Two Poems by Charles Wilkinson

The Orangutan Tea Shop
today’s light
in the Orangutan Tea Shop
is all product, perhaps margarine

it is wet out,
rain pervasive –  even when it stops,
sunset falls with a squelch,
soaping air; the colours
remind us of candles
& cosmetics

‘on the far side of the world the men of the forests
dream of the nests in the green cloud that covered
their world, where was a banqueting on honeys
& fruit; they’d curled in high places, before
the canopy’s retreat’
                                                wild fire, & logging
                                                & then an imperia
of pine oil trees, the loss of the luxury of leaf,
the power to cushion & bandage; grounded,
the last arboreal ape forgets all sky feasts,
& in no forest & little rain cradles her child’

picture of primate & son
framed on the wall

 

‘endormi’

& so in sleeping life entails another language
anxiety of travel encoded as an empty platform
though one thin shadow points across the track
the slow wave transports deep into the dream
a clock repeating rhythms along electric rails

hotel of dormant windows a latent light
no corridor leads back to the room left
the residency for an unstirred repose
nightly a name erased from the register
the syntax swallowed in the circuitry

airport echo & the ambiguities of flight
so just a way the tickets will vanish
illumination as an engine in flames
a passport speaking in another tongue
the controls a feeding of false altitudes

tide-tugged too far from shore & star lost
a mariner’s mishap as blind deep fishing
the compass spins the pure misdirection
a long voyage attests the triumph of water
beads of islands submerged in the map

awakening to day’s blaze is stable grammar
the last rays of a lexicon curling to rest
& now world to world’s untranslatable

 

About the Poet

Charles Wilkinson’s poetry collections include the pamphlet Ag & Au (Flarestack, 2013) and The Glazier’s Choice (Eyewear, 2019). He lives in Powys, Wales, where he is heavily outnumbered by members of the ovine community, More information about his work can be found at his website: http://charleswilkinonauthor.com/

Two Poems by Raynald Nayler

The Telling of a Dream

Living the dream, two generations dead.
I’m sure this all made sense to you, back from
the wars, happy just to live and feel
winter up the sleeve of your car coats.
But starting in the gone heart of your town—
in ordered curves of roads that are not roads—
where do we aim? Your housewives in their best
kabuki faces driving past the quick-growth trees—
this town is like a telling of a dream:
it’s lost its shape, and what had once a meaning
to the dreamer, is just boredom hanging
in the drapes. Each house on its own well-tended
island is a void of hollow walls, where
we are asked to choose nothing at all.

 

 

Past the Trains
You can divide and subdivide in many
little ways: down in this part of town
the houses have sash-windows and the look
of being something in themselves: stained glass,
carved wood and lightning rods that cut
the moon. The trees are old and oak and hiss
their night-time leaves.  The paint on sidings peels
into specific histories.  The town
that was before, now decades under siege,
retains the traces of a town. Flags fade
and tatter under eaves. The white sheets bleach
behind the graying picket fence. We once
were boys who thought of nothing past the trains
and days again tomorrow as today.
About the Poet

Raynald Nayler’s poetry has been published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Atlantic Review, Potomac Review, Weave, Juked, Able Muse, Sentence, Silk Road, and many other magazines. Born in the Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean region of Quebec and raised in California, Raynald holds a Masters in Global Diplomacy from SOAS, the University of London and is a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan. He is a Russian speaker, and has lived and worked in the countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus and the former Soviet Union for over a decade. He is currently studying Albanian at the Foreign Institute in preparation for a posting to Pristina, Kosovo.

