G. C. Waldrep

Exodus

—after Jean Dubuffet

You could have said flame but you did not.
You could have said roof but did not.
You could have said light-bearing roof
beneath which a house crouches
you could have crushed pearls into powder
you could have struck a match.
You could have said prayer but you did not.

Twombly

parallel descending motions
“insatiable little gardens”

a machine holds the tongue
by its root

 

it’s you, you’re the machine

—line 2 is quoted from Friederike Mayröcker, Études, trans. Donna Stonecipher

Poor Souls’ Light

where & what is green
the bone strikes, honeycombed
frost-crowned perigee
 

 
the womb has no bone
runs the thief’s rhymed ecology

& therefore no secret solace
 
 
 
I profess my blue coin
in the tine-orchard, my book
set into the crux
of the most ancient testimony

G.C. Waldrep’s most recent books are feast gently (Tupelo, 2018), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Earliest Witnesses, forthcoming from Tupelo and Carcanet (in the UK) in January 2021. Newer work has appeared in APR, Poetry, Paris Review, New England Review, Yale Review, Iowa Review, Colorado Review, New American Writing, Conjunctions, etc. Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, Pa., where he teaches at Bucknell University and edits the journal West Branch.

Tony Trigilio

Aristotle Thrills the Fissure Step

Aristotle thrills the fissure step, chasing great caribou
inside the pretend delicatessen. Southward, hoard
of the modern uprising: an aesthete whose sacrosanct
observance prickles the highest vanes of clamor can be

explained to thousands. My maladjustment chalked up
to workstations and candelabra. But the desperado inside
my Outlook calendar is an ecumenical etching, a summer-
intern muckraker, an elongated schoolmaster gradually

broadened to make the ingénue fall through the sofa
laughing. The first budgets of the twenty-first century:
the poke, the nub, their neo-liberalism. Palindrome and
seabird. The dominant social group exhausts itself.

“Spontaneity” replaced by “constraint” in ever less
disguised and indirect forms, in outright police measures.

We Should’ve Known Swindlers Can Pose as Subterraneans

But we persist, calling it a veranda.
In Europe, bicycles grow from the flutter.
Irrational bankers soften the fun
surrounded by shinier lightning.
This traditional, popular conception
of the world is unimaginatively
called “instinct,” though it is a primitive
and elementary historical acquisition.
Frugal parents from Soviet Florida
bicker in fumy saloons assumed
venomous because of their fused anthers.
We should’ve known swindlers can pose
as subterraneans. Our single-genital
arbiters grossly oversimplified it for us.

The Seat, the Charlatan, the #Latergram

The seat, the charlatan, the #latergram:
curator dolls sink reasonably well.
Can you blame us for wanting to gull
the great money—the only orthodoxy
was the newspaper, which at the moment
revealed itself inept. This never became
the platform for new organic policy.
We learned to entertain ourselves with

our thrills. The fairground must be a nut-
house of umbrellas to get what we want.
Reapers, mutation, internets: it takes a few
journalists to make good melodrama happen.
Love is the fence we build around someone
who arouses the pest we spend for tingles.

Tony Trigilio’s most recent poetry collections are Proof Something Happened (Marsh Hawk Press, forthcoming 2021) and Ghosts of the Upper Floor (BlazeVOX [books], 2019). His selected poems, Fuera del Taller del Cosmos, was published in 2018 by Guatemala’s Editorial Poe (translated by Bony Hernández). He is a Professor of Creative Writing/Poetry at Columbia College Chicago.

Lesle Lewis

You Go That Way

I turn the heat on and off a thousand times.

I make anti-gravity moves.

The mouths of the dead fall open.

Let’s let these things be by themselves, not goose-to-goose, duck-to-duck, dog-to-dog, person-to-person, civilization-to-wild, open-to -sanctuary.

Not bandages to names.

But to be methodical, to determine plausibility, to draw a puff.

Field meets field, one object meets another, one objection.

