PASSAGES: An Installation in Progress by Cheryl Harper I am one of those artists who thinks my work has to say something. I have nothing against paintings that bring together a disparate room décor or just make one feel good, but that’s not what I want to do. If you happen to like my work for any of those reasons, that’s fine, but if you are intrigued and compelled to think about bigger issues, that is my goal. Since 2006 I’ve been making small statues of politicians, particularly of women in the national spotlight, in addition to works that address issues like anti-Semitism, terrorism, and gun violence. But in the last few years, I’ve been thinking about how I came to where I am now, a Jewish woman who lost extended family in the Holocaust and who married a direct descendant of a Southern plantation family that owned other … chop! chop! read more!
No kissing, though we both know that we want to.
You show up at my house wearing the exact same
thing as on your Grindr profile. Pink hat,
cheap diamond earrings, and then, too, a familiar look
that steadily steams underneath my grandmother’s eyes.
It’s the multiplicity of place as body — or how when you
close your eyes you can convince yourself that you’re
lying in a star-streaked field—that convinces me I love you.
THE ANT LIEUTENANT TELLS ME OF HIS RETURN by David Callan Black soil collapsing onto rock. Beetles with shining blue backs humming over the water chilled with rain. Pike angling in the chambers of the dank, waiting for the naked in the rainfall, stripped clean, gutted, redrawn from memory by a blind boy against the stiff legs of the herons. Mothers huddled in stone kitchens, dropping fish, egging the molecules of the water into frenzy from the pot’s hot walls. Skin, scratched through, dangling into a snowflake of dolomite sinking slowly in the mossy brink. My fingerprints are flying toward my eyes, too quick for me to blink. My hand arcing over colorless glass, finger wet against the rim: the cylinder caught in the motion of the fingertip, hum— glass shifting into another pitch. Had been petals in a cut glass bowl, what’s beautiful is dirt. I want oil, hands … chop! chop! read more!
SUNDAY by Suzanne Farrell Smith The small space for god in me aches, so I turn from the one-way mirror through which I’ve been watching my twin seventeen-month-old boys bawl. Golden Graham pulp has stiffened their fine hair into sticky strings. I’m even messier, in stained yoga pants and a blue sweater marred by snags. I would have dressed in a clean shirt, something slipped from a hanger rather than scooped from the floor, but I didn’t plan to be here. It was only decided that I should leave the apartment when my husband started to spoon-feed yogurt to our three-year-old, who has a genetic syndrome that makes self-feeding a trial. “How’s he ever going to learn?” I said. He just pointed to the floor. The splat mat that usually protects the beige carpet was missing, and we don’t own the place. My husband and I faced each other as … chop! chop! read more!
I wait for a train that circles the city like bats. At night in Berlin you can imagine anything you want. Can a train circle a city like bats? Carriages here are full of inviting people I never talk to and bicycles that require a ticket to get on board. Everyone wears black so hard you don’t notice after a while that there are differing shades. Sometimes, I see a chair being carried on board by a passenger and I wonder where the chairs go, whether they rest at tables. I think about the people invited to sit, what kind of meals they eat together or whether their furniture is flee-market vintage or discarded by the side of a road. Inside pinch close buildings smeared in graffiti are people, and they are talking to one another in languages; I don’t know.chop! chop! read more!
Sam and Viet stand in his small blue kitchen. Viet has stopped stirring his chard lentil soup while Sam tries to figure out what to do: Three nights a week on the mountain, leading small groups up Whitney, or sleeping out in Alabama Hills, climbing.
I’m doing ok, she says. It’s just I think I should find a room or something, short term.
Viet says, I see what you mean.
Renewing my one-year lease, don’t you agree it’s financially a waste?
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Clear, cool morning. The two of you are the first ones at the park. Your year-old daughter craved the red swings. You craved quiet. This morning had so much potential quiet.
The reality is the racket of a power washer. Groundskeepers from Parks and Rec are cleaning the patio by the bathrooms. The air compressor hammers, staccato, like the sound of a strobe light if a strobe light made a sound. The blade of pressurized water hisses a loud tssssssssss, sustained as only a machine can sustain a thing.chop! chop! read more!
