Poem by Gabriella M. Belfiglio

The Light of the Moon
      — poem for Audre Lorde
By Gabriella M. Belfiglio

Imagining your lips—
my mouth forms words
that come like the leaves of autumn
dry falling and full of color

I have always been a spring person
a yellowgreen girl more day than night
skin not as dark as olives
nor as light as peaches

I have mourned the end of summer
like a lover gone—preparing my limbs
to be covered in cold neglect, the impending dark
feeling like a hole akin to a grave

But in your Earth an ancient spirit rises
your words come like rain
and I find myself drenched
sink my toes deep into wet reds and browns

In the growing twilight
I move forward a little taller
less with the anticipation of joy
more with a warrior’s stride of determination.

Gabriella M. Belfiglio first read the work of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich as an undergraduate. After Rich’s death, she has been reabsorbed in both of their bodies of poetry. “The Light of the Moon” is a poem inspired by Lorde. Belfiglio’s work has appeared Lambda Literary Review, The Dream Catcher’s Song, Avanti Popolo, Folio, The Centrifugal Eye, The Potomac Review and the anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders, among other places. She works as an artist and teacher in New York City.

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Radius: Rachel McKibbens, Stevie Edwards, Emily O’Neill

The Editors Write: We’ve had the pleasure of a front-row seat to Stevie Edwards’ writing for pretty much the entirety of her publishing career – Radius’ predecessor, The November 3rd Club, being among the first journals to publish her. And it’s been a remarkable thing to watch, as this poet continues to put forth poem after poem that are razor-sharp, surprisingly delicate and packed to near-exploding with emotional content. Edwards is fearless in the face of language, and doesn’t flinch as she brings the straightrazor of her poems right up to the reader’s neck. But what’s perhaps most startling about Edwards is the sense that she’s really just getting started, and that there are still miles and poems ahead of her. Frankly, we’re always excited to see what she does next.

Revisionist History
By Stevie Edwards

I need a new story. I want a daughter:
 
Let it be said that the girl in the prey pose
knew so much of her beauty
she roared the baseball player’s ears deaf
before biting the right one off Mike Tyson style.  
 
Let it be said that upon losing music
the man wept himself into 
a drowned boy—
and the girl, seeing his ache 
was its own ocean, dredged 
his limp behind back to shore.
 
Let it be said that when the man rose
unchanged by mercy,
the girl’s incisors were filed sharp as shanks
as her mother had told her best suited ladies
in the wilds of home team nights.
 
Let it be said that her mother
was a butcher. That she knew how
to gut a mammal without waste.
 
That she never looked back.

***

Love Letter to Rachel McKibbens, from Stevie Edwards: Rachel, I asked if we could feature “Letter from My Heart to My Brain” and “Letter from My Brain to My Heart” because you performed these pieces the first time I saw you, which was at Columbia College — Chicago in Spring 2010. I remember weeping quietly in the audience, your litany of “It’s okays” giving me permission to be — to be a woman who struggles with mental illness but is not solely defined by it, to love myself both despite and because of it, to write truths even when they’re ugly, to find beauty in wounds. Above all, Rachel, your poems have taught me relentless self-acceptance and bravery. In 2011, when I emailed asking you to be a reader for my first book, Good Grief, I thought, no way is this phenomenal poet going to be willing to look at my measly manuscript. But you said yes. In fact, throughout the past four years of my getting to know you better as poet, friend, and mentor, you’ve given me dozens of yeses, of chances, that I expected to be shut doors. What I admire most about you as a poet is how your poems give so many women writers permission to be fierce and fucked up and unshakably beautiful. What I admire most about you as a mentor is how you go to bat for women poets. When I think of the type of legacy I want to create in the poetry community, I think of your example. Who else could have not just the vision for the Pink Door Women’s Writing Retreat and Good Idea Summit, but also the generosity of spirit to make it happen with limited resources? What you have given the community is a series of unlocked doors, let’s say they are pink, for women to walk through in sequins or sweats and speak with power. What you have given me is myself. Rachel, you are an important person and your writing is so necessary.

Letter From My Heart To My Brain 
By Rachel McKibbens

Its okay to hang upside-down like a bat,
to swim into the deep end of silence,
to swallow every key so you can’t get out.
It’s okay to hear the ocean calling your fevered name

to say your sorrow is an opera of snakes,
to flirt with sharp and heartless things.
It’s okay to write, I deserve everything,
to bow down to this rotten thing
that understands you, to adore the red
and ugly queen of it, to admire
her calm and steady rowing.

It’s okay to lock yourself in the medicine cabinet,
to drink all the wine, to do what it takes to stay
without staying. Its okay to hate God today
to change his name to yours, to want to ruin all that ruined you.
It’s okay to feel like only a photograph of yourself,
to need a stranger to pull your hair and pin you down,
it’s okay to want your mother as you lie alone in bed.
It’s okay to brick to fuck to flame to church to crush to knife
to rock to rock to rock to rock to rock and rock.

It’s okay to wave good-bye to yourself in the mirror.
To write, I don’t want anything.
It’s okay to despise what you have inherited,
to feel dead in a city of pulses. It’s okay
to be the whale that never comes up for air,
to love best the taste of your own blood. 
 
Letter From My Brain To My Heart 
By Rachel McKibbens

This house is dirty, but comfortable.
Behind each crooked door
waits the angry weather of a forgiveless child.
I cannot help but admire this horrible
power of mine, how each small thing
can become a death: the lost house key. A spoiled egg.
A howling dog. There is no prayer or pill for this.
It is a ruthless botany; I might as well
be buried in the yard. I have no one to blame.
Not the mother who sang to an empty cradle.
Not the Dog of Spite who bit my hand,
just this long-legged sorrow
who trails my every joy like a dark perfume.

You have my permission not to love me;
I am a cathedral of deadbolts
and I’d rather burn myself down
than change the locks.

