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Christine Gelineau

WHEN AT A CERTAIN PARTY IN NYC

Wherever you’re from sucks,
and wherever you grew up sucks,
and everyone here lives in a converted
chocolate factory or deconsecrated church
without an ugly lamp or souvenir coffee cup
in sight, but only carefully edited objets like
the Lacanian soap dispenser in the kitchen
that looks like an industrial age dildo, and
when you rifle through the bathroom
looking for a spare tampon, you discover
that even their toothpaste is somehow more
desirable than yours. And later you go
with a world famous critic to eat a plate
of sushi prepared by a world famous chef from
Sweden and the roll is conceived to look like
“a strand of pearls around a white throat,” and is
so confusingly beautiful that it makes itself
impossible to eat. And your friend back home—-
who says the pioneers who first settled
the great asphalt parking lot of our
middle were not in fact heroic but really
the chubby ones who lacked the imagination
to go all the way to California—it could be that
she’s on to something. Because, admit it,
when you look at the people on these streets,
the razor-blade women with their strategic bones
and the men wearing Amish pants with
interesting zippers, it’s pretty clear that you
will never cut it anywhere that constitutes
a where, that even ordering a pint of tuna salad in
a deli is an illustrative exercise in self-doubt.
So when you see the dogs on the high-rise elevators
practically tweaking, panting all the way down
from the 19th floor to the 1st, dying to get on
with their long planned business of snuffling
trash or peeing on something to which all day
they’ve been looking forward, what you want is
to be on the fastest Conestoga home, where the other
losers live and where the tasteless azaleas are,
as we speak, halfheartedly exploding.

WHEN AT A CERTAIN PARTY IN NYC a poem by Erin Belieu from Motionpoems on Vimeo. Video courtesy of Motion Poems.

This poem first appeared in 32 Poems and was reprinted in Best American Poetry 2011. Poem copyright 2011 Erin Belieu, all rights reserved, used by permission of the author.

___________________________________________
ERIN BELIEU IS THE AUTHOR OF 4 POETRY COLLECTIONS ALL FROM COPPER CANYON PRESS, INCLUDING HER FORTHCOMING SLANT SIX, DUE IN SEPTEMBER 2014. BELIEU TEACHES AT FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY, THE LESLEY UNIVERSITY LOW RES MFA PROGRAM AND IS THE CO-FOUNDING CO DIRECTER OF VIDA WOMEN IN LITERARY ARTS.

The Delta

If you are going there by foot, prepare
to get wet. You are not you anymore.

You are a girl standing in a pool
of clouds as they catch fire in the distance.

There are laws of heaven and those of place
and those who see the sky in the water,

angels in ashes that are the delta’s now.
They say if you sweep the trash from your house

after dark, you sweep away your luck.
If you are going by foot, bring a stick,

a third leg, and honor the great disorder,
the great broom of waterfowl and songbirds.

Prepare to voodoo your way, best you can,
knowing there is a little water in things

you take for granted, a little charity
and squalor for the smallest forms of life.

Voodoo was always mostly charity.
People forget. If you shake a tablecloth

outside at night, someone in your family
dies. There are laws we make thinking

it was us who made them. We are not us.
We are a floodplain by the Mississippi

that once poured slaves upriver to the fields.
We are a hurricane in the making.

We could use a magus who knows something
about suffering, who knows a delta’s needs.

We understand if you want a widow
to stay single, cut up her husband’s shoes.

He is not himself anyway and walks
barefoot across a landscape that has no north.

Only a ghost tree here and there, a frog,
a cricket, a bird. And if the fates are kind,

a girl with a stick, who is more at home,
being homeless, than you will ever be.

“The Delta” first appeared in Poetry Magazine. It is forthcoming in the book The Other Sky (Etruscan Press).
_____________________________________________
Bruce Bond is the author of nine published books of poetry, most recently Choir of the Wells: A Tetralogy (Etruscan, 2013), The Visible (LSU, 2012), Peal (Etruscan, 2009), and Blind Rain(LSU, 2008).  In addition he has two books forthcoming: The Other Sky (poems in collaboration with the painter Aron Wiesenfeld, intro by Stephen Dunn, Etruscan Press) and For the Lost Cathedral (LSU Press).  Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and Poetry Editor for American Literary Review.

Psalm for Kingston

_____If I forget thee, O Jerusalem
__________~Psalm 137

City of Jack Mandora—mi nuh choose none—of Anancy
_____prevailing over Mongoose, Breda Rat, Puss, and Dog, Anancy
__________saved by his wits in the midst of chaos and against all odds;
_____of bawdy Big Boy stories told by peacock-strutting boys, hush-hush
but loud enough to be heard by anyone passing by the yard.

City of market women at Half-Way-Tree with baskets
_____atop their heads or planted in front of their laps, squatting or standing
__________with arms akimbo, susuing with one another, clucking
_____their tongues, calling in voices of pure sugar, come dou-dou: see
the pretty bag I have for you, then kissing their teeth when you saunter off.

