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

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.

the chart :: rafael campo

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

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
and footsteps in the dark

the talk :: gayle danley

Pretty soon we’ll have the talk.
She’ll ask me where babies come from
And I will lie to her:
“Babies come from the chance meeting of sperm and egg
See the man deposits his sssperm which is like a pudding
into the woman’s vvagina and it travels up this tube-y thing
and only one of them gets the prize and bing! A cell becomes
a fetus becomes baby becomes you.
Go do your homework.”
She will wait for me to calm down,
her eyes patient requiring the truth
and I will tell her:
“Babies come from Friday nights melted into Saturday mornings;
the Isley Brothers and 3 or 4 glasses of white zin; miniskirts
and aching zippers; sofa cushions sweaty and 
Babies come from blue lights and e.p.t. tests and the wet spot on clean sheets;
Lonely knees that bump beneath the table; love letters sealed
with a miss and $758 phone bills; eyeliner and lips to match; muscled
Thighs and a sweet, milky quarter of yes in the center of pink panties.
You came from this: a separated daddy and a desperate mama;
A ripped sonogram and hours spent on hardwood floors asking 
Should I go through with this?
Grandma’s washboard and the dust tracks Grandaddy made when he
left her with five girls to maim

You came from this: Maryland rain, nights of shag carpet lovin’ and days
Just $2 short of the rent;
And one afternoon you came
I wanted your father so badly it hurt
Even took his last name and flung it behind yours like a spare tire
Whatever he gave me was never enough
It was like his love was a sieve
And my desire for him
I was insane
Packed my dreams in a U-Haul and moved them to MD
Nothing better to do
30 and scared
You came from this:
Collision of longing
Tongue kissing and shame
The emptiness at the corner of GA Avenue
And the fullness of swollen ankles and readjusted dreams
You came from:
A poet and a singer
Fists and car keys
Peach cobbler and gumbo
And that last dirty fight on the Beltway
You came baby
You came, here”

And she’ll say:
“Mama, babies come from peach cobbler?”
and I’ll say