September 2016 Poetry Feature

New poems by Cortney Lamar Charleston, Leslie McGrath, Marc Vincenz, Wyatt Townley, and Loren Goodman.

 

CORTNEY LAMAR CHARLESTON

Moving Day (New Kids in the Neighborhood)

after Norman Rockwell

I pack my entire life into a box and then: checkmark.
Census says there are few like us where we’re going—
a land of milk. We are a posse as much as we are a family

of five, complexions of common connotation and towing
a dog that looks like a coyote, even our minivan the
color of a slur. As we roll deeply down the unfamiliar

highway, I look through the tinted window and make
inferences; I’ve got a knack for naming the make of cars,
but realize the further we get from familiar roads, the more

foreign the brands: Japanese luxuries, German, Italian; had
I been just two years older I’d recognize this as, possibly,
the makings of a war. Instead, the grass distracts me—

the abundance of it, the fresh diagonal cuts striping it
with a touch of shade on every plot, sprinklers spitting on
opposite sides of the smooth street. The houses themselves

are clearly of the same pedestrian mind; a sense of order is
baked into the architecture, the condition of park land, and
somehow, this causes disturbance in me I fear replicating.

Kids, who appear to be about my age, run between the
gateless yards; some bicycle with helmets and kneepads on,
mothers policing from behind. When we pull up to the bricks

that belong to us from now on, I pause a moment to take in
its size compared to what I’ve known; the world, apparently,
can’t be as small as the saying goes. The driveway is a long

shadow of the lanes we’ve stayed in to get here with a big
mailbox at the end. It reminds me of the address I couldn’t
memorize for giving away. I wait forever for letters that never

come, or at least till dark. I can’t recall if the boys across the
street spoke to me that first day, or if they just watched me
stand there, patiently, from some immeasurable distance.

I recall a large, empty room with light carpet, almost
white. I recall starting to unpack my box: looking inside and
it being so dark I couldn’t be sure the bottom even existed.

 

Cortney Lamar Charleston is a Cave Canem fellow.

 

LESLIE MCGRATH

Encountering Franz Wright Along the Way

 

I had been dawdling I don’t know how long
In the placid dark after the rash of day had receded.
I found an anvil-shaped stone in a field overlooking the road
And thinking I was alone, made audible the speech
I knew not to share with any person for fear of frightening them.
I lay back on that stone, turning away from the trees, away
From their ceaseless industry, toward the everything I could not see
But pretended to. He appeared on the smooth cheek of the sky,
The raw edge of a raw edge, alarming the stars into stillness.
“Don’t be so much at the mercy of things”, he boomed
But as I began to utter a polite fuck off, the sky behind him
The night sky, flashed emerald. This, his lucid recognition
Of the unabating shame made flesh in me. If he said more
Before he meteored away, I don’t recall. All I heard was mercy.

 

Leslie McGrath is the author of Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage (2009), a poetry collection, and two chapbooks, Toward Anguish (2007) and By the Windpipe (2014). 

 

MARC VINCENZ

When Uncle Fernando Conjures Up a Dead-Bird Theory of Everything

 

CHAPTER THREE

In Which Our Dead Bird Notices an Erroneous Light Rising

In the biopic of the now
(which doesn’t truly exist
as we’ve previously established, yes?)
what is water & what is light?—

both neither particle nor wave?

by like forces that agent
an immeasurable change,
the coherence of the figures that appear—
it’s all about context you’ve said.

Nothing remains what it is

for very long, & yet, is not
our own quantum state subtle,
negligible, bacterial—spectral
fingerprints in a haze of dualities,

the perfection of the integration

down into the heat where imperfection
unfolds into its potential—Ah!
The entanglement.
Is this where we finally wake up?

. . . . . . . .

flashes & dots & pings & ticks &
dots & lines & circles & waves & …
no, not yet—if the moon is there
why are we not compelled to look back?

We are existence after all, are we not?

Ah, to fall in love with that act
of observation (whether it was
actually there)—no, not in the polarized
light hanging over the city. Yes—,

we are entangled you & I—

what one does the other sees,
what one sees the other does,
the other sees what one does,
the other does what one sees—

 

Marc Vincenz was born in Hong Kong, is Swiss-British and has published eight collections of poetry.

 

WYATT TOWNLEY

Waiting for the Call 

 

Today the trees are loud
between the cardinals, owls,
chickadees, the yowl
of something small with fur,
wind in the hands
of the cottonwood, squirrels’
commotion overhead.

A girl can hardly think.
She steps outside for rest
from what’s inside. Everything’s
talking at once. Except
the phone—just lying
there!—her brother on a bed

post-op, tubes flowing
from the holes they made in him.
Now only birds make their calls,
and the neighbor’s dog
repeats what’s just been said.

And said. Life and more life, still
the phone plays dead.

 

First Kiss

Here you are forty years
later in a white coat
examining my ears.

All I remember
is how your tongue once
turned in the tunnel

you’re peering into.  The
fault is not in my ears,
but between them!

No one can see that far.
But could we gaze back
through the years and dead stars

to the doorstep of my parents’ house,
you bending down with your tall mouth
to make the softest landing on mine,

having thrown off my balance
so tenderly, can you explain,
good Doctor, how to regain it?

 

Wyatt Townley is the former Poet Laureate of Kansas. 

 

LOREN GOODMAN

Bear Safety 

 

If you see a bear:

1.     Remain clam and avoid sudden movements.
2.     Back away slovenly. Avoid eye contact, and speak to the bear in a calm, high-pitched voice.

3.     Throw something onto the ground (like a camera) if the bear peruses you, as this may distract it and allow you to escape. If you don’t have a camera, buy one or two. No flash during the attack.

