Things I find unsettling –
A brain coral – no, an actual brain, the folds of gray matter
unraveling through a sleeve underwater –
The gutter, a lake of no respect –
Are you a lifer – schadenfreude-laced exchange
at the speed of its antidote, a confession or apology –
A suspicious package at the local airport,
milled palm-oil soap called green tea –
Carry me, cries a stranger, mispronouncing my name –
— Last week’s poem of the week was Karen An-hwei Lee’s “X Is For Xenophobia”
— Michael Nye, "Cash Rules Everything Around Me (And Silkworms)"
— Morgan Denlow, "Reading Every Book in the World”
Listen to our interview with Don Share, Editor of Poetry Magazine.
Free to travel, he still couldn’t be shown how lucky
he was: They strip and beat and drag us about
like rattlesnakes. Home on Brattle Street, he took in the sign
on the door of the slop shop. All day at the counter–
white caps, ale-stained pea coats. compass needles,
eloquent as tuning forks, shivered, pointing north.
Evenings, the ceiling fan sputtered like a second pulse.
Oh Heaven! I am full!! I can hardly move my pen!!
On the faith of an eye-wink, pamphlets were stuffed
into trouser pockets. Pamphlets transported
in the coat linings of itinerant seamen, jackets
ringwormed with salt traded drunkenly to pursers
in the Carolinas, pamphlets ripped out, read aloud:
Men of colour, who are also of sense.
Outrage. Incredulity. Uproar in state legislatures.
We are the most wretched, degraded and abject set
of beings that ever lived since the world began.
The jewelled canaries in the lecture halls tittered,
pressed his dark hand between their gloves.
Every half-step was no step at all.
Every morning, the man on the corner strung a fresh
bunch of boots from his shoulders. “I’m happy!” he said.
“I never want to live any better or happier than
when I can get a-plenty of boots and shoes to clean!”
A second edition. A third.
The abolitionist press is perfectly appalled.
Humanity, kindness and the fear of the Lord
does not consist in protecting devils. A month–
his person (is that all?) found face-down
in the doorway at Brattle Street,
his frame slighter than friends remembered.
— Last week’s poem of the week, Rita Dove’s “David Walker (1785–1830)”
When I say Frances, I mean the maple trunk
bulging through the chain-link fence. I mean the pit bull
with spiked collar who lives on the other side.
I say Frances, and I sound like a leaking bike tire.
Frances: my purple Schwinn, my flowered banana-seat.
My legs pumping through the subdivision
that springs from the field. Frances
rides on the air. You might say, I don’t understand,
and I’d say, This is not my voice. It’s something
in the leaves that keeps speaking. Something that saw me
as a child, rubbed a coin on the sole of my foot, charmed.
When I say Frances, I mean a woman. I mean
a place. The dead cling to the land. The living cling
to a story that, like currency, changes hands.
Another installment of Wes Hazard’s playlists: So You’re Picking Up Margaret Atwood From the Airport
"1. Prince – The Future
Prince’s soundtrack album for Burton’s first Batman went to #1 and featured some of his most radio-friendly work between Purple Rain and the name change. Still, relative to his other hits of the era these don’t get heard much anymore. We should all work to change that. The lyrics fear a future not too far from some of Atwood’s speculative fiction but even more importantly you might get a chance to talk about her Jungian breakdown of Gotham’s finest.”
She’s so darling about the whole thing—
asking me to be a bridesmaid
when we both know but won’t say
how two years ago she called me
drunk from a bar bathroom, her slurs
knotted like fingers in hair.
Sweat pooled in the crook of my arm
as I swore to her, Girl, he’s a dog.
It was the season of abandoned
couches that mushroomed in lawns,
the smell of Palmetto bugs soaked
in hot tequila. God bless
the state lines: I said yes when he asked
on a beach towel between Florida
and Alabama, yes the timeshares
loomed behind us in their turquoise
and salmon knolls, yes the jellyfish
floated thin as ghosts. How long
until I became just a sad and empty bag?
Weeks later, he and I ate sundaes
on a breezy patio, my eyes rimmed
in salt, while a baby screamed
at the next table over. The dogs and I
have this in common—our mouths
remember everything we put in them:
the bright fruit’s unexpected gristle.
— Our own Anne Barngrover has some poetry in Paper Darts.
— For National Poetry Month, Anne Barngrover gives us the top five poetry books she brought home from AWP in Best of AWP14 SWAG. Above, she discusses Seam by Tarfia Faizullah, Southern Illinois University Press.
"The track I break out when I need reminding that no matter how coal-lumpish whatever I’ve written is, time and pressure transforms coal into diamonds which can then be polished to dazzling brilliance. Despite the mood music, my usual method of revision wasn’t working—that method being staring at the words on the screen, and/or reading and re-reading a printed-out copy until new or different words magically enter my brain—and I was ready to give up on the unlovely mess before I keeled over mumbling and twitching or threw a brick through my computer monitor (perhaps an overreaction to bad prose)."