JAMES P. ROBERTS – 3 POEMS

FLOW POETRY IN HUE, VIETNAM

                                                        for Adam

You speak to your ancestors
lying in shallow graves
mulched over by jungle.

You speak to alligators
and elephants, creatures
life spans longer than yours.

You speak to huddled mothers,
black-eyed babies who utter
never a word or cry.

You speak to bamboo winds,
hollow temples, dynasties fallen
and long forgotten.

You speak to fog-shrouded mountains,
roiling muddy Mekong River,
a black market dog tag.

You speak to rows of mildewed books
in a dozen languages, histories
yearning to be heard.

The raucous birds speak to you:
Go back home or we will use your dreads
to feather our lonely nests.

AND IF PAIN BECOMES A POEM . . .

I am full of poetry.
Poetry screams from every pore of my body.

My right ankle cracks poems so loudly
a microphone twenty feet away picks up the sound.

My left elbow tightens hard enough
I cannot bend it to write a poem without a rough

shake. Electric pings course through my chest,
irregular rhythms, like free verse, thrum inside a fat breast.

(man tits . . . the worst kind of poetic pain!)
Clumsy fingers struggle to write a refrain.

Dimming eyes spill tears, these inky words,
bright flashes of images vanish, go unheard.

Yes, I could continue this medical literary litany
and if pain becomes a true poem, I will die saintly.

COWARDS

I see them on the news.
The scary people.
The scared people.
The people who think of nothing
but themselves.
Who watch as the chaos mounts.
The people who have built
their survival tombs,
stocked with enough food and ammunition
to last as long as necessary . . . until
the last not-one-of-us has fallen
and they can come out again.
These are the cowards.
The true cowards,
for they have the means to change
the situation,
to take charge
and avert the damnation.
But they won’t.
Because they are hollow.
They are too selfish.
They are too scared.
It is their own fear
that will doom them.
They will become nothing
but shadows
wandering
a destroyed land.

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POETRY: MARLENA CHERTOCK – CEMETARIO GENERAL

Cemetario General

Cemetario General is one of the largest cemeteries in Santiago, Chile. Patio 29 is a plot used to bury the disappeared, the homeless, the unidentified, and victims of the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship.

 

What’s left of them is arranged in boxes,
fifty or so line a wall.
He turns off the leaf blower,
passes a woman kneeling, her head lowered.

Even in death there are mansions.
Glass criptas encasing tías.
He coaxes leaves away
from the marble structures.

In a narrower section
ice cream and chip vendors push their carts.
Crowded together are plots of dirt, maybe some hierba,
a Nescafé bottle filled with wilted hydrangea.

He asks families to give more.
Sometimes there’s no response. So he digs up the land
and transfers what endured to a mass plot, Patio 29.
He’s so close to the body then, touching its bones.

At home he holds his esposa’s hips
as she cooks dinner, the smell of her sweat and the humitas
mixing in the kitchen air,
holds her as she undresses and they lie down together.

Find her at marlenachertock.com or @mchertock.

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poetry: Joseph Somoza – Hasta La Vista

Hasta La Vista

Here I find myself again,
in the company of
trees and sunshine,
a quiet workday morning.
It’s like emerging from a tunnel
where my mind was cloyed
with mundane matters such as
providing food, doing dishes,
and having to
respond to others—

who are my family,
who have gone back now
to being themselves
in the far distance where I can
make out the details better,
hear their words more clearly
in the sparse air between
here and there, as if minds can’t
co-exist in close proximity
and must always be
sent on their way.

Order Joseph Somoza’s new volume of poems As Far as I know (Cinco Puntos Press, 2015).

 

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POETRY: JAMES JACKSON – SPACE JUNK

SPACE JUNK

After the breakup, our phone conversations
become space debris, steel pieces hardly
discernible hurtling haphazardly at five miles

per second. Where do the scraps go?
The gold taste of summer will impact the brain
and puncture, enflame. We wish to assist

the start-ups who seek to construct
machines to eliminate wayward spares
of satellites trapped in the gravity of a body,

propel its dust into the atmosphere to burn.
We drift wary of small artifacts
from failed missions to emerge

in the distance of night to strike
and make split into fragments
we will never assemble again.

