Poems by Karen Stewart

To the Monster in My Mind:

                                                                                      let go.
I’ve already swallowed the sword
meant to kill me.

Your voice, soft and vibrating
reverberating through the mirror glass,
slicing me broken; I’m open

No, closed. I’m a book without its spine
my torn pages, hanging on by a
single
string. I can’t see you.
I don’t know what you look like.

But I’m desperate now, so I’ll say this:
Finish your tea,
pack up your things,
and get out of my mind.
Remember to close the door behind you.

And the key—
Please hand it over
before I lose
Everything.

 

Do Over

If we could do it over: You smuggle the whiskey, I’ll kill the lights, & we’ll both forget by the morning.

If we could do it over: Skimming the grass isn’t enough. This one requires all-in, feign wind. The sun’s locked in every blade.

If we could do it over: Sit by the fire and top our sins with marshmallows.

If we could do it over: You tell me then I’ll tell you and we’ll commiserate. Because it is, of course, over.

If we could do it over: Fill in the lines with a big black marker. They’ll all say we’re twisted and we’ll call it magenta.

If we could do it over: You know we can’t. I was just having fun on the page. No harm in playing the mystery card. We have yet to find the man on the moon.

 

Bones

My body of bones
has failed me.

That holy hourglass
Unreachable, but we try.

Inside, starvation.
With walls of calcium carbonate,
skin, a paper roof
over my heart,
blowing puffs of blood
that sidestep circulation
and disappear.
There is no blood here.

Always cold.
Always tired.
Never enough.

My eyes are two broken ships
on a hazy, damp night
the only lookout posts in this tower of feathers.

Feet floating like sticks
I’m spinning, sinking, but

Let me be.
I’ll resurface,
I promise.

There’s nothing left for me to do.

 

Follow My Beat

I keep thinking,
I’m meant to write poems.
But what if…?
                                                                                                       Wait.
                                                                                                       Stop.
                                                                                                       You know what you’re doing.
You’re shutting it out.

Whatever it is.

                                                                                                       Think of it this way:
                                                                                                       It’s like a heartbeat, calling you.
                                                                                                       Follow me follow me follow me.

It doesn’t fit. I can’t listen.

                                                                                                       Firefly in the dark. Holding on to water.
                                                                                                       You name it.
                                                                                                       It’s elusive

Enticing?

                                                                                                       Precisely.

But how do I get to…?

                                                                                                       No worries. It never stops.
                                                                                                       Follow me follow me follow me.

 

Entropy

No one told me
this life was dynamite.

No one said,
Karen—your mouth is bleeding
lies.

No wonder entropy comes slow;
it’s too late when we realize
there’s a grenade in the heart of the mine.

I’m burning my body,
lighting my fuse
but it’s slick,
silent,
and then it comes all at once—

I would have run for cover
but no one told me.

 

Poems by Rich Murphy

Dory Speak

When thrown overboard, water wings
don’t drop into the harbor
and lodge in the mud at the bottom.
Lungs inflate a moan or argh,
while ears float on the current.
Even Shakespeare must have known:
At best a life vest at the deep end
in a public pool, at worst,
a rubber duck in bathwater.
The bundled letters, written with love,
capture imaginations but “whether” tosses
an idea around in a tea cup.
What weight in ink, paper, pixels
requires lead and a bay?
Stringing holds for children singing
perhaps, but links are lost in the chain
reaction and adults slave over absence.
A survivor needs to know
the dog paddle or how to puff at syllables
while getting the drift to things.
Stones may plop, should the bailer
wish to interpret so.

Inside Out

Namely, that we’re accidental pieces of flesh, mutton without meaning. – Zia Haider Rahman

An image of thought called philosophy has been formed historically and it effectively stops people from thinking – Gilles Deleuze

Mutton without meaning,
Bo-Peep wakes in thought
while concepts with lids roll
and blink at the hard and fast:
Rock, tree, hot top, the concrete.
Bah blah perhaps once packed
into an image a different world,
but rhyme or reason may
order or stew. Gödel and Einstein
deal in pupils at the bookstore.
A celebrity pushes at tear ducts
from across the kitchen table.
Fear and desire inspire, explore.
Furniture moves around rooms
depending on what school
or playground the shepherd attended,
what lesson comprehended.
Feng shui, ole! Feng shui, ole!
Sometimes, an idea inflates
in a cranium and a neighborhood,
a lifetime clings to the rubber inner tube
and not to empire and ego.