And papers, window cakes, fish tanks, donuts, hallucinated cartoons.

Not to mention the bicycle repair, bottle tipsy, rolls, locks, sailboat muses, leads, cones, a suitable caravan, sockets, easels, republics, daubs, naps, and miracle bambinos.

Be brave and smart little mouse.

You are someone of importance.

“Years and Years Went By”

Hopscotch, drugs, and Poppins.

Years and years went by.

Canyon, pool, and pothole.

Years and years went by.

The pond bubbled up and burped a stink.

The girls laughed on the porch.

Is it not possible to float in an infinite present?

Let’s talk about this now before it’s too late and two hour wars become three hundred years.

A Woman Visits a Woman

Morning light longs for itself, longs over the sea.

The moon over the ruins, the television and the remote, three stars, careless talk.

Men work outside and clocks tick the seconds by.

It’s not the anguish of illness.

Not the swelling, drooping, hanging, dangling water or hair.

It might be after-the-fact useful.

During, it flounders.

The earth turns and opens its mouth.

The hope is that this can do that.

Lesle Lewis’s books include Small Boat, Landscapes I & II, lie down too, A Boot’s a Boot, and her new book Rainy Days on the Farm. She lives in New Hampshire.

Gloria Frym

Sense

Some people don’t know what needs to be done. Perhaps they can’t sense what needs to be done. Montaigne says that it is only through the senses that we know. Such people who don’t sense what needs to be done don’t do the thing that needs doing and avoid knowing about it. There are others who know what needs to be done, always know. They sense the needing, such as the dirty metal ring staining the wood floor that the base of the old pole lamp has made over time until one day, though previously unseen, the etching of metal on wood is visible. As if carved. Greasy, even. Though it’s not. It’s solid. If it were greasy, well. The viewer of this ring, reclining in a recliner some five feet away, gets up and repositions the old pole lamp so that it once again covers its own orbit. The viewer is just too tired to make a fuss; and besides, he rationalizes, who cares, I’m old, I’m busy, I’m young, I have better things to do. One who sees clearly could be deemed responsible for remedying the situation, the needing that something should be done to remove the dirty metal ring from the wood floor and prevent the base of the lamp from carving further scars on the living wood. After all, rust never dies, just goes deeper. Living wood, haven’t you heard the floorboards speak, the entire frame speak at night? But, and after imagining several possible solutions or not, probably not, the reclining one takes the nap he had started before interrupted by the unsightly circle eating into the pale oak floor.

Faced with such knowledge, other people know what needs to be done, imagine it, and do it. Their first attempts may fail. He thought he could simply spray a cleaning solvent on the floor to eliminate the grease. However, the stain is not grease. The second attempt is floor polish. He rubs it in well. But the stain does not disappear. Then he cuts out a circle of carpet pad from a nearby rug and places it under the lamp base. This he is sure will prevent the stain from spreading. However, he is in a hurry, his thoughts have already leapt beyond his perceptions, he takes no measurements of the carpet pad, just cuts out a jagged circle smaller than the diameter. When he places the scrappy pad under the lamp base it wobbles. He makes a mental note to do it again more carefully, with exact measurements. But he doesn’t. He forgets. Time passes. Seasons change. He moves to Portland
or Sweden to throw pots.

Another member of the family, or occupant of the household (whose precise roles shall remain unnamed for anonymity, to avoid stereotypic gender assumptions), notices the circle made by the lamp. Didn’t M buy that for $15, so long ago, at a flea market or garage sale in the last century, when such events offered the contents of a garage or grandmother’s castoffs collecting nothing but dust and spiders in an unventilated attic, or the recently acquired products of a journey to a country that produced tribal textiles, basketry, beadwork, etc. At the very least, the material remains of a marriage the former wife of which sits on a folding chair next to her youngest child who beckons other children his age to visit his collection of miniature action heroes. “Two for $5,” he says shyly, to the first looker.

