Benjamin Paloff

    A Trick of Certain Ambassadors

Symbiosis, my daughter explains: I charge the electric toothbrush, and the electric toothbrush keeps my mouth clean. Fuck it. My Talmudic approach to writing has made me afraid of writing, and while writing, too, I am afraid, as in the ritual that precedes a run or lift or sex, the artful lacing and unlacing and readjusting, the learned wariness of the gerundial, the participial, the abstract, of their frailty against more muscular expressions, though they are everywhere, and genuinely both human and nonhuman—afraid of falling somehow short, or of falling, like Holden Caulfield, into a void with every step, though it’s only ever the stepping I wish for. Too much, you say, a guy’s book. You prefer the other. And I’m hung up on the sound of approaching engines over the sea, nature’s sound machine. An airplane, but too slow to be an airplane, the kind of undertow that can pull you so far out and down and fast, if only in my fears, that I’d have to plan an entirely different way of life, while the actual day is petty annoyances, the music frustrated by you reading silently to yourself. The street light we know is broken by its remaining on in daylight. The bullfinches’ begging we take for song. Not everyone has to sing for his supper. But the bullfinches face each other on the landing, heads low, wings splayed, and approach, retreat, approach again before parting ways, seeing reason the way a horse, fresh from the farrier, sees wonders in the sparks rising from her feet. People like me, on the other hand, are always looking out for people looking out for an angle, or else taking things for what they are, which usually means someone getting hurt. It’s excruciatingly difficult not to be distrustful when people declare April the cruelest month, when what they really mean is that April is the cruelest month for them, and the starfish-shaped shimmers along the invisible edge could be anything. Ships. Or some animal’s idea of a miracle. Or some jokester’s idea of a joke.

What They Do to Cowards
Around Here

Urine is cleaner than saliva, my wife has been telling me for twenty-five years, apropos of no latest study, wilderness first aid, no kink or would-be kink, just trying something out, and I have no reason to contradict or doubt anything said by anyone who has taken care of me. Even the surly, handsome pigeon walking laps around the backyard seems to agree that the world is everything that is a stat, that a dream about the inner lives of bees can end with an actual bee stinging me on my actual mouth. Peeing on the wound is out of the question, so I wake up every morning afraid that my father is already dead and beyond the ease of his casual 1940s racism, his enviable void of introspection, his hazy friendship with Mudcat Grant. Blues singer, two-time All-Star, pitches Game 1 of the ‘65 World Series, Yom Kippur, Sandy Koufax refuses to pitch for the Dodgers, so Mudcat beats Don Drysdale, later a Hall-of-Famer. You can still be afraid of something that has already happened. The Twins lose the series in seven. My father laughed every time he mentioned that Mudcat had a brother named Swampfire, who also played pro ball, because he could never remember what he had or had not said. Had I seen, with today’s documentary precision, the bees flying in and out of a hole in the ground and wondered what it was like inside? Was Mudcat grinning down at me as I opened my eyes, awed by how the earth’s blackness is lined with workers working toward a common purpose? I had been holding an eye to the ground, innocent eclipse, and felt lightning only after pulling away. Somewhere, I am still in crisis. The bees are still in crisis. We are all still ringed by trees, though it is only the outermost ring of the tree that’s alive.

