New Poems by Our Contributors
R. ZAMORA LINMARK | Two Poems Composed After Watching Pedro Almodovar’s Flicks While Suffering From Insomnia
| “Red Boots”
AMA CODJOE | “The Beekeeper’s Husband”
VALERIE DUFF | “Gentrified”
R. ZAMORA LINMARK
Two Poems Composed After Watching Pedro Almodovar’s Flicks While Suffering From Insomnia
Pattern your anxiety after Djuana Barnes.
Or any wrecked Parisian woman of adventurous arts and letters.
Lift the ban on reality:
He’s a man first; an ass second.
Calma on the tranquilizers, chica,
You’re not in a stable.
After a cup of café con cognac,
Compare your grief with gorillas.
At the acme of a heartbreaking career,
Join a televised screaming contest.
Rebel in a red dress,
Soak your hangover itch in Marat’s tub.
Cold comfort paella
Can only mean no more coitus plus interruptus.
Take marital tips from a best friend;
She conducts free homewrecking workshops.
Come up with pseudonyms to cover up mixed emotions.
Paki Derma versus Anna Mae Wrong.
Too many metaphors can kill the heart—
Redress it in the tightest, black boots ever.
Means to return to
being the ghost
of a mother to daughters
single mothers themselves
despite every conscious effort
and cautiousness not
to shadow her wrongdoings
no matter how un-identical
their flaws and faults may be
far from spectacular for sure
but more spectacular
than she can ever wish for
which is why she doesn’t delay
her grand re-entrance
into the world of butchered past
climbing into the trunk
of a parked sedan
a-divorcee who runs
an illegal beauty parlor
in the bathroom of her\
as her daughters watch her
curl herself up fetus-form
beside an overnight bag
as if she can squeeze her way
back to a time that’s
never been fully hers
holding on to what’s left
of her strength
as the car speeds away
from the province
where she was born and
was abandoned by her first love
and learned to pray
on dark deserted nights
for a better past
to seek refuge in
as she does throughout
the long drive back to the city
only to vent the very second
the engine stops
banging and pleading and
scaring the soul out of her daughters
until, finally, they find it
in their hearts to pop open
the trunk and watch the woman
who tore open her body twice
clamber out of the trunk
plant both feet on hard dirt
so she can finally straighten her dress
while asking for forgiveness
for failing to see beyond
her own pain and misgivings
vowing one last time to put an end
to the threat of the impossible
and if it’s okay to do her the last favor
of dyeing her hair brown
as those unremorseful days
before guilt settles ever so
simply and gently like dust.
The Beekeeper’s Husband
You used pine straw as fuel to smoke the bees
deeper into the hive, compelling them to engorge
their abdomens with honey. I could smell the sweat
gathering under your bra. I wanted to lick
the salty rivulets. How could I not be moved
by the sight of your wrists, exposed?
After I chewed the golden wax
like a plant surviving on light, after you lost
two colonies to varroa, one after the other,
after you caught, all told, a dozen swarms
of the neighbor’s bees, I realized,
after it all, that when you spoke so low
it was hard to distinguish praying from cursing
from singing, you weren’t talking to yourself
or to the bees—as I long believed—
but to a god you no longer feared.
When, on the day we met, I stooped
to kiss your ungloved hand, you mistook
me for a gallant: someone who hungers
for sweetness. My dear wife, from the first,
it was salt I craved. This is the gesture that began
our troubles; though you believe it was the night—
years later, years ago—when I asked why, if you
trusted me, you never undressed completely.
With the bees you donned a veil, and with me,
I insisted, you wore a second skin the texture
of bark. It scorched my hands to touch.
When I told you this, we were lying in bed,
recovering from giving whatever we could.
You turned your naked back to me.
Outside a siren wailed and faded.
That night, I slept soundly, sprawled
on top of the sheets. I dreamt I was wingless
and beautiful, treading water in a crystal blue sea.
When I woke the next morning, ashen twigs
and brittle leaves lay scattered on your pillow.
Downtown has been restored
but it’s not the way it was when I was four.
The coffee’s good, but I wonder where those people
I used to see on porches have gone,
leaning over railings in the heat, the state
of their homes. Is the living Jesus on the wall?
Does their roof still leak? Their junk heap
is not join you for dinner.
My roommate had a tick
like concrete in her shoulder.
I couldn’t identify it for her.
It could have been a nevus on her skin.
She had it scooped out, she pantomimed
how the doctor dug and dug, bigger than it looked
when she raised her shirt
in the sunlight and begged
me, someone she had known a day,
to check. She knows her body,
she said. Some nights I startle from sleep,
wonder what it is I haven’t done
that must be done, what pill
I didn’t take, what one thing
could make a difference I forgot.
What mistake I will make next.
My roommate has a course of drugs to take.
I look for ticks on the surface
of my skin, I check exposed arms,
back of my knees, I feel over the scar
because there is no feeling there
a tick could make, the new breast shape
that makes me happy
like a war wound or permanent limp.
I walk outside.
I want the moment to be mine, I want
to be a small spot on moving earth,
moss growth my initials forever
in the trunk of a tree, so many
ferns and roots waiting to be freed,
back and forth I go across the James.
I am a taxidermist’s dream,
there’s nothing here.
Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio with roots in Memphis and Accra. She is the author of Blood of the Air: Poems, winner of the eighth annual Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in April 2020. Ama has been awarded support from Cave Canem, Jerome, Robert Rauschenberg, and Saltonstall foundations, as well as from Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Crosstown Arts, Hedgebrook, and the MacDowell Colony. Her recent poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Gulf Coast Online, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Ama is the recipient of a 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, The Georgia Review’s 2018 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, a 2019 Disquiet Literary Prize, and a 2019 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship.
Valerie Duff’s first book, To the New World, was published by Salmon Poetry; it was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize in 2011. Her next book of poems, Folk Magic, will be published by Salmon in 2021. New work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY, Salamander, and The Cortland Review. She is a contributing editor to The Critical Flame.
Manila-born R. Zamora Linmark is a poet, novelist, and playwright. His latest poetry collection is Pop Vérité. This Fall, Delacorte/Random House will be publishing The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart, his first novel for young adults. He divides his time between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Baguio, Philippines.