Tag Archives: Rena Mosteirin

Poetry Crush Valentine 2016, vol. 2

12 Feb

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

 

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♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci

 

 

There’s No One On This Road But Us and the Night ♥♥♥ Rena Mosteirin

1
“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.

2
“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.

3
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.

 

 

BROMANCE  ♥♥♥ Timothy Liu 

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
mythical pursuits—well-oiled

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 ♥♥♥ Amy Lawless

 

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

 

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♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

< 3  ♥♥♥  Sampson Starkweather

Your love
the thickest spliff
let’s get
lifted
into this
Bliss’s slow
insurgence
A season
or war
In bloom
And you

 

Blizzard in Berlin ♥♥♥ Maria Garcia Teutsch

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.

You
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
above Ku’damm
for all to see, and I let you in—

no longer afraid of the darkness
within, and say the word
you wanna hear–

 

 

 

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♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci

 

 

 

From:  I Lob You ♥♥♥ J. Hope Stein

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.

 

 

 

Imminent Reprisal ♥♥♥ Paige Taggart

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

 

 

 

Les Amants ♥♥♥  Kathleen Rooney

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.

 

♥♥♥ poem by Anchia Kinard

when she misses me
the tears
only come
after teeth
after nails

grip-gasp
we made it
so good
handprints
painted on
the walls

 

Smoke From My Hair ♥♥♥ Rena J. Mosteirin

1

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.
2

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.

 

3

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.

 

 

Clarion Hotel  ♥♥♥ Brynne Rebele-Henry

I did cocaine once, in the middle of Idaho
my throat felt like afterbirth
the hotel’s swimming pool
thighs/bruise/thrash/your hands/too-long-nails
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
I’m sorry
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

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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.

 

24072al-pacino-postersAl 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

tumblr_inline_nurx19lNOI1ryh1c8_400Fredo’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.

 

 

 

Quest for Consideration ♥♥♥  Todd Colby & Joanna Penn Cooper

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.

 

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♥♥♥ Illustration by Kate Micucci

 

Poetry Crush: Everyday is Valentine’s (Vol.I)

9 Feb

cake

Scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock:  “To Saint Valentine!”
An honor to valentine with first-rate hearts-of-cake:  Shane McCrae, Hannah Gamble, Paige Taggart, Amy Lawless, Todd Colby, Joanna Penn Cooper, Douglas Piccinnini, Jared White, Melissa Broder, Rauan Klassnik, Rena Mosteirin, Lee Ann Roripaugh & J. Hope Stein (me, duh).
MOST OFTEN NEIGHBOR

Most often neighbor as you       most if neighbor means you only

Most often you most often spring pink      suns the trees the cherry now

Most often neighbor to the blue immediate blue sky

And none of the rain in the sky although rain

strips the pink light from the branches

As neighbors do although rain claims the branches into blossom

As neighbors do as you

have claimed me into life most often neighbor // The pink trees neighbor

to the blue sky not for      being pink / For being

from red the same distance      the sky is from the blue it is

As I with you from any man as you from any woman

Shane McCrae

 

THE LITERARY MAN

At the end of his life he still had many
devotees, and for that, he was grateful.

Several devotees lined the window seats
of his bedroom, many of them
with his books in hand.

Most important to him, however,
was that he still was an erotic fixture
in the lives of women,

so several of them sat facing his bed,
vaginas glistening atop literal cushions.

Hannah Gamble

 

NEGLECT EMOTIONALLY

The next morning I noticed that he had this weird foreign object in his chest—but he wasn’t bleeding. It was almost like a tattoo. Babe what the….is that? We stood in the mirror of his bathroom not noticing. Big like a car part, I couldn’t believe it didn’t make him double over in pain as it moved its way up to his forehead. We weren’t on acid. I looked into his eyes and he looked into my eyes and we smiled a lot and ate takeout in bed. Did the delivery guy see your forehead? He just laughed, slapped my ass, and we ate chorizo burritos. I then felt immediately embarrassed. I keep soy milk in my fridge for when he comes over despite its disgusting aftertaste. I learned to really look at the people. Now if he isn’t in front of me or touching me, I ache throughout my whole body and the physical pain only increases over course of the day. So our bodies in their primitive states moved into a single body absent of worldly pain.

Amy Lawless

LEGENDS IN SEXPLOITATION

I’ve half-a-heart to kneel in the centerfold of every love magazine
To be in a billowing ball gown, would be, to dust the pony off and retire for fair-trade My spirit can’t be outsourced; it is inspiration from the centerfolds of every love issue! It is high and mighty like the spirit-clause you just signed
I’ve prospered from affairs on the high-angle with legendary jewels and redingotes
I horse backed along the boardwalk and later performed oral sex
I was accomplished, so shoot me!
I was skilled, so kill me!
I was adorned, so need me!
Properly keel over afterwards
I’ll dispose of your body into the trifecta of human duality
How we provoke and onward shift amicably
I’ve got pains for the hype, it sucker punches me into corners so unpleasant
Here we are, just the two of us, forever shunned to a hard earned maintenance
So kill me why don’tchya

Paige Taggart

OCCASIONALLY, I REMOVE YOUR BRAIN THROUGH YOUR NOSE

Sure, I’ve thought about fucking you in my desk chair, silently not to disturb the neatness of your yellow summer shorts. Silently not to disturb our colleagues in surrounding cubicles. You putting small paperclips in my hair, your hands suggesting the rocking of my skull. Me straddling your lap, your bare ass in my desk chair shapes, suctioning into each other— We would continue to make the sounds of good business. A conference call with Coca-Cola, an email to Citibank, a spreadsheet of year-over-year gross profits. Me elevated in your lap, my face clearing just over the cubicle partition just visible enough across the office, my expression dismembered like a poet who’s fallen out of favor with her king.

