Tell Me How You Know What You Know

Zoe Whittall



You didn’t realize
the apology plant was plastic;
I watered it for two weeks before I noticed.

On Halloween you said,
let’s watch scary movies
about snakes, or zombies, or intimacy.


8-years-old, playing hide n’ seek:
while your friend counted to ten,
you just walked home.

West of Winnipeg, the rain
was within sight, so you drove
for forty-five minutes to catch it.


South of Big Sur, we are 39.
A swarm of secrets in good salt. Your two fears:
being smothered, being abandoned.

San Luis Obispo, an infinity pool:
you’re the teacher, the no-boundaries boss.
My fears: open spaces, genuine powerlessness.


Your sons don’t like surprises. The river rises,
the youngest grabs my hand. I’m the shoreline’s
soft shoulder, tolerating uncertainty.

We are suddenly the adults now? I tattoo
his tiny arm with a pink pony, feel my hips and
mouth sharpen, ready to fight off any danger.


39, without a baby, a female body becomes
indecipherable, to the waitress at Montana’s
our extended family, and now

even the other queers. When we walk
the tender red landscape in Arizona, I
stand at the altar for dead husbands

and children at the base of the mountain.
I count to ten. I think you are hiding,
but you rise behind the saguaro, alone.








Jonathan Ball


Let’s write a fucking poem!
You know what should be in it?

Maybe someone will read this poem!
Maybe someone important will read it,
like the president,
who I heard used to write poems
back in his college days, back
when he had nothing better to do
and his eyes still showed a spark of human life.

Maybe this poem will change my life.
I’ll put it up on Facebook and you will like it,
and then “like” it, and the president will “like” it,
even though he didn’t really like it, it just seemed
like the political thing to do. Then one day, months from now,
when my daughter does her Facebook chores,
she will “like” it and I will finally be happy.

I’m writing this poem on the bus, while missing my daughter.
In the seat next to me, some guy is doing kung fu.
That’s my life. Now it’s in a poem!
Now he’s in the poem, even if he doesn’t want to be.

Poems don’t have time for ethics,
but maybe they are ethics. Or escapes from ethics.
Sit on that one for a while! What are the ethics of a kung fu chop?
I hope he doesn’t lean over to read this screen, and
I don’t have to find out. If all the poets had to write
on buses, because they have three jobs, and have to travel
from job to job, so that they can afford bus fare to travel
between jobs, then we would have less poems.
I mean fewer poems, but also lesser poems.
Lesser poems, about how gardening’s a metaphor for life.

In my garden, there are beets I don’t have time to pick and eat.
I don’t have time, and my wife won’t let me.
She says they will keep just fine. The frost, when it comes,
won’t harm them. She’s sick of eating beets and sick of what they do
to your piss, and anyways (in Winnipeg, we say anyways, not anyway)
why can’t we just pave the garden over and rent it as a parking space
and then buy food instead of growing food?
The store beets are bigger and cheaper and less work.
These garden beets, which I don’t even eat, are just another job.

Actually, it’s her garden and that’s what I say. It’s not a metaphor.
We don’t cotton to metaphors around here, in this poem.








Shaun Robinson


Well, when you try to seize it, the day
turns to sand. And the moment is too little
living space, a broom closet inscribed
on a grain of rice. You’ve searched
for it for thirty-two years, but it’s buried
somewhere deep in the sand
on the beach of all your wasted days.
The only time that exists is the summer
of 2013, a time so dope that Mayan
philosophers glimpsed it
in a collective dream and invented
both paradise and apocalypse.
And as for those lemons,
the ones life gave you once, from which
you’ve been trying to make lemonade
ever since—the summer of 2013
saunters into your kitchen and takes
them from your hands, slices them
into sixths, pulls a bottle of Patron
and a shaker of salt out of a pocket
in his coat. Ignores you
when you ask if he’s thinking of limes.
Out on the porch, between shots,
he tells you things you’ve always known,
how the past and the future are lovers
spooning in bed, and the present
is how they don’t quite fit together. For instance,
he says, take that moon, and then he does,
plucking it out of the sky like a man
picking a lemon from a tree.
It’s not a moon at all, it never was:
it’s the prettiest moment you’ve ever seen,
big as a beach ball, skin like a nectarine.
You could do anything in a moment
like that. You could skin yourself
with a broken bottle and step out new.
You could live to the age of eight-seven.
Could probably even die. And now the summer
of 2013 is lifting it over his head.
And now he’s bringing it down across the rail.
And now it splits open and the juice
trickles out, the unadulterated
juice of one hundred percent real time.
And now he’s filling his cupped palms,
and now he lifts them to your mouth
and whispers, Now that’s what I call lemonade.