Two Poems by Christos Kalli

Body : Night
Lately I’ve been asking where the body begins
and where it ends. I can still tell my arms apart
from the night, but dusk after dusk I lose teeth
when I breathe the dark in. I tell the vicious jawbones
I meet on the street It’s just a disappearing act.
Just think of it as juggling a liver and an eye ball
with one hand. The pink sharp nails
choose their fortune card and wait.
Too bad you’ve come so far to see another skeleton holding a scythe,
supposedly a sign for fleshless death. Everything that dies
near me has flesh. I remember a place where
there were more mouths than heads. Tell me
what were their names, who wore whose face.
I need a new name for the graveyard I guard
between my plum lips. When it doesn’t respond
to tongue, I call it migratory swallow smashing
its head on glass, or lilac worm splitting a man
in half. It is so quiet I hear the Lungs complain
about the dry setting. Mrs Lung, in a beautiful
piano black dress, wants Mr Lung to tell her
to undress. Mr Lung wants the dress on, wet,
see-through, so I say Let me drown it for you.

 

 

Subtitles

Because I wanted to remain the adjective,
I nailed myself in the noun.

Because even the comma couldn’t stop me
from getting to the end of the sentence –

a lifeline as thin and graceless
as the unfaithful subtitles of a French film

I watched to fall asleep. And there it was,
the present tense holding on to the past,

beautifying it into gravel, pressing it into a boulder
and then rolling it straight at your glass door.

The door is made of glass because
language. Because I have made my decision

from the leftovers: words I failed to translate
before I came to kneel here.

Here, poorly written, beneath
the beautiful actress’s beautiful lips.

You are right, I don’t want to be read lightly,
I want to feel eyes and their desire on my skin.

I want you to come after me
like you would do for any hero.

I am thinking underworld, undercut, undergod.
Be careful: the verbs can’t get you anywhere,

you need to use your legs.

 

About the Poet
Christos Kalli, born in Cyprus, recently graduated from the University of Cambridge. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Ninth Letter, the National Poetry Review, the American Journal of Poetry, the Adroit Journal, the Los Angeles Review, the minnesota reviewPANKThe Hollins CriticHarpur Palate, and Dunes Review, among others. His chapbook INT. NIGHT / Nightscarred was a finalist for the Sutra Press Chapbook Contest (2017/2019). From 2017 to 2019, he has served on the editorial board of the Adroit Journal. Visit him at christoskalli.com

Two Poems by Francis Fernandes

Seneca’s Exile on Corsica
I’ll tell you something. It’s times like these
when you learn to be creative. But you don’t
live by letters and love alone, you know.
So this is what I throw into the mixer
in the mornings: half an avocado, a fair
amount of chard, spinach and rucola leaves,
some Greek yogurt, a half a lime rind
(including the bitter part), a banana and pear,
some ginger, a sprinkling of walnuts,
and a handful of chia seeds. I’m not sure
where chia seeds come from but I’ve heard
they’re an ancient food full of energy.
Anyway, as a late breakfast, this keeps me
going till dinner. It’s fascinating
how the thick greenish mass warms up
when I keep the machine on high speed
for a while. I wonder what chemical
reaction makes that happen. Of course
I could go see my dentist about this abscess,
but I prefer to go easy on the tooth
with smoothies and ice-cream. And beer.
At least for the time being. I mean, who’s
going to see their dentist at a time like this?
What’s the protocol anyway? At what point
do you remove your mask? at the reception?
on the chair? It’s scary enough
with conspiracy-mongers putting
the country at risk, not to mention sowing
violence in the minds of discontents.
I almost got into a fist fight myself,
at the grocery store, when I railed
at a couple behind me in line for failing
to wear a mask and ignoring the six-foot
distance restriction. Nobody else
said anything, so I asked them where
they got off rolling the dice with total strangers,
as if they could decide who was worth it
and who wasn’t. I was all in a fluster.
I had an avocado in my hand and almost
threw it at them. When I came home,
I reopened my Seneca to cool down,
get a grip. Then, mollified enough to think
straight, I grabbed my guitar
and launched into the band’s program,
which, even before this global crisis started,
happened to include an instrumental
version of that song by Sting,
the one that goes:

A hundred billion bottles washed up
on the shore /
Seems I’m not alone at being alone /
A hundred billion castaways looking
for a home.

