Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#234: Three Poems by Scott Dalgarno

~These poems were selected by assistant editor Clara Jane Hallar.



~This poem previously appeared in The Yale Review (2007).


JESUS TURNS UP IN VAN NUYS, BUT HIS NUMBER IS STILL UNLISTED

I was raptured, temporarily, then recalled
due to a clerical error. There was the office
generated apology, of course, with a cc to God.

Des Moines looks so different to me now. Not nearly
so plural. Apparently I wasn’t missed, but then,
I’ve always been the penguin in the red muffler.

Sure, I want you to notice me, but I still want you
to have to look. Like the rest of the half-wit
world, I beat my gong with a spent cucumber.

We’re all of us faking it, right? Only the young
don’t know that . . . . which makes them young.
Everything shifts over time. Now they’re saying

filthy is the new dirty. Don’t get me wrong,
I welcome the chance to come clean about my hiccup
with Jesus, but my people have always adored their

secrets, hording the unstutterable, holding their cards
under the table. My grandmother was a Shaker
all her life. She had teeth made from old mah

jongg tiles. Even her husband didn’t know. What
must Jesus think of the news that all these years
he’s been married; his wife, a rehabilitated Bible

whore? Hell, we don’t even know what he looked like.
Maybe dark short, with splayed feet and an eye that
wanders. Christus Domesticus. See them commuting. 

“Pick a lane,” he says, “Any lane, I don’t care”
(Mary likes to take her half out of the middle). Afraid
of being left behind, she’s forever offering

to drive, while Jesus leans into the tragic like some reckless
geek magician. Profiled in PEOPLE, they’re
like rock stars on holiday; see them walk, A-framed,

purling their way down Sepulveda, that Picasso body
of hers moving like a crab. He could fix that,
but likes her crooked, pink, & halting.

*****

Monday, June 12, 2017

#233: Three Poems by Ava C. Cipri

~Work selected by assistant poetry editor Clara Jane Hallar

 

~This poem previously appeared in Western Humanities Review (2008).

 

Queen of Swords


i.
you are the curator the loud custodian    one set of keys

one pass    single access

you stand guard at the gate

no other entrance no other may come

ii.
fast forward if you are looking for the protagonist
a woman of reticent character by this name [H.] you will not find her here

fast forward nor will you find her       Heath[er] . . .
no time

I write it down

rewind    I will not witness

iii.
the sky pinches back from its corners    fast forward

I know your window from the bus shelter & the hour
it crests the wall then the snow heaves the way I

watched the end from outside myself steeping
from that porch dismantled for three full seasons

iv.
it’s the photograph I continue to pick up the one my grandmother never
     displayed

too often    declared the futility of being a writer & want of spontaneity
photography at my command to have a camera around my neck
yesterday there was a tall blond amazon    her hair tightly pulled back in a
    leather-band

the season halts from November’s edge

v.
your door    and the season
it cuts the city the way a dancer
his partner clipped in the distance vanishes
into night into dreams too far
I return from your absence and limp into my life

knowing terror for the second time
overhearing the scream

vi.
for two Septembers I walk out into traffic

wonder the month it stopped—you finding my hair in the drain behind the
    stacks of books
under the suitcase which was our table

vii.
the walls of you the way you pulled me into those voice-filled fields until

no one could make you come as hard    fast with the trains extinguishing
    behind us


*****

Friday, May 26, 2017

#232: "Blind Spot" by Roy Kesey

                                                                                                

~This story was previously published in Harpur Palate (2005).


