infanticide in outer space

Dylan Krieger

because the concept of heaven renders us all bygone astronauts. because burning forever would, in my book, be better. because this is my book, goddammit, and your ghost just a character. a character i stone to death over and over, like a piñata whose precious insides turn out to be just blood and water. because i want to show you how even a wordsmith can stumble on mother, the first syllables to stick between the teeth and sift the rubble for relief. a word that even now precedes me, precedes bondage, earth, trees, vaseline and ennui. precedes the need to give myself over to the elements and then, in turn, retreat, tape together my cheeks and terrorize the moon’s sleep with the memory of my confessor banishing me to the basement floor. by four in the morning, she’d awoke and spoke regretfully, but for me it will always be too late to go back to outer space, where the umbilical tethers taunt and chafe and the faraway planets don’t know me by name, but by taste

Hanalei Bay, 1971

M.J. Turner

Tourists wade at the edge of the surf,
white swollen knees hover above the clay-
colored foam — blimps following a parade.

Sand pours out of bathing suits shucked
outside the backyard shower: bare flanks
breaded like chicken cutlets, waiting. Yellow
grains scratch the painted floorboards again.

2016 Bettering American Poetry Nominations

We’re pleased to announce our nominations for the 2016 Bettering American Poetry anthology. Take a look, (re)read and let the authors know what you think!

“Blue Collar” by Tatiana Ryckman

“Grace” by Alexander Dickow

“Syrupy” by Ivy Alvarez

To the South

M.J. Turner

Five borders, three languages: I’ve left
slate roofs and sausage rolls behind.
In the empty compartment, the bed

stretches out – whiter than home,
starched, almost the smell of bottled
clouds – shuddering at each unnamed
stop, squealing by the late-night sidings.
When magenta and chrome yellow
hang in the windows, fields
colored like cheap calendars taped
to a pre-school wall, I’ll step
into the train station and speak
its language like a toddler,
with a wallet and a full set of keys.

A Strange Thing from the Deep

Richard LeBlond

A light drizzle greeted the ferry as it arrived in Newfoundland, six hours across Cabot Strait from Nova Scotia. A fog shrouded the low hills bordering the harbor, misty white hands trying to reclaim the land for a sea reluctant to give it up.

Later, I found a passage in John Gimlette’s book, Theatre of Fish, with a similar image of Newfoundland from 19th century American explorer Robert T.S. Lowell: “A monstrous mass of rock and gravel, almost without soil, like a strange thing from the bottom of the great deep, lifted up suddenly, into the sunshine and storm, but belonging to the watery darkness out of which it has been reared.”

Newfoundland is nature’s great experiment to saturate stone. The rocks seem always wet, even in the sun, which has no power to dry them. Bogs and fens are everywhere – in the valleys, on the moors, and up mountain slopes, where not even gravity can loosen the water.

But the rock is stubborn and not quickly washed away. It is the northern extent of the Appalachians, part of the oldest surviving mountain system on the planet, older than the Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas, formed on the ancient super-continent of Pangaea.

After 480 million years of rain, snow, wind, freeze, thaw, and scouring glacial ice, the mountains have been worn to their nubs, but nubs that still reach half a mile high. The sea can only reclaim them one grain at a time.

Compartmentalization

Samuel Rafael Barber

Fifty-eight percent of the men and women at whom you smile while grocery shopping say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.” Fifty-seven percent of the men and women who hold a restaurant door open for you say harsh interrogation techniques can provide information that can prevent terrorist attacks. Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1 reads: “Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.” And yet.

Silo

Caitlin Scarano

the year I spent eating

eyelashes suckling

a hangover hippocampus

slamming on & off like a stagelight

I couldn’t stop watching

that trashbag caught in a tree

 pray for a break in the blight

how many people won’t

speak to you now

there was a silo I knew

that burnt down and what remained

was a cement ring this

is autopsy membrane

fixation in all my territory

I find so little tender

One Saturday Afternoon

Tammy Robacker

I watched my mother
(Who had grown
All of her fingernails
Very long) choose
Not to dust or clean
The house that day

Instead she polished
Each pointy oval tip
A bright candy pink
Twice over then added
A translucent topcoat
And let them air-dry

While she eased back
Ignoring everything:
The kitchen, my father,
Even me, and leisured
To read Prisoner of Desire
On our old green sofa.

Perverted Karma

Tammy Robacker

My mother passed down
your 18 carat pinky ring.

An heirloom showpiece.
Thick-built manly thing

boasting a square-cut garnet
that crowned dead center.

But I sold the gold
to an old fogey

at a curio shop.
He pressed and pushed

his thumb clean through
the rear end

until the gem broke free.
Then dropped

your popped cherry
in my palm for keeps.

Anagrammed Variations of the American Dream

Yuan Changming

A ram cairned me
In a crammed era [where]
Cameramen raid

A dire cameraman [or]
Arid cameramen

[Becoming]

A creamed airman [or]
A carmine dream
A minced ram ear
[a] maniac rearmed

As freedom turns into a dorm fee
Democracy to a car comedy, and
Human rights to harming huts

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