Emily Blair

A Boy Named Rooster Tries to Kiss Me

with a lip full of mint Skoal and his thumbs hooked in his belt loops, oh Jesus do you wonder why my type is my type, this dripping masculinity, this air of no care in the world, this lanky frame wound taut, guitar string twanging against the world

and tells me he has to go home to bury his uncle. Home isn’t here, home is up and up the mountains, a half-lane dirt road touching the face of God, God in a clapboard 8 pew shack of Jesus Christ, home is back-home, he’s using the terms I will feel in my mouth only years later, my whole family is buried in the cemetery in Slabtown, you can’t throw a rock and not hit my relative’s tombstone there —

but Rooster has to go home to bury his uncle. His home-place you see, up there it’s all family cemeteries and no funeral homes. They get the body and hold some kind of Christian vigil while the men take turns in the pouring March rain, that freezing rain that gets beneath your skin and in your eyes, that low hanging cloud rain, digging with shovels, the road too tight for a backhoe, the rows too tight for that kind of equipment, they bury their dead sole to sole practically up there, because the folks are getting older but the mountains are winnowing, this way and that, and they only have this plot to save. Rooster tells me that he’ll go up and help dig this grave, they’ll drink beer and whisky and dig this grave, all the men together, while the women sit among cooling casseroles and watch over the soul. Rooster tells me it’s better this way, it’s everybody’s job so it’s nobody’s job, and that another relative has made the casket, and that he didn’t really know his uncle but that’s the way we do it, that’s what we do

and I lean toward Rooster and say, That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

toothy mother

my mother’s mouth is filled with teeth [canine, elk, bison, pike]
frothing forth to chatter on the kitchen floor
one by one – thunder
shakes a tin roof, windows chattering in warped frames

and I’m eight feet tall and newborn,
angelic scope, the angels were harbingers, the angels were bulletproof,
and I’m all gums and cartilage, my soft spots broader than a man’s palm

she says we thought you were a demon because you cried so much

and what of it, if I were punishment? if I were sent
to bring you to your knees? is your throat scraped from these teeth? are you
shark mother? am I minnow? am I tadpole, burrowing and burrowing and emerging
as loud as a bullfrog, that sound deep under your skin? and what should I have been sorry
for being born
just because I was an infant, and you were a mother, and everything about you
turns inside out, a body of prolapse, liters of bile, and blaming me for the trouble?

angelology

standing
in our postage-stamp yard
tall grass casts shadows over
my mother
asking from the porch
what more I could want
outside this place

her embrace         a shifting body

full tide mother // swift current mother
take me below

positInkSpash131210.small

I am inordinately good
at stacking dirty dishes
in boggling shapes

once
it came up to nearly

nothing broke but the sound was

mother        [not impressed]

positInkSpash131210.small

everyone forgets seraphs
were beasts of fire

but I don’t
& she doesn’t

we sit perpendicular,
skipping wind across coffee,
looking past
out our respective doors

positInkSpash131210.small

she says, it’s turtles all the way down

springs rise
through mattresses

we put down quilts
as if to stem
a slow & painful leak

my teeth came in crooked
I could not eat right
& the house leaned

positInkSpash131210.small

I’m sick of talking about
the different ways
panes of glass grind together,
pulled down to make sand
a single clutched fist
might hold

Love Poem: For Mrs. Pac-Man

My love is an empty laundromat, humid, acrid.
The machines are going but no one is here. My love is an inconvenience,
but a convenient inconvenience, the thing you need
instead of want.

My love is clanking quarters in front pocket,
wet palms and dripping orphan socks. You were here
once, somehow, even if you’ve always had
in-unit machines. My love is ubiquitous.

My love is spare socks and missing socks and whose underwear are these?
My love is your wadded wet clothes on the concrete floor.
My love asks if you have a quarter, then if you have a light,
then if you have a cigarette, then if you have a boyfriend.

My love can’t take a hint.

My love is an empty laundromat
in a small town, near the interstate,
with Mrs. Pac-Man bleeping and blooping in the corner
but quarters are for laundry, and laundry is expensive,
and I’ll be here all night.

Love Poem: For The Sounds at Night

My love is an eighteen-wheeler careening down the side of a mountain,
Jake-brake screaming at the night. I am incapable of stopping.

Do you believe in prayer, in miracles? The people in cars
blinking down this mountain in front of me
need to. My love is too heavy and too fast.
There comes a point when people realize
the combustion in their chest was not me, but the sound
of me, the way that I make you feel in your lungs but you realize
I am a chest cold – I will pass.

