Matthew Burgess


Departure


The husband interrupts
the poem I'm reading
takes my hand in his hand
places the other over
his heart, a gesture
I mimic then panic
Is he fearing a tragic
take-off? 
Down
the runway we roll
God Universe Zeus
please don’t let the last
thing I eat be a plastic
wrapped strawberry jelly
candy called Tulip or
my last human exchange
be a war of words
with a brusque Greek
Easy Jet employee
over the size and number
of our personal items.
In the air over Athens
he releases my hand
goes back to his phone
while I scan the land
for illuminated ruins—
the prayer on my lips
the jelly in my belly
our personal items
stowed beneath
the seat backs
in front of us.

 

Hurricane Lyric


The husband lands
as winds whip up
charcoal cloudbank
over Newark, Jersey
smokestacks thicken
the soup so away
we zip across Canal
to brick tenement flat
beside the brackish
Gowanus freshly
aroil in such gusts
we quickly walk
before apocalypse
begins, duct tape
x's pepper the panes
& we hold hands
as chainlink sings
then home just off
mandatory evac
to cling in blanket
cocoon wondering
what night brings,
whether water will
rise to the sill &
we'll swim for it.


 

In Favor of One's Time


I.
How did we end up
here again, where fear
the first & last thing
& home less & less
outside? I swear
every fucking day
climbing the stairs
into Sal's arms,
sanctuary above
Bowery's sirens

II.
Making worlds is
an act of survival:
book, bivouac,
a room to read in
with red-stitched
cushions. Now
the flame is low,
voices in the library
await in their way
silent, each

III.
witness to horrors
beyond what we
have seen & over
soup Frank O'Hara
admonishes me
keep your head up
in the wind, get your
gay ass to the Frick
& never ever give
your joy away

 

MB Author Photo.jpeg

Author Bio

Matthew Burgess is the author of a poetry collection, Slippers for Elsewhere, and a children's book, Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings. An Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, Burgess also teaches poetry in New York City public schools with Teachers & Writers Collaborative. He recently edited an anthology of visual art and writing titled Dream Closet: Meditations on Childhood Space

Chris Green


Memory with Reality in It

History is memories hot & cold. I remember standing in front of my first apartment

when, very slowly, my grandmother drove by. She was in her gold Honda looking

around, confused, trying to find . . . me? I didn’t move. This memory has always sat strangely.

Like Joyce says, “Paralysis.” All of my boyhood lost, something uncanny

about how I stood as witness. That day she was distant from home & it was not long

before she died alone in Uncle Mike’s condominium.

 

The Self-Conscious Clock

Age nine, my daughter surprised me by writing a story called “The Self-Conscious Clock.” She looked up and said her teacher didn’t like it.

I stepped back. "I didn’t know you were writing." She said, "It's about a clock who hates being looked at, so he's trying to stop time. Oh, Dad, it's been hard."

I kissed her head. Already, she hangs at the edge, crossing her arms. She watches the day visible around her, watches sparrows climb toward the distant clouds, watches the black head of the dog laze. In her mind, time is battering the surface of the earth, the world as broken animal hiding its face.

A few days ago, I asked if she solved the plot. She said, "The clock scratched his own guts out. All humans were screaming and crazy. Then one brave little girl gave him more numbers. The end."

 

Author Bio

Chris Green teaches at DePaul University and his most recent poetry collection is Résumé (Mayapple Press, 2014). His poems have appeared in such publications as Poetry and The New York Times.

 

Ginger Ko


from "Biography of My Automaton"

 

Interval: Another war against species


After awhile the flashes of despair materialized as flickering lights inside the womb, illuminating a placenta come unstuck, a muffled unborn wailing. Each year the bleaching spread. The unnatural stacking of dead groundwalkers. Elsewhere beings kept growing with scorch marks. Something like weather, like the vacuum of a scene, is laughing, I was told. Gases, liquids, and light—laughing. The old mythology of the passive egg and conquering sperm made way for not any gristle to be left behind. Instead a whole uniform unit of food. I found I could be one of many pores. Poor pores opened up to stashes of contaminants, to sit like gaping bowls with small stones inside. What is worse to witness: a disappointment, or a loyal incomprehension? I never think of my physical symbolism; it is because my young do not burn more easily than I do. I find that they have inherited only my deep unrequited longing to hear a voice gently calling Wake up, love. We all want it more than anything, the calling. 



Interval: Dealing with the concept of light or hunger


In the few seconds it takes to watch a horse with its neck snapped in half, head bouncing along its withers as it careens down a mountainside, in the few seconds it takes to feel a deep regret, in the few seconds it takes to forget the creature altogether when the lights flare their cones from above: pleasure made up of leisure and shame like slicing tubes width-wise for biscuits. The costumes of capability differences give a soap, a soap, an astringent squeaky lack of oils and other tastes. Another preferred technique: opening up the insides under lamps to scrape away webbing from the night-grown flesh and rind. Not holograms but the quivering hiddens that had pulsed and chewed in the underground of the internal. Or another: studying how thick white spicy radishes get pulled up under spotlights, glowing from their black burials. And still others: a great pail of milk flecked around the edges with vivid grass clippings; premature young lain bonelessly deflated atop surgical napkins; paper-thin tissue torn at by water droplets.

 

Author Bio

Ginger Ko is the author of Motherlover (Bloof Books) Inherit (Sidebrow), and Comorbid (Lark Books). Ginger is a PhD student at the University of Georgia’s creative writing program, where she teaches writing and Women’s Studies. She is a contributing editor for The Wanderer and an editor at smoking glue gun
 

Robert Siek


Born in the U.S.A.

Money, money, money, damn chant singsong on Lexington

and 59th, a man with a cane limps past speaking loud,

arm extended, hand carrying an open baseball cap,

mesh liner loaded with change, dollar bills.

He hums what sounds like "Gimme Shelter";

he's gonna fade away. And H&M didn't have

men's corduroy pants despite the appropriate season—

stress of trying on clothing that should fit but sweaty

never squeezes past hips; this male figure

now adult Kewpie doll, god damn fitness,

the U.S. economy, the ability to accept

the things I cannot change and the courage

to change the things I can. Perhaps it's time

for new experiences: signing up for tap class,

learning to use a sewing machine, sketching

nude models in studios with charcoals. It's been

since high school the visual meant right this second;

this attention to details cost an extra day of income,

eight additional hours of trying to stay awake.

Perhaps it's important to pick up a trade,

because buildings multiply reversed clips

of a Jenga stack tipped over on tables, good-bye

abandoned residence, kind with planks nailed over

broken windows, very keep zombies out,

the serial killer hoping to clear house,

like every day is Halloween and one day

the power will shut off, the entire eastern

seaboard dark, and carpentry now useful,

as well as weapons and survival skills

in this country called a superpower,

an empire still dominant,

we'll never be refugees,

unbathed, starving,

or half-dead

asylum seekers,

fifty on a lifeboat.


The Guest Room Must Be Haunted

Forced to watch a ceiling fan,

its highest setting, attack of pinwheel,

most giant UFO drilled through rooftop,

flickering circle, wash cycle, brain fed Adderall,

this full-size bed in a guest room, where a parent died

two years ago, the mother incapable of waking

the father. He always watched the television

when lights out and good night.

Don't change the channel. One eye

must be open. How can this be comfortable?

Central air on top of it all. The sheer navy valance

shakes atop closed blinds; each panel some undone skirt

a ballet dancer wore during a recital, a female ice skater

twirled in—the bunching on the rod, just picture a waist.

