I’ve been meaning to mention some love-themed pieces that stuck with me this year: Jenny Zhang’s love note to her family, Morgan Parker’s essay Love Poems are Dead and So Sad Today’s twitter.
Here is volume 2 of now 3 valentine issues. This issue features work by heart-throbbers Kate Micucci, Bridget Talone, Amy Lawless, Rena J. Mosteirin, T Kira Madden, Timothy Liu, Anchia Kinard, Sampson Starkweather, Paige Taggart, Brynne Rebele-Henry, Maria Garcia Teutsch, Kathleen Rooney, J. Hope Stein, Todd Colby & Joanna Penn Cooper.
Thanks for reading and passing the issues around. I have a crush on you.
j hope stein
There’s No One On This Road But Us and the Night ♥♥♥ Rena Mosteirin
“There’s no one on this road but us and the night,” you say
the bugs are invisible and everywhere: summer.
Winter will naturally debug the kitchen
but tonight I need a drive.
You said your father would drive you around when you were sleepless,
together you’d cruise the night roads of Maine.
I imagine if you were sleeping when you got home, he carried you in,
used his foot to close the door. I imagine the weight of your little boy body
as he placed you in your bed. I believe an idea can have weight before words:
I was with you there, though I wasn’t a body, but a math.
Black and white headshots of old movie stars
somehow always look familiar. It must be an algorithm.
“It’s the clothing my soul wears,” I say, picking at my skin.
On television they are running races.
The code you are looking at is not the code that is running.
On television Gidget is surfing.
Change the station: an anesthetized alligator
goes into the bag like a body bag.
The options are: copy/distribute/modify:
or take me home/ in kind.
In our strange extinction history
we are on the chapter of death: in a rainforest there’s only that one pretty math:
and it goes into the bag like a body bag.
On television they are drowning.
The code you are looking at is not the code that is running.
I can see you sometimes as a little boy, there are ways you turn
and your boy-self flickers on. Hit save.
Our kisses won’t be posted
on facebook. Nothing to like
or comment on. Outside
the station at Lake and Clark
with the mercury dropping
in early winter dark, he leaned
to kiss me, his neck scarf
woven by a Peruvian woman
grazing my cheek, each kiss
different from whatever came
before. What if a co-worker
or worse, his wife, happened by—
what might we lose? To risk
what has been for what is
yet to come is the reason
why others have been willing
to take us down with boxers
at our heels. When he placed
his palms on my cheek bones
and said: Just let me do this
just this, I could feel my clock
being taken apart. When he took
his hands away, something
remained—his fingers drawing
slow ovals on my temples
as we rode in the back of a cab
to O’Hare. Home is where
the heart has given up on
kisses as prelude to mechanical
sex. Touch as a means toward
climax rather than for touch
itself. Doesn’t everyone know
real desire makes bad porn—
unscripted love no gawkers want
to follow? Let’s not perform
what’s passed down from father
to son—pre-cum out of cock slit
shocking our mouths awake.
You are sacred on thermal currents
We are so small
We feel no wind
We are creeps
It was never our intention to be preyed upon by the doll watching through Jesus eyes
It was weird during the chanting when you called twice
I was chanting and having my hypothalamus massaged via the creation a specific sound with my whole body stimulating nerve growth factor
which is painful for me to read about
because it’s about love, really, which I want more of, am starving for
I have ethical issues with the creation of love artificially
I’m natural: in the mirror my headhair cascades
leaving no need for a hat
Desires not quenched, not pressed
I feel sacred and eternal
My body scrolls throughout the night
My heart ticks toward death, a song never too long
My lungs buzz like little suicide packet bombs worn as a vest,
killing me and sustaining me
a productive-yet-dying bug pronghorn felled over and in need
My core strength holds me up during dance parties
My angles are soft rolling hills
My ability, when not bored, to connect with others
in kitchens and back rooms
to cause a disruption in the prefrontal cortexes –laughing –
in the brains of my friends and in the brains of my non-friends:
People need more of this:
Fine fine fine. I’m not the kind of scientist that you are used to
but I’m the kind you need
Who Knows What Could Happen To Us ♥♥♥ T Kira Madden
My first kiss was with a girl named Patricia Posternack. We were at a theme park, just off a roller coaster, and the blood-thump-high hung between us like radioactive dust. In the checker-tiled bathroom we spun in circles, tipped our skulls between our knees, joking that we could unwind the dizzy that had spooled us up.