Twenty-Nine Sonnets

As we speak, most of the animals in Australia, which is no more an island than any other continent, are thinking of new ways to kill us. I am thinking about the garage’s postapocalyptic Zen, its diorama of a world where you just let things be. There are indeed other geographies. The planet where the wind moves so fast you wouldn’t call it “wind” if you were there—that’s also the planet where it rains hot glass. Where it rains diamonds, everyone is filthy rich, and dead. The planet that’s blue is not really blue. It’s a trick of the light, the atmosphere, the mood, an artist’s conception. The planet where people kill people for land, or for what’s beneath the land, is covered in lead and peace signs. People will do what the wind tells them, they’ll flee to where it flees. Australia, I liked my youth, the stupid clarity of my youth. We used to be primordial, too. The moon used to be closer. Pure sentiment, calling other planets’ moons moons. Dig deep enough, and you’ll hit roots that form stairs. Proximity matters, especially where winter is the price we pay for spring. As surely as there are loves that bring no joy, there’s no right way to be young. There being no Hebrew saints as such, I became possessive. I wanted to track down the guy who took it upon himself to decide what size fun is and not exactly kick the shit out of him, as if mentions belonged to me alone. I imagine plenty of others escape their pasts, you have to carry your trash with you till you find where to throw it away, but the Sargasso Sea is mine, so I have to ask what the point is of any sex or famine going on in my absence. I have to wonder about the invisible artist who keeps the plants alive on the landing, rearranges the dead butterflies daily, and comes and goes with the giddiness of gulls, loud and cruel. Silver dollars being worth more or less depending on the manner of death, I want a leisure-pages poolside funeral, cucumber coins on my eyes, on everyone’s eyes, for fun. We follow the devoted marketer; we’re dying to be revived. Yet I’d to innocence submit in truth, if doing so might give me back my youth. Which to our hope then gives the lie, that sleep’s a property of the eye. In the twenty-first century, slow seeing’s sorry art is excited by the ex-president’s paintings. They’re consistent with the technology of the time, yet patchwork, like Luke Skywalker’s mechanical hand or, really, anyone’s mechanical hand. The angels have faces quite unlike those in art books. The sirens are singing their baited hooks just to drown you on the sand. To see the forward-facing footprints of the backward-walking man.

Benjamin Paloff’s books include the poetry collections And His Orchestra (2015) and The Politics (2011), both from Carnegie Mellon, as well as a critical volume and many translations. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Conduit, New American Writing, The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and others, and he was the guest editor of the Fall 2019 issue of Michigan Quarterly Review. Twice a fellow of the NEA, he lives in Michigan.

Rich Ives

An Inevitable Territory

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

I try not to have any beliefs that don’t nibble on who I am or at least climb outside my inner territory, where they can become more than mere bright worms of knowing, like an exotic flavor perhaps; anise, fennel, caraway. When the ideas are forming, they look like bird droppings, and dangerous ignorance from my enemies falls away. This follows a pattern. I always question them three times to give them a sense of bold black and yellow stripes along their fresh green youth lines. They become an undulating tube of matter that walks on many legs to its own escape. It feels like a beautiful dark rising after its isolation, a flight of erratic testing careening softly above its own body.

Of course inside was once outside and outside will soon be back inside before it’s released altogether. Nothing under the sun is really new, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling completely reborn. Once I collected imaginary pianolas, one of them anyway, and pounded on it and teased it different ways to make it deceive me into multitudinous emanations that you’d swear had another source, a grand variety that was mine and not the pianola’s after all, but I felt rich with it and freed.

It’s what apologies do to you. When you make them to yourself, for your ignorance. Voluptuous tired little savages they are, and they can surround you with melody until you think you’re going to explode with such sacred knowing, but with such a record of silence, God will surely shut up soon. The little celery-worm ideals will turn back to what they once were, back to protecting their escaping flights from hungers with the smell of rancid butter. These cannot be everyone’s beauties that I experience, and I take upon myself a drab coloring to match the season. Sometimes my winter restrains me, but a warmth like two rows of yellow dots, bright, progressive and oozing the warmth of Spring, calls me back to my anchored body.

My beliefs are larger than the others now, feminine and blue, the yellow spots joined with orange, behind me in an imitation flight that follows and balances me. I can see two males fighting with their soft wild beautiful wings. I am the territory they will claim, and it’s more like my fulfillment and completion than you might imagine. I watch them pursue red-wing blackbirds, black t-shirts, anything beautiful or invasive, and I’m drawn deeper into myself with their impulsive desires.

