Chè Bắp

By Jenna Le

Poem

In the backyard, Father grew
ears of sweet corn,
green-swaddled blimps
of ocher bluster.

When the wind gusted over,
the stalks bowed so low
their rigid plumes
would graze the cakey dirt.

On the designated day,
Father would gather the ears
and heap them, firewood-like,
in the house;

Went to jail today to get a rap sheet
through metal detectors and elevators out of a ’60s police show
found the right room down a long marbled hall
of plexiglass windows
people shuttling in and out of doors with numbers on them.

2001sharpie2

I am driving up a mountain pass on my tractor,
a blue plume behind me, when I spot
an abandoned car on the side of the road
with no license plates. I am just cresting
the pass, my speed has slowed; I could almost
step off this tractor, I think, and start over,
and try something totally different,
like breaking both my ankles, I think, because
stepping off a moving tractor is so different
than say stepping off your back porch,
and the car is on blocks and all the wheels are gone.

The runner’s the disciple of travel,
Ambassador from determination;
All the wars a runner fights are civil,
The self-turned challenge, the primal agitation.
We tritely say that running signs the human
Spirit, community of close-stepping pack,
Second wind as individual omen,
We measure with matched morals on the track.

Troubador turned beggar, a dapper king growling from your jeweled
throne as I enter your home. You turn your whiskered nose up
until I offer mice bites of cheese from the icebox.

You take them carefully from my fingertips with your tiny teeth,
then to show your love of all creatures great and small, you hump
your giraffe. Our pilgrimage begins, we step out amidst

the Poor Clares, you sniff gingerly. Slip and click, claws scrape
hallway linoleum as you scuttle from doormat to doormat. Sit
your silent protest of passive resistance at top of stairs—

it worked for Ghandi and Martin Luther King but you’re just ten
tough pounds of hair and teeth, a bat without wings, this city’s
great rat terrier, terrorist king. Jacob’s not the only one

                                                                  A letter from Spain
reads, “I poured the old woman’s blood in the garden,”

as though it were possible to explain such an action,
as though that sentence could follow any other, or

be followed. I read the letter over and over, and later
take a man in my mouth, drink a spoonful of his life,

Mothers I love to fry
Mothers imparting feral logic
Mothers in lactation frenzy
Mothers iterating life’s fullness
Mothers in like flint
Mothers in lustrous fortitude
Mothers in lonely friction
Mothers in Lucifer’s foliage
Mothers in lockstep formation.
Mothers’ irascible leverage force
Mothers I’d like to fluoridate
Mothers I’d like to forget
Mothers issuing lyric phraseology
Mothers insipid loady frights

‘cross two vast ponds of depleting treasure
rises a brilliant rainbow

strawberry, lilac, violet
fill sky and cloud
so distant as to not exist

but for the inexorable inclination
to gaze directly
into blustery eyes
of these storms of grand ego

storms so arrogant
as to endeavor
ends of such a bold, self-assured palette
eschewing some hues
for those unique to
they who await no invitation

inclement weather
unconcerned of the void
into which it stares
knowing the void

is always staring back

Dear Eve

By Heather Bartlett

Poem

The answer to your question is not
in the longing, the rage
and range
the reaching – what will you find
when your hand touches
something solid? Behind
the wooden door you close
and latch so carefully, as if the sound
of closing alone will echo
off the empty walls, the scent
of someone else’s breath is shut in
with you.
You are alone
as before she moved
her small body
under yours.
And here, inhaling
swallowing, holding it
as the poem you forgot
you’d already written, this is not
the love that carried you
away to this small suburban
space, where the dirty light
from under the door
illuminates only
what has fallen from your hand.

Evolution

By Dan O’Dair

Poem

The internet is changing my name,
eliminating the apostrophe like some
cyber Ellis Island. I am attached to

my apostrophe, the “of the” of my father
and all his drunken Irish forebears, a gentle
breathy caesura before learning from whence
I came.

