Poems by Tyler Raso

Fascinating shapes, accidentally

Don’t hold it against me;
I am not an erotic body.
Hold what against me: the body
of eros, passions in tears and strips
and mache. Mache me to eros,

but leave space for the making,
unmaking. Hold me, together.
Couldn’t tell you my best side.

We are merely representations of objects
in fascinating shapes, accidentally.
Ravel to unravel gently, and I may follow.

*

Without the knowledge of,
one manages (to steal things)—
tremulous figures, pigeon wars,
flat boy, (letters, letters)—and, similarly,
another always manages (to return them).

One gets held up in storytime—
a mess of fingers (separating),
something like sun (surrendering),
pigmy origami animals (reposing)—
though does one know the meaning of?

All our people are little trees—
toppled down, left alone—
with personalities painted on
in soot and snail trails; yet
who bought (matter) the stencils,
or why was it (a matter of stencils)?

*

Tiny Crane,
About those hands who made you—
If a life is a bird in the palm,
Where would the eggs go?

(Perhaps,
It’s all in the wrist.)

*

I have a promise in my pocket, and
you may never live to see it like
the light might see it,

make it seen. It reads

these hands but not these lips
and especially not this voice
because those fell through,

the holes in my own fabric,
my other fabrics—fell up.
Belong, again, to the sky.

*

Furrowed no. I touch like folding, (like falling)—
I touch, no. Not touch but fold, (fallen)—
One touches, no. Touched, unfolding, (yet falling).

Maybe we’ll recover one another
in fortune cookies.

Figuratively

It is the final day for metaphor and so I prescribe sea salt salves
and a diet of spider webs. These will merely prolong the metaphor of metaphor
so you should hasten to find a replacement. You consider
taxidermy and the ways you might breathe new breath to breathless things.
Erect one woodchuck. Realize its eyes lifeless as silvering buttons on your peacoat
crinkle your spine and so chuck it in the dumpster to fail to rot.
Even so it makes friends with butcher bags empty of bleeding meats and batteries
with no clout left. You’ve done a good thing but you still wash
your conscience with staling baby wipes and hit the drawing board
refreshed. Consider something less lifelike which reminds you
to write a strongly worded letter to the green apple world. You recall
the era of metaphor will soon elapse and so withhold your comments
on the pennywhistle bullies who gave you a hard time
in grade school or the paperback philosophers who
made your ideas feel small but also recall that these mortal laws
detailed nothing about simile and so practice applying like and as
as generously as discount ointment on a burn wound. You’ve made your point
and now the green apple world feels just a little less rotten inside-out
but you hesitate to say you did a good thing which brings again
the baby wipes. As you think the world is more an
engorged and paling blueberry than green or apple
you are struck with the idea to decorate your kitchen
with fruits impervious to worms to oxygen to rot and you think this is
a discretely clever way to metaphorize metaphor for the artist himself painted
the wax the very convincing yellows reds and oranges of the fact the flesh.
You think it might be endearing to arrange a whole wax fruit nativity
and so the basket the manger. The grapes the farm animals.
The orange the mother. The apple the father. The banana the shepherd
though at this point you are stuck because you struggle
with the metaphor of shepherd as Jesus as God the metaphor
of Jesus as God as etc. and any as banana and so instead you
arrange the fruits to your liking and leave it that way
knowing that tomorrow fruit will be fruit.

A body but not my body

  I have spilt
our butter
  on carpets

Chocolate is   a body
  and
the body I aim to admire
    in the way we admire
a body    of butter
  which is to say
  in the ways it is smooth
like chocolate not spilled
 and

Sadly
  I burnt the butter and
have made the smooth melting
which        Sadly

  Do you recall a body
like butter or recall it more
like chocolate     melted not burned
in the mouth     maybe palm

    On the day the carpet I spilled
that chocolate or butter     I noticed
  the stains    of body
under the burnt of butter   nonsmooths not chocolate
which you recall
   I spilt

Let’s say I burned my body
  not butter and     it too
melts like chocolate    in palms
   or mouths
  not carpets and

though      let’s say
not the butter nor chocolate

melted

nor burned   let’s say
I spilt

 your body

When I Dreamed – Marysa Lee

(audio)

