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Poems of the Week

The Smoke that Settles

The smoke that settles comes from somewhere else.
Carried by breath exhaled like word of mouth.
It’s the bastard offspring of old things and delivered by fate.
Thick with the smell of fresh endings brought on too soon.
Sneaking up on you making eyes burn,
constricting airways and reminding us of what power is.

The smoke that settles travels miles and miles.
Looking for just the right place to weigh heavily
on the hearts and minds of men,
with no regard for their strength or season.
In time, they may rage with fiery passion
or wither in cold air doused by fear.

The smoke that settles will cover us all at some point
forcing us to inhale its conquests and either become a victim
or to exhale new fire warming those around us.
Igniting wild across old lands and forging new justice.
The kind that matters only if you believe
that from old must come new
despite time and sometimes in spite of you.

For I never want to be the smoke that settles.
How sad to be stagnant and blue.
It’s the fires’ job to inspire and create new life.
Leaving behind a legacy drifting behind
smoldering and smoking.
It finds where it belongs and sings songs in remembrance of those it took
with unchained fervor and blind desire.
Because let us not forget that the smoke that settles
will always taste like fire.

New Year’s in Corfu

Above the village of Gastouri, during Kaiser Wilhelm II’s reign, Corfu’s Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, summered at the Achillion Palace. A recreation of a Phaeacian Palace, it was used as a hospital during World War II. It was later transformed into a casino.

I would have kept us as we were
above the village of Gastouri
in winter, pensiones closed,
vineyards ripe with kumquats, fennel,
stray cats crouching under rain pipes,
olive nets damped down with mud.

Even though it was not our island,
not our goats to unchain from the hills’
Phaeacian ruins’ stiff-jawed rockrose,
each tree scraping starfish from the sea,
each beach a frieze of Odysseus’s shipwreck.

Even though the road to Perithia
was brocaded shut with ferns,
the stone fields fevered with poppies,
and Mount Pantokrator sloped with crocuses
where we walked to that high monastery,
gold-headed thistles igniting the apse.

Even though we lost our way
in the island’s windy basilica halls
where goat bells clanged for its Old World Empress
whose daughters, dogged in winter pelts,
sprawled on marble by the icon kiosks,
and priests, swinging their rust-gold lanterns,
darkened the storefronts of lingerie
on the cold slate sun-bleached promenades
of gold-foiled chocolates and baklava bakeries,
dim bulbs half-lighting skinned lambs on hooks.

Even with the shepherds sinking beer cans into fog
to measure the tide of their clambering sheep,
their bleating and beclouded Ionian Sea—

even at that bottom of January,
the Sirocco blowing through Judas trees,
Santas noosed from loose shutter hinges,
a freezing rain hoofing over roofs,
and the two of us, embers in an emptying tavern
with an out-of-tune bouzouki band,
spinach pie and gritty wine—

I would have kept us as we were
knowing that the spring would bring
its umber clouds above the sea,
the casino re-colonized by black moss
and tulips, and Calypso’s spellbound
mirage of an island, shingled with egrets,
would fade in the tradewinds
as the fishing boats flashed off
their last-catch starboard lights,
and the Virgin of Kassiopi, the Saint of Sailors,
would throw her crossbones overboard,
blow our votive out.

______________________________________________
Jennifer Elise Foerster received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts (July 2007) and her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2003). She has received fellowships to attend Soul Mountain Retreat, Naropa Summer Writing Program, Idyllwild Summer Poetry Program, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center. From 2008-2010, Jennifer was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. Of German, Dutch, and Muscogee descent, she is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, and grew up living internationally. Jennifer lives in San Francisco.

After Rapture

I am found kneeling
beneath the last
_____blasted tree. Winter

on my shoulders
and a sparrow’s red skull lodged
_____in my mouth.

I have cut my hair
to feed the fire. Remnants of a city
_____dusting my lips.

