Aquaria

Ruth Rouff

I had this idea I would

write about the

old aquarium in Camden,

not the new. The old one

had indigenous fish

that live in the slate grey

waters off New Jersey–

the kind few deigned

to see.

 

That is why they renovated

the place. Set aside or killed

the flounder and bass  and

bluefish you might just

as soon find on

a dinner plate as

in a tank and

replaced them

with tropicals:

floating mosaics from

a Byzantine ceiling.

 

These are the creatures

people pay to see.

Now the turnstiles

are humming and I

find myself viewing

delicate beauties,

as well as sharks

swimming

overhead, ram-

bunctious penguins,

and one lone

alligator lying in a

tiled tank, waiting, as

we all are, for something

 

good.

 


Ruth Rouff is an English instructor and educational writer living in Collingswood, NJ. In addition to being published in a number of literary journals, she has written two young adult nonfiction books. Her poetry/creative nonfiction collection Pagan Heaven will appear this November.

The Fight

Fabi

Down in the shoebox

it’s summer. The bonsai trees

are arranged at random, their stubs

stuck with hot glue. I’ve cut the cardboard

windows open with an exact-o knife

to let the light in, a quick

spritz of Febreeze showering

down on us. At our corkscrew

table, you are dense

like a bear, the chair underneath you tilted

and stained a tinted pink

from popsicles. I raise your

clay elbow and close your fist

around a Blue Moon, the foam I make

overflow with cotton. I leave my wiry

back to you, chopping bits of real orange

slices at the counter, the knife

just an extension of my arm.

Is that our apartment? you say

as I swing around

to find you, leaning

against the doorway. You kneel

next to me, eyes

aligning with our bedroom window.

It’s not, I say, believing it.

The Black American Gets Her Travel Fellowship and Goes Abroad

Irène Mathieu

I. an exercise:

 

the positionality of placeholders

                                                   there is something that wants to be said

                                                   there is something that wants to be said

                                                   there is something that wants to be said

there is something

that wants the dark birth

of words.

she is on a line

the passport holds her up

little blue woven book

little blue book

little blue

little

she

the empire machine is dreaming. the empire machine rolls over. the empire machine wakes up. the empire machine stretches. the empire machine does not have a lover. the empire machine makes coffee. the empire machine goes to work.

 

II.

I promise you,

that girl she looked

just like my sister

cousin daughter

niece comadre

you know –

la morena

who lives next

to the colmado

that always smells

of raw meat and

plátanos.

 

III. what she says:

 

one day I dream myself

on the outside of a flying plane.

I grip a rope twisted through

a loop on the wing, and the

wind scoops everything

out of my mouth.

 

inside my bones an unborn

old woman is stretching and dancing.

my skin feels too tight.

 

I return

swallowing Spanish.

Border Control squints

interrogates

x-rays

finally says

welcome home.

 

I am overflowing

and the taxi driver sees.

ah, you miss your country?

his eyes are soft.

I cannot speak.

(and regarding a bra Made In ______)

I wonder what woman with

a transatlantic face like mine

has worked calluses into her

fingers for the comfort of

nude-colored breasts. nude

being khaki, as in fatigues

or nude being cream, as in

of the crop.

 

try wearing:

a river

barbed wire

gold

black

dried blood

a harvest

lost languages

a seam

I mean a border

and how will you find

your way home?

and how will you find?

and how?

will you find?

and you how?

how will you?

how you?

how you.

home will find

you and how.


Irène Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and author of the poetry chapbook the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press). Her poetry, prose, and photography can be found in The Caribbean Writer, The Lindenwood Review, Muzzle Magazine, qarrtsiluni, Extract(s), Diverse Voices Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Callaloo Journal, HEArt Journal, and elsewhere. She has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Callaloo fellow, a Fulbright scholar, and currently is an editor of the humanities section of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Irène is the 2016 winner of the Bob Kaufman Poetry Prize; her first full-length collection entitled orogeny will be published by Trembling Pillow Press in 2016.

Semantics of The Dead and Living

Patrick Swaney

We drive up to the graveyard

on the hill toward the top

of town just to see the evening

sun. “I don’t think people

call them graveyards anymore,”

you say. You say, “I think

a graveyard is part of a church.

People buried in the yard

of a church.” I suppose you’re right.

This is not a church, but it’s not

without ritual. We drive up

to the cemetery filled with

graves on the hill toward

the top of town. A new section

has been cleared of trees,

a toothless pocket ready

to be filled. We park and

pretend the sun will set beyond

the ridges spilled with green

into the ocean instead of more

Midwest. Turkey vultures circle

in the pines, their shifting like

a sail’s dry flap in a falling wind.

Below we watch three deer leap

headstones and then open space

making for the redrawn edge

of the cemetery separating something

from something from something.

Patrick Swaney lives in Athens, OH, where is completing a PhD in poetry. He is the editor of Quarter After Eight. His work has appeared in Conduit, Indiana Review, The Southeast Review, and elsewhere.