Sometimes I’ll say the lyrics in my head
when fingering the familiar arpeggios.
But once into the improv, it’s just the music
in my head, no words. My bassist keeps me
on my toes with his fine contrapuntal doodling.
Keeps me from over-soloing like some smug
surfer awash in steep waves. But the point is,
it was just at that moment, after coming home
and playing the first bars of the first piece
of our would-be upcoming gig,
that I started to think of Seneca again,
and what he did in those eight years of exile
on Corsica (before Nero’s mother
had him pardoned and brought back
to the fold to tutor the brat). I mean,
beyond those stoical letters to his wife
and mother and friends in high places,
didn’t he really miss his dentist and favourite
markets? The chariot races and live
carnal contests at the Colosseum? Of course
he did. Anyone of us would gladly soak in
the laid-back, quiet lifestyle of an exotic
outpost, with its breezy port, bitter honey,
and sweet scents of the maquis.
But not Seneca. Some people really need
all the tumultuous action of a capital’s
fires and food processed intrigue
and conspiracy to say something vital
about mastering your passions; need loathsome
corruption at the top to praise
the uncorrupted soul. Grin and bear
the hardships, they say, but deep down:
please take me away from this god-forsaken
place. Weather the storm, but throw me a line,
brother. Give me a go at the little pyromaniac,
at all those messy ingredients, wholesome
or not, for there is always hope:
hope that our civilized ways will win out
in the end, banishing spikes and sticks, daggers,
and those cowardly vials of poison –
banishing it all from the empire’s heart,
sending it all off to an eternity of hellfire –
or at least to an island of rock somewhere
far away in the middle of the ocean.

 

Grade IV Math Homework

I’m trying to watch the hockey game,
but my daughter the Roman numeral girl,
impetuous, persistent, in dire need
of her own fan base, changes X’s, V’s
and C’s and matchstick lines
into the more familiar single-digit jots
right before my eyes.
These odd squirrely notations, she proudly
informs me (as though she had excavated
a whole treasure trove of plates
and bones), were invented
by sages in both India and Babylon.

It’s between periods, and the Habs
just can’t buy a goal. Management is inept.
Their last cup is a generation gone,
and their last star center… too long even
to remember. But here she is, my daughter,
in front of the Forum, dressed in a blue
tunic, adorned with a pretty bulla,
negotiating with a camel merchant
from the Orient. He does a quick mental
calculation to find out how much
he has to give up to gain an orchard
of pomegranates. The charming
illusionist that she is, my daughter changes
the amount with greater speed
back into those commanding empire
ciphers, insisting the previous stock
did not pan out so she wants that young
sniper with two fifty-goal seasons.
A patrol of centurions moves in
and she gets nervous. But she won’t
leave until she gets what she wants. Finally,
the genie behind the methodology
flies out of the lamp and like a labyrinthine
beast squinting at the light of day,
drives out the bullies and unscrupulous
money-changers, and reinstates
the underdog.

I tell her the period is about to start
and she should go brush her teeth.
But time means nothing to her. What’s
a weekend compared with all of history
(which, true enough, is her other
favourite subject). She looks at the screen
for a minute, then reaches for her
Prismacolors, and still babbling
away, dreams up a picture of a pink-robed
girl sneaking out of a wooden horse,
dropping petals like half-rhyming words
pulled out of her soul – hoping, I suppose,
to overcome the slings of the battle –
hoping, even, to slay the venal formulas
that snapping senators and prelates
throw her way.

I tell her it’s time for bed and to go
make peace with her brothers. She delays
the obvious way by turning her attention
back to the game. She asks me why
I watch this massacre if I know they will lose.
I can’t explain it. For a brief instant
I feel silly wearing the tricolour jersey.
But then, as she trots out of the room,
unconcerned, I feel like a child
again and pray for a win.

 

About the Poet
Francis Fernandes grew up in the US and Canada. He studied in Montréal and has a degree in Mathematics. He lives in Frankfurt, Germany, where he writes and teaches.