I had a dream the other night that I had a book of everyone I’d ever met.
Each page was another face,
Preserved by time, just the way I saw them in my mind when I looked
At the memories I had lovingly hung on the walls of my ribs.
My ribs, they tighten every time I see that face again and I hold my breath too long
because
I crave the blackness that suffocation grants, allowing me to numb myself just one more
time.
I didn’t know the past would burn this badly, but this is a forest fire.
I’d rather a flower on fire than a heart though, for flowers grow back with time, but a
heart will scatter in ashes… as mine is right now.
Right now, as I thumb through pages every one of them found a way to break the bonds,
hoped that we would laugh about it but instead
They too became fractals in the gray, windowless world I slumber in.
Another dog-eared page to read each morning.
Another dog-eared page and I pour myself out again, staining the pages with my bloody
fidelity.
I think about how I am slipping on my own blood, drinking my tears, smoking my
thoughts these days.
How these days, every reflection looks different, every face a void of the unsung future
we never grasped.
Stories I am afraid of, stories I thought I wouldn’t survive, stories I’d give anything to relive,
Pages of more people I miss, people who miss me and people who scare me.
People I wish I never lost and people I wish I never met.
How these days, every effervescent memory swirls around my white ankles like the
ocean in march.

I had a dream the other night that I had a book of everyone I’d ever met.
Each page was another face,
A flame illuminating another locked chamber of my mind,
All the strangest tapestries lining the darkened corridors, woven from features I had
forgotten
Frayed by rats clawing at the past, tangible once again under dusty chandeliers
In an empty castle echoing with bittersweet laughter.
I turn the pages faster so there is wind blowing from the kingdom on a hill to my face.
I see more faces, and the wasps that live inside my chest rattle in their paper nests
Irritated by my sentimentality they begin to sting- pins and needles! Pins and needles!
My memory is the antithesis of asleep.

I pause on your page.
I recall how I used to make you smile at night.
You had the loveliest smile, even my mother agreed.
How we had imagined fake constellations out of the glow in the dark stars on my
bedroom ceiling,
How I picked up your shattered glass bones and glued them back together with
everything I had.
I forgot that while a skeleton stays put, the ghost is sure to wander. I never thought I’d
lose you that way.
And then I turned the page, discarded the pain, held my breath again.
I see more faces, more moonlit adventures and forsythia branches and mornings as the
first ones on the beach.
I see more wrinkles, more kind eyes, the first person who said they loved me and meant it.
I see mountaintops and Crayola crayons and sick days with chicken soup and Scooby Doo.
I see stained glass choir concerts and trick or treating and chairlifts in a blizzard.
I see Oreos with the frosting eaten out, Gucci cologne, teapot wallpaper, the last words
she ever said to me:
“That’s every sweet of you.”
I see bus drivers, lovers, camp counselors, cashiers, Raabis, librarians, friends, teachers
I see my city from an airplane window and I see my best friend hugging me tight
I see blurry basements and street signs and concerts and favorite sweaters and
carousels
I see the Grand Canyon, breaking and entering, secrets weighing down the bags under her eyes
I see a funeral, city rooftops, his slanted ceilings, her beloved rubber tree plant
I see him crying and I see hurricane clouds blowing over a choppy ocean
I see hazel eyes, Christmas ornaments, the bracelet she always wore
I see pearl earrings and lighthouses and old records and a black and white pony
I see chiffon dresses, a four leaf clover, a dock drifting in a lake
I see fireworks, gravestones, dimples, her beloved orange cat: Moth
I see clippings from her favorite book, the Breakfast Club, a hidden tattoo:
“It’s from this poem” she had said.
I see lemon tea with honey, snowmen, his crooked smile, the dream catcher hanging
from the rearview mirror
I see beat up red converse, a homemade piercing, his face when I asked what
happened to us:
“What do you mean?” He had said.
I see the bed of a pickup truck, wet leaves on a winding lane, a tree swing, paw prints
I see the heartlines on palms, endings that never happened, plans that we never carried out
I see sunrises we missed because we were still asleep, dreaming
I don’t dream that often anymore, perhaps I have scared myself with the nostalgia of my
subconscious.
Perhaps I would rather be numb than feel pins and needles up my spine, in my mind, emotional puppeteers.

But I had a dream the other night that I had a book of everyone I’d ever met.
And when I woke up I realized that it is not years I shared with each face but the moment
The moments are what had stuck in my cobwebbed memory, light enough filter the
sunlight for years
Unforgettable idiosyncrasies, bad ideas, favorite things floating in the galaxy above my shoulders
I breathe the past into the present, orbiting a lifetime of faces that form a constellation
My name in the stars.

