5 Poems

You Will Be Ready / Total Hysterectomy 

 

There will be days in this medical experience 

when you feel like you’re the only citizen  

of Pluto, landed right in the cardioid curve  

of its dry sea, as every spacecraft from Earth  

skips you and passes, off to photograph  

some other beauty object. Even the Voyager 

ships, with their golden records, will ignore  

your out-there underworld.  

The Sounds of Earth does not contain 

the tin scrap music of the MRI machine, 

or the ::thwick:: of the spring-retracting blood-  

draw needle, and though The Sounds 

of BRCA1 is imprinted with these noises, 

you will also hear kinder human voices: 

laughter as it fills the vinyl flooring  

and technicians willing to talk about anything.  

When it’s time, you will be ready  

to release the loneliest parts of your body. 

And afterward, you will wake up 

on a new planet, on a cliff above  

an unrelenting ocean, where all the creeks  

fill with waterfalls and moss breaks  

out in hungry piles on nurse logs.  

You will run your fingers over the wet  

green, the feather press-and-spring of it. 

5 Poems

Tree of Life 

Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry 

 

I was born in a field of grain and snapped my fingers. 

White chalk crossed the green blackboard. 

Dew set me on the ground. 

I played with pearls. 

 

Pastures leaned against my ear and the fields. 

The stars sizzled. 

Under a bridge I carved an inscription: I can’t read. 

Factories were being washed with salt water. 

 

Cherries were my soldiers. 

I threw gloves into the thorns. 

We ate fish with a golden bread knife. 

In the chandelier above the table not all the candles were lit. 

 

Mama played the piano. 

I climbed on my father’s shoulders. 

I stepped on white mushrooms, watching clouds of dust. 

Through the room’s window I touched the branches. 

5 Poems

Counterweight 

 

In the fall, the garden  

folds in on itself—grand 

stalk of kale on the ground  

like a wilted chandelier, 

still green tomatoes  

that missed their chance  

at red and tomatillo lanterns 

scattered in the turned-up 

soil. I can smell the earth  

rolling over in her bedclothes. 

I can see a crowd of brown flies  

dancing vertically  

in the four o’clock light.  

I find myself courting loss  

as a counterweight  

to the raucous good  

fortune of being alive  

and in possession  

of the ones that I love.  

6 Poems by Rebecca Lehmann

Specter
What specter? This baby’s love? An extinct animal? Keats’s ghastly prismatic ghost-hand reaching beyond the grave? My stepmother’s grandmother, now blind, head throbbingas she labors to breathe, mouths commands to voice-recognition software.She just wants to see her family,and not through glass, and maybe not ever again.A nurse spoon-feeds her supper,helps her to the bathroom,tries to practice kindness throughher mask and plastic visor,through her taped-on gown and gloves.What specter? What eidolon?What phantom? At night we watchan actress dressed up as a princessdressed up as Christine singing“All I Ask of You” to her ghoulishmenacing husband who hates her.She’ll be a ghost in the next season,when her car phantoms into the wallof a Parisian tunnel in the spectral night.We watch the fog sink in the graveyardbehind our house. In OctoberI walk through the back partwhere the oldest graves are,along the river, crying and snappingmorbid pictures of all the stonesthat read Baby, Baby, Our Beloved Babies,Mother & Baby, Our Beloved Infant Daughter,Our Beloved Infant Son. How many graves are from 1919, 1920, the last pandemic?I weep on a stone bench, go home
and carve pumpkins into glowing skulls
with my children who ooh and ahhhover their luminescence. There, in the corner of mine eye, a ghost go-eth, curly haired, noose aroundhis neck, shaking his fist in my direction,whispering Dumb bitch. In November the deaths top a quarter of a million.In December we lose and lose. I run through the graveyard. What loosepebbles slide beneath my athletic shoes? What pointed leafless boughs snagthe bitter wind? What ghost? What specter?What phantom? What fog? What creeping miasma, come to carryus Lethe-wards, come to sink and sink?

4 Poems by Maggie Queeney

The Nature of the Body of the Patient

Was it a pet gifted to her at birth, or the wild animalbroken to bear and carry the load of her, drag the cartof her. A ribbon around the throat or a thin leatherlash across her mouth. A seashell or wrapped in inchesof sweet fruit, bleeding juice before the rot. The sand.Covered in chain mail of charcoal scales or iridescentplumage. Her body is not the metaphor. Shelter is nota metaphor. What covers is not what sustains. The vehiclethat drags her closer inward, the car rumbling deeperinto the dark glitter of the mine. Or that scatters like light,a flock, a herd, a cloud of silver bait fish. Thunderheadwith heat lightning flaring the dark boil of it, hail like seedpearls studded in the dark velvet, like seeds sleepinginside the dirt, waiting for the burn of wildfire to crackopen. The impressions teeth leave inside her cheeks.