Cheek Ruse

Then there’s the truth.
And since when is that okay? – Eric Warren Singer

With one foot in the confidence trap
a second meal plants and uproots
to find a way out.
The prey for hunter and scavenger
owns the beating
from a Promethean heart
and the craft to cobble and hobble.
The democrat crises line up
beginning at the voting booth,
past the bias-triggered jaw,
and into the belly in beasts.
The whistler and mother deny
the cocky nature in bird song
but skip to light fantastic when wing
and prayer call for heavy lifting.
Even while a sky falls, oxygen
stocks rise, and the furrier feeds
people to an animal called
poverty, the snared don’t sneer
but blow air past teeth: cheese.
No need to plan for a rainy day
or desert conditions, Mr. Smiley
meets the taxidermist tomorrow.

Lying Around

Pulling up and buttoning banality,
the shirk and skirt tuck in responsibility
below the belt exposing majority
rule for camouflage, long sleeved.
Bob and Weave enter the address
“Good Morning,” and counter two
secret votes with aid and comfort for violence.
Ideology absorbs colors and patterns
so that shirts and dresses
make every occasion tyrannical.
The fabric for wardrobes survives
hanging and folding over at the gut,
looms quietly monitoring behavior
on continents, at sea, and now in outer space.
A painter, naked, could stretch
what passes for the truth
and shepherd bolder hues, but threads
change routines or not.
Every fiber about being seems to own empire.

Spine Sprinkler

Even from the manicured dawns
and within pruned, herbicidal
evenings, courage takes root.
How does mettle flourish
within schools that graduate jellyfish?
The well-watered suburban livers
would seem to fail at backbone near a lawn.
Perhaps because nail file, clipper,
and sprays mow down a business
foe, grubs and crab grass don’t stand.
If the brief case carries,
breakfast serial behavior must
knead tool shed trolls into stuffed
animals to control, restrain, and lay puppies
awake near bedrooms for children.
Irritants in a shell refine necks.
However, now and then grit
on a welcome mat grows to oak
and the right hand
that rose holds firm a promise.

Poems by Michael Lee Johnson

If You Find No Poem

If you find
no poem on
your doorstep
in the morning,
no paper, no knock on your door,
your life poorly edited
but no broken dashes
or injured meter-

if you do not wear white
satin dresses late in life
embroidered with violet
flowers on the collar;
nor do you have
burials daily
across main street-
if no one whispers
in your ear, Emily Dickinson-
you feel alone-
but not reclusive-
the sand child
still sleeping in your eyes-
wiping your tears away-
if you find
no poem on
your doorstep-
you know
you are not from New England.

Possum Slim

105 years old today
Possum Slim finally
gets his GED,
drinks gin,
talks with the dead.
“Strange kind of folks
come around here,
strange ghosts”
he says, “come
creeping pretty regular.
Just 2 ghosts,
the only women I ever loved,
the only women I ever shot dead.”

Poem of Sinner and Saints

Sinners hurt.

While moonlight cracks open
like a walnut, spreads soft light across open sky,
they dart to alleyways, bury themselves behind
their own trails shaking fists at the sky;
hiding their nasty nonsense in shame,
city buildings rattle their bricks, mortar loose at their rib cage.

All men think they are sword men daggers in darkness.
All women think they are entry points leaning against brick walls,
slender on sidewalks past midnight,
nothing but shadows, twitching of lips.
Women look for drawing cards in their makeup kits.
No one cares jackals, scavengers, men tempted by night.
Thunder dreams hammer at their ears,
rain urinate sins on street corners,
mice crawl away to small places shamed.

Early morning crows fly.
Footsteps scatter directions as sunlight sprouts.
Misdeeds carry no names with them
they trip blind, racing to morning jobs.
Sin hurts staples in women’s lungs,
staples dagger in men’s ribs.

