Tag Archives: Special issue

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 Valentine 2016, vol 1

8 Feb

Part 1 of the 2016 Poetry Crush Valentine Issue with contributing sweetpeas: Bianca Stone, Timothy Liu, Jennifer L. Knox, Steven Leyva, Joe Hall, Loren Erdrich, Joanna Penn Cooper, Brynne Rebele-Henry, Lauren Gordon, Vanessa Gabb, Cheryl Quimba & J. Hope Stein (me, duh). ♥♥♥ 

 

Be Mine

Be Mine

♥♥♥ Bianca Stone

 

 

 

 

Summer Fling

Alone enough tonight
to settle for

a beer, crack

open whatever we
can get our

hands on—high

summer sizzle on
a wraparound porch

where voices

of our unborn children
are reciting Rumi

inside an oak.

♥♥♥ Timothy Liu

 

 

Shock Collars

“Where are we going?” Sandy asked Todd.

We’re not going anywhere. You’re getting shot into space,” Todd said and clicked Sandy’s belt into the buckle.

Suddenly, she understood. All the hours he’d spent with her, his slavish attention. How happy he was when she pushed the button and the pellets came out. Way, way, way too happy. Sandy had often wondered if Todd was actually retarded.

She didn’t bother saying anything as he flipped the final switches.

“You’re a good dog,” he told her, crawling backwards through the hatch.

“Go to hell,” she said.

***

“I don’t feel that you love me—I don’t even feel that you really like me,” Mishka said, on the verge of tears.

Sandy kept her eyes glued to a page in Where the Red Fern Grows.

Mishka waited, then lost her shit, “This is exactly what I’m talking about! You’re too—what?—busy?—to talk to the only other person alive on this planet? You’re nicer to the spidercats than you are to me!”

Sandy raised one eye to the window. Yep, the spidercats were still out there, waiting patiently for her in the light emanating from the window of the rocketship. Once the dust storms died down a little, she’d go out and toss the gravity ball to them. They loved that. And gazing at their own faces reflected in her mirrored helmet.

♥♥♥ Jennifer L. Knox

 

 

 

Dinnerware

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♥♥♥ Loren Erdrich

 

Aubade for Nuit #1 

Sunrise burst in like an angry lover
packed its things in a trunk of fog
And wasn’t heard of again for days

You said “fuck off” fogging the apartment window
your thigh pristine with sweat instead of sunlight
and I thought that curse was for the eye

of heaven not the swaying drunks
gawking on the cobblestone streets below.
What darkness filled the night’s yawn

did not wholly give way as we closed lips
around wizened mugs of coffee. All the x’s
had fallen off the calendar, and we sat

naked on the kitchen floor, two days married
laughing at obtuse angles of our fumbled sex,
under your breath you said “how do teenagers

do it,” and I had no answer, so we laughed
again, and watched men now free of vomit
walk unwittingly into the sky’s discarded nightshirt.

♥♥♥ Steven Leyva

 

 

 

 

from Easy Poem

3.

To be a poet and alive
is to be this river, to drink your piss.
That is, I want to drink your piss and eat your shit—
To watch you grow
a curious tail of feces
on the bank of the banks

of the bank of the banks—
divided by revulsion, to lick up
the hot
—scalding—and swallow
sin-eater for a funeral for something so large

—from Samir Naqqash, Mizrahi novelist, “My exquisite wine
has turned to vinegar. My blood
to excrement.” You blurt out: “What do you want?”
“Steal!…Steal!
…Steal!”

Taking care for awhile, that’s what property is.
Poor are God’s friends,
a thought could be worse.
Free sample,
expensive meal.
So long as there is the productive sun
how much does this life weigh
baked from crumbs?

So there’s that, Beloved.
Here’s another shot
at a song:

♥♥♥ Joe Hall

 

 

 

 

For the Purposes of Accuracy  

Toward the end of couples therapy that day, she looked down at the empty water bottle she was holding and had the urge to beat herself on the forehead with it.  As Mark Rothko once said, “Silence is accurate.”  Or, in this case, beating yourself on the forehead with a water bottle is accurate.

As she walked out the door of the therapist’s office, she shook his hand and chuckled, a shrugging kind of chuckle, by which she meant, “Whelp.”  In the car on the way there, she’d heard a song called “Sad Jukebox.”  On the way back, she listened to a song called “Strange Victory” and chuckled again, then muttered, “I’m not crazy.  You’re crazy.”

♥♥♥ Joanna Penn Cooper

 

 

 

 

Buckingham 

In the sad ocean the men say that two girls and
Four legs and a red gape is nothing new
I would purge/I would use my rib for a necklace
Go to the canal and let the sun burn us open
We spit out watermelon seeds like little organs
I crush grapes with my molars and grind until everything splits open & the juice
Runs into both of our mouths and we rinse it out with tepid water and citrus seeds
I say make my body a building and light it on fire and we
Walk to church with your wings stuck across your back with Elmer’s glue
Feathers sticking between my teeth and the glitter we doused ourselves in like gasoline Sloughing into my eyes and lips like a million small planets

♥♥♥ Brynne Rebele-Henry

 

 

 

 

That Old Chestnut 

everywhere and everywhere unfettered
in our bank rolls, and this looks normal

the dog snores in sleep, peanut butter
and bread-mouthed squirrels are porched

even the grubs in our loamy tomatoes
are dreaming of legs, muscular calves

to run on         this home an ocean
a cemetery of shitting sparrows

this bruised cheek an island, handy
figment of peace, the baby a white flag

everywhere and everywhere marriage
to batten, to seal the shutters

♥♥♥ Lauren Gordon

 

 

 

Before you leave

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♥♥♥ Loren Erdrich

 

The Lady of Civilization

Don’t get married. A great love does not exist without protest,
my mother told me, have a beautiful run without law, with protest!

Organdyed from birth, with a godless belief in the system of things,
in search of some twin belief, a diadem in your mouth, you were named protest.

I named you and you went, taking extremities into you for decryption,
opening into wheat fields, your hands passing along without protest.

Everything that passes for voyage is us awash in injustice, mortal,
mortal, being young we bleed, loving nothing more than protest.

What could be more legitimate than an idea between us,
fatal or not, here or not, time must pass and so we must protest.

A love poem begins with hazard somehow, the concept of time, a cloud
calling itself gas, only that, and I calling that protest.

♥♥♥ Vanessa Gab

 

 

 

 

A Stone Etching: Vows 

I, Edmund Dantes, do
solemnly swear to
burn the world
in effigy. Small flames.

What else is just? Here, name
revenge after me.

Next I plan to skin skin
as in a sack of wine
a time to flay and tell
all goats, “Get over it”
this cold sore on the lips
of every guard with a tray of food.

the lock up stole
more than my future
children, my great love
of sea, my ability to sleep

in a bed, I must be on,
at all times
the bare floor,

alone – I was
alone again – again
condemned to silence
and no trial, nothing like a trial.

To live is not payback
enough

some magistrates need hurt
and memory will kill.
The Reaper’s greatest gift
Is remembering

to show up. I keep
showing up

promising the only escape I
know; I am sewing
a sack of canvas
for god. The future is black,

Mercedes, as night in your hair.

♥♥♥ Steven Leyva

 

 

 

 

Into The Next Blue

We live
improbably

in this time with drinking
glasses

with green sprouting oh
how I wanted

savage like an undertow
break-necked
coarse

you only
that

loosely limping

mine

remember
remember

this entreaty: on and on is

improbable but still
sure

♥♥♥ Cheryl Quimba

 

 

 

 

The Violence 

It was so quiet you could hear
an envelope being slid

under the door. Even without

tearing it open, you knew
it was over. The same way

you found an orange rind

that still had a whiff of citrus
to it and knew it was his

though he hadn’t stepped

into your kitchen for years.
His hunger had been all

too casual, ear to your chest

late at night, the neighbor’s
TV coming through the walls

with much excitement even if

the voices stayed muffled.
Back then you knew his cock

was the best thing between

you as he peeled off the shell
from your hard-boiled egg

morning after morning

in one complete spiral without
saying a word—the salt

on the table left untouched.

