Poetry

“Goodnight, Whoever You Are” by Michael Robins

Must be a gift to shrug what others shoulder,
what’s blown from the rooftop & nonetheless
asleep, not I swear another flooded forfeit,

catalogue of a poor magician staged & reciting
daily harm, run-of-the-mill regret. Evenings
I read a thing or two on Mozart, cause of death

unknown or working yet as a janitor in Nebraska
where he paces under rain. If I turn yesterday
I’m a ghost, nothing myself. Maybe a ninny,

blue & motley, rolling the tired semicircle
sidewise in a plastic August breeze, one sheet
& on my way to the wind. When the drunks quit,

quake & sweat or when they bat each other
my good eye wins, tracks twice to the window
against which a future checks its teeth, meets

&, behind the beveled glass, imagines marriage,
pledge & fruit of every American billboard,
then finally knocks. I’d nothing brainy to say

(oh Nebraska, I mean Amherst), stood anyway
as if the fields knew my name. Faceless hills,
lamps of summer in galaxy gray, we touch & go

toward war like a thousand birds, apparent death
before the engines howl & lift a chimney brick
or recover from the splash with a fish. It falls

now to the neighbors & only later did we leave
ill-manner in water, walk without remembering
each relic of a rusted trampoline, bed spring

& washing machine, the conversation held years
where we planted feet like we’d stay, pleased
our umbrella didn’t cartwheel past the reel

overgrown in firefly & thicket both. We crested
like a wrongheaded tune, flickered & nodding
& knowing that touch & go meant Massachusetts,

home, a surfeit of skunks for who can really say
how many afternoons will gnaw our corners,
our resolve along the bumper-to-bumper cars

stalled & sunk. Twice today that low memory
moved the horizon, swept me near the exit
like tinder inhales, like kisses flare & not anyone

thinks anything but fire. I rouse to the credits
casual & free, merge with the midday shine
raising a finger to the temple, my ready thumb

tempted among the shadows gone, & their trees.

 

Michael Robins is the author of four collections of poetry, including In Memory of Brilliance & Value (2015) and People You May Know (2020), both from Saturnalia Books. He lives in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.

 


Photo: “When I Walk Away I Notice” by Courtney Bernardo

 

Poetry

“Enlightenment”by Virginia Konchan

There is nothing eternal about us.
Therefore, I embrace my dogness.
Therefore, I recover my dignity,
lost in Acapulco centuries before.
Welcome to the pecking order.
Welcome to the wet dream
of interminable rank and file.
Joy is on hiatus, and at parties,
all that’s spoken of is Netflix
and the catafalque of female desire.
My lips get in the way of speaking.
My hands flap, like fat pigeons
unable to take flight.
Parenthetical Lord,
there is an expiration date
on cold cuts, on nature’s
syphilitic blooms.
All I care about is everything.
All I want is an endless supply
of something.
I have a blind date with destiny:
no doubt I won’t be recognized.
I am done erecting boundaries,
done with adjectival phrases
and post-confessional lore.
I am an animal very rarely.
I will not entreat you anymore.

 

VK author photo 1

Author of two poetry collections, Any God Will Do (Carnegie Mellon, 2020) and The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon, 2018), a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017), and three chapbooks, including Empire of Dirt (above/ground press, 2019), Virginia Konchan‘s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Boston Review, and elsewhere.

 

 


Photo by Matthew Klein

Poetry

“What Are the Prospects?” by Amy Lemmon

UnionSquareMartinakaMaha

Union Square Park swarms with students
and tourists, languages I can’t identify,
families, mothers with toddlers
trailing sippy cups, men just off shift
lighting and then stomping cigarettes
before they descend to the train.
What are the prospects? The question I asked
every time I tried the online Tarot reading site,
hoping again and again for some ancient truth
to blow up like a billboard in living color,
explaining everything from the guy I wasn’t hearing
from, to the poems I wasn’t writing, to my kid
not getting out of bed for school. What are
the prospects? The blunt dull-dog persistence,
refusing to quit until I got an answer I could live with.
At the moment, the answer is curly kale
and whole wheat pita. I’m a pushover for fiber,
health kicks and promises, rooting
for moisture in a dressingless salad, settling
for the odd clump of feta, a lone pitted kalamata.
What are the prospects? Kaput, goosey gander
full-on shutdown, which we are not at liberty
to discuss at this time. They say spring
is coming, as it does, pushover that I am,
anticipating change, anticipating green pea shoots
and white asparagus, new lambs and all that bleating,
bleeding out and about in the world that remains
mostly fine, mostly inhabitable, mostly turning still.

