MERRY CLAYTON SINGS US STERILE
I am flying down I-95, flipping stations, staring at the radio
like I’ve got a death wish, when the last minute
of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” comes flailing onto WBLM.
I am sitting on a barstool. A boy in a leather jacket
is telling me to listen for Mick Jagger to moan with pleasure
when Merry Clayton’s voice cracks on the high notes at the end.
The boy is effortless cool. Knows a lot about rock n’ roll.
Tells you who to root for in every song. We listen.
There is a crack. A moan. As promised.
I am flying down I-95. Merry Clayton is screaming far gone memories
of this boy who is leaving. I have to believe she knows
what a storm sounds like; what it is to be fire-swept.
I am leaning against the wall of a handicapped bathroom,
a pregnancy test drying on the floor. There are two minutes on the timer
and the end of my life is a shot away. When the dried bar
tells me just how empty I am, my voice cracks under the weight
of this loneliness. The boy I now know I can’t keep tells me I have
a pretty voice. I tell him I have a hard time with the high notes.
I am flying down I-95, chasing this boy who loves like war; like murder.
I do not know whether he will take The Stones with him
when he goes, only that this can never again be my song.
I am listening to my lover talk about rock and roll. There is no end
to his praise of the voice crack. He does not know how many ways Merry Clayton
broke the night she laid the track. He still does not know about the miscarriage.
The pretty boys who moan when their women break do not know that you can sing
your body empty, that a woman’s fury is caustic and her grief is barren land.
Merry Clayton and I… we must have hit the same high notes.
ENDOMETRIOSIS, CHARISMA, AND A GOOD SINGING VOICE
My mother’s sister meets the devil between jobs.
He snags her ankle in the revolving door and pulls her down.
He asks what she has always wanted (A voice, she whispers);
needed (A husband, she admits); longed for (A baby, she cries).
Satan grins; promises safe delivery. He does not mention
that he is a man of two-thirds promises; does not tell what he plans to take.
Tonight she sings under her breath as a man sets the dinner table.
She would love to concede that she is happy like this,
but every few weeks she calls to remind me
that when she is gone, she will give me all the fine silver.
Ellyn Touchette is a biology student and behavioral health professional from Portland, Maine. She is on the board of directors for Port Veritas, a slam and nonprofit which she has represented at multiple national competitions (NPS 2013 and 2014, WOWPS 2013). Her work is present or forthcoming in The Emerson Review, Black Heart Magazine, The Legendary, and Drunk in a Midnight Choir.
A kind-of height
I ached for some cigarettes. Funny, because I never smoked. But he smoked hourly, probably. I always liked the way it smelled on him. I remembered a time when we’d shared cigars on the parking garage rooftop, smoking out little moonbeams, down to the darkness of 20th street. I looked out at a hotel – flashing green sign – sleep here. With him. Ahhhh, with him. He smelt like tobacco and dirt but he made me feel pretty. I blushed, cherry-red around him; my cheeks giant freckles of nerves. Listless, but lively, we lived inside each other’s emptiness, for awhile. Awake, eyes open on coffee and insomnia in our tight space filled with guitar strings and Magic cards. He never wanted to teach me to play. He wanted me to fall in love with him, and I might have, too. He looked good, in his one suit, and I liked him sitting in the passenger seat of my car. Orange, under the glow of streetlights. But now, in the aftermath of an almost-love we can’t even be friends. I smoke, to remind myself of the comfort I found in his presence. That time we were on the roof, waving to the people down below. We probably weren’t ever really friends (just friends) but we were tall.
honey, your bones are inexplicably lovely.
there, in a cavity of the earth
completely swallowed, engulfed,
by a particular matter of soil and grass.
your remains are not remains, baby
life has not yet left you just because you
rest in solitary pieces covered by earth
does not mean you are beyond everything
I still think of you and I see you
standing next to me when I look
in the mirror, and sweetheart
you’re going to have to be more
observant of your smell.
it’s overwhelming my senses
which is seriously tragic when
it makes me believe
I could touch you.
I get pretty sick of people thinking I’m still here. Like, “oh I can feel your presence.” Bullshit! I’m gone. I’ve left; completely digested and overwhelmed by this cavity in the earth that was dug for a grave where you could come and wish me back to life. I am remnants of what I used to be! Sticking around is really getting tiring, all this spooky crap. I’m no good at it so you just need to let me go. Oh, and I can’t do anything about that smell. I’m dead.
the bedpost diary
secrets are the lies on bed sheets
steamed stained suspicious in the morning when your
lover’s gone never considered in
porous pink primed passion
how the bra is best left undone -
the time it takes to … oooh
how you wish you had asked
about that floozy and the other
night you lied about should you have told?
Trisha Parsons is a full time student at the University of Wyoming where she studies English and Gender Studies. She has always fancied herself a poet, but has found her poetic tendencies to be helpful in writing prose, and hopes to endeavor into the wild world of novels.
