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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.

He cleared his throat with bulldozers
had the necessary work permit from the city
taped to the side of his face
removing dirt from the windpipe
he found trapped miners that had died down there
their once blackened faces now skeletal
huddled together like an American football team
discussing a play that never happened
but lest you think my mud brains hung up on simple excavation
there is still the clouded mind to address, always clouded
with a thick haze of grievous confusion
the benchmark of basic clarity never met
sitting in dark cafés with stupid French names
folding the newspaper like a losing hand of poker

—After Catullus

My house disgusted me, so I slept in a tent.
My tent disgusted me, so I slept in the grass. The grass disgusted me,
so I slept in my body, which I strung like a hammock from two ropes.
My body disgusted me, so I carved myself out of it.

My use of knives disgusted me because it was an act of violence.
My weakness disgusted me because “Hannah” means “hammer.”
The meaning of my name disgusted me because I’d rather be known
as beautiful. My vanity disgusted me because I am a scholar.

My scholarship disgusted me because knowledge is empty.
My emptiness disgusted me because I wanted to be whole.
My wholeness would have disgusted me because to be whole
is to be smug. Still, I tried to understand wholeness

as the inclusiveness of all activities: I walked out into the yard,
trying to vomit and drink milk simultaneously. I tried to sleep
while smoking a cigar. I have enough regrets to crack all the plumbing.
I’m whole only in that I’ve built my person from every thought I’ve ever loved.

By Rebecca Audra Smith, from Before Passing

***

I was kissing you, necking on
the Canal Street love boat. We edged up
in our seats and made some space for Jesus
to sit down. Tight squeeze, my kneecaps
knocking yours, my tongue still in your
mouth, not much room for his words.
Still, he started to preach. Jesus
is the man to call when you want
two women to pull apart. Jesus
is the place to go when you want
us to rearrange our bodies till we
sit decorous as flowers in a vase.
Jesus is the man to speak to
when you want to unlink our hands.
I haven’t space enough on this paper
to tell him that I will kiss you
wherever I fucking want to.

By Bob Hart, from Before Passing

***

Who knows how many worlds
have been ground into detritus
but they make such pretty stones.
One can collect them for
their sparkles or
their dullish characters;
ably make fairy tales about them;
wear them as
a savage wrapping around the
wrist or
round the loins; bed them
in a chapel floor or cavern’s casino copula;
press their patterns into flesh
as fashion or as torture;
grind out one’s eyes with them as guilty;
give them as worth
and still not guess
the distances they came from—
the processes that formed them.

by Toni La Ree Bennett, from Before Passing

***

How deep

is the impression

my body makes

in your wife’s bed?

you leave the other on the road when your car careens into the woods & your
airbags deploy & your seatbelts are a god your state doesn’t believe in but the
windshield is a stubborn gate you break yourself trying to break open & it is too
bright to rupture the forest with headlights which  means its still early enough
to bring a body to the coroner & discuss who will call the dead fawn’s mother.

Stand facing east.
There is a seedy dive bar on the corner to your right.

Turn 90 degrees to your right.
There is a tattoo parlor.

Again, turn 90 degrees to your right.
There is always a 15 passenger white van with a graphic photograph of an aborted baby’s head in the clasp of a pair of forceps, ever blocking the entrance to the abortion clinic.

Again, turn 90 degrees to your right.
You’ll see a line of very large people, ever blocking the entrance to the Souplantation.