***

Love Letter to Emily O’Neill, from Stevie Edwards: At the end of the 2013 Pink Door Women’s Writing Retreat and Good Idea Summit, Rachel McKibbens arranged a ceremony, where we all got to tell partners the following words, “You’re an important person and your writing is necessary.” You were my partner. Telling you these words was easy; they were true. But hearing them back from you forced me to stare the need for my own writing in the face, to accept worthiness. We held each other; I think that’s what our poems can do for one another. When I think of your poem “Conditional,” beyond being beautifully crafted with a mastery of language far beyond your years, it holds a space open for me to face the female body, complex feelings about motherhood, the grief of miscarriage—all without shame. I want to write you room after room where shame has no currency, rooms to be brave in, rooms to love yourself fiercely in, rooms to survive in, rooms Rachel has unlocked the doors to. This is how we can hold each other in poems: by being generously and generatively disruptive enough to make rooms for each other’s work, by knowing these rooms are holy and worth making noise for. Emily, you are an important person and your writing is so necessary.

Conditional
By Emily O’Neill

At twenty I miscarried a child.
He would be school-aged now,

a terror on your hip. Instead
he dissolved like a clot kissed with aspirin.

I blame the brandy and the wine. Not
foolish enough to call it miracle,

I would’ve kept the bastard in my bed
if he had grown beyond a seedling.  I’d be wrong

to think my recklessness a rescue. My boy
full of loose teeth. I won’t call it relief

when liquor stings the cut. He could’ve been aspirin,
a foolish kiss. He could’ve been

a rich meal slumped and stirring
in my stomach. Not three bloodless months

I paid no mind. Not a rosary of weeks
I thought my choices still immaculate.

He could’ve grown up a monster. Could’ve been bad
as the bastard who never knew I bled his baby.

I won’t talk about my future like that. Conditionally.  I won’t worry
my wishing with a name I chose before I knew

what I’d be losing.

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As if with a singular vision: A review of ‘Electronic Corpse: Poems from a Digital Salon,’ edited by M. Ayodele Heath

Reviewed by Scott Woods

As a communal poet experimentalist and an organizer or poetry events for many years, I’ve learned that even when the goal of a public art project is to be open and encompassing of all willing to play, people are still very much who they are individually throughout. How they treat their art as individuals typically bleeds through even in collaborative efforts. In an online open mic there will still be a segment of people who really only want to socialize in the margins, or poets who will argue for just the right moment of stage time. And so it is in collaborative poetry, where personal tics and crutches generally find their way into the work alongside individual voice and technique. It’s not easy to collaborate, even to the tune of one line at a time.

What makes the poems that appear in Electronic Corpse: Poems from a Digital Salon (2014, Svaha Paradox), edited by M. Ayodele Heath, rise above ego tradition is that the end result comes seemingly out of a hive mind; most of the poems don’t sound like five, six or seven authors, but one. When you read poems like “#115: Japanese scientists unveiled a robot that plays the violin” or “#55: They named me something French,” the sense isn’t that five or more random authors are present, but that a lone writer possessing singular vision has taken the reigns. If it were clear which poet had written which lines one might get a sense of which writers tend to send their respective poems in certain directions. Some poets contributed many times over many poems, frequently overlapping. There may be math that could be done to determine how frequently strong personalities infected such pieces. After all, when these lines were posted to Facebook, every contributor was clear and observable in the moment. When a Pushcart Prize winner or a Poetry Slam legend showed up, you noticed. It is not math I recommend anyone commit to, mostly because it chips away at one of the most fascinating developments this collection presents us with. We are occasionally treated to combinations of poets that, here and there, lend themselves to the impression of a unified vision and vocabulary – a meta-author – with, not so much a voice, but a sense of active listening. This is work not possible by mail, or out of the moment that the speed of technology provides.

Of course, creating the possibility of meta-authors (which was not the exercises’ intent) took some fair ground rules, a reliable and consistent call to arms every week. It took prompts that varied in tone and challenge. It took ease of access to the material via technology and the instant gratification that social media often provides. And it took no small measure of luck: as of this writing, Heath’s Facebook page is linked to over 1,100 people. At any point any one of them could have contributed to a poem in utero … some not even poets in their own minds, let alone anyone else’s. That an anthology of this quality even exists with those odds says a lot about the leadership that made this book possible.

Finally, the real payoff of the book is that all throughout is an element of mystery and the excitement that comes with such exercises: When the next line could, literally, be anything from any one of a thousand people, what might it possibly say? What direction will the poem spiral into? Will it actually arrive – accidentally or intentionally – at a theme or some genuine meaning? Will it make sense at all? These are the Easter eggs of such exercises, scattered throughout every single collaborative poem presented here. It is a collection of poetry that seems to have been captured, not created, which brings up all sorts of questions about how poetry intersects the questions of inspiration and technology and how people use them to express themselves. And while the exercises were clearly inspiring to their respective authors, it is the reader that will be inspired in turn, to consider even the very nature of art.

Scott Woods is the author of We Over Here Now (2013, Brick Cave Books). He has been featured multiple times in national press, including multiple appearances on National Public Radio. He MCs the Writers’ Block Poetry Night in Columbus, Ohio . In April of 2006 he became the first poet to ever complete a 24-hour solo poetry reading, a feat he bested with six more annual 24-hour readings without repeating a single poem.

