NewPoetry

Artful Dodger

Jennifer Pederson

 

silk was thin as i could get without being naked
and i let the wind push it slick to my skin
birds skimming the water crying ah, ah
like the eyes of men who tried to hide their looking

dodger expected nothing anymore
guitar strung backward
lefty
everything upside down

he smiled
and wanted to sing for me
so i followed him further
and let his rough high voice
roll over me
let his sad eyes
touch me
until i said i had to go

i wanted to tell him about my two-dollar shoes
i gave him cigarettes

when they held the hotel doors for me
their deference sat hard on my tongue
like a precious, poisoned stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Congratulations on Tenure, Dear Robert

Micheline Maylor

 

……….I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
……….From long French windows at a provincial town,
……….The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
……….In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.
………………………………….– Philip Larkin.

Dear Robert, I’m glad you feel satisfied with your work. Since
graduating I’ve held five jobs, at once, of course you know that.
No reason you shouldn’t be happy with your tenure promotion.
I know I’ve made you feel uncomfortable with my whinging
about working 80 hours a week for little pay and no health coverage.
My life has changed very little since we started. When I look back,
I still make the same wage as an undergrad. I’m fifty years old
and not eligible for a mortgage, but I suppose that’s nothing much.
Just one less slave to the machine. One less servant to the man.
I listen to the money singing. It’s like looking down a hall

of closed doors. A door! An office! That’s some reward, Robert!
That should be enough, shouldn’t it? Never-mind the fancy presse
coffee machine in the staff lounge! I fucked this up myself, you know.
I could have gone to law school. But it was such a bore, those logic
puzzles and insufficient arguments billed in six minute increments.
I should have accepted the invitation to the University of Las Vegas.
I should have been less self-conscious. I was not enough impressed
with myself, you see. I’m shocked the whole plan didn’t work out.
Have you ever lived with that sort of disappointment, Robert?
It’s like looking up at the long French windows from a provincial town.

It makes me angry. Everything about this institution infuriates! Indignities
planned by budget makers, unkind, and certain to release themselves
from financial entrapment, loading up class sizes. Damn humanity
and civility, damn the students. More sessionals clamour this way,
a new batch just graduated with hopeful resumes, replacements for
the burnt out. So let cynicism burn, dear Robert. I don’t blame you,
your turned back at the Christmas party. Say hello to your (ex-student,
yes?) wife. I have forgotten her name. This is my first poem, too much
infused with sorrow. I light no lamps with my youth, or my dreams
fallen in the slums, the canal, and the churches, ornate and mad.

When I come to work to mark papers on wet Sunday afternoons,
my worries find perspective. It is all encompassing and vulnerable,
my age, and place in this institution. I’m aware of my own transience,
of my own simple, bottom-line worth. If I stay undervalued here for thirty
years. . . But, you will not have to feel this tightness in your chest, Robert.
I, too, prefer cake to that sort of uncomfortable inequity. Let me eat.
I’m still at my desk this evening. Don’t take me to dinner. Don’t worry
about my health. Things might take a turn. I’m very happy and content
teaching this seasonal course yet again. It has a Sisyphean rhythm.
This semester is rolling, Robert, up to the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Chose This Moment To Transmogrify And I’m Beginning To Regret It

Alanna Schiffer

 

O, cardinal in a birch: lookin’ good, man.
I think I want to wrap my hand around
the soft meringue weight of your body.
All your plush feathers densely packed

like a forty-dollar makeup brush,
and they glow the hot, medicinal red
of a secret flashlight through my skin.
Look at you. Bleeding in the chapped

and peeling branches of the hipster trees.
I just — God damn. You are magnificent.
Folks, this is a quality cardinal.
I am getting my money’s worth

with this cardinal right now.
I gotta do this shit more often.
Just one question: why
is my upper lip tingling?

I go to scratch and there’s a full-on
wiry mustache living there. It takes
a moment, but then I understand:
I am becoming Don McKay.

The next thirty minutes are a blur
and some of it, I don’t even want to
discuss. Things appear, jockey for
position, and lock magnetically into

place: the glasses, cargo vest,
softened leather field journal,
binoculars-as-stethoscope for wingbeats,
weathered complexion from nights

spent tinkering with my own perception
of time. And now I’m imbued
with an overwhelming urge to carve
something out of wood:

I could carve you, Cardinal. Do I still
have Cabernet Varathane in the shed?
No. I don’t have a shed—you know that.
I have loose ends, abandoned online

shopping baskets, dreams of a capsule
wardrobe. I have kids, Cardinal.
Who will pack their bento boxes
in the morning? You tilt your weird head

as I take off through the snow, zigzag
to lose him, haul open the living
room’s sliding glass door and clomp in
wheezing, my boots like facts on the ground.