This member of the family or the household endowed with historical memory unplugs their earphones, whips out their self-retracting tape measure, and measures the diameter of the stain. My Business is Circumference, they recall with a smile, and note the dimension. The next day they visit a hardware emporium. Such places, with names like Passed Time, Time on My Side, Kingfisher, Do It Best, Bricorama, carry everything one can imagine for home improvement, which, in a country of dreams, is practically self-improvement. They ask for a piece of felt cut to a specific size. A clerk behind the counter cheerfully inquires as to the “color of the felt.” “It doesn’t matter,” they—the person who knows what needs to be done—reply. “What sort of glue do you recommend for adhering felt to ah . . . .old metal?” The cheerful clerk senses hesitation, knows it through her senses of course. “Brass?” she offers. “Oh yes, that’s it, or it’s pot metal that looks like old brass.” The clerk leads the person who knows what needs to be done to the appropriate aisle of the store, embarks upon an explanation of glues, which stick to what and for how long, the price of each, and though the person who knows what needs to be done—this has become a bulky assignation we could acronym to TPWKWNTBD, which hasn’t a single vowel and seems impossible to pronounce, not unlike the Hebrew alphabet, which also relies strictly on consonants, so we’d better shorten it to TPW, perhaps a bit corporate, something one would notice on the side of a truck in traffic, akin to the menacing CVS or KGB or PMS—enjoys details and specifics, is tiring of glues, though finds the expertise and bright visage of the clerk suddenly enchanting.

They both blurt out nearly simultaneously a similar thought: Why don’t you/I bring in the lamp! TPW knows by now that the lamp is brass but wants to 1) get the job done right? 2) see the cheerful clerk again? Who knows and who cares about this part! TPW rushes home, etc. The lamp is brass of course, and so TPW returns to the hardware emporium to purchase both the perfectly cut circle of felt and the appropriate glue. Whatever happens next is collateral, and though may well be the story that begins the rest of two lives—that has nothing or everything to do with the simple observation which began this rumination. We can establish, however, a “bond” between TPW and the job they set out to accomplish. We’re done now.

Recycle

One transgression against the self may beget another. This is evident in persons on strict diets who take a second piece of cake then a third, deceiving only themselves. She threw the book into the recycle, she said, for its own good. Of course I’m against censorship, she insisted, but this piece of shit was remaindered and anyway, it was a galley proof. The late author was a famous experimentalist but these narratives were the awful mean-spirited dregs of his late life, good for nothing but the dump. He said nasty things about the physiognomy of old people. He reviled the few friends he had left. However, the guilt of throwing away a book nagged at her. It burns me, she said, that the book was even published. She had no such guilt about another book on gems and precious stones which arrived in her mailbox without her having ordered it. It was nothing she was interested in, so she put it in the bathroom where it sat for years, along with 501 Slovokian Verbs, until she finally dumped both into the recycle.

When she was a child, her father taught her never to desecrate books, never to write in them, fold their pages down, break their spines—all of which she began to do once in the world on her own. First it began with pencil—checking off certain passages, even underlining them. Then as the prohibition gradually lessened in her she took up the pen and would bracket sections. In the 1950s, during the “Red Scare,” her mother, not a recipient of the same training, found a box of “Communist” books in the garage just after they’d moved into a new house. She ripped them apart and put them into the incinerator, only to be severely chastised by her husband who came from a long line of Torah scholars most of whom had died in the Holocaust. A book is a holy thing, her sad father muttered, watching the bonfire. It was the first time she ever heard him use the word holy, as he was not just a secularist but given his history, he had no use for god.

When she initially began to read what she eventually trashed, this writer had high hopes for the book and thought it might give her ideas. But the only idea that she had was to get rid of it. First she tried to leave it in a restaurant, but the waitress came running after her. Then she tried to find a trash receptacle and there was none in sight. The one thought in her mind was that no one else would or should read this book because they might get the idea that its lack of merit was ‘experimental.’ Au contraire, it was lousy writing. After all, she told me, we know good writing from bad, don’t we? The back cover said that the author worked on it until his death but she joked that it must have killed him when he finished the last word. Crossing the street against a red light with the book in her hand, she said, nearly killed her.

