TheThe Poetry
≡ Menu

Poems of the Week

KirunKapurFinal

Just in time for November’s end, this week’s feature offers a heady mix of augury and inspiration. Here’s the stunning title poem from Kirun Kapur’s new book, a powerful first first collection that charts indelible histories.

 

Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist

I don’t know when I realized he had one eye that watched me, alive, the other free to read

the heavens. Could he see I grew where others couldn’t? Could he read my face, in its

lines all their faces—my aunt’s that morning, in the mirror beside mine, hissed, don’t

stare, don’t forget details, it’s your honor to look for all of us. Did he see I hated his eye,

sometimes, hated my honor: the hand always above me. Which eye reads that hand?

Which eye can judge its weight? I wanted to look away. Wanted to cry. His untethered

eye was milky as a teacup. Why have you come here, daughter? Couldn’t say, My father

made me. Couldn’t blame, You looked at Her hand, but you didn’t save Her from a firing

squad. I wouldn’t confess, I am afraid I’ll spend my life under a hand that I can’t stop or

hold. He never touched my palm, imbedded with pencil lead, or the moon under my

thumb, scarred while opening a can. He assured me I’d make a fine wife, a fine mother of

fine sons, prove to be a credit to my family, while his iris swiveled like a wobbly fan. I

made up my mind right then to open my hands—their forked wires, their lines of names

and places—take them.

 

First appeared in FIELD

__________________________________________________

Kirun Kapur grew up in Hawaii and has since lived and worked in North America and South Asia. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, FIELD, The Christian Science Monitor and many other journals and news outlets. She is the winner of the 2012 Arts & Letters/Rumi Prize for Poetry and the 2013 Antivenom prize for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist. She is co-director of the popular Boston-area arts program The Tannery Series and is poetry editor at The Drum. Find out more at www.kirunkapur.com.

Potts
Potts

From the recently published collection, Trickster (University of Iowa Press), Randall Potts offers some uncanny arithmetic.

Math

I put 0 and 0 together
And arrived at nothing.
Nothing was accomplished.
I had done it perfectly.
I made 0 disappear into 0.
I made sure nothing was left.
There was no doubt of it.Next, I made 2 into two.
It was easy: numbers are words.
I made sure nothing was left.
I made sure nothing was said.
I made sure nothing was written
It was getting complicated.My thumb was black with ink.
So, everything I touched became
itself plus me.
Every addition complicated it.
Every mark was a number.
Every number mocked.

I settled on the number one.
I refused all manner of addition.
I was careful to touch nothing.
That’s impossible,” someone said.
I knew someone was right.

____________________________________________________________

Randall Potts is the author of Trickster, published this fall by the University of Iowa Press, Kuhl House poetry series. His previous collection of poems, Collision Center was published by O Books in 1994. His chapbook, Recant: (A Revision) was published by Leave Books in 1994.

He attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and has taught creative writing at the graduate and undergraduate levels at the University of San Francisco and California College of the Arts. He lives in Berkeley, California.

For more information on Trickster, visit: http://www.uiowapress.org/books/2014-fall/trickster.htm.

Dubrow

 Photo credit: Cedric Terrell

 

Casualty Notification

            The Only News I know / Is Bulletins all Day / From Immortality.

            – Emily Dickinson

 

Switch channels, stop

the breaking news,

press mute to hush

the anchorman’s reviews

of war, his litany

of each device

and bomb gone off today.

Silence the price

of bread or medicare

or gasoline.

Make the black pinpoint

on the TV screen.

Unplug the blackbox

from the mouth of the wall.

Uncradle the phone so

nobody can call.

Let the venetian blinds

blind everyone

to what’s outside—the dead,

indifferent sun,

the car pulled up along

the curb, the vexed

men in uniforms

looking for next

of kin. They bring a check

to pay the cost

of grieving. Their dark sedan

puffs out exhaust.

And now, the only sound

a daybird singing,

the only bulletin

a doorbell ringing.

