To Live, Love, Leave & Die Like my Favourite Hollywood Movie Character

To say hello like Jack Dawson:

Class-blind, convinces suicide prospect 

in the middle of merciless sea

that life’s always worth living

and love, and love alone,

doesn’t sink. 

 

To bid goodbye as Rhett Butler:

Wandering gambler stakes everything

for a happy home. Then,

finding love long spurned 

has vitiated his spirit thin and worn,

rejects fate of passing days as prey 

entangled in a net of cracks 

and, upon her turnaround,

leaves…

 

Only to return as Heathcliff:

To his beloved and declare 

in her husband’s face 

that the estate singed by their secrets, 

which fields in servitude he tended, 

then left a bitter man, 

is now his.

 

Then sacrifice the affair à la Rick Blaine:

Lets her board plane and fly

through the grey war-torn sky, 

leaving him on tarmac grim,

convinced that a nation’s liberation 

surpasses whatever lovers

share and bear.

 

And finally, to die as Michael Corleone:

Old Don sits on his courtyard chair,

unreels films in his mind’s eye,

plays each scene with laboured breath.

His last thoughts on loves past and lost

haunt as unpunished crimes,

every heave crude measure 

of blighting time,

until he falls and slumps face down,

ends motionless with lips planted

on parched, sunlit ground.


Karlo Sevilla writes from Quezon City, Philippines and is the author of two poetry collections: "Metro Manila Mammal" (Soma Publishing, 2018) and "You" (Origami Poems Project, 2017). He was a runner-up in Submittable's 2018 National Poetry Month poetry contest and one of his poems is nominated by Ariel Chart for the 2018 Best of the Net Anthology. His poems have appeared in Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, Radius, Eclectica, Matter, and in other literary journals and anthologies around the world. He currently studies for the Sertipika sa Panitikan at Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino (Certificate in Literature and Creative Writing in Filipino) program of the Center for Creative Writing of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. 

InferNo

Greet me with suspicion when I offer these 

free poems then never mention it again : 

it’s always somebody’s five o’clock somewhere

& in its shadow I have sheltered 

 

whenever I’ve made the mistake of scraping

against the grain. If I had a nickel

for every time I was a dime a dozen

I’d have enough money to’ve sprung 

 

for the extra large organic cotton balls. 

I’ve not got a bright light in which

to hold you, but when it’s needed I’ll

still flick the switch

 

& wake to greet these lesson plans, 

another case of the vapours sustaining me

with only occasional 

palpitations. Heaven is nothing

 

but the blush of hours right before they 

rust & the brighter

it gets, the more likely I am 

to gobble my yearly allotment 

 

of cultural capital in one 

immodest gulp: the fear

of missing out vs. the feat of leaving 

the house just in time for doling

 

out of torques & war horses. 

I bought tissues & fresh razor

blades, a decongestant that makes 

my hands shake in the space 

 

between disassociation & 

sinus infection, red slashes across

 price tag righteous in their bargains.  

I can’t afford your anchor

 

& so I drift for now toward the columns 

of flame, but one day you won’t 

own me & I won’t owe you & we could 

turn blue if we held our breaths 

 

in the face of each others’ scant 

& immodest treasures. The temptation 

is to think of what comes after 

as a gateway when bricks are not 

 

cemented & so the road

continues to shift. The present

persists whether I am present for it

or not & resistance is just 

 

something to do while we’re waiting

for the second shoe hits the floor : 

a mountain, a river, a boatman 

& a bridge. 

 

In the course of things,

we coarsened.  We shed our thongs, 

sarongs & body stockings, tucked our socks 

under the sofa with our fast 

 

food wrappers. Tied ourselves in knots 

with enough discipline to outstrip

our masters.  

outstripping the masters until all 

 

was forgotten, 

ill-gotten, bought & resold 

for ten times its supposed value. Alone

in our loan modifications, 

 

we people in this world still have thirsts 

that steal us from sleep. The neighbourhood watch

gets supplanted by the chyron’s crawl,

but the  block captain is still shouting

 

himself hoars, oblivious to the bunch of us

still waiting our turn. Another woman

wearing a tiny sombrero

vomits margarita mix & neon nacho 

 

cheese onto the street & just as suddenly 

the ringleader of the kids who used to sit on our stoop 

obscenely heckling commuters

 is in jail for murder & stayed on the run for days 

 

until somebody shot the windows out of his dad’s

house around the corner. Try to render it down

until the sound is clean & round,

not the high-pitched whine I’ve emitted 

 

ever since I could write my name 

in giant block print. The sidewalk Brahmin 

told us that happiness is a choice 

while forcing the sacred brochure into our hands, 

 

so to celebrate we buy shiny shirts. Pretend 

to give two shits. Find new jeans too stiff. 