My love echoes through the holler, reverberating
deep through unsuspecting chests. My love, my father called it a jay-brake,
and I thought it was a jay-brake until I sat down to write

about this sound. Indescribable.
My love is a risk, my love is risky,
my love is sorry I left, my love left the mountains,
my love lives in the mountains, my love wants to go home.

Emily Blair is a queer Appalachian poet and blue-collar scholar originally from Fort Chiswell, Virginia. She currently lives and teaches in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her first chapbook of poetry, WE ARE BIRDS, is available from Dancing Girl Press. She has recent and forthcoming work in Riggwelter Press, The Pinch Journal, Occulum Journal,. and others.

Rick Snyder

O Miselle Passer!

Who now goes down that shadowy road
from which they say no one returns.
—Catullus 3

Gratingly smooth
flute and guitar,

announcements about bags
and items left by the unknown,

British-tinged accounts
of the same stories

in today’s Times,
staggering estimates

of this year’s cost of war,
prohibitions on smoking,

your cooperation,
passenger Edward Cho

and Agent Ashanti, 3221,
a potential cease-fire

in Gaza, Oprah’s body,
and just when you thought

it was piped in for people
too nervous and tired

to do anything but write in
Agent Ashanti, 3221, rush,

a geriatric script
on a folded knee,

a sparrow hops down the aisle
of empty blue plastic seats,

to which they say
everyone returns.

Red Tide

A big plastic plant sits in this room.
Outside the ocean runs through its scales.
Inside the ocean fish dart around
in theirs like random knights on the verge
of colliding, before they swerve to different
angles in an extra linear world
that is (theoretically) comforting
in its bounded lack of boundaries.
Time would be the opposite. If it
existed (as the ocean must) it would
go on forever. You could cut it as many
times as the market indicates. Divers-
ify. Fill it with plastic algae to feed
the valiant fishes floating up to shore.

Rick Snyder is the author of Escape from Combray (Ugly Duckling, 2009) and several chapbooks. His poems and translations have appeared in Aufgabe, Conduit, Fence, jubilat, Ping Pong, and other journals. His articles on modern and contemporary poetry and translation have appeared in Radical Society, Jacket, and Occasion. He currently lives in Long Beach, CA, and is an assistant teaching professor in the classics department at the University of California, Irvine.

Anne Riesenberg

On a Rainy Spring Night

They were both sick He was traveling for Work when the worst of it hit She was home with the Pets they weren’t talking Much she felt Guilty he had to Push so hard his Earnings so obviously What kept them Going

Her fever was close to 102 when he asked Would she pick him up at the Airport and it hadn’t Occurred to her that He would make Such a request she couldn’t Breathe it was raining and She’d have to stay up for Another three hours but Since he had asked She was stuck

So she pressed a little Asked him if he needed Her to come get him and He said need No but want Yes and so she agreed Knowing part Of her simply Couldn’t bear to hear the Tone in his voice when He thought she Was selfish

Another part felt backed into a Corner didn’t want to Bow to his need to Be sicker more deserving More something that would Support what He wanted or maybe That was all in her Head the legacy of having Done things she didn’t Want to for fear of Reprisal and so she skewed Ordinary neediness into a Darker story

When his plane got Delayed he wrote You are released from your offer And she was grateful She didn’t have to Push past her limits and Closed her eyes savoring the Value of imperfect Choices the grace of saying Yes within the context of Love

She went to Bed moving hesitantly her Skin steaming the sheets much Too rough and listened to a Recent retelling of the Trojan War saga how willingly the King sacrificed his daughter How faithful the Queen was to revenge

Two hours she lay There worrying about Him coming home In the wet and the Dark and then it was an Hour past when he’d said He’d be back and she was Concerned and sent Him a text

I’m just landing he said Will you come get me and She realized she wanted to And stepped into the Night the streetlight was out in Front of the house the Sky unbelievably black the road Slick with new Leaves

She wore her pajamas the Airport was only two miles Away the route almost Deserted she circled Three times looking for Him then Parked and tried to Absorb the late hour the Mist as it blew in From the sea

And then He was in the car and They were home and Resolution trembled Above them its own finely Wrought cloud

What Isn’t There

It’s dark in the room Her sister is trying to sleep On the recliner she’s Curled on a joke of a Cot their mother lies barely Alive in her Bed no food a few sips of Water some Indistinct smiles the Lights are Low the staff has been Increasingly kind and Solicitous all day They have been Attending their mother’s Dwindling breath

She wants to Sleep her body is pinging Pain zigzagging her limbs she Wants stillness a moment Alone in this overwrought Triangle of female Alliance today for the first time Since her mother fell She felt her guts shift towards Death a teetering extravagance like the Moment in labor she Knew she was Losing control