♥♥♥ Timothy Liu

 

 

 

From: I Lob You

Sometimes two countries touching are too much for their people. Sometimes we talk about love like two professionals dismantling a bomb. The last time Millie saw Demetri, her neck was red from kissing & Demetri brought two mittens to her face & said – “Hey, try some snow.” —You can travel all the way to I-don’t-care-where but it’s not going to change the way you feel about this: When Demetri’s mother saw his body lobbed over the fence from the explosion, she said – “That’s not him—that’s just the body of a dead cat”— When we first met you crawled up my overalls & up my braids & sat on my shoulder for years.

♥♥♥ J. Hope Stein

 

 

 

The Small Self is Not So Real After All

The human being is dumb most of the time.
Raving on his phone on the street
like escaped gods. Raving like a plastic bag
caught in a tree for decades. Raving
like an electrical wire at the starlings.
The grocery stores are holding back
a great wave of perpetual sadness.
The famine is never coming. And panic lies
just under the little disturbances at the checkout
along with the frightening experience
of realizing the people who cared for you
are completely insane.

♥♥♥ Bianca Stone

 

 

 

 

Bye 

Loren3

♥♥♥ Loren Erdrich

 

Poetry Crush: Everyday is Valentine’s (Vol II)

11 Feb

picnic-at-hanging-rock-still

From Picnic at Hanging Rock “To Saint Valentine!”
An honor to valentine with heartbreakers:  Joe Hall, Cheryl Quimba, Joanna Penn Cooper, Leah Umansky, Larry Sawyer, Peter Kline, Brittany Perham, Sara Lefsyk, Gregory Crosby, Kristy Bowen, Maria Teutsch, not_I (Ana Bozicevic & Sophia Le Fraga), Sasha Fletcher, Lauren Hunter, DJ Dolack, Stephanie Berger, Justin Petropoulos, Erika Anderson & J. Hope Stein (me).   

 

A WISH

Moving ever slower
just as square brackets
hug a sentence my
unfortunate nature is
to buckle as you bend.
Hailstorm our guardian so
expansive. Where to spend
all the soft paper. Just as
the only road leads
away from here, we
will not ever recover.

Joe Hall & Cheryl Quimba

 

 

VALENTINE FOR YOUR BOSS

Don’t hesitate to serve your boss.
Sit quietly and he will come to you.
The blessing of an employee
is in the corners of her mouth.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

When a great boss says “I kill you”
lay your head across his laptop.
Throw your documents in the river.
This is how we measure time.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

Do not despise small documents.
Do good for your body, but
there is no one who does not die—
Do not delay in your office.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

Be a cat in your boss’s presence.
Do not give a wary look
towards the elevator door—
You do not know the length of your life.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

Do not hesitate to serve your boss.
Do let linger without enquiry.
Put myrrh on your head, dress in fine linen.
Sit quietly and he will come to you.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

J. Hope Stein

 

 

LOVE SONG OF FIONA AND AXEMAN

American Horror Story

The Axeman says, “never assume anything about me,”
but Fiona says, “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

He is still-at-heart man
with a do-not-forget-me tongue.

He is in tune and soulful
and she, she  is going by ear.

There is a cadence to their love
and a faith in their fear

*

He says, “I’ve been watching you
since you were eight years old
… and then I started to love you as a man.”

She is his pull of daylight
He is her remembered quiet,
and her fray.

When he says, “I love you more than jazz, babydoll”

She hears  more than
more than I needed.

For, Love has a delicate swash
and she, she swishes.

Even the dead want love,
but the dead at heart love nothing.

 Leah Umansky

 

 

A SMALL MAN LOOKED AT ME

A small man looked at me. He said “you are the Fritz Perls look alike
in the apartment complex of my life and I want to make a tincture
out of your saline eye drops and ride away with you into the desert
in a cadillac full of very small and miniature ponies.”

I told this small man ;oolong at me, if I had a mule, a parachute and long flowing locks
I would jump out of this plane, put you in my shopping cart and push you
clean to Brazil where we would change our names, cut our hair
and join the local militia. After that, we would lead a small army of chickens
to the sea and, after many days of floating, I would catch a small fish
and name it Pavlov. Then, we would all jump into the sea and swim
until we reached the large island of Europe, where we would start
a mariachi band with my birth family and yours and the sun would set
and we would all drink sugar water and go to sleep
beneath a large curtain of black air.

Sara Lefsyk

 

NEW YORK VALENTINE

Gently, let us sleep my love
our hearts entwined as one.
Forever you’ll be my Catherine Deneuve
uh, and I’m your Fifth Avenue John Donne.
Come, let us prove it, while we may
knowing ‘tis no sin love’s fruit to steal.
You’re hotter than anything off eBay.
Our banter’s straight off Key & Peele.
Use me for your street-side fashion show; take
refuge in these sculpted arms.
Sweet, I’ll get with child the mandrake,
even if this shit was a false alarm.
Look, I sought fit words, so now you know.
Forsooth, your boyfriend sold you oregano.

Larry Sawyer

 

 

FRAGMENTS (2)

1.
In January my grandmother says she is anxious for the little fellow to get here and join the troupe.

2.
In January a dapper man who looks like Buck Henry gives me a very kind look on 60th Street as I leave my third ultrasound that month.  “Advanced maternal age.”

3.
In February, after being in labor for 12 hours, I text my mom on the 13th that you will be a Valentine’s Day baby.

4.
In February the doula comes over on the 14th and tucks me into the attic bed to see if I can sleep, despite the two days of contractions.  C lies there with me.  The doula tucks him in, too.

5.
On the morning of the 15th, we head to the hospital.  The doula heats rice-filled socks in the microwave and ties them to me.  We call the car service.  I wear the rice socks to the hospital.

6.
In the early morning of the 16th, I am lying in a darkened room with a catheter in my back.  A nurse named Ashley comes in and out to make notations.  She is young and pleasant and doesn’t talk too much.  She is from a southern state.  I ask her which one, but I’ve forgotten what she said.

7.
In the early morning of the 16th, the doula says in a quiet voice, I think it’s snowing.  My thought is something like, I’ve been waiting for some beautiful thing.  A while after that they tell me it’s time for the pushing, which is less a beautiful thing than a necessity thing.  C holds one leg and a nurse named Eve holds the other.  Eve is my favorite, and I remember that she’s from Oklahoma, but I’m not thinking about that during the pushing.  At one point, the doctor lifts her hands back up, and they are bright red.

8.
On the morning of the 16th, you join the troupe.

9.
I study your hands for a month.  Their esoteric gestures.

10.
I skipped some parts.

11.
We are mammals with the fluid world within and between us.

12.
I sing you the hymn “Farther Along,” which I heard in a movie years ago.  I know very few of the words. You are listening then and interested.  When I look up the lyrics online, the sidebar says, Main subject: Encouragement.

Joanna Penn Cooper

*originally published in South Dakota Review

 

 

DON’T_PROMISE

not_I  (Ana Bozicevic and Sophia Le Fraga)

 

 

NOCTURNE

So what if one day you will need to be named,

need to have signal laid upon you.

So what.

The instruments polish themselves.

Some gods already laud you
with cheap satins

plastic jewels that click
when they collide

but do not chime.

And you don’t chime.
You bow

and your hair reaches great lengths to the earth.

Evening when you bow
your hair climbs across itself
and reaches great

lengths to the earth.

The moon almost fellates its own magic,

tosses back
a little yellow number and

look

I only want
a bit of trouble.

I only want to be codified,

the signal laid upon me.

So what if the instruments are named;

so what if they are only here to polish.