She was determined to rid herself of this book not just because it repulsed her. Ultimately, she felt that it tarnished the reputation of an otherwise interesting writer, and if she could, she would buy up all the copies of this now-out-of-print abomination and throw them into the recycle too.

And yet, she confided, if it was so easy to throw away something an artist had put himself into, might it not start a habit? Might she not get rid of the dreadful painting that depicted a scene out of Things Fall Apart, a black man hanging, which a student gave her in lieu of a final paper? Or the imposing portrait of an artichoke fifty times the size of the real thing as a wedding present that arrived in the mail fully framed? Would such actions precipitate a clean up of all the books and artworks and odds and ends that no longer held meaning for her, even offended her sensibility? Would she accelerate her desire to rid the world of bad writing? Would she actively seek out other books like the vigilante “book ripper” of Herne Bay, England, who targets books in a store whose proceeds go to charity, books out of sight of the cash register, particularly in the true crime section, who rips their pages in half and puts them back on the shelves? Was destroying what one deemed a bad text the gateway to further moral lapses? A future of dangerous infidelities to one’s soul? After all, it had to start somewhere.

Gloria Frym lives in Berkeley. Her most recent book is The True Patriot, a collection of proses, from Spuyten Duyvil. She is the author of short story collections, Distance No Object (City Lights Books) and How I Learned (Coffee House Press), as well as many volumes of poetry. She is professor in the Graduate Writing Program and the Writing & Literature Program at California College of the Arts.

Connor Fisher

Autobiography III

Sometimes the body smells a little
off, though we prefer not to talk about
those moments, and sometimes we would do well
to admit professional failures. Even shepherds
lose their sheep and with them the
wool that wraps the animals and what fatty,
sweet milk each ewe makes, brimming, as
it is, with gentle, delicate globes of fat.

But I have never been a shepherd.

My urge was only to join together
the small pieces of whatever strange
object you chose to muster up: an article, a
partridge, the sweat built up under your arms, a
child, the image of the moon in water, some
notes scribbled down then forgotten, then lost.

The Shore

Don’t ask me to go there again.

The only objects I prize are memories of shorelines: me in
high-waisted jeans writing postcards to old students, small hints
of familiarity among the misspelled names, but in the end postage
ran out. I chatted with the mayor’s daughter. Her in a little hat.

Later the story resumed disguised
as the old novelist’s shopping list.

There’s always a rhythm, isn’t
there, that keeps us coming back, that reminds us
of a conversation’s subtle momentum.
But the shore has become disconcerting.

As if on cue, rats started to creep
in. The willows leaned closer for a view. Their
branches sported retinas, not leaves, never
spring-green buds.

That’s all right by me. I never
mind the mess, the noise, the waste.

North Georgia as Palatal Sound

The Oconee river, here       to Uvalda————

Below       I ground beans;
frozen in the Piedmont       or Plateau.

And still the coffee       keeps cold:
a blessing beside lilies,       the beach.
The      poem      comes      slowly;           wasp at a
window.       Writing       a
daily practice
like               your first      story.

We       like the weather hot————
we prefer to see       the sky       directly————
that is,       the old afternoon          blab
turned sour.     So we prefer     our
consonants firm———— dental,       not wilted.

No news,           no horses; they          lag while    a
mountain       moved on       before them.
Evening in the blue ridge.           Sun’s down.
Like all the rest, we say.

Connor Fisher is the author of the chapbooks The Hinge (Epigraph Magazine, 2018) and Speculative Geography (Greying Ghost Press, forthcoming 2020). He has an MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English from the University of Georgia. His poetry and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Typo, the Colorado Review, Tammy, Cloud Rodeo, and Denver Quarterly.

