across the rug
While your daughters leap over me, shrieking.
With an unblinking eye, I feel the heat of the earth rise—
Its erupting egg, yolk-rug and the shore of the bed, as we play.

That night you wake up to tell me you were sinking.
Half-asleep, I say, water in dreams always means emotion.
I think I feel a pair of cool hands pressing on my temples,
A vial of cooking oil in my pocket. 

Conspiracy

By Camille Dungy

Poem

            to breathe together

Last week, a woman smiled at my daughter and I wondered
if she might have been the sort of girl my mother says spat on my aunt
when they were children in Virginia all those acts and laws ago.

Half the time I can’t tell my experiences apart from the ghosts’.

A shirt my mother gave me settles into my chest.

I should say onto my chest, but I am self conscious—
the way the men watch me while I move toward them
makes my heart trip and slide and threaten to bruise
so that, inside my chest, I feel the pressure of her body,
her mother’s breasts, her mother’s mother’s big, loving bounty.

I haven’t stopped stealing chapsticks from Target. I haven’t
stopped questioning the afterlife. My mother
sings to me every year and I’m still
dying. I’m measuring distances
by the ache in my throat, the border
of my body, navel to pussy. Is this
my punishment for slipping the small cylinders
so easily into my pocket? I have faith
that all the pretty people
are prettier than me and all the pretty people
are geographically out of reach.

Artwork by Scott Aicher

Part #1

Palm trees
standing gorgeous
erect and regal
they call to me
they whisper things
to each other

what’s the harm in
letting your toes wriggle
away from your shoes
& over the sudden edge
of a waterfall? painting
the town not in red but
in earth tones? saying no?

Sylvia,

Aren’t we all looking for a way out of the owl’s talons?

A way not to remember

the honeybee’s sting, the shape of a boot on your back,

all the nights your breasts would leak, a child,

the sucking, the screaming.

Aren’t we all looking for a way not to remember

the poems that cry us to sleep, the little ghosts

we carry in our hands, dare we tell?

Forget the Ativan, the razor, your car in Little River.

You wrote in blood, and for your sacrifice, I thank you,

dear Poetess, dear Mother, you took care of your children

the best you could. I’ve heard the stories.

ACT 1
i’m stooping scooping
ants out of their home
where grass meets path

The Good Humor ice cream stick
catapults them into the air
to drop and scurry crazily about

i dig with a vengeance
faster and deeper
to get to the bottom of things

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

 

How do you synthesize what feels like nine lives, consolidate them into one?

Giant-sized puzzles take time to assemble, especially jigsaws with four different

I do plots. Raised in Barbie-Cinderella era, unrealistic narratives

 

skewed your sense of reality. Grateful for your upbringing, girlhood was cushioned

with advantage: stylish clothing, summer travel, pricey dinners at fancy restaurants.

As if your early story had been written in purple prose. After your father died,

1.
During the quarantine, we were all in the living room,
the four of us, playing a game,
an unremarkable afternoon in April,
National Poetry Month,
and a small bird flew in through the dog’s foot-wide opening
in the sliding glass door to the backyard,
and the dog, Berkeley,
sprang up and barked and ran to the dining room
where the bird was fluttering against the glass and falling—
I could hear it, it was painful—
and before we could protest enough he had killed the small
gray-feathered bird with a swift, vicious bite.

i.

interest me, in me, lost woman amongst the garden cubes.
the fire that, finally, really burned, in real time — our home
in maine drowned under the saint george river.                       yes I

tore the body

that we wanted

plucked the weeds we wetted
(the bare chests)

when the bears crawled, at night, to our bed (burned),
we made it out alive because we were not yet sleeping.

it was alright because you — gosh — held my hand

She says, Mama, I feel two beats on each side of me, so I think I have two hearts. I answer, When I was a little girl I read about the earth and the way it spins. Then at night when I lay in bed beside the big window in my room, and the crickets and cicadas sung to me through the dark while the scent of honeysuckle crawled past the window’s sash, I’d have moments where I felt myself spun too, whirling very fast, as if I’d returned to that playground ride where the older kids kept running the carousel faster and faster, and eventually I whipped into the air, a little flag of blonde hair and corduroy snapping to and fro, my scream lost in the wind. I thought I was going to die. I’d recall that chaos, that lost control, later when I’d been tucked into my sheet and my hair smoothed and my mother sang goodnight. When she left the room I became the axis on which the world spun, whirling with it and growing dizzy from insect song and the scent of flowers opening in the humid dark. It is amazing what the mind draws forth. I tell her, I like your two hearts. I imagine they are birds, though I will tell you about your blood and the way it carries a word, repeated, through the pathways of your body. I want you to believe me. And yet, I want for you those summer nights, too, when you lie awake and imagine all the ways you don’t.

The sky has never forgiven you
for your blackness

when you fly
inside the backdrop of night
I am the only one who sees you

you claw your way
into my dreams
but I cannot
find you in the morning

Man in Mouth

By TNB Poetry

Poem

Art by Mark Shuttleworth, Words by Luigi Coppola
Video-poem can be viewed here


He craves the salivated slabs
that sparkle crisp and clean
then shudders as they close and clench:
a prison pure, pristine.

He yearns for molten mounds of flesh,
a writhing, licking thing;
his mass sinks into palette, pores –
a thrashing, lashing sting.

The year Mother arrived on Ellis Island, the heavyweight fighter,
Jack Johnson, began serving a one-year sentence in Leavenworth
for violating the Mann Act, but everybody knew

Jack was doing time for loving a whole lot of white women
and each and every one of them every which-way.
Mother, fresh from hibiscus and the Caribbean Sea,

knew nothing of it; didn’t know that some who thought
if you’re light, well alright, would look at her and wonder
is she a white girl…?

The tuner bird now nests,
now thrums,
in its cage of bone.
Plays harp of cat gut strings
by the red light
that dictates my resonant streams.
Sisyphean translator
at the first breath’s strum.
That sought to home
that homed to seek
from its first beat—
under the weight of words
and through that escape room of language
that forever unhomes.