narrative

Winter 2016

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ALTPOETICS

Winter 2016
ALTPOETIC1

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Two Poems by Glen Armstrong

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Two Poems

By

Glen Armstrong

World’s Fair 9

This jumper is close to that number

This laugh is close to that throat

 

Select visitors are invited to go

Behind the bridge

 

The yacht’s naked body

Elegant no longer hidden

 

Others discuss terrorism

Their clothes almost screaming

With short-term power

o

These students see the jumper

 

Not unlike the elegant yacht

They attract a wide range

Of nature and elevation

 

They freeze in yoga

Pants / positions / swing-the-statue

Postures

o

This is an amazing thing

A husky laugh

A magazine

o

The jumper sees the students

Any other person would have

 

Been frozen in the speculative voltage

And thus have overemphasized

 

Their interest in the supernatural.

 

Midsummer 5

 

Nature has its vein of gold

Cheese its bleu network

 

This feeling will never survive

Without a secret hiding place

 

The bee has its hive

Mind its subconscious

Face its subcutaneous tissue

 

On has its off

The cough drop box

Its odd bearded brothers

 

Cod its liver oil

Hat its tin foil

 

Lonely alchemists hide

In the alley

The only place

 

Their ongoing research on hiding

Makes sense

 

South of here

 

There is work being done in the canebrake

On the afternoon shadows

Cast by silos

 

Expose any aperture

And that other world

Starts whispering.

 

Also click here to read A Brief History of Meat at Sparks of Consciousness 

 

Bio: Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He also edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. His work has appeared in Poetry NorthwestConduit and Cloudbank.

Aesthetic Statement: There’s a certain finality to a story that I can never quite achieve. Narrative seems so damn sure of itself, and that’s most likely why I lean toward the lyrical. The fragmented and broken still hums. It still resonates with the blow that destroyed it. Certain grammatical units remind me of my birthplace, Pontiac, Michigan, where there are scraps in the streets too abandoned and too interesting to waste time rebuilding.

 

Three Poems by Arthur Turfa

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Three Poems 

by

Arthur Turfa

 

Weekends at Woolworth’s

For $18.49 a week

I got to spend my Weekends at Woolworth’s:

Sundays not included because of the

Blue laws in and around Philadelphia.

 

Friday nights and all day on Saturday

To avoid a conflict with a school night

And ruin my grades, or so the folks said.

Actually I would have had the choices

Anyway of Penn State, Temple, or Nam.

 

Mr. Fox, the cool assistant manager,

Told us about his tour of duty there

As we waited for customers to come

And check out so they could beat the traffic.

Heading both ways along Germantown Pike.

 

Miss Fogg, her frosted blond wig attempting

To disguise her five decades on this earth

Handed out our pay envelopes with cash

And told us where we were supposed to work.

 

Fridays on the upper level, two men

Regularly bought lots of plastic flowers.

Saturdays spent on the lower level

Talking with Linda from the Ancilla

Domini Academy wondering

If Vatican II would help me date her

And learning men’s wear from suave Mr. Knox.

 

Friends would stop by sometimes or I would see

Them during my hour-long meal break as

I passed on the 10% lunch counter discount

To head to Sal’s Steaks and Wee Three Records

Who had much cooler albums anyway.

 

A few weeks after the Mall fire

Water damage closed the lower level

And the upper level became crowded,

A real shambles for the next couple months.

 

Fully expecting they would lay me off,

On Saturday night a petulant man

Fired me for the inability to remove

Slushy black scuff marks without use of solvent

From the speckled linoleum floor.

 

Trudging to my Dad’s station wagon as

The first one in the family to be fired,

In adolescent anger I told him.

Dad suggested that the manager

could go to hell; much relieved, I concurred.

Thus ended my last weekend at Woolworth’s.

  

Observation Point 13, Ft. Drum, New York

 

Tree stretching toward Canada

Wispy clouds hover in summer sky

Vacationer’s paradise unfolding

Except for the large orange circles

On a small, man-made hill

Surrounded by the rusted wrecks

Or yesterday’s automobiles.

 

Radio transmissions crackle

Over in the Fire Direction Center

As bratwurst and kielbasa sizzle

Over on several hibachis.

 

Fire Mission! All human activity stops

As the hundred-pound rounds

Slam into the circles from a distance

Of classified information.

The plates have already been passed,

And as an FM rock station plays “Tommy”

By The Who, the howitzers blast away

At a few more wrecks.

 

Every shot has been in the box

And everyone his happy.

Like if good on OP 13 as

Lunch continues and I regret

Having taken so long to enlist.

Had I known the Army could be

This good, I would have joined earlier!

 

People along the way

 

Going half-way across the country

Thousands of faces flash by

In rest areas, attractions, streets, businesses.

Some of them stand out

For one inexplicable reason or another.

 

Shuffling from their SUV,

A family heads to the Lone Star

Leaning at the Sabine River Rest Area

Standing in front of thick gray clouds

So they can take each other’s picture.