And then there’s the apostrophe itself, the South Dakota
of the semicolon, the most unassuming cousin
in the punctuation family portrait,
hair-combed neatly in the first row,
so often misused in plurality when all
it really wants to do is possess.

O the clock, of my father, dead now
ten years and without a grandson that bears
his name. Back in ’59, the year he shipped out
for Okinawa, there had to be a bad
key on the Smith Corona for the apostrophe
to be abandoned, and the typer never scolded
you for using an “invalid character.”

If I decide to the fly the 2,000 miles
to my father’s grave I’ll enter our name in
the appropriate field. All the wasted years, all
the whiskey drunk will come with me and when
I land I’ll hope despite one missing speck
that I am still his son.

Shut up our mother said we couldn’t say,
so behind her back we said it all the time
risking her witch’s look, the hairbrush,
or a talk from our father whose sadness
we exacerbated with our acting up, not that
he much cared what we said to each other
but punishing his sons wasn’t what he wanted
after working all day and so it was a failure
of strategy on our part to provoke our mother
to have to ask him to talk to us about shut up
or the picture I drew of turds dropping
from a stick man’s butt or Bill’s tantrum
in front of Miss Ossie Price, but I still can’t
get the words out, something shuts me down
when I’m around somebody who needs to hear it–
yesterday morning I saw this girl get right
in a guy’s face in the City Market parking lot,
they were smoking and kind of stepping around,
when she shouted, “Shut up!” leaning into him,
grinning and red-faced as if what he’d said
was so damn scandalous but perfectly delicious
like I know you’re not wearing underwear today
or blankety blank blank, and god did it hit me hard,
sixty-five years old, both parents long dead,
and whatever that girl was feeling right then–
which had to be some fantastic amalgam of arousal,
embarrassment, shame, and joy–wasn’t anything
I’m ever going to feel, even if I get another
sixty-five, even if I ever do break through
and finally ask some jackass to please be quiet.

In an Atrium

By J.D. Smith

Poem

What kind of flamingo is that
standing there?

It is the kind
whose feathers do not blush
from eating pink shrimp.

It is the short-necked, broad-backed kind.

The kind that is, in fact, a crane,
one that’s light brown
and made not of flesh, but wicker
that portrays no single specimen,
which has its other places to be,
but the ideal crane, the archetypal crane
whose flight is said to represent transcendence,
whose pairing is an emblem of sign of fidelity,
bearing some message we would send ourselves.

This freighted flock of one
will not be rendered as a lawn ornament,
outlined in neon,
printed on a Hawaiian shirt.

One cannot ask all this
of a single flamingo.

Sentimental scars disregarded. Response
cuts; incisions you chose not to delve into. The black
residue of removed yesterdays – unrest. Settled
into harrowed, addled, a discomforted occupancy.
Morning, plied year-round. Live-in
cadaver: diligent; despondent. Dead
end.

Wake. Never fully
rejuvenated. Stitched and stabilized. Released.
Soon after the sutures come out. Follow-up
steps are planned: “A Path to Recovery.” It gets better
until you are healed – like inferior tissue. You thrive,
learning to live again. Aware. Let the routine
begin.

the ways we miss our lives
        are life
but today I remember the
        way a woman
looks when she lies fully clothed
        in bed
her face upturned to
        the ceiling
and the way she turns
        her head
to follow as you move in
        beside her
and that way she looks
        beneath you
as your head hovers above
        her lips
for just a second as you
        lock eyes
to see if she is willing to receive
        what is
coming and cannot be stopped
        but why
must we watch the snow fall into
        the fire
or come to trust only the saddest
        moments of
our lives or raise a glass to the
        smaller pleasures
when she in your memory
        pulled your
head into her strong hands
        and turned
over onto her small hip so that you
        faced each
other and your eyes were level
        the way
you always wanted to be with
        a woman
level eyed and face to face
        and then
she says hey you what else you got
        for me
but now i see how all things
        false fall
from the dead the slow voice
        of ruin.