 

Previously appeared in West Branch (issue 74, Spring 2014)

 

______________________________________________

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of four poetry collections, including Red Army Red and Stateside (Northwestern University Press, 2012 and 2010), and is the co-editor of The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume (Literary House Press, 2014). In 2015, University of New Mexico Press will publish her fifth book, The Arranged Marriage. Her work has appeared in Southern Review, The New England Review, and Prairie Schooner. She is the Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and an Associate Professor of creative writing at Washington College, where she edits the national literary journal, Cherry Tree.

 

 

Kathryn Rhett

Photo credit: Cade Leebron

As autumn deepens, poet and essayist Kathryn Rhett meditates on the magnetic forces of inner weather.

In Bed

I can’t stop talking about the weather.
You say not to, and I can’t stop.
Did they say it would rain?
The white light pours down—I don’t
think it will rain, but did they say?
I don’t know. It’s eight o’clock
in the morning—
one child has a fever
and another is in a play about death
and nobody’s slept.
He’s performing all the parts about death,
death itself and the one who doesn’t want to die.
The rain and the one who waits
for what they say—
they didn’t call for snow sometimes they’re wrong
it’s no wonder with all this
change in weather he has a fever.
You say not to, and I can’t
stop the white light that filters in
through fabric blinds.
If only you would with your hand
cover my mouth, lay down some violence
like what we watch with satisfaction on TV—
lay down some violence against me
while we wait for
death and what they say we’ll get.

The poem alludes to the play “Death Knocks” by Woody Allen, originally published in The New Yorker, July 27, 1968.

___________________________________________________________________

Kathryn Rhett’s essay collection, Souvenir, has just been published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. She is the author of Near Breathing, a memoir, and her poems and essays have appeared in Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, River Teeth and elsewhere. An associate professor at Gettysburg College, she also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte, and in the Pan-European MFA at Cedar Crest College.

For more info about Souvenir, visit: http://www.upne.com/0887485893.html.

Dan Brady

The Lost Ark

Between their wings, space only
for God. The air, charged. Within,
only dust. What shall we put in the ark?

Nothing, but the tablets. The gold
flaked away, baring acacia. The poles
broken. We cannot carry it any further.

What shall we put in the ark? Nothing,
but the testimony. The sand, cemented.
The faces, muted with time. Silent. Eyes closed.

What shall we put in the ark? Only that
which has been commanded. Only that
we may listen. Our attention. Our obedience.

Our vigilance. What shall we put
in the ark? Our ears, our hearts. Nothing,
but the testimony. How He speaks

and moves. The sound of his laughter.
The sound of our cries. His provision.
His victory. The walls, fallen. The necks,

broken. The hands, struck down.
The ark, untouched. Buried, unseen.
What shall we put in the ark? It is over,

destroyed, yet not undone. Nothing,
but what is there. Two tablets. Dust.
The power. The sound. Nothing. The dust.

But what?

 

___________________________________________________________

Dan Brady is is the author of two chapbooks, Cabin Fever / Fossil Record (Flying Guillotine Press, 2014) and Leroy Sequences (Horse Less Press, 2014). He is the poetry editor of Barrelhouse and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and son.

Jill McKenna Reed

Jill McKenna Reed

To-Do During Riots 1

To-Do During Riots 2

To-Do During Riots 3

To-Do During Riots 4

________________________________________________________________

Jill McKenna Reed is a poet, writing instructor, and beekeeper living in Portland, Oregon. She is co-editor of “Winged: New Writing on Bees,” an anthology of modern literary writing, forthcoming in October of 2014. Jill earned her MFA in Creative Writing Poetry at Portland State University. She is a native of the Chicago area.

Jess Burnquist

 

Jess Burnquist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Difficult Drama of Nature

How cool the air above the horizon—the sky lights up
As you take your leave. And this leaving feels severe
It feels the way trees look as they clutch rough edges of land
All the while being shaped by a persistent wind.