  
            It’s early, just barely light, and driving to work I get the feeling again, a car hanging right in my blind spot. I whip around but the street is empty as far back as I can see. That’s always how it happens. Things go bad sometimes.
            A few minutes later the feeling comes again, and I check my mirrors, catch a glimpse of a dented grill. I’ve never gotten a good look at the car so I’m not sure how I know it’s a blue convertible. I’ve never seen the driver, no idea who he is, but he’s been showing up more and more often, cutting it closer and closer. I whip around again and the street is still empty and you don’t have to tell me how weird this is. I know how weird it is.
            I get to the warehouse, shut off the engine and just sit quiet until Goat pulls up alongside. Yesterday Old Red sent Goat and me to the docks to see about a crate. It went a little rough, and Goat got his arm broken, and now he’s wearing one of those fiberglass casts, only this one’s bright orange, so I hassle him a bit.
            We go inside and say hi to Vid and Marty. Nobody wants poker or rummy this early so we just sit there and smoke. Something’s happening, no question, but we never get told until it’s time to go, and for the moment we’re twitchy like spiders.
            We watch seagulls for a while. We watch tugs and scows. We tell stories and ask each other what about lunch, and then Old Red comes out of the office, waves me and Vid to the Cutlass, tells me to drive.
            - I got a thing in my eye, I say.
            - What kind of thing? says Vid.
            - I don’t know, maybe some sawdust.
            - You got a hankie, so use it, says Old Red.
            - Vid knows how to drive too, I say.
            - If I wanted Vid to drive, I’d have told him to drive.
            I take out my hankie and pretend for a second, get in and start the engine, and we’re not ten minutes out when that fucker in the blue convertible slides into my blind spot again.
            - Take a right at the light, says Old Red.
            I nod, signal, catch a glint off the convertible’s windshield, look back at the empty lane, look again fast and there’s still nothing there. I ease over, make the turn and speed up.
            - Since when do you drive like a hundred years old? says Vid.
            - Leave him alone, says Old Red.
            So he knows something’s wrong, which isn’t what either of us needs. Old Red always has things on his mind but lately it’s been worse. He points us down to a Chinese restaurant with dirty windows and peeling paint. In the back there’s fifty or sixty small boxes wrapped tight. Then there’s some kind of problem, and before things get cleared up I take a shot to the nose, gives me a real gusher, but it’s mostly stopped by the time we get back to the warehouse.
            - Nobody teach you to duck? says Goat.
            I look at him and he goes back to watching seagulls until Old Red comes and tells us to unload. He leaves with Marty and Vid, and it takes Goat and me almost an hour to put all the boxes away.

Friday, May 19, 2017

#231: "Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Pit Bull" by Reuben Jackson


  
~This poem was previously published in Clockworks (2011).




I.

Among twenty sleeping row houses,

The only restless thing

Was the voice of the Pit Bull


II.

I was of three headaches

Like a neighborhood in which there are as many

Pit Bulls.


III.

The Pit Bull paced in the dealer’s yard.

It was but a small part

Of my anxiety.


IV.

A man and his dog are one.

A hustler, his stash

And a loyal Pit Bull

Are frightening .


V.

I do not know which to prefer:

The disdain of neighbors

Or the disdain of neighbors.

The Pit Bull breeding-

Or the policeman rolling his eyes.

  

VI.

Rain covered the picture window

With a posse of tear drops.

The ghosts of battered Pit Bulls

Crossed it to and fro

The mood traced in the shadows

Followed me into sleep.


VII.

O longtime brothers of Brightwood-

Why do you secretly long for Chocolate Labs?

Do you not see how the Pit Bull

Sits at the feet of the players

Around you?


VIII.

I know quieter cities,

and black men with unconquered livers.

But I know, too,

That the Pit Bull is involved in

What I wish I didn’t know.


IX.

When the Pit Bull strode in the shadows-

It turned the asphalt into a pungent river.


X.

The sight of a Pit Bull charging down Madison

Would make even the most ardent dog lover

Surrender the sidewalk.

  
XI.

He traveled the city

In a quiet subway.

Once, a fear pierced him

In that he mistook a sister’s ringtone

For that of a Pit Bull.


XII.

The block is silent.

The Pit Bull and his owner

Must be away.


XIII.

It was evening all afternoon

And it was going to rain.