This room not so important, temporary.

The closet where his clothes were kept.

His wife claimed the walk-in

of the master bedroom.

Three toolboxes on the floor under

pants, shirts, jackets, their wire hangers—

a few pieces never worn after being drycleaned,

numbered tags stapled to washing instructions,

narrow ones through buttonholes, sights behind

clear plastic bags, so goddamn long, kinds

that dragged on floors, aging out

of outfits, necessary organs

not functioning, his hours on dialysis,

the air angry, batted out-of-hand particles,

weaved blankets flipped-out ghosties taking

cover when a helicopter lands,

unidentified flying object

destroys worlds.

The fake lilies

on the dresser

need to go.
 

What's Your Damage?

Fifty degrees out, January: I need to blow my nose.

Heathers on Showtime last night; I watched more

than half, very basement in my parents' house,

ninth grade, me and two friends on a leather couch.

And they played hopscotch in grammar school,

while I jumped rope in another playground,

where boys called me faggot

and picked me last in gym.

And I threw one down a hill,

his body a stunt double,

messy dive through a window,

like in an '80s horror movie—

when killers chucked corpses to shatter glass

and get closer. He smacked my head for no good reason,

so I pictured a jump rope around his neck and kitchen knives

in backpacks. I'd stab like beating out a fire, very Manson member

following orders, nothing like Michael Meyers jamming a knife,

a young man left fixed to a wall, like a reminder on a cork board.

And Veronica mixes milk with orange juice

in Heather's kitchen, her vengeance

for being asked, "What's your damage?";

called a cooze for being so high school,

puking in a hallway at a Remington party.

They want Heather to vomit the morning after.

Christian Slater's character fills a mug with rust remover.

Veronica makes a mix up, waking Heather with the wrong cup.

"You think I’ll drink it just because you call me chicken."

Never looking inside, Heather adds,

"Just give me the cup, jerk."

Then gagging, throat clutching

before the classic "Corn nuts,"

spoken half a second previous to her free fall in pink,

face forward atop a coffee table; tempered glass explodes

outward, granular chunks land voodoo-dust circle

trapping new dead. Three ninth-graders

laughed because it’s only a movie;

we smiled at acted-out scenes

of popular students being murdered.

I'm waiting for a J train and it's warm for January.

I'm stuck on Heathers, jocks stripped to underwear

and shot in the woods, this shit didn't happen

in either small town I grew up in:

boxers and briefs, bullet holes in chests.

And once I squeezed a sharpened pencil

in freshman math class, considering it halfway deep

in the back of a classmate after he turned and said faggot

before pushing a book off my desk. Boys being boys,

hand flying, closed fist knocking a locked door,

choose your favorite on-screen serial killer

approaching very speed walker.

Jamie Lee Curtis screaming,

"Let me in!" Punctures for real,

Heather's not breathing,

his blood on my desk, like Manson-style finger writing,

and I was red, face flushed, noticed stares from peers

possibly concerned—students claiming to have known

Heather when she was alive. My hand opened.

The pencil rolled across my test paper.

"Fuck me gently with a chainsaw."

Remember that line in the cafeteria.

 

Author Bio

Robert Siek is the author of the poetry collectioN Purpose and Devil Piss (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013), as well as the chapbook Clubbed Kid (New School University, 2002). His second book of poetry, We Go Seasonal, will be published in 2018, also by Sibling Rivalry Press. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works at a large publishing house in Manhattan.

 

Kimiko Hahn


Found End Words for a Ghazal 

a hundred black

debut with black

said about black

Monday, black

two-hour discussion of black

many black

swelling Black

why black

emphasis on black

toward black

on a black

Monday, black

if it was a Black


__________
NOTE: phrases are from the article "'Love' and Disbelief Follow Donald Trump Meeting With Black Leaders" by Michael Barbaro and John Corrales, New York Times, 11/30/15.


 

from the Brittle Process series
 

Jittered Density Plot


At Pere Lachaise, division 94, I paid my respects to Gertrude Stein, her plot the least jittery and least dense what with tiny stones and buttons set atop modest marble. I guess I saw Jim Morrison's—certainly graffiti pointing in his direction. Jitters aside, there was no need, at that moment, to leave a tulip in Victor Noir's hat.
 

 

Brittle Process, i.


The red ball is posted. And still you lace up your skates, the dingy scuffed white ones that belonged to Meggie, then me. Next Yoko. After that, maybe Susie. Katie. And down the street, Chrissie. Mary. Patti. Debbi. Sandy. Sandee. Peggy. And up the hill to Lizzie, Bethy, Ellie, Barbie. Kathy and Cathy. Terry. Cindy. Janie. Angie. Jenny. All testing thin ice.  
 

 

Brittle Process, ii. 


Not peanut or pecan. Not the stirring. To be stirred. Which is to say: not able "to resist damage or degrade gracefully," she could not help cracking open processes. Further, there is also a brittle star. The brain, however, is not brittle. I am not. I am not fragile as a father, faint-hearted as a husband. 
 

 

Recursion


If you are afraid to shake the dice, you will never throw a six. Every Friend Joys in your Success. Happiness is an activity. Cookie says, "You crack me up!" Wisdom in on her way to you.
 

 

Damaged Intelligence


I do not see trees, I see pointillism. I do not see three barn windows, I see motifs. I do not see a beach, I see fine texture. Or coarse. I do not see I do not see a hoarder’s home, I see material for collage. Such is the nature of the artist's daughter. 
 

 

Wormeostat


Around midnight, on the dog's last poo, I point my flashlight toward her poo-spot and squiggling night-crawlers slip into their holes. Dozens. Maybe hundreds. One thing I don’t get: if they have male and female sex organs, why do they need special bristle-like hairs to anchor the mate during penetration. But, I'm not keen on reading up on their anatomy just to get the picture. 
 

___________
NOTE: the titles are from Cognitive Science Dictionary, University of Alberta http://www.bcp.psych.ualberta.ca/~mike/Pearl_Street/Dictionary/

 

KimikoHahnby Beowulf Sheehan.jpeg

Author Bio

Kimiko Hahn is the author of nine collections of poetry, including Brain Fever and Toxic Flora. Both of these were triggered by fields of science in the same way previous work was triggered by Asian American identity, women's issues, black lung disease, and personal grief.  She teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College, CUNY and is President of the Board, The Poetry Society of America. 

George Kalamaras


Dream in Which Kenneth Rexroth Counts to Eight

So that dream where Kenneth Rexroth

and I raise coonhounds together.

Eight nights straight. And I recall all

details at 8 o'clock a.m.—

precisely, each morning—somehow

surfaced from infinity's sleep.

Chinese history is full of

accounts of eight—from yarrow stalks

stuffed in the spleen, to amorous

courtesans dampening the dreams

of rickshaw men, their teahouse time

misspent. Or from those eight milk goats

who mysteriously carry

in their udders an antidote

to the plague. Come. Position your

mouth so the liquid universe

might cleanse the Wuzhishan moon right

out of the monkey's teeth. I might

finally raise most marvelous

hound dogs, with Rexroth dreaming me

holding the merle galactic splash

of bluetick coonhounds on my lap.

Eight days straight as if Chinese T'ang

poetry finally mattered

to the plumber, cashier, wise-ass

poets who adore irony

and suspect death in anything

synchronous or visionary—

as if poetry didn't mean

new life bearing upon the tongue.

