February 2017 Poetry Feature

Please welcome back TC contributors Elizabeth Hazen, Jonathan Moody, Daniel Tobin, and Honor Moore (whose poem “Song,” published in the first issue of The Common, was reprinted in Best American Poetry 2012). We’re also delighted to welcome Gerard Coletta, who is making his first appearance in The Common.

 

JONATHAN MOODY 

Undue Hardship

Rain pounds the pavement
like it’s holding a grudge,

& I’m convinced sunlight
stretches its legs on monkey bars

so it’ll be tall enough to shine
over the Mexican border wall.

The other night I read a story
to my three-year-old,

& when Avery Langston
asked why Pittsburgh fans

sent Clemente nasty
letters I said, It’s because

he spoke with an accent
& was from another country.

In our house, we respect
people no matter where they’re from.

Do you know why, Avery?
Yes, Sir. So God will be happy.

I want to share another story:
the one about a Somalian

explaining to her daughter
that what stands between them

& the American dream
is a selective hatred

of Islamic countries
bereft of Trump’s

golf courses & luxury hotels.
But this story is too real

& unreal like watching nations
wage war on Twitter.

At night, when I tuck
in my son, the rain pours

from my face like a grudge.
I kiss Avery on the cheek

hoping tomorrow morning
sunlight will have a growth spurt.

 

Jonathan Moody’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications including African American Review, Boston Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Harvard Review.

 

ELIZABETH HAZEN

Devices

Rhyme relies on repetition: pink drink,
big wig, tramp stamp, rank skank. Alliteration
too: Peter piper’s pickled peppers, silly

Sally’s sheep – silly trumping smart because
the lls create consonance. Assonance
repeats vowel sounds: hot bod, dumb slut, frigid bitch.

Even his line — “Girl, we’ll have a fine time”—
or her refusals — “No! Don’t!” In metaphor
we compare two things. Suppose a man calls

a woman fox; we understand this is
not literal. Same goes for pig, dog, bitch.
Same goes for octopus, as in, “He was

an octopus; his hands were all over me.”
Metonymy relies on association:
suits, skirts, that joke about the dishwasher –

If it stops working, slap the bitch! Synecdoche
reduces a thing to a single part:
he wants pussy, by which we must infer

he wants a woman, as the part does not
exist without the whole. Context changes
everything, and while repetition is

not truth, power lies in words we hear repeated.
We’ve been called so many things that we are not,
we startle at the sound of our own names.

 

Game Rules

In the rules you failed to learn from articles
in women’s magazines; from your mother’s loose-
lipped friends, those pseudo-aunts who snuck you schnapps

and cigarettes, reveled as you revealed
your indiscretions; or from too-fast girls
who disappeared mid-year, birthing bastards

three states west of anywhere you’d been—
the gist was don’t admit the things you need.
Back then you balked at such directives, though

in school you went along with rules, slicing right
into the fetal pig, the only girl
who didn’t retch, so eager to see the rooms

of its bloodless heart, as if those spaces held
some knowledge that could help you understand
the recklessness that you could not contain
inside these muscled walls, drained of mystery,
labeled in diagrams with names as lovely
as constellations you will never see:

atrium, ventricle, aortic valve.
Whatever lesson the teacher hoped you’d learn,
you cannot find the words for what you feel,

nor find a way to stop yourself from feeling,
and that is what enrages you: three layers
of skin, veins, muscles, bone, and all that blood,

yet your heart still a specimen for all to see?
His desire for you became a drug; one taste
unleashed a need in you as base as thirst.

The rules say play it cool, but desire splits
you open. There is no end to your wanting;
it guts you even after he is gone.

 

Elizabeth Hazen is a poet and essayist whose work has also appeared in Best American Poetry 2013, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. 

 

 

HONOR MOORE

Courtyard

 Civitella Ranieri

Alem at the window: see her
white cloth, her hands

in yellow gloves, and behind her
darkness. Good Morning!

a call from the tower,
on the steps Matteo reading

Bolaño, then voices or is it
radio? At the black window

yellow hands open, then
all you see is white

moving, her cloth flat, circling–
a swerve of swallows

plunges the courtyard.
Now Matteo closes

his book, a telephone rings
and from the kitchen

plates clatter and silverware, as
higher up, a back-flip

of yellow. The sun is blaring,
a fracas of bird call

breaks the air, Alem
in the window

a white rose, then yellow, yellow
rising like a child’s sun.

 

Honor Moore is the author of three collections of poetry, Red Shoes, Darling, and Memoir.

 

GERARD COLETTA

A Sea of Banners and the New Constitution

awaited me and my army of sixteen men
when we disembarked from the dream
of your hands. Not a soul in all of Califerne
could hear the music played from the red

staff on my back, could see my necklace
of ligature. And so you see they did not
know I am a noble. A wire from the coast—
I hear your headnest doze and shoulder

off my cloak of twisted bottom sheet
and papiermâché. I walk to the fridge,
step around the siren floorboard, see
the ultrasound magnetted to the freezer.

My men warned me. Their afterimages
scowl as I lower the looking glass, my
eyes. Once she’s here you won’t need
me. Once she’s here I will be another

soldier in my own troop, mangrove
ghost summoned for dud adventures.
I climb the rope back up to my turret
where the violet stratus and I glare at

each other, huddled in opposite corners,
till morning. This is my aubade, leaving
me out cold, you and my dark legions
shedding the magnesium sparks of day.

 

 

Gerard Coletta’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Adirondack Review, the Boston Review, B O D Y, THRUSH, and elsewhere.

 

DANIEL TOBIN

Herald

The birds, common sparrows, must like the bush
flaming autumn yellow in the neighbor’s yard.
Not the kind to trace a flyway, the weather warming,
they home here awhile, flickering among the leaves
like rogue leaves themselves, browned, readying.

And the cat must like the birds. For hours it seems
he’s hunkered at the fringe, not purring, but bracing
to what can only be an electric hum—his body
attentive, hot-wired for the strike.
Along the fence
my neighbor’s fastened brazen stars, a brazen sun—
summer’s faux adornments, congenial emblems,

like the pastoral metaphor my student ventured
for his mother, dead, the disease withering her
limb by limb, until her last breath dissembled
to plumes of drifted smoke—My mother, a garden
his lines winnowing contrapuntal down the page.

Unseasonal, the real sun embellishes the beds
raked over, bagged, cat unaccountably gone.
Now, from inside, the whole bush is shaking,
a frantic chorus, as though it were about to speak.

 

Daniel Tobin is the author of seven books of poems, Where the World is Made, Double Life, The Narrows, Second Things, Belated Heavens, The Net, and the book-length poem From Nothing.

 

February 2017 Poetry Feature

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