Alphabet of Conditions
by Susan Grimm
In the morning I know what I want and how
to make it. All night with the door shut heating
up in the furnace of sleep watching yourself
fool yourself fool yourself. Color this hinky.
Color this out of control. And in the morning
I know what I want. There’s the hourglass,
me tensed on the bottom, the seconds sifting
down but no one to make cake. Each minute
dense as a clay brick batting down into our broken
field running. So in the night when I lie on the bed
like a figure or a number or a sign when I lie
on the bed like a sigil or a spill of some dark
dark liquid and I move my arm or cock
my leg or curl and the lights dim inside. Draw
the coverlet over what flashes on the sheets.
Hands at prayer. Fetal. Splayed. Alphabet
of conditions. Act 22,000. Scene 4. Impervious
dream me and crows carrying night. Pale busboy
forearms and cotton puffs crammed in a box. Pots
stirred in the graveyard and the dead returned
to their fleeced out homes. Dark feathers
settling around the windows, keyholes, doors.
by Patrick Haas
they were playing tennis, we heard
them, we heard the wet pop
of rackets slapping the ball
over the net, their strained voices
as if something sexual was happening
in the middle of the afternoon,
broad daylight, skirts overturned
flower petals flapping around their legs
what is tennis about anyway
if it’s not sex or even an analogy of sex
we knew that much that it was
like a small fireball they wouldn’t
let pass, they swung their arms
and the strange masks of their rackets
a burning cosmos chasing the sun
knowing that whoever let it drop
on their side of the court
had somehow failed to return
what had been so fiercely sent to them
I Fall to Pieces
by Weston Cutter
at the airport listening to an undrunk marimba
woobling the tune that should be Patsy
singing each time I see you again and maybe we
only ever know what we’re supposed to,
my wife’s goodbye kiss lingering on my
lips, hands already wringing themselves in prep
for the coming white-knuckle hours of watching the world pass below
now clear, now obscured, I’m scared
of dying like Patsy, plane nose-down in a forest
five counties shy of my destination, the
woobling, unbroken marimba plays I’ve tried
and I’ve tried but I haven’t yet but not plays, it’s
the melody, the tweezed that’s-it aspect
of Patsy’s singing, not the thing but a thing’s
close-enough signifier, like one twin wearing
the other’s glasses, like a plane’s shaking
is not the death I’ve awaited since realizing
even stars die as death cannot be anything
more or less than a song I can’t guess, lyrics
I’ll howl when I cease this marimba living + be
come like the bird who, after thumping
into the living room window frazzled to a branch + stared
back, an expanse how could it possibly
have understood, Patsy Cline is at the root
of that marimba same as the world is under
the world I’m alive on clutching the balance
that for now allows me to stay upright, mouthing
what I think are the words of familiar songs
by Meg Johnson
Can I tell my sins to a baby?
Would a butterfly be available?
How about a bag of jellybeans?
Look, I did some bad things
and I want to be good. I just don’t see
how some dude in the shadows
can possibly help this situation.
I’m really making an effort here.
I only did confession (did confession?)
once, in fourth grade. I’m really down
with the whole ritual of it
and want to try again.
With a butterfly.
by Tria Wood
A root walks into a bar. I know
you think you’ve heard this one, but trust me
you haven’t. This isn’t a joke.
It’s not going to say “I’m beat.”
But an actual root, striding
on its leafy limbs, hairs trailing
head pointed like a dunce cap at the dark
ceiling, walks in. You’ll tell me
this is impossible, but that’s because
you aren’t really listening.
I’m telling you
the round-headed root, balanced
on its stems, green leaves like feet
rustling, makes its way across
the floor. It bruises
as it goes, its feet are tender, a scent
like fresh-cut lawns rises
in the heat. It finally, finally, lifts
itself onto a stool, head wobbling
on its stalk, orders a water
on the rocks. Because that’s what a root
would want in this city, to find the dark
place where sweat and dreams collide
to rest its heavy head
What You Suddenly Remember
by Jin Cordaro
While listening to the neighbor’s TV
as the water spills over the bowl
after calling the dog’s name and
he doesn’t come as the streetlight flickers
when a strange car pulls in
to your driveway watching the mouth of the garage door
yawn and close turning off the last lamp
standing at the bottom
of the stairs you are alone.
There is no one else here.
From The End of Something
by Kate Greenstreet
What does a baby represent in dreams?
He needs some time. To himself.
I think he wants a secret life.
She’s in town, it’s Christmas,
She’s the imaginary friend.
The imaginary Maggie.
Is it fake?
I wanted the baby to behave
but she said: “I can’t love now.”
She’s using him. That’s my opinion.
It’s not about what feels good.
All he has to do is take it off.
All he has to do is drive away.
A person died, they had a double,
they don’t like it anymore.
A grief expert?
An expert on shame.
I was dating her, we went to her brother’s
graduation. I could not wait to get there.
That thing we talked about: a realistic
environment. I can explain.
He sat right here.
You had your turn, okay?
Don’t push me.
No one knows me like you do.
Suddenly the telephone.
Would nobody go in?
What is “help it”?
They couldn’t help it.
Am I wrong?
But it’s just the next day.