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All Poetry

Domestic Expectations

by Susan Davis

When the house is built
the workmen grade away
sand and stone. They lay
foundations in the dirt.

There will be an area
where clothes are washed,
sorted into black and red piles.
In the fall, just before

it’s too cold to eat outside,
the Mormon girls will
throw a bridal shower
and the mom will come

home to condoms and
panties hung from
the bougainvillea strung
with lights. Just

fifteen minutes, they say,
and it goes from sin to
something required.  A red
foil twirl hangs in a tree

and teases the room
with a random police-flash
so we don’t forget the party
or the soon-to-come

fifteen minutes.


Natural Disaster

by Elizabeth Wyatt

The dream of our house: a poor foundation
built for collapse.  But collapse has a rule:
a passionate screw’s a valuable tool
if your aim’s to fix, fix, to fixation.


Leftovers

by Elizabeth Wyatt

Boxed in our stark place on Quincy
we sat stewing like two leftover meals.
I finally went out, but you stayed congealed
on the couch, watching Jeopardy!
with your dagger-clawed cat balled on your knees.

He lazed like a fat furry seal.
His wide lime eyes abraded the scene
with their acrid animal truth, part green,
part yellow, separating real
from human, from an invisible feel.

My late-night arrival strategy
was to silence him with tuna fish.
I scrubbed my hands while steel-wooling the dish,
but they stank pathologically
of what swam in and through my brain’s debris:

silver flesh-flashes thin as the cloud-wisps
that drifted, meshed thick, and spread calm as caulk
overhead. I lay on the couch and sulked
while you slept, as you sleep: hard, one fist
punched deep in your pillow’s puckered coolness;

but, restless, I changed. Went for a walk.
No one in the neighborhood was awake.
I walked through the park to the sewage lake
and there, where you’d always balked
at the smell, held your breath, refused to talk,

a slim white bird posed in the muck.
Its noodle-neck straightened and arched as it pecked
at some object bobbing pale in the cess—
no Wonder bread heel, no fish; but a duck.
In fury it ate. Could not get enough.


The Angry Siren

by Nicelle Davis

What my sad sister won’t tell you
are the things the half-dead man
called her as she stitched his arms
back on—licking his toes to keep
herself from eating his face. I was

there to replant her teeth when she
bashed her jaw on shores. It was I
who cleaned ash from her scorched
skin. While she battled her nature, he
spat in her eyes and shat in her mouth—

yelling whore. She plucked out every
feather and stayed silent for ten days.
But inevitably, she is air and he dirt.
What’s left of him fell under the sea
as a sunken boat. She couldn’t help

but surface—rising as summer night.
Only now she sings only of him—
never present nor future—eyes coated
in spittle—scent on tongue—the smell
of him gags me when she speaks.

She was all I had of home and he kicked
in and out her doors; for that loss I pro-
long every sailor’s hurt for at least one
full night before swallowing pain like
cups of sugar at a sunrise feast of bones.


The Little Siren

by Nicelle Davis

The Sea Witch gave me the face of a swordfish
to impale my sisters with. She says, if I drink
them I will grow feet and loose my wings—
then boys will like me. But to do this I must
care nothing for sisters. I remain silent with
hopes that they will forget me—and allow me
to forget them—before the sirens’ slaughter.


Waiting for the HIV Test Results

by Brandi George

Day 1:  Existential Crisis

Microbes—I can feel them playing tag
in my neck.  They don’t love

me.  The skin around my brain has lost
its chlorophyll.  Photosynthesis.  Oblivion.

I’m lava in a box of ashes.  O
skin!  Rain down on me in puddles

I used to skip through, like matter,
like I matter on this earth.

Silly me, I wrenched the nose off
my ears.  Smell me in the summer—

blistered, childless, alone.  I’ll say
I love it all.  And I’ll be a liar.  Open

the box.  Go ahead.  Worms will fly
into your face, and you’ll smile.

Thank you!  What curious worms—
death, disease, death.  Curious

as I am, the sky won’t answer me, but creeps
inside my back with its poison

tentacles.  You shouldn’t have touched
my lip with your thumb.

Then, I wouldn’t be dying.  I wouldn’t know
the things we love are luminous

because death is a streetlamp.  Light shines brighter
in one eye, right wing beats like a storm-whipped flag.

Day 2:  Prayer

A lackadaisical genome, us.  The trees throw stars on me
so bright the sun would bleed out its hydrogen
to see.  Fly!  Your wings are big enough for two.

I blew this town Debbie-does-Dallas-style after the bark fell off
the only oak that hadn’t been hewn down.  O brutal father!
Infect me from where you hang.

Prostrate on the red carpet, stained glass cut
across my back, I let the wind blow the programs
from the pulpit, throw open my soul-flask

of McGillicutty.  You know me, Lord.  I’m the one
wearing dirty underwear, creeping from my boyfriend’s house
with JBF hair.  I’m ready for annihilation.  I get it – the universe

of helices, the collage of bones in a speck of dirt –
life is beyond sacred.  Each of us contains the spark
of creation, so it makes me crazy to think about Ebola,

the Holocaust, dead soldiers in a field.  I’m ready
for angels to fly inside my eyelids and sing “Bohemian Rhapsody,”
wake everything that ever lived until this world is a junkyard

of compressed skulls.  I beg you:  please, PLEASE don’t
hurt me; my limbs are icicles and my brain is music.
I break too hard and forever.


Homunculus

by Brandi George

I couldn’t stand silent while my father cocked his rifle at each thing
small enough for him to own.  I had walked since I was a boy

who turned into a girl who was called a liar by everyone
I loved.  My spirit in that angular, wiry form was red and winged

like a dog’s bloody fang.  I had walked since a sparrow, cardinal
and starling lined up on my father’s windowsill and pecked the glass

together:  snare, timpani, bass.  I’ve become the owl, howling
for the heart he couldn’t give, instead siring a bastard child

who wouldn’t enter into his world until the boy dove off a cliff
into shallow water.  I had walked since proving all hollow objects

sound like the ocean, and so I gained a vacuum—a chasm
so infinite my father-dreams could wing forever without crashing.

