WINGS TO GO by Jane Carroll There’s a chicken place on Ridge Avenue called “Wings to Go.” I occasionally wait for a bus across the street, and that sign always seemed to me a little too poetic for a wing place. It makes me think of my mother. Not because of anything having to do with chicken or food, but because I often wished I could give her wings. I wanted to see her fly away from the stuffy room in the nursing home where she lived for seven years until her death at 92—fly through the plastic window blinds and away from the hospital bed and the carpeted hallway that inexorably became her whole world. She needed to take flight, but her heart was like a tap root—long and strong, growing straight down into the earth. Her body hung on to be fed and bathed and laid down again, … chop! chop! read more!
IN THE MEWS by Nicole Callihan Two feuding gardens are thought to be responsible for the most recent blooming. According to the rain, in late summer, a band of tiger lilies recruited a pack of peonies, and those peonies, comely as they seem, have been holding stamens against the backs of wandering clouds. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t really notice when things blossom on the other side of town. In my tidy neighborhood, I tend to my little potted plants and sing them well, hardly ever forgetting to water them. Nights, I wipe their leaves with a soft, clean towel. It’s true what they say about talking to them: my baby gets bigger and bigger, flush and blush; the window crowds with her brush. I had thought my street so safe, my safe street, I might have called it, even though it is a city street and … chop! chop! read more!
PLACES TO WALK OUT TO by Gabriel Ojeda Sague I read the note scribbled wildly on torn paper: “Language is not the signifier nor the signified. It is the significance.” The only constant is the height of buildings. I hate the way you find things like that and I’ve just now realized it’s the smoke that’s making that taste of oranges in my mouth. A yellow cat bolts through a black street. I am drunk and swinging through concrete paths, my legs twisting and stumbling, pivoting and sliding. Billboards sneak into my field of vision. “For tough cleaning, toughen up with Husky brand paper towels.” “No more pests with Nomopest bug spray.” “Feel the fragrance. Be the woman. Rise. Rise, by Vaudlin.” The night is long and I hate the names of streets. “Washington St. Mulligan St. Perricone St. Franklin St. Jefferson St. East St. Hawke St. Levi St. 15019 … chop! chop! read more!
MARCH 5, 1953 by Robert Wexelblatt The funeral was flowerless. Every early spring bloom had been expropriated by the KGB for their boss. Scarcely forty people dared show up. Charged with counter-revolutionary bourgeois tendencies, tormented and shunned by the Composers Union, his wife and sons held hostage in Siberia, he composed wretched anthems to power plants and worse, Zdravitsa. It was a case of write our der’mo or die. Nevertheless, masterworks of “anti-democratic formalism” continued to pour forth. His meager stipend was cut; he very nearly starved. Given another decade and he might have sluiced out all that filth with a flood of new symphonies, freshets of ballets; but the tyrant outlived him. A stroke felled him and then, only fifty minutes later, with surpassing irony, the other. I like to imagine all those grief-stricken Muscovites in the grainy newsreels, ten deep on the ugly sidewalks, shedding their Russian tears … chop! chop! read more!
CONFESSIONS OF A FACEBOOK MOM by Melissa Duclos I’m with Teddy and Elliot, sitting on the floor amidst a pile of Legos and a stack of books, and I find my eyes wandering up to the shelf. My fingers get a little twitchy. I find a reason to stand up. “Hold on, honey. Mommy just needs to check something.” I slide my finger across my touchscreen, unlocking the phone. The familiar blue banner appears, and I swipe my finger upward, my eyes scanning the Newsfeed. Pictures of other people’s kids, other people’s dinners, other people’s yards covered with snow. Justin Bieber got arrested; Derek Jeter is retiring; there’s an interesting article on parenting in The Atlantic; a good op-ed on writing in the Times. The kids play happily together—they’ve just entered this magic phase of chasing each other giggling in circles with rarely any fighting—while I stand leaning against the … chop! chop! read more!
HOW TO MASTER SOCIAL MEDIA by Brennan Cusack Take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror because it’s got a frame like a photograph and you need the practice. Move around and play with angles until you find the most flattering position. Now practice snapping into picture position. Repeat until it’s automatic. Practice makes perfect. Smile perfectly. The next day you sign up for a photo class with Abby. Pick up your rented cameras and practice your photo smile as Abby points the lens towards you. Click. You look pretty, she says. Make it your profile picture. You’re on the right track. As the professor drones on about camera settings, begin laying groundwork for network popularity by scrolling through your newsfeed and liking pictures and statuses accordingly. Watch as your name appears across the newsfeed as you click, think of footsteps in the sand, think of I came, … chop! chop! read more!
