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Poems of the Week

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.


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.


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



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


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.

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,, 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 He tweets at @MatthewSiegel_.

Photo by Kari Orvik


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.



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.

The Catalogue

Always keep evidence it will make you stronger or Learning to Photograph the Personal

Nan Goldin (1953-
Nan One Month after Being Battered, NYC, 1984

Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs along the route,
entering the dark alley way behind Mr. ______,
Oh, the witch? Whatever, my story is scarier.
On their knees, folded into gimps accessorized with standard
red ball in mouth, I’m sure you’ve watched Pulp Fiction.
Gretel, of course, is Victor in his Heidi-drag.
Breadcrumbs aren’t great measures,
birds come and take them away.
We here at Koshy’s haven’t heard of H and G since then.
But lessons we have learnt from this telling:
One: No one should walk around with standard issue table tennis balls.
Two: Heidi-drag is old-fashioned.
Three: Never mingle with drag queens unless you are in drag.
And Four: Gay men carry their hearts in their umbrellas.
We do the same thing in love,
led by a leash mimicking each of our favourite females and their follies,
and bookmark them with film songs, you know, another lover will come
and take the songs away.
We’ve learnt to hide our playlists and only weep over lost umbrellas.
We have learnt to imagine everything is better than getting wet in the torrents of love. But, sometimes, even the veteran spotters of this change
can’t tell it is coming. They stand out in the midst of the action, like Isaiah
and his neighbours in the fields of Tanzania, listening in for the aerial attack,
first comes the noise, then, the advance party followed by the swarm.

The swarm of red-billed quelea, locust birds. But these coffee-shop veterans have learnt it is the excesses of conversation that are the tip-offs,
the mumbled offerings, not the rambunctious approaching of the quelea.
You must pay attention to words said just before speeding off to the urinal,
always look out for the subtext in the sentence that led to ex-lovers walking out
for a desperate or even innocent cigarette, or the roving eye to spot the person one was actually supposed to meet.
Unlike Isaiah our shouting will not dispense with this friend: love.
Even all our vigilance will not alert us to this visitor: love.
The one who will throw out your heart and then set out looking for it: love.
Look at Nan Goldin’s face, it is battered. But she makes this photograph to remind herself that love, her friend, visitor and heart-thrower will find her. Even the next time, she will follow blindly but this time, she will bargain.
Perhaps, our approach to love should be Goldin’s approach to photography:
a healing art. Love like Goldin’s photography will teach us the indulgence of self-reflection, relearning the erotic and the slippage of gender.
And we will be the changed.
No, no. He didn’t batter me. This is not the story of abuse. He left.
Stay, don’t move. Perhaps, I will come back, we will meet again, are horrible things to say. Not to specify time is just cruel. It is April. Actually, it was like all Septembers in Bangalore, it rained in the evenings, it was chilly at night and it was always sunny in the day. Except, this September, you turned around, ah, to just jump forward like Bichonnade and bite your heel.
But no, I am Dibutades, I know my place, it is to chronicle, to make etchings, be it with word. Yours is with light and you weren’t told.
My man might have left, diving into the abyss of the world, discovering newer treasures and the perfect light. But, I stayed, remembering the half-forgotten truths, the fresh lies and the incisive moment.
This History bitch, she’s quite dramatic, you look at the setting.
Me: Int/Kitchen/Dim lighting
Him: Ext/Kitchen Door/Facing darkness
Scripted by a television serial director. But everyone is hooked.
The series finale is perfect. Such a twist in the plot, ending on a bottle episode
with a cliffhanger. Does he leave? Does she convince him to stay? Why is the father in the room? Does the father represent the voyeuristic values of the average television watcher?
Spoiler Alert: If I didn’t pop my head into an oven somewhere in the series. Then, he left. I stayed. He photographed, I wrote. We kept in touch.

Joshua Muyiwa, not yet 27, started writing because he was told, ‘it is time to stop seeming arty and pretentious and actually earn the tags by doing something’. He is queer. In Bangalore, he’s either at Koshy’s drinking tea, smoking outside, drinking rum & coke at Chin Lung or working at the Attakkalari India Biennial 2013 festival office. Earlier this year, he had his Miss World moment, when he won the Toto Award for Creative Writing in English for The Catalogue, a series of poems on the history of photography and poetry told through the breakdown of a relationship between a photographer and a poet. But, mostly, he likes to imagine that he spends his time making dosas and streaming tv shows.

