David Rock


Homunculus Thinks I’m a Sweet Ride

Dennett says that, when the dualism is removed, what remains of Descartes’ original model amounts to imagining a tiny theater in the brain where a homunculus (small person) . . . performs the task of observing all the sensory data projected on a screen at a particular instant, making the decisions and sending out commands. (Wikipedia)

A sunny summer day near the Somme.
A golden smudge marks the foreplay
of Chernobyl’s sordid aurora.

The world hurtles through that glow-hole
from Mogadishu to the silver-stunned
Aymaras of Potosí.
But don’t blame me—
I’m just a pretty face.
Rock in Rio. Spinoza’s boulder.
I have these walls, these quality qualms.

The iguanas of Uxmal bask in the sun
from twilight to twilight and rarely
cast a shadow.
Meanwhile
I’m just idling at the light
all wise and shiny in my saffron suit,
in my rust-colored robe.

Call me the Cold Lotus. See: Homunculus
can hardly fall asleep at the wheel,
I’m so beautiful.

Homunculus Regrets That I Spent a Month in Europe and Waited Until I Got to the Salt Lake City Airport to Buy Souvenirs for the Kids

By the time I hit the road, the war was almost over.
The animals had all been named—
call me a hero.

And I was one of Circe’s favorite pigs.
That was my island when she had me in her arms.
And you know it’s true.
Say, is that you—
my resurgent nurse,
my beautiful teacher, old and wise?

You taught me where to sit. You taught me
to wash my hands, to wipe my nose,
the one I keep to the grindstone.

(This is not the modest millstone
of the unindicted tied around my neck.)

You wiped my tears.
You made me forget

what I was going to say.
Oh, I remember:

Sometimes I arrive home and forget how I got there.

Sometimes I get in my car and just sit there,
pretending to be furious.

Homunculus Evaluates my Artistic Incorruptibility in Terms of the 900,000 People Who Starved to Death in the Siege of Leningrad

There is no healing here,
no useful miracle.

There is no I-Hop aroma
of coffee and maple syrup
to make one’s mouth water—

just a faint odor of roses.

Just Between Homunculus and Me, Would It Have Killed Yahweh to Let Moses Enter the Promised Land?

Right makes might if only, my one and only,
the sources of miracles have all been cited:
fire, blood, brine.

To each man his Horeb from which to fall
and found a dynasty of desperation. The tang
of plagues: fiduciary proof

that God exists and He’s working for Me now.
Ah, the throbbing quails, the burden
of Heaven’s bread.

Here is a slag-heap of cloisonné calves.
A registry of fleshpots and pans. Hardware
for a hammock swaying in the shadow

of a cloud that rarely rains.
All situations are life-and-death situations.
All stones are worthy of smiting,

inasmuch as the world could always end
but hasn’t. And it would be a shame
to bail on what’s left of a pretty good party:

all this prosperity, all this pent-up desire
hissing to mist in a leaf-storm of creeds,
oracular blurbs swirling like the Law, inscrutable

as Nefertiti’s number on a napkin, sealed
like the Ark with a kiss
of lipstick.

David Rock’s poems and translations are published or forthcoming in The Carolina Quarterly, The Laurel Review, The Bitter Oleander, The Main Street Rag, Free State Review, and other journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Penn State University and currently teaches Spanish at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

Elizabeth Robinson

After the Flood

 

We are walking, slipping on the ice.

 

Earlier today, someone asked me,

“What stake do you have in this?”

 

Later, I ask you

“Did the flood come through here?” and you, gesturing to the expanding field:

 

“It was a fast-moving river, all water.”

 

 

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Here’s the gap,

the place where we once knew solid ground

and now is all movement—

 

Calling over the man who was flying a sign at Arapahoe and Broadway,
I handed him the thawing, sloppy food I’d carried down the flooded hill.

Stupid with trauma. All of us.

 

The loudspeakers blaring, “Leave immediately. Seek higher ground.”

But the flood didn’t simply rise from below;
it rushed down from above.

 

 

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Later, when the man suddenly shows up at the shelter

after months gone,

I hit him with a rolled up newspaper:

 

“Where have you been? You had me worried!”

