NewPoetry

November Analogues

Susan Glickman

 

For Martha Baillie

Any bird’s shadow darkening the window
is more ominous than the bird itself

In the overheated lobby a scarlet peony sheds its petals
like a woman shrugging off her fur coat

Toronto’s exiled elephants must miss their cold hectare;
even the Israelites, in the desert, hankered for Egypt

The lean shank of the dog curves to the curve of my thigh
the way a mug’s warm belly brings the palms together
while steam rises between them like prayer

 

 

 

 

 

The Waves

Rob Winger

 

Tonight, this Adrienne Rich poem
is a diamond dulled with dark pencil.

Its margins announce shorthand:
men still distant, it tells me, doorframes = violence,

see famine, later, elsewhere.
The lead: silver against type.

On the cover of the book is a black and white wave
swollen to its absolute peak, beautiful and angry.

The distance from the lens that takes this image
to this particular angle of super-moonlight

by which I’m reading is at once millennia
and millisecond, is at once a yawning constellation

and a blanket, heated, to comfort some palliative nobody.
Our dreams are not what we remember.

The damp sheets, twisted; the sweat caught there:
maps for charting lost midnights.

Every body has its limits, they say.
Everyone is born in blind blood.

Across the dark fields, gasoline burns.
In shacks and dungeons, chained women still scream.

There’s just enough free speech left
for these fists to press delicate glass shards

into the shining spines
of every woman in the republic.

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

Michael Redhill

 

Dog is like eat good. The kid is like
read and sigh. The baby is like us am.

Someone finds a book on Buddhism in a box
and she’s like go undead. The dog is like eat good.

Nothing happens. Then things get tense. The girl is like
wokka wokka and the guy is like boinggg and then

It walks into the room. We’re like get scared.
I was like can’t and you were like won’t and they were like

chemical drowsing. Someone finds a book
and he’s like dream alert, he’s like this was me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden

Carmelita McGrath

 

When the grey jay calls, its hoarse cacophony, it has swallowed too much of the day into its mouth.
Greedy for the sun, it chokes on fading light.

I held golden in a bowl. It emptied in winter. I watched its chalice shape from a picture window.
I waited for it to fill up.

It filled with longing. It seemed it was a long one. If you know a short winter, call me.

It filled in summer. There was no spring. It seemed a goddess had vomited on us.

So suddenly. I made a bed under the lilac; the rockets stretched–hesperis matronalis–intoxicants.

It was like lying in a dream of a new world; I spread a canopy
to encompass and surround me; the maples were pushing out.

I could hear them near me.

All summer I cast diversions on a theme.

A goldfinch crashed into a wall of glass, then revived in my hands:
who shook more I thought as it flew, and are you too leaving?

The bowl was emptying. I took autumn as a state of mind. Sell everything.

Park a few treasures and just go. Clean out as the leaves cleave space wide open
and tell me what is it that you own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN I OVERSLEEP

Julie Bruck

 

I wake Judeo-Christian, guilty as sin,
surrounded by my newly Calvinist family
who demand an apology for my abdication.
Meanwhile, I’ve backed the Toyota onto
Seventh Avenue, and hit something,
maybe someone, and slept with a hybrid
of former lovers (one dead, another
unseen for decades), and the sex was way,
way better than I remember: such
elaborate tattoos on their perpetually
strong, young backs! Afterwards, my late
friend Katherine stopped in, but she’s always
in a rush, which makes things fraught.
The dead will do that, since they don’t
keep time the way the rest of us think we do.
Don’t forget the mammoth plumbing problems,
epic, almost Acts of God (I’ll spare you),
and horses to gallop over huge stone walls,
and as always, a British Airways flight
to catch to an uncertain destination,
which I’ve yet to board, since complications
must ensue before I even reach an airport,
what with having so much to pack and carry.
When I’ve overslept, there’s been no
rest whatsoever, and this waking
is aching, dropped here as I am,
washed up on time’s hard shore.
So back away from the bed, my bald
man of the cloth, my teen of tefillin.
Tend to your purer sheep, steer
them clear of the Lake of Fire,
of vile books and bad company.
I’ll be there in a minute.
Busy yourselves. Elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crying Jag