Exile: an invitation to a struggle
(from My Rice tastes like the lake. Berkeley, CA: Apogee Press, 2011)

Mother tells me to eat well.
Mother who knows best, asks,
how are you? She has asked this
all of my life. There are only two
answers to this question. Two answers
keep us mother and son,
mother and daughter.

The distance is a question.
The question is also a statement
of a struggle.

If the word is a struggle,
you understand.  

We cannot continue as we are.
We cannot forget we are guests
who have overstayed. I invite you
to living against (as we do.)
It is not enough to have one tongue.
It cannot point to everything
and in every direction.

We do not use our mother tongue
for our lovers. Beloved,
we speak your words.
What do we want? Freedom.
When do we want it? Now.
in the mother tongue. Free now
from the notion of continuity.

The present is the utterance;
now is too late.

Flowers plucked for later,
not now, they are dead. Stem,
stamen, piston: I do not ask
if they are perfect.

I am not to blame for the flies
who dive into a cup of tea.

Life after death is a belief.
There is no heaven because
there is no hell.

After rain, a swarm of flies
misbehave like stubborn stubble.
Claimed by multi-legged beings,
hair loosens from its comfort of a braid.

Rain seeps into the animals who lie
still, the wind bored from blowing.
Until sun convinces us to take
our layers off; dismisses the hats
we wear.

We predict the contraction
of bones, of skin stretching to oblige
the dress picked for a summer caper.

It is not possible to remain
free of the suffering of knowing
and of ignorance.

In fifty years, dogs from rival villages
have lost and won their wars. Their heirs walk
with tails between their legs.

We pray for a better life.

The inevitable, here, then gone.
Snow bound ground, snow topped ground, the only
assurance we have
is, it will melt.

Our bodies covered
and uncovered
are not the same.

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa is the author of My rice tastes like the lake, In the Absent Everyday and Rules of the House (all from Apogee Press). My rice tastes like the lake was a finalist for the Northern California Independent Bookseller’s Book of the Year Award for 2012. Tsering grew up in the Tibetan exile communities of Nepal and India. She recently moved to Santa Cruz where she is pursuing a PhD degree in Literature at UCSC.


It is errant.

It errs around the town to which it belongs
and errs like a word constantly misspoken.

It is taken out of its regular place and placed
in exile.

Exile is an outside of the kind strange animals inhabit.

A sharing of skins occurs.

On a branch above all this a species of bird
watches: a sparrow.

The thing driven out like a screw from its wall
lies open to rust

until it errs again
in the strange place outside animals inhabit.

It wanders around and returns, a cur.

It hungers and spits.

It takes off one skin and puts on another.

Its new skin is inside out
and like a net cast

to the sea it collects more and more
of itself, wreaking.

A wretched thing is alone
until it is not.

Among others of its kind
a wretched thing is still wretched

and when the sparrow lifts off, a final arousal
of pity,

the wretched thing is unwatched and still —

Aditi Machado’s poetry is forthcoming or has most recently appeared in The Iowa Review, The New England Review, Blackbird and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (ed. Sudeep Sen, 2012). In 2009 she received the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize as well as the TFA Award for Creative Writing. She received her MFA from Washington University in Saint Louis, where stays on as the Third Year Fellow in Poetry for the academic year 2012-2013. She is the poetry editor of Asymptote, an international journal of translation.

The Master of Ceremonies

Laydes and Gentilemen, welcome
_____to a world made strange
_____for us.
___________Allow this introduction:
Rudolf is my name, on earth
_______________________I was called
Ruddy Bumpkin by my wife, also
I was a train conductor, fancy that
_______________________we’re being held
here for a moment.
___________Look around—
low ceiling, unnatural light like a dentist’s office,
everyone puffy
and unequal to their day. Smile at me neighbor, I’m
your neighbor. HiHello.

