Poetry

Making God Cry and other Blasphemies - SK Osborn

there is only me and you and the thing 
that is trying to swallow us.

 in every version of the story there is a fire: 
here, burning clothes in the backyard. 
here, throwing matches at the home i 
don’t live in anymore. again and the 
highway between our bodies, gone.

on the train, a man tells you he is an 
angel and jumps off the platform. 
over the screaming, you tell me you’re
 starting to think there really is a god, like 
capital g God. like something that isn’t 
here to hurt us, just to watch us hurt. 

honey, you just want something to blame 
besides yourself. i get it, i’m tired too
but is there any room for safety 
between the disaster of our bodies?
if there is a light then i am going to 
swallow it. if there is a god then 
i'm going to make him cry.
Contra Viento y Marea - Jackson Zemp

Sing me, sweet sinfulness, my homeward child.
Come in from the rain.
lleva el viento pálido
hasta el final de mañana.

You left. Yes,
And the heavens forgot their permanent stations. 
My God is salt, Promethean keepsakes, and divine thievery. Said Dickinson,
Such mellifluous hymns; some semblance of fortitude .

If, again, I encounter this horizontality 
I might recall your meek introductions.
Given by means of courtesy: silence, tenderness, a helpless sidewalk gesture.

You spoke with such brief momentum. Like soft objects in waning immortality.
Little beads of light rolling off the line, snapping over fingered stillness. Shy fireworks. 

It’s Independence Day in Nushagak. 
ebbing tide churns home. 
Hard-pressed feet over cold aluminum is all that separates us now. 

Someday, hands half-cocked and in stride,
Sing me sweet sinfulness. 
Cause child I’ll sleep tighter.

The Baby - Amelia Rhodes

You are holding time to your chest,
like one of those women in Christmas commercials,
hanging ornaments on our silver tree,
using a baby voice that’s five years expired.
Nighttime with you is slow,
like the kind you feel when you’re dreaming,
I’m dreaming.

Frank Sinatra is serenading us,
you’re sweeping as you’re singing.
I’m on my toes with my chin on the top of the
refrigerator door
reading the crude sentences your boyfriend
made with the magnet words.
All the times he says ‘I love you’
Makes me feel gross, afraid.

We boil tea and sort through
Happy Holidays cards in the mail,
take turns burning them with your green Bic lighter,
over the gas stovetop.
All those relatives you claim hate you, their
written updates about their three children,
now all charred.
We roast marshmallows over their ashes
just minutes later,
you always make yours burn to
black.

You’re sipping your wine in the bathtub
makes you sleepy,
sticky
when you touch me.
You won’t let me turn down the water, I’m
finger painting in the steam of your mirror,
humming conflicting songs,
clashing.
soon you’re sleeping.

He’s angry because you told him
you didn’t like the Beatles so he would stop
talking to you.
My sheets are itchy that night,
and I always get up to remind you they are.
So hot and terribly scratchy,
so worn, so slept in.
Yours are cold, silky, dreamy.

You are arms and knees and cotton pajamas,
consoling, choking.
You are the only voice I can fall asleep to.

We are alone and I am the only one breathing.
Mom, I didn’t know
Decisions//Connections - Jackson Zemp

Your daughter is Flatwater 
Brimstone in the keying wind.
Watch, and kill it all the way.

Daybreak ran the distance of the paddock
Ceasing at the picket-line.
A hush; chaos in the void.
//
A mimic of honest intent.
fluttering linen and salt on the tongue.
I am undressed in the shadows of dunes.
Drawn to you.. as if blood in fervor. 
Restless as if never to speak.
Sun and moon outstretched in union of war.
Taking turns thumping against the horizon.
Stirring the sands into little agents of death.
Such is the formality of instinct, like a strike at the heel.

All desire in unison.
Ode to Clayton - Riley Barnes

How many memories have been cloaked by finger paints?
 
Morbid features caked with crude tones of bilious greens and yellows,
More reflective of weeping pustules than the simple comfort of Lego blocks
Or the morning meeting rug of Mrs. Eberwein’s classroom

It’s littered with corner-suns
And distorted stick figures
Whose heads are too big for their rectangular bodies,
With lopsided smiles and a few lines for hair

Sticky fingers so often attach themselves to notions of purity,
Wobbly digits fumble with matters of the past,
Leaving them sickly-sweet
Like aged apple juice and half-melted fruit snacks, 
still warm from being left outside

They’ve long been soured;
Though, do you chastise the sun?
Or who left them out?
Oysters - Gabrielle Grinaway

I listen to stories,
About my friend
             Who shucked and slurped
             (oysters)
On a beach in washington. Shells and shards. Sand stuck
                                                   To his tongue.

