Z.L. Zhou

hexagram 1, qián: the key

In the field, and it seems like you will be here again,\\
you are stuck by fear of decision: how it clouds you,\\
furthers you, crowds you! Familiar shades left behind,\\
this expanse before you mirrors of unknown thunders…\\
how easily forgotten, home. The dragon appears\\
in the heavens, its brief flight too headed, pointful, sure:\\
the grass crusted with dew, and in each, alight, a field;\\
you see moving forth is to wash fear from cloth with fear.\\
Night falls; there is no blame from the dry, the clean, heaven.

AT THE MARSH, REMARKING ON THE FALLEN-DOWN POWERLINES,\\
THE EDDIES

hexagram 7, shī: the army

It may be that the army carries corpses to you,\\
it may be that the army retreats. Would you blame them?\\
For it appears you are impaled with the blunt-end spear…\\
perhaps the troops, like you, will answer. They surround you—\\
like the copper-sea, the earth—waiting for the tracking\\
of your eye to the game. Set! The target flies, it bounds—\\
crisscross the field! Let fall your lips’ law of engagement—\\
the powder, piled calm, watches your attendant musing.\\
You were prepared for this order the whole of your life.\\

NO ONE IS TELLING ME TO ENGAGE WITH HIS SIGNAGE, BUT THAT\\
FACE WITH THE ARCHED BROWS HIGH: SYMPATHY OR AGREEMENT,\\
SYMPATHY OR AGREEMENT

hexagram 40, xiè: deliverance

At the ends of the world, the traditional fields, the\\
pillars chaotic with birds. Here, mist; there, din, missed and\\
empty. Foxes—sly yipping, spineless about your toes—\\
claim the earth and its get their inheritance. Look up.\\
And hawk, the viceroy, shouts down both challenge and demand.\\
Sparrows buffet your face and the grey fox nips your knees;\\
when you kick, he sprints past the steles with measured silence.\\
You know this to mean great fortune, ahead or behind.\\
In what direction, only you or the hawk can say.

ON YET ANOTHER FIRST DATE, WHEN MY FOOT BRUSHES HIS, I\\
AM FORCED TO WONDER IF I SHOULD WITHDRAW THE ADVANTAGE

hexagram 29, kǎn: the snare

It is as if you are concerned with the sin business,\\
weeping and the goddess, her skirt-edge wet with the spring.\\
Your reflection wefts in dapples and open windows…\\
This is the hunt in the abyss, and your aid? Cords, blame.\\
The shackle misplaced, and the goddess? Earthen vessels:\\
a jug of wine, a bowl of rice with it. Intention.\\
O Misfortunate, the hunt carries you. And pity!\\
In this brackish lighting, how do you hope to find her?\\
A compass points north like fixation. You and guilt: north.

HE PULLS OUT “THE OTHER” CARD AND I AM SHOCKED. YOU ARE ALL\\
EXCEEDINGLY CORDIAL AND I WORRY, I WORRY

These poems are from a project where I reinterpret the I Ching. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese divinatory guide from 1000 BC, has long fascinated me as a text: it has been continuously consulted since a time when the world’s population was a sixth of modern-day America; its world is so distant from ours that some of its aspects are approachable only through inexact science, science that verges on divination itself.
Z.L. Zhou is a poet from Tucson, Arizona, and Hangzhou, China; in his other life, he is a Linguistics PhD student at UCLA.

