he wants another dog / his died over a year ago / went off by herself and never came home / one of the kids found her down by the creek and drug the body back / every time i see a dog on the television i smile he says / doesn’t matter what kind of dog or what the dog is doing he says / he’s close to 93 now but he’s healthy i tell him / why not get another dog i tell him / he gets his exercise and eats right i tell him / he doesn’t drink doesn’t smoke i tell him / maybe i should start he says / i talk about something else / maybe i should start he says again mostly to himself / loneliness is the only word for it / lost his wife years ago / and now the dog he can’t bear to bond with anything or anyone else / loneliness is all that’s left / i spot a bird’s nest by the front door when i leave and i tell him about it / his eyes light up and i know it will be enough to keep him here for a while longer /
It is all so obvious now
All right in front of you
Water was once together
Then it separated
Into separate strands
Of its separate selves
Sun is scarce here
It puts pressure on your skin
Clamps down on your skin
Cold found under your skin
As knees bend and ache
Knees more than just bone
Knees have brought you
To this glacier
This a white desert
You have come with knees
To see desert
To see how desert
Is beautiful still
To know some ice
Cannot contain molten rock
That becomes the land
A mind slowly curdling out
Imagining it wants to be
Covered by moss
Blue sky in this clear water
On a black desert of cooled lava
That had bubbled and raged red once
While the people stayed cold blooded
No lava under their skin
That boils with want
This mountain of clay
Shaped by hands
Squeezed and molded
Glazed with green
The people speak of sulfur
The people speak of age
The earth’s crust writhes
This mountain is silent
She stays still wondering
Why do I swelter and swell
If I only spilled
If I only am
You try to reach like the glacier
It too has perspired over time
Attempting the climb
Over the mountain
To reach its people
But the land here is skin
Like you it is skin
It parts to be filled
Risking all dark scars
Risking its own uniqueness
Unoriginal to its people
The land is made and remade
Only heat from under the sea
Like all land is
by Marream Krollos, from Sermons
She deserves this as much as the figurines on a tiered vanilla cake.
Juice and Lex. Beads of oil in a warm bath. Do you remember dancing in late snow outside the bar? A white balloon tangles on the power line.
Lex feels swollen on certain streets, in her room, walking through the market. Clumsy, or this t-shirt is too tight. Bleached teeth and mascara in a high school bedroom. Taking Juice’s pants off on a pullout couch. Catching the corner of a door frame. An indigo dress hangs in a closet for Thanksgiving with her
grandparents. Are you seeing anyone these days? Don’t worry, one day you’ll meet a man who will change your mind.
Lex feels visible from very far away.
In an empty and dry place, there is no name for what she is, queer. There’s no word on the family mantle for a love like aperture. Eyes like Arizona.
An expansive, delicate spreading. There are plenty of words for what she's not, for poured concrete and mortar. Can you stand on both sides of a wall? Starved for language.