I’ve decided to kill my son. This is not a new thought. It did not come to me overnight. I’ve nursed it for a long time like an actual thing, a child that was a seedling first and then a sprout, but the idea has taken hold.chop! chop! read more!
Hot, back in the corner of the coat closet you find it, right where you knew it would be. Pull it out with both hands, it’s a lot heavier than you expected. Dad said never to touch it, but who knows when he’s coming back this time and what else are you supposed to do on a day like this? Show it to your sister, how it gleams in the light let in through the screen door. Stand it up, it comes up to her chin.
“Dad’s giant wrench. Can I hold it?”
Laugh at her. “It’s bigger than you are.”
“So are you, but I could still toss you.”chop! chop! read more!
TWELVE by Tory Lord O’Neill There he was, as always, on the eve of her birthday. She never expected him. Never dreamt of him, but there he was. As always, he was standing on the corner waiting for something—her perhaps—but she didn’t see him until she tripped, snagged her heel, rolled her ankle and fell slightly into him. “Whoa! You okay!” What’s the rush, buttercup? Cuidado, señorita. Each time, his hands felt slightly different. Firm like a contractor. Gentle like a surgeon. Scarred from a fire. But with that first touch, all of their lives came flooding back to her. She remembered how he smelled of cinnamon on that morning in South Bend and how his nose crinkled when he laughed. She remembered the feeling of his fingers running through her wet hair on the shores of San Juan and the feeling of her knees buckling when the military police … chop! chop! read more!
We sat three abreast in hard white pews. At our backs, an open door laid rectangles of sun on the salt-smoothed pine floor. It was an old Puritan church—Built in 1772, read a small plaque by the door. You could tell: the ceiling was crossed with bare beams, the floor was hard and cold. As a boy, I’d been brought to the church from time to time for a service, usually the wedding or funeral of a summer neighbor. I recalled the starkness of it, the chilly severity. Across the street, at the base of a hill that sloped down to the ocean, my mother’s ashes lay beneath a weathered stone.chop! chop! read more!
Forty millennia, and more, originating worlds,
occasioning wines, wedges, plunder, and
( let’s guess, ) recovered and glassed, eyes around
taking in the cases, the cases seem too much,
the notes a reader takes, setting down the catalog,
seeing the slivers, flakes, flecks of stone,
imagining the sounds of stone already used to the inventing,
crying through the tools its need for preservation,
through the same rude calendars, imagine it, earlier,
ahead, as the snow begins another election cycle,
and a second round of it the wizard had not called for,
that delights to start, as an obscenity might, before
you notice where it’s going. But how, the first time
at the Diner, could we know, or say which desserts
would bring us back because they’d mattered, which
day-old paragraph or stanza might inspire, snow
Wild blackberry bramble all along the edge. Himalaya? Or Cutleaf? Or Pacific? Thimbleberry?
Let me try again, what net?
We keep eating the fruit because the poison sweetens with age.
Another fuckin suicide.
Let me try again, I want a jar of fireflies stowed away in my chest
But the light resists secrecy, insists on the opposite of the private property
Sign on the gate we trespass on our walk to water. The light draws from out there
How time-tentacled arms tugged us towards tangled bramble. Slashed denim.
Blue t-shirt, ripped. Skin, torn. We ignore requests,
“What am I?” and “Do you not understand?” and “I have brought you here.” and “I offer my fruit so consider me in full…”
The patient is nervous. He should be. His renal allograft is new, he has an infection and his immune system is compromised. It’s a bad combination. But I’m going to be positive. I’ll emphasize that he is getting better, his white blood cell count is in decline, he seems to be eating and he isn’t coughing. I intend to be reassuring, cautiously optimistic. He’ll be looking for optimism.chop! chop! read more!
I’ve decided it’s pigeons, not squirrels or worse,
responsible for the ruckus—
pigeons and some kind of metal fencing,
chain link, jangling under what must be
a half dozen of them every morning doing
who knows what. Rabid copulation?
slathered on eyes damned eyes,
to sit across from this man
praised for handling his bossy woman so well−
my she-ro, my sister. I see Tammy Wynette.