I sit on a riverbed
            In pennsylvania.
Hours pass with the water lapping
             At my feet and ankles, up
             To my knees.
Critters crawl underneath. Around wrinkled skin.

‘Soft oysters rot now,’ at his feet
                                      He plugs his nose.
I sit thinking about him there
Cracking more shells
Tossing them back 
                         To trick the birds.
Pretty Posers

I can’t go on pretending,
pretending I didn't hear you come in last night.
I can still see your smile,
and how your lips would stretch over those never-tired
cheekbones.
Your mouth,
never tired of telling me I was pretty.
Maybe it was just a noise,
maybe I heard the radio on,
I don’t know.

I could tell everyone I could see it,
could see the dark parts you were trying to cover in gold,
but you, you never
tarnished,
and you never made me wonder if you were
safe.
Strong arms lifting,
lifting me and my daughter and my words and everyone who let you.
You were a soft collection of nice things,
smoothing me down,
smoothing down the torn parts,
nights I couldn’t sleep, nights you reminded me to just
breathe.

You were the best kind of lie,
the kind that could exist in its own separate world entirely,
guide me down evergreen hillsides, hold my cold hands
in your warm ones.
Now, I always wonder if good is just a really good bad.
Now, I quiet your voice and your handprints,
imagine you are waiting in a place you are trapped,
imagine
someone has invaded what is sacred and what is good,
someone cruel.
I can’t go on pretending.
You,
you are my worst regret
COMFORT CROWD - SK Osborn

I’m sad on your back porch & sad in the 
passenger seat & sad by the lake & sad on 
the swingset & sad on the walk home 
& sad all over your white pillows.

I opened my mouth & had no words 
to tell you how it hurt but you stayed anyway.
I did not know what to do with your softness
so I scorned it but you stayed anyway.
I wanted to be easy to love & I wasn’t easy 
to love but you stayed anyway. 

We don’t have to talk about it. 
We don’t even have to talk. 

It’s enough just to be here, to hurt 
in the same room as you, to hold your hand 
while I cry over coffee & can't even tell you why.

All I needed was a witness to my existence,
some barrier between me & whatever’s out there
that I was so desperate to reach. All I needed
was to not be alone & there you were.

There, that’s all. What more could I ask for?
Race Horse - Chloe Mason

Brad hates when I ask about heroin. 
He grumbles and turns over,
and I roll with him, 
into the spot in his bed that's sunken in.

Being his 19 year old girlfriend
is like being a funeral for his years in L.A.

Which turned his hair grey, 
and his tattoos into regrets -
besides the horse on his forearm -
for his father, the affectionate Catholic.

Brad rode a Greyhound 
across the country,
shaking, and sweating, and shooting up
sixty hours straight. 

It turns me on how, when he came off it,
he’d masturbate 
just to relieve his pain.
After, his mother would rise 
from her Klonopin coma,
like a vampire from it’s coffin, 
to drag his petite remains to the bathtub.

My morbid curiosity 
persists between our bodies.
Tracing my hip with his tongue,
cheating on his first love -
narcotics. Of course
Brad thinks he is a race horse,

when he wraps up his cock
and rib cage in spandex,
for his sixty mile ride 
around the shore,

He swallows up his other whore,
Suboxone. I wonder why 
all the best things in life
are toxins. 

And when Brad cycles, 
he wishes I’d sit and watch,
in a huge sun hat, with pink laces 
to gamble away 
the gifts from our imaginary wedding
on the imaginary races

like how he’ll gamble on his wheel.
When he goes too fast and 
turns it into the train
track marks his skin
with road rash,

after he has flown through the air
spinning wildly,
landing like a crushed spider,
legs all spindly, and twitching.
He pulled out his needle 
to do his own stitching

up the middle of his muzzle,
over his dark empty eyes,
where crawls 
a thick horse fly.

Next, he tied his body to his bike, 
and dragged them home together.

When he made it to the doorstep, 
I didn’t know which was spine or spoke,
Hand or handlebar,
Pelvis or pedal.

I like to lick his wounds.
I beg him,
“Tell me the things that have hurt you.”
 Mother’s House - Chloe Mason

Up the dirt road 
is my mother’s home
with its windows boarded closed. 
But her door is unlocked, 
a tear through the screen.

She has a garden where she grows
daffodils and weeds,
mint, and poison ivy, and thorns.
There is the room where my brother was born.
Now it’s just a mattress on the floor.

There are bruises and holes
on the wall 
and things written in ink,
like “cunt,”
scratched onto a school’s bathroom stall.