Her eyes had felt Extra wide the vista She was able to see increasingly Dimensional beyond Comprehension sensations Unruly unknown she wants This kind of expansion she Hungers desperately for It

She has just fallen Asleep she is wandering in A parking lot with rusty Old cars a howling Dog tied to a Fence she Can’t tell if it’s Mad or afraid When she feels a Hand on her foot the Hand pulls then Yanks her sister’s voice a Fish hook into her dreams She wakes the Voice says this is it She is going

She struggles off the Cot and goes to the Edge of her mother’s Bed her sister’s Tucked between her Mother’s tiny back And the wall She takes her mother’s Hand cradles it they Watch her breathe

Her mother’s eyes startle a Far off uncertain stare Knees pump up and Down like she’s running her gestures Faster more adamant Than seem possible She’s been Barely substantial for years gradually Her legs calm her Breath still shallow but Starting to regulate the Moment passes they Try to sleep

June light wakes them early Her head feels purple Amoebic nerves briny and Cold her mother Says good morning her Eyes steady as If nothing has Happened her sister hurries Over she takes a sip of water Opens the blinds

Under her skin the Lingering chill of her sister’s Hand on her foot the Undeniable absence Of her affection

Like Wasps Under Her Skin

She is waiting for the repairman to replace the furnace. He does all the work — reinforcing the wall for proper attachment upgrading the wiring removing the one that blew up. He tells her he needs two weeks to install the new equipment. A bubble of terror glistens inside her I can’t wait that long she says and he laughs. There’s a piece of pink tissue paper folded into a square inside the folds a mouthful of diamonds. Light from a window sends prisms onto the walls she smiles for the first time in days where did the jewels come from whose are they she wants them she really wants them as though if she has them she will be whole. In the morning the repairman accuses her of stealing the diamonds and threatens to have her arrested. She has learned not to defend herself in situations like these.

Wildcard

She needs to move a large object across a chasm there is a mechanism for doing so that demands measurement and precision she is not strong enough to do it alone so finds other people to help. Pete has a grey hairy back the whole of it inked with an arcane symbol she’s never seen five red orbs and a black scroll that defines them. Pete is another kind of man his wife Patty acts as his handler he is a wildcard and needs to be managed. They plant trees in an ornamental flower garden, flame-shaped elms to protect the blossoming vines. She sleeps that night in the bower when Pete gets in her bed she wakes becomes small starts to scream. Patty arrives and tells Pete to leave. In the morning her mind is intact but her bones have softened to rubber she is flat now like Gumby and very flexible.

Gravity

1.

She lies flat on her stomach at the edge of a cliff a beach far below ocean rising and falling against the rocks. She lowers kitchen appliances into the water with a long rope — a blender a microwave an orange Crockpot then a garbage disposal — she registers the differences in their weight by the burn in her arms as the objects enter the water — the garbage disposal descends quickly most definitively jerks her slightly closer to the edge. She sits up as she tries a canoe digs her heels in the dirt to brace herself as it falls into the water she can not keep it from entering the ocean nose first. She hears a sucking sound then a gulp as it sinks. When the tide recedes she hauls it back up it’s the tug in her arms she can’t do without — the interplay of heaviness and immersion how she assimilates gravity in her muscles and flesh.

2.

The following day she returns to the cliff the president’s daughter not this president’s daughter not one she recognizes but an important young woman with body guards and a cloud of foreign dignitaries hovering. The daughter has lowered a rowboat into the water seeking a similar array of sensations the men who attend her are worried – she fell into the waves came close to drowning and they think it was intentional. The body guards ask her what she knows about this practice of lowering objects into the depths she lies down next to the cliff to explain looks into the water the water has become opaque the precariousness of her endeavor abruptly obvious.

Anne Riesenberg received her MFA from Lesley University. Winner of Blue Mesa Review’s nonfiction contest and Storm Cellar’s Force Majeure contest, finalist in the Noemi Press Prose contest, her work has also appeared in The New Guard’s BANG!, Heavy Feather Review, What Rough Beast, The Maine Review, Naugatuck River Review, Solstice Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Portland, Maine.

Kelly Nelson

I Hear America Singing

I loved a pricey device
for igniting a bomb,

free of purpose,
intent, more just

winging it, feathery
accessory, accessory, accessory.

Yes, they’re trendy.
Yes, they’re made

of gold. Unparalleled, they are
that too.

________________

América carols mechanics singing plank máson
leaves boatman boat steamboat nging sits on bench
nging song delicious or of young singing party songs

 
 

I, Too

Yeah, I know money
tucks away

the muzzle, money
swallows

the moan. I know—
I loved a loaded woman.