Philadelphia from Belmont, hand-tinted engraving, 1873 ON THE ROMANCE OF PARKLAND by J.C. Todd for Erica Upstream, a shadow crosses the oxbow of a river whose flood plains are silted by paternal names of grant-holders. Their slaves tilled the alluvial bottom land, turning up flints and the bones of Lenape. So much loss in the torrents of plunder and order thought to be gain. No wonder the broad plateau that sweeps in folds to the river has gone fallow— such sorrow breaks plow shaft and blade. Better to carpet over the turmoils that clear cut one people’s woodlands to plant another’s prison farm, another’s estate. Better to leave it a meadow of clovers and broadleaves obscuring the blood-rusted soil. To proclaim it parkland, to name it Fairmount as if the elevation were destined to display your picnic aspic, as if the rhizome undernet were meant to cushion your lavender cakes. … chop! chop! read more!
JACKSON LISTENS TO THE BIRDS for Jackson born 2/5/07 by Kathy Lou Schultz Memphis is a huff of spring grandiose pink blossoms about to pop a rainstorm lurking in the palpable air It’s you and me rounding the corners of Midtown lush and nowhere to go, a soliloquy of hands It’s the season of no conclusions of orioles, blue jays, and doves fighting sleep his eyelids close and open close and open, sheltered in the trilling air Jackson listens to the birds Kathy Lou Schultz is the author of four collections of poems, most recently Biting Midge: Works in Prose (Belladona) and Some Vague Wife (Atelos). Her monograph, The Afro-Modernist Epic and Literary History: Tolson, Hughes, Baraka, is part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics Series from Palgrave. Schultz’s articles have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly journals including Contemporary Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, … chop! chop! read more!
A SAD, LOGICAL CAPITULATION (after D. H. Lawrence) by Justin Nicholes The day a welding rod shimmied down Zou’s collar and combusted his shirt into singed tendrils, the same day my stomach caught traction in the scoop of his lower back and I knew I was in love, also the same day the building gave way, all of us died. It’s how these things happen, I guess. During our lives our bodies ricochet along until all we stumble into, all that’s rolled our ways, amasses into these blurred mirrors (I’m getting at corporeality here; I’m getting at ghosts). The building’s integrity flagged, and we all lurched ground-ward in common cataclysm. It sure did surprise us. I mean, we built this place. Just that morning we’d been gawking at Zou’s computer at an image he’d found. It was what the building would finally look like. Twilight purpled on the Dell’s loose-hinged … chop! chop! read more!
ALL GOOD THINGS by B.A. Varghese The milk was white and it squirted out from under his hands. He pulled and pulled the cow’s udders one at a time to a rhythmic beat and I watched it fall down in spurts after each pull. I didn’t know that. I just didn’t know that. I was mesmerized by Appachan’s hands as he pulled and pulled and out it dropped and when it hit it made a metallic clink until the bottom started filling then it sounded like liquid hitting liquid. I didn’t want to come here. I didn’t want to leave home without my father. I told him I didn’t want to go but he told me I had to. He told me we didn’t have family here and that we had no one to help my mother once the baby came so we had to go. He told me I’d get … chop! chop! read more!
DEGENERATIVE DISEASES OF THE BRAIN by Juniper Green When I walk into her room Mrs. Goldberg does not recognize me. Every morning I help her out of bed, clean her up, and dress her. Every morning we meet for the first time. Some days she is thankful for my help. She calls me love, sweetheart, darling. Some days she curses me under her breath, scratches my arm when I try to steady her and cries out for a husband long deceased to come and chase the stranger out of their house. “Did she give you any grief today,” Sam says as we meet by the bin in the hall. “Nope,” I throw away a dirty nappy. “Sweet as a kitten.” “That kitten has claws,” he lifts his forearm. Three thin scars protrude from the skin. They’re smooth and translucent, catching the light as Sam flexes his arm. I want to … chop! chop! read more!
SHACKLED by Kim Suttell If it’s a fever you want, then I’m frenzied. What are you but an ice ax ear ache, an ice cleat hike down my throat, the churned Weddell Sea in my paunch. Hell, you’re the whole Antarctic. I ahoy you through blown globs of molten glass pincered and pounded with thin sparks bounced off withered in the cold before they can blink. I want you with the knife violent drive of having to piss and the diffuse warm pleasure after. I need you beyond aspirin, beyond rashness. Before I pass out, before I disappear like krill in baleen, before I feed this fever to you, examine me. Tell me it’s hopeless, say hmmm like you mean it and look away. Kim Suttell lives in New York City where she doesn’t make a living writing poems, but who does? She has had work published in Right … chop! chop! read more!
DAFFODILS by Daniel W. Thompson The main reason I drove four hours to be here was to sign a document giving me access to mom and dad’s security deposit box. Mom called it personal housekeeping. She said, you never know, Miles. What if something happens to your father and me? Somebody’s got to care for our affairs, and we all know your sister—. Well, you know what I’m saying, she said. When we got to the bank, they couldn’t find the form we needed. The person who prepared it was on her way, but it would be thirty minutes. Mom suggested we go pick daffodils behind the old elementary school while we waited. I said we should forget the bank and flowers and go home and eat lunch. I told her I wanted to get an early start back to Richmond. But Mom said it was too important I sign … chop! chop! read more!