4 Poems by Joe Wilkins

Limp

A slash pile always looks like it hurts.Torn limbs & uprooted stumps.The land about dozer-rutted tractor-gouged.Trees all gone a raw face a black boil it hurts.I wish we didn’t have to wait until the first snow.Wish we could burn it now.My grandfather told me one winter in the ’30s they fed all the chairs to the fire.Then the table the shelves the beds.The wall between the bedrooms.They had to burn the house to keep the house warm.He said he didn’t much like to think about it.Wasn’t even sure why he told me.He was dragged half a mile by a horse when he was fourteen.Ever after one leg an inch shorter than the other.For some reason it’s easier to see his limp when he’s walking away.

4 Poems by Jessica Garratt

EARLY MORNING, GALWAY, 1998

I’d walk downhill, bayward, down to the French café where I worked in a country that wasn’t mine. The air had the chill clarity of the shop windows a few men were washing in their white suits and caps—the same men each day; I waved—as white gulls carved roundy shapes and calls into the blue overhead and burly kegs rolled loud down the cobblestones with alarming force and buoyancy, barely under control, until they were guided with sudden grace down into a pub’s dark cellar. On that morning, which is many mornings that shine in time as one, I too arrived, slowed by heat, dense smells, Thierry’s grouchy gaze as he wound the kitchen like a clock. I tied on an apron fresh from the laundry sack and tried to tamp my joy, or let it find a narrower tributary (comradely co-misery) that Thierry wouldn’t mind. Later, others would join us: More waitresses. The window washers, done for the day, flirting and ordering heavy English breakfasts as they tipped their chairs back like boys I remembered from school. Lunchtime tourists squinting and turning their heads like birds whose gazes I’d try not to meet for fear of recognition that I was like them and didn’t belong. I wanted to feel at home and also entirely free. I almost managed it. The scene rustles its subtle senses, itself torn free, a page blowing wildly down the thoroughfare, then lifting for a life-long moment into the sky over the bay.

4 Poems by Tiana Clark

Self-Portrait at Divorce

Tiana Clark

After reading Stag’s Leap again and finally knowing

what the hell Sharon Olds was writing about

 

The day my husband left

I accidentally set off the house alarm

and the dog finally curled into my chest

like a warm croissant of cream fur and you

had replaced the trash bag for the last time

and the recycling and I walked into

your office and I wept and wept inside

your pillow on our bed (whoops) I mean my bed

a California king our biggest bed yet because

we wanted space for our long bodies to stretch

and room the for the dog to splay and I put water

in the dog bowl and I told myself that I had to remember

to do that because you had always done that simple task

Poem by V. Penelope Pelizzon

Of Vinegar    Of Pearl    (an excerpt)

V. Penelope Pelizzon

 

“The elements return to the body of their mother.”  —Paracelsus

1.

Like pulp-and-spittle wasps’ nests

built in their season to last

only until winter, bones

crumble in her as she sits.

She sections the day’s clemen-

cies into mouthfuls, hawks out

any bitter pips, swallows

good pungence with sips of smoke

—Lapsang Souchong or Laphroaig,

depending on the hour—

preferring solitude to

solicitude from the kind,

including her children who

were hard to bear and are hard

now to hear. Nine decades have

drawn her, masterwork of ten-

don and vein illustrating

frailty condensing to one

ferocious node, a will still

refusing to cede. But now?

When the heart no longer turns

the blood’s tide. When fluid pools,

refusing to be sluiced back

into its channels. She’s walked

so far down the strand that seals

barely lift their heads as she

steps over them, returning

finally to her sisters.

She’s up to her knees now in

a flosh of her body’s own

sea-wash. Dying? Or dying-

ish? Is this it? Is it this?

 

5 Poems by Nancy Reddy

Spooky Action at a Distance

Nancy Reddy

In the Nashville airport, in gate C-84, in the industrial carpet and molded

plastic seats

where we all wait to be carried elsewhere,

 

a baby sleeps against his mother’s

 

chest. His right foot is froglegged up to meet his chest. He’s that new, his body

soft and curled

as if to fit still the small space of the womb.

 

The universe is thin. Even across this gate—