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
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
This is an amazing thing
A husky laugh
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.
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
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
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 Northwest, Conduit 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.
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.
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.
More and more
More sang rouge than Khmer Rouge
Because that’s 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
Like a rotating planet (big hairy knuckled rock) in orbit
Until you read your name in the obit.
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.
And rainy streets that stumble down and sudden downpours that drench your feet and back alleyway-drifts that spring up in hectic 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.
And tastes like blood-spit
The sort of thing that happens with busted lip.
And what Hell loses…
And all gone.
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.
From careful tedium, strolling soaked
Through tepid wet Cartagena
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
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.
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
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,
of tentacles. To lord
over just groans. Who once
struck the silver gong
for me now going
abyss mists Miss so-&-sos
who were the greyscale
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
when there’s nobody
in the audience?
Projectionist, long gone
like the lighthouse-
keeper. That was then,
etc. What is
a book? A slab
Shrinking & mundane,
what grows from
last light, the clock
the highest fascist.
Grey that supplants,
voice, still singing, stinging
A million records, good
only for breaking,
the hungry stylus done.
has no leverage in this the 5th
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
“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.