Rexroth says the octopus has

eight hearts, that if we count fingers

and exclude thumbs it all adds up

to Jupiter's eight fluid moons.

He tells me the coonhound whelped eight

whimpering storm clouds disguised in

fur. Says eight ounces each adds up

to sixty-four, the number of

hexagrams found in the I Ching.

And now Rexroth is strangely both

eighty and eight years old at once.

And the nipples on the coonhound

are oddly nine, one left over

perhaps for me? I can't drink in

the perfect eight words Rexroth says

to supposedly assure me

that each of Tu Fu's lines contains

just eight syllables. That if we

peer tonight through the moon's work,

something will be missing there yet gained.

Tell that to the plumber, he says.

Place that in the lap of wise-ass

young poets whose only concern

is jokes yoked to their urge to speak.

Still, eight nights straight and eight coonhounds.

Rexroth, eighty and eight at once.

 

 

Deaths So Possible They Are Alive

Based on a photograph of Heidi, a two-and-a-half year old black and tan coonhound, and her litter of thirteen pups, Greenville, Texas, February 28, 1971

Let's not assume the coonhound was happy

giving birth to thirteen pups. I've said

death so many times, it is alive.

Scuffling away. On my tongue.

In my toe. In my left big

mouth, steaming, still,

on the sill. I said her name as mine.

I said myself into her, the way a hound

scratches forth a bed and suddenly bleeds

people-sticks and smudge. We sometimes think

ourselves into the crimes of rocks or

into shaming thoughts in the tight black top

of our favorite waitress. Often I don't know

where I'm headed. Even when I write

as if I do. Know this:

the poetic line determines the world's great ache.

Just ask the ends of our words, closing off

all we sing possible. Just ask your mouth

as you back off into it the phrase's

pain. Let's cook breakfast, poach two eggs

in the broth of a coonhound's afterbirth, cleansed

from the eighth century Chungnan Mountains

and cave-moments of Chinese solitude

we might think unworthy of our busy lies.

I say this. You say sat. Standing there

in the dumb-struck. Nothing is true. Everything is

as it should say. Because it came from the tongue

of childhurt, it is accurate and it is long

best strained. Let's not assume the best's

worst. Case ourselves, as if observing

an all-night scenario for sixty, seventy

years. We sometimes whelp a passel

of possible pups, just in thinking thin

skins of words as we read

the weather or the shell of a crow

thousands of years before

it evolved into flight, transparent as butterfly

ash between this world and its cover. The other

life we live—the one we could have had but didn't—

is said so long and often we tire

its delicious wattle-weight. Rocks

tied to our quicksand sleep. Sunk

to the upthrust and struck. The improbable

dust. The impossible way the dark

of a woman's blouse invites us

into curves so calling we want

to give all our hardness unto that

which eventually makes us soft

and impenetrably sad. The afterbath

of throwing ourselves headlong

time and again into birth.

Hound dog and pups photo August 14, 2017101.jpg
 

Author Bio

George Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016), is the author of fifteen books of poetry, eight of which are full-length, including Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011), and The Theory and Function of Mangoes, winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series (2000). He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.  

Annah Browning


Medium in the Morning

I have been sleeping strangely—

I've been living with

a song, that on and off

vibrates me like a beehive—

head on the floor—I hear

the flood of kazoos, dead people

doing their morning or evening

washing. Whatever

it is down there. I hear

the tinny singing of the spirits

and long for, I don't know

exactly what—a new geranium,

something red, something I can't

take my eyes off of—you know,

how they tell you to balance:

pick one spot to fixate on.

They say I live like Gemini,

the twins, or Rhodes—one leg

in this world, one slung over

into the next. I ride a bad,

bad horse. I'm so tired

of being vital, of herding

the mothers and the widows.

Gaslight murders my stomach.

Like all armies, the dead

march there, gobbling up

my perfume, the weather,

the communion of the saints

What wafer-thin things

their children are, conceived

in this life, born in the next,

toddling without lungs.

Their insides are black as the cores

of old apples, pistol shine,

my eyes in the kitchen window

washing up, saying, what art thou

doing today? Then I wipe

away the tea leaves, and try again.


 

Medium on the Dietary Habits of the Dead

What ghosts eat: slippers.

Static. The relative unevenness

of staircases. Migraine aura.

Trump cards. Delicate children.

Smooth flat stones. Fruits candied,

dried or desiccated. The recently

mated. Zygotes you can pop

like a grape. Bundles of skirt

unmended. Dishcloth carrying

the crumbs and blood

of daily meals. Odd forsakenness.

Metal toys. Rust and Rustoleum.

Soft toys gone mealy under

many a sweaty hand. How much

I miss, my mother. My mother.

Flags ripped apart by wind. The dirt

around the crater where my daughter

was not born.  


 

Suicide Ghost

Death is not a precise activity.

Just aim in the general

direction. Then there,

you've got it. Got what?

Nothing. That's about right.

Almost right. It's almost right

and straight on until

morning, though nothing

is thereafter straight. I have

a vision now of one of those

cats that mummified,

stuck behind the pipe organ,

going for that one eternal

mouse. No one thinks

they're going to become

a stray leather purse, an easily

mistakable grocery bag,

damp and flattened

in the outer lots where,

I have heard it said,

the women circle.

We want to call everything

planetary, but really

there's much more cosmic

dust—debris, you could say.

But that implies that there

was something there before,

something whole, now blown

apart—very often I held a piece

of glass in my hand,

and licked it, started

to curl my flesh

around it, just to the point

of blood. I do not know,

I never did, what the hell any

human heart was ever doing. 

 

Author Bio

Annah Browning hails from the foothills of South Carolina. She holds an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis and a Ph.D. from the Program for Writers at The University of Illinois-Chicago, and she is the author of a chapbook, The Marriage (Horse Less Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior ReviewWillow Springs, Indiana Review, Boulevard, and other journals. She is poetry editor of Grimoire, an online literary magazine of dark arts.

Kimberly Lyons


Advent

  • What is this passing flick a stiffened glue
  • drop in midair, a single tawny mushroom like
  • an ear to call in to.
  • An invisible urn of curled threads.
  • A clay pitcher patched as if scarred dirt flesh
  • holds black pools of night air
  • provisionally. A mutable intersection
  • from which you could pour out a shape.
  • It’s a fishing line of silver dots.
  • The miniscule fish in air flow among
  • these swimming motes of thought.
  • I saw a ragged doll dress here hung on the wall.
  • An empty white office envelope in the dark.
  • I wrote a letter to you and lost it in my hand.

 

 

  • Filaments

  • A mass of twiglets
  • humped where breasts might be
  • bear a mossy, wood pharaonic crown
  • by the parking lot and old factory windows
  • that fluorescently shine on boxes of yellowed Xerox paper.
  • Filaments reflected hang in the air.
  • Everyone is coming back.
  • Passover must be near.
  • Chartreuse buds coiled near my hand seem too tight to unfold.
  • Only twinkie wrappers shine peripherally under a tire.
  • A yearning in April that is forgotten the other months.
  • A sweater I found at Goodwill of wool
  • and eucalyptus, crumbles yet seems to regrow, like soil.
  • Black plastic mesh over white metal stairs forms an
  • undulant doorway.
  • Underneath, I finally see
  • Antiques
  • is the word dim gold letters spell.
 

Author Bio

Kimberly Lyons is the author of Calcinatio (Faux Press, 2014) and Approximately Near (2016, Metembesendot.org).  She publishes Lunar Chandelier Press and lives in Chicago.  