No nations left to die for
or hide in. Only this voice—
_____woven through the cracks

of a halved piano: that sound
a doe makes when the arrowhead
_____replaces the day

with an answer to the ribs’
quiet hollows. I reach
_____for the charred branch

and push. Blood dots the dust
beneath me. My wet face titled
_____skyward. I push until he starts

to crown, my name already dripping
from his lips. He writhes
_____through me, scraping

for that precious shard
of light, where the wolves
_____have already gathered—

their half-moon fangs
brightening the hour. But I push
_____anyway. I open. I wound. And you—

dear reader, you will call it
the beginning
_____of Adam. And I,

the fool who chose
to live, I will call it
_____forgiveness.


__________________________________________________
Born in 1988 in Saigon, Vietnam, Ocean Vuong is the author of the chapbook BURNINGS (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2010), which was selected by the American Library Association’s “Over The Rainbow” list of recommended LGBT reading. He is a recipient of a Kundiman fellowship, a 2012 Stanley Kunitz Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Connecticut Poetry Society’s Al Savard Award, as well as six Pushcart Prize nominations. Poems appear in The American Poetry Review, Verse Daily, RHINO, Southern Indiana Review, Guernica, South Dakota Review, and Passages North, amongst others. He keeps a blog at www.oceanvuong.tumblr.com

THE ICE

:“What are you dreaming of?”
:“The ice.”
:“But you are on the ice.”
:“I am thinking of the ice I will be on.”
:“We are standing on the ice right now,
facing each other. We are on the ice
touching lips, we are squinting out
at sails that move as if on a track.”
:“I only know that we have not fallen through.”

:“What are you dreaming of?”
:“The ice.”
:“But you just dreamt of ice.”
:“That was a different ice. This time we
are indoors. The light is blue in that
underwater way. The sadness is dimmed,
and at the end of the day, you are fetching.”
“What are we looking for?”
:“I can’t remember.”

:“What are you dreaming of?”
:“The ice.”
:“But we are indoors. Blue light, et cetera.”
:“No, we are standing at the edge where
the ice breaks against the sand, triumphant.”
:“Breaks what?”
:“Exactly.”

:“Where will we go when it splits in two?”
:“When what splits?”
:“The way I know all of your et ceteras exactly.
And the mornings when we track the orange
light from under blankets, watch strings
of dust sway in the ceiling’s breeze.”
:“To the ice. I will be in the middle
of the lake, out past the barriers, and you
can pull me back to shore.”

__________________________________________________________
Oliver Bendorf lives on an isthmus in Madison, Wisconsin, where the ice cover on the lakes is shortening every year. His poems have been published in or are forthcoming from Best New Poets 2012, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Redivider, The Volta, Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, he is currently the Martha Meier-Renk Distinguished Graduate Fellow in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he edits Devil’s Lake.

What Night Knows
After Gaugin’s Le Cheval Blanc

Some women ride horses.
Some women are horses.
Some horses are wolves
who have lost their teeth
and are ridden by women.
Some wolves are horses
ridden wild with dreams.
Some women are dreams
in the shape of horses
free of the ghost of wolves.
Some ghosts are women,
their bent air a kind of riding.
Some women ride dreams
and bend the air, freeing
the ghosts and the wolves,
and the horses.

___________________________________________________________

Lauren K. Alleyne is a native of Trinidad and Tobago. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and is currently the Poet-in-Residence and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Dubuque. Alleyne is a Cave Canem graduate, whose work has been awarded prizes such as the 2010 Small Axe Literary prize, the 2003 Atlantic Monthly Student Poetry Prize, the Robert Chasen Graduate Poetry Prize at Cornell, an International Publication Prize from The Atlanta Review, and honorable mention in the 2009 Reginald Shepherd Memorial Poetry Prize and the 2003 Gival Press Tri-Language Poetry Contest. She has been published in several journals and anthologies, including Crab Orchard Review, The Cimarron Review, Black Arts Quarterly, The Caribbean Writer, The Belleview Literary Review, Growing Up Girl and Gathering Ground. She is co-editor of From the Heart of Brooklyn, and her chapbook, Dawn In The Kaatskills, was published in 2008 by Longshore Press.