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Four Poems by John Paul Davis

John Woolman’s 21st Century Blues
By John Paul Davis

I have an idea about justice. The smartphones
remember more & more for us every year. We don’t
call it slavery because we pay the laborers
next to nothing. The workers in China
with their faces blown off because the machine
was in bad repair are in the newspaper
but no one is asking where our sugar
& clothes come from. Machete scars
on a sharecropper’s arms. The children cuffed
to sewing machines. The last man
on the computer tablet assembly line
seeing the miracle screen flicker on over & over,
each device worth two months’ pay. The magic
always just out of reach. The hands
of a riveter in the Mercedes plant in Africa
that respect the machine’s complete grace
more than the mogul rapper
who only drove the car once. Someone’s daughter
ruining her hands to stitch the silk lining
into the blazer now limp like a dead flag
or a hollow man on the discount rack,
the needle bruising her fingers so often
she’s forgotten what it’s like to touch
& feel no sting. The ones
who can’t strike so they jump from the factory
rooftop. The women forced to have abortions
so the alarm clock shipment will leave
on time to make the Black Friday
sale where the pro-life activist
will buy one so she can make the clinic
protest on time. I have a feeling
about justice & I bury it. The company makes a thing I like
so I say it’s morally complicated. We all have
to eat. Someone is going to have to pay my student loans.
Someone is going to do this easy work
I do if I don’t. Someone will move into the foreclosed
mansion. Someone will rent the luxury
apartment across the street from the faded
& chipped spray paint mural of Biggie Smalls
& someone else & someone else until the barbershop
is replaced by the national coffee chain
& they sandblast the homage because the focus
group suggested the clientele prefer exposed
brick. The folk song about justice
& I sing along. Less rainforest
means cheaper coffee. The President promised
change so he moves assault drones
from one nation to another in the Middle East.
I take a moment for justice until I feel better
for having felt bad & then I pre-order
the latest model with the better tech specs
and flintblack screen. I can see my own face
in its darkness. I have an excuse
about justice. Something caught
in my throat about justice. There’s always light
here in this, the shimmering capital
of the last days, the sun setting
on the empire. I tighten my coat
against the wind of justice. Permanent daylight
& I can never quite get a good night’s sleep.
If he is anywhere, God is not thinking about me.

The Wheel
By John Paul Davis

The boy in the Polaroid is thirteen,
black, angry, his plaid shirt, more fashionable
than any clothing I own, covered in blood.

The detective wants me to say I remember
him. He could have been one of the five
teenagers I didn’t cross the street
to avoid, I say, but I really don’t remember.

The blood on his shirt, the cop
says. That’s yours. We have three eyewitnesses
so we don’t need your testimony,
but it helps get a conviction if the victim
testifies, the officer prompts. One county
over, my friend is teaching poetry
to a room full of black boys
in jail. I really don’t remember,

I say. In the hospital,
to test my memory, my wife quizzed
me on the book we’d been reading together,
The Autobiography Of Malcolm X.
What was Malcolm’s nickname
when he was a gangster?
she asks. Detroit Red,
I say, because of his hair.

I remember seeing them walking
toward me. I remember the cascade
of panic brimming as they approached.
I remember the sinus heat of shame
that followed, how like a cliche
I felt, white man nervous
at meeting a group of black boys.

They’re someone’s children,
I remember thinking. They love
what I love. Their mothers
& a day off from school & hip hop
purling from a car across a boulevard
at sunset. How a lover’s hand
is both cool & warm on the skin.
The drowsy downward tugging
in the body right before sleep. Malcolm, shining
down from a movie screen
in Spike Lee’s film. We intend

to prosecute this as a hate crime
the detective says. I don’t believe him. You think
they did this because I am white?
Did they steal anything? They’re just kids,I say. I sit up.

I had to read the police
report to know I fought back, that they passed
me, then turned around, knocked me down
from behind, pretended to offer
help as I got up, face split
open from its fast meeting with the concrete,

then hit me again as I reached
for their offered hands. Even in the leaden
haze of my concussion I think
about it as a metaphor. When did Malcolm change
his name? my wife asks. In prison,

I say, after converting to Islam. We can ask the court
to require restitution, the detective
says. With what money? I ask. They didn’t steal
anything. There are your medical bills

to consider, he says. For months after
I carry an old heavy u-lock, even when I’m not
biking. I learn every kind of silence
my neighborhood makes. If we classify it a hate crime
the state will pay for your hospital stay,
the detective says. They shouldn’t hate

me; I’ve done nothing to them. They should hate
me; I rent a house in a neighborhood
their great-grandfathers built & their grandfathers
loved & that their parents were pushed
out of when the rents rose. I am increased police presence.
I am tax cuts the President promised.
I am a six hour wait at the health clinic. Who did Malcolm
call devil? I am the shuttered library. I am a reduction
in the bus schedule. Here I come with my voter
registration & good intentions. The police report

says I fought them off, bleeding, my voice
a flattened echo from the storefronts
where other white people watched
but did not come help. They were tired,
the detective says, from the three white men
they assaulted before they got to you.
Otherwise your injuries would be more serious.

What made Malcolm leave the Nation Of Islam,
my wife asks, while I suck an ice chip.
I am the warming planet. He went to Mecca,
I say. He saw that Islam
was interracial. I am stop & frisk. I am a food
desert. I have never been to jail.

Closest I came was once, when a bus driver looked me in my eyes
and pulled away anyway; I punched
the side of the bus. A cop took me aside
like he was my uncle, asked don’t you think
you just frightened that man? He’s only doing his job.
I was let go with that lecture. Who killed
Malcolm? The book hangs from my wife’s hand.

Next month I will be reading the story of a black
woman named Peace who bore the sins
of an entire town. I am the curiosity
that accompanies luxury. The detective
gives me my own copy of the police report,

and the photo. I imagine Detroit Red
in the polaroid, covered with my blood, contempt
& pride on his young face. Those boys split my face
open from my lip to my septum,
blackened my eyes, kicked a memento
into my spine that to this day still beats like a second
heart when I walk or make love

& I know they hated me & I wish I could tell
them I never hated them. I wish I could ask
their forgiveness. Who killed
Malcolm? The state is going to press charges? I ask.
Regardless of what I do? Yes, he says.

I am the sky-wide concrete invasion
of the BART tracks that cast a shadow
over your street but doesn’t stop
in your neighborhood. Who killed
Malcolm? I’m recovering from a concussion,
I say. I really can’t remember clearly.