I am not a Bog Queen or a Fig or a Pomegranate

Elaine Feeney


For John Montague


Friday opens with a caesarean cleave, the scalpel held over me, so I hide myself under an old tattered eiderdown for the greater parts of the day and only

spread my ideas and hysteria out to my mother, whose love is that kind, that I can hurt. And all day long the mad barking of dogs in my neighbour’s tin shed

drives me wild. I have lived here all my life, despite delicate jaunts to plant roots elsewhere; my feet into new neighbors, down subways, smokey air, but my body

gives up the act, tripping me up, tongue loses tautness, so I stay, stare out the back window, eye the coarse Pig Weed and Quack Grass colonizing the lawn

and the black oiled shed doors are coming undone at rusty hinges, yet under the white arches at the front of this home, I attend the Trailing Lobelia as it spews

from wicker hanging-baskets. Our window dressings are staunched and bandaged for the world. And you my love, I have fantasized about your touch

since dawn, with its burning patience. We squandered our words last Sunday, after our revolting rampage of domesticity and I started my long retreat, my

arsenal of rusty weapons [you have immunized against] pussing, skulking, punching walls. Hybrid dinosaurs on the big black screen break the silence,

fried greasy duckling wings from last night’s dinner have stopped spitting in the pan, the postman catches a glimpse of my motley eiderdown shield, my parakeet

eyes from behind it, and he knows my secrets, like how only green eyes change colour [in fear] so I loudly sing, all I want is, and all I need is to find somebody.

I boil up Pot Noodles, offering children water and vitamin tablets in the shape of gummy bears, compensation for the food and the mothering and the crying.

Knock at the door. Let me touch your hand. Just once. I miss my father today and his smell under this mad mantle and I miss too you and your smell. I miss men.


There. I said it. It has been written down in bullet ink. I miss them and I lay siege behind this shield, crying. There I cry too. This too is written down.

[I will never ever write this Friday into a poem though. As the men will tell me it’s not poem’y ‘nuff stuff. In their language. That language they made

and expect me to try communicate in. In the language of puffed chest and sharp look to stare, crow’s feet, of stubble and solution and doctor] We might, though,

sit by Sunday, to make up a new lover language. Ok. Begin. Again. Code. Love. Child. Fear. Sweat. Forgive. SOS. Save me. I’m drowning, fist in the air, don’t wave,

I will think you are saying hello. Come. Come. Come, and be in me, near me, on me. Our language will be the language of hand. Of touch to my face. To your arm.

In this cave we dwell in, this mad ocean of undercurrents, take shelter under the flaky lip of eiderdown cliff, practice pronunciation of patient deliberation, cup-

washing. I promise you I will have no talk for father. And the great purple Calluna heathers will bloom. I might be mithered at times and I will have my loss.

