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Other notable works by Angela Williams, Carrie Cutler and Robert Reeves.
Why do I return to chase booty
of wooden swords and unwanted babes?
Their parents’ ruined bones
will pay no ransom now.
I’ve hoarded treasure enough
of silver and gold. But I cannot retire
to the quiet villa waiting for me in Italy.
Like Odysseus, the sea will not release me.
No doubt when my tale is told
I’ll be the buffoon ever-outwitted
by his archenemy, a little boy.
The cliffs cast shadows across the bay
like black-winged harbingers. I will fail
again. In this last corner of the world
where belief matters, I cannot kill a boy
who knows himself immortal.
In the world of men, I feed ships to the sea
buttered with blood. What I do, I do well,
but without triumph. Trading death
for money is all too common.
The battle I seek is no contest of good
against evil—none could call the Pan
good. The gods made me what I am,
no more than an iron claw
even before I lost my hand.
Call them boys, if you will, these cherubs
virtuous as a storm. I strike for men.
I will tear the gods from the sky.
Blackened vines twist round wire fences.
The mountain traces geometric arcs
against a blue not bounded by steel.
Last summer, in another mismatched colony
of artists and ranchers nestled in another mountain,
I crashed the only bar in town hunting for whisky.
The bartender scowling at my wrong clothes,
wrong tattoos, I asked for a pint of Jim Daniels
instead of Jack. An intruder again in the not city,
I open my hands to catch the twitter
of finches on a rooftop, carry it away
like a stone in my pocket.
Orpheus knew the way
to Hades. I’d rather know it isn’t there.
Single file on the dirt path to Taos,
your shadow lags behind me
between mustard grass and highway.
Already, I can’t help looking back.
Prairie dog burrows dot the ground
like doorways that won’t open for me.
No seer in the mountain
can show me Orpheus’ path.
I know I’m going; I’ll worry about where
when I get there. But I’d hate to think
you’ll pace Achilles’ printless footsteps,
wishing any life over glory in none.
A cloud like a hatchet slices
east into the mountain
till the wind tears it, too, apart.
Wish I knew there’d be no Styx
for you to cross, so I couldn’t fail
to save you with a song.
Sari Krosinsky edits Fickle Muses, an online journal of mythic poetry and fiction. She received a B.A. in religious studies and a M.A. in creative writing from the University of New Mexico. Her poems have appeared in Poesia, Pebble Lake Review, The American Poetry Journal, Arsenic Lobster, Verse Daily, and others. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her partner and two cats.
We Call It Forward Motion
Across a river where steel once ruled, coal was the dark monster
feeding it. That time when a man worked with his hands, palms calloused,
blackened creases in his face. Who is more desperate in this industrial void
to get back to some way of life when nothing here is familiar. The way
Jack Gilbert searches for Pittsburgh is all our struggle, like my father’s
attempts to rip a piece of West Virginia and plant it in New Mexico,
how I find myself in New York City at the end of a June like a bloated carcass,
rain for twenty-seven days straight. The desert splits open in me, sand and brush
rupture lungs, the Sandia Mountains erupt through the heart. Seek
sky between clouds, for a blue that hurts to stare at while my father drinks
Rolling Rocks, listens to bluegrass on his old record player, the Osborne Brothers’
banjos twanging as he readies himself for monsoon season. He can’t leave
the Mononghela River all the way, like Gilbert, each standing on opposite
shores. Whose father worked harder, the miner or the steelman? My grandfather
died before I was born, worked the mines hard, drank harder and now each shaft hole
is boarded up, his son a doctor, granddaughter a poet. And here we are, always
reaching out in front of us to touch that thing we left behind.
The First Confrontation with Desire is Brutal
I knew the linebacker’s sister. She found him
in bed, so still she thought he was asleep.
Albuquerque High’s hallways filled with quiet
questions about the cause, something about his heart.
The loss of a classmate was no unknown event,
a tenth grader stabbed in a fight a week before
but this time the death was natural, sudden, a bit too close.
So I gave my mother directions to the mortuary
where the rosary was to be held. We drove through
a rare snow, got lost near the mountains, but found it.
At the entrance I glanced at football players in jerseys lined
up against the wall but only saw one boy, pale skin
and red hair vivid against the Mexican-dark of his teammates.
We knew each other from classes and as our eyes met,
he inclined his head. Seventeen is young to bear the loss of a friend.
It seethed beneath all the straight-A, athletic perfection,
behind his casual smiles and the witty banter as we flirted
in the school newspaper office. Our rage would tangle briefly
but his anger was purer, stronger, and I wanted to hold it inside,
let it burn clean. Siphoned away my family’s discarded love,
hoarded it and waited. It’s been years, yet I still violently want
that boy. What man will reach inside to smash open my secret jar,
then stand, arms wide, to welcome my devouring.
Random Acts of Potential Radiation
When you put your fist through the microwave door,
I only watch. It’s an unremarkable afternoon. As you storm
from the kitchen, no word of why, I understand. This act
reaches from our home in the city to the vacant house in Placitas,
where our father flees when Mama finally tells him to get out.