DJ Dolack

 

 

MIRRORFORM PSALM

For You, I’d strip down bare,
but won’t You lay me cover?
Dallying with forever
is a high-risk affair.

I’ve tried new underwear
to tempt a tempted lover,
made my whole wardrobe over.
For You I’d strip down bare.

Peter Kline

 

 

THE YEAR OF THE WATER

The bed we shared is kelp is kelp is kelp
anchored
on a foot of rock.

Your stomach
against
my spine in the year of water.

At night we rippled beneath the year of a tide
pulling us apart.

All the clarity
a marine layer gives you. Clarity

is your stomach
against
my spine in the bed of salt.

Maria Teutsch

 

 

A QUIVER FULL OF EROS

A quiver full of arrows for the river,
it wants to fall in love—
pulling itself from the spring, mirrors
the small boy in rouge. Memory sent him
to the water, far below
the python’s spewing apartment
meublé. When he left, he spat,
on the wall, basalt, down the hole,
venom, impressed
upon the wax tablet of my head.
In bed by eleven. In the morning,
applied my visage with a desert
palette. There wasn’t
ever any muse or music for makeup,
but Clio would remedy that
remedy for pallor, if she could, rewrite
with a rattle of thunder from
her father. I bared my face to him.

Stephanie Berger

 

 

house made of ghosts and small animals

For every love song, there is a broken dove skeleton
rotting in the eaves. A leaving, that requires
nothing but the door opening and closing just once.
A heaviness of suitcases and floor lamps and
record albums piled awkwardly in the trunk.
You see, my motives are mud dark, made of larkspur
and longing.   Soon you will find me replacing each dish
and hairbrush in someone else’s house,  replacing
p with q and mucking up the quick exit.  Will find me
ravenous and bleeding beneath the weedy undergrowth.
For every broken promise, I give you a ring of roses.
A prolific number of tiny mice inhabiting the baseboards.
Animal, vegetable, mineral.
The terrible goblin heart of my goodbye.

Kristy Bowen

 

 

DOUBLE PORTRAIT

Today my heart said you 
I want to be with you above all others
though not very long
ago my heart said her
I want to be with her more 
than I’ll ever want to be with anyone else
& because I couldn’t
go on living without her
not for another minute
I began living with her & all this
time I was happy I was happy
to be happy I believed
things would continue
this way every day always
but today all day 
& on & on through
the night & all night my head
on her chest my heart said
though I said no no my heart
said & would not stop saying
you yes you yes you 

Brittany Perham

 

 

the gospel according to tough love

i thought the world would revolve without us

flinging your hands into a darkness you can grab hold of, hold on little baby, how’d you get so goddamn strong? shall i speak to the spit flinging from my lips, the spark from your fingertip, (y’all seen that before), the corners rounded without guidance, watch her go zero to 180 without blinking, leather and spare skin cells underneath chipped nails

“hey, putting my DNA on things IS art”

the devil on your earlobe baby. the devil in my eardrum, demanding nothings. even during my first burglary, i wanted to touch things i had no business. i’m gonna leave some of myself here. i’m the absolute pinkest thing in this dark room. like a newborn before its first breath, let’s inspire empathy. hold it in; i’m asking you to not breathe with me, and we’ll keep them on those toes until we’re sure my superpower applies.

(i infuse myself, whole and unworried, into each and every cell i carry.  i’m a factory of my smallest selves, tags perfect and unaware. these i leave casually anywhere.)

that darkness is always getting velvet, soft on my skin and eyes. those times a seatbelt is a hug. those times you don’t regret a too-long embrace. you exhale yourself to the edge of this room, then inhale until the walls split on your precious face. the world collapses. i thought i could be the wildness, but find myself in every room i’m in. why i like to see my breath like smoke. why i like to be the last body in a room. i’m gonna touch everything, someday.

but nothing i know could slow us down

Lauren Hunter

 

dreamboats

Today the air conditioner exploded
in a scene of silent and totally imaginable futility.
Here I go again, starting to talk about the sunset
as though you couldn’t imagine it yourself.
A tree grew in the yard last night and we hung lanterns from it
like it was any other night
or any other dream. Dear Eloise
you are the albino alligator lurking in my heart
at unknown intervals and I
I am the top 40 station you conveniently forgot
and together we are a documentary that will be spoken of for years to come.
In the yard were the neighbors calling out
ANOTHER NIGHT ANOTHER DREAM
BUT ALWAYS YOU as though we weren’t all thinking this
every day of our lives. The lanterns from earlier
hung low and beat with every sharp breath
as we pulled each other closer and loosed the fabric
of our lives slicked with sweat and piled
in the corner. Someone got excited
and set off some fireworks
and the neighborhood committee got together
and shot them in the head. They said no one
is to celebrate on a school night but me
I could not disagree more. What better thing to celebrate
than a school night? Dear Eloise
I hear tonight it is supposed to storm
like nobodies business and the heat will finally break
open as wide as the sky.
Dear Eloise you can find me on the roof,
building a boat from the chairs,
waiting for something larger than everything
to sweep me away and pull me under and fill my lungs
with something heavier and more potent than air
and I can see that alligator surfacing again,
I can feel myself choking up as its red right eye rolls over me
and blinks once for yes, twice for no, three times
for I forget what. Dear dreamboat goes the alligator
If this is you trying to say I am a wild animal
good job. You did it. Tonight I will take you by the hand
and lead you adrift. If you make it back to shore
we can get married and I’ll let you put a baby in me
and we can eat spaghetti in the tub and give her three or four names
and teach her to grow up into a boat that will sail
in all kinds of weather and then I’ll let you put another in me
and another and another and their names will be like mountains
because they will be magnificent to behold
and one day one of them will fall down a well and you’ll dive in after him
and break every bone in your body
and use those bones to build a ladder
and our son will climb to safety
and in the morning there you’ll be, naked, in bed,
preparing to construct for us a porch, and just in time for summer!
and every night you’ll realize
that there is not enough money to take care of things
or to put away for the future because the future
died years ago and all we have is this, right here, and it’s terrifying,
and you’ll stand there watching the children sleep
and I’ll sneak up beside you like a knife in the dark
with my hand in your pocket stealing the last bits of love
you secreted away, because they’re mine now, because you’re mine now,
and as we stand there, waiting for our children to grow old enough
to resent the burden we’ve become to them, it strikes us
that it is a real mystery to us all how we’ve made it this far.
Then we turn slightly, and speak our vows to each other,
and they go something like this:
I will put up with you until we kill each other
because I will love you from now until we kill each other
and I will build you a home inside of me
and we will cook each other dinner when we’re hungry
and knife each other in a soft place when we’re angry
and I will hold your hand until it breaks
because I will never let go of your hand
and I won’t mind your problems because they’re a part of you and I love you
I love you even though that is a decision I deeply regret
and if you ever need a presence to keep things from getting too quiet
give me a call. I will be there with you when the lights are out.
If you want to know if that is a knife at your throat
the answer is that I will love you for as long as we both shall live.

Sasha Fletcher

 

[selections from because we go to the same places to hide]

//these maps because so casual fill the gaps reasoned for flowers
she eats stems
he paces
bed systems       holds her here

associative bearings
of bodies               all that disorder

fled through a rind of eclipse

contractual motion         she pears
instances             heels the limits of
to have held

curious
tympana or this hemisphere
rests on nothing but cause
and effect

ants distanced
in proportion to intervals
between musical notes

combed with sun

she is all
cataracts and shifting clouds

Justin Petropoulos

 

SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE 

Impermanence from permanence,
sound from plastic. A scarf, a shawl,
a shroud of static.

A sundial in the dark of a school night
told me this about love:

that there would be dancing
in the dark, walking in the park,
& reminiscing;

that piña coladas were the key
to all mythologies;

that even in the depths
of a so damned depression
you could set your sights
on Monday

& get yourself undressed…

A voice from the future
said sad songs say so much less

than you will come to know.

