Four Poems

By Max Bien Kahn

Poetry

 

Below are four new poems by New Orleans-based musician Max Bien Kahn. His new EP, On the Floor EP, will be released on December 3rd. Preorder the EP here. Listen to a track from the EP right here.

 


 

small victory

 

got a full refund at the mall today
they asked me if anything was wrong
i told them:
it didn’t fit right
if i had told them:
i buried my mom in this shitty suit
and don’t want to look at it anymore
that would have been
something

 

 

chinese food

 

her last day was christmas
our last dinner was christmas eve
we sat around upstairs
in the tv room
the tv was off
she couldn’t walk downstairs anymore
i filled my plate with chinese takeout
and she choked on a bowl of tapioca
or whatever that nutritional slop was
spitting it up from time to time
and then declaring in her frail voice
i’m never gonna eat again
i put my plate down
i agreed

 

you did this on purpose
didn’t you
you brought us together for christmas
we always celebrated like good jews
we went to the movies
and ate chinese food
which you never wanted to eat
but we loved it
and you loved us
when we were all together
at a big round table
with a lazy susan
picking through the greasy pile
of what we call
chinese food
and you would swallow
and smile
because your family was eating together
and it was christmas

Four Poems

By Maria Canzano

Poetry

 

 

FLIES

 

I sit in the kitchen with the back door open 

and the man next door smokes 

he sounds like he could be my uncle 

or maybe one of the men 

who used to play cards below my bedroom window 

and hide from their wives in the summer

 

 

 

STRAWBERRY MARK

 

“the word for key again?” 

“chiave, chiave, chiave” 

to use the bathroom at the beach 

the corner of a spiky house 

the railing where I sat 

and then swung back 

I thought there would be a bump 

when I shaved my head a decade later 

but it was round as an allium flower 

what a funny compliment

 

Day 1: a song that reminds you of being 9 years old and drinking honeysuckles in the backyard after piano class while your mom pays the teacher

 

Day 2: a song that you listened to driving on the interstate for the first time, even though you weren’t allowed, and you got off one exit from where you got on because you were nervous

 

Day 3: a cover song that you never knew was a cover until someone at a party–where you were already feeling self conscious anyway–made you feel really stupid about it and now it’s the only thing you can remember when you think back on that party

 

Day 4: a song your coworker would always play and it used to annoy you but now you kind of love it and want to tell them, but you probably won’t

 

Day 5: a song that you only ever listened to 30 seconds of because it was on a “hit clip” that you got inside of a happy meal

 

Day 6: a song by someone you personally know that comes on shuffleevery time, like a cruel jokewhen you are just trying to make out and not think about your friends

 

Day 7: a song that always makes you think “i should do this at karaoke” but then you forget when you are actually at karaoke and you just do “Cowboy Take Me Away” again

 

Day 8: a song that feels like the first cold day in early October and it makes you want to cry from nostalgia but also smile with hope for the future and the combination makes your arm hairs tinglebut it could just be the cooler weather doing that

 

Day 9: a song that you only know about because it was featured on one of the biggest cultural influences of your generationan OC mix

 

Day 10: a song that you used to say you’d play at your wedding until you started questioning if getting married was ever something you would actually want to do and if you did, it probably wouldn’t be the kind of wedding with traditional “wedding dances” anyway

Three Sonnets

By Will Stanier

Poetry

 

 

Dark Sonnet

Two Poems

By Tobin Bartolo

Poetry

 

i never liked wearing hats
always reminded me of
many years in succession
playing baseball on a team

now i go to bed with my hat on
there’s no game on
there’s no one at the field
no glove, no team, no bat

it would be fun to play a game
with a team again
would you be on the team?
if you like, you can design the hats

 

Mark Leidner weaponizes the deadpan tone of a defeated world to reclaim that classically Romantic thing: the Sublime. Weaponizes like the weapon is a water gun; reclaims like he’s won a water gun contest and the reward is the end of global warming. In Returning the Sword to the Stone, Mark isolates the scenes of absurdity that string our inner lives together while gesturing toward the authenticities still available to us at this late date, this deeply stupid, cynical, and sentimental moment in history. Reading this collection was re-invigorating and a reminder that the opposite of stupidity is not intelligence but love.

 

Mark is a generous, wise, and witty writer. This interview was conducted by email.