FLESH AND BLOOD by Jamie Lin He’d done it again. Little puddles of sticky green glop all over the floor, specked with shards from the small glass bottle that’d held the apple purée. His fist clutched the plastic spoon as more pale green glop dribbled off his chin and onto the high chair. Ying had left him for less than a minute to attend to her dinner, which had been threatening to boil over onto the stove. When the bottle shattered on the tiled floor she moved quickly, striding across the small expanse from kitchenette to living room and lifting him clean off the chair and into his cradle, away from the glass. Her movements were smooth, instinctive. He gurgled, his expression untroubled, and using the spoon as a catapult he feebly flicked more purée onto the floor. As she looked over the mess a familiar warmth began to collect … chop! chop! read more!
PSYCHOGENIC FUGUE by George Moore Every time I leave home I begin a new life. I am a boy again, sometimes a girl. My memories are so discrete that they talk to each other, gather in rooms, develop friendships without knowing. My wives and husbands are the victims of love. My children all disappear into the crowded river of years. I like to think I was once an artist, once a musician, a technician, a gambler, a fool. In the end, I can only recover who I am, after the sun warms my many faces, there is nothing left but the moist earth, the call of exotic birds, and then I rise from a dozen graves. George Moore is the author of two new collections, The Hermits of Dingle (FutureCycle Press, 2013), and Children’s Drawings of the Universe (Salmon Poetry, 2014). He splits his time between Colorado, … chop! chop! read more!
BEYOND RIVER, BEYOND CANYON by Michael G. Smith Once a year I backpack my ischemic-stroked brain and body into the Grand Canyon. To test. Observe. See what lost physical move I can do again. Metamorphosize. Twelfth trip: like the Earth, I have the partial wisdom of ongoing trial and error. Experience. First morning. Booted, poised at the rim’s crumbling edge. Plant hiking poles. Step down forward. Start reverse. Vertical fault line: twelve years ago I twisted my neck, dissected the right vertebral artery running through my brainstem. My neurologist: Another millimeter or two and we would not be having this discussion. The artery clotted. Three days later two clots released. Lodged in my cerebellum: center of balance, muscle control, proprioception. Vision stroked into nystagmus. Movement stroked into stillness. Isostasy. Ahead: layers, conglomerate rubble. Layers. Rubble. Primordial Earth. Mighty Colorado River flowing all away. Re-learn to see. Balance. Walk. My path … chop! chop! read more!
MIRABEL RIVER GIRL, CHAMPION SPELLER by Shannon Sweetnam I was twelve when my Daddy got a long iridescent motorcycle, his first to my unemphatic, unpathwayed, what-I-recall. I wandered the shop façade near the cow-bell laden door, while he strode around back to cast a final gaze at his newly purchased ride. I perused the store in white leather sandals, ambulating back and forth among the sharp smells of steel and sawdust, amongst the stink of after-shave, rubber, and gasoline, under the reverberation of bleak fluorescent lights. I yearned for something to read. When Daddy returned, I laid hands upon his new manual and parked myself outside Jim’s Hardware atop a cooler, foraging for spelling bee clinchers: crankshaft, flywheel, cam chain, hydraulic steering damper. I was to be a world champion speller; I was to win the national spelling bee in the great capital of our country that very spring. Daddy predicted … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Lauren Hall The Miser “He was never a nice man,” she confessed, rolling her stockings slightly below her knees. “Nobody liked him much, not even me.” Through the screen door, I can see my great-grandfather swinging an axe at a scrawny pine, ducking invisible branches as he works. No one can tell him to stand up straight, he’s not tall enough to hit his head. No one call tell him we don’t need any firewood, it’s July. The air up here is heavier than the whole mountain, blackberries on the bush shriveled and abandoned by the birds. He gathers what’s left. “Don’t you eat any,” he warns, teeth stained purple with juice. “There isn’t enough.” When the lake dries up, he makes a list of possible suspects: me in my bathing suit; pipe tobacco sneaking into the well again; the fat water bug squashed beneath his fishing … chop! chop! read more!
PIGEON by Thompson Mayes He was hot, too hot, walking on the sunny side of the hard stone streets through tourist stickiness of dripped gelato. He felt as wilted as the reddish-pink blooms that drooped out of the doorway, and he could smell the roach poison they must use here, wafting up from small dark gaps at the base of the buildings. He avoided the pigeons, suspected they were diseased, though he could hear their burbling as they waddled on the dirty streets. It had been churches today, and each of the dim, frescoed interiors had been a calm relief from the crowds and the heat. But the religious art had oppressed him. In the last church he had stared at an awkward painting of Mary Magdalene, blonde hair covering her entire body, ending with sharp points like the tongues of flame. And there had been another Crucifixion, the blood … chop! chop! read more!