I can be traced by satellite. Here is my house on a virtual map
But what of your soul? What of this next-phase?

I might be the tree clawing to stay. Also, you might be the wind.
The moon pulls these thoughts across a barren sea named Desert.
You dwelled here for a time with your lens—finding the synesthesia
In the mindlessness of the mesquite. What did I forget
To tell you before you splintered from your body
So fraught and pale—so tired of the process of breath?

You should know that your intended stillness
Gave way to the most difficult shifts of voice.
Your lithograph—the tea stained print
Of hallway and woman in three point perspective
Would form a constellation. And, dear friend,
We spoke once about the dead light of stars—the endless travelling
To briefly illuminate. I ask of contrast, why life/death? Why black/white?

There are no areas unmarked by this gasp
Of collective color. I gaze through darkness
Upwards to notice the moon. How it forms
A shy smile—a knowing wisp of light._________________________________________________________________

Jess Burnquist was raised in Tempe, Arizona. She received her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Arizona State University. Her work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Persona, Clackamas Literary Review, Natural Bridge and various online journals. She is a recipient of the Joan Frazier Memorial Award for the Arts at ASU. Jess currently teaches English and Creative Writing at Combs High School in San Tan Valley, and has been honored with a Sylvan Silver Apple Award and grant for teaching. She resides in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area with her husband, son, and daughter.

 

Jen Ashburn

Jen Ashburn

The Flight Home                                                                  En Route to Louisville

Remember the laundry that hangs on bamboo fences, on the edges of corrugated tin, on the rafters next to fishing nets that clump together and billow like 18th-century petticoats. Remember the blue jeans, the yellow t-shirts, the thick-hooded sweatshirts. Remember the slender brown legs that slide into the jeans, the fat lips of the toddler who sat on your lap, the hands of the man who, while working his day job as a security guard in front of an ATM, tied the knots that made the nets. Remember the brown waters of the Mekong, the Nam Khong, the Nam Song, the heavy rains in the afternoon, the early morning mist. Remember the clear rising song of a gibbon family at dawn. Remember the Chinese rock music. The gristle and fat in the meat. Even remember the mosquitos and salmonella. Remember how to say, “Do you speak English?” in five languages. And thank you. And please. Let me remember even when I’m hunched with work, when I’m old and crumpled with life. This life. Thank you. Please.

_________________________________________________________________

Jen Ashburn recently completed her MFA at Chatham University in poetry and creative nonfiction. She has work published or forthcoming in Grey Sparrow, Pretty Owl Poetry, Anak Sastra, The Poet’s Billow, Puff Puff Prose & Poetry Vol. II and the anthology Make Mine Words (Trinity University Press). She lives in Pittsburgh.

sumana roy

sumana roy

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

At night, after you close the day like a book,

you grope for a bookmark.

That is peace, the house’s morphine,

for which you pay the bank interest.

The neighbour switches off the lights –

darkness becomes a sound.

The moonlight rests somewhere on the terrace,

making of your house its inn.

 

On a day like today,

you want to send your house on a holiday,

knowing that it will return to you

like a little child does, when thrown up into the sky.

Once the house was your child.

Now you are its slave.

It behaves like a pensioner.

 

(There are the cobwebs, the house’s cuticles,

always in need of paring.

Dreams make the skull of a house, you know.

You spend your life looking for the house’s tail.)

 

Once camels could pass through eyes of needles.

I laughed at the folly of my ancestors.

Now, as if in revenge, the three storeyed house passes through my eyes.

I see other things – impossibilities:

It is possible to hate humans, even those we love,

but your house?

Love returns after every bout of housekeeping,

like saliva in your mouth.

 

So every night you lock the gate.