 

Far from Hessen, in the Hill Country

German cuisine is served in a frontier house.

For a moment her native language

Floats in the air amid the Texan drawls

As it used to not so long ago.

 

Praying silently in the cathedral

With arms stretched along the railing

Her daughter converses as well

Discretely, impatiently speaking

Into her I phone.

 

Couple of our approximate age

Unhappy at everything

She fusses at restaurant hostess

Then unleashes a torrent of spite

At his day-long negativity.

Later I intentionally walk by them

As he slowly eats while she

Sits clutching her elbows

Not even caring to look at him.

 

From several feet away from the fountain

Tawny-tressed girl and mother standing.

Daughter appears to want a drink but refuses an offer

As her mother expresses her thanks anyway.

Four Poems by Jesse S. Mitchell

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Four Poems 

by

Jesse S. Mitchell

 

Yorba Linda’s Cephalopod Blues

 

So, screech the cyanide strings

And glow the Baba Yaga shine

And love the lemon yellow sun

And dance the barbed wire whirl.

And always

Always

More and more

More sang rouge than Khmer Rouge

Because that’s blood

Blood

It’s heintei  twister girls

All cyclone breathing and never sleeping

Hot and heavy, until you cannot imagine calm.

Makes a hollow in the center, all the stirring, the churning, in the heart.

Just keep you spinning

Spinning

Like a rotating planet (big hairy knuckled rock) in orbit

Orbit

Orbit

Until you read your name in the obit.

 

gringolandia

 

I believed myself awake then but only half-drowsy and half-dreaming, oh merciful God, a certain kind of violence written across my brain, curved cursive handwriting and between the etched and entwining loops and spaces I saw a pause and for a moment the silences replicated stingy threads like DNA (proteins stuck clinging to each other, pornography) and through the pauses I saw visions, heaven help me.  There I dreamed of Mexico but no black Madonnas or border towns but Chiapas, Emiliano Zapata, there revolutions, honey spun, a thin strand of spider silk that connects to every corner, shaking like candy floss along the coast from Cardiff to Bristol or home Atlantic, some beach drenched lovers surely cryptic, in the sun, breathed too the same air in my lungs, fueled by similar oxygen and other molecules.  And all over my body I felt a breeze, a cool breeze from the north, an all over wind, a numbing that means complacency for I am on the rung American…but reaching upward always, grasping for the next.  So, all I know is smothered .  I cover my wounds with grease and ash and leave the faintest footprints, carrying away the rest.

 

Cartagena

 

And rainy streets that stumble down and sudden downpours that drench your feet and back alleyway-drifts that spring up in hectic fits

Fits

and corners stuffed with this independent business,

Tempting-changeling like bower birds, trying to make a go of it. Carnival barkers and newsprint shills, broken off words and movie deals.

And what heaven acquires…

Overcome and drowsy down, hazy trace and spirit bound.

Hell loses…

And tastes like blood-spit

The sort of thing that happens with busted lip.

And what Hell loses…

All sensation

And all gone.

Earth regrets…

And looks blurred green sky

The kind of distance that comes

With hard-crossed eyes.

And what Earth regrets…

Or with falling down and smacking face

Knocks you brutal all over the place.

Dazed

Man forgets.

From careful tedium, strolling soaked

Through tepid wet Cartagena

 

 

Pazzia

 

I had a dream that was the same as Romeo and Juliet.

Except in this case the hero of the story was a small coiling spiral

Of double helix DNA

And it was a tiny lump of highly protein encrusted couch fluff

To which it was conjoined.

And they floated together on hot air currents

Billowing around the world

Looking for a simple pool of their own in which to self-replicate.

And thoughts traveling wildly across their minds (what minds you could speak of, little synapse and sparkling little cell-buds and ganglia)

like how different would  Cabaret have been

If David Mamet had written all the lines for Sally Bowles

And how much they both hated the work of Paul Theroux,

And how much of the history of the human race on Earth

Is basically a big iron screw jammed in the middle

Of a large misshapen clay ball.

And how we all could use some more productive occupation.

 

Bio: Jesse S. Mitchell writes books, has a wife and kids, and dislikes
the slow disintegration of time, immensely.
Poetic statement: I mean to make noise, a great deal of noise, so much
noise it will be impossible to ignore.

From It’ll Never Be Over For Me by Mark Lamoureux

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From It’ll Never Be Over For Me

by

Mark Lamoureux

YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOUR INTEREST LIES

after Dana Valery

A green veil on the bird,

serrated lightning on the perimeter;

into the milk afternoon flies

the big Wheel, it barfs rain

onto the flagstones.  Like this,

this is another city—now

buds open with alien colours.

You should be in a pink

6-wheeled car, it would have been

so Technicolor, a death match

to the quick divan.  Jewels

of bright Bugs in the grey

climate.  Shiny skin up to here,

the walking hinge.  What lies

within is terror.  So far, Penelope,

a jumpsuit of shrinking veins.

Wait for the last switch.