4.     Don’t throw your backpack down; it may protect your body if you’re attacked. Black bears don’t like packrats.

5.     Get into a vehicle or go inside. If you can get the engine to turn over, run over the bear at top speed. Notice the bumps. Don’t try to outrun the bear if it continues to peruse you—you can’t. Unless you’re in a Tesla or a house with no wheels.

6.     Lie face down on a beehive and place your hands behind your neck, with your arms around your head. If there is honey in the comb, lick it out. Stay silent and don’t move. Black bears balk at backsides.
7.     If attacked, roll with the bear’s blows and counterpunch before returning to your facedown, motionless position. Grab your ankles or someone else’s. Duck and cover.

8.     Fight back only as a last resort if the bear persists. You’ll have the best luck fighting back against a black bear. Memorize “FBA-BBBL” (Fighting Back Against Brown Bears is Bad Luck). If you can get to your feet, strike it as you slowly back away. Curse the bear as you strike it. If you happen to have a blunderbuss, chainsaw or taser, aim for the hairy space just below the heart.
9.     Once the bear leaves, stay quiet and motionless for at least two hundred minutes. Bears will often watch from a distance and return at the first sign of movement. And they’ll be pissed.

 

Tips: Black bears and grizzly bears are very different animals, with grizzlies being responsible for most bear-attack fatalities. Black bears are generally irresponsible, less likely to attack and more likely to go through your garbage. Learn and obey the rules and regulations of the wilderness and other areas you’re hiking in. Don’t get in a fight with the wilderness.

Warnings: Don’t climb a tree if you encounter a bear. Black bears can climb trees with their hands behind their backs. Furthermore, trees—having been so often chopped down by men and left alone by bears—tend to side with them.

 

About the Author

He divides his time between Athens and Sparta
She divides her time between time and space
He divides his time between multiplication and division
She divides her time between writing and revision
He divides his time between New and Old York
She divides her time between Attica and Albion
He divides his time between Missoula and Montana
She divides her time between Tulsa and Bartlesville
He divides his time between Tunis and Glasgow
She divides her time between Lockport and Princeton
He divides his time between her legs
She divides his time between the shadows of eggs
He divides his time between Zuunmod and Ulan Bataar
She dives into water at the darndest of times
He diversifies sock portfolios
She dines on deep-fried Rolos
He divides his time between Amherst and Mount Holyoke
She divides her time between albumin and yoke
He divides his time between Champaign and Lake Forest
She divides her time between refrain and chorus
He divides his time between Brahman and Atman
She divides her time between Bruce Wayne and Batman
He divides his time between Lawrence and Leavenworth
She divides her time between Lawrence and Welk
He divides his time between Seoul and Pyongyang
She divides her time between White and Black Elk
He divides his time between Mars and Venus
She divides her time between Paris and France
He divides his time with Napoleon’s penis
She divides her time with insensate romance
He divides his time between Cape Town and Lesotho
She divides her time between Zulu Natal
He divides his time with Sese Mubutu
She divides her time at the New York Freaks Ball
He divides his time between incense and peppermint
She divides her time between serving us all
He divides his time between Lucille Ball
She divides his time between lead and uranium
He divides his time between anus and perineum
She divides division with multiplication
He divines deities with human-like gods
She dines with knives shaped like nations
He finds apes in cocoons on Cape Cod
She divides her time between Dresden and Gehenna
He divides his time between Mecca and Jerusalem
She divides her time between Ferrara and Ravenna
He picks her up at a quarter of nine
She divides her time between lips and tongue
He divides his time between kindness and deprivation
She divides her time between dookie and dung
He multiplies his time between full time elation
She subtracts her time between New Rumley and Little Bighorn
He adds his time between Alhambra and Islamabad
She divides her time between opera and porn
He divides his time between Samaritan and Sinbad
She divides her time between Brie and Stilton
He divides his time between Paramus and Freehold
She divides her time between Quito and Rejkyavik
He divides his time between Marlboro and New Brunswick
She divides her time between Flatbush and Bushwick
He divides his time like a lovable noodnik
She divides her time between Athens and Ithaca
He divides his time between Christy, Agatha
She divides her time between fear and trembling
He divides his time between death and rebirth
She divides her time between San Francisco and St. Petersburg
He divides his time between Tijuana and Ensenada
She divides her time between YSL purses
He divides his time between two busty nurses
She divides her time between hysteria and idleness
He divides his time between joyful unbridledness
She divides her time between equality and quantity
He divides his time between Elijah Muhammad Ali
She divides her time with the help of a calculator
He divides his time like a boy in a bubble
She divides her time between velvet and cucumber
He divides his time between Barney and Rubble
She divides her time between Orson Welles
He divides his time in the Book of Kells
She divides her time between desire and depression
He divides his time between boring and beguiling
She divides her time between cure and infection
He divides his time between Prince Edward and Fire Island
She divides her time between navels and Naples
He divides his time between her and Anne of Green Gables
She divides her time between silence and outburst
He divides his time between reality and fables
And when at last they meet after all this time he
And she shall surely divide no wine before its time

 

The Power of Authority

Today I spoke to myself
With an authority reserved
For the wrongly imprisoned
And it worked: not only did
I begin to hear and see
Myself in a different light
My attorney called to say
That due to a breakthrough
In DNA-testing I have been
Declared innocent and will
Thus begin life again tomorrow
As a free man: all this from
Speaking with a certain
Kind of authority

 

Loren Goodman is the author of Famous AmericansSuppository Writingand New Products.

Julia PikeSeptember 2016 Poetry Feature

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