This May, we’re celebrating spring with new work by three of our contributors.
Piz-stack-eee-oh, Graffito registers, the word flooding his noggin
like the weed-choked shrubs crowding what should-be-a-more-
pregnant vacuity surrounding what little remains of Demeter’s
temple, piz-stack-eeh-oh, but no, no, Graffito’s not actually hearing the term
but he is receiving it, embracing it, even imbibing it, for
the nut in question is in reference to a particular Graffito-ingested
gelato flavor, piz-stack-eee-oh, and I know, ice-cream-cheek’d Graffito
muses, I know the fences I just hopped over to better spy what
negligible edifice remains of Demeter’s temple are, unlike, say,
piz-stack-eee-ohs, not of a vibrant ubiquity but of a more
local, um, you know, functional, soul-numbing variety, and so it is that
when he, Graffito, is to be the deity to which a sanctuary is dedicated,
piz-stack-eee-ohs and not brick or stone shall be the basic
unit of construction, and in this way the sum of human
interminglings shall be, however modestly, reacquainted with the sky via
a well-shelled nut, which shall be gathered and molded in such
a quantity as to reignite humanity’s awe of its own self-estranging
capacities, which are in fact fully (and even ideally) compatible with
a copiousness, damn near audible, of plain old pistachios.
Water-soluble mandibles, crankshaft-operated parliaments,
oxcart-cluttered financial districts, retaliatory
tariffs dreamed-up by the great-great-great-great
grandchildren of Gilded Age robber barons—ah, yes, Graffito
conjures such fancies as he strolls, alone, the Ponte
Sant’Angelo and studies the rotund aggression of the red-bricked
fortress, yet when Graffito absentmindedly stumbles into a fellow,
um, human, the latter, a rather striking young woman of immaculate Oxbridge
Italian intonations, says: I am sorry, sir. Mi scusi. Mi dispiace.
And no problem, is Graffito’s reply, that’s it, that’s all, no problem, which instigates
conversation, which entails valuations of monuments within a six
mile radius, and which in turn facilitates Graffito and his new
friend’s jointly jaunting, in the next days, to the Tivoli Fountains,
and to Caius Cestius’s pyramid, yet at the latter, Graffito’s companion,
Tinsley, remarks: the proximity of the vehicle traffic to ancient
edifices in this city rather quite floors me, and Graffito at once
commences to detail his fantasies of the mule-cart-swathed Wall
Streets of provincial capitals, and of water-soluble
mandibles, and let’s not forget the legislative bodies more
functional for being somehow reduced to a simple piston-pumping
motion, and Graffito and Tinsley, alas, either share
a subdued, ironical chuckle, OK, or Graffito
and Tinsley proceed to arrange to never
ever, well, see one another again.
Steve Barbaro’s poems appear in such venues as New American Writing, Denver Quarterly, Western Humanities Review, Prelude, Verse Daily, DIAGRAM, and American Letters & Commentary. He is currently finishing a novel, an excerpt of which can be accessed in Web Conjunctions.
ELLEN DORÉ WATSON
The Hungry Ghost is not the bakery on State Street
of the same name, but the toothy fire the baker
thinks he’s tamed. At thirteen, a blast of lightning
levitated me, then bolted me to my bed until a fierce,
rhythmic flickering behind the blinds drew me up
to see the top half of Cindy’s house—roaring.
In woods and alleys, kids strike matches, grab
danger. Once, I followed sirens to a big blaze,
posed as a novelist desperate to get it right. A guy
ducked me under the tape, handed me a hardhat,
let me close enough to sweat, small in the scalding
light. Thinking love combustion, we forget smolder,
go for conflagration. We get scorched, apply simple
salve, drink too little water. Don’t we all fall silent,
enthralled, before woodstove or hearth or warming
our hands under the overpass, knowing only stone
and bone survive it? Fire, you made us who we are—
cooks, night owls, large-brained dreamers. Because
we can’t take you into our bodies, we settle for smoke,
inching ever faster toward the red-tipped end. But
oh my people, when it’s time, please. Give me
to the fire. Let it eat me, immaculate and gone.
Ellen Doré Watson’s fifth collection, pray me stay eager, will be published by Alice James Books in 2018. Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Tin House, Orion, Field, Gulf Coast, and The New Yorker. Among her honors are fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and to Yaddo, and a NEA Translation Fellowship. She has translated a dozen books from the Brazilian Portuguese, including the work of poet Adélia Prado. Watson serves as poetry editor of The Massachusetts Review, director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, and teaches in the Drew University Low-Residency MFA program in poetry and translation.
Dark movements rimmed with light.
— Naomi Shihab Nye
Giant shadows of wind, the semis blow by,
bemoaning lost mileage; the drivers
on that mad combination of caffeine, adrenaline,
& speed. The skyline something crossed out—
not a bad word, necessarily, but a right phrase
at the wrong moment. Again
I wanted to say how like the night she is,
familiar, surprising, uncontainable.
The road to her is 314 miles long.
It unravels like a paragraph. My travelogue
is the story of how we met in a cursive
no one can decipher. It includes a litany
of curses in a tongue long forgotten.
Sometimes I tell her I love you, which is to say
I confuse her name with God’s, particularly
when the last song on the radio is one
that always reminds her of an old crush.
States still separate us. My hands
on the steering wheel, its curve
like the curve of heaven, the arc of earth.
Ahead: the indulgent sadnesses of heartache.
Ahead: the flashing lights of cruiser & fire trucks
some accident on a fast-approaching interchange.
Gerry LaFemina is the author of numerous books of poetry and fiction, the most recent of which are Vanishing Horizon (poems, 2011 Anhinga Press), Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist (prose poems, 2013 Mayapple Press) and Clamor (novel, 2013 Codorus Press).