All winter I watched the cat in the butcher’s window.
And now that the weather has turned & the door
to New Khan Meats stands open, I catch the whine
of the electric saw, the slap of the cleaver.
But because the white-coated workers stand
always with their backs to the street, I never have to see
what’s being done. To keep ourselves together,
we learn to keep ourselves apart. Etched in the ancient tomb
of the Queen of Ur is the image of Capra prisca, a ram
caught in a thicket. We read the breed from the peculiar spiral
of its horns. The indifferent gray cat, loyal only
to the tough scraps from the master’s block, slips out,
past two crates of mangoes, into the warm air of the stoop.
Last week, a man opened the battered back gate of an idling van
& swung three flayed goats—even the heads were bare—
across his shoulder, then stepped inside. The flesh
was neither pink nor bloodied, but a dry, articulate bank
of dark muscle & pale ribbons of fat. Imagine the first
spring, the fine, violet flank of night descending.
Kathleen Graber is the author of Correspondence, winner of the 2005 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize selected by Bob Hicok. She is currently a Hodder fellow at Princeton University. She is also the recipient of fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
|back to top
This Is Not an Elegy
At sixteen, I was illegal and brilliant,
my fingernails chewed to half-moons.
I took off my clothes in a late March
field. I had secret car wrecks,
secret hysteria. I sipped anger
and called it cream. In backseats
I learned the alchemy of guilt, lust,
and distance. I was unformed and total.
I swore like a sailor. But slowly the cops
stopped coming around. The heat lifted
its palms. The radio lost some teeth.
Now I see the landscape behind me
as through a Claude glass—
tinted deeper, framed just so, bits
of gilt edging the best parts.
I see my unlined face, a thousand
film stars behind the eyes. I was
every murderess, every whip-
thin alcoholic, every heroine
with the silver tongue. Always young
Paul Newman’s best girl. Always
a lightning sky behind each kiss.
Some days I watch myself
in the third person, speak to her
in the second. I say: I will
meet you in sleep. I will know you
by your stillness and your shaking.
By your second-hand gown.
By your bruises left by mouths
since forgotten. This is not
an elegy because I cannot bear
for it to be. It is only a tree branch
against the window. It is only a cherry
tomato slowly reddening in the garden.
I will put it in my mouth. It will
be sweet, and you will swallow.
First, know the type of car the other drove
as a high school senior, late eighties. Were there
bucket seats? Red interior? You must love
that car. You must wish, at least briefly, that you
had ridden in it. Next, you must understand
the psychology of the belt buckle and the black boots.
They were chosen for a reason. Know that reason
and never speak of it. Purchase for each other
not only books and dinners, but plastic
serving trays, origami kits, a postcard from Tupelo
to be hand-delivered, unmarked. Be kind to old
photographs, but not overly kind. Know the name
of a town in Mexico where you can someday,
money-willing, spend a week. Consider starting
a four-piece cover band. Consider growing
basil and/or marijuana. Know that at no point
do you have to own a) tapered jeans, b) a good blender,
c) spare light bulbs. These are your decisions to make.
Remember small parts of many days: the Amish
restaurant outside the city. The purchase of the red vase.
The bird whose cries woke you your first morning
in one bed. How you rose together then.
—last words of Billy the Kid
Sawdust. Dark rivers winding
through it and his own hand a raft.
This sudden thirst. And a pounding
coming toward him, an animal
bellowing, and something warm
across his throat, feathery
as pollen. He cannot say who
the boots belong to. He thinks,
what a sudden sleep.
He will wake tomorrow
and tell the story of how
he almost vanished. Breakfast
of griddlecakes, fried eggs, steak. Then
he will get on the piebald and steal
the next girl he sees. She will ring
like a silver bell. He will love her
right to water.
Or it is morning already, light
against his eyelids like a blade.
And the girl has come, rosed
and braided, done up like a painting.
She eddies into the bright place.
He holds his breath to follow
under and down.
Catherine Pierce is the author of Famous Last Words, winner of the 2007 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize selected by John Yau. Catherine Pierce grew up in Delaware and now lives in Starkville, Mississippi, where she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Mississippi State University. She is the author of a chapbook, Animals of Habit (Kent State, 2004).
|back to top
Shin Yu Pai is the author of several poetry books, including most recently Works on Paper (Convivio Bookworks) and Sightings: Selected Works [2000 - 2005] (1913 Press, 2007). Forthcoming projects include Haiku Not Bombs from the Booklyn Artists Alliance. Her work is anthologized in America Zen: A Gathering of Poets (Bottom Dog Press, 2004) and The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry (Wisdom Publications, 2005). She has exhibited her visual work at The Dallas Museum of Art, The Paterson Museum, and the Three Arts Club of Chicago. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is a predoctoral student in Sociocultural Anthropology and Museology at the University of Washington.
|back to top
John Keene is a former member of the Dark Room Writers Collective, a graduate fellow of Cave Canem, and recipient of many awards and fellowships—including a 2003 Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and a 2005 Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation Prize for fiction. Keene is the author of the acclaimed experimental novel, Annotations, from New Directions, in addition to Seismosis from 1913 Press. He teaches at Northwestern University.