Find James Jackson Online.

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POETRY: KYLE PERDUE – “Breakfast With a Skeleton”

“Breakfast With a Skeleton”

I walked down the morning stairs

a skeleton sat at my typewriter

he was turning the wheel

trying to get the paper through

“you have to guide it through.”

I said through a yawn

he looked at me snide

his bone and marrow yellowish from decay

what are you looking at?

I thought

you’re a god damn skeleton

he took a sip of coffee

I watched it go into his jaw

through his throat

down his belly

and onto the floor

he’d gotten the paper in

and I could hear him now from the kitchen

he was typing something

“eggs?”

I called out

no response

I walked over

he was head-down, still typing

“YEAH!”

he screamed

jesus

I made the eggs— dashed with some cinnamon

I sat on one end of the table

him on the other

I watched the eggs travel through his body

and splat onto the floor where my dog ate them

“terrible.”

he said

“is that, is that cinnamon?”

what was left of his face cringed

“what were you writing?”

no response

“what were you writing?”

he took another bite of eggs and said:

“a body for myself.”

“a body for yourself?”

“a vessel for this hollow, lonely, useless, irritating,

appalling arrangement of calcium.”

“that’s what you were writing?”

“that and a love poem.”

“for Meryl”

“but how do you write a body?”

I asked him

“the same way you write a love poem,

it writes you.”

I had a sip of coffee

“I like you, skeleton, you should stick around.”

“can’t,

I’ve got to get an x-ray today.”

he showed me his broken arm

“you ever tried writing a love poem with a broken arm?”

he asked

“no, but I have with a broken heart.”

we sat in silence

just before he read me his body

and his love poem

I cried during both

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POETRY: Christine Stoddard – “Apartment Hunting”

“Apartment Hunting”

 

Theo lived with six roommates.

Half of them thought you were black;

half of them thought you were white.

In the month you found refuge on his sofa,

not one of them ever asked, but you could

read their interpretation based on

how they discussed the pricklier points of race.

None of them had been to Virginia, save for one.

He once shot past Washington, D.C. and

spent a couple of hours in Arlington

before he realized his mistake.

He said the Potomac looked ferocious,

but you were a Rappahannock River girl.

You still didn’t know the bodies of water

that threatened to swallow New York.

In Bushwick, the only drops you saw

lined the gutter and pooled on the sidewalk.

Sometimes the cry of seagulls pricked your ears.

A little lost, the birds had not steered too far off course.

But you never mentioned nature to your unwilling neighbors.

“Lavinia,” said Theo one morning, while lighting a joint,

“It’s been nice, but you have to find an apartment.

Craigslist that shit, girl. It’s not that sketch.”

You stopped chewing your grits (a remnant of home)

and nodded slower than a late-night G train.

“It’s all run together,” you say. “I forgot how long I was here.”

“This city sweeps you up, but you learn to fight it.”

He exhales and you both appreciate the clouds he fashions.

“Where do you want to live?” he finally asks.

“Somewhere where I can see the sky,” you say, surprising yourself.

“Welcome to Brooklyn. No tunnels of building shadows here.”

“As long as it’s cheap,” you say, thinking of closets and slums.

You don’t add that you have nearly run out of savings

because Theo will try to convince you to work at his office,

the call center that lets him reschedule his shifts for auditions.

You didn’t flee to New York to ooze in and out of a 9-to-5.

You didn’t move here to dread every day of your existence.

You came here to revel in textiles, to dress Broadway’s stars,

to tell stories through costumes like you dreamt in school.

“We’ll look at listings and book appointments for tomorrow,”

says Theo in a daze now that the pot has hit him.

“Sure, load me up,” you mutter and grab his joint.

It’s your moment to escape, to surrender

as a speckled seagull shrieks outside.

~

Find Christine Stoddard online.

 

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