November 2023 Poetry Feature: Virginia Konchan and Gabriel Spera

New poems by our contributors VIRGINIA KONCHAN and GABRIEL SPERA

Table of Contents:

Virginia Konchan:

  • “Dharma”
  • “Carpe Diem”

Gabriel Spera:

  • “Inheritance”
  • “AND/DNA”
  • “E.T.”


By Virginia Konchan

I will never fully understand the discourses
around thinking. What should I be thinking
about: what eggheads are thinking about?
What other people are thinking about me?
Furthermore, why tell someone what you
are thinking about? Isn’t that the last secret,
in this denuded, dematerialized world, that
should be dearly prized, winsomely sung—
one that you wouldn’t give away for free?
A beautiful thought is a very beautiful thing.
If one more day in my life happens without
intentionality, another is pulling the strings.
I’ve done nothing today to improve my lot
or luck, nor earn a single dollar, but as well,
nor have I spent, on what the world thinks
of as necessary or luxury goods. I think
Jesus sets the bar impossibly high, but
that’s why I love him: lonesome bird,
pointing at the sky. The problems you
have and the problems you think you
have are not the same. You can’t
bum-rush an elevator. You can’t
expect anyone to understand a life
other than their own. The queries
are so many, the answers so few.
If relationships have a rhythm,
our rhythm was tectonic, alive.
The world is gone, I carry you.
It might’ve all been in my head,
but Lord, what a ride.


Carpe Diem
By Virginia Konchan

Look, mother, I made a cultural object. Look, father,
the dialectic is breaking down again, replaced by the
narcotic of toxic positivity and promulgated screeds.
I open a relevant magazine: themes explored include
obesity, the spirit world, colonialism, and drone wars.
I open my closet: on the top shelf, a crown of thorns.
Technology is undertheorized. It’s been a ramen year.
If forced to choose between a good trip and a bad trip,
I roll the dice toward reality, brace for unending pain.
After a senseless death, I felt the need to speak again.
This is an attempt to collect a debt. Anything you say
can be used against you, or else monitored for quality
assurance purposes. Pummeled by assholes, I faint
then rise, on the slow tides of history and accident:
an adult makes 35,000 conscious decisions per day.
But I am but a child, face bright with the old truth.
I offer you my offline self, god, a dignifying word.
How lifelike, a candle lit by light-emitting diodes.
How beautiful, the floral arrangement of eternity.
I feel I’m near the end, but that’s just a feeling.
What other transformation would it be.



By Gabriel Spera

The turtle, the budgie, the cichlid, the kids’ fleeting
obsessions now my permanent concerns
as I can’t just let them die or set them free
having worn that same bulbous gaze upon reading
the fine print where love limits its liability.
I can’t fault faith in joy’s endurance, or an inability
to keep pace with the whims of desire—I can only blame
myself for not teaching responsibility
for the hearts we keep caged. Part of me yearns
to follow suit, to find them new fathers and commend
their souls to fate. But I know—after all my wondrous
nestlings have fledged, I’ll be here, blessed to attend
these fosters, floating through the day they came
home in our arms, helpless, helpless every one of us.



Gracefully we hold each other
          architects and optimists
always at arm’s length like
          congenital dreamers
tango masters slinkily coiled
          bright candles in a hall of mirrors
whatever I propose you propose
          to conquer repeating and repeating
the opposite my universe reversed
          gists and gyros we divide
and still you complete me
          threads entwined twin whirlwinds
grasp me I can hardly bear to be
          cell mates soul mates our fates just
a moment apart no one understands
          the mystery the message ever
this chemistry this bond we abide
          coded notes no one notices
all eternity passing
          all eternity passing
coded notes no one notices
          this chemistry this bond we abide
the mystery the message ever
          a moment apart no one understands
cell mates soul mates our fates just
          grasp me I can hardly bear to be
threads entwined twin whirlwinds
          and still you complete me
gists and gyros we divide
          the opposite my universe reversed
to conquer repeating and repeating
          whatever I propose you propose
bright candles in a hall of mirrors
          tango masters slinkily coiled
congenital dreamers
          always at arm’s length like
architects and optimists
          Gracefully we hold each other



By Gabriel Spera

When she pretended to conceal them, I pretended
not to see them—the cuts on her arms and thighs
until the evening she signed her master etching

with a fistful of pills that left me pokerfaced
in the ER as she faced down another cup
of charcoal tea. And as every memory lies

waiting for the proper summons, I suddenly
found myself in my parent’s kitchen, roughly her age,
with Andy, ever awkward, who dreamed of doing

makeup in Hollywood and never asked me in
to his truck-route apartment, even when his stepdad
wasn’t there. We’d come back from watching a film

about a childlike extraterrestrial stranded
on our alien world, desperate to send a message
home, anxious to be rescued by his mother ship.

And having made a dent in a fifth of something
sweet and mildly fiery, he rolled up the sleeve
he wore long in any weather, unveiling a score

of rose-white scars, like hashmarks scratched on the wall
of a prison cell, because despite how it happens
on the silver screen in real life you don’t just draw

a single rule across your limp wrist but flail
ferally, like an animal cornered and clawing
for life because life likes its twisted ironies.

He barely flinched, when I skimmed, without asking,
my fingers across those hairline ridges, a brail
that comes home to me even now, reminding

how only love can make us hate ourselves for things
we didn’t do. If I could send a message
to every soul I’ve scarred through love, I’d wish them

a home worth returning to, the Hollywood ending
they deserve, and hope they find, despite all, a more
radiant way to wear their hearts upon their sleeves.



The author of four poetry collections, including Bel Canto (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2022), and Hallelujah Time (Véhicule Press, 2021), and a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift, as well as coeditor of the craft anthology Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poems (University of Akron Press, 2023), Virginia Konchan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Atlantic, and The Believer.

Gabriel Spera‘s latest book of poems, Twisted Pairs, will be published by Able Muse Press in 2023. His first book, The Standing Wave, was a National Poetry Series selection and recipient of the Literary Book Award in Poetry from PEN USA-West. His second collection, The Rigid Body, received the Richard Snyder Award. He has held fellowships from the NEA and City of Los Angeles. More info at

November 2023 Poetry Feature: Virginia Konchan and Gabriel Spera

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