The detective stays seated. Quiet. A look
on his face. I can’t walk, so he lets himself
out. I am a street without streetlights.
In the hospital, my answer took
long enough my wife grew concerned.
Who killed Malcolm? The ice melting
on my tongue. No one knows,

I finally say. I am the Audubon Ballroom,
February 21, 1965. I don’t remember any of it.
That is the only mercy. The face of the handcuffed
boy in the photo says he is fighting
a war. It says by any means necessary. His face
broken open where I’m told
I hit him. I want to change

my name. I want him to be okay. I will turn
on you when I no longer need to feel good
or when I need something else more. I touch the tender
healing flesh on my mouth. I know no prayer
that will make me holy. Listen, I know

I can leave this place any time I want.


Love Song With Drones & Wiretaps
By John Paul Davis

Forgot what I was going to google
so I googled what was I about to google?

which is like a dream I had. You were in it, bioluminous,
filled with asking. What is my new name? you google.

We made love. In the dream & in life. The trees grew
taller. How do you feel? you asked. I said too Google.

I meant I wanted to data mine myself. Why do I adore
a woman 800 miles away? Can’t find that answer through Google.

But I bet the NSA knows me better than I do. My search queries
are prayers, & the unknown knower I pray to? Google.

Which makes the drones angels. & the President
is President, but also really smart & plugged in to Google.

At night he clicks an ethernet cable to a port in his neck,
becomes a node, downloads & uploads to Google.

Memories are data. Love? Data. This American heartbreak?
Data. The data-river eternal but changing. Every day a new Google.

My texts go unanswered. One too many vodkas show up on my debit
card. Then the President knows I’m lovesick through Google.

But does nothing. What could he do? Send a drone to watch over
me? Admit I know your heartache because of what you googled?

I dream we tumble again on your unmade bed. I dream the reverse galaxy
of your freckles. Why does your voice undo me? Remind me to google.

I want you to know my passwords. My browser history. My cookies
will be your cookies. I will google what you google.

But you wanted the night. Or you’re not heartready. And so. I type
how do I become wilder? Beautiful? How do I let go? into Google.

Emperor Of Drones
By John Paul Davis

Yes, I voted for you, twice, & the second time I knew
already about the nerve net of wires tangled
like seaweed, fused to your crown & temples
through which all our wiretapped conversations

stream. You must recall the terrible things
I said to Hannah on the phone when I realized
we would break up or the lies
I told Alecia during the divorce negotiations

as I’m sure you know the times I called
in sick when I just wanted to be in the sun
on my bike with Brooklyn opening
up before me like a new book

like I’m certain you know what I deleted
from the cover letter email before attaching
my résumé & how I don’t date the same kind
of women I like to watch in porn

so I am not at all going to pretend I am not guilty.
Can you close your eyes & see the terrified faces
of the not-guilty as they run from what you send hawking
down out of the sky toward them

as they stop to pour more radiator fluid
in the beaten car or talk with a neighbor
(who also dies in the attack) about how grown
now are their daughters (who are the same age as yours)?

Do their last prayers ripple
in your veins? Do you see their broken bodies
in dreams? Emperor of Drones, Lord of War
& Dollars, King of Secrets, do you have two

hearts, one that lushes alive when your brilliant
wife & gorgeous children enter the room,
which you tuck into a velvet-lined box
before entering the Situation Room

where you snap the other into place,
clockwork heart passed down President
to President forty-four times now, same cold
pump that compelled Jefferson to accept
the three-fifths compromise, that gave Jackson
the steel face he needed to kill
off the Indians, that whispered in George W’s ear
the Iraqis had missiles? Does the other, human

heart fit less & less comfortably
the more often you lock the metal, ticking
one in? Caesar of Torture, do you have to wear
the robot heart to bed lest the wet screams

of the waterboarded invade your sleep?
When you wash your hands of innocent
blood, does the face of Jesus look like Bradley
Manning chanting in solitary my god my god

why has thou forsaken me? Yes I am guilty.
Yes I voted for you because the alternatives
were worse. Dammit, yes, I even hoped
for a season but I don’t blame

you for my naïveté. I know you are watching
me like the worst kind of god, the kind who thinks
the existence of paradise at all justifies
the invention of hell. I know I am the fool.

I know the lesser of two evils is still
evil. I know you’ll miss it when you leave the white mansion,
the humming dance of tiny chilly gears
you have started to ache for even when it is not wearing

you like a human suit. You’ll leave office & reminisce
about it with its previous vassals. Clinton will say
I grew to love it more than my wife’s smile. Bush
will choke a little, say it was stronger than church.

Carter will say I still sometimes cough up little cogs.
You’ll each fall quiet, watching the newly-elected man lose
the light from his eyes, years from his hair. The first
time you hear him lie on television your chest

will ache & you’ll yearn for the diabolical mechanism
to whir in you again the way a child can’t stop probing
a wound, hungry for the short stab of pain. You won’t even be a man
any more. Just a countdown that never ends, ticking away.

John Paul Davis writes poems, and reads quite a few of them as well. You can find out more about him at http://www.johnpauldavis.org.

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Four Poems by Mariya Deykute