And No More

Blister Beetle

I’ve been a parasite, I admit, but I’m growing. Life comes at us in stages. At first I couldn’t even use my legs, but I shed that skin and dug a chamber to live in while I built my final form, soft-bodied, short-winged, long-necked, brightly colored, and even iridescent, it seemed to me.

I worked on an oil rig where the locals called us oil beetles. We felt it inside us and oozed. Our body oil, we joked, made a kind of Spanish Fly, poisonous in larger doses. It stimulates hair growth in the right dilution.

We watched the cattle on the plains, wading below the cutbank like bored children. We offered them our own boredom, and they entertained it. Our little yellow dog was out there all day, looking for something he couldn’t understand. We waited for a more human wilderness.

The boys liked to break things because we were broken, and we still wanted to make something of ourselves, but Hayden, the one we thought of as our leader, wouldn’t crack, so we filled his boots full of rain. He stood outside himself and watched us, breathy, a great expanse shrinking toward maturity, where the hiss of his lithium gave just this much and no more.

The work gave us blisters. Weeks descended, and the grand tendon of Hayden’s neck still twitched while we tended at a distance his remarkable ardent fits of attention. The house his papa left him, long after his papa left him, brought the garden of a separated man into Hayden’s life, shaded and rife, slipping muscular and lean between unguent and Montana trillium.

That life he carried like meat, packed in and beaten against itself. When one of us passed the dream around, he let his cigarette down, and his eyes said, This is the last stick, and the last stick falls just hard enough to continue.

His deliberate downward motion fell against the earthy tendencies of his own body.

Just this much now and no more.

Rich Ives’ books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books–stories), Old Man Walking Home in the Dark (Cyberwit-poems), A Servant’s Map of the Body (Cyberwit-fiction) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–hybrid).

Jeffrey Hecker

from Ark Aft

Boar & Cow

Boar notices Noah’s wife’s name varies depending on source text. Haikal
introduced herself to me as Percoba, says Cow, yet Vesta to Boar. You
think Emzara’s trying not to be identified? You think Norea doesn’t know
who Tytea is? asks Boar. Both ideas can be true, says Cow, I believe she’s
twenty names deep so we remember her husband, who never talks to us.

Ferret & Hamster

Ferret posts I feel everything I ever fancy or require within reach.
Ferret’s alcoholism perturbs me, posts Hamster. I clench apexes,
zeniths, vertexes, apogees, pinnacles, Ferret re-posts. Hamster
re-posts Ferret intakes so much Stolichnaya vodka, her eyelids
Alice blue, after a gown Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter danced once.

Hedgehog & Horse

Hedgehog wakes ready for a four-hour day of listening and smelling.
Horse wakes not quite ready for a twenty-two hour day of monitoring.
Hedgehog is lactose intolerant. Horse cannot vomit. Hedgehog road-
fatality is highest in Ireland. Ancient Egypt and Late Middle Ages ate
Hedgehog. Horse subtracts and adds up to four. Horse hates violin.

Hyena & Kangaroo

Male nipples aren’t broken doorbells, chimes Hyena. Kangaroo
contrasts more to evolutionarily defunct switches, perhaps once
allowing the chest cavity to unfasten or lock. Was the body too
open, and needed shut? Hyena says surgeons removed mine.
After non-profit research, I firmly reckon they were sand dollars.

Tiger & Lion

Tiger asks Lion what type fire should we be, if we die wise?
Lion answers the class D metal kind. Rain upon us, we just
accelerate. Lion asks Tiger what type water should we be if
we die dim? Tiger answers I want us triple filtered, reverse
osmosis, sprayed, Delta Maidenhead ferns convert us to air.

Mouse & Skunk

Mouse accuses Skunk of eating the whole honeybee population
in Brattleboro, Vermont. Skunk’s burrow is busted. Millions
of bee wings coat the inner walls like high-quality Muscovite
windows. The tubular house smells embalmed. Mouse cracks
a few wings for ventilation. Fertile clay sand silt buries us all.

