February 2021 Poetry Feature

Poems by REBECCA MORGAN FRANK, JEFFREY HARRISON, CALEB NOLEN, and ALEXANDRA WATSON.

Contents:

  • Rebecca Morgan Frank  |  I hold with those who favor fire
  • Jeffrey Harrison  |  Hazards, 2020
  • Caleb Nolen  | The Deal
                           | Jonah Years
  • Alexandra Watson | when the party’s over or, portrait of an addict zero days sober or, my mom sent me this book healing the addicted brain 

  

  

I hold with those who favor fire
By Rebecca Morgan Frank

Nineteenth-century body snatchers
          dug down to the head
                  and roped the body up,

chucked jewels back to dirt, little interest 
          in mementos, only
                  the corpses themselves.

That’s how we learned our bodies had a life
          on their own, a worth
                  without us.

Now, we can freeze and sell our eggs,
          our sperm, our embryos. 
                  Our future selves unyielding.

Now, they can freeze your death to keep you 
          alive. Slow down time 
                  in the body.

It doesn’t matter if you’re stripping
          the dead or excavating the living.
                  The fountain of youth is ice.


 

Hazards

By Jeffrey Harrison

                            —Spring 2020

Just as the first deaths were being reported
and just before our son and daughter
came home and moved back in with us
to work remotely from their childhood bedrooms,
I found a set of trails in the woods
I hadn’t known before—probably old roads
from when there were grist mills here.
The four of us would enter the woods
from the far corner of a field, through a break
in the stone wall, and by the time we arrived
at the stone bridge over a rushing stream,
it was long ago and we were all again
children. We tossed sticks into the rapids
and watched the way each one maneuvered
differently around the rocks and through
the chutes between them, down the little
waterfalls, bouncing along the waves, going
under in the churning foam and popping up
downstream, changing their minds,
or doing a fancy spin, a fake and pivot,
as if to show off. We urged them on,
hoping they wouldn’t get snagged by
fallen branches reaching out from the bank,
or get sucked into the shadowed under-margins
of the small moss-covered peninsulas
that jutted out—like hazards in a game
of miniature golf, some of which we named:
Purgatory, the Clubhouse, the Claw.
When we looked back up, the trees
swirled for a moment before returning
to their fixed shapes. Then we’d continue on
around a marsh bristling with cattails and dead trees,
its hummocky shallows thick with the new green
of giant skunk cabbages—primordial,
like a place where you might see dinosaurs—
past fiddleheads unwinding like the tails
of seahorses, a gold, bell-shaped mushroom
gleaming in sunlight among last year’s leaves,
and lady slippers we hunted like Easter eggs—
then out into the field, and onto the street,
where we covered our faces again with masks.


 

The Deal
By Caleb Nolen

A week after high school ended I left
to work at a native plant nursery in eastern Tennessee, 

a job I only received out of kindness. 
I didn’t know anything. Not the names

of what I watered and weeded,
or even that my body might move with something

like grace. I worked nine hours in the heat each day:
muscles rising to the surface, my damp shirt

stuck to my back. And in the early evening I’d drive
down the dirt road to swim in the river. I had a secret

spot, so deep the current brushed my shoulders. 
I’d stand in the middle, try to make everything move

around me. And then it was October,
almost time to go back home. I didn’t know 

what to do. I stood in the water as still as I could, 
listening to the birds calling against the sky. 

I don’t know why I started to pray,
but I promised to give God my life if only He would

give me the smallest sign. I swore that if He showed himself
just this one time, I’d never ask for anything again.

And as I finished speaking, a single yellow leaf
floated toward me. It rested right against my chest. I know

it’s difficult to believe—I was in the woods, there were
a thousand trees—but back then this convinced me.

I said thank you so many times, then reached down
and took one of the small stones that touched my feet.

I carried it for years, even held it in my sleep. Really
I thought that moment would be enough, that I’d never want

to ask for more. I didn’t know then that life could be so long.
That He would hold me to my word and silently look on

as Troy died and Bobby died and Mike died
and I stayed alive, carrying around a stone.

 

 

Jonah Years  
By Caleb Nolen

On the corner of 51st and Delancey, a stone arch
frames a red door, and letters mounted above read  
I AM THE DOOR, the King James Version of John 10:9.    

Even then I knew the Evangelist went on to write   
that those who pass through will find pasture, but I only   
passed by on my way to the gym. I was teaching myself     

to swim. I’d find an empty lane, lower my head,   
and try to stay calm, as I practiced reaching out,   
pulling through that unbreathable world.    

I left stinking of chlorine. I told myself there was time  
to become something else if I couldn’t make it work.

 

 

when the party’s over or, portrait of an addict zero days sober or, my mom sent me this book healing the addicted brain
By Alexandra Watson

After Kaveh Akbar
 

seventeen years of crevices           regularly          infected        a thirst
corrects the limbic            blitzed cortex              all ears            all
aboard           back to bk           back to harlem      back to bk     fuck

zeroing in on awareness                                       i can function 
    i’m fundamentally optimal                                       & judicious
         my boss is not the problem                                   susceptible
            to not-too-distant turmoil                                       a yellowish
               inception    a quart                                       of hopeless trembling

totally neutral 
                       is OVER                  
I don a glamorous gender                                        parade bars
          attack avenues        overdose on damage                      plagued
by           a strange           dollar  
irresistible cannibal 
                                            of dismal millions

there’s good news                    sky!                    the groove
                                                                          the folded           canyon  
a mind                                                              to come home to.

 

 

Rebecca Morgan Frank’s fourth collection of poems, Oh You Robot Saints!, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon UP in 2021. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Pleiades, The Kenyon Review, Guernica, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and editor of the online magazine Memorious, and she lives in Chicago.

Jeffrey Harrison’s sixth full-length book of poetry, Between Lakes, was published by Four Way Books in September 2020. His previous book, Into Daylight, won the Dorset Prize and was published by Tupelo Press in 2014. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA, and his poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize volumes.

Caleb Nolen grew up in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He earned his MFA at the University of Virginia and has received support from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Blue Mountain Center. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cream City Review, 32 Poems, FENCE, Salt Hill, and elsewhere.

Alexandra Watson is the Executive Editor of Apogee Journal, a publication providing a platform for underrepresented artists and writers. She is a full-time Lecturer in the First-Year Writing program at Barnard College. Her fiction, poetry, and interviews have appeared in Yes, Poetry, Nat. Brut., Breadcrumbs, Redivider, PANK, Lit Hub, and Apogee. She’s the recipient of the 2019 PEN/Nora Magid Prize for Literary Magazine editing. Find her at alexandrawatson.net.

February 2021 Poetry Feature

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