J. Hope Stein

 

TONIGHT

Tonight I’m going to shake your hand into butter,
curve around you until you’re gel,
climb the soft pieces of you with spikes,
insert a vibrating dial, and conjure you
into living goop. I will slip my hand
under your belt; and lose a wisdom tooth,
make a necklace of it, and hang it around
your neck. My gift of light will shimmer
on your smooth throat, and all the institutes of longing
will permeate the landscape with medicinal
cloud formations that disperse calming
solutions of tingle water and kink spray.
I will secrete a secret mud that enhances
your ability to thrust your hips into mine
on a bed that is damp and purple.
You are so smooth that when you get up,
you leave behind an impression
of our Lord and Savior.

Todd Colby

“LITTLE” “BEAR” for R.E.H.P.

I’ve said so cover’d and un
“the fruit is real”
the something as much

retain me

who is there
that I shake out a name

a system like the sun
is as arable

so I grow incurably so

entre amigos

woods? si, woods
spring the lock
in that I so nilled
semi-anonymous
like wilted mint
in public revived
I will

Douglas Piccinnini

THE GIANTS

In the light that should be out already, Lulu is making
You forget what it means to be a girl
And when she puts her bobbing face close to yours
And when she kisses you it is a poet’s kiss
That puts things into you I have put already
As Peer flosses his teeth for hours until they sparkle
With the knowledge of growing up amongst poets
And the precision fucking that is demanded by hotel life
About which all I want to convey is the smell
I never really learned the language another language uses
To describe this I want to tell you about my childhood
Which was many missed opportunities for me to help carry
The bag so big and the flesh so slack and thin
The normals ate who were enormous, ponderous and beautiful
And I was staring straight through to the ass bone and the ribs
And remarkably they had ceased for a moment to rot
And in the cloud cover glow of that luminescence
You could see all of the stains on my teeth with black light
You could see what I would look like when I get old
And it was not so bad really only a lot older looking
And more courageous and less fuckable but still in the same hotel
Because there never was an explosion the terrorists failed
To outwit the geologists after all that underneath the sand
The rock is porous and gravel will always be useful

Jared White

DO YOU SMELL SMOKE?

Apply this soothing gel made from roots and branches
to your forearms when you jump up warrior style
and run fist-first to the kitchen in your sleep.
I’ll buy you almond croissants.  I’ll hum to you
with my pretty good pitch.  You are falling asleep
and chuckling sweetly to yourself when you think of me;
I am taking photos of you sleeping and posting them online.
I know you don’t mind, so I break into your house
while you’re out and teach myself the bass.  Don’t worry
about that smoke smell, it’s my gentleness you’re loving.

Joanna Penn Cooper

DAZE BONES

Notgod set me on fire and was like good luck
I think the shirt you wear is ultimate
When it turns red nothing can walk soft
Maybe birth me up on your fingers
You taste like notsober alcoholics
Various breeds of errors and the way I feel you
No human power no human power
I cannot go there with you and I cried
The other life I was so nauseous
You didn’t know I almost threw up
What if I threw up on your tongue?
When I put you in my mouth I got better
Forgive every body its mouth
I talk like I am sister heaven
I am really sister darkness
I am both at once and you are also
You didn’t know you were an echo
In the dust I’ll kill you up
I think you learn by unbeing
Like first you die and then go oh

Melissa Broder

& I CAN HEAR YOU PURR

An old fat nymphomaniac who just can’t cum no matter how much she gasps, & wheezes, and rattles, & drips, filthy & black, all over yr fingers, neck & face, till finally you lift her, like a bird in yr fist. [ I wake up and a Meth-Head’s trying to sneak off with my Ipod, my house and my words. It’s Ron Silliman & his face’s ruined. “Kill the rat!” my wife explodes. Like a mushroom ] & twist her head off. Her eyes (so sweet & so tender) in yr left hand, ask so innocently—O, how did this all go so wrong?—while her body, in yr fist, continues to beat.

Rauan Klassnik

IF YOU HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE

make sure it is on their birthday
so they can follow the story
of the awful thing you did or said
with “…and on my birthday???”

You’ll be giving them
the gift of others’ supercharged
sympathies which is also,
unfortunately, high-voltage hatred

directed at you.
But you probably already
had that coming, didn’t you,
you self-hating, off-putting poet?

Hannah Gamble

tsunami in love: kintsukuroi / golden joinery

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. – Barbara Bloom

safe is just another empty signifier
when she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

triggering tsunami a sparkly blue shooter
pinging the splintered mib
of the fractured nuclear reactor core

this is what playing for keeps means
this broken imperfection / these cracked
masks / this crazed helplessness

this is what no going back means
no taking back the feral chipped singing
gouging open her fault lines and wounds

aggrandizing them with molten gold
blood veins of cinnabar alchemizing
to mercury like smelt silvering the shore

safe is just another empty signifier
because she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

until after months in pieces she lets you
hold and rock her in these postures of repair
(and when she spills you do not drown

and when she rages in her radioactive
expansion cloud chamber you become
that slim umbilical tethering the astronaut

seaweed that fetters rafts of sea otters)
buttery lamp light by the side of the bed
gilding together what’s broken no more