 

Amy Lemmon photo finalAmy Lemmon is the author of five poetry collections, most recently The Miracles (C&R Press, 2019). Her poems and essays have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Rolling Stone, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Court Green, The Journal, Marginalia, and many other magazines and anthologies. Amy is Professor and Chairperson of English and Communication Studies at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technologywhere she teaches poetry writing, creative writing, and creativity studies classes, and co-editor (with Sarah Freligh) of The CDC Poetry Project.

 

 


Photo: Union Square by Martin aka Maha via Flickr

Poetry

“A Room with a Prayer” by Karen Schoemer

She wears green eye shadow. Sea-green eye shadow from her lashes to her brows. A crocheted sweater that exactly matches the eye shadow. A patterned skirt that exactly matches the sweater and the eye shadow.

She’s super-coordinated. The coordination strikes me as intentional. She’s chosen her outfit for its effect, although her idea of its effect and mine are probably different. It’s a trap, an assertion of control.

She reminds me of my Italian cousins. Square brick houses on tight suburban streets with Madonnas-in-bathtubs on front lawns. She has a mouth like Cher, glossy and pink. I can’t stop staring at her. I’m fascinated.

I despise her. I wish I was in Newark. I can see the entrance to the train station, the dirty tan stone steps. Hunched men in shadows and the late night underground glare. I can walk right past them or stop. I know I’m going to stop.

 

Schoemer_KarenKaren Schoemer is a poet, author and performer living in Columbia County, New York. She was the inaugural Virginia Scholar at Instarlodge in Germantown in the fall of 2016, and her poem “November Sun” won first prize in the 2015 Hudson Valley Writers Guild poetry contest. She is vocalist for the bands Sky Furrows, Jaded Azurites and the Schoemer Formation.

Poetry

“For Coloreds Only” by Daniel Summerhill

As a black boy, I flew
Back when most colored folk
could only afford the Greyhound bus.

During those hour-long flights
between LA and Oakland,
I couldn’t tell if I was somehow Rosa

or if my grandfather was unsuccessful
indoctrinating me into the 60’s
or if I was just a black boy

or if getting selected for additional screening
every flight was still prefaced by the term “random”
or if they had rather used hoses instead of wands

Still, somehow, each time I boarded,
the jetway seemed a partition in which
I could change in and out of my skin at will

or I was just a black boy
or I was just black
or I was just a boy

 

Summerhill_DanielDaniel B. Summerhill is an internationally recognized poet and performance artist from Oakland, CA. Currently an M.F.A. candidate at Boston’s Pine Manor College, Daniel has performed in over 15 states as well as abroad in Europe. He has shared stages with poets Jasmine Mans, Abiodun Oyewole and others. He has published two collections of poems and has been asked to perform at Ted Talk, Def Jam Poetry with Danny Simmons as well as Afropunk London.

Poetry

“Become so fluid” by E. Kristin Anderson

Wanderlust knit a modern beat,
often synchronous, the way we dress.

Eight years would know:
there are always women a long way

from the world, smaller, interpreting
the lens of American skinny jeans.

The feminine, breezing around, messy—
we may be our edge, closer to home,

full with style.

 

This is an erasure poem. Source material: “Global Style Now” by Christine Whitney. Harper’s Bazaar, September 2014, page 94.

AndersonEKristin photoBased in Austin, Texas, E. Kristin Anderson has been published widely in magazines. She’s also the author of eight chapbooks, including A Guide for the Practical Abductee, Fire in the Sky and Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night. Kristin is Special Projects Manager for ELJ and a poetry editor at Found Poetry Review. Once upon a time she worked at The New Yorker.

 

Poetry

“Sweet Wolf #1” by Darren C. Demaree

We’ve named all of the animals
& we’ve put our fingers into the names
of each of them.  We’ve dragged

their names up to our faces
& forced them to meet our made
up world.  Sometimes we are given

kisses.  Sometimes there is
a great warmth.  We know they
are wild.  We know there is danger.

We know if we allow the sweet wolf
into our veins it will become
the alpha inside our own bodies

& yet, what a pool to drown in.
The chemicals of each breed
brings a new threat.

There have been so many Ohioans
eaten from the inside out
that I’ve been forced

to re-think exactly what these drugs
are in our world.  They are wolves.
We’ve been raised by them.

 

DemareeDarrenC_picDarren C. Demaree is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly (8th House Publishing, 2016). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He currently lives in Columbus, OH with his wife and children.

Poetry

From “The Good House and the Bad House” by Doe Parker

Parker_Doe_fromthegoodhouseGALLEYING_Page_1 Parker_Doe_fromthegoodhouseGALLEYING_Page_2 Parker_Doe_fromthegoodhouseGALLEYING_Page_3 Parker_Doe_fromthegoodhouseGALLEYING_Page_4 Parker_Doe_fromthegoodhouseGALLEYING_Page_5

Parker_Doe_fromthegoodhouseGALLEYING_Page_6

 

parker_doe_thumbnailDoe Parker grew up around San Francisco, CA. They’ve been published in the Bay Area Teen Writers Anthology and Habitat Lit Magazine. Doe put together their first chapbook when they were a senior in high school and now attends Columbia College Chicago with a major in poetry. Their work is fed a lot by their photography and their interest in the psychology of place memory. Doe was on the editorial board for issue #29 of Columbia Poetry Review and are staying on as an editor for issue #30 in the fall. Find their photos at parkerphotography.tumblr.com and more poetry at doeparker.tumblr.com.

