All posts tagged: 2020

Home Below Sea Level

By CLANCY MCKENNA

House

Broad Channel, Queens, New York

I grew up on an island called Broad Channel in southern Queens that was at or below sea level, depending on the tide. My dad’s house was one that was high and dry. We lived on Cross Bay Boulevard, the main street which ran down the spine of our croissant-shaped island. The boulevard only flooded during hurricanes or nor’easters that came on the full or the new moon. In some of the lower streets in the town, kids would show up late to school because they had to wait for the tide to go out before they could step out of their homes. Often, the high tide water flooded their blocks.

Home Below Sea Level
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June 2020 Poetry Feature: David Mills

New work by DAVID MILLS

Table of Contents

  • Breath’s Breath: Japhet
  • Talking to the Bones: Talking
  • Long in That Late-Afternoon Light: Bukay

These poems are part of a series about slavery in New York City. The City is home to America’s oldest and largest slave cemetery—The Negro Burial Ground—which is located in Manhattan’s City Hall area. This slave cemetery (officially open between 1712-1795) contains 15,000 bodies.

June 2020 Poetry Feature: David Mills
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Claudia Masin: Spanish Poetry in Translation

Poems by CLAUDIA MASIN
Translated from the Spanish by ROBIN MYERS

Poems appear in both Spanish and English 

Translator’s Note

When I translate Claudia Masin, I feel like I’m ice skating. This is not a foolproof metaphor, I know. But what I mean, mostly, is that it’s exhilarating. Her long, deft, elegant lines; her line breaks, both graceful and unpredictable; her limber back-and-forth between the broadly rhetorical and the minutely descriptive: all of this, all of her language, structure, and sense of timing, forms a surface, a gleaming expanse that I feel free—I want to feel free—to glide across. Fast enough for a sense of wonder, the illusion of ease; not so fast that I don’t notice what’s around me. Or beneath me: the inherent spookiness of ice, the shadows under the surface, the plants and creatures stilled but still living where we can sense more than see them.

Claudia Masin: Spanish Poetry in Translation
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The Red Picture and the Blue

By JEHANNE DUBROW

dubrow essay

According to the story, my third word—after Mommy and Daddy—was picture.In Zagreb, where I spent the first two years of my life, my mother lifted me from my pram to see the pieces of art. “Look, Jehanne, look at the picture.” On sunny days, we took the funicular from our apartment in the old section of the city, downhill to the lower, newer portion, where we visited galleries or just toured the neighborhoods. Or, we wandered closer to home, through cobblestone streets to St. Mark’s Church—with its ecstasy of colorful roof tiles—only a few blocks away. Even if we stayed indoors, we could gaze down from the windows of our apartment into the courtyard of the Meštrović Atelier, a gallery dedicated to one of Yugoslavia’s most renowned artists. The rumor went that, years before, Meštrović himself had slept in the very rooms where we now slept, ate where we ate, regarded the same medieval views of Zagreb. Our dining room, which was punctuated with a series of rounded alcoves, once displayed the sculptor’s works-in-progress.

The Red Picture and the Blue
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ruckus

By VAUGHN M. WATSON

Image of household objects

The United States

a rotor spins in concentric circles
the epicenter a DC street at dusk
even a military helicopter’s incessant droning
can’t wake this country to its circumstance

ruckus
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Dick Cheney Was Not My Father

By AMY STUBER

Image of snow geese


But he could have been. My father was a similar man. His name was Richard Cheney, though he never went by Dick, and he never lived at the Naval Observatory. He was an orthopedic surgeon in suburban Kansas City who said stupid things like, “These hands are gold,” to people at dinner parties where he was often the one who ate more than his fair share of Shrimp Scampi and dove into the pool drunk in his clothes because he thought everything he did was a fun spectacle.

Dick Cheney Was Not My Father
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Trill

By KRISTA J.H. LEAHY

leahy dispatch

 

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

To sing of what I fear,
shaking my body,
has an integrative power.

Sometimes something is
so funny even my legs laugh.

I do not know
the frequency of god,
but I adore
the frequency of laughter.

Not all frequencies are free.

I’ve learned this the hard way
from people who would profit
from what makes others shake.

Who teaches us to fear?
Who teaches us to laugh?

I would show you aspen
winnowing the wind
so that you would always
ken beauty from quake.

But it is not mine to always.