Jeffrey Hecker is the author of Rumble Seat (San Francisco Bay Press, 2011) and the chapbooks Hornbook (Horse Less Press, 2012), Instructions for the Orgy (Sunnyoutside Press, 2013), and Before He Let Them Guide Sleigh (ShirtPocket Press, 2013). Recent work has appeared in La Fovea, LEVELER, decomP, Entropy, BOAAT, Dream Pop Journal, and DELUGE. He holds a degree from Old Dominion University. He’s a fourth-generation Hawaiian American and he currently resides in Norfolk, Virginia, where he teaches at The Muse Writers Center.

Dennis Barone

Vast Oculus

Away from the window there is no searing flash of light. It is enough to stop the blows of the compass. Images upon an inkwell, it is all very confusing and mute resignation accompanies this section, the sunlight and fresh air. At the shop attached to the assembly hall we used to sing with a weary expression anything that made us feel excitement. Another world existed beyond the armchair — like the point of a rapier! Yet I was happy and seemed somewhere beyond the horizon. Who knew the tremendous emphasis placed on school? The ditch-digger managed to smile. Away from home I was restless, brooding, and took to wandering the streets. The doctor had gone and I started munching a sandwich. Experience taught us to discuss success, but the words would not come. The idea was that in everything new we have free passage. Once more life in a metropolis existed between excitement and a bored waiting for half that amount, two pages well-translated. What exactly fascinated and tormented children? It was the same old story. Shortly before, we finally got around to an important lesson which could never be bound to money. It was good enough for the outside world. It was as if the church might scheme to stay on with last-minute comments. It was the short-answer type of question and the place upside down. It was the accumulated dead and the boys working longer for a few barrels down in the cellar. This neighborhood of problems and casual talk: the beautiful new costumes, the days of tension and struggle. The deciding factor fetched downstairs among salves and dance halls. All this was in addition to those dishes still avoided at lunchtime. See how eager they become? Strike home with the truth, something preying on the mind for a long time. It was here in the new building until late in the evening and the students had walked out in protest. But the crowd and the police and the teachers, everyone had an uneasy feeling that somehow the permanent record would be marked in pencil.

He came without money which means defeat sometimes. He was, in fact, lean and sickly. Beside his bed, there was a child. He was forced to stay in bed. It was a horrible thing that he had to do: the immobile furniture, the weight of sunken desires, and a sort of silence that happens every day. In every house by the windows the heart remains in the night something wrong as if dust and brushes. There are some flowers on the window sill, a tangle of unmown grass. One fellow goes away from the world, gets up with scattered ash. Another voice says not to fear the truth, to understand the neighbor, the houses, and this land. Don’t say, here it is and God-knows that’s why and of course! He may dream a sky, a grey mirror over the vault, a whole day at the bottom of laughter, reeds and geraniums. And look, is he going to gesture open-eyed and independent? In the darkness he’ll be irresponsible then bewildered by sudden light. And, as if this were not enough, the continual uproar of a blast furnace meddles and nags this damning sentimentality of personal tragedy. He cannot let others talk. He doesn’t see sweet words, these features of a face in the air and old worlds meant to be obvious and noisier then any required simplicity, an apology to the admired fine slang of tenderness and hope. But we are not through. Let’s open the words themselves, a word moldy and trotting on, anything — the wrangle of sleep and dogma and color, the sky, the utterly impractical necessary. He was born and he has lived a little bit with the emptiness of forgotten inky pens.

The world originated in ferment. Nor was this all. Talk emerged in a pure unadulterated form. There are elements held out to decipher between them a fitting memorial, a spin-off of the true practice. Birds by any standard prospered as a force to contend with until too many years later they became our last resort. Reaching out to the suburbs had managed to be discovered and that welcomed their nests wide. They had no pressing business and would neglect social compromise. In no case was it said that certain food needed to be served; that they eased themselves over monuments and lost count at feasts. What is noticeable between tradition and a lone voice crying against abuse needs to be added to so many perfect gemstones. Let us cast some of this in more sophisticated terms. Elites by and large must be seen as overtures to a creative and decorous order, an assortment of friends. And they mutely support an old esteem for nature but keep community gifts bound to their paper creations. Seen in this context, exalted reason advances enough of us to force all creation toward the very best. To pick a rose works through their efforts nearly all of the hours. Closest of all as a model are the fateful syllables, the generalized ethos of this wood and that holiday. Turn back the dedication and continually use the already-cited names, the best construction that can be made of its marble so violated and brought to our chests. The fields in the first two verses have been a source of great pride for us and the last line may be intentional — a bearer of joy — or simply abandoned for a song.