I see that loss too on the strangers’ faces down streets. I will hear it on our lanes, outside disco clubs at three am, screaming their soft sad madness to each other,

[you fucked him with your eyes] I will dream of nine new man muses, listening to Dylan, the vinyl’s edge pierced by the pin [you make loooove just like a woman

but you cry like a little girl. Repeat] I will correct his mistruths, kernels formed from cribs and days we cut our knees skin deep and the days we walked

ourselves into hardwood doors and the days we went out late into night wearing pumps to run from rape or towards lustful dew-drunk mornings, as row boats

came in full of oysters and clams down off Quay Street, or down by the Rowing Club near the fastest ever moving river. I make love like a woman. I don’t need

this sung at me, repeating. I make love like a woman. I cry like a woman too.
My girl is long swallowed in that fast flowing river, the bowels of the Corrib, gone

out to sea. But you have cross-stitched your boy into your safe dermis. We know he’s there. But we will not sing you of it. I will write it out in secret. I will keep

my many muses. My loves. And I am not absurd for my strong lusts. All these fragments; driftwood; bog-oak; fire-pits; all bits of me. Temper. Strong jaw-lines.

There. It too is written down.








Many Tiny Pagoda

Sheryda Warrener
— after Matthew Zapruder


In a poem about beauty, a mention
of paper, because isn’t paper sad? Origami cranes
slide through water toward us, upright

and industrial, catching mid-
stream on mulch islands only to let go again,
weighed down with nothing

more than a wish that will only last
so long. Just past the bend, a man in white gloves
removes each water-logged bird out of sight

of its maker. Dusk, we find a spot on the patio
overlooking the river, share a beer under the glow
of many tiny pagoda lanterns

strung above our heads. I resolved not to
place my fortune at the hands of the river, instead
spent the afternoon marvelling at great

wooden structures. Even pagoda five tiers
high, with intricate layers of multiple eaves, will not
topple in an earthquake, remain infinitely

intact. An invisible central pillar allows
for sway, like a willow. This, the only safe bet
for hundreds of miles. On site, a custodian

swept gingko leaves from the stone path.
Someone comes now carrying a plate of dumplings,
each dough-edge pinched, fanned by hand.

Paper partitions dividing us
from our neighbors distort nothing. Meticulous
cranes bob along endlessly with an air

of confidence I may never fully possess.
For now, we settle on the pre-verbal sense
the river makes. It tells us all we need to know.








Jeramy Dodds
– for A.L.


To cash in the cha-ching
of your winks I turned
to the creek for currency.
It’s hard to swim with a heart
of gold. The creek is breaking up
with us and the paper acres
of winter. You unfurl your water wings.
There is a cancer for everything.
Widowers get down off the hills;
their unpasteurized tears used to lube
the joints of Cossack acrobats.
The air uses our lungs as trampolines.
I went to ask the deafening creek
a thing or two. What do you call
a trapezist who won’t catch you?
Unrequited love is like asking
a mannequin to dress you with all
the loneliness of a glory hole
in Chernobyl. The creek is full of stone
peels. From beyond the beyond,
a twig of starving lightning wants
to make the vanished visible.
The soul is a perfume that stepped
into the wind. How far can a silhouette
get in a mule-kick of lightning?
My soul is blinged by your laughtrack
on its perpetual victory lap. I only
travel in a chicken-bone palanquin.
What do you call a chaperone
who’s always alone? I only brought
a match to see the glints of Glitzerland.
I’m the cataracted acrobat reaching
for twigs like a cutpurse with the worst
palsy. You, an old oak with no lower limbs.
There was a brass band around
your father’s wrist. Listening is the hardest
instrument to play. Fuck the soul
and its love of bad art. Still, the heart
wants what wants the heart.