And the boundary wall becomes an engagement ring.

sumana roy illustration

(Illustration by Avirup Ghosh)

_______________________________________________________________

Sumana Roy writes from Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal. Find her at www.sumanaroy.com

 

 

das

das

ON THE SHYNESS OF BIRDS

(From A Meghalaya Travelogue)

In that shiver of leaves, a certain

caution lives. It is a thought

as precise as suspicion. Then,

inside the gaps

 

linking rain and dawn, fall

the sure gasp of song. They

are not afraid,

no. Every move covers

 

the hills, navigates

the clouds. There is escape, quick whip

strokes in the sky, a rustle

of bodies in the scrubs, but

 

they are never here. Their songs

are shadows. The leaves

are shaken by visitations.

The only verification

is shit.

nitoo das illustration

(Illustration by Avirup Ghosh)

_________________________________________________________________

Nitoo Das is a birder, caricaturist and poet. She teaches English at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. Her first collection, Boki, was published in September 2008.

 

 

 

LAMENT

 After Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii

There was a time when giants ruled the earth

and women were gods, too. But here in this moment

of mortality who, woman, will hold back your heart

from the imminent cliffs of grief? You cry out instead

of speaking, and if you were allowed you’d take the oath

and follow your husband, guard him against the wretched

spell of death like a shadow of black silk unraveling,

like a permanent shadow forged onto the ground

after an atomic blast, your arms outstretched;

in the background a curtain surrenders in the wind.

Beloved woman, twisted with torment

your spinning head cries like a god out of control:

Be brief! Let the weight of your serrated edges

cut this sorrow out of me.

_____________________________________________________________________

Ruben Quesada is the author of Next Extinct Mammal (2011) and Luis
Cernuda: Exiled from the Throne of Night (2008). He is Poetry Editor
for Cobalt Review, Codex Journal and The Cossack Review. His writing
has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, The
Rumpus, and Superstition Review. He teaches English and creative
writing for the performing arts at Eastern Illinois University.

 

 

Body, Out 

(From Voicemail Poems)

There is a freshly-made bed next to mine,
that I don’t touch. There is a hum in the room, a hymn

in the sky. That evening two animal gods stood mountaintop,
and I sat below in the sunset, my body rooted, theirs extended,

all precision and color; hoof on mountaintop, bone and rock,
fur and mane; curve and wish, the desert

is nothing but curve and wish, the shhhh of air, the hush
of morning, of waking, of speaking to a silent room,

to an unbearable angel, to a movement not unlike birth,
legs open, body out

 

A Sad, Private Place

(From The Way Home)

 

This is how I imagine it would go if I did not prick my finger, if I did not stop growing while asleep; if it did not matter that, in these years, you lived and grew beautifully, independently. This is how I imagine it would go:

I sweep my fingers across your shoulder, following the curve of your collarbone to the place your skin dips.  Here, there is no bone to catch skin. We are in a sad, private place. It is not dark, it is not light. It was never a question of dark or light. Instead it is a question of sound, waves of noise thinner than needles. Here, in my imaginings, you cup your hands onto my shoulders, square my bare body toward yours. You say we will never find the way home. I say we are already there, even at times like these, times when death cannot see that she is birth, that she is animal, that she is flower. I lift my chin, tilt my head to the left, stretching my neck. Inside, we are screaming one great wall. Inside, there are mouths full of clean teeth, ready to tear it down.

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Ashley Inguanta is the Art Director of SmokeLong Quarterly. She is the
author of The Way Home (Dancing Girl Press/The Writing Disorder) and
For The Woman Alone (Ampersand Books).

 

 

 

 

 

EPITHALAMION FOR OUTLAWS: ACE HIPORST

for Sara Nicholson & C. Violet Eaton

THE STORY

X & B buy ug gun. X & B full n luv.

 

 

ACE WATCHES THE DAY THEY MEET

X yullz, Buy um muddy muddy mulx-n-juzz fuv yud mum—mummy luv, B’z mummy luv luv luv muddy muddy mulx-n-juzz. bud nug gun—nuw gunz fuddu luk fug gud luk—luky luky mulx-n-juzz—zummy bulby bums wud nud wun buk bud bugz uf muddy-muddy mulx-n-juzz. Fuxy vuyz yu gud.