…and all the host of them.
By Mariya Deykute

We waited for something to happen to us. Moscow glittered like the Snow
Queen’s palace. Wet blubbery things reached through the Kremlin. Parents
traveled with plaid bags large enough to fit us inside, talked in dog whispers.
Fedya heard bums roasting cats. A giant pike pulled Denis into a creek hole.
Sasha’s uncle got a twelve room apartment with a golden toilet and got shot
pissing. We played New Russians. We played Ninja Turtles. We played Indians
vs. Nazis. We played Yeltsin vs. Schwarzenegger. We believed we came from
another world. Middle Earth. Neverland. Tokyo. We believed we had the key
to anything, if we could just find the door. We looked for it between trees,
in closets, on the river bank. We knew what was behind it. Behind the door
seashells rocked, Everest descended into the Mariana trench. The pyramids
imploded, snakes slithered up our arms, robbers and witches fell in throngs,
we won a trip to Disneyland, Las Vegas and Mars simultaneously. We saw
the edges of the universe and the hands of God. His promises rang loud in our
ears. We would prospect diamonds on Venus. We would eat dates out
of coconut shells, the President would pay us to head the first expedition to
the South Pole of Pluto. We would invent our own mathematics, and we would
never have to recite another Pushkin poem in front of the class again. We were
nine and waited. We were ten and waited. We were eleven and waited. We waited
under our covers, in mirrors in the dark, in messages scratched on desks, we
waited in stories, we waited in plans of escape, we waited in pretending we were
adopted, we waited in pretending we were dead, we waited on construction sites,
in front of fires, in flooded basements, with ringworm kittens and knock-off jeans,
with stolen Cosmopolitan and hypnotism, with iodine knees and chicken pox, and
the great machine of the county dismantled itself and belched forward windows,
trapdoors, stairs, while our parents, our little smart town huddled around antennas
receiving messages from stars and pretending t couldn’t hear the noise of the world
falling apart, becoming itself, again.

….will settle there and find herself a resting place.
By Mariya Deykute

I am a nation myself. My national resources: street furniture, IKEA lamps, first stars, fire escape blues, wax ducklings, a seashell, a whiskey bottle, a plan to go back to Russia, jokes about bears, Quincy magnolias, a thousand caskets rotting on schedule. My father’s green eyes, my grandma’s

black hair, potatoes. Potatoes, a major national resource. I share this with Russia. Also, the Cold War, also, perestroika, also, permafrost, the untranslatable words. Recipes of cat stew a la ’90s Moscow bum, my father guarding a warehouse at night, coming home in the morning to tell me

he is afraid of rats and on the radio some guru is so sure we could survive on sunlight. Herring, wild strawberries impaled on grass stems, rye spicas, Spica in constellation Virgo, big things over the horizon, so big they shift the center of gravity as we edge towards them, again. We keep our

eyes on apples, on soccer, on the Shakespearean drama of graffiti on the sixth floor, we edge edge edge, and in a blink we are pressed between pages of Dostoyevsky, all other Russian names forgotten or misspelled, and “home” is not a part of anyone’s inheritance, there is another hydra

in the bog, and home is something that stays as you go, a meteor that burned up in the atmosphere, as you crash to the ground, and memory is the only national resource that has any traction, the only thing I trade it, and even that’s half false, the Scientific American tells me.

The Correspondent
By Mariya Deykute

Dear Martian,

Here is how the Earth is round.
Here are people mining dinosaurs for stories.

I had a sister once. She died. The whole town
wore mourning for three weeks.

Now about the whales. They are inconceivable. We see
their jets off Cape Cod. Harpoons? Blubber? No.

We made mistakes. Look in the history books.
Here are Mongols, Nazis, Eugenics, the whole ghost caboose.

See us run, and run, and stumble, and stop.
We have stopped now.

We have yoga, we breathe in and out, we hold for seven seconds,
we shantih, shantih, shantih. Every child makes friends with a pine.

Every landlord is a forest ranger, they plant maples, rear wolf cubs.
Apartment buildings nest in dense oak, yule, hemlock.

If a person throws a Bud can on the ground, he must wear a scarlet “L”
on his Facebook page. Rats are not poisoned but trained.

Look at the cities we made of sustainable kelp. Use your telepathy.
We are conscious, so conscious. Touch our beautiful thoughts.

Someone told me once, if you convince just one person, the whole world changes.
When I was little, I turned into a seagull. My first words were in a bird language.

I flew from my bed.

The Traitor
By Mariya Deykute

                    someone is following us.

Listen to this: ‘the Devil Card’ was introduced to the Tarot
pack in the 20th century. Think about it: there was no devil

in any girl’s fate before the 1900s. I wonder if Hana, Liesel,
Ruth drew it, or if it was a different card, a red—

                   shh, don’t make a sound.

If only they knew the language of trees or could turn
a comb into a forest a mirror into a lake and make pacts

with inanimate objects: “sister cellar, keep us safe
don’t lead us to the grave; brother attic, brother house

make us dust inside your brows, until day breaks
and shadows flee.” Of course, no magic can account for

                   someone is breathing down my neck.

people. Stop arguing with me. That thing is inside you too
just waiting for the permission to hurt, the right order

of events. Afterwards, the old excuses of wars, elderly
relatives, rot, depression, demonic possession, politics –

                   something is moving under my skin.

What was the right order of events for Oppenheimer?
The Devil now in all divinations, a knowledge that kills.

                   I don’t recognize myself anymore.

Jesus, Jung, Mary – don’t you know we are lost – haven’t you
learned from the Holocaust that haemoclaria won’t help

us, or lye-bitten shrines, or temperance or humility?
Haven’t you seen the fat in the gutter, blood on the door hinge,

the logic of the human mind? What? Well, watch us, Tarot. Watch us, Mary,
watch us, gods. We are the only magic left. Watch us invent our own cards.

                   L’ch Lach, someone is standing at the foot of your bed. Wake up.
                   Wake up. It’s time, it’s time again. I told them where we live.

Mariya (Morie) Deykute started writing in Puschino, Russia. Since then she’s lived in Montreal, Jerusalem, St. Petersburg and New Mexico, and wrote everywhere to varying success. She is an MFA candidate at UMass: Boston, where she tutors ESL students and teaches memoir workshops at the OLLI Institute. Her poems have appeared in Other Rooms Press, Meat for Tea, Grasslimb, Front Porch, Monarch Review, Inkspill, Amethyst Arsenic and elsewhere.

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Team Internet: On the Road to the National Poetry Slam

By Tatyana Brown

The relationship between poetry as it is performed and websites such as YouTube and Upworthy is a rich and complicated one. Purists will tell you nothing compares to being in the room with a live audience in that ephemeral moment when a poet delivers well-crafted work with ardent sincerity. Some argue that shared experience is at the root of what makes the tradition of reading and listening to poetry out loud so compelling. And even the most devout YouTube viewers must admit that listening to the recording of a live audience howling and moaning in shock as a poet reads can be a bit … distracting.

