Allen Forrest
“Wilhelm Reich,” oil on canvas

Allen Forrest
“Wilhelm Reich,” oil on canvas

Editor’s Note

Readers:

 

March: month when “…even your good friends will turn into monsters.” A trenchant observation from one of my hometown’s illuminati: Hunter S. Thompson. And though he was speaking of March Madness avant le letter, and if one can give some legroom to that “good friends” and include the incorporeal companions of one’s reading, then perhaps I can return not entirely non-sequitor-iously to that list of books in my life that ended some issues ago in the year 1972. For, after all, as those of you who subscribe to our Newsletter know already, the task of introducing a “secret poem” has been taken up this month by our own Associate Editor for Special Projects Nancy Mitchell. And most capably, as you also surely have decided for yourselves. This will become a regular feature, too, you will be happy to learn: no more of those tiresome anecdotes of mine, for a while, anyway! Next up in that series: Dore Kiesselbach.

But, for the moment, it is again 1973: a pivotal year in my young life, taken ill as I was – severe ulcers, thought then to be the physical manifestation of “anxiety” which I had in spades. Hospital time and then home, to recuperate, with nothing to which to apply myself but the consumption of 40 mg. of Valium each day, and the stack of books on my bedside table. Some of those being as follows. (And here I wonder if you, too, are presently searching your own memories – if you were extant in that distant annus horribilis – and I mean not personally, but: the war, and everything else –for the works that held your gaze then – and, sometimes, continue to do so). But: with the caveat that these are only those works that rise immediately to memory, on which I do not mean to confer any literary greatness – yet some are great – but reflecting merely my own predelictions. For by this time, with the ludicrous confidence in which only an adolescent can enrobe himself, I had become almost entirely an autodidact, rejecting out of hand the syllabi and recommendations of my first college teachers – those fusty forty year-olds (!) who had long ago bargained away their right to authenticity in favor of tenure.

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude. Of course – for some, so significant a work that they almost can identify the place and time in which they first encountered it – on a par with our great national tragedies. I entered Macondo via a wormhole in the floor of the University of Louisville Library: an innocent, I knew nothing of Marquez or magical realism, drawn merely by the word “solitude” in the title. Read cover to cover in the next two days, the novel was my password as it was for so many into the world of Latin American Literature. Backwards and forwards, it led us to among others of the famous Boom, Rojas and Dario, the indispensable Cortázar, Borges, Asturias, and Rulfo, Fuentes, Llosa, Puig, Mistral, Parra, Neruda, Paz, Vallejo…so many. How much poorer we would have been without them.

Poe: Almost all of which I am indifferent to, save for The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, a book the author himself thought “very silly.” A fairly accurate assessment given its cringe-inducing slavery motif, a theme taken up in Pym from Mat Johnson, by the way… And yet, that last line, so haunting and beautiful it has not left me in forty years: “And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of the snow.”

Nausea: In many ways, in those days, the perfect book: I ironed the name “Roqentin” in felt letters on the back of my tee shirt. And how not to identify it so, with passages like this, designed like latter day action figure films for ease of access to the heart of a certain type of literary adolescent:

This moment was extraordinary. I was there, motionless and icy, plunged in a horrible ecstasy. But something fresh had just appeared in the very heart of this ecstasy; I understood the Nausea, I possessed it. To tell the truth, I did not formulate my discoveries to myself. But I think it would be easy for me to put them in words now. The essential thing is contingency. I mean that one cannot define existence as necessity. To exist is simply to be there; those who exist let themselves be encountered, but you can never deduce anything from them. I believe there are people who have understood this. Only they tried to overcome this contingency by inventing a necessary, causal being. But no necessary being can explain existence: contingency is not a delusion, a probability which can be dissipated; it is the absolute, consequently, the perfect free gift. All is free, this park, this city and myself. When you realize that, it turns your heart upside down and everything begins to float, as the other evening at the “Railwaymen’s Rendezvous”: here is Nausea; here there is what those bastards— the ones on the Coteau Vert and others—try to hide from themselves with their idea of their rights. But what a poor lie: no one has any rights; they are entirely free, like other men, they cannot succeed in not feeling superfluous. And in themselves, secretly, they are superfluous, that is to say, amorphous, vague, and sad.

 

Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman. Survive!”, “Fight!” “Liberate!

 

Crowds and Power. Canetti’s masterwork, as I conceived it then. Fresh from reading the distanced and in some ways cold “thing” poems of Ponge and Michaux, I felt some symmetry there. And this is, in fact, far from social analysis, but rather a poem itself, full of allusions and images that, alas, have not withstood the test of time. Much better is Auto da Fé and his later memoirs, The Tongue Set Free, The Torch in My Ear, and The Play of the Eyes. Read concurrently with Braudel and the magnificent Philippe Ariès’s L’Enfant et la vie familiale sous l’Ancien Régime and later his L’Homme devant la mort; and Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques.

 

Under the Volcano: I have it still on my desk, its maroon cover and black spine as alluring as ever. Malcolm’s Lowry’s Consul was an indelible figure from the moment I met him. That being Christmas morning, in the company of protagonists from four other Lowry novels, my sole gift request that year: Ultramarine, Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, Lunar Caustic, and Dark as the Grave Wherein my Friend is Laid. Why? I have no idea. On the other hand, laugh if you will, but a year later, I was back for another boxed set as it were: the initial five offerings – with Jeff Beck, Faces and solo – from one Rod Stewart, who I swear was really good then.

 

George Steiner’s Language and Silence. The Karl Hass (“Hello, Everyone!) of critical writing. The demolition of language, Kafka, the camps – what’s not to like? Steiner has taken his lumps over the years, for both his content and manner — humorless, unrelenting, and flashily erudite – but remains the man who introduced me to Musil and to Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil, with its odd echoes for me of Peter Weiss’s The Aesthetics of Resistance.

For obvious reasons, if you were acquainted with my family history, R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity, Madness and The Family.. Also, the necessary and enthralling The Age of Madness by Thomas Szasz and Foucault’s Madness and Civilization.

Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49: my initiation to that turbid world, and my farewell.

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country. William Gass. About which I have fleeting visons of icicles and cockroaches, and endless prairies and psychological claustrophobia. A marvelous title, don’t you think? Almost as good as George V. S. Trow’s Within the Context of No Context, still one of the best New Yorker articles ever printed. In the Heart… read back-to-back with Gadids’s The Recognitions. Again, betokening some mysterious affinity.

The New Journalism, edited by Tom Wolfe and E. W. Johnson. Capote, Christgau, Didion, Terry Southern, Mailer, Michael Herr. Male-centric, yes, but, damn!

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.The aforementioned Louisville favorite son’s take on the annual event I had attended for the first time in the late sixties, at fourteen, where I got drunk in the infield and passed out before noon and missed the race but glimpsed my first female breasts, as a girl removed her halter top and gyrated on a restroom’s roof. The adventure continued in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, illustrated by the master, Ralph Steadman.

Against Interpretation. Sontag’s primer on contemporary European literature along with Styles of Radical Will. Letters of recommendation for Sarraute, Leiris, Artaud, Norman O. Brown, Godard, Genet, Ionesco, Pavese, Resnais, Robbe-Grillet, and on and on. Not to forget the seminal “Notes on Camp.”

The Greening of America: proof positive of the wisdom of hindsight.

Nexus: the first book I bought in France. Easy to read Henry Miller and very cosmopolitan-looking set beside an espresso.

 

Poetry, various: My year of Follain, Anne Waldman, Kinnell, Simic (Dismantling the Silence), Char, Guillevic, Montale, Saint-John Perse, Celan, Heaney, Ted Hughes, Ashbery, Brodsky, Merrill, Levine (They Feed They Lion – another of the all-time great titles), Bly (The Light Around the Body), Transtromer…

 

And so: part of that long-ago year, in reading. From which I will extract this month’s secret poem, from the last-mentioned’ The Half-Finished Heaven:

 

After a Death

Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.

It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.

Tomas Transtomer, translated by Robert Bly

 

Now, then. To business, again, such as it is.

We’ve made a small change to the anthology, moving from the year designation to simply a number, in the upcoming case “3”. Something, I am told, to do with the advantages of securing an SPD number. And, I can tell, immodestly, it is going to be…something: living up to our Mission Statement’s (so audacious in in its pre-first issue conception!) promise to publish “the best work by the best poets working today, nationally and internationally.” E.g. Shamsad Abdulloev, translated by Alex Cigale; Kim Addonizio; Kelli Russell Adagon; Sandra Alcosser; Meena Alexander; Kazim Ali; Ralph Angel; Rae Armantrout…and, obviously, that’s just the A’s. Copies will be available at AWP and thereafter through Madhat/Evolution Arts, Amazon, etc.

