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What is the best part about being considered an “erotic” poet?

People automatically assume I’m having great sex.

Anjelica comes on to me like a man, all slim-hipped swagger, relentless, dangling that red, ‘57 T-Bird at me like dessert. Lemme take you for a ride, chica, she sez after acting class. I figure what’s the harm, but Ms Angel Food gets out of hand. I don’t count on her heart-shaped ass, or those brown nipples crammed in my mouth. I don’t count on the Dial-O Matic four-way, power leather seats, the telescoping steering wheel, or the frantic pleasure of her face between my thighs. I admit, I’ve always been driven to sin. But Anjelica’s far from blameless. She rides me hard, week after week, double clutches me into ecstasy, hipbone against hipbone, the dulcet, lingering groan of our gears, grinding. When I confess the affair to my boyfriend he jacks himself off in the galley kitchen, comes all over his unattainable fantasies. He says he doesn’t consider sex between women to be cheating, and begs me to set up a threesome. I tell him the T-Bird’s a two-seater, and watch his face fall. I could end it, but why? All I can say is, I want her for myself. All I can say is, I’m a die-hard romantic. Anyone I do, I do for love.

Among this celestial navigation,
under horse and crowns
lies these unrelenting light patterns,

my spiritual eyes are weakened,
my spiritual eyes are awakened,

massive tangled hair in my eyes,
I am the flowers of the dead earth,

in a blanket of darkness,
in a blanket of blackness.

all the best moments of my life
have happened underwater,
and you are afraid to swim.

Did you know that the last fatal
shark attack in New Jersey was in 1926,
when your mother’s mother
was a glint in her mother’s eye?
You do not need to be so afraid.

Nicole-Rollender-The-TNB-Self-Interview

Who are you? And also, why do you write? Actually, why don’t you just write me a poem right now?

Poetry is: an artifact of the shining me, the radiant, the torn: the execution of that self: the contending with who do I think I am to live so freely here: walking this riverbed: kneeling in dirt: putting my lips to cemetery stone: loving the glow of metacarpal bones under me, in my stumbling: decay: in my children: their spines: their flows: their jaws: my God, where are you blinking?: because I am among the abandoned: scattered: fragmented: a broken word: do you know what I mean by broken?: because even swallowing: even: broken: witness: heard: any song: any move into slow: the dead hold out their palms: I approach as lamb: for food: for daisies: for slaughter: for an end to thirst: for white blooms on my tongue: for being in a body: disembodied: embodied: an embodied spirit: the intersection: revenant against my teeth: a rosary for sorrow: a litany to see the dead in mirrors: joy in finger bones: if I lay me down: if I lay me down: because I have wished for death: but now I would go fighting: the poem is: my voice: my clawing for light: my internal song/scream/cry: it’s the part of me that will endure: here: can I believe that there is a skyward: that my bones float in it: unsheltered: here.

Why do I write poetry? It’s the part of me that will endure: here.

Elegy for a Rat

By Jon Sands

Poem

after Samantha Thornhill

If we cleaned you up, you’d look like
a hamster. The little girl on the platform
next to the pink stroller would ask
her mother if she could pet you,
and mom would say, Of course!
You are brother to the pigeon—
creature of the city
where ooze is your bathtub.
God didn’t make the sewers,
we did, but I can’t tell
if you’re grateful.

Photograph by Alexis Rhone Fancher

It’s the start of 2017 on Planet Earth. How’s it feel to be a poet right now?

Awful (it’s my job, not complaining) and awfully important. Not because I am so terribly important–I mean–I’m glad if I write work people find meaningful in some way, but right now, just attempting to feel the sublime moments of aesthetic arrest while coping with my fury and sadness concerning the political situation in America, specifically, the insanely fascistic douche-baggery operating in the White House and majority seats of the Capitol make bearing an authentic and carefree poet spirit through the world challenging, to say the least.

Farmers heft and truckers load crates of lemons onto flatbeds at first light.
The skillet trees stream past,
silhouettes of yellow fruit and shadowed green
like something aquatic. Here I go,
sucked under, again. I love what won’t belong to me
and so sit tight, fingering the wound,
the open sinew, sticky gem pot
in the lap of the matter.

Reasons

By Urvashi Bahuguna

Poem

My mother had a wing that could not be
taken. A fox lived
at the backyard border.
The rain wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t
paddle back to the neighbour’s postal box.
I spent so much time looking at the snow, I
saw something beyond the cold.
My grandfather helped my grandmother’s
birds escape.
My mother had one good
wing and one made of sadness.

In all those years having never really spoken it
except in classrooms and once or twice
in Spain as a young woman trying to impress
her advisors or of course
having spoken it in pleasantries
between friends—muy bien gracias y tu
who don’t speak Spanish
like she does but could, she thinks of all those years
having never dreamt in Spanish either
and how those dreams would have played
out had she been able to talk
to men in a language
that would’ve been foreign to them

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Why did you choose the title “Marys of the Sea?”

Well, I love the ocean. It is vast and dangerous and calming and tumultuous—it is both familiar yet mysterious. Since the book itself is a retelling of my own experiences as a sexual assault survivor, of someone who had an abortion (as a result of the assault), I used the ocean as a metaphorical, and sometimes, physical landscape to the book.

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Antelopes run toward in armored florescence
—their breath the shape of faces in windowglass.
You sit & watch starlings make nests.

At one time, humans crawled on hearts greased silver
—left a trail dazzling daughters unborn, surrendering
miles. Killing them with perennials in curried fire.

Wolves follow us through subway cars, their obsession
propels them past honey bones stretched to oblivion;
bunches of lines shaped in half-circles, reaching out for us.

Ten paces away, water dragons devour emeralds
from the hands of children. Their teeth gnash
skin—blood puddles stretch into slanted metal walls.

Above ground, a paper moon wanes west—
making my slender waist more slender: empty nest.

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Have you ever done a self-interview before?

Isn’t that what writing is?

 

Are you going to answer every question with another question?

Is that a problem?

 

Do you write every day?

I read more than I write.

 

What are you reading right now?

I’m in the middle of Charles Martin’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and The Education of Henry Adams.

is not a man being swallowed by a fish
with eyes like eight point throwing stars
it’s a man being swallowed by a war
a man being taken into the mouth of a woman
or being swallowed by his work

it’s a man traveling far inside a book
a man being swallowed up in smoke
he swallows the smoke, that blends around him like a thought
it’s a man being swallowed by a sound
he shapes it so he lives inside a song

Hi, Karen. Thanks for taking time to talk to TNB today.

My Pleasure. This is way more fun than what I usually do while my kids are at school.