Gazebo gala, green-eyed girl. Long neck
lithe wrists, peacock pearls. Patina pitch,
onyx to forest green, their gleam bedecked
baroque, her freckled forearm cream. Bewitched
amidst aristocrats, transfixed in chintz
(my hair in plaits). One pearl among a strand
surrounds: betwixt the lords and ladies, gents
and hounds. Await a taste, embrace of hand.
Her flush frustrates their lips’ commands. A near
abduction by a duke: her titter coy,
my dire rebuke. Then palm extends, I fear,
to shake. Its jasmine scent my map employed.
I tremble, turn it to me, like a trick.
Tahitian pearls, fair flesh, I kiss then lick.
You hunch, hermetic, your childhouse house,
the dainty desolation of squelched shouts
that squeak. You fold to fit, brown mouse,
for pets. What develops you cut out.
Serrated pain in locked-up drawers. Remiss
release, crimson, a rage ignored. Then race
of digits, typing class, your body bliss
a foal you find that’s fierce, inside a chase.
A boss beguiles this beast in you. Sees raw
in rayon. Circles red construe a field
for frolic wild, forever run. His law,
licentiousness across a desk, won’t yield.
In black, you’re tied to him against a tree,
a stallion, saddled, once secretary.
I’m bones beneath your buried breaths. Our vault
of ink bequeaths a dozen deaths. You cut
me in our currency. A shank, assault
syllabic, dissects veins emptied. Your slut
cadaver cannot shut you out. Through page,
our slab, you stroke a skeleton devout:
My sockets slick with sympathy. Your rage
a specter, sentient without pity.
It haunts in hostile homilies our grave:
redundant, symbiotic agonies.
The cruelest cuts, for books, we both have saved.
Our heat you heighten with hyperbole;
we’re bound in leather for eternity.
Your barnacle in black, mutant
Milquetoasty maniac, you scrape me off
then flick, no chip to nails blackest patent.
A fevered friendship cast off like a cough.
It must have pissed you off: a girl
who submits to everyone stands up
to you. Limits lettered for a schoolgirl
in bubbles, scented licorice. Hookups
approved, rethought, reproved. Response
that’s personal removed. Your mirror’s smeared
details, defective. Rub away what haunts
until I’m reflective, crystal clear.
We work until, at last, I comprehend:
You’ll look through me and never see a friend.
Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker. Her sonnets and other poetry have been featured in Occulum, Anti-Heroin Chic, Murmur Journal, Drunk Monkeys (ed. note: “Expensive Leotards,” forthcoming next year), Fourth & Sycamore, Moonchild Magazine and many other publications. Her chapbook Pink Plastic House: Three Stories of Sonnets will be published by Maverick Duck Press in 2018. Follow her on Twitter: @lolaandjolie.
I rise and pull, draft-horse till I drop,
hide flayed raw beneath the yoke.
My master’s voice, the stick with which he pokes,
is never tender. If he deigns to stop,
it is only for his own watering, his gin.
Our tumble from the womb is not the start
of our suffering. Even earlier, the fates’ art
lops threads and stretches others thin.
I was bitted well before my birth,
readied for the whip, blinkered, carved
for want. Still sweetness sings to the starved,
turning heads towards unseen fields, dearth
heightening the scent of what hides there,
the golden world enjoyed by the unfettered, the fair.
unhappy in our own way
each of us hears exactly & only ourselves,
woofers & subwoofers
welling shockwaves, gale-force winds
that strip leaves.
knowing each other well, no need
for knives. we aggrandize
crotchets, elaborate pet peeves, retail
that no one believes. we let resentments
tumble in droves,
make alliances the next argument cleaves,
titillated & appalled
by what passion achieves. Such is the way
each family loves.
Need streaks blue, no
hiss of gaslight, just
the frail globe of skin,
inner-lit then doused.
The narrowest white
slits slats, flares
shot across the bow
in an unknown tongue.
I parse its keen,
and my soul unthreads
as through a wound.
Tell me you also
know melancholy. If not,
I’ll shoulder it solo,
the surf’s low boom,
the obscure thing
Pushed to bleak,
I seek the oldest
(after Pierre Soulage, Peinture, 16 août 1971)
Outside the Frame
In the painting, there are three—
exactly three more than exist
in the wild, all of them caught
for aviaries in Dubai.
They look stage left, where fate,
perhaps, holds its net. One
leans against another
as if to whisper, sotto voce,
O, to have been dun,
furtive in shadows,
instead of azure,
Were their cage opened,
they’d have nowhere to roost,
Bahia logged, then invaded
by monkeys and rats
hungry for eggs. For all time, then,
Spix Macaws perch only here,
frozen, eyes widened to whites
at what can no longer be seen.