Anton Yakovlev

Prelude

Properly labeled pill bottles sit in his console.
He juggles three or four pills, catches them with his mouth,
gulps soda, burps. Aspens by the road
are blindingly windless. He taps the gas pedal gently,
tests the brakes, the mirrors. A half-transparent woman
waves at him from the sidewalk. Contrails cross each other
like denial. Thieves swarm every intersection.
The attack dog behind an electric fence has no teeth
but will suck you to death. GoFundMe transferred a few
hundred dollars. Brutalist mansions feed
his eroticism. A near-topless arsonist joins him, briefly,
riding shotgun with her favorite Yankee Candle.
He remains realistic, knows he may not survive,
delivers a few cabbages to the homeless. Lush sands
of a sea-like lake give respite. Just a few more demons to go.
He knows he can make it if he doesn’t intentionally crash.
He’s come to terms with his own
resemblance to a cockroach, and that keeps him from acting out.
Rabid rats hop into the car, nibble his feet methodically.
Turkey vultures form a flying skull.
The dead by the road love company, and next time he drives
into sunrise, he will still shiver—but less.
He speed-dials the person he used to love
then tries for a long time to remember her face.
Low-hanging fruit falls through his moon roof.
Yes, he thinks, he will get through this.
He can see it now. He can see it. He apes the final moments
of the Cheshire Cat. Just give him a few more years.
He’ll get comfortable with the world’s persistent murder.
He’ll stand at the podium and quietly predict
a war. And the applause will grow louder.

The Cedar Creek

We steep tea and then we read about tea and then we steep it some more and then we read some more and there is just so much we need to say to each other. The moment you tell me the truth I fall in the cedar creek. It’s not my fault, nor is it yours, but now our neighborhood is not the same. We do not taste chocolate the same way. Can I forgive you? No, not really. Not at all. Go fall into a volcano. I’ll be the volcano. I’ll pick you up after the show trial.

I would have liked to linger on your face. I used to wait for you by the cedar creek. After all, plenty of scholars keep their careers alive with thoughts of you. You juggle torches even when people kiss you. I would have liked to nestle with your world, but a world can destroy a rowboat. A lifelong addict, you are now clean and a spy, but you ripple like a head-scratcher. The cedar creek keeps adjusting its watershed.

You no longer balk at decomposition. You compose a symphony to be played with metal hooks on dead things. You stand in front of the cedar creek and don’t reveal any secrets. You resort to Russian anti-Napoleonic strategies, which is to say you bravely choose to let Moscow burn. A general is wise to let the other general self-destruct.

I do. The leitmotifs come back. We argue and we clutch. We go to Jesus Christ and bite into the infinite bread. Will we ever move beyond our lack of cue balls? The cedar creek never did turn into wine. Your fear touches me like a bouncing night.

Everything Thrown Out         Except for Their Eyes

meeting across the river, not noticing the vomiting dog                      well, that’s the architecture

of love: steeples of inattention, pits of catharsis, coffins of hurry              these details mattered

to exactly zero mourning doves        later, they also noticed each other’s postures         the train

was delayed, or just never scheduled                                              so they took each other’s hand

the endless pounding of the clock broken at midnight                                                 the operatic

puppets grimaced wildly                                 dangerous books were getting burned in the most

beautiful square                        when the fire was done, one of the mandolinists forgot to leave

and was seen playing all through the night and into the next afternoon                        the wind

blew cinders into his nostrils                                           censors made snow angels in the ashes

he bought her half a flower but got distracted                a wasp pollinated it                next year

there will be millions of half-flowers                         nocturnal birds will be hired to weed them

Anton Yakovlev’s latest chapbook Chronos Dines Alone, winner of the James Tate Poetry Prize 2018, was published by SurVision Books. He is also the author of Ordinary Impalers (Kelsay Books, 2017) and two prior chapbooks. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Amarillo Bay, Measure, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and elsewhere. The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of poetry by Sergei Yesenin, is forthcoming in October, 2019 from Sensitive Skin Books.

Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

Laughing Matter

October rattles, dry stalks
clacking evening’s prattle.
I’m not even jealous of you, Time,
with your hand in my pocket.
Ink poured into a coffin.
The moon dressed in white satin.

The empire shambles along.
The gladiators are not all glad.
Here in the pang fortress
I hide among the angels’ fangs,
like gum being chewed on
but not spitten or swallowed.

Let me show you, before we go,
how to draw a word out of a sword.