 

Hafizah Geter


Naming Ceremony

  • Our father, who spends most of his days painting
     
  • pictures, says coming home to our mother
     
  • stroking out was like walking in on an affair.
     
  • Bending, he demonstrates how
     
  • an aneurism hugged her
     
  • to her knees. A man always
     
  • at his easel, our father tries to draw clarity
     
  • from obfuscation. Every retelling:
     
  • bluer, then redder. His memory
     
  • a primary color saturating
     
  • the ears of whomever he can will
     
  • to listen. Over and over, our father draws a loss
     
  • so big it is itself an inception, a story
     
  • he knows better than the day
     
  • his daughters were born.
     
  • His heart is strong.
     
  • He has the receipts:
     
  • a scar between his breasts
     
  • that I've cleaned like a smudge on a window.
     
  • Over and over, our father draws me
     
  • a picture of the crescent moon
     
  • fishooking her hospital room.
     
  • He loses the story for the pleasure
     
  • of finding it.
     
  • We lived in this
     
  • maze for years. I can tell you
     
  • our best days weren't glad.
     
  • He's a history
     
  • whittled down to this
     
  • single story. In my version,
     
  • when her mind blew,
     
  • boys were playing Beirut,
     
  • crushing cans of Pabst
     
  • against their shoulders. I flicked
     
  • white balls into red solo cups.
     
  • The night turning
     
  • like the wheels of a faraway gurney.
     
  • In their basements, I was an animal,
     
  • a pale light. Not yet
     
  • knowing how loss finds its way to you.
     
  • Or that sometimes when you think you are playing
     
  • someone else is dead.
     
  • These are the ways in which we come
     
  • to name things. 
  •  


 

  • The Widower

  • Five winters in a row, our father knuckles
     
  • the trunk of his backyard pine
     
  • like he's testing a watermelon.
     
  • He scolds smooth patches
     
  • where bark won't grow,
     
  • breaks branches
     
  • to find them hollow.
     
  • He inhales deeply
     
  • and the pine tree has lost
     
  • even its scent. He grieves
     
  • in trees—our father, the backyard
     
  • forest king, the humble
     
  • king. The dragging his scepter
     
  • through the darkness king.
     
  • The wind splits him into shivers.
     
  • Rivers of stars
     
  • don him like a crown. Our king
     
  • who won't lay his tenderness down
     
  • trembles into the black
     
  • unable to stop
     
  • his kingdom from dying.
     
  • I have failed to quiet
     
  • the animal inside him.
     
  • If only I would
     
  • take his hand.
     
  • This man weeping
     
  • in the cold.
     
  • How quickly I turn
     
  • from him.
 

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Author Bio

Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter serves on the Board of Vida: Women in the Literary Arts, and Co-curates the reading series Empire with Ricardo Maldonado.  Her poems have appeareD in The New Yorker, Tin House, Narrative Magazine, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. She is on the poetry committee and Book Ends Committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and is currently an editor for Little A and Day One from Amazon Publishing.

Megan Fernandes


The Poet Holds a Gun

  • The bullet is a simple, adolescent heartache.
  • When guns go off around you, you wince like a single sheet
  • and nothing in your body has ever been so simultaneous
  • not even orgasm which is more like the hungry sea
  • meeting an Aeolian beach with their sweet
  • caper storms and lemon trees. An orgasm
  • has more surface area and salt than a gun.
     
  • On the ride home from the range, from the first lesson,
  • I ask Alex if he wants to have a baby
  • and he explains the mathematical formula
  • for a circle tattooed across his wrist. He doesn't
  • mention that I am bad at holding a gun
  • or that I gasp every time I press
  • the trigger while my wrist flaps back like a muscle
  • from another life, or that I look like a meek captive,
  • or that he could tell, without saying
  • a word, that I was begging for him to take it
  • out of my hands. He doesn't mention the baby and it feels
  • like the small relief of passover when he gently
  • takes the gun and hits the target seven times
  • in a row, perfectly. We don't talk about
  • how we are both from the sterile MainLine
  • of Philly where the only big bookstore shut down across
  • from a milkshake shop, that we are suburban astronauts
  • who just shot at a paper plate target
  • like a white, punctured moon.
     
  • The poet holds a gun in the morning
  • and shakes, with the same fallen limb,
  • the knowing hand of Agnes Varda that very night
  • in New York where the faces of her film
  • beam at you in the most affectionate kind of love
  • which is love without sound or dialogue.
  • Varda is a small woman, sharp like a radiant heat
  • dressed in magenta, a ring of Saturn
  • around her head and she is telling me
  • something about my hand when she shakes it:
     
  • Megan, she seems to say the name that never meant
  • anything to me but who she knows
  • (and my mother knows) is very much me.
  • There is nothing here to defend and everyone is in love.
  • Here, her hand says, Megan, you do not need the gun.
 

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Author Bio

Megan Fernandes is a poet and academic. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Tin House, Denver Quarterly, The Boston Review, The Common, Rattle, Guernica, Pank, The Adroit Journal, among many others. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Lafayette College. She is the author of The Kingdom and After (Tightrope Books) and lives in NYC. 

Diane Seuss


My first night in New York 

  • My first night in New York I was such a beautiful
  • dick, my soul circumcised, no shielding foreskin,
  • wearing some sort of leotard thing and gold fabric
  • safety pinned around my waist as a skirt, I'd pierced
  • one of my ears with a darning needle, ice cube
  • to numb it, to hurt: the only verb I knew, stabbed
  • through that ear hole a gold safety pin, the kind girls
  • back then wore on pleated skirts, and K that first night,
  • his robe an evil green, his unacceptable glamorous
  • nose, eye-holes as if precisely cut from his face with
  • a utility knife to exhibit the dangerous spectacle at play
  • inside his skull, Roland Barthes: "I cannot get over
  • having had this good fortune: to meet what matches my
  • desire," and, I would add, he who would slaughter me.

     
  •  

I want drugs again; whimsy

  • I want drugs again; whimsy. Frenzy, hilarity, as when
  • visiting mass with Juanita, we were twelve, I wasn't
  • Catholic, laughing ourselves sick at the names of saints,
  • Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, sparks went off in my
  • brain, I had no squeamishness, I'd eat alligator, rabbit
  • with the head on, fish eggs, eyes, hitchhike playing
  • the harmonica, got into a helluva jam, sitting in the cab
  • of a truck between two nasty bumpkins, saved when
  • a turkey vulture crashed through the windshield into
  • my lap, Jesus was looking out for me that day, celebrated
  • not being murdered at a bar that rose out of the fog
  • like an iceberg, I was wearing a stolen blue smoking
  • jacket I called a kimono, yes I was a knave, a fool,
  • (Cornelius, Cyprian, Chrysogonus, Cosmas and Damian).
     



My tits are bruised as if I've been with a rough lover

  • My tits are bruised as if I've been with a rough lover but I have
  • not been, not today, I once gentled a certain someone and it turns
  • out I loathe gentle, and bought a hard red pear, hard enough
  • to pound a nail into a re-enactment crucifix, and I left the hard pear,
  • I mean dick-hard, on the red windowsill, abandoned it to its solo
  • ripening until it began to exude that familiar musk, it might as well
  • have said eat me, or sung it soprano, but the more it wanted my
  • teeth in its hide the more I dodged it, I'd lost all respect for it,
  • like that poem in which ripening plums are evidence that eternity
  • is illogical, well of course it's illogical, and by the time I decided
  • to just go ahead and dive it had broken out with a bad case of fruit
  • flies, my fault indeed but I blamed the pear, let's all blame the pear,
  • this is not a metaphor but a fable whose moral is as old as time:
  • I'm worried about these bruises and who will hold me when I die?

