A Plastic Bowl of Snake
There was bowl on my kitchen slab
Its flesh was plastic
Or was it ceramic
It was the colour of seduction
Drizzling with beauty
Coated in nsibidi
Spiced with the language of the fathers
It drew my name
Wrote my name
Sang my name even
Beside it was a clay bowl
Screeching of ugliness
It called my name
Are you kidding me?
I reached for the white lid
Of the beautiful red plastic bowl
I flipped it open
Out popped the slithering head of a snake
As if it had long-awaited this day
The freedom promised someday
The freedom covered in hay
It stayed with my freedom
I fled with its fear
Kasimma is an alumna of Chimamanda Adichie’s Creative Writing Workshop, IWP workshop, and SSDA Flow workshop. She’s been a writer-in-residence in artists’ residencies across Africa, Asia, and Europe. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming on The Puritan, Kikwetu Journal, Kweli Journal, The Book Smuggler’s Den, Jellyfish Review, Afreecan Read, Orbis Journal.
DRUNK AND HELPLESS IN THE DARK
Some of us lie
Drunk and helpless in the dark
Waiting for the angel that never comes
Because there is no her
Beyond the sad spiraling reveries
Of the drunken insomniac
Smiling wanly in the glow
Of a halo
That exists only
HUMANITY IS DOOMED
I heard the birds that chirp at night
And I saw the cats under the tree.
I know the cats need to eat
And I know the birds want to live.
So here I am
In the parking lot of a Walgreens,
Rooting for nothing.
Where I Shop for Fish Street merchants with carts packed with ice and fish shout commandments at each other over the bustle of the crowd channel God in the most scandalous of ways. Via conversation, they strip away each other’s damaged pasts—secret love affairs, attempted suicides— until no one in the marketplace is […]
At high noon my wife smashed a fly against the living room window with this book in the middle of our first pandemic summer. The room erupted into puppy yelp, child screech, fly-wail and the desert sun breaching the ceiling, grabbing us by the ankles, holding us upside-down to drain us into our shadows. All this, especially the fly-wail, fits flawlessly with this book about fly swatting, language, number theory, action and surrender.
Hugo Ball was a German author, poet, and essentially the founder of the Dada movement in European art in Zürich in 1916—maybe you already knew that. Maybe you learned that from some stuffy-teacher-induced-research-based-half-cocked-noviate-solo-tour. Maybe you visited some cold websites in search of Hugo Ball. Did you ever figure out why nonsense is such an enduring quality of art?
Emerge Lane Chasek, from behind the purple beaded curtain, to introduce us to Dada and Ball—the way a friend might—in his new book: Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe: Adventures in Sound Poetry (Jokes Review, 2020). Chasek is anything but a stuffy teacher. He’s drunk—but it’s an airy-lover-don’t-mind-inviting-“My Back Pages”-kind-of-buzz necessary for this type of Hero’s Journey where the Hero seems to be speaking the most rarefied strain of white gibberish ever.
Chasek has found himself dangling from his own family tree like a crucifix on a dandelion chain wondering how to handle what he’s hearing on Democracy Now. Hugo Ball had the same problem. Like one veined bubble sharing a townhouse membrane with another in the vesper service of language’s aftermath: Chasek–through Ball’s sound poetry—connects us with the madness of the past.
The way this hitchhiker’s guide of sound poetry surveys post-language allows us to make discoveries right along with the author. The tone is serious insanity, congenial nonsense. For example, there’s a rando paragraph on page 76 that starts like this, “My poem would involve chinchillas. Lots and lots of chinchillas, since I really like chinchillas. And thousands of keyboards hooked up to thousands of main frames, all dedicated to storing the corpse that will be my magnum opus. I’d caffeinate those chinchillas and make them immortal if I could.” Will the chinchillas help our Hero acquire the superpower of not making sense?
Sound poetry is a kiss in the face of Shakespeare. Sound poetry is what happens when language stops feeling pain. There is scat singing and math and laughs in this book. There are childhood friends, new friends, and a few sound poems. American Puritanical Christianity™ is here too, “Sucking out all the poetic verve Christianity used to have. After all, there’s an entire book in the Old Testament that’s an erotic poem. Never forget that.” Had you forgotten that? I sure had.
By the end, Chasek has written his own sound poem; in an interview, he said writing it, “felt like a creative temper tantrum—uncontrollable, but oddly liberating.” Through the course of the book, he shares his process of hamstringing language; I felt comforted by his tremendously mellow and jovial tone. Maybe this book will inspire you to write your own sound poem. Logic is all there is to lose.