We’re slamming wine. We’re laughing.
I’m globbing it on thick. Blurring memory: his hands
robotic extensions groping me awake shudder
his stupid face his stupid easy chair−
When I woke to it that night, all I said was,
You need to go to bed.
I may have rubbed forgiveness on too soon.
Because of the D.C. sniper, I get my first cell phone. A Nokia with impossibly small buttons. When I look up, my parents’ smiles are even faker than the ones in family photos. I’m twelve. Old enough to know they want me to be able to call for help. Last year was 9/11. We live sixteen miles from the Pentagon, and the CIA is around the corner. Since 9/11 we hold our breaths when we drive past Langley. Everyone’s afraid that’s next. But we’re wrong. This year some guy is shooting kids for sport.chop! chop! read more!
DEAR ZUCK, I THINK WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS by Graham Oliver death of a pet coping with death of pet where to take pet body where to take pet corpse pet burial can i bury my pet in a public park pet cremation affordable pet cremation what to do with pet ashes amazon urns what to do with pet ashes planting a tree at a public park rivers near me big lebowski ashes scene what to do with pet ashes bread recipes are cremation ashes edible are pet ashes edible whole wheat bread recipes Graham Oliver lives and teaches near Austin, Texas. His book reviews, interviews, and essays have previously appeared in The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Ploughshares‘ blog, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in Fiction and an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from Texas State University. You can find him on Twitter @grahammoliver. … chop! chop! read more!
MID CENTURY HIPSTER
by Emily Steinberg
Panel 1: It’s been quite a year. Last June I went under the knife. And got a new hip. 6.5 years ago dancing like a 20-something freak at my niece’s wedding, my left hip snapped.
Panel 2: Yeah, I know, brilliant move. This led to bursitis, joint trauma, bone-on-bone, and physical therapy. Then guided steroid injections, to limping badly. Every step excruciating, and, finally, walking with a cane.
Panel 3: Doc said I would know when I was ready for hip replacement surgery. What? But I’m only 48…. March 2018, age 53, I knew. Complete physical breakdown.
Panel 4: Couldn’t walk. Became immobile. Blew up round as a full balloon.
Panel 5: The night before surgery was a stunningly beautiful June evening. The last night with my old, crumbly, irregular, jagged hip joint. I was scared.
Panel 6: I saw this commercial: If you had hip surgery between 2009 and 2016 and it went BAD, call this number! Very reassuring. And I took a shower with weird special orange antibacterial soap… Remember! Don’t get it in your eyes or genitals.
Panel 7: I needed to pack a bag. Looked at the moon. Can’t sleep. Heart racing. Wake up 4:30. Hospital 5:30. Surgery 7:30.
Panel 8: Surgery is otherworldly, from the disinfection shower the night before to the mysterious phone call the day before surgery telling you when to show up to the hospital.
Panel 9: The reception desk was quiet. But once they wheeled me back to pre-op there was a buzz of professional gaiety.
Panel 10: The chipper drug nurse waived her giant syringe with a grin and assured me all would be fine. Then, like at a pit stop, enrobed docs swarmed me, cut me open, sawed out my gnarly old hip, and put a new part in.
Panel 11: I woke up. Swam out of the anesthesia on the verge of rebirth, like Lazarus crawling out of the dark tomb and back on the road.
Panel 12: Day one. Don’t remember much. Fainted on the way to the bathroom. Alarm went out. 30 people rushed in to help.
Panel 13: First night. Slept on my back, not allowed to move. Legs in compression hose and wrapped in compression sleeves that palpitate your calves to keep them from clotting. Giant yellow foam-cheese wedge-like thing strapped between my legs.
Panel 14: Bathroom 5:00 am. Nauseous, clammy, sweaty, anesthesia mucking up the works.
Panel 15: June days, long and gorgeous, pass. Peering out from my swanky private room it looked like the lavender fields of Provence through my Oxycontin haze.