Robert Priest







the nymphomation

the skinfo

the fingerfo





in foamation

to have an info




the infonex


she infoed me


to infotilize

the outfo

turning info into outfo




i want your information
so bad

the nonformation

to be info-negative



to be an info terrible

she is nursing an info

info mortality

the info christ












Dani Couture


dani couture








Alex Porco



Let’s begin:
“We neither confirm nor deny
Millennials are so progressive that,
As compared to previous generations,
Even the racists among them
Have Black and Latino/a friends
But, unlike ostriches, do not
Mourn their dead. Please, stop
Eating Nutella, and save the
Forest! Stop eating pussy, and
Save the forget-me-nots! This message
Is brought to you by
The piano toccatas— which sound
Like a drift of pigs
Playing at tombola— of Debussy.”
“The object of symbolism is
The enhancement of the importance
Of that which is symbolized.”
“I’m like a 4 and
8 on the crazy-hawt scale.”
“Pleasure is my greatest regret
Of inconsequence, every condom filled
With a fluish hue, the
Plausible deniability of our love
Child, or contracepted palace coup,
As foreseen by the oracle.”
[The oracle— say what now?]
“Warning: microwave sushi may make
Kabuki Theater of your gastrointestines.”
“This morning I messaged Mo.
I told him I’m sad
Because ‘It’s a blank verse
World, and I want to
Rhyme.’ What I meant is
That my date I think
From last night is okay
With gays— but definitely not
With Jews, Mexicans, or haikus.
One thing led to another,
And….” I’m fucking and quoting
Serially to forget about you.
Meeting adjourned.


Let’s begin:
I’ve been told
That my sneezes
Are a combination
Of karate chop
And laugh that
God’s the main
Man in my
Cosplay as Skeeball
Champion of Cleveland
I’ve travelled to
The future on
Your sugar that
My snogs are
Comets of commas
And Lawsuits from
Sultans the main
Mangos in my
Kittens I’ve travelled
To another galaxy
On your summons
To the gala
Of commies and
Mannequins sunbathing on
Your summit and
I’ve been warned
That snobs laxatives
And superstitions are
Aiming like sunbeams
On snowflakes to
Slow the gait
Of love’s funnel
Cake so put
On the filthy
Tight dandelion dress
And wear it
Like the unheard
Instrument in the
Saxophone family that
You are while
An army of
P.J. Harveys clears
Out every woodpecker
From every bidet …
And yes that’s
A euphemism for—
Meeting adjourned.


Let’s begin:
Self-esteem is one of the leading causes of death when popped like a mislabeled
………………..bottle of bowling balls that strike all the pins that prop your feelings
………………..up with sadness down
To a size
Manageable enough for
Your fingers
To fit
(Down your throat).
And tomorrow sex will be bad again, thanks,
Fist deep in what Love doesn’t bend; but
At least there’s no illusion of freedom—
Not even in the Chinese ideogram for lubricant
You once believed meant something more Zen.
The birds,
I don’t know what the birds’re yipping about, but it’s some kind of melodrama
………………..pitched at what’s bothering us beside sex, marrying the world
………………..this early hour at all costs with characters, as the saying goes, on
………………..whom nothing is ever lost.
There’s no sword to strike against
A ghost.
RM Vaughan asks that I take my top off, and I think I’ll do it one day because
………………..he’s a great poet but I also think I won’t do it because my chest
……………… is equally great— not in the sense of “first-rate,” like RM’s poetry,
………………..but in the sense of “unusual or considerable in degree, power,
………………..intensity, etc.,” like my chest hair.
Though maybe there’s no difference between the two. That is, between definitions
………………..of “great,” I mean. Not RM’s poetry and my chest hair,
The latter of which makes me look
Like a quokka.
RM’s poetry makes me feel
Like a quokka,
“The happiest animal in the world,”
According to a recent study published by the Perth Zoo
Or according to Disney cartoons.
I can’t remember which. Doesn’t matter.
What matters is
RM’s a great poet precisely because he would’ve figured out how to rhyme quokka
………………..with cock. I tried for a month. And failed. It’s been a difficult April.
………………..But I like how I’ve used it well enough,
Now that it’s May.
It’s hot today. 31 degrees.
I think I’ll take my top off, after all—
for the poem’s sake.
For R.M.
For Canada!
Motherfuckin’ Canada!
(I’m a baaaaadddddd mama-nationalist…)_
I never understand what I mean. So
I keep the official minutes,
like a fig leaf
to bless the dentist who makes a mess of it
by pulling all the wrong teeth.
I love you? (Blood.)
I love you. (More blood.)
I love you? (More blood with chunks of dentin and pulp.)
Meeting adjourned.


