The young boys are learning to share,
but they start with punches and put-downs.
First they have to give away their pain.
The young girls hide their bruises before they arrive.
It makes them old, and they think the future is only
physical. Makeup makes their skin dusty.
No one wants to escape only to find reality there.
What they share is what they don’t have. They give
themselves away to make the dreams real.
Outside the bodies, they can see what the sloppy sacks
of dreams are worth. Inside, they only want out.
Each memory becomes a little balcony.
I can see planes in the sky dragging their white tails.
Their value is in their distance, which I appreciate.
I misunderstood at least one sack of tattered love.
And still the pain remains ambiguous, uncertified. It was in the house
when I visited what was missing. You must think you know
what your self is, if you feel this sorry for it.
- Rich Ives
We crossed on the iron bridge
Built by your grandfather,
Biting off a lambskin glove:
Your single finger driving us,
Hands roving, buttons pulled
Open. Last night’s junk steaming
from the needle of Minneapolis
Clotting our brains.
Crossed to your mother’s house
Stacked in St. Paul, where neat
Yards and churches pressed me in
Until I barked at your prim father:
Disapproval in his head, hiding his
Alley wanderings, halved bottles
Hidden in the shed outside,
Waiting for his smooth burned gut.
Silent crossing, slipping over
The River on the concrete bridge
We want to slap each other
Until bruises rise on our cheeks,
Instead I imagine jumping
From the span parallel to us,
Breaking open on the rocks
Like the drunks. Like heavy ice.
A year later one bridge snapped
Down and held the cars under:
Jammed up the River for a week,
I saw it alone on the bank above.
It was the new one, rebar too weak,
A road too fractured by rot
To lift and carry your anger,
my anger, across the water.
- Andrew McCall
Stuck in sage on a brash escarpment, he was left with a crook to shake
At coyotes : wind-sucking shapes in the night that would tear a lamb
In two without a bleat escaping. A ribcage dragged by the sleeping form.
No fight here: his knife now sheathed in leather, creation being its only use.
Had to gouge fake loves in place, up to split in the white bark,
Around a knot, or with the grain and lenticels, jagged out with
Slapdash ovals for eyes, wide-open cartoon legs, seemingly detached
From the width of the pelvis. Breasts larger than two hands on the aspen’s
Arc, soft on hard wood, the only life to caress for days and miles.
“God help me I am so lonely”, was one caption I read, near the roots.
As if the soft of the earth was sacred in this place, the only ear. “Lucia, dearest”
Were the cut words on a lodgepole pine, complete with lips across
A huge canker in the wood where a man could bury his whole face inside.
- Andrew McCall
We were both half-breeds,
Off-white and tanned
So no one could tell
Which brown race bore us.
I found him on the same
Second-string line in football:
He kicked. I tried to tackle
Husky kids who ate chaw.
We lost every single game:
Left on the field, heaving.
To fortify ourselves
We tried tobacco and weed,
Even hot white lightning.
But our bodies were too thin:
We vomited under the stands
Leaning like burning logs.
In exhaustion he yearned:
Pressing harder against me,
But I turned in retreat
To a college in the far north.
He never left Missouri,
Found work with his father
As an embalmer in the city,
Slapping dead flesh
And wax to each other:
So near to the rigid vessels,
Receiving them in a basement,
Opening their thoraces
With a saw in the night,
sewing them shut with gut.
I never became a doctor
Like I boasted to everyone:
Running between classes
I tore my knee open on a wire,
And retched twice as the fat
Melted a river onto the cap.
After that, it was hard
To imagine this repeated act:
Slipping my hand into
Someone like myself.
- Andrew McCall
I stand with lean, bearded men, silent men,
cold-eyed, in camo caps. They stare ahead
at nothing. I read about them in books
about the Civil War, Arkansas troops,
blue-eyed, walking into Union bullets.
They could be brothers. They could be wounded.
The unemployment office carries us
forward, pulled over clean tiles toward
a desk where a tired woman resists
Poets can’t be stoic. Silent people
seldom flower. Alone, we mumble lines
about the pain we did not seek but
finds us anyway. In company we
declare our mental illness like
an asset on a tax form, even if
we’re sane as paper. Even if we
don’t use paper anymore.
- Mark Burgh
Burning fuel sheds smoke into the sky,
turning the starfield into an even darker
view of the time/space continuum.
Inside the metal door heats, sometimes
to cherry red, emitting its own waves
like a private negative sea.