A sneak peak at the continually evolving but very close to the final cover:

plume v3 front dark blue style 2 (1)

 

Speaking of AWP. A final reminder: Friday, April 10, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. in the Minneapolis Convention Center, Conference Room 209 A & B, Level 2, there will be a joint reading with Plume & Fulcrum (with a full bar). My request for readers has been answered – many times over, I’m afraid. (How generous our contributors!) As noted, on a first come, first served basis as their emails arrived in my Inbox, the line-up (with perhaps a bit of tweaking in order yet) is as follows: Page Hill Starzinger, Rae Armantrout, John Skoyles, Clare Rossini, David Baker, Dore Kiesselbach,  Robin Behn, and Patricia Clark.

And a final reminder: if you are in the Saint Petersburg area: Richard Blanco will be the featured poet at the third annual Plume Poetry Series reading, 23 March, @ 7: 30, The Palladium Theater. Details TBA.

 

Oh, and post-AWP we’ll be lining up Plume readings: I foresee a swing through Boston/Cambridge and New York, possibly Hartford; Asheville; Grand Rapids; perhaps Charlottesville in the fall; the West Coast, and London/Paris later in the fall. If anyone has an interest in reading for Plume, please – contact me, and I will do my very best to work out logistics.

 

Our cover art this month is again – appropriately as his work graces the new print anthology’s cover as well – from Allen Forrest. Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Mr. Forrest has worked in many mediums: computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, video, drawing and painting. Allen studied acting in the Columbia Pictures Talent Program in Los Angeles and digital media in art and design at Bellevue College (receiving degrees in Web Multimedia Authoring and Digital Video Production.) He currently works in Vancouver, Canada, as a graphic artist and painter. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University’s Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation’s permanent art collection

 

 

 

 

Next up, after this issue’s Featured Selection, a second installment collaboration from Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda (a pleasure to hear Alejandro González Iñárritu at the Oscars acknowledge Tess in his third and final acceptance speech of the evening, noting that one portion of the screenplay was not completely original: “I want to thank Tess Gallagher,” he said, “for letting us use Raymond Carver’s story”), look for extended work from Gennady Aygi and the great Russian Tatar painter Igor Vulokh, also in collaboration; Nin Andrews; Kelle Groom; Linda Pastan; Judy Jordan, Chris Kennedy. (Here, too, again, let me add as always: those with projects that might be suitable for the Featured Selection please do contact us with your proposal at plumepoetry@gmail.com ).

 

Finally, as we pull back a little hoping to clear out the back list, New Work Received this month includes pieces from Kimiko Hahn; Dorothy Chan; Annie Kantar; Judy Jordan; Christopher Crawford; new translations by Will Stone of Rilke, Trakl, Charles Meryon, and Georges Rodenbach; Anna Gorria, translated by Yvette Siegert; Kelle Groom, Carol Moldaw, Andrei Codrescu,  Rachel Careau; and Keith Flynn.

 

As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!

 

Daniel Lawless

Editor, PLUME

 

 

 

 

SAY

Rae Armantrout

SAY

1

Says her Tarot reader says
she will soon have an experience
of nature
that will make her feel
more connected than ever.


2

Says blogs, Facebook,
and Instagram
have replaced poetry as ways
of taking
the private public.


3

Say the way the leaves
are black
and unbroken
on the light mesh
of that window screen


 

Rae Armantrout’s new book, Itself, is forthcoming from Wesleyan in February 2015. She has published eleven books of poetry and has also been featured in a number of major anthologies. Her book of poems Versed was awarded the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Armantrout’s most recent collection is Just Saying.

Latest Work

 

Of Shine

David Baker

Of Shine

What makes it
so—this “Shine
of Shining
things”? Not the
big dust-brick
mill turned gen-
trified condo
in the heart
of Olde Towne,
but new snow
pressed into

all its cupped
letters, RED
STAR BLANKETS,
which the sun
burns, blazes,
melting so
that the i-
cicles hanging
look now like
bright white veins
over the

very bones
of the building.
“Glory,” said
the poet of
it, “made fine
To fill the
Fancy [get
this] peeping
through the Eyes
At Thee.” As,
don’t look; as,

you’ll be blind:
that’s how wild
this shining
living is
that now “all
the wantons”
want to see,
small crowd decked
out in such
finery
as money

makes in these
gray parts, massed
across the avenue
wet with slush,
craning up
where she in
her breasts and
he in his
best “flowing
flakes of bright-

est glories”
[it’s in the
poem] trot
back and forth
before the
wide storage-
floor-turned-loft
window for
all the world
to see, “deckt
up in glory,”

thus.


David Baker‘s sixteen books include Scavenger Loop (W. W. Norton, poems, 2015), Show Me Your Environment: Essays on Poetry, Poets, and Poems (University of Michigan, 2014), and Never-Ending Birds (W. W. Norton), which was awarded the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize in 2011.  He lives in rural Ohio and is Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.

 

Latest Work

Ghazal, After Ferguson

Yusef Komunyakaa

Ghazal, After Ferguson

 

Somebody go & ask Biggie to orate
what’s going down in the streets.

No, an attitude is not a suicide note
written on walls around the streets.

Twitter stays lockstep in the frontal lobe
as we hope for a bypass beyond the streets,

but only each day bears witness
in the echo chamber of the streets.

Grandmaster Flash’s thunderclap says
he’s not the grand jury in the streets,

says he doesn’t care if you’re big or small
fear can kill a man on the streets.

Take back the night. Take killjoy’s
cameras & microphones to the streets.

If you’re holding the hand lightning strikes
juice will light you up miles from the streets

where an electric chair surge dims
all the county lights beyond the streets.

Who will go out there & speak laws
of motion & relativity in the streets?

This morning proves a crow
the only truth serum in the street.

 


 

Yusef Komunyakaa’s books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai Dau, Neon Vernacular, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize, Warhorses, The Chameleon Couch, and most recently Testimony. His plays, performance art and libretti have been performed internationally and include Saturnalia, Testimony, andGilgamesh. He teaches at New York University.

Latest Work

From Toying

Kimiko Hahn

From Toying

by Kimiko Hahn

 

from Toying

[Like Tiny Tears]

I am not plastic, in any sense of the word! No shiny hair painted on a shiny head! No tiny holes in the corner of my eyes! Like Tiny Tears I do have a hole for a mouth—who doesn’t! Like Tiny Tears, if someone pushes on my stomach, I cry! Who wouldn’t! Unlike Tiny Tears I don’t have rock-a-bye eyes! And unlike my younger cousin, I ended up with a kind of knock off who only drank and peed! Like that no-named doll, I have a hole for peeing, but not on my butt!

[Like Easy-Bake-Oven]

Like the Easy-Bake-Oven, I am a hot toy. But not for you. Like the Easy-Bake-Oven, I am easy. But, not for you! Like the original Easy-Bake-Oven, I am incandescent and pale yellow. Like the Easy-Bake-Oven inventor, I, too, feel inspired by New York street vendors roasting chestnuts. Unlike the Easy-Bake-Oven, I’ve never caused anything to be amputated. Except for you.

[Like Doll-E-Drink ‘n’ Wet Set’s miniature evenflo]

Like the Doll-E-Drink ‘n’ Wet Set’s miniature evenflo, I am small, too. And will never be completely

empty. Even if you—yes, you–don’t tilt me back upright.

 


 

Kimiko Hahn is the author of nine collections and often finds that disparate sources have triggered her material—whether Flaubert’s sex-tour in The Unbearable Heart, an exhumation in The Artist’s Daughter or classical Japanese forms in The Narrow Road to the Interior.   Rarified fields of science prompted her latest collections Toxic Flora and Brain Fever (both W.W. Norton) as well as a new chapbook, Cryptic Chamber (Epiphany). Collaborations have led her to film and the visual arts. Hahn’s most recent award was a Guggenheim Fellowship and she is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College, The City University of New York.

Latest Work

PaydayLoansNow.co.uk

PASSING

T.R. Hummer

PASSING

They lay the old woman in the back seat of a car,

propped her there with pillows, packed

Necessities in the trunk. They drove through the town

where she’d lived for ninety years, passing

Banked azaleas, flags, an old bigot walking a dog,

the church parking lot of smoking slag, a street

Of shacks where children threw stones at a mangy cat.

They stopped at the clinic, where a nurse came out

With her injection. She would drift to the distant city

on a riptide of chemistry. Never to return

Seemed nothing. Never again faded in some oceanic

false recollection. What mattered now was the journey,

The horizon of unknown, shining buildings, the blaze

of hecatombs touched off in memory of the great departed,

The painless angels with their so far unmapped cruelties.


