What Do I Know of Desire
by Spencer Williams on October 29, 2017
I say to you, bring me the meat
of my maker on a golden plate.
Tip his mouth to mine and force
the honey from it.
Kiss the bitter of the unbeliever’s
tongue, the parching red.
Notice: a burn present
on the underside of my left arm,
grinning. Notice too the bone
between my lips, like road-kill
trapped beneath the chemical
girth of the sun.
In the trappings of night,
I gleam with aftermath,
sweet dew imprinted on a bed sheet
in a room with no windows.
Let my coarseness be
the window, organs framed beneath
malicious light, reflecting.
If I know anything, it is the maw
of my historic caught fooling
in another man’s mouth.
Touched Nerve. Bodily Insult.
I stain myself for warmth, see.
I lather in my stew.
At night I touch myself
and it is the same as crying.
Once, in a wild misinterpretation,
I tried to picture myself all the way
through and became so distracted
by my slack-jawed expression
that I could not complete.
This is where shame kicks
down the wooden door and tugs
at my arms. I shake my head like
the rain is holding it. I blame my
cum on something else. I cum and
feel ashamed that I had nothing
at all to do with it. Perhaps my
body, in a biblical sense,
is synonymous with a physical
shame not immediately felt,
though inflicted gradually
by way of ubiquitous haunt.
For instance, I tremble in rooms
I know to be warm. I lift my skirt
and bones orchestrate their clatter
on the kitchen floor.
The story of Jesus
and the adulteress has no place
to call home. She is blamed
for her pleasure and stripped
of a name. The man she communes
with does not constitute an utterance,
is never once threatened by
the surface of a killing stone.
The adulteress is saved
only in the promise that she
sleeps alone, or only with the man
who is a ghost in this story.
In my version, I sleep with
many ghosts, birth many
oceans. My skin, lost beneath
the surface of my hands. I sin,
As if solitude demands it
I sleep now in the nude beneath
the buffer of a corpse cold sheet.
Once, over cheese fries,
I asked a friend a question that answered
itself: Am I insecure?
You’re eating cheese fries.
Later on, I told her I could masturbate
without using my hands.
This is a lie. I did not actually
tell her this. But pleasure is a finger
-less talent of mine. It is one
I have been doing this entire time.
Schiller Woods Head
by Jay Vera Summer on October 29, 2017
Squint and it’s half-blue, bright
blue, cobalt, atop half-green, grass
green, bubbling up, gray
orb in the middle.
Tilt and it’s white light, yellow
lightning, strikes kaleidoscoping
in corners blue, gray, green.
Open and it’s a brooke, a bike
path, a hundred thousand trees
piled on top of each other, reminding
you life is just God dealing a deck of cards,
blue and green dealing.
by Joseph Sheeha on October 29, 2017
On the Rim of Heaven
Everything remains in the certainty of forgetting.
I wanted blindness in the long film of memory, the mysteries
of past cities thrown against the sky between the warring provinces.
There will be heaven among these holy sites and the songs
are almost crippling to hear now, the women of musical talent
from such distant shores. You have felt what the world is like
but those moments have passed and I run upstairs again to listen
for the beginning of all things, racing for the open sea.
These lines become meaningless like the likenesses of souls
confined to sweetness in the birth pangs of another century.
Sunday at Dawn
It may be you were born
under similar circumstances, that the air you breathe
draws blood just as easily, that in the undertow we share
the seasons are aligned
and the poems that we’ve kept quiet
have flooded the distance of our bruises…
It’s true, I’ve cried too much
to allow myself the benefit of compromise
holding tight to the nights I spent
under birdless skies
before I talked with the sun
and the city I had, filled with angels
in their white dresses, kept vigil
in a swirl of sparrows.
In tramping through those streets
we looked for what remained of September
as the gashes healed making room for the frayed
edges of our fingers.
Our spiral ringed notebooks still missing,
I held you for a summer.