________________

ng nd company comes well Tomorrow
company comes Say e ashaméd America

 
 

Danse Russe

I already gave you
my supper

& the abortion
& my jiggle

of egg, milk & sweet.

________________

baby and white disc mists dance naked, grotesquely
lonely was born to lonely admire flanks

 
 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

I know that mansion
& I know

she laid out
in the sun. It was

an inelegant tow rope
I wore & I know

she derided me, a thousand
times she jeered.

________________

Who these village My horsé queer To stóp
farmhousé To ask Of easy downy promis
miles befóre miles befóre

 
 

The Day Lady Died

You’re only half
here, I submit.

Your cough, adorable
as a bullet, walking

like fending off
a bull. A bird

the accidental inmate
of a cardboard box.

I spun no feathers
around your neck.

________________

York and I go shoeshine I don’t sun to see these Linda
bala
nce quandariness store and Avenue Theatre and
casually cartón cartón now whilé keyboard

 
 

The Road Not Taken

I pray to see
the possum

before it sees me. It prays
to see me

like this—buckled
and gasping for breath.

________________

Two roads diverged far as wanted same leaves
for another ever come a sígh hence has made
These poems were created through a process of experimental translation. I start by finding Spanish words living within well-known poems written in English. For instance, a Spanish river (río) runs through the middle of the word serious and the word darkness begins with the Spanish verb to give (dar). I then gather a constellation of these unintended Spanish words and translate them into English to compose new works.

The erasure-palimpsests that appear below each poem carry echoes of the original poems while also showing these two languages coexisting within the same lines, the same words. This is my own small way of trying to unbuild the wall between us and our neighbors to the south.

These poems retain the original titles of the source texts, poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Frank O’Hara and Robert Frost.

Kelly Nelson’s experimental translations have appeared in Anomaly, Interim, Seattle Review, Best American Experimental Writing and elsewhere. She teaches Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University and is the author of two chapbooks. More at kelly-nelson.com.

Simone Muench & Jackie K. White

Disclosure

but dresses dressed in dresses are dresses
—Saeed Jones

The dress says I will frame your beauty
when I bury you. The dress is a chateau
of ghosts demanding don’t go, don’t love
your nakedness. It is the vehicle, the volta

that comes too soon, without steering, only
sash for a wheel. Let it fly loose, grip yourself.
The dress is a liar laced with history’s lies.
Your beauty needs no frame; pivot on this

exposé as the body drowns its cargo
of blues beneath a voluminous red dress
that enters the room before you do.
Let it go on ahead, swirl its cliché, evoke

whatever gazes it can. That nakedness
you do love refigures any space you choose.

Department of Brokenness

The desert is an armory of black tires.
Assemble the animals. Assemble
the murder ballads, and the trembling
shadows. Silence strung along barbwire

catches the heat, the threat against flesh,
and starts to hum. Always the eye believes
human forms will emerge, some voice
will clear debris, give guidance or light.

Instead, fading notes, roadkill. A mass
of songless bodies trussed tight with shoulder
holsters. The weathervane no longer moves,
the land is out of breath. Assemble

every muted scarecrow. Every body’s
just as frail, and even the silence lies.

Solve for X

Everything is loss and the longing for
connection, but the ache of vacancy
has no home. Brittle stem flower—headless,
every planted thing knows its own uprooting,
knows that this is the way we wound—
sometimes a needle, sometimes a shovel.
Morning’s wasp-bright sting turns bodies
to stories of wreckage, of folly, the dull

thudding steps we plot for going on.
If salve or salvage exist somewhere,
do the stories weave what leads us there
away from the garden’s rot, obit, subplot,
toward something less dark. Not quite song
or sugar water, but a wrought ripe, sunlit.

Process Statement

Our primary approach is one in which each of us decides on a specific poetic form (sonnet, cento, glosa, pantoum, etc.); or, in some cases, we merely make a decision about stanzaic length (for example, we may choose to write in couplets). We then begin a stanza, establishing its length as well as any other parameters, before giving it to the other person through differing collaborative encounters including email, text, phone conversations, and bi-weekly meetings. During our meetings (typically over a glass of Malbec), we discuss new topics and possibilities as we reflect on our discoveries about our collaborations. We continue to develop those ideas as we write, editing as we go along as well as after each poem is completed. The sonnet seems particularly suited to a two-person collaboration due to its dialogic nature, and so we find ourselves returning to this form frequently.

Simone Muench is the author of six books, including Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014). Her recent, Suture, includes sonnets written with Dean Rader (BLP, 2017). She is an editor of They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (BLP, 2018) and curator of the HB Sunday Reading Series in Chicago. Additionally, she serves as faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review and as a senior poetry editor for Tupelo Quarterly.
Jackie K. White is a professor at Lewis University and a faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review. Recent poems appear in Tupelo Quarterly and Superstition Review along with collaborative centos in Isthmus and a collaborative sonnet in Cincinnati Review. She has also published three chapbooks and served as an assistant editor for the collaborative anthology, They Said.