 

 

 

 

Recipient of the Richard Wright Prize for Literature and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, T. R. Hummer is an internationally-recognized poet and scholar who was born and raised in Macon, Mississippi. His new book of poems, Ephemeron, was published by LSU Press in Fall 2011, and a new book of essays, Available Surfaces, appeared in the University of Michigan Press’s “Poets on Poetry” series in August 2012.

Latest Work

Turn Back

Marilyn Kallet

Turn Back

“Intergenerational sex is a trend,” Jeannine said.
“But how many generations can we skip back?”

“That’s grotesque,” Bill spat.
He should know. Long ago, that thing

with the teen. Who gets residuals from that?
Not Jan, she’s middle-aged by now.

We can joke all we want but I was ready to
to stop the count.

Then I summoned my daughter’s wedding.
Won’t skip that.

I’m trying to articulate hunger that
hollows a person out. “Cannibalize yourself,”

Clayton Eshleman advised. If I’m already
bones, what then?

Turn back to Dante, a voice said.
he’s the one man

who asks
directions.

 


 

Marilyn Kallet is the author of 16 books including The Love That Moves Me, poetry by Black Widow Press, 2013. She has also translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems (Derniers poèmes d’amour) and Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game (Le grand jeu). Kallet directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee, where she is Nancy Moore Goslee Professor of English. Each spring she leads poetry workshops for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France.

Latest Work

The Real River

Jennifer L. Knox

The Real River

For Abelardo Morell

 

“The real river flows under the river”

—James Galvin

 

Gauze gaze, the present’s freeze never sticks.
Its microbes twitch in the ice like fat ticks.
Its frames orbit a light source we can’t see off screen,
only its reflection slash refraction buried deep
in dark glass throws its lariat of luminescence
‘round the shade cows coming home from a hard
day ambling. Stars sit stiller than herds, but still swim
lifetimes to be regarded by us turds—how flattering!—
we, stuck like gum on smog’s shoe and true-bling blind.
Where’s stars’ tickertape parade? The Kiwanis’
wooden welcome sign swinging at our city’s edge?
How many Avon ladies’ ding-dongs go unopened—
Skin So Soft sloshing in their kits like Penicillin?
Or are they already over like the frog and songbird?
If not yet, soon enough, for sure: future starlight e’re
blows o’er their thinning hairlines, the pink marrow
of their effortful atoms bleeds out like sugar in snow.
Do pancake stacks of hope, seven layer dips of evil
mourn some or sum of history’s smushedness?
Who cares? See grass left behind in the fissure,
writhing white lichen, and walls you pop through
like how Bugs punked Daffy in “Duck Amok.”
“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
tantrumed the tyrant, but see how easily his bloat
shuttered, how all tyrants’ dresses get pressed at last
like pansies between a book’s yellowing pages. It’s
cool what flashes endure, how blood bubbles blue
beneath the black and white curtain. Romans led
animals from conquered lands into the coliseum—
peacocks, elephants, gorillas—and tore them apart,
only to see what their deaths resembled, hear their
end game. Light blew through their hides, then
through the hands that held their leashes. Good.
Wonder of the World, my eye. Crumble away, creepos.
Your walls fold like origami in the inner-most matroyshka.
Flavius, shmavius. Here’s your parade, stars,
your homecoming float, your flitsy
tissue paper monoliths.
At first sight: stone.
At second: foam.


 

Jennifer L. Knox’s new book of poems, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, is available fromBloof Books. Her other books, Drunk by Noon and A Gringo Like Me, are also available through Bloof. Her poems have appeared four times in the Best American Poetry series (1997, 2003, 2006, and 2011) as well as the anthologies Great American Prose Poems, From Poet to Present and Best American Erotic Poems. Her work has also appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, American Poetry ReviewFence, McSweeney’s, and Bomb. She is currently at work on her first novel.

Latest Work

 

LETTERS FROM EDINBURGH

Drew Milne

LETTERS FROM EDINBURGH

 

they talk very grammatically’, Edward Topham

some deluge loafing letter
rose mouthing that capital
to rank or drawn facsimile
through dark stays exposed
to sale and the herb women
shunning the heavy hand of
drysalters how said lichen
did each storey of land as
a house is in the sensible
dressed macaroni home spun
as all stone of brown cast
runs down the great swifts
in painted pattern figures
of commodities sold within
so fond of glaring colours
but a plaintive simplicity
in the general of the song
and many sable processions
foxed trappings and blazes
how empty founds in formal
panegyric shall beg stupid
to leave the letter in yrs

 


 

Drew Milne‘s recent books of poetry include: equipollence (2012), the view from Royston cave (2012), Burnt Laconics Bloom (2013), and, with John Kinsella, Reactor Red Shoes (2013)Previous books include Sheet Mettle (1994), Bench Marks (1998), The Damage: new and selected poems (2001), Mars Disarmed (2002), and Go Figure (2003). His work is also featured in collections and anthologies, notably Conductors of Chaos edited by Iain Sinclair (1996) and Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry edited by Keith Tuma (2001). He edits the occasional journal Parataxis: modernism and modern writing and the poetry imprint Parataxis Editions. He is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and, since 1997, he has been the Judith E Wilson Lecturer in Drama & Poetry in the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge.

Who Are You?

Michael Thomas Taren Tomaž Šalamun

Who Are You?


who are you? the effect of well fed herds?
well read towers, plunderers
who are you? lead will come, from the sky the day
grass mould, waterfall from the rock
the lieutenant with a mask, with chunks the note
remember: doormen, the carousel on the hill
wine with the cork, with the eyes the gas
marches, the ribbons of aluminium
an auction, with the son the barge
silent: birdlime grows, the wound with the good name montaigne
a small circle, a shade, a building, a helper
el farat, the nimbus, the rubicon
who are you? hands made of square fields
the food, the seer, the scope of millers’ wives
a predicate made of rosemary
from the toad, miss švalba
how are you grown up together? we planted the mulberry tree
the sun comes up, the squire out of bushes
the long, long, for appearance’s sake smoothly
placed stick around the use
of salust clement, the fighting cornelius’s squire
the greenland steamboats
kiddo, kiddo, kiddo
the bet, the ore drives in the open
the leek, the blanket, the process, cornelia again
the doorman in the hill, the power of fingers, the crown of the neck
where are the precise formulations of the straight soft movements?
what he attains I chew up, patina glues on
the sea, the bomb, gray mouse, the penalty kick
grilled penny, from the earth the snow is lazing down,
roots out papers, the hold-up, cornelia again
otto? du otto? ja, ich munser
mingle religiously, let flowers have the smallest surface possible
the smoke, the shore, the kerchief, the skiing wavers
the inner balance, the strong man
there’s the neck, there are goods, he adhered horizontally
gravitation burns through,
gravitation burned through

Translated from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren and the author

Tomaž Šalamun, who died 27 December, 2014, published more than thirty books of poetry in his home country of Slovenia and is recognized as one of the leading poets of Central Europe. His honors included the Prešeren Fund Prize, the Jenko Prize, a Pushcart Prize, a visiting Fulbright to Columbia University, and a fellowship to the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Nine collections of his poetry have been published in English: The Book for My Brother (Harcourt, 2005), Row (Arc Publications, 2005),Blackboards (Saturnalia Books, 2004), Poker(Ugly Duckling, 2003), A Ballad for Metka Krasovec (Twisted Spoon, 2001), Feast(Harcourt Brace, 2000), The Selected Poems of Tomaž Šalamun (Ecco, 1988, edited by Charles Simic), The Four Questions of Melancholy(White Pine, 1997), and The Shepherd, The Hunter (Pedernal, 1992). His poems have been translated into more than twenty languages.Woods and Chalices, translated with Brian Henry, was published byHarcourt in 2008.


 

Michael Thomas Taren’s poetry has been published in Colorado Review. His translations of Tomaž Šalamun’s work appear in the anthologies 7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book (Trinity University Press, 2009) and Slovene Sampler(Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008), as well as in journals, including Chicago Review, A Public Space, Poetry Review, Fulcrum, Colorado Review, Ninth Letter, jubilat, Poetry London, and Circumference. Taren is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Latest Work

Alien Valley

Jeffrey Skinner

Alien Valley

I’m sick of prodding the infinite,
Sick of how it teases
Back, flashing a breast or
Consolation of days
Without pain.
But, how abandon the project?
This view in retrospect
Of flesh overspent: my food, my name,
My humankind.

Und das Wetterhorn, in erste sonne,

Clouds tangled still
In the peaks like vague
Thoughts. The church bell
Clanging noon won’t stop, iron in my chest—
Du, God-weight, bitte—Shut up!
No. So I go

Out in the street where the people
Speak gibberish
Going about their business
Under mountains that could kill us
With a shrug.