After the judge grants him joint custody, we all slip
through his new lair, a den of weights and a folding chair.
The blue carpet musty from disuse, this room used to be mine.
I once set up my dolls and Care Bears along the windowsill,
a child-size Fisher Price kitchen stood where the cardboard table
now huddles next to his barbell. The mutilated microwave rests,
relic of his teenage son’s rage, on a metal filing cabinet in the corner.
Even you, the fearless older brother, ask if it’s safe to use it.
Our father shrugs, says leave the room if we’re scared. Mostly we wait
in the hall but sometimes I stand in front of the humming machine,
its murky yellow heat pulses through my chest and I want it
to melt some part of me so when I die they’ll open me up,
find evidence of this madness.
Deleted Scenes from Three Generations
Panama City, Panama, 1949
She eyes the handsome man
as he pulls dancers around the floor
with a deep voice. His Puerto-Rican lilt
strikes a peal her womb.
She thinks of how her mother’s body gave
out after the eleventh pregnancy.
Prayer cards burn her dress pocket.
She’s not seen him before and he looks
back. As she twirls with a faceless partner
the air spices with anticipation.
After the dance she does not resist
his embrace, never glances at his ring finger.
New York City, 1963
I find his letter in our box.
In it, he asks to see me.
My mother yanks the paper
from my hand, crumples it in her fist.
Says if I go to him to not bother coming back.
Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico, 1993
My preteen daughter fidgets in heels
fresh from the box. The march
to my father’s church begins.
Laracuentes line the sidewalk.
I walk with strangers,
my two sons trail behind.
In Brooklyn, I visited Victory
Memorial, his diseased lungs
no deterrent for sneaking cigarettes
outside with two sisters
I’d never met before. My husband
ordered me not to go to the funeral,
but his anger holds no mystery to me so
I packed the children up for Puerto Rico.
They stand next to their grandfather’s casket,
stare at the chalky white of his face,
my daughter the only one who cries.
Pereria, Columbia, 2006
The señoras tell me to keep my legs
shut. We are on strike, like those Greek
women. Back when wars lasted
forever. We know about that.
We also know what people say
about Colombians. Sneaky,
Still, these are our men.
So I laughed at the wives
of the gang leaders today
when they announced their protest.
Time will tell, viejas, I said.
After the men glut themselves
on death, come home to closed thighs,
perhaps it will stop the shooting.
But when one husband doesn’t
come home at night, then another
and another, let’s see how long
they stay true to their vows.
My boyfriend keeps his gun
tucked by his hip. When he enters
the room, I smell blood on his clothes.
He sheds muddy fatigues, pulls me
to his naked body and sweat slips
between my breasts. The heavy salt
of another wave of violence
hangs around us but I cannot
make myself roll away.
My bargaining price drops. Years
of watching women mourn fathers,
brothers, lovers, taught me to hold
tighter to the boy in my bed.
Angela Maria Williams received her MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in 2009. She is the children’s buyer at McNally Jackson Books, a lovely independent bookstore in Soho. Originally from New Mexico, she now lives in Brooklyn. She is delighted to be featured with her friend and colleague, Sari Krosinsky.
We, Who Are Falling
Alice and I the rabbit hole
grass spooling the jagged lip
we tipped into that open grave for protection:
who knows this world on the mirror’s back?
The o of her mouth, eclipsed
We, who are falling, under the pitiless stars.
The rabbit: his suit, a shared flask. He murmurs
endearing names. The stamp of his watch passes the cold night.
We are pinafored and gilt for the red Queen, we play
with the Queen of Hearts. The rabbit croons his own song
of encouragement, for the good girls that we are.
Alice: falling is fault
Who makes the rabbit’s sense of memory,
to disappear our fall?
I could not take the drifting, across a fickle floor— why why why
Alice: that is not a question
the rabbit in his bass thrum
of rabbits and rabbits and Alices before.
Alice: you did not have to fall
To know, to know, knowing is falling.
The rabbit’s house: pinafore, apron, place
What did we have, Alice, as a guide?
Alice: if I get out of here, I shall always strive to make sense
And I: falling is sense, knowing.
Filling & Emptiness
Nightly, I do the trick in the kitchen
with loaves and fishes,
(wheat bread and tuna.)
I make seven slices and a can feed three.
Fat sticks—a minor miracle.
I’ve known since they were born: my body
was for them, sprawl-legged to the hospital
afraid those nine months of hunger, peanut butter
in rations. Spoon without bread.
I lather my wide scar in the shower.
It has kept me out of bikinis
since I was 18. Anyone who sees my stomach knows
what kind of girl
From high belly button to pubis, the cut gaped.
A peepshow of smooth muscles, knitting.
I have seen inside myself and I do not regret.
They try to empty you
of desire at the hospital. You who come in and leave,
alone. I forgive the doctors their cruelty.
