Below is a sample of what you will see at the Poetry Brothel Pride Edition event on Sunday, June 22, 8:00pm-1:00am at The Back Room (102 Norfolk St, New York). As usual the doors open at 8pm and the festivities get under way at 9pm sharp. The show ends at midnight, while the private readings that Poetry Brothel has become famous for run into the wee hours of the morning.
MC, Co-Curator and guest reader for this event, Michael Klein, will join the Madame and Tennessee Pink in welcoming and introducing the night’s talent: Amy King, Angelo Nikolopoulos, Saeed Jones, Carina Finn, Tony Leuzzi, Connie Mae Oliver, and Rachel Herman-Gross. The night will also include burlesque performances from Foxx Von Tempt and Poppy Tart, as well as live music from the Hot Club of Flatbush, tarot readings and body painting. Buy tickets here.
Thank you to Stephanie Berger for curating this issue of Poetry Crush.
FAME IS NOT SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED by Amy King
I want to be where the smells are not industrial
when I lay my head on your lap for sleep
to overpower my knighted fantasies. Your internal organs
find me when I reach into your wet damp
and I know what heaven wishes it could be.
Eyes the color of sky and a heart as rabbitish as a soul
hopped up on how to coax the dark
from the hole it builds itself into.
It’s just that with all of the ways that I know you,
I want technology to tell me how else to know
what else else is and
what there is about you you haven’t revealed.
Give me a diagnosis, Godard or Djuna Barnes.
Jesus or the Seven Internet Sins.
Tell me about the ways to feel that haven’t
exposed themselves with nude release yet.
Crowd source my hive mind and be
a beautiful body-lessness. That’s the way the man
in the box deliberately disembodied his voice
to make me think against the grain of how
I’ve already thought you into the shape of thought.
In a spirit of formless hauntingness. That way,
I could have you in the fashion plastic fails:
by giving a shape that form fits me where I apply it.
A mirror of god molding me.
You are a cloud to impress, a tutu of genius light.
This disappeared, displaced light of night
is where armor claims
the most felt revolutions are intimate. I put you on.
I wear you skin deep. Waxy starlight,
in you I bear the translucent tales of film negatives.
IN AND OUT OF LOVE: “AMERICAN SONGBOOK” by Tony Leuzzi
Darn That Dream
Once, by the window of a small café, I stopped attempting to start a poem to watch you pass. In those few seconds I embroidered our life: sunny bungalow for two, gold dog, birch bed, matching parkas. Moments after you were gone I tumbled out of paradise, back to the cold rigors of a blank page. But tonight, in the balcony of an empty theatre, with a voice like dry wind through summer leaves, you whisper verses in my ear. On stage a man in a gown of green crinoline pulls one turtle after another from his big, black hat.
On the Street Where You Live
Sunday morning, Prospect Heights. On avenues of terraced brownstones, helicopters rain from ash in prodigal abundance. “Time,” I say on a step of your stoop, “is a dark curtain parting like hair from a pair of blue eyes.” “Soft,” you sigh, “is all but All to one who rolls through seasons like a wheel.” I kiss the white light of your neck; you pluck a seedpod from my shirt. Later, we should shop for hats in that weird boutique that smells like pine wax. But love, right now, as sure as shore larks in the eaves, let’s serenade life’s threshing floor with theories of recursive wind and the perishing of brick.
What is This Thing Called Love?
What is this tongue called passage? What is this wing called thought? In Nice is a coin called consciousness by which no dream is wholly remembered, in Vienna a river where truth is waltzed to collective nostalgia. Once, in Toledo, I hopped a train called accident wanting only to be whisked through gold blurs of wheat but was dragged instead past exposed pipe and acres of rust. What I would have done for a bird! Any bird, except that drab swallow landing on a block of cinder. What I would have done for a man to draw me in his arms and say, Take my heart, don’t throw it away, or some equally enchanting bosh, though there was only me asking the same old questions—What is this soup called story? What is this bead called faith?—and some tow-headed boy in back of the car strumming on a blue banjo without strings.
LAPSE by Carina Finn
Imagine that the lamp is a lady
wearing a dress
she can be any kind of lady
and underneath the dress
is a petticoat. How much
exposure is appropriate in a film
in which the light
grows pinker then shuts
blonde meandering puddles brass?