 

Jeffrey Skinner‘s latest collection of poems is Glaciology. His more recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Verse, Slate, and the Kenyon and Yale Reviews, among other journals. He is the recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry.

Latest Work

The Etymology of “Alaasa” [علاسة]

Nomi Stone

The Etymology of “Alaasa” [علاسة] (“Wartime Snitching”), a Word Which Emerged on the Streets of Baghdad at the Height of the 2003 Iraq War.


In 2006, the word
choked alert,
began to feed.
The lexicons spoke

of its early
life: it meant to eat
most especially wheat
three grains to

a husk. Such good
quality but so difficult
to cleanse. It is a black
grain, and you will

consume it but only when
desperate. It came to
mean embroidery,
a nervous raising

of needles into cheek
of cloth, metaphorically
the clicking of talking
like an itch, a twitch: bad

mouthing, getting
told on; also theft
of words; theft of
whomever you said

you were; no, theft
of who you
were; the limit of
cash for which you

give away my
coordinates. Bet on
this debt; open the content
of your net. In it our
every spring night.


 

Nomi Stone is the author of the poetry collection Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly, 2008). Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Memorious, The Painted Bride Quarterly, cellpoems, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poetry, The Margins at The Asian American Writer’s Workshop, at The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere. She is currently researching and writing Kill Class, a collection of poetry based on her ethnographic fieldwork on combat simulations in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the US military across America.

 

Latest Work

Two Poems

Daniel Tobin

IX. Ophelia’s Garden

After the turtle shook the world from its shell,
It homed through all the waters without bounds,
Through quale and quanta, ever ascending
Until it broke the surface on the single pool
Where the dead girl floated who dove in there
And swallowed her fill until she was the pool
She willed herself in her swelled grief to be,
And so began the change, her skin turning scales,
Her breasts lifting lilies, the fronds in surround
Inclining like mourners, while the turtle
Paddled, swimming to her palm, dandled, open,
Flowering there in the sky blue of Krishna.


III. Tears

Salt-heaves out of the inner ocean flow
From the threshold eye: self’s backwaters
Laboriously fermenting, while the legs
Of the ballerina twist around themselves
Like snakes around a tree. O snifter, flask,
My little drip-bag of tears, the extract,
The elixir, the equinoctial champagne
That keeps me primed and wired for the jump!
I balance on my head a punchbowl of heads—
My many faces, the brave losses bobbing,
And these bottomless flutes like waterspouts.
Lift a glass. Cin-cin. Watch the boats go sailing.


 

Daniel Tobin is the author of five previous books of poems, Where the World is Made, Double Life, The Narrows, Second Things, and Belated Heavens (winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, 2011), along with the critical studies Passage to the Center and Awake in America. He is the editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: The Selected Early Poems and Lola Ridge, and (with Pimone Triplett) Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Art. His awards include the “Discovery” / The Nation Award, the Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize, and creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Latest Work

FEATURED SELECTION

Lawrence Matsuda Tess Gallagher

 

By way of introduction to this month’s Featured Selection from Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda, Wild-Haired Labyrinth-Renga (a second collaboration following the previous Pow! Pow! Shalazam! previously published in our pages) we present an introduction by the authors, followed by the work itself and some more detailed biographical material. Enjoy!

tess                            Larry_Matsuda016

 

 

Introduction

 

When Tess Gallagher was in the West of Ireland where she has a retreat cottage and Larry Matsuda was in Seattle during 2013, they exchanged nine interconnected poems during the summer and winter. Larry led off with “Careening Towards Forever-after” and Tess responded with “Dear Cloud, Dear Larry”. As the exchanges progressed, Tess remarked that the process was similar to the renga where poets work from and respond to what the poet before has written. There is a syllabic structure too at the end of each free form poem: one poet contributes three lines of seventeen syllables ( 5-7-5) and the other poet responds with a couplet of fourteen syllables (7-7) and the process continues in a repetitive fashion.

 

Since our original poems, though responsive to each other, did not comply with the renga form because we were writing in free verse, it was decided we would title our work, Wild-Haired-Labyrinth Renga. But to satisfy the purist in us, we decided to add an actual renga as a thumbnail coda or snapshot at the end of each poem.

For “Careening Towards Forever-after” Larry wrote three lines and Tess returned with a couplet. Then Tess gave three lines for “Dear Cloud, Dear Larry” and Larry replied with a couplet until all poems had an accompanying 31 syllable renga.   As a result, each long poem is followed by a similar thematic renga, somewhat like a wine reduction of the long poem.

 

Since the entire work contains numerous footnotes because it was conceived across cultures (Japanese-American, Irish and Irish-American, Romanian, and Indian) it is recommended that the work be read first in its entirety, then read again with the footnotes. Or one might simply like to read the poem first, then the footnotes, which is Tess’s preference.

 

We hope you enjoy Wild-Haired-Labyrinth Renga. We had fun pushing our imaginations and connecting seemingly disparate and random thoughts into a piece that is both serious and playful.

 

Thank you.

 

Tess Gallagher

Co. Sligo, Ireland

 

Larry Matsuda

Seattle, Washington

 

December 2013

 


 

 

WILD-HAIRED-LABYRINTH RENGA 1

 

         Careening Towards Forever-after

 

In reverse, I stomp the gas pedal.

Aluminum bends, screeches like

a wounded brontosaurus.

 

My shrimp fishing checklist for 5:00 AM:

license, lunch, and life preserver.

Open the garage door, not on the list.

 

So now what do we talk about when we talk about

crashing through garage doors?

 

Twisted rollers off track

hang cattywhumpus.

Dislodged metal sections dangle

a dismembered tin man, dancing.

Dorothy and Toto would drop

their jaws in disbelief.

 

If my antiquated cell phone

were capable, I would tweet

and text about how to mangle

a garage door or I’d

post a photo on Facebook—

me flipping Luddite “Yellow Pages”

under a superimposed Eiffel Tower.

 

I muscle broken sections

like a Houdini weight-lifter act.

Chevy exhaust pipe belches a cloud.

Metallic echoes still pinball my brain.

A crumpled door, wrecked accordion

gleams sunshine behind me.

 

On the water fishing, my world is transformed

into a modern El Greco’s Storm over Toledo —

 

Space Needle and Seattle skyline

to the East, snow covered Olympics to the West.

Riding Elliott Bay whitecaps I fantasize:

small prehistoric armored warriors

with prickly swords—shrimp as sushi: fried,

grilled, boiled, poached, and barbecued

Bubba Gump style.

 

Tugging 400 feet of leaded line,

water trickles like icicles melting.

Arms burn, shoulders ache,

and I wonder, when will this torture end?

Color appears as the trap surfaces,

a caldron-boil of pink spot-tailed shrimp hop,

twist, and bubble out of the cage

like effervescent champagne.

I snap shrimp heads, peel translucent armor,

chomp crunchy tails.

 

As a child, my Aunt Mitsumori bribed me

with a nickel to release

a spider from a Mason jar.

 

What would she say about panic-cries

from shrimp destined for a dip into wasabi

and soy, now drop-kicked into my Nirvana?

Did they bathe in a loving tunnel of white light

and meet a friendly face,

or encounter infinite fields of emptiness?

 

Under the sign of two fish facing each other,

I pass myself resting in deep pools

and discover a Moon Child, Tess,

Pacific Northwest Dungeness,

not a soft shell crustacean. 2

 

Careening towards forever-after

and Grand Canyons of outer space,

Tess what do you think

when you think about crashing

through garage doors?

 

*   *   *

 

Shrimp heads asunder,

float up like dismembered feet

tight in orange Nikes.

 

Even a wave goes walking

on its one leg in fish feet.

 

 

 

Dear Cloud3, Dear Larry,

 

As Mick Connaughton from up Barroe used to say—

‘Ah ye’s a right common idjit!’ If only you’d been driving

a cart horse, Larry, your garage door would be safe.

In the villages of Romania where ruled Vlad the Impaler,

cart and horse cover all distances, but plum brandy4

puts drivers’ heads wrong so they abuse these canny5 little ponies.

Hearing this, I immediately signed over my heart to them

as they tossed along the roadways, their red

 

blinders zig-zagging with the swing of their heads, the whip

at the ready over their backs. Even off duty their harnesses

are left on them—something never done to our plough horses

in Missouri, and pasture to gypsies scarce so young boys are

stationed out in Dragasani6 beside them in the tall roadside

grass. That would slow you down, Larry, on some hot afternoon

to take over for one of those boys, the cart horse

pulling grass and your mind climbing the green mountains

 

for mushrooms, as in your childhood. Gypsies took my friend

picking. They brought out a mess of them which his wife cooked

with polenta for us—now there’s trust—eating wild mushrooms

in Romania picked by gypsies! To squander ourselves

lightly, to be in mad company, to drink dazzling

white wine from a vineyard we walked through at dusk,

the village pickers’ red and yellow shawls hung across

the row-starts above the roses, delicate sentinels planted

 

to warn of disease or insects attacking the vines. Instead,

there is list-making for exit or entrance—the most

tantalizing item on Ray’s7 last list: Antarctica, thrown in

with cornflakes and spam. Here in the West of Ireland

we are dipping sheep, feeding carrots to horses, planting

red peppers in a green jug, listening to the log splitter

crack open the hundred-year-old beech that fell

across the avenue. Frazer’s field, fresh cut, has yoked me

 

to my nose with sneezing. White roses in a bower8

at the window challenge my white newly painted cottage

to the neighbors to prevent blindness. Today Josie cut wild

jasmine at Kingsborough, mixed now with mint, lavender

and rhododendron in a vase. Reading Basho by firelight

I marvel at the poet’s stamina at a renga party—him

 

with a bad stomach, drinking sake all night on his knees, setting

the pace for eighteen others. Like him I am apprenticed

to clouds which move about carrying everything they

need. Never mind my luggage held over in Paris with bottles

of Romanian wine for ballast. The wine came home unopened.

Dear Cloud, let’s carry all we need and don’t need too!

listing in our 14 ft dingy all the way to Malin Head.9 I spent,

god knows, many the day as a child bailing my father’s leaky boat

 

with a rusted red Folgers coffee can. If your garage door or

tail pipe is listing, at least you’re only at sea in your mind, like

those on the hunt for romance or a good marriage match

in Lisdoonvarna10 of a September eve, ten thousand swelling

the village streets—again, right common idjits! Still, I too

would give a Euro or three to get that spider out of a jar in

your childhood. Dear Cloud, it’s Ireland here and raining on

spiders and children playing in the graveyard. Let’s float over to

the Arigna11 mines where a man I met worked 29 years

 

on his side mining coal veins on a slant. Now he lists when he

walks and spits into a bucket. But his eyes—fierce enough

to bore their way to Rathland Island where the Campbells

tossed islanders to their deaths from the cliffs. He is sanguine

on his ventilator, smiles wanly as the doctor lights him a fag. Dark

air—he knows the hollow taste of it—his head with all the light squeezed

out is another kind of cloud or spider-jar or human cry as

the gelatin ignites and a chasm opens a vein he can chip at. What

 

he feared, he said, was mice dislodging the fuse so detonation

timing couldn’t be gauged. Yet mice, like roses to a vineyard,

could give warning—no mice meant an unsafe tunnel.

I’ll clear out now, like mice floating through a miner’s

dream. Josie12 is singing “her hair tied up in a black velvet band,”13

and twisting the lid on my spider’s jar.

 

*     *     *

 

Cloud anatomy

and Basho drinking saki,

spider-mind afloat.

 

Dim clouds eat pink lung lining,

mice scatter helter skelter.

 

 

 

Old Mick’s Wisdom

 

 

Airstream-trailer-shaped clouds that resemble your

glowing white Irish cottage float by.

Unlike Eskimos and their 100 words for “snow”,

in Seattle we have one word for “rain”

often paired with a thousand adjectives

including “horizontal” which incidentally describes

what fell like a torrent of garage doors

and flooded my Japanese maple planter in an instant.

Fearing the tree would drown like spiders in a jar,

and assuming the dead-pony position, I tip it sideways.

Thick brown fluid tinged with musk and earth oozes.

 

In Idaho, puffy cotton balls float like

the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade’s Marshmallow-man

tethered above basalt canyons and gorges

that Evel Kneivel jumps with his red-white-

and-blue motorcycle. Same black hole tourists

hungrily bungee into, an obliterating plunge reminiscent

of Dorothy’s Kansas farm house spiraling madly

down to Oz. Idahoans call it Magic Valley, formerly a desert,

now endless fields of potatoes and Black Angus cattle.

 

Ten thousand Black Angus de-gas and expel manure

a mile downwind from the former Minidoka Idaho

World War II Relocation center,14 place I was born,

temporary home of 10,000 Japanese

corralled in the desert like stray cats.

 

Nearly sixty-eight years since Minidoka

was shuttered, my Japanese-American artist friend,

Roger Shimomura from Lawrence, Kansas

and I return to Minidoka for a symposium,

sneak out at break to scour Twin Falls antique shops

in search of the fabled porcelain karate champ statue

that separates at the waist and becomes a sake container,

kitsch that Basho would have hated

even in his most inebriated state.

 

Back at the conference, they debate whether Minidoka

was a concentration camp or relocation center.

As discussion swirls, I steal the microphone,

what do you call a prison in the desert with guard towers,

machine guns pointed in, armed guards, search lights,

barbed wire and soldiers who could shoot you if you tried to escape?

Not a “Dirty Dancing” summer camp in the Catskills.

 

Afterwards Roger honors me with lapel buttons he created,

Minidoka Croix de Guerre trifecta:

Born in America, I am not Chinese, and I speak English

reminders he thinks useful for travels in white America.

 

Our conversation slides from the sublime

to airstream-trailer-shaped clouds that resemble your

glowing white Irish cottage, then on to colonoscopies,

procedures we both experienced. We marvel

at how over five feet of scoping leads to enlightenment.

Then agree colonoscopies be administered

to every politician and bureaucrat so that

Romanian wine does not become ballast,

off duty cart ponies are un-harnessed,

and garage doors hang safely like glassed-in spiders.

 

I recall Josie’s story about his country cousin

who once thought to blast cobwebs

from his barn with dynamite, successful at first until he

enthusiastically blows up the entire barn.

Did I say “barn”? Or maybe it was “brain”—

like your coal miner friend whose dynamite you say,

“ignites a chasm and opens a vein he can chip at.”

 

Oh what would Mick Connaughton from up Barroe

say about exploding barn doors, airborne spiders

and mice munching dynamite fuses

in silver Airstreams of the mind?

 

*     *     *

 

Nisei rip electric

barbed wire fences in protest,

cattle status rejected.

 

When an act is inhumane

it echoes past excuses.

 

 

Button, Button

 

Green Peach,15 that’s the button Basho asked Roger,

your artist friend, for—but at the Irish renga party in Stokestown

following the opening of the new wing of the Famine Museum,16

a smart aleck thought Basho had insulted Green

Peace and gave him a shiner. Indeed, Green Peach

was an unlikely name for a poet. As for me, in Ireland I need

a button proclaiming me not a banker where honest folk

lose homes daily and nationalized banks send a country

into debt while their managers join arms in a jig

singing “Deutschland Uber Alles!”17

Thank the Berkley antique

store sincerely for the 1960’s ABORTION NOW button, though

I could not wear it with impunity to the Strandhill

 

Ballroom of Romance, even having re-adjusted

the baby-bump pillow in my trousers when I glimpsed the priest

and ducked into the Ladies. There, a 14-year-old girl held out

a crisp bag,18 collecting money to get her to England on the boat

for her solution.19 Cut marks in a ladder on her wrist

had failed to convince a judge her life was

 

in danger, her attempts so ‘amateurish’. “Ah you’d

have to slice a jugular and then sure, what would be

the point? You’d bleed out then and there,” she sighed

and thumped my pillow as if she’d like to take a nap.

I dropped her a 50 Euro note and skint past her belly,

on her neck a cameo of Savita20 secured by a black

 

velvet band. Savita, our lady killed by a heartbeat.

Savita, who took her degree as a dentist in India, and

came to Ireland to die of sepsis and neglect in a Galway

hospital, her untenable pregnancy gone wrong

in Catholic Ireland, her care put aside for her child’s vanishing

heartbeat. “Take my child,” she’d pleaded earlier,

 

to no avail, as she traded her heartbeat for her dying baby’s

silence. Savita, Savita our lady of longsuffering,

who believed her death would not be required. I drop

my not a banker button into the crisp bag and Savita smiles

shyly from the girl’s neck, as if she knows her husband

is taking her death all the way to the Court of Human Rights.

 

Outside the moon is so bloated I think its mirror-moon

in Lough Arrow will pull it down. Let me wear the button stamped

MOONBEAM all the way to the bottom.

 

Basho has written in my dream: “See you at Sun Ya Bar.”21

That ‘dirty vodka martini’ I had with you, Larry, at our

between-planes feast still beckons. But when, oh when!

will Roger inhabit the dark corner in the bar with a solitary

scotch so our glances can meet? I promise to engineer

an appearance if Kansas blows him our way. I could give him

 

some of my signature portable kisses for his next painting,

kisses imprinted with Irish poteen22 and red as a goldfinch’s

beak-rim. Irish Red let’s call it, though these finches migrate

from Africa, I’m told. Birds have no boundaries and so, dear Cloud,

they don’t agree to confinements, nor passports, nor

gun turrets, nor dispossessions, nor calling what was done to

 

Japanese American citizens during WWII anything but words

reserved for the worst injuries to spirit, body and mind.

Maybe though, along with a concept like ‘concentration camp’

to recalibrate the level of harm, we need more tellings, more stories

with exact details of what was suffered. Nothing substitutes for that.

Josie is humming the opening bars of “There was an auld woman

 

from Wexford, in Wexford she did dwell. She loved

her husband dearly, but another man twice as well.

With yah rum dum dum dum dee-ro and the blind man he could see!23

Which song ends in a bad way for the auld lady,

so I shall turn in my moonbeam for a javelin and cinch up

my babushka for certain travail.

 

*     *     *

 

Moonbeam, we need your

accusing light: Our Lady

Savita has died.

 

Slow death by bureaucracy,

civilized and remorseless.

 

 

 

Holy Fig

 

Without borders, your gold finches

migrate like my Ficus Regina fig tree.

Undisciplined green Godzilla rises

above telephone wires and exports wild branches

over the neighbor’s white picket fence,

proliferation of celebratory leaves,

sentinels that could guard the modesty

of 100 Adams and Eves full of their apple-

induced knowledge of good and evil.

 

Pope Pius vaccinates impure thoughts

with aprons, fig leaves and jock straps

over marble statute genitals,

gesture that reminds me of my US army stint.

Government inoculates troops against:

typhoid, paratyphoid, polio, small pox,

black plague, but lets us catch meningitis.

 

I snip fig tree shoots and yank out

branches burrowing in the dirt.

Spider-like roots encroach

into my raised tomato bed.

I twist and turn tangles of fig boughs,

towards the trunk. I handcuff wildness

before it becomes a sweet-faced 14-year-old girl,

pregnant with an empty crisp bag gasping

for a solution outside Ireland.

 

Tess, as the phrase goes,

You gave a fig about her

or maybe 50, amount Buddha would

have dropped if he traded in Euros.

 

I too know empty crisp bags.

As a child l peer into my father’s cloudy eyes.

He rests in bed with a bleeding ulcer,

nothing beyond the clouds—

when he can’t stand and falls down at work,

nothing beyond the clouds—

when depression takes Mom away,

nothing beyond the clouds

except years of empty crisp bags

and hopes of finding a solution.

 

Under the shade of a sacred fig tree,

Siddhartha meditates 49 days.

Enlightenment flows like sap,

thunder bolt that bypasses Irish doctors

over 2,000 years later.

A bullet, spear point, or arrowhead would have

 

clanked in a metal surgical bowl,

but Savita, born in the land of Siddhartha,

dies as Catholic doctors

walk away from a lifeless fetus

lodged in her womb.

 

How their physician consciences must ache

knowing they and their oaths are shams,

empty like a flat crisp bag, even when

bolstered by misbegotten mandates.

 

Savita’s husband and family mourn

her senseless martyrdom, carry the indelible

weight with scars across their hearts,

face nothingness that remains

beyond the clouds.

 

Before her spirit touches Nirvana,

did doctors say, I couldn’t give a fig,

abusive remark that dates back to Shakespeare,

an obscenity that stains

like Savita’s outrageous death,

a bleeding ulcer on the breast of Ireland

a thousand fig leaves could never cover.

In this medieval forest,

where is the sunbeam from heaven

and the righteous button slogan, Remember Savita,

that begets a solution?

 

*     *     *

Modern Holy wars,

righteous deaths, aerial

lightning from drone strikes.

 

Scattershot oblivion

rains down on the innocent.

 

 

 

The Paper Airplane of Justice

 

On Caroline Street the seven-year-old boy

across the fence floats his paper airplane over

to me. At eight I must seem exotic.

One lands in my hair and lodges between my

pigtails, which to the airplane launcher could be

Mozambique. I’d heard a lot about Justice

since my father belonged to a union

and I knew the Airplane of Justice (name

scrawled in my mind on the airplane’s inward reaches)

did not belong in a girl’s hair. Naturally I reached

 

up and freed it and tried to wing it back to him.

But Justice being unwieldy, it veered off into the dahlias

to be immediately commandeered by earwigs. They must have

thought it handy indeed with its pristine streamlined

folds and pointed fuselage sans propellers. Justice

in the 1950’s was rudimentary, only a matter of

getting the folds right. Un-fazed,

I knew my duty and retrieved the plane and its cargo

of hysterical antennae, then zinged it back to the boy—

Edward I think he said his name was. This time it took

 

air and soared until it nose-dived miserably to his feet

and turned upside down, the earwigs having braved all this,

now considering themselves its crew. The boy, Edward,

like an Englishman I would meet much later in life,

wanly smiled and, in a mysterious show of bravery, smattered

the earwigs on the sidewalk. Justice often took no hostages, or

if it took them, did so on trains in broad daylight,

allowing its participants one suitcase each, as happened to

your parents, Larry, sent into the Idaho desert. Edward and I

could have stayed like that for days, for years—buoyantly,

 

precariously floating the Airplane of Justice back and forth

across a picket fence, except that it began to rain. We took

little notice until the soggy paper splayed open to its creased

center fold. Edward stroked his fingers again and again over

the faint imprint of the Engine of Justice to no avail. It

sputtered rain and grime from his dirty finger tips. No,

flight was out of the question. It was then I managed to

flutter lightly over the fence in my flour-sack dress sewn by my

grandmother in Missouri, and together Edward and I

 

performed an impromptu rain-dance burial right there,

in Edward’s front yard, strewing dahlia petals and

pansies like crippled butterflies over the collapsed remains

in respect for all the effort at flight its paper had made

that long ago afternoon. I recalled today the simplicity,

delight and matter-of-fact acceptance at the crumpled

outcome of our serious play. Edward grew up to be a coroner

in a tidy Eastern Washington town, whilst I came to Ireland

to write poems and live in a cottage by a lake near

an ivy-covered abbey. Daily I read The Irish Independent

 

where Savita, dead of “medical misadventure”

as the examining committee determined, became

the victim of her unborn baby. Now with Savita’s memory

to propel him onward, her father in India announces

he will sue the Galway Hospital.

‘No more women in Ireland must die as she died,’ he says,

though he knows suing won’t bring her back—Savita

with the vermillion bindi, her smile like white diamonds

beaming in life all over Ireland in the paper Airplane of Justice

in The Irish Independent. How frustrating

 

Irish weather must be to young boys and girls

floating their paper airplanes, I think, as I fold this poem

into its hopeful winged shape, lift it to soar above Jimmy

Frazer’s field toward America, where by another form,

you Larry, will click it up unhindered by rain and struggles

with the intricate water-seeking root system of your fig tree

from which I must beg some cuttings.

 

*     *     *

Justice, my paper

airplane, delivers earwigs

from the dahlias.

 

First class shadow passenger,

injustice demands its due.

 

 

 

Ghost Dahlias

 

Justice is a paper airplane

fragile in its twisting flights

and break-nose landings,

design not meant to defy gravity for long.

In the instant before paper strikes rock,

mother earth claims victory. Those

entitled are served justice like soup du jour,

innocent late-risers routinely

 

crushed like earwigs after the fall.

Falsely we believe all deserve the fruits

of flight, as if our names are Wallenda,

leotard clad bodies forever cart-wheeling

without nets.24 As an eight-year-old,

you stand alone by the white picket fence

on Caroline Street in Port Angeles.

What a sight—frayed pigtails

held tight by red rubber bands taming

 

a wild splay of brown waves. Woven strands,

ideal for inkwell dipping and butterfly landings

as the West wind rises over the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

With outstretched arms you embrace each gust,

your homemade sack-cloth dress billows like a sail.

 

Proudly you sport red-striped knee-length socks

pulled over stork legs that poke out

of a pair of black bone-dry school patrol

high-tops. Leather shoelaces crisscross and sprout

from copper-colored eyelets, and snug tight

to the hooks near the top of the tongue.

 

You are a young boy’s vision of first love, part waif,

part rustic wonderment, facing Edward’s

two story house. Ruled by latitudes and longitudes

of earth’s magnetic fields, momentarily your body

assumes a twisted pose reminiscent of Wyeth’s painting

of Christina in a pink dress with dark hair. She crawls

crab-like in a field of dry grass, grasping

and stretching towards the house on the hill.

 

You tilt your head and stand frozen at the fence,

hold your breath for Edward to appear

and zing his paper glider.

His missiles mean to lasso your heart but

fall short, close enough like horseshoes

to lure you over the barrier

for an impromptu mud and dahlia dance.

 

Continuing the jig could have landed

you in a small Eastern Washington village,

wife of the town coroner, official who each day

touches those that gravity has overtaken.

He might have listed Savita’s passing as

“an overdose of injustice resulting in death,”

an admonishment to people of differing ethnicity

who should know better than to attempt

a risky childbirth in Catholic Ireland.

 

 

That imagined marriage union between you

and Edward is light years from where you left

your boots in a heap to pose barefoot on a mare

named Butterscotch for Annie Leibovitz. In the photo,

your long hair glistens like a horse’s mane, precious image

not unlike Whoopi Goldberg’s face and limbs

peeking from a bathtub of milk, and Meryl Streep

pinching and pulling her white mime face

into a Kabuki actor’s visage for a Rolling Stone cover.

 

You are Icarus’s sister at undreamed heights.

With a 20-foot wingspan and rack of a 1,000 bald eagle feathers,

you glide above green seas and blue hills

to warm hives and stone temples among distant stars that flicker,

place where paper airplanes go to die, beyond the pull of justice.

Air so thin only Fate, Karma and ghost dahlias reside.

 

*     *     *

 

Sack cloth hunger pains,

transform silk dreams into yachts

and Mercedes Benz.

 

Pack my bag like Rosco Gordon,

blues man kicked from a fountain.25

 

 

 

If Your Brother’s Wings Are Melting

 

one might hope for a sea beneath him, except

that, you guessed it, he can’t swim: thus

he drowns and has to live on in the useful

form of a warning—that if your wings are

made of wax, make sure to wear a life preserver

over your wet suit and do your flying only over

the Irish Sea where the sun is sure to have gone

elsewhere. Sadly the lives of cats are similarly

instructive. I recall the demise of my first cat, Tiger Lil,

explained to me at the age of two as caused by her

 

having eaten too many snakes. I vowed then and there

never to eat snakes and have kept to that. One’s survival

does seem fraught with advice, which, however well intended,

often fails, in its expression, to catch our attention. Why,

for instance, didn’t Daedalus warn his son that if he

flew near the sun he’d simply end up as

“skinny-jeaned indie landfill” or swamp him with

“an inconvenient flow of parliamentary

language” if he proposed flinging himself from the nearest

 

castle tower or crumbling abbey: “Take a trial flutter

from yon fallen bog stump, me lusty lad,” is what he

should have said, “and let’s see does this contraption

work.” Or, the odd threat might have caught his son’s fancy:

“if you fall you’ll be considered nothing but a poor

misguided wannabe and whatever is left of you will likely be

traded out to Hungarian sex traffickers as relics

for pagan rituals.” Thank you Brian Boyd,26 whose sashays

through the music scene in the Irish Independent prove

that, had Boyd been the father of Icarus, the boy

would likely have listened, then told his dad to take

 

his wax-winged affliction of comic inevitability and strap

it to his own backside and jump off the Giants’ Causeway

at high noon imported from an African heat wave.

But no, we get lost in what a good, obedient, trusting son

Icarus was to—yes, yes daddy—strap on that pair

of perishable would-be wings that even

a queen bee’s laziest honey-drunk drone would have

recognized as a death-buoy. The successful

warnings of my own childhood usually began “If

you don’t” followed shortly by endearments such as

“you’ll wish you were an angel on a burning

 

Christmas tree in hell when I get finished with you!”

The sought after tiara of fear meant to drip

its scalding candle-wax of obedience somehow never

seeped into my brain. I saw myself rather as a kind of

interplanetary octopus grabbing up alternatives

as fast as anything failed me. Of course

Daedalus did fly successfully off Crete with those same

 

un-microwavable wings, and for the myth’s sake went on

to engineer temples and serve other kings. But now we

have stumbled into the labyrinth, one of his better inventions,

though the seven virgins devoured yearly by the Minotaur

might not agree, and I must return on their behalf to

my Independent to check out the disgruntled visage of

the Fine Gael Party Whip, Lucinda Creighton,27 who has been

 

dropped from the party for voting against

the “limited abortion bill” generated by Savita’s death

in childbirth, Savita smiling diamonds as Lucinda

clears out her desk, scoops up her €40,000 severance pay

and clatters down the long hallway of Justice, Savita

snacking on the Minotaur, pulling out the virgins one

by one from his gory maw by their hair, Savita stringing us along

 

until we stumble into sunlight, tethered to an ant

who led us free, not knowing the way.

 

*     *     *

 

Savita impugns

her tormentors: limited

abortion rights gained.

 

White covers sweet coat-hanger

victim, sepsis odors swirl.

 

 

 

 

In Memory of Kip

 

Tess, the day I received your last poem

from Ireland about your brother’s wings,

my friend, Kip, died of a heart attack

casting trout lines on a small Whidbey Island lake.

 

Shocked and brain tired,

I consult your imagination

where Native American visions reside.

 

You instruct me to build a driftwood bonfire at midnight

on Alki beach, near the stone lighthouse on the Salish Sea

where silver salmon school in green kelp beds.

Orange flames explode gnarled limbs and branches

as they spark into crackling fireflies.

Smoke sprints north over the bay

like skywriter vapor trails, leaving charcoal

for war paint and petroglyph drawings.

 

You share a prayer with me,

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo,28

mystical Buddhist sutra of the Lotus

unfolding to enlightenment.

 

I strike the brass singing bowl.

Clear like a cast iron bell it rings. Then

crisp high pitch fades to a thin thread.

Echoes call bald eagles nesting

in cedars above the sandy cliffs.

Under a full moon,

above roiling whitecaps,

black and white messengers glide,

dive and summon the Orca pods.

 

A fisherman king has died.

 

*     *     *

Husky football stands,

purple and gold, your daughter,

my guest, waves crimson.

 

Bonfire sparks fireflies of night

into which we leap like deer.

 

 


 

Tess Gallagher’s ninth volume of poetry, is Midnight Lantern: New and Selected Poems, from Graywolf Press and Bloodaxe Press in England. Other poetry includes Dear Ghosts, Moon Crossing Bridge, and Amplitude. Her A Path to the Sea, translations of Liliana Ursu’s by Adam Sorkin, Ms. Gallagher and Ms. Ursu came out in 2011. Gallagher’s The Man from Kenvara: Selected Stories was published fall 2009. Barnacle SoupStories from the West of Ireland, a collaboration with the Sligo storyteller Josie Gray, is available in the US from Carnegie Mellon. Distant Rain, a conversation with the highly respected Buddhist nun, Jacucho Setouchi, of Kyoto, is both an art book and a cross-cultural moment. Gallagher is also the author of Soul Barnacles: Ten More Years with Ray; A Concert of Tenses: Essays on Poetry, and two collections of short fiction: At the Owl Woman Saloon and The Lover of Horses and Other Stories. She spearheaded the publication of Raymond Carver’s Beginners in Library of America’s complete collection of his stories published Fall 2009 and is forthcoming as a stand alone volume in 2015. Most recently she shepherded the use of Raymond Carver’s poem and story in the 2015 Oscar winning Birdman, directed by Alejandro Inarritu. She spends time in a cottage on Lough Arrow in Co. Sligo in the West of Ireland where many of her new poems are set, and also lives and writes in her hometown of Port Angeles, Washington.

 

 


 

Lawrence Matsuda was born in the Minidoka, Idaho Concentration Camp during World War II. He and his family were among the approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese held without due process for approximately three years or more.   Matsuda has a Ph.D. in education from the University of Washington and was: a secondary teacher, university counselor, state level administrator, school principal, assistant superintendent, educational consultant, and visiting professor at Seattle University (SU).

 

In 2005, he and two SU colleagues co-edited the book, Community and difference: teaching, pluralism and social justice, Peter Lang Publishing, New York. It won the 2006 National Association of Multicultural Education Phillip Chinn Book Award. In July of 2010, his book of poetry entitled, A Cold Wind from Idaho was published by Black Lawrence Press in New York.

 

His poems appear in Ambush Review, Raven Chronicles, New Orleans Review, Floating Bridge Review, Black Lawrence Press website, Poets Against the War website, Cerise Press, Nostalgia Magazine, Plume, Malpais Review, Zero Ducats, Surviving Minidoka (book), Meet Me at Higos (book), Minidoka-An American Concentration Camp (book and photographs), Tidepools Magazine, and the Seattle Journal for Social Justice.

 

In addition, eight of his poems were the subject of a 60 minute dance presentation entitled, Minidoka performed by Whitman College students in Walla Walla, Washington (2011).

 

His new book, Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner published by CreateSpace was released in August of 2014. It is collection of Matsuda’s poetry and Roger Shimomura’s art.

 

 

 

 

  1. Renga: We are using “renga” in its purely collaborative element since a true renga bears no resemblance at all to ours. We call it “wild-haired” because it has thrown all the rules out except the one that says the poems must be connected to each other. Renga practice was a form of fellowship using poetry. The rules for true renga are extremely elaborate and can be looked up in any number of poetry cookbooks. We also herald the renga for its party atmosphere, gatherings which used to involve many poets and last for many days with a considerable amount of saki drinking.
  2. Tess Gallagher is born on July 21, Cancer under the sign of the crab.
  3. Dear Cloud is just a fond invention of a name for Larry to indicate his shape-shifting capabilities and how he can reflect light or become rain, can float above or inhabit. It is a kind of metaphor for his having multiple possibilities of drift.
  4. Plum brandy is called țuică in Romania and is the common drink to offer a guest or neighbor. There is a custom in Romania when someone has died of taking a drink of it and throwing the last of it on the floor or into the fire. In Hungary, the drink is known as palinca and is often stronger; most Slavic countries call plum brandy slivovitz.
  5.  Having or showing a practical cleverness or judgment <a canny card player, good at psyching out his opponents>Synonyms astute, canny, clear-eyed, clear-sighted, hard-boiled, hardheaded, heady, knowing, savvy, sharp, sharp-witted, smart.
  6. Dragashan (English name) is a city in Vâlcea County, Romania, near the right bank of the Olt river.
  7. Ray’s: Raymond Carver, Tess’s husband who died at 50 on Aug. 2, 1988, and was called America’s Chekhov for his world-renowned short stories.
  8. Bower: a shelter (as in a garden) made with tree boughs or vines or, as in this case, roses twined together in an arbor.
  9. Malin Head (Irish: Cionn Mhálanna) is located on the Inishowen Peninsula, County Donegal, Ireland, and is the most northerly point of the island of Ireland.
  10. A village in Co. Clare where each year a matchmaking festival is held, usually from 31st August to October 7. The center of this festival is dancing but it has developed to one of the largest singles activities in Europe. “People don’t necessarily come to look for a spouse – they come by the thousands in search of a good time.” Originally the village was a spa town where visitors came to use the mineral waters as a cure. Its name comes from the Irish to indicate the enclosure of the fort in the gap.
  11. These coal mines, located in Derreenavoggy, Arigna Carrick-On-Shannon, Co. Roscommon, Ireland, were in operation from the 1700’s until their closure in 1990.
    Tours now show what it was like to work in some of the narrowest coal seams in the Western world.
  12. Josie Gray, Irish storyteller (Barnacle Soup & Other Stories from the West of Ireland)& painter, companion of Tess Gallagher’s from County Sligo, Ireland.

  13. One of many “transportation” songs about men and women being deported to foreign lands from Ireland and England. It could be catalogued as a “betrayal” song. It details the fate of an Irish lad who meets a young colleen who steals a watch from another lad, and having gotten the first lad drunk, she plants the watch on him. He is brought to trial, found guilty and sent to Australia, which is called Van Dieman’s land in the song. “Australia quickly found a new population with the English courts’ vicious sentences which ripped families and communities apart in all parts of the empire, usually for crimes as trivial as poaching or the theft of a bread. Tasmanian whalers are known to have had a version of this song, The Hat With the Velvet Band, which served them as a working, drinking and fighting song” (Loesberg II, 65). The repeating chorus of the song partially quoted here is:
    Her eyes they shone like diamonds
    I thought her the queen of the land
    And her hair it hung over her shoulder
    Tied up with a black velvet band
  14. In 1942 approximately 120,000 Japanese American citizens and Japanese nationals, without due process or the commission of any crime, were incarcerated in American concentration camps called “relocation centers” by the American government. Minidoka was one of the ten camps and at its peak housed approximately 10,000 prisoners. The camps closed in 1945.
  15. Green Peach was the first pseudonym Basho took for his writing.
  16. The Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, Ireland, is twinned with Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site, Grosse Ile, Quebec, Canada. Over 5,500 Irish people who emigrated during the famine of Ireland are buried in mass graves at Grosse Ile. The Famine Museum is located in the original Stable Yards of Strokestown Park House. It was designed to commemorate the history of the famine of Ireland and in some way to balance the history of the ‘Big House’. The Great Irish famine of the 1840′s is now regarded as the single greatest social disaster of 19th century Europe. Between 1845 and 1850, when blight devastated the potato crop, in excess of two million people – almost one-quarter of the entire population – either died or emigrated.
  17. The National Anthem of Germany, composed by Joseph Haydn. This reference recalls the Anglo Irish Bank’s former manager’s singing “Deutscheland Uber Alles” in a taped phone conversation with former chief executive David Drumm. The managers knew that the billion-euro aid package from the European Union would not be enough. That’s why they swore about naive German savers… before singing the first verse of the song “Deutschland Uber Alles”.
  18. Crisp bag: potato chip bag. Here the reference is to the fact that women, especially poor women or women disconnected from family support who become pregnant and do not wish to have a child or cannot support a child or even with offered support decide for an abortion (rape and incest are not reasons for abortion in Ireland); the usual route would be to cross to England, usually on a boat. If they have no funds or support they have to collect that passage and cost money somehow. Holding out a chip bag in a pub is small indication of the desperation of their plight
  19. In Ireland the question of whether a woman threatening suicide because she is pregnant would be allowed an abortion was brought forward during the vote for the so-called “limited abortion law” which did pass on July 12, 2013. Under the restrictive legislation, one doctor will be required to sanction an abortion in the case of a medical emergency; two in cases where there is a physical threat to the life of the pregnant woman; and three — including either an obstetrician or gynecologist and two psychiatrists — where there may be a risk of suicide.
  20. Savita Halappanavar, an immigrant from India to Ireland, died in University Hospital, Galway, on 28th October, 2012, from multiple failures in treatment, but also because confusion over the anti-abortion law became a “material factor”. She had been hospitalized with an untenable pregnancy. However, under Irish law at the time, the life of an unborn fetus was to be put before the life of the mother. The baby’s heartbeat had to stop before it could be removed from her womb. Savita Halappanavar subsequently died of sepsis due to inattentiveness to her own care during this doomed pregnancy. There were world-wide protests in India and Great Britain and in Ireland. A full inquiry found that she had died as a result of what was ironically called “medical misadventure”. Her death became the stimulating factor in reconsideration of the affect of the anti-abortion law in Ireland, which prohibits abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Those issues remain the same, but a new law passed on July 12, 2013, gives better consideration to the fate of mothers when their lives are at risk in childbirth.
  21. Famous bar located in the Seattle International District attached to the Sun Ya Restaurant. Roger Shimomura, famous Japanese American painter, frequents it and also
    occasionally other poets, writers and artists such as Lawrence and Karen Matsuda, Tess Gallagher. “At 4 on a Tuesday afternoon, the bar is half-full but pregnant with promise. Every patron is on the wrong side of 40, with blacks and whites peppered (or salted) among a mostly Asian crowd. Three television sets of varying sizes show Hurricane Isaac hitting Louisiana, Asian art adorns the walls, and red paper bulbs hang from the black tile ceiling, muting the lights. Against the back wall rest a wood stove and dartboard, both out of commission, and swivel chairs make for a potentially great bout of bumper drunks. The Bartender: Tall, dark-haired Gloria Ohashi boasts a deep voice and quick wit. A skinny regular comes in and hands her a small green pumpkin that he says he found on the bus. ‘We don’t have regulars,’ says Ohashi. ‘We have lifers.’” Reviewed for
    Seattle Weekly, Sept. 11, 2011, by Mike Seeley.
  22. A strong clear distilled potato whiskey made in Ireland privately and often available for weddings and special occasions or just any auld lark.
  23. “The Old Woman From Wexford” (also known as “Eggs and Marrowbones”) is a traditional folk song which, like so many old folk songs, has origins lost to history. It’s a humorous ballad, wherein an unfaithful old woman is taught a lesson when her blind husband steps aside and she plunges into the lake instead of pushing him in!
  24. The Flying Wallendas, circus performers for the Ringling Brothers Circus, from the 1930s, were famous for the seven-person chair pyramid act on the high wire without a net. The “flying” label was earned when four members fell and survived relatively unscathed. In 1962 they fell again and two died.
  25. Rosco Gordon was a famous Beale Street Blues man who as a child was kicked away from a water fountain by a white man. When he died his bags were packed for his next gig.
  26. Brian Boyd is a columnist for The Irish Independent on music. This paper is generally perceived as being politically liberal and progressive, as well as being center-right on economic issues. (Wikipedia)
  27. Lucinda Creighton disagreed especially with the suicide provision in the proposed and ultimately adopted “limited abortion law”. When a party whip goes against her party she can not continue in that position and must be dropped from the party.
  28. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is a Buddhist chant intended to awaken enlightenment and the Buddha within.