January 2022 Poetry Feature

New poems by our contributors: MADELEINE MORI, G. C. WALDREP, ELLEN DORÉ WATSON, and ROBERT FANNING.

 

Table of Contents:

Madeleine Mori  |  Marrow

G. C. Waldrep | Rereading “Corson’s Inlet” at the Glendale Methodist Cemetery

Ellen Doré Watson  |  In Which I’m Not Allowed to Lie

Robert Fanning  |  Inarticulata

   

 

Marrow 

By Madeleine Mori

A. and I were both hurt by that cold, hard change,

the snap of my leg bones. 

I saw the root in the trail as a swag-bellied dog 

with a cape I wanted to support— 

both dog and sneaker flying as one.

When they came, Search and Rescue’s tools unbent my pain.

They called it the litter, the metal basket 

they laid me in, then bridled with hefty ropes

for pulling me up the mountainside,

as if, in emergency, he and I were obvious 

in our animal newness, my body that until then 

had shown only pleasure, in a Cigarettes After Sex t-shirt.

My lover, my team, and I began to move, bound 

in a procession’s slipstream together, 

the bridles like garlands, tributes 

of paragliders visible through the canopy.

It was somehow similar those weeks earlier, he and I 

both pleased by my toplessness, the Riis Beach sand 

in the crags of my sunburnt nipples. A summer of tenderness 

superseding time and my grief-mind. 

I’ll have you know I asked to be born a vegetable, 

not mineral. A worry-free, dull thing 

on the cutting board, just a hump 

of pear or potato, shaved of my sclereids, 

no id, no ooze sliming my bricks, 

no ego, no gritty pit. 

When slumped on his mattress, in love in Berlin,

I finally approved of my inescapable agency, 

my histrionic knees, my armpit hairs, 

a bunch of drunk know-it-alls. 

O my utter puddleness— the thousands 

of unknown metals in me, at once burping, tempering, 

dying alive. The act of loving is an absurd agreement 

to combine your test-kit with another’s. A. lets me dip 

into him, and him in me, and the results are colors 

for which we develop our own keys. 

When I put on my lavender bondage necklace,

the clamps balanced on a steel o-ring, 

he puts his hand to his own neck 

to enjoy the notion of weight.

 

Rereading “Corson’s Inlet” at the Glendale Methodist Cemetery

By G. C. Waldrep

the dead conclude their thanatopias:
at a level of depth stone blurs:
into the idea of stone:
tell me how rich the map must be:
to divide theft:  from theft:
flurry of petals from the ornamental
orchard:  or orphanage:
let the children erect their angels
here, or anywhere the sky breeds:

the use of coins on the eyelids
of the dead, to keep them closed:
to keep them dead:
as rigor mortis cracked open
the body:  resulted in the belief,
false, that coins
were often buried with bodies:

an oak, a hickory, & a cedar
reacquaint themselves:  with things
as they are:  blindingly
absent the architectures
of war, or reticence, starting over:

attempts to move around faith,
to circumnavigate:
memory, study, citizen-science
as the Enlightenment recommended:
none released from
the sedimental stratigraphy:

rain collects, we say, as if
ringing its bell on behalf of some
charity:  I agree, the mirror
is a wondrous object, a recompense:
surely men & women dreamed of it
long before they acquired
skills of metallurgy, polish
bade them STAND STILL:

books reflect this:  doubled back
across their sewn signatures:
a book brought me here, to the edge
of the symmetrically aspersed:

in the season of Judas
& camellia:  so little is haunted
anymore:  not for lack of ghosts,
rather “the fluency of negotiation”
(Ammons):  spindles
of pollen settle
on my sleeve, my cartulary of tusks:

is this an event:  by which I mean
the deserted climbing wall
where the altar once stood:
the inconstancy
of brute precision:  the particular
stake in the material

through which the corpse’s heart
beats back:  at moon & shoal:
not to induce
what my friends keep calling
“the God/poetry problem”
here:  (as if it were a problem:

rather than, say, a wet knot:
against which the fingers, engorged
with blood,
what we call blood, fumble):

we sometimes note the deaths
of smaller life, more often
we don’t:  here is where the dead cat
lay before we moved it, here
is where the dispatched possum
settled, over a series of noons,
picked apart by divers scavengers:

your faith in beings
gathering, as Ammons put it,
as if for flight:  but then tightening,
the way a muscle tightens:

I am happy to stand against
the sum of all our ruthlessness,
through which
choice wavers, on its weakest knee:

the freshening meniscus
on which consciousness rests,
glass of water spilled across a table
the dead man
inherited from his mother:

I conjure each breath from the ideal
habitat of breaths:  or so
it seems, to me:  the extension

possible just this far, & no
further:  severe in that sense,
geometrically bounded:  the beauty
that inheres in constraint
is caustic, a chemical relation:
but no less, let’s admit, beautiful:

like the war flickering
in & out of the news feed’s cobalt
iris:  “narrow orders,” Ammons
wrote, not in faith but in peevish
imitation:  well, faith
has had its say, here, except that
faith goes right on

speaking:  murmuring:
I chant the psalms in the shadow
of the ruined mill,
in the house where workers lived:
they climbed this hill to worship:

if they climbed:  if they worshiped:

the lightness of one’s grasp
on another’s flesh or threadbare coat:

I watch the men in coveralls
remove first the chimney, then
the roof of the house
that was once a school:  the teacher
in her long skirts
pointing, perhaps, to the ringing
bell:  now there is
no bell, no school, no teacher, only
children playing in the street:

this is, ultimately, a poem
about children playing in the street:

& the dogs, circling them
at a wider orbit, barking madly:
as dogs do:
that’s the thing about dogs,
they will circle anything, even us:

 

In Which I’m Not Allowed to Lie

By Ellen Doré Watson

                                                “Writing is a battle against lying.”  —Elena Ferrante                                 

True: Time has neither legs nor mercy. True times two.
               And: Surely the best gift is that of attention. 