In the distance, you call out, but of course,
I mistake it for a car alarm. A Tilley hat
descends by stage wire. By the time
I move to dodge it, it’s already on my head.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drone

Matthew Hollett

 

We twist white petals onto its bud,
step back, and watch the blossom blur
and buzz, whisking the air around itself

into dandelion-fluff. A puff of breath
and it shucks off the earth, then suddenly
dies – shrivelling up, up, up

into its stem, until there’s nothing left
but a speck on the cloudbank we planted it in
and an ache in the back of our necks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversation 11

Amber McMillan

 

From the flight height of an overpassing bird,
it must look pitiful, me: mostly doggo by day
except for fitful bursts from the house to drag
garbage to the bins, sort plastic from the tins,

or on the occasion I’ve hauled myself awake
(possible only after a good night’s sleep) and
from the dowie dregs of my ordinary agonies,
allowed myself to linger outside with the birds

and endure November’s lacing storm or sunlight
slip through a thin, bleached row of birch trees,
but to so rarely have the chutzpah, the moxie
to go all night, to yaw that way and mean it.

You should know, I say, a man I love is dying.
I know, I heard you, I can hear you, they say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Soul You Have Given Me

… אלהי נשמה שנתת בי

Adam Sol

 

The good widow keeps
………………….inviting me to
………..play online scrabble

but I can’t bring myself
………………….to let her win.
………..My life is littered

with missed chances to do
………………….better in the world.
………..The sum of these impulses

often ignored or late
………………….in myself and my
………..neighbours is what

God is. That’s who
………………….I pray to.
………..Whom.

Whom worth 12 points
………………….even without
………..the double word score.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cis Girls

Gwen Benaway

 

he chastised me for
writing about cis girls,

his careful comments
nested in my poetry

like his dick nested
in the curve of my spine

when we lay on my bed,
his fingers in my hair

our breaths synchronized
to a double beat, dry lips

cracking as we talk about
the cis girls he fucks or

doesn’t fuck but wants to,
who think he’ll fuck them

but he won’t because he likes
lovers who don’t belong to him.

presuming our poetic foreplay,
how I fixed his line breaks

showed him how to write
a good fucking poem,

cleaned up his academic shit,
taught him to be honest

in his poetry about emotion,
his parents, and white male fragility.

his feedback to me, double edge
of “this is so beautiful!” heart emoji

laced with “you’re being unfair
to cis girls-they’re not monolithic”,

always their defender, the girls
he fucks are the girls he protects

except me, transsexual wannabe
is open season for double standards.

cis men assume they know everything
about cis girls as if cumming inside them

since adolescence equals knowing,
as if fucking is divination.

he fucked me like a duplicate cis girl doll,
a deficient copy without instructions,

pulled from the assembly line,
thrown out for missing parts.

he had to overcome his discomfort
by force, break me open by dark

while texting cis girls to hang out,
skype calls with ex cis lovers,

rearranging me in relation
to their primacy, a certain value

on my body naming me
as a trans girl more than

any function of biology, cis girls
shining in foil packets of desire

like vacuum pressed candy bars
in a vending machine at his school.

he made me lie for months
about our fucking to cis girls

watch them be loved in public,
in romantic dreams by starlight,

never knowing of me, what I stole
from them by nightfall, buried

his tongue in my milk skin,
drank his blue eyes whole.

he compared my breasts
to his cis girl lovers like

feeling oranges in a market,
appraising value by touch.

my sex noises, how I mewed
under him against them,

the high sounds they make
in the hollow of cis throats.

an entire ruler system
of trans on cis measurement,

an infinite and expanding way
to say I’m worth nothing.

the poetry finally broke me,
bent my resolve to leave,

even in the distilled wonder
of my mind, he brought cis girls

like a plague among the roses,
cis girls with their shit poetry

into the beautiful precision
of my poetic body, as if

cis girls belong everywhere
good and holy, and I,

the transsexual he fucked
when they weren’t looking,

was just a bitter aftertaste
in the roof of his mouth.

he washed me away
with cis girl bodies, rinsed

me from his cock
and moved on.

sometimes I stalk them
on social media, his cis girls

pretending to be cool
with stylized photographs

of mountain landscapes,
claiming creative vibes

basking in a soft privilege
imagining they’re powerful

when all they are is replicas,
unthinking in their performance.

it’s trannies like me that get
balled out for our femininity

then shamed by a cis boy
who tries to fuck us into death

for asking questions
or talking back.

sure, cis girls are just
as real as trans girls

filled with unique suffering
but they get some compensation

for their sex while trans girls
get murdered for ours

and I’m not allowed
to be bitter about it

but I am and maybe
it’s ok for me

to be something more
than a gender apology

wrapped in a pink ribbon
with bruises in my cunt

and his name burnt
on my body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONDITIONS OF ENGAGEMENT

Aisha Sasha John

 

THE LIE YOU TOLD YOURSELF THE RELATIONSHIP REVEALING

YOUR CLOSED HEART’S SUFFERING

THE WIND YOU PUT IN OUR REST

A BEAUTIFUL DULL NAIL CLIPPER

BETWEEN HOW EASY AND GOOD IT IS

THAT’S WHY THERE IS A DOLPHIN ON YOUR KEYCHAIN

WHO LOOKS STUPID AND I LIKED THAT

A DOLPHIN WHO APPEARS TO BE LEARNING

CHANGING POSITIONS IN RELATION TO THE INFORMATION’S RECEPTION

UNCOMFORTABLE

RECOGNIZING A FEELING AS DISCOMFORT

THE EMOTIONAL INTENSITY OF DYSFUNCTION BULLYING THE AWKWARDNESS OF ACTUAL INTIMACY

WHO BELIEVES IN ARCHIMEDES?

