Enjoy these new poems by our contributors.
Table of Contents:
–Essay on States
Benjamin S. Grossberg
–Worshipping the Ancestors
ESSAY ON STATES
By Tina Cane
Not united but the ambient kind like surroundings or like jazz
Coltrane the heart’s improvisation meaning crying as a form of music
joy of delectable blues every organ a body with its own aria
whether reverence or arrivederci
states vary depending on conditions
in space time has to do with how you move through it
in life my dad said mine was a trial by fire The whole thing? I exclaimed
I don’t know he said shaking his head as I watched my form enter
a room full of flames
How does the end of the universe make you feel?
a cosmologist on the radio was asking her colleagues as I merged
into a lane of cars Impossible! was the answer I shouted
three out of four vehicles the exact same model and make it turns out
the cosmologist’s colleagues had mixed feelings about the end of things
like any of us
the laws of physics
were purportedly different early on back when things
were in a denser state and everything was like love
or a black hole a black hole being a zone where light can’t escape
love being a time and space outside of place
By Tina Cane
eat a diet of night shades reverse climate change
avert colony collapse disorder defuse a bomb disguised as love
stew tomatoes for deep sleep and blood that’s mineral rich
with new mysteries pump that blood like a fever dream
through your bittersweet heart and wait for your mind
to fortify against petulant businessmen celebrities
with special pajamas the peach-colored women
of Instagram be wary of optimists with Keto tips
and people who seek to be president munch a plate of jalapenos
and jimsom weed listen to those in love with curiosity
the moon and her many moods stay tuned to souls
that brood and also to poets who like finches in cages
sense the changes before they come
WORSHIPPING THE ANCESTORS
By Benjamin S. Grossberg
Go now to the back of the house
where you have set up your altar
on a dresser, an old dresser that you took
from your parents’ house, from which
you had to shake out
blouses and skirts not
worn in decades, the drawers
your mother one day simply
stopped opening. You have set up the altar there
on a mirror tray, one which once held
perfume bottles: the overlapping purple angles
of Liz Taylor’s Passion, the clear blocks
of Chanel Number Five
like a little robot, square head on square body.
Once your mother sprayed this perfume
on her wrists and rubbed it in
with two fingers before holding them
to your nose, where you stood
beside her. She said
Perfume always turns on me,
shaking her head, then
turned her right wrist over
so you could fasten the clasp on her bracelet.
Soon a babysitter would come.
Now the tray holds candles
and a few other artifacts.
One of the plastic barrettes she pinned
her hair back with in old age. The glasses
your grandfather wore to read. And, from
your grandmother, the cup in which
they used to float, magnified—
the dentures she raised
to her face like a harmonica, then
popped in deftly with one hand.
You stand with your palms on the edge
of the dresser, preparing to commune
with these small artifacts of the body.
Once you kissed your father’s cheek
just below the scar he got in childhood
when he cut himself on the shard
of a shattered butter dish. Your lips
against the hard bristles of his face
are something you still feel, like spines or quills.
His face had tightened; he’d looked away
Holy holy holy Jews say, rising on our tiptoes
to be closer to God. So that’s what you say,
your fingertips on the tray
of artifacts: holy, holy, holy.
By Iain Twiddy
Across the washes, planted on the banks,
crack willow held the drains and dykes in place,
kept them in line, kept them cleanly going,
just as the water, glupping along, fed them,
and then their pollarded branches might be
woven into hives to snaffle eels overnight,
twisted into hurdles to keep sheep away,
or wriggled into hip-held, harvesting baskets,
even domed into skeps for the bees that bred them
– stranded in green-catkin, yellow-catkin
dioecious patches – and the great wheel
of working rhythms turned the fens once again.
Just as it fixes me, considering
whether self is the current, memory its banks,
however consciousness is channeled exactly
through flanking hemispheres and lightweight branches,
however shakily it ends up rooted,
and no matter how distant the spoil-sunk pull,
the swish and rush, the golden-ticket shiver,
and the starling lift of leaves that leaves me
no less elevated – in fact, higher –
for the fact I find myself bending again
for one more hit of what I never witnessed,
where the sole crack is the dried-out glue
in the spine of a Tōkyō public library book.
Born and raised in New York City, Tina Cane serves as the Poet Laureate of Rhode Island where she is the founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools, RI. Her poems and translations haveappeared in numerous publications, including The Literary Review, Spinning Jenny, Tupelo Quarterly, Jubilat, and The Common. She also co-produces, with Atticus Allen, the podcast Poetry Dose. Cane is the author of The Fifth Thought; Dear Elena: Letters for Elena Ferrante, poems with art by Esther Solondz; Once More With Feeling; and Body of Work. In 2016, Tina received the Fellowship Merit Award in Poetry, from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. She is also a 2020 Poet Laureate Fellow with the Academy of American Poets and the creator/curator of the distance reading series, Poetry is Bread.
Benjamin S. Grossberg is Director of Creative Writing at the University of Hartford. His books include My Husband Would (University of Tampa, 2020) and Sweet Core Orchard (University of Tampa, 2009), winner of the 2008 Tampa Review Prize and a Lambda Literary Award.
Iain Twiddy studied literature at university and lived for several years in northern Japan. His poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Salamander, Illuminations, The Blue Mountain Review, The Stinging Fly, The London Magazine, and elsewhere. He has written two critical studies, Pastoral Elegy in Contemporary British and Irish Poetry (2012) and Cancer Poetry (2015).