 

Then we both laughed. Then

 

he’s gone again, limping in memory.

 

My attentions are crude, raw.

 

I begin to think that all attention is a form of loss

 

because it cannot create perfect reciprocity

with its focus.

 

 

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I remembered trying to cross the street and

being unable to. That current.

 

How to explain the utility of loss and fear?

 

How to explain that the fragmentary quality of my love for

 

you
and you and
you is enough,

 

even if it is as inconsistent

 

as the comings and goings of the many who

present themselves to be loved.

 

 

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The logbook says he returned, got a bus ticket,

one day when I was out sick.

 

Exhausted with the effort of paying attention,
of making present to my awareness
the ones whose presence is fundamentally
homeless.

 

Those whose presence is fundamentally unhoused.

 

What is your stake in this?

 

We love, if we love, inside every increment of error, forgetfulness, panic.

 

 

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I stammer, “I believe—my

experience—is that

there is a Divine who loves

all of us—all of it.”

You ask, “And why would some people never

experience that?”

 

Incomprehension is not always the same as doubt:

“I don’t know.”

 

 

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Walking outside in the cold with you, I do not say that I have a dying tooth and its

dying will reassert itself as pain when I am inside again, in

the warm air.

 

The weather, captive to its own movements, may freeze the ground,

but it doesn’t tell us who we are as we fall and scramble to right ourselves.

 

It doesn’t awaken pain by its warm absence.

 

 

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This partial, this fragment, this self-as-errant

blunders on.

 

The world, we may agree, is ending badly.

 

But inside despair

 

there are ameliorating coincidences.
There are pleasures. I have a loving

 

commitment

to hearing the erotic talk of the two owls

who perch on the dark peak of the garage across the street.

 

 

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A man disabled by his stutter tells me haltingly that

on the best of days he can say this much:

—he shapes his hands to a small box in the air—

 

when there is this much

—broad gesture of arms—

in his mind.

 

I lack the whole story while

the story itself corrodes or the current

carries it

out of reach.

 

I have peace only in some part as,

in passing, it attends to me.

 

 

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Despair may always be true, with its glare.

Its greedy light
blanches the surround of all color.

 

Beside or aside it, rapture has its own kind of patience,

groping in the dark.

 

I, with my keen scent, sniff it in, but am still dim, thick not knowing whether

presence is coming or going.

 

Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of Blue Heron (Center for Literary Publishing) and Rumor (Parlor Press/Free Verse Editions). Vulnerability Index is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press in 2019. With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited the critical anthology Quo Anima: innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry, which is forthcoming from University of Akron Press.

Matthew Kosinski

Knife Month

She became the first firefighter in Teaneck history. In college
I tried to score oxycontin from her. Not at the time
but later. I made a bad assumption. No one asked me to be sorry.
Have you heard him sing the hook from prison? There’s a codified theory inside of it,
something I’ve been calling “savior music.” Christ, whose mustache was beautiful,
that mustache is beautiful. At the time and later. Depression
as good a reason as any for asking. Conventional wisdom balks.
A lifetime of courtesies could be bartered and lost.
At this moment the throne slips behind plate glass. Who cares how the money piles up
when the telephone cannot voice your desire without dissolving.
[A firelike crackle.] Some people’s problems
involve too many walls. I walk freely in an arc around the pope
to discover he is cardboard in his back. I like that
this conversation always ends up at [emoji of knife] and June is knife month always.

 

Matthew Kosinski is managing editor at Pithead Chapel. His work has appeared in The Millions, Always Crashing, A Bad Penny Review, and elsewhere. You can find more of his work at www.matthewkosinski.com.

Laurie Kolp

Three Centos

On Being Unfaithful

A strange door opened between us and someone
shattered dishes underneath a pine.

Last winter’s kisses, like salt on black ice, slung away from the earth
and sank into the arms of many lovers.

Hands, calloused and shit-hued with nicotine,
threaded needles rising through the smoky air

apologies blue bone beads small enough to swallow.