Let’s begin:
“How do you feel about short sleeves and a tie?”
“It’s a good look for an 8 year old who wants to be taken seriously.”
Sloppy Haiku #834
She’s got an asshole
Rolled tighter
Than pork belly roulade.
#BlessedBBQ #Farmtotable #NotyodaddysRichardAldington
“My mom cussed me out for wearing ripped jeans when she cooked nice
……………… for dinner— I mean,
she overcooked the asparagus.”
The fundamental problem necessary to consider is both formal (i.e., sound) and
………………..political (i.e., authority): what is the relationship of Rime to Time?
The hominini of Siberia, in the Altai mountains, are homonyms with
………………..whom— eighteenth-century Grub Street poets sipping tea pulled
………………..from the mahogany caddy? Once upon
An Alexander Pope did the realms of “tea” (Shropshire, Cathay) sometimes rime
………………..with “obey,” from the Latin to hear. The ear
No longer obeys
The eye.
Love you,
p.s. And eye is the bikini, erogenous and radioactive: when your hard-on rimes
………………..with a (“A”) bomb (ecological disaster, displaced Micronesian
………………..families, stillbirths), erectile dysfunction is the side effect of History.
………………..It’s difficult getting it up
For anything
It’s difficult getting it on
With anyone
In good conscience come summertime.
One-Word Italian Sonnet
Like a refrigerator warmed up in a microwave,
Aubreys tend to be the hottest chicks you’ll ever meet;
And Kim— five miles away— has sent you a fuck request,
And HotMommy33— two miles away— has sent you a fuck request;
And the right to be drunk on the front porch of a private home was upheld
……………… the Supreme Court;
And we lined up
From Belmokhtar to Baltimore for Age of Ultron one day,
And the next forgot about Freddie Mac and Freddie Gray.
“‘Annoying’— how so?”
“You know, like, the way she inhales air after she laughs. That.”
“So you don’t like… how she breathes.”
“You know, she’ll die if she doesn’t, right?”
Meeting adjourned.









Tanja Bartel


Who was I to diss the hipster poet?
Bowing my head into my late grading—
I’ve used the word ‘iffy’ in a reference letter.
I’ve cancelled two classes to watch Survivor.
–David McGimpsey “Orville Redenbacher’s mistress rejects the label ‘porn star’”


I came up from under the city, satchel
full of bad handwriting. Tide of the train
crowd washed me to the edge of the platform.
Above, the skyscrapers with their many layers
of breath. Yellow ballet of some stranger’s
piss swirled in the lone cafe toilet,
greeted potential geniuses stalled in the line-up.
Hymn of an anorexic boy spiralled down
from the hotel balcony, circled my head like a satellite.
Who was I to diss the hipster poet?


That grimy guy who always sat cross-
legged on the sidewalk, petting
a chunk of pyrite directly under the edge
of a torn awning, rainwater sluicing over
his drooping head. The part of his hair, a bald
stripe. Mistook him for a poor fool, fading,
till I heard him talking to a uniformed man
about his manuscript. My own, flabby,
unfinished. I’m a ham teaching English, ageing,
bowing my head into my late grading.


I’ve reused personal report card
comments; laughed at others’ jokes
at one meeting, then mirrored them
in another; borrowed someone’s apple
from the staff room fridge; forgotten unmarked
papers at home; used a stencil to render
the word ‘Original’; parked in the Drop-off Only
spot when my heels were too high.
I’ve watched my students leave and felt better.
I’ve used the word ‘iffy’ in a reference letter.

Soaking up the curses and cigarette smoke, I circled
the school parking lot and dreamed of coddling
capybaras in a sprawling Amazon tree fort. Sleep-
walked inside and toiled under fluorescent rays.
I’ve languished too long with frozen feet and lank hair
for a half-hearted coffee, pinching a French cruller.
Longed for gushing lava instead of cold appliances:
tinfoil sparking in the microwave, false warmth. I’ve lapsed
and relapsed before, squeezed in a one-hour mai tai bender.
I’ve cancelled two classes to watch Survivor.








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