December 2016 Poetry Feature

New poems from our contributors: please welcome newcomers to The Common, Mik Awake and Elizabeth Scanlon, and welcome back L. S. Klatt and Ben Mazer.

St. Just the Oppsite

It’s millionaires who tell us
to make gratitude lists
& goths who love life
enough to get all made up every day.
Our hunger
keeps McDonald’s in business
by refusing to think about food
& all the strippers
down at the Show N Tell
spray their tans on to make it rain, rain, rain.
Dear Ghost, fear our slayer.



The Stroop test asks you to say the word
for the color not the color that you see,
the color in which the word is printed;

it tests the brain’s ability to disregard
irrelevant information, to choose
will over sensation,

so that when blue is in red ink
you choose not to see red
or rather, not say so.

See? It’s a choice
what you voice and they’re
very interested in knowing

how quickly you can override.
It’s a trick, brain.
Don’t you believe them.


Elizabeth Scanlon is the Editor of The American Poetry Review.




Here’s my impression
of a teacher every morning:
Class has been canceled today,
Staring at lecture notes,
thinking, I should just, yeah,
as he boards the D,
sardined with Chinese,
the homeless, and the almost,
typing the words, CLASS
on the mind’s subject line,
while miming the words, “Please
take out your textbooks”
at the half-shut eyes of the future.
Here’s an impression of me
coming down with this poem:
the mind’s ear, a slot machine
always spinning, spinning,
spinning until the first slot stops
on a line (Here’s my impression)
which is when I realize
I’ve been staring at the second slot
because the first slot has always been:
This can’t be my life.
And here’s my impression
of a middle-aged white guy
with his mama’s hips
wandering naked
through a casino at 2AM:
I am somebody’s brother.


Mik Awake’s work has appeared in The Awl, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,Callaloo, Witness, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. 




Here is a barn. I toss my hate in the loft & walk away. The hate that once warmed my head stays put while I wander elsewhere. When I die, the feeling remains. Here is a boy. He enters the barn & discovers my unseemly habit. The hate now holds his head. At school, he is known for it. His mother can’t get him to take it off during supper; in her day, failure to remove one’s hate was a punishable offense. Fortunately, the boy outgrows it. Even if he could still brandish the hate, he wouldn’t. It is no longer a trademark. Wit is what makes him stand out. Classmates smart weeks after his gibes of petty amusement. Seeing the uselessness of the headwear, the mother donates it to a thrift store.



I talk as if I know of what I speak. I act as if
I have the wherewithal to cross the Great Lake
with only the lantern of a tomatillo. That would be

bizarre, trusting in a green light. A starless expanse,
the wreck of a canoe, a tomatillo warm from my garden.
The day that was long lives longer in the nightshade.

The beetle goes on unseen, fortified with luxurious
eating. I can’t, at the taciturn moon, be outraged. I
discover a soft spot which looks like blight but is light.


L.S. Klatt’s collection of prose poems, The Wilderness After Which, is due out from Otis Books in 2017.



The Birth of Venus 

To see her perfect, with her head-down hair
string thin like spring, and all
the Botticellian newness, laughter from despair,
you would not think her mad, for she
is not —
the height of wit her rambling disjointed talk
that’s born of pain, her easy deference,
and beautiful her unrecorded gestures;
we sit alone in the posh restaurant
to have some coffee only, bread and butter,
where she confesses she would be my mother,
could I be born, I won’t say born again
though something like it is the sense I mean:
were all the same, and we could be together,
the thing she hopes above all could be true;
for far too deep a fire do the living
examine love and wit, the noble twins
of memory that make our talk a treasure
unprecedented yet by anything
in heaven or hell, though this is surely heaven.

By night she’s wilder, steering with abandon
sharp corners, radio roaring early jazz
wrought from our marriage, delicate concession,
abrupt, decisive, beauty taking wing:
we roar up Plympton St. to stop a moment,
just in time to hear Marc Vincenz read
a final poem, wave at a few familiars,
then shimmy out into the whole vast night,
leaving a few unsettled, wondering . . .


The Phoenix

Katherine, your sainted throttle on the wheel,
can bring no good to this old commonweal,
but is the stuff of naked spring’s ascent,
forsaking madness, incipience hell-bent . . .
resurrecting gladiators’ chariots,
to know it frozen coming into motion,
alert spectator of the echoing world,
that promises itself before it is,
life’s catalyst, the phoenix from the dust.

I break the padlock of Victorian night,
and slam it open, trying to get things right . . .
The things we saw are things beyond recall,
reserved for other springs, another fall . . .
A window that conceals a library,
silk negligees apparent on a sill,
impalpable as our one history,
the inner workings of desire’s will . . .

I have gone crazy, what would you expect
from any husband finding his life wrecked . . .
Yet still the Phoenix rises, ornately decked,
with alms for Easter, parti-colored flecked.


Ben Mazer is the Editor of the Battersea Review.

December 2016 Poetry Feature

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