We Knew Her To A Small Degree

Mercedes Lawry

She was a boulevard of a woman, with black-eyed dreams and absent tears. She’d carried a bastion of troubles in her doughy hands, crushed and creased them into fine grains. This was long before her lies caught up with her. Her terrors were mauled and buried deep, no lingering voices, no midnight gasps. Her cloud of hair could have housed a welter of wildlife, small enough to hide, sharp enough to bite. The green of her walls was the green of her longing, chilly and somewhat related to nausea. She spoke in tercets when she spoke at all, not minding if no one paid heed and edged closer to the brick and stone of buildings, rough but silent. Her stories were knit by a madwoman, knotted by a drunken sailor, pounded down like cheap meat ought to be. The head of one and the tail of another. Bridges, burnt stew, apple rot, arguments. Quelled clamor, when sleep would come out of stolen grace. She was a woman thick with the slums of faraway countries, yet marvelous. We knew her only in pieces and plenty missing. We knew nothing of the glue that kept the pieces together, only that it was failing, losing its suck, and the pieces were falling erratically, one by one.


Ingrid Jendrzejewski

South of summer
I lay in high grass

the end of a tremble
confident fifteen

Blue Collar

Tatiana Ryckman

Don’t you sometimes comb your hair because it feels like the warm hand of affection? I don’t want to confuse things but it’s possible that nothing matters. I just mean, don’t bother gesticulating if it’s not going to be grand. Make your breakfast cereal tell me moonbeams shoot from the glory holes of my eyes. Your sneakers compete for my attention. The trees you cut into graves could at least invite me in. But what’s in a day? They pass like shit on a factory production line assembled by ladies with hairnets on their feet and men with two beers on their minds; who could you convince to care about an evaluation of these things, good/bad, like a reality television show competition about canned food in a church basement or convertible couches in the backs of vintage cars? You’re sleeping in the warehouse of my cellphone and I keep thinking about drowning it just to prove to you how much you want to get out.

Without Shadows

Jacqueline Winter Thomas

It takes five-hundred years for a language
to become unintelligible to itself; the husband’s
cupped hands leave no shadow on the mattress;
and a broken window keeps the cold even after
you whisper its name in another tongue.
What is marred at the inlet silent spreads
toward the center of the river. I promise:
this flows in only one direction. Suffering
cannot reach back. The red water touches every-
thing, but it does not return again. We must focus
on difference above similitude, says the scholar.
But we’re trying to find some first sense of love,
or loss, in the little room of the husband’s chest.
Outside rotten word, husband, laced with rivers.
We try to say I drown in your meaning, but
the surface freezes; the word, motionless.
Why cannot everything in the world
correspond? Why must some things exist
without their perfect shadows? Moon, inaccessible
seldom casts its mark on our face. The kind
of alone that lasts a whole life, like wood-
pecker whispering when the last light is out,
no more words for the tree. When the river
runs back, we will understand.

Edge & Lita

Dylan D. Debelis

We all want that live sex raw wing tipped boots center of that raised ring. We all want that tattooed eagle braless clawing at our brain until blastoff.

You wanted to fly, you wanted to spear fish, you wanted manliness and the spider perched inside your jaw.

Prove it.

You wanted to prove it so much you threw your voice out moaning so the audience could hear it.

We all want that audience to hear us triumph, pin count, eruption of boos, chorus of dueling chants.

We all want that vindication, stomach inflation, penis pumped-up celebration.

You wanted to hold the high school first love nights like an invisible ink cipher.

And you also wanted them broadcast to your absent father, and the classmates who hated your gap tooth grin.

We want the moments back that get moments back that remind us that we are never going to get those moments back.

We all want that live sex showcase, wing tipped boots center of that raised ring raw.

A Brain Bruise, a Blue Blessing

Peter T. Donahue

I assign my students to write poems, play with language, and explain the effects they hoped to achieve. The sixteen-year-old girl who survived a subdural hematoma writes,

My head pounds like my brain
is going to brust out of my skull.

She says the effect she was going for was that “the more my friends think about it, the more I inspire them to live their lives to the fullest, and thats a great achievement.” But her spelling error puts me in mind of Chaucer’s abecedarium, “La Priere de Nostre Dame.” Under “B” he asks the Virgin to intercede—

er that my ship to-breste!

Or, before his ship is blown to bits. My own brain goes sea-faring, nudged offshore by a little accidental metathesis. Bless me: blesser is French for hurt; faire un bleu is bruise. Was her brain blest or brust? According to a linguist at Ohio State (on a webpage not updated since 2002), metatheses in North American English tend to occur around liquid consonants— “r” and “l.” We say, comfterble, nucular, Chipolte. We interduce ourselves to purty girls. But not since the middle ages have briddes flown in a beorht sky, have brands brent.

So there’s something medieval to me about that brust; the funnel-hatted deadpan charlatan from Bosch’s Stone Operation appears in a mirror. What am I doing, knife in hand, trying to trepan poetry from the skull of a girl who looked at death and lived?


Jefferson Navicky

“If you could do all that stuff and then be dead, I’d say do it.” I dreamed of writing the piece that started like this in the restive moments of waking this morning. It was funny and strange and about death, what would happen afterwards. I can’t remember it now, but I think I knew that would happen. It always does. But it was about this size, maybe a little bigger. If you can let yourself imagine, it was also quite a bit better than this one. I’d be grateful if you did that. Imagine it better. Please do.

The / remains of / the convict fence

Mark Young

He held up his hand.
The focus seemed to
have shifted. Insulin
traveled through the
blood, full of those vali-
dating sounds usually
associated with native
fish spawning. At a

point where the river
was shallow enough,
grooming patterns—an
off-color sexual aspect
of phonetic habits—
finally found shelter.


Jennifer Gravley

I am from bruised thigh, junk drawer, box of borax on the top shelf. I am from vowel hard to pronounce, disordered creek bottom, bloody heel. I am from set of three. I am from formula, jar of baby teeth, sharp-bearded fish. I am from February, from Saturday, from many specifications of the abstractions time and space. I am from hand of my mother, bone of my mother’s ear, mother of my mother’s mother. From a tome of like characters. From filth, from undesirable car parts, from trundled spoilage.

The Turnip

Judith Skillman

Once more you force
its fisted mass. Blanched white
with a feather of pink—
the bloodless promise?
Has the chemistry of want
exploded the dreamy cluck
of that heart in your chest?
Under the sky, the grave
of dawn’s planted again—
its beginning wed
to the same milky stone.