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paula :: hafizah geter

Hafizah, when you sleep, a storm suddenly opens its jaw like that ancient dog your neighbors used to beat in front of God and everybody. The wasps duel like prophets and hide their nests in your clothes. Every day your eyes are barefoot. A child could kick the door of you in. So what if you are some kind of Icarus? Sunlight jails itself in your bone. Remember when our eyes were two halves of a locket? And on TV, women were so crazy men had to snatch them by their elbows? You still look like the first time we learned swans were vicious. That year you could carry not even your name. Let’s pretend this grief is possible to initiate when sober. Let’s pretend I am Paula no more. Fact— if you segregate the kingdom by genus you will find the moon bears all the markers of a boarded up fireplace, that the blowflies always find the coyote. In the game of truth, you pick the dare every time.


maps :: yesenia montilla

For Marcelo

Some maps have blue borders
like the blue of your name
or the tributary lacing of
veins running through your
father’s hands. & how the last
time I saw you, you held
me for so long I saw whole
lifetimes flooding by me
small tentacles reaching
for both our faces. I wish
maps would be without
borders & that we belonged
to no one & to everyone
at once, what a world that
would be. Or not a world
maybe we would call it
something more intrinsic
like forgiving or something
simplistic like river or dirt.
& if I were to see you
tomorrow & everyone you
came from had disappeared
I would weep with you & drown
out any black lines that this
earth allowed us to give it—
because what is a map but
a useless prison? We are all
so lost & no naming of blank
spaces can save us. & what
is a map but the delusion of
safety? The line drawn is always
in the sand & folds on itself
before we’re done making it.
& that line, there, south of
el rio, how it dares to cover
up the bodies, as though we
would forget who died there
& for what? As if we could
forget that if you spin a globe
& stop it with your finger
you’ll land it on top of someone
living, someone who was not
expecting to be crushed by thirst—

beasts :: carmen giménez smith

My siblings and I archive the blanks in my mother’s memory,
diagnose her in text messages. And so it begins, I write although

her disease had no true beginning, only a gradual peeling away
until she was left a live wire of disquiet. We frame her illness

as a conceptual resistance—She thinks, yet she is an other
to make sense of the transformation. She forgot my brother’s cancer,

for example, and her shock, which registered as surprise,
was the reaction to any story we told her, an apogee of sublimity

over and over. Once on a walk she told us she thought
she was getting better, and exhausted, we told her she was incurable,

a child’s revenge. The flash of sorrow was tempered only
by her forgetting and new talk of a remedy,

and we continued with the fiction because darker dwindling
awaits us like rage, suspicion, delusion, estrangement.

I had once told myself a different story about us.
In it she was a living marble goddess in my house

watching over my children and me. So what a bitter fruit
for us to share, our hands sinking into its fetid bruise,

the harsh flavor stretched over all our days, coloring them grey,
infesting them with the beasts that disappeared her,

the beasts that hid her mail in shoeboxes under her bed,
bills unpaid for months, boxes to their brims. The lesson:

memory, which once seemed impermeable, had always been
a muslin, spilling the self out like water, so that one became

a new species of naïf and martyr. And us, we’re made a cabal
of medieval scholars speculating how many splinters of light

make up her diminishing core, how much we might harvest before
she disappears. This is the new love: her children making an inventory

of her failing body to then divide into pieces we can manage—
her shame our reward, and I’ll speak for the three of us:

we would have liked her to relish in any of the boons that never came,
our own failures amplified by her ephemeral and fading quality.

the emergency room :: allison eir jenks


Independence Day

Even in a room crammed with agony, we’re suspicious
when the doctor escorts the well-dressed man first,

or the blonde with a nosebleed and cocaine on her collar.
We’re sick of loathing, of watching each other read

about wealth and weight loss, fed up with the hooker
who keeps telling us to feel her hollow leg,

and the schizophrenic who’d plucked
every hair on his body, and counts peanuts

and sunflower seeds, then plants them outside.
Outside, a nurse smokes, bragging of her firm thighs,

and the cop adjusts his balls when he asks her questions.
Someone turns up the volume—the war letters of dignitaries.

The newscaster’s combustible lips pop open.
She makes the former president cry for the public.

But we can’t stop thinking about bee stings and flesh
wounds, the veins on the doctor’s sanitary hands,

hearts in jars and color-coded diagrams of the body.
When the bone-faced man who tried to blow

his head off is lugged in, pleading for us to shoot him,
we almost lose interest in our own afflictions.

The doctors can’t find the skin to sew his face back on.
Fuck God, his voice vibrates like a transmitter.

And we flicker off into the secret sea that fills
our bodies with loneliness—a darkness

never touched by moonlight or a shark’s eyes,
while new patients leave shoeprints in his blood.

love sleeps in the poet’s heart :: federico garcía lorca

You’ll never understand my love for you,
because you dream inside me, fast asleep.
I hide you, persecuted though you weep,
from the penetrating steel voice of truth.

Normalcy stirs both flesh and blinding star,
and pierces even my despairing heart.
Confusing reasoning has eaten out
the wings on which your spirit fiercely soared:

onlookers who gather on the garden lawn
await your body and my bitter grief,
their jumping horses made of light, green manes.

But go on sleeping now, my life, my dear.
Hear my smashed blood rebuke their violins!
See how they still must spy on us, so near!

in the evening :: anna akhmatova

There was such inexpressible sorrow
in the music in the garden.
The dish of oysters on ice
smelt fresh and sharp of the sea.

He said to me ‘I am a true friend!’
He touched my dress.
There is no passion
in the touch of his hands.

This is how one strokes a cat or a bird,
this is how one looks at a shapely horsewoman.
There is only laughter in his eyes
under the light gold of his eyelashes.

The violins’ mourning voices
sing above the spreading smoke:
‘Give thanks to heaven:
you are alone with your love for the first time.’

the world we want is us :: alice walker

It moves my heart to see your awakened faces;
the look of “aha!”
shining, finally, in
so many
wide open eyes.
Yes, we are the 99%
all of us
refusing to forget
each other
no matter, in our hunger, what crumbs
are dropped by
the 1%.
The world we want is on the way; Arundhati
and now we
hearing her breathing.
That world we want is Us; united; already moving
into it.