You thought the light was on,

but now this hurts your eyes.

 

Natural Harmony

As far as I can tell, something like a modern hedge witch, all the chakras in a line, kicking up their boots.  Couldn’t you have guessed that’s where this was headed? Milan to Johannesburg to London to New York.  Ed Sullivan & disco & the most original softdrink in the whole wide world.  Yes, you’re going to love Lenny’s Steak & Chops—lay your hands on me, Dana Valery.  What’s left to do but set wounds, set to spinning the music of the spheres: vibrating Virgo, pulsing Pisces, spine arumble with hot water through the pipes?  Radio, television, peeling back the strata of the spiritual onion.  Big bright eyes, all that energy—the future right there in the past, what we forgot about as the dirty water rises to chins,  wrong energy a cloud of black ballpoint ink above this shuddering firmament.  Set us free, Dana Valery.

 

DON’T LEAVE POOR ME

after Big Maybelle Smith

Advancing blacktop, always

at the behest of

shrinking leaves, the last

of whatever came

before—                what falls

chaos pink & white of flowering

trees, scattered

wounds puckered on rock

turf.        Don’t green to grey,

sail away the ripples

toward shore, banking waves

a klaxon.  Always vectored

continuity, a pointing arrow a sword

like macaroni overhead

that points at sag & fall,

gelatinous jowl

of tentacles. To lord

over just groans. Who once

struck the silver gong

for me                    now going

habitually into

abyss mists           Miss so-&-sos

who were               the greyscale

actresses

now dust.

 

May Queen

In another time, you’d have been a Queen.  Big Maybelle Smith, the Queen of May, The Queen of the Bells, ringing out across those post-industrial badlands.  Orson Wells’ last gig was as a planet in “Transformers: The Movie,” & likewise you should have had your own atmosphere, but instead you did “96 Tears” & left with a question mark, a mystery when everything about you was plain to see, like a tree, thick with magnolias like the one that peeked out from your shimmering hair.  Even a young Johnny Coltrane could not attain escape velocity; you both proved the body wants what the heart can’t have: some sweetness, a moment’s peace, beloved anodyne.  Sunday’s still gloomy & you’re out there, way past Pluto, waiting to swallow the sun at exactly the right moment & to thunderous applause.
I’LL DO A LITTLE BIT MORE

after The Olympics

Transom, what was—

I’m no good.

Does the movie

still play

when there’s nobody

in the audience?

Projectionist, long gone

like the lighthouse-

keeper.  That was then,

etc.  What is

a book? A slab

of grass.

Shrinking & mundane,

what grows from

last light, the clock

the highest fascist.

Grey that supplants,

irrevocable

voice, still singing, stinging

the Sibyl.

A million records, good

only for breaking,

the hungry stylus done.

Prodigal, digital,

has no leverage in this the 5th

world.

 

The Olympics

U.S. champions in “Good Lovin’.” Walter Ward got gold in losing your girl to fake cowboys & gunshots.  Eddie Lewis got silver in the 500m Hucky Buck. An army of judges agree.  Walter Hammond bronze in “The Bounce.” Charles Fizer failed to place in the 1000m run from National Guard guns in Watts, Los Angeles.  Melvin King got gold in losing your only sister to an accidental bullet.  Trigger slipped.  On account of they can’t all fit on the Wheaties box, try a milk carton, the obituaries instead.  Have you seen these men?  Not since 2006.  Angels arrived with chariots full of gumdrops & lemonade.

On Being an Angel by Stephanie Kaylor

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On Being An Angel

by

Stephanie Kaylor

 

“Be wary.” Your fears I read like braille, goose bump code on a body I knew long before I first reached yours. Even the endless may have a beginning, a split second we will never understand. Where then would you hide?

 

Where are the black crows tonight, the broken glass, the omens? I blink once to clear my eyes.

 

Thermoluminescence dating, the determination of the time elapsed since a material last saw the sun; how I know I love you, the moonlight bather who will not pose as savior in my battle scene or his own.

 

(though I had the dream again last night, the house was burning brightly, the dinner party uninterrupted as the butler fanned the flames. I was the only one who ran out and you held me back as I stood naked on the warehouse roof, from a salted sea breeze beckoning me to fly).

 

He said there would be something else, some whiskey-breathed revelation. I like him like this, when he doesn’t say a word and I can fall into the soft-lipped void, and I fall proudly in the new fragility he has helped me craft to help me break. 

 

The 2:58 am clawing of a telephone like a strangers back, like complacency when the double speaks to herself and I, the total I, the unsure shape shifter. My inner lives crave completion: my searching a transfixation; my avoidance, divination. I know why the telephone does not ring. 

 

I will borrow his utensils. The teeth, the feet, the words collected like medallions. They will be dirtied by my touch but I shall cleanse them with the same.

 

(was I ever in your words? Was I a ghost, a spool of yarn unraveled, a baby’s skull?)

 

I am not frightened of the things you say but the things that shrivel before they reach your tongue, how they coexist.