O tiny changeling embryo, self-sculpting clay, you are a pecking mass
in the shadow of a bolt-gashed tree, a dreamonym for dust.


We Know

by Susan Davis

Back from the stairwells and bedroom doors of Philadelphia,
our friend wants to have a child with a man who has his own partner.
How can it work?
O, could we go back, she says, knowing what we know now!
Knowing we know nothing?
Things I knew at 10 and 17
I no longer know.
It came from being 10 and 17.
My daughter says, I love this one, Mom. What do I do?
Why is she asking me?


Soup

by Justin Rigamonti

Three old ladies across from me ate soup
and spoke methodically of soup while I
pounded through lines aimed fixedly at death.
In my verse a party of lost hikers were earnestly
considering the consumption of their fourth,
Charles, who was fast becoming a blue
brick. When I looked up for some respite from this,
the lady on the left was gesturing with her
wasp-paper wrist out toward the idea of a
very good goulash. What I wanted to say
about bodies, about Charles’ body, about
what exactly vanished in transit, wasn’t coming.
The lady on the far right tapped her wrinkled
index finger on the tabletop and said, “Soul!
It’s the salt, ladies.” None of us spoke while
sunlight momentarily filled our café corner,
and I could feel them suddenly conscious
of my presence, of what it is that hustles through
these coffee shops, by this body, by my name.


Window Sill

by Justin Rigamonti

Three men waited while the fourth died.
Lost among the winter rocks going on
six days now, the company had found
less and less to say. Hungry as hell,
they eyed each other. Could you make food
of human flesh?, their guts asked
as they slouched beside the bluish brick
their friend became. They’d heard of it
being done—some sad, lost group like theirs
eating limbs & buttocks of departed pals.
His name was Charles. What was left
of Charles? Part of him seemed present
yet he wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t respond
and they began to think that Charles
had never actually been a 200 pound bag
of calories—that in fact, he’d only leaned
through its window for awhile and this
was the gift he’d left on the frosty sill.


The Piss Test Cathedral

by Evan Peterson

A clinical detachment at the altar:
Frothings.
Sudden drop in body mass.

The hospital doubles as cathedral,
triples as soundstage.

The perfect set: it even smells
authentic.
Scenes on the gurney–

Unlikely uses for rubber tubing.
Certain worship under lock and key.
Here,

patients are restrained
to prevent incidents.

The click/    clack
of toggling switches.
The censer swinging like a pendulum,

smoking the bacteria
out of the room, sterilizing
the dropping blade.

Simpletons rate flesh on a scale
of disgust to arousal,

stomach contents to rippled muscle,
as if the two exclude.

Fear is but misplaced desire,
bodymeat merely weight,
salt-jacketed and served.

Vermillion cells
tumble through tubes—

let them out
and it’s outsider art:
hot scarlet sinking into snow,
scent of copper.

The cathedral provides
creative freedom
seldom found in surgery:
blessings

of tendon,
unheard of structures
blossoming from the backs
of knees.

The body excites the catheter.

Fixed into position:
the butterfly spreads his legs
to receive the jeweled pin.


My Cannon

by Michael Barach

Now the sky is pulpy with ash, and with gentle encouragements
we’ve lifted each other against the lead blanket of post coital
ruminations and showered, long in the shower, meadow-like

in its misty gloam.  The time she spends straightening her hair
is time I get to watch her through the doorway.
We’ve led each other all around this place; by now

there’s no reaching for her without her in my lap,
or I’m snuck up behind her, hung on her like a dumb cape.
Patience she must have learned from Buddhist monks

she visited in college, outside Lansing, when she felt God
as a twanged bow string about to snap inside her,
keeping her up at night.  Their moccasins

swish in the trees. Or maybe in the gorilla lap
of my favorite chair, where I’ve nodded off already.
At the party we’re late to, our coworkers tap

box wine, line ranks of cheese cubes
on paper plates no bigger around than CDs.
Fingernails skate across backs and biceps

like shadows flapping on frozen lakes.  With more wine
there will be dancing, the porch lights will blaze
witch-eyed into the backyard stubble.

I don’t think I can do it tonight.  She might offer
her best mind to be foraged in that scrum,
and I’ll be sunk right here under the lamp,

writing a note that begins

Dear Purse-and-Underpants, Mirror Crier,
Butterflier, Owl Eyes, Thumb-Smudged Cheek,
Farm Angel, Salted Finger, Waydown, Water Critter,
Easy Baby, I-Thou, Lost Sitting Down,
Whiskey Slinger, Buzzer Beater,
Sweet Apocalypse, Fuzzywonder,
You Powerful, Cactus-Aflame-in-Blackest
January, Spell Flinger, Nonsequitur
One Who Makes Words Live,
One Who Makes Words Live,
One Who Makes Words Live,
My Hornet, My Folded Tabernacle, My Cannon,


The Patriarch

by Michael Barach

No one listens to him anymore,
if anyone ever did. He is a body
flopping in the front seat of the car,
a cross-armed guard protecting his family
from little sparrows blown about the yard.
Where is he to go when his wife’s sisters
are drunk and phoning men they’ve left on the altar?
Channel changer, memorizer of newspapers,
O he’ll crush your hand shaking it.
Sunday is cold. He scrambles eggs in a pan.
There are still fusses to be made over him.
When his wife snores into the sagging mansion
of his face and kisses it in her sleep, it’s his weight
that keeps the bed from flying into space.