Lee Ann Roripaugh

MY DEAR ISHMAEL

As most young pains
whaling their voyage
a fine, boisterous something about everything

her great original—the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where the first dead American
whale was stranded. Those aboriginal whalemen
give chase to the Leviathan?

imported cobble-stones
risk a harpoon
a night, a day
my destined port, a very dark and dismal night
cheerless with anxious grapnels
pieces of silver—myself

gloom towards the north
darkness towards the south—
my dear Ishmael

My Dear Ish

Rena Mosteirin

Poetry Crush: Celebrity Crush

3 Oct

My definition of “crush” in this special issue of Poetry Crush is loose:  To show an interest or fixation (good or bad) in someone that is disproportionate to the reality of the situation.  Celebrities are the highest incarnation of this phenomenon– where you don’t know this person, it makes no sense that you would spend time thinking about them, they have no direct impact on your life.  Yet, something about their existence is penetrating into the way you experience the world.  As poets, we process celebrity culture in different ways — some of us ignore it entirely, some of us challenge it, some of us find inspiration or infatuation.  Personally, the crushes of my life are accurate mirrors of my growth in the time period in which I was crushing.  And in that sense, crushes can be quite altering, almost acting as little portals to past, present and future versions of yourself.  (The answer to time travel is in your loins).  If you want to see your future, follow your crush.  In this special issue of Poetry Crush, I asked a bunch of poets I have crushes on to talk about their celebrity crushes and thereby give a glimpse of how they process celebrity culture.   — J Hope Stein.

Kristy Bowen on James Franco

from I*HATE*YOU*JAMES*FRANCO
8 out of 10 of my friends think you are a douche, James
Franco. Okay, I haven’t polled them, but it seems to be
a consensus. I pegged you immediately as yet another
sleepy-eyed, pouty pretty boy. Apparently you played
Ginsberg, but this seems very wrong. What I know of
the Beats is a lot of women in black turtlenecks getting
ignored while the men got drunk and high and semifamous
while their writing wasn’t all that great. I hate
to say it, but you don’t seem at all Jewish enough to play
Ginsberg. I am more a Ryan Gosling sort of girl, anyway.
Though sometimes I hate him too for that movie with
the redhead and that scene in the rain and the furious
kissing. That movie reminds me of something someone
told me once that even the best instances of love working
out usually end in death or disease one way or the other.
This makes me feel a little like I can’t breathe. 2 out of 5
people would want Meg Ryan to play them in the movie
about their life. I haven’t taken a poll, but it pretty much
seems to be true.
 

Joanna Penn Cooper & J. Hope Stein on Cyndi Lauper

There’s a lady here who stomps down the hallway like a mofo.  My God, she’s a loud walker. And not a large person.  And when she talks, she over-enunciates words, like “col-oss-al” and “ped-i-gree.”    She’s lodged there in my brain.   I came here to learn to breathe and write poems that have the formal quality of a river and all I hear is “col-oss-al, col-oss-al.”  I’m doomed.   At dinner, I sit always by the window— always with a view of the river, so I can take in its circadian rhythm.  So that I can link its rhythm to mine.  The river doesn’t especially welcome this, but it isn’t unwelcome either.  At night by the bonfire, I try the same thing, I impersonate the flame.   And the others come huddle around me, sit on a log bench and talk about the job market.  I don’t say anything:  I just act like a flame and do my best to seem like I am burning as the radio plays.  After about 20 minutes of this, the song  “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper comes on the radio and I’m suddenly glad for Lauper, glad for this human company that moves with the play of flame.  And finally I say something:  “You know, Lauper never asked for anyone’s permission.  She didn’t wait for a response on a job application. My god, she dyed her hair flame-red and put on the greatest party dress of all time.  She didn’t ask anyone’s permission for any of it.”  The others look up, still huddled around me with sticks, ready to roast marshmallows.

Noah Falck on Bill Murray

CELEBRITY DREAM POEM

BILL MURRAY

At dusk, dogs spring loose
with freight train adrenalin.

They disappear down an alley
where my brothers huddle beneath

a cold rain, their faces the unlit chandeliers
of a 5-star hotel. They wait until

all of Chicago dies in the golf course of
my eyes, in the golf course of my heart.

Leah Umansky on Don Draper 

Don Dreams and I Dream

So, Don dreamt he was an angel. It’s sweet. I’ve dreamt about motherhood. [So what?] Now, it feels all downtrodden. I wish I knew the crested. I wish I knew what made the light twitch; what brings the light to the moon so I can carry it inside, and know there is glory in the in-between. That there is something here to be sought or sought-after. Something to be stared -down-beautiful.

I dreamt I was an angel. When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. I bring golden cornhusks, green apples and dung.
 

I want to dream an idea that is birthed through a carnival’s sawdust floor. I want to dream you and let you ride into the night –all shaky-hinges and crated -screams—I want you to ferris to me. Oblige to gravity. I want your fall to be planned.

*

[Do you even want that kind of attention ?]

[I want the aftermath. That germinating. ]

[I won’t let go of this.]

[I won’t let you.]