Panel 16: Day 3 Post-op. Friday, 3:00 pm I went home with all of my gear. Walker, compression hose…
Panel 17: …grabber, raised toilet, Oxycontin, ice bags!
Panel 18: Hip replacement precautions: No twists! No bends! Don’t cross legs! Knee can’t be higher than hip or it might dislocated!
Panel 19: Day 4 Post op. Obsessed that I haven’t pooped in 5 days. Monday morning, 6 days out, fixated on lack of poopage. Amazing, how it all comes down to poop. Tuesday morning, 7 days out, still not a sliver of poop in sight. No one tells you that Oxy equals constipation. Finally, late Tuesday… redemption, deliverances, joy. When the machinery works, it’s a beautiful thing.
Panel 20: 8 days post-op. Feeling better; still sleeping on my back. Can’t bend. Limited movement. Went outside for the first time in 5 days. One week and three days post-op. Sleeping better… exercises… more exercises… bridge… lift butt….
Panel 21: Weaning off pain meds. More exercises. The clam! Progress, progress, progress.
Panel 22: Walker, 3 weeks, roughly. Used a cane through the fall. Now, a year later, walking 10,000 steps a day. Humbled and grateful for each pain-free step.chop! chop! read more!
A barn owl croons across these drunken hills and every song inebriates. The world stumbles, sinks in sleep at a magic spell, strewn, until the sun-god again snaps its burnished tendrils and wakes the earth with shine. Just as literature is language charged with meaning (Ezra Pound), rural is expanse charged with life.
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Leaning like a chiaroscuro,
a man outside a bodega says,
You only get one mother.
I want my skin to be better.
Eileen Myles says:
That’s so gay, and I fantasize
about plant tattoos,
consider the best body
for a dandelion. Nothing
compares to pain.
Every night, we listen
to his favorite songs.
The kind of music you
want to hear when your country
is at peace, but you’re told to dig
a grave in the desert sand
anyway. The kind of music
that might come from a parked
car whose window you are told
to shatter with the butt
of a black flashlight.chop! chop! read more!
MAGIC CICADAS by Kat Saunders In the summer of 2016, the cicadas returned. More accurately, a new brood of seventeen-year cicadas, conceived and hatched in 1999, during the previous cicada summer, emerged. Underground, they’d slept undisturbed through the new millennium, the September 11th terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and our first Black president’s inauguration. The cicadas were suspended in time as if cryogenically frozen, but I grew—eight years old when the cicadas had last cried, and almost twenty-six when they reemerged. The cicadas had been unchanged by time, but I’d menstruated at thirteen, fell in love three or four times (I could never decide), graduated from college and graduate school, moved to West Virginia, and settled into what probably appeared to be a stable relationship with Jeremy, a kind, home-owning man who bored me to death. That summer—like the cicadas—I, too, longed to burst from the earth. In late May, my … chop! chop! read more!
Children always follow the mother. That’s what my mother always used to say. And it was true for my sister Kelly and me. Every time our worlds fell apart, we would end up in our mother’s kitchen, washing the dishes and sitting at her pockmarked table until light returned to the world, sometimes just at its edges. Even after so many years, what my mother said was still true. How else could you explain why I visited my mother every day once she moved into a nursing home? How else could I explain why my oldest daughter, April, followed me there too, coming every day after her twelve-hour shift ended and refilling my mother’s cup with water and thickener so she wouldn’t choke? We took turns, the two of us, stirring the pureed food the underpaid dining staff delivered on pockmarked plates, adjusting my mother’s legs on the pillow we propped under them, and righting her head that, lately, seemed too heavy for her neck.chop! chop! read more!
Shhhk. The knife blade flicked up. Shhhk. The knife blade flicked down. I can’t remember who gave me the knife but I’m pretty sure it was my brother. He certainly had a knack for knowing what I liked, having later picked my favorite husband of three. I kept both sides of the blade razor sharp. For a time, I loved it, unduly.chop! chop! read more!
Dip and paddle, bloom.
A dragonfly barrels and darts.
Hot afternoon balm rolls
across the pond.