It is mine to some,
to often,
to rarely,
to mostly,

if I’m lucky,
to mostly   love

Trill
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May 2020 Poetry Feature

By PETER LaBERGE, ROSE McLARNEY, NATHANIEL PERRY, and KERRY JAMES EVANS


New poems by our contributors
:

Peter LaBerge | Reliquary (June)

Rose McLarney | Her Own

Nathaniel Perry | March (I’m far away from home today)

Kerry James Evans | Golgotha

 

Reliquary (June)
By Peter LaBerge

midnight & the dead boys introduce
themselves once more, not by name
but by what they’ve left behind—

            hello Unlicked Stamps.
            hello Blanched Almond
Moon.
            hello Board Games in the
Pantry.

another queer boy’s death in media
res

           the unblinking eye
           of a cavalry horse gone
belligerent…
           last monday it was the
moon.


           nobody asked the moon if it
was

           finished being the moon

           before god popped it from
its socket.

more queer boys in media res. the
queer boys, first their names left out
of the news—

           hello John Doe.
           hello John Doe.
           hello John Doe.

on TV, they sprout names. on TV,
we watch each as boys, falling
through the snow of grainy home
videos—

           i fear we’ve etched each
little face
           in smooth clay like memory,  
           one next to the other,

           then printed them with
ground charcoal

           then left them out in the late-
spring rain
           to de-face like history—

 

Her Own
By Rose McClarney

Sillage is the scent following after
the wearer of perfume moving through a room.

It comes from the French for a wake,
as in the trail left by a jet through the sky.

Once, she thought it was chopped corn stalks,
fermented and fed, in the winter, to pigs.

You can guess the kind of place she came from,
how much of anywhere she’d been. When wind

blew from the direction of the silos,
she didn’t move, would only

raise her own hand to her nose for cover,
for its soap smell, and continue whatever task

she was set to. Flight, that there was other air,
were not ideas she held then.

 
 

March
By Nathaniel Perry

I’m far away from home today
and everything is breaking.
The heat pump stopped, the well went out,
and the dog is still making

us worry with what she is and isn’t
doing. Kate’s been calling
me asking for help, and I
am, to be honest, failing

to be much help at all. I sent
a friend to fix the well,
which he did, but that is really the only
thing I managed. If a bell

rings and you’re not there to hear it
or attend to what it means,
what is your relationship
to the bell? I’ve never been

a monk, but if you don’t rise and pray,
the prayer goes on without you,
I know. When Merton asked his abbot
if he could travel, he flew

to Thailand and died, or maybe was killed,
but his prayers went on without him
either way: he left his things at home
and knew no more about them.

It is so easy to separate,
I forget the work of staying
whole, is maybe another way
of putting it, of paying

my respects to what I’ll leave behind.
Today, I’m going home,
but Merton never made it back,
to M, to the small stone

hermitage he’d barely lived in,
to his east-facing Jesus
or to the knobby hills that rise
like beautiful excuses

around Gethsemani. And it’s useful
to remember that that will be,
one day, my fate as well. My kids
will stand at the spring and see

a sunset I won’t see. The beech
and hickory will clack
indifferent branches above the field
beside them as they walk back

to the house without me, gravel thin,
not one stone on a stone,
the sky above them blue but weird,
bare and blank as bone.

 

Golgotha
By Kerry James Evans

I feel better about my peanut butter
and jelly sandwich, the pears
swelling behind the house,
where a chubby train appears each day
at 3:00pm, its diesel engines
rattling so loud, they scare squash
clear off the vine. Don’t worry.
Redemption lurks in the back pew
of a rural Baptist church—
or that’s what we tell ourselves
after raising our heads for the altar call
to watch Jethro Smith finally
get saved. Everyone’s so proud
of Jethro for seeing the light,
which he will truly see next Tuesday,
when he rolls his Ford F-150 over a guardrail
and into the Buttahatchee River,
where so many dead bodies
have been devoured, even the river
has lost count, cattle-thick
water churning like the preacher’s doubt
when he commits the unfound body
to the earth. He got right with God,
he’ll say, Bible in right hand,
shovel in left. He’ll fling dirt
onto an empty coffin, then walk away,
head slumped like a yoked mule—
like the rest of us bent under
the weight of our collective
disappointment. But how can I talk
about the future when the past,
virulent as the holy ghost, knocks
like an old friend peddling
fire extinguishers—who, like a
translucent Gecko, shimmies
through the door with a big red can
of what the hell happened?
and my God, how do I get him
out of my house? What I wouldn’t give
to pursue other conversation—
one about how proud I am
for all your success, or Damn
if these aren’t the sweetest pears,
and Can you believe we’ve been
getting so much of this good rain!
I know it’s foolish, but I listen
in those flickers between breaths
—when a dialect gives way to a presence
beyond reason, a place so holy
it can hardly be seen or heard
—like dew drops on a watermelon.
Call it Golgotha. The crown of a hillside
made quiet by a simple breeze, a song
of such exacting glory you leave
the body altogether, and, like Jethro,
are content to drift downriver.