BETTER by Molly McGinnis I am salt and champagne. Salt and dirt and stars. Two-sided story, double-edged knife. Dinosaur bones and tambourines. I have walked into town by myself at dawn and seen my face reflected in the windows. I have danced down the aisles of the grocery store and blown kisses to the pharmacist with the one blue eye. I used to count tiles from the produce section to the checkout line, because I thought that if I didn’t, my sister would die. In school, I learn this is some kind of misfiring, and am warned that it could come back any minute, but for now I breathe carefully and wash the idea down the bathroom sink. I am on the brink of a brilliant war. Each morning, I move in spheres. I contain mirror neurons and sunshine. Porch lights and beer cans. July. Miss Irene lives next door … chop! chop! read more!
SCORCHER by Alina Grabowski June had been eating a creamsicle on the front porch when she saw them. It was the third week of July and the entire house was sweating, drops of condensation sliding down bookshelves and chair legs. Her father was having his annual boys’ weekend with some college buddies, and her mother was at an artist’s retreat in Vermont, working on her new series of collages. June was left to babysit Lily, whose tyrannical seven-year old behavior she’d only expected the heat to magnify. Instead she had become drowsily acquiescent, content to sit in the shade of the porch as long as she had a constant supply of chocolate milk and coloring books. June laid on her belly on the shadowed porch, coloring mermaids and dripping creamsicle syrup onto the page. “No mermaid has brown hair,” Lily said, leaning over with turquoise stub in hand. “It has … chop! chop! read more!
ARACHNICIDE by Ray Scanlon An organ pipe mud dauber is building a nest in the ornamental tin-roofed wren house Cheryl hung by the door. I hear her stridulating at her masonry work, and see her carry a small ball of mud into the bird house, a first for me, even though I’ve casually watched her predecessors for years. Our paths are bound, by simple proximity, to intersect before long. One day she emerges just as I step outside, rockets up, appraises me, hovers motionless at point-blank range. I freeze. She stares me in the eye. I gain a more mature understanding of “in your face.” Iridescent steely blue-black, she—an insect—has goddamn presence. Even though I outweigh her by roughly 343,000 to one, I’m the one who backs down. I inch my hand up to make the Vulcan “live long and prosper” sign and will my body to slide backward several … chop! chop! read more!
ASSEMBLING AN ANATOMICAL LIFE by Laurie Blauner To Annie I labeled all the dancers’ body parts and told them how to use them. I prepared resonant music, a prescription for feet that kaleidoscoped from room to room. I described what I wanted, a mouth yanked upward, ankles and hands telling a phantom story, heads grouped into archipelagoes. I was the one going nowhere. I theorized, discussed, directed their bodies, which leaned against one another’s shoulders. “Arm?” one asked. “If you want one.” There was a movement of undressing and tiptoeing toward the unlocked door. They floated and spun, lifting themselves. The floor parked itself beneath them. Air congealed, then became inflamed by their motions. They rightfully absconded with my best advice. I helped strangers, reassembling them. At night boxes sheltered the dancers’ animal parts. Morning light combed their human hair. I knew what to hold and what to let go, correcting … chop! chop! read more!
DEPT. OF SPECULATION by Jenny Offill Alfred A. Knopf, 177 pages Reviewed by Michelle Fost Here’s an idea for a book party. Hold it in the Guggenheim. Set up an exhibit of all the pages of the book. Frame each page and display them in sequence, ending at the bottom of the ramp. Enlarge the pages 10X the size of the Borzoi Book edition pages, because the first line of the book is “Antelopes have 10X vision, you said” but also so that it’s possible for many viewers to be reading a single page. Hope for crowds. Leave the walls behind the framed pages white, to call attention to the writer’s use of white space as well as the visual appeal of the blocks of text in this accomplished second novel. See if anyone at the bottom of the ramp wonders if the experience of the novel is like what … chop! chop! read more!
THE HYPOTHETICAL GIRL by Elizabeth Cohen Other Press, 256 pages Reviewed by Michelle Fost Like so many of the characters in Elizabeth Cohen’s fifteen incisive stories in The Hypothetical Girl, Emily in the title story is truly suffering. Her affliction is contemporary. Girl meets guy online, falls hard for him, and is rejected by him before their relationship ever has a chance to develop out in the real world. What happens when people connect online, on sites like Letsgethooked.com, Flirtypants.com, and Yummybaby.com? Many of the stories have a sad, humorous and twisted logic. Emily—who meets Nick on Matchmaker.com—walks right into the new anxiety. “I think I miss you,” she says to Nick. “Can one miss someone one has never met?” Nick’s answer (“You can, but it is ridiculous”) is devastating. In a way, it is a simple case of unrequited chat love. Nick does not see Emily as a real … chop! chop! read more!