  •  


I dreamed a color, no plot, a color, strange

  • I dreamed a color, no plot, a color, strange, there once
  • were shoes called oxblood, the color was akin to oxblood
  • baby shoes but not that exactly, nor calves' liver, though
  • closer to liver than heart, nor that girl with oxblood hair,
  • nor mahogany, fuck mahogany, I fell once, walking on the rocks
  • along a jade lake, the cut was small but deep and mean, my
  • blood, magenta edged in something the color of antifreeze,
  • an unthinkable yellow-green, bioluminescent though not like
  • a glowworm, fuck glowworms, they lean toward the false indigo
  • of cheap lit-up wristwatches, maybe a certain bunch of gladiolas
  • delivered to my studio apartment by Mikel, who opened
  • my honey jar and licked all the way around its mouth, fuck that, it
  • incensed me, the color some combination of glads, honey, tongue,
  • rage, and Mikel, dead so long, the Kaposi's lesion on his thumb.
     



I could do it. I could walk into the sea!

  • I could do it. I could walk into the sea!
  • I have a rental car. It's blue and low on fuel.
  • I have feet, two, and proximity. I could do it.
  • Others have before me. Jeff Buckley (1997) he
  • was only 40. Carol Wayne (1985) Matinee Lady
  • and a photo spread in Playboy. Dennis Wilson (1983)
  • after diving for a photo of his ex-wife he'd tossed
  • overboard years earlier. Hart Crane, well of course
  • Hart Crane (1932), socialite Starr Faithful (1931),
  • she was only 25, she drowned in shallow water near
  • the shore, her lungs all full of sand. Starr left behind her
  • sex diary, current whereabouts unknown. 19 men.
  • It's dark. I love the dark and it loves me.
  • It would be fun! I could walk into the sea!
 

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Author Bio

Diane Seuss's most recent collection, Four-Legged Girl, published in 2015 by Graywolf Press, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open won the Juniper Prize and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. Her poetry has been published in a broad range of literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Iowa Review, New England Review, and The New Yorker. Seuss's fourth collection, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in May 2018. 

Lynn Crosbie & Robert Siek


Ultimately I'm Just a Canadian Girl Tweeting an American Boy, and Asking Him to Violate Me on a Kitchen Floor

We can scrub the floor on all fours, turn over and watch the ceiling. Our closeness will stain
undies, leave holes breathing.

Falling stars–shaped holes, bodies cooling like parfaits: yours is the memory of cream, and mine
the cherry-red caterwaul.

Genderless, die-in-a-house-fire obese, we roll belly up, one in a morphsuit, candy-cane striped,
and melt sheet vinyl flooring.

Boom down the ceilings to the street and rise, picking off cars and towers, to kiss the moon's
face, to rest and graze.

We four arms, two legs, Shiva slams more punk than, ass fucks against Dumpsters, flings blood
and makes new diagrams.

Pooling into maps, an entire atlas that plays "Oye Como Va" at Antibes: we go there when we
are small: our feelers swoosh.

We go: holes dragged on carpet, mutt excited; our hind legs higher, we pant hard on pages, shake
beach sand free both ways.

Make the firmament quake, where will the stars go I mouth inside of you, into the pitch and
rouge muscle and silver glory.


 

Disco Miracle 

Married three years, he dries up and she stays limp. WTF. She still laces her hands round him in
bed, in lizard-drag still—

iguanas on rocks all swimsuit-issue spreads, Mayan ruins, excursion to the Yucatan, she climbed
alone, his knee injury below.

This injury jams her on top if he gives in. But he just says OOF or Quit it! as she pogos like Sid,
black lip rises, No fun.

No tongue or Iggy or the Pistols, radio, or loudspeakers, she's frog legs again, butterfly wings,
no panties and showing

He's discovered coke or Disco he says peevishly, strutting his silver and glass modified balls, his
thick hustler's tongue.

She watches him enter the bathroom; he does some dance move in the doorway, one ass cheek
showing, briefs a size too small.

Closer, she says. Hard with fear he snaps the elastic of her u/pees; she puts on his mother's teeth,
squats, rims him good.

Handsy and all palms, he spreads hard, sixteen on a raised deck, bare-assed, shouting "red eye"
to his buds below, their girls.

Sailor, she slams, then inverse-flowers at the memory of the Pasha unwinding his turban and
breathing opium into her mouth.

Now crouched, her calla lily sucks face, rain-soaked safety mask filling mouth. He gasps. She
still tastes him, smells him.

Now, rising, clatter of jilted knives, she abrades his neck with rosettes and prays to his lambskin
lips with wet lovegush.

He smiles snake-dancer touched, sees spooks. Loose hold on a tall jarred candle, points hard
toward her, thick as the Pasha.

Thicker: a rouged silo weeping honeydew, her jaw unhinges to take in the rosy weight, fingers
vanish in his teardrop-balls.

And this is commitment, good things happen, wait, not an anniversary, warm skin polyamide
fabric, a tower wrapped by Christo.

The year of gold and ashes, Pharoah-love remains, a glitter of bone-smash: how he, how you
clutched my face and kissed me.

The Gulf of Mexico incoming, she stood sea-misted on top of a temple, cliffside, Mayan. She
imagined dry blood on the rocks.

Real blood: she had filled him with arrows and God, she said, God let us live forever/you and I
livid with pain, changing.

Breeze that high, when it's right, it's right, mirror ball in daylight, eyes open too long. They, we,
keep coming back for more.


 

Pink Tinsel 

In the sequel, she misses him so much she makes a quilt of strangers' skin and cries rotten pears.

The picnic basket packed, four settings of great grandmother's china, the steak knives chosen
from a catalog.

Such are her fever dreams, lock of his Tréssemé-heaving hair charging her voodoo, jagged bolts
of white lightning in a pail.

Bent forward over a piano, the impact of hips no-seatbelt flight into an airbag—scratches on the
hardwood floor, toes curled.

Palms bang "Liebestraum" and "Vicious": he grows still more arms, the wolf, and her eyes make
painted saucers of moon lakes.

Outside a failure, no meal prepared, not even crackers with cheese. Songs not played in this
house, please blow it all down.

But for the hellbilly of stiff jeans slid over V-bones and his sweet belly, split with a downward
arrow of black fondant.

She drops, knees on wall-to-wall carpet, dirty socks, underwear, caught in a corner of a laundry
bag, the smell like here now.

Falls on his haunches liberally atomizing Fleurs de Rocaille, writes, with a scalpel, GRASS FED
TENDERLOIN, tastes the drip.

Fingers up, one strand of Christmas lights flash, synchronized with wet hook hand, working,
nightie around neck, skinned disco.

Retrieving French ticklers, a strand of pink tinsel that counts down Fat Man, the black holes' first
shimmer then boom.

Silent living room, furniture, her huff and puff wind down, his cock rests, lightning struck,
facedown in a valley, ashes pile.

Peace passes understanding, bounces. The next way in is with a chainsaw, she's afraid and so
kisses him like ravening fish.

Her nude leftovers in a field, deep pelvis gutted, kids home around four, then the husband, cold
quilt in bed, clean sheets.