 

CENTO CREDITS

L1: Pablo Neruda, The Eighth of September;  L2: Robert Frost, Directive;  L3: Kim Addonizio, Wine Tasting;  L4: Neil Weiss, The Ageing Athlete;  L5: Patricia Smith, Elegy;  L6: Wendy DeGroat, On the Addition of a Black Candle to the Center of Our Advent Wreath;  L7: Natalie Crick, Blue Water

Critiquing His Work

I want to smooth the unreadable page with
his hand. His hands. The syllables inside them
preserving flesh and painting blood as
ink falling in tiny blossoms. A bottle wrapped in a paper bag.
Waking up in an alley. Teeth red, penny-sweet. Rain coming down clear as gin.
It doesn’t matter if rain is an image or rain is an idea or rain is a sound in our heads,
he imprisons the image within the image,
darkness clinging to the undersides of leaves.

 

CENTO CREDITS

L1: Ted Kooser, A Happy Birthday;  L2: Ocean Vuong, A Little Closer to the Edge;  L3: Mary Hickman, Still Life with Rayfish;  L4: Nick Flynn, Father Outside;  L5: William Brewer, To the Addict Who Mugged Me;  L6: Nick Flynn, Forty-Seven Minutes;  L7: Mary Hickman, Still Life with Rayfish;  L8: John Unterecker, …Within, Into, Inside, Under, Within…

After the Abortion

Easing into you like a sliver of ice into a dirty jelly glass of JB,
the tongues of my fingers ask to be words against your skin.
Your eyebrows dance at the question and the way

swirling lacerated flesh swells against red.
Nothing is so scarred as this place. Shards of parched cloth
sizzle like moth wings, marry the air

as if bones are the clouds surrounding thunder’s crack.
I pull myself back again to a place where I can comprehend
the impossibility of being human.

 

CENTO CREDITS

L1: Patricia Smith, Elegy;  L2: Bob Hicok, My Most Recent Position Paper;  L3: Un Cadeau, Un Couteau;  L4: Mary Hickman, Still Life with Rayfish;  L5: John Unterecker, The Hero;  L6: Naomi Shihab Nye, Burning the Old Year;  L7: Steven Sanchez, Califia;  L8: Nick Flynn, The Incomprehensibility;  L9: Charles Bukowski, Beasts Bounding Through Time

Laurie Kolp’s centos have been published or are forthcoming in Stirring, Jet Fuel Review, Stone Coast Review, American Journal of Poetry, and Anomaly Literary Journal. Her poetry books include the full-length Upon the Blue Couch and chapbook Hello, It’s Your Mother. Laurie teaches 1st grade and is currently working on her Master’s degree. An avid runner and lover of nature, Laurie lives in Southeast Texas with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

Jessica Goodfellow

Postcards from Insomnia

I.
Sleep is a séance on a raft.
All night the day bucks
beneath your temples.
All day your eyelids
flicker scenes of night.
All night building,
all day tearing town.
All night turning sinistral shells
over and over in your hand.
At daybreak, lobbing them back into the sea.

II.
Alpine-angled, the fox
folds herself into the under-
brush of the tundra. Creature
of intricate origami, hunting
in the saxifrage for small-
boned creatures, she disappears
into the night. The starry sky above
unfolds like a road map
that can never be put back
into the tidy glovebox of day.

III.
A mind is a tumbleweed
blown this way.
And that.

A scar is a souvenir.
The night sky might think
of stars as scars—

pinpoints
where memory burns
and burns.

IV.
Lightning marbles the night,
ragged quartz, barbed wire sky,
trisected—one part for God,
one for regret, the last for escape.
Broken mesh sieving dark
from dark, imperfectly,
the way water trickles
from between the fingers
of a cupped hand.

V.
All night rain arpeggios
the tin roof like a xylophone.
The rhythmic trapezes of night
and day swing almost close enough
for the leap into sleep.
Early morning the temple bell
joins the chorus from far away.
Later, three roosters.

Gabriel’s Horn

Night after night I wake with a start.
She is dead again. Our differences hang
in the dark: palpable, insoluble, insolvent.