Sniff at the liver of another false prophet 

while they’re all still saying sooth 

 

besides the glittering swimming pool.

I would volunteer to be their sin eater 

if I could taste a hint of pleasure 

along with the ash, chew & swallow 

 

their pain in the name of cultivating 

a kind of scarcity lest the guest list 

be meaningless in its transitive 

glamour. I’d perform the social niceties, 

 

forsaking the sacred fountain for the salt lick 

at the centre of the eternal paternal language 

of behooving. On top of the storage cabinet,

the basket of plastic toys

 

earned by being a good boy: I memorized 

my time's tables then stapled the web of my left hand 

to see what would happen,

let my friend stab my right & the pencil

 

lead is still in there right now. One

punch & my entire wardrobe 

becomes a bruise. One concussion 

& I wasn’t sure why sucking 

 

the marrow out of life suddenly tasted 

so totally gross. No grace, no refinement, just 

the grudging acceptance of possessing 

so much cheap fiberboard furniture. 

 

It’s less oratory than a sketch toward an impression 

of walking in a giant arc to find the same carcass 

decaying just off of the path :

 you doubt the route but pursue it, anyway,

 

everything seemingly arbitrary but still nestled 

in its place. I’d thought the point was opacity 

& had been taught to be embarrassed 

by necessity’s directness,

 

but sincerity is everywhere & 

ear to the juice glass, 

glass pressed against the thin plaster,

I would strive to intercept their confessions

 

& be content, let it all accumulate, 

such as it is, until I open into an understanding 

of this moment. How he zips his windbreaker 

all the way up. How he patiently patches his vest 

 

one stitch at a time. How we try to decide 

whether we’re all special 

or nothing is. How they’ve found our albums, 

are playing the old songs even now. 


Chris McCreary's most recent book of poems is [ neüro / mäntic ] (Furniture Press 2014). You can find his reviews and interviews on sites such as FanzineThe Volta, and Rain Taxi. He teaches English and creative writing at a high school outside of Philadelphia. 

{ x | f'(x) does not exist }

(La Motte, Iowa)

 

That sky—so close

as if pressing down

on us, and this

down on this moment like

coffee grounds being pushed

against the sieve to extract

its liquid soul, brew who

we are and discard the rest.

I feel the weight of its blues

and whites on my shoulder

mimicking the solitude I

pretend to brush off, that I

pretend isn’t stalking me,

shadowing my movements

among a sea of people on

the top of this hill like

a gathered blanket, politely

tripping over the passionless

music and becoming entranced

in their own pretenses and not

noticing mine. I’m supposed

to feel something, I think.

Small, perhaps. Or hopeful.

Overwhelmed? That the field

is endless in all directions

except up, where the sky

is oppressive and suffocating

and I am questioning the way

time here is constructed,

with its vacuum singularities

dotting the sway of celebrating

voices like landmines.

It would be nice if someone

other than me would get

sucked into one of them, and

we could huddle shielded from

that sky and make remarks about

the hypocrisy and plastic gaiety

and that music that says nothing

to us, punctuated by fireworks.

And maybe afterwards we could

bury our secret with loosely

packed dirt and agree to

leave it, sealed with a handshake

and emerge, as from a theatre

of light, into the new night,

our eyes adjusting to the darkness

and the newly drunken quality of

the voices, go our separate ways

and act casually around each other

on the bus on the way home,

as if we hadn’t judged all that

was here, like small, overwhelmed,

fallen gods.


Iris Orpi is a Filipina poet, novelist, and screenwriter living in Chicago, IL. She is the author of four books of compiled poems, including Hand Painted and Rampant and Golden. Her work has appeared in over two dozen online and print publications all over Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa. She was a 2014 Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given annually by Chicago Poetry Press.

June Strawberry Moon

the surgical glue in my sister’s sewn jaw. the single 

meat, the lipid unsought, in my styrofoam box. the 

 

tourmaline stone, electro-formed, rutilated quartz

and druzy slice. the pomelo tangled, a tablespoon of

 

grenadine in my hurricane, down the face of my silk 

faille, dove-coloured and gummed. the pharmaceutical

 

running low, to the ground, running out, smelling of

vinegar, unhelpful, expired. I aspire to be worshipped,

 

coveted like a coven of junegrass, discoloured cartilage 

out the oven. I am arranged, prostrate, under a cylinder, 

 

lucent and pocked. I lock myself up for the year—no 

longer a sister, not a person, not able to be in motion, 

 

red florid, an angiosperm, a morsel of sucrose, 

erotic as an eye dropper, almost letting slip.