Poems by Anastasia Nicholas

farmer’s song

you are blue-collar, earthen-toned, taciturn;
unassuming, uninspired. stagnant. leisurely,
you lace me on like a leather boot.
it is nine in the afternoon. “no more,” you say. i wait:
watch you washing dishes, watching me, washing me
away. soon enough, we are done for the day
on a lazy ride in a blood-red pickup,
snake eyes swinging from the rearview mirror.
i am not troubled in the least by the mingled tones
of smoke and booze you exhale; i know
i’ll cease to notice soon enough.
i think of sugar, syrup, screen door slams:
mainly, how it used to be.

tomorrow, we rise to do it again.
the song remains the same: “let us be
sharecroppers today,” you say. we drape
ourselves in torn tatters and weathered frowns.
i think of the wolf laying down with the lamb
and wonder which of the two i am.
i like your hair when it most needs cutting,
and i like the way your hands assume
the texture of sanded wood,
but understand that it’s not easy for me
to sift through the sawdust, dress myself in rags.

what i like most of all is when we step out the back
and all i see, for miles, is a plain so flat i could fall off.
i plant myself squarely in your comfortable silence.
i never want to be like you.

 

elegy for a dead girl

i am not afraid of anything, save
cars, tall buildings, large canines,
spaces both open and enclosed.

in many ways, i am regressing.
whenever something like this happens, it is
retrograde to my ability to make decisions
or operate a motor vehicle.

i am wondering how alike we were:
if she ever hoped she wouldn’t wake up tomorrow morning
because her alarm clock ceased to work,
or the precise number of times she said to herself, aloud,
the precise combination of words “the worst is over,”
or if she lived to see the irony in it.
if she pushed her food around on her plate, cutting it into small pieces,
or if anyone noticed that she did it.
if we wore the same ball and chain.

it’s woefully characteristic of me to make this about myself,
but please understand that i view it as
a mere divergence of fate, an alternate ending.
initially, my overwhelming thought was of my mother,
who never knows where i am or who i’m with
and waits for me with placid unconcern.
i recall an ancient writing prompt: “what is your
‘i was the one that got away’ story?”
i can’t say it made me a sadder, wiser man
because the next day i did it all again.
we are all static characters; there is no scared straight.

it’s horribly vain, a baser part of human nature,
but sometimes it occurs to me (in a lingering, semi-
subconscious sort of way)
that i have the time she was cheated out of.
maybe i’ll write my kubla khan.
i didn’t go to the funeral, but that’s who i am.
i don’t think i’d go to my own funeral, if i could.
something about a great price for a small vice;
the central impression of this tragedy is one of waste.

“Thursday Night Dinners” by Emma Crockford

 

The floorboards in the kitchen are warm
against our feet, familiar
from before we can remember.
You are snapping the wishbone,
and it feels as if it is my bones that are splintering,
slippery between the fingers of children.

This is the kind of death no one taught me how to mourn,
this halfway empty end to love,
scattered on dinner plates and dropped in the trash.

In the world I want to believe in,
when my fingers find yours under soapy dishes,
you do not let go.

On the drive home, your feet find the dashboard,
your dark hair a kite, your window rolled as far down as it will go.
I count the telephone poles we pass together
in the honeyed dark.

 

Poems by Marika Brooks

This Breathing

seething and
breathing
between these

sheeting
fleeting
weeping

these
sheeting
this breathing

between
these
sheets.

 

Innocent Heart

make me my innocent heart

be so quiet like the room is wrong

in each tiny bloom

your true touch shares kind

his world, mutual, want him

no sound across body moments

through tears between hands

gauge night terrors, receive nothing.

 

Tips

alabaster disaster
gold cobble stoned
              no where to run.

sins & smiles i recognize
crashing oversized into
              eternal thermal

acquaintance our farewell
this time and forever
              in frozen finger

              //
              tips.

“Relative Matter” by Sara Schraufnagel

We rarely sit with ourselves,
and see the struggle within us all 

Stop letting the concrete jungle
tuck you in at night
lower one leg at a time and remember that
pain is also your connection to the living

His shirt blew behind him
a flag in the wind, his desired last stand
His hands spread inches from the rain
and the window washer’s rope
that hangs above the 24th floor
He told me love was much more 
than a chemical within us all 
with a fancy name

Poems by Chloe Castay

I Had Not Lived

Amass the firm timber and sow the foundation
for the hovel compiled to bliss.
Four plain sides
and a hearth of ashlar,
to sustain the old hare when
the wren has flown away.

Walden Pond,
sophic eye of cold cobalt blue
bean-fields bestow their breath
until they are freed by
crystalline icicles exquisite.

Winter’s bite congeals
what the equinox restores.
The hermit seeks the philosopher’s call,
but it is wild and withdrawn.

I had not lived
until I found my soul,
a soul in the woods
forged profoundly and brave.

Transcendence the gift,
from Nature, the Host.