My grief’s like Gabriel’s Horn, geometric,
a surface of revolution with finite volume
but surface area infinite—you can fill it with paint

but can’t paint it, a professor once explained.
It is not the drowning grief I had expected,
plumbless, but one instead with edges, its skin

in the world endless, touching everything. I wear it
as I go, like my clothes she never approved of,
where everyone can see, crumpling against expectations.

So make it clear and fill it with paint, I’d said
to the professor, pragmatic but missing the point.
Nothing about grief is clear, or can be made so.

It brushes up against everything. Against, against.
Friction. How I used to complain she was all surface
and no depth, stupidly forgetting depthless means

both shallow and unfathomably deep. Once we were
elbow-to-elbow in a museum, gazing at an ancient amulet
fashioned from bronze. I imagined an earnest person

thousands of years ago, painstakingly scoring the metal,
how many hours it must have taken, the solitary effort,
the satisfaction when done. Then suddenly she said,

Imagine that. Once upon a time somebody gave that
to someone.
The paradox of Gabriel’s Horn
can be explained by the method of infinitesimals,

by partitions so small you can never see them.
Also unseen are angels trumpeting in Judgment Day.
Invisible too are the tiny yet infinite judgments

we made against one another. Forgive me.

Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Whiteout (University of Alaska Press, 2017), Mendeleev’s Mandala, and The Insomniac’s Weather Report. She has been a writer-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve. Her work has appeared in Threepenny Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Southern Review, Motionpoems, and Best New Poets, and is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2018. She lives in Japan.

Tongo Eisen-Martin

I Do Not Know the Spelling of Money

I go to the railroad tracks
And follow them to the station of my enemies

“Yes, you poets make points. But they are all silly.”

Police chief looking at the crowd
Like he is in some kind of solar position

Police chief looking straight through the poet

“Awkward basketball moves look good on you, sir… Yes, we are everywhere, sir… Bandanas in the middle of every society, sir… Surveil the shuffle, sir.”

The ruling class have a child

Outside of “Prophet Basket,” the bar
A cobalt-toothed man pitches pennies at my mugshot negative

The ruling class floats baskets of swathed neighborhood off to be adopted

Government plants braiding dust

Toddlers in the rock

I see why everyone out here got in the big cosmic basket
And why blood agreements mean a lot
And why I get shot back at

I understand the psycho-spiritual refusal to write white history or take the glass freeway

White skin tattooed on my right forearm
Ricochet sewage near where I collapsed
into a rat-infested manhood

My new existence as living graffiti

The new bullets pray over blankets made from old bullets

The 28th hour’s next beauty mark

The waist band before the next protest poster

…terrible rituals they have around the corner. They let their elders beg for public mercy…beg
for settler polity
I am going to go ahead and sharpen these kids’ heads into arrows myself and see how much
gravy spills out of family crests.

Bought slavers some time, didn’t it?
The tantric screeches of military bolts and Election-Tuesday cars

Proof of fondled nooses
And sundown couples
making their favorite graphic audience out of opaque peach plastic

the Medgar-second is definitely my favorite law of science

Fondled news clippings and primitive Methodists

My arm changes imperialisms
Simple policing vs. Structural frenzies
Elementary school script vs. Even whiter white spectrums

Artless bleeding and
the challenge of watching civilians think

Modern fans of war
What with their t-shirt poems
And t-shirt guilt

And me, having on the cheapest pair of shoes on the bus,
I have no choice but to read the city walls for signs of my life

Soldier Clothes

Millions pretend
that water is white noise

The people part of memory
sleeps beside a soda can
or two

Beside a chair’s-eye view of revolution

Chemical America
becomes human enough
to wear a wedding ring
then no form further

But Rooftops Did All the Work

Half asleep was my tutor
When I played my hand violently for the first time

“I’m snorting cocaine on the back of a poorly decorated camel,”
I told the choir as they rushed out of the church doors

“why are you all running in a drought?”

I wasn’t drunk when I said things to scare and/or mock people
I am a mock person
Clocks where the toilet
apparently does not need to be anymore

“at least I know where my veins are metaphors.”
-talking about facts that
the choir will never be able to handle

(they are somewhere pretending that they are in the desert)

“my veins are metaphors right here, chumps!”