And at the same time, it’s impossible to deny the impact short, shareable videos have had on the public awareness of contemporary poetry. The exponential shift in popularity of poetry slam alone over the past decade can be attributed in no small way to YouTube. Many people discover slam this way, spending hours devouring footage of poets long before they have a chance to go to a local show or reading (especially since there are plenty of places in the world where local poetry venues might be hard to come by, and many performance spaces aren’t wheelchair accessible). And aside from exposure and awareness, poetry videos allow people all over the world to immerse themselves in work that speaks to them no matter the distance – creating conversations between artists and audiences that wouldn’t ever find one another otherwise.

Vibrant online communities have arisen to support poetry fans looking for great work online.For example, Fuck Yeah Poetry Slam (a blog for slam/spoken word fans that gets its name from the “Fuck Yeah _____” meme), has been sharing spoken word on Tumblr since 2010 and has amassed a following of more than 8,000 people. Now they want to push the idea of online audience participation one step further and use the blog as a platform to create a slam team – one that competes at the 2014 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif., this summer.

In the past, video slams have been used to select competitors for Individual competition (such as the Brenda Moossy Video Slam, which sends one representative each year to the Women of the World Poetry Slam), but no one has ever attempted to send a team before. FYPS decided to use poet Wonder Dave’s YouTube channel as their “online venue,” in order to guarantee that each official slam hosted in the team selection process would get the minimum number of “attendants” required to register as an Official Slam with PSi. All videos from the FYPS team selection process will be posted to that channel as well as the blog.

When FYPS put out the call for competitors, just under 30 poets from Vermont to Alaska submitted work for consideration. One poet hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, sent in poems for competition as well. With that many competitors, they’ve set up a six-slam preliminary tournament. Each slam will be set up as a playlist (with videos linked into a cohesive show). The two poets with the most likes from each playlist will submit a second video and become part of the Online Finals.

Slam No. 1 in the Fuck Yeah Poetry Slam team selection process has already taken place, and with 157 views on the low end and over 1000 views on the most popular video on that playlist, it looks like the series will be well above the minimum attendance requirements to certify the venue. The venue host, Wonder Dave, comes to the job with lots of experience as the former Slam Master of SlamMN in Minneapolis. He has been a regular contributing editor to FYPS for years now (originally brought onboard to increase the humorous content of the space). You can follow along as this team is formed via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and, of course, YouTube.

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Riposte to Victor D. Infante

by Wilbur Dee Case

As T. S. Eliot once noted in an essay of his, which I am merely paraphrasing from memory, the poet approaches literary criticism from a different vantage point than the scholar. Now that might have had more significance in the Modernist period, when perhaps there were more serious literary scholars than we have today; for I am acutely aware of a shortage of them in this New Millennial period; but it is perhaps even rarer to find poets who are themselves sustained critics of their art. At least among the formalists, one can occasionally find a Dana Gioia or a William Baer; but unfortunately their poetry does not rise to the level of a Dryden, Pope, Samuel Johnson, Coleridge or a Poe, to warrant interest in their work.

Of New Millennialist poetic critics, one looks in vain for a poet whose critical work takes the field of World literature as his demesne and wracks his poetic art against it. Be that as it may, just the other day, I came across a recent piece: Where Something Beautiful Should Be, by Victor D. Infante. Not really an essay, it was less than eight paragraphs, it was a delightful piece of critical prose.

He begins in a bar in New York City discussing slam and flarf (which he metaphorically refers to as “redheaded stepchildren of contemporary poetry, both of which have had convulsive histories”) with an academician. The former [slam], he says “has had a long slog from the fringes to carve a place for itself in contemporary poetry”; while the latter [flarf] has “faced derision and…backlash.” I have to admit that I have peripherally denigrated both of these stepchildren, as the following two poems show where I stand now.

Poetic Slams
By Wilbur Dee Case

Poetic slams are all the rage. The people rise
up, yes, to let it all out — Pentacostally.
Perhaps they grab a mike with fire in their eyes,
and then proceed t’ orate, o, so passionately.
Like lovers giving lovers kisses, they begin
to let fly words. A hundred at a time, words flee
from out round mouths, o, hundreds at a time they spin.
And then it all starts to add up to thousands, yow,
so that one cannot count them all in such a din.
They go at it, like wolves out in the night — and howl —
intoxicated, soaring on linguistic cries
and verbal acrobatics, slamming, whamming, zow.

Another Literary (Bowel) Movement
By Wilbur Dee Case

“No poet…has his complete meaning alone.”
—T. S. Eliot, Tradition and Individual Talent

If flarf is only so much avante-garde rehashed,
a cutting up of texts, bizarre trajectories,
then it is nothing more than bloviating, mashed-
montage junkspeech, a splash of crashing nectarines.
If flarf is only so much fluff without dream’s stuff,
its reject glories but reshuffled errancies,
a googol Google-goggles gone up in a guff,
then it’s damn yadda dada data dayadhvam.
If flarf is only one technique, a stylized puff,
a sweep of e. e. cummings going o’er the dam
of jetsam/flotsam/get-some/got-some crashflash smashed,
without tradition, it is individu’l spam.

In his second paragraph Infante, calling them genres, goes on to delineate their separate histories, flarf from surrealism, dada, and Modernists, like T. S. Eliot, and slam from Beats and African American poetry of the”60s and ’70s. In his next paragraph , his says “this sort of game” can be played out through “any of poetry’s myriad threads…” like, “confessionalism or new formalism.” And in his fourth paragraph, he states, “They did not spring wholly formed like Athena from the head of Zeus,” which got me thinking about my own poetic practice, which is what, I suppose, a good literary essay should do.