City of school children in uniforms playing dandy shandy
_____and brown girl in the ring—tra-la-la-la-la
__________eating bun and cheese and bulla and mangoes,
_____juice sticky and running down their chins, bodies arced
in laughter, mouths agape, heads thrown back.

City of old men with rheumy eyes, crouched in doorways,
_____on verandahs, paring knives in hand, carving wood pipes
__________or peeling sugar cane, of younger men pushing carts
_____of roasted peanuts and oranges, calling out as they walk the streets
and night draws near, of coconut vendors with machetes in hand.

City where power cuts left everyone in sudden dark,
_____where the kerosene lamp’s blue flame wavered on kitchen walls,
__________where empty bellies could not be filled,
_____where no eggs, no milk, no beef today echoed
in shantytowns, around corners, down alleyways.

City where Marley sang, Jah would never give the power to a baldhead
_____while the baldheads reigned, where my parents chanted
__________down Babylon—Fire! Burn! Jah! Rastafari! Selassie I!
_____where they paid weekly dues, saving for our passages back to Africa,
while in their beds my grandparents slept fitfully, dreaming of America.

City that lives under a long-memoried sun,
_____where the gunmen of my childhood are today’s dons
__________ruling neighbourhoods as fiefdoms, where violence
_____and beauty still lie down together. City of my birth—
if I forget thee, who will I be, singing the Lord’s song in this strange land?


_______________________________________
Originally from Jamaica, Shara McCallum is the author of four books of poetry: The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems, This Strange Land, a finalist for the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, Song of Thieves, and The Water Between Us, winner of the 1998 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize for Poetry. For her poems, she has received awards and fellowships, including a 2013 Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. Her work has appeared in journals, anthologies, and textbooks in the US, UK, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Israel and been translated into Spanish and Romanian. She lives with her family in Pennsylvania, where she is Director of the StadlerCenter for Poetry and Professor of English at BucknellUniversity.

TOWN GREEN: SOUTH ROYALTON

How long has it been since I lazed on a town green?
(Wistfulness, beware.)

A couple of square acres set with maple and crabapple.
(Sprayed, mulched, blooming impossibly early.)

Two gazebos, for bandstand and romance.
(Amo, amas. Gazebo, gazebae?)

Starched white church with a black clock-face.
(The time is what unearthly hour?)

Across the green, a train station where business begins.
(End of the line)

Before me, a cottage row; behind, a row of eateries.
(Who cooks in a chichi town?)

On its grass surface, not a weed or divot.
(No sliding tackles, scraped knees?)

From the highway, South Royalton seems tucked in timelessness
(a steeple crucifix, a gambrel barn’s weathervane)

like a storybook town one sees from a passing car, wishing
(fairytales were true)

fairytales were true, wondering how one gets there
(from here)

from here. Forty years ago, I’d have lain
(“loafed and invited my soul”)

here on a summer’s day, a college kid astride the season
(riding it, riding it)

tethered to greenness and leisure. Forty years ago,
(o lord)

o lord, in whose crossed steeple I do not believe, in whose name I cannot
(stop time)

claim hope or victory. Forty years, and my body still yearns
(for the idea of greenness)

for green.

_______________________________________________
Neil Shepard’
s most recent books include a full volume of poems, (T)ravel/Un(t)ravel (Mid-List Press, 2011), and an offbeat chapbook, Vermont Exit Ramps (Big Table Publishing, 2012) in which this poem appears. His new book, Hominid Up, is due in 2014 by Salmon Poetry Press (Ireland). The author of three previous books of poetry, Shepard founded the Writing Program at the Vermont Studio Center, and he taught for several decades in the BFA Creative Writing Program at Johnson State College in Vermont until his retirement in 2009. He also founded the literary magazine Green Mountains Review a quarter-century ago, and he is currently its Senior Editor. He presently lives in New York City and teaches poetry workshops at The Poets House and in the low-residency MFA writing program at Wilkes University (PA). Outside of the literary realm, Neil is a founding member of the jazz-poetry group POJAZZ.

Crooked

I wanted a crooked man.
I panned for a crooked man.
I tea spooned out

trenches until I dug up
my crooked man.
Now I have a corner

on a crooked man,
a crooked house.
I got crookider

And crookider,
out of whack.
Nakeder than cheese,

clothed with nakedness.
Tilt and spin,
I let in every draft.

No matter.
Nothing straightens
any of us out.

Nothing goes
according to plan.
Unless the plan is a crooked plan.

___________________________________________
Lee Upton’s most recent book is Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition Boredom Purity & Secrecy (Tupelo).  In 2014 a collection of her short stories, The Tao of Humiliation, is forthcoming from BOA Editions.  She is a professor of English and writer-in-residence at Lafayette College.

Photo credit: Cece Ziolkowski.
Copyright © 2013 by Lee Upton. Used with permission of the author.