The pending night
wicks off the sweat
drawn out from the shoulders’ beat.
Brownish water folds into itself,
turtles bubble to the spread,
snap toward the dragonfly,
see me, and dive.
I break the pond
with a short stroke
kind of code.
Daisy has this boy that none of us like. She says they aren’t boyfriend girlfriend but he sure acts like it’s more than a hookup when he texts her things like, where are you? and i miss you much right now baby.
Daisy tells me she likes the way he takes control. Like on their first date, he put his hand on her chest and she pushed it away cause she’s “not that kind of girl,” but then after a few more minutes he tried again and she let him.
“I wouldn’t like that,” I tell Daisy.
Morning with Cane Corsos
Two black dogs are playing on a hill / in front
of my grandmother’s church.
Majestic bulls / thick and statuesque / tongues
lolling beside the opaque miasma / of summertime.
Isn’t that sad / she says / styrofoam cup in hand /
I know who they belong to / that man up the street
needs to patch up that fence / They’re gonna hurt
somebody one of these days.
We saw two barefoot boys walking down the double yellow lines, both holding their crotches in a two-hand grip, playing chicken with the Cape Canaveral traffic. I wanted badly to kiss her, in the way that romantic men are always saying they will do to me. It was too nice a day to offend her or face the consequence of yes. She asked why I dressed so conservatively for someone who knew so much about music. The barefoot boys were in her poem the next day but not the men we also saw on the beach, the naked men riding bicycles and walking near us with bellies and cocks exposed. We swam away from them.
Rose was always in trouble, sort of. Uh-oh. She slept a lot and didn’t like to be liked. Her nerves were perfectly authentic. We drove north a few weeks later in her car, the upholstery scattered with ashes of sage. I woke on the first northern morning, naked and thirsty. From the doorway, holding coffee, I saw her waking. She pulled the comforter to her neck; the soles of her feet were black.chop! chop! read more!
Human skulls leered from a shelf in my father’s basement den. Sets of false teeth lay on his desk like paper weights. Before the age of ten, I’d bring my younger brother into the den with me, more than a little uneasy to go it alone. I’d occasionally take a skull from the shelf, surprised it was light as an apple, and cradle its smooth dome in my hands, poking my fingers in the nostrils and running my finger along the teeth, which remained sturdy in spite of yellowing enamel. Teeth endure.chop! chop! read more!
A thought experiment: imagine that back during the peak prosperity years of the Obama Administration, with optimism at a high and unemployment dropping, that the good Dr. Oliver Sacks had unexpectedly published a despairing novel featuring a one-armed murdering pimp with white-supremacist leanings named Frank Beaverbrains.
This dull petty criminal wanders Manhattan—or some gentrifying urban center of high culture and national pride—selling tie stands and alt-right newsletters, roughing up prostitutes, shooting up bars, and volunteering for a number of disastrous heists before winding up a diminished nobody, an assistant porter at a small company with less than nothing left to him. The reading public, scandalized, intrigued, mystified, lines up at bookstores nationwide to make this strange novel a bestseller. Some years later, Trump rides a surge of white nationalism to the White House, earning the author a reputation as a kind of literary-political clairvoyant.
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The other night I was waiting for my daughter to finish a class. The father of a classmate sat beside me and we chatted about this and that. “How’s work?” I asked, and he began to tell me that he’d been driving his bus one morning when a man ran onto the road and jumped into his path.
“His face stuck to the window,” this dad said. “He was looking straight at me until he started to slide down and onto the road. The counsellor told me it wasn’t my fault. She asked if I wanted to see a video of what had happened. ‘Why would I want to see a video of what happened?’ I asked her. ‘Don’t I see it every night when I go to bed?’”chop! chop! read more!
Within the first few pages of The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec we meet a theatrical tour guide in a haunted town, a man named Andrew who might turn into someone else at the end of the day, and a mother, covered in plaster, who walks into a field and never returns. Valerie Fox’s hybrid writing in The Real Sky is unexpected and surreal.chop! chop! read more!
