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
"I lost fourteen teeth that day.
Not my teeth.
Notes of this man's voice
make me imagine the gnashers
he could have stolen
had he been better at craps,
musky yellow molars
mushy with bad-apple-brown spots,
incisors chipped down to
points finer than felt-tipped pens.
His opponent, original owner
of the tokens, might could get a new set
with the money he saved
betting his teeth instead.
"I want diamonds, Ben,
. . . He'd say to the jeweler-dentist,
and happy Ben might saw
into a lump of rock and extract
canines shinier than God's teeth if he has them,
plugging the bloody sockets, dark garnets
dripping down and clotting gingival
around the new choppers.
And did our barroom narrator
get any souvenirs,
playing that poor sap
for his rotting bicuspids?
"He coulda lost the top row easy,
but I just knocked him one good."
The storyteller spits a jagged sparkle
to the bottom of his glass.
Pain was once the taste of a headache
on the bridge of my mouth, the quiver
of my hungry fingers, the pining
pangs and the screams of every cell
that made me.
But pain matured:
now it precipitates to weights
making my every projection
a center to act on.
I am a host.
My ends are vulnerable,
easy to encompass,
simpler still to cut open.
So hear this—
When you ask me to walk a mile
in your shoes, know that I couldn't even stand
For the d and the b
When you have been off playing with death in rural America I am sedated on the couch…
Staring at dried out carnations and a life-sized yoda…
But sometimes you call with tales of tails and curly laughter…
And I laugh under my frown…
“every night I dream that I’m bald and have no teeth. I think it’s something to do with sexual inadequacy. My tictac dick, is that it”…
And, yes, that is it.
And in that dream I had…
Where he was trapped in his house…
Bloodied and frenzied…
He couldn’t see me…
He was years away…
But I was still outside his door
He had large calves…
I always thought he just bought pants that were small at the bottom…
You never really look at someone’s calves…or eyes…
And he randomly meets people of great importance at coffee houses I hate…
He claims the encounters are random, but we all know he spills his coffee on them and uses apology as a clever introduction…
He doesn’t like ‘dick’ or ‘fucking’ jokes…
(some things you learn the hard way…)
But for the most part…the fucker loves everything…
Or at least likes…
I almost wonder if when he falls he thanks the ground for catching him…
Or thanks the sky for not pushing too hard…
I think I must have met him on a mountain…
Analyzed him over the wide terrain…
With dual-turned backs and a dharma-bummed whistle that said
‘I’m not like you’…
And I laughed under my frown…
And I never thanked you for putting your earplugs in so you wouldn’t hear me puking in the bathroom…
And for pretending to be sleeping when I walked past you to get to the porch…
Where I would puke again…
(over the railing this time…)
And frighten that family of squirrels…
And it makes me wonder…
Where o where would I be without the d and the b…
Greatest asexual threesome the world was to see…
Low to the ground, under the table, Robert never gets dizzy. Not plugged in. Not spinning, grinding up walnuts or blending a root.
His red round button unclicked, bladed brow arch unquivered. Then a hand grabs on to his chord, slips it into the wall socket. A timer ringing over the oven. Robert's vertigo kicking in
in the emulsification of
an olive oil based salad dressing. Nauseous. A golden sea
in his head, whirling.
She slept on her couch, was still there
in the morning, wrapped in a blanket
and hugging her little dog. She mumbled
something about coffee, gestured
toward the kitchen. I was stirring
in some sugar when she turned down
the tv, and yelled out that she’d called
a limo service to take me to the airport,
they’d be here in about an hour or so,
I’d better shower and pack. Then she turned
the tv up even louder than before.
The day before we’d been drinking heavy
at her brother’s birthday party, ended
up after dark real wasted out in the woods
with a bunch of people I didn’t know.
She grabbed a blanket and a bottle
of wine, took me off by the hand
behind some trees where she started
kissing me. I wanted to kiss her back,
but I felt too drunk or something,
just laid there real still trying to hold
her tight enough to maybe stop time itself,
but it was no good. She pulled herself on top
of me, pushed down hard on my shoulders.
When the hell are you going to ask me to marry you?
she asked in the same voice she used with her dog
when he peed on the carpet. Can you please
just tell me when you’re going to get around to it?
I wanted so badly to tell her, but by then she was sitting
on my chest and I could barely breathe.
-David J. Thompson, from Grace Takes Me
He sat on the floor of the living room
eating pizza crust and dreaming
again of the days falling slowly
behind him, dripping as sweat does
on cold Sunday mornings
And between his mother’s rom-coms,
and arguing with his brother over
who would get to use the tv next,
he would lay on the floor
and count the crooks in the ceiling
the way he would count stars
He would tap the air,
the outline of imaginary sparks
waiting for something,
something he could not understand
He asked his brother how girls taste,
and he said it depended what lipgloss they’re wearing,
and Peter couldn’t help but wonder
how he could love the flavor of someone else’s lips
if he didn’t even know how his own must taste
[“Fantasy:” from Greek “a making visible”]
In the fractured dark
the sacrilege of
thighs A fear of
my smell The blood
the groin It touches
the left and right inner thigh
rouge on leg cheek, a paltry wound
a rub all animals can see now
My reliquary flows deep
and reeks of daubed dirt
“I am not my blood”
“I am not an estranged maternal gift”
all mine shaped
as rainfall inside cell:
a mute rune
Fed it to the pigs
janus and his double faces:
god of portals, custodial passage—
where there is a mirror there is a ghost,
guarding, keeping, mirage
mopping up glacial drip of blood
on a cloth fiber mop.