It is not difficult to know what place makes us examine our remaining books. These works have everything palpable and known, a harmony that makes us forget the incontestable. We leap from the enormous weight and follow ideas without bodies: poetry. Let us then lose the world. Memory holds the rattle and peaceful feelings. A few words become embroidered in thought that should be a nest, a house. If we want to find such spectacles spoiled, then stray from each letter. Everything goes straight to the fireworks when we remember who said suffer horror, nothing positive, whatever. Then bitterness and fear unite in thoughts that start here in front of a better heart, the very best one. We make the spirit, the other roads into shadow; the glow and the fire. We speak of air and the moment igniting. We go into the step that reverberates like white wheels that will never diminish the surface of the day. Under us, this sun and yours too — space, everything, an infinite spin.

Dennis Barone is the editor of Garnet Poems: An Anthology of Connecticut Poetry Since 1776 (Wesleyan University Press 2012) and the author most recently of Sound / Hammer (Quale Press 2015) and Beyond Memory: Italian Protestants in Italy and America (SUNY Press 2016).

Laton Carter

Two Prose Poems

All the sailors are pigeon-toed. Their black shoes are the same size, and they climb the mast to save the ballerina who does not need saving. Hers is a dance of sails, and the salt air lifts her higher into the tradewinds.

Below, the cook is in love with the galley mate. He wants to dance too, and his ladle becomes the young man he dreams of before falling to sleep in his windowless quarters.

The chief’s mate is excellent at trumpeting warnings through a whistle. Everything deserves a warning, so the whistle blows often, and the crew scramble to their proper place, tripping over their toes and throwing glances. If the ballerina is proper in appearance, she is the least in person. Ignoring the straight lines of the boat and the physics of its ways, her passage serves to uncontain what, in the space of the vessel, is contained.

A heart does not contain love. But heaven is in the sky, and the ladle scoops away the clouds. Now the day is calm, and the chief’s mate takes to his afternoon biscuit. The cook has made them with bits of dried apricot, and he watches the crew, galley mate included, line up to try their first bite. He will never have him, the sailors will never have the ballerina, and the contained heart finds its way to break.

positInkSpash131210.small

Maybe she looks like Lyndon Johnson, but the hair doesn’t correspond. Her gaze on him is not really on, but through him — she’s thinking of something else. Still, the arm lays across both his shoulders, and the hand makes a claw of its work-blackened fingers around his arm. His breasts are larger than hers, and were it not for his suspenders, their nipples, through her polyester and through his cotton, might meet. This is their proximity, the half-embrace.

How long can two people live with each other? They swallow the would-be response, grin to an absentee audience, and forgive. Their roles have been pressed out as if into the fine veins of a map. This path takes you here. This one goes off course. One of us will die first.

The theater is of faces, the one again trying to read the other. The mind wanders. The secret life of daydreams rushes in.

Laton Carter has had work published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Chicago Review, The Fourth River, Narrative Magazine, Northwest Review, Notre Dame Review, and Ploughshares.

Randee Silv

Zero

There are not enough incidents of stopping. Knocking door after door is obscene. Restraint starts at the bottom and rises up if not ignored. I guess you could say it’s like living two contrasting levels of engagement, never parallel and always switching. Gaps forever prevalent. Wording trimmed too soon can be deleted more easily than redoing circuits of cascading autumn clouds. Pigeons coo. Owls hoot. She saw herself as a doorknob and retreated into her quietude to a location of being imperfect. Interruptions unwanted. Misunderstandings weren’t able to halt elongated lines from reaching the landfill. The electricity will return when the throbbing ends. Her hair is already white. Occurrences. Excerpts reduced and others prized. If she goes down the stairs, she has to come up. To see what has not yet happened could happen again. The ecstatic moment comes after the fact.

