Category Archives: Poetry

North Dakota Elegy

In that wind, I pulled my blanket in to me,
the edges of it beat against my legs.
Above, clouds germinated over
grey-grass hills, hiding the land line.
The finality of a grave is hard to see.
Dirt piled on wood and bones.
I wished to see a sapling, budding blue,
or even a prairie fire in all that space.

— Marlon Footracer

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Filed under Poetry, Vol 2 Issue 1

Acquiring the Skeleton of Irishman Charles Burns

I.
He tears up my letters. He sends back no word.
But Burns has been staggering. His shinbones must pain him,
Decade on decade longshanking about –
Or so says my shadow, a greedy young gnome
Who follows my Burns for a generous sum –
With a whistle to signal the butcher and wagon.
What a sight they must be as they slouch
Down the High Street, the giant unnerved
By the unblinking dwarf.

II.
Men of Burns’ size are like pachyderms,
Like mastiffs or baluchitheria.
It takes so much effort, such muscular pumping,
For the heart to succor all those organs.
And bathe the brain with blood for long.
I predict the strain will take him.
The taller a man is, the shorter his life.
The gnome reports it will be soon.

III.
To my study
The news comes.
I set down my scone.
(The dwarf knows not
Hygiene. He ruins
My appetite.)
It seems Burns has hired a sailor to end it,
To take him to the river’s mouth
And drop him in the drink.
Lash your anchors
To my corpse, says Burns –
And so he will entomb himself
At the bottom of the sea.
But still, says the dwarf, he
Fears you will find him,
Run a hook through his sinews
Reel him up from the brine.
No, I think I shall
Harpoon his pelvis.
Dear Burns. He really is
Too much.

IV.
The vitrine cost a hundred quid,
I’d call that much an arm and leg –
And then there is the blacksmith’s bill
For all those iron mounts,
And a bundle for the boatman,
For the delivery of the bones.
Though Burns was not a wealthy man,
The sailor asked for twice his sum –
And that I procure the pistol
He would take out on the Thames.
He fastened the irons to Burns’ ankles,
And shot for the belly –
Just as I’d shown him –
And didn’t scratch a single rib.
So what was the use
Of your stubbornness,
Charles? Come now, say
What was the use.

— Annie Wyman

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My Smoke Alarm is Going Off.

I say, Thank you.
You say, No, I think I might have
carbon monoxide poisoning,
and the way the looped wire casts
shadows dissecting your face
into slivers I count, re-count,
you may be right.
You say, I want to make love
out of cardboard boxes,
corrugated for your pleasure.
Where water and road
bend together, bracelets of protein
denatured, cardboard boxes
won’t work, I say, and begin to trace
iron letters on your galvanized steel
mouth: acidulous quartz and orthoclase,
marble veined with other,
second layer phloem, redwood,
if possible. Did we start building
bell-curved breath upon bell-curved
breathlessness? Spring migrates
while you force me phonemes.
I try to write it with wet-erase
transparency. Of comfort I know
nothing, so when you say
splintering wood of slammed
doors and speed of darkness
on mausoleum floors, I stutter,
recalling the last kiss
akin to the first—
you’re aware of the teeth.

— Jessamyn Edra

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West Mexico Ceramics

Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit
We are unafraid here, and within
The neat cup of our arms is where
We hold everything in place
You think we do not speak because
Our faces have been baked into
Expressions of open-mouthed surprise
But we do not need to speak because
Our mouths are flutes, and the
Hollow sound of our voice needs no words
We have no eyes because
The twelve points of the sun act as our guide and
The nine turrets of the moon hang heavy around our neck
We have no feet because
There is no need to run
The earth is our strength
We do not need to stand because
Our bodies are baked from earth
We are complete in and of ourselves
We have no need for legs because
We have no need to flee
Though time grinds scars into our bodies and
Wears the pigment from our skin
We wear no clothing because
The fierce points of our nipples are too proud to hide
And the heavy thrust of our bellies
And the neat sheaves of our penises
Our backs are arched but not in defiance
They are arched because this is how
We hold the earth in place

— Mia Sakai

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Obelisk at Manzanar, April 28, 2007