Fuk my vuyz yu zummy kud. Juz mud ud dum nd buy mu zum nuw guns.

 

 

ACE WARNS X: B IS TROUBLE

X buzzd, Buddy flubbd. muddy muddy mulx-n-juzz! wud Buddy buy my guwn? U n flux. flux-fluxed bu dubbd—wuf? X uz lux blud. Wud Buddy buy my gun? Buddy uz “muddy muddy mulx-n-juzz.” jud wuk duwn. buy un gun. wuf? X gunny buy my bulb. fun, fun.

X—wud ug guy, wud ug guy, X buy ug bud, buy ug bud. wud u? funny guy, funny guy. Buddy buy ug gun. un buk! un buk? X & Y buy ug jug—jug uf muddy muddy mulx-n-juzz! u wud. Y, u gunny mulb my bulb. kull duwn: luv uf muddy muddy mulx-n-juzz!

 

 

ACE ASKS BUDDY

Buddy dudn’d zud bud Buddy luvd B. B fud Bunny—Bunny & X. X & Bunny.

Buddy dun mud yuf. Buddy nud lux. Wy X gud Bunny-wuf? Wy nud Buddy gud luky? Wy nud Buddy & Bunny? Buddy um dummy.

Buddy luk duk.
Buddy buy ug gun.

 

 

BUDDY TELLS ACE

X & B fund guld. Lufd wud ull du gunz & du guld.
Dummy dumn yung kud. Zummy dum lufd wud ull my bulbs.

 

 

BUNNY SAYS HI

Wu Bunny & X. Wu dub blunkz.
Wud zum muddy-muddy mulx-n-juzz?

 

 


______________________________________
Meg Ronan is the author of the obligatory garnish argument (SpringGun Press 2014). Her poems have appeared in 1913: a journal of formsAPARTMENT PoetryRobot MelonWest Wind Review, & other lovely journals. She works as a shop girl at Bridge Street Books in Washington, DC and tries to be like a good party.

erik

love on the windswept Cartesian plane

 

— 1.

Forth from the intersecting origin

each number is newly born

and ages as it goes

 

this is the realm of the rich

and the shallow, an empty quadrant

where they think they exist

 

but to imagine you and all you love

can be positive pushes you out of

the plane, into imaginary numbers.

 

— 2 and 4.

If negative multiplies with positive

their creation is incomplete

a kind of un-being

 

negative numbers have empty hearts,

must reach out to others alike

else we are bound to fall

 

into shadow quadrants that measure

loss like childhood fears, doubts

trapped in closets

 

— 3.

While hopes lie hidden in the un-space

behind mirrors and old bookshelves

waiting for backwards and down

 

to see all the others are empty like them

then (and only) creation is positive

and all finally find balance.

 

___________________________________________________

???????????????????????????????

Erik Richardson lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his family and assorted pets. In addition to teaching, he attends grad school in psychology, coaches several award-winning robotics teams, and runs a small communications firm. He is a three-time winner of the Gahagan Prize at the world’s largest Irish festival, in Milwaukee, received honorable mention for the Hixson Award, and is a regular contributor to Centrifugal Eye. His work has appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Verse Wisconsin, and Chiron Review, among others.

 

 

 

 

the birthbone’s connected to the deathbone

I am setting a place for each person I love, so they will be comfortable when they set down and start to talk. The morning comes, the morning lates. The lake around which people gather claps its light applause.

The people who I love are growing infections. They florally reconstitute. I am wishing their stamens. I am unconscious. What lips these flowers will vaunt.

The content is set neutrally. We wonder how to marble each audible shift in tone. For instance, when addressing the child you were, I am a foreign stance; but when addressing the adult you were, I am dancing.

The lake stills. Going out to take pictures of these different versions of ourselves, we shade without corollary, we color and color without any line meaning less.