Poems by Yuan Changming

Metaphor

with a big bang, the stage of the world
comes to the spotlight, where a shepherd
lies down for his sheep first, and
then all actors and actresses
flooded in, shuffling
between their exits and entrances
as religions, arts and science grow
from the same tree stump; where
souls are washed away
from the dust of human life; where
the crumbs of words fell down
from the feast of the mind, screen pages
are filled with breathings of the heart; and
every movement of the cursor
leads a fish biting at the hook

within this vast scene, we try to look at ourselves
beyond the entire picture

Metonymy

(A little tip for all crowns.)

give me the floor
lend me your ears
donkeys and elephants:
as a pen for the press
is much mightier than a sword
from waterloo, it’s high time now not
to spill out all your life in Hollywood
and march towards the white house
on the red carpet
by the sweat of your brow
while the kettle is still boiling

From “Correspondences,” by John Lowther

Note from the author. 

My particular “horse’s mouth” is not available today, but I’ll have a definitive answer for you in a day or so.
I don’t think that will happen.
She left something on her computer that her mom found so they know everything now.
Did you hear the piece differently once it got to the level of pronunciation?
It’s awkward. Never me now. Got more to tell you.
Got a nice little note back saying my stuff was “obscure.”
To what extent do you believe that philosophical reading shapes your work?
I might be able to establish my intentions in the year between then and now.
Backwards, perhaps, but that’s how this one is going.
It simply sits here like a fat noun.
Not that things’re bad here, but my door is not being beaten down.
They don’t approve but they won’t stop us either.
They don’t bullshit.
It saves time.

§

Ask him, politely, what the fuck is going on.
Weird days without any stability.
I haven’t written a word since April.
Is this something you have actually constructed?
Your point, as I take it, is that intentions are not static and to try and pinpoint one at any given moment would radically misconceive its nature.
Piano lessons. But I think I stand with what I’ve said.
Will meditate on a more exact analogy.
I have felt comfortable with my occasional solipsisms there.
Got the goods.
But of course there’s subjectivity to deal with.
Being French seems to help, German ain’t bad, even American, but Italians are off the map most of the time.
Sorry. Things have been crazy, but not too crazy.

§

Bailed out of town for a few days but am back, sun burnt etc.
The tabla player sounded like trickling water.
It’s a mystery to me. Other messages are getting through without a problem.
Lisbon calls.
I’m planning to become incredible, and this could be my ticket.
My eyes see the wind blown edges of posters on the wall.
Corporate sell-out.
Do you find the meter and rhyme keep it away from the realm of experimentalism?
So let me know. It’s a big word but I sort of like it.
This way we can accommodate those who want to keep the ball rolling and those who don’t.
That other crap sounded pretty bad, I was sorry to hear it, nonsense.
The Blair Witch Project sounds fun, but even more fun if it were the Blair Warner Project (a la Facts of Life).

§

I just erased an attempt (ugh) at eloquence in reply, try to imagine a really good one for me to undersign.
When the van rolled over (she fell asleep at the wheel), the side door flew open and he was thrown.
Nothing too major I hope, but then surgery is always a bit major.
I’ll let you know how they sit when they’ve sunk in some and begun either fermenting or festering.
Creative all the way to another planet.
And they are also the only ones I ever think of with any regret.
So for me the distinction, I now realize, is purely a socio-cultural one.
I’m computer literate the same way Zsa Zsa Gabor is/was English literate, so maybe I don’t deserve to know how to use this fancy tool.
Hopefully this is something you will consider.

§

All for now, lunch calls to me.
You know so much from these seven words.
This is always the conundrum of fostering the subversive.
I have in the past considered whether language experiments, i.e. attempts to alter, in whatever way, the signifying system, might worm their way, a micrometer at a time, into the fields of domination and subjectivity—but in truth I don’t think so.
The repair may be a fuel pump; I don’t know yet.
My magnum opus for the end of the millennium I guess you’d call it.
I am just so pissed, creep, that you publicly unveiled my inadequacy by writing what I couldn’t say, though I tried.
The countdown has begun. How do you spell “relief”? The pitch is the same.
I heard it in Mom’s voice, she knew even back then.
But a stick, of course, can be a symbol.
My skull full of molecules is enough.
I enjoy this, however gibberish it may seem.
Wish you could hear them.