Sasha Fletcher on the Presidents

bedtime stories

Once upon a time there was a man named Franklin Pierce
and he had a really great haircut. One day
he was elected president of the Unites States
and then promptly lost his oldest son, his wife, his Vice-President,
the rest of his children, his nomination for re-election
and his lunch money. After that he buried himself
inside a bottle of gin while vultures
fed on the remains of everything he ever lost,
as was the custom of the time. It is said that William Howard Taft
dined on vultures using his keen legal mind
and custom silverware while an enormous bathtub
was constructed around him. People would come
from miles around and he’d give them his teeth
and this is how souvenirs got invented. One day
a man named Franklin Delano Roosevelt woke up
to find several birds in his chest that soon
ate their way down to his legs where they live to this day.
He spent most of his life keeping a blanket over those legs
because birds like to sleep when it’s dark. He’d tell them stories
about how William Howard Taft ate vultures
and how a man named Andrew Jackson ate bald eagles
which lived in hickory trees and that is why
they called him Old Hickory and also why
depending on what you have heard
there are no more bald eagles.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt hoped
these stories would scare the birds into going away
but the thing about birds is that they don’t speak English
or respond well to threats. When I tell you this
I will be smiling, because your life is a shining example
of all the things I have never done, and if I could
I would replace everyone’s face with yours so that every day
my heart would just break wide open and my head would catch on fire
and I could, for that moment, be surrounded by your love
right before my head explodes in a miraculous tribute
to this great nation, and we wake up in the morning
and do it all over again, but different, and better,
with a car crash, a shipwreck, a few rigged elections,
and a truly spectacular excuse for a dinner party,
with the sort of twist ending that just sends you staggering out
cold and wild, into the night
just waiting for destiny
to manifest itself all over your broken, anxious face.

Monica McClure on Lindsay Lohan

Lilo Spotting

How it must have hurt to hear your frenemies giggling in the background
when you were spotted as a fire crotch
 
Cocaine was at the scene
when you were spotted with trashy parents
 
You probably do get dehydrated
when you’re spotted asking Al Gore to help clean up your image
 
When you told Oprah you weren’t a party girl
you were spotted falling head first into a car
 
Cocaine was at the scene
when your dad spelled your name L-I-N-D-S-A-Y in a press release
 
Your hairless vagina was spotted as a baby rat
when you were spotted stealing a woman’s fur coat at 1Oak
 
At Dragonfly you were spotted
when you were spotted leaving Teddy’s with Steve-O
 
When Samantha Ronson changed the locks on her door
you were spotted violating your parole
 
Get revenge on your frenemies turned all out enemies!
Spot them in court with profane messages painted on their fingernails
 
A hollow person was spotted wearing an ankle bracelet
But it wasn’t you
 
$500k in jewels was spotted missing from an Elle photoshoot
when a curb in Beverly Hills was being struck
 
Cocaine was at the scene
when Michael was reading How To Be A Man For Dummies at your suggestion
 
Frenemies were driving with suspended licenses
when the sun came up at Promises
 
Spotted leaving Leonardo Di Caprio’s house
you discovered you had another life somewhere else
 
But the case was dismissed a month later
when you were spotted owing money
 

 

 

Amy Lawless on Mariah Carey 

The Speed of Sound

dolphins have been granted
personhood
and yet mariah carey’s
web site is still just
a vehicle for
consumers
to see what her body
has been up to lately
dolphins have consciousness
and we know that dolphins obviously mostly only talk
using their complex language
about doing it
in new, creative ways
positions we as humans have not yet imagined
dolphins have been acknowledged
as persons
by the government of India
it’s really just so some
government can regulate their awesome sex lives
& how humans must play nice
i came across an amazing piece of prose
last week that discusses how
entities always try to control
the basest acts of humans
(the government obviously)
but it’s about religion too
humanity’s crassest and basest desires
these entities keep us from fucking on the sidewalks
keep fleabag hotels in business
and prevent people from pulling each other’s necks back
to sniff the sex off each other’s ears
or slurping down his heart when we’re in bed
or then from tearing each other’s heads off with our bare hands
… moments after holding hands
desire is held
in a large and growing vase
the vase might be your government
religion is your clothing
and then there are
the quieter rules
your community
your workplace
friend group
that control who you have sex with
or what you wear
who you associate with
who you’re supposed to desire
there are books that tell you what to want
and who your desires should resemble
the years during which to find them, want them, and how
well, what if you’re still dolphin shaped
what’s to be done
who does the shunning
we like to believe there is
a right and a wrong and a that-which-ekes-by-as-barely-acceptable
“Who controls humans?” I googled
and I got a list of web sites about population control
and some country that offers voluntary sterilization
and great, there’s a black hole in the ocean to worry about too
we don’t know shit about the ocean
not the tiniest little turd about the ocean
it’s almost freeing to know this
we won’t be sucked toward the maelstrom
no matter how broke we are
we must fight recklessly
but by listening to mariah carey
it’s so easy to be sucked down
into the maelstrom

two dolphins swim into a café
dolphin 1: ‘sup
dolphin 2: (tucks chin to chest, coy)
dolphin 1: wanna ___________?

fall into the maelstrom
of two dolphins in conversation
one wearing a beret, obviously
in oceans that one can’t control
The maelstrom can be anything
a brick wall with painted ivy
keeping you alive
with the hope
that there is something that keeps you living
like that sickly girl
who let that painted ivy keep her fighting through the night
because she thought it was real
she reached for it
sometimes during yoga
they say reach for both walls
as if that were possible
and yet
i try with my arms
i try
i come closer than I did today
(which I spent spooning my laptop)
i wonder if mariah carey
wonders if she might speak to the dolphins
and because she believes it, maybe she can
i have never been much of a mariah carey fan
her belief in love
is metaphysical
it exits her body
in a physical form
that has an impact
and my belief in love is lazy, pessimistic, and american
and despite the haters
mariah believes she can touch both walls and
& in its naiveté
is touching both walls with her mindhands