The history of words falls short of a safe grammar, short of self. What would we be called? A Macrosoma soul, perched on a windowsill, if she were named divine—
by Alexa Chrisbacher, from Unprotected Lexicon
we take nothing with us
I know because
the grave is no roomier
than a twin
but when my girlfriend & I split
there was still the matter of the mattress
& the good beer cups
our good beer cups
& the hours
like cheap cookies
breaking to crumbs
all through the apartment
as we tried again
to break apart ourselves
you can take anything
you want if you just wipe down
talks about rigging up a bike
for one-handed operation
while i slice dried figs
and corinne slices tomatoes thin
and soula tends to the frittata
vancouver water in my neti pot
they say that smell is the sense
most strongly linked to memory
wrestling fig trees
with a blackberry bramble
and a gold belt
the three of us
plus two women from the
(simultaneously cheering us on
and telling us to be careful)
bring the ripe red insides
to our mouths
soula leads us through the largest
community garden in canada
takes us to the quince tree
and makes us guess the fruit
which is ripe in late september
when it turns bright yellow
and loses its fuzz
main and first
around the corner
from the pacific central sign
perched over the old train station
we walk over the heat
of fresh-pressed blacktop
moving faster than the backed-up traffic
that because vancouver is a port city
a lot of things get brought in
and left here
corinne tucking honeymoon flowers
from the mythical land
behind her ear
along the train tracks
in other worlds
these flowers are known as
three mason jars of cold water
on blackpink formica table
at the foundation
where i am an overlay
of past and current selves amorous
rainbow aqua busses
moving slow along the water
science world to our right
the curve of metal
holding us up
i am not sleeping
i am filleting you
from two cities
in one day
about tossing furniture
from balconies and third floors
roll top desks
and a baby grand
we are in no Wilmington motel
we are beneath no Wilmington motel - we are pinked in shorts
we are not breaking a sweat - our panties do not face the street
we go home and we work it all out - she stays up late on stage
and I sleep inside me - we get itch cream inside the rose garden
we wear the nights down with red velvet curtains and monstrous lounges
we thrift outside pagan pride - we scheme to gain nothing - we scheme
- for a cup - of jasmine - for a cup - of amethyst
- we are so heavy with purchased meaning
- we avoid each other's eyes inside the heavyliddedness
of an occidental rock concert - we bless each other's hearts under the soaked umbrella - under the rain - under the stares of such southern folk
the southernmost folk - we are using our caucasian tape to hold the world up
- we are shoeless under this sudden southern pour
we are shoeless - skimming stones up blacktopped hills up escape routes
we are learning what it really means to bless another's heart
we are taxied home - we are swift door shut and locked - we are talked out runnels dried under hardwood floor and sleeping bags - we are in/between
two stately buildings - like cowboys - facing East and facing West
poised to draw a biker's fleet against a biker's fleet - but the cascades
frighten every fleet away - we fotograph our knees - shelly buys our drinks
i am dripping in the misogyny of the place - the fuchsia on billiards
the waxed abdominals on plush screens - the faerie lights glyphing over
a scene: a blue-most fountain - an empty concrete dance floor - a triplet
of young lesbians chittering at the gaffs of the skirtless and sweatered stranger a triplet of young lesbians alert at the emphatic new-found woman
pleasured to be heeled - unfettered in wig purchases - unspun in identity convinced not one of us will forget her - unforgotten by rulebook - by law
and i promise – i bless this promise - that i will do it all - this forgetting business i will forget the disrespect to balance – I will dispel the swift occultation of the becoming a woman - and ask you questions and questions
that will pressure you to find the right answer - the answer where it turns out everyone waits outside
The invisible felt in tick tock pocket watch time,
hand wound in memory of more innocent years.
When the word 'family' meant whole, meant safe—
or did it? Nostalgia is an unreliable narrator.
Rewind the tape, let's play it again
to see what never happened. The lies
we tell ourselves to sleep at night. To look
ourselves in the mirror, in the eyes
betraying truth we're so desperate to hide.
Smell once more the hearth fire smoke, taste
the fresh baked homemade fears made quaint.
Photos reveal reality as we choose to portray it.
You rebel, you miscreant, how dare you breathe
a word unapproved by committee. The open wound,
your mouth, a bloodletting of secrets, a sin
that heaves hell upon your own shoulders.
Uprooting what was planted before your birth.
Setting a wildfire back through history, a kindling
of your family tree, branches turned to ash
by the match you lit, gnarled roots no one wants
to see, buried so deep not even hell can touch,
what lies beneath will devour us. Better to
self-inflict revelation than perpetuate heritage. Who
we are is what we do,not the blood in our veins.
you are 13 years old and made of fresh
cotton- half of you is tied to the sky. the other
half only knows how to fall apart. your friends
are shoving push pins into their hands during
class. they come to school each day wearing more
and more horizontal lines on their arms like
new bracelets. sometimes they start to spell
the beginnings of words. unfinished thoughts.
misplaced mourning. you can’t stop your eyes
from searching for scars. you’re watching warily
each time your friends come too close to railings.
