SELF-COLLECTION CEREMONY

The possessor is desolate without me: a picture:
                a pickpocketing where the pocket is stolen,
its contents left intact. This is almost about
                            something but then not as I shift to another thing:

another picture: little box like a pin cushion but not
                prickly: lacks tacks. Little box exactly like a mouth,
a compiling of probes, a spattering of spits,
                            clunky clever, and spear empire: except I put it

in my hair: hairbrush now as knot of wood,
                measuring time, wildly wound up self-snarl,
compacted single tangle where the tangles transferred,
                            head to head: half-thief: little half-limbs of its teeth

holding my little hoax-limbs forever lost to their host.
                Every morning, every evening, I endure, indurate
the disquieting comfort of unloaded strands littered
                            in the whisk’s incisors: it’s least of all me, this looped

polluted feast, furred pyre (my excesses are animal)
                plentiful but hunkered in its crenellated pit,
silver-plattered skin-lint caked on but not seen.
                            Still, it’s loaded with me not meaning, just look:

the pawn in action: Topical (touch), internalized (touch),
                I tend to you, you tend to me. We get put together,
tethered together: a picture. What possesses who:
                            who possesses what: in ritual, the object owns you.

A bust: in my palm, not a portal, not a blotter,
                but just a handle, anodyne, a small bundle to hold
on to, calm you. Its tracery nonplussed—down-slick
                            of the nestling spikes then an untouched up (little

nest tasked with the build-up of itself)—undrawing
                the drawn-on. Not a dupe, not quite doubling not unless
I say this brush and this brushing press, trammel, cradle
                            wield, arrest like a reliquary its remnants: of mimicry:

of strata: my motions; unless I say the receptacle
                bottles up its fondles, my fist-givings, these filaments.
Ceremonious and amniotic, what’s more maimed
                            than the miracle of birthing worth. Preened moments

aren’t whole if you picture them, take their picture. You take
                a step back—a scalping lacks tact—lacerations are never
exact except in the bull’s eye, the surgical eye, the camera
                            snap. The deeds I do every day are flotsam, off-floating

in a shrill feed of filigreed pictures wherein I forget them
                instantly. I lance them with my half-self, my sequential
objector: yes, to save time, this is about time. It’s about time
                            to say I’m obeisant to my little boxes, my watches,

the numbers that tick on the wall, these shiny tresses.
                I love the clutter of curls. But before you know it: you get
careened into the routine of touch & go: I reach into my
                            pocket for meaning, for something familiar to my finger-

tips, a key or coin, a ready token to momentarily believe in,
                something all core, a discombobulated pearl whose shape
is thorough enough, burrowed well enough for warmth
                            though you don’t have time to fully recognize its round

ness, its balled-up body, so go on, and on with blind findings:
                a picture of a picked pocket is just a pocket: I get ready here
for the metaphor where there is none. Where there is none,
                        I get ready to go and go out and I’m going and (I’m) unraveling

and here I am.


Kristina Martino is a poet and visual artist. She studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Some of her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in BOAAT, Third Coast, Bennington Review, and elsewhere. Some of her drawings can be viewed here: www.kristinamartino.com.

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An almost imperceptible percussiveness

What is the decibel of a sigh? How loudly
must disappointment teakettle before you
clap hands to ears and cringe? The rasp of a
rasp, a long obsession. Daydreams thunder in
wild herds. You breathe like one setting
down a colicky baby, finally still, still, you
hear each exhalation, dry fingers drawn down
silk, a catching and a tearing. Your whole
being pants against you, the most faithful of
dogs. Listen to regret, welling like a glass
rim, a wet finger circling round.

(after Doug Wheeler’s Installation “PSAD Synthetic Desert III”)


Devon Balwit is a mother/teacher/poet from Portland, OR. She has two chapbooks: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press) & Forms Most Marvelous (forthcoming with dancing girl press). Her work has found many homes, among them: Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Peacock Journal, The Cincinnati Review, The Stillwater Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Red Earth Review, Panoplyzine, and The Inflectionist Review.

The Second Death

imagine a warship—heavy with cannons, overgrown
with gold. imagine its heavy body, its mossy stomach—

dipping in and out of the water like a swan.
imagine the first voyage—the dock a confetti

of color. a girl blows a kiss—her breath
mixing with the spray. remember how mermaids wink

from the ship’s prow, how sea monsters snarl from the bulwark.
this—and a fracture point, a top heavy curl into the deep,

a nautical mile of fright and gulp and salt
salt salt. the metal weeps in the bay—think

sunk. the warship is a treasure of bones, of muskets drowned—
nestling beneath the navy yard, the harbor’s sweet neck.

the ship sits still through the storms—its ropes fraying
like satin ribbons. this is the second death, the waiting,

breathless, the constant decay and bringing back.
when the draining begins, the Vasa catches its breath.

and the crumbling begins. the wood unlearns the water.
hisses in the Swedish wind. forget its mossy stomach,

shrugging off a confetti of barnacles. forget the swan.
forget it was meant to swim. forget that the muskets

drowned. the metal gutted and worth nothing but rust,
fright, gulp, and salt—unfound, unlearning.


Sara Ryan is a second-year poetry MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University and an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Storm Cellar, Tinderbox, New South, Third Coast, Slice Magazine, Fairy Tale Review and others.

Gertrude Complex

How child-like is dirt, and then
death, how my child
asks about death or dirt and I want
to say something that makes sense.