I watch you in the dust and you are
issei, Nisei, sansei
in white stone and kanji I cannot read
the thousand tsurus drape around your ropes
refracting the sunlight you squinted away from
and the Shinto Buddhist Christian prayers
give me homeland
and I know you are my people
buried underneath the signs labeled “baseball field”
and “Catholic Church” I see you
running, laughing, trying to live
while the guns point inward
and I know you are my people
captured in Chiura Obata paintings
and Dorothea Lange black and whites
you are my people, the checker-dressed girls
pledging allegiance in San Francisco
the old man whose soul looks skeletal his
grandson slung over his shoulder
I know that you are my people
as I clutch the rusted barbed wire
now tamed by National Park Service
exhibitionism—I hear you
in the subtle accents and patient cadence
of gray permed Nisei ladies speaking
of dead husbands and trips to Okinawa,
of 442 veterans covered in buttons,
sport coats, “Go For Broke” patches forgotten
by yonsei and I know you are my people
peppered in mochi and kirin to soak the past in
I hear you in the swish-swash of Shinto streamers
in the Pledge of Allegiance that tastes
salty with contradiction,
in the dust kicked by tires
following the legacies of trucks in camouflage colors
and I wonder where the shots were fired
where the rioters fell like DeWitt’s unholy syllables
and the gentleman soldiers fly through French tree trunks
with rifles and memories
scrambling, hugging death to their chests
as they fight for the forgiveness
for even existing
I hear you in the silence of forty years
the shame and the apple pies of denial
the saliva on the ground of No No Boys
splattering on the sidewalk like dreams deferred
and I know you are my people
almost gone, diluted in apathy,
and you stand tall and white and illegible to my
American eyesight
like the Sierra Nevadas in the background
In this arid air I hope we have not
deserted each other,
as I feel the shape of the scar
but do not know how to respond to it
My grandpa was MIS from Hawaii,
plantation boy, avoided internment
My grandma was Kibei, in Japan
making the bullets that pierced Yankees
and yet I see my reflection
in the tears over broken China,
homes resold,
Japs Go Home signs
and white women pointing with hatred
in their forefingers like they see
the devil in acute angles and eye folds
I imagine my Chinese American friend
wearing an “I am a Loyal Chinese” button
and I know you are my people
because I would’ve worn an ID tag instead
and part of me screams at you
see—
this is what it is like,
after Southern plantations and whips
and smallpox and reservations
and Emmit Tills and Geronimos
what else could you expect?
And the tragedy of our pain
is that
even we were imprisoned
even we, as if
maybe the others deserved it more
America did not betray us
we betrayed ourselves
America did not betray us
we betrayed ourselves
this is but one chapter in the
red white and blue bullet
that consecrated our borders
the sandstorms of Manzanar blew
gunpowder whose age we only now learn
and I know you are my people
lost in the shame of being
less than our dreams
lost in the shame of a betrayal
from the greatest of all betrayers
You are my people.
You are my people.
You are my people.
And for the first time in years,
I hear myself praying.
I choose to whisper it
into your illegible lines
and wonder if you can hear it.

— Takeo Rivera

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Sonnet, Incomplete

In sleeping fields beyond the city lays
I know not what, it matters not to me.
In numbered days I craved the craze that brays
In city streets; I think that you are free.
I want to be a good woman, and I
Wanted for you to be my good man, but
I tried my best and could not make you cry
But once. How is it now that I’m away?
Do you sleep soundly? Do you sleep alone?
When you smoke, or when you see the leaves sway,
Do you think of me then? Is this our love, grown?
Won’t you think of me when the city sleeps?
My love, it is for nothing that you weep.

— John Collins

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The Fig

There was a fig tree
in the sick room
window, but none of this
was on our minds –
Only how the seed
is born into equilibrium
with the deadly wasp
that lives within its walls.
The fruit, a pestilence
of blood red syconia,
is cased within its sleek,
leathered mask,
hiding under finger-like leaves
that grow low to the ground.
It was this fruit only,
and its sweetness,
that announced the patch of blood
on the sheets – stain of a fit,
not a fruit – breathed deep into
the sunset of his last meal,
while all around us
the sky was burning
red on the dark, ripe
skin of the horizon.

— Iris Law

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Filed under Poetry, Vol 2 Issue 1