Two dolphins swim into a bar
dolphin 1: did you hear that?
dolphin 2: yeah, sounded like another human giving a monologue about love
dolphin 1: yeah, but more than that. it was like she was singing to me.

the only way
to do anything
is to touch
both walls

 

Lauren Gordon on Britney Spears 

Your Fear Is a Charcoal Briquette of Psyche

but also an upturned duck in manky water, spit curled bottom bobbing three seconds longer than it should, its flat bill devoid of breath. Your fear is your daughter’s lost shoe, now on the other side of the river, touched by a thoughtful or annoyed hand that moved it from the foot path to the lamp post in an un-ironic way.  Your fear made you hustle past a limp man in yellow Nikes sinking to the concrete like a prostrate angel only to spark a cigarette, his umbrella at his side under devilish sun, like portent.  Your fear is keen and musical.  Your fear sounds like a song by Britney Spears; all hips and sweat, was photographed barefoot at a gas station.  Once your fear was a two piece and the body in it, blustering along the lip of a swimming pool, toes clenched tellingly.  Admittedly, your fear still is.  Occasionally your fear is a skeleton army, how their bones knit together after being struck with a mace of your own making because this means you are never alone under your skin.  Your fear is a hallway with three closed doors and that is all you want to say about that.  Your fear has you straining to thunder, the thump of that child’s legs against her crib mattress overhead because your fear sounds like the static drone of a window unit taking its last heave.  Even statues can suffer, and your fear recognizes its own reflection in stoicism, granite, and bird shit.  Your fear looks a lot like Peter Pan, green tights and fringe; his own fear a dark plasma stain unraveling and dancing alone, held by thread.  A long time ago your fear was a tooth wiggling against your tongue, an archaic itch deep in your gum, the iron gush on the floor mat of your throat; now your fear is just a pencil, a white sheaf, pulp.

Rena Mosteirin on Kurt Cobain

High School Crush(es)

Listening to Tori Amos cover “Smells Like Teen Spirit” under the covers, on my Discman, crying and slightly stoned, I knew I wanted to do what Tori was doing. That was high school and everything felt so authentic and meaningful and I wanted to be able to take something meaningful apart and give it new meaning. (Even when I had to chew the words.) Nirvana colonized my dreams and then Tori Amos broke down those scary repetitions, panting and playing piano and exposing just so how heartbreaking the whole thing was. Oh high school…Taking song lyrics and re-arranging them as pantoums—a form I am obsessed with, as evidenced by their frequent occurrences on my poetry blog—feels like I am “covering” these songs. For this project I took each song from Nevermind and re-worked it into pantoum form. Re-writing them this way helped me develop a different relationship with the work. Here’s an example:

Sloppy Lips

(“Drain You”)

One baby to another says I’m lucky to have met you
I don’t care what you think unless it is about me
It is now my duty to completely drain you
I travel through a tube and end up in your infection
 
I don’t care what you think unless it is about me
Chew your meat for you/ Pass it back and forth
I travel through a tube and end up in your infection
In a passionate kiss/ From my mouth to yours
 
Chew your meat for you/ Pass it back and forth
With eyes so dilated I’ve become your pupil
In a passionate kiss/ From my mouth to yours
You’ve taught me everything about a poison apple
 
With eyes so dilated I’ve become your pupil
The water is so yellow
You’ve taught me everything about a poison apple
I’m a healthy student/ Indebted and so grateful
 
The water is so yellow
Vacuum out the fluids/ Sloppy lips to lips
I’m a healthy student/ Indebted and so grateful
You’re my vitamins/ I like you
 
One baby to another says I’m lucky to have met you
It is now my duty to completely drain you

Joanna Penn Cooper on Various Celebrities

Charlotte Rampling Is My Life Force

Or Neil Young.  Neil Young is actually my life force.  Marianne Faithfull is my id.  Or Marianne Faithfull is my celebrity guardian angel.  Think of her on your shoulder, talking to you in that voice all day.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is my other celebrity guardian angel.  Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter is my ego.  Allen Ginsberg is my superego.  My superego, Allen Ginsberg, tells me to take things more seriously and also to lighten up.  So I pray every day at an altar to that woman from Dancing with the Stars.  The blonde one.  And why not?  “If you have prayed at an altar to that woman from Dancing with the Stars, you have done it for me.”  That’s in the Bible.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

It will desecrate my pure and true love for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar if I say too much about it.  I’ve said too much already.  You may think of me less as a triathlete and more as a person who has made up to five mistakes in her life.  You may ask me, “Do you have a sports hero?” And I will say, “No.”  But I will be thinking about goggles and earnest eyes and—oh, what movie was he in?—and then I will think of Stewart Copeland.  Han Solo.  Steve Martin in The Jerk.  Everything I ate in the last twenty-four hours, brand names and all.  How I ate some grape tomatoes with a funny name.  Something something farm.  Glee Farm.  No, that’s the name of Todd Colby’s blog.  No.  Don’t let’s give voice to it.

Brandon Brown on Amanda Bynes

UGLY

I’m reading this whole Amanda Bynes
debacle as a philosopher facing a crisis
of reception.  Nose-jobbed Socrates
who also reaped marketplace hate,
and we make her drink hemlock too.
When Amanda Bynes calls everybody ugly,
she doesn’t mean they have asymmetrical faces.
She’s having a vision of the soul she yearns
to name.  Our culture rejoices in her
crisis precisely to avoid hearkening to what
stakes she raises in that river of tweets.