 

 

The things that feed us

the justice of the megaphone

in a tube or glass-like cylinder

beneath the want of a young century

or centaur, maybe, yes, this centaur

gloating over her half horsed future

with one cone of noise and another

cone of ice cream, nice ice cream

nice fantasy melting into toddle-dum and tweedle

 

the brick of the backbone

the slope of the normally seated office-drones

once they rise and stretch their morning coffee

breath a fog of spreadsheets and search engine

optimization cubed into the menu, no salt or

sanguinary attachments, the able-bodied

mongering their courses, their copses, their

closing-time fertility and all the dashes that

have been forgotten within their names

run together strings of letters – constant press

of vowels on the order of the day.

 

the abstract of the plinth

in the court of modern pining

with a toothsome sweetness in your

abalone jesus – how we form attachment

with the things that feed us, with the hands,

intestines, and the instruments, the steel and flour,

the bed of the bet with the bed and with honor to lay

down heavy each setting, each pace stepped back

toward repetition among seasons – they change me

from pallid to downy, they change you from

languid to delicate and each of our descriptions

pin us here to our fronted and shameful bodies

the lead of the forehead of the mechanical shoe

stuck out and we are all tongues and soles. empty

mouths to be shit out and tied shut.


 

________________________________________________

Tony Mancus is the author of four chapbooks – most recently Bye Sea from Tree Light Books and Again(st) Membering, out this fall from Horse Less Press. In 2008, he co-founded Flying Guillotine Press with Sommer Browning. They make small chapbooks. He currently works as a technical writer and lives with his wife Shannon and two yappy cats in Arlington, VA.

 

 

 

 

 

Am Ha’aretz*

In the gardens of givat ram

We never saw

Solomon’s turtledoves

For seven years the winter

And the rain               she and I

Strangers in the midrahov   she and I

Cracked cobblestone

Once a market road

Deserted on a sabbath evening

All the jackals are gone

And every day in july

Tempting that last stretch of sky     she and I

The end so close                   we lied

Beyond reach                        somewhere the mountains in the mountains

Among lotus shrubs in the Galilee              she and I never saw

Wild goats rising up

In contest                   the grackles

Picking off their parasites

And what of those nights

In the snow in the snow

Sweeping the midrahov

Those nights when I was repossessed

By am ha’aretz

After I lost her

In ammei ha’aretz

These roads I do not know I do not know

her arms anymore her arms

those child’s songs

in arabic         when I was a summer day

falling

into the tongue of a woman             she and I

those lost gardens of the desert

that die each night

in ammei ha’aretz

 

* In the Hebrew canon, “the people of the land” (the singular am ha’aretz) refers to the Jews. The plural ammei ha’aretz refers to foreigners, or non-Jews living within Eretz Yisrael.

 

 Gods Our Ancestors Did Not Fear

after Joseph

You say we don’t name our children

after the living

and if I tattoo my body

I won’t be buried

in this house of eternity

 

As if I ever said let me in

I’m not the right one

I’m breaking night

in a palace where the roof the roof

I let that motherfucker burn

 

I’ve dreamt my way out of prison

and I’ve still got a bone to pick

with what went down in canaan

 

Blood is not blood

like it was before

I’m more than this body

you spared and sold

 

I saved a great house

while you a famine bore

 

As if I’d let my own grave grow cold

 

As if I couldn’t send you into the wilderness

 

for spilt blood on my coat

for twenty pieces of silver

for twisting my name

in our native tongue

 

beware the dreamers

you leave for dead in the cistern

we run our branches over the walls

 

we never stay in the ground long

 

and you will come when we call

 

only we come back wrong

 

only we come back

with the foreign gods hanging on

 

_______________________________________________________________________________

Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a CantoMundo Fellow and the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013). Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Bayou, Puerto del Sol,  and other publications. In Fall 2014, she will be a visiting writer at the University of Texas at Brownsville’s Writers Live Series. Rosebud is an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts (vidaweb.org). Find out more about her at 7TrainLove.org