From time to time I fall in love. I don’t do it often to save myself embarrassment. I prefer something more solid, like doorways. It’s clear what to expect — if a door is open, I’m welcome; if it’s closed, I’m not. A locked door can be infuriating, but less so than waiting for his phone calls. Then of course, his phone calls are followed by calls to friends; the possibilities in his words must be analyzed. These conversations are made up of the false starts and trips and mistellings of anticipation and remembering. If it’s really serious, I’ll meet a friend for coffee so we can strategize in person. Unlike Christmas, no specific day guarantees an open door and an end to waiting.
The first time I fell in love, there were three of us. This didn’t seem quite right when I looked at my floor plans, but I was still learning to read the symbols of sinks and couches and sliding doors. He was tall, blond, cracked eggs on his head, and jumped in front of departing cars. As soon as we got home, the three of us were on the phone. It’s true, our trio was inseparable, but I would have preferred two. I was the one who dyed his hair red for the Tori Amos concert. I thought that meant something. This went on for a year and a summer. That my two closest friends were boys, content with our three-way friendship, seemed as natural as drawing floor plans instead of listening in geography. Everyone thought we were dating, I had to tell them no. Then he’d be over for hot chocolate and confidences. Too late, I understood the most important confidence.
I have a friend who falls in love once a week, which can be a problem. (I could never love that many boys at once. I would have to draw myself elevations and sections to know which boy was which, what to talk about, what I liked about him.) Some of the girls know people in common, and then they’ll both show up at the same party. In these cases, I’m expected to rescue my friend. If we’re taking the bus together, he’ll point out a girl he might fall in love with. I can’t keep track of all the names, so I’ve asked him to make me a database. He’s an accountant not an architect, which must be where we differ. Maybe I’ll laminate the database, so I can give it to him for his birthday. That way when he looks back, he’ll recognize himself at that particular moment.
I frequently fall in love with structures. My first time at the Palace of Fine Arts, I thought maybe I’d get married. That way I could take pictures under the neoclassical grandeur without feeling like a tourist. Then there was the Greene and Greene, reliable with its rustic straight lines; and the Julia Morgan, romantic with the concrete flowers and leaded glass. Once I had a friend complicit in these obsessions — a 2:00 AM drive through West Hollywood and a Schindler house with thin windows that delicately separated concrete slabs. I wasn’t much impressed by the facade of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, although there was something compelling in the stubborn geometry. I fell in love with the interior: the ambiguity between inside and outside, between rooms and floors — the meticulous simplicity. I never anticipated the brilliance of that openness.
Once I was in love with a furniture maker. I never knew him beyond small talk, but I had seen his furniture. If I could make furniture (if I could get over my distaste of screaming metal and shrieking wood, my hesitation around sharp, rapidly moving blades, my association of woodshops with torture chambers), and if my craftsmanship was that meticulous (all I ever see in my work are the flaws where things come together, the clumsiness), his furniture would be the furniture I would dream of making — furniture more provocative, more beautiful than an Eames’ chair or a Le Corbusier (but not more than a Greene and Greene, I wasn’t that in love.).
Nikki Thompson is a poet, book artist (aka Deconstructed Artichoke Press), and happily failed architect. She fled Southern California for UC Berkeley, where she earned a degree in architecture and edited Berkeley Fiction Review. She remained in the Bay Area and earned her MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts in 2002. Her work has appeared in Mason’s Road, Cobalt Review, *82 Review, among others. She currently teaches special education at South San Francisco Unified School District, while residing in Pacifica, California, with her husband and darling pitbull, Daisy Mae.
There’s More to Say on the Subject than I’ll Ever Be Able to Articulate So I Shouldn’t Even Bother
But I don’t ever do as I’m told and I keep receiving flowers
from the wrong people and I keep telling the wrong
person goodnight. What gives? Ladyfingers are a delicate
food and concept. Lady fingers are thinner than a man’s
and therefore weaker, but better. Therefore more
beautiful and breakable and inconsistent, because hormones.
I like to dress in all black and then speak in bright neon tubing.
The sign I wear as a locket says closed but all these strangers
keep knocking. Be back at 8AM, I say, Sorry for any inconvenience.
As foreign as marks of lipstick on glasses
and mascara stains on my sleeve—
young stars fly out of spiral arms and into
puddles of lace, the instruments of my alienation—
This is exactly the way I knew it would be,
so silent, so cold—surrounded by your body
of water. Wearing pastels has made me feel softer
and like the lilac bush outside my mother’s house—
that so quickly loses its decoration, I pull inward.
She’s too busy soaking in the long draw of a good
compliment to smile in every picture. It wasn’t her,
it was the idea I loved. With a watercolor face I
followed my dalmatian onto our sectional couch.