Temple of Jupiter

Hello, Sybil. Old fortune teller.
Dusk in its blue taxi
weeps at your endless agony.
Poetry should be grief, not grievances.
I come to hear your prophecy—
how the world is shrinking
like your cage of immortality.

Show me how to convert the useless.
The graceless and wasteful.
The northern half of a southern laugh.
Reveal to us how to yearn so purely
we turn into hollow light.
“Please ask for assistance.”
Let me chew on your fat dreams.

The Missing Lynx

Uncle Google won’t tell me who I am.
Sandra Day O’Connor can’t remember our date.
Jimmy Hoffa waits for me in a windswept field.
Vladimir has accessed my precedent.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir cries
over my unvirtual reality.

There will never be another pure moment.
Ghosts outnumber us, demanding equality.
Daily have I dallied
and watched my options dwindle.
Now I kindle darkness.
Nothing burns like vanquished ambition.

When night arrives in starlit slippers,
be ready to dance like Mercury on a dime.

Troubadour’s Notebook

A gaggle of geese hails Hell’s Gate.
I snag a seat on the Select.
Off on a gig, I’ll miss my rut.

Thin women, jewel-ridden,
wear bedraggled faces.
I forget to tip the concierge.

Does the afternoon worry
about being drab?
Luck shines on the willing.

Three pelicans wing along.
I too, find friends.
I keep them in a vault of sky.

Fireworks for breakfast
and fortune for a nitecap.
In between—time whistles like me.

Young Glove

Alone in the waiting room. Saying
adios to a molar going south.

December gutters like a candle.
The markets test the bottom.

I climb down from the wheelhouse,
reluctantly, to take my medicine.

Up to my neck in sunset.
The glove is not so young anymore.

Ivan Arguelles grazes
on his talking grave.

Did you see the Ski Jump?
Fast, high, straight, true.

The new moon forklifts night,
giving us all the now time can handle.

Jeffrey Cyphers Wright is a publisher, critic, eco-activist, artist, and impresario, who is best known as a poet. He is the author of 16 books of verse, including Blue Lyre from Dos Madres Press, and Fake Lies from Fell Swoop. He received an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College, where he studied with Allen Ginsberg and also taught. Currently, Wright stages events at KGB Lit Bar, Howl Happening, and La MaMa ETC in NYC, in conjunction with his art and poetry journal, Live Mag! He is a regular contributor to American Book Review and ArtNexus. He is a Kathy Acker Award recipient and Puschcart Prize nominee for 2018.

Steven Seidenberg

from plain sight

Eschaton or atrophy—if one insists on sheltering behind some meaning stasis, why not choose the stasis of depravity, of corruption; of the final…the intractable negation of the same…

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I have endeavored, so you see, not only to indite my peevish gaze into existence, but also to avow the world that fashions its forbearance at the threshold of that barren span. You must in turn have patience, although precisely for what purpose—and to what end—I’m not ready yet to say. You must have patience with yourself, and thereby nothing that has moved me will seem trifling in its nature, or tedious to the pretense of my project—or its vagrant aim…

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In order to be generous, one must have something to give. One must grow hair before one can have lice…

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Go ahead, laugh with me or at me, skip a page or two and start again with more companionable jargon; it is your right to blot the pages with tears or linger long and without focus on the cover or the binding, only—keep your temper. Of long faces there are two sorts—that of grief’s drudge and that of the imposter. Only you know which is yours…

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A destiny destroyed is a destiny fulfilled. The freedom from all longing, from the connate will…

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To realize the necessity of failure is to embrace a private madness, the enigma of an infinite singularity; to arrogate the paradox of limit without border, of border without bound. That I thought the immemorial passivity of turning back an invitation to the primacy of indigence was my attempt…my futile attempt to counter madness with madness, with the frenzy of reaction; to controvert accession to the stasis of catastrophe with a catastrophic ferment, and thus replace the itch with a remediable scale…

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Disabused of both illusion and the lack of illusion—the obligation to be nothing ever again. What more could you ask for? Don’t answer. What more could you want? What less…