Patricia pulled me by the pinky into a bathroom stall. This wasn’t unusual, we liked to LaLaLa while the other peed, one flush, because we’re best friends that’s why, but what was unusual was Patricia leaning with her back against the stall door, her fingers lacing up behind my neck, red bangs sweat-smeared across her forehead. Her braces gleamed. Do you love me? she asked. I did, and said so. Like a sister? she asked, her chin down, eyes up. Well, sure.
And then I said I wanted to practice, for when the real time came. I said who knows, Patty. Who knows what could happen to us tonight. Who knows what could happen in the hotel, your parents sleeping, rolled over as dead whales in the Disney-pink bed. We could meet some boys in the lobby, I said. Wear our new tube-tops, bandana headbands, look drippy and older with our strawberry lip-smack shine.
She opened her mouth for mine, just like that. My mouth was not even close to her mouth yet. Her mouth just hung open, her eyes gently shut, the O of her choir face, and so I leaned right into it. It was sloppy and ripe. I felt like I could taste the colors of her orthodontic bands—teal, black, teal, black, teal, black, teal—like her mouth was my mouth and there was no reason for them ever to separate again.
What happened to you, Patricia Posternack? I think about you now, your scabbed knees, your high-soprano pitch. Your sister never left this town. She works in the local hospital, stitched up my index finger from a rusted up nail. She said, what ever happened to you girls that night in the hotel, when our parents couldn’t find you?
We did meet those boys. We did what we said we could do. I remember it all: just us kids out by the hotel pool, that aquamarine glow on your bare stomach, one of the boys leading you away as you let go of my hand, laughing, saying I’ll be right back.
the thickest spliff
Everything’s sexy in Berlin.
Purple umbrella shot inside out
dropped by the door, a leather
dress balled up, the red wine
spill hidden, your boots
tucked beside a suitcase,
while my stilettos make
a W where I kicked them in
the air when I made a V.
framed by the whipped cream
of sheets, asleep—
and snow traveling outside
easterly and westerly simultaneously.
The lines on the street
scraped salted graveled.
Inhale this rooftop horizon
of jigsaw high-rises.
Dead Kaiser Wilhelm’s
broken steeple ushers out
the night and punctures
in light. This is Spring in Berlin:
snow, silver, a punch of gold.
I am shivering in my slip–
a black crow
lands on the windowsill,
my face caught in glass,
and then yours–kissing
each cheek, and lifting me there
in the corner window
for all to see, and I let you in—
no longer afraid of the darkness
within, and say the word
you wanna hear–
My great uncles were gypsies
They were so handsome
the villagers longed
to be robbed by them.
When I met you, you asked me
if I could think of any reason why
you shouldn’t marry her
& I said “no-you-are-perfect-for-each-other”
& you never invited me to the wedding –
But your brother did—
& I am in all your wedding photos
& to this day,
your relatives still talk about the snare
our hips drummed up
on the dance floor.
& I said, “Hey, nice wedding!”
& you said, “If you don’t leave now,
I’m going to kill you
or myself or both.”