FASTER AND TENDERERER AND STUFF

DO YOU BELIEVE PEOPLE? I DON’T

AND OBSERVE HOW THEIR BODIES REACT TO WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

HORSE TRUTH, TEETH

DONKEY TRUTH, SLOW

MALLARD DUCK

THE AGE IS IN YOUR HANDS

I DON’T WANT TO EAT A SPOONFUL OF CRUNCHY ORGANIC PEANUT BUTTER AGAIN

ICE CREAM

UNRIPE PLUM ANYWAY

LOGIC OF NAMING SOMETHING SOMETHING NEGATIVE

WHEN I USED TO SEE YOUR BIG-ASS HEAD ON COLLEGE STREET

I BELIEVE I THINK YOU ADDRESSED ME

I BELIEVE I THINK YOU THINK US INTERLOCUTABLE

LANGUAGE I BELIEVE I THINK YOU THINK WE SHARE

STANDING UP AND THEN SQUATTING

GUESS I’M IN LOVE WITH MY HOBBIES TIMES A FRILLION

I FIGURED OUT WHAT TO DO WITH EVENINGS EITHER SMOKE POT OR DON’T SMOKE POT

IS EVERYBODY LIKE ME UNACTUALIZED OR AM I THE ONLY ONE

IS EVERYONE LIKE ME LIKE IS EVERYONE LIKE BASICALLY ONE PERSON WITH DIFFERENT PARTS AND TIMES

IS THERE ONLY ONE PERSON TIMES VARIATION

FUCKING THE TIME AND TELLING

WARP AND HOW

WHEN YOU WHY

MACKDALICIOUS

IF ONLY IF ONLY IF…OK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love the Laser

David James Brock

 

I love the laser that kills the man in the first
minutes of the movie. I love the laser’s boom.

I love the elephant ivory grip of the laser held
at the cowboy’s thigh. He didn’t know he’d kill

The Fox today—with the laser—but there is
pink blood in the dirt of a Mexican cantina.

There is a laser in the backdrop of the sunset.
There is a blue eye taking aim from the back of the

laser’s barrel. The casings clunk on the horse
trough’s oak. A man’s skull is deleted over yonder,

and the undertaker titters. I love the rumoured
laser that shut down an animal phys exam in ‘99.

The laser that was sold for a tasty profit in the
pawn shop. We are on the hunt for lasers to kill

the ten best terror boys. Lasers that kill a reporter
and a cameraman live! That fit in the wide receiver’s

sweatpants pockets, that steal a Slim Jim or a pack
of darts, whisk apples from heads without singeing

single hairs. But then, I fired lasers at beer cans, begged
Pal to bury the photographic evidence. How murders

are covered up, let alone the death of a Coors can,
is an A&E nooner mystery. Come on, Pal. A laser in hand

will kill my rep. I feel no little pang of guilt when the
8-bit duck explodes, when Bambi’s mom dies, when

someone calls the knife a man’s way to bite it. A kid
gets shot and cooked through the throat in a movie and it’s

labeled a comedy. I can’t cry in the face of each laser
pointed directly at me. Psych! They ain’t pointed at me.

The laser is a God’s gift. So go on, give lasers to
teachers and students, priests and believers, sinners

and pilots, one secret passenger. The plane cruises
at 30,000 feet, no one aims up, and we sleep all right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STANZA AS INFINITY FILTER

Liz Howard


The first person singular does not exist in the physical world,

it’s a ghost.
……………………-V. S. Ramachandran, New Scientist

 

A room with a view

summer holidays digressing

into the heartstrings of a bad faith

chorus. Along the balcony of our latter

days each subatomic thrum is a past

note there’s no coming back from.

Fullness of forest mushrooms

before rot sets in. The reward centre

of minor sins, post-present. A tender

pressure against the caul or thin

gauze of skin infinity filters though

and finds us human. Nothing but rain

for days my Id a sump pump so I’ll not

argue with this weather. I’m already lost

to the hard plumb of a liquid centre

a dead ringer for the first person singular

on my knees and partially dressed

as you’d have it but I’m outside of this

waiting for my arraignment

within expression while the lights

along my street are leaking beams

teething a sodium brace along the base

of my skull. Grave-to-cradle cap over

a brainstem I can’t slap for blooming

a draft I’d never have picked.

My wet cells kindling another

mirror the sense-presence of you

as in childhood false promises flew

like wind through poplars. Each leaf

a paper snap, a little skirt in the updraft.

The stars aren’t keeping track but I know

how to score this. I don’t forgive you

and you don’t need to be forgiven.

My mistrusted I velvet fastened

to whatever happens. Such is the feeling

as the moon rises perpendicular to my view

outside of time and half-bred consequence

you can’t send me back to my room.