 

the monarchy of dusk

here the cult of ignorance reigns cardinal;
dressed in self-righteous garb
while faithful sip cyanide,
from the desert breast of civilization
and sing softly to the hegemon of dread

opinion amounts to insight, while the
egghead is martyred,
now the assaulted youth
see with only scorched and barren,
glassy eyes.

they worship their bodies,
because they have infected their minds.
parched them of truth,
and converted to pudgy fog.
now they cherish torches,
that burn the diseased womb of acumen.

oh, the squall is opulent,
raining acid on your tongue;
while minerva’s owl is shot down,
from the lurid sky
in the monarchy of dusk.

Poems by Ella Nowicki

Last Days

They were loose limbs in cherry trees
curved and darting
into throats of stucco fur.

Their hair grew damp
of sweat in judgement –
the sleepiest acolyte had
diverted in dust, covering
his own pieta in sticky straw
that crispened under
divine and budding nails.

Lot turned to Orpheus and drank salt.

 

Miracle of the Slave Ganymede

                      he glanced to the coarsest fur
          that finger-picked europa with bald berries
and chafed ferns up

                      her tintoretto spine. the water bead
          didn’t help, she said. she still collected
pulsars and swarthy constellations

                      in a blue that wasn’t night. but she had
          ships with lucretian strokes, and he was only
plump with angels. his feathers were crowns

                      of oiled hair and they were carved
          in brown thorns. there was no traced divinity in
the origin of mosaic-dirtied streets, so what

                      stars, red drape-throned girl, can
          he inventory from the same skull dusted
rugs that threaten to stamp them out?

Poems by Laura Ingram

Rate of Decay

We will measure the oil slick skyline in miles per hour, asking ourselves how often the Eiffel Tower is lonely.

Crumbling bits of long-boned light between our fingers,

Together, we are

the euthanasia of elegance.

Half past fifteen and I drive like an arrhythmia,

The universe has been promised to my palms.

it should have been you,

it should have been you

a secondhand hurricane halved,

but maybe my skin is always overcast.

You are a constellation’s carcass

flaying open a second subconscious.

There is a certain rhythm to misremembering,

the syncopation of my pulse

should have thrown you off

after your study of theory

but you stayed well past

the dissonance of dawn.

You always come back to me clutching at the colors of our cleaving.

You are an estuary, coalesced

Gracelessly slung,

embalmed by the opacity of your own hands

yet you listen and understand and agree that grass is the incessant stole of decay,

that someone has indeed replaced our vertebrae with tusks of summer,

and ten years from now we’ll still be cerebral as stars,

the supernovae imploding in the space between our skulls

still light years away

from being undetectable

to the aided optic nerve.

Structural Destabilization

She is cold wash Americana,
closed on Sundays.
Her magazine babies
give her itching eyes and
aching bones,
a public service announcement
against allergy to self.

Her heart is a blood orange, pungent,
imported.
She watches the red scare swarm the places
where her spine protrudes.
Her cerebral cortex shimmers with Cloudshine,
she wonders if the Grace Period is applicable to the amygdale.

Her night terrors are the color of Cuba,
silver minnows meander through her veins,
small swamps,
brackish as being.
Her blood has been replaced with kerosene.
Duck and Cover, Duck and Cover
and you’ll be just fine..
She teaches other women’s children how to add and multiply
when they trip over their shoelaces on the way out the door
she breaks into her hands and cries at their divide.
Duck and Cover, Duck and Cover,
And you’ll be alright.

Diaspora

Your heart is a driedel

pivoting towards that relative you cringe to kiss.

Your uncles never taught you to pull coins out of ears;

Your older cousins won’t let you win.

You squirm through the same game every year;

in your father’s house,

no one is allowed to try the top twice.

My nightmares have a five-point penumbra

and you send me jaundiced stars in the mail,

scribble notes on the back in black crayon.

Most say

Get well soon.

Your mother named you with apron strings and patent leather in mind

but you always knew God was a foreign national.

In the haze of spindly legs and soft tympana

You mistake me for the eighth plague

press your knuckles into your eyes.

Once removed doesn’t make for an HLA match.

You amend the articles of ache

scrawled across the cardboard back of your composition book.

You shoot blanks on foggy Sundays with your father,

turn all the steak knives face down in the drawer when you are done–

close your eyes just in case.

Poems by Jane Juran

Moravian Star Class

Seventy-two sharp-pointed
stained glass triangles.
One errant tip tore into my left knuckle.
It bled like hell, swelled.

I never went back to class
held onto the pieces for years
until U-haul boxes filled my X-terra.

My diamond ring would never fit back on
over the scar tissue.

Terminal

The time until you die
grips the top of my hand

grates my fingers against
puckered metal

collects skin and bone
shavings

into a soft pile
on the good China.