Darren Demaree

From The Field Party

The Field Party #1

 

in the feeder of ohio the fires burn with bodies as well as they burn with the furniture that once held the bodies it doesn’t matter if it’s summer & you can feel the heat from the two-lane the fires will be lit all night long we raise our children to track those gatherings to bring the drinks to those gatherings to bring the cord and the blood in the cord to not fear becoming part of that fire to know that the fire is ohio to laugh in spite of ohio as it masquerades as fate and then becomes fate in a twist once it has you on the bench by the fire staring at the fire feeding fall with the fire knowing that there will be no crisp without the fire without your body without your willingness to see at night far past the rational hours the midwest always claims to be all the hours

The Field Party #2

 

the guns are tucked into the field party they stare at us from the trucks the bikes the toyotas the regardless they’re always pointed at something which is always held by someone three times i’ve seen a bullet enter the fire & never return three times i’ve seen the casualty claim it wasn’t the bullet that entered their ribs we prefer the lie

Emily As We Let the Faucets Run

Teeth don’t sing,
but they know
all of the songs

& the rub
to vibration
of all of the songs

& since Emily
is only perfect
when she’s wasteful

I wait to hear
the water clear
the pipes in summer

for no other reason
than to displace
the music that runs

through my head
& echoes past my
teeth. All I want

is for her to give
me that dedication
of water

that we do not collect
that we do not use
except to quiet

my intentions for her.
She can erase me.
It’s an actual gift.

Emily As I’ve Offered

to bless each cheek swipe
as an ending

apparently, I’m not
to bury any part of her

it’s the sort of promise
that plants me with history

Darren C. Demaree is the author of fourteen poetry collections, most recently Unfinished Murder Ballads (October 2020, Backlash Press). He is the recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal. He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

Raymond de Borja

After Music

This very evening, Jean, they are ripping the square apart

As each idea forecloses an image of the world

Our now, this here, the instances of documentation

Light-eaten

Moth-eaten world

The music that description means interface becomes experience

White on white noise

Ambient form whose form is the intrusion of speech

In after-office sunrise, painted on noise

World on world

Your face discloses where light was

In 1915, Malevich, Red Square or the Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions

Reminded word on word

Remained

When describing color is to fix the I until the names unfasten

Malevich, for whom the town has lost its colors and become dominated by black and white, for whom the significant thing is feeling

Dear Jean, the riot is our figure and ground

If light were separable from gesture, the interpretation of the real is our documents set to music

But we’re not

What Felt Like The Onset of An Historical Emotion

Or a mind is the silent ligature between the glass, the ornamental grass, and an idea of enclosure. Should not saying anything structure an imagination – sublime render, place improbable grandeur, trial sublime.

We Requested for Some Relaxing Forest Sounds

We are lost in the exact study of appearance. The particular wavers between: authenticity and appropriation, a quaver, one’s tying of a knot, oh please disemplot, one, someone, anyone, point by point from nature, in light rain, in sound, motes accidental, birds’ precise unknowability, the present volume increases as it recedes.

Raymond DeBorja is the author of they day daze (HighChair, 2012). His recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Apartment Poetry, Big Other, The Capilano Review, Dreginald, Entropy, Heavy Feather Review, Jacket2, The Operating System, Partial Zine, and elsewhere.

Marije Bouduin

 

A film in which a character evokes Plato and the theory of the hermaphrodites:
Turns out everyone knows the story of the two halves trying to join themselves back together again.

In tiny afternoons your shadow looms and catches my attention. It distracts me from reading. It prevents me from reading. It reminds me of Plato and the theory of the Hermaphrodites.

I dwell on the bodies of the two halves.
I spend an entire afternoon drawing them by description.

I dwell on the body of the Other half.

The way your hips move impulses an orchestra to form.
I hide my head in your hands but refuse to give in another inch onto your skin. There were times I begged for you in empty bedrooms until your name was written along my jawline. Some men admire with great sadness the borders of my skin. I admire with great sadness that it’s mine alone.