a callous teacher tells you, don’t worry. if they jump,
all they’ll do is break bones. so you take matters into
your own hands, begging them to stop, to
apologize to their own limbs. they blink at you
like you just don’t understand, and maybe you don’t.
one night, you dive your fingers into a lit candle
without thinking. you jerk away immediately,
terrified at your own boldness. and tentatively,
you try again, letting flame lick hungrily at your
fingertips, then your wrists, then all the places
grief has touched your body. as the fire slowly dies
out, you lean back into bed, drunk on the smell of
burning flesh and vanilla, tracing your blisters like
new constellations in the dark. you’re whispering,
I’m sorry. this isn’t personal
Like Acheron but Not
My sister told me once that she
made a river
when she was young
she told me how she dug
her fingers through the ground
till water welled like blood
from her scalp after running the comb
in her hair too hard.
She said the river
smelled of damp, rot,
dust, the inside of treasure
chests in the rain-felled
house. And the river
was the color of rust water
finally run clear but she knew
that it held rust once.
She said it sounded
like bells underwater,
the kind fish might hear if they were
called home for supper
and that it tasted of the forest
after the burning, the pavement,
the parking lot formed.
She asked if I wondered
what the river felt like.
I wondered how
the river dreamed,
what it remembered,
who it longed for.
She asked again
but I shook my head
afraid that she
might tell me the river
just felt cold.
Palpable dread now all over the silvery
slink of each day. We have been listening
exclusively to songs that feature real drums
and handclaps in order to remind ourselves
of the rhythm of humanity.
It’s not really working, so we try
sex, which doesn’t work any better but is
more fun. I don’t know
if I can make it past my Caspers,
but I try at least a little every day. And, you know, this tarnished
land groans with every step anyway.
So I look up. There’s a bunch of buildings and shit in the way of the sky.
-Franklin K.R. Cline, from So What
It felt very much like being pelted with a softball.
Like the one we used to throw around the yard.
Remember when I threw it too far? Over the fence.
It landed right on the neighbor's deck.
How he was angry and wouldn't let us have it back.
So you took me to the store and bought a new one.
"Man, fuck that guy, I don't know what his problem was.
If he doesn't like us, he can get the fuck out."
"Get the fuck out."
"Get the fuck out."
"Get the fuck out.
-by Joe Altamore, from Monolith of Now
Falling asleep to your voice, I sign the symbol for infinity
with my pointer finger along my hip bone.
When someone tells me they love me
I am no longer surprised. Of course
I love them back.
Love being a motionless word— a feather in a birdbath.
“I love you”
is not a debate between petals.
A bloom is no longer a legislature,
a heart no longer a gavel
but a vase.
I made mine with clay and when it came out of the kiln
it was so full I forewent flowers.
No city ordinance can citation the height of my woman weeds. My pubes are a protest of a thousand mighty women, locking arms in solidarity. You want to scale my fence. Enter unannounced. Jump around like a metal head in a mosh pit. No sir. My cervical sanctuary is no mosh pit. It is a Mexican bakery filled with sweet dulce de leche. You will not bake your bread here. You will not crack my eggs, or pour your sour man milk inside of me. My pubes are a barbed wire fence cultivated to macerate your flesh.
-by Kelsey Marie Harris, from The Jolly Queef
if you could play your fingerprints
with a phonograph needle
what do you think your song would be? is there
an SOS of pops and snaps
in the ridges of your thumbs
or is there an overture waiting to be heard
buried in the whorls of your index finger?