Blessing No One by Jeff Burt

Blessing No One

We are at war
with ourselves
since we cannot be at war
with others

claim a peace
beyond borders
but an occupation
within

all created =
striving to become ≠
by stabbing a knife
between two ribs of otherness

one’s dollars do not stack up
to another’s dollars
the larger stack
repeatedly takes from the smaller

if not wealth to distribute
the poor ask about income
displaying their poverty
of thinking as well

we build cheap houses
by freeways
so the cost of living
enslaves

we gather cheap fruits
per-fumigated
hallucinatory
if you don’t inhale

whites fear
a lost society
blacks
have never found

whites fear
a loss of advantage
browns
have never gained

whites fear
a moral degradation
they were never inclined
to keep

a person in a tent
is no nomad
but mad, stripped
of sex, a no-man

counted on
but not relied upon
fed
but not nourished

one’s overpass
is another’s underpass
unless the other
cannot pass over

course the verb
of blood running
coarse the hand
that makes the bleed

we bless everyone
and thus no one
words evaporate
before hitting ground

 

About the Poet
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California with his wife. He works in mental health. He has contributed to Williwaw Journal, Rabid Oak, Heartwood, Kestrel, and Tar River Poetry. He won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize.

Two Poems by Claire Nicholson

Self Dissection

I extract my heart from my torso with a sharp and slender blade. Do not worry—I will replace it. This is only so I can hold it up to the light—translucent and purring. As I anticipated, I learn nothing from this autopsy and return my heart to my ribs. Next, I peel open my scalp. A degloving of sorts. My brain is where the real diagnosis lies. It is filled with endless grooves—I recognize them: my thoughts are like marbles returning to these circuits over and over. Ofttimes repetition creates haunted landscapes and here I hold a perfect model. I could go deeper, plunge my scalpel into sweet tissue, but my brain, this poor record pulsing in my palm, refuses interrogation. Now that it is in my hands I feel gentle with it. I prod my cerebrum carefully and sit to watch it labor.

.

Feast, Not Famine

You’re packing your life into boxes while I watch from the doorway.

“Here, let me.” You’ve never been good at folding memories—they’re too translucent, too flimsy. You’re trying to force them into perfect squares with sharp corners.

I take them from you and they flow through my fingers like water.

You bend over to retrieve your iron safe. It’s going to the car—and when you’re ready you’ll leave it behind. I wonder at which part of your journey you’ll let go. Will you bury it deep in the woods under the heavy pines and purple sky? Or tuck it into a canyon crevice full of dry red dust and brilliant shards of desert stars? Or will you bring the safe all the way to the other coast and move it into your new apartment and let it hunker down in your attic or under your bed? My safe is locked in the basement with the leaky pipes and our lonely ghost. I’ll bury it when I’m ready—beneath a blood moon with the whispering grasses. Maybe the ghost will go with it and they’ll both have some company.

“Here—it doesn’t feel right for me to take them—” You stuff a shoebox into my arms. It’s not labeled. I open the lid to find a four-leaf clover, the smell of my banana bread, a butterfly landing on a blue flower, a long sleepy drive from the passenger’s seat. It’s every “I love you,” pristine and glowing. I rummage deeper to find a geode, an apple orchard on a September day, an answer, a question, an electric city at night, your lips pressed to my neck, a sunburn on a beach day. You’ve kept them all in such wonderful condition.

“Keep them,” I say. “I gave them to you.”

We already divvied up the dreams. Two nights ago we took my sharpest knife and cut through the sponge cake and cucumber sandwiches and doled them out—we fed them to each other with anxious, eager fingers. We suckled on your butterscotch candies and scraped the last of the maple syrup from the jug. I gnawed on a turkey leg from last Thanksgiving, still covered in your grandmother’s honey glaze while you sautéed onions just like my dad taught you. It was never meant to end in feast, but there we were, nibbling on peppermint bark and throwing grapes at each other from across the room.

.