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My mood clots quickly; I have seen the death of my children from a distance, as a figure in a crowd awaiting the suicide’s leap. Of other indiscretions…well, what is there to say. We all have forebears. Even blood spots can lay claim to primogeniture, though what that has to do with it…I will neither say what that has to do with it nor admit that it has anything to do with it. Let this empty exegesis both suffice us as a model—a fundamental principle—of explication, if you will, and present the measured foreground…the frontispiece of our compelled repletion in the giving of the given, the tautology of the found…

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What distinguishes my life from the lives of others is not so much the fact of my abjection as its fatality. I’m surely not the first to take my impulses for quiddities, nor is there any reason to believe such feats of reasoning would have otherwise gone missing from the catalogue of idioms had I but once forgotten to remember their elision…

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This is my minimum—who has granted me another? The naming of a surface is already an assertion of its limits—of its measure; the distinction of its status as some next-to to which I have been apportioned the most commonplace of adits, of expedient deferrals—that which is presented to those dullards who have made their way from one revaluation of the value of all values to the next, and then the next. It’s not so much to mention for a first course, not so little either, but…

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The welts on a cadaver hold more promise of arousal than any further cant of my incendiary idols, but for all the fatal prospects I’ve indifferently contused into this palace of departures, I will not risk the dudgeon of returning to the prime. Fatal for whom, you ask—So be it. I ply you with benevolence, with the pledge of winsome pleasures, and what do you give me? Riddles. What am I to do with riddles…

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The pretext of stimulus, the patience to give voice to an illimitable silence. Suddenly, everything must appear; even absence seems ephemeral, a mere anticipation—of the mere…

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They climb the peaks and swim the seas in search of El Dorado, disabused of pity and consenting saturnalia by their ditch into the baffle of pecuniary slog. We crawl and they step over us; we think their shadows vultures. Will they notice that the decadents have started to unfurl their stench, their next return to molder? That our last chance is upon us? That we’ve rolled back on our heels? So let them come; we have no better care than that our flesh falls off tomorrow, as though the master scavenger prefers a vintage gruel. Let them mouth the supple bits that decompose with the best savor, that slip past glugging gullet while the tongue lolls to and fro. The suppliant sees last the ventured promontory bulged against the pleasures of engorgement, the discharge and deceit of every vulture felled…

Steven Seidenberg’s works include Situ (Black Sun Lit, 2018), Itch (RAW ArT Press, 2014), and the forthcoming plain sight (Roof Books, 2020) and Anon (Omnidawn, 2021). His book of photographs, Pipevalve: Berlin, was released by Lodima Press in 2017, with another collection, Riforma Fondiaria: Abandoned Lives of the Italian South, due out from Contrasto in 2020.

Bryan D. Price

The tree of life

Everything turned
itself out broken:
windows, curses,
cures, cymbals,

the edge
of your cheekbone—
a dumping ground
for unspeakable horrors.

Adjacent to humanism
another, more delicate,
firmament is dragged, breaks…
becoming almost nil.

Palimpsest

these translations are faithful to an old vernacular
otherwise I think I would have enjoyed reading your letters more
I keep them still to fiddle with and write over
careful not to scrape too much of the literal away
pilgrims sight land and immediately it is called paradise
no matter how disappointed we are by its proximity to bad water
and dwellings that are quite old having been lived in for eons
we chase with exactitude certain memories repeat them as all people have
with a sense of utilitarianism that conflates nature with its opposite
we come bearing trees that remind us of sleepwalkers
well exposed to the moon tidal waves fill the whole sky the limb
finally takes we breathe fire night lasts for years and then we watch
a great multitude on bicycles taking in the hellish panorama of burnt brick
we can flee no further nor stay in this place ahold of the wolf this way

Dialogues of the dead

take me on a leash to see the figure of Orion
take me to the border between wash and disembowel
take me on a rope to forgive the rope
take the rope and make it into a damnable end
a preamble to waking
to making a fetish of
like turnable handles
and gentle latches for escaping
walk me — leave me — omit me
release me from natural history
obscure me with a scrim
with muslin — with an aporia
withstand me — withdraw from me
do not alienate — abolish me