 

Poetry

“Apotheosis” by Ainsley Pinkowitz

The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

We were born of carbon. The human body is made of it, with carbon surpassed only by oxygen in abundance. We are twenty-two point nine percent carbon.

In all its abundance, carbon is beautifully recycled by the planet, endlessly refreshing its supply. Carbon lives in our bodies for a hundred years at best, but has existed and will exist far longer. We breathe in oxygen and with each breath, give our carbon back into the cycle. The plants take it into their leaves, and we in turn devour the leaves. Of the seven million billion billion carbon atoms in the human body, only four percent were born into us at infancy. As for the rest, ingestion and inhalation assimilate carbon into a full-grown body, borrowing the particles that have been a piece of a billion men before. Then at last, Death and Decay gift us to the earth in whole.

Chemistry chews on our bodies long after the fungi have had their fill. We are rich catalysts, sacks of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen. Swallowed by the pressure of the earth and pounded to fluids, we are born again as oil after ten million years of purgatory.

When we see the sun again we see it up close. We feel the sun, the intolerable burn of incineration decimating our long chains into tiny gaseous particles escaping the blaze. Perhaps we have been the birth of an ingot of steel, perhaps we have delivered a father home safely to the embrace of his cherry-cheeked daughter. Unleashed by combustion we ascend as carbon dioxide, with front row for the spectacle of daybreak as we settle into our layer of the atmosphere.

Some of us escape our terrestrial confines enraged. We bundle up in deep-earth cracks, our long rest cut short with the greatest insult. We have not become lengthy molecules, carbon-rich gasoline or thick hunks of anthracite coal. Barely decomposed, we are too eager to escape the nighttime of our planet’s core, and bubble still gaseous from vents inside this celestial rock. We build up and pound at the surface for freedom, riled like a lynch mob to demand some unearned justice. Freedom from the ground before any use can come from us, and when we can ascend to the sky given one straight path from here to there we feel we have that right. Our impatience explodes, pressure rocketing out of a still mountain lake and overturning the water, only to find in all that miserable rain a pathetic fallacy, that our dense bodies can fly no further, that all we can do is drive the oxygen away, that all those living in this crater lake were born to be suffocated by our hubris and take our place. The cycle churns, the bodies rot, and we wait in line by vine and sprout in infinite monotony—unless a more glorious opportunity thrusts us from our march.

We circle this planet, and we leave this planet. We are carbon, and our compatriots are elsewhere: in the dusty surface of Mars, scattered in the asteroids that whirr through space, speckling the comets that streak the night sky back home. We are in astronomical nurseries being birthed by massive nuclear furnaces. We are swallowed by stars and disintegrated beyond our atom body only to emerge as a part of one hundred larger bits. By proton we build new elements, new molecules, new meteors, new planets. We do as we did honorably on earth and give ourselves to new life as breath and body.

We are born of carbon; we were born as carbon, with the carbon. Like an infant grown old who can’t remember the start to their life, our unconscious life extends beyond what our parents measured with new steps, words, and smiles. We existed before conception, before our species’ conception, before rock cooled for the first time and the bacterium reigned as sole possessor of life. We existed, and we will exist as long as our elements exist, waiting for the right occasion to form consciousness again.

 

pinkowitz_ainsleythumbnailAinsley Pinkowitz is a poet and a scientist. She is currently a graduate student of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. She’s a four-time winner of RPI’s McKinney Prize for poetry, and a regular at open mics and poetry slams around New York’s Capital District.

Poetry

“Night Songs” by Wale Owoade

I listen to a door open its robe
to a street full enough to be a sky
too cruel to be a sky

we were never lonely
just a fire in need of heat

I want to be a wind and wake
an ocean to be a street then
chase out all the water the body
longed for before it turned to ash 

II
I listen to my wall turn its back
to a street wide enough to be a sky
too bruised to be a sky

I was never lonely
Just a body in need of flesh

I want to be the voice that wakes
the world to be a street then
brings back all the peace the light
longed for before it turned to dark

 

Wale Owoade is a Nigerian poet and creative enthusiast who lives and writes in north-central Nigeria. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in About Place Journal, Apogee Journal, Chiron Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Radar Poetry, Spillway and Vinyl, among others. Some of his poems have been translated to Bengali, German and Spanish. Wale is the publisher and Managing Editor of EXPOUND: A Magazine of Arts.