Emily Corwin is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University, as well as the former poetry editor of Indiana Review. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, New South, Yemassee, Gigantic Sequins, THRUSH, and elsewhere. She has two chapbooks, My Tall Handsome (Brain Mill Press) and darkling (Platypus Press) which were published in 2016. Her first full-length collection, tenderling was just released from Stalking Horse Press.

Humanoid

I took the form of so much noise––

blip, tussle, squeam. it seems as though

my room, however temporary, the room

pops bodily––rheumatism, arthritic and

brutal. in a crawlspace, in many pits of

blotted dirt, you wallow along me, request

for contact, with an implication of clutching

under my dresser. I fling back a crystal whiskey

decanter, I can't believe you––not even your

endearing hair behind the earlobule, behind a

neck susceptible, the disease arose, soldered me

to a cylinder of beads, dusted lozenge. I shelled

off these human clothes, horrid and mortal,

like an emotion, inarticulate and with spark.


Emily Corwin is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University, as well as the former poetry editor of Indiana Review. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, New South, Yemassee, Gigantic Sequins, THRUSH, and elsewhere. She has two chapbooks, My Tall Handsome (Brain Mill Press) and darkling (Platypus Press) which were published in 2016. Her first full-length collection, tenderling was just released from Stalking Horse Press.

Cleopatra

The asp still coiled around my wrists,
I cradle it even now, 

another subject to nurse –
to love. 

Its final kiss, its magic strike
a marvellous thing. 

My salad days wither and wrinkle
at its sinful touch. 

A refusal to kiss a conquering hand,
to obey, to kneel as a queen. 

Infinitely Isis, my love
pours out across the land – 

rebirthing a nation,
swaddling them in gold cloth. 

Not an enchantress,
a mother – 

Not another Shakespearean tragedy,
a victory.


Kirsty A. Niven is from Dundee, Scotland where she lives with her husband and cats. Her poetry has appeared in a number of places including Artificial Womb, The Dawntreader, Dundee Writes, Cicada Magazine and Laldy.

I Am

I am…

Muslim,

Jewish,

Mexican,

Black,

Italian,

Cuban,

Haitian,

Gay,

Disabled.

 

I am…

a refugee,

a homeless veteran,

a Native American.

 

I am…

a woman.

 

I am…

from shithole countries

and broken-down palaces.

My face

is all the colors

of the rainbow

in shades of brown.

 

I came here from Naples

as Antonio,

a young man

on a steamship

called the Giuseppe Verdi,

frightened

and alone.

 

I came here

on an airplane from Havana

as Lydia,

a young girl of eleven

with my father

to Idlewylde Airport,

wearing a scratchy crinoline slip

underneath my stiff, new dress

with no winter coat

and saw snow

for the very first time.

 

I came here

as Juliette,

a young woman

on a boat

from Haiti.

I became an American citizen

as soon as I could

and I celebrated that day

every year of my life

until the day I died.

 

I am…

me

but I am also you.

 

I am everyone

who has ever yearned

to breathe free.

 

I am…

wretched refuse

and tempest-tost.

 

I am…

that golden door,

beckoning you

to come inside

and stay awhile,

inviting you

to build a new life

in me.


Catherine Gigante-Brown's poetry has appeared in Ravishly, Art & Understanding and Downtown Express. She has been featured poet at BookMark Bards, Brooklyn Poetry Outreach and Green Pavilion Poets. She and Darryl Alladice have performed “My Brooklyn, Your Brooklyn,” their spoken-word coming of age piece, at the Cornelia Street Café, the Park Slope Barnes & Noble, and the Italian American Museum. Her novels, “The El,” "The Bells of Brooklyn," and “Different Drummer” are published by Volossal. Her poem, "Namaste," appears in the anthology "Eternal Snow."

Double Shadow

The bricklayer of twilight

is busy, laying down the colors

at right angles, the moments

as big as ultimatums.

There is a catch, when

the night resolves to allow

another reluctant embrace

before rattling off

everybody’s names.

The two-way glass slowly

transitions from flat oxygen

to mirror,

gatekeeper of contrasts.

I am looking at my own

eyes now after

the pothole-riddled street,

becoming pashmina patterns

cast across buffed wood,

bleached regret,

sorrow in a paper cup

with a plastic lid.


Iris Orpi is a Filipina poet, novelist, and screenwriter living in Chicago, IL. She is the author of four books of compiled poems, including Hand Painted and Rampant and Golden. Her work has appeared in over two dozen online and print publications all over Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa. She was an 2014 Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given annually by Chicago Poetry Press.