Alexandra Mattraw

/ Vigil /

a hiccup of light
where I flashes
in and out   :   room
to whip hours
verging fiction
until ours leans
to real sea

 :  make rooms
ripen the smell
of a heart   :   rip
out the iris
to see under
cadence moving
berber   :   wood
  :   flesh where I
fells speech to
splinters

honest as any
treeless place

/ Vigil /

// confide to the invertebrate hour / hurrying to sharpen these windows / leaning on the sun / as checkmarks shine across / pages to hinge / fence wings / a house sparrow clamors / footprints beating within / chest flutter / widens eyelids to rehearse seconds / to narrow impulse / I split / infinitives to / engolden / dirt and breath / tethers bone / wedded to this / addiction to holding in / the swarm of things //

Dear Believer,

Imagine waking to a white room fitting white sheets of words on a nurse whose eyes hold no other color asking of the pills Why are you so afraid in the corridor of her unlined palm she asks Don’t you love nature she says like a ghost echoing she says nature to brand the white fever of her finger onto your tongue she says All you are doing is taking some of the sea into your mouth

Alexandra Mattraw’s full-length book of poems, small siren, is available at Cultural Society (2018). She is also the author of four chapbooks, including flood psalm (2017, Dancing Girl Press). You can find her poems and reviews in places including Denver Quarterly, Fourteen Hills, Jacket2, The Poetry Project, and VOLT. In Oakland and San Francisco, Alexandra curates an art-centric writing and performance series called Lone Glen, now in its eighth year.

Kathleen Hellen

lotuseaters

the limbless in the
curtained cots of
shivered blisterspit. So
many in the chalkline, so
many in detention, you want to
build a house for them. A heaven for
their tents. A made-for-hope of
numbness as
the tactic you have mastered as
the happy ending—it’s only
human feeling you control in
nightly buttons: that
red one—remote

as in background tasks when screens go black

while I idle
hallucinating

there’s a mushroom
cloudresembling
a diety toadstooling

between the sillpan and the slab
between the subfloor and the threshold

a navel
sprouting worldsinsideofworlds

a trickster
pretending to be oyster
mock
portobello
slippery
juliet

a fairy in the dome
sponging off the glut
surviving in the storm and drought

the only way out

no reflection

Wolves talk. A thousand rats
I wear the dividend of bats, opening to night’s
cold occupation. The tillandtamp
of every penny nickeled, every dime a habit
the math
the master-slave exactly

no allowance in
copper, obsidian
mercury’s amalgam
the master plan
far worse than being dead

I pay the ferry
poppy seeds and sand
the poorpuny flies to which we are attracted

Kathleen Hellen is the author of The Only Country was the Color of My Skin (2018), the award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net, and featured on Poetry Daily, her poems have been awarded the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review, and appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, North American Review, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, Seattle Review, the Sewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Witness, and elsewhere. For more on Kathleen visit kathleenhellen.com.

Margaret Hanshaw

Earthened

Absurdity takes me out to a field
to dig a hole in silence.
I make my home in the dirt,
keep my ashes on the hearth.
Strangers occupy the same deep space.
We blink only once.
It’s summer, I feel the trees.
Everything is either bone, or dust.
I don’t see in here.
A child laughs.
There are no distinct patterns.
No lessons to be drawn.
Slow light.
A purple ease.

Inside the Body Goblet

Sideways baluster
or dead-sleep position for      counting
sheep sheared
 
Vegetable
with skin and core of      cabbage
vibrancy
 
Suitcase in snow
patterned interior, lightly bizarre      alive
in plastic pockets
 
Boulder in river
not for leaving      this
thrashing dystopia

Balcony

I reach my cold hands out

into the autumn sun:

little balconies.

I am my only house.

I house.

To the spider with its many eyes

I am a carapace.

To the birch in blue light

I am a melted tree.

A single mountain diving

miles within itself.

Margaret Hanshaw is author of the chapbook Yellow Ripe (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have appeared in New American Writing, West Branch, Verse Daily, VOLT, Salamander, New Orleans Review, and Poetry Miscellany. A graduate of Hamilton College and the Vermont College MFA program, she lives in Sudbury, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.