Schadenfreude is so sinister.
The word makes me think of Steve Jobs
toasting aged Dom to Foxconn suicides,
watching security footage with his little
boner.  Amanda’s concern is beauty
and she is willing to sing it
though she extricates herself from future
film roles like a gangrenous tooth.
Count me out of this inverted envy
regime happy by her auto-demolition.
I’m trying to stay pretty.  Prettier than that.

I did see a skateboarder eat shit on
Telegraph and smiled after.  Vestigial
adolescent jealousy reappearing as smug
superiority.  It was so thoughtlessly
ugly.  No crown but one covered in earth.
No glitter without a slave to shave
long swaths of sparkling base.  It’s so
ugly.  Listen to Amanda Bynes.
She is trying to help us.

Maria Teutsch on John Coltrane

Sex with Coltrane

Are the children opening mouths like hungry saxophones
Clamoring for bread from my bread music?

This exhale of ours bellows in and out
And does not look like a wind instrument

Must be a fool’s hat collecting coins
Never earned by my frail mouth, not like Coltrane.

We never slept in the same bed
Coltrane and I: in the same bed I’d fumble.

Yet you wind inside of me and I become your instrument
Now the breasts on my lips

Soft like the rolls I’d bake
When I finally clamored myself to you

Earning that key no door will unlock
I wake to find you steamed against me, Coltrane.

Gili Malinsky on Christoph Waltz

A Glorious Bastard

Fateful Sunday in June
Under full-figured moon
Powered up my computer
‘Twas to iTunes I tuned

To a film about Basterds
About murder and gore…
Soon my heart was defeated!
SS Hans won the war!

With his “Pas si mauvais”
And his strudel au lait
His Ital masquerade
Charming medals and gray

What the fuck, Christoph Waltz?
I said somewhat loud
Sitting cross-armed in bed
Mouth agape, furrowed brows

How could your beautiful face so perplex me?!
Never a solid attraction so vexed me.

Cuz wanting an SS man
Reader, it’s true
Was deeply confusing
For this little Jew

J. Hope Stein on Poets & Podcasting

To me, just sitting around for hours talking about movies is the great luxury of my life.  There’s nothing more fun to me than going to the movies then talking about the movie for hours into the night until it’s all talked out and just hangs in the air.  Shit-Talking with Joe & Cheryl is a podcast in which the two most delightful people you could ever encounter talk about movies.    In each episode, we join poets Joe Hall & Cheryl Quimba who have just seen a somewhat buzzed-about movie together –The Great Gatsby, Before Midnight, One Direction: this is Us (3D), Zero Dark Thirty….  & There’s an immediacy to it -sometimes the podcast starts in the car on the way back from the theater, sometimes it’s in their kitchen and Joe will stop to point out that one ant is carrying another ant across their apartment floor, sometimes Cheryl will let on that they had a fight before the film… or just when Joe seems like he just wants to say that One Direction sucks, Cheryl will pull him back in by appealing to their greater shared nature of exploration.  Joe & Cheryl never talk about the film amongst themselves (like 2 jurors) until the podcast officially starts, so there’s a live tension that is created by these two beings and this film- they each have an individual relationship to the film they just witnessed and then there is the relationship they have with each other– and that is played out until there is nothing left to say.   Joe & Cheryl approach each film like an understanding friend – with an openness to accept choices they don’t agree with.  And in that willingness, what they are really doing is accepting a society going through some awkward phases.     This  is my favorite poetry podcast.  And one of my favorite podcasts in general.   There’s no institution or hipster scene behind this podcast – these are just two humans trying to be open to the world in which they find themselves living.

Triple Book Crush: Jenny Zhang, Rena Mosteirin, Christine Hamm

14 Jul

Forgive my extreme turtleness!  It has taken me too-too long to get these reviews up & out of my shell–  & apologies to those authors who have given me their books who I have yet to review.  Within the area of book review, I struggle with what I could possibly add to the discussion– poetry book reviews seem quite intelligently covered & I have no intelligence other than emotional.   So reviews on Poetry Crush will basically ask the question – did this poet make me feel anything?  – j. hope stein

Dear Jenny, We Are All Find by Jenny Zhang (Octopus Books) 

There is such energy in Jenny Zhang’s debut, DEAR JENNY, WE ARE ALL FIND – from start to finish it just goes.  There is just no containing such energy.   From the first poem titled, “Relish this moment.  Hope it will comfort on this raining day” — to the last poem titled “My mother leaves a message where she pronounces all Romance languages in a deep voice” –- which ends with this line – “I nearly faint from the love I nearly was capable of.”

The book itself is confessional in nature with a very intimately personal feel, as the title would suggest.   Jenny Zhang was born in Shanghai and raised in New York and so there is much about embracement and dislocation of family and culture (also very much in the title).  The book is arranged in 3 sections — “Motherlands,” “New York” and “La France” –Which suggests our environment brings out certain aspects of our inner monologue and experience– Jenny expresses this through a shift in language and storytelling in the poems.  There is also much to be admired in the language (again, reflected in the nifty title.) – there is craft in these poems and word play, but it feels natural and effortless—doesn’t call attention to itself.  There is rhythm and breath and passion, but she never lets poetics get in the way of the poem, which spills onto the page– Jenny feels private and necessary.