Look at me. (Though sometimes: heavens no,
              not now!) But does a withdrawn command

imply a fib? If so, bring back your eyes, here’s my
               unmade face. Naked truth. Do you detect

a smidgen of mask in my flippancy—a maybe
               that isn’t truly unsure but digs the stance?

Honestly, it’s not premeditated—stuff gets caught
               in my throat or up my sleeve. If I make up

the specifics, it’s because we need them. Who
               would take cartoon leaves for real—green

enough but lacking veins and fuzz or shine,
                a bit of spirit or droop? Innocent little

nonexistent plant. Could there be an innocent lie?
                Spoken in true ignorance? Well, no wonder

we invented religion and its miles of answers.
                 Laws, too, with all their ignorance is no

excuse. Excuses may be true though I admit
                 many of mine have been falsehoods: a lie

wearing a hat. Oh, butterscotch, this is all too
                 frontal. Damn Ferrante and her gauntlet!

My throw-down: Once upon a time is an invitation
                 to one’s imagination! Which—pure as one’s

epithets—cannot be fact-checked. One’s meaning
                  mine, of course, since it’s just me here circling

the cul de sac I don’t literally live on but carry
                  everywhere. Accidentally on purpose—

in search of accident. Because random is not dishonest:
                   No logic, no lie. Innocent by reason of insanity.

Enter the “Id—the original It-Girl, our out—big sister
                  to Ego and SuperE. Loose and lawless and

in charge: You know not what you do, you simply,
                  gleefully, awkwardly persist in doing it.  

Inarticulata

By Robert Fanning

Squinting southward down the shore a blink ago, 
I watched my toddler son wobble at the brink 
of a foot-deep hole in cratered sand, bright blue 

shovel in his tiny hands. An hour of castles and moats
and now, he’s waist high, pensive, eyeing the passing 
boats, his baby sister in tow. I blink again, look west 

and shield my eyes; my grown son’s one hundred 
pages deep in an old novel. My daughter, tall  
as my wife, sings as she cartwheels up the beach. 

At our feet the shadows lengthen imperceptibly. 
Now it’s autumn; we’re combing stones along 
the coast at Headlands Dark Sky Park, sifting 

for four-hundred-million-year-old fossils, etchings 
left by glaciers in retreat. We bend low as we look—
as if to hear the ages speak—and they do. 

Here’s a relic of a mollusk valve, crenelated inarticulata
little wing of something long flown. Here’s one: 
like a Zen eye looking up, an open ensō pressed 

onto a pebble. Look at this one: shadow of a curved 
spine, floating for eons on a stone—a tiny cuticle 
of bone, ancient ultrasound of someone 

no-one’s ever known. They’re gone when I turn to look, 
my family shrinking far down shore as they bend 
to shells and stones. Behind me already, a sundown 

wind shivers the pines. I don’t need to look to see 
the gone world here. The season of erasure nears. 
Soon the shore will be a slash of white, the lake 

a swath of black inseparable from sky. Even now 
the wind bears news of another world breaking 
into being beyond—of winter’s towering, gale-thrown                                      

waves, shouldering massive sheets of jagged crystal, 
a stacked and aching wall of shattered cathedrals 
along the beach. May this then be prayer before 

the muted hour of ruin and ice, before the rise 
of the desolate era. May this be stone in your hand. 
May this speak of the depths of love, of how I held them 

all as close as I could and for as long, of how we played 
and breathed in every summer’s golden, going light, 
of how we stood together here, where once there was a sea. 

 

Robert Fanning is the author of four-full length poetry collections: Severance (Salmon Poetry), Our Sudden Museum, (Salmon Poetry), American Prophet (Marick Press), and The Seed Thieves (Marick Press) as well as two chapbooks, Sheet Music (Three Bee Press) and Old Bright Wheel (The Ledge Press). His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Shenandoah, Waxwing, THRUSH, Rattle, The Cortland Review and many other journals. He is a Professor of English at Central Michigan University and lives in Mt. Pleasant, MI, where he is the Founder and Facilitator of the Wellspring Literary Series.

Madeleine Mori is a Japanese-American poet, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned a BS in winemaking from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an MFA from New York University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in jubilat, DIAGRAM, BOAAT, the American Poetry Review, and The Yale Review, among others. She is a 2021 AAWW Margins Fellow and the Poetry Editor at Pigeon Pages. She lives in Brooklyn.

G.C. Waldrep’s most recent books are feast gently (Tupelo, 2018), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Earliest Witnesses (Tupelo/Carcanet, 2021). Recent work has appeared in APR, Poetry, Paris Review, New England Review, Yale Review, Colorado Review, New American Writing, Conjunctions, and other journals. Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, Pa., where he teaches at Bucknell University and edits the journal West Branch.

Ellen Doré Watson’s fifth full-length collection is pray me stay eager (Alice James Books, 2018). Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Tin House, Orion, and The New Yorker. She has translated a dozen books from Brazilian Portuguese, including the work of Adélia Prado. Watson served as poetry editor of The Massachusetts Review and director of the Poetry Center at Smith College for decades, and currently offers manuscript editing and workshops online.

 

January 2022 Poetry Feature

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