Efficiency

Never enough to reuse. Never enough dry blue tips or burnt ambers or peeled bark. Never enough words echoing on wet rocks reciting tales. Fallen groves divide what’s at stake. Vacancy creeps in and out whether you ask for it or not. What can’t be saved is crumbled. What can is re-straightened. He said he had previous aims for that night. He was not confused as they claimed. They too were decomposing. Long legs navigate no hurdles. Short legs do the same. Joining(s) and returning(s). He said what startled her had approached from the shooting range and that shipping costs will be five hundred. If you catch it, it is yours. Less motion can stifle if winter is late. Rusty metal was indeed misread. He crouches and does it again. She crouches to collect what someone else hadn’t. Neither budge. I have to get up from where I’m sitting.

Blending

A chill. A marbled alcove. A slight rotating exchange floats and evaporates as they enter before exiting. Thin folds pinned behind glass. A lull settles into an unevenness of crisp grays, draped and veiled with inverted orchestration. Breaks in notations never hurried. Inward attentions inexhaustible. I do not argue. Someone is sinking but I don’t see them. Left edge. In. Right. Out. I re-walk with brief winding nonchalantly. Lengthiness concise with recorded widths. A hand lifts. A hand falls. Counting segments useless. A long cloth is tearing inside 1000 boxes. His. Mine. Pile up. Flash, mirror. Topple. Falter. Unceremonious blue streaks cross. I reach the end not finished. I re-walk between second growth and open meadow. Eight dead birds rotting in sand surrounded by sticks to bury deeper. You can’t erase turning too soon by walking in front. Lost once. Twice. A blinding glare bellowed before reclining. Outpourings, silhouettes, loop.

Abstract painter Randee Silv writes likes she paints. Her wordslabs have appeared in Urban Graffiti, Revolt, Maudlin House and Swineherder. She’s editor of Arteidolia, a platform to re-approach and re-consider: visual, sound, word.

Howie Good

Murder! Fire! Plague!

The next morning you insisted, “There’s no such thing as love. There’s only fucking.” If you heard the gray gulls, their shrieks like symptoms of dementia, you gave no sign. It was a bit like that time the sun crashed down, flinging up dead cats and dung, and foreign words were blowing everywhere. There was this feeling among householders that something even more terrible — hooded gunmen with Kalishnikovs firing on police, a mom leaving her baby in a dumpster to freeze to death — would eventually happen. And, sure enough, darkness and flies entered despite the jar of buttercups on the table brightening the room.

The Heart of It All

Her eyes were sometimes blue, sometimes green with flecks of gold, all the things, restless things, I was instructed from early in life never to do. We found a high window filled day and night and laid down under it and moved slowly, so slowly that by morning we had rubbed each other as smooth as sea-smoothed shells. And when we rose up, the world looked strange. It was a place of beauty, I can tell you that, a circular path, spiraling even, and no one was really sure why but us.

From the Middle of Nowhere

No one could say when it was that the hospital began admitting children. At that time of night, the road is dark, and pedestrians don’t really go there. The next day only brought more illegibility, a slow-creeping rain during which bankrupts leaped out of windows. The police recommended calling if it happened again. Look around. A horse is not a metaphor. If I were you, I wouldn’t go out without a companion. What I assumed was the Atlantic, greasy and barely moving, a gull resting its head under a wing, may have been a new god seated on a throne of razor wire.