|back to top
Christopher Stackhouse the author of "Slip" (Corollary Press, 2005) and co-author with writer John Keene of the collaborative book, Seismosis (1913 Press, 2006), which features Keene's text and Stackhouse's drawings. He is a Cave Canem Writing Fellow, a 2005 New York Foundation For The Arts Fellow in Poetry and is currently a Bard College M.F.A. in Writing candidate. Upcoming readings and publications include: a 2007-2008 Workspace Artists-in-Residence, Visiting Artist lecture at The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in March 2008, and an essay on form and experimentation in poetry to be published by American Poet in 2008.
|back to top
Some Instructions on Black Masculinity Offered to My Black Friend by the White Woman He Briefly Dated: A Monologue
The books you’re always reading? Don’t you know the size of your library is in inverse proportion to the size of your penis? You don’t need words with that high waistline and the howler monkeys in those cashmere pants. You think 50 Cent reads? Allen Iverson? What you ought to do is put some of your people’s streets in that L.L. Bean satchel. Trick that thing out. Because you are not funky. I mean, I’ve seen you dance. What does your Hegel say about funk? Your Du Bois (pronounced Du BWAH)? See, I only date hood. My last man? He never even met his father. 4 women, 6 kids. 3 of whom are named after luxury cars. Child support? Do you know anything about your people? Your father probably took you fly-fishing, helped you with your geometry homework after coming home from the office. You’ll probably do the same. Look, I’m not exactly questioning your sexuality, but have you ever hit a woman? You’d probably just as soon date a black chick. Just as soon eat pussy. Sometimes I can’t believe my eyes.
Ross Gay's first book is Against Which (CavanKerry Press, 2006). He is an editor at Q Avenue chapbook press. Additionally, he is co-author, with Kim Thomas, of the artist's books BRN2HNT and The Cold Loop.
|back to top
One joy one rock one fight one song one noun one shirt one it one shove one skin one him one breath one beard one cat one purr one goose one step one Concorde one Viking one Hickman one bloodstream one cancer one monkey one German.
One chest steam one hairline one beef stew one buck tooth one mustache one bedside one mansion one front gate one year off one jumpsuit one cokehead one koi pond one dance move one joyride one hand held one rota one gay plague.
One anthem one godsend one gasp one black bag one vision.
from God Save My Queen II
Don’t Try So Hard
I’ve been this cramped before. No one actually tip toes where they stare at people
who tip toe. Where Great Adventure is practically day care. The vinyl car tops
the chimps attacked were our fathers’ vinyl car tops. Let’s fight those chimps together.
And when I cry, when I say stop, don’t stop. You know what’s best. Your hold on me is for life, no matter how much I straighten my vowels out. I will find my fifth exit some day, I will stop crying about you, and you will just keep on kicking my ass.
When you speak of me, speak of me sitting here under this tree.
from God Save My Queen II
being a collection of questions, reservations, and comments written by the author in an attempt to abtserge and clarify elements of student and postgraduate creative work, 1995 until the present time
Isn’t everything tucked lovingly tucked?
Don’t loomers always appear from overhead?
Are there loomers that come from the ground?
Aren’t all the horses in Hades, in fact, fiery?
Aren’t all arguments explosive?
Regarding redeemed splendor: How is splendor redeemed?
Can roadkill really fart—that is, be flatulent—after they’re dead?
Pick an adjective: sputtering or sightless.
Does “they” refer to the world here?
Can you not be heartbroken after something heartbreaking?
The syntax and usage here is of 150 years ago—is this intentional?
Speaker is in favor of eugenics, against miscegenation—is this a persona piece?
Already established she’s your aunt; take out “my”?
Aren’t all non-overcast skies starry to some degree?
Why point out it’s large? It is an elephant, isn’t it?
Isn’t all gloom insufferable?
Is there another, non-legendary Kraken?
How can empryeal light put someone’s clothes on?
Doesn’t every atmosphere condensate? The story is set on Earth, correct?
Why is it a freezing fire?
Can you “make” a hello?
Do you mean the “desired” yelp here, instead of a “desirable” yelp?
If the girls are smirking, then it’s understood they’re amused, right?
Aren’t all shadows ominous to some degree?
Kind of implicit if the ladybugs land on skin, that the skin is exposed. Right?
How can eyes burn with hatred and still be watery?
Which aunt thinks of bizarre fetishes here? Grammar is unclear.
Why is it so important he picks the steaks casually?
Wait—the creatures have fangs now? Did they grow them?
Perhaps be more explicit that your ingenue is, in fact, a unicorn in disguise?
The moon has always been pale, yes?
first appeared in 32 Poems
Daniel Nester is the author of God Save My Queen (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and God Save My Queen II (2004), both collections on his obsession with the rock band Queen, as well as a book of poems, The History of My World Tonight (BlazeVox, 2006). His work has been anthologized in such places as The Best Creative Nonfiction, Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll, The Best American Poetry 2003, among other places. He also writes for Poets & Writers, Time Out New York, and Time Out New York. He edits the online journal Unpleasant Event Schedule and is the former sestinas editor for McSweeney’s. He is an assistant professor of English at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.