Turning, turning, AM amidst a.m.,
round & round… the child’s hand

is farther than the man’s. The Seventies
are over, man. The Seventies

are eternal. The voice said,

Everything that’s lost 
will be restored,
& then lost again.

The radar understands
what the grid cannot imagine.

The shadows cast themselves, while
tomorrow daydreams tonight.

Everything that’s lost
will be restored,
& then lost again.

Someone found a letter you wrote me.

They read it on the radio,
in the voice of the Future,

& I heard it just today.

The DJ translated it as
entanglement.

Separated by a million songs,
but not the speed of light…

& you gazed up at me,
& the answer was plainly seen,

felt

before it could be understood.

Every measurement agrees
that we
spin counterclockwise.

You & I, observed, by… …

Mystery, static. It does,
& does not, matter. Everything

restored last chance
will be lost last dance

& restored tonight

Gregory Crosby

 

ARMY OF LOVERS ROBOT VALENTINE

The army of lovers movement will give out handmade valentines to strangers this Friday.

Robot valentine

Erika Anderson

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

10 Dead Poets (I would fuck)

30 Oct

 Welcome to Poetry Crush’s 3rd annual  10 Dead Poets (I would fuck).  Thanks to my deranged contributors– you guys are so messed up:  Miracle Jones,  Janaka StuckyJennifer L. KnoxTodd ColbyJoanna Penn Cooper,  Lauren Hunter, Gregory CrosbyLisa Marie Basile and Gabriel Don— together we make up the clandestine members of the Dead Poets (I Would Fuck) Society (along with past participants:  2011, 2012).  Stay spooky! – j. hope stein 

1)  Shakespeare by J. Hope Stein

images

ROMEO & JULIET FOR PEACE

In a press conference held in front of Romeo & Juliet for Peace headquarters in downtown Philadelphia, artist / activist / entrepreneur / provocateur Juliet Capulet confirmed there were two deaths in the most recent Romeo & Juliet for Peace demonstrations, when violence erupted after a group of activists, wearing nothing but paint from head to toe of the colors of the Israeli and Palestinian flags conducted orgies throughout Jerusalem and the Gaza strip.  “We are still trying to understand what happened. We think there was a personal dispute which led to a fight.   What is certain is that we have lost two individuals.  A Romeo and Juliet.”  Capulet said the names of the deceased will be released once the families have been notified.

Capulet appeared to be holding back tears when she explained, “The point of demonstration ‘SMEAR’ was to show that when we love each other the colors of our flags smear together and war disappears.”  Many accuse Capulet of romanticizing the deaths, including one member of the media who shouted as Capulet read her statement– “This isn’t a fairytale, honey.  Two young people are dead.”

Capulet said there were 600 activists in total:  300 Palestinians and 300 Israelis, who were positioned at “epicenters of conflict” throughout the region where they were reciting the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet while engaging in group sex.

Romeo & Juliet for Peace began 7 years ago as an international dating website connecting young5248f903afba4.preview-620 progressive singles romantically in warring nations in protest of their government and older generations who they viewed as “impotent against the problems of war.”  Romeo & Juliet for Peace is free to its members and Capulet, who has cited John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s peace campaigns of the late 1960s, including “War is Over (If you Want it)” as her biggest inspiration, takes no advertisers, only elite sponsors who partner in grassroots campaigns like ‘SMEAR,’ designed to spread her anti-war message.

Within the first year Romeo & Juliet for Peace made a big international splash with its t-shirt line, available in over 50 languages, quoting poignant passages from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  But it’s the best-selling t-shirt with the Romeo & Juliet for Peace tagline that made Capulet a multi-millionaire overnight, saying:  “We’re going to fuck and fuck and fuck until nobody knows where to point their guns.”

When asked by a member of local media if Capulet will rethink her tactics, in light of the deaths of the two activists,  Capulet said the recent violence only strengthens the purpose of her work and that the incident has increased registration to the website in the past 24 hours by over 4000%.  “This is the fastest growing website in the world.”

One of the main attractions of The Romeo & Juliet for Peace website is a live tally of the number of registrants, as well as the number of active relationships and babies resulting from the service.  There were worldwide celebrations last June when the number of babies surpassed a million.  In addition, offshoots: Romeo & Romeo for Peace and Juliet & Juliet for Peace, have both become the go-to dating sites of choice for the international gay community.

When a member of CNN asked – what is your goal?  Capulet responded, “Our goal has always been clear:  To fuck and fuck and fuck until no one knows where to point their guns and eventually they will point it at their own hatred.”

“I have deployed 60,000 ‘troops’ in dozens of countries targeting high-conflict epicenters worldwide who are ready to put their lives on the line.   And they aren’t going to blow themselves up or drop bombs on anyone.  They are going to recite Shakespeare and touch until their flag paint smears into the color of one earth.”

Capulet also confirmed that she has received several death threats on herself and her family, adding,  “My family is already dead.  And if I were killed, another Juliet would take my place.  We’ve planned for that scenario.”  Very little is known about Capulet herself, including her real name.

Capulet then recited the final lines from Romeo and Juliet and took no more questions:

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

2) Emma Lazarus & Julia Ward Howe by Miracle Jones

Julia_Ward_Howe_2

“I did not actually invite the two of you here to this bar beneath an extremely cheap boarding house with available rooms to talk about starting up a new reading series in Brooklyn, dearest Julia Ward Howe and most honorable Emma Lazarus.”

“What???”

“Your duplicity remains the stuff of legend, Mr. Jones!”

“Allow me to introduce the two of you to each other. Actually, both of you need to have a little more O Be Joyful. Here.”

“I never turn down more O Be Joyful.”

“Topping me off is the least you can do, thank you. And I WILL have another tea sandwich.”

“This is Emma Lazarus. She is most famous for writing America’s “Casual Encounters” advertisement, a distinction which both edifies and debases us all in a particularly permanent way. This advertisement sits on the base of the Statue of Liberty and is called “The New Colossus.” It is a sonnet, which is not exactly experimental, but there is something extremely passionate about the entreaties the poem contains. There is, if I may be so bold, a yearning that I find most remarkable, not the least of which because the poem is so quotable. You have really captured something crude and spirited about our young Republic, something which would take a truly labyrinthine — and wicked! — mind to apprehend.”

“MISTER JONES!”

“Why are you putting on that stovepipe hat and false beard?”Emma-Lazarus-courtesy-MJH

“And this is Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, wife of the honorable Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. She is also a poet, in addition to being an abolitionist, social activist, women’s rights advocate, and pornographer.”

“AND YOU SAY THIS WITHOUT BURSTING INTO FLAME!”

“YOUR ALLEGATIONS ARE QUITE WITHOUT MERIT!”

“Enough with the charade of high-minded indigination! I read your book “Passion Flowers,” Mrs. Howe. I also read “The Hermaphrodite.” I liked them both. They are both books meant to be read with one hand, if you know what I mean. I also know that you have some championship-class pearl sweat going for Abraham Lincoln. We all read the blog post in “The Atlantic Monthly” that you wrote the night you met him. All that stuff about his awesome shining sword and his big fat truth and how you want him to split you like a serpent, and then rage-fuck you like a dude stomping grapes.”

“YOU ARE USING WORDS THAT MAKE NO SENSE”

“I UNDERSTAND HALF OF THIS BUT I AM ALL THE WAY OFFENDED.”

“I see neither of you have run screaming from the room yet. The door is right there. Do I detect a flush from you, Mrs. Howe? Is that a pretty outlandish understatment? What reason do you have to loosen your dress so flagrantly and with such strong movements, Miss Lazarus?”

“I feel that I must not leave or I shall starve for oxygen. Something in your words transfixes me.”

“You are yearning to breathe free, eh?”

“My own lines! They convict me!”

“And you Mrs. Howe?”