Although I have such a negative gut reaction to both slam and flarf, I realize that in my younger years of experimentation, I went through both of them, when they as yet had their present nomenclature. In my early practice of poetry, in the 1970s, I made page after page of disembodied words and phrases — myriad passed through my mind. I made preposterous poem after poem in the incoherent style of writers such as Wallace Stevens or John Ashbury. In addition, I remember writing a stilted poem, Cicadas’ Voices, of a hundred or so lines, modeled after T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. I guess I was flarfing when flarfing wasn’t cool. As for slamming, how often did I not in the late 1950s and early 1960s get on my bike and go round and round upon Olson Road and relate adventure stories to the wind…

Decad
By Wilbur Dee Case

“Each person has a window on the world.”
—Lew Icarus Bede

When I was young I used to ride my bike
around and around in an oval loop
along a straight stretch of an asphalt road;
and I would relate varied stories like
they were being listened to by some group;
though along this stretch there was no abode.
Still, I’m so thankful for that distant time,
because without it, in these present days,
I’d lack a reference to the sublime.
I am so thankful for that sunny phase.

…or cry out in oratorial proclamations to the universe in the late 1960s through the mid-’70s. I vividly remember getting up at the light of day at the University of Washington in Seattle, and going around in choral squawk; or in the evenings, walking for hours on end, into the night, and singing the most horrible songs, even if they were genuine soundings. I have since fled those early embarrassing forays, though how often do I not still continue to sing and make songs on my way to work and back?

That is what time and history do — they blur one’s memories.

In the next paragraph, he mentions the recent deaths of many poets, including Seamus Heaney; but there was one figure I had not heard of — Hashem Shabani. And so I looked him up on the Internet, and found this poem by Abdul Serecewi, which showed me I am still involved with flarf.

Hashem Shabani
By Abdul Serecewi

He had to die for waging war on Allah, yes;
and after all he was an Arab in Iran as well,
who came from Ahvaz. It is so. Confess, confess.
And then, of course, he was a member of this hell
called Earth. He mocked the sacred revolution too.
How could he ever do that willingly? Tell, tell.
And then he tried to raise his voice for others, who
were beaten, eaten by the state. Relate, relate.
Why even President Hassan Rouhani knew
he needed to be hung, and fast. How could one wait
to clear corruption’s body from this bloody mess?
Come clean, come clean, and bring this bard upon a plate.

One place where flarf strikes me as particularly interesting is in the Ern Malley episode in Australian literature; and for me flarf has some of those same qualities, humorous foolery, explosive dynamism, and fraudulence.

Finally, Infante concludes his piece with the rather obvious point that our “art form is better for … there being a multitude of styles and voices to echo off each other,” which I do agree with; yet, at the same time, it is also important to develop a voice that is unique, genuine, and true, without being overwhelmed by everybody else, and sometimes it requires a bit of barking (slamming) and flim-flamming (flarfing).

Wilbur Dee Case is a nondescript poet and literary critic of the normal and the bland, influenced by movement poets, such as Larkin, minimalist poets, such as Buson, reticent poets such as Dickinson, and hermetic poets, such as Sabo and Montale. He loves the middle of the road, from flat Nebraska to ordinary New Jersey — his gasoline choice is regular — and a mind that’s clear and free of the exotic.

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Poem by Sam Sax

Cruising Utopia.
For José Esteban Muñoz (1967 – 2013)
By Sam Sax

Queerness is the thing that lets us know the world is not enough, that indeed, something is missing. – José Esteban Muñoz

today you are dead and i read a poem by merwin
on the toilet that i forgot soon as i read it.

after, i watched a video my father sent of katie perry
singing her hit song about explosives and the potential of the human

spirit. she sang it with an autistic girl whose dream it was to sing
with katie perry. he tells me he cried, my father.

i’ll never understand what makes men do that. or how to get there
outside of a map stitched from liquor.

i think that type of open weeping must be like the ocean coughing
up a swallowed city.

last week i found your words in my mouth again, in a classroom,
defending theory. how it too can make the world or map it.

somewhere else on the internet, a man whose cum i ate and hate now
says he cried over your passing or is crying still. and i’m full,

not quite of envy, but still something huge and wet. every boy i’ve loved
is an archive of spit, every man a document taken into the body.

your first book, i carried inside me until its pages wore thin as a blueprint
of valhalla. homeless in atlanta, i met someone at a faggot bar

who let me live in his house because of how we both loved you.
everyone i love is sad on the internet, is reaching

with both arms toward the promise of something reaching back
is charting a path between what is given and what is given away

today you are dead and somewhere on the internet, a friend films
himself injecting testosterone into his dirt gold calves

elsewhere, a drag queen’s makeup is spun backwards off her plain face,
a boy dances inside his mother’s vestigial hips, fast food

workers strike, their picket signs full of text. elsewhere, someone claims
an ancient library was found at the bottom of the ocean

i bet that’s where we’re all going. i bet that’s where you went.

Sam Sax is an MFA candidate at the Michener Center for Writers, a recipient of the Acker Award, a Pushcart-nominated poet, and has recently had his poetry appear (or is forthcoming) in Anti-, Rattle, The Boxcar Poetry Review and other journals.

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Three Poems by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Arranged
By Hieu Minh Nguyen

my grandmother tells me you are very pretty
your smile not of a girl but of a package
teeth straight and perfectly arranged
like each petal in a bride’s bouquet

your smile not of a girl but of a package
you are presented to me as a trophy
like each petal in a bride’s bouquet
a haunting hiding underneath a veil

you are presented to me as a trophy
in my sheets there’s a continent between us
a haunting hiding underneath a veil
we will sleep in separate beds

in my sheets there’s a continent between us
wedding photos hang in the walk-in closet
we will sleep in separate beds
make a habit out of undressing in the bathroom

wedding photos hang in the walk-in closet
teeth straight and perfectly arranged
make a habit out of undressing in the bathroom
my grandmother tells me you are very pretty

The Gay ’90s, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 18+
after Sierra DeMulder
By Hieu Minh Nguyen

This is where the straight people go
to watch The Gays. They come
wearing pride and proud in fishnet
costumes. They come to watch the main event
of smoke and sweat and mirrors.

