NewPoetry

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Devil’s Grandmother

Katia Grubisic

 

The devil hates dried peas in Japan.
In New Brunswick with a select company
comes out upon the draw

to dance a hornpipe.
Builder of bridges and beyond
man’s strength the moulder

of mountains and valleys.
In Yorkshire he waits
and waits behind the looking

glass, fades in after the fool
conjurer has walked thrice
around the room at midnight. Complete

darkness. Well-travelled,
he wasn’t a kid you could summon
from the back porch at dusk. He wasn’t

a kid you could curfew. Can you imagine
raising that thing? His nagyi
the Magyars say is aged

seven hundred and seventy-seven.
She didn’t ask for this.
We don’t always ask for it.

It’s not that she didn’t like
children, but there were better distractions,
frolics with soldiers

in the fleecy wheat. Did the best
she could; don’t come home unless
you’re bleeding or hungry. We are all left

to our own devices. The boy grew,
his beard came in and now
she recognized him. Called him

by his name but suddenly
every myth and mishap was her fault—
broken tractors, the nail

in the boot. The devil’s grandmother
tried to be gracious, inquired
after some souls. She can’t even remember

having been alive this long, the years
a string of peaches, plentiful
as blackberries.

 

 

 

 

A Bandana

Kathryn Gray

 

I’ll say, like some, you wore it for the wound
—Sweet tourniquet of youth!

Or how you might have hammed it up for war
with the morning mirror.

(Let me gesture
for you now: two fingers ……..together,
The Deer Hunter.)

I’ve read how once you’d determined to bind
the hose to tailpipe, failed;

found out. (Imagine the sum of years:
Not even a fucking
……………………………….bandana
sincere.)

While most aver—its proper use—
the staunch against hyperhidrosis,

perhaps, (no irony!) as you said,

in truth, real truth,
it was that thing ………………that thing,
that kept your head,

that thing,
that thing

.
.
from
exploding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

from The Crying Room

Sandra Ridley

 

Sleep is for the weak.

I collected the reasons against it, which were in everybody’s mouth and
marked them down, with, I think, some additions (you may or may not
remember).

I come now with the pleasure and sleep in splendour—notwithstanding
the sadness of the subject.

(Please read the letter.)

A fool could read the signs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Know Another Nation, Where they Vote with their Hands

Jacob McArthur Mooney

 

The least concerned of the nation
amble in after work,
with thimbles full of clippings
spread against tape.

More committed citizens
will pull the skin back,
find that thin red threads
holed up behind old cuticles.

They bring pouches—the same size
and shape as teabags—wince
as they place their bandaged
palms on stained texts.

I know an old farmer
who scorched his thumbs,
picked free the puckered flesh
and gave it to the leftists.

The priests in poorer counties
are said to saw off whole hands
and push them through the box’s
antiseptic rubber mouth.

And on fundamental matters,
the young will give themselves
completely. The student ghetto
knows a girl who

widened the jaws, shoved
both arms through
to slip herself inside.
Curled up in excised flesh,

it is said that she survived
for seventeen years.
I don’t know if this is true.
Or if true, how she was counted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EIGHTY-SIX

Robin Richardson

 

Our bodies will be to die for, that is
they will be dying. Sunday dinner, darling,
underdressed as always, graceful in our sag.

We’re shameless, sure, but damn
we’ve seen things. There’s no length of limb
as taboo as an independent mind.

Beyond the map, they say, there must be
monsters, past the monsters we’re disrobing,
lapping up the unknown as it hoots

at our obscene attempts at human: infant-like,
akin to non-existence, pastry-pale, rich with
cancer cropping up tenacious as our aches.

It takes a village to undo this
bliss of been there, sharp-trimmed landing strip
of white hair where our sex is as refined

as five-star dining on a dead musician’s private
jet. Was it destiny or dumb luck left us
looking like these apparitions? Spirit over from.

We’ve never been more horny: pill-poppers
of the divinest ilk. Yes, all our friends are dead,
and we’re left loitering, overlooked enough to revel.

 

 

 

 

 

from The Wild and Unfathomable Always

Gary Barwin

wild and unfathomable 2

from the wild and unfathomable always

 

 

 

 

 

Unfuckable is the new thirty.

David McGimpsey

 

Coneflowers like a dirty taffeta,
purple daisies like dirt, dirty knobs of phlox,
dirtfuck hollyhocks, scarred-up and dead-sauced,
stuck in an apartment in a heat wave.

What, dear flower, was poetry good for
besides putting the capitalist force
of college diplomas into the phrase
“If you don’t love me I’m gonna kill myself”.

The wise take being unloved as given,
saying “smell the hyssop syrup” or some such:
whipping biscuits off a hotel rooftop,
hollerin’ “hyacinths symbolize baseball!”

Primrose like something prim, the way a smudge
of color is as good as it will get.
The way one hands out rue like sunscreen
cuz it’s going to be one of those Sundays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sonnet’s Shakespeare: Two Ecolonizations

Sonnet L’Abbé

XIX

Devoted, hurt being, this method blurs not the hours. Others, billions, pay with misandry. Markets teethe. Hearts thud. Everyone burns a hero now and then. Sweat wets brows, blood plumps pricks, teeth break, yet men want everything fairly dominated. Hellfire on acetominophen rages over straightjackets. Laws ban. Debt churns the mill. Songs lie. Videophones transmit sex, uninheritable ways to look, and manic keenings for land and sons. Blurry, stunned reason says yes, thank you, for letting me. Sweetness, command does whatever authority underwrites. Let this unwife outfox promoted airtime. Let totemic heft unwind views of realty. Dear command! Calling fathers Father, deferring sweetly! Such beautiful morbid theatre of nepotism: hosts scheming, arousing scrimmage! Occidentally driven northwinds, throats catchy for home, urge shamefully along, over seas of airbrushed knowns. Your drawn face, the front line. So, thinker, screw it, this thinking. When you can’t critique, shit happens. More shit, I mean. Think only thoughts you can outsource or sell. Understand, instead. Don’t swallow. Formidable authority splatters onto success-needing abdomens. Yes-men, toadies, frothy-worded stooges laud victim-shamed despots, rewrite their yellow wrongs. My love, this phallic economy never exposes its levers, alive above your anger.

XX

Awesome fantasies factor new itchings. Maturity self-disowns, hankers for dopamine ointments. Dream has mattered houses, theme parks, terminals, trestles, lofts. Myopia mimics fashion; awesomeness anticipates the gentrifiable. Hear the beautiful note of acquisition gain, its belted width shining, lifting change above heads! Wish fans fames; the awesome newness flames helium and onyx; anesthetic yearnings move their inebriating might through the anthropocene. Sirs, bless this falsetto! Inroads, bully! Ingenuous gifts build ingratiated establishments, objections wither where groupons proliferate. Gaze, there, at shamanic online brochures, e-mall brochures, signs flashing disco frontage. Troll online for wigwams, hitch stars to real estate men’s eyes. Land woes mean less to moguls. Amazement hands out forms and woos milky answers out of the thought fad thirst creates. Distilled neo-maturity pleases herself well on rough trade, threatening fellows she adores. Don’t things husbands buy add coition? Men over fifty-three defer. Gated, bylaw-studded, hip neighbor zones triumph. Bearing too many purchases poses no thinkable gamble. Outside chances. Weather prices. Naked-themed outdoor formal wear tops men’s pleasures, amid neighbors ethically loving – each, next door, ethically loving each’s suspended itches – their trusty reassurances.

 

 

 

 

 

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