 

Kerry James Evans is the author of Bangalore (Copper Canyon). He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and his poems have appeared in Agni, New England Review, Ploughshares, and other journals. He will join the MFA in Creative Writing faculty at Georgia College & State University this fall. 

Peter LaBerge is the author of the chapbooks Makeshift Cathedral (YesYes Books) and Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press). His work received a 2020 Pushcart Prize for Poetry and has appeared in AGNI, Best New Poets, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review Online, Pleiades, and Tin House, among others. Peter is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Adroit Journal, as well as an incoming MFA candidate and Writers in the Public Schools Fellow at New York University. For more, visit peterlaberge.com.

Rose McLarney’s collections of poems are Forage and Its Day Being Gone, both from Penguin Poets, as well as The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, published by Four Way Books. She is co-editor of A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, from University of Georgia Press, and the journal Southern Humanities Review. Rose has been awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony, and Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences; served as Dartmouth Poet in Residence at the Frost Place; and is winner of the National Poetry Series, the Chaffin Award for Achievement in Appalachian Writing, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award for Poetry, among other prizes. Her work has appeared in publications including The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Missouri Review, and The Oxford American. Rose earned her MFA from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. Currently, she is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Auburn University.

Nathaniel Perry is the author of Nine Acres (Copper Canyon/APR, 2011). Recent poems and essays appear in Kenyon Review, Image, Fourth Genre, and elsewhere. He is the editor of Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review and lives in rural Virginia.

May 2020 Poetry Feature
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Review: Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian

Book by AMIR AHMADI ARIAN

Reviewed by FEROZ RATHER

Review: Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian

Amir Ahmadi Arians Then the Fish Swallowed Him is an unswerving portrayal of an individuals tormenting journey to self-realization in a totalitarian theocracy. By reproducing the minutiae of one mans stolen solitude, Arian has created a powerful critique not only of the Mullah-dominated politics of Iran, but also of the very nature of political life in this society. Arian, an Iranian novelist, translator, and journalist who currently lives in New York City, has in the past translated novels by E.L. Doctorow, Paul Aster, P.D. James, and Cormac McCarthy to Farsi, as well as written two novels and a book of nonfiction in his native language. Released in March of 2020 in the U.S., Then the Fish Swallowed Him is Arians debut novel in English.

The book begins amidst a raucous union strike near the Jannatabad Bus Terminal in the northwestern part of Tehran, when middle-aged bus driver Yunus Turabi watches Mahmoud Ahmadinejads plainclothes militiathe Basijis, a zealous bunch of young Revolutionary Armed Guardsviolently beat a woman. As the wife of an imprisoned activist is kicked in the ribs and flung on the ground, Yunuss fellow bus drivers scream and shout. During the ensuing clash with the police, who are shielding the Basijis, Yunus is jolted out of his humdrum existence and is spurred to action by his colleagues protests. But his punches, ecstatic and involuntary, are warded off with the blows of an electric baton. Numbed, he tears away from the crowd and hides on the roof of an empty bus.

Review: Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian
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On Empathy & Time, Re: Wildness

By MELISSA MATTHEWSON

matthewson dispatch

Applegate, Oregon

I killed a turkey with my car while thinking about empathy and the Brewer’s Spruce. I hit it with such force the bird flew across the highway landing in the ditch with the thistle and grass. I killed a turkey and didn’t turn back, but the light from the passing afternoon was like honey, and with the traffic steady at four p.m. on the two-lane road and the storm having just moved east, I considered the death of the animal a possible inconvenience to my daily commute. A temporary delay. But no—that’s not what it made me feel. In fact, I’d wished I reversed my car—I did not feel indifference for killing and thought perhaps my duty was to bury the animal, collect the feathers from the highway and gully (strewn there like a child’s game of marbles or rice, flowers across graves, split metal framework, diamonds) and string them through my yard on lines and sticks, decorate the children’s fort, or at the very least, light a candle for its soul. Perhaps strip its body of organs and skin and keep it for dinner. But I didn’t do any of those things. I kept driving, alert to the lingering startle of both bumper and bird. How does a turkey die? What part of its body stops working first? The heart? Did it break its backbone, its sympathetic trunk? Had it only been out foraging for spring buds and last year’s acorns? And what had I been thinking of empathy? —of certain identification with the mountains, of home, of wishing for political forces to cultivate a sense of care for this place I live, a kind of fellowship maybe, something meaningful, close to love. I was sad about the turkey, and the government too, until upon arriving home, I forgot entirely of the bird and death and Republicans when my daughter met me in our driveway, “Hi, Mama!,” half embracing me with a toothy smile and a bowl of crackers in her small hand.

On Empathy & Time, Re: Wildness
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