The folorn Pit Bull sat in his

Dog house.

  

*****

Monday, April 24, 2017

#230: "Growth" by Amy Yelin



~This essay was previously published in The Gettysburg Review (2005).


I bring my father a slice of pizza and an orange soda in a grease-stained paper bag.  He is the only person in the surgery waiting room this evening.  A ghost room. He looks smaller than usual, dwarfed by the oversized sofa, his head slumped toward his chest, as if he were sleeping. Or praying. He eats greedily, and then we make our usual small talk. “How is your car?” he asks. “Your job?” He tells me again what is wrong with the state of health care in America. There are awkward pauses. We go outside so he can smoke his pipe.
“Six hours we waited,” he says, striking match after match as the wind taunts and blows them out. Finally one catches. He holds it to the rim of the pipe, and I see that familiar orange glow of fire. “The surgeon didn’t even call to update us. Six hours after we were scheduled, he just showed up. No explanation or anything.” My father sucks on his pipe as though it were a pacifier; the sound is like fish talking. We sit in silence for a while, on a stone ledge in front of the hospital.  The trees appear sinister, their branches reaching out, pointing at us, like skeleton fingers. I pretend I am cold so we can go inside.
When the surgeons finally come out, they look tired. The one my father and I think resembles Harry Potter assures us the prognosis is good.
“I think we got most of the growth,” he says. “There are just a few little dots left. Nothing that the chemo won’t take care of.”  He tells us he expects a full remission. Such confidence.
For the next six months, we are all obsessed with the word remission. It is our promised land, our mirage in the distance, our savior.

Monday, April 17, 2017

#229: "Like Everyone Else" by Tara Laskowski

~This story was previously published in Fiction Weekly (2009).  



It was after the teenage girl died that Samantha Wolewski finally agreed to go out on a date with Harry, the cops reporter who worked night shift. Up until then she’d been dodging him—she was the new obit clerk, her first job out of college, and she wanted to be professional, make a good impression.
But then the girl died. It was a car accident—she had been on her way home from the hairdresser to get ready for her prom that night. Before that, Samantha had only had to write obituaries for old people. There was something about this girl’s picture— a dark-haired young girl looking over her shoulder, smiling brightly, hopefully into the camera. Sam wondered if the girl had hated the picture, if she’d hated the one lock of hair that had separated from the rest and trailed along her red sweater like a snake.
She tried to tell Harry about it on their way to the casino. What happened to the young woman’s date for the prom, her friends? “Would they still even have the prom after that?” she wondered aloud, to which Harry replied with a long, drawn-out story about his senior prom and how wasted they’d gotten afterwards on the second floor of the Red Roof Inn off of I-81.
“How romantic,” Sam murmured, already regretting her moment of weakness that had gotten her here in the car with the only guy in the newsroom who didn’t sing karaoke at happy hour on Friday nights. It bothered her that Harry incessantly cracked his gum. It bothered her he had yet to ask her a question about herself. It bothered her she couldn’t remember the girl’s name.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

#228: "Stewards of the Dead" by Susan E. Gunter

~This poem previously appeared in Atlanta Review (2015).

~Selected by Clara Jane Hallar, assistant editor for poetry



                                   
I watch them circle above me, wings
like open pages curving slightly
from the spine, a kettle of royalty
attended by a page, a lone hawk
hoping for scraps from their carrion,
a bit of flesh or shredded muscle.

A wake of them undertakes to clean
the world of waste, their wings caressing
leaf mold as they feast on the fallen,
leaving a heap of knackered bones,
odd tufts of fur for the devil’s cloak.

In Brazilian myth, vultures’ wings
blocked the light until the hero captured
their king. Man and bird compromised:
divide the world in two, sun and moon.

Gods of darkness, death, and terror, take pity.
Spare me another hour, a jeweled sunrise—
keep me from the tower of silence,
for I have not yet finished with words.




*****