If I were a really good atheist, I would
want him to know the earthworm
he holds out on his pudgy index
finger is something like, king-like, of a king

and all of that. But we both know,
you and I know, or maybe only I think
this isn’t any comfort. Give me
a way to say yes, there is a window

and yes, when I die I will watch you,
keep watching you, and I won’t let
even this worm near that little face. Not
even any God or dusty breeze. Not any.

Give me a window, not metaphor,
not ghost, not particle or microbe, not
shimmer of the perfect: window. I want to see
someone watching. Because that is all I want

to watch, too— be allowed to
watch. When my son asks will I die
before him and I say yes, if I were
a good atheist I would let this rest, talk

about dirt, of dust, of the smallest breath,
the lasting footprint. No. No.
Not this time. This is what we do,
what I do, maybe not what you do, what

I do as a mother. Play it long
and shadowed until: Belief
comes in the next generation.


 

Sara Moore Wagner is a Pushcart nominated poet whose work has appeared most recently in Lingerpost, Reservoir, The Wide Shore, and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Her chapbook, Hooked Through, is forthcoming from Five Oaks Press in early 2017. She lives in Cincinnati with her filmmaker husband Jon and their children, Daisy and Cohen.

A Girl Looks Spirited When the Candle Flickers

on her face. The shadow of the moment flickers with it.
Every moment has a winter. A space within us is flurrying with snow.

In a dream, I think, I must have loved once;
on top of the stones’ endless staying, I loved him.

A photograph where he walks away
down an endless wooden path leading only to the sea,

which was infinite and cold and in which I was alone.
The only human alive for years in that sea.


 

Kallie Falandays is the author of Dovetail Down the House. You can read her work in Day One, Black Warrior Review, The Journal, and elsewhere. She runs Tell Tell Poetry.

THE ANNUAL DONATION REQUEST REMINDS ME

We stood behind cool new
med school glass watching
Mexican farmworkers cross
the highway, tend cotton
in hundred-and-ten heat.

A classmate said he worked
harder up here
in the library, deserved
all that future money.
Above the old anatomy

lab where cadavers slept
in formaldehyde, we poured
our best years into tomes
of pharmacology, then headed
to China Express

on Fourth for exotic oyster
sauce, cashews, tired of buffalo
wings and Coke. My lab partner
joked, How do you get a hundred
Jews into a VW Bug?*

*Answer: throw a penny in

while little Laura Garcia
two nights ago in the ER
bled from her nose.
The head pathologist,
sporting a janitorial ring of keys,

said the intern packed it
with gauze and sent
her parents packing, a sixty-mile
round-trip to autopsy,
pointed out the leukemic

drainage from her chest
with his scalpel. Later,
puckish Dr. P. would flash
his smile and slides of naked women
between cuts of uterine wall.


 

Abby Caplin’s poem “Still Arguing with Old Synagogue” was a finalist in the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award. She is also a recipient of the San Francisco Poets Eleven 2016 poetry contest, judged by Jack Hirschman. She participated in workshops at the Key West Literary Seminar, the Annual Taos Writing Retreat for Health Professionals, the Healing Art of Writing, and Gotham Writers’ Workshops. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Adanna, Big Muddy, The Binnacle, Burningword, Crack the Spine, Forge, The Healing Muse, OxMag, Poetica, The Scream Online, TSR: The Southampton Review, Tiger’s Eye, Tikkun, Willow Review and others.

Mirror, Mirror

There was a kingdom in the clouds.
Cradled too close by mountain peaks,
the populace throbbed at the brim.
Houses climbing cliffs like animals
escaping. Each year rooftops rested
closer to the stars; each year tunnels
rooted deeper into stone.

Tremors shivered through glass and steel.
Engineers and architects calculated
loads in the margins, torque and sway.
Where the air is light, snow is heavy,
and avalanches are netted like beasts.
Oracles warning of volcanic eruptions
were the madmen shouting on street corners.

The Queen had begun to dream of fire.

Dawn is creeping pink
but the valley is still in twilight.
Once the sun rises, the whole kingdom
will glitter like crystal.
My jewel-box, thinks Queen Karina
as she looks out each morning
from her bedroom in the seventh tower.

She begins to sing softly.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
who’s the fairest of them all?”
It is a catchy tune, bitter and funny.
She presses an injector to her thigh,
inspects the wound. A purposeful breach.
No cure, only pinpricks and time.

The Sickness encircles the kingdom
like the arms of a wit-sick parent.
Poison in the milk. Long before this rot,
children have withered in the womb.
Long have the people been turning
to stunted alpine trees, their eyes
all the same color: rain about to fall.

Only the princess pristine,
Rose, that daughter of the lowlands.
Skin like river-clay, hair
like thunderheads over the floodplain.
Snow-white, the people jeer. Untouched
and untouchable, she watches them die
from the turret. The people riot.

Somewhere, someone is starting a fire.

Karina lifts the veil from her mirror,
surveying the wreckage of her face.
The left cheek melting away from bone,
red shining flesh beneath the eye.
Sores blossoming, chin to nipple.
She chuckles, thinking of verses
once written in praise of those breasts.

The Queen puts on her mask
                and strides to the throne room.


Tammy Bendetti lives, works, and drinks too much coffee on Colorado’s Western Slope with her husband and two small daughters. She completed a poetry workshop with Wyatt Prunty at Sewanee: The University of the South, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Colorado Mesa University. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Calliope and Grand Valley Magazine, and is forthcoming from Right Hand Pointing. She is currently building a secret room under her stairs but does not plan to keep any wizards in it.