I have nothing to say to them: I desire, am desired.
The girl who could sight down her smooth stomach
died when I saw my daughters’ faces. Life for life—
I stand dinner in the kitchen,
a battle against the lean and empty.
And when my daughters
ask me, I tell them I am full.
Memory, my name a curse flung at me
You were a sallow doll
pregnant with your dying liver
Braceleted, the memory of numbers,
out of jail—
they released you to die
The hospital gave you a nanny
but you would not wait. You talked her
we have such cunning tongues
into a visit with friends, unhidden
in a ward for the indecent
our skin is reflection, we use that public shame
The only round on your bones
was your cheeks: we were children
Your johns loved it. Baby makes money
you made someone money
We called them boyfriends, dates—
why should anyone care
Kindness strikes a klaxon in us,
a brass scream empties us into the street
I was sixteen, you were fourteen
We knew ourselves invisible in our hunger
I shoplifted for you, raced the rain
to the park where we slept,
crackers rustling in my shirt
we are our own mercy
I wanted to pick you up, nobody’s baby doll,
feed you, tuck you into bed
we cannot afford salvation, it is held over
and over, just over our heads
I knew the vicious glint in your eye; we have our pride
I reached for your cold hand
You look the same, you said.
Just exactly the same.
The social worker hustled you
on to your nap, a caretaker
of your life. I walked home—
I lived, Jen. I am too lucky to cry
Proscription is the oldest language
the body in its wisdom learns no
before all other words. Is not,
will not, cannot: we resist
the palm raised flat against us, the brow
beetled to hard lines and the round hole
of that word in the mouth of another.
Law, strident voice outside our desire
shapes us, curtains our vision.
Limit fascinates artists, born pagans:
we dimly grasp the inexorable
and fling ourselves at borders
patrolled by custom and clime.
Winter, Albuquerque, 2005
The trailer is a single-wide from 1980,
linoleum tented around the joists. There is no heat;
I could not afford to run it. I chainsaw
wood stolen from dumps, construction sites,
and burn it in the stove. The walls are vined
in spray foam.
Fingers blue, I stab at the keyboard.
After each page, I cradle my hands between my thighs
and watch the words wreathed in my breath.
I am writing an essay on social justice.
All my essays are like that.
I know no one lives this way anymore. I will lose points.
I’m five pages in before my daughters shiver
into the room. The pipes underneath us shattered
three weeks ago, water scoured to sharp peaks
by the sand. I slip boots over my double socks
and walk a bucket to my well.
It takes me two trips to fill the toilet
so they can flush, fifteen trips and an hour
of boiling for thier shallow bath.
I go back to typing my nothing English paper,
bringing poverty into the equation
the way I always do.
Carrie Cutler was born in Louisiana and travelled the world during her childhood. She now lives in Albuquerque, NM, and cannot seem to get out of the state. She has appeared twice on KUNM’s spoken word show, once on Fickle Muses and in the Albion Review. She fancies herself a artist of the poor and working class and is not going to take being told they aren’t an audience, any more.
Joyce’s 128th Birthday
James, I’m not Irish
but I am kinda sensitive about being called a liar
which I guess is why I never told you the story
of how I explained Finnegans Wake
(at the time I’d only read a couple paragraphs)
to the unbelievably hot blonde porno starlet and Star Trek bit player
who picked me up hitchhiking age 20 somewhere in Ohio
and not only that but bought me dinner
and neither of us made a pass at the other
and we mostly talked about you …
On the other hand
you’re probably not as sceptical as you used to be
now that you’re dead …
The moon’s legs were longer now.
Its walk was slower anyway,
shod with force of shadow.
My heart had hobbled itself
trying to kitten-jump a crime,
hemmed in by gullets of wellmeaning dogs.
From now on its joys would be stark
and flutter in the freeze.
dream of God,
Hold my limbs tightly,
in your black sight.
We breathe into the air in front of our heads
facing the same way, two ends of a table,
a trace awkward, a trace killed by anything.
How did we stack up these unreachable lives
of changing adult diapers? singing in subways?
work, play, grief, our double names
hardly ever present? How can it feel like
my gaze is so heavy I have to lift it with both hands
to turn it on you? Can love really include
this much distance and waste? Of course, but
I’m sorry it does. I’m sorry. I’m in need.
Something in you finds me, a straight dart
through my dark mist, always. Something
in me wants to find you just as surely.
But I’m the older one. The sides of my paths are higher.
Show me how. Come, let’s do this again.
Reach down and retrieve the origin,
the hot gray lines.
Reach deeper than you have been.
Don’t forget no one can help,
not with this.
(Hey you know what?
This is a terrible haircut.
I keep discovering more and more dimensions of that.)
No blood needs be shed
for this kind of freedom.
Instead, the years of a life
need to be pried up and raised.
The remainder, numbers on a watch.
ROBERT ARTHUR REEVES lives, works and writes in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Seven collections of his poetry are available at Amazon.com.