topical

By Dennis Cruz

Poem

the specter of death
smiling,
Cleopatra
uncrossing her legs.
just a small glimpse
into the infinite
then it’s over,
a bad dream
lingering
like egg yolk
or menstrual blood,
on your tongue.
I wonder what
the apostles
imagined
when they
masturbated?
I wonder
if they were
dreamt up guilty
and shameful
like everyone
else?

perhaps.

we promised to come back for it

everyone had been to prison except me

my skull was a heartache

lightning was burning down the dance floor

my mouth was a copper runoff

i received a text saying the weather had gout

we built a box drain in the new cul-de-sac

with our nerve endings and bone concrete

T said don’t fear the machine

i was promoted to motherfucker

he got 900 gallons on pump 4

with an unleaded gas station croissant

someone said where the hell is 12 o’clock

T told the story of his divorce and we all cooed

he picked lunch from his teeth with a box cutter

a lifeline danced across my throat

we contemplated a tide of quicksand

becoming one with the f450

i saw a frog trying to find a stream

behind the big city houses

i tore the river down with a garden rake

and made eye contact with the crisis wolf

everyday i die and it gets so boring

 

This Big World

By Devin Kelly

Poem

 

for Bud Smith

 

I have been in debt for a long time. Some afternoons, I sit on the windowsill & take the risk of thinking I could fall out of it & fly. Everything is loud & mostly beautiful. It’s not a matter of perspective. If you look at a building upside-down it is only a building upside-down. It’s not standing on its head. It’s better to see it right. The chicken place across the street serves chicken & people walk inside & come out with chicken. We got some things right: best friends, slow cooking, glass-bottled Coke, remaining wingless & rooted to other wingless beings who leave us slowly or not slow enough. Heartbreak is one way of knowing you’re alive. Compiling obscene & ridiculous amounts of debt owed to a strange & robotic voice on the other end of a phone is another. But debt owed to a friend is a simpler kind of beauty. Like sharing french fries or saying just get the next one, next time. There’s too much I love about the world to think of leaving it. My own lunacy. The way I am still here, sitting by the window. How I can take the risk of thinking I can fly without the risk of flying. I’d rather watch the birds, those little masters, who make big geometric shapes out of one another & head off in flocks to find a beach, another summer. It’s winter here & everyone deserves a big coat. Something to smuggle inside of it & share, yes, with the people who have been smuggling you from each day, like this one, into the next.

Like those corduroy knee patches on my favorite fifth-grade jeans?
Or Portland raindrops spattering coffee in a recycled-paper cup.
How about a faded Pine tree freshener dangling from the radio knob of an RV.
A tuna-noodle casserole in Corning Ware cooling on a Formica countertop?

 

It’s there, in my stomach, and it stirs up; a wicked batter.  All nettles and ache.  My mom’s wooden spoon, weaponized, upside my brother’s heathen head.  I wield it.  I stick it in the mix and stir.  A bloody mess as it blends.  I taste it and wince.  Too much despair.  My hand heavy on the pour.

I open my mouth bucket-wide.  I shovel it in.

Swallow.

Start again.

Brad’s Face

By Gene Morgan

Poem

My notes for a potential story about Brad’s face on the evening of November 8, 2016

Start with some general thoughts about Brad, maybe just the grass in Brad’s backyard and his cool studio/garage area. Focus on the small stuff that I like about Brad. How nice it was for him to invite us over for the election suicide party.

I learned the art of detachment
from a destructive pest
romanticized by poets
whose origins go back millions of years.

Celestial nomads that feast on
leather, wool, silk, felt
and thrive on night
taught me to let go of longing—

After-After

By Shira Dentz

Poem

American is the new German,
German the new American.
A square of window might be
1/4 or 1/12 depending
on whether you think
said window is two panes
or one.
My name is Nazi Avenue.
I have a lot of gifts,
fertility isn’t one of them.
Glass against a night
sky is like paper
for any light before it
to be written on.

Your earliest memory, from the cot dreams
toys hoofing in a ring of light, to the tune
it’s a small world, after all that is poetry in itself
apropos of such unfolding, in nonage, in infancy
marriage at twenty-five, offspring by thirty
was never yours, nor office administration
not even the longest term mortgage, to settle you
into the long haul, the long yards,
the back yards, and cats and dogs
none of them yours. It was written in a villanelle
it was ordained by Auden, it killed your chances
you slid by the cornfields, under Van Gough’s sill
you fell into a lustful fate, a pond of muddy water
you swam with the eels, your electric adult
on the blink, powering down and dreamless.

after Philip Levine

It’s wonderful how they jog
in two-toned gel soled racing shoes
their yoga butts barely jiggling
in rosy spandex leggings.

I was there once. I felt
the brash I’ve got it all, I had
the uncomplicated beauty of the young
before the years peeled it from me

like flimsy wallpaper. In my memories
women’s work was pin money
to pay for ballet lessons, summer camp;
suffering children, suffering filing jobs

I expected them to tell me that my bacon
had come from a happy pig, one that had had a full life,
was corn fed and had free range, did yoga in the mornings,
played the cello, spoke Latin and learned
to salsa dance while visiting relatives in Cuba.
I thought maybe there would have been a photo album
to accompany the sacrifice, documenting its first birthday,
first snow and first of everything else,
here an oink, there an oink.

Parachutes have risen
and structures of fashion
have shifted in the foyer.

Prestigious and versatile,
the concierge collects
luxury gifts. She drinks
the beverage before her,

sucks air too loudly to sigh.
A carnage of orchids
dries on Spanish tile. A red
pepper turns in the bowl.

She sits quiet, drunk on her own anger
again & his despicable

drips down each fang just like
the bourbon from out his pores—

don’t misunderstand, she’s seasoned, racked up
husbands & guzzlers, & all she learned

from Mother who was no princess &
all the grandmothers dating back

to the Revolution & perhaps even back
to Babylon, too, the kind of ladies

1.
when I see I’ve overwatered it again, I jab
the turkey baster into the rust-colored runoff
before the water spills over,
onto the hardwood floor.

in our mid-town apartment,
the harsh light sears the spiky leaves.

it reminds me of summer,
when you left me here on Beachwood Dr.
and I shot Demerol
my rust-colored blood backing up in the syringe,
the same pierce of yellow light,
the sharp spike breaking my skin.

Mary Toft knew how it felt with child –
three birthed, one dead – but in the field,
heavy with her fourth, up starts a hare.
The effect is more than Mary can bear:
the rabbit all day long ran in my head.
That August, a large lump of flesh bled
from her body, and by October: rabbits,
litters of them, enough for every Cabinet
of Wonder in London. But was it fair or fake?
Methought they there a burrow tried to make.
Mary, Mother Incarnate, carny
of the most marvelous yarn –
the rabbits all day long ran in my head –
snared hare, lapful of lapins bred
in her Welsh rarebit, follicular,
cuniculous, mad with rabbit fever,
rabid with fervor to birth, quaint
trickster, canny coney, cunning cunt.