Late October

Night spreads her greenness
wet as a raincoat

across your shoulders
double-sexed and winged

like Eros green
as the sweetest acorn

oceanic green
textured with bluish hairs

a green now lost out of
memory

cell by cell
marked out of time

like waning symbols
of emphatic

difference
only ether remains

as green as Night
rising naked from Chaos

Bryan D. Price’s poetry has appeared in Diagram, Portland Review (online), Digging Through the Fat, and Grey Sparrow, among others. He lives and teaches in the suburbs of southern California where he is working on a manuscript of elegies.

Adrian Lurssen

Landscape No Longer In a Mother Tongue

…to speak like one’s mother, means to dwell,
even there where there are no tents

—Paul Celan

I am his voice she said in spite
of silence. A definition not unlike fire-

eater, half-brother, mother-descended
river. His lips concealed in mist. Tell me,

what does she do for the living?
In a game of meaning they glimpsed

self-conscious human nature — doubt
as physical posture. She could will her

self into his dreams: chair, child,
crocodile, shape-shifter with heads

of elephants. Eventually one might
accept these boundaries of home

as given. She would say bees or blood,
he said. Out of earshot is a river, she said.

And then a flood of newly acquired words,
snakes curled about a family name, ritual

of origins in the buzzing dark
of tombs, a child buried

and reborn. And in the corners
of her eyes: smirk of a muse.

Between I and you comes
a sounding out against

picture frames, chanting in exchange
for landscape. She spoke

as if underwater: Here
is a map. Here, a spoonful

of honey. Lying in wait,
the curious air of a genie

unhindered by voice,
she was indifferent

as smoke and driftwood.
His remembered fingers

volunteered into shapes on her
belly: goose, crescent, eagle,

hawk, fire-arm, rhino.
They were reading secrets

of a mother’s young blood.
Meaning formed

in the darker shades
of an uncovered continent.

She engraved names
on slabs of clay,

a family music in
the imposed balance of finger

fist and feet. A process
of speaking without language,

of prolonging lives
of animals in the delicate

etch and plunge and rhythm
of his unstoppable

Adam’s apple. He spoke
but she was speaking.

Fail to Contain

Tree lines and stars made of wire
An empty field that isn’t

The swipe of quiet animals
learning to cross in order

A child in a cage
The image of a child in a cage

There is no explaining
It is all part of the explanation

In order to what? Or, state
your name when it is your turn:

Their there
Their their

There there
They’re there

Official voice from an imagined room
testing borders

between rhyme and repetition
Lines forming

in favor of the privilege
of song or the rubber

stamp on hard wood
the kick in the teeth

the gull’s beak and the story
of time and a mountain

Eventually
eventually: the anthem

song that sounds of footfall or muted
tapping on glass

a way of measuring time
but no longer reflecting it

Two poems from Watched for Music

ALABAMA

They were discussing the eternal meaning (Yes) of love —

That afternoon, that life, this aristocracy: a brief American moment, an attempt at affirmation like saying freedom is innocent or the road is real, merely to open a flood of trying, a flight toward the innocent, the impossible.

Experience requires faith when eternity is an exit from sense. Every removal ends on the inner road, a tribute to force, or innocent’s negative: the respect for Now.

This way out for children of an afternoon in America. Our rich, noble trying, our Now: an afternoon of innocence behind the curtain.

After which, the one becomes your Now.

PSALM

Through the storm and after the rain in all ways and forever —

The privilege of your spiritual art lives like a merciful rain. And so the psalm resolves to be in, even when engagement means irresolution and only instruments strike for tenor. In with vibration: rain as vibration, rain as a way to enter contradiction.

Or, the in of investment: the supreme instrument becomes love, thankful, a future engineered to be unerring.

Unerringly gracious, not unlike an acknowledgement should love ever experience love.

