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.

Towels at Sunset: Winner, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize

Robin Kozak

They must bear no stain,
they must come perfect

 

from the dryer–cotton
fresh from Turkey, bright

 

olive stripes, or amber
ones, or blue.  They must bear

 

no crease, must take the folds
from my hands obediently,

 

tags tucked underneath them
like the legs of calves,

 

as meek as sheep.  They
must limn the linen chest like poppies,

 

coral and gold, or else the pale green I like
in bowls of roses on the table, or

 

the blue of hydrangeas, a bit
mysterious, shadowing the wood

 

when I open the doors.  They must
conform, conform now to my vision

 

of perfection, because my father
would wipe himself with one

 

when he was done with me,
and I remember.  Love,

 

when I see you again,
will you forgive my trespasses?

 

I am hell to live with for a reason.

 


Robin Kozak was born in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Wyomissing, a bedroom community outside Reading, Pennsylvania.  She received degrees from Ohio University and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, and her poems have appeared in Antioch Review, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Field, The Gettysburg Review, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Witness, and other publications.  An authority on antique and estate jewelry, she has also recently completed a novel, The Kingdom It Would Be. 

Tenth of No Wonder

Nancy Scott

Tenth of No Wonder, month

of plucked birds, caverns

stuffed with stale bread,

the hearts fed

to cats who lick

their lips. More

hot chocolate, more bourbon,

more to lose in fewer

words of shivered

shorter lines. Earlier

dark and earlier still

till after Dissemble

when we will celebrate

future perfect Spring.


Nancy Scott’s over 650 essays and poems have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, newspapers, and as audio commentaries. She has published three chapbooks, and won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Braille Forum, Disabilities Studies Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, and Wordgathering.

 

Stone (at a lover’s grave)

George Bishop

Her husband turned to the afterlife when

something incurable found a way to him,

prepared for things that soon might go on

somewhere beyond his body, even bought

two plots hoping his wife would one day

join him. And after he passed she arrived

 

at the cemetery each day, ready to seed

the loose, dark earth in prayer, engaging

in her own funerals over the vacancy at

his side—until the soil where they’d sleep

forever was washed in every empty answer.

There’s a churchyard in us all we keep alive,

 

wicks we light, angels we purchase to polish

the grounds of our past, other days digging

to a smooth surface—Until we meet again,

their stone says. It’s a date, the unsigned end

signing some new romance she can’t refuse.

There are things that won’t wash away even

 

if they wash away, and it’s hard to turn down

a heaven the love of your life has left you,

to give away the gift of a grave. Sometimes

it’s pure hell waiting for a name, wondering

who you’ll meet again when you meet again,

what was cured, if it matters. Sometimes.


George Bishop’s work has appeared in Carolina Quarterly & Lindenwood Review. Forthcoming work will be featured in Pirene’s Fountain. He is the author of seven chapbooks. Bishop won the 2013 Peter Meinke Prize at YellowJacket Press for his chapbook Following Myself Home and was a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee. He attended Rutgers University and now lives in Saint Cloud, Florida.