This month we are featuring eight new poems by four The Common contributors:
The Two Boundaries of Night
Wherever he listened in her,
ramparts fell in the marsh
for the spurred horses without riders
to cross. She grasped air
and it was him, a nerved thorn
she kissed and bit lovely.
They were on a hill moon-melted
into an anvil-down sea, calm stars
a monument dreamed in colloid light.
She demanded wings out of his shoulder bones,
they came like electric eels,
agitating like engines in the sky.
The moon ferned her eyes to his eyes,
and her eyes were panned silver he lorded,
they perfected a chapel in their stare,
that when she moved in a shadow
for a wolf’s mouth and tore
his jaw off, there was no pain, he stood
with his new breathing valve
the surprised blood of new language
she rammed him full of, purred,
then his hibiscus hands lit
to her face and found there harvested
a shining swarm of wet galaxies.
The sea buffeting, the fires of Troy, cannot reach me here;
it might not have happened, truth be told, the war. Under
leaves I forget world and sea, wife and boy, dark stratagems
I made unwinding hearts to shades. A white wind cutting
the ribcage trees, I hear, or the white voice of a girl nearing
my withered womb, bird clear, makes me wonder: is this the place
of final rest, the leaf-breathing shore subsume deep in dry rot?
Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. His first collection, Far District, won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award.
Meditation on Divorce During Summer Storm
The ice in my glass clinks lullaby as blackout
burns through our candlesticks. Thunder, a promise
kept, brings rainfall that saves me watering.
We watch drops play chase down windows of the house.
They plink against the shingles like grains of rice
spilling on a kitchen floor. Carelessness stalks
us all. A broken bird might fly again,
but his bent wing will spin him in circles.
We’ve been over this before, but the ground
is not, in fact, the same. What we forget
is that earth falls away; erosion gives
nothing back. Rain stops without a warning.
Our son, throughout this storm, has been dreaming hard
of lavender pressed between pages of a book
or river rocks that weigh his pockets down.
How are we to reckon this? A passing train
flattens our pennies into copper dots.
Tomorrow, we will find them scattered near
the tracks. The engine tears through the night, Doppler’s
warped frequencies like someone’s forced goodbye.
Then comes calm: silence like a broken vow.
If not the wind, still something carries
everything away. Just this morning
my son and I threw apple seeds
to grass. He spoke of trees, but how
much stays in one place long enough
to root itself? How much blossoms,
after all? Dandelion fluff,
memory of a face: our beginnings
always are the same, our ends
also the same, but something falls
short of our expectations. Cause
and effect are everything. I warned him
of birds, shadow, drought. Already
the predicament of risk plagues him.
We know nothing of what will happen, even
less of who we are. He asks
before he falls asleep, What is God?
This word I never thought to teach him.
He waits, but all I say is this:
I opened my eyes to see; I opened
my mouth—You know how this story ends.
Elizabeth Hazen has poems appearing or forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2013, The Threepenny Review, Southwest Review, Fourteen Hills, Salamander, and other journals.
The steeple bells close their hymnals for the evening
& all the prayers of the faithful
dissipate in the harsh winds of February. All month
I’ve collected amulets against heartache &
solitude, & to beat the cold
I’ve poured amaretto
in my coffee, not because I enjoy the taste
but because its scent fills the room like perfume–
something basic, something sugary.
They say the incorruptible bodies of saints smell this way,
lying as some do
in their glass sarcophagi.
I prefer my miracles smaller
& more personal– a gift of toffee,
a found five dollar bill, a brief note of apology
signed with love. So long, Thursday.
So long have I lived skeptical among church goers
with their private diaries of confessions.
I have mine:
& that narrative I repeat sometimes
not for penance or recompense but to remember
what it means to live with longing, nights
when the votive stars flicker
& seem to risk burning out, nights like this one
with its steaming cup of sweetness & bitterness both.
On Hearing David Bowie’s “Heroes”
Seventeen, in love & lovelorn simultaneously,
Bowie crooning through the speakers in my basement room–
Laura with me & not with me both.
I learned love is
a dialectic. I remember
standing by the wall while she was all sarcasm
& sexy. Years later
we can laugh at it: I was never a king
though I strived for nobility & came up short.
Little’s changed– just names
& cheekbones, noses, though maybe I know a little something
about failure & forgiveness & what it means
to kiss like nothing could fall. Have you considered
this might be why I don’t pull you close?
So many mornings I re-entered the world
as sunlight filled the filthy windows, & watched
dust motes swirl
like poltergeists of longing.
Nothing will drive them away.
Last night, the stars over our heads seemed a blessing,
a hundred small & miraculous
kisses. I’d say I’ve given up on romance
but I’m a lousy liar. Just ask Laura– she’ll vouch for that.
I could be anything
I once believed, back when she & I made out,
when inhibitions was only a vocabulary word,
Bowie spinning on the stereo.
I could be a villain or a hero
though I know where my tendencies seem to lead
& it’s not where you’d think, I’m sure. Maybe still
I can be king & you,
you could be queen
if only you needed me, wanted me–I swear
we could beat them just for one day
& come morning I wouldn’t be gone.
Not this time. Not anymore.
Gerry LaFemina is the author of numerous books of poetry and fiction, the most recent of which are Vanishing Horizon (poems, 2011 Anhinga Press), Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist (prose poems, 2013 Mayapple Press) and Clamor (novel, 2013 Codorus Press).
I can sit here Bovary-bored
not move until the Renaissance
court painter Arcimboldo rises
from his worm-womb status
and make vegetables fruits
rotting flowers out of my face
or I can go lie flat on my back
balance Bahktin’s medicine ball
on the soles of my feet while
my mind chats up ten thousand
thoughts like the upcoming
symposium on the difference
between dialogic and dialogue
mind-flirting games the former
purely stand-alone the latter
self-explanatory or better yet
stand still and rest my right
foot against left inner thigh
and just ruminate on Pascal’s
Pensees as I dissolve into
sand paper echo.
Two short simple stanzas and right away
we think the poem is about a cat that
begins dead inside a shoebox but quicker
than the first right away is the doubt
that slackens our strong hold of what
is found there, shaking every kind of certainty
and throwing us back to the very beginning,
i.e., in the middle of winter, which sets up
the mood, tone, and another set of meandering
meanings to mean all this is really all
about that once-fancy French word that
merely uses a feline inside a cardboard
coffin to make another image of itself,
an nth evidence to convince us who takes
care of the core when it comes to cats
cremation and other triste du jour.
Name it whatever, it will always lead
with an aha or oh, and a gotcha at the end,
like those fleas appearing seemingly
from nowhere until we remember
they once lived with the cat before
and during its final moment, maybe
even thereafter, except those that escaped
just in time for the nameless owner
to strike the match and return death
and all else back to fire.
R. Zamora Linmark is the author of three poetry collections, Prime Time Apparitions,The Evolution of a Sigh, and Drive-By Vigils, all from Hanging Loose Press.