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Author: Cameron Martin

January 3, 2015

would have been

his birthday, 2

days after New Year’s,

the day of the blizzard

named for the Greek hero,

his 12 labors

of redemption,

1 year after

the divorce, 10 years

since the affair, 3

years since we’ve

spoken, 3 years

since the first poem

and there have been

poems and will be

poems but no

father, today, of the 52

would-be birthday

candles, after 3

trips to the hospital,

5 stitches in the

chest, 1 heartbeat

gone dumb, 1 hearse,

3 limos, 52

roses for the grave,

no cake, no

celebration, but candles,

52 candles, these

52 small fires, 1

body, 1 wooden

box: kindling.

from ErouFind more by Maya Phillips at the library

Copyright © 2019 Maya Phillips
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Elegy: Green We Love You Green

Verde que te quiero verde even when

dying can be, can yet become, a green

plenitude—the jade the pine the fern the mint.

We can breathe the green breath of your lines, green shade

may somehow fade bereavement away, while in

your words live the sixty shades of green that words

can see, words that bleed green, words that your pen-nib

dance-drags in green dust under the olive trees,

as you throw song-notes at their silver-green leaves

and end your stanzas with green razor blades—

your verde so clack-heeled, your swarms of midnight

palmas clapped with such exuberance of green

anguish and joy, your vowels so green in guitar-

light rasgueados—in leaf-thrashing wind-lashed

frenzy, frenesí, to hear again that your

voice cannot not matter . . . ¿No ves la herida

que tengo—he imagines a knife-wound from

his chest to his throat—desde el pecho a la

garganta? Now he stands one finite instant

from the bullets, with his betrayed companion—

a teacher, also to be murdered—and two

more. Now the uncanny presence of the scent

of basil and the word’s green sound: albahaca

(al-habáqah) . . . We so need a billion dawn

hours—albas—of love. But I’m no longer I

pero yo ya no soy yo nor is this house

any longer my house ni mi casa es

ya mi casa. We so want him to have lived.

His house, his piano—unbetrayed, not deceived . . .

But he was nilled and annulled so long ago.

Verde que te quiero verde we still chant

in la nada que no y la nada que sí.

for Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca (1898-1936)

from RenditionsFind more by Reginald Gibbons at the library

Copyright © 2021 Reginald Gibbons
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

At the Doctor’s Office

My father will begin again. He has bought

a juicer and a book on integrative health.

Here, with the doctor as witness,

my father swears to his body,

on his body, the all of his life.

This is his new start.

The doctor remains silent—

after all, what can one say to the dead?

A shot of insulin   ?

Two pills before bed  ?

Or

I’m sorry

as though he forgot

to write the prescription, as though

the insurance was declined:

I’m sorry—

He presses the stethoscope to the stale echo of him.

What can one say?

from ErouFind more by Maya Phillips at the library

Copyright © 2019 Maya Phillips
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Marginalia

for Colin Channer

“sing the Union cause, sing us,/ the poor, the marginal.”

—Robert Hayden, “Homage to Paul Robeson”

Preamble

Note the confection of your body

salt on the breeze, the corn-

silk sky. Olmstead’s signature

archways and meadows. Kite

strings tensing the load of a saddle-

backed wind. This is Prospect Park,

Brooklyn, where limbs tickle

and jounce as if ice cubes shiver

along the shirtsleeves of evergreens. Pond

water whispers, and the echoes of Yankee

fifes linger in wind and in the shirring jazz

hands of leaves, and those shirts,

the skins, the human retinue converging

on the uneven playing fields. The African

drum and dance circle sways the pignut

tree into a charismatic trance as

Orthodox women walk powerfully by, jogging

shoes blinking beneath the billows of their

skirts, children rollerblading, trailing

tzitzits. Take heart in the percussion

structuring the distance like prophetic

weather, a shelter of vibrations:

the last conga note a bolt tapped into

the day’s doorframe and you are no less,

no more home here than in the corridors

you return to in your dreams. Illusory,

altogether babel-fractured, a single word

from you might bring the verdant fun-house

down. Listen like a safecracker, navigate

the intricate ruptures by ear: the Latin

patois of picnickers, the slavic tongues

of lovers replacing your mouth with self-

conscious silence. You are Caliban

and Crusoe, perpetual stranger with a fork

in the socket of life’s livid grid,

stunned and bewildered at the frank

intrusion of the mosquito on the hairless

back of your hand. You are stranded

at the limit, extremity and restriction,

jealous for that elusive—the domestic, yes,

you’re thinking: not the brick and mortar, but

the quickening backfill of belonging, the stranger-

facing, the neighbor-knowing confidence and ease

with the ripple that diminishes as it extends

over the vast potential of immovable thirst.

You are home now, outsider, for what that’s worth.

from DigestFind more by Gregory Pardlo at the library

Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Underground

When MTA workers speak

they speak  too loud

my father says

because of all the noise

nights when storms break

onto the city     and the city talks back

above       ground

across       turnstiles

through      sidewalk grates

underground

they gesture and

clangaclack

and

thunder and

my father once       clattercrash

once one of them

once swallowed   spoke with the mouth of   a storm

but now             no words for the dead

my father saying      has something else to say

about all of the all of this

but his voice

now              a fast wind

through a shaft

his fists

blind hail

on the tunnel walls

but when the train rolls in

it roars over even this      this breeze bang bellow

like the whole goddamned sky

is tumbling down

from ErouFind more by Maya Phillips at the library

Copyright © 2019 Maya Phillips
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Ode to My Father’s Failed Heart

It’s okay. I, too, have failed

at the expected, have sputtered

and choked like a rusty valve

in water, have jumped into the pool

only to sink. Little engine, your flawed

machinery is nothing like love. You limp

at last call to the dance floor,

but feel no shame

in your offbeat two-step,

your eleventh-hour shuffle

in a dead man’s shoes.

There’s nothing left

but the encore, so go ahead:

relax, unravel

like a loosened knot. Overripe

fruit in his chest, you blush

with uncertainty, bruise yourself

tender; little heart, tiny treasure,

sweeten to the point of spoil.

from ErouFind more by Maya Phillips at the library

Copyright © 2019 Maya Phillips
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

But A Guy Goes By

A guy goes by with a long loaf of bread on his human shoulder.

And after that I’m going to write about my doppelgänger?

In the alley, I see a girl looking for meat scraps and orange rinds.

Is now when I’m supposed to write about the Infinite?

Another guy, sitting on the curb, scratches himself, nabs a louse

in his armpit, smashes it. And we’re going to chat about psychoanalysis?

A homeless woman’s sidewalk-sleeping—her foot’s behind her back!

And I’m going to meet a friend so we can talk about Picasso?

Some other guy, swinging a stick at my bones, has invaded my body.

So then, later, at the doctor’s, I’m going to talk about investments?

This crippled dude goes wobbling by with a big kid, arm in arm.

And after that—what? I’m going to read the art reviews?

Someone is shuddering in the dark. Coughing, spitting blood.

When exactly would it be appropriate to theorize the Inner Self?

A roofer falls, he dies, and from now on he goes without lunch.

So now I’m going to invent some flashy new poetic effects?

This diamonds-bought-and-sold guy—he uses rigged scale weights.

So . . . make sure everybody at the opera sees that you’re weeping?

Too near my building, this skinny guy deals heroin laced with fentanyl.

Is this really the time to take alien sperm and astral travel seriously?

The old couple at a funeral, crying as they walk holding hands—

and what’s the protocol when you’re voted into the Academy?

Sitting at the kitchen table, somebody’s lovingly cleaning his handgun.

What exactly is the good of talking about where we go after we die?

A girl’s run over by a local Nazi aiming his station wagon at her.

And we have to hear about “very nice people on both sides” and not scream?

A neighborhood granny goes by counting something on her fingers.