At this point we accept that panic
is a comfort-machine
make meaning of cooling
bodies going on with huge holes
Major American Museums.
Perhaps this hole clever fabrics
accruals, language limits
quivering in and out of a sad jazz
rep mortars full of humans with
hair that can’t be photographed,
terrified, miscreant, non-
The only thing missed after a long
drive west drippy mausoleums
carousel projects all dominant
unhappy then up from the roots
actual arches go archival it’s a
book like anything else can be
good to stick it in the ground wait
for another season.
CHAMBER MUSIC by Michael Klein
For some reason I’ll never know because you’re dead
and the answer is in the mind that floated above a classic face
you kissed me once, the way you’d kiss a girl
in front of a school.
I guess that summer burned some maleness out of me.
It wasn’t homosexual, really. I guess you needed
to acknowledge a look you took as beauty and the kiss
became a strangely punctuated thank-you: a time-frame.
Maybe it was an act about being in the street: dense
and loud with men mad at women; a late Saturday night – July
warm to the point nobody noticed. It didn’t matter. Along
with the kiss, I remember longer sections.
I remember drinking Hennessey and snorting speed on rooftops
signaling like the grey antenna all joy
into baffling space. I remember trying hard
not to be in love with you because you were straight
and probably needed to deliver life with a woman
into this city. It didn’t matter.
We ended night with each other anyway.
They turned like bruises into rivers of
darkness and I felt them themed with avoiding the kiss
you gave me the last time I saw you alive.
I remember its mango taste. And when I heard you were gone
I wanted more – the way we always do when life
seems to give up nothing but the next mindless death.
I wanted my hands on your back again: the long massage
in Marilyn Monroe’s old dressing room
where you lived off Central Park.
All comatose spring I was salvaged
by those hands on you and not by the hands of a steady lover
pulling me off bar stool after bar stool like a shirt
tangled in too much laundry. It doesn’t matter now.
When I heard from a fellow actor that yours was a motorcycle
spun wrong in Los Angeles, it was like hearing
news coming out of a radio that’s
too immediate to ever rationalize, the way I heard
Guyana and John Lennon – the sound of life
suddenly lowered in volume and the reception pulled away.
It felt like I was watching something freeze. And this awful
need arose to change the order of my life.
I think that I’ve had enough. But today,
it feels like we had as much as we were ever going to get
and I stopped drinking
and you’re dead from a loud, exterior fire.
And as I heard it crackle, mixed in with idle gossip
too many years later and after a night of no sleep
I couldn’t imagine you faltering on the approach
to that city without giving the world at least some laughter
miserably counterpointing a tenuous grip
on a burning motorcycle handle. And of course, I see you
more human now.
Human to the umpteenth power.
Human brought back
to a form that will not burn so finally, as
chamber music played loud
pours without rage, from a school.
SOME KIND OF ILLNESS by Connie Mae Oliver
A name that begins with J. I’m on the A train wedged in the bench. Crying and the ladies are all—what’s wrong, Spanish girl? What he do to you? Are you from Afghanistan?
My priest says I’ve got the shakes. He wakes me up to ask if I’m all right. Yes, why? Well you’re shaking. Some kind of illness I don’t really know. Papers fly around dirtily, to say it’s this or it’s that.
Emails are falling from the sky—I don’t want to answer them, roomfuls of dinner.
Cat regrets entering bathtub. Baby laughs at dog. Dog talks, dog says, “I love you” when prompted.
There are many ways to make a name. You can make so many names:
to complete their passages; at a trespass they
are met by children–
—I shall not draw a horse for you!
I shall not!
Their horses are mechanistic and
they ask it both ways—break
the horse and start over.
The very idea
of an eternal
world comes from numbers
to the senses
but rather to the illiterate
intellect of such
hypothetical sympathies— the end!
With hypothetical sympathy comes the end
of reading, it comes on horseback and is Napoleonic,
absent of artifice, you struggle
with your plotted questions
to understand Napoleon, whom the
children describe as a gardener
on a small island for the
rest of his life. Was he sad
or ashamed or anything?
No, they respond, he grew
squash and zucchini and tilled
the soil with a little rake,
like this! So I imagine you without fruits
in your stable, too, the way you tested the weight
of air. The way you said, “da club” to me, and
the way you said, “Aren’t you sleepy, now?”
You clenched the little red straw
in the corner of your mouth, “Aren’t you sleepy?”