“it wasn’t my idea,”
I say watching the library burn

“Go ahead now. Run to the corner store
and let the oligarchy know that everything is alright”

people/walking confidently down the street with their real arms reaching up
people/ walking confidently down the street/walking on top of their real clothes
people/naked with hands up

man, heaven sure is secretive

The staircase under this slavery
And one hundred slaves

For a delicate five dollars
I made a deal early in life
But now I feel like hanging in there a little longer
—when human flight becomes the fall that nobody saw

I am influenced by it all
—as is the custom

I do not trust immortal people
And therefore hope to not become one

“I’m a bluesman. Of course I mean to kill you.”

You look like an occasionally violent man
not in charge of an altar
not in charge of an important altar, anyway
not one that is about fancy deities
just a plain neighborhood for the dead

please give me
spare change and your word that I won’t be missing in a year

—as is the custom, two humans make a humanity

Originally from San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin is a poet. His latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, We Charge Genocide Again, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country. His book, Someone’s Dead Already ,was nominated for a California Book Award. His latest book, Heaven Is All Goodbyes, was published by the City Lights Pocket Poets series, shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, won a California Book Award, and was awarded an American Book Award.

Adam Day

Dune Lahul

Air stiff with cracked leaves, dog
gray skies and sand, beetle-

carved cedar drifts. Boats
step through ice. Her belly

and breasts jut, hound drags
the leash down shore. Neighbor puts

wet clothes on wet skin,
the right nipple hardens. World bent

on splitting itself.

Cobalt Noso

Morning dew draping the Iroquois
PJs. Hood rats in the back;

rollin’ up a tree, green leaves
and all. High summer

prints their shadows
on a peeling wall. Slate-gray weeds.

Bulls. Blackberries.
Damn the lottery. Neighbor

has the sex drive
of a cicada. So, her husband’s left hand

is his own wife. Neighbor
steps out to the communal porch,

invites night
into her house robe. Birds sing

all the wrong words. The skunk
is fucked: horned

owl can’t smell. This today is all
that I can tell you: What I am not;

what I do not want.

Supush Holm

Neighbor believes everything
and nothing; everything is possible, nothing

true. Indri wails without complaint. It’s treed
with a stolen appl. Neighbors

believe most fantastic statements; nothing
to do with truth but opinions

which change. From opinions: persuasion
and not from fact. Fellow neighbors take

the pups; fence out adult. History
deformed by facts no longer

of the past; present world that holds
green eyes, smoke silk fur, tail without purpose.

Adam Day is the author of the forthcoming collections of poetry, Left-Handed Wolf (LSU Press), Model of a City in Civil War (Sarabande), and Badger, Apocrypha (PSA). He directs The Baltic Writing Residency in Sweden, Scotland, Blackacre Nature Preserve, as well as the Stormé DeLarverie residency for underrepresented writers. He also edits the forthcoming literary and culture magazine, Action, Spectacle.

Matthew Cooperman

Gaseous Ode

Poetry readings are pretty cool
but the format’s all wrong, unquestioned, say
you are a performer, you must use your time
wisely, verve & salt, we are not clowns, this
is a pageant of dignity, true confessions,
we are all clowns quite recent in human history,
some notion, perhaps, wrought from the academy
that all representational poets should stay home and write
how a blue jay could possibly land on a porch
each day anew, a new metaphor tattooed on its flank
caw caw, not everyone, I mean, is breathing deeply
as Ethel Merman, the awkward fumbling human
figure and voice, it’s a good messenger, senses
merge in the strange O chasm of the throat, a voice
in which I write this at my grandfather’s house
in green Vermont, a lake, first frost, the enemy wheezing
a kind of perfunctoriness, shortness of breath, and thank
goodness I am ranting now, for it’s the clichés that kill
the dream, the bird, the blue brain, or I will read two
or three more and then I’ll end, I had a boyfriend who
used to read newspapers at readings, very newsy,
facts going down like a red fire truck answering a flood
but no thrall, no inhale admission—I am sad in the
abstract and angry in the real, reading this thread
alone, was his name Kenny Goldsmith?
I too dislike it and it’s not difficult reading to the
emotionally impaired, another literary tote bag gleaned
from the Loom of Poetry, we don’t have to balkanize
or swoon for abstraction, naming the font’s frosty
glow in white space breaks your heart, so lonely
to publish any screed, you mentioned Rilke earlier,
your comments make me laugh, and laughing’s
good in the rarified comedic register of performance,
I’m in one now—Das Poetry! Das Poetry!—its unfurling
white flag of the person, let’s call her Vanessa, can we
get the real person from the literal breath, who needs a
secret sharer, there’s an O really home when the conversation lifts, for a face
I ask Emily Dickinson, but sometimes my ass
is a hat, she didn’t even read in public but she sang, a breathing’s
brood of bird work, I’m all alone at the winter podium,
my voice fails me again and again—respiration—
it’s everyone’s problem