About the Poet

Claire Nicholson (she/her) currently lives in Maine. She is a recent graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. She enjoys plants and ultimate frisbee. Nicholson has been previously published in Asterism: An Undergraduate Literary Journal and will be published in Gone Lawn’s upcoming autumnal issue. You can find her on Twitter @claire2n.

Four Poems by Christine A MacKenzie

New Worlds

a planet of marigolds / stippled yellow flames against the sky / & all of these flowers swiveled their frilled faces / as i fractured the middle of one’s stem / & wore it behind my ear / running barefoot / & joyous in the soft soil / until the petals preserved in brown fragility like bog bodies mummified in peat / exploded as crushed glass flashed lightning in the downpour / sweeping away all vegetation rooted in the cratered rock :: i hid under large leaves & slept with the hard stem in my hands / until blue light streamed from the cracks / between the leaves / & opened them up to rainbow flowers / floating in midair / as if the atmosphere had turned to water / because the motion was that fluid / as petals & leaves drifted past me :: sometimes i still see the white plastic of female mannequins surface on farmland after the rain / but their auburn hair had fallen from their scalps / & regrown as milkweed for the monarchs / monarchs fused with metal / the size of wolves :: i hung my wet cotton dress on a sturdy tree branch / & splashing my cheeks in a puddle / noticed it took longer for the water to reflect the motion of my hands & thickness of my thighs / they warped in & out of their shape / as i stood above the puddle / who is this person :: there is a rumor carved into the bark of a felled tree that evrythin hppns fr e resn & Gd hs e pln fr u & maybe that explains strange mouths made from dust gathering up in the fields / telling me of cities bubbling back into the ocean / & plastic mountains reaching for a face lit in the moon :: i collected the body parts of mannequins dug up & washed them off to sew up a new woman / a complete woman / who leans against a tree / she has a blue eye / green eye / red torso / white face / & blue limbs :: green-sequined ferns curl toward her in the night / & a rumor in my dreams says naked thighs disturbing white sheets were objects of fascination for those who clung to bodies like magnets :: i wear a rusted crown because it fits well on top of my black hair curling up from saltwater / & others wear crowns of thorns / even when all is burnt away into white ash

In Fields of Sunflowers

1. a windpipe was crushed with large fists / & small fists scraping forearms / a bearded chin / cracked white chalk like road salt under a moon cut into slices

2. a woman spread raspberry jam thick on her tongue / & spit a thousand gelatinous seeds down your sore throat with a daring kiss

3. a steel kitchen knife rusted while a black beetle crawled over the dead sheen / leaf litter buried them both under farm dirt

4. little brown-haired children used to run barefoot in these fields of sunflowers / their dirty sneakers kicked off in the shade / screams echoed for miles of blue skies

5. an emerald wine bottle with the neck snapped jaggedly had nurtured a mossy mat over the shards / unrolling over a lone boulder

6. serrated red leaves made little dark patterns on the pure / creamy skin of a small woman’s body slumped against a tree / dark curls swept across her face / hands folded

7. her nails grew a millimeter / her fingers blistered into crocodile marble

8. she thumbed the cool surface of a light bulb / blackened over its curves / & tightened her fist around it until crushed into silver dust / metallic wires tracing circles into her flesh

9. the green spine of a sunflower tunneled up the rings of her trachea / driving between the gap in her buck teeth / & struck a match for a solar eclipse / encircled by red lips

 

