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Author: Jessica Doty

The Ocean is a Flower Called Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente kicked my ass last night.

He came out of the darkness like a train whistle

with his 21 Pittsburgh jersey tucked in

and laid me out with a left hook.

I fell to the grass and screamed,

What’s your problem, Roberto?

Couldn’t sleep, he said.

Get a motel.

He said, My plane crashed. I am dead.

Go home.

He said, I come from Carolina, Puerto Rico.

So, what’s the problem?

He said, My name is Roberto.

I have three sons and three thousand base hits.

My name is Roberto Clemente.

And when his plane took off from San Juan,

overloaded with bananas and gauze

for the earthquake victims of Managua,

it was New Year’s Eve

and his eyes were bloodshot bullets

under the canopy of the Atlantic Ocean.

When the sharks got their teeth into him,

the turtles,

the manatees and sting rays,

the vapor trail of his gait around second base

brushed back the wind.

Ten hours later my father woke me to say, El Padré, Roberto,

no longer swings for the fences.

I was seven.

I have been seven ever since.

from Mesmerizing Sadly BeautifulFind more by Matthew Lippman at the library

Copyright © 2020 Matthew Lippman
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Boomerang and Yo-Yo and Our Denial—Which Might Be More a Refusal—of the Inevitable Criminality of Consciousness

If we pretend criminality is a paradigm of connections

unsanctioned by institutional power

and therefore unimaginable by law-abiding people

in their function as citizens, and so if I say that

I think we could think

about the trans-national in a way matched

as precisely as possible to how we feel

about being trans-sexual, or any contemporary

form of consciousness being

trans-racial, you could call it, or me,

overwrought but I wouldn’t call it

that, I mean, overwrought in the sense

of that moment when nothing means anything

and anything turns its mask inside-out

to reveal something just beyond the limit

of vivid and particular, I mean,

something of soft-loam and sunset

that signals something else just below

the horizon of itself, I mean, like

the schoolteacher in Marrakesh saying

to Roland Barthes “‘I’ll do anything

you like,’ eyes full of kindness and complicity,”

and Barthes explains that by this

the schoolteacher meant to say “‘I will

fuck you, and nothing else,’” I mean,

so the particular means invisible

to vision when vision means what

one does with one’s fingers

when they can’t be seen by anyone

as if operating, anyone, I mean,

behind a heavy velvet cloak, a drape,

anyone being the edge of fringe

that sweeps the floor of everyone

exactly and precisely in that

unmarked and insensate moment,

at times also called overwrought,

when anything means one thing and nothing else

and “acting as if ” means “don’t fuck with me”

unless you’ll admit complicity, I mean,

will accept responsibility for the way I let

the bad guy win every once in a while,

I mean for injuries, past and future,

even ones from the place I was born

before I was born, I mean

wounds I inflict upon myself and those I love.

And though I feel very uneasy,

not simply to say conscious—or for our present

purposes criminal—in saying this, no less

to you, I should say that I’m saying this while standing

in the long shadows of things I thought

were injuries until I realized shadows

themselves, very often, are the injuries and the things—

many of which aren’t things at all but people

acting as if—the people themselves had made my life

what it is by saving my life from the illusion,

I mean, if illusion means soft-loam and sunset

signals below the horizon, I mean made life alive by saving

my life from the illusion that it was mine,

I mean, the illusion that it was made, lawfully, of shadows it cast by itself.

from Let it Be BrokeFind more by Ed Pavlic at the library

Copyright © 2020 Ed Pavlic
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

“With Grief  With Fury  With Action”

when we lose track of the person  not to be

confused with that democratic fetish

“the individual”  when we lose track of that particle

that permeable pool of plasma

the person  and take human reality

to be a solid matter (most often

male) of people’s (often enough clotted

into mobs  often enough mobs of so-

called “democratic action”) . . . Jesus

Christ let’s just call it conscious intention

lashed to the cleated post of mute

inheritance  we need to be very careful

in that situation  when persons are

pushed (ultimately at gunpoint)

to feel that they have nothing to

lose and that can feel (though most often

it tingles numbly) like freedom

but it’s not  freedom is never that

we must be ve-ry careful  more

careful than anyone can actually be

because it’s dangerous when it feels

like anything’s possible

but nothing can happen  very

dangerous when it feels

like anything can be put immediately

on display but somehow

nothing can be revealed  to live

in a world (so-called) where

everything’s within reach but nothing

can be touched  click  maybe

it’s a terrible truth (quite possibly

a truth of parenthood) that for any one

thing to be known (or touched)

everything else must be complexly

felt  as if thru an infinitely

sensate dilation  pure aperture  maybe

that is the open and awestruck light of love

and it’s very simply never ever

simply just that  which is the spark of art

iculate speech  an S-curve pulls parabolas

thru a syncro-mesh gearbox  a sudden break

in low clouds off the coast

and into a remorselessly gray sea

of eyes pours a silver sheen  a glistening pool of pain

from Let it Be BrokeFind more by Ed Pavlic at the library

Copyright © 2020 Ed Pavlic
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

If You Don’t Want Your Kids to Have Sex Don’t Finish the Basement

This guy, Lev, at the dinner party said,

If you don’t want your kids to have sex, don’t finish the basement.