Adrian Lurssen’s work has recently appeared in WITNESS and the Boston Review’s “What Nature” anthology. Additional poems from his Watched for Music series are published in Word For/Word #33.

Mercedes Lawry

But now it seems impossible

the long sleep of November,
green dying to brown, the voice
of sabotage, the skin of denial.
As all of the lessons are played out
and the blue-gold commotion of sky hums
like an alleviation. What follows?
Thin wounds and hapless brooding.
No harm in a blurred curse.
Nothing torn or mutilated,
the mess of symmetry wriggling
in the gloved sky’s hiss.
Nothing fractured or displaced,
just forgiveness floating in the harbor
like an empty boat.

In Paradise

Benediction of ruin wafts over the fire-strangled earth,
over the long shadows and pillars of ash.
The remnants are a cycle of drought and fierce winds
as those left without a timber or scrap of cloth
wail against the mountains. Prayer
is but a pocket of empty space.
There is too much to lament. Let us
blame and calculate the remains of the day.
The stench will clear. The moneyed
will rebuild. The flames will fade
to dusty gold. The next
dark thing will seize our souls.

Extinction

Less the skim of moon than a whimper
as the swallows of early evening leave us
naked with our stale despair.
A haunted blue settles into black,
the edge of trees, a jagged saw, a risky
silhouette, the ways the human
can evaporate. Tsk tsk
of nightbirds like a slow crawl
into our thoughts which shift with the dissipation
of light, so that shape becomes elusive,
unbordered and we can see how
easy it is to disappear, how little
that means to the pines and the firs and the heron
carving its way east.

Mercedes Lawry has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Nimrod, and Prairie Schooner. She’s published three chapbooks, the latest, In The Early Garden With Reason, was selected by Molly Peacock for the 2018 WaterSedge Chapbook Contest. Her full manuscript Small Measures is forthcoming from Twelve Winters Press. She’s also published short fiction and poems for children.

Benjamin Landry

Space It Turns Out

space it turns out is a brightness
we carry around

swelled halo

from the lip
of this pond to that outcropping
is
[count them off]

posts and beams
of light,
hangars of sound

how to square
a thing that cascades

it’s why we loved
the topo maps

girded in concentrics

a ridge we know
to its limit where
it melts into the surrounding

Where Once

little nameless
flowers
—and lo—
unring me

not even
a stump
where once
a tree

one does not
see    one
feels the logic
of it plain

must be
long-rotten roots
gone to earth
like all
thoughts buried
but like the tree
the poem

implausibly
here

That Eats the Fly

that eats the fly that loves               the rot
of a picnic       what crosses the field in search
of             a crag             a mate             comets
going off behind a mum blue       there’s logic
a periodic             scratch             across the lens
so much overseen       the carcass where it last
leapt         grasses sparse as run-through hair
scalp edging back and white just beginning
to perceive       the dream of whatever interposes
a deus ex                       or thought balloon
but swifter than that                so one cannot
be sure           one has seen it in plain daylight

Shaft of Light

perhaps

stammers the

perhaps
hand

perhaps brow

of swimmer

that is

chevrons

of forearm

and thigh

 

and a few

bathing
digital moths

late arrived

that could

be fire-colored

  or set

afire

 

how

they grapple

toward

the present

understanding
or threaten

to disperse

Old Marble Vast

do not touch down
my medusa
jellyfish     like
something I have
known once
grown deadly

I was always
at the edge
of frame     witness
rather than subject
and you made
the blue distance
first bearable
then intelligible
an interstitial
balm

too near
to you and I
lose focus
too close
and I forfeit
my skin

It Walked Through the Clearing

hardwood sap hung in the air
X came in when the weather
turned    beestung     sawdust
caught in lashes forearm hair

this thing X was making
was difficult to see     explain
impossible to nail down
it had to have a clear view

it had to be level true
and watertight     a dowser
with a wishbone stick found
a source     other times winged

things peered down nervous
and hungry    X was on its own

Benjamin Landry is the author of the poetry collections Particle and Wave, Burn Lyrics and–forthcoming in the spring of 2021 from LSU Press–Mercies in the American Desart. His work has appeared in venues such as Kenyon Review, The New Yorker and Ploughshares. He teaches creative writing at SUNY Potsdam.