The Desert of the Real

It was a downtown full of ugly glass towers. I have never been able to understand the attraction to tall structures, have you? One evening I attended the city’s famous theater. A series of nudes rode across the stage on ostriches and camels under the admiring gaze of former Nazis in tuxedos. Afterward, in a reflective mood, I decided against taking the metro and to walk back to the hotel despite the fog and drizzle. A friend had recently killed herself. Pills. At her memorial service, the first eulogist had proclaimed, “To hell with facts!” I shook my head at the memory. About five minutes later, I stepped into the brightly lit lobby with an odd feeling of relief, only to discover that none of it had happened, that it was all merely a collection of words, some bandaged, others still bleeding.

Blip

No one had ever told us what would happen in the event of defeat. Then the tornados showed up, sometimes alone, more often in pairs and small groups. Even the crows fell — or, rather, were blown — out of the sky. At least one man in attendance regarded it as a baleful omen. The rest assumed it was just a blip. But, very soon, antediluvian gods faded into rain, the flickering surface of uproarious dreams.

Howie Good’s latest poetry collections are Bad for the Heart (Prolific Press) and Dark Specks in a Blue Sky (Another New Calligraphy). He is recipient of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry for his forthcoming collection Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements.

Joan Cappello

First Love

I feel I have the right to you here in this particular moonlit spot: this mattress, this frame, these hypoallergenic bed clothes.

Love Affair

Hand in hand we stroll down the street of Victorian houses where spinsters spy from lace-curtained windows and with a yawn retire to their boredoms already knowing how we’re going to end up.

My Brief Affair

Last summer I ran away with an interesting young man but I was smoking at the time.

Self Esteem

I tried to make you think I couldn’t be bothered with me. It worked well for you but I soon developed a tic.

Why I Travel Alone

Your anger erupts red hot its lava setting fire to the sole of my shoe like that time at the marketplace in Lebanon when you called me extravagant for buying too many grapes.

Dream

The two of us happy together again on the Rue de Fleurus with your odd-ball friends… but this can’t be right. I’ve never been to Paris.

Joan Cappello is a massage therapist working in New York City.

Mary Kasimor

cell phone drunk

            When you called me you said that you dialed while you were drunk. Were you happy that you dialed my number or do you have many regrets? We are still deciding this after 35 years. I think that you said that your daughter was a good cook. I love the color of red peppers. I think that your daughter is quite beautiful. You should forgive her after she has left. I don’t think that anything is possible. We do only what we want to do. Then we go to sleep in our confusion. Sometimes we sleep together and I can never forgive you. I need to realize that you are quite flawed and boring. I never thought I’d say that. I never know what I’ll say. I love the impossible and often I undress it, and it looks like a naked turkey or a flower with all its petals torn off. Did that hurt you? I didn’t mean to pull off your skin.

wood bench

The absence of self still it’s noisy in the
room and my heart pumps reflecting moon light
and yet it’s past and fails to peel off the sky in
blue and no one moves & it’s noisy reflecting
falling gravity in shapes and water balances
when life hides behind masks and ancient theater
in the garden is space and mineral and heart
pumps and body points to gray winds on wooden
chairs we sit to distract the portraits with
tongues and thoughts above and unbalanced
while wheels change shadows of old things
cruising in sci-fi versions that plant waves in ears
to beaches that sell immunity from internet sites
and throw out brooding chickens and unplanted
eggs in batteries through peak holes and
dominatrix the tooth failed the past for in the
supermarket light reversed the chain of events as
viewed through sausage and high spirited violins
discovering life on mars so there existed for the
sheep in the meadow looking through tinted
glasses of ginger ale June left a crater in the
chicken’s heart in November I harvested the icy
etchings of the sun.

Mary Kasimor has most recently been published in Big Bridge, Arsenic Lobster, Horse Less Review, Nerve Lantern, Altered Scale, Word For/Word, Posit, 3 AM, EOAGH, and The Missing Slate. She has three previous books and/or chapbook publications: Silk String Arias (BlazeVox Books), & Cruel Red (Otoliths), and The Windows Hallucinate (LRL Textile Series). She has a new collection of poetry published in 2014, entitled The Landfill Dancers (BlazeVox Books).