What brought mankind to
Its knees wasn't a nuclear
Bomb, or a movie villain
Or even an army
You can't see or
Or even fight
Man's own creation
Turned on him
To destroy himself
Tommorow we wake up
Hoping the movie will be
shh sh shhhh crack, “hhmmmm” he hums while he waltzes
shh shhh shhhh shhhhhhh shh crack he waltzes
shhh sh shhhhh shh crack, pop oh two at a time
I watched the man in the white suit, night after night, dance the soft shoe, then tap dance on the cockroaches, under the light by the pawn shop
sh shhh shhhh sh, crack “hhhmmmmmm” He seems so happy.
AVAILABLE NOW: FLORIDA MAN by Mickey J. Corrigan. You know how it’s funny and abhorrent because it’s true? You know how you laugh until you cry by stuffing cocked pistols between your eyeballs and lids?
…lilac Nehru jacket,
- you doorstep…
…pare sweet breads
deform, hand out.
Tump with cauliflower…
…retreats into a dive, yells.
“Something titanic, icy,
flush and gin.” The barman…
…we’d never waltz on shingle,
as vinyl purred…
Hagglers impressed, lurking.
I corner nosegay oils,
on disengaged hob
10-15 minutes. Baste…
…check-up. Paramedic eurekas
- something woefully awry –
…metro expired at Wallsend,
an hour to cloud-gather,
you’d never essentially…
…peachy-keen upbeat guitar
seesawed your hips. Taffrail clover,
…rattle all footloose. Chip walnuts.
Grease loaf tin…
…ventured into Bronx Flea Market,
cornered into a pin-stripe…
Overhauled drained instincts.
Only traffic faded…
single-filing my alley.
No cur whined…
…kibble, tooling rutty blade
of mincer. Dissolve ½ oz…
…Pegasus’ foals vamoosed,
so the knight…
…we quick-timed hours.
Not Quite June
air-cleared your nickname.
Evening shade diffracted urgency…
…groundwork panade. Turn out
as for béchamel, stargaze an hour…
…wolfed my quill.”
“What shall I do?”
“Take advantage of a crayon…”
…rule-breaking headaches spared,
though we blethered all…
POET STALEY’S TOP 10 RULES FOR WRITING ABOUT A SPECIFIC PERSON
1 allow yourself to acknowledge that you care about someone then sweep that someone out of your mind and onto the pages of your journal
2 dump the dust pan of that person as fearlessly, honestly and quickly as you can
3 surround that person with the concrete nouns that person surrounds themselves with then deliberately inject action verbs or slip them in when no one’s looking
4 keep writing everything you can about that person not worrying about the direction your writing is going, try rhyming about that person, try listing things about that person, try moving that person around in time, try writing from that person’s point of view
5 describe the person as though you’re describing the details of a photo
6 let your journal pages marinate overnight in the refrigerator or at room temp
7 cut away all the lame stuff cut away all the stuff that doesn’t deeply satisfy your aesthetic cut away the stuff you put in there just for the teacher cut away anything you’ve heard or read before
8 replace boring verbs with better ones cut away all the fake words sprinkle in literary devices until a poem appears (if no poem appears repeat steps 1-5)
9 break your lines. make it look like a poem. not a paragraph.
10 proofread and read out loud and tweak and fix and submit
Huerta’s rules about writing about people you know and people you don’t
1. Conversations about a past event will entice the reader to forge ahead.
2. Objects around the poems location bring realism to your story and will build a bond between you and the reader. Common household products and animals, for instance, are worthy objects. Politics and trauma are questionable.
3. Never write about your feelings or love loss. You’re better than this and no one cares.
4. If writer's block is something you are suffering from, try your hardest to live in the present with an unapologetic eye for your surroundings. Read the room, write it down. Repeat.
5. Creating a mad lib style game will force your imagination. Pick up the daily paper and create a story using the police blotter and your comrades.
6. Always mix imagination with reality. Because the best shit happens when the fresh river meets the salty sea. Where the tears from your fears clash with consciousness to create a story worthy of telling again and most importantly for someone else to repeat it.
Kentucky Fried Son of a Bitch
War - it's good for something, Edwin,
like keeping munitions factories steadily employed
rather than earnings gone on horses, booze,
ass-grooves impressed so deep on bar-stools
archaeologists in 500,000 years
might consider them
completely different species
- anonymous maximus;
War gave us Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sasoon,
Richard Whidmark, Florence Nightingale,
dogs who carry honorary ranks
Walt Disney make wholly distorted films about,
but hey -
it's all good, Edwin.
Sometimes I feel like a Kentucky Fried Son of a Bitch
having these conversations
over and over.
How Dresden and Coventry
united us as a global community,
yin and yang like two sages
sitting beside me, neither satisfied
at how far I will take them, before the fluttering wings of
waitresses twist on the stench of spilled draught
and bathroom odours, reminding me of wars still raging.
Yeah, he's a Kentucky fried son of a bitch
passing elbows elbows nudge me like shells pounding on
Dresden and Coventry. The thrill of it all.