if you could play your skin like a slab
of mint vinyl, would your flaws resound joyous
in bagpipes and flutes, would your wrinkles sound like the ocean
would your calluses rock hard? or would it all be a mess
some unlistenable cacophony
a recording of your failures
-by Holly Day, from In This Place, She is Her Own
Destiny is negative
All manners of circles come pulsing
It's not noisy
But to read it backward is sacrifice
It is like forgetting how you died
how that eagle snapped your neck
and called its children up for breakfast
It is me by your side
shoe to head nudging
Saying sorry only to the blood and waking up
How tiring it is when you are your only fear
When the cost of letters
segregates the opened mind
To see the blades of grass as you do
For you to know what it feels like to be safe
The separation of skin and bone has widened
for the words
That endless highway keeping me up
that last touch of dirt crawling in your ear
and the creek from here to sky
by Sierra-Nicole Qualles, from Loose Cannon
Hugging small legs in the tub, I used to watch
mother cup weary water and submerge her face
leaving a patch of soap on the edge of her temple
that beat softly with the ticking of a clock.
Drops slide along my arms, gathering at elbows
to drip next to my feet. Mirror ripples
permeate my soles like mercurial longing
as I lather a layer of self-assuring lies.
But when warm water erodes my face
I count, bent over a porcelain basin,
how many grams of skin I shed each night
into the drain, gray memories swiveling.
Her water shadows must be crying
My small cupped hands, drowning.
The need for power is crushing
And all the world is my trouble. Meanwhile, the observer is becoming
good at doing its task. At the principal beach the beach is an actor,
acting out Black ppl serving me/each other. The edges of society blur
like the side of a window overlooking the city lights/ Black on Black crimes.
Reality is a soft bellied woman. Tasks of a citizen include: slugging
a rope into knots and watching carefully its growth. An appeal
to the ground is not a dwelling place nor do I have the time.
Circle the viewfinder in all places it appears. I want for you, my lover,
to cross over that busy street, and run to me with food and no bricks
at all. Do not build me a single thing. Love is its own discipliner says a teacher.
Gripping at a relationship, I say. The sheer panic of not being able
to consume a rock sitting still in wet roots.
Language has no mission. English acquires more
and more knowledge. Words enter me as relationship.
This single brown bag I carry is my life. The structure of the sea
is new again as a boy rides his bike wiping the air
with his arms extended. The gap between his foot pressing down
and his realization of motion is slim and potent.
-by Carly Inghram, from Sometimes the Blue Trees
so, how stressed are plants?
stressed through stems and
stamen-somethings I can’t
conceive / pronounce, they’re
all leg, all the time / you try
to stand for that long, you’d
wither and decay, too, you’d
let leaves compost, you’d
give it all up for soil and rot.
quantify-- how much less
stressed is my soil than a
plant, how much less of an
issue are my leaves / the
false fronds of my ankles
twitching and always out
of love with the breeze, you’d
find a way to hate ferns
if I were a lot of flora, you’d
lick black and brackish paint
against my stem / leaf /
flowering parts to choke out
an uneasy death and a very
stressful exercise in decay.
By the window, caring for a stupid bird
I lost it. Found myself a sprinter
in a fireplace all sealed up. Cutting boxes,
7Ws of natural light condensed to a single
picture frame. Ugly. Not defined enough to
comment. Not here just now but smoking
by the window
not funny but I guess that’s your opinion.
I never really cared but looked. Could never re-
define the need to stare at every feather
crooked. Didn’t think enough about
Every single bird I know
is angry with me. Every single
window is a fucking prison.
by show of hands, how many think freestyle breeding is still a feasible idea? how many see the throughline from dr. kevorkian to mother theresa? in the middle of the arctic sea-melt, i’m aborting scores of polar bears for jesus, but somehow to dignify my suicide with last rites is beyond reason. somehow tying my fallopian tubes into a bowline is still considered ill-advised, despite my familial predisposition to psychosis, cancer, cults, and violent crime. despite my own nightmarish memories of being kept alive. sometimes the ghosts shriek so loud i fear they’ll never quiet down, that libido’s so strong the death drive will never win out. so i redirect my sex down reckless detours of upset, fishnet my breakfast in a banana hammock leaning left, and petition the government to unite our long-silenced uterine borders under a newly issued formal order: armies of darkness, come hither. we need you now, in all your grizzly mouths and gizzards