And so she lay down each night, eyes rolled into oeufs. Later, in the cold grass she fell apart.
Unto him, wet dahlia heat.

Always scents by Caron and sweat between his legs, the first time with mouth, hands, now turn
around. Maybe a picnic tomorrow.

 

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AUTHOR BIOs

Lynn Crosbie is a Toronto-based writer and critic who wrote her dissertation about Anne Sexton and the confessional poets. Her most recent collection of poems, about her father, is entitled The Corpses of the Future. She and Robert Siek wrote these poems convulsively, on Twitter. 

Robert Siek is the author of the poetry collection Purpose and Devil Piss (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013), as well as the chapbook Clubbed Kid (New School University, 2002). His second book of poetry, We Go Seasonal, will be published in 2018, also by Sibling Rivalry Press. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works at a large publishing House in Manhattan.

Harlee Logan Kelly


"From where I am writing the chair is red . . ."

From where I am writing the chair is red. The chair is red and the clock is wrong. The clock is wrong and the wood is stained. A man is disappearing. A man has become a puddle. From where I am writing there is a painting above the headboard. Fourteen women are dancing. I am on the floor and my legs are stretched my feet are pressed against the bathtub. I am in the mirror's reflection above the sink. From where I am writing red paper lanterns are hanging from trees in the backyard. A woman's legs are crossed on a train. Someone is running from a convenience store. From where I am writing there are eight paper cranes on the table folded from newspaper and arranged without contrast how can we see where anything fits. From where I am looking everything makes space for what is outside itself. The city is reflected on the sculpture in the park. The city is reflected on the windows of tall buildings. The city is reflected on a man's dark sunglasses. A bus that passes reflects the city is reflected in a puddle on the sidewalk. It is low down eye level with a dog. A teacup is red with a little gold garnish on the brim. A mannequin is dressed for winter. When I lose sight of things I am less alone when nothing holds its shape. From where I am writing there are six statues of hands with the palms splayed. There are boxes in front of the fireplace. A string of white lights is wrapped around the exposed pipes.  


 

"I spent the day inspecting circles of various sizes . . ."

I spent the day inspecting circles of various sizes and intensities looking for one that startled me. A large red circle with medium thickness and a small black dot in the center made me think yes I might like to turn a page and see this circle suddenly a perfect shape. Here is a list of things about today: woke around 10:00, tidied up the kitchen, found the right circle, diced jalapeños, everything slow, a new bottle of the old soap, the cat caught the green rubber band in the air. I might take a bath. Today was a good day but I am tired and afraid I will spoil it. I have not cried today but it feels close. When Amber said she wants to run away when I cry she said it growling and I knew then the sound of love leaving the body. She said the word flee. Flee is what you do from danger. What danger am I crying soft and tucked away? Was it Gertrude Stein who wrote against the question mark? I can't remember. Recently I found a note to myself suggesting I experiment with the word stop instead of punctuating the ends of sentences. Where did this come from [stop] Did Lisa say this [stop] Did I read it in a book [stop] Question marks are an unnecessity [stop] Once I watched a movie where a character likened something to the pointlessness of asking questions in a letter but I can't remember what it was or the movie or the character. I disagree so I ask questions in letters. I disagree with things so often I sometimes feel unkind. There are times I catch myself trying to construct my voice so I stop. I start over. Once I rode a train in Italy for 8 hours in the wrong direction.           

 

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Author Bio

Harlee Logan Kelly received her MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has appeared in Alchemy, Habitat Magazine, and Columbia Poetry Review. She currently lives in Chicago where she is working on her first book.

Kenyatta Rogers


Usually Don't Use Google Docs

          —after Jackson Burgess

but I did read a poem where a guy said he was going to plant railroad spike in his garden.

and there was a roach staring at the beauty of a moth.

As a child X-Men taught me all kinds of new words

like Jubilation and Gambit.

As a side note ants carry their dead away from the colony

and stack the bodies as a burial ritual.

As a side note Praying Mantises can fly.

This is the moment

you roll an ankle

get a jam on the inbound play.

What are those?

Here's the stinger of a honey bee

the foot of a scorpion.

Last night I had a dream about people I wish I could see but know I can't.

We were in a house that looked like a haunted house but wasn't a house

a house that wasn't restaurant or on a prairie.

There was no Michael Landon.

At Jim Henson's funeral, Big Bird sings "It's Not Easy Being Green."

And maybe that's one of the saddest things.


Pooh Looks for Honey 

While I'm not sure where to begin here, I suppose I'll just start with anything. Because it doesn't really matter. If a tree falls in the woods and is nobody is around whether it makes a sound or doesn't matter. And I don't say these things to sound blahzah, or as if I don't care. I care about things. I enjoy telling stories. I like animals and pizza. And if a tree falls in the woods I'm completely ok with that. I mean I don't care. I mean what does it matter. How does the tree falling really affect me. I mean trees affect me, but one falling because a bear pushed it over trying to get to a bobcat. Or because ants colonized the entire body like a cancer. I'm ok with that. Completely fine.

Sometimes when I'm walking home from the pizza shop or riding my bike or I when I park my car and check the trees and signs to see if it's legal. I find out they're cutting down more trees again. And then I'll look for the dead or dying ones or dead or dying branches and notice those aren't the trees the city is cutting down. Then I care. Then I feel affected.

   

There's this apartment building and they cut down all the trees that surrounded the building. They were perfectly healthy and full of foliage. This bothered me. The best thing I can do is to sleep in. The workers usually come early in the morning and if I'm asleep I don't hear the chainsaws. The chainsaws don't wake me up. Not much does actually. I wake up just fine when I need to wake up. Unless I'm a little hungover which basically means to be dehydrated or I don't set an alarm, but I also sleep very heavily. I used to sleep heavier though.  

This is awkward because I'm fairly certain I have a sleep condition. I sleep, but I have a hard time falling asleep. And I wake up often. Which is weird because I said I sleep heavily, which I do, but only if I'm not already woke. And I'm woke a lot. So I do things a lot at night. I grocery shop at around 11:30, which is only because the store closes at midnight. When the store was open later I would shop at around 1:30. I consciously think to just perimeter shop, but I usually hit the aisles.  

I like sugary drinks and cereal and frozen food dinners. I like frozen food dinners mostly because I can't cook. And my parents barely cooked. I was kind of raised on them. They'd kick me out the kitchen when they did cook. My father is a cook. That's how he makes money. That's how he pays bills. Even though he doesn't pay any of them. My mother pays them. My father signs his checks over to her or they go together to the bank to cash it. She handles all the money. My pops then just looks at the receipts. I'm not sure why. I think so he feels like he has some stake in the matter.

I mean cooking . . . I mean I can make lasagna pretty good. I needed something to do so I looked up different recipes online. I needed something to distract my mind. I'm not one to stress over much, but that saying, a rolling stone gathers no moss. Well at one point I wasn't rolling. Kind of like water you let sit in a bucket outside and it doesn't rain for a couple weeks and it gets that film on the top. Something like that. Or when an old lady moves out of a house and her kids neglect to sell or rent the place. And it just sits there. Just sitting. Which is a verb, but it means to do nothing at all.  

 

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Author Bio

Kenyatta Rogers earned his MFA in Creative Writing Poetry from Columbia College Chicago. He is a Cave Canem fellow and has been twice awarded scholarships from the Breadloaf Writers' Conference.  He has been nominated twice for both Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes, his work has been previously published in or is forthcoming from Jubilat, Vinyl, Bat City Review, The Volta among others. He is an Associate Editor with RHINO Poetry and currently serves on the Creative Writing Faculty at The Chicago High School for the Arts.