Considering Need

Shevaun Brannigan

Two domesticated parakeets will find each other

in the wild forest, the bell becomes unnecessary,

the mirror. Considering need, that binding honey, one

feels the cage bottom deep within her. Further,

 

so she might crack a seed open in her beak, for him,

the husk falling to the forest floor; so an unpredictable

sway in the branch, something leaps: the old

 

She remembers it dark like an eye. Blood-tinged

feathers can be covered by one newspaper sheet:

a sale, she saw, on mattresses. I know

bearing witness doesn’t stop the days

from going on. A lifetime ago, when

 

I held birds on our deck to free them from

an unsafe house, and my hands were small,

I knew the feel of wings.


Shevaun Brannigan is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, as well as The Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House at The University of Maryland. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Best New Poets 2012, Rhino, Court Green, and Crab Orchard Review. She is the first place recipient of the 2015 Jan-ai Scholarship through the Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, and a 2015 recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant.

The Weight and Dimensions of my Prayers: Honorable Mention, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize

Irène Mathieu

prayers of lead
prayers of limestone and pages for

 

women’s bodies piled on the side of the freeway, no one rubbernecking.

women’s bodies filling art museums, blocking the paintings.

women’s bodies packing school buses, a whole yellow swarm.

women’s bodies lying in every pew of every cathedral in France

 

no one singing hymns of their hair, psalms of their palms

their multicolored skins painted in stained glass patches.

every wreck of a shadowed sister thumbs me deeper

into a pile of dust.

 

what is a woman’s body?

it cannot fit into any room:

the thousand sparks in my feet.

shipwrecks. kisses. whiskey.

soldered melodies. soldiered acquiescences.

brimming frivolities of vital importance.

turns at every turn. paper and strings. stone.

 

the first time I found salvation it was

in a library, on my knees bent before the spines

of books. before I knew the weight and dimensions

of my prayers I imagined them as nebulous supernovae

trembling toward gravities.

 

this is without having seen the

women’s bodies, feet to heads, lining dead cotton fields.

women’s bodies filling the cellars of every New England home built before 1950.

women’s bodies in the parking lots of fast food restaurants.

women’s bodies in the basement warehouses of office buildings.

women’s bodies carpeting the floor of the Atlantic, undulating softly forever.

 

I broke a thumb and a pinky finger once.

they were splinted and fretted over, so that I never

guessed my body could be broken and tossed onto a pile

of women’s bodies that no one recognized. so when I

recognized kneecaps and collarbones I began to pray,

asking the center of the Earth to put our pieces back together.

 

women’s bodies choking up the space under bridges.

women’s bodies packed vertically in vacant lots.

women’s bodies folded efficiently into plywood crates.

women’s bodies curled around cacti, all dried sockets and clothing of dust.

women’s bodies sleeping their un-sleep in the beds of eighteen-wheelers.

women’s bodies clogging construction sites, bones lined along naked beams.

women’s bodies tangled in mountains of dirt and abandoned machetes.

 

when you rise from peaceful storied oblivion and

realize your spine can be hunted and broken and no one

really needs the under-floorboard or trash bag or ditch

that will contain your woman’s body, you become unspeakably

sad. you might start preemptively disintegrating.

 

you had better have a story sewn into the lining of your jacket

when they come for your body. and if that doesn’t save you,

you had better have another body, preferably not a woman’s

 


Irène Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and author of the poetry chapbook the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press). Her poetry, prose, and photography can be found in The Caribbean Writer, The Lindenwood Review, Muzzle Magazine, qarrtsiluni, Extract(s), Diverse Voices Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Callaloo Journal, HEArt Journal, and elsewhere. She has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Callaloo fellow, a Fulbright scholar, and currently is an editor of the humanities section of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Irène is the 2016 winner of the Bob Kaufman Poetry Prize; her first full-length collection entitled orogeny will be published by Trembling Pillow Press in 2016.

A Point on a Map: Honorable Mention, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize

Valerie Fox

Pull yourself together, sky.  Listen up!

It’s not like you’ve been buried alive.

Everything is new to a new baby.

Red mourning happens in Acts 1 and 2.

 

More and more tree curtains and grasses bar entry. The tundra smells of new cars.

Try to tell the truth, for once.

Keep your eyes glued to the road.

They say, you can’t watch the same movie twice.

 

Yesterday clouds spread across the ceilings of a series of movie sets.

The impulse is still there: Leave this country. Everything is not your fault.

That old shadow shows up like a new song cycle or the history of tango.

There are green, gem-like islands dotting our wide river.

No one gets a paycheck. A sixth sense: I’ll never see him again.

 


Valerie Fox’s books of poems include The Glass Book (Texture Press, 2011), The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books, 2006) and Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (a compilation with Arlene Ang, Texture Press, 2008). Recently she published Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2013), co-written with Lynn Levin. Her poems have appeared in Juked, Hanging Loose, Painted Bride Quarterly,Apiary, Ping Pong, and other journals. 

Big Mama’s: Runner Up, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize

Patrick Swaney

The day is made up of language the way

everything is made up of something else.