Andre Fenton’s heartful debut novel Worthy of Love follows Adrian as he struggles not only with his weight, but with his own sense of self-worth. Candid, earnest, and full of emotion, Fenton gives us a unique yet personal story about one journey toward self-love.chop! chop! read more!
It is a pleasure when a poet weds mind and heart in equal measure. Poets who tend toward innovation are often peremptorily classified by critics and readers as cerebral, the commenter overemphasizing surface play and failing to perceive—much less value—the emotional qualities they bring to their work. Thus ersatz schools and confederacies looser than that of Jefferson Davis come into being.chop! chop! read more!
J.G. McClure’s long-awaited first collection of poetry, The Fire Lit & Nearing meditates on the loss of romantic love and walks through darkness for an answer. McClure refuses, and simultaneously attempts, to mend himself on these pages.chop! chop! read more!
We don’t often read literature from Azerbaijan, for many reasons. It’s a small post-Soviet country that is hard to find on the map, with a Turkic language that makes finding translators difficult, and a government that still censors its writers Soviet-style. We don’t generally stroll down the aisle at a bookstore and discover the “Azeri” section. The only thing harder to find might be Georgian, and I’ll only say “might.” Probably most of us have no idea what novelists in Azerbaijan write about, what kind of social justice concerns they have, or what kind of risks those writers take to address those concerns.chop! chop! read more!
Written from the perspective of an unnamed Argentinian art critic, Optic Nerve flits from her present to her childhood memories, to her culture’s memories, in order to develop a lineage between self and cultural artifacts, become an optic nerve transmitting information from the external to the internal. The most representative instance of this transmission takes the form of a historical moment remembered by the narrator: while Señora Alvear, “once upon a time the famous soprano Regina Pacini,” sits at her dinner table beneath a painting by French animal painter Alfred de Dreux, “her eye travels back and forth constantly between the deer in the picture, still alive, and the other one, dead and served to them in lean cuts.” Optic Nerve spends much of its time traveling back and forth like this.chop! chop! read more!
It’s hard to find communion with a living thing in winter. Anyone with a burrow crawls in, wraps their tail around their eyes. The other night, when snow had just started falling, I braved the interstate on my way to another city, to share a friend’s burrow. Some black ice spun me around, and I slid off the road, stopped in the median, my tread marks looping back through the new snow like a confused shadow. I’m fine, thanks. I didn’t turn around, kept driving, couldn’t bear missing a chance not to be alone. The car’s fine, too, just brown all over from the dirt I scooped up. I haven’t washed it yet. I like chauffeuring dirt around the city, an unanswered text message from the world of matter: I’m still here.chop! chop! read more!
Originally released as an E-book by Instant Future in 2015, essayist Elissa Washuta’s Starvation Mode is now reborn in corporeal chapbook form. At 50 pages, it can be read in one sitting, and I recommend this approach for best absorption of its nutrients. Nutrients, numbers, rules—Washuta is constantly searching for a calculus that will solve the problem of what goes into the body: “I would like to return to a time before it got so hard to eat,” she writes in the chapbook’s opening, “but eating has always been the hardest work I’ve ever had to do.”chop! chop! read more!
A Conversation with Elizabeth Mosier Author of EXCAVATING MEMORY: ARCHAEOLOGY AND HOME from New Rivers Press, 96 Pages Interview by Nathaniel Popkin Elizabeth Mosier logged one thousand volunteer hours processing colonial-era artifacts at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park Archeology Laboratory to write EXCAVATING MEMORY: ARCHAEOLOGY AND HOME, which uses archaeology as a framework to explore personal material, including her mother’s memory loss, the layering of shared experience in creating family or community narratives, and the role that artifacts play in historical memory. The essay titled “Believers”, a 2015 Best American Essays Notable pick, first appeared in Cleaver. Novelist and essayist Elizabeth Mosier has twice been named a discipline winner/fellowship finalist by the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and has received fellowships from Yaddo, The Millay Colony for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her nonfiction has been selected as notable in Best American Essays, … chop! chop! read more!