Mother Ode

A, and, heir, address, what isn’t one of your subjects

You, who have given me

subjects, writing sunlight, just now

through the cracked window, falling prismatically
on the recognized days of my arms—they are

your arms in the warm morning air—the intuited body of creases
a riverine channel caught
in the corner of your eyes

and the real sedge-pocketed wetlands, grassy hills, fertile
down low a stand
of egrets—alone but together—scattered
over the marsh

All this, an image, the pictures we have
made together, walking the spongy ground, and You too

just now imagining your Mother, first flash or glimmer
of face
or breast, emanation of safety,
home, smell

from the actual marsh. It is Bair Island in my world
a home, or the estuarial Pescadero
where I place it, an Actual, how you have saved
this real thing, dear Mother, made a difference

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What is it to make same and make different?

What is it to make a difference?

What Progress from a thug’s life, or a TV addled life?
I watch 60 Minutes and hear Morley Safer down the hall…
It is vaguely the 70s in what I am saying

This too is one of your subjects

Free Speech, Literacy, quilting, Mothers Against War,
happenings, marches, chants and hugs,
I am in a gym, somewhere in Oakland,
we are there to protest Vietnam,
we are painting placards, reds
and greens, the
foggy undertones outside and in a
scratchy wool—

a sweater you have made me

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The earth is hot tonight with all of its angers, the human need
a small part of destruction, an enduring sign
for the sentence of odes, devotions
that kill, come out of the mouth

And it’s cool, cold, freezing again in a foreign car or a small house
on a large lake—Tahoe, George, Geneva, winter, a Suisse affect
of people we knew then
who I dream about now,
one of your subjects

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Memory—

What does the poem do as an effrontery to hydrogen?

What much, mulch, burn / not burn down the house or marsh?

What will the burn down be in the loss of Mother?

A human sign is a mother sign, attachment, ductile love,
a human need as apostrophe, breathing
itself, to be recognized, a Subject

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These aggregates grow at the bottom of the ocean

I say this because I went sailing with my mother

She of the sea, in a driving reach, firm hand on the tiller
coming about, or with a cup of wine, wine inked
by moonlight, the quality of objects birthed on water

We are birthed by care or carelessness, circumstance
and Money, but always Mothers

where the mouth is, where the care is, the breast
cupping it back, even to a thug’s life

Water breaks: everyone starts out innocent
and with a Mother

A person first unrecognized pinkish need

an elbow’s covert, a little too much
oxygen, foliates of time and space
tentacled to Mother, this this this is my Ode

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An immense loneliness clinging to my shirt, the Futurity

of your Absence, stitchery in its indigo

a continental drift, race and trade and labor, the endless
stream of mothers, largess of what’s given
and received, never never never enough

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Sidereal—I hear the word and you are standing

in a grove of redwoods, ours, our memory

with stars and potting trowels, alkaline rot of the darkening
backyard, Deneb, Altair, and you come forward

toggling your blue eye with seeing night,
the perennials, one
of your subjects

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So the image suffices, briefly, that You are a conjured planting

an Earth somewhere, a Good Mother, something living
that will outlive the dead, a photo passed
in sunlight that addresses me personally
in the turning world

Air, address, say it will suffice, I am dangling, a prism

alive in the Mother Ode

Laughing Man

When I woke this morning I was a laughing man. Not someone
waking up from a dream of laughing, or the watching of a man
laughing suddenly awake, but a real laughing man. I will try

to explain it was rich with others, others laughing,
but they have run away in my dream. The dream itself
was sudden and tan–there was a gathering, a party of people

at ends, “fuck you, I love you!” and “one more verse!,” and I will
never see you again. This was a threshold and O, just so interesting.
There were places to go, lives, people paying, gasoline, college, beer.