A shovel reclines on a bed of coals,
wooden handle stained by grime,
sweat, coal dust light as a bruise,
softer than a whisper in the late night,
when the pipes sound as a choir,
moaning through their courses,
hidden between the surety promised by
walls. The sun is also a furnace,
boiling gases that charm over damp grasses,
make the tulip fold open,
dries the t-shirt hung on a rope.
We burn alike all the others heat up,
Between us, a single flame dices on
Our lives, gambling for an enduring spark.
- Mark Burgh
The memory of you is scum that clings
To what you left behind, abandoned things:
Your schmaltzy records of singers I abhor
Are piled like overdue bills by my door;
Your lotions clutter up my cabinet;
Your ‘favorites’ greet me on the internet;
And when I go out must I always see
A friend of yours who recognizes me
From some party you invited me to?
And, really, must they always ask about you?
Your name is like a bruise left on my arm
That always goes with me, a luckless charm.
These walls still hold the echo of your laugh
As if that shrill thing were our epitaph,
But it’s so faint I have to strain to hear it—
I have to strain so very hard to hear it.
- Luke Stromberg
I borrowed a plastic bowl
In college. Pinkish-red.
I learned that water doesn’t
Clean things all the way.
I’d wash the bowl out after use .
And baby it was still slick, the
Water filled the bowl
With spider’s eyes.
- Jeremy Flynn
Rustlings, rumbling voices, a ledge where we teeter, quite the drop, then a picnic blanket in the sun. Statues of horse, cow, an art gallery around us, a slug on the carpet, at first it felt like cat shit – still alarming, plus there’s the slime-line. Telling, I’m saying. Old factory floor of lined-up bricks, not laid flat but on their sides. Thin bricks slowly melded by janitors sweeping cleaning compound across. Before long handcarts roll smoothly. Now you pant, frantic to be getting somewhere. I am not playing around, you think I’m trying to mess with you and back away, yet still remain, otherwise you’d never savor flavors like the ones I was peppering this morning, before I started in on the okra. That is ahead of us, perhaps beyond us, actually we’ll never get that far this time. It’s not tragic to say so. Here I am thinking about food, now you’re the one flirting, we’ll have to hope for a restaurant, not this old treadmill, so much for my nap. A glove of papier-måché crinkling around the ribcage may indicate hunger, if not hunger, another neediness, a cobra, who ordered the cobra. Cartons on handcarts, heading to the dock. Trucks. A light rain to ignore, whether on foot or bicycle, soon enough it ends, other openings will offer alternate amusements – children coming home for lunch, talking – a shop opening and closing many times during the day, because the only employee’s the owner, meandering like a human. Soon stairs will repay their invention. Soon you will come back, as I have yearned and predicted. Even the serifs play their part, using their inside voices, and will not apologize.
- David McAleavey
Linear birdflight, haze in the hazelnut, some fumbling in a bag, pressed heated air rear of the jet engine: actual people in that house over there swinging their bats, nursing their babies on our yard: they’re us, we say, we shrug, when does that become a problem? Ask Mario, maybe, nicknamed “Wasabi” (for his gentleness), not to say he’s not thorough. He’s a very large man with a high voice. After the hash marks, scan the other scannables. A woman wearing a skirt holds it to pee, is how you know she’s no fictive flutterthing. An actual SUV hits the light just so, not the green light, the afternoon light reflecting dumbfoundingly on the other actuals. Dissemination works; so do underground runners. The former dancer’s translucent skirt reveals her thong, revealing her shapely buttock. A shuffler shifts right foot beckett, left bunion, sullenly. I was nosing around the closet when I found notes revealing their conspiracy, yet I still find them both very attractive. With all the static it has been easy to feel lost in a grand, symphony-like overlooking, just one more soldier on the parade ground, wait, this sounds like it’s only me in all my diversionary appearances, gabbing along in the corner, occasionally more emphatic, like the big warts a-growing on the cheek and chin of a sweet-eating grandma who happens to have left her belt off today. As for your trance electronica, it’s a good thing the lyrics challenge discernment, since when you get them they lack a how-you-say “crispiness.” Then I was in a forest, though each tree was a human statue, some adjusting their hair with their crinkled fingers, whispering into their phones. I lay down on moss by a brook. The moss curled around me like a field of pubic hair, the warm stream widened, and I went in, like a baby in reverse. Ed reminded me the self isn’t as solid as it’s cracked up to be, whoever “Ed” is, wherever I have gone, whether I have returned to tell you, whatever part of your body I am scratching now, if that is you I have found, under the table.
- David McAleavey