January 2017 Poetry Feature


Please welcome Holly Burdorff, John Davis Jr., Nicholas Friedman, and Matt Salyer—four poets who are new to our pages, and welcome back TC contributor Tina Cane, the new Poet Laureate of Rhode Island.



We’ve Got Lemons

Once, I loved a grocery man. When bored,
he hung back in dairy, straightened yogurt turrets,
twisted and leaned. He kissed their tin tops
one by one, pressed small, slow pecks.
No-one saw but me (I shopped at night,
peered through Swiss cheese).


Loved him leaning out front gnawing apples,
sucking their cores dry: that sweet brown rot
of Granny Smith, I loved him (that pure joy,
those love handles, those tooth whistles,
that smile). He was the County Pumpkin King.
Nightly he bathed those vines in sugary milk.


Once the sun sang green the lawn and trees,
we plotted our ceremony over Diane’s
Tallahassee chicken wine. Rented a barn,
bought bouquets of feathers, stole hens
to release at the I Do. RSVP cards asked:
chicken, or chicken?


The big day: omelette of omens. He chickened out, flew
the coop. My mother and sisters clucked over me
in my bridal stall: should’ve hard-boiled your heart.
   Never practical till unbreakable. This was my story,
he was my man. No chicken dance in my honor.
He never sucked my core dry, never built me
my yogurt castle, and I never orbited
his chest’s thumping globe.


Parent Trap Escape Hatches (Seven Alternate Timelines for Lindsay Lohan)

1.  Immensely enjoys the fencing scene,
decides it’s her passion, goes to Olympics,
gold medal, rah-rah!

2.  Cuppy comes to life, smacks Lindsay across
her face, tells her to STAY IN LINE or ELSE,
de-animates back into floppy bunny rag. A miracle;
she obeys. Joins convent, becomes nun.
Leaves convent, stars in Sound of Music remake!

3.  Disney abandons project & sells rights to
artsy independent producers, who set entire film at
“Walden Detention Center for Girls,” and
create complex film about class and wealth.
Goes straight to video, Lindsay remains
unspoiled by fame and fortune!

4.  Grows addicted to Oreos with peanut butter.
Gains two hundred pounds,
Hollywood shuns her. She moves to Maine,
learns piano, plays guitar, makes her comeback!

5.  Enjoys film’s commercial success, wants more:
as performance art, re-creates
Hayley Mills’ career trajectory.
Makes good choices, does good work!

6.  While filming in England, Lindsay meets
Jo Rowling, fast friends, (flash forward),
cast as Hermoine. Now an international treasure!

7.  God accidentally puts DVD of the Parent Trap
inside the case for Honey I Shrunk the Kids
(we’ve all done it); on Earth, Lindsay shrinks
to two inches tall, does not grow back
to normal size until 2018,
when God re-organizes DVD collection!


Holly Burdorff serves as Art & Design Editor for Black Warrior Review.



Widower’s Home

Rhythms inside their starter house still speak
to him: doors that won’t lock or seal only
come to with diminishing thumps,
leaving jamb-cracks for light or words.

Windows with glass like sheeting water
tremble when produce trucks monster
by – their loads overweight for his east-west road
the county left unpatched after summer floods.

Ripples of staircase rise: a certain scale.
His fingers plink the banister bars
as step-sounds’ muffled grumble warn:
He’s almost reached the landing.

Sitting out indecision at the top,
he refuses open rooms both right and left.


John Davis Jr. is the author of Middle Class American ProverbHard Inheritance (forthcoming from Five Oaks Press, 2017), and two other collections of poems.




The Stones of Avebury 

“Tender-handed stroke a nettle…”
Jutting like ragged cuspids from the earth,
they’re vestiges of purpose only guessed at.
Now mild-mannered sheep regard their height
with profound indifference, grinding clots of grass
in clockwise circles.
Jet-lagged, far from home,
I nagged with endless questions: Where? What year…?
And though the weather wasn’t what you’d hoped,
we turned along the henge, knee-high in rape
and spellbound by unfathomable age.
As we drove off, the stones flattened to distance
framed in your mirrors. An archipelago
of bumps reminded me of how I’d grazed
a nettle, passingly. And learned a phrase.


for Rory Waterman

Nicholas Friedman is a Jones lecturer at Stanford University.




This ingathered year, not all able outwore
the habits of love, for which old things occur.
Winter, their mandible. Muzzled in glove,

I sweat to critter, creasing the billiard
moon in its envelope of sheets, unsure
of whom to hubbub or halve –

who – you – clever on dreaming and death?
Found them. What. Words, worlds, both; both,
bleak as erudite, conjecture their phantom

iterations of the chronotope when
I open the note of my bed for the nether
lives in mine. Take unconsciousness.

It rubs like grit under a nacre of wet pelt,
directing the speculative creatures to proper
traps in which odd things concur –

edge of a city furnished with white month,
its pewed streets wedged in a map craw
f hill for parochial dead, precedent

as anticipation, the aural geographies
of church-bells and craic, brown-paper
errands, bars phrased for our dear terrorists,

and grandma’s ache washing my bloody mouth
in a dispersal of many tongues
I lied with after kingmaking fights at school.

I tune in that same obedient silence as you
say you never could have loved me in the NYPD.
I have never become a good liar, a new man,

but what I mean is something about the unchained
pit that howls on the roof of my porch all night,
something about such joy as when we met restrained.


Matt Salyer’s first book of poems, Savage and Snare, is forthcoming in 2017 from Pen and Anvil Press.



A Minor History of Hell’s Kitchen 

Call it The Kitchen     its myth needs no creation     like Hades it exists
as you imagine it     a veritable bucket of blood     its origins and boundaries
fluid as water     with an appetite for disorder     chaos seeps from its streets
into homes     and back out again     reciprocal as the sea
                                                                                                    see its longshoremen
with salt cracked lips     cracked fists      wool-capped and ruddy
just off the Hudson piers     hunting a would-be Capeman     or any other Puerto Rican
in the alleys of Tenth Avenue     see the real Salvador swoop down on the Norsemen
the outspread sleeve of his blackened cloak     his mouth full of coins
                                                                                                       see him
again with an umbrella     or see instead Umbrellaman
how the two conflate          for a little girl outside the Buster Brown     looking down
to find her smile reflected     in a new pair of candy apple patent leather Mary Janes
samples of Swiss Miss and Lipton Chicken Noodle soup     slipped into the shoebox
with her sales receipt     see the little things people sometimes do
                                   or Church of the Holy Cross     a baby baptized by a priest
who later runs away     with a teenage girl from his congregation     invincible en route
to the Poconos     see Father’s legend crumble     its conception made untraceable
all the boys     he turned around     now dead



Tina Cane is the new Poet Laureate of Rhode Island. Her latest books include Dear Elena: Letters of Elena Ferrante (Skillman Avenue Press) and Once More With Feeling (Veliz Books).



January 2017 Poetry Feature

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