Life’s a Beach

Life is waves. Waves
create a craving for Dr. Pepper,
something sweet to cut salty somersaults that get water in yr inner
ear, and deft kelp evasion, and hours and hours
coaxing friends further in but they never want to go out as far as you–
past the point of wave-beaten, past the point of even being
subject to waves, where the huddled ocean cups
you and blows like soup. Some diagnoses
require a different type of medicine, like shots
of expensive silver tequila reminiscent of beach sand or smooth
pie crust like a desert island which may just be
the proven psychological tide
of butter, but what’s the difference?
Life is waves.

In terms of spectral dynamics,
and guitar riffs, and ambulance sirens
and your “type” of guy, which is basically any pipe
cleaner over 6’2– who all eventually say move
on– and especially with tattoo
pain and the nerve death before a root
canal, or calls from the reservation
a note to say someone else is in the hospital or has passed
on, and sudden 98 degree days when you jet to meet
one of those interchangeable gentlemen jetties and forget to signal
on the freeway and the SUV next to you crashes
into the divider and rolls and you had summer school
with him–
life is waves.

But to a lesser extent,
how about kneeling
close to shore, or sitting down
in the small sharp waves. Breakers
fill your mouth like salty chocolates.


______________________________________________________
Tommy “Teebs” Pico is the driving force behind birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that publishes art and writing. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn and is working on a collection of poetry. Check out his Tumblr.

Ornithology Lesson

First thing we should do/if we see each other again is to make/a cage of our bodies
—Nick Flynn, forgetting something

1.
You find me pirouetting slow
in a tent before an exaltation of men,
dim lights, the scent of refuse
and popcorn and tobacco spit,
the clink of coins changing hands,
the lure of something both sordid
and sanctified.

2.
You follow me everywhere.
Where do you sleep?
I show you my thatch of straw.
What do you eat?
I serve you cave crickets and potato bugs.
How do you bathe?
We stand outside for an entire rain
leaping into puddles.
Why are the feathers on your throat red?
I say that is only for my mate to know.
How would your mate know?
My mate would not have to ask.

3.
Weary of your eyes,
I introduce you to Python Woman.
Her grip, you mention, is impressive,
as is the overlapping leather of her scales,
but you find her endless bunching
and uncoiling unnerving. And the skins
all over her floor, just bad housekeeping.
Venom clings to every fiber.
It will take weeks to rid the smell
from your clothes.

4.
The first time you touch me is an accident.
We are laughing together,
as though you are not only interested
in my hollow bones or my tendency to molt
before I go onstage.
As though you would with anyone,
your hand reaches for me, eyes snapped
tight as two lids over jar mouths
your fingers graze a feather—halt
when they remember.

5.
I’ve seen you sitting mostly naked
patching together found feathers.
Are those supposed to be ________?

6.
The ringmaster wants you to leave.
The bloodcoils around her eyes
convince you it is, in fact, time to go.
She sends the twins to watch you pack.
They argue over what kind of business
you might try that would be considered funny.

7.
You want to know the future.
Will I see you again?
Uncertain.
Do you feel anything for me?
I do not know.
Anything?
I tilt my head and do not blink. You hate that.
Then, goodbye.
I look to the sky, smell rain.

8.
Why I no longer fly:
From here, it is the same view.

Everyone is a fossil,
excavated marionettes breaking
through crests of earth.

From here, a collection of upturned
eyes is a light show splayed
over uncut stones.

Here, we are all seraphs caught
in a mist net, and left
abandoned by the sky.

Ornithology Lesson from Landon Antonetti on Vimeo.