Listen, I’m not asking much. I’m asking to reframe me because I think your knuckles bruised and shaven. I’m asking for two digits. I’m asking for the corners of my mouth back. I’m asking because sometime around your birthday you stopped messaging and I have no use for Skype any more now.

You’re costing Microsoft a great deal.
It was a pleasure doing business with you.

—italicized text from A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes

positInkSpash131210.small

You made me tie up my hair as to alter my silhouette. There are things that you desire more. Isn’t it over yet? No. There’s a spot where I felt something. I’m scraping the gum off my teeth now. I whisper your name but you don’t answer. You’ve finally fallen asleep. I’ll spare the notion of planned obsolescence. It’s what a market wants.
Let’s play a game of poem string by string.

positInkSpash131210.small

I asked him about the poem with the hands and he said, “I like hands.” You’re always looking, don’t forego the artwork for the sole purpose of judging its sublimity. If you’re always searching, how will you ever allow it to surprise? Should it? Reprieve or refuge? I don’t know, I never thought of it in those terms. Sometimes we should allow a poem to just be a poem. We don’t have to draw the lines around seven corners to derive meaning, there’s no compulsion there. We apply stress to the structure and see what follows. This is how geological processes are simplified, and I confess I have yet to find profundity in ice cores. Can a million layers of snow be sublime? No, the presence of realism prohibits that, but you can note it down as an approximation.

positInkSpash131210.small

it’s always already spring
I can show you a symbiosis in red
I’m asking you to tear down the wall to expand the room first

ad absurdum, I’m an animal
I confused your shadow for a sign
when I dream I have your fingers in my mouth

this is a collective economy of variables and adverbs
and that is me trying to describe a number

I’ll draw you a blueprint of a seaside
my words don’t account for how it works
I’m abstracting here
in truth I think of you in verbs

Marije Bouduin is a Belgian native living in Germany with her daughter. Her work has not been previously published. She believes in Jacques Derrida and the filmography of Andy Warhol.

Celia Bland

Flounder

I am chalked outline of story, a pasteurized pubis minus the bone.
I offer my slash, this gasp: a glutinous muscle swallowing the slick muscularity of
water, my air. Bubble. Thrash.

Slip into the estuary’s cloudy bottom. Migrate like eyes.
I am lump of camouflaged cartilage, two eyes on one side tilting the scud current
and refracting our contact.
See me?
I am flesh foundered. I am blunder. God.

God is the current.

Caught in a hook of language, a barbed tsk, I am a flattened sound
sheltering the sand mounded virginally beneath me.
I map a scattered existence, a place you can return to, drifting off in the currents
to describe in detail the world you already know. Pancake.

EX

I stand looking into the window of X. The ground is X and X. X colors bloom across
the surface of the X. These colors emanate from beneath, as if growing there, seeping
upwards to the surface. In my X a bitterness raw as chicory.

My grandmother went a hectic X and shook her finger and her X: no, no when I asked
why my grandfather was so X. White a mere veneer, a Trail of Tears dodge. My great-
grandmother, known in the family as ‘that X,’ glinted in the sun like a broken Fanta,
the sheen of my grandfather’s arms under metal-caged lights, racking billiard balls
at the pool hall. As if the minerals were surfacing in the skin beneath his starched white shirt.

Of my skin — sow’s belly, streaky bacon — my grandfather was so proud, Suzy Q, Suzy
Q. Ditto my eyes for their pale squint. Boring down into the bore hole of the eye —
crater of pupil, in both senses of the word.

What would Darwin store in these craters? Rainwater? Tortoise shells? The roiling
desire to explore? Is change from the inside organic or inorganic? We are after all
leaving skin on every armrest, on every tray table, with every scratch.

Like bundles of shudders, sources of noise

(after a line by Olga Tokarczuk)

When I shot the target there
was a whisper when bullet entered pulp and
formed within that flat dimension a convex tip — a nipple

handy as coat hook or siphon.
If you want to stop the conversation, if you want to fast
forward to the erection —

antennae beaming scratch to ease your itch —
then read this horse opera written for the adolescent girl
in the reign of RPM.