“It is difficult to remain anything but…agitated…while you are wearing that horrible stovepipe hat. Quickly! Do you have any of Mr. Graham’s crackers?”

“YES I TOO DESPARATELY NEED ONE OF MR. GRAHAM’S CRACKERS.”

“There are no Graham crackers here, ladies. Just another bottle of rotgut, an extremely large feather bed, some fresh oranges, a stereoscope full of French daguerrotypes and one that I stole from Andrew Jackson himself, heavy black velvet drapes to block out both the sun and the prying eyes of Le Moyenne Bourgeosie, two blister packs of Plan B, a blacklight poster of Walt Whitman, a whole goddamn tube of KY jelly, snacks from the bodega, the Delmonico’s take-out menu, a length of good Yankee rope, and both a Rebel and Union regular army uniform, which we can take turns wearing.”

“I…………..must be…………..DREAMING. YET I DO NOT WISH TO AWAKEN”

“IF MY HEART BEATS ANY FASTER I FEAR I SHALL HEMORRHAGE”

“Upstairs, ladies! Follow me upstairs! For God and country and poetry and the Golden Door! WE HAVE A UNION TO MAKE, PRESERVE, PERFECT, AND SUSTAIN” 

 

3) Mina Loy by Todd Colby

mina-loy

I don’t know that I’d actually like to have fucked Mina Loy, but I could see myself cuddling with her after we tried on one of her hats, and danced around the room to the Velvet Underground; throwing our bodies through space and just generally feeling that sense of abandonment that is granted to us with another person, but only a few times in our short lives. I see us walking around the Bowery, picking through junk for her collages, schlepping a red wagon stuffed with detritus, carrying it up to her apartment, and then watching with a joyful admiration as she assembled it into something beautiful. I’d walk over to her and kiss her long neck and whisper that she smelled good, and then we’d tumble onto the floor and whisper poems back and forth to each other, lost in a swirl of time and intimacy. She’d laugh as I read her one of my poems and sigh, reaching over to caress my shoulder and then she’d shuffle through one of her manuscripts and read me something she’d just written. I’d smile and feel a warm glow of recognition that a kindred spirit was sitting in front of me and that perhaps the world wasn’t as dark and obscene as I’d been led to believe; that perhaps there were two people in a room, getting along well enough to dance and read poems to one another without worries about insults or recriminations; that it was possible to be in a room with someone as life swirled around us, and we swirled with it.

 

4) Walt Whitman by Jennifer L. Knox

WhitmanCamdenws

Why bang one dead poet when you can bang everyone and everything in the cosmos?

The young men bathing at the river, the washer women on the shore draping wet white sheets over the stone banks to dry, the dogs barking at them, the tall ships sailing by, wind flooding their sails with the breath of God, the breath of God, the breath of the sailors aboard those ships, and the sailors—Land a’ Goshen!—all those sailors in their tight blue pants, the color blue, colors, the letters in the word “color,” all the letters in every language that has ever existed, hieroglyphics, the pyramids, everything triangle shaped thing, novelty foam Cheesehead hats, etc.

After Walt had his stroke, he recuperated in a cabin by a stream where he’d bathe in the icy water, stimulate his skin with the bristle end of a hairbrush, and spank his own flanks with the wooden handle. That kind of freakiness cannot be created nor destroyed, only changed into more freakiness. Hey, it’s science.

Every person who has ever known lust is buoyed in the eternal wake of one of Walt’s explosive orgasms, which are still exploding all around us—like the volcanoes dotting the lush green mountains of Hawaii—destined to smother us all in a scalding beard of lava.

I don’t have to “choose” to make love to Walt. He chose to make love to us, long ago, and is humping us right now—every day and night—all of us—in the mouth, etc.

Sometimes I’m like, “Get off me!” but it’s like standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s: you just got to relax, breathe, and give into it. Otherwise, you’re gonna choke somebody out.

Everything in America is full of sex but Americans. So open your fire hose of liberty, big daddy. You almost makes me feel like I’m French, or an ancient Roman, or made of light that penetrates clothes. Especially pants. You were never a breast man, but you looked hot in a pirate blouse.

5) Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, & Jean Toomer by Lauren Hunter

LangstonHughes

SOME FANTASY If I woke up one morning in the 1920s I’d hightail it to Harlem, Borrowing my mama’s best dress And last week’s wages I’d obviously be the cause for many fistfights; They’d call me “la Muse d’135th”— La la. I’d split my time generously Spending the spring in red dreaming with Langston

A queen from some long-dead Egyptian night Walks once again

Feeling the beat of the blues with our hands And sending them on their way with our mouths

Come with a blast of trumpets,  Jesus!

Come summertime, I’d be Claude’s only, in green We’d burn nights at drink, strolling and watching as Harlem Wrapped us in open arms

Oh, with our love the night is warm and deep!

From the cabaret to the nightclub, to the café to the pool hall

Touching the surface and the depth of things   Instinctively responsive unto both Tasting the sweets of being and the stings…. Like a strong tree against a thousand storms.

The fall I’d play young, fast and free Days and nights at dance with Countee What if his glance is bold and free                                                                         His mouth the lash of whips? Spinning through the careless weather, High on Harlem wine, I’d not mind the coming chill

Its measurement of joy compute With blithe, ecstatic hips.

In the winter, I’d hole myself up in a warm apartment Full of books with Jean. The door locked for the season, We’d read late into the night by lamps

whisper of yellow globes

By day linger in bed, covered in pages

then with your tongue remove the tape and press your lips to mine till they are incandescent

jean-toomer
 
 
 

6) Clarice Lispector by Janaka Stucky

clarice-lispector
REMEMBERING WITH LONGING
IS LIKE SAYING FAREWELL ONCE AGAIN

 
 
The corners of your eyes often return
To me at night when I am working
 
Spectre of an exorcised dragon
The light and the Light
 
Catch in the rim where
I could live for centuries amid your black lashes
 
 
     Clarice the spectre
     My story is that I am living without you and I am failing
 
 
Watch me fall slowly
Away over years
 
Your subtle smile poisoning
My every effort to forget
 
This heroic dream
 
 
Clarice the spectre
You look at me and only then
 
Am I in the world
Filled with this happy instinct for destruction
 
An abyss I make my home each time we meet in our permanent sleep

7)  Joe Brainard by Joanna Penn Cooper

brainard

I would like to have a short, funny romance with Joe Brainard after he moved from Tulsa to New York, but before he finished coming out.  Most of our romance would involve lying around in our underwear on a mattress on the floor, looking at magazines and going into a reverie about things we remember.   Then Joe would get up and go to the corner store to get a Pepsi for himself and a Dr. Pepper for me, and we’d stand in the kitchen and eat a cantaloupe I brought over.  After that, we’d collaborate on some drawings with words.

Later, I’d go to Europe for a while, then live in a few other states, maybe ending up upstate. We would have settled into a great lifelong friendship by then, exchanging a large number of postcards that were sort of poems and sort of not, some with drawings.  The postcards would be like a book just for us and for whoever came to my studio later and seemed worth bringing out the shoebox full of postcards for.   There’s one that I particularly like, done in Vermont, with a drawing of one lone shoe.  How is the energy of a person left behind in a lone shoe like that, or in a postcard?

[I’m not too far off here in linking heterosexual romance with Joe Brainard.  In Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, Ron Padgett writes, “At various times Joe was strongly attracted some of his smart, beautiful, talented women friends.”  In fact, in 1972, Joe wrote, “One thing I want to do before I die is to make it with Anne Waldman, without offending Michael Brownstein [her boyfriend].  The old have your cake and eat it too bit.  The story of my life.  And now that I think about it, making it with Michael Brownstein, without offending Anne Waldman, wouldn’t be bad either.”]