________________________________________________________
Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem Fellow, Bianca Spriggs, is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky. The author of Kaffir Lily and How Swallowtails Become Dragons, Bianca is the recipient of a 2013 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry, multiple Artist Enrichment and Arts Meets Activism grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and a Pushcart Prize Nominee. In partnership with the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, she is the creator of “The SwallowTale Project” a traveling creative writing workshop designed for incarcerated women.

dream in which you survive and in the morning things are back to normal

except, I found tufts of fur at the foot of
the bed _____my muscles bruised beneath
cracked bone _____I thought we were walking
through the woods ___ standing not-close
enough while I tried to find something to pull
from my mouth _____ something that would make
sense ___the ease in which my love for
almost everything folds into itself hard with
waiting _____there was salt in your eyes
my nail beds ached, dull at first ___my mouth
burned with iron ____a small guttural noise
kept spilling __and you ran and wouldn’t stop
_______ and you wouldn’t even turn back

_______________________________________________
Aricka Foreman is a Poetry MFA candidate at Cornell University. A Cave Canem fellow, her work has appeared in The Drunken Boat, Torch Poetry: A Journal for African American Women, Minnesota Review, Union Station Magazine, Bestiary Magazine, and Vinyl Poetry. She is a Poetry Editor of MUZZLE Magazine, and Assistant Editor of EPOCH. She is originally from Detroit.

AND THEN WE SAW THE DAUGHTER OF THE MINOTAUR

Poet, comma. It is thus the delay,
which is also a beginning. That we can link eyes
across her time-space continuum is another hyena.
The female elongates, bares fangs, and a trash
compactor recycles. Hyena gives
in the recycling fashion. Phoenix, no more false
flight from holes; now balloons eat at decay.
Hunger denuded us, too. But will you give
up your death for me? With surgery, I outright hollow
the monster to breathe across windows. I don her hollow
whole. She writes back in the pauses of haze.
Her and her tragic magic. We are all cross-dressing
in tiny wings with the machines of bones to go on.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRjYIPLUiKY&version=3&hl=en_GB]

___________________________________________
Of her most recent book from Litmus Press, I Want to Make You Safe, John Ashbery described Amy King‘s poems as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.” Safe was one of the Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011, and it was reviewed, among others, by the Poetry Foundation and the Colorado Review. King co-edits Esque Magazine and the PEN Poetry Series with Ana Bozicevic, has conducted workshops at such places as the San Francisco State University Poetry Center, Summer Writing Program @ Naropa University, Slippery Rock University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and interviews for VIDA: Woman in Literary Arts. She was also honored by The Feminist Press as one of the recent “40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism” awardees and received the 2012 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

To the Night Shark

Past dusk I dived

Fled without flashlight

Went against the current I knew

Would bring me to you

Tooth-skinned from nose to fin

Mortal and counter

Clockwise across you

Skin I gave up to touch

Streamed against the current

One moment still mortal

I was without struggle

without air instinct speech

Skin dissolving between each

Snaggle-toothed stroke

Touch babbling bled

Only then

With the current

Immortal

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znmhzy6FU6g&hl=en_GB&version=3]

___________________________________________________
Rosebud Ben-Oni is a playwright at New Perspective Theater, where she is currently at work on a new play. Educated at New York University, the University of Michigan and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ms. Ben-Oni was a Rackham Merit Fellow and a Horace Goldsmith Fellow. She is also co-editor for “HER KIND,” the official blog of “VIDA: Women in Literary Arts”. Her works have appeared in Puerto Del Sol, Arts & Letters, and The Texas Poetry Review. Her first book of poems SOLECISM is forthcoming from Virtual Artists’ Collective in 2013. Find her at rosebudbenoni.com.

FIRST SNOW

Split peas simmer to a chalky paste when held
long enough over fire. Suspended over heat

I’ve been known to change properties: I said
I would never forgive. Beside my pot the silver knife

blade longer than my hand smells like onion
& crushed garlic; I have held this same blade out

toward his chest. A year ago I knew cold,
but now I marvel at how winter brings

wanderers inside: the scurrying mice
through the walls. The quilt collected

at the foot of the bed like old receipts. Last night
I slept on the higher side of the mattress,

let him back into open spaces. Outside the first snow
falls; we might have melted.