We are your #1 fans! They have all come
to see The Show: See the Cock Swallower.
The Dancing Bears. Come watch those Strong
Women. The Married Men
all cramming into one bathroom stall.

Bring a beard and a moist towelette.
It’s a five dollar cover. It’s a good time. Tip
the bartender,

smile for the cameras, show off your shimmy.
The audience is watching. They are waiting
for you to do a trick. Roll over. Sit.

Tater Tot Hot-Dish
By Hieu Minh Nguyen

The year my family discovered finger-food
recipes, they replaced the roast duck with a turkey,
the rice became a platter of cheese and crackers,
none of us complained. We all hated the way the fish
sauce made our breath smell. When the women
started lightening their hair, we blamed it on the sun.
When Emily showed up with blonde highlights
and an ivory boyfriend we all started talking
about mixed babies. Overjoyed with the possibility
of blue eyes in the family photo. That year
I started misspelling my last name, started reshaping
myself to have a more phonetic face. Vietnam
became a place our family pitied,
a thirsty rat with hair too dark and a scowl
too thick. That year a porcelain Jesus made its way
onto the bookshelf. We stopped going to temple
and found ourselves a church. I took my shoes off
outside of the cathedral out of habit and my mother
hid her embarrassed tan face in a cotton scarf.
When she closed her eyes and bowed her head
to prayers she couldn’t understand, I left religion
in the back seat of our new-used Ford Focus.
That was the year I stopped praying, and started thinking
in English.

Hieu Minh Nguyen is a Minnesotan. He is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Anti-, The Journal, decomP Magazine, PANK, Muzzle, Indiana Review and other journals. He works at a haberdashery.

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Four Poems by Megan Falley

K
By Megan Falley

In the summer, girls paid her
in cigarettes and hickeys
to shave their heads
on her front porch.

I sat behind her in poetry class
and when she wrote the naked lady
tattooed on her arm writhed.
I tried to name the shade of her hair —
so black it was blue.

She loved Bukowski. Hated herself
in the most beautiful ways — pierced
five or six holes in her face.

One day in class she stole my phone,
punched her number in and saved her name — “k”.
She owned 1/26 of the alphabet.

I read her messages over and over.
They were the first poems.
They were cave paintings.
They were my own palms.

The only time she ever called was 3AM.
I WANT TO KISS YOU RIGHT NOW said her whiskey.
Don’t worry, that’s just something
she tells new friends
said her roommate, sober,
snatching the phone.

The world had never given me
the language to say Come close or Yes or I don’t know
how to touch you, let me touch you
—so I danced
with a boy that night. He was tall, I think.

I slept beside him, not touching, forgot
his name. But I remembered her hair,
bruise colored. How the dye left a spot
behind her ear. How it ruined nothing
but me.

The Day Amanda Realized She Was A Lesbian
By Megan Falley

she pulled me into the laundry room,
mascara spilling down her graduation dress.

Her High School sweetheart — a lover
of Pearl Jam, hockey and monogamy — clueless
on the other side of the door.

I asked why she waited until graduation
to become a lesbian when we spent the past four years
at a liberal arts college known for its Kombucha and girls

braiding each other’s armpit hair on the Ultimate Frisbee Quad.
We’d done everything together: dyed our hair the same
shade of Manic Panic. Guarded the door for each other while touching

strange men in bar bathrooms. Told the same tequila secrets
to the same plastic wastebaskets. Shared a twin bed.
We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry — but I held her

the way I always held her.
How could we not have known?

I slid down the snowy hill on a dining hall lunch tray
only after she braved it. She chewed the mushroom stem
only after I swallowed mine.

We unlocked each other
like middle school diaries,

and so I called the girl
whose green eyes followed me across campus
for seven semesters and say Take me

somewhere

and in the garden, she kissed me
so soft, I grew
a new eyelash.

Telling Him I Kissed A Woman
By Megan Falley

I cut the pill of truth
and served it with honey.
A half-lie, I said

we were drunk.

Painted us starved,
in dresses of gin, egged
on by the barstools.

Painted myself stumbling
onto her face,
more so than an actual kiss.

Painted it as if cameras were rolling.
An image he could beat
off to, instead of curse. Said

it meant nothing

And how could it?
I was straight
as a wedding aisle.

I touched
his beard. Begged him
to stay. Insisted

it was only a kiss

and hoped he wouldn’t hear it
in my voice, how it sounded like

it was only a decade.
It was only a war.

I didn’t say there was no bar,
no audience except
the magnetic poetry falling

to the floor as she pressed me
up against the refrigerator, beaming.

That I felt more in that
one kiss than anytime he thrust
his tongue down my throat,

or wouldn’t get a condom,
or wanted it facedown.
I swore

it will never happen again.

He called me a whore.

I said

I love you.

He called me a bitch.
I said

yes.

Alibi
By Megan Falley

“Danish Man Aquitted of Sexual Assaults Because He was Asleep, Suffers from ‘Sexsomnia.’” –NY Daily News

Why isn’t there a disease
where you do something useful
in your sleep — maybe file my taxes?
Caulk the bathtub?
I need a pedicure. Need to fix this
unibrow. Finish that manuscript.
Can’t you help with that?

I’ve suddenly contracted a sleep-punching disease.
I’m going to cuddle up next to everyone
who believes this shit.
In my disease I tie balloon animals
out of scrotums.

It’s okay. I’m sleeping.
I don’t want to be held
accountable either.

It’s funny your disease manifested itself
at thirty-one years old when you had a pair
of teenage girls in your home.
Curious it didn’t haunt you
on your camping trip
with Grandpa.

If I had affliction where I unconsciously shoved
a pistol into the mouths of people
I loved, I’d tell them:

look, I do this thing
in the night—it might kill you,
but it isn’t me.

Except I’d know
it was me.

I’d sleep in a crypt.
I’d cut off
my own hands.

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