The Editors write: We’re fascinated with Ben Clark’s poetry, and have been ever since we read his first collection, Reasons to Leave the Slaughter, on Write Bloody Publishing. Clark has a gift for using structure, disjointed diction and offbeat metaphors to create a sense of strangeness. But rather being off-putting, the strangeness creates a sort of emotional connection with the reader, which is a pretty good trick. Clark has a distinctive voice, and that voice’s youthfulness lends a vividness to his descriptions of emotion that makes each description sharp and agonizingly bright.

if you turn around, I will turn around
by Ben Clark

I could say the day began this way: I forgot your birthday, Jay proposed, you found out you were pregnant for the second time. This isn’t far from the truth. Your favorite gift is a book your mother bought for herself then gave to your father in 1982 then gave to you today, twenty years later. In your pocket right now you rub two small stones together and tell yourself they fell from the sky. Your son will sleep at least another hour. You’re a half-day ahead of me, and a few pages from finishing another journal that I will place with the rest. I have not written in my own since November, and may never again. It makes sense that this would happen.

You will say you miss me more the fewer chances you have to be near me. You will thank me for writing. You will mention talking soon. You will ask if I still benefit from all this. Your son wakes to toast. I will sleep on a couch until I’m no longer sick. He has a collection of twelve matchbox cars. I have kept the letters you sent me since we were teenagers and still have nothing to do with him. You will say what happened before no longer applies, which is both a form of forgiveness and forgetfulness. You will say you had another night better than the last. You will stop saying things, little by little, then at all.

Writes Clark: “I met Marty McConnell a few years back at the Green Mill and, after witnessing one more commanding performance on her part, was able to work up enough courage to introduce myself. She invited me to the Vox Ferus After Dark workshops, which she ran along with (what felt like at the time) every other talented, passionate, focused, honest, intelligent, and beautiful writer in Chicago. Meeting her, and being included so graciously into this community was, and still is, the single most important occurrence in my life as a writer. I’m grateful for each of the friends and poets I’ve met because her, grateful for the way she guides a workshop, and grateful for the way she approaches each person’s work as though it is her own, and devotes herself to that work.

“Which is why I’m so glad she sent this poem for inclusion. She approaches the writing and performance of her work like she’s playing the cello. Which is to say with intensity, devotion, incredible finesse, and absolute honesty about her human experience. Read her poems. Watch her perform. Do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to her.”

how to survive the apocalypse
by Marty McConnell

I finally washed my sheets today. coincidence
of course that the last time they were clean
was just before you last

slept in them. that the handprint you left
had still not dissolved. today I watched a man
play the cello with his whole

body. and by with his whole body I mean
every cell was playing the cello. the cells
for breathing. the cells

for praying. the cells for nodding, for shedding,
belly cells, nail cells, teeth cells, eyelash
cells, and this

is how I want to love. to have no atom
that is not fully rapt in the act of love,
in loving not

just you, or whomever comes next if we never
return to each other, to this bed or another,
but the whole purposed

and purposeful world, the atoms for street signs,
for oak trees, for coal and mosquitoes and chalkboards
and cello strings, absolutely

for cello strings, and for sheets, I didn’t know
the difference between talent and genius
until I saw it, leaning out

of a body, but as the body, wholly intent
and borderless, absent of hesitation
as a hummingbird

but so, so human. and here it is: I did not want
to kiss the genius. or be any nearer the genius
than I was, across

the small room. I sat in my simple, comfortable
chair and each of my arms grew arms
of their own, each

of my legs unfurled into seven legs, like the tail
of a peacock or a hand unfisting into a fan,
my mouth grew

a dozen mouths, my hair dropping
to the floor in a dark and graying flood,
and my ears — my ears

stayed two ears, my heart one off-center,
sloshing heart, men outside the window
dangling from harnesses

hanging a banner these eight floors up,
the good news about our survival
ringing everywhere

against the glass.

Writes Clark: “II met Colin Winnette in a short fiction class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he brought in story after story about sisters and animals, gave incredible feedback, and argued half-heartedly with the professor. I heard he was from Texas, and in a recent performance had jumped rope and read sonnets out-loud to a room full of spectators for two hours. At the time, we both had books coming out (his first novel is Revelation with Mutable Sound) and needed to tour. Of course we toured together. After the tour we toured again, and are now working on a collaborative collection of poetry entitled Kate Jury Denton Texas.

“He is an incredibly prolific and versatile writer, and along with Revelation has a collection of short stories called Animal Collection, coming out this year with Spork Press, and two novellas collectively titled A Long Line of Diggers to be released in 2013 with Atticus Press. His poetry is like his fiction, in that it is engaging, fast-paced, restrained, odd, shocking, and at times both brutal and incredibly tender. The quality of his work compels me to explore the caverns of each poem, to make myself at home even, though I’m more frightened with every line. ”

The Canyon
by Colin Winnette

The fox was all bone when we found him.

You picked at the skeleton with a stick.

We climbed into the fort across the street from your house.

We talked about books we’d read and drugs we’d taken.

A certain pill made you feel like you didn’t know anything about anyone.

A ghost between the walls.  You said you liked the feeling, though it was frightening.

And years later you drove to the Grand Canyon.

When we met, we met on the roof of a building that is no longer standing.

That wood is in the dirt now, or in the air.

My skin or my hair or both was in your house until you moved.

And now it’s in someone else’s house.

I climbed into the fort across the street from their house.

I had no books to read and no drugs to take and no one to talk to.

Everybody goes to the Grand Canyon eventually.  Believe me.

Which makes it hard to come up with something to say about it.

It’s enormous.

It could kill you in any number of ways, but it’s not frightening.

Kelly, who did you give my skin or my hair or both to?

And what, if anything, do you know about them?