What is a free life? This seemingly simple question is, of course, anything but simple. Theorizing a possibility of a free life with a recognition of the various structural oppressions in society is a challenge brought to vivid life in Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman.chop! chop! read more!
STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT by Carroll Sandel STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT Hospital Service Association of Pittsburgh April 22, 1943 Patient Mrs. Margaret Smith Hospital Sew. Valley City Sewickley Subscriber David Smith Group 1143 Contract 55788 Statement of Account This statement from Blue Cross details the charges for the subscriber’s wife and their baby’s thirteen-day stay in the hospital following the birth on April 8, 1943. The subscriber fulfills his financial obligation for this bill as he will all others during the ninety-four years that will span his life. Throughout his adulthood, he will disparage those who abdicate these responsibilities as “free-loaders,” as “deadbeats,” will flare his nostrils when talking about his brother who was forever calling him for a bail-out. In a thank-you letter to this baby when she was in her late forties, he will tape a three-quarter inch clipping from a magazine: “Depression dad, he was like so many other … chop! chop! read more!
Fist above foothold, stay invisible;
don’t open your mouth and waste words
on statues that may or may not love
you as you are on film. As you are
always, always on film. This letter,
I was no stranger to poetry. As a child, I was a poor reader; I’m a dyslexic, a term that was barely known at that time. But my mother, who didn’t understand why I was such a poor reader, tutored me daily through my middle-school years. Books were a struggle for my tutoring sessions, but when Mom switched to poetry it was fun. She would read the poem first, and with my good memorization skills the words, rhythms and meter clicked with me, and I – for perhaps the first time—felt that I was comprehending written expression, an idea compressed into words.chop! chop! read more!
THE DAMAGE IS THE TRUTH by Roy White Ice on the stairs, brief flight, pain and an impossible angle. A minute’s blindness, preview of coming subtractions, then pins and wire, a ropy scar. My arm waves a credible good-bye, but will never be straight again. Sometimes the abductees report probes, even operations. Sometimes there is damage, a bit of the patient misplaced or misconnected. In this year of entropy, when the Festiva’s snapped axle sends it on a final charge into a merciful snowbank, when Lobster dies and we can’t bear to hear “Tiny Dancer,” we are the egg that can’t be unscrambled. Always there is pain, but we are not resentful. It’s flattering, in a way, it shows they care, even if mistakes are made. The caves of Dulce feel empty now, now that they’re gone, some dead, some flown away. My dogleg of an arm’s a fitting emblem … chop! chop! read more!
ME AND MRS. BEE by Rae Pagliarulo When Mrs. Bee leaves her house, she uses a metal cane to get down the steps, the kind they sell at Rite Aid next to the plastic bed pans and ace bandages. It taps against the concrete at perfect metallic intervals, tink, tink, tink, as she lowers herself down. I hear it even when she isn’t home, when I lock things up for the night, when I nap with the windows open. It’s a small block I live on, houses jammed together in squat, red brick rows. You don’t miss much on a street like this. ◊ Years ago, on the other side of the city, I shared a second floor apartment with my boyfriend. His amusing irritation, once directed at the world, shifted at some point to contempt, aimed squarely at me. Life with him was a full-time job—I managed his moods, … chop! chop! read more!
How the body performs a blockade:
I’m not here.
Everyone wants to prove they can fight a tank.
The Japanese had tanks, screams the 94-year-old woman.
Her daughter is silent.
In the pink glimmer streaking the bottom of the sky, crows stuttered east in pursuit of their resting place. The woman looked up and thought how they seemed right where they should be and sure of the journey. She was not. If this was a journey, it was a fractured, unsure turmoil of one. And the end of it might be soon and brutal and would erase everything that had gone before.chop! chop! read more!
The stage curtain of my dreams
needs an alteration. Ka-Pow!
Ambient billiard balls. “It’s always
broccoli with you.” And it is!
Be gone, beasts of the forest! Black and green
iguanas. The infamous snake with
its head chopped off, the length
of its body a petrified curl. I walk along
the beach because it’s an easy decision.
I see ships hung like ornaments from
the horizon. I cannot reach them.