person Kushal Poddar, one poem

Kushal Poddar is the author of The Circus Came To My Island, Place For Your Ghost Animals, Understanding The Neighborhood, Scratches Within, Kleptomaniac’s Book of Unoriginal Poems, Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems, and now Herding My Thoughts To The Slaughterhouse-A Prequel (Alien Buddha Press).

~/~

Insects

On the night-sky-breasts
your attic’s head
remains alight to learn how to be fed
on the twilight’s lactation and survive.

Here exists no noise except
the exceptions accepted –
trees, honking in the lane, crickets.

And you forge a cave with your right hand
on your left palm where you resurrect
an insect becoming winter.

~\~

person Dare Williams, five poems

A 2019 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, Dare Williams is a Queer HIV-positive poet, artist, activist native to Southern California. Dare’s poetry has been featured in Cultural Weekly and elsewhere and is forthcoming in THRUSH and Bending Genres. An alum of John Ashbery Home School Claremont, he is currently working on his first poetry collection.

Twitter: Dare_Williams13
Insta: Rebelwithapen
Facebook: Dare Williams

*

When Momma Was a Moth

she would light         the home               search for small slivers

could split silk warm         with a glare       electric a body

against the oven           would collect dirt       find the cracks         would

shrink and dim herself       for lovers only       clean the house

in a way                 she would arrange       for those heading over

to look wealthy and neat                       would heat the place

with a quickened breath                     would stay waiting

a loud footstep enters each room                   turning

the bulbs off one pull chain at a time       a door swiftly opens

blows dust off her wings—                 help is coming           she would say

her last words before                   changing into a pile of perfect powder

ready to be swept                                             away

*

Autonomous

In your car
I’m licking my wounds
deep
I like my windows
hard pressed
rolled up.
You take me
down Vine
a night drive.
I swallow you
just
as the inertia
thrusts
my body
towards
the dash
your foot on the brake
I see the neon lights
of this wasteland
& I’m alive again.
You drop me off
& still
I have not put
your name in my phone
gross—
was the word
you used.

*

What They Called Us

this one sits
in the shade this

one hangs
in the sun this

one gets picked but
who does the plucking who

pickles on the vines what
sets in the east how

squishy
why special this

one is in leathers that
one in denim this

one waits forever that
one withers away suddenly

(the dish is empty
the house is quiet) what

matters is who
dies happiest

filled with
the most light who

left hungry what
is full

*

Here Comes the Sun

You and a brightness               a snap of icy cold

snow peas                                   crunch in a mouth

almost slipping on                     surfaces

so many dangers                         you display resilience.

I was late                                       slowly stirring inside this syrup

an empty milk carton                 floating in the harbor

already forming                           swaddled

in screams and tension               what yelling sounds like

under water                                 my barely-there fists

clutching muted bees.                 You almost died, didn’t you

you almost put me back             an unfinished painting

found in a basement                 but who started it, I ask

and who decided to put it away             hoping no one would find it.

You moved your earth                               and chose to

uncover me                                                   in the end,

I did exactly what you wanted—

I came out fully                                             formed

and                                                                 buzzing.

*

Someone Saved my Life Tonight

All this chatter coming from you
slowly stopped, language blurred,
buttered on the bread. I fell sideways
deep down the wall scraping, my
strings cut from an unknown god and
that is how the dying started.

An audience looking at me,
a collection of limbs on the kitchen floor,
cold lights and a blank black, deeper than a box.
Audio came first I believe
a crack then eyes open
or pictures appearing, faces.

I was carried outside in slow motion,
the speed of sound sped up, a timbre.
I was placed and told to sit still,
here have water, water is life
there was for hours, a pulling.
I shivered and held on nailed to the couch.

There was a thought of maybe leaving.
Had I done all I could here on this earth,
here, with this queer body taking space.
You can sometimes imagine through milky lenses
that you are in the way, so why not move on.