A sink with faint blood stains  
and soggy cigarettes, 
shredded in it’s drain.
An attic where I’d hide
a roof I once jumped off 
thinking I’d grow wings and fly.  

Clothes that don’t fit,
shoes with broken soles.
Empty oyster shells
bereft of earrings, step father stole.
Sister says “Mother’s hardly a woman anymore,
no jewelry to show for it.” 
I take off my bracelets, I stare at my tit.

When I arrived today,
I called out Mother. She would not respond.
I pushed open her paper door, 
nine years old again,
lost in the grocery store.
But there she was.
Never what I remember -
and yet like a mirror -
her mind like a crab apple
rotting in November.

She kisses me with chapped lips, 
while her knuckles turn white
against the paint brushes
she’s holding with a death grip, 
same way she held me,
and bounced me on her hip.

How do the same hands that 
broke my nose, 
shake now 
painting on the cupboard 
a purple crow?

Maybe I’ll find
a facility to call.
But I’m not sure what they could do -
when they find her alone,
painting on the wall. 
Parkridge, an epitaph - Riley Barnes

I keep searching for the simple comfort of girlhood—

The kind that seeps between toes,
The torn-up backyard of your neighbors', 
and you’ve been playing four-square all day
On
             steaming 
                                    pavement

You’ve gone home because they make up rules,
It wasn’t the steady summer rain that stopped you

But you hold out your tongue on the way back,
eyes, squeezed shut
You pray the same showers can cleanse it
of ever wishing you were sixteen
Astronomers say they have heard the sound of a black hole singing - Madison Stone

a floating, wavering note 
             travels through vacuum, clinging
to stray gas atoms and bits of cosmic dust

pressure waves roiling, ripples
	      of luminosity under x-ray glow
a technicolor silence, 2.5 billion years old and still
it continues its ghost of a song

10 billion years from now
the sun will shrink in on itself, pop
	      like a balloon, collapse
into a cold corpse, and a dead star
	      even more ancient 
will send out a single, melancholy note
               through thousands of galaxies and trillions of stars
waves moving outward like
	      ripples on a pond

a lonely symphony, reaching out to an empty sky
Everything but the Present is an Unimaginable Wish - Isabel DuMond

a wall of sandpaper, a place to cut up your memories
although I don’t need any help with that
under the jungle waves, oceans of green and big cats,
that is where,
my memories remain
 
buried slowly, in an immense stillness,
deep down there, night by night,
my memories free themselves, 
from my fuzzy mind
 
an aching ails me as I paint my nails again
…a year slips softly down my cheek 
no, I can’t remember my past,
not anything at all,
I am a bare slate of selenite, a spirit pent up, 
collecting and dismissing the gentle moments in life
 
one day I will travel into that jungle, 
soul in one hand and consciousness in the other,
and explore the solemn ramblings
the sanity of everyday life

there I will find the childhood of my innocence
the days that have come and gone,
and it will appear to me
a declaration of fantasy,
in a storybook of time,
the final collections of existence through my eyes 
Vertigo - Rhianna Norman

In my memories, you sound like the dull roar
Of a nervous heartbeat
So overwhelming and intimate and 
Ruinous, unapologetically
I never had vertigo until I moved into my college dorm
Seasick on land 
And gasping, airless, to be
On the ground floor
You held me and I stilled
Breaths and hands fanning deftly across
Sweaters not previously our own
You looked at me and I smiled, a false home
“Can we stay this close forever?” 
I whispered into the neon air filtering through your blinds
You never answered,
Just sat in awe of the idea
Or my naivety;
It always seems to rip me away from reality
You gripped me tighter, limbs strung together in a loom
Like it was an affirmation you didn’t want to gift
I wanted to love you, desperately.
You were a weighted blanket to my pneumonic anxiety
You never wanted me, with certainty,
You wanted to be the reason the world stopped spinning.
Carolina Easter

The sticky smell of strawberry pudding.
A sickly hot pink slime, vivid in little glittering eyes.
Sitting in the kitchen watching our mothers and grandmothers;
Our fathers and grandfathers and the husbands and the boys nowhere to be found.

The deep velvets,
Running threads on carpeted pews, marred.
Stains from decades past, spread; the center dark, billowing lighter and lighter, like a tree’s rings,
like the stumps out in the backyard.
Gilded details, promising heaven’s riches.
An oppressively saccharine, cold aroma.
Stark holy white of church undergrounds.

Shining April.
Straw hats picked apart at their ends,
Loose white ribbon hanging, taken by the wind, from galloping through swamps.
Long, lace-trimmed dresses bought for the occasion.
Mine was pink, yours was yellow.