8)  William Blake and Christina Rossetti by Gabriel Don

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 6.34.28 PM

9)  Louise Bogan by Gregory Crosby

Bogan_Louise460 No more pronouncements on lousy verse. No more hidden competition. No more struggling not to be a square. Not square, but severe. They hang the word restrained round your white neck like a choker, but an elegant one, simple, black. Lace-curtain Irish, mother unstable; romantic & preoccupied with sexual betrayal. At midnight tears run into ears. I would like to kiss them away, but I wouldn’t presume. The blue estuary of your skepticism, a fire cold as flame. The satisfaction & trap of minor perfection. The drudgery of book reviewing. No more pronouncements…   When was the last time someone mentioned you? I’d like to take the arm of “Medusa,” “Cassandra,” your “Women,” & promenade down the boulevard of poetry fierce & nearly forgotten. Did Ted Roethke have you in mind when he said I knew a woman, lovely in her bones? I bet your bones glowed. Especially in the dark. I bet you didn’t suffer fools, least of all yourself. I can’t help but think “Epitaph for a Romantic Woman” is your own. I bet your smile was something to behold, a private supernova of surprise, like a kiss bestowed on the undeserved… I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy. 

 

10)  Marosa di Giorgio by Lisa Marie Basile 

Letter to Marosa

136_wi250_he250_cr1-1.1352820540Marosa, have you thought of me since we last met? Have you thought of the time I wore my hair like yours? I doubt it. I wore my hair like yours to say, “here, take this as transcendence.” I became a growth, an orchid, a nightshade. A woman. In the end I closed my eyes and plunged my hands into the bucket of the garden and pulled something out; you; sweet and angelic and instant as the sky. I knew it was too late to chase you, you had gone, and I was left at the vanity mirror with my legs open hoping the city would understand: I don’t mean to sexualize you or our world. I mean to let you crawl inside me. So I can give birth to you, or through you, so I can make things like you-like a woman-lantern, a mâché of the self, an in-loveness with the world as it isn’t and is. I fondled the night. I let loose my hair from it’s kindly bun, spoke in a frazzled Spanish and watched the rain fall. Someone told me a monster walked past me, right behind, like a door opening, intentions and all. And I believed them, because you would. Because the ivy growing up the side of the yard house wouldn’t have done that if it didn’t want to own something. I’m owned by something, someone. I’m owned by the world around me like a garden glove. It helps to imagine my own seedlings sprinkled, it helps to imagine us kissing. You’re old and I’m young and it can be very beautiful. Tell me to keep seeing the world this way, because everything else is alone, and my tongue falls nicely into your tongue, because I was born wayward and green. As a letter Unsent. I mythologized you because I saw the spirit carrying her tray of floral candies, and when everyone said, “sleep” I needed someone to say, “it’s ok, this forsaken town is just broken.” We will make love in the centro. We won’t mind the Catholics. They say they see the angels but we know we do.

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.

Poetry Crush Music Issue Vol. 2

6 Jun

tumblr_ltlpp77I3a1qg0feyo1_500

If there is a war between man & machine & machine wins, what will we be listening to?  Last year we asked the same question, but man won & we looked at pure lyric.  Here we look at the survival of lyric (& therefore humankind) as it merges with technology & other modern & futuristic advancements.  We took a look at what lyric breaks through the robotics for a glimpse of the role of  song in the future.

Thanks so much to my groovy contributors & fellow time-travelers!  Here is the accompanying playlist, in case you want to sing along–It’s pretty addictive.   (If you listen to exactly these songs in exactly this order, your future will be revealed to you.)

Del The Funky Homosapien – State of the Nation *  Del The Funky Homosapien – 3030 * PJ Harvey – The Last Living Rose * PJ Harvey – In The Dark Places * Of Montreal – Gronlandic Edit * Prince – Controversy * The Antlers – Epilogue * The Magnetic Fields – Take Ecstasy With Me * Múm – Green Grass Of Tunnel * The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1 * The White Stripes – We Are Going To Be Friends

Del The Funky Homosapien by Laura Goldstein

Deltron+3030+DelthaFunkeeHomosapien

Kodwo Eshun’s essay Operating System for the Redesign of Sonic Reality “marks out a lineage of black artists… for whom black identity is fundamentally connected with science fiction and electronic technology”*.  Though not on the radar for this essential article alongside historical greats such as Samuel Delaney, Octavia Butler, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and even Dr. Octagon, Del The Funky Homosapien crosses over into such territory in the album Deltron 3030.

Released in the year 2000 in collaboration with Dan the Automator and DJ Kid Koala, and which features many guest artists, the album focuses on the theme of a fairly dystopic future. The project is a concept album that takes place in the year 3030 and features the story of a space flight by Deltron Zero,Deltron3030 a character created by Del. Throughout the course of the album, Del engages in battles with megacorporations that have taken over the universe. The music of the album’s title song, 3030, begins like a launch into the space of the lyrics, requests confirmation of position and then leads us into a melody that sets strange and beautiful gravitational conditions for the listener. Like a cello, Del’s slow and methodical rap, clear and straightforward, is his narrative enunciated in a pitch to match the invisible sound of your heart. From the first verse:

Arm a nation with hatred we ain’t with that
We high-tech archeologists searching for knicknacks
Composing musical stimpacks that impact the soul
Crack the mold of what you think you rappin for
I used to be a mech soldier but I didn’t respect orders
I had to step forward tell them this ain’t for us
Living in a post-apocalyptic world morbid and horrid
The secrets of the past they hoarded
Now we just boarded on a futuristic spacecraft
No mistakes black it’s our music we must take back

 


The song incorporates classics of science fiction literature and film Neuromancer and Ghost in the Shell while distinguishing itself from “entertainment where many are brainless”. Del establishes the new narrative of a character who “must use my rappin so you all can see the hazards”. After escaping from jail, his “ears morphed to receptors”, he relays: “on the run with a handgun, blast bioforms, I am warned/ That a planet-wide manhunt with cannons/Will make me abandon, my foolish plan of uprisin”.  In a world that, however far in the future, seems to continue to mirror oppressive human conditions, technology has only evolved enough to escalate and amplify the effects of a relentless capitalistic civilization on the body. But even though “enterprisin wise men look to the horizon/ thinkin more capitalism is the wisdom/ and imprison all citizens empowered with rhythm/…

we keep the funk alive by talking with idioms”

Another newer literary figure that escaped the scope of Eshun’s essay as well is experimental writer Harryette Mullen, who relies on the examination and creative use of idiom to critique a society that turns humans into robots who merely consume fuel and each other. I see both of these artists as working with the same modes of language weaponry, changing the future before we get to the one that they clearly see is ahead of us.

*in Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner), (157)

PJ Harvey by Emily Toder

PJ Harvey at Hammerstein Ballroom NYC

I love PJ Harvey so much. Below I attempt to get at some of why, while admitting to reductive hyperbole and reductionism, and forewarning that if this theory is accurate even a little, it really can account for at best an infinitesimal part of why PJ’s so good.

Setting aside for now the purely tonal features that dazzle me about her work – the pine of her voice in her throat and the sting of the strings and drums, etc. – PJ’s lyrics startle me by their sharpness and sparseness, and by the paradoxical waywardness of their structural simplicity. While rich imagistically and of course all the more in utter meaning, the lines have, to me, a kind of exaggeratedly basic grammatical style, almost altogether unornamented, and suggesting a linguistic economy I think does a song quite good. If you take a close listen, you hear subjects take usually just one action; nouns afforded most times a sole adjective; adverbs by and large avoided; and metaphor made wonky, rough, and stiff. A sister attribute to this fruitful paradox is the precision of the attention to place and the sick atmosphere of places so alive in her songs. This is of course most overt in her latest, Let England Shake, which in jolts laments a nation brutal, old, and tender. Here’s the words to its second track:

[The Last Living Rose]

Goddamn Europeans

take me back to beautiful England

and the grey damp filthiness of
ages and battered books and

fog rolling down behind the mountains

on the graveyards and dead sea captains
 
Let me walk
through the stinking alleys
to the music of
drunken beatings
past the Thames
River glistening
like gold, hastily sold
for nothing – nothing!
 