Tonight, at work I heard myself say my age
out loud to someone I don’t really know.
I said it with a sort of disbelief,
tricked by time. I clocked out and
started walking home counting every step.
One for each time I have chosen to live.

*

person Erin Wilson, five poems

Erin Wilson‘s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Poetry Ireland Review, Envoi, Kestrel, A Journal of Literature and Art, On the Seawall, The Honest Ulsterman, The Adirondack Review, Natural Bridge, The Literary Review of Canada, and elsewhere. Her first collection, At Home with Disquiet, is due out in the spring of 2020 with Circling Rivers. She lives and writes in a small town in northern Ontario, Canada.

~~~~~

Five

i.

Delightfully, after you tug upon the curled white string
waiting for the prize to be set free from the hilltop
(that you perceive as a mountain),
leaf litter up to your knees,
you hold the tampon out before you
as though you might hypnotize me.
You are five pretending to be seventy,
“Now, just who might drink tea up here?”

Little misunderstood things like this are darling.
You are darling, whose cup runneth over with Oolong.

ii.

Only dark things move through the dark night, reproducing,
boosting one another, darkening darklings,
dark on top of dark. You hear the floorboards being
herded to the barn’s stall out back. You hear dark
animals shuttling. Black milk shunts in ribbons
to be sucked up by dark creatures for sustenance.
You see hooves.

When a head tips back in ecstasy,
you’re hurt by a blood-bed housing long white chompers.

iii.

Even though it is a cross between a community centre
and a living room (albeit lacking a couch)
you are initially shaken with fear.
That is, until you walk up the aisle
and lay your hands upon the casket.
With your face tipped forward
death’s gleam shines up from the it and upon you
as though lighting your chin from a buttercup.

How relieved you are, “It’s not grandma; only plastic!”

You rise onto your tippy toes so that you might touch
the marbled chartreuse bowl that once held her.

iv.

You like to be scared.
Not really.
Well, you like to be scared on a schedule.

For hide and seek you stand in a closet,
tell me not to be afraid
and then jump out.
You like to hide me in the laundry basket
then wonder where I am.

One time I am upstairs in your bedroom.
You run downstairs to get an apple
and then when you come back I am standing,
plain sight, but in a new location.

You cry and cry.
There are no words to console you.

v.

We lie on the couch, heart to heart.
You plump, then use my breasts for pillows.
Your weight begins to labour my breathing.
The soles of your feet graze my ankles.

“I’ll always lie like this, Mommy.”
“Yes,” I chime, “we will always, always lie like this.”

~~~~~

An Untitled Rothko

“It was as if what he’d reached once–call it a truth, meaning, or absolute–was so vitally important to him that he had to keep on trying to get to it again. A point in infinity where beauty, truth, feeling and experience come together; a level of reality which makes all other levels of reality seem pale, uninteresting, insignificant.”
Geneviève Vidal on Rothko

i. The river is a band of steel-shine, bent into an ingot of colour that defies a name,
ii. the banks are sheaves of wheat shaken in the forsaken’s clenched fist,
iii. the fish, flickerings, crescents plunging the lunky conveyor belt moving up the mainstream.

The son’s cuffs are folded three times as he wades with weighted pockets in pursuit of the threading, a streak of light, an aberration of colour, a hovering, a playful patient presence, a puzzle piece never quite fitted or still.

He is fishing.

~~~~~

Atoms for Adams

~for Liam

Because of when I was born
my mind seems at home thinking
atoms are about the smallest things.
Atoms, only a placeholder
anyway. Since then, through
the outer corridors of science
and semantics, quarks
have been whizzing along.
Listen, once Empedocles thought
earth, air, fire and water
were everything, and Thales
thought it alone was water.
Does it really matter?
Pussy willow, I say
into the oncoming of spring.
Dark matter, Mrs. Sharma
swelters, taking Mr. Sharma
erotically into her many arms.
Something enters something.
When I lie down to bed
and feel the weight of the
thousand sorrows, yours,
not mine, I scoop a luminous
cradle of sparkling seems-like-
nothings into my palms.
I put my face to them as though
looking upon a moonlit pond,
and I breathe, Please, dear
little building blocks of civilization
that floss continuously through walls
and conversations, do your work
and transgress the worried skein
of his fractured mind, carry aloft
the heat and moistness from my
mouth, the same mouth that
once kissed his rumpled brow.
Carry these light harbouring
black seeds in a child-drawn cloud,
the smallest luminous energies
that will—live.