We didn’t recognize ourselves when we stepped in,
Past the open doors,
Past the stone heart that read “PREPARE TO MEET GOD” atop its pedestal down the road.

There is nothing to pray for yet.
We aren’t old enough for sin, are we?
What do we repent for?
Do we know its unrighteous allure, its wicked fire, its stranglehold on the hearts of men while we
lay on our bellies, shag carpet underneath us, and dress our dolls, shade our coloring books?

Waxy, enveloping handshakes,
God bless you this morning; good to see you.
By the end of the morning, we’re going to be different, renewed by the Spirit.
But what if we weren’t?
I’m still me, so I failed.
To fail the One and Only Almighty God?
Don’t worry, kid, give it a couple years.
That’s still your own dirty human blood,
The poor lamb slaughtered for naught.

A freshly mowed yard,
The lawnmower’s buzz awakening alongside the earth.
Spring’s scent vitalizing; bright, clean, mild, like the bitsy hyacinths dotting the green.
Like the dandelions we pick and give to our mothers.
Maybe the angels will cry tomorrow, and we’ll stay inside.
Cousins pull into the driveway; we hear crushed gravel over the TV.

Crisp breezes, the sun a true yellow.
It’s Carolina; might drop to 50 tomorrow.
You see those rays veiling the sky? Someone went to Heaven today.
Are you joining them?

Dewy stacks of grass we track inside on our glossy white mary-janes,
The great maw of trees beyond and beckoning, framed by shadows.
We gather in the kitchen with our styrofoam plates, plasticware, red cups.
Our seats reserved at our table and its fuscia umbrella.
I’m hopping between mommy and nameless uncle for some hummingbird cake that great
grandma made, with her tight hugs smelling of White Diamonds parfum.
You need your hair brushed again for the camera.

Shaking, braying, repenting, begging for their soul’s sake. Shout your praises, let them ring.
For your sake, your salvation is your own.
How faithful would it be? Only you can save yourself.
Buy someone else’s Heaven ticket? Naive. Got enough in your pocket for just one.
Let their doubts consume them as they pile into salt, burn to ash. A modern-day Lot, you.
That’s how we know for certain how steadfast, how obedient you are.
Grovel, deceitful heart.

Because it’s Easter Sunday.
You have to, inside and out, believe and live it,
Even if it’s only today.
Say amen. Say that, say what they say, and hope it’s enough.
Let it embellish the broad ceiling and the stained glass lining the rows. There’s Jesus, there’s
Mary.
Let it be as deep and resounding as the choir as they draw out their praises.

Plastic lilac eggs, jingling quarters inside. Those are the ones you want.
Tasteless chocolate morsels in bright foil.
Little fingers holding felted baskets congested with shredded opalescent film, our finds nested
within.
Costume jewelry adorning us, jammed on our chubby fingers, strewn over our necks, clattering
along our arms.
Pastel play-pretties in the double wide.

We learn the resurrection story again today, in the cold recesses of the Lord’s House.
Clamber down the red stairs and sit.
Harmonize with us, how much you are loved.
Learn your place in the Holy Army, little soldier.
A plush rabbit on the side table encourages you.

The law of threes, the Good Book your guide.
Which are laws?
Which are corrupted?
Which are important?
Which are righteous?
Your judgment of them doesn’t matter.
So kill your pride now while you can, kill the root of sin.

Sing so that you can impress today,
And forget it later.
I drop my hymnal anyway - this time and each.
You look over your mama’s arm, pretending that you know these ancient words.

Carolina Easter,
What does it mean to us, now?
i’m still covered in you: a pantoum - Laramie Ward

I remember the house at the bottom of the hill:
unique in each facet of its deep foundation.
I forgot to call my father when I made it in one piece,
he pictured a crumpled bike on the side of the path.

Unique in every facet of its deep foundation,
my family clung to the way life used to be.
My father pictured a crumpled bike on the side of the path,
he looked at me like I was a ghost when I returned home.

My family clung to the way life used to be,
their love started to cover me like ivy.
When I was home, they looked at me like I was a ghost,
mourning the little girl they used to know.

My parents’ love hid me like ivy:
I wanted to know if they wondered who they raised.
Mourning the little girl they used to know,
they helped me pack all of my belongings into cardboard boxes.

I wanted to know if they wondered what they engraved
after leaving my rear view mirror empty.
While packing what’s left of their belongings into cardboard boxes,
I realize that I thought they’d live forever.

After he left my rear view mirror empty,
I couldn’t call my father when I made it without him.
I’ve realized that I thought they’d live forever,
just like the house at the bottom of the hill.

Let Me Go Down Easy – Randal Lein