Beauty Parlour

Step inside my parlour,

my pampering parlour. 

You will be remade, reborn,

stroked and smoothed,

petted and prodded,

cosseted and curled,

given the attention you deserve

as well as a new face

and shiny new hair.

 

In Pampers Parlour we’ll recreate you.

We’ll reboot your confidence

and give you a new chemistry

as we gloss your hair and lips.

As we shape your face

with new shadows and glows.

As we apply layer upon layer

of chemical shit topped by

nose retching fragrances.

You won’t know yourself when 

you step outside 

dolled up to perfection,

protected in your new mask.

 

And what then?

Will you go home 

and comb it all out

and wash it all off,

preferring, 

after all, 

the person,

with the old skin

and fresh air colour

to the new robotic doll.

The pampers product is 

designed to be disposable, 

after all.

 

Or will you keep it 

as long as you can...

Try not to move your new face.

Try not to upset your new hair.

Place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign

on your forehead.

Keep it as long as you can.

Even if stinky and crusty,

you’ll still have your face on.

You feel 

so bland,

so pale,

so wan,

exposed

without it

on the journey back

to the beauty parlour.


Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dreams, fantasy and reality. Her poem 'A Rose For Gaza' was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition 2014. This and many other poems have been widely published in recent anthologies and journals such as Apogee, Firewords, Pilcrow & Dagger, Indie Soleil, Light and Snapdragon.

Tree Burial

I.

Texas Deputy John King Fisher was interred under an oak, loving father and husband ripped from his wife by bullets torn through his body by those who didn’t convert from crime to law like him, torn from the roots of his grave-marker by the moving of a cemetery, his cast iron box un-ensnared by roots that only wanted a companion, laid to rest beneath dirt and stone as the gnarled tree waves its limbs longingly at its former cohabitant. 

The Ojibwa and other forest tribes swaddled their parents and grandparents in blankets and placed them in the forked limbs of cottonwoods, the loving arms protecting their charges from the mouths of predators and scavengers. Children and grandchildren could sit at their feet and listen to the dead whispering the leaves, taking comfort as those messages loosened and fell in their asking hands.

II.

When a tree dies naturally, it usually happens slowly. Something, a fungus or other parasite, takes up residence within the roots, sapping its nutrients. We can’t see the effects of the parasite until it’s too late. When we do finally notice, it’s usually because the leaves blacken and fall too early, the air-gatherers shaking free in one long cough. When the tree finally succumbs, it can stay upright for years, bony fingers frozen in the sky, marking its own grave. Squirrels may still use it as a pantry. Birds may still perch on its branches, singing. 

These dead-standing trees are called widow makers. They dry out, whitening in the sun, brittling. A strong gust of wind from the right direction can push them to the ground, like an older sibling playing too rough. When the tree lands it becomes a log, but anyone resting under its sparse shade is unlikely to survive the transformation.

III.

When I die, I don’t want to lie in a tree, or underneath one. I want to become one: a seed buried, watered by rain, softened until I split, sifting through dirt like a child, a finger poking through the earth, hand raising slowly not in uncertainty, but in quiet determination. My arm bends, splits, limbs stretching toward the sky’s belly, lifting up, up, up. Time speeds as I slow, my children watering me, grandchildren reading under me, great-grandchildren swinging from my branches, their laughs rustling my leaves. 

I will remain standing for years, eventually weakening and cracking, my leaves thinning as I sicken. In this way, I will teach my family patience, and resilience, and that losing things is a part of life. And when the parasite finally takes me, I will teach them that sometimes it’s best not to linger.


Danielle Hale is an English Instructor and emerging poet. Her poems have appeared in The Citron Review and Helen Literary Magazine. She received her MA in Creative Writing from the University of North Dakota and currently resides in Wausau, WI. You can connect with her over Twitter, @DanielleHale1.

 

Birth Chart

For Faye Kempe

Your doctor’s hands
slide over your neck, his thumb pressing
into your lymph nodes, asks
I see your moon is in Scorpio,
have you been feeling

more vicious lately, impatient
for touch, a river carving into
your back and sliding down into
the concaves of your void?

You shrug, say maybe. You aren’t
sure what you’re feeling but know
it isn’t your normal, whatever your
normal is these days. I want

stability like train tracks, you say.
He nods, puts on his glasses, studies
your chart for a second longer
than the car horns whimpering

outside, their voices like dead
ancestors, ancestors you’ve stopped
listening to even though it’s the only
thing worth doing.


Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere.