no matter how many skies have fallen :: erika meitner

Let’s say we are making a list,
and it’s not about how to be

good or zombie foreclosures
or anything resembling distress

calls from an airline going down
in a cluster of trees. Someone

says, I’ve got a situation here,
but they don’t mean that holiday

picture of you dangling handcuffs
from your index finger or the fact

that your mother loved you
very much until we enhanced

the audio. Let’s say we are in
violation of the local housing

code, which specifies the number
of outlets per room where we can

plug in to the network that says
Join Other Network or Airport: On.

The overhead compartments groan
under the weight of our collective

sadness and in the emergency exit
row we must speak English, confirm

with a loud yes that we’re willing
to perform certain duties. We agree

to rescue each other and strangers
who also glance sideways at street

grids from above during takeoff,
chew gum while we rise past what-

ever their threshold for fear or
adventure. We are under the care

of each other and sometimes we
fail mightily to contain the damage:

the house picked clean by scavengers,
the hanging gutters, collapsed garage.

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the needs of the many :: brendan constantine

On the days when we wept—
and they were many—we did it
over the sound of a television
or radio, or the many engines
of the sky. It was rarely so quiet
we could hear just our sadness,
the smallness of it
that is merely the sound of wind
and water between the many pages
of the lungs. Many afternoons
we left the house still crying
and drove to a café or the movies,
or back to the hospital where we sat
dumb under the many eyes
of Paul Klee. There were many
umbrellas, days when it refused
to rain, cups of tea ignored. We
washed them all in the sink,
dry eyed. It’s been a while,
we’re cried out. We collect pauses
and have taken to reading actual
books again. We go through them
like yellow lights, like tunnels
or reunions, we forget which;
the older you are the more similes,
the more pangs per hour. Indeed,
this is how we break one hour into
many, how healing wounds time
in return. And though we know
there will always be crying to do,
just as there’s always that song,
always a leaf somewhere in the car,
this may be the only sweetness left,
to have a few griefs we cherish
against the others, which are many.

don’t call me, I’m practicing for my threesome :: alina pleskova

thoughts all sing-songy like
No one knows where I am right now

I test a swelling sense of
invincibility

stroll in the wrong direction with
my dress trailing mid-air

all the bars letting out
& some bodies so close I’m convinced
they pass right through me

every jolt of pleasure
attuned at once:

strung-up lights blurred & blinking
mouths holding silent O’s

chilled air by the gulpful,
a shock to the system

senses sharper
& a harvest-bright moon

the clock tower chimes an alarm
for those tensed & ready to walk
the high-wire between
ardor & fury

13th street starlets
fan their lashes curbside, holler
Get it, honey

which I take to mean
quit sleeping easy

& shimmy down a backstreet
to slip off last year’s
sweetness & reserve

The wanting itself
suddenly enough.

senses of heritage :: ntozake shange

my grandpa waz a doughboy from carolina
the other a garveyite from lakewood
I got talked to abt the race & achievement
bout color & propriety/
nobody spoke to me about the moon

daddy talked abt music & mama bout christians
my sisters/ we
always talked & talked
there waz never quiet
trees were status symbols

I’ve taken to fog/
the moon still surprisin me

the fifth dream: bullets and deserts and borders :: benjamin alire sáenz

A man is walking toward me.
He is alone.
He has been walking through the desert.
He has been walking for days.
He has been walking for years.
His lips are dry
and cracking
like a piece of spent soil.
I can see his open wounds.
His eyes are dark
as a Tanzanian night.

He discovers I have been watching
though he has long ceased to care
what others see. I ask him
his name, ask him what
has brought him here, ask
him to name
his angers and his loves.
                         He opens his mouth
to speak—
but just as his words hit
the air, a bullet
pierces his heart.

                         I do not know
the country
of this man’s birth. I only know
that he is from
the desert. He has the worn
look of despair
that only rainless days can give.
That is all I know.
He might have been born
in Jerusalem. He might have been
born in Egypt. He might
have been the direct descendant
of a pharaoh. His name
might have been Ptolemy.
His name might have been
Moses. Or Jesus.
Or Muhammad.
He might have been a prophet.
He might have been a common thief.
He might have been a terrorist
or he might have been just
another man destined
to be worn down
by the ceaseless, callous storms.
He might have come
from a country called Afghanistan.
He might have been from Mexico.

He might have been
looking for a well.
His dreams were made of water.
His lips touching
water—yes—
that is what he was dreaming.

I can still hear the sound of the bullet.

*

The man reappears.
It does not matter
that I do not want him
in my dreams. He is
searching through the rubble
of what was once his house.
There are no tears on his
face. His lips still yearn
for water.

*

I wake. I begin to believe
that the man has escaped
from Auschwitz. Perhaps he sinned
against the Nazis or because
he was a collaborator or because
he was Jewish
or because he loved another man.
He has come
to the desert looking
for a place he can call home.
I fall asleep trying
to give the man a name.

*

The man is now
walking toward a city
that is no longer there.

*

I am the man.
I see clearly. I am
awake now.
It is me. It has taken me
a long time to know this.
I am a Palestinian.
I am an Israeli.
I am a Mexican.
I am an American.
I am a busboy in a tall building
that is about to collapse.
I am attending a Seder and I am
tasting my last bitter
herb. I am a boy who has learned
all his prayers. I am bowing
toward Mecca in a house
whose roof will soon collapse
on my small frame.
I am a servant. I shine shoes
and wash the feet
of the rich. I am an illegal.
I am a Mexican who hates all Americans.
I am an American who hates all Mexicans.
I am a Palestinian who hates all Israelis.
I am an Israeli who hates all Palestinians.
I am a Palestinian Jew who hates himself.

I am dying of all this knowledge.
I am dying of thirst.
I am a river that will never know water again.
I am becoming dust.

*

I am walking toward my home.
Mexico City? Washington?
Mecca? Jerusalem?
I don’t know. I don’t know.

*

I am walking in the desert.

I see that I am reaching a border.

A bullet is piercing my heart.

earth, you have returned to me :: elaine equi

Can you imagine waking up
every morning on a different planet,
each with its own gravity?

Slogging, wobbling,
wavering. Atilt
and out-of-sync
with all that moves
and doesn’t.

Through years of trial
and mostly error
did I study this unsteady way — 

changing pills, adjusting the dosage,
never settling.

A long time we were separate,
O Earth,
but now you have returned to me.

the biggest problems come from being :: peter grandbois

“Darkness, my sole light! Death’s shadows, so clear to me! Take me! Take me to live with you! I am no longer fit to look to gods for help, no, nor mortals neither.” —Ajax, from Ajax by Sophocles

After night sinks into
its private stillness,

and you stand before a mirror
turned the wrong way,

remember that the world, too,
is exhausted, having devoured

everything it could from sky.
You’ll need to look elsewhere

for something to hold you
together, lavender ice cream,

perhaps, or the neighbor’s cat.
Considering how often

we must reinvent ourselves,
how many times we try to speak

the silent language of the Absent,
it’s no wonder we choose to stumble
away from the one story worth telling.