Horse as language of feeling.
Out of loneliness between the knees, heels out, thighs
clenched, back erect. Our gait will be conversation —

moving like a good lie or
lay. Canter, trot,
gallop.

Horse is customer service, human sweat and
heart bursting at Marathon, at Churchill Downs.
The opposite of arrest.

Heart bursting on impact like a coneflower or snowball —
inverting like gay men in the forties — like hollyhocks.
Bullets never feed another soul with body.

This patch of bloody x, the border of y. Why?
Is this a decision?
Here. Have a tissue.

Have a piece of bread. Here is a book. Here is a ten dollar
bill. Let’s let the language neighborhood
go to seed.

Like a secret. Like blood rushing a blushing
nipple, that other phallus —
faucet turned on inside the body, not outside with a bullet.

Terminaire

I would not like to fly inside the suit
Jackie Kennedy wore in Texas or
breathe its darkest edge
where flying happens. That
miraculously heavy machine that
floats. As if a suit could be terminus not
vessel, fitting pink and smooth and creasing
at the right holes not the wrong holes,
a streaming-utility disguised as comfort.
As if buttons burst like windows in the pop
of air, air slick as scent, air soft
as tarmac, and as
bloody. Windows bust
thunder pluck
36J
half-way into atmosphere.
This authentic turbulence —
this Dallas.

Celia Bland’s third collection of poetry, Cherokee Road Kill (Dr. Cicero, 2018), with drawings by Kyoko Miyabe, was reviewed by Jonathan Blunk in The Georgia Review. Recent work has appeared in Plume, Copper Nickel, Saranac Review, Yale Letters, and Native Voices: Indigenous American Poets (Tupelo Press 2019). With Martha Collins, she co-edited Jane Cooper: A Radiance of Attention (U. of Michigan Press), a celebration of the work and life of this poet’s poet.

makalani bandele

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he’s a top, if a man ever climbed up on a horse and road off into a pinkish-orange sunset. bunch of low information voters and all you want to do is unplant last year’s forsythia. she bout to hem him up and it will be all over the news. o, to be off the chain and aimless. the boundaries between us where none are visible.
you have to blow like you don’t know everything so that the mystery is way better than the explanation. this is major tom to ground control, i’m stepping through the door.1 one of the most powerful spaces to fill sonically. why you blowin’ up my spot?
the carnage is everywhere. or damn near. a mystery climbed on top of him and rode him till he was pinkish and better off not knowing.
zero is the number of infinity. trying to economize form to go faster. might wanna jock dis. risk is the reason it proliferated.

unit_35

wave of sunset with mixed greens good enough to suck up loads of CO2. waiting for that little surprise in the middle of the throat. surprise niccas! any description is loaded with ideological biases. people say ‘no one’ all the time, when actually they mean ‘no one white’. evening blossoms out of twilight. displaced into lean. six inches for the holy ghost. the trouble with interrupting myself is now i can’t find where the hell i am in memorium. the way the body moves through space in a so-called failed state. decisions, decisions. mixed not good enough with evenings alone to blossom into song without sunset. lost two teeth in the scuffle. what form of rasclaat is dis? don’t deprive the daughter of her father, no matter how tall, dark, and handsome he may appear. white cops lie disproportionately, a black cop’s calls for backup go unanswered.

unit_26

take a wild guess. the blue steel waters below are still and won’t make room, so that the shimmer looks solid. to heuristically tear him a new one out the frame.
you play too much. when hypertension is more prevalent among african american women than any other group of women, there is something systematic about it. don’t live on these streets but be out here e’eryday. mapping the coming and going of light in the mind as sounds and the ideas expressed in them. a shift of emphasis cause it’s so sometimey.
is ’round there ’round there? pick your poison. every day it is anybody’s guess as to who is and who aint on the take. not really a bro’s bro. just trying to get a head start on these taxes. this just in: them whuppins cost now. in the wild 100’s, you never leave the crib without a destination.