But there was a visitor and he had come to the room of my dream
and brought his girl, who could be his wife, maybe his daughter and she
was tall, a strawberry blond, with deep laughter lines as if she

had been with him laughing for a very long time. “The visitor speaks
whenever he arrives,” he cautioned the room, the world, our eyes,
to brush the dust slowly from the chair, the red chair she was to sit on—

“don’t sift dust into her eyes, her eyes, fair and blue are very sensitive.”
He was not laughing, he had seen a cloud darken, what to darken
one’s sight, to lose sight of why blindness or fate or a poem arrives—

and a sudden man in denim who could not explain why anything laughs.
What a dream! A long winter rushes up to pause the explanation,
the explanation which is not what we wish for. Whose dream?

Sunlight dreaming, and so someone asked how to write a poem
with everything in it—”a beautiful abundance?,” she asked, and he
and the woman, and another man suddenly “Yes’d!” in triple unison,

—and they ran away into the woods like a pedaling sunshine
into green, light spread around, comical, denim, a kind of haiku
with six legs that appeared to love life very well. Anything

can happen in a dream, a beautiful abundance, or a laughing man
leaving a party, and into the woods, where there is more laughter
than darkness, and people will follow.

Years pass in the dream. I waited for years to say “you have
answered all of my questions which were not known as questions”
for there they go running away into the summer woods.

I will get up from this table and follow the sunshine
and denim of a tribe of people living variously outside.
I will make a pact with the present to not use the future

as a problem about missing the sun. And I will leave,
I have left an old and grading life, and it’s a sunshine to be out
in the world of laughter when there is so much pain.

Fair dreamer, there is no generation that knows and does
not know. There is no conveyor belt to happiness and sleep
though we would dream deeply to get there.

We go on and on in our lives not remembering the laughter
of children. Not the idea but our own bright guttural laugh
missing for centuries. From us and to us—

my daughter rises every morning like the visitor from a dream
but she is real. She knows where to go for the sunshine
of this blue planet, and the games that will make her laugh. I

am running after her broken free

Matthew Cooperman is the author of, most recently, NOS (disorder, not otherwise specified), w/Aby Kaupang, (Futurepoem, 2018), as well as Spool, winner of the New Measure Prize (Free Verse Editions, 2016), Disorder 299.00, w/Aby Kaupang, (Essay Press 2016), the text + image collaboration Imago for the Fallen World, w/Marius Lehene (Jaded Ibis, 2013), Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move (Counterpath, 2011) and other books. A Poetry Editor for Colorado Review, and Professor at Colorado State University, he lives in Fort Collins with his wife, the poet Aby Kaupang, and their two children. www.matthewcooperman.org

AJ Urquidi

convalescent stayover at the flamingo house

/ what recourse you gave was never yours to begin with // desiccate marrow, mauve mallow
cinders to lay on cherubim desks // all year their mother cries, pipewater sputters out of its
element // reset your watch, chime, chime in // watch the zookeeper’s child drain lymph from
rind // honesty fumbles in her bouts of proved worry // because she’s aware, you can’t be vilified
// in decorous time you’ll again displease the syndicate \

/ marabou stork, walk into your cage // the beach bodies winter scars // toss towels on the shower
floor with care // you are not shelter, but you bend in wind // the guest bed unwinds where it
wanders // curve gashes where onyx drags fir // donald ducks inscribe a ceiling like a pox //
whatever you find, love the anxious rest of them \

/ she retches, dangles bracelets // one’s strung limpets // then do not resuscitate, of course // not
long ago, you’d have begged to join this menagerie // tap the windshield, the capybara rolls its
eyes // keep apologizing to posterity // now you plead with the tamers: form your threnodies
hushed // overnight grit files locks, and by sunrise the rarest physician has fled \

To Dissipate the Abscess

i.