~~~~~

White Sheets

One night.
One night is the head with an eye-door.
One night like every other,
you fold the eye-door
and lay it in the dresser,
blessed quiet sweater.
One night you close the drawer,
climb into bed.
One night every chicken in the coop
sleeps, little moons tucked into puddles.
Feathers are layered.
Feathers are laminous.
Feathers are countable and foreseen,
compose a complacent fan.
No fowl will disturb you.
One night is one night is every other.
One night is sanctified.
One night is moth-eaten, platitudinous.
One night is portal, safe passage of time.
One night is sealed, is a sealing,
the ceiling is white, a vestigial christening gown.

              One night the eye-door is ripped open.
              One night and always that sound — torn tape, wrecked adhesive.
              One night and always the filling of a vacuum.

One night he comes to you,
his eye-door having torn
every living fowl to pieces.
Feathers are severed fingers.
Bloody, he crawls into your bed.
Body, he crawls into your bed.
Moon-slick with bloody feathers,
he crawls into your bed.
A thousand reflected moons, bleeding.
His heart is a wounded bird.
Proof. You feel it.
It is beside you.
It is tragic under cover.
It is trying to get back to the eye-door.
Around your naked legs it writhes, beheaded.
Around his neck, headless, a cowl,
your quiet sweater rived to ribbons.
One night lanugo blue and crematory red fix the heavens.
One night an apocalypse in the orange trees.
One night a screaming from empty spaces.
One night every eye-door! Time is stymied.
One night accesses every other.
There will always be an injured bird
struggling for resurrection
in your little bed.

~~~~~

Jacquard

It displeases me that he smokes,
so he smokes only mugwort.

He is working an O’Keeffe print
from an old Life magazine.

The flower now smells of ash.

What he cuts bears a cauterization
of his, and his alone, hands.

He frames the flower, Black Iris, 1926,
and a little bit of the accompanying text.

Hangs it.

Then we carry in the couch.

There are two sides to the cushions.

He could place them beige side-up
but instinctively prefers the sprawling floral print.

We sit beside one another and consider
O’Keeffe’s work:

              it’s a fire wearing an iron chastity belt,

              a snapshot of coral reef with undulating seaweed,

              how my labia still carry the christening
              of his cranium.

“Nobody sees a flower—really—
it is too small—we haven’t time…”

He lights one of his shabby
hand-rolled cigarettes. Inhales.

~~~~~

person Benjamin Biesek, one poem

 

Benjamin Biesek workshopped with the poet Christopher Soto in 2018 and resides in coastal California.

*

My Sense of Self Floods the System

Hushed in the rift, the fountainhead of the codices
Obliterated; & generation is kept sideways as if dreamt.
As if imagination could ever manifest daylight, remnants
Of blight linger in complicated days, coma of
Those who asphyxiate: who await time between summers,
Muted chaos, all their violence. The intricate practices & means;
The edges of days, the tumult & unsighted faith in our registers,
Our automobiles, those who tell life wise & sideways
Glances approve-of. In the source ciphers,
In relics caged, some alternative way, try confidence
& Blind yourself with avarice, this day.

My sense of self deluges the system. I consider it,
The barren page or the child who swam away,
To surface the Moon, paint it brilliant in hue,
Enough of this masquerade, this doubloon-as-pandemic
Infidelity I am removing. In stellular glances
Lancets cleaving night; O the flame,
Remembrance of paucity, the plague all around you
Gathering rice in tides to forge a unique infestation,
Once of governance, of dignity, of false registers
& Hitting high notes.