unit_19

adjectives’ll show you which way from here. keep your back queer, never ever straight. swing always emerges before meaning. converting the chasing into attracting a nicca. it’s the construction of the glimpse that he is wholly concerned with, so there is no rape or murder of trans people of color on the plane of this painting, but pain lies below the surface. do you believe in second chances? always fighting against three or four thought processes and disrupting multiple discourses. blossoms on a lemon tree in the middle of winter. unreconcile the statements.
located this tributary about a stone’s throw away from some postmodernity. you can’t turn off touch. got a way with adjectives so chances are, any second from now, bought to make you believe in a modifier. the linebreaks are having a hard time keeping up. stories are flames. choose your battles, and more importantly, your weapons wisely. were it not for the metafictional device he is connected to he wouldn’t be alive.

unit_57

the butterfly effect into the domino effect ‘bout fifty-elem times. girl, you know you betta watch out. 2 a gang of non sequiturs formed like foltron just to get with ya. to have begged, borrowed, stolen and still not figured out the underlying patterns. uggah, boogah. water commenced to bubbling. it’s the devil in disguise. the night is dripping with seed and ill-gotten impulse. the drama behind the laughter. catch a bad one. swore he wudn ever gonna get sent down to sit down. soon as he got there, this boy commenced to putting it down in full effect, dominoin’ fifty-elem times shutting down the entire. caint call it. it takes a nation of millions to have any kind of perspective these days. do you want a cookie or something? that’s neither here nor there at this point in the conversation like your frenetic philharmonic.

unit_43 as a whole

general, why are we fighting? the claim to meaning unmaking in poems is itself a form of political critique. you keep knocking on the right door, and they gon’ come see ya. critical gray skies over the bluffs. to feel an immediacy with, and regard for the significant hole disease or insect is burrowing in a birch tree. that line dance in a sound factory manufacturing the materials for its own interruption. kids drinking lead-poisoned water was a bridge too far. hands up! don’t shoot. a bloodshot right eye twitching. vibing in a landscape of contradictions. a fight is always breaking out in a line interrupting the general dancing we do in the mirror. t-minus 35 seconds and counting. excuse me, but what is that bulge in your pocket, officer? what if all clients were tender as you? just imagine, all that effort put into making it look effortless.

 

 

1 David Bowie. Lyric to “Space Oddity.” Genius, 2019, https://genius.com/David-bowie-space-oddity-lyrics

2 Lauryn Hill. Lyric to “Doo Wop (That Thing)” Genius, 2020, https://genius.com/Lauryn-hill-doo-wop-that-thing-lyrics

These poems are in a prose poem form I invented called “the unit”. My intention was to create a form that could embody the feel of collective improvisation in Free Jazz with the idea of virtuoso pianist Cecil Taylor’s groundbreaking 1966 album, Unit Structures, in mind. The foundation of the form is Ron Silliman’s poetic device, the New Sentence, which relies on parataxis, polysemy/ambiguity, and non-representation (in taking concrete images and language out their contexts, stripping them of their representation). In effect, each New Sentence talks at, talks over, talks around, talks indirectly about, completely ignores, and suggests other narrative or philosophical directions from the New Sentence prior to it. This is like what the instruments are doing in Free Jazz ensemble by having a musical conversation with one another that is not bound by corresponding rhythm, or time signatures, by conventional melody, or harmonics. The rules for the form are simple: sixteen New Sentences or sixteen bars, some of the words in the first New Sentence and the 6th are combined to make up the 12th New Sentence.
makalani bandele is an Affrilachian poet. He’s received fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation, Millay Colony, and Vermont Studio Center, and is currently a candidate for the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Kentucky. bandele’s work has been published in anthologies and widely in literary journals. He is the author of hellfightin’ and under the aegis of a winged mind, awarded the 2019 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. These poems belong to an unpublished manuscript entitled vandals of knock city.