This is all very wonderful. But for me personally what is so profound about “DEAR JENNY” is how she handles the profane.  Where there is profanity there is nudity in the realest sense of the word. Jenny Zhang is an exciting and refreshingly honest new voice in American poetry. Dear Jenny, thank you for writing this poem, it is quite moving:

COMEFARTS
 
I show you my virtue when I come farting
and fiscal responsibility has the same verdure as some ventures
you play like a donkey with six legs
each leg clasped to a tree
and we drag a forest through the forest finally
you are farting
compare the time I shat my pants at the library
because I could not be bothered to stop reading
I was wet from the non-solids I excreted
I was wet from the rain that followed me into caves
I was wet because I was wet
I was wet and you asked to touch it
I was wet and you didn’t notice it on your leg
I was wet and I sat on fine china
I was wet and I was born in China
I was wet and a horse kicked me in the face
I was wet and in my dreams I was wet
I was wet and asked a stranger to jerk off onto my face
I was wet and I hurt my back trying to reach
I was wet and I farted dead sperm from a butthole that doesn’t want to poop
Except in libraries
Except in bus shelters
Except on my neighbor’s lawn
Except in rooms where everyone is standing
Except in underwater with my grandmother
whose nipples I found when rubbing her stomach
“You must know everything!”
I comefart in secret and feel truly
as if I do.
 
 

Nick Trail’s Thumb:  A novella by Rena J. Mosteirin (Kore Press)

“Nick Trail is explaining how to make jailhouse acid to the boys who wash dishes in the back of the steakhouse.  Talking loudly, he waves his right hand in the air for emphasis—four fingers and a stump where the thumb once was.”

This is the first line of Rena Mosteirin’s novella Nick Trail’s Thumb described by Lydia Davis as “A fresh and engaging story….With its unusual setting, interesting form, arresting specifics, captivating insights, strong dialogue, and rhythmic prose.”

The backdrop of Nick Trail’s Thumb is Hawaii and like Alexander Payne’s The Descendants,  the impossible beauty of the island combined with tragedy make for some colorful irony.  The story follows a group of 20-somethings friends who are backroom staff at a steakhouse.  You get the sense, as in life, some of these characters will move on and be alright- for instance, our narrator, and some will not.   We find out Nick Trail, a shady character that the group of friends tolerate, lost his thumb working on a construction job but didn’t have the health insurance to reattach it so he keeps it (the thumb) in a mason jar.

The thumb in the mason jar, and the absence of the thumb on his hand, is a symbol for loss in Nick Trail’s Thumb which is full of loss—In a touching scene we find out one of the main characters lost his father (suicide)— There is also a girl who is missing a leg (shark).  And most significantly, in a tragic scene, one of the friends is killed by a shark.

When reading Nick Trails Thumb, I was reminded of the way TC Boyle’s short stories unfold and the way his characters navigate life.  Mosteirin also breaks form and uses “post cards” which read like lyric poems.

Postcard 3
 
The morning birds do not sing as they rise across the ocean
And the pill on your tongue is not my name.
I am big as the sky and twice as silent,
I am four fingers and a stump where a thumb once was. 

The image on the cover of Nick Trail’s Thumb is a thumbprint, further suggesting something painful & true– we often identify ourselves more by what is absent than what is present.

Echo Park by Christine Hamm (BlazeVOX)

“Echo Park” sounded familiar. So I googled it and here’s what I got:

Echo Park is a hilly neighborhood in Los Angeles.  Echo Park is an indoor pool & fitness complex in West Hempstead, NY.  Echo Park is 1986 comedy-dram film, set in Echo Park, Los Angeles in which the plot follows several aspiring actors, musicians and models.  Echo Park is a recording studio, which describes itself as “rich and deep analog tape recording with a huge collection of well-maintain vintage gear.” Echo Park is an urban oasis close to (or perhaps in?) Chicago.  Echo Park is the 17th novel by American crime-writer Michael Connelly, and the twelfth featuring the Los Angeles detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch.   As I read the collection, I realized Christine Hamm’s Echo Park is all of these places and I intend to draw metaphorical comparisons to each …

What is so remarkable about Echo Park is that its essence which is captured cleverly in its title, is able to fulfill this broadness, yet the individual lines and poems use a mastery of language and the senses to evoke a specificity of experience.  The collection is broken into 2 sections:  “Horse Names” and “Swimming Lessons” — A benign and fun way to remind us that things learned in childhood, cannot be unlearned.

Tristessa
 
we gave each other horse names
and galloped around the edges
of the soccer field during recess
I held strands of our long soft pelt
behind you as if they were reins
we clucked to each other when
we wanted to move, the clicking
of the tongue riders use along with
their hells, a sound like stuttering
cicadas, when the boys hit you and
made you fall down I hit them back
 
you were twelve and you used pills,
not very many, the first time you tried
to unravel.

Notice the rich sounds, images and sensations from childhood that seem to ricochet in the adult mind.  In this sense “Echo Park” is another way to say “the mind”.  There are also hints at death in this poem.  In this sense, “Echo Park” is another way to say “graveyard.”

Hamm’s gift in illustrating this lays in her descriptions, which are alive with all the senses and varied in textures mixing searching dialogue, winding dream-like and child-like logic – The speaker in The Dad Parade
 describes the mystery of dads leaving for work in the morning — “How they disappeared each morning
/In silver or blue cars smelling/
of old newspaper
”  In Every Child, a Happy Child the speaker describes a conversation – an exchange between two young siblings  “…He asks if I know/ where our parents have gone, and if I know how to make/ pancakes.  I ask him how he got the scratch on his nose / and why he is still wearing the Bart Simpson t-shirt from last night.”

