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drowning in wheat :: john kinsella

They’d been warned
on every farm
that playing
in the silos
would lead to death.
You sink in wheat.
Slowly. And the more
you struggle the worse it gets.
‘You’ll see a rat sail past
your face, nimble on its turf,
and then you’ll disappear.’
In there, hard work
has no reward.
So it became a kind of test
to see how far they could sink
without needing a rope
to help them out.
But in the midst of play
rituals miss a beat—like both
leaping in to resolve
an argument
as to who’d go first
and forgetting
to attach the rope.
Up to the waist
and afraid to move.
That even a call for help
would see the wheat
trickle down.
The painful consolidation
of time. The grains
in the hourglass
grotesquely swollen.
And that acrid
chemical smell
of treated wheat
coaxing them into
a near-dead sleep.

the plainest kind of sad :: rebecca lilly

“Truth is absentminded,” my grandmother once said—that old granny in my head who never uttered much except adages. She was the plainest kind of sad, nostalgic for a lost world. She’s dead in her own myth—the crow shot by a farmer down the hill.

Forget the stories of elderly relatives; I’ll settle for a comfortable bed. As for absentminded truth: do inanimate things, such as stones, partake of it as much as I do? It’s the dark’s witchcraft rites: ash, embers and dusky leaf-coats, sinkholes and earthquake dust, cliffs crumbling after floods. Puff and pant, turn your eyeballs up; all you get is sand raining down an hourglass.

That’s why I left philosophy—that rather woodsy hideout with its forts and minor mountains–and headed downtrail toward a stream. Our memories: footprints of birds flying up (not trackable from earth) where our phantoms sift sand and dried mud. No moment in the hourglass remembers us.

elephant seals, año nuevo :: kim addonizio

by

There they lie, fasting and molting
and not moving, but for an occasional
stray flipper that idly rises
and sinks down, into the mass
of massive bodies.
This is their summer’s work,
before the bulls swim in
to bloody each other for mates.
We watch their great sides heave,
the effort it takes to stay
where they’ve arrived, amazed
they’ve managed something we can’t.
What would it be like
to live, slow and huge,
the low slopes of the dunes
marking a horizon whose limits
we weren’t compelled to challenge?
For these seals there is no
path that leads away,
no car waiting
in the wavering heat of the parking lot,
and no road takes them
to the made world: here we’re all
immensely complicated, and nothing,
my darling, is seasonal —
once you and I leave
this place, we won’t return to it.

where my body has been :: regina diperna

I lay on the cream shag carpet with my brother
and argue what a kobold is, and is not. I am nine.
Behind the oblong dresser in the basement
is a white stub of chalk with a wolf spider
crouching on it. It does not know I am about to pick it up.

When I am twenty-one, I clutch a cold ten dollar bill.
The gas attendant has a gold tooth.
Says, what are you all dressed up for, missy.
I smooth the gray wool of my bridge coat.
A bell chimes and my shoulder blades flinch.
I cannot see the snowflakes melting into my cuffs.
No eyes watch my body shuffle back to the car
across the ice, no witnesses.

Years later, a lover’s shadow traipses diagonally
across the floor of the limehouse. He’s just told me
he didn’t fall in love with me. The moon in splinters
across stack piles of buildings. I open his refrigerator,
gulp milk from a glass bottle.
There is nothing left for me to do.

My brother has been dead for nine years. A kobold:
a kind of sprite with thin, ivy-colored arms.
See, he is not here to dispute this.
This is what I think when the lover asks why I am
so quiet. My body shaped like a C at the foot of his bed.
My fingers coiled in blankets. Thick and coconut white.
I miss everything.

years of solitude :: dionisio d. martinez

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To the one who sets a second place at the table anyway.

To the one at the back of the empty bus.

To the ones who name each piece of stained glass projected on a white wall.

To anyone convinced that a monologue is a conversation with the past.

To the one who loses with the deck he marked.

To those who are destined to inherit the meek.

To us.

the chart :: rafael campo

by

Says fifty-four-year-old obese Hispanic
female — I wonder if they mean the one
with long black braids, Peruvian, who sells
tamales at the farmers’ market, tells
me I’m too thin, I better eat; or is
she the Dominican with too much rouge
and almond eyes at the dry cleaner’s who
must have been so beautiful in her youth;
or maybe she’s the Cuban lady drunk
on grief who I’ve seen half-asleep, alone
as if that bench were only hers, the park
her home at last; or else the Mexican
who hoards the littered papers she collects
and says they are her “documents”; if not,
it could be that Colombian drug addict
whose Spanish, even when she’s high, is perfect;
or maybe it’s the one who never says
exactly where she’s from, but who reminds
me of my grandmother, poor but refined,
lace handkerchief balled up in her plump hand,
who died too young from a condition that
some doctor, nose in her chart, overlooked.

oakland blues :: ishmael reed

by

Well it’s six o’clock in Oakland
and the sun is full of wine
I say, it’s six o’clock in Oakland
and the sun is red with wine
We buried you this morning, baby
in the shadow of a vine

Well, they told you of the sickness
almost eighteen months ago
Yes, they told you of the sickness
almost eighteen months ago
You went down fighting, daddy. Yes
You fought Death toe to toe

O, the egrets fly over Lake Merritt
and the blackbirds roost in trees
O, the egrets fly over Lake Merritt
and the blackbirds roost in trees
Without you little papa
what O, what will become of me

O, it’s hard to come home, baby
To a house that’s still and stark
O, it’s hard to come home, baby
To a house that’s still and stark
All I hear is myself
thinking
and footsteps in the dark

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