Michael Crummey

 

The weeks he worked 8 to 4 at the mill
Dad deked home by way of the Union Hall
to stand his shift a round in the lull before

supper, hustling across town to preside
over grace, doling out our daily bread
with a little glow on, a devil’s smile,

sneaking morsels from everyone’s meal
while our heads were turned, making off-colour
proposals to our mother that we were

too young to grasp in their prurient detail
though the gist came through in her dismissal:
saucy, fondly annoyed. They both seemed more

or less content with their lot, I’d have said,
if a mirrored smile is any measure.
Only once was he late through the door,

crutched in on a shift-mate’s staggered feet,
dumped and steadied in his waiting seat
where he bawled and listed hard to one side

while his sons stared and the half-eaten food
on our plates went cold. We were terrified
to see him undone—too shaken to speak,

unable to pry his eyes from the floor
even as Mom tried to coax him back
to sense, to all he asked of pleasure—

the kitchen’s fare, his young wife, fatherhood.
It seemed more than alcohol that crippled
the man, some omen of teeming failure,

and nothing he owned could staunch the flood
that rattled through and made him look a stranger,
flailing in front of his own flesh and blood.

It was a mother’s instinct to protect
her kids that placed us in a neighbour’s care
while she poured her husband into the car,

drove the blacktop to a gravel detour
ravelled through woods above Red Indian Lake
and they spent most of the evening there

watching the water’s strobing white-caps,
the sight like static on a radio’s wave,
almost a comfort, a murmuring salve

as they waited for the jag’s ragged kick
to break, for fatigue to shut off the taps.
There was no row, no needling the lapse,

as if my mother somehow understood
it was just the void peeking through a tear
in the day’s fabric that ailed her passenger,

the stone stare of all we stand to lose while
our heads are turned, that dark lull we disregard
though the gist beds in our hearts like a seed

and blooms on occasion in bald detail.
My brothers and I were already sound
by the time they idled back to town,

bewildered and spent, but undamaged.
Nothing was the same, except what mattered.
They had a life to be lived. They managed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Antiquity

Sandy Pool

 

I won’t be around forever, A’s wife said.  One day I’m going to die.  And when I’m dead you’ll have to rely on yourself to take out the garbage or remember to change your underwear.  And while I’m at it, she added, would it be so hard to take the dog for a fucking walk once in awhile?  A knew this was true. For weeks he’d been inside, fretting and writing a tragic poem.  Writing a tragic poem was very hard work, he said.  This was the truth, but the truth was also that A was tragically depressed.  A few weeks ago, he’d received a rather gloomy prophecy that he would die by being crushed by a falling object.  He figured as long as he stayed inside, things would be o.k.  A’s wife didn’t understand this.  What is it with all you sad-sack poets she asked.  Can’t you get a real job?  Isn’t it bad enough you’ve turned our sons into tragic poets?  Eventually, A felt guilty.  He changed his underwear, and took out the garbage.  Then he put the dog on a leash.  When he got outside, the sun was blasting through the trees. A stood outside for a long time looking tentatively into the clouds.  For a while there was only light, then, only dark.  Valerius thinks he was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle, but no one is absolutely sure.  At his funeral, his wife said A. was a good man, but a great writer.  She quoted him beautifully:  Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.  It’s been 15 years since that funeral, and A’s wife still can’t forgive him.  Who can blame her?  Grief does funny things to people.

 

 

 

 

 

Your job is to say nothing.

Sachiko Murakami

 

Gary Barwin, YTZ-YTM

I have a bomb.
I have a bomb in my bag.
Be careful. I have a bomb in my bag.
I have a bomb in my bag.

What if I had put a bomb in my bag?
Imagine there was a bomb in my bag.
I possibly have a bomb in my bag.
I have a bomb in my bag.