My sun is yours, my fantasy yours, too.
We plunge to pieces, sew stitches & time as
A continuum is a mirrored obelisk in a cloudy forest,
A dwelling we recall now set to cairn, once set aflame,
A half-way-domicile man dreaming of sparks to elide,
To catch cancer as it dwells, where it lives is not
My gesture of sanction; this rent divide, the gone
All his life tablets set, manners, wept-for, bled so much
That in obsolescence the kneel is forgotten, is lobbed
& Lodged for approval — dapper don, dawn of the night,
Soldiering on, fighting a good altercation.

My rear end between my legs, I litter seeds
& Gum saplings tote weight, the brutality of which
Is voracious men in between marriages, bent on
High pressure, neutered visions of grain in a pan
& Dwindling stock. & though I fend off these who
Defend against, I know the boards can turn in an instant!
I know that postponement is mine! That suffocation is scheduled
In unpaid time. I think of all the junctures left &.
& I conjecture what plumbs the depths for me,
Insists I rig the elevated lens for satisfaction.
Is nothing chaotic? Is the world a sickness?
I, wonder! I, fascination!

In destroyed dreams concave rooms with hollow-tipped
Viscera, the fiction of fantasy or horror.
In the darkness the earth emerges desolate as night
& What’s dun is a Sacrament, a hallway towards our heart.
Great number, few go on; in chance we criticize
& Compile avarice, disdain; crippled wheat in a meadow
Nearby to flame, to take upon oneself the weight, to carry off
Into new borderlines, the disquietude as it unfolds,
Not ever growing old, just sprouting hours in a glass jar,
A bell & whistle, some caviar upon a disk of germ.

When learning matters, when I am lapsed, that will be
The discontinuance I seek & the candidates will urge it.
The magpies who profit, seers awe-inspiring
In the rearview & all those planetoids bred
Compunction perfectly. So say goodnight,
Bite down hard on hollow lips; ravage the petty, the noble,
Those who at no time had it beginning with…

*

person Sarah Nichols, three poems

Sarah Nichols lives and writes in Connecticut. She is the author of eight chapbooks, including She May Be a Saint (Porkbelly Press, 2019), and This is Not a Redemption Story (Dancing Girl Press, 2018.) Her poems and essays have also appeared in Five:2:One Magazine, the Ekphrastic Review, Drunk Monkeys, and FreezeRay.

\/

After My Mother’s Death, “Mother” and “Death” Become Predictive Text

My mother is
My mother was
My mother is nowhere

She is everywhere
In the predictive text of my tongue, she is

abandonment

My mother’s body is ash in
a blue marble box

I did not see my mother’s soul ascend to heaven
when she died

My mother is without pain now

My mother is gone

/\

After My Mother’s Death, I Eat at Chipotle

I take a seat in the back. The
lunch time crowd is thinning, and I
wonder if I can eat

grief. This is what I have instead of
casseroles and cheese trays, the
meals prepared by others that are

supposed to last for days.

Mother, I think, is another word for food. Or
maybe it’s another word for mouth.

You’re eating too much. You’re eating too
little. The purple tartan skirt, the one I wore

in fifth grade, is enough reason for

weight watchers.

Food is another word for drug.

The one we shared, arms entwined,

feeding each other, saying

the diet will work.
This hole will be closed.

\/

After My Mother’s Death, A Man Asks Me if I’m Ready to Accept Jesus

It might be two or three weeks later. Heat-
groggy, waiting on a bus to take me
home.

Over-turned grocery cart metal digs into
my thighs, thinking that the afterlife

could be anything, and I shade my eyes
against a Christian soldier who asks if

I’m ready to accept Jesus

as my lord and savior.