C. Russell Price


Why Can't My Heaven Be A Mobile Home Park In A Carolina Where I Have Big Hair And Work Reception At My Husband's Tattoo Parlor?

  • I've been reading a lot about Canadian men
  • and chemical castration. When my lover pulls out
  • my depression: he says "Russell, I'm certain the panic is over."
  • He knows the river asks me for a breezeblock kiss,
  • how the sad-eyed dragonflies in my body want
  • a tornado spotting—oh, there
  • there, there he is again waiting for me across the bar.
  • If he loved me, he'd release an EP.
  • He calls me a mixture of beauty
  • queen hair and trailer park attitude.
  • I leave my keys in the door. I would if I could turn
  • the corner and end up in Spain. On the good days,
  • he wants me on my baddest behavior.
  • He picks my polish and then I blow
  • each digit as if it's a double barrel.
  • The older I get, the more ghosts I gather.
  • It's 2017 and I need some simple happiness
  • like a sundress with cavernous pockets
  • and a fresh switchblade.
  • My great gender trouble as a gay American
  • cis male is that I should think erect
  • not automatic rifle when I hear "semi."
  • He asks about the men in my past, the archive of grief:
  • the first-boyfriend-who-loved-you-but-not-in-public,
  • the next who thinks of me then quickly stops himself,
  • the one who marries late in life and if you squint you're the bride,
  • the man I told my mother who touched me in the paper aisle of the Piggly.
  • I tell him I have only learned that you can forgive,
  • but you can't stick around—that we won't get out of county
  • because we're bad and free.
  • When I call him after a proper cry in the office supply closet,
  • he asks what is drowning me today, as if memory is a growing leak,
  • as if he could offer some Oprah level shit.
  • Without a doubt, I say
  • that in my family there was a klansman.
  • That in that house, a white man killed
  • a poc because of: terror, war, circumstance, 'cause
  • they could get away with it
  • and stay silent because I didn't ask.
  • Something is eating me belt, watch, and all,
  • I say to him, sweetheart, this claptrack's been waiting for you.

     
  •  

Death comes for the Good Ol' Boys

  • in a gown of royal blue.
  •  
  • She lines them up with relentless discretion,
  • she lines them up by their pretty smiles.
     
  • She says to her women: unhinge your jaws, bite
  • the hand then devour the heart.
     
  • The year of the new cannibal Amazon started with Cindy
  • (from accounting) who, when over-pinched,
     
  • started chomping on her boss' knuckles.
  • Ten years later Sox stadium is the new Colosseum.
     
  • The women place bets and eat fried men thighs.
  • The fighters fight because men are good
     
  • for only two things in this world: breeding and eating.
  • Here—everyone's a little gay by necessity.
     
  • Ke$ha rules all and The Man Cages reek
  • of what men do to one another.
     
  • Not even the last computer can recite the sound
  • of a male perceived pronoun.
     
  • In this apocalypse, we raise our boys until we can break them
  • then bone-feed our front yards. 

  •  
  •  

The Glove

  • On fields of brickdust,
  • beside the trailer park,
  • he winds up and he winds up
  • knocking me down
  • to my knees with a skeetering
  • groundball. Popcorn has started
  • birdchirping and the concession stand lady's
  • pepperoni hair mats to her pimpled head.
  • He lifts his leg like a slow-mo hurdle,
  • his elbow juts out like a warship cannon—
  • he is throwing everything
  • at me: the Cleveland suburb,
  • the how-I-met-your-Mother-night,
  • all the minor league meals
  • living off library coupons in Ogden.
  • I have saved his cellophaned collection of cards
  • and the rubberbanded bound glove.
  • When, if, he calls, I can tell
  • the extra gray around his mouth
  • sings through the hip pain,
  • the hereditary hypochondria.
  • When his father died in June,
  • I stilled myself on a Chicago platform.
  • I raised my lonely leg and my sad little arm,
  • I swung until the world spun again.
 

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Author Bio

C. Russell Price is a genderqueer Appalachian punk poet originally from Virginia but now lives on the north side of Chicago. Their work has appeared in Court Green, Lambda Lit, Nimrod International, Story Club Magazine, and elsewhere. Their chapbook Tonight, We Fuck The Trailer Park Out of Each Other was released in 2016 by Sibling Rivalry Press. They are a Literary Death Match champion, a Lambda Fellow in poetry, a Pushcart nominee, and an alright human. They are currently at work on a poetry collection dealing with the queer apocalypse and a collection of essays.

Robert Siek:
13 Instagram Photos


 

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Author Bio

Robert Siek is the author of the poetry collection Purpose and Devil Piss (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013), as well as the chapbook Clubbed Kid (New School University, 2002). His second book of poetry, We Go Seasonal, will be published in 2018, also by Sibling Rivalry Press. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works at a large publishing House in Manhattan.

Dossier: Peter K. Steinberg


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"A fetish: somehow": A Sylvia Plath Bookmark 

In 2008, I started a project to put together, in one place, a catalog of all the books that Sylvia Plath owned and read. Plath's "library" is dispersed, with the majority of volumes held in the special collections at Emory University, Indiana University at Bloomington, and Smith College. Smaller holdings can be found in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, University of Louisville, University of South Carolina, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Virginia. Some books are still held privately.

Assembling Plath's library led me to read not just all of her letters and journals, but also the papers that she wrote for school. Using the social book site, LibraryThing, the Sylvia Plath Library now lists more than 1,200 books that the poet and writer worked with in her lifetime. It has not always been possible to determine the exact edition that Plath read, but at the least we have the titles.

As a matter of routine practice, I search for Sylvia Plath books to highlight on my Sylvia Plath Info Blog or to simply tweet out. These books are generally first or rare, limited editions that I intend to entice book collectors, libraries, or Plath enthusiasts to purchase. Spending other peoples' money is often easier on my conscience than spending my own. For example, in July 2016, a tweet of a unique Plath-Hughes family-owned first edition reprint of The Bell Jar (1963) led to the University of Victoria, British Columbia, acquiring it. An instance where social media positively benefited cultural heritage. In late November 2016, an equally seductive copy of a book came on the market about which I was instantly torn in two. My first impulse was to tweet it out and let some lucky higher education institution obtain a very nice object. But then I thought that perhaps it might make a nice treat for me to myself. My good friend and fellow Plath scholar Gail Crowther wrote saying it would be a nice present for such a big year: getting the manuscript of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, which I co-edited, submitted, and, though she did not mention it, also getting our own book of essays, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath, to the publisher. This was sound logic, so I decided to jump on it.

The book was The Poems of Wilfred Owen (London: Chatto and Windus, 1933) and formerly belonged to Faber and Faber editor and chairman Charles Monteith (1921-1995). Monteith was Ted Hughes' first editor at Faber and Faber, and in the course of that editorship he and Plath met on several occasions between 1957 and her death. On 23 June 1960, Plath and Hughes attended a cocktail party at Faber's for W. H. Auden. The next day, Plath wrote to her mother:

During the course of the party Charles Monteith, one of the Faber board, beckoned me out into the hall. And there Ted stood, flanked by TS Eliot, WH Auden, Louis MacNiece on the one hand & Stephen Spender on the other, having his photograph taken. 'Three generations of Faber poets there,' Charles observed. 'Wonderful!'

