August 2021 Poetry Feature

Enjoy these new poems by our contributors.

 

Table of Contents:

            Tina Cane

                        –Essay on States

                        –Regime

            Benjamin S. Grossberg           

                        –Worshipping the Ancestors

            Iain Twiddy

                        –Crack Willow

 

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    

 

 

REGIME
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
mumbling goodnight.
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.  

 

 

CRACK WILLOW
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).

August 2021 Poetry Feature

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