Heikki Huotari

Meditation On Matthew 6:28

a million lilies will be stilled
—Heather McHugh

God stopped the lilies spinning with consideration not with pheromones. The lilies had anomalies/anatomies to sing but didn’t care to. Prophecy was self-fulfilling and a molecule from Aristotle’s former body floated; thumbs on scales precluded cataclysms and three other kinds of kindness; spanning one caesura nonchalantly, nature spawned another, even wider, like an absence, like a sum of wants.

The Feedback Loop

The last full moon was fuller. Now the boundary of necessity is porous. I don’t need that pigment – I have wings. When in a sea of leaves and needles I need only brandish an imagination. Every word I speak is channeled back to me a seventh of a second later. Bite me, I say to the deity, You might have spent the morning watching hummingbirds extracting nectar but you didn’t. In your stead I did.

Peripheral

To distinguish infrared from ultraviolet, I’ve interposed a wavelength even I can see. If you are not a trick of light, try flying, like me, in alignment. Memories are made of this not that. Resemblances are tenuous. A second second of elation may just bust the bank. So mind your manners demon, mine’s the only voice you have, and on a moment’s notice I’d disown you.

In a past century, Heikki Huotari attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower, is now a retired math professor, and has published one collection, Fractal Idyll (A..P Press), and three chapbooks, one of which won the Gambling The Aisle prize. Another collection (from Lynx House) is in press.

Kristen Hanlon

Lost in the Supermarket, or, Late Capitalism

The advert promised farm-to-plate freshness
but your heart’s a bag of frozen pleas
closing in on irrelevance & irretrievability.

Fodder for the scrap heap, nearer
my applesauce to thee.

What does your monosodium gluten-free heart desire?
Jell-O that jiggles in thirty-seven combinations?
Hello Kitty cakes or Classic Caesar croutons?

Adjacent, an aisle with island sauces
& round-the-bend a pop-out
stocked with Tylenol PM.

My dressed-to-kill salad will drown
baby lettuces wiltingly organic.

The cart holds two days’ wages
but it won’t last the week.
Haul it home, coasting on fumes.

Bordering roses, a box
where worms are invited guests
& ladybugs gobble aphids
with aplomb.

If something’s gone rotten, cut it out.

This Week Can Go To Hell

The ties that bind are now links that shrink.
At the appointed hour, the academy may applaud
but only if by correct degrees obtained.

*

In a backwater of nuts-and-dolts
how many undercut?
Undercurrent of cut-and-paste

a brilliance like mica,
a stubbornness like gum.

*

The scrappy few / the scraped-up many.
Imagined nation in ruination,
when others are phoning it in
it’s hard to show up.

*

On a sick day / watching / a wattle / of senators / on TV / until / I have to / turn it / off

*

After a week of this
the can’t / won’t welling up
& the urge to shout
“fuck it all” from the open window

*

From unincorporated towns
pleasant and suited to life
we see the world other than it is.

*

What if the last chance to set things right
came and went without our noticing?

*

Continuity still seen as unmitigated good
& calamity a thing to be avoided at all cost.

*

Meanwhile: “choices” & the USA thrives
on “choice” — unless you’re a woman,
or not-white, or poor
& all three? Good luck, friend.

*

How the sun beats down
& I have no hat—
somewhere I have constantly travelled,
haphazardly among.

*

What we make good
is gone by breakfast.

Kristen Hanlon’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Volt, New Orleans Review, Puerto del Sol, aspasiology, and elsewhere. A chapbook, Proximity Talks, was published by Noemi Press. During the first decade of the new millennium, she edited XANTIPPE, an annual print journal of poetry and reviews of small press and university press books. She lives with her family in Alameda, an island city off the coast of Oakland, California.