& It was when the band played
the Doobie Brothers’ What a Fool Believes,
your brother’s mouth lobbing
the unsuccessful neckline of my dress,
where I wrote my first book—
a cross between
gypsy & disco.
licking the back of a wizard’s mouth
I procure all sorts of data and lay my wet fat body on the tile
I do sit-ups and the pressure between the bridge of my back and ass make
a cupping sort of farting sound
I call in my boyfriend to watch
and witness the detail
he takes notes, later he might try this
pen to the pad of paper
sketching a drawing of minimal
exertion but lots of percussion
it’s a god send
we’re lucky to have radio silences
and wine to drink
we’re lucky to feel the kickbacks of gen-exers
it’s an utter disappointment
to complain all the time
(esp via text-message to distant friends)
I have relatives in high-places
and we prosper from them
till we really fuck up and the castles
dormant bricks fall upon us
life is something to lay under and take the pressure; otherwise, we’d all be juggalos
If Loulou the Pomeranian had seen the master as a child, he’d have known him by his smell: lemon and nutmeg, and pepper – a dash. If Georgette had caught a flash of the master as a child – well, wait, she did, in the carousel-salon at the fair in Charleroi, where they fell, fell, fell in love: still but moving among the wild wooden horses. If they had seen each other years later – well, wait, they did, unguarded amid the blooms of the Brussels Botanic Gardens, where they fell, fell, fell again, never leaving each other’s side thenceforth unless forced.
When he was 14, the master’s mother, Régina, was tired of life and she fell, fell, fell into a river. No, Magritte’s mother killed herself. Jumped, jumped, jumped. When they fished her out, her nightdress clouded around her head like impenetrable mist. No dog Loulou’s met has ever committed suicide.
In this painting, the faces of the lovers are covered, but Loulou can tell: that’s Magritte and that’s Georgette. Are they suffocating? No, they’re going in for the motion picture move of the close-up kiss, despite being shrouded. Are they going to die? Why yes, eventually, but not right now.
The master insists his mother has nothing to do with any of this. Dismisses the theory of the Sambre River as the source. Beauty ought not be reduced to a personal neurosis. Loulou has heard the master say that love is above everything: “Love cannot be destroyed. I believe in its victory.” Loulou loves how these lovers are inside, two walls behind them, moulding over their shoulders and no window anywhere to give entry to the skies. Invisible but still too big to be disguised.
when she misses me
we made it
A song like the ghost of a mill girl, a song heaving and sick
and pregnant, a song like my grandfather worked
many lifetimes simultaneously so I would never have to hear.
A song that took away everything. That night
they came down from the hills to Havana,
and some sexy black woman was singing this song
into the boozy faces of tourists
and because of the song they could taste Havana
on her, they could smoke her hair
and call her home for the night, tell everyone
that they could see themselves living on her forever.
A song to change your life to,
to change the tone-tune-tenor of your night,
Cuba has put her song in your American ears
and as it grows up in my garden I realize
it’s always playing, underneath all the other musics: this song
is my mantra, my calm lake, my Cuba.
At Starbucks they play Guantanamera whenever they want,
but that is not the song, that is not the brush with life
that enables authenticity—if for one night only—this is the song we die to.
Cubans can come back from the dead when this song is playing,
and dance with their lovers again, groping through gardens at night,
making my cows turn into pregnant teenagers—it’s the song—
MTV knocked them up, all of them stupid and sexy
mooing the fields, all big dark eyes and so shy
as they tell you it’s ok if you want to touch their swollen bellies.
Shake it up baby. The song plays to the trees
and the cows dance and we realize we’re all stuck in the mud,
some more than others. I’ve got short legs
and I’m udders-deep, but under the mud the song has spilled roots,
roots like apple trees, thick and tall into the dense Earth,
and each apple of my days has a single white worm
in her dark heart of brown seeds, eating, always eating…
Start at the center, and I too am rooted in the basket of the Earth,
for it is the only way I can keep mooing,
settle in and let go—so shake it up baby now—the cows get down,
and I am keeping my head above ground:
hair on fire.