 

While reading these poems, I was reminded of the D W Winnicott line where he says flippancy is a reaction to despair. What do you think is the relationship between that attitude and that feeling in your work? Does playfulness exist in concert with futility/frustration, or is it something purer and more simply fun?

 

I try to pair flippancy with something else — some other kind of seriousness, a lyricism, a formal constraint — to create tension. My favorite poetry is flippant yet not, playful yet ferocious, silly but provocative. Such conflicts are also the way I feel most of the time: despairing yet ready to laugh, contemptful yet looking to show mercy, skeptical but hoping to be naïve, etc.

 

Following on that, what or who is the contempt directed toward? The idealism here seems to be connected to love – the marveling at your subject who recites “Having a Coke with You” is one of the most moving invocations of love I’ve read in a long time. I love how that poem lifts off. Do you feel idealistic about love and love for writing? Or, why was it important to you to write a love poem where what you love is how much someone loves something else and loves sharing that something else with someone else?

 

I try to reserve the majority of my contempt for my own greed, vanity, and pettiness, but it often sprawls into contempt for the same qualities in others or the culture generally. While I’m idealistic about love and writing most of the time, that idealism is freighted with contempt for the deluding character of love and poetry. I usually feel satisfied with a poem’s honesty about poetry if it has at least little of both of these impulses in it.

 

In “Having a Coke with You,” I was recording a real-life event that spontaneously happened, so I didn’t think too much about underlying whys. In retrospect, it makes sense that I’d want to write this poem and put it in the book because it does present an ideal of love I believe in. Loving someone or something outside yourself is one way to escape the claustrophobia of exclusive self-regard. Loving someone outside yourself who in turn loves something outside themselves — poetry in this case, or a way of relating to it — seems like a more liberating extension of that transcendent space.

 

Transcendence calls to mind the moments of almost gleeful resignation in the collection: in the title poem, returning the sword to the stone (in all its forms) seems to indicate some abdication of expectation that sets you free. Is this act of playfully loving your limits (Sisyphus licking the stone) the same as humility?

 

We all face limitations we have no control over, mortality being the main one. I think learning to accept limitations, and possibly even to love them, is one pinnacle of wisdom. There is that Eliot line from the Four Quartets: “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire / Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” Someone quoted it to me once, and I often return to it. In Returning the Sword to the Stone I wanted to explore it.

 

The Big Bang Never Happened

 

Turtle shells and yarrow stalks became Chinese
tools of divination. Metagalaxy and antimatter
appeared in books. Mom said I get upset
because I think too much. Everything is spinning.
Cities torture trees. Suburbs farm powerlines.
Cats and birds are always cleaning themselves.
The universe is bigger and older than we thought.
Two galaxies can collide with no star collisions.
Mom said the less we think the happier we’ll become.
Little gifts from her made me cry years later.
All my prior selves seem unconscious later on.
Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies is an American book.

 


artwork by Tao Lin

 

Below are five poems from Will Stanier’s chapbook Everything Happens Next, forthcoming from blue arrangements. Preorder a copy of the chapbook right here. (Preorders come with a special surprise.)

 

 

Parade

 

     sitting wasting time
thereby seize it
      sounds
so aggressive. 

 

     hear actors rehearse
clunky dialogue,
          feet sweaty in flannel lining, look up
and there’s the sky again. 

 

I’m glad not to be sick
     after drinking too much,
           to be without hermeneutics,
     whatever those are. 

 

a man walks by rolling a double bass
                  on a single wheel.
my friend walks by talking on the phone,
     red tassels bouncing
           at the cuffs of her jeans. 

 

     three watermelon lozenges
turn my tongue sugary pink.
      I see a beautiful woman,
             I see a lot of people. 

 

 

◊ ◊ ◊

 

 

Murmurs

 

what in the dream has eight
corners?     I don’t know!

 

pinhole camera of my hand, fingers splayed against
the sky   swarming, blushing   in edges and inlets

 

“funny the oneiric specters, like I was
supposed to know about things I didn’t . . .”

 

near the trestle bridge made famous
as regular people out for a walk refused to be our project.