(after Elizabeth Butterworth)
Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out or forthcoming, among them: The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry); We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, the Aeolian Harp Folio, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, The Free State Review (ed. note: Issue 7), Rattle, The Inflectionist Review, and more.
Your Mother in Your Lover’s Eyes
Bleak as Narcissus, I can melt in her
like Dali’s watch. The tattooed Bohemian’s
hieroglyphs run ramrod like Nazca, and
the psych-ward in my dream is just home: she
occupies all space like a gaseous plague,
and I smell her perfume like dad swore
he could. Then I’m awake: exploding head
syndrome and sleep paralysis again.
The demon is in the doorway, and the
alarms that I once sabotaged are going
off at once. The altar is a stillborn,
and theoretical children that I
wrote a novel about are waiting to
be abandoned. Don’t marry your mother.
My Romantic instincts are Medieval,
and I lick every wound but my own. I
once told my Sunday school teacher that
God is weird, and I was told I needed to
bleed in his image. Here, there, now, a hug
is my communion, but I can drink the
tenors of her trumpet like body and
blood. We’ve only been shoulder-to-shoulder,
and if the snow-banks were deeper outside,
I could at last hold her hand; but I know
a dedication is destined to crash
like Beethoven’s Third: just as easily
torn up, recycled, rededicated
like this poem that is never finished.
i fell asleep watching Band of Brothers
can you mark
when our printer
on our pictorial
or do i misremember
the way you debated
which brand of condom
was a sinking ship
and which a lighthouse?
if i feel, and do it
haphazardly, does that
make me any less ape
or any more evolved?
if i call this water
my last lifeline,
quote me some Dylan,
lay my head
on a memoried pillow
of bamboo and Cataline
pretend your mouth, your hand,
belongs to that of a panda,
wake me before my head
hits a thread count.
for an anthem of sound
my body may now
coalesce in echo
trap the embryo
of how we measured
a mattress in inches
to shed royalty
during that uncharted time
of health food
and cigarette vignettes.
to call a thing temporary
is to admit i am human.
and the wind,
through barely rooted branches.
when i think of sky
i come up with
brittle leaves clung
in desperate death
i can only stretch so far.
Michael Prihoda is a poet, editor, and teacher living in central Indiana. He is the editor of After the Pause, an experimental literary magazine and small press. In addition, he is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent of which is The First Breath You Take After You Give Up (Weasel Press, 2016).
My Breaths Aren’t Making the Baby’s Chest Rise
The kitchen is a mortuary, the hall
is an airway, the breeze from the closed
glass, the haunted-house sounds
coming from the window’s skull
and I’m—even with my medic training—
panicked, the word etymologically linked
to Pan, the god of woods and fields
and outside, and I’ve sat with the baby,
this baby, before, both of us breathing
so easily with the cigarette clouds
around us, and looked out at the window
and thought of the extreme heat to make
glass, the fury of melting, and now her cool
clammy mouth is this tiny zero
with nothing coming in or out.
Ron Riekki wrote U.P.: a novel (Great Michigan Read nominated) and edited The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).
You may wrap a garland of words
around your carpus or collar, at best
olfactories will be warmed. Distinc-
tion is in deeds: all else is politesse.
Emotional Dunkirk emboldens me
to achieve atresia. No more snooping
for smeuses. There is a macrocosm
out there. I’ve designs on its domicile.
The phenology of amyctic intervention
qualifies me to submit purity is punitive.
In alveoli of my mind your sapor finds
its fill. On my own I edit your errors.
When thought lams before parturition
I let it not bother me, snug in the notion
if it’s of merit it will reappear. The same
can’t be said of your register?
Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). A Best of the Net 2017 nominee, his poems are in venues around the world: Stickman Review, Indiana Voice Journal, Cholla Needles, The Stray Branch, Ariel Chart, Ann Arbor Review, Empty Mirror, First Literary Review-East, Right Hand Pointing, Peacock Journal, Grey Sparrow Journal, Communion Arts Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.
Sun drips away,
a shroud of dimness pillows
through the dancing oak leaves.
Moonlight sulks across each brown
wiggling leaf. I walk to the faint glimmer
and host the dead grasses
with the tamp of my boots.
Donny Barilla, born in Dallas, Texas, weaves around common themes, such as: mythology, nature, human intimacy, and theology. Writing on a daily basis, he engages in the beautiful landscapes that surround him in his home of Pennsylvania. His first book, Treasures, was released August of 2016. He currently works on his next book and has published in numerous journals and magazines.