THE DISMAL SCIENCE by Peter Mountford Tin House Press, 275 Pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin It seems fitting that Peter Mountford’s novel, The Dismal Science, is being published just as certain global emergent markets—Brazil, Turkey, India, South Africa, and Indonesia, nicknamed by investors the “Fragile Five”—are failing. As the book opens, in 2005, at a World Bank conference in Washington, DC, Vincenzo D’Orsi, a Milan-born, 24 year veteran Bank economist, is leading a panel discussion on the state of global markets. The subtext of his introductory talk, in the woozy gestalt of Bank and IMF bureaucrats: Politics had matured, capitalism was working. Stability had taken hold and the emerging markets were now actually emerging. “It’s almost on autopilot,” says Vincenzo. Vincenzo is speaking of himself, too. Professionally, he’s peaked, after a long climb through the bank’s politicized bureaucracy; fundamentally allergic to simplistic, ideologically fraught rhetoric, he’s grown bored of spouting … chop! chop! read more!
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH by Isabel Greenberg Little, Brown and Company, 176 Pages Reviewed by Stephanie Trott There is no sole way to tell the story of our planet. Whether one chooses to uphold a belief rooted in science, religion, or some amalgamation of the two, our interpretation of man’s early days will never be a precise match to that of our neighbor. Many origin stories regarding that ancient spark of life cross cultures that span the globe, each holding vaguely similar elements and lessons with the introduction of new heroes, heroines, beasts, and locations. Isabel Greenberg has taken this philosophy into account in her graphic novel The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Though not a non-fictional encyclopedia, Greenberg has reinterpreted familiar childhood stories of valiant journeys, jealous siblings, and—of course—the gravitational pull we call love. Her tales, which are framed as the life story of a nameless Nord man, … chop! chop! read more!
THE OLD PRIEST by Anthony Wallace University of Pittsburgh Press 2013 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, 170 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin “Let’s leave Limit,” says Anna to her husband Phil, the narrator of Anthony Wallace’s story “Snow behind the door.” Limit is a fictional New Jersey town near Atlantic City and a metaphor for the physical and emotional borders that confine Phil and the other protagonists in this searing, surprising collection. Phil and Anna want to escape—their neighborhood is in decline, the neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking—but at what cost? To what end? What’s keeping them? What’s begging them past the border? Phil and Anna could leave. She suggests they open a restaurant in an old industrial town in upstate New York that’s “just begging for this kind of thing.” But Phil’s grandmother Rose is dying; they can’t leave her, not yet, anyway. He needs her too—as he listens to … chop! chop! read more!
BLOOM IN REVERSE
by Teresa Leo
University of Pittsburgh Press (Pitt Poetry Series), 104 pages
reviewed by Anna Strong
From the dedication page, Teresa Leo’s Bloom in Reverse props itself against the fence between the living and the dead. Dedicated to the living but in memory of Leo’s friend Sarah, the poems carry the dual burden of trauma and memory. How do we process, how do we articulate trauma? If we’re at all like Teresa Leo, we recognize that in art, in poetry, we remember the the Sarah Hannahs of the world and bring them into a collective consciousness. She is not forgotten.
Donald Hall wrote an astounding collection of poems chronicling his wife’s cancer and death, Without. Bloom in Reverse reads much like that collection—in each poem, we feel the keenness of the “without,” the strain of recollection, the reconstruction of the smallest moments of friendship and intimacy in the clearest language accessible to the speaker. Many of the poems are two-line stanzas, heavily enjambed and riddled with fragments, clauses that build and build on each other only to be let go in a kind of sigh—we feel the struggle to hold onto whatever memories come to mind, only to realize that that’s all they are. The ending of “She Said: It’s Not that Things Bring Us to Tears, but Rather, There Are Tears in Things” struck me as the most poignant of these conclusions:chop! chop! read more!
THE NEW YORK NOBODY KNOWS: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William Helmreich Princeton University Press, 449 pages BAGHDAD: THE CITY IN VERSE edited by Reuven Snir Harvard University Press, 339 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin Writers, this one included, have long struggled to capture in words the dynamic and multi-layered ways that cities change. Cities themselves are powerful change agents in the wider world, but they are defined and redefined constantly by the evolving tastes and desires of their residents (who themselves are always changing), technology, culture and religion, structural political and economic shifts, and the feedback loop of history and history-telling, characterized through myth, poetry, and mass media. Here’s how I try to make sense of it in Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books): Think of the city as a collection of swarming cells that change, adapt, grow, shrink, and grow simultaneously. Imagine hundreds … chop! chop! read more!
HERE COME THE WARM JETS by Alli Warren City Lights, 104 pages reviewed by Vanessa Martini Diving into Alli Warren’s Here Come the Warm Jets is at once exhilarating and slightly overwhelming. Warren pulls no punches with this collection. The reader is at once plunged into Warren’s intricate linguistic code, and she does not wait for or expect us to get used to her from the start. The only comparable experience I can call to mind is seeing a Shakespeare play: the language is difficult to follow at first, being at a slight remove from our everyday speech, but by the end of the first act—or the first several poems, in Warren’s case—this wall has dissolved, and we are left free to absorb as much wonderful language as possible. The collection shares a title with Brian Eno’s 1974 album, and this gives an immediate clue to how much cultural cross-pollination … chop! chop! read more!