The way from the street the woman

in the window of Big Mama’s wearing

a Spiritual Gangster t-shirt, waiting for her

burrito, writing in a notebook is writing

I love you all, I imagine, because,

spiritually speaking, I love you all

is gangster, even if it can only be true

in a limited way.  In a limited way, I can

imagine believing in this slogan as metaphor,

and if so, I imagine I might feel moved to stop

and to say to the woman that on certain days

I too feel like a scribbler waiting for my

spiritual burrito to be ready, and we might

commune, without irony, over the cosmic

rightness of this comparison.  It’s hard

to love everybody, we might say knowingly.

Yeah, but don’t you also sometimes feel,

she might ask, like a gangster waiting

for your spiritual burrito to be ready and ready

or not you’re going to get up and fucking

take what’s yours, spiritually speaking?

You know, sometimes I do, I can imagine

myself saying, while feeling concerned

that our meaning-making has gone too far.

How do you make a slogan yours?

I would want to ask her. Is this language

permanently you?  How do you choose?

She would be clearly concerned

at my flimsy commitment to our motto.

I imagine I shouldn’t have stopped.

It is hard to love everybody, I might say again,

before I left her to her burrito and notebook.

The stream of language that makes up the day

hurries on, sweeping the woman and her t-shirt

away, sweeping away me. I don’t resist.

 


Patrick Swaney lives in Athens, OH, where is completing a PhD in poetry. He is the editor of Quarter After Eight. His work has appeared in Conduit, Indiana Review, The Southeast Review, and elsewhere.

Ascension Day Planting, North Philly: Runner Up, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize

Patrick Cabello

           “God does what she wants.

            She has very large tractors.”

            – Robert Bly

It is the first time Jesús has planted, and

his haircut is on backwards.  His eyes are

little birds, hinged at the wings.  His hands

spend their days combating eagerness.

Give him a shovel.  Give a boy with poking eyes

an extra hand to carve his name in dirt.

Some boy’s house fell into its own pit here

and made hole-homes for rat-friends,

for pawned treasures and secrets that never

got redeemed.  Jesús can make time with a shovel.

Make it march backward.  Stand on its head.

Do tricks.  Blink back nobodies.  Earth is a bag

to hold heaven, and Jesús is a hole’s best friend.

Big sister Milly (one leg over the fence into babies,

the other still in diapers), hands him a tomato

with its web roots of tiny feathers.  It is a small

bird fallen out of heaven.  It is a troubling

miracle, that rests a moment in Jesús’ palm,

cupped between the thumb and the dirty nails,

until his knee bends, his hands

swoop down, and his fingers

release it to freshly drug earth.

 


Patrick Cabello Hansel has published poems, stories and essays in over 30 anthologies and journals, including Hawai’i Pacific Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, subprimal, The Ilanot Review, Ash and Bones, Switchbackand Lunch Ticket. His poem “Quitting Time” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His novella Searching was serialized in 33 issues of The Alley News.

The Rules: Runner Up, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize

Courtney Kampa

I don’t believe in girlhood. I don’t believe

we are ever small, or ever don’t know what it is

we shouldn’t know. I don’t believe thick minutes in July

crept any closer to the ground than on the tennis court

at Hidden Creek Country Club, where sky-browned Tony

with eyebrows bleached bright from the sun, strapped me

at the end of our lesson into an elastic harness

anchored by the chain link fence, net running across the court

like a hard spine, my sisters on the other side, and

Eyebrows on his knees, adult arms around me, taking as long as he wanted

to snap the clasps in place. He’d back up, yell

Serve! to Meggie or Neena and I ran to them,

slapped backward by its quick yank

at my waist and home later, Meggie, four years younger

so I guess she was seven, says Courtney, Tony has a cwush on you—said it

in that lisp of hers we laughed about

two days ago watching home footage, our mother behind the camera

laughing too, our mother like a shapely soda bottle

with lipstick at the rim, our mother who played Patsy Cline so often

that there Meggie was, singing Cway-thee, eyes nuclear

and luminous, never breaking contact with the camera. We do nothing now

but sing it like she did then. Play it in the morning

on our way to summer jobs at the Club, where she flips burgers

by the pool and I bring beer around to golfers

wearing left-handed gloves that hide their wedding rings.

Every time I pass the cabana, Meggie’s bent over the counter texting

her boyfriend in a boxy uniform she calls unsexy

as hell, thank God, and every time I leave her it’s to bend into

the cart to find a Modelo for Mr. Richards who likes

my little shorts, he says, who likes sunflower seeds, spitting

them diagonally between sentences, who calls me best

in the business, says, we were all talkin ‘bout you today, ‘bout how

you know the rules so well, meaning I’m quiet, unlike

Barbara, who wears khaki pants and drives her cart

like a demon banshee in heat, plowin’ right up there when we’re teein’ off,

and between the 12th and 13th hole I drive the path

along that tennis court where even at eleven I was barely

there, my ribcage the circumference of a Folgers coffee tin

and Tony was lifting my shirt to put his hand

on the harness’ angry red marks, asking if it hurt, and no,

I’d say, it feels like nothing, it felt like nothing at all.

 


pa is from Virginia and holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her poetry has received awards and distinctions from Best New Poets, Poets & Writers Magazine, Rattle, The Atlantic, North American Review, and elsewhere.