This poem has a wonderful ping pong quality of dialogue going back and forth and while the two children are not quite answering each other they are managing to find a communication the way a child does about the state of things.   Here there is also the child’s curiosity about the parent.  This is also present in the poems Territory  and Pool.

From Territory:  “On her right foot /where the tan
/ seemed erased drew./ my little girl kisses
/ because that part, that most naked pale skin,/ was on my own foot in the same frog-shape
/ and it was by that mark I knew
/ she was my mother.”

From Pool:  “Our sun-whitened/ hair spreads across the stones,
/ green as new corn, fragrant
/ as beach trash, as your mother’s/ stolen perfume.”

Here I would argue is where Hamm’s Echo Park is the town in LA and the 1986 film about the pursuit of childhood dreams.  It’s the town of Chicago and the pool and exercise complex in Hempstead, New York.  It’s whatever town we grew up in.  It’s the pool or swimming hole we swam in.  It’s the horse names and swimming lessons from childhood—our individual and collective childhood memories– In this sense “Echo Park” feels like an attic of sorts reminding me the Echo Park recording studio where they have analog tape and vintage gear.

There are also poems which give clues to a disintegrating romantic relationship (Our last Big Fight, Watching Porn with my Boyfriend), which highlight the small crimes that are done to us that stay with us as we develop our sense of self.  In that sense, Hamm’s Echo Park resembles the crime novel where we build a case from our memories and our experiences to inform and attempt to define the mystery of ourselves.

And that concludes my metaphorical parallels for today—Nah, wait, 1 more–

In Christine Hamm’s Echo Park, the “park” can be seen as the mind and what “echoes” for us all in the form of memory, child logic, voices, moments of rejection and imagistic dream— is time.  This all reminds me of Eliot’s Four Quartets

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened
 into the rose-garden.  
My words echo

Thus, in your mind.
 


Adam Zagajewski

4 Aug

by: Rena J. Mosteirin

Dear Adam Zagajewski,

They’re cutting down my trees. My beautiful trees, someone always wants to take them. First it was the man who wanted them for firewood, he didn’t even ask, just came to the door to tell me not to mind the noise from his saw. Yeah, right. Then the town tree-cutters came for the trees by the power lines. We’ve been having more tornados than usual and now the trees seem like criminals. Three hundred trees down in the last storm and the town starts sending people out to cut down more. Imagine that. So I called out my neighbor to back me up, she came outside and told them to be gentle with the mighty conifer to the west of my driveway; and the roost tree, which is endangered in this state and the tree that bats most need; and not to touch the Kentucky coffee plants growing in the ravine. Then she went back to her house but I wouldn’t leave my driveway, scowling at them all and making a point of asking every few minutes just how much longer they’d be at it. When I’d first heard the tree noise I was re-reading your poems, specifically “To Go To Lvov” and I think it’s significant that this is the part I was reading when the saws started to screech:

               Scissors, penknives, and razor blades scratched,
               cut, and shortened the voluptuous dresses
               of prelates, of squares and houses, and trees

As my trees were cut away from the power lines, saws into branches, lines from your poems floated intact through my thoughts, nourishing my resolve not to let go of anything important—at least, not without a fight—and your poems likening trees to cathedrals lent me the strength to keep standing there in my driveway, not creeping back inside the house, intimidated and small. Thank you.

Furthermore, Mr. Zagajewski, I feel I have been to your Lvov. Thank you for writing it, for writing everything you’ve written, each poem a door, and every door leads to a certain type of beauty that I might not otherwise have been allowed access to. Reading your work helps me to understand the things that exiles can never say to their children. During the Bay of Pigs invasion, my father and his family fled Cuba. The Cuba of my father’s childhood no longer exists in any real way; the closest thing I have to it is your Lvov. I’ll always imagine a second life for myself, the life I would have had if my father stayed. Nothing of that life exists for me in any real way outside of a sort of inherited nostalgia, and of course, poetry.

I wrote a poem on an airplane after I heard you read at the University of Chicago a few years ago and you spoke about writing poems on trains. The airplane poem I wrote after that was inspired by your poem “How Clowns Go” and I hope you don’t mind my taking liberties with and co-opting some of your sentiments here:

Prop Plane

Piglet squeaks come from the wheels
like they’re saying good-bye New York City. Goodbye
mice in my brother’s apartment. I imagine him standing at the station
waiting for the subway. Imagine him standing on the roof
of the house in Queens watching planes/ watching my plane skate away
from the country of his grief.

There he is, standing at the station letting all the trains pass/ opening and closing
their doors for everyone but not for him. He just stands there/ hands folded,
he hasn’t got any bags/ or appointments. He’s not on the platform.
He’s on the roof
and there are two ways to get down:
the hundred year old ladder or the thousand year old jump.
If he goes down the ladder, he will have an old man’s superstitions.
He will be afraid
of airplanes and the words:
rudders, flaps, spoilers, landing gear. He will think I am dying
in every prop plane that passes overhead. What’s left is fear.
Leftover television news paranoia/ like a cold meatloaf stinking up the refrigerator.
What’s left is fear. He thinks today might be the day
he lights a cigarette and the whole house explodes.

This is how brothers go.
The distance from childhood is the distance between our cities
and the great indifference of age
disguises his fire
until the flames from the house reach up and catch my plane
then we disintegrate together,
and become piglets again
as the city rubs grit on our milk teeth.

Rena J. Mosteirin
July 2011
Bloomington, Indiana

Rena J. Mosteirin is a Cuban-American author of fiction and poetry. Her poetic novella “Nick Trail’s Thumb” was selected by Lydia Davis and published by Kore Press.