Monteith thoughtfully sent Plath flowers after her appendectomy on 28 February 1961. After Plath's death, Monteith became her editor when Hughes moved The Bell Jar and The Colossus and Other Poems (1960) from Heinemann to Faber.

What makes this copy particularly special is that tucked between pages 58 ("Arms and the Boy") and 59 ("The Show"), on a piece of pink Smith College Memorandum paper, is a holograph note in Plath's bold black pen that reads "Wilfred Owen / 'Arms & the Boy'."

It is something to own anything in Plath's handwriting and something even more special that it is on a sheet of her famously fetishistic pilfered pink paper. Plath taught three sections of Freshman English at Smith College in the 1957-1958 academic year. After deciding to leave teaching to live and work as a full-time writer in Boston, Plath began stealing the pads of paper from a supply closet in one of Smith's academic halls. On 3 March 1958, Plath wrote in her journal:

Got a queer and most overpowering urge today to write, or typewrite, my whole novel on the pink, stiff, lovely-textured Smith memorandum pads of 100 sheets each: a fetish: somehow, seeing a hunk of that pink paper, different from all the endless reams of white bond, my task seems finite, special, rose-cast . . . & have already robbed enough notebooks from the supply closet for one & 1/2 drafts of a 350 page novel. (344)

A week later Plath wrote, "must be up early, to laundry & to steal more pink pads of paper tomorrow" (348).

Plath made the most of this pink paper. She used it in the fall of 1958 to type notes from her stint as a secretary in the psychiatric ward of Massachusetts General Hospital. From 1958 to 1959, Plath used it to type her journal notes after therapy sessions with her psychiatrist, Dr. Ruth Beuscher. Several letters to Jane Baltzell-Kopp (Cambridge classmate), Peter Davison (editor, former lover), Gerald and Joan Hughes (brother- and sister-in-law), Olwyn Hughes (sister-in-law), Aurelia Plath (mother), Warren Plath (brother), and in one instance, on a torn sheet, to accompany a poetry submission to Accent, were typed on this paper. Most famously, Plath typed drafts of her novel The Bell Jar on it in 1961, and reused the clean verso in drafting her Ariel poems. By June 1962, the paper supply was spent. Plath wrote to her former college professor and mentor, Alfred Young Fisher, on 11 June 1962. In this letter she asked him to send her "about a dozen" of the pads, offering to pay for them and enclosing a half-sheet sample of the paper for reference. She also sent a signed and inscribed copy of The Colossus (the American edition published by Knopf the previous month). Though it appears unlikely Fisher complied with the request, he retained everything and these documents are all held by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When Smith College purchased their Plath collection in 1981 from Ted Hughes, Plath's stolen pink paper returned home. If you have ever worked with Plath's archive (sheets of this paper can be found in several repositories), chances are you too have seen this "lovely-textured" paper. If you have not, a simple Google image search will yield some examples.

A book such as this leads to speculation. It asks more questions than will ever be possible to be answered. Was this book originally Plath's and/or Hughes' and they leant or gave it outright to Monteith? Probably not. More likely, it was Monteith's to begin with and he leant it to them. The book is completely clean of markings save for an ownership inscription on the front endpaper which reads "Erica S[?] Wilson / March 1936." This suggests that Monteith acquired the book secondhand. On the front free endpaper, there is an erasure visible; what it originally read is vague. A 600 dpi scan reveals the words "[ ] Sylvia Plath" and a £ symbol. I tried adjustments in Photoshop but gave up and wrote the bookseller directly. He informed me that he had written "Ex libris Sylvia Plath" but then erased it prior to shipping (a common practice). There is no other proof (such as her name written on the front free endpaper, which was her typical practice) to actually suggest the book is from the personal library of Sylvia Plath.

Hughes and Plath both—but more strongly Hughes—were influenced by the poems of the World War I poet Wilfred Owen. Hughes published a poem, "Wilfred Owen's Photographs," in the 2 January 1959 issue of The Spectator, and later in his second volume of poems, Lupercal (1960). After Plath's death, Hughes wrote at length on Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" and other poems as he drafted a review of C. Day Lewis' The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen (1964).

In addition to speculation, the mind opens up to fantasy scenarios. Possibly Faber and Monteith were trying to put together a poetry anthology and asked Plath (and/or Hughes) to pick a poem for inclusion and this was Plath's choice? I searched Plath's journals and letters, but found no mention of her either working on or reading the poetry of Wilfred Owen. There is, though, some evidence that Plath took an interest in World War I. In a letter dated 16-17 August 1960, Plath wrote from London to her mother that she was finishing Allan Moorehead's Gallipoli (1956), the definitive history of this tragic campaign that killed a quarter-million Allied soldiers. (The Plath-Hughes copy of Gallipoli, which contains annotations, is held by Emory University.) Five days later, on holiday in Yorkshire, Ted Hughes sent a letter to Aurelia and Warren Plath saying that, "Tonight Sylvia got my Dad talking about his experiences in the 1st War . . ." (169). Her father-in-law, William Hughes, was a survivor of that battle. In his Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life (2015), Johnathan Bate writes that Mr. Hughes was "saved from a bullet by the paybook in his breast pocket" (33). It appears that Plath was on something of a World War I binge at this time, which in the absence of any other evidence or information, makes me wonder if it was during this time that she read the book and marked the page/poem.

The speaker in Plath's "Lady Lazarus" advises those who have come to view her 'big strip tease':

And there is a charge, a very large charge

For a word or a touch

Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes. (Collected Poems, 246)

Owning "a piece" of Plath is a privilege. Typescripts of her poems and stories can often sell in the thousands, or tens of thousands. Many of her drawings sold via the Mayor Gallery in London in 2011 and at that time I was fortunate enough to buy her drawing of a horse chestnut. It happened to be last drawing still available with her initials "sp" on it; an indication that it was something Plath deemed finished. This bookmark cost $250 which seems, to me, to be a fair and reasonable price even if just for a slip of paper. The book just came along for the ride, though there is also a feeling of specialness knowing she temporarily possessed it. Had her notation been on plain white paper I am not sure this would have such an allure to me. Being familiar with Plath's archive, with her love of that pink paper and the work that she created on its siblings, makes this a most cherished pink thing.

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NOTES: Digitized images of many of Wilfred Owen's poems are online via The First World War Poetry Archive. There are two manuscript drafts of "Arms and the Boy." The first draft features many crossed-out words; Owen slashed through the poem entirely. The second draft has just a few holograph corrections and is a much cleaner copy. These changes represent the final ones Owen made, thus making it completed. Additional poems can be viewed on the website of the British Library. For more, please see Tim Kendall's Modern English War Poets (OUP, 2009).

All links accessed 30 November 2016 and 4 January 2017.

 

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Author Bio

Archivist Peter K. Steinberg is the co-editor of the two-volume Letters of Sylvia Plath (Faber/HarperCollins) and a co-author of These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath (Fonthill, 2017), as well as a biography for younger readers, Sylvia Plath (Chelsea House, 2004). He has published more than a dozen articles on Plath in Fine Books & Collections, Notes & Queries, and Plath Profiles. In addition, he wrote introductions to The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath (British Library, 2010) and Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning by Elizabeth Sigmund and Gail Crowther (Fonthill, 2015). Steinberg maintains the oldest, continuously updated website for Plath, A celebration, this is (www.sylviaplath.info) as well as the related Sylvia Plath Info Blog (http://sylviaplathinfo.blogspot.com).