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.

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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?

Poem by Carrie Zhang

Room in a Bedroom 

Branch sling on my heart. It’s so easy for black letters

                To get lost in white snow. These

Flies come skating out, sucking

               Plums and claret stuck on the walls.

A plastic telephone

               Hangs off its cradle, a closet flings

open, revealing wintry depths. All these years

               Flutter off the calendar, silver mail

On doors unopened,

               The ancestral calico thick as sound

Unheard.

Poems by Emily Alexander

i wish i spoke moon.

(inspired by Elegy Owed by Bob Hicok)

i wish i whispered clear nights, wove them
into shirt fabrics, wore them close to my collarbone.

i wish i had three hands and knew
where to put them, regardless of the time.

i am trying to learn something about the craters
of a kiss. about folding sky into a note in my pocket
that tells me where the middle is, because
there are already plenty of stories that start
like this. all moonbeams and mouths, nothing about

right now. it is mid-afternoon.
my body is something i have to remind myself of.
it is a stranger to bleed; knows only bruise.

my neighbors have a porch swing i have never seen anyone use.

i have three pairs of jeans i wear every week.

i brush my teeth in the morning and again at night, floss words from between them,

tiny versions of hold, definitions
of embrace, nothing spelled quite right.

i think i need an instruction manual three moons thick
so i can learn where to put my knees
when i watch the news.

so i can sweep the kitchen floor, do something
about the mold on the bathroom ceiling without peeling
back my skin to see what could fit there, like my body is a new house
without a moving van in the driveway,

listen: i want to always mean what i say.

like my mouth has never known
anything but clear night moon.

Casual 

It’s like this: he offers his body to me, and I take it
without asking where it’s been. We do this
to each other, fingertips whispering
through flesh, songs of steam
on car windows, soundless
mouths, sheets. This is a simple language,
straightforward: sighs, lines, thighs. He holds me
in place for the time it takes, bed rocking
like a boat anchored in storm. I do not know
of any safe harbors around here, so this
will have to do, his breath, my neck, regret
a distant shoreline I haven’t started
sailing towards yet. Look. I know that stuck
is not synonymous with stay. I have enough alleyways
in me without the complication of wanting
his abandoned building body
to hold pieces of my shipwreck. So I wake
first in the mornings, his face still
soft, open windows. I could almost love him
then, unanchored breath drifting
out of lips that know the place my secrets have slipped
through. Regardless of my mouth, still heavy
with broken boats. Regardless of my unkissed knees, wrists,
dark halls, cobwebbed closets. Regardless of his.

moscow, id

right now, 3 states away, the last of fall harvest
is settling into the chest of tractor
troughs. i remember watching wheat fields unraveling
like knobby knees and nervous
bodies. there was a time when that was
enough. when i only had one house, when the ground
didn’t count as one, when i knew staying
like tattoos know skin, despite the rest
of the body. i want to write a poem
about my father’s heartbeat, but
i don’t quite remember it. it’s been a long time since i fit
in his lap. listen, i have unlocked cities trying
to learn how to laugh without this deadbolt mouth,
and i am still shy. and i am always missing
someone. i know that right now in idaho,
light is pressing against grain silos as my mother
presses her fingertips into the piano. if this was enough,
i would still be there. if this was enough, i wouldn’t
think of home as a poem
about longing, about question marks, the pause
between notes. my own hands
pressing against a window in california.

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.