Let me watch night fall on the river

the moon rise up and turn to silver

the sky move

the ocean shimmer

the hedge shake

the last living rose……. quiver
 
 

Did you notice how each thing gets to do one thing? Maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but I think it’s worth noting. Snippets are the essences of life. Also, I love gerunds, and PJ must do, too: look at how she molds the rhyming stinking, beatings, glistening, and nothing, as fluidly as though they were actually parts of the same part of speech, and who cares that they aren’t? (Nothing’s no’s gerund.) Of course I’m by no means suggesting she’s into this oddity or writes with a Strunk & White at her elbow – that’d be disappointing – but the very fact that this phonemic facet emerges at all, let alone so gorgeously, betrays the pervasive sensitivity to language out of which Harvey lives and knits her songs. This great English resource, no pun intended, is used subtly and steadily throughout the album, never failing (ha, ha, see ‘England’ next).

I also love it when she exploits from time to time the aural thrill of deviating from a rhythm or sound our ear has been trained to expect (which of course is itself the basis of a lot of jokes and other funny things, and often a handy asset in a poem). Look at this little piece of ‘In the Dark Places’ (also on L.E.S.):

So our young men
hid with guns
in the dirt
and in the dark places
 
Our young men
hid with guns
in the dirt
and in the dark places
 
Our young men
hid with gun
in the forest
and in the dark places
 

This is especially masterful to me because the unanticipated shift from dirt to forest is profound phonetically, and matched in poignancy with the melodic stray and altered emphasis with which PJ sings that whole third verse. The extra syllable the word forest features; the toll and potency of its fricativeness, making it great to belt; and the semantic aspects of its relationship to dirt… well it all makes me well up, and not just cause it’s about war. It’s duck-duck-goose, essentially, an elementally intuitable Mazurka-ish lyrical trope of probably all prosodically-stressed languages in the history of human life on earth, and employed here with unwitting  sublimity so skillfully. Oh, I am glad I warned you in advance I was going to hyperbolize. Yay PJ.

PJ_Harvey_2

Of Montreal by Hannah Gamble

OF-MONTREAL

There’s something perfectly contemporary about Of Montreal’s song “Gronlandic Edit”: There’s the kind of hermitism produced by too many options for what a person can do with herself should she leave her home, in conjunction with the flurry of anxieties that make a person feel that perhaps he should just stay indoors and not rope anyone he knows into the personal hell he’s currently experiencing. The word that best describes the song’s speaker is, I think, “overwhelmed”– overwhelmed by religious options, overwhelmed by his own upbringing, overwhelmed by the power of a natural world that doesn’t give a shit about us, overwhelmed by the emptiness of the admittedly alluring entertainment industry/ dream of celebrity. And then, maybe, also overwhelmed by all the beauty that’s wasted when we get caught up in all of the aforementioned overwhelming things.

The song feels very “now” and, in some ways, the song feels very “me,” but I also think that the song would be a perfectly suitable accompaniment to270 any post-robot apocalypse that our great [great-great] grandkids might know. While technology is surely to thank for how subtly distant and echo-y the vocals sound (nothing about the song is lo-fi, or raw, or roots-y), I think that the music video is the best example of how technology (animation/ editing) enhances the already pretty engaging lyrics: it’s playful, fast-moving, brightly colored, upper and lower-case A absurd, a little sexy, and definitely anti-sexy as well. The video feels like a party, but a party where the host is on the verge of a panic attack and so does something ridiculous like come out of the bathroom wearing only gold lamé booty shorts to get an easy laugh. Of course, what I like about the song is that it ends with a message to someone who seems to make the speaker feel safe in the midst of a maybe inhospitable city. In short: Starts with anxiety and ends with a little hope and sweetness. Would the robots be okay with this message of micro-hope for micro-love between humans? Who knows; my guess is that video would overload a few circuit boards.

GRONLANDIC EDIT [by Of Montreal]

Nihilists with good imaginations
I am satisfied hiding in our friend’s apartment
Only leaving once a day to buy some groceries
Daylight, I’m so absent minded, nighttime meeting new anxieties
So am I erasing myself? Hope I’m not erasing myself
 
I guess it would be nice to give my heart to a God
But which one, which one do I choose?
All the churches filled with losers, psycho or confused
I just want to hold the divine in mine
And forget, all of the beauty’s wasted
 
Let’s fall back to earth and do something pleasant, say it
We fell back to earth like gravity’s bitches, bitches
Physics makes us all its bitches
 
I guess it would be nice to help in your escape
From patterns your parents designed
All the party people dancing for the indie star
But he’s the worst faker by far in the set
I forget, all of the beauty’s wasted
 
I guess it would be nice
Show me that things can be nice
I guess it would be nice
[You’re trapped]
Show me that things can be nice
 
You’ve got my back in the city
You’ve got my back ’cause I don’t want to panic
You’ve got my back in the city
You’ve got my back ’cause I don’t want to panic
 
 

Prince by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas

Prince-4

Music When The Rise of the Machines Occurs

I thought long and hard about this.

When machines rule the Earth (when?) I postulated they would “crave” music that would soothe their nonexistent souls, melodies that would serve as surrogate to their missing emotions—you know, tunes that would seem “catchy” to the metal ones. (Bowie was too obvious here).

My picks turned to any Hall & Oates, ABBA, or Queen. Maybe The Carpenters.

Sigh.

No.

Weepy or campy robots would not be.

I moved then to Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army, Mr. Bungle’s California, Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, Eno + Bryne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, any Kate Bush, Blonde Redhead’s 23 album (specifically tracks such as “Publisher” and “SW”), any Bjork…hmmm. Nope.

Finally, I arrived at my pick: In the cold, metallic future void of humanity’s frailties, funky, sexy music will prevail.

Prince’s Controversy album…title track…Controversy.

I just can’t believe
All the things people say, controversy
Am I black or white?
Am I straight or gay? Controversy
Do I believe in God?
Do I believe in me?
Controversy, controversy, controversy
I can’t understand
Human curiosity, controversy
Was it good for you?
Was I what you wanted me to be?
Controversy
Do you get high?
Does your daddy cry?
Controversy, controversy, controversy
Do I believe in God?
Do I believe in me?
Some people wanna die
So they can be free
I said life is just a game
We’re all just the same
Do you wanna play?
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Controversy, controversy, controversy
Listen, people call me rude
I wish we all were nude
I wish there was no black and white
I wish there were no rules
 P211

The Antlers by J. Hope Stein

TheAntlerssongPics1Ml0q6sGRXYKFpM

I just had to pick the Antlers because I think they are writing love songs like no one else.  The album Hospice is about an abusive relationship, using the metaphor of a relationship between the speaker and someone who has cancer.  But I have to say that it works on both levels quite deeply and delivers something entirely new to indie rock.   There’s no rock song like this, because rock & roll is so young.  There is no song of young love I know, addressing the “you”– where the “you” is victim of cancer.  In that sense this is closer to classic poetry where young lovers were more likely to lose one another to illness.   What I think is also remarkable about this song, is that most songs which touch on death tend to memorialize the dead, whereas this one tells the story of a relationship that is complicated and made more complicated by terminal illness.  I don’t want to say this is the future, but it happens enough in life that there is great value in someone from your own generation making rock & roll out of it.

Below, in the lyric representation of the song Epilogue, I chose to keep in the full repetition of the song (“screaming, cursing”, etc) because written down it does the same thing it does when it’s chanted– it completely envelopes you in a cycle of human trappings and struggles.  (I know it’s a sad song, but it’s sadder not to have it.)