Robert Hamilton

Senso Unico

I am sick of subjectivity. I think
I might go birding. Find one color
on one wing, one mixolydian ditty.
I think I might tinker with electrodes
or glass pipettes. Things clatter down
iron rails, one way. They get beaten out
like gold sheets, thinner now we’ve left
our twenties behind. Once, a god
ran his finger around my lips
like a man trying to make a wine glass sing:
taste of saltpeter, lemongrass, zinc.
I spent a night between two saguaros
as the rain carved runnels through blue
slate. I probably never will again.
I am sick of all of this, all. I think
I might try to mount myself in
a display case. I think I’ll try to make
a real difference. So I wave my hand
before the motion-activated sensor,
but no water flows, no towel
dispenses, nothing changes.

Predator & Prey

First midwinter hunt. Earth strung, wound around pegs. Resonant. Land taut as a drumskin. On the hollow roof of the world we learn the trigger’s tensile strength: cold, blue, it resists even as it begs the finger to shake & shake in its turn the forearm, the shoulder, the whole self. We learn how snow muffles all but the sounds that ping in our skulls or sluice through arteries, traffic in an imbrication of intermittent jams, diesel fumes making us dizzy. We spent miserable hours crouched in an outdoor shower removing the ink from our flesh with a fragment of pumice. One cannot be too careful. We strip the angular mountains from my forearm, the tree of knowledge from the girl’s thigh & line after line of unreadable text from her scapulæ; ink swirls in a slow coriolis spiral around our lukewarm ankles. One cannot be too careful. Qua beast, the mammoth cannot be had, cannot be brought up short by the Bering Strait, cornered, corralled, bled out. Try instead the ancillary screwworms & white lice who braid ropes & locks out of its sequoia-bark pelt. Try instead to sketch out its angular momentum. Try the collage: apprehend as a whole what is not a whole. Seemed possible until the lights went dim & the girl with the asterisk of whip marks across her back cut an opening in the top of the tent. Blood of stars drips through the tear in the thick lead apron of the sky which, every night, we button up with a little white-fog cough of a prayer & a censer burning balsam as if beseeching our little hand-carved idols with their primitivist eye sockets to keep out the bequerels pressing their bulk up against us, trying to pour in. The text on the girl’s back reappeared, in a phosphorescent glow. The mercury lies in undisturbed pools & for lack of a better idea we don our anoraks & splash. No angel to breathe on this stagnation. May as well keep to your stretchers & your lazar-house. The cicadas are silent now & the Ding an Sich cannot be had, not in its own guise but perhaps (we are told, as if to get rid of us) in the disguise of some appliqué angel or blue ankh whose meaning nobody has quite parsed. Not roaming the wild but caught in a little snow globe with our own figurines hunting a brown little smudge of a beast. We tell ourselves, look, that is us, innocent, jejune, with such sand-scrubbed skin, such cobalt veins, visible under flourescent bulbs! But across green felt the snow globe rolls away & the black spheres that come skittering after the cue’s clack are glassy, vacant like the eyes of the creatures we killed. Staring, they beat the tympanum of the world’s surface, stretched thin over nothing, & engrave their tekels & upharsins on the parchment. They push with their horns, beg for extraordinary rendition. We join hands & close our eyes & the black we see, squinting, has (does it not) the vanishing points & contour lines of certain doubled shotgun barrels. Against the cold of such blued metal, breath shows like visible clouds. The finger pressing hard against the trigger, shaking with dread, such palsy fills a world & more.

Labor Theory of Value

Punch in, punch out; slam that cold box like you hate it. Forearms flexed in anger, veins a blue watershed, agricultural zone of tattoos, each ink its own cultivar. They come from Kronstadt out of the hulls of triremes, rank male sweat, skimming over the blue Baltic. They come down from favelas garlanded in primary colors, corrugated necklaces draped over hills’ shoulders. They come up like dry bones that live from the city hospitals, staggering through the sliding doors in a burst of air conditioning in frankincensed sheets; hard work, we say, hauling up soul after soul from this cold cenote with only block & tackle. Down here, they have cut our power. Uphill, automatic sprinklers still hiss and chatter across empty lawns. A woman in a rich tweed skirt hugs her knees on a louis-quinze settee, one strand of hair loose on the hot forehead. Smell the fear under vetiver. Hear the sprinklers chatter & spurt like Kalashnikovs. With his discriminating beak Horus will soon weigh her bars of platinum, judge them against an amphora brimming with graveyard sweat. See which tips the scales. Clench your fist until the knuckles turn white. Dollars ooze out between each finger & slice the webbing between. Punch out. Punch in again. Good morning, Ralph. Oh, uh, good morning, Sam.

Robert Hamilton is a poet and English Professor from Texas. His first chapbook, Heart Trouble, was published by Ghost City Press in 2018. His poems have appeared in journals like Prelude, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, concîs, and The Fictional Café.

Michael Tod Edgerton

It Closing In It Whispers

1.