And the biggies are saying we must make sure the banks are OK?

after César Vallejo (1937)

from RenditionsFind more by Reginald Gibbons at the library

Copyright © 2021 Reginald Gibbons
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Problemata

In the Preamble, Gouverneur Morris refers, poetically,

to the “domestic tranquility” shattered by rebelling

veterans who, unable to pay mounting war taxes, confronted

the state for having seized their homes. They argued

their point with bayonets fixed to their flintlock rifles. Point being

that blood should have been enough, as it was in their barter

economy, to square their debt in the Revolution.

Morris could not abide an economy that imagined exchange

in such discrete terms. For him, every shilling appraised on an altar

of speculative devotions, every home subject to the metaphoric

notion of home, the value of tranquility proportionate

to the power one has to gerrymander the metaphor.

Consider the dear evangelists who canvass our homes

saturday mornings, who share their pamphlets and good

words, their domestic concerns swelling with their

longing for the fellowship of us. spinoza gives us

this reason not to opt off of their call lists: The good

which a man desires for himself and loves, he will love

more constantly if he sees that others love it also;

he will therefore endeavor that others should love it also.

Be tolerant of their attention, their pursuit of agape,

a planet-sized chip they bear on their shoulders

from house to house, door to door, welcome

or not, blessing whatever they find inside.

I finally friended my brother.

It may be we will never

speak again. Why speak

when we have this crystal ball

through which

to judge one another’s lives?

I imagine this is what

the afterlife will be like.

I’m ghost, we say

instead of goodbye.

It is nearly July in Brooklyn and already

the fireworks from Chinatown warehouses

are bursting in stellar fluorescence like tinsel-tied

dreadlocks above the Bushwick tenements and the brownstone

blocks of Bed-Stuy now littered with the skittering

décollage of wrappers exploded across blacktops and handball

courts, playgrounds and sidewalks knuckled by tree roots.

My neighbor’s teenaged boys argue who possesses the greatest

patriotism. Just as pit bulls chained to their fists imply

their roughly domesticated manhood,

they seek to demonstrate their patriotism with bottle

rockets, spinners, petards, these household paraphernalia of war.

The competition is vigorous, draws spectators and blood.

When the smoke clears, no charges

are filed. We neighbors waver distractedly a moment

before tracing our paths back into our quiet homes.

from DigestFind more by Gregory Pardlo at the library

Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Anniversary Argonautica

He had meant to say witch

but lost the w somewhere between

Colchis and Corinth. The word chips

the back of his teeth on the way out.

Could he fan it away or

breathe it in like smoke?

She eyes him like a cancer

just starting to spread.

He regards her like the first

dark cloud in the sky. Now,

years later, they know without

saying. They have nothing

to give each other but

this: words that fall just short

of leaving, that thunder

like a crew going down with the ship.

from ErouFind more by Maya Phillips at the library

Copyright © 2019 Maya Phillips
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Portrait in Sugar and Simple Prayer

The language of sugar isn’t difficult

to master. One learns it as easily as

any other tongue. You may not believe me,

but it is true. As a boy, lost in the cane fields,

I made a mistake (Who doesn’t make mistakes?)

and, for this small error, I was punished, the sweet

sugarcane becoming weapon, becoming punisher.

Each time the man brought the body

of the cane stalk down across my back,

I cried out. Would you believe me if I told you

that today I wouldn’t even whimper at such a thing?

Because now I know how to brandish a stalk,

how to bring it down as testament, how to make

the nothing of air sing before the strike. And because,

well, now I know how to accept punishment as well.

You punish or are punished. It really is that simple.

Dominus, Holy Father, I have hidden myself

in the cane field. I may have sinned. My back is bare

and in need of your administrations. Not salt

in the wound, Lord, but sugar. Sugar as sharp

as the metallic taste of blood in the mouth.

Make me regret this, Lord. Make me…

Strike me, Lord, strike me harder than any man.

Make of me something sweeter than sugar.

from PrometeoFind more by C. Dale Young at the library

Copyright © 2021 C. Dale Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

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