An extended allegory, everyone turn to the Gentileman
or laydie to your right. This is the face for whom you are
should the ship of god sink which it won’t.
_____________________________Say Hihello.

Imagine you are turned to the person on your right,
Who says, “what the bloody fuck I’m late for work
five times this week they’ve stopped believing it’s
_______________________the train,” you can
either acquiesce without committing
_______________________to your saucy friend,
or scold him for his language or
_______________________decide that he’s a liar and
was late because he’s never learned
_______________________to tie a double Windsor right
and hence the lengthy skinny part
_______________________of his tie like the tip
of a reptile tongue
_______________________tween the teeth of his belt
and his woolen shirt lip protrudes.
_______________________Or you say yes, me too.
_________________What Dü?

Nina Budabin McQuown comes from the Bronx, where she started work on the book-length poly-vocal epic poem from which this joint is carved. You can find more of her poems in the Peacock Online Review, her food-writing at the Jew and the Carrot, and you can find her, studying eighteenth-century writing on meat, soil, and the soul, at University of Western Ontario.


Laconic (but not lazy), this time the lights stay on.
__The formal fields have their wanton way; cherubs
____go drooling in posterior exterior, dimpled afresh.
____Generously, music unzips, points square to path
__token by no occasion; in need of jetties and sweeties
on some barren arm, a strap for each remembrance.

Gradually recipes and petite orders trade hands.
__Waking ones prepared for in urban-most fashion
____come with speeches: momentary political unrest
____faced as it is fraught without irony or earnestness
__to keep it aside from lurid delicacy where waterfalls
continually re-brush themselves, perennially silent.

As so much can go wrong, a frontier of possibilities
__comes as resultant factor. Chances preen themselves
____on the abstract aftermath of carrying on: slowly
____the scene of one man in his own mental house
__opens onto juicy lawns, each memory perfidious
as the malodorous color green, sharp and stable.

In order for this to work, then, the scene one imagines
__morphs into a scene one already had: its misericord,
____the slightly novel, definitely designer-boutique of it,
____or the special way someone felt about an onion ring—
__devious architectures that assume no new raw stripe
until you can’t go back, though covert looking’s allowed.

Morality: in excess of shoe stores and such penitent
__lecture circuits, oblong muscled people, their highrise
____indiscreet charities, redoubled fence preoccupations,
____garrulous fact-checking; in all of it though that was
__what you were after. You wanted the thing real enough
to redeem pungent exercises of Victoriana: cream slacks

and the cherry lordship one could try to freeze in
__a tunnel with forensic goggles, those motley items
____significant because rumored derring-do passed
____over them. Little by little, breath had (or hadn’t)
__shaped them. They encountered the room. Suddenly
you’re face-down in perfunctory December. Content.

One with figurative hardship, sawtooth pay dates.
__Gambits are taken. Galleys are bound. Minister
____divas swap seats, not so much interchangeable
____as finalized: like a permutation’s shirt sleeve.
__The rigor of sleeping reassumes its low position.
Infant tresses are bartered out of habits of thinking

and patterns not so routine overtake any old body
__in the missed journal-entry of existing. Public
____furniture becomes our very own social worker
____doing overtime for affordable comforts: Teflon,
__engagement rings, vaguely spiked luncheon drinks.
If you look out on the world in its sizable wet chunks,

what had been boggling fairgrounds show wrinkles:
__an orphanage becomes single-room-occupancy
____after being a hotel or some industrial hang out—
____the jive spot for motor tourists in a motorless city.
__Daffy light strings a certain body, one beautifully
at ease in its command of easy absent-headedness.

Gazillions of people evaporate onwards, as they like.
__To begrudge them that would be worse than not to.
____Only a few are thinking of the toolshed, the heavy
____way that formalized manners elect themselves
__in slushy openings, grafted onto this day, the next.
Your job: to murder each while no one is watching.

Adam Fitzgerald is a New York City based poet and founding editor of the poetry journal Maggy. In 2010, he received his MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in A Public Space,Boston ReviewConjunctionsThe Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. He teaches at Rutgers University and The New School. His debut collection of poetry, The Late Parade, will be published by W.W. Norton/Liveright in June 2013.