No. Can he pray for me ? I tell
him to pray someplace else and I

wonder what my mother, who was fine with
me saying

motherfucker but not

goddamn

would say.

I have fights to pick with Jesus, questions
a five year old would ask:

why did you let her die ?

Doesn’t her being a nun mean anything to you at all ?

Did she find you in all the religious tracts that
covered her bed in the

nursing home ?

I wait for signs. A dim star where she
can make a collect call. The heaven she
was

promised.

/\

person J.D. Nelson, seven poems

J. D. Nelson (b. 1971) experiments with words in his subterranean laboratory. Visit http://www.MadVerse.com for more information and links to his published poems. Nelson lives in Colorado.

+

the cat who ate rice balls

little burd in my head
for the good ghost to say so

little yikes yet
sleece asound

your ancient grains
three hundred french fries

worship the wet sun
earth is a benefactor

were you a cloud kid
oh flat hammlers

+

the hear-me horn on the roof of my TRUCK

why doesn’t the controller have the sum whit barn
the coy knock surge to prevent the last darrow

accumulation of zap
earth looks opposite to me

using the sun for a thief shoop
flying humans to the sea

+

standing in lime

tying the world to the moon
wow a new antler has sprouted

ok by now you must be hungry
we have some bees for you

oh we were real insects then
potatoes and pineapple

the water is a laugh when guffing
the nothing we need

+

wolf shucks

go thru the wall with a bunch of money
we can buy anything

cool day by the lake ok
there was a mirror of the sky too
but no one said anything

it’s all a new game

wolf shark makes spaghetti
and says thank you for everything
and that meal was the best ever using evoo

wear some pants too

+

we found the nest and the babies were hungry

in the room in the castle where my painting hangs

I entered the contest with the frog in my pocket
let’s get those diamond frogs from the sand

there is a sun over there, I said,
and we walked over to it
and it was small and blue
and we cheered it up

earth was in on it

+

the name of the sunlight to be born this day

while the earth cools
and frets about the moon
oh is it going to fall

in the land of the pickles
a vehicle of martian exuberance

growling at the stars
something like the lake face

I have seen everything on the old tv
and the new one, too
there is nothing on there for the brain at this hour

+

earth is set in its ways

window claus the freehold clam
set up to fool some yetterbies

when you become the worm
I would like to see if you don’t mind

when we look at the sky
and see the stars in their stations

happening in the head
I have these headlines

there is a frightened rat in glass shoes
reach the tv bleach for alpaca sweet

+

person Katherine Fallon, two poems

Katherine Fallon‘s poems have appeared in Juked, Apple Valley Review, Colorado Review, Meridian, Foundry, and others, and her work will be featured in Best New Poets 2019. Her chapbook, The Toothmakers’ Daughters, is available through Finishing Line Press. She teaches at Georgia Southern University, and shares domestic square footage with two cats and her favorite human, who helps her zip her dresses.

*

WOLF

That summer we drove straight across I-40, chain-smoking, fearing brush fires, snuffing Marlboros out in water bottles. When she told me about the Wolfman, we were in the flat, night-hot stretches of Texas, maybe, or Arizona. Miles and miles between exits and the stars were so bright they were green. She said he runs along beside your car, whatever the speed. Human legs inhuman, with the head of a beast, he turns his face to you and his eyes are white as the newly-dead. The horizon a shadow of difference, a divider between here and unknown elsewheres. Windows down just enough to make the world a sighing seashell, I couldn’t listen for his bare feet, but I dreamed of him night after night in roadside motels. That summer, everything seemed to rip open and tumble from me, toward me, and I saw him, I swear it. He was with us. Made us magic, made us three.

*

PUPIL

Although your legs were heavy
on me and the fat black fly
bounced from window to wall
while we slept, I did, in fact, dream.

Your ringed irises were glistening
cabochons. And the fly went still,
for once, its meddling hands folded
tight for wish, for appetite.

*