Rusty Morrison’s Beyond the Chainlink (Ahsahta) was a finalist for the NCIBA and also for the NCBA Awards in Poetry. After Urgency (Tupelo) won The Dorset Prize. the true keeps calm biding its story (Ahsahta) won the Sawtooth Prize, the Academy of American Poet’s James Laughlin Award, the Northern California Book Award, & the DiCastagnola Award from Poetry Society of America. Whethering (The Center for Literary Publishing), won the Colorado Prize for Poetry. Book of the Given was published by Noemi Press. She has received the Bogin, Hemley, Winner, and DiCastagnola Awards from PSA. Her poems &/or essays recently have appeared in Boston Review, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Lana Turner, Pen Poetry Series, Prelude, VOLT, and elsewhere. Her poems have been anthologized in the Norton Postmodern American Poetry 2nd Edition, The Arcadia Project: Postmodern Pastoral, Beauty is a Verb, The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare and elsewhere. She has been co-publisher of Omnidawn (http://www.omnidawn.com/) since 2001. http://www.rustymorrison.com/
unfiltered cigarette pale thin girl’s green lips long-legged
stare across museum steps when you were still young you’d wear
death like a strategy for winning someone else’s game
play it like a staring role now you’re just here in line for
performance art retro a video of white every-
body-the-same decade their eyes nothing like your own you
tell yourself the telling is just more zeros after a
decimal a celluloid scab on your hand where you touched
background symmetry that shifts shimmery to scissor sharp
while the audience watches one by one they die into
their roles cut surface from their fabric each performance a
long breath thin girls exhale for the film that goes on to loop
endless as the long glare of
Dan Chelotti is the author of x (McSweeney’s) and two chapbooks, The Eights (Poetry Society of America) and Compost (Greying Ghost). His poems can be found in A Public Space, Boston Review, Divine Magnet, Poetry, and many other journals. His writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and Los Angeles Review of Books. He is an associate professor at Elms College, and lives in Massachusetts. His latest chapbook is available here: http://www.greyingghost.bigcartel.com/product/compost-by-dan-chelotti
The Moth and the Steamroller
I am chain smoking on the porch
staring at a steamroller thinking
of the early Tarkovsky film.
I am procrastinating a tower
of papers. I am convincing
myself that every cigarette
is a metaphysical cigarette.
I have x’s on the backs
of my hands and the wind
is cold on my bald spot.
The deadlines are beating
on my bald spot.
An October moth is beating
against the screen
and this morning in bed
I read an article demonstrating
how dogs are humans, too.
They trained the dogs
to sit in MRI machines.
My daughter had to be
sedated and slid into
an MRI machine.
As her tiny body slid
into the clacking, you
turned to me and said
with atavistic distance,
as if narration could frame
and save us: This is a short story.
In The Steamroller and the Violin,
the little boy’s violin playing
is wonderful, but the metronome
makes him a peon to form.
The moth has disappeared
into a story of its own.
In this story, the moth wriggles
through a hole in the screen.
Free to do as moths do, it lands
on the steamroller in the sun and says,
This day, this beautiful day,
is just a bigger cage.
Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her writing has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize. Recent poetry and prose has appeared in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Best New Poets, and Poets & Writers. At present she is on leave from Snow College, where she is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing – Poetry and faculty advisor to the student-run literary journal, and she is teaching in the University of Oregon’s MFA/CRWR program as their Visiting Assistant Professor in Poetry Writing.
excerpt from As the Water Recedes
The weeds have grown taller than any man I’ve kissed here, where the water has held its breath and pulled its shoulders from the shoreline. Broken bottles and rusted cans, empty shotgun shells, and plastic handles from children’s shovels now jut up with the dead carp and bullheads from sand that’s turned to muck. This is not the place where I grew up, barefoot from rock-to-rock in play paced by tides, along the shore of the bay of Green Bay, where my family’s house is set. It isn’t the shore that my father knew before the flood of ’73 filled basements with green water and fish eggs, before he became a man who smokes but never runs or swims or loves a woman, when he still wedged his small boat in the backyard where grass and sand met at the silver light post, which worked then. He mows it all down now—all those green weeds whistling where once there was water.
I know how a cold wind elbows through a room. Anger becomes visible in the breath let out. Laughter’s still warm in the air. My parents are early in their thirties and early in their nights. Pull-tabs are pulled back. Aluminum cans are fisted down to Formica like empty baritones. Some curtain falls and sparring begins. I have seen the way rage wedges between the keys of a ribcage and plays a man in the same octave as happy. Both love and hate come from the core of human muscle, and such desire spun in the gut demands the attention of arms, good or bad. It is a matter of degrees, not kind. A girl can never be too early in her life not to sense this shift in pressure. I have yet to outgrow it—to hold my breath and pull back, to mow it all down.
As a girl, I built rock forts and dry-smoked bamboo sticks while the push and pull of water pressed its rhythms in me. Everything the waves forced against the rocks was swallowed back, gone. Fury and mercy in chorus canceled each other out, kept me still. When I was eleven, I waited through every night to watch the sun throw morning over the bay. Facing north on the dike that the city built after the flood, to disconnect home from water, I took in nothing but the red sputter of a single lighthouse. As the sun broke, the east shore—swelling with oversized homes and the University’s seven-story library—fell to green. Westward, the sky-blue slide at the amusement park, seagull-ridden Kidney Island, and the Pulliam Plant’s smokestacks woke. And when the tide came in again, and the sun fell closer to the slide and smoke, water covered the lower, smaller rocks and cleaned my feet.
Anger-noun constricted, tightness, to squeeze, a strangling, fear. 1)a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, position, etc. and usually showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling … SYN.—anger is broadly applicable to feelings of resentful or revengeful displeasure; indignation implies righteous anger aroused by what seems unjust, mean, or insulting; rage suggests a violent outburst of anger in which self-control is lost; fury implies a frenzied rage that borders on madness.
Maybe it matters that the man played by his own desire—my father—had his own summer of sleeplessness and need, that it was Typhoid Fever that first led him to coil his own lynch-man’s knot during three months of quarantine at seven years old. The walls close in. The room goes cold. Black grows whole in his eyes. Does the moment where a boy learns to silence his love and spin his anger toward the world deserve a name before the power of its definitions and histories have been swallowed, gone? A girl doesn’t need to know fight or flight to know those eyes fuel more than one heartbeat, to see an absence, to understand the physiology of merciless fury.
Casey Thayer is the author of Self Portrait with Spurs and Sulfur (University of New Mexico Press, 2015) and has work published or forthcoming in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Currently, he is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and splits his time between Chicago and the Bay Area.
Good Night, Saints
Vesalius first parted the petal-folds of the human body
and peered inside the watch work: the pelvis winged,
the chest cavity shaped like a leaf, all of it indexed
with lowercase letters and set in allegorical poses.
Here is the waxen bone frame, here is the skeleton
shedding its legs, the skeleton, head cocked
heavenward like a saint in ecstasy. Let me tell you
how this goes, my poor body. One day I will put you
away like a violin I’m finished pinching music from.
Science will strip you layer by layer and label
as “heart” this slab of meat worn smooth as a conch,
map the tangle of veins in my arms, the eyes gone dark
then drawn in ink, the corneas crosshatched—my body
is a book folding closed. Now as for my bones…