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I. Alive in Naked Earth

Holding shovel is a boy—not boy so much as a body growing.
How his skin—patch of ground—is like a bed. What can’t be
sown in youth? Clean well mouth—spring of throat. New. My

skin’s a stained sheet tied to a dry-line. I’ve asked him, to fold &
bury me? He’ll do as instructed. Spade corner to garden corner.
Hands of earth against my mouth—there was a time I believed

in the all consuming. I want to believe again. Holding a shovel,
is a boy. Buried alive, I reclaim something:
                                            remember when love smelled like rain?

I look for you on the storm-smoothed shore,
               glittering where the moon tows itself
across the bay. Cool air fills my lungs with mint

as I walk past sea oats, past sea grapes
               in tidal pools. Waves spread
like playing cards—a flush the land can’t beat—

and the sea keeps upping the ante: first,
               quartz and crysolite, then breakwaters
and wooden weirs, then the land itself,

an erosion so ceaseless I too want to give
               my body, wholly, to something else.
Camped by a fire, you call to me.

One can’t predict what happens next, yet even
chaos breeds patterns of a sort: sly singles

at the bar, nocturnal creatures stalking shadows,
cars cruising for motion’s sake. I’m speaking out

of turn again. We all are sensitive
to first impressions, but initial conditions

shift swiftly and with little impetus.
I found him digging ditches in summer heat,

and soon we’d made declarations, smiled broadly
for photographs. It wasn’t meant to be

What she wanted was a bearded man
to tease her, all those tight curls
between her legs scratching, tickling.
She would hold him as she would

an amphora, scenes painted onto it:
a boar with scythe tusks, a chariot
high-wheeled and eager, a naked driver
curved indelicately, his horse a puzzle

of arcs. Or she would hold him as Salome
offered up St. John, his head open-mouthed,
on a platter. No, she’d hold his head,
alive, the tongue arced and silent.

Breakwater

By Derrick Austin

Poem

In the photograph, my grandfather stands
               in sepia water off Mont Saint-Michel,
barely older than I, having chased wine

and women. Fresh from the Italian Campaign,
               swaggering on the shore,
he points at his brother beyond the frame

(killed a year later by cops who mistook him
               for another black man)
watching lambs whose salty meat is prized

in Normandy, whole racks for christenings.
               You could taste the tide, he says.
Which means what exactly? That he could taste

19

By Anis Shivani

Poem

Your tarantism, Soraya, like the cavorting
of tarpon in pterosaur-infected tarns, acts
to publicize the riding cymbals of Tarsus:
trouveres preceding Proudhon and Trotsky
have fallen in trouble with weeping willows,
lunette lungs lurch toward errant Galatea
brought to life in galley proofs, and knight
bachelors knit ogee arches in Mumbai.
(He taught me Reichian emotional release.)

She asks if you want to sing a song and you move next to her on the bench and you sing for her as she plays for you.

            – from Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s “Erato / Love Poetry”

 

Tell me again to

seize the day, etch it

in cursive along my spine

purple ink and a lotus

mandala curved like a vine;

carpe, say, everything will be

groovy, everything will

poetry insurance for TNB

When we were barely still children,
city limit signs sealed our fate.
We saw our town as either stable or irreversible.
No one ever told us those words could be synonyms.

When chemicals became solutions,
we never saw the way out.
We fucked like teenagers
because we were teenagers.
We bought and sold pot through
drive-thru windows, got into fights
behind the bowling alley, and
drove in circles around town.
There was always a broken heart
to soothe, more often than not
your own.

So there are balmy days on the surface of Mars and I look up and it’s still
wtf are you still here? And about to drop into the rooftop pool

with your horses, those unwinning twins. I need to find my way home
and draw the roof over my head, I’m shivering under the palms

because it’s like wtf? Apparently we’re all good
educated people who can situate an ironic distance between the hierarchy of gods,

men, and horses, and the DJs who spin poolside. But then again once
in a while I get into looking into my phone and it’s like, honey

used as a preservative? The spines along the inside of a skull?
“Decomposing without pomp, it suffers our sidelong nosegay.” Roadkill.

null set to one so as not to mean anything
to understand.

single took a hit– bad press– lost sight of the charts,
dragged the album into the pits.
how does the singer turn it around?

full-bodied roast rounded out the morning
gave tone to thoughts administered
to break the day,
put heat on the cool kids
to shake off the night but not the before.

Chè Bắp

By Jenna Le

Poem

In the backyard, Father grew
ears of sweet corn,
green-swaddled blimps
of ocher bluster.

When the wind gusted over,
the stalks bowed so low
their rigid plumes
would graze the cakey dirt.

On the designated day,
Father would gather the ears
and heap them, firewood-like,
in the house;

Next Time Down

By Rick Lupert

Poem

Next time down
we’ll park the lawnmower on the other side of the mountain
we’ll mail celery to Aruba
we’ll write poems about writing poems, about writing poems

Next time down
everyone will get a free pen
everyone will get a free shirt
everyone will get a free willy

(Poem made from lines spoken by my mother)

 

If someone finds me on the road

If someone finds me on the road

in my nightgown, barefoot and talking

 

in my nightgown, barefoot and talking

If my talking nightgown

finds the road in me

and someone on barefoot

 

Or I’m throwing my money to the cars

Or I’m throwing my money to the cars

convinced I’m just feeding the ducks

She liked the crunch of the white snow.
The androgynous bulk of orange
encapsulating her long frame. In town
there were double takes and a sense
of foreboding. You look sixteen, her father said
on seeing her in new ballet clothes.
She was eleven. Bringing down her first
pheasant felt natural. She could imagine
getting pheasants to fall from the sky
without a gun. She could imagine
herself all in white like the fallen snow.