I hope you are not on the plane leaving at Gate A37. It’s going to go off with a blast.
I hope someone comes in here and blows you all up.
I better get my bag before it explodes.
I have a bomb in my bag.

If you don’t want another terrorist attack, I better make this flight.
I am going to blow up the plane.
Should I remove my gun and bomb?
I don’t have any bombs in my bag. At least not yet.

It’s not like I have a bomb in my bag, but I could have.
I have a bag full of dynamite.
I have a bomb in my shoe.
I have a nuclear bomb in my bag.

 

 

 

 

* lines from TSA listing passenger statements to TSA agents in American airports, as compiled by Michael Cooney for Network world

Gawain and the Green Knight

Mark Callanan

 

Like the Green Knight stooping
to retrieve his own severed melon
and hold it aloft, a lantern,
I’m fumbling for an errant thought,
though without his flair for theatre,
the grand gesture, his ability
to make B-movie stunts
not only plausible but frightening
for the knight with axe in hand
who ghosts at the notion
of trekking to the chapel to see himself
decapitated. Figuratively, I mean.
He won’t see anything, unless you trust
the French doctor who declared
a head, freshly severed, spoke to him
in blinks, thus proving the body
is vestigial, a thing existing
past the point of its own utility,
persisting in existence as if existence
is the point. It’s not. Our doc
did nothing else of substance.
Presumably, the executed was
buried or burned. I think they were done
with mounted pikes by then,
but truth be told, my research
consists entirely of extremist videos
in which they bag the head
then saw it off with a machete.
Point being, there is the me
that resides quite comfortably
in my brain pan, part of a machine
that shits and eats, paints a wall
to make it pretty for his clientele,
and then the me who’s cut-off
from the scene, who passively
observes the action of his fingers
playing concussively the keyboard;
the me that drifts like a dumb,
bumping helium balloon
against the ceiling, the me
that thinks itself into being,
and in so doing, tips its hat
to French philosophers and doctors
both: those that prove I’m here
sitting in the throne of power,
and the ones that prove a me,
usurped from his gilded seat,
who contemplates the new regime
from a pike pole at the city gates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wilhelm Scream

Paul Vermeersch

 

“Yeah, I’ll just fill my pipe.”
—Private Wilhelm

We’ve heard him die a thousand times.
He answers Death the way we first call
for our milk, but Wilhelm’s scream
comes fully grown, and not
from just one mouth.

Of course, his voice is not our own.
We hear our voice in private ways.
Each of us is given one at birth
and we announce ourselves
with it. Congenitally,

our true name brands us, and mommy
and Death cannot mistake it —
so when we fall, or are afraid,
we answer their roll call
with our scream.

But with whose voice do the nameless
announce themselves? If there is
only one scream to be heard
from nameless mouths,
it might as well be Wilhelm’s.

It is a solid, all-purpose scream.
It’s kept on file on miles of tape,
and re-used and thrown to the lions,
and re-used and severed
in the mouthparts of a giant ant.

This is not the scream
of a Norseman’s brittle paint,
but a shot-with-an-arrow scream,
a sudden shriek that’s been impaled
on a blade and flung down a hill.

Wilhelm’s scream is the one
we aren’t supposed to hear
in a vacuum — but do — the scream
we aren’t supposed to make
with another man’s voice:

an identical, digital yelp placed
in our mouths by hand, like a pebble
we suck on to keep from screaming.
So let it be Wilhelm’s scream
that we toss from the cargo truck

to the hood of the speeding, green jeep.
It is one faint shriek among
the jubilant masses. One cry alone
on a cliff-face in a vast expanse,
so that Wilhelm too is soon anonymous.

But it is not the scream we make
when we see the faceless man
smoldering in the doorframe,
but the other scream, the one
of being made faceless, of seeing too late

that we’ve stepped into the path
of the advancing propeller. And it’s
a voice we all know — never our own —
the only sound we make
before a thousand final descents.

 

 

 

 

 

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