Francis Bacon at the Met: hours
with the paintings
leering
at every one of them
(and glancing here and there
at hot boys who pass
too quickly by)
shifting
circling
an un-kind lust
mingling
the surface      the space      inside
the frame
tremulous.

Then deflated
with the absence
of Two Men on a Bed, one of his most erotic.
(Brutal, you would add.)
Tender, I think. And no
Man at Curtain no Study of the Human
Body
I dream of having
on a book, no ice-gray glow of Two Figures
at a Window
in an eclipsed rock-blue room.

But then: Head I, one of the earliest paintings, the earliest Head, early 1948.
I stare at it at length, head flapping in the frame
to extract my small face from its glass, convinced:

it’s some substrate struggling for form, some unminded storm of forces half-
dispersed, desiring at
being One while wanting for want, substanceless
muck without world:

whatever it is
it is not I: Head
half on, ill-
shaped: flesh mottled gray
matter: eyes swollen
shut or glazed over: embryonic: face
all mouth round mouth four
fangs angling each other:
mouth a clot of blood
inside, muscling
toward a moan: staring
at me staring
at the painting trying still
to shut out my face your face
behind the glaring wall placed between us
to protect us, one from the other, my head still bobbing for an opening
I can slip through: cracked open
I almost break down:
hold back in fear hold back don’t
smear don’t bleed
the bruising pigment
flash of wine-splash
from a smacked mouth: still
a small almost-sob escapes, a sigh,
a quick-intake and—
repudiation of breath: eruption of               something
the glass has no will or way to stave
takes leave.

2.

Lunch to replenish some sense
of space between
myself and Bacon.

Then back in the museum with the hope
of recomposing
myself in a Rothko (or who knows, with luck,
maybe in one of those quickly-zipping men), so I go
seeking to float out into what currents
I can and I

turn the corner stop:      dead in a start:            the shark
scraping against the glazed skin of the seen to get at me,
this shark I didn’t know was in the States, let alone here
here               heaves
forward
toward
the shark-
mouth gape-
eyed and
leering at me leering:               (its prey)

glass cannot protect me from
the gaze:               the mouth               that mouth
that blazes
black
             sun
this
shark’s
dead eyes
defer to,
full-throated
void, it calls
and closer.

It could only be
this shark, this
second carcass, a shark
just like it, but not the original.
Only this museum, the Metropolitan, or a museum
laid out the same. Like so fallen a heaven
as The Physical
Impossibility of
Paradise,
the imperceptible Death
in the Mind
of the insensible perceptions of Someone
Living
(originally executed in 1991
shark replaced in 2006
now white clouds its expressions)
expressed gases floating
above it
a few rays behind
those reflections within reflections
the glass tank swims off into
the glass walls
of that side
of this gallery
in the Met:
shark head replicating
infinity in miniature over
5th Avenue. So peaceful
this
mouth-
like Bacon scream
hovering in its sea-blue
tankful of formaldehyde. Surprisingly
beautiful (what beautiful means)
to be stricken to be
taken. Thought from
the first it was pure
hoax. Seeing photos of it
differently installed (or was that the first
fish, the closed-mouthed?), reading about the piece, about Hirst’s other works,
the bifurcated
sheep and cows—I thought it must be
the inert sort of conceptual gesture that fails
to penetrate, to interpellate: to call out to call into
being:
my breathing, my movements
of expansion and response, calling me into its own—until I saw it, there,

installed to eternally return in the glass wall
of that particular room in the Met. Display lights scoring the symphonic depths
it soars
unswimming in, engorged and gorgeously eerie
glow. That crowned hole,
its pillowed palate itching to swallow in its entirety
my slight frame, every enfleshed soul in this museum—our sense
of sight itself
—every single thing and that thing’s inside-outwarding into

the world.

I sit with it

for a long time.

I sit with it very near

absolute stasis.

Sit with its ellipses
in the window over the car-barking street,
the window-pocked buildings
glaring back
their annoyance, that light-struck cloud
let to blue.

Circle around it and around. Sit. Flesh flecking off
even still: this form can’t hold, formaldehyde or not: art and science aside,
muscle and cartilage, even teeth
break down: the hide frays: none of us can stay.

And out of nowhere
out of nothing
— The museum is —


— closing in —
measured time
is shutting down
this last moment.
The museum
closing in on
the Physical
Impossibility.

The mouth the eyes
too will go.
The guards having
disappeared,
I take something
of it with me.
(Something other
than the photos
I never look at now.)

— fifteen minutes —

Is that how long,
not fame, not fortune,
but anything kin,
in the 21st century,
to transcendence
lasts?
(Look at them now,
so wanting.)