Roses

three severed heads of roses dried in a little crystal box carved with diamonds / pyramids / invisible except to a little girl’s fingertips running along the surface / a box gilded / gold engraved with ancient daisies which refer to day’s eye / wide open to the electric glory of a thousand thousand colors pixelating a single blade of grass / arching into the mud :: your mother dried three roses from her wedding because she wanted three children / because she fell weeping for waxen cadavers displayed in glass cases / because roses are always dead in our gracious hands :: roses are not the roots planted deep in the earth / not the congregation of flowers on a bush / but necessarily severed body parts in a watered vase / & as beautiful as a young woman gently wading in a blue river / wind blowing her long skirt :: you are not a little rose contained / with your palms pressing pink against the glass until la petite mort withers into dreams of rising from the ashes of burnt fields :: you are a thousand daisies opening under the sun / your entire body surging with red until the world saturates starless because you die a thousand thousand deaths / not a quiet little death in a box :: these three roses have shattered so slowly with our light breaths burning their petals each time the box opens / the air is too thin in this box smelling of breastmilk / & vulture carcasses shred apart in the desert :: once you were a little girl who fell asleep under the floorboards in a game of hide-and-seek / & the hands of God painted your eyes like a moon glittering where no one thought to look in a world consumed with darkness :: your memories as a little girl were like metallic pearls under your tongue / spit into your palm / buried with your bare hands in dark soil / turning back into sand :: sand does not have to come from pearls / soil does not have to come from roses / but we can play-pretend with a blank canvas

Stay Awake

in a dream you snapped the stem of a rose in half / silver fluid dribbled onto my soiled palms / you said drink / drink vitamins extracted from thin air / an infant with polished ceruleite irises suckles at my breast / you said wait for the last drop / drop of silver poured down my throat / striping into microscopic vessels / you said there would be a chance your soft caress carries over to the star-speckled fissure between life & death / can you imagine bodies / without bodies / severed from their nerve-fibered fabric tethered to some kaleidoscopic earth / without blue skies snared in our baggy lungs / without skulls like cast-iron pots hunching over our shoulders / without pulsated fluttering of green mantle metalmarks  / overshadowed by two large ivory breasts spread apart in the sun / between life & death can we become lanterns without metal frames / bursts of raw stone without direction / you said stay awake you have to promise me you’ll stay awake. i said i’ll try but words are sometimes only words. a black-haired woman opened her armpits / a garden curling with fresh roses / all her petals peeled off into a simple glass vase / once you read on the internet that jupiter has seventy-nine confirmed moons / & so softly you held these playthings spinning rainbows / diluted magenta / on gravel / beneath your feet / you stockpiled all seventy-nine in your left palm as i wept / once you were a child who dove into a black hole in the frozen lake / a crowd broke into applause muffled as you pierced the surface / you almost opened your mouth for the cold water / to flood the emptiness in your chest / you counted the seconds / the seconds you could hold your breath / the seconds before water ripples with moonbeams from above / moons orbit around your body like a school of fish / you weren’t sure whether you’d ever been loved / i wasn’t sure if i’d ever be loved / stay awake you said. stay awake. / sometimes your mouth opened for a butterfly to crawl out / with wet wings / not yet ready to muscle into flight / sometimes you screamed out / a thousand of them / surging into the galaxy / sometimes an infant unlatches from my breast to stare straight into my eyes / silver milk trickling from his mouth / i stared back at myself / my underwear had become wet with thick blood streaming down my thighs / which is to say i am a woman / which is to say i am no longer a child / i am still a child / i was never a child / tell me a story you haven’t told me before you said as you held me in your lap / unbraiding my damp hair as i fell asleep to your heartbeat what if i could tell you what happens next / would you believe me

 

About the Poet
Christine A. MacKenzie received a B.A. in English, creative writing and psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In fall 2020, she will start an MSW in Interpersonal Practice to become a psychotherapist. She has been recently published in Susquehanna, The Inflectionist Review, Red Cedar Review, Fourteen Hills, and The Merrimack Review.

Two Poems by Bunkong Tuon

Family Work

3 A.M. Lok-Yiey rose from
her bamboo bed, rubbed kindling,
blew and blew on embers, ashes on
her cracked face and dried gray hair.
She boiled rice in red clay pot,
diced garlic, minced pork,
fried morning glories.
She placed the bamboo pole
on her shoulder,
different dishes on each side,
and rushed to the train station
in Monkulburi, Battambang.

“I did what I must,” she says,
“To keep you from hunger.”