by Alyssa Froehling on October 29, 2017
the animal shelter
you have the skinny dog haggardness of it
the gritty slicked slip of it
on the rain’s long skirts, with your sewn on black shoes
the choke chain tree of it has settled, embedded
in the hill’s neck, where you are, where it is
somewhere there is an electrified pool outlet,
a little winter weather’s jealousy next to a diver’s kit
and you are sitting on the edge practicing bowing your head to your knees
biting coins to give your breath some value once you finally gather the courage to drop everything you own and leave, you are
practicing ducking from bullets whistling “you are my sunshine” in the breeze
you understand this, i don’t, you do
you’ve made plans:
when the rust dissolves the bike lock, you are going to run
because right now you have the floating, struggling openness of it
the backyard manmade lake lyme disease of it, from
where you are, where it is
you don’t know how alone you look, how tired you are
barking in your sleep while everyone else howls abysmal holes to the sky
reflected back into their faces,
they have the pockmarked fullness of it
they are the full bird theatre of it, night feather shakes and earthquakes,
glassy awake eyes in glass sockets
necks perched on swivel chairs
you are the warm placidity
the sun rolling its muscles
through the unstitching navy yard
through the window and into my cereal bowl
you understand this though, when i don’t
i cannot replace you and if i could my honesty would fly
like a set spring of a dismantled pen or
a gentleman’s hat freshly stolen by the wind
or anticipation of a stranger’s thrown fist
knocking on wood instead of the faux golden handle
you are silent, you make your bed inside of a beehive on a muted TV
it is always quiet where you are, where it is, when you’re wit
most kinds of cheese truly disgust me but you have the opposite effect
i don’t need the moon
as long as i have lights perched at intervals along the road
like white and yellow birds who believe they have found special metal trees
and are therefore too proud to leave
i don’t need the moon
as long as i have your distorted reflection looking at me
through the cracks in a broken and recently-
i don’t need to be over anything to love you
and i don’t have to make a fool of myself to prove it, like
leaping around in a field of sleeping cows while wearing a fishbowl on my head
pretending to be a lost astronaut to cope with it,
or something to that effect
what i mean to say, what i meant to say,
is that i’m happy you decided not to invite me
to that party you hosted when everyone was home
you’ve been saying life has never been so good lately
so i imagine him looking at you like you are happy
not the emotion, but a physical thing he can pick up
and pocket and carry with him,
i mean, i don’t know
maybe you are a nightlight or the last battery left
in the kitchen drawer, maybe you are the color yellow
not like jaundice but sleepy sun stillness
oh and speaking of illness i’m still mental
because i think about vomiting at least twice a day
and it makes me want to die
i live with tomato soup in my throat
and i can feel it boiling on the back of my tongue
when i sleep
when i lay on my side
let me tell you, my mind cooks up the perfect grilled cheese
to go with it
so thank you, for not inviting me, it would’ve been embarrassing
for everyone to see me cry and say the word regurgitation like a choke in my throat, thank you
i woke up six times last night
and the air kind of sounded like it was made of flies
they tell me it’s blood in my ears but i know
my plasma is mixed with crumbs and the daily meal’s chunks
anyway, it kind of reminded me
of how he thought love was the way bugs crawl over fruit
all tongues all touch
how he thought maybe it was the way
the wind filled up plastic bags and carried them for a little while down the road
before sticking them to some slimier bit of pavement
or maybe a flood prevention drainage vent
i feel best when i’m not looked at
i wish no one could see me
i wish i didn’t have a body
If You Don’t Have A Piano, What Do You Have?
by Luisa Aparisi-França on October 29, 2017
There is a pianist who has been forbidden from playing at a concert.
In protest he is carrying a dead deer on his shoulders, from time to time rolling it on the ground or up a hill. He will carry this deer until he reaches the doors of the city, and play piano there.
I can’t remember why they won’t let him play—it’s a matter of government—but the man’s got to have some authority to have this many news vans following him around.
Nobody asks him where he got the deer.
What an artist, people say.
I’ve heard people call a guy who set fire to a piano on the beach an artist too, so maybe it’s not the person that makes the artist, but the piano.
Which begs the question: If you don’t have a piano, what do you have?
Maybe this is why they don’t let the pianist play.
He’d be wildly popular, his music new and unfamiliar.
He’d probably play on the strings of the piano, not the keys.
He’d start a movement from the inside out, where he’d draw on a history of teachers, pulling them out from under the hood of the piano, gutting the instrument.
He’d start with Van Cliburn, who learned to sing piano from his mother long before he even knew how to play it,
and she learned it from Arthur Friedheim, who learned it from Franz Liszt, who in turn
studied under Carl Czerny, who himself was a student of Beethoven.
And Beethoven was taught music in the mud,
his teachers radiating from the palms of his hands in an eclipse of sound.
And this is why people say that a man carrying a dead deer on his shoulders is a dangerous artist, because a labor of love has history.
Why else would a pianist put so much faith in animal sacrifice?
Although, granted, we don’t know if he killed the deer or found it that way.
But the point is that a labor of love was loved long before anyone else got there.
For all I know, the pianist is still trudging uphill, wearing his muse like some burdensome, antlered scarf. I’m sure he looks ridiculous, like a peacock.
Did you ever hear the story of the peacock?
The story goes that when the world began the peacock was ugly.
It was ugly, but it could fly, and it would fly over everything and cry at how beautiful everything was. In the end the peacock got his wish to be beautiful, but at the price of becoming flightless and having limited mobility. Like a glorified turkey.
But maybe not.
People tend to dismiss the aesthetics of things under some sense of superior morality.
Like you would read a book in a font you didn’t like.
Maybe the pianist just wants to give us our bread and circuses.
Maybe he’s attempting alchemy, trying to breathe music into the dead deer’s fur.
Maybe he’s desperate.
Or maybe he ends up sitting around his house like Liberace, keeping himself secret and doing anything but play piano when he isn’t at a concert,
the huge gaudy things gathering dust like Christmas ornaments,
the faceless piano player crying all the way to the bank.