Rich Ives

An Exchange of Antecedents on the Darkling Plain

I had attended a relationship, but I looked like job-hunting. (Like a dog with worms––what he wants most weakens him.) I had visited the offering of uninstalled celebrity liver disease and tiny dancers. The white pig was there with his implied suit and his intentions that were not like whispering.

Come to me, castle of kerosene; one swift misery sniff and the flame folds the walls of this isolation as if a desert could explain waiting.

Come to me, blank glide of confidence, ignorant in the roost and falling with victory, as if you were to put a sign saying “chair” on its table and a piece of toast under its tongue.

There was a trail of showgirl fluff and red-winged poppies. Imagine the grandest majestic pride circled round in a tiny pink tutu. Gods have always been like that. They can stay dormant for centuries, spontaneous as glaciers. We know this, but wisdom doesn’t save you.

The government distribution centers needed assistance with molasses. It wasn’t merely seasonal. Mobile homes had been lost in poorly designed traffic circles. We couldn’t agree about this. One side had rifles, the other side were canaries. Not the same rifles you think. Not the canaries.

I had been deceived, of course, but somehow I felt as if it had been the right thing to do to myself.

Aubade

Somewhere there’s a little girl future that owns me. It’s a slavery I allow myself without realizing, like birth, and when the thought leaves, it doesn’t go back where it came from, the soot of passing coal trains kissing the new snow dark.

I had, at the time, been remembering the left leg of Charles Lindbergh while three bums began peeing in an arrogant politician’s fallen top hat, and I thought to myself, “Oh you delightful horse’s ass, you lovely stupid territorial bumpkin,” but I’m afraid I wasn’t as clear as the drugs.

It’s late now, but not too late. Dawn so weak the flashlight still wins, and I can’t tell where my body begins. The clock-hand points at the truth, which won’t hold still. There’s a rooster in the lilac bush, a feast of unanswered questions, cold breakfast soup.

And then an idea like me paid attention, complete moments at a time, swallowed a daring handful of easy targets. Toothpaste and beer and before that, olive trees.

And I remember when Rochester gathered the folds of my skirt and distributed equally among the peasants what he found there. Some people might say he was a man of ceremony, but I found him to be generous and burnt. He might have allowed me to marry myself if he’d lived to be a little taller.

A ravishment or two awaited me of course, but I didn’t feel like writing about them. The sky seemed to be coming closer when I thought about it.

There was something wrong about bees as well, but I had been poked and poked and fallen behind, and I had been shuffled into the mortal coil with a deeper understanding of the multifarious tragedies of escape, and I wasn’t in the mood for any more accidental openings. As a result, I had a hard time understanding the future as something I hadn’t been waiting for my entire life.

Another Ballad from the Hill Country

It’s possible to walk through a brick wall, but why should that matter? I can wake up another day, in which nothing has happened yet.

1) The sky isn’t falling. We’re rising to meet it.

Do what you wish with my angry words. I do not need them though they served me well. They kept the tenderness away when I was not ready to receive it.

2) Life is crooked and I’m barreling straight ahead.

3) Facts are not cruel. Understanding is.

Do come. It will ease the sarcasm nesting in my joints.

Can’t you sleep tonight? Your worry is about something important, only, now and anyway, death has already decided how best to honor you.

4) Wisdom is cheap, but a good lie is expensive.

You might think a sigh is short, but even the wind knows a lifetime is but a sigh.

5) It’s a legend and therefore must be true.

The heart knows no emotion but bleeding, and yet it gathers blood to bleed more. We rest our insistent needs upon this.

6) It used to be the frontier, and there are towns named after dead miners there and mines named after dead towns.

The stains on my robe are quite tasty. One of them is a rose. I wonder if you have arrived yet to feed it.

7) Only one of the towns is real, but no one knows which one. Everyone lives there.

Rich Ives is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is available from Silenced Press, a fiction chapbook, Sharpen, from Newer York Press and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a collection of poems, from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Competition for Fiction and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, will appear in 2015.