I did cocaine once, in the middle of Idaho
my throat felt like afterbirth
the hotel’s swimming pool
then we took our clothes off in a fountain and the water was
spit-like, I thought the pennies could be barnacles against
my knees—I’m not very good at bending down
once I wanted to be someone
but then I just decided to waste my life
your skin was chlorine, vodka-spit
and I’m always fucking and my exoskeleton is fragile at best
we took a night train to Berlin
once you bought a butterfly knife
it made a spreadsheet on your thighs
I like to imagine my own death
soon I will pull out my teeth and will
you say my name?
Elaborations on notable crushes from my 7th grade diary: ♥♥♥ Bridget Talone
James Caan as Sonny Corleone
Sonny Corleone is an obvious choice for a crush. Sonny sometimes wore an undershirt and when he did you could see that he had great arms. He was often out of breath from fucking or from beating somebody up. He pinned a bridesmaid up against the wall for some quick standing sex at a family wedding, crushing her pink taffeta dress. He says “just a minute,” in a sort of sad, serious way, when someone knocks on the door and when he leaves she slides a little ways down the wall. When he’s shot to death on the Causeway, he opens his car door and falls out. His body lay there in crumpled heap, not unlike a dress.
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone
If Sonny Corleone’s appeal is obvious—athletic and superficial—his youngest brother Michael has more in common with the criminals Jean Genet writes of in the beginning of Our Lady of the Flowers. Genet says of the photos of men decorating his jail cell: “If I have nailed him to my wall, it was because, as I see it, he had the sacred sign of the monster at the corner of his mouth or at the angle of the eyelids.” I could see Genet liking Michael, with his broken cheekbone and they way it caused his nose to run. Genet would make a relic of the massive white handkerchief with which he dabbed at his nose. Michael’s broken cheekbone not only set his criminal life in motion, it fundamentally changed his relationship to women. He stopped being a citizen, a boyfriend. He went into hiding, a monster. All of his life, his motives and desires, seemed plunged into a dark room. With a monster’s patience, he waited to find women to bring into that dark with him. His eyes had adjusted to the room but that would never be true for anyone who would join him here.
John Cazale as Fredo Corleone
Fredo’s crime was weakness. For his weakness, he was sent to live in the desert in Nevada. He died out on the water, in the weakly lapping waves. Fredo dressed flashy, like a flower no one wanted. At nightclubs in Havana and Las Vegas, Fredo cultivated a voyeuristic relationship to sex that was superfluous to the act itself; that rendered him descriptive. In this way he was unlike his brothers, who, moved within the field of sex as though they were a part of it. When I interrogate my younger self for adding him to my crush list, it’s easy to ascribe it to a juvenile confusion and general thirst for all men. Sometimes men’s mere proximity to each other is attractive. Let Fredo come over. But, by that logic, I should’ve included Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, the adoptive brother of the Corleones. And I didn’t. (Why didn’t I? I hereby add Tom Hagen.) I talked to my sister about Fredo’s spot on this list and we briefly discussed the erotics of weakness. She proposed that what’s erotic is what happens to you as you make your way to that thing that seems smaller than you and agree to get down to its size somehow. It shows a penchant for complication, the knot in a thin fine chain you can’t work free. We know there’s death in fucking but some people keep it from you. They keep it from themselves, or they keep it for themselves and put you into some other relationship to it. With Fredo it would be different. He’s incapable of keeping anything at bay, and you both see it, see the little abysses opening up. I don’t think a person chooses Fredo knowing any of these things. I didn’t. But for me, choosing Fredo at all, even impulsively, predicted an almost hormonal attraction to description, to observation, a desire to grow eyes in the dark.
My quest for consideration began on a damp
bed. I knew from the smell of the room that it was
a Saturday. Sometimes you want a drink first. Other
times you find yourself crawling through it
all stone cold sober. You or I, it’s all the same.
Did I ever mention The Rolling Stones in a poem?
Exile on Main Street is a lovely record. One of us is
Mick Jagger to the other’s Marianne Faithfull. I mean,
it’s possible Mick has had his heart really broken once or twice,
but you’d never know it from the way he moves his hips.