Poems by Jim Davis

Enso in Bleach

Plans to bleach a black t-shirt in circles
like the rain that fell in the Kitami
Mountains, or tremors in Taishan before
the quake – to be worn on an occasion
unimagined. New York before the thing

we went through as much as anyone who
wasn’t there did. When there is nothing, time
is a river, if a river is a
t-shirt with imperfect circles of bleach.
Longing’s the showerproof radio we
broke in Devil’s Lake, and when your brother
peeked in through the window on us, you said

it’s okay – you’d never been so happy.
Sunset in a Monetery Bowrider
fell. I made the t-shirt myself last week.
I wear it and it itches. I wear it and it hurts.
There are 8 words for infinity in Japanese.

Turquoise Purging

is as much a savior. Golden cone of thread
for cobbler’s loafers, backstitched & flimsy.
There are too few statues to the genius
of lemon icing on blueberry scone. Bread
baking. Antique stirrups on the breadmaker’s
shelf. I am sitting in a guild of humor, gilded
treaty, making semi neurotic marks
on the acquiescent page. Chicago ain’t
nothin’ but a blues band. Get rid of what
you want to miss. Pretty girl, I’m afraid
to call her name. Horns blew like ships.
Bucket of nails in the cobbler’s closet. I am
an occasion. The breadmaker stockpiles
butter & yeast. I am an excess.

Women weak & weary with weeping. Perfume
sick with other perfume. Wrecked from lack
of sleep, drinking whisky with intent. Trees
bend their gazes, hedgerows kneel, in such
company, amid the advancement of ceremony
shared in the kingdom of animal attempts at sense.
We sit; we stand as directed, sit again
& sing or move our penitent mouths in the shape
of song or chewing cud.
I am as much a savior. A little prayer
would be nice. Are the scones ready? There are bits
which beg to be left out. I’d like a fresh glass
of milk to dribble in my coffee, & a sapphire stir.
Eternity, please, get out of the oven’s mouth.

RB Kitaj and the Oak Tree (1991)

I understand the filthiest tongues
are forked & covered with sulfur, cat
fur, tobacco ashes. Yellow building,
you are perfect when red / you are
figuration bellowed by the sum
of gravities weighing down Mary
Ann’s jowl / Marynka’s ringlet of hair
& the Assyrian books of bedlam I put
on my side table each night after
reading in bed. Chimney smoke, I put
pellets in a sparrow in an oak tree on a farm
outside Pewaukee, square in her choral beak.
She was the first I put to sleep. The next one
bled more. I am a homemade weapon.

October Night

On the whinstone roof of a lifeguard
shack, lying on my back, blue night fog
above. Muted eve & what would be
a Boeing jet, blinking in a halo above
the union of water & sky. Kids shriek
with laughter. Then nothing. No stars.
No moon. Only the tide’s gentle
collision, which rocks me to sleep. I wake
to fog & bells of a pitching buoy.
Dreaming of a younger me. Feral dog
barks at a hidden constellation, patterns
I barely remember, pulled by futures
I might only assume. Black-blue night
above an empty shack. No stars. No moon.

Sunday Morning Nori

Dear recently passed moment,
were you as hungover as this one
was, only moments ago? I suppose you were
something like a ripple’s relation to a pebble
in the fountain of current and future options,
which include drowning in the purple blanket
of an unfamiliar bedroom or turning over
the penny in your dreams to its lucky side:
heads up. Sprite and Smirnoff pulled
from its hiding place in the basement
ceiling. Dear moments of reticent past,
did she leave without your number? You are no one
until you learn to use chopsticks.
Ginger can’t silence the drum-skill. Marry and
you’ll trick your stomach into believing
it’s an old photograph of a glass bottle
of milk on the doorstep, snow falling,
one edge folded over
like the napkin in your lap, spotted with wasabi.
Moments pass, dear, ready or hung
over the table, which is spinning slightly,
like tissue paper lamps, like small, rosy planets.