Decades later in America, my uncle
made eggs and toast for his kids,
rice gruel with salted fish
for himself and his wife.

He dropped his children at school,
his wife at the train station in Malden,
then drove to the video store in Chelsea.
He converted anyone who walked
through the door with his smile,
“Good morning, Sir” or
“Good evening, Madam.”

When asked about his seven-day
work schedule, he told me,

 “When the Khmer Rouge made you
dig ditches and carry mud in the sun
all day, everyday, until your body trembled
in fever, everything after is clear as vision.”

This past week in Wakefield
to celebrate her son’s wedding

my aunt and her sister fried rice,

made spring rolls, marinated wings,
dressed papaya salad
in fish sauce, lime, and chilis,
argued with one another.

Seeing them stressed, I suggested
ordering food from a local vendor.

Her answer, “My great joy is
seeing my son and his American wife
eat the food I make. See their happiness
come from these hands.”

 

The Leaves are Bright Red

 There’s nothing else to say about autumn.
Chanda swings from the monkey bar.

My wife’s at home resting, carrying our second child.
The sun so warm and bright on my face,
my cracked hand and grey hair. And I fear growing old,
leaving my children to fend for themselves.
Job prospects, war, and the sun burning a hole
in the ozone, cancer cells eating the scalps of children
and grandchildren. We must listen to Greta Thunberg.
We must do something. Chanda falls off the swing.

I run to pick her up and put her on my shoulders.
The sun warms. The leaves are bright red.

Shivering. Ghosts everywhere
shaking branches. Howling.
I’m trying to cherish this moment, my health,
Chanda’s laughter, the baby in my wife’s womb.

 

About the Poet
Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of Gruel, And So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (a chapbook with Joanna C. Valente, Yes Poetry). He is a contributor to Cultural Weekly. His poetry won the 2019 Nasiona Nonfiction Poetry Prize. Tuon teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.

Two Poems by Carl Boon

The Water

I hear the water in the basement—
it’s different than the water
on the sidewalk, on the grass:
it thinks, it remembers, it asks why
we haven’t moved away, what keeps us here
year after year, mopping and hoping,
straining our shoulders
against it.

All May it rained upriver,
brought the farmers of Nebraska
to their knees until they seemed
like statues caught in prayer forever,
until their corn, sagging from skyweight,
died away. All June we waited
for the River to concede and let it go.
We no longer pray;

we know we live in an unfortunate world,
surrounded by whim and words
like maybe. We’ve gathered
what we need to be within it—
our pills and trinkets, dollar bills
in plastic bags, the silk fan
my mother brought from Hattiesburg

after the war.

 

Rear-view Mirror

I bought a car

that promised paradise and sex
and maybe being forgiven

for my multitude of sins.

I bought a car to take me all the way
to Oklahoma, California.

I bought a car

and thus the first of several
forays into danger. In Iowa

a woman called Sue

harangued me with notions of Mars
and “new plantations.”

No idea. Where Omaha meets

the highway again I asked
a listless, righteous Baptist for directions.

Friends: we’re slowly dying

in our automobiles, pivoting through
Kansas, making the Great Plains

smoky and obtuse. I was,

of course, a boy who hoped for
paradise and sex, knowing clutch

and power steering, Madeline and Denise,

Margaret and May. A church glowed
at dusk on the Utah border. A man

emerged, an American flag

in his hand attached to a stick,
a sign touting Pancake Breakfast,

the Armory on Sinclair Avenue, $5.

I drove on. Somewhere Sadie was America,
all lip gloss, root beer, and need.

A blowjob, nobody’s disappointed.

In a room at the Rattler Inn, maybe
Boise or maybe Montana, I turned the TV

to Channel 4, the better world emerging.

A chef in Kansas City, a chef in Traverse City.
I love you, America.

I bought a car and came so far

it seems the only dream’s
the dream of being elsewhere.

 

About the Poet
Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie SchoonerPosit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.