janus and his double faces
was our father.
he poured bourbon into polished glasses.
we like to pretend our faces shone in the light
and it took the might of a hundred bricks
not to smash them on the bar and in the face and face
of our new host.
we watched him spiral down staircases
drag his knuckles on the carpet till they sparked
stuck his fingers in a typewriter and prayed
for it to bruise his intentions.
he must have been a good man,
or maybe he was forever this caretaker
this boatman, this janitor.
but our mother loved something,
doused in lace and holy sacraments,
got pregnant by some entity
janus and his double faces,
no wonder there were two of us.
we would cower in the pantry
brush each other’s hair with our fingers
until we could breath again.
his cabin fever rose,
the ice wouldn’t melt.
we would peel back the wallpaper
and find floods of ink
listing every sin and madness
rushing from around corners
like the flooded nile.
and when we died,
how the blade thudded
like he swung it
slow gurgle of oxygen and
we glued to the wounds.
we only wanted to go home,
somewhere warm and glowing like a city,
not this labyrinth of ice.
we just wanted to play
with a little brother,
riding our bikes outside,
at dawn, no stars, just us
by Lindsey Frances Pellino, from Hysterical Sisters
I bought a rose glass, it is mine now I own it
I bought it with money I spent money it is full
of money it is full of rot/
ten boys lined up at the door she has made
a list she invites them in the heart is full
of mold, of leaves, of thickening.
there is a mad genius in the blue spruce tree there is a cat trapped there it is crying it is afraid to go down. the needles
I bought I have sewn myself an image, made
doll made cackles
up the magpie talks
a child voice, the metallic cry
licked the metal licked the boys they are crushing
her she is licking the blood off are we not beasts we are
not beasts are we
lie down with us we lie down with beasts you always
come up as the beast with blue marbles for eyes for
pink marbles for eyes
you bought it with your eyes you bought it why
do you inhabit this place, though
I have smudged, as if sludge
held our bones together as if the sky
melted into your eyes wide eyes a rose
licked stamen licked pollen
salmon pink. sunset finger
grapefruit center. sweet, bitter the beast's eyes,
flash in the head
light. hear you give great head. hear its barely
like a mouth at all. here its barely like you're there
at all but then you're always there aren't you always
there just there, always there though I did not welcome you.
by Denise Jarrott, from NYMPH
There is a wall I lean
the ice breaks apart the house.
knives of wood rum
and milk. I bite hands.
Clean in planes intimate
with hooks pounded
falling air. Sun went badly hail
slapped up asps. There just
are no straight lines left. It
loved the earth but could not say.
could not type. Or axe
shut from peeling bark.
Originally appeared in Concis
cat becomes a sort of illegal muffler, envelops the beginning on close smooth light
lies, unraveling, delinquency
loss forces covens
stops all equilibrium, guttural scream of a child hands pervading love
perpendicular to nothing
the other fallen fortress (now just undress) below, openings last
darkened, dorsal, not deterred
never careless, stagnate tents of grammatical death sketch off smoke
ignore the backs of throats, take-a-bite
messes made from admiration
stick thoughts to orbiting faith
grab straws for procreative hymnals
etch names past tissue casings
fluid exchanges currency no matter
fraternal progenic beneficiary refuge
plays markets poising completion
producing duty, loss, exhaustion
moments purchased with decades
menace subconscious hauntings
no pesticide designed eradicates
still warmths reach occasional axis
coordinate matching roulettes
sustain exploratory incentives
mapping heavenly bodies
by Freddy La Force
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,
only the insane
choose to not be hermits.
by Troy Schoultz, from Biographies of Runaway Dogs
we should get together
let’s just nail the flowers
into the drywall
i’m middle aged
that time goes slowly but
it speeds up the mundanity
as age progresses
while driving fast in a bright car
lighting palo santo
don’t let a bad friend ruin
the smell of a good tree
I still feel him in my mind
as she smiles
is a gift too
it’s nice to hang out with
someone who is fun and
has the time
the mind cracks open
and nerves flood all sorts
I’m a healer
give me your hand
as she passed it
under the bathroom
I slammed my fingers
in the door
my acrylic nails saved me
mama joe will take care
I’m a scorpio so
I’m pretty private
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
I’m squishy so I don’t model
who is this woman
in the red
I’m attracted to people
who are bad for me
your father wrote me
left it on my steps
this spider is my friend
I loved him as Kristian
and now I’ll love her
initial sex wasn’t great
but in the morning
she did yoga
then he fucked
her real good
let’s walk through
but we have to
break in first
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,
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:
do as you please,
oh, Infinite Being.”
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,
there’s a C we wander to.
–Jenny Janzer, from Return to the Gathering Place of the Waters
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!”
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.
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