A wind with the force of a dentist’s
drill knocks us sidewise
fleeing the firemen. To the left

the dentist reaches deep between his
laces and grabs
an angsty python from the gravel

lot. You can’t just do that sort of
grabbing around here.
Locals frown upon it, generally,

like spleens. Withhold that complaint
since he’s the burg’s
only dentist. Can you stretch

my legs for me (I’m too shy)? Jet
fuel’s made of the cure
for war, but jets hang on to it. Viselike.

ii.

You are so quiet this morning. Are you
still lard-bitter I never
gave a life for you, or even offered?

I can get you something better, perhaps
a periscope. I can sprint
on hot coals with napalm scissors in hand.

Sure, it’s no golden fleece, but my love
is in unspoken demand.
I’m negotiable. I’ve got a jet to catch.

iii.

There will be a bottle of uncapped sermons
surface-shaming you
from your dashboard as you jet across

the lake tonight. Follow abalone wires
to the cloudy back daggers
of the warehouse. Should you see

the crowded horseflies carpet-bombing
the bathtub drain, know I was
false, and am now a gentle absence.

My Apparat Liege, My Quarantine Flag

i. Formalin Years

My country, tis of the eyes skulking
beneath my couch. The horrors

of end-September rain down
from crossbeams. Goon uninvited

to the pantomime. For this was
the second strike, the world now hiding

in a gelatin helmet. One more
waits in the slow-broth. The city

bans diaries, of course, fuels bonfires
of feelings expressed not aloud. I don’t

mind the static crackle of the man
in sleep beside me, aloft on the Blue

Line, rubbing leg-to-leg. But the kids
I know want to swim in toxic waste

for DNA benefits, 21st-century spa.

ii. Malaprop Era

Mark him full of bullets for the cause
of conversation. Study pictured emotion.

It breathes, like cops with excuses. Votes
wrapped in crimped curtains. In place

of apologies, landfills sell plots
to ferment. Until they can afford the real

estate, gravediggers strike. The panting
woman fumbles black symbols. Drool

down the window to warn her. They’re her
jealous shadow, it eats her. Offers thanks.

iii. Glabella Meet

It would take a surrogate’s charm
to convince you: up for grabs is

authority, like a dry viaduct. First
to come, first served and protected.

The barber mock-trims your bald
spot but takes you down for another

appointment. Trapped in the quarry,
choose castle or cave. But once

locked in tunnels with a privateer
you seem panic-serious. In buttons

wrapped. A long dark glass of candid
nocturnals. Like camouflage, the dead

will rise with the vacant unemployed.

iv. Preparedness Kit

The red light stops you, imprisons you
for weeks on false charges. They planted

the evidence, such caustic ideas.
If you break the rules, starve for attention

or save time and die. To kowtow brings
ruddy fortune, so always remember

to offer thanks. This millennium
delivered the rules the last one follows.

v. Yellow Flag

Run parallel to society river
ducking into dumpster alcoves.

The golden rule is to eat the least
runoff. In the civilization game

creamier pieces win by default. It seems
of length but can’t go on forever.

Whatever is the doctor of penalties.
Solo rider on Ferris wheel, all the way

around, sir. This is his life in a rusted
circle. Watch the city shrink, then how

it zooms in to prey.

At times representing Monterey, Los Angeles, and NYC, AJ Urquidi is a heterogeneous poet and editor. His writing has appeared in various journals, including Faultline, Verdad, Chiron Review, RipRap, and DUM DUM Zine. A Gerald Locklin Writing Prize recipient, AJ co-founded online journal indicia and has led workshops at Cal State Long Beach and Beyond Baroque.

Stephanie Strickland

from School

Stephanie Strickland has published 8 books of poetry and 11 digital poems, most recently the Vniverse app for iPad and Hours of the Night, an MP4 PowerPoint poem. Two books are forthcoming in 2019: Ringing the Changes, a code-generated project for print based on the ancient art of bell-ringing, from Counterpath Press, and How the Universe Is Made: Poems New & Selected from Ahsahta Press.