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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 [...]

"What unites these pieces is the way in which they take themes of the familiar, of that which should comfort -- family, home, partnerships, natural rhythms and life cycles -- and exposes them for the harrowing, challenging terrain they really are. How do we navigate these everyday experiences? How does something as simple as water or the brush of a familiar hand have the ability, in the right measure, to utterly baffle or transform us? To bring tremendous relief, or cause us nearly unbearable suffering or fear?

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I try not to be angry but inside my chest is yelling where is he. /A fountain sparkles so we ask the kids playing there if they’ve seen him seen anything. /Someone is wearing a necklace of teeth. I am swinging my flashlight into the water but it sees nothing. /This is when the dogs begin barking downstairs. /I wake up and my arm is slung over my son like a seatbelt.

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If humans are the part of nature that goes against nature's grain, it might also be said that nature is an aspect of humanity and human existence with which we cannot ultimately argue.

kristina marie darling

"The self-referential quality in this book manifests through the litany of literary devices and tropes the narrator mentions here-- the poem is reminding us that we are reading a poem, by talking about various aspects of poetry. Reading this, we see that poetry serves as a way to document and memorialize failure. Maybe metaphor is a way for us to make ourselves into something we are not."

"Dear Madison, I was told of your death
over dinner. You were, they said, struck

by hot brass from your mother’s new
AR-15 with custom scope."

kryptonite

"In the weeks following her death,
When my mind was not fit to live in
I stayed in a small hotel
On the outskirts of my consciousness
As a baby resides in its own bliss
While its mind is being constructed.
But when I tried to use the facilities
There was no running water."

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"and could you sell me this instance what is the last pornography that engaged you
can you talk about your research into the unsolvable how would you
write to a diverse audience is a reader a client did customers occur to you
as an outcome what are three positive strains in you does discontent
drive you into the market does blunder drive you into the capital"

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"flashing
sabers over the plain’s grass so green
round those barracks haunted by ghosts,
the boys the marching men remembering a kiss."

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"He bends, takes into his arms a limp child's body.
We wonder how he keeps singing as he carries her.
How slack and white she is, like wet moth wings."

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"It's not about the pain, she says. It's about the commitment."

"It was the cotton sheets.
I wondered my great-great grandparents’
hands & lives
bent over small, tough
clouds."

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"The news is certain of his motives. Religion, or vengeance for a
small parcel of land, or jealousy, an attack against us because
we possess the most good anybody could imagine."

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Nobody hearts a cemetery
like we do,
where re-enactors bite
their bullets between headstones,
and ancient belles in neck-high silk
prepare for the previously fought
war. Every day is a day before.
Though we do hear
the news. Oh sure. It gets to us.
Story is, up north, people shit
crushed pineapple and rest stop
whores make change with paper
money.

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The Dean bullied, “I know your people believe in oral tradition
but you exist in our system now. No playing poetry on CDs.
Students have to read that stuff on the page. They forget
what they hear in ten seconds.”

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What if trees could talk of origins, talk
of surnames, talk of hand-tied nooses

to a gin fan anchor? Could talk
of killing seasons and each unremark-

able black body fertilized in southern soils,
could a panacea correct history?