Two Poems

By Phoebe VanDusen

Poetry

 

Night Terrors as Self-portrait 

 

Tonight, I am your commercial
daughter, no swallow just bite
and smile. You see, this bed
is my cacophony, my nothing,
my halves, my faithful herd
dog, my white flag of surrender,
my thrash for help. This is where
you can tell I am fractured.
I’m ashamed of all my shame
I try to make sense of my sins,
of my cervix, I throw a service
for my ex-lovers. I dress them
in shrouds of toothbrushes and guilt.
I force them to compliment my body
of written work. Inside my humid
head, I am as lonely as a tyrant, irate
aiming for the jugular. I slice all mangos,
lace, and air. I fuck the faceless
goblin in the gothic attic, overcome
I weep above his dead green
body, and then I say hello!
Hello, sack of talking peeled grapes!
Hello, my rapist!
Hello, lobster devouring my boss’s head!
Hello, celebrity I can’t quite place!
Hello, woman who broke my heart!
What you have all heard is true, I am not
a good person but I know that I could be
a fantastic goat.

Three Poems

By Devon Welsh

Poetry

 

 

Bongos

 

for mama

 

chemtrails made the sky a crossword
and the day was chillier than yesterday

 

I played the bongos at your grave
to say thanks for the music

 

imagining a child doing fortnite dances
in the new grass on the hole you lay in

 

I would have been that kid
if I had been born in 2008

 

too old to be an Obama baby
too childish to have a baby.

 

I’d heard they’d have the cure for cancer
by the time I got cancer

 

which could be true,
but not for you.

 

(this isn’t how he really died
he was cremated

 

in LA and it was hot outside
and I wasn’t even there)

4 poems

By Elizabeth Ellen

Poetry

 

for garielle lutz

 

(the) Conjuring

 

As a new hobby, I think about sabotaging our relationship. I think about this a lot while we’re at Home Depot looking at Christmas lights.

“If we ended it right now, think about how good it would end,” I say.

You look at me funny when I say this. We are each buying a new Dustbuster, tho for some reason yours costs twenty dollars more than mine.

“I don’t get you, baby, why would you say shit like that?” you say, your mask under your nose. “If you want to break up with me, just do it; get it over with.”

But that’s not what I’m saying at all.

 

I spend another twenty minutes after dinner fantasizing about ending things. You come in from smoking and playing video games on my front porch and I’m crying and crying. I thought you’d left.

“I’m just so tired,” I say. I am apologetic. (I am your baby, your baby girl.)

 

I hide my eyes with your hands. An hour ago you wanted me to dominate you. Thigh highs, cock ring, handcuffs. You can’t get more All-American than that.

 

When you come inside me you say: shit, goddamn, fuck.
When you come inside I say, “We better break up now,” and I am crying and crying.

Because poets tend to live as outsiders, poetry communities can be a vital part of our lives and an essential part of American poetics. My questions relate to poetry communities I have known.

How did you get introduced to the world of poetry?

When I was young, a friend introduced me to the poets that gathered around St. Mark’s Church in New York City during the 60’s and 70’s – Anne Waldman, Ted Berrigan, Ed Sanders, etc. Nothing in my sheltered life prepared me for the life of the poets on the Lower East Side. America loves its outlaws and the poets of the Lower East Side were poetry outlaws. They did not have regular jobs. They chose not to be plugged into the mainstream American life. They were not university professors or even teachers. They lived in 4th or 5th floor walkup apartments with bathtubs in the kitchen. They had almost no furniture, slept on mattresses on the floor. They lived outside of any American life that I knew anything about. When I read poems and books with such titles as “Bean Spasms”, “Things to do in Providence,” or “Great Balls of Fire.” I thought What is this and who would name a magazine “Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts”? What are they doing?

Poet’s Work

By Phoebe MacAdams

Poem

For Lewis MacAdams

This morning the birds
ate most of the black sunflower seeds.
I fill up the feeder,
watch squirrels on the grass
look at asparagus fern in the garden
and read old poems.
I move from room to room,
think about my mother, my sister.
I sit quietly for a long time
then mail letters and observe the hummingbird.

About Ocean

By Eleanore Lee

Poem

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…
—I Corinthians 12:13

I’ll try to explain.
First you immerse.
Okay, go ahead.
There’s water all around.
You’re suddenly submerged
In meaning.
Next, let go. Start slow.
Float.
Simply stretch straight out, face down.
Flippers if you have them help.
Occasional gentle foot movements
And you shoot forward.
You can peer up, lift your mask and see
The green rim of distant coast.
(But we’re not doing that now.)