My mother met me at the bus stop to tell me
the dog had died. In times like these I sleep
in only a towel—to feel something wrapped around me.
Self Portrait - Sprawled on an Itchy Brownish Rug
I am sitting on a train, without a voice.
I am a magnolia tree resisting wind,
an Arizona blackbird’s startled heart,
the storm of cream in your morning coffee.
I am the flamboyant peacock idly marching in the zoo,
the girl at the party who asks you to refill her cup
because kegs give her anxiety.
I am the isolated hail atop a single mountain,
the bluegill who pricks your flesh, which you catch and always throw back.
I wash my face with peppermint soap and an old flannel shirt.
I am a terrible pen pal. I cannot organize my thoughts.
I am indifferent about UFOs.
I wish I had Julia Child’s gusto.
I lack peripheral vision and spatial awareness.
I often bump into strangers or accidentally brush their fingertips.
I am constantly disheveled, a car spinning on ice.
Alicia Banaszewski is a poet and playwright in Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in The Light Ekphrastic, The Fat City Review, The Finger, and others. Her column “Michigan on My Mind” can be found on a semi-regular basis at detroitbeerpress.blogspot.com
noiseless can play dead for the judges, but knows what to do
Lily Duffy is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she also teaches creative writing. Her poems have appeared in Hot Metal Bridge, ILK journal, Cloud Rodeo, Bone Bouquet, NAP, inter|rupture, and elsewhere. With Rachel Levy, she co-edits DREGINALD. She lives in Denver.
a still point becomes a web in and out of light
this is the epiphany made of someone’s fuchsia
the entire thing forgotten and gladly
perkiness leans itself downward in some dramatic plunge
there are hooves dancing
in the yard
saying things are further
saying truth is made out of discomfort
I tie string to each expression because it disappears
our legs as ideas of being carried
as sheets and clothes in crooked branches
forgot the pots and pans behind masking-tape
names of each epiphany
leave the stomach
you watch yourself
a joy to rename
the many flowers
we were keeping our horse heads
screwed onto their sticks
these included our real hair
attached to thought
this tin a cup this carpet floral
I wasn’t dressed like myself.
I was a horse in the rain
wearing my blanket.
These things seem tediously insignificant.
Tomorrow I will be a better listener.
Everything dressed in its blue rain jacket.
CONVERSATIONS FROM A WINDOW
merriness as an ordinary object
as my plates and your silver things
we are a tiered cake
a day we can’t always have
and I wonder
of this plume
Sara Lupita Olivares is an MFA candidate at Texas State University.
Michelle Reale is an Assistant Professor at Arcadia University in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She is the author of four collections of fiction and prose poems and has been published in a wide variety of publications both online and in print. She has been twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry collection “The Legacy of the Sidelong Glance,” will be published by Aldrich Press in the Fall. She does ethnography among African refugees in Sicily and blogs about some of her experiences at www.sempresicilia.wordpress.com
a tumor consisting of different types of tissue and capable of growing hair, teeth,
and other body parts.
Teratoma didn’t receive invite to your tea party.
Teratoma don’t like tea cakes.
Teratoma has 3 teeth, a patch of slimy hair, and baby
foot growing off to one side.
Teratoma thinks he looks fat in jeans.
Teratoma hungry for cardboard.
Teratoma has no eye but if he had eye
he’d blink twice for yes.
Teratoma eat his twin.
Teratoma don’t like mirrors.
Teratoma come from body but has no
mother to speak of.
Teratoma see the world in white.
Teratoma likes to spin.
Teratoma want to wear icicles as earrings,
but in the body, icicles melt.
Teratoma has an itch on his noggin.
Teratoma want to feel the sunlight.
Teratoma another wonder of the body,
but he knows you look away.
While waiting in line to pay for gas in an overstocked service
station, who has not been tempted to purchase one
of those one dollar grab bags bundled in brown paper
and bottom heavy like a packed lunch? What you don’t need
is another oversized I Love Florida tee shirt or a sand-filled
keychain, but the suspense is surprisingly unwholesome.
Something like the lure of online dating. You said you wouldn’t,
but you’ve thought about those deep levels of compatibility
advertised on late night infomercials. You know about
being dimensional. You’ve kissed with your eyes open.
You want what you want. Or you want to know what you want.
It’s the experience that counts, which is why, when you go pee
in the truckstop bathroom next door, you stop and study
the round hole in the wall that’s just even with your waist.
Because you have a hankering to be exposed, audacious, bad,
you place your open mouth to the wall and close your eyes.
Christie Collins lives and writes in Louisiana where she teaches at LSU while working on a PhD at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. Recently, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cold Mountain Review, Canyon Voices, and So to Speak. Her chapbook, Along the Diminishing Stretch of Memory, is forthcoming from dancing girl press.