3.

On the slow walk out, I pass back through
the howling Bacons, the last
of the crowd (no longer even half-looking
for a mere hook-up)
no longer exactly hungry but wholly sated, sated and still
whetted for more, for the summer-humid air, for all the faces perched on the front
steps of the Met, along the bannisters, mapping their way to dinner (and okay, yes,
the sideways slide of that man’s tongue up my bent neck does flash over)
mouth
by mouth, room
by room to the exit, the front stairs, the early evening streets extending into
this calm exhilaration—this circulation of the substanceless
substances that compose and decompose us
recompose through us throw us
through the gullet of it into the world-rivering a bit further down now the teeth
in my back your chest the snaring marks the bracketing scare
quotes lighter now around the world around us
more real this illusion and only exhalation of the remains of:

the never-shaken unknown:          unknowable:                       —heaves—

What else
does beautiful mean
but unnerving or
innervating
or vacating:
Mere pleasure binds us
together the same,
Barthes (that lovely loner)
whispers behind us. And listen to us again, I thought
I heard, but no:
And bliss
undoes us
again.

Land’s End

—for Kate Schapira
 
It’s because of their mortality that things exist.
—Etel Adnan, Night

Walking unintentional miles
along the Pacific: Land’s End to China

Beach and back, in view
of Marshall’s (but not

close enough to see
any nude men

lingering along one another on the wet sand),

wondering if we were anywhere
near where you had been when

a whale back
arched above

the tremulous
sun-

reflexive surface foaming over rocks, gliding in

and out as quickly
lost to you as you

turned to leave turned round to see:
hence memory, so sight.

So this absenting
presence, this existence: Oceanic:

from our finite shores, some notion of something more: magical

thinking. What else do we have? What else
could we do, even knowing

it was futile, but back-track all our day’s
steps to try to find what was

inadvertently tossed aside
or slyly lifted from my little black bag—

designer shoes from Rodeo, a trip to Rio for Carnival, a Mercedes convertible, maybe even

a chateau on the coast
of every sun-drenched droplet of a newly-acquired summer-home archipelago—

an electric trail of charges posting stills of a whole life I’ll never know
but might have halfway wanted myself—someone else’s

bucket list pocketed by the fistful
from my fiscal ipseity—

eyes in the bushes behind rocks but thoughts roaming now like children lost

hunting the hidden and finding—I imagine a plump
and graying woman holding out

a cracked hand full
of endless slices

of cake and reams of paper to capture
our attention.

When we put a sheet over her face

to trace its contours, our gazes no longer meet
its lines. We must rely

on the two-step dance
of memory and perception

(the beat won’t stop even
when your feet go missing)

like a daydream out of which we’ll never snap but know

will end, as this record heat
submits, and so

when the moment comes we look out
over the Pacific

with its ever-redder set piece sun—going going
about and around—look look

out and out for any glimmer of twilight

blue leather along the crepuscular ground,
futile even by cell-flash at dusk’s end

retracing a path already taken
again and again, and then giving up, nothing left

but to hop on call after call to call in,
rep after rep, my current status:

disabused of symbolic currency.

Only one last place to check
against hope:

the dollhouse, where the men therein protest
all clothing and sexual dissonance,

where I had stopped to snatch quick shots of the signs
gleaming dreamily in their disco window-splayed resistance

on the way out. On the way there

the front door callbox rings up my phone
on Geary, the cops finally come for me

to inform me my wallet
was returned,

seemingly as found, to the station on Fillmore,
just off Geary—

my ID, every single card, a grocery list on the back of a Blackbird bar receipt—everything,

even an easily swiped bill—
present and accounted for—

turned in by a worker at the VA near the Coastal Trail
who didn’t leave a name so all we can do is go home

as thankful as surprised, as anxious-buzzed as exhausted, with the hope of waking

renewed in the morning,
of keeping something

of the sound of the waves
inside of us to aid us,

to anchor us,
as chorus to score,

here

in this world’s
body this

body’s world
(sail

and chain),
that that might fortify us

to press through the night into another day,

to rave with the sea to change,
to rage like the sea

that it may recede again
that that may make it

(though the waves thrash
they sing)

easier to drift off.

Michael Tod Edgerton is the author of Vitreous Hide (Lavender Ink, 2013). His poems have appeared previously as the winner of the Boston Review and Five Fingers Review contests, and in Coconut, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, EOAGH, New American Writing, New Orleans Review, Sonora Review, and Word For/Word, among other journals. He holds an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and a PhD in English from the University of Georgia. He lives with his husband, Greg, in San Francisco. You can check out Tod’s ongoing participatory text and sound project, “What Most Vividly,” at WhatMostVividly.com.