Epilogue

In a nightmare, I am falling from the ceiling into bed beside you
You’re asleep, I’m screaming, shoving you to try to wake you up
And like before, you’ve got no interest in the life you live when you’re awake
Your dreams still follow storylines, like fictions you would make
 
So I lie down against your back, until we’re both back in the hospital
But now it’s not a cancer ward, we’re sleeping in the morgue
Men and women in blue and white, they are singing all around you
With heavy shovels holding earth, you’re being buried to you neck
In that hospital bed, being buried quite alive now
I’m trying to dig you out
but all you want is to be buried there together
 
You’re screaming
And cursing
And angry
And hurting me
And then smiling
And crying
Apologizing
 
I’ve woken up, I’m in our bed, but there’s no breathing body there beside me
Someone must have taken you while I was stuck asleep
But I know better as my eyes adjust
You’ve been gone for quite a while now, and I don’t work there in the hospital
(They had to let me go)
 
When I try to move my arms sometimes, they weigh too much to lift
I think you buried me awake (my one and only parting gift)
But you return to me at night just when I think I may have fallen asleep
Your face is up against mine, and I’m too terrified to speak
 
You’re screaming
And cursing
And angry
And hurting me
And then smiling
And crying
Apologizing
You’re screaming
And cursing
And angry
And hurting me
And then smiling
And crying
Apologizing
You’re screaming
And cursing
And angry
And hurting me
And then smiling
And crying
Apologizing
 

The Magnetic Fields by Tanya Larkin

0

Once the great Singularity begins to take hold, I suggest testing for replicants not by asking how subject x feels about his mother, but my seeing how x responds to layered percussion and the complex rhythms at the foundation of songs like The Magnetic Fields “Are You the Trouble I’ve Been Looking For?” or “Take Ecstasy with Me,” both on the 1994 album Holiday. Subject x should probably move a little to prove he is human, even if it’s just to bite his or her lip in puzzlement. Turing tests aside—I’m ignoring them—surely what will remain of humanity is its ability to recognize and feel a beat that is composed by another human rather than a machine, even if that beat is fed through a machine.

The melodies of most songs on Holiday are carried by Stephen Merritt’s limited baritone and elaborated by synths (in other words, technology). The simplicity of these elements allows for the highest, most lush, most particular lyricism. “In my Secret Place” begins, “Time swings / like a wrecking ball into things.” “Swinging London” begins “I read your manifestos and your strange religious tracks / You took me to the library and kissed me in the stacks.” Merritt is unabashedly literate and shamelessly romantic, and in my view, has perfected the notoriously limited genre of the pop song, both lyrically and musically.

 “Take Ecstasy with Me” is one of the greatest love songs ever, not to mention a moving testimony to a long term gay relationship that at the outset suffered and withstood the prejudiced violence of dumb-ass folk. The singer remembers the initial heady days of the couple’s romance when they took ecstasy and “got beat up for just holding hands” and invites his partner to take ecstasy with him again and feel the old feelings once more.

You used to slide down the carpeted stairs

or down the bannister

you stuttered like a kaleidoscope

’cause you knew too many words

you used to make ginger bread houses

we used to have taffy pulls
 
Take ecstasy with me, baby

take ecstasy with me.
 
You had a black snowmobile

we drove out under the northern lights

a vodka bottle gave you those raccoon eyes

we got beat up just for holding hands
 
Take ecstasy with me, baby

take ecstasy with me.

Mum by Ryan P Mihaly

MUM

The musicians of múm know the magic-musical effect of a chiming cash register, of a spinning coin rolling to a stop, of a whisper. Their music peels away a layer of reality, always out of a bumbling, nascent curiosity, and offers a glimpse of a weird world found in small sounds, acoustically made but electronically smudged and toyed with. Lyrically, múm is creepy yet kind, slightly unsettling but well intentioned, like No-Face from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, hands outstretched and cupped in offering. In “Green Grass of Tunnel,” from their 2002 record Finally We Are No One, someone is making sounds in a cupboard and the sounds are taking liquid form. The song ends abruptly like a sentient music box happily clamping itself shut.

A new album is due this year.

From “Green Grass of Tunnel“:

Down from the ceiling

Leaks a great noise

It drips on my head through a hole in the roof

Behind these two hills here

There’s a pool

And when I’m swimming

through a tunnel I shut my eyes

Inside the cupboard

I make sounds
and through the tubes I send this noise

The Flaming Lips by J. Hope Stein

Yoshimi_Battles_the_Pink_Robot_by_Splapp_me_do

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, a 2002  concept album from The Flaming Lips starts with the song Fight Test, which establishes the premise– we are what we chose to fight for:

I thought I was smart – I thought I was right

I thought it better not to fight –
I thought there was a virtue in always being cool –
 
so when it came time to fight
I thought I’ll just step aside
and that time would prove you wrong
and that you would be the fool
 
I don’t know where the sun beams end
and the star lights begins it’s all a mystery
And I don’t know how a man decides
what’s right for his own life, it’s all a mystery
 

Fight Test talks about the mystery of what each individual chooses to fight for.  In the song Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part I, the fight is more specifically defined —  “Robots”.   This is a triumphant love song, with images of Yoshimi (a female superhero) protecting the male speaker from life-threatening robots.  It also speaks of a broader daily struggle against the systemic robotization of our hearts and minds and puts lovers on the front lines:

Those evil-natured robots
they’re programmed to destroy us
she’s gotta be strong to fight them
so she’s taking lots of vitamins
 
‘Cause she knows that it’d be tragic
if those evil robots win
I know she can beat them
 
Oh Yoshimi, they don’t believe me
But you won’t let those robots defeat me
Oh Yoshimi, they don’t believe me
But you won’t let those robots eat me
 

In Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the song of epiphany is Do you Realize:  “Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face…..Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?”  The album is filled with images and sounds of robotics, combined with images of face, flesh,  human longing and limitation.  The Flaming Lips answer to the human predicament seems to be superheroes.  Here it is the robot-slaying girlfriend, Yoshimi.   On other albums they talk about “waiting for superman” and “the human prize” — humans pushing themselves towards some  kind of superhuman prize.  But the superhuman effort meets tragic ends.  In the end of “Yoshimi,” after an album-ful of fantastical struggle,  a man from the future comes:

 
As logic stands you couldn’t meet a man
Who’s from the future
But logic broke as he appeared he spoke
About the Future
 
“We’re not gonna make it”
He explained how the end will come,
you and me were never meant
To be part of the future,
 
All we have is now,
All we’ve ever had was now
All we have is now
All we’ll ever have is now
 

It’s a moment of pure defeat and human limitation.  & Here you have to wonder what is defeated– Is this a break-up album or is it the defeat of mankind?  In Yoshimi both are equally at stake.  Now.

yoshimi

The White Stripes by J. Hope Stein

whitestripes1

The future will be a safer place if there are more songs romanticizing platonic friendships– High-fives to bugs & worms & publicly affectionate just-friends!

We’re Going to Be Friends

Fall is here, hear the yell
back to school, ring the bell
brand new shoes, walking blues
climb the fence, books and pens
I can tell that we’re going to be friends
 
Walk with me, Suzy Lee
through the park and by the tree
we will rest upon the ground
and look at all the bugs we found
safely walk to school without a sound
safely walk to school without a sound
 
Here we are, no one else
we walked to school all by ourselves
there’s dirt on our uniforms
from chasing all the ants and worms
we clean up and now its time to learn
we clean up and now its time to learn
 
Numbers, letters, learn to spell
nouns, and books, and show and tell
at playtime we will throw the ball
back to class, through the hall
teacher marks our height against the wall
teacher marks our height against the wall
 
We don’t notice any time pass
we don’t notice anything
we sit side by side in every class
teacher thinks that I sound funny
but she likes the way you sing
 
Tonight I’ll dream while in my bed
when silly thoughts go through my head
about the bugs and alphabet
and when I wake tomorrow I’ll bet
that you and I will walk together again
I can tell that we’re going to be friends