__________________________________________________
DéLana R.A. Dameron is the author of How God Ends Us, a collection of poems selected by Elizabeth Alexander for the 2008 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize. Dameron’s poetry, non-fiction and fiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and she has received fellowships from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, the Cave Canem Foundation, Soul Mountain Retreat and New York University where she received her Master in Fine Arts in poetry. Dameron has conducted readings, workshops and lectures all across the United States and Europe. A native of Columbia, South Carolina, she currently resides in New York City. http://delanaradameron.com

Dear Uncle Sam

He’s not your type.
He kisses men with eyes
open, talks with them
shaded or averted
to acquiescent asses.
When cordoned
& questioned, he laughs.
Beware. His laughter beguiles.
Beware. He never shoots
straight. Always curls
fetal in the arms of any one
who can still him. Never sleeps
alone. Give him a gun,
& he may turn it into a prop
for a plié. Give him a gun,
& he may turn it on himself
& every fool who believes you.
He’s claimed bodies in every
major city east of Chicago, saw mine
heaving among strobe-lit throng
& marked me: his sweat clinging
to my nape, our silhouettes
on bedroom walls,
now a mirage blurred
by desert dunes, now
only the caress of lines
hardened hands scrawl:
I’ll be home next
month … I’ll be home
next year … I’ll be
… I’ll …

_____________________________________________
L. Lamar Wilson is the author of Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press, 2013). Poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in African American Review, Los Angeles Review, jubilat, The 100 Best African American Poems, and other journals and anthologies.

PHOTO: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Mother puts on my lipstick

standing behind me, dragging the lipstick
across my lips as if they were her own.
Her free hand steadies my face. It is the red of her nails
I want on my mouth, the nails so lacquered
they catch the flash of my camera and hold it.
Mother puts on my lipstick and I stare
into the mirror, my lower lip glowing
beneath her hands. Her hands which are all of her,
and which hold me this way, as she wants me.

________________-after a photograph by Elinor Carucci

________________________________________________
Matthew Siegel is a poet and essay writer living in San Francisco. His work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, Southern Humanities Review, TheRumpus.net, and elsewhere. He is a former Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford and currently teaches writing and literature at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He can be found online at http://matthewsiegel.us/. He tweets at @MatthewSiegel_.

Photo by Kari Orvik

TORCH SONG: QUIT SONG

Men isn’t there always the dead
letter office yes wasn’t your wage
a hogwash wage & there’s always
a furnace waiting for men who’ll
burn our undeliverables for pay

Eureka if you want to look past
the mist back into the timberland
you squint like you’re muscling
your way through the scab yard
& wish on your fly ash at the gate

___________________________________________
Torch Songs 
is a collaboration between Allyson Paty and Danniel Schoonebeek. Poems from Torch Songs have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin HouseDenver QuarterlyGulf CoastThe AwlColorado ReviewFailbetterLoaded BicycleBridge, and elsewhere. Both poets live in Brooklyn.

LANDSCAPE

 

____________________________________________
Tom Sleigh has won numerous awards, including the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters,The Shelley Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Guggenheim Foundation grant. He currently serves as director of Hunter College’s MFA program in Creative Writing. He is the recipient of the Anna-Maria Kellen Prize and Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin for Fall 2011. His most recent book is Army Cats.

Myth of Cosmos

It stands outside of myself, something round, flecked with spit, like a moon«
growing out of my nails, moon« of phenomenal lactescence.

I push my head into the roundess & a cloud« is my face
& I see particles of mist« floating away.

There’s nothing I can do or limb or crook of elbow, inutile
& something is growing under my tongue, a word, a love«

A deer falls from my eyes, rolls down my cheek, & I name
the cloud« with the overgrown tongue

& a brush of flowers falls on my face
to toe I’m blessed, blessing

painted on my nails my palms I d«ance, palm flashing thigh buckling
silvered belly stars.

___________________________________________________________
Monica Mody is the author of two chapbooks, and her work can also be found in journals such as the Boston Review, Wasafiri, Upstairs at Duroc, pyrta, Lantern Review, and Nether, among others. Her first book, KALA PANI, is forthcoming from 1913 Press later this year. Monica has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame and is currently a doctoral candidate in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.