New poems by our contributors, ERICA EHRENBERG and SEBASTIAN MATTHEWS
The Toy Lamb
It was the limpness that I loved,
the way it dangled
even when it was sitting,
when it was as low down
as it possibly could be against the line
of gravity, as if the lamb was slipping
to an underworld it pressed its ear to
no matter what floor it sprawled against,
where women in canvas clothes
built fires in the snow, and a child
stood by the fire. In the cold
the animals walking were radiant,
and muscular in the kingdom
of hills and animals, the winter
before the birth of the lamb,
to which the lamb
was always listening,
so that when I held it
in my hand I felt it mutely sinking
to the corner of the earth
that teams before life,
where we come from.
In a Hall at School
Where the coats are hung,
the second bodies
of the children hold
their forms. In folds
they breathe out,
relaxing backwards, being free.
And if they reach dirt
they eat the dirt, cold.
Hunger pulls more space
into their stomachs.
My second body,
clinging to my clothes
with melting snow,
scorches the school
and runs a black streak
through the town—a horse,
pulling his own
ghost after him.
Poet Erica Ehrenberg graduated from Amherst College and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU. Her poems have been published in a variety of publications including, The Paris Review, Slate, The New Republic, and Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets. She has been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.
A quick look of mischief in her eyes.
“Who’d you vote for?”
I was getting a six-pack of beer, the obligatory I Voted sticker an emblem on my shirt. The young clerk couldn’t have been more than seventeen. Tall, thin as a rail, her skin unblemished and glowing in the super-market light. I could barely look at her.
“I’d vote for Bernie,” she said.
“Yeah, I get that. I almost did too.”
She hovered the six-pack over the scanner.
“Then why didn’t you?”
I chose my words carefully. “I’m not sure he’d make an effective president.”
She grinned. “Better than Trump.”
“Oh yes, much, much better.”
The woman behind me in line shifted her weight from foot to foot. I didn’t care who heard me. Nor did the young woman, who went on a brief but passionate diatribe about Trump’s standard dirty tricks. I slid my card and tapped the yesses and nos.
“That white man is evil.”
I was taken back—not by the sentiment, I whole-heartedly agreed—but by the way the young cashier attached the adjective to the noun. She threw me a worried look.
“Not that you’re like that…”
I looked her straight in the face.
“If that’s being white…I don’t want to be white.”
She ripped off the receipt and handed me the beer. I thought she was going to say something back but instead nodded and turned to the impatient lady behind me.
…at the Oteen Ingles, East Asheville
Sebastian Matthews is the author of a memoir and three books of poems, the most recent of which is Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision. He is working on a collage novel and a collection of short prose dispatches. He lives with his family in Asheville, NC.