I don’t remember anything anymore, my fifty-two-year-old brain a

soggy piece of kale,

but I remembered what Lev said.

It’s because Lev is the heart in levov

where all the stories come from.

Here’s the story: we were eating the salmon and he was talking about

his kids,

all grown up,

and my kids were in the basement playing ping pong,

not yet thirteen.

There was beer and wine and gluten-free challah and gluten-free Tiramisu

and the walls were red and gluten-free.

That’s the whole story.

The other story is that when a guy says something like that

you have to remember where you were when you first had sex.

It could have been in a car, in an attic, between two trees, under the moon,

near the factory, inside the deep blue sea, in the onion patch.

Sex is an onion.

It’s translucent and sweet and will make you cry your face off.

It’s a swimming pool on fire and a gorilla who knows how to speak

seven languages.

If you are lucky enough to have sex in a finished basement,

this is a good thing.

If you have sex in an unfinished basement, not so good—all that dust,

those exposed water heaters, boilers, and rusted rakes.

So when Lev said,

If you don’t want your kids to have sex, don’t finish the basement,

I took a bite of my salmon and here’s the last part of the story.

My kids are going to grow up and have sex.

A sad and wide-eyed, ecstatic sex, if they’re lucky,

and so I left the table in the dark middle of winter to finish the basement—

buy some rugs, some cheap pillows, and a jukebox,

one of those old school Wurlitzers with the automatic eye.

Fill it up with all the songs that make your heart burst, I will tell them.

Play your music

till the needle runs those records bare bone beauty and glisten.

from Mesmerizing Sadly BeautifulFind more by Matthew Lippman at the library

Copyright © 2020 Matthew Lippman
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Lord, Have Mercy: Don’t Go to Hell Cramped Up

Father, 1959

Daddy loads, cocks, & aims his gun.

Four young girls & their baby brother

trace the woods

by mercy of the moon.

Briar-torn legs bleed a simpler truth:

no enjoying June today.

Ever smiled an alcoholic into

burying his flask & bully?

Probably easier to patty-cake with the sun.

Son, 1999

He tongues the last cubes

of Johnny Walker’s twist & trick.

Sleep rinses his eyes yellow-pain clear.

Own pail to pull,

bobby pin headed toward the eardrum,

the clack of dominoes,

bones on the table.

The twenty-year deal:

sober hell & jail at fifty—

alphabets to learn, son uttered strangely,

swallowed whole.

Ghosts

to shotgun

again.

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

THE TOURIST BRIDE

At the end of the night a poisonous star

Rises above Petersburg like a cancer-spot.

Cats, fevered, untranslatable,

Go long ways for secrets and fish heads.

Amorists hide in the alcoves

Of the swollen city, guarding their possessions;

I feel the feral marble machine of my heart

Leak mercury, my veins warm

When I hear two lovers twittering

In the chalice of their arms . . . There is something

Deliciously final about you, she says,

I cannot say what it is.

I cannot say who you are, he says,

Remind me.

from You Darling Thing Find more by Monica Ferrell at the library

Copyright © 2018 Monica Ferrell
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Tabernacles Will Turn to Sieves

In my house of rooms

I measure what can’t be left or gotten over.

Lowercase letters climb up and down stairways,

bedrooms crumble inside a million broken mirrors,

foyers are lined with birthday cake.

Marching bands accompany me

to the daily precipice.

Effigies of old women give away papers

scribbled with tricks that seem transgressive.

Gods that are not god to anybody.

The love of a second god, or a third that shadows it.

Or shadows themselves, truths to grudgingly love

though it doesn’t burn like some tree

and it feels kind of frozen.

I was a fool to put my hand in.

Your tabernacles will turn to sieves, it said.

So I open my briefcase of balms and correctives

and stack them in cupboards of my ancient house.

I welcome the gladiators and mermaids

who are there to murder me.

Let them do it. I will decorate this house

with the future tense. I fill my house with hymns.

from Forest with CastanetsFind more by Diane Mehta at the library

Copyright © 2018 Diane Mehta
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Domesticoustics

a. (1997)

Arrival at twenty-one

cocks his tam sideways.

Deep-freeze nod

to alley deacons & white folks.

Terry Derell

strums corduroy-gray

acoustics.

Chlora is his tiramisu—

he’s indiscriminate

pot & vodka-cranberry wise.

b. (2012)

Maria Inés

backhanded the hurt—

hyena-laughing.

Common shoulders

glittered for night-prerequisites.

Eye sockets

house sass-glass.

Her Louboutin’s are hers.

Jazz is novel nectar.

Moon-swayed—she’s absosucculent.

c. (1974)

Snatched from

tight-eyed scribble,

water boils,

china shards scrape,

white kittens meow.

What night is this, Rodney?

Amid jumbo pencils,

red satchel & Crayola,

candy corn & wide-lined,

pee-wet paper,

my mama’s teeth

sweep the linoleum.

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

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Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.