MERMAID: A Memoir of Resilience by Eileen Cronin W.W. Norton, 336 pages reviewed by Colleen Davis When I read a memoir, I feel like I’m climbing into the kitchen of someone I’ve never met to see if their recipes for life trump mine. It’s amusing—and sometimes shocking—to discover the great variety of messes humans can create with similar ingredients. Lives get twisted and re-shaped by crazy family members, creative impulses, and random events. But some people get a truly strange variable thrown into their stew. Eileen Cronin, for example, was born without legs. You might think that if you’ve spent your earthly time in prime physical condition, her story will not connect with yours. But that’s not how Cronin’s memoir, Mermaid, comes across. Sure the young Eileen is at a great disadvantage in her early years. She must “squiddle” from one place to another instead of walk. But once she’s … chop! chop! read more!
SCATTERED VERTEBRAE by Jerrold Yam Math Paper Press, 2013 reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke Jerrold Yam’s second poetry collection was titled with care: like the image of scattered vertebrae, these poems are at once beautiful, dark, and disturbing. Yam weaves family life, social expectation, religion, and tragedy together so ornately that at times one does not realize what they’re reading. This technique generally makes for compelling and delicate poetic image, but at times the disorientation feels less deliberate—Yam’s is a poetics that requires rereading, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It is a poetics of “pleated identity” (31), turning away from singular intent or simple subject matter, and its difficulty reflects the personal sense of unease that Yam confronts throughout: unlike some collections, here one can safely equate the speaker with Yam himself. Yam’s verse is elaborate, complex by nature, for the poet dives into his own conflicted psyche … chop! chop! read more!
by Rina Terry
Texture Press, 102 pages
reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat
We tend to equate the word “prison” with concrete, metal and despair, ostensibly as means of change or as a tool of rehabilitation. In her new collection, Cardboard Piano, Rina Terry reveals multi-layered evidence of the transformative power of art versus stone. Anyone who is familiar with Stephen King’s prison stories, The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption (or at least with the movie adaptations thereof) expects to question the prison system and to explore the humanity of both the inmates and the guards. Terry’s words push the reader to consider the realities of an in-person search for and confrontation of that humanity, in all its potential glory and obloquy.
The opening salvo, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Inmates” offers a kaleidoscope through which we can feel the entire collection. Terry challenges our accepted notion of rehabilitative space as cyclical: “There is only one/direction. Single file/through metal detector.” Parole notwithstanding, the suggestion is that for most who enter, there is no hope, and what’s more, the system-keepers believe that as well. After all, “an inmate/is and inmate/is an inmate.” The guards do not see what Terry sees, the one man who holds on to his sense of self enough to iron his uniform, or the baptism trough as cleansing agent.chop! chop! read more!
SUPERLOOP by Nicole Callihan Sock Monkey Press, 72 pages Reviewed by Anna Strong The startling beauty of Nicole Callihan’s SuperLoop lies in the balance the poems strike between the specificity and universality of childhood memory. The strongest poems take us deep into a place of colorful, youthful imagination, full of the unexpected juxtapositions that only retrospection can bring. The poems retrieve those crystal-clear moments in childhood when we make our first brushes with what it means to be a grown-up—a death in the family, divorce, a new word, and ultimately, the realization that our parents are no more perfect than we are. Callihan constantly crushes and compresses those moments of innocence and experience together, as in the the title poem, where she writes “This is the way / the Tilt-a-Whirl ends / not with a smile / but with a nice ass whisper.” Every poem in the collection is richly … chop! chop! read more!
LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY by Ivy Hughes I held the handset of the house phone to my ear, the dull tone providing a soundtrack for what was sure to be the most humiliating conversation of my life. From the sitting room, the three-foot oil painting of Shirley and Laverne hovered like consequence itself. Posed with pink and blue ring pillows in their mouths on the day of their wedding, the great white poodle and hyperactive Yorkie were the only children my ex-boyfriend’s mother and stepfather shared. My ex and his family were spending Christmas in California, an event I hadn’t been invited to because my ex had fallen in love. With someone else. I’m sure if my ex’s mom knew I’d recently put myself in the category of mentally ill, she wouldn’t have asked me to watch her precious dogs. But there I was, day three, daily check-in number four … chop! chop! read more!
FLORIDA by Cullen Bailey Burns The pelican was a kite or vice versa in the way I was a wave in the body my mind made of ego and thread. How do we glue the ideas into order? In the gulf, warm water rocked me. A daughter floated near. The pelican dove and rose tethered to the habit of fish while the tide came in. Sunset was promised. Drinks at the hotel bar. But we meant a little more than that floating in bodies of salt and shell, a warm pool of Bethesda, a warm dusk, again. Image credit: Linda Tanner on Flickr Cullen Bailey Burns lives in Minneapolis and Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. Her second book of poems, Slip, was published by New Issues Press this fall. Her first book, Paper Boat, was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. Her poems have appeared widely, recently in … chop! chop! read more!
ICELANDIC KISSES by Shane Joaquin Jimenez The man in the fur coat paused in the electric blue of the porch light. He sniffed the air, as if trying to read some presence in the atmosphere and the ice particles. A blinding wind came shrieking from the city, flaring his coat behind him. The fringe brushed against the two trashcans, skittering the nearest lid into the snow. The man in the fur coat cursed and hunkered down to pick up the lid. But when he had righted himself and the wind had died, he stood very still and looked across the dark yard, to where I stood in my solus rex in the shadows of his greenhouse. The man very carefully set the trash bag in the snow. Then he very slowly chose a large rock from the ground. He walked along the perimeter of his backyard with very exaggerated steps, … chop! chop! read more!
TESTIMONY AFTER THE VARICOCELECTOMY by Peter LaBerge My mother changes the bedpan, the evidence of life. Stomach, definition of withhold, overripe plum I did not purchase. I would never crave this heaviness, the way she folds over my body with braided fingers. Meanwhile, I dream about a god shaped like a subway station. From the surface, she blames a dose of codeine. She is careful in her faith-giving tread, knowing morning is installed and foreign as a catheter. I wonder if there is a word to describe when your mother empties the evidence of you down the toilet, flushes. Image credit: MIT-Libraries on Flickr Peter LaBerge is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. His recent work appears in such publications as The Louisville Review, DIAGRAM, The Newport Review, BOXCAR Poetry Review, and Hanging Loose. In the past, he has been named a two-time Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Medalist for Poetry … chop! chop! read more!
THE FERRY by Emma Greenberg “So your mom told you about the new houses?” “Yup.” I lunged too aggressively for the volume control and my seatbelt tensed and slapped me back into my seat. The second verse of “Livin’ On A Prayer” blasted from the speakers. He reached for the dial and turned it down slowly, eyes still on the road. “What did she tell you?” I shrugged and clenched my teeth. “Not much.” “They’re only a few minutes away from each other, we’ll all be close by.” “Cool.” I had been playing 80s music in the car since I got to boarding school the year before—before that, actually, after I had visited for a night in ninth grade and all of the girls on Hall II played it from their laptops as they got dressed for a dance or geared up for a field hockey game. By now I … chop! chop! read more!
from x y a && by Pattie McCarthy a couple of breaks of sunshine over the next couple hours, what little sun shine there is left. a view that outranks me : two baseball fields, two bridges, the dome (golden) of a church I can’t identify. a ludicrous little halo. a noun formal or technical. moxibustion vertex frank footling complete. (she turns) she turns (she turned) her own version. like ploughing a field like a furrow like verse or versus (preposition) against or toward furrow like a harrow (what a harrow is for) verso (on the turned) like the turn in a sonnet. sleep with arms around my children, as if— — II. 1 – 3. Kenneth … chop! chop! read more!
YOU ARE BUT A PILGRIM VENTURING TO A STRANGE AND HONEST LAND by Jared Yates Sexton On the cab ride in the driver turned and said, Did you know Hope and Despair are sister and brother and you their distant cousin? We were driving over a bridge. The snow was falling and people were trudging down the walk holding newspapers over their heads. I’m sorry, I said. I had been watching the people. What did you say? I said, he said, that Hope and Despair are sister and brother and you their distant cousin. For some reason I thought over my family tree to see if there was any truth. I was an only child though, the offspring of two miserably matched people who would’ve still hated one another had they been alive. The only glimpse of hope in my whole lineage was a cousin who had scored well on … chop! chop! read more!
blockage no. 8 by Marie Nunalee a bumblebee, Kamikaze pilot in disguise, balancing ancillary, damp sidewalk-situated, papier mache pinions flashing faintly. six coarse-haired legs flicker for the troubleshoot-detection of external demise; antennae circuits flip on, flip off, blow fuses red and bright. Image credit: Tiago Cabral on Flickr Marie Nunalee lives in Asheville, NC. She will be in indefinite space 2014, and can be found in various other publications, including theNewerYork, The Metric, Epigraph, Eunoia Review, Deadbeats, and Digital Americana. She writes at swordfishsermons.tumblr.comchop! chop! read more!
PEACE from The Names of Roses by Ann de Forest Peace Rose: Just before Germany invaded France, a French horticulturist sent cuttings of his newest rose to friends in Italy, Turkey, Germany, and the U.S. to protect it. It is said that it was sent to the U.S. on the last plane available before the invasion. Because the cultivators couldn’t communicate during the war, each country gave the rose a different name. In France it was called ‘Madame A. Meilland’ in honor of the breeder’s mother, in Italy ‘Gioia,’ in Germany ‘Gloria Dei,’ and in the U.S. ‘Peace.’ “Can’t I have peace at my own table?” Our mother’s war cry. The very mention of peace sets our teeth on edge, steels us, her adult children, into contention. My father glares at us, grits his teeth and shakes his head in frustration. “Listen to your mother.” But it’s always too late. Raised voices escalate … chop! chop! read more!
A HUNGER ARTIST by Henry Marchand The medium is biological, human cells crafted in a sterile environment to simulate body parts: an ear, a finger, a foot. Clyde Averill has become renowned for his work, the first bio-artist to achieve such astonishing, lifelike effects. After exhibitions in Italy, France, and China, in the Ukraine, in Moscow, he has come to Los Angeles and from here will go to San Francisco, Denver, and finally New York. In each city, in each gallery, he exhibits different works, and at the end of each showing he unseals the glass in which the apparent body parts are displayed and allows attendees to touch them; the shock of it always sends a murmur through the crowd, the tactile sensation indistinguishable from touching a fingertip to the lobe of a lover’s ear, a beloved child’s flesh. The finale never alters; cells not previously exposed to bacteria … chop! chop! read more!
TELESCOPES by Kristen Sharp In a dress with sequins the color of champagne, her legs like bone, she crouched on the beach and dug her hand under the packed wet sand. The New Year had been mostly Manhattans and whiskey-gingers and drunk finance hotshots from Murray Hill and Stuy-Town trying to buy girls out. The salt-cold wind blew grit down the face of the dunes. She drew her knees to her chest and drank vodka. People were getting engaged. But still she clung to her brick building in Morningside, to the holes in the walls where the electrical wiring had been gutted, to the hall light that was burnt out, to the bathtub where she’d bathed in two inches of water boiled in a pot on the stove, flopping around on her stomach like a beached whale to wash the suds off. She remembered being seventeen. As denim shorts and … chop! chop! read more!
LEXICON by Lori Lamothe I’ve forgotten the language of cities, of travel. I insert the room key upside down, stumble over a couch in the lobby, ride the wrong subway line, walk South instead of North. New York hems me in, surrounds me on all sides until I’m drowning in cigarette smoke, screaming horns, the kind of humidity that settles on skin and won’t wash off. The horizon is harder than the soft green sweep of home—stone and steel, mirrored windows that catch the sky and won’t let go. I’ve forgotten how to speak the language of strangeness. Years ago I drove up into the Himalayas at midnight, drank Georgian Cognac in Russia, photographed children in Peshawar. I ordered room service at Hotel de L’Opera and bunked on an old ship in Stockholm. I stood in Red Square in below-zero temperatures, allowed myself to be carried along by crowds at … chop! chop! read more!
THIS TOWN IS YOUR TOWN TOO by Anne Dyer Stuart The next morning at Paige’s, too many mamas were there. I didn’t know why they’d stayed. It made me feel like Mama was anti-social, which she was. But more than that, it made me feel—even though I’d lived in Greenville all my life—like I still didn’t know the rules. “What are we going to do with you?” Mrs. Grovenor was picking up a side of my hair and letting it fall. “What about layers? Those are the same shirts you’ve worn all summer, darling. Has your body changed? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I started packing it to my hips when I was sixteen—overnight. Just, boom. I swear, the next morning nothing fit. I mean, nothing. Have you asked your mama to take you to Jackson?” Jackson? For a second I thought she was talking about Dr. Dana, my … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Jesse Minkert Mesopotamian Ruins Eras apply dust victorious harden over masonry. Accomplishments in architecture and death; lives of sleep and food and shit removal. Dust sweeps off the table water in a flask, a bag of emmer. Thirsty soil drinks from the trenches cut down from the rivers. Orchards absorb more sun more wind where the crust has awaited this shovel and pick. ◊ Wednesday Night in the Juke The man in the pinstriped suit pumps the bellows on his accordion, pumps out the zydeco, stomps his foot on a bandstand by himself. My round, red, pinhole eyes follow the only dancer, curly, polished-copper hair on forehead, sheared up the back of her neck; crimson Lucille-Ball lips parted and gasping. Her canary shift flutters like a sail in a headwind, her torso the mast, her arms the yards. Her long legs sweep through the smoke- stained … chop! chop! read more!
PORTRAITS OF AGE by Donna Festa Interviewed by Anastasiya Shekhtman Where does your fascination with faces come from? When I was a young girl, I went with my mother on a regular basis to visit her sisters. She was the youngest of nine children. The three youngest sisters—my mother Betty, Cassie, and Tucker—were the core of the group, but others would join in on different occasions. You never knew who was going to be at the kitchen table when you arrived. These visits were either at my Aunt Tucker’s house (Sylvia was her birth name, but, due to her resemblance to the actress Sophie Tucker, she is still called Tucker at 90 years old), or my Aunt Helen’s house, the oldest sibling, in South Jersey. Aunt Tucker always had a homemade cake, and most always a pot of pasta sauce slowly simmered on the stove all day, filling the house with an … chop! chop! read more!