Empty Farmhouses

You see them off highways marked with carcasses of dead deer, eyes still open tongues out, bemused by minuscule length of their disposable meat lives. Scattered wrecked holdouts along the back roads that used to be the highways. Gutted, flaking lead paint, buckled roof and doorways with cataract windows. The thin scar of gravel through tall grass like a fossilized snake marks the ghost of a driveway. I eye them on my drive home from whatever crises I have lived each day. I want to take the first exit, find my way to the forgotten highway, follow that scar of gravel as far as the snake allows, wade through the cut grass and paintbrush, survey the stone foundations fashioned by hands now bone and dust, step across the threshold like a widower groom, breathe in the decay and old memories like a wine snob in a goblet. bask in the gutted solitude, weave your way through rooms asunder, pick up broken dishes, found objects waiting for human touch once again. Take a seat on an unbroken chair and watch the autumn sunset through a shattered pane, listen to something crawl and chew within the walls, tell yourself only the insane choose to not be hermits. -Troy Schoultz, from Biographies of Runaway Dogs

You see them off highways marked

with carcasses of dead deer, eyes still open

tongues out, bemused by minuscule length

of their disposable meat lives.

Scattered wrecked holdouts along the back roads

that used to be the highways. Gutted,

flaking lead paint, buckled roof and doorways

with cataract windows. The thin scar of gravel

through tall grass like a fossilized snake

marks the ghost of a driveway.

I eye them on my drive home from

whatever crises I have lived each day.

I want to take the first exit, find my way

to the forgotten highway, follow that

scar of gravel as far as the snake allows,

wade through the cut grass and paintbrush,

survey the stone foundations fashioned by

hands now bone and dust,

step across the threshold like a widower groom,

breathe in the decay and old memories

like a wine snob in a goblet.

bask in the gutted solitude, weave your way

through rooms asunder, pick up broken dishes,

found objects waiting for human touch

once again. Take a seat on an unbroken chair

and watch the autumn sunset through a shattered pane,

listen to something crawl and chew within the walls,

tell yourself

only the insane

choose to not be hermits.

-Troy Schoultz, from Biographies of Runaway Dogs

You May Feel Nude When Reading It

she said

we should get together

sometime

she said

let’s just nail the flowers

into the drywall

she said

i’m middle aged

she said

that time goes slowly but

it speeds up the mundanity

as age progresses

she said

while driving fast in a bright car

lighting palo santo

don’t let a bad friend ruin

the smell of a good tree

she said

I still feel him in my mind

as she smiles

she said

that pain

is a gift too

she said

it’s nice to hang out with

someone who is fun and

has the time

she said

the mind cracks open

and nerves flood all sorts

of sensations

she said

I’m a healer

give me your hand

as she passed it

under the bathroom

stall

she said

I slammed my fingers

in the door

she said

my acrylic nails saved me

she said

mama joe will take care

of you

she said

I’m a scorpio so

I’m pretty private

she said

while driving east

on the highway

I don’t know what it is

but my soul is a cat penis

and it won’t let go

she said

I’m squishy so I don’t model

she said

who is this woman

to you

in the red

she said

I’m attracted to people

who are bad for me

she said

your father wrote me

this poem

left it on my steps

she said

this spider is my friend

she said

I loved him as Kristian

and now I’ll love her

as Katrina

she said

initial sex wasn’t great

but in the morning

she did yoga

naked

then he fucked

her real good

she said

darling heart

keep writing

she said

let’s walk through

the graveyard

but we have to

break in first

-Bethany Price, from Return to the Gathering Place of the Waters


Tongues

Climb on top,

and feel my systematic veins,

as they pump.

I walk through your body like

a first look at the sky;

I want to stream straight across

this glacier of a night,

to your door,

thousands of miles in milliseconds.

Take a different woman every time,

they all have my face,

my name,

they were all me,

in the suffering decline

of a tyrant's bent nose,

and you a fortress below.

Make them pant,

like I do,

lying tangled in the coursing torrents

of my own fingertips.

Let the violence of life collapse,

just for the length of a scream.

Words appear before me

on a screen:

"Go on,

do as you please,

oh, Infinite Being.”

 

Georgia Lundeen, from spare

Eat the Alphabet

Sometimes I hug books I love so tightly
to my chest
in hopes that by some osmosis I will retain them. 
Something like the way I retain water
when I eat too much salt. 
But in writing this, I’ve realized, 
maybe I’m doing it wrong
and need to eat the alphabet
to ever retain a word. 

Sometimes when I walk I imagine the feeling
of my feet going through the floor
instead of on it, 
like maybe how Jesus felt walking on water
or maybe how certain feet feel when trained
for coal walking,
and I could never compare a feeling to an action
or coal walkers to Jesus, but I just did, and I question my morph-ability
and make up words while choking on the alphabet and
sometimes the bottoms of my feet feel like coals without warning
and they walk with goals but I don’t know where I’m going.  

Sometimes I just go
and see where go leads me
because there is always a point A and B,
and sometimes
there’s a C we wander to.

 

Jenny Janzer, from Return to the Gathering Place of the Waters

What My Father Talks About While Drinking Beer

We crack the fresh pop-tops

from the garage refrigerator,

an avocado-colored refugee from the 1970’s
still humming. He takes a good
long pull from his, a lager watery and weaker
than the darks and stouts I’m used to. He says light beer
helps him keep his edge. After two more sweat-beaded

cans he begins to open up. Talks about
the young nuns at his Catholic high school,

fantasizes about the sleek white swimsuits
underneath the layers of black and grey,
says he hates church, prefers the marsh
at sunset, swears he and a buddy saw Satan
in a a denim jacket and eyes like sparklers
drinking in a tavern at the Illinois border in 1972.
He tells of the teacher who chastised
him for watching ditch diggers
from the classroom window, how she told
him that was all he’d amount to.
He asked her what were they doing
that was wrong? Where was the crime
in irrigation? As I’m taken aback
by the dignity of that response,

he goes on to say that years later

when he found himself at the roadside

laying pipe, deep in soil, he wished
that same teacher would drive past.
He would raise his shovel in the July sun
shouting in personal victory, “I’ve made it!
I’ve finally made it!”

-Troy Schoultz; from Biographies of Runaway Dogs

Tower

I watch your hands as you paint me

into your walls and unmentionables.

I seep into them like water,

like apocalyptic dye.

 

 

Your hands, smudged so beautifully,

bloodied with acrylics; improbables.

I look at them and I falter,

I'd like to give them a try.

 

 

Use all your languages for me

until we are raving Unstoppables,

clinking glasses at an altar;

for we are the best Most High.

 

 

I love it when you don't look at me;

instead, keep sketching impossibles.

Don't call me Ishtar's daughter;

go ahead, tear down the sky.

 

 -Georgia Lundeen; from Spare

Sights and Sounds of Apollo in drag  

But baby I like these curlers
I throw all my legs around them and multiply

            if these things aren't pretty and
            bouncing around me

I feed you all the yellow I can manage

  transferring chemicals from six bodies to a nucleus
  you have wobbly gravity and I will fit all of me in there

                        chewing at the opening

                        I opened a face from the middle
                          and held it open like some scar
                       for sixteen hours I shaved a skull

            I dressed in layers for preparation of a dive
                          I wanted to love you

-Annie Grizzle; from Return to the Gathering Place of the Waters, May 2017

I Dreamt of Ravens Again Last Night

thick boned, strong footed
claws grasping like skilled craftsmen.

Wings overlooking their own shadows, the way I have yet to learn how Sweeping above and below, sweeping all that slumbers or wallows.

Cleansing into one another,
waning and waxing like self-lit moons, tugging at effervescence, their own and that of the day.

The tree which they called theirs alone was wrestling with them, their feathers and her branches
like teenagers tangled and undone by their own wind.

This went on until each four-nailed toe was content
in what it grasped.

There is no rest for the weary
but there is always solidarity.
I awoke thinking of all I love and therefore hurt inevitably
and all that return the favor. 

-from Love and Fate

painting by Eleanor Hazard

Apart

Not knowing where to put this

heavy glaring sense of time lost

and consciousness frayed and displaced.

Does it belong compressed, in the cavity of the body

or is it meant to be thrown off the top floor of the tallest

building in a small town or into traffic at 3AM on a Monday morning in Chicago's south side.

If released to scuttle about by its own devices a deep sense of drugged calm falls upon me. Appearances.

And so I choose wildness.

A decomposite of play in a changed world.

A bed of dust and recollections.

Stillness and death.

Loneliness like a stillborn product of labor and sweat and blood and heartache.

Sailing numbly and home again.

 

Bones and bloating

Sex absorbed

Canceled

Motionless and frantic and contained, hooked

in a frenetic code.

worn tightly and warm.

Clutching the fabric of images cast by an old projector unplugged and boxed in the basement beneath the holiday shit.

Glitter muppets of plausible caricatures that nod and function and collapse into the sink.

Amazed.


–Hillarie Higgins

Sea of Wheels

Sea of Wheels    

            Floats absorbed

                     Somewhere to go not to be                                          Laughs along pundits

                                                                                  Screams the nearest vessel

                                              Catcalls a bent sundress never to be met

                        Freedom defined in miles per hour

                       Eyes fixed in avoidance of murders

                                                      Secretly wished

                                                                                         She who steps in front

                                                                        Of you is the beast

                             

                             You nearly complete machines

                             Locked in pilot authority, barely moving

                            Anything but your destined minds

 

                                                                       The earth smolders 

                                         your speed         sucked from ground 

                                        buckled tight too safe for resting heads 

                                       on chests/reading these thoughts

 

                                                                                               A turtle in the median

                                                                                        Brushes his cheeks

                                                                            On the things

                                                             You’ll never dare

–Jimmy Chartreuse

After Freddy

Town crumbling in cadence with the storm bulging rained-in roofs bow down to royal families At all points the despair settling in waves
where memories sicken love yokes

No finality crawls from the celestial place No bridges to health from broken reveries The mobs don’t feed themselves
killing more roots then forgetting to grow

Fundamental white fences
splintered to murder the neighbors Ruinous hiccups in the money beds
where sex is an apology made over & over

This suburb forgets gold for forlorn fornication & children break heat
across long winded insults
The wind moans louder than the injured

Bethany Price

After B.P.

Caustic ephemera spill over blotter lips, oracles turn blue in wait of new believers, belltowers shake leaves attempting updates for digital ears, the holy spirit is filled with cancer, your blood no longer satisfies, cramped chorus girls shake out aches to kick drums thumping, keeping steps ahead quicksand sucks, bleak futures, when death questions you’d better answer formally

chasing wilted flowers weaves maps to exposed bankruptcies, every guilty action atones father’s negligence, I chew them and wretch his petrified pew, beetles crawl beneath dermis issuing spiteful divisive commands, your hollow prophecies will echo into gravel, I’ll pound my incantations to time, your dust steaming my cauldron, I’ll build a new dragon who’ll pull down a moon for lighting your extinction and releasing the dance.

Freddy La Force

Marriage

What has become of romance

Does commitment mean anything

Nowadays?

Courtship must alter its course

Opposing the wind for too long

Love has been falling

Finally, love stretches its arms

Shifting carefully to the upright

Position

No longer horizontal

Ready for action

Walking down the street I wave hello

To a bicycled white man who looks

Like someone I know but he is not

These men all have similar uniforms

But I love them

Hello I wave at the black men

Treading the concrete alongside me

They are my neighbors I want to know

love them despite my country

Insisting I shouldn’t

I ignore the flashing screen’s instruction
 

And submerge in the external nervous system
 

Admire the homosexuals
 

Who are teaching this lesson

 

Admire the mothers
 

Who choose poverty in order
 

For their children to grow up without pasts

 

Admire the women
 

But not in a fashion resembling assault

 

Admire the blathering demented
 

Zig-zagging the roadways

 

Admire the workers
 

Steeped in profanity

 

Admire the gangs
 

and your fear they feed from

 

Love no longer sleeps
 

In bedtime stories

Of chivalry and sacrifice

We must bow to our neighbors 

Embrace every being

Extend their limbs to ours
 

The world is to be wed

To an evil Ebenezer

We must rescue it
 

For all to share

The old love too selfish

Only functions behind closed doors
 

Sleeping love becomes fluid

Waking love is fluid
 

Matter that can take any form

We can breathe it together 

Creating more with each exhalation 

Admire the angry

 

Admire the tearful
 

Admire your arguing neighbors

Who forget they do not live in a cave 

Everyone in love with everyone!
 

The weird, the dirty, the preppy, the rebel, the LOUD,

the soft, the CEO
 

Please love the CEO and take from him every

thing he owns

 

If we continue assigning union
 

Of pairs in preference to all
 

We are duped
 

Into Earth ablaze that eats our skins
 

Each apathy feeding air to each flame

 

Love must stop falling
 

Love must stand up
 

Everyone, please,
 

Marry me
 

-Nathan Fredrick, from Parallelograms, V.A.P. 2014

Hungover with a Lampshade

In a hotel room, I am jolted awake.

No being waits for me in the dark,

nor in the empty bed next to me,

but the color of the air is different.

 

I notice the walls: I am appalled.

They are covered in peeling hair.

 

A sound from my throat is cloyed

when no locks brush my shoulders:

I raise a hand to my head,

 

my scalp is floral.

Wallpaper.

Unoffending and bland.

 

The floor aches with a lusty flesh breath

and my figure doesn't rise or fall.

It’s hard to realize it when I touch

my body, it takes me a few seconds 

to process,

 

as I pick splintered wood 

from my belly.

-Bethany Price, from Terror, V.A.P. 2014

Landscape

In the lutheran white window

One thousand sprites eat the sky

making room for noxious gases

 

we need more kaleidoscope

In our sunset-storied still lives

 

Showers cascade off shoulders

A mardi gras snare t-tak takk tak tak t-tak takk!

Further studies indicate

Dreams make better rulers than facts

 

Pull shades from the forrest catalog

Pick an exotic pollution 

Set the correct contrast

Here are some samples to inspect

 

This land of subjective evidence

Makes it easy to believe

What can’t be known

 

We’ll never fully know each other

We can celebrate or make excuses

Hang a silent faith on the firmament

-Nathan Fredrick

The Look

I want a press.

Isn’t that crazy?

I’m going to order it

and watch that dog

    over there-do you

think we matched on

    our way over here?

 

I hope not too much, God

I hate those couples, the

way you know exactly how

they are in bed together,

 

I’ll wear the polo, babe,

and they’ll know I spank

your ass if you keep your

hair down-or am I too sexed?

 

No reading at the table.

Look at